Every year when the holidays roll around, I find myself struggling to come up with a creative and meaningful gift for my husband. Neither of us are very big “gift” people, and are in a phase of life when we constantly want to get rid of things instead of accumulating more. One Christmas, after a particularly rough patch we had experienced, I knew what we needed was simply more time together. I did some thinking and planning, and came up with the perfect gift: a year of dates.
From the time we started dating, my husband was usually the one to plan dates. It became an unspoken expectation that when we went out, with few exceptions, he made the arrangements. As our two person family became a family of three, and then four, we found it increasingly harder to actually go out for a romantic evening. Planning a night out (not to mention securing a babysitter who was comfortable with my separation-anxiety ridden baby) became more and more of a hassle that we just couldn’t justify. Both of us wanted to have more dates, but we were not prioritizing it. Kids, finances, and house projects all started taking the front seat at the expense of our relationship. My idea for a “year of dates” came at the perfect time.
A Year of Dates: What is it?
The concept – and presentation – is pretty simple. I gifted my husband a personalized calendar for the next year with a bag of 12 heart stickers; each heart represented one day a month where we would have a date, planned by me. Now to some of you, one date a month might seem quite paltry, but at that point, we were barely managing one every other month. Making the commitment to plan something special for the two of us, twelve times a year, was a very meaningful gesture for my husband. He realized the amount of planning it took on my part to do this and was excited to see what fun activities I had planned for us each month.
When Childcare Is An Issue
As parents, one of the biggest obstacles to having a date is securing reliable, trustworthy, and affordable childcare. I envy my friends and neighbors whose relatives live in DC or the surrounding area. Like many transplants, neither my husband nor I have any family nearby. Our closest relatives are my parents, a 5-hour drive away in Connecticut. So, having grandparents or an auntie pop over to watch the kiddos for a few hours is simply not an option for us. With babysitters costing nearly as much as (or more than!) a nice meal out, it is easy to keep putting off date nights for fear of breaking the bank. We found a happy solution in doing childcare swaps with a few good family friends in the area. When planning a night out, we always ask friends before booking a babysitter. It has saved us a lot of money over the years and has been a great way to help out friends!
When You Don’t Want to Break the Bank
Although we love to go out and splurge on a great meal, that isn’t always a viable option for us. It is possible to have a fantastic time out with your spouse without spending $100+ on food and drinks! When we need quality time together but can’t swing something fancy, we have a few tried and true budget ideas that are just as awesome:
- Morning dates are totally underrated! Getting dressed up for a four-course meal is lovely, but there’s something to be said for a cozy breakfast and coffee date in weekend lounge wear. Some of our favorites are The Coupe and A Baked Joint. (Bonus: sometimes it is easier to procure childcare in the mornings than the evenings!)
- Go to the Kennedy Center – for free! Did you know that you can catch a free show at the Millenium Stage every single night?!
- Get outside and get active with a hike in Rock Creek Park or around Roosevelt Island. They are beautiful places we’ve explored every season of the year.
- Another day-date idea is a no-brainer here in DC: visit the museums. End your visit with a coffee and snack in the serene Kogod Courtyard in the National Portrait Gallery.
- Craft breweries and distilleries have popped up all over DC recently! Most are open to tastings and tours and have very reasonable prices. Our favorite is 3 Stars Brewery, where you can get a flight of beer and play some old school video games.
If you are looking for a creative gift for your spouse this holiday season, I definitely recommend gifting a year of dates. Comment below with some of your favorite ways to spend quality kid-free time with your main squeeze!