Fallacy of the Expensive Date

I was recently talking with a friend about going on dates. She stated that she couldn’t go out, because she didn’t have the money. To which I replied, “Hogwash! Of course you can, you’re just going about it wrong. Dates don’t have to be expensive.”

When I say “date”, what do you picture?

Is it some image of getting dressed up in special clothes, guys picking up the ladies, then heading out for an expensive dinner followed by a movie or a trip to a favorite bar? If so, then you’re stuck with the formal, old-fashioned definition of a date.

In reality, a date is simply spending time with someone that you may have a romantic interest in, for the purpose of getting to know them better. Whether you are finding out if you like more than their appearance on a first date or strengthening a decades-long relationship, the time spent together is the important part. Knowing the true purpose of the date frees us from any formal definition.

With the focus simply being to spend time together to get to know someone better, there are limitless possibilities of things to do and places to go. You are no longer restricted to a restaurant-then-movie format. In fact, you don’t have to eat at all. There is no law stating that a date must involve food.

Cheap Dates

It is nice to share a meal while on a date, but there are many variations that you can try.

  • Go during a different time of the day. Many restaurants have lunch specials that are cheaper than the same meal later in the day.
  • Go out to eat, but only have dessert. Why not?
  • Prepare food at home. A common bit of money-saving advice is to prepare your own food. Cooking together can be great fun, so enjoy it as a date!
  • Go on a picnic. Don’t want your date to see where you live just yet? You can still cook, or just pick something up, but who says that you have to eat inside?

Because you are focusing on the other person’s company, there is no requirement to “have fun” as almost any shared activity will be exciting for you.

  • Peruse a book or music store together. You will discover each others’ tastes while finding numerous subjects to talk about.
  • Talk a walk. If the weather is nice, head out for a stroll. Visit a park or explore your city on foot. Stop and get coffees or snacks, but get them to go.
  • Play a game. Inside, outside, as a couple or with friends, old-fashioned board (or card) games can provide hours of entertainment, and are far more interactive than a video game is.

(You can find even more date ideas here and here.)

Have fun, don’t break the bank

Dating is supposed to be fun. It’s easy to become too serious about the results, or about what you’re “supposed to do”. Relax, focus on the person you’re with, and have a good time. Be open to opportunities that may not be traditional. Expend your more of your creativity and less of your money. Most importantly, enjoy yourself.

Redefining Romance

Holding hands silhouetted in front of sun set over water

Everything is better when you share it

What comes to mind when you think of romance? Do you picture a fancy restaurant with roses and candles on the table? Maybe some live music in the background? While that certainly would be romantic, it’s not the only way to go.

Contrary to popular opinion, romance is not a one time event, reserved for special occasions. It is not something that you have, but is something that you do, and do on a recurring basis. According to the dictionary, romance can be either a type of story or an action. Unless you live in a book or a movie, we’re not concerned with the story, but with what we can do:

[v. roh-mans]
1. to seek the affections of romantically; woo
2. treat with feelings of great intensity and warmth
3. be considerate and courteous to women

As you can see, the definition is fairly simple. Why, then, do we tend to make it so complicated? While I lay much of the blame on popular culture (movies tend to portray romance as whirl-wind love affairs or one time events), much of the confusion occurs because we don’t have a good understanding of how to be romantic.

What is romance?

Sterile dictionary definition aside, what exactly is romance? Nothing more than a daily series of small actions that serve to express our love. People show love in different ways, and so the exact combination will be different for everyone. Perhaps your wife feels loved through physical contact; then you would romance her by holding her hand, giving her back rubs, touching her arm, and otherwise physically touching her. Maybe she responds best when you do things for her; in which case you would make it a point to do things like washing the dishes, making the bed, or vacuuming.

You will notice that none of these cost any money, nor are they taxing, time-consuming tasks. A combination of such simple, small actions are all that you need to show your spouse just how much they are loved.

Romance is a choice

We have to choose to be romantic. The small actions mentioned above are not always things we would choose to do (after all, vacuuming is not a common item on “top 10 favorite things to do” lists). However, by consciously deciding to do these things we are showing our love. When such actions don’t come naturally to you, they are even greater expressions of our love. (ie: Extra brownie points!)

Choosing romance daily

Not only do you have to choose to take your romantic action but it is a choice that you have to re-make each day. It might be an easy decision when you’re in a good mood and have some free time. However, even if you’re mad at your wife and rushed for time you can still choose to do something to show that you love her.

Sacrificing some time that would otherwise be spent watching television, surfing the web, or hanging out with friends in order to focus on your spouse is time well spent. It’s not time lost, but instead time well invested in your relationship. That time will reap dividends in the form of a wife who feels well-loved and thus will be willing to return the favor.

How are you going to romance your spouse today?

You don’t have to buy some expensive gift or plan an extravagant dinner. Here are some simple actions you can do today to show your wife how much you love her.

Pick whichever you think your wife would like the most and go do it! There’s no time like the present to start being romantic!

10 Amazing Free Dates

Lego couple sitting on block holding hands

Love knows no bounds

The cost of a date has nothing do with how enjoyable it is. A free date can be more amazing than one that significantly thins your wallet. The point of a date is to spend time together, sharing experiences, conversations, and making memories. No money is required to do any of those. (And if your love language is Quality Time, these are important!) Without further ado, here are 10 free dates that anyone can go on.


  1. Go to the park – It seems that all cities (or counties, if you live in a rural area) have a public park. They offer lots of options, from walking trails, playgrounds to play on, ducks to feed, and games to watch.
  2. Tour a Bookstore – There are so many opportunities to learn about your date in a bookstore. Explore the store together, sharing books that catch your attention, laughing over funny titles, or just seeing what interests your date has. Maybe you could go to the travel section and pick a destination to visit together, or the cooking section and find a meal to cook that night. Perhaps something in the craft section will pique your interest together you will discover a new hobby. Take a look, it’s in a book.
  3. People Watching – This can be a highly entertaining activity, especially when you have someone to share the experience with. Pick a park bench, a spot in the mall, or just walk around the local college campus. There’s no telling what, or who, you’ll see.
  4. Free Samples – This is what warehouse stores are really good for. Free food! Hit up your local Sam’s, Costco, or anywhere else that provides samples and see what they have to offer. Be sure to dare each other to try the weird-looking thing. Who knows, you might find something delicious that you both enjoy!
  5. Art Critics – You don’t have to pay to see art. Do some searching to find a free museum nearby, or check out an art gallery. Don’t forget to check out the local library, as they often have art on display. Even if there’s not a gallery or free museum where you live, there is still art to be seen. Check out the next date.
  6. Tour the Town – No matter how small it may be, all towns and cities have something interesting to check out. Maybe it’s a statue or sculptural fountain, a historical site (have you ever stopped to read those signs?), a unique store or restaurant. You can either walk around or take public transportation if it’s free.
  7. Crossword Puzzle – With only a little bit of searching you can find a previously read newspaper. It’s a great opportunity to sit close to each other and work through the crossword puzzle together. If the crossword puzzle stumps you, take turns reading the comics to each other.
  8. Window Shopping – Leave your wallets at home (well, you might want to take your drivers’ license) and go shopping. Live the glamorous life, at least for an afternoon. Try on clothes you would never spend the money for, go look at your favorite sports car, or see what she looks like when wearing a ring that could be seen from space.
  9. Play a Game – What kind of games do you have laying around the house? A favorite board game, a deck of cards, maybe even a puzzle or two? As long as the two of you can play it together, it doesn’t matter what it is. Make it even more exciting by playing somewhere new. You don’t have to sit at home. Take it to a park, sit on the beach, visit a school.
  10. Cook Together – Just like the free gift of a candle-lit meal, cooking together doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun. You can boil the water while she gets the strainer ready for the pasta. She can set the table while you pour the drinks. Together, you can make a meal to remember!

No matter what you decide to do on your date, the important thing is to go with an open mind and a focus on your date.

Check out Ready-to-go Dates for even more ideas.

11 Free Gifts She Will Love

Hands holding out gift box

The heart cannot be contained in a gift box.

Meaningful gifts don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they don’t have to cost anything at all. Here are 11 examples. (Especially helpful if their love language is Receiving Gifts.)

  1. Love Note – You don’t have to write a novel, just a quick sentence or two that lets her know how much she means to you. If you need some tips, check out the Sticky-Note Love ebook.
  2. Back Rub – As long as you’re willing to put in some time and focused attention, you can’t really give a bad back rub. Pay attention to her and she’ll tell you what and where it feels best.
  3. Foot Massage – Even if she’s not on her feet all day, a foot massage will feel wonderful. Just like the back rub, pay attention and she’ll tell you how to make her feel good.
  4. Help with Chores – There’s nothing like getting some non-complaining help when you’re doing chores. Maybe you heard the drier ding, then go fold the clothes without being asked. Notice the trash can is full? Empty it. Anything she doesn’t have to do will be greatly appreciated.
  5. IOU – A simple IOU can do wonders, it’s the gift that gives twice. Write a quick note saying that you will give a back rub, foot massage, candle-lit dinner, or anything else and watch her eyes light up. In the case of the dinner, you can go ahead and set a date, but for the others you might want to just let her know that she can redeem the IOU whenever she wants.
  6. Origami Flowers – Grab some paper, check out some paper-folding instructions and have fun! Give her a bouquet that will never wilt.
  7. Love Letter – Love letters don’t have to be hard to write. You’re simply telling her how much you love her and why. Writing it by hand will make it worth so much more! If you need it, here’s more advice on how to write a love letter.
  8. Hand-drawn Picture – It doesn’t have to be “good.” With such a project as this, it’s the thought that counts. Put some time and effort in to your project, even if it’s just stick figures holding hands and some word balloons. Remember, drawing a picture is easy: children do it all the time. So what’s stopping you?
  9. Candle-Lit Meal – Guys, you don’t have to be a chef to make a meal special. It’s all about the setting. Fortunately for us, that doesn’t mean that we have to go somewhere fancy, hire a musician, or even provide a fancy meal. Pizza or mac-n-cheese can be spruced up by simply making sure the table is clean, folding some napkins, using real plates and silverware, dimming the lights and burning some candles.
  10. Photo Slide Show – Have photos of you and your gal? Compile them in a slideshow. This could be a Powerpoint presentation, a free photobucket slideshow, or even just a new album in facebook. Whatever you choose, be sure to take the time to put them in an order that makes sense and add some captions to them!
  11. Mix Playlist – The important part of this gift is the playlist that you make, something just for her. How you deliver can add some spice to the gift, however. If you happen to have a blank lying around you could burn a CD for her to listen to in the car. You could copy the songs to a thumb drive and she can copy them to her computer. You could load the playlist on her mp3 player as a surprise. Perhaps you could email her a new song each day, with a comment on why you chose it.

While I wouldn’t recommend trying all of these at once, I would suggest working your way through the list. There are plenty of other free gifts that you could give if you just give it some thought.

What’s Your Love Language?

The Five Love Languages - Gary ChapmanHave you ever considered what makes you feel loved? Or how you show others that you love them? If not, here’s a “decoder” that will help you identify your love language.

In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman discusses the different ways that people show love. He compares them to languages and states that you have to learn your spouse’s “language” so that is is possible to communicate your love to her.

Imagine that you are an English speaker and your wife speaks only Japanese. You might be shouting I love you! until you lose your voice, but she won’t be able to understand the gibberish that she hears. Likewise, you will have no idea what she is saying. Getting over this language barrier is a simple matter of learning their love language so that you can communicate effectively. (Simple, yes. Easy, not necessarily.)

The need to feel loved is at the heart of marriage; you enter into marriage expecting to always know that your spouse loves you. The secret to doing this is speaking the proper love language. As you read through the descriptions of the different languages, see if you can spot the one that best describes your spouse so that you can best communicate with them.

Words of Affirmation

Words are important! Hearing the words, “I love you,” is important important, and hearing the reasons behind that love can send spirits soaring upward. Verbal compliments (both alone and in front of others) mean the world to you, and being encouraged can mean the difference between completing something or not.

Sticks and stones may break bones, but insults and words can be crushing.

Quality Time

Nothing says, I love you, like focused, undivided attention. Not just spending time together, without any kind of distractions. 15 minutes a day can have a huge impact. Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do together for free.

Never taking time out just for your spouse can be especially hurtful.

Receiving Gifts

It really is the thought that counts. Taking the time to put effort, thoughtfulness, and love into the gift makes all the difference. Fortunately, great gifts can be free. This isn’t materialism, but a focus on the love the gift shows.

Nothing is worse than a missed gift-giving opportunity or a thoughtless gift, except for the absence of everyday gestures.

Acts of Service

Did you know that you can show love by vacuuming the floor? Taking the time to do things for your spouse is a great expression of love; an even more powerful one when they know it’s something you don’t like to do. The chores don’t get done because you want to, but because you are doing them to show love. Fortunately, you get to show love while doing things that have to be done anyway.

Laziness and broken commitments can cause you to lose major love points.

Physical Touch

Holding hands, kissing, and embracing can be powerful vehicles for communicating love. This language manifests itself in very touchy people. Physical presence is vital and can be strengthened by such actions as running your hand through their hair, giving back rubs, and sitting close to each other.

Physical avoidance can be torturous.



Did you find one that describes your spouse? What about yourself? Keep in mind that each language can have different “dialects” or variations. If you’re having a hard time identifying yours, you might want to answer these 15 questions to find it. Ask your spouse take it as well, so that you can show her that you love her in the best possible way.


Real love

Once the euphoria of being “in love” wears off (which is normally about two years), continuing to love each other can be hard work. Real love is intentional, uniting reason and emotion. It involves an act of will, requiring discipline and a willingness to grow personally. Meeting your spouse’s need for love is a choice that you make each day. Once you know their primary love language and choose to speak it, their deepest emotional need will be met and they will feel secure in your love.

If you want to speak romance to your spouse, become a student of your spouse, enroll in a lifelong “Romantic Language School,” and become fluent in your spouse’s language. As a study guide, pick up a copy of The Five Love Languages (Kindle/Paper) and read through it, highlighting the important statements and making notes in the margins. Use it like a workbook and reread it occasional to continue learning how to say “I love you!

I re-read this book every year or two as a reminder about how to best show my wife how much I love her. This book has been on our shelf since around the time we got married and will always have a place there. It’s one of the books that I most commonly recommend to anyone in a relationship.

All of the links to this book are affiliate links, which means that if you buy one through this link I will earn a few pennies – so while your price won’t be affected at all, you will be helping me keep the site up.