7 Free Date Night Ideas

We are celebrating our 9 YEAR ANNIVERSARY this week. NINE–wow, that’s close to 10.

We are getting old….And, let it be known, I am THE luckiest. Our lives aren’t perfect and I’m not perfect and the mister isn’t perfect-BUT there is no one else I’d rather trail with in our journey. Love him and he pushes me more than anyone else. Anyway, that being said…let’s talk cheap date ideas because we are going to need to be doing a LOT more of those in these upcoming weeks and months.

Money is tight right now {family vacation/school starting/4 children/new van/residency budget-enough said 😉 } and so I have been racking my brain trying to think of fun ways I can spend meaningful time with my man that won’t break the bank.

For us right now we pretty much have been doing babysitters for the first time ever [don’t get me wrong swapping is great but 8.5 years of swapping gets old and complicated]… So having a babysitter is A-MAZING and dreamy to me and my kids LOVE IT, but it still adds to the date price–because if you eat out and go to a movie and pay for a babysitter-we’re talking BIG BUCKS here} So, these date ideas are ideas where you can JUST pay for the time of a babysitter and nothing else {or at least not much else}.

FYI–We are NOT on a date by ourselves in this picture-this was yesterday playing as a family on our anniversary- but, look between our heads-HA HA!!! We saw this and started laughing out loud…little Sass squeezed in there and now this is a new favorite picture. Cracked me up!

Anyway, SOooo here is my doable, affordable, yet hopefully FUN and memory making date list::


  1. This is a huge category with endless possibilities.

    • Here are some of my ideas {not exhaustive, but just to get your ideas flowing}

    • pack a picnic for 2 by a lake and talk/bike around it/watch the stars and talk each other’s ears off without children

    • Go on a hike together WITH your cameras and take attemptively artsy pics and enjoy nature together

    • Go swim in a river {you know how we LOVE our rivers and exploring here in Texas}

    • Explore a new park or river or lake you’ve never been to before.

    • ANYTHING active–exercising, swimming, sports, roller blading [we still want to get some], whatever…

    • Rent those free bikes downtown and ride around together and hit up some new stores to window shop



This idea is on my mind mostly because it’s our anniversary this week and we get to go down memory lane later this week with family. But, it is super fun to have a date that is similar to one of your first ones….where you met, the restaurant you use to love together, or re-live one of your first dates, visit the school you used to go to, the first place you kissed, all those things…..!


Something about the planning of a scavenger hunt makes it oh so fun and purposeful. Totally doable with a babysitter and gives you something to d-o opposed to get someplace and leave and be done. My man made me a birthday scavenger hunt once and it was THE Best birthday EVER because of the thoughtfulness that went into it. Fun memories… it almost doesn’t even matter the destination because it is the effort that makes this special…also fun with groups and group date races, etc.

4. COOKING TOGETHER date night in–no babysitter needed.

It is SO fun to cook together….as a woman, you aren’t fully responsible if it tastes good or bad when you do it as a date {which is a perk if it goes wrong}, and it just is more fun when you are cooking with your best friend! And, B is actually great at cooking he just doesn’t have the time. Date night in is a great way to get him to explore this rarely used hidden talent of his…..and when we do this when kids are in bed we can cook something they would hate and we would love 😉


You heard me. You know you have the best husband when….. you learn a choreographed dance together one night on Youtube. We haven’t done this in forever….probably 2 years ago we did this to a hip/hop routine and it was hilarious and awesome…and I married a good dancer so it was super fun. DO IT PEOPLE. No-one will even know you did. We would always tell each other how we should randomly bust out and do this little choreographed dance we learned suddenly in front of our family, but we never did. That would have been hilarious though-I think we need to learn another one….


Ok, again-possibility’s are endless here. I’m imagining going to a music store with the mister in a soundproof room and      we could sing/jam together my style. Teach him some harmonizing, etc….OR having him teach me how to play a sport together like basketball, fly fishing, surgeon knots 😉 or something he is good at. It’s fun to do something one of you is good at and play student and see and learn about each other’s passion.

7. Dressing up our DATE NIGHT [Netflix] IN.

For us our Netflix binge Fridays and Saturdays are fun, but if that’s the only dating we do it loses its fun over time….so every now and then we need to put more effort into it and “dress it up a little” so it seems more  special than pressing play.

Ideas to “dress it up a little”::

*Make special treats/snacks before to eat during the movie/show watching,

*get extra cozy with extra blankets and pillows for snuggling,

* grab some thoughtless board games you can play when y’all are starting to get tired but still want to stay awake and watch…

AKA:: You work at the hospital around the clock so you are tired {him} or because you are chasing around 4 children all day {me}…. our favorite board games to do while movie watching are Sequence and Scrabble. ;).

Hope these cheap date night ideas save some pennies and add some memories. If you have any other free or cheap date night ideas PLEASE comment with them….I need to add to this list for the next few months. 

PS-just for fun- Here’s a throw back pic to one of our old cheap dates when we were kidless and newlyweds where we were egg tossing back and forth scooting further and further back till one of us lost…..clearly I lost here-so funny! Evidence that you don’t need to spend money to have fun and make memories.

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My Favorite Dollar Tree Finds

I L O V E living close to the Dollar Tree, more than I anticipated actually. I used to drop in and get random things there if I drove by and had spare time; but, NOW that it is so close to my house I feel much more familiar with the smart things to get there and am LOVING IT!

So, here are some of my favorite Dollar Tree Finds::

[side note:: this totally is NOT sponsored-[though that would be pretty amazing if it was 😉 ] I just love sharing cheap happiness with friends. I don’t know why, I’m like a walking advertisement when I buy cheap things or anything that I love really. So here we go!]

1. Storage Containers:: I just discovered their storage container section and am in LOVE. I have been annoyed with my disorganized little pantry lately and I spent $5 on 5 storage containers and finally feel like my little pantry is organized and I can fit more in there by using these.

2. Brown Paper Wrapping Paper:: My friend Sally got me on to this brown wrapping paper from the Dollar Tree a year ago. I love it because it works for a n y occasion, is cheap, and you can make it cute with tweed rope, bows, or colorful ribbons, etc. You canNOT beat $1 for all purpose wrapping paper.

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Loan Money and Budgeting 101

 SERIOUSLY…boring blog post, right?

Well, ends up I am kind-of passionate about budgeting and I felt like sharing my lessons learned so far. And, truth is, it really MAY be as boring as my kids are making it look above…so only read if you want a serious run down of my budget and thoughts of loan money and things of that sort!!

Okay, I’ll be honest I’m no professional accountant; however, in terms of our family–I’m the “executer” with budget. AKA:: the unofficial accountant [I suppose] and I guess you could say it has become PRETTY second nature since I’ve been doing it for 5 years now.

 Braden has tons on his plate [as any med student+father+hubby does…not to mention church responsibilities] so we agreed on the budget together {right after we were married and we go over it every time we take out loans now that we are in med school} and I am the one who keeps track of our spending, earnings, etc. [since I DO have the time, oh wait we don’t make any earnings ;)]
For all of you newbies to the loan thing {since med school was our first time to take out a loan, period}, here are some things I’ve learned so far::


Sounds painful {sometimes it feels a titch painful}, BUT the vast majority of the time it just plain helps and blesses our family. Having a budget has helped ME distinguish WANT vs. NEED. Sure, we NEED to get a WANT every now and then to keep us sane; but, when you have a certain amount of money budgeted it helps you to really weigh out how often to do that and how badly you really need or want something….and to be patient and wait til you can afford something.

So here are some categories that we have used for our budget since we’ve been married….5 years strong and it has really helped us live within our means….or now {since we live on loan money} helps us not gain additional debt and interest unnecessarily…
Okay, here are our categories in case this helps any med school families out there [or to document for my kiddos if they want to see how to do it when the time comes]::
*Hubby personal money
*Wife personal money
*individual kids personal money
*Car insurance {not literally car insurance, because we pay for that…but money in case you car randomly breaks down to pay for the out of pocket price…we figure if we put some down every month it’ll prepare us and give us padding for when something comes up without having to freak out}
*family money-small amount each month for a family outing…..not to disclose personal info, but ours is $20! 🙂 So it allows for like the pumpkin patch outting, or one trip to fast food, or a carnival, the state fair, whatever! It makes us plan wisely….
*Miscellaneous Money— For RANDOM stuff…kids’ friends or whoever birthday parties, unexpected expenditures, the neighbor who sells with girl scout cookies that you feel bad not getting 1 box to support, etc…whatever!
*Cleaning supplies:: like chlorox wipes, toilet paper, windex, whatever
*Gas/electric bills– we average our summer and winter months and divide that by how many months of loan we are taking out and take out that much
*Gas— this is tricky…we did the same thing, calculated how much gas we spent over a fixed period of time via wellsfargo online{we did 5 months…because we get paid August-December…then in January we’ll get another dispersement of loans}….so we averaged 5 months of usage from examining our gas usage for 5 months…does that make sense? I’m totally not rereading my ramble because I don’t have that sort of time. Hopefully it makes some sort of sense! Yes, gas prices fluctuate, but so far we’ve been fine with the built-in-pads in our budget…and what prices go up must come down…so sometimes we get cheap gas, etc.
*real car insurance-obviously have to calculate that in…we pay 6 months at a time…and let me tell you BARGAIN people! I went back and forth with 3 companies and got my price way down…geico! I’ve been super impressed with them so far….I PROMISE if you start accounting for where your spending you will spend LESS.
Check out mint.com too…it’s a safe place to track your spending.
 *Savings–whether it’s $5 or $500, there should be SOMETHING going in every month into just plain savings. This also is a great padding to have for when something unexpected and expensive happens. Start the habit now and it will become second nature. Living below your means just feels good.

2. REUSE/alter things you have.

Man, oh man have I learned a thing or two about recycling clothes…. I have learned how to use fabric from a cute dress I LOVED with a hole in it to wear as a scarf…or turned my old shirt into a skirt for Brightyn, or old pinstriped pants into a tie for Jack, etc. Look at old clothes you don’t wear as potential sewing projects and you will realize you can make clothes for kiddos and save some moolah. It’s a whole new world when you try to decide what to get rid of….lol. BUT, you don’t have to save EVERYTHING…just things that you will actually use for something else.

3. Pay your TITHING.

Though we don’t often earn money these days we still pay tithing ANY TIME we do. {random babysitting jobs, a certificate check for getting the highest grade in one of Braden’s medschool class–had to throw that in :), random things like that}.We believe in the law of the tithe and pay 10% of everything we earn. Man, has it blessed our lives! We have learned how to budget better because of paying tithing, have been blessed with all that we need because we pay our tithing, and random blessings when money is tight in ways that ONLY could be planned by Heavenly Father looking after us.

4. Never take out the full amount the school offers you for loans.

I say this for 2 reasons, 1-I know from experience you can TOTALLY live below it….kind-of easily actually….2-you begin accruing loans as SOON as the disperse the money until the day you start paying back {boo!…so don’t take it all}, 3-YOU CAN ALWAYS TAKE OUT MORE! Once I found THAT out it was almost like, …um….are they TRYING to trick us into accruing more debt….so up to a certain date (call the school and they can tell you) you can ask for more within the amount they originally offered. Off the top of my head I wanna say we could get like 5,000 less than they offered…but I don’t REALLY remember. So far, we’ve never HAD to ask for more. We have some built in padding that has always left us fine so far…..but, it is comforting knowing that you can….might as well TRY to spend less, rigggghhhhtttt? Years later the thousands dollars LESS with thank you.


This is one of my FAVORITE things to do. Don’t judge me. Try it first! Okay, I don’t really go in a big dumpster and shop {though I’m not opposed to that if I had some friends and babysitters…and there weren’t any weird creatures and bugs around}….I’m talking big garbage day shopping. In good ‘ol Oklahoma we have a big garbage day on the 1st Monday of the month and it is simply the best. Everyone puts their big garbage by the street for the garbage men to get. My kids and I drive around EVERY big garbage day around here…we get new kids toys, storage containers, free lotion samples from Bath and Body Works {weird, why would someone throw that away?}, patio chairs, hay bails for Thanksgiving tonight actually…patio decor, right?, book shelf, etc. And, I’ve seen lots of stuff I haven’t taken because I don’t have room …. air hockey table THAT WORKS, 3 piece living room furniture set {saw that tonight}, etc…..OOOhhhh, it makes me sooo happy. I have to thank my sisters-in-law for bringing me for my first time when I was engaged to the Mr….never did I know how addicted I would become. Truth is, I LOVE shopping–always have, but am too dang cheap to actually buy stuff. Dumpster diving, I can shop guilt free as MUCH as I want FOR FREE–addiction fulfilled. FREEDOM!!! So fulfill your shopping desires dumpster diving and you will learn you can do the whole budget thing. 😉
Latest find::

Kitchen in amazing condition...as in PERFECT! The lady said the dog peed on the corner and she didn’t feel like cleaning it. Um, it’s PLASTIC!! Chlorox!! There were like 3 dots in the corner, and I chlorox any dumpster dive finds anyway and it came right off. Finds like these make me wonder how and if I will ever go back….and bless that woman for her lack of desire to clean.

Anyway, it’s our first time to be in debt in our marriage and it’s the first time EVER in our marriage we haven’t had a decent amount of money in our savings. This is why we want to stay in debt as SHORT as possible. Who knows how much of a difference these things we do will help us get out of debt OR how much more quickly, but I’m SURE it will help and it has taught me to be frugal and thrifty. I’ll never be the same. As in, will I ever stop dumpster shopping on big garbage day? I don’t know maybe in like 15 years…..?? It’s SO FUN! Could I really pay 50 bucks for something I could get for free? Not looking likely at last for 15 years. It’s fun and gratifying, y’all should totally try it!

There’s my blurb on loan money and budgeting…..exciting, I KNOW!

Ah, wait…one more thing…I totally keep track of the budget old school. While some people are into Mint and I do recommend it as a safe way to organize your budget, I STILL prefer paper and pencil. Mostly because in one receipt I have multiple categories to divide into usually. For example, I may have gotten Sass a shirt at Walmart, good for grocery, and some cheap sunglasses for me. In this case, I would have 3 different categories in one receipt:: Mandy personal, Sass personal, and grocery. Mint can’t quite divide it like that….and if it can, it seems way more complicated to me than just doing it myself.  I guess I’m just plain old school. [and I don’t write down gas/bills/etc…I just account for grocery, personal money for every one, misc money, cleaning money, and family fun money….the rest we have in the budget and can just live and know we’ve planned well.]
Wow…apparently I am kind-of passionate about all that unlike my unenthusiastic kids :). I’m done now! 🙂 Hope that helps someone organize their budget. I have come to love budgeting and have been blessed immensely by it. Go do it, it isn’t hard I PROMISE!


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