Monday, October 3, 2011

DIY: Spice up your marriage: free (or nearly!) dates!

It has been a really, really long time since I blogged. One week to be exact. I feel really bad about that, but it has been such an insanely stressful time over here, that there just wasn't time or mind-space for creative juices to flow. We're going to try to get back on track with 3 blogs this week. The current blog, one about personal apple crisp (i can't get enough apples!) and then a DIY ribbon flower necklace.
If you know me well, then you know we're huge proponents of marriage. Someday, I'd like to become a marriage counselor and help couples put back together what they never, ever thought could be restored. But, that's a long way off. So, until then... I'll just give you tons of fun ways to connect with each other, grow your marriage and have FUN together without spending much (or any!) money at all. I spent hours scouring the internet for fun, free date ideas, but in the end it was the same 20 things rotated over and over again. And really, they weren't super exciting. I tried to expand on what I did find, and brainstormed several of my own. This is the result! John and I are working our way through the list, I hope you will, too. If you think of something that is forgotten, don't hesitate to comment and add it at the bottom! Some of these dates are specific to our climate, so to those of you without four distinct seasons... um, sorry. Enjoy!

1. Talent exchange:
Spend the evening (or a few, or even a weekend) teaching your spouse how to do something that s/he doesn't know how to do. It could be artistic, musical (I'm going to have John start teaching me piano and guitar again!), athletic, kitchen-related, a language... anything!

2. The local park:
This gets tossed around a lot. But instead of just using the child-sized playground equipment, bring a Frisbee or a soccer ball along. Pack a picnic to take with you- ride your bikes there together. Lay in the grass and watch the clouds- make a list ahead of time of different shapes to try to ID, the first person to find them all wins! And, of course, don't forget to bring a kite! When was the last time you flew a kite? If you don't own one, a quick google search will help you use household items to make your own. Double the date-ness! Create your own (custom, super cool!) kite together and then fly it. If you can try it, play capture the flag! Hide something in the park and the first person to find the other spouse's item wins!

3. Sneak into a pool:
I probably shouldn't endorse this online, but it totally speaks to me. This is something original that I saw online. You should probably do it. What's the worst thing that can happen? You'd get kicked out...and that just makes for a great memory! Win-win, I say!

4. Themed night in:
Choose a theme (Mexican, Italian, Japanese, French...) and make an entire evening around it. Cook a dish, watch a movie and make a playlist (for dancing!) that all revolves around the theme. If you want extra credit, dress in the appropriate style. It's a little more fun than the typical dinner and a movie, plus you'll have fun learning about the culture as you research recipes!

5. Game night:
I know it's nerdy, but we love busting out the board games! Twister, scrabble, monopoly... it's all good. You know what's extra fun though? Try to get your hands on some legos.

6. Play in the snow:
Build a snowman. Go ice skating. SLED! Make snow angels. Ski. If you're forced to live in a snowy climate, make the best of it. I don't like being cold, but the workout you get from playing in the snow generally tends to make the frosty feeling go away. Don't forget to have a nice, cozy blanket and super thick, homemade hot chocolate waiting for you when you get back in.

7. Local... anything:
I just discovered that if you live in Ingham County, you can go to the Lansing (Michigan) zoo for $4! That's so cheap! Did you know that a lot of museums have a free night, as well? Do some research in your area to see what you can find that's free or nearly free to do. Art galleries (ArtPrize for all my west-side people!) often have a free night as well. Look it up. Use it.

8. Dream home:
Plan out what your dream home looks like (lots of ivy, story-bookish for me. read: English Countryside). Take a tour of homes in the area that look like what you'd love. Plan one together. It can become a life goal! Then, think of ways you can make your current home a little more like that. Rearrange a room together, consider a small DIY project... let your brain do some creative thinking to improve your space.

9. Photo shoot:
I used to do this with my BFF all the time, why not have some fun with John? Get out the camera, choose some outfits for each other and go to town! You can take pics in your home or go on location. If you have a timer option, take pictures together!

10. Mud fight!
Again, something totally fun and crazy that I once did with a friend. Put on some grubby clothes after a good rain and have at it. Person with the least amount of mud on them wins. Invent your own rules... :)

11. Build a fort:
Our sweet fort in the living room
We did this 2 nights ago and the fort is STILL up in our living room. Wasn't building a fort as a kid the very best? My brother and I used to do that all the time. We'd make them out of couch cushions in our living room OR we'd even make them outside. After we built our fort, we put a blow up mattress down inside and watched our favorite TV shows from John's computer. It was SO fun! And as embarrassing as it was for the maintenance guy to come today and see it in all of it's glory... it was totally worth it. I'd do it all over again!

12. Beach:
Beyond swimming, sunning and eating... add some more fun to an already great outing. Have a sandcastle building competition or bury a willing partner in the sand! See who can swim the most laps or stay under water the longest. Skip rocks. Friendly competition is fun! You could consider renting kayaks or canoes as well.

13. Enjoy the fall:
I really love fall, it's my favorite of the 4 seasons. Enjoy it! Visit a cider mill (I am so, so sorry if you don't have those. That's just criminal), pet the animals... have multiple cups of cider and doughnuts. Make a HUGE pile of leaves and have a leaf-jumping contest. Visit the farmers markets and get some great local produce at prices better than the grocery store. Visit an actual farm!

14. Be in a TV audience:
See who is filming shows in your area and make it happen! How fun is that?!

15. Have a dance party:
We love this. Make a playlist of really fun songs and dance the night away! I always feel bad for the guy that lives below us...

16. Yard/Estate sale and thrifting:
I love it! Make a budget and see what you can get. The person who finds the best treasure wins! you could even create outfits for each other with a budget as well. See if you can find an old piece of furniture that you can re-purpose together. If none of that speaks to you, have your own yard sale together! It'll be fun and you can use the extra cash you make to bank roll a night on the town, or buy something you've really been wanting.

17. Plan your dream vacation:
I knew a guy who did this all.the.time. Honestly. He was always planning some insane getaway that he never actually took... but I think he had just as much fun planning the vacation as he would have if he had actually GONE. It was wild! Sit down and plan exactly what you want to do together... a destination, a place to stay, fun things you want to do along the way, everything. Add up how much it will cost and then make a dream jar. Don't buy it, just make your own! Get a jar or a box or ... whatever... and put pictures of the destination (or whatever else you want to save up for?) on it. Start throwing in spare change and dollars, before you know it... you'll be on your way!

18. Backyard camping:
Set up a tent, bring some games, bonfire and s'more materials. Super fun.

19. Take a walk together:
As silly as it sounds, this is a great way to improve your quality of life. We take as many walks per week together as schedule allows. You get outside, you get some exercise and you get quality time together to talk and enjoy your spouse's company with zero distractions. Besides, the French say that walking is the only acceptable form of exercise :)

20. Make a time capsule:
Fill it with everything about your relationship, including pictures of course. You can either bury it for someone else to find, or hide it away in your closet to bring out at a milestone anniversary. I love memory lane.

21. Create together:
Choose a craft or art project that you can do together and do it! If neither of you are of the artsy bent, just get a white canvas and paint that matches the color scheme of the intended room. Take turns splattering it on and call it modern art :) There is something so bonding about creating a project together.

22. Draw portraits of each other:
Look, even if you can't draw a thing... this will still be awesome.

23. Visit your state capital or another historic building:
No commentary necessary.

24. Hang out at your local library:
This is really a treasure. You'd be shocked how many DVDs are available to rent (for free!) from the library! Take turns looking for your favorite children's books and showing each other different writings and authors that have inspired you along the way.

25. Bless the neighbors/volunteer together:
We like to bake cupcakes for everyone who moves into our complex... it's fun! Consider doing something nice for your neighbors together, or volunteer together in some way. There are tons of non-profs looking for help. It'll be rewarding on so many levels.

26. Go people watching:
Yeah... this is great. We love to watch people and speculate about where they're going and who they are. Try it.

27. Animal shelter:
Help out by socializing (read: playing with) animals at your local shelter. You may end up with a new family member! If not, you can curb the urge for a furry friend by playing with one for a few hours.

28. Color together:

29. Create a life list/goals:
We did this recently on a long car ride. It was really awesome. Sit down and take turns writing down every goal you have for life (mentally, physically, educationally, spiritually... everything). Think of things you want to do together (vacations, purchases, experiences) as well as separately. See what you can do now and what has to be done later. It will give you more purpose and help you define choices you make (will that take us closer to or further from our goals).

30. Pumpkin carving!
This belongs under "fall", but I liked it too much.

31. Roller Derby:
My cousin does this- it is intense! if you don't know what it is- google it... and then go watch it live.

32. Hit up your community center:
Billiards, foosball, ping pong tables... there are tons of free things to do!

33. Christmas light touring:
Drive around looking at all of the beautiful homes, covered in lights. Take walks down streets lined with light-trimmed trees. It's gorgeous.

34. Watch the planes come in:
As much as I hate flying, I love watching the planes come in. If you can find an abandoned parking lot close to the airport, you can really see them up close. I like to lie on my back and watch them soar over, wondering where in the world they're coming from. It's really interesting.

35. Go to a shooting or driving range:
Shoot the targets or hit those golf balls... your choice.

36. Cross your local border!
Whether it's into Canada for the day (that's us!), Mexico or just your state border... it'll be fun to experience something out of the ordinary. Take a train if you need to, but no flying!

37. TV show ritual:
Take turns choosing a TV show and watch seasons of it. You can use Hulu or Netflix, it's great to watch TV commercial free and it's fun to have a ritual. You can always make it into a marathon!

38. Puzzle together:
Do a crossword, word search, sudoku, etc. together. If you're feeling really committed, get a 1000+ piece puzzle to piece together... if you love it, you can glue it in place, frame it and make it art. I saw a bathroom once that was entirely covered in puzzles, glued directly to the wall... it was impressive.

39. Spa night:
Treat each other to facials and massages. Yay :)

40. Bird watching:
Look online to see what sorts of birds can be seen in your area, print off a list and take it to the woods. See how many you can find.

41. Flip for it:
Get a quarter and hop in the car... at each intersection or stop sign (create your own rules!), flip to see if you go right or left (heads/tails). Then flip to see where you stop for lunch (yes/no) if you go to a movie, which movie you see... whatever!

42. Read together:
This habit came after it was discovered that John hadn't ever read the Chronicles of Narnia. I started reading it to him from the beginning, and it ended up being really fun. You can pause along the way to discuss your favorite parts, which just enhances the whole book. Take turns reading your favorite books to each other, it's really fantastic.

43. Scavenger hunt:
You can make lists for each other or make ONE list together. First one to finish wins.

44. Fruit picking:
Visit your local fruit farm and pick whatever is in season. So great!

45. Write your love story:
Write your love story from the very, very beginning until now (or whatever momentous occasion you choose). Once it's written, use a website like Shutterfly to accent it with pictures and turn it into a book. What a great keepsake for you, and for your children, grandchildren... everyone to come.

46. Write love letters:
My favorite author always, always wrote love letters with his wife. Even when in the next room, they were always writing love letters to each other. Spend an evening writing out a lovely letter for your spouse.

47. Hair, baby:
Do each other's hair. You can cut it, dye it, style it... whatever your risk level allows. Even just playing with each other's hair is relaxing.

48. Photo anniversary/renew your vows:
I saw the photo anniversary on pinterest and we hopped on board. The idea is that you take a picture each year on your anniversary of you holding a picture from the year before. It seems like a lot to do annually, but maybe at milestones. We took a picture on our wedding anniversary of us holding a wedding picture and an actual marriage picture (we eloped nearly one year before the wedding), but we'll take all subsequent pictures on our actual marriage anniversary. Or maybe on the anniversary of when we started dating! I like that.

49. Plant a marriage tree:
I love this! Plant a tree in honor of your marriage, care for it and watch it grow. When it's big enough, be sure to carve your initials in it.

50: Create a holiday:
It can be the day you got together, it can be an existing holiday that you just love to celebrate... but make it into a huge deal. Every year we have a "Christmas party" for just the two of us. We bake cookies, eat from the popcorn tins, put up our tree, watch our favorite Christmas movies... it's our favorite day of the year.

51: Work out together:
My parents have worked out together every day of their lives (except Sunday) for ... well, as long as I can remember. It's a great bonding experience, as well as good for your body. Run together, life weights, do aerobics... whatever your brand of working out is, do it together.

52. DIY Seminar:
Williams Sonoma, Lowes, Home Depot... these are just a few places that offer free DIY seminars. It's really fun to learn a new skill together... but it's more fun when it's free!

53. IKEA:
Just go. It's crazy fun to walk through Ikea... and you can eat some delicious Swedish meatballs for next-to-nothing at their fantastic cafe.

54. Create a favorite things/gratitude list:
Take time to write out your very favorite things about your spouse and/or your marriage, and then share them.

55. Create a memory jar:
This is another idea I saw online (unrelated to dates), but loved and modified. Create/decorate a jar or vase and then place a small, square pad of paper and a pen next to it. Every time you have a great memory with your spouse or s/he does something you really appreciate, write it down on a slip of paper and put it into your jar. On New Year's Eve, read all of the slips together. Save them, and each year add them to a scrapbook.

AND- if you want more? Here's a link to another 48 free/cheap dates specifically for winter! 
This is probably the longest blog I've ever written. No need for a long sign off... hopefully you're inspired to do something free and fun with your spouse :)


  1. Wow. This is the sweetest relationship post I've ever read. You have some incredible ideas here. :)

    1. I believe in lifelong love! It's definitely work, but sometimes the work can be fun, and things like this help!

  2. this is awesome :) I'll be keeping these ideas in mind.. my husband and I have been together 15 years (married 9) and sometimes it's hard to think of fun free things to do.. :) Also I feel bad for people that don't have cider mills near them.. we have one a 5 minute drive down the road and there are more all over too.. :) perks of living in Michigan :)

    1. Wow! That is a long time- keep it up, lady! :) As for the cider mills, there have to be *some* perks to living in MI, or we'd all move!

  3. I love this! Thanks for all the suggestions! My hubby and I have only been on a handful of dates in the last 3 years. We FINALLY get to have another one on Saturday, but are short on funds. Looking forward to using one of these ideas! :)

  4. Thank you for this list!! Found you on google, and this is amazing!!


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