Close your eyes for just a moment and imagine someone who is frugal. What do they look like? What kind of car do they drive? What kind of house do they live in? What kind of clothing are they wearing? What does their hair look like? What kind of shoes are they wearing? I bet you imagined someone who isn’t stylish, who drives a beater car, and who lives in a little house. In America, the word “frugal” is synonymous with cheap, and being cheap isn’t an attractive character trait. It is a paradox that we are one of the most affluent countries in the world but also the most deeply in debt. Our government and our citizens are in a crippling amount of debt because our culture does not value frugality.
In America, bigger is better. Americans are all about driving big cars, living in big houses, owning big boats, eating big meals, spending big money, BIG, BIG, BIG! Recently, however, there has been a counter-cultural movement in the real estate market. Tiny houses are a recent phenomenon and they appeal to people across the generations. Minimalism is also a trend right now and I think this is because Americans are fed up with our culture’s emphasis on work. We work too much and we spend too much. We are so unhappy.
Americans love to spend money but are usually spending money they don’t have to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like. This idea that we aren’t having fun unless we’re out shopping or going out to eat is a giant load of horse shit. In this post, I am going to share 10 frugal-fun ideas for date night that won’t break the bank.
If you are “normal” (meaning you are deeply in debt), then you just cannot afford a $75 date night on your credit card. Credit cards numb us to our financial reality, causing us to overspend and buy things we can’t afford. Most folks use their credit card for almost everything. They swipe plastic to go out to dinner and see a movie, go on vacation, remodel their kitchen (because “I just can’t live with this kitchen the way it is”) – but this is a mistake because the borrower is always a slave to the lender.
The more debt you rack up, the more you will have to work to pay it off, and the less freedom you will have to make that career change you’ve been thinking about for some time. I guarantee that working a job you hate to pay off the mountain of debt you incurred in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses WILL make you an unhappy person, take a toll on your relationships, and cause you to be stressed out. Because you will never, ever keep up with the Joneses. The Joneses are BROKE!
I would also argue that the more debt we rack up and the more stuff we acquire, the greedier we become because it’s never enough. We always want more, and we compare our things to what other people have. It’s a vicious cycle, and you will never win.
If you can’t pay cash for it, you can’t afford it. Dave Ramsey interviews millionaires during his “Millionaire Theme Hour” and asks them a series of questions. I have been listening to his show for years and not once have I heard of any millionaire who became a millionaire via an inheritance from a rich uncle or any credit card company’s cash back rewards program. You aren’t getting ahead by putting things on a credit card. You are getting behind.
Right now you might be trying to claw your way out of a hole, whether that be a student loan hole or a credit card hole (or both). Or, maybe you are trying to save money for a down payment on a house, or for that big trip on your bucket list, or to buy your next car. Or, maybe you are like most Americans and are living paycheck to paycheck and there is “too much month left at the end of the money,” to use Dave Ramsey’s saying. This is a terrible situation to be in. If this at all describes your situation, the first step to making a change is the budget. In your budget, make sure you create a line item for date night.
While you do need to budget for date night, you definitely do not need to allocate a huge chunk of change to this category. Date night doesn’t have to cost a fortune! We all know how expensive it is to eat out. In Louisville, you are going to spend at least 50 bucks after tip for two people (if you order an appetizer and a couple of drinks to go with your entrées). It is so expensive, but you don’t have to be “normal.” In fact, you should run far, far away from normal because normal sucks! To be normal in this country is to be deeply in debt.
Here are 10 frugal-fun date nights that will help you avoid being “normal” and help you take control of your finances.
1. Watch stand-up comedy or an interesting documentary on Netflix or HuLu. You probably already pay for Netflix or HuLu, so why not use it? Skip the movies and save yourself $20.
2. Walk the Big Four Bridge (or your neighborhood). Walking is great exercise and it is totally free! The Big Four bridge here in Louisville is beautiful at sunset. Or, you could walk around your neighborhood and look at all the houses and talk about which ones are your favorite, and why.
3. Recreate your first date. If you are a sucker for nostalgia, this one’s for you! If you went out to eat, go to the same restaurant. If you went to the Falls of the Ohio to watch the sun set, go there and do that.
4. Eat dinner at home, but pick up two yellow cupcakes with caramel icing from Homemade Pie Kitchen. If you love sweets as much as I do, then you will love Homemade Pie Kitchen’s yellow cupcakes with caramel icing. They are to die for, especially with a side of vanilla ice cream. (Buy ice cream at the store ahead of time though so you don’t have to pay a small fortune for two scoops out.) It’s the little things that, over time, add up to big savings.
5. Order carryout or share an entrée. We believe in tipping 20%, but this definitely inflates the bill. Order carry out so you avoid having to tip. Or, go out but split an entrée. We all know portions are massive at American restaurants and most could probably feed three or four people.
6. Make mini pizzas. Go to ALDI and buy some small tortillas, pizza sauce, shredded cheese, meat, and veggies and make your own mini pizzas at home. Invite some friends over and make it a little get-together! Ask your friends to bring a salad and dessert. Boom! Frugal date night at home!
7. Go to Dollar Tree and buy a few boxes of candy, then go to Village 8 and see a $2 movie. Sometimes you will see a movie at Village that sucks, but at least you can make fun of how bad it is together! Also, buying popcorn and candy at the movies is one of the biggest rip-offs on the planet. I always, always, always buy candy at Dollar Tree and stuff everything in my purse. I also sneak bottled water because I refuse to spend $6 on a soda. I refuse to make the owners of the entertainment industry even filthier rich. I am willing to hustle a little bit and do some advance preparation to avoid getting ripped off.
8. Go to yard sales on a Saturday morning. Who says date night has to be at night-time? Check out the Garage Sales section on Craig’s List and see what yard/garage sales are happening in your area. You can’t beat yard sale prices, and sometimes you can find really nice things for your house, or even new-to-you clothing!
9. Have a picnic at a local park. If the weather is beautiful, pack some food, drinks, and a big blanket and connect with nature and just be outside together. I love the saying “we are human beings, not human doings.” Stop doing and just be for once.
10. Go get coffee and people watch. While coffee out is expensive as hell, if you consider how much it costs for two people to go out to eat, the cost of two cups of coffee out is quite small in comparison.