"Cheap Married Dates We’ve Known and Loved" by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.--April 6, 2012

Cheap dates are not the sort of thing you'd address when you first start courting. But after marriage, especially with the cost of family life, cheap dates become important. Others too, can teach us why we need time alone as a married couple. For example, over the Christmas holiday, Jane arrived at our neighborhood party, her petite, pretty self.  I wanted to ask her about her recent separation.  Although I knew I was prying, I said, “Jane I know it isn’t any of my business, but I was concerned when I heard about you and Tom.  Is there anything I can pray for?”  Some part of her private heart broke loose then she looked at me intently and said, “Martha, Tom and I quit working on the marriage after the children came.  We just kept brushing our feelings under the rug, and didn’t deal with them.  We didn’t make our marriage a priority and make time to be together.  Whatever you do, work on your marriage!”

It's not often that someone you know in a casual way shares so deeply, and her words hit me.  Not that Michael and I don’t work on our marriage of 30 years, but she was verifying something I know to be true, but so seldom hear. Take time to work on your marriage!

Looking through the eyes of Catholicism and frugality, what are some ways we can strengthen the Sacrament of Marriage?  Below are listed a few of which Michael  reminded me, and I will rate them according to restaurant symbols.

And remember: An investment in your marriage is like savings in the bank.  You dated before marriage and monthly reconnecting is a vital glue within your marriage now.  Dates don’t have to be expensive, but they speak loudly to your children and to the world that you make your marriage a priority!

$$$= OVER $50

  1. Hire a baby-sitter and sail off to Seattle ( or any city for that matter) with your spouse for the afternoon.  Hit a hotel.  What fun.

  2. Look on line and find coupons for dining out.  Heck, go to an expensive restaurant and order the cheapest thing on the menu.  Our favorite is cheeseburgers at an expensive seafood restaurant in Seattle.  Cost $10.  Or you can order one expensive entrée and split it. 

3.  Go visit a timeshare presentation, say at Whistler BC, and sit through the 90-minute event for the privilege of having two nights free.  Many couples do this as a common weekend getaway, but just don’t bring their checkbooks.  We did, however, did bring our checkbook and did purchase; so, it wasn't a cheap weekend date.  But, Michael for 40 years has called it "vacation insurance," and it has paid off in amazing family fun.  

$$=UNDER $50

  1. Look on line and find coupons for dining out.  Jeepers, go to an expensive restaurant and ask to split a meal. Most single portion American meals are massive.   Also, if you are looking for a reasonably-priced babysitter, check the Girl Scouts.  Often, the young girls take classes through The Red Cross, and they are looking for sitting experience.

  2. For a dinner out, without going out, try “dining in.”  Get two prepared meals from a caterer, Stouffer’s Lasagna, or a carton of grocery store soup (something you didn’t prepare); and when the children are down, enjoy a candle-lit meal with a $3 bottle of wine or sparkling cider.  The Breeden's, parents of eight in Maryland, have taken this idea one step further.  Sharon purchased from Goodwill, a little café table set for their bedroom, and they often retreat there for a “private dinner” while the older ones watch the younger ones.

  3. Net flicks, of course, equal a movie at home.  So why not add to the event with some home-made popcorn.

  4. And finally, consider family camping or even back-packing.  Dates work there too.  Some of my sweetest memories are of sitting with Michael around the campfire when the children were asleep in the tent.

$=FREE or nearly so (these simple acts can truly add to your marriage)

  1. Grab hands every time prayers are said at Mass.

  2. Hold each other and pray together for the coming day in front of your family crucifix before your spouse heads off for work.

  3. Go for a long walk on the weekend.  We walk four miles on Sunday afternoons then have a cup of coffee or some wine and continue our walk.  This gives us a time to connect about family, finances, future, and get in some fun exercise.  For the years we have done this, we have walked across the state of Washington in mileage at least twice–800 miles.

  4. Read the Bible together at your dinner table which has been set with candlelight and place mats.  Dinner can be such a wonderful time to retreat and reconnect as a family.

  5. Set up a place in the house for romance where you can light a candle, enjoy some wine or tea, and simply talk after the children are down.  Ours is in the living room and/or on the old wicker couch on the front porch.  Of course, now that the last remaining child is 13, she sometimes joins us on the porch as we all snuggle under the fleece blankets and chat.

  6. Rent the first movie you ever saw together.

  7. Re-read as a couple love notes or greeting cards you’ve given each other over the years.

  8. Look through photos or videos of treasured times.

  9. Write and share a list of 10 reasons why you love each other.

  10. With a cup of tea in hand, recall the names of movies you’ve seen together, restaurants you’ve dined at, or vacation spots you’ve shared.

The greatest gift Michael and I can give to our five children, besides our Catholic faith, is our marriage where we continue to “date each other.”  It's money well spent.

Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author

The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less