Believe it or not, but there is no filter on this Birch Bay sunset photo, just the black rubber phone case that got in the way. It's almost impossible to capture the water -sunsets here, but this photo comes pretty dang close.
The thing about not having a lot of money to spend on extras, is that it makes you incredibly resourceful. Because you have boundaries, you have to create your own environment within those boundaries, and it's a well known fact that boundaries create geyser-like surges of creativity.
For example, you should see the gourmet meals that come from my kitchen when I have very, very little in the fridge. After having kids, my few hours of time by myself (naps, then quiet time, or early morning hours) is the time where my mind is clear, I can get a lot done, and I put the pedal to the medal with the projects I want to work on. It's as if the constraints forced me to narrow my focus.
When we moved here 18 months ago, without close family nearby (our regular grandma babysitters a good 27 hours-drive away), we had to get pretty. dang. creative. Sometimes, our dates look like putting the kids to bed 30 minutes early, and the other making something delicious in the kitchen, and eating our meal in relative silence. Sometimes, it means telling our kids to go and play at the beach, while we sit on the coastline and just talk without interruption. The date ideas from this list, though, is actually going out, doing something different, and not putting your own kids to bed (that's really one of the most important pieces of the date pie if you have children). Here are a few ideas we've found for great summer dates that don't include shelling out a $50.
*Google your town's free summer music list, pack a chair and a cooling snack like fruit salad, cheese, and bread, and enjoy. Here's one of mine.
*What did you play in high school or college? Grab that ball (or racket) and plan to play a match. You'll get exercise and you'll feel about 10 years younger. You might not smell like fuzzy peach perfume afterward, but playing is good for you.
*Take a walk around a lake, a park, or a nature preserve you've never been to before. Bring birdseed or bread crumbs. You'd be surprised at the wildlife that will visit you with a quiet demeanor, a bag of food, and a little patience.
*Find a town that hosts a "movie on the green". Look near your city's local universities, or an area that is a community gathering space, like a farmer's market area. In both the cities we've lived in, these have been available in the summer. They are usually free or very cheap! Bring a blanket.
*Go swimming. Whatever. Don't believe the lie that once you're out of college you can never wear a swimsuit again. It's SO HOT OUT. Let that be driving force behind you getting into that lake, ocean, pool, or fountain. You'll feel better when you're done, and remember....playing is good for you.
*Subscribe to groupon, living social, and other flash sites and keep an eye out for 1/2 price date/restaurant/getaway ideas. Why pay full price when you could literally pay 50% less (or more!) with a deal, just by being patient and finding something that sounds fun? Always wanted to try paintball? Want to hit a movie when it's just too hot out? Don't pay full price. Search in advance and take advantage when the deal hits. We've found many fun family outings or dates with this method.
Extra tip: subscribe to big cities (Houston, Seattle, LA, etc.) and get awesome deals on chain stores that you can use in your town.
*Pack a blanket, ice water, and the best dang sandwhiches and sides you can find. Picnics are still cool and an under-used special treat. If your dude feels silly, pack it in a Trader Joe's cooler, now who's the picnicing hipster? Brain-lapse moment? Here's 53 picnic food ideas to get you started.
*Got big dreams but no cash? Window shopping. Each person picks one place they'd like to go to, and you check them both out in the same date. This looked like REI for Stefan and a local 3-story bookstore for me. Inspiration for both without spending a dime (and hello! super sneaky way to find a great gift for your significant other to keep in your back pocket!)
*Local art gallery night, music festival, hacky-sack tourney, food truck lineup, gear-head show, zombie-run, or whatever you know nothing about. It's really fun to do something you might never actually plan in your free time. It's 100% better with your spouse. There's usually samples, and possibly free wine. Hey, we've done it!
*Just get some ice cream, and find someplace quiet to talk. Doing is overrated, just listen, be, and reconnect. And eat cold ice cream.