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Cheap Dates For Every Stage Of Life

Simple Living (featured column)
by Deann Curtis

I remember when Paul and I first were dating, how exciting every little thing we did together was.  We took walks at the park, played at the beach, went to the zoo and out to dinner.  Now, with eight children, it seems like we never get to do anything together.  But really, that is not the truth.  We share many wonderful times together.  We just need to change the way we think about things.

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For instance, taking the garbage can down to the street every Sunday night, has become a ritual that we both look forward too.  We sort through the recycling and work together to get our job done.  However, when I say cheap dates, I do mean cheap, but even we are not cheap enough to consider taking out the trash a date.  So, if taking out the trash isn't a cheap date, what is?

Well, first try to think of dating in a different light.  Think of what you each like doing, what you like doing together, and what you need to do.  It is perfectly all right to make a date out of an interest that only one of you partakes in, as long as the other person is made to feel included.  You might soon realize that you both now share the same interest.

It is also fine to make a date out of doing a job together, as long as you find a way to make it fun for both of you.  It might seem hard to come up with cheap dates, but if you put your heads together, I am sure you will be able to come up with a list of great ideas you will both enjoy.

Here are some cheap things we have done to spend special time together, they are categorized by relationship stages...

Two Single People in Love:

1. Walk through a new park with a picnic basket in hand.  Make sure to pack your picnic yourself to save money.
2. Borrow a movie from the library and watch it together while sharing a big bowl of fresh buttered popcorn and a soda.
3. Borrow a sled from a friend and go sledding together.  Don't forget to take a thermos of hot cocoa or apple cider.
4. Spend the evening playing board games by candlelight.
5. Cook a new recipe together.  Make it a complete dinner and you will have several hours to spend together.
6. Spend the afternoon walking through your local museum on a free or lower admission day.

Newlyweds Discovering a New Sort of Love:

1. Spend the day shopping for furniture at second hand stores.
2. Spend the day refinishing your second hand furniture.
3. Call up your in-laws and learn how to make your husband or wife's favorite dish, then do it.
4. Spend the day looking through model homes, bring home an inexpensive new decorating idea to try at home.
5. Go out on a date reminiscent of one of your memorable first dates.  In our family, we celebrate July 8th day.  That is the day Paul and I met.
6. Spend the day using several of your wedding gifts.  Remember to be thankful for what you have and make a mental note to send out those thank you cards, if you haven't yet.

New Parents with a New Reason to Love Each Other:

1. Take the baby, or even older children, to the playground.  Enjoy seeing the world through their eyes.
2. Go to a children's museum.  Focus on the fun.  Your children will be learning even while they are JUST playing.
3. Borrow some of your favorite children's movies from your own childhood.  Now that you have children, you will want to revisit everything that was good about your childhood, and pass on special memories to your own children.
4. Spend the day at second hand stores shopping for clothes and other items for your children.  Be sure to set some aside for special days that will be coming up in the future.
5. Spend the day painting and cleaning up the children's room.  Just cleaning up and reorganizing will make a big difference and make you and your children feel so reenergized.
6. Take some time to take pictures of your children.  It doesn't cost much to take pictures and the memories you preserve can be enjoyed long into the future.

Parents of Several Children:

1. Spend an afternoon teaching your children some of your favorite songs from your childhood.  Do this together so that your children will get an idea of your different backgrounds.  They will gain an appreciation for the hard work you have put into blending your pasts to become happily married.
2. Teach your children how to make cookies with you.  Be sure to include family favorites from your childhoods.
3. Take your children to one of the places you enjoyed visiting when  you were dating.  If you have moved since  your dating days, visit a place that is similar and reminds you of one of your favorite spots.  Then as the children walk ahead, take each other's hand and smile.  You've built a lifetime together.
4. Spend part of a day working on a project as a family.  It could be cleaning, getting a garden plot ready or cleaning up a snowy driveway.  Reward yourself when you are done with a special treat.
5. Teach your children to play a game together.  Then spend an evening playing games.  Either play one game together like monopoly for older children or play several matches of checkers at the same time.  You can usually buy checkers or other games for one or two dollars.  If it is a game everyone enjoys get several and play a tournament.
6. Go to the park as a family and work on outdoor game playing skills.  Play catch, shoot hoops or have running races.

Parents of Many Children:

1. Have your own backyard carnival.  Have a cake walk passing out cupcakes to the winners (be sure they all win).  Play musical chairs.  Have a paper airplane flying contest.  Have a variety of races.  Have a ball throwing contest.  Be creative, your children will love you for it.
2. Go to the swimming pool for a special family swim time.  Many pools have a special discount for families during a certain time each week.
3. Divide your family up into work teams.  Work together to clean the house or the backyard.  The team to get done first gets their snack first.  Make sure everyone gets a reward at the end.
4. Sit together in the backyard, watching the children fight, er..., I mean play in the sunshine.
5. While the children are busy, sneak out to the garage to clean it up.
6. Work together on a big project, like pancakes for breakfast.  You will feel so satisfied knowing you still care enough for each other to work together.

Parents of Grown Children:

1. Visit your children, ask them to show you some of their favorite sites.
2. Make over your children's old bedrooms.  Make them into the quiet spaces that you always dreamed of when you were raising your children.  Try to smile and think about how the future will hold special memories too.
3. Take a grandchild to some of his parent's favorite spots together.  Enjoy this special experience of passing on memories to a whole new generation.
4. Pick up one of the hobbies that you didn't have time for when you were raising children.  Try to do some that you can do together.
5. Spend time together helping other people.  Retired people have the skills and time to make a big difference in their community.  Find a group that you are both interested and just dive in.
6. Just spend time together.  Enjoy this time like no other.

If you have been blessed to find love, you needn't worry about whether you have the money to enjoy time together or not.  Make a conscious effort and enjoy each other today.  Not tomorrow and not when your circumstances change.  Enjoy each other now.  Make memories now.

While it is fun to look back with fond memories and helpful to look forward to make plans for your life, when it comes to expressing love, now is the time.  Have fun with what you have today.

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