Date Your Mate – For Free!

Posted by: Shel 22 Comments
Date Your Mate for Free

Part 1

            We’ve all heard it – if you want a better marriage, make time for you and your mate. Have a date night – once a week. Or at least monthly. Go. Do it. Date. There are lots of good reasons. Psychologists are telling you to do it.  Counselors, pastors, wise family members and authors are telling you to do it. But is anybody telling you how during those times when the month lasts longer than your paycheck?

OK – so maybe somebody mentioned something about going to the park, taking a bike ride or stashing the kids at a neighbor’s to have a movie night at home. Not bad options. But let’s get a little more creative.  Following are ways to date your mate for very little cost. (I know it says “free” in the title – that was to get your attention. It would be more accurate to say “free-ish” – but I’m pretty sure that’s not a real word.)

  • Do you both like to read? When was the last time you were at the library? Head on over with a fun challenge. If you both like the same genre, split up for a designated time and each find three books that you would both like. Meet back, share, rate them 1-5, and then trade ratings. Pick out the best match and check out a copy for each of you. Don’t talk about the book until a predetermined time. The anticipation of waiting to connect to finally discuss it sets you up nicely for the next date!
  • If you both like to read but have different tastes, the challenge would be to find three titles that the other would like. Meet back and trade your finds. Rate the books (you’re on your honor here) 1 to 5 with 5 being “Perfect fit!” on down to 1 being “Have you met me before today?” Have a predetermined date-extending prize for the best rating total. Maybe something like the winner gets to pick the snack (frozen yogurt versus hot pretzel?) or loser makes dinner.
  • Being a factory-loving-fool, I can find an outing wherever I go by checking out what is manufactured at my destination. Cereal in Battle Creek, Michigan, New Balance Tennis shoes in Maine, Kodak cameras in New York (that one was a little dry), muumuus and Dole pineapple in Hawaii, a brewery in Missouri (now we’re talking!) to name a few. If you’re a fan of ‘How It’s Made,’ factory tours are for you. There are websites with national lists, but there are many options that won’t show up there. Google your state and the words “factory tours,” too.

In addition, call factories’ human resource departments and talk to people you know who work in manufacturing. Sometimes factories that don’t have public tours will allow employees to show someone around. When my husband worked at General Motors he was allowed to schedule times to conduct private tours (seeing a whole car assembled was fascinating!).  A client took me around the Coke plant. Visitors we met at a mutual friend’s arranged a private tour at the Pepperidge Farm plant when we visited family in Florida. Not only do you learn something new, but there are often samples.  Although the GM factory didn’t allow us to take their product home, the food places had edible samples, the tennis shoes had discounts, and the brewery had repeat tourists!

  • Fairs and festivals abound. I googled the word “festival” with the name of 6 small to medium cities within a 45 minute drive of me and every one of them had an annual event that included theme related contests, entertainment, arts and crafts, and fun food items. There was Fried Onion Burger Day (boasting the world’s largest onion burger – we’re talking big), Pepperfest, Watermelon festival (free watermelon and a seed-spitting contest), Medieval Fair, Jazz and Blues Festival and – I might be giving away my location with this one – a Noodling Festival.

And that wasn’t even every town within a 45 minute radius. Imagine if I had more time to look and added another 15 minutes to the allotted drive time – I could have monthly spousal dates booked up for the rest of the year. This category is why I had to qualify ‘free’ with a ‘low cost’ option. You will want to bring at least $7.00 to try one of the tasty treats available at these functions. I mean, who wants to go to Fried Onion Burger Day and leave burgerless? Or go to the Medieval Fair without noshing on a turkey leg the size of Rhode Island?

Take time to have a fun outing with your spouse – to do something different while enjoying each other. Now that you know it’s (almost) free, there’s no excuse not to!


Next month I will post Part 2 of this Date Your Mate series. Meanwhile, if you have a suggestion for a way to date the one you used to date for free(ish), please let us know in the comment section below.

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  • Sheila Qualls

    My husband is a stickler for Date Night. I am glad he has kept it up these years. It is so important to have time to connect.

    • Shel Harrington

      You are blessed, indeed, Sheila! I bet you both have fun coming up with new options (in addition to tried and true favorites, of course!)

  • Cindy G

    We rode four wheelers together last night for a freezing hour and a half to check cows. Is that a date? Cindy

    • Shel Harrington

      I don’t know about a date, but I think it indicates true love – of mate and cows!!

  • Jerry

    There are cooking classes held weekly that are cheap. Platt college culinary has class’s. video stores often rent how-to/educational videos for free PBS has America’s Test Kitchen that shows step by step instructions with the science behind on making great meals.
    it is trade show time and the home and garden is around the corner. Gardening can be cheap enough if planned right( think bulbs!)plus there is a pretty outcome in the end. Boat shows, auto shows and RV shows are all coming up.
    Oh, and the medieval fair- that is some good people watching!

    Just some ideas.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Jerry – lots of great ideas there. I’ll have to check out those trade show options and see what else is out there.

  • Love these! Lately, we’ve been known to put the kids to bed and download Ted Talks on various issues and then discuss them. When I look at that written out, it sounds completely lame, but it’s actually fun.

    • Shel Harrington

      I don’t know “Ted Talks” – something I should look into? Sounds like it makes for interesting conversation!”

  • Michelle

    Those are great and creative ideas. When the weather is nice we like to pack a picnic lunch and head for a nearby state or federal park. We stop at the park visitor center first for suggested trails or must see spots and then set off to enjoy nature.

    I also like to look for fun deals on

    • Shel Harrington

      Good ideas, Michelle. I’ll have to check out the site you mentioned.

  • Laura Bentley

    Because our evenings are usually busy with activities or responsibilities, my husband and I have started walking at the park together on Saturday mornings to discuss the past week or the next. Not only are we trying to be healthier, but it is hard to answer the cell phone when you are trying to catch your breath. Usually no one there wants to stop and chat, so we are guaranteed 30 minutes of uninterrupted talk time.

    • Shel Harrington

      That ‘catch your breath’ comment cracked me up, Laura! But after a few more walks your breathing will be so easy you’ll have to turn off your phones to avoid the interruption!

  • Great advice, Shel. Another advantage of couples maintaining a “date night” is that adjusting to the “empty nest” is not so traumatic.

  • Good advice – whether things are rocky or not. In fact, best to employ them so that things do not get rocky. Thanks for the great ideas. I loved the ones on reading, of course. Readers are a writer’s best friends. I write books, so I want people to read more. Thanks.

    • Shel Harrington

      I agree, James – on both implementing fun in our relationships before things get rocky (if possible) and more reading being a good thing!

  • You’ve inspired me to plan a “free-ish” date night!

    One of my favorite low cost dates with Steve is when I meet him at the law school on Saturdays and we walk to campus together to share a sub at Jimmy John’s. In warm weather, we take our meal to a bench in a pretty campus spot. On colder days, we go to one of the gorgeous, wood-panelled rooms in the Union. It’s a very nice outing, and very affordable!

    • Shel Harrington

      Sounds nice – a good setting can elevate ordinary to special.

  • Gina Kishur

    I’m always surprised at the number of kids who tell me their dining table is never used for meals. Preparing the meal together, setting a nice table, and turning off the TV makes for a nice date night sans kiddos, and what a concept for family night.

    • Shel Harrington

      Nice, Gina. Without the TV on we could even hear some mood music!

  • My husband and I love date night- it is definitely easier to arrange now that our “kids” have their own plans! Our free dates have included biking around Lake Hefner, Shakespeare in the Park, and a “browsing” trip to Home Depot (Admittedly not my favorite!). I am looking forward to reading other suggestions- thanks for the post!

    • Shel Harrington

      Home Depot? That’s the kind of compromise that makes the love last!

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