This move was never expected to be easy. Both couples are losing a great deal of independence, and that's a hard pill to swallow. Couple that with a very busy schedule, and it seems easy to get into a routine of just doing housework until we drop.
Mr. Moon and I had a big, long discussion about that before we moved. We talked about priorities, and how we need to make our relationship a very high priority. Regular dates, getting out of the house when we can, and affirming our commitment to each other. Of course, in practice it's not so easy. And doing so frugally has been a chore.
I think the hardest thing for people to learn is that anything that is routine makes it inherently less "special" in your mind. You may have fond memories of going fishing every Saturday with your grandparents for a few years as a kid, but if you did that every day it wouldn't be anything to write home about. "Dates" are, to me, something special. Something where you put forth effort to determine what would make an enjoyable experience for yourself and your partner, and out of the ordinary.
When you don't live together, a home-cooked meal and some TV on DVD is a super-special date. But living together and cook at home as a rule, that's just your average Thursday night. It gets frustrating when I see advice on popular personal finance blogs telling people that this kind of activity can be a date--I mean sure, if you don't spend time together every night doing exactly that, but at some point you can't say you got a date with your partner 6 days a week. If you always eat out together, a home-cooked meal is special. Not typically in this house.
But personal finance is also about saving in some areas so you can afford others. Let's say we eat at home most nights so that we can afford to go out for "dates"--and so that then, eating out is a special thing and not a go-to behavior.
We've also been making a point of doing some dates "in." If Mum & Pops are going out to dinner for a date, we might stay at home, watch a movie on the nice big screen TV, and cook something that's a little more gourmet than we do for the 4 of us. And by "gourmet" I apparently mean "spicy" because that's what these meals end up being! But it takes a certain mindfulness to make these nights special, and food is a big part of that.
I do feel blessed that Mr. Moon and I get to enjoy each others' company as a rule in ways that some couples would consider "date night" activities. I've been mindful of the fact that we won't always have this level of freedom in our lives, and to enjoy it while it lasts.
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to some of the dates we have planned for the future:
- Mr. Moon gets all the free movies he wants at his current job; I can't sit through movies often, but having them at half-price and going for a matinee really takes the sting out of it and would make it a bit more enjoyable for me (or at least not so bad if I miss more of the movie than I'd like).
- Kites! We found our kites and have a bucket full of park toys we're excited to go enjoy soon. Bonus, we have a park in our backyard! And it's a cheap way to hang out with friends.
- Camping: We have a few trips around the area we've been dying to try, and we also want to go camping more often. Since campgrounds are cheaper than hotels and we already own a tent, we're pulling double-duty and getting in some camping as well as sight-seeing in the region. Our first stop, I hope, will be the Hood River Fruit Loop, to find some non-grape fruit wines. Also on the list: Bend, Eugene, and a few places on the Pacific coast.
- And of course, bar-hopping. That is hardly a cheap date though, and we're focused on saving as much as we can and paying off debt right now.
What do you do for a special night with your honey, to get out of the daily grind and focus on each other? Any specifically budget-friendly ideas that aren't too cliche?