Each time I find myself at the pump filling up my gas tank
again, I think I cringe a little bit more. Friends keep reminding me that I
shouldn't complain about the cost of filling up my Honda Civic, especially as I
watch the guy on the other side of the pump filling his Dodge Ram 3500 King
Cab, but still – life is expensive these days no matter where you live or what
In the midst of economic hard times such as these, there are
several aspects of life that are quickly affected. One area that will certainly
affect us single people is in the area of our dating relationships. My thoughts
especially go out to all the members of Catholic Match who are in long distance
relationships (LDRs for short). Long distance travel to see each other with any
level of frequency will become more and more an act of sacrificial love as the
prices of travel continue to soar.
Yet it's certainly not only those couples currently in LDRs
who will be affected by our economic condition. All of you who are active
members of Catholic Match have a higher-than-normal probability of being
interested in someone not living in your geographic area. You may soon find
yourself in the position of discerning a potential long distance relationship
against the weight of economic hard times. Regardless, however, of whether you
live across the street or across the country from the person you are interested
in, rising prices will make your time together more valuable, but also more
I believe that a dating relationship is one of the few
things that should not be cut out of your life when you are trying to strip
your budget to leaner proportions. A godly spouse is a pearl of great price, a
crowning jewel of life. Discerning such a potential with someone either local
or long distance is worth the sacrifice and extra work necessary to make it
Following are some tips and strategies for making your
summer dating season a little friendlier to your budget. Many of these tips
require imagination and resourcefulness. Which is great! Instead of the
standard dinner and movie dates, these ideas will bring you and your girlfriend
or boyfriend out of established and generic dating activities and give each of
you an opportunity to shine with your own unique version of creativity,
cleverness, and commitment.
Community's Free Summer Events & Celebrations
I live in a southern city that still takes great pride in
providing a lot of free, family-friendly community events throughout the summer.
I literally could go on a fun date every night in my town without paying a
dime. For instance, Wednesday evenings are "Movie Night in the Park" (a return
to the old drive-in movie concept); Thursdays are Jazz and swing dancing on
Main Street; Friday evenings the local acting guild puts on an outdoor
Shakespeare production; and on Saturdays Greenville hosts their outdoor
European market on Main Street – all of which are free and open to everyone.
Most cities present free concerts, festivals, parades, and
fireworks shows in the summertime, usually close to the Fourth of July holiday.
In my community you can find Independence Day-related events for several weeks
before and following the Fourth. Check your community's website events calendar
to see what free events are available for you to attend.
Add your city's online "calendar of events" to your website
favorites list, and check it often for updates. 10best.com is another great
website for searching for local events within a geographic region.
Memories in God's Creation
My girlfriends and I were remarking the other day that often
in a dating relationship the couple fills their time with so many situations
where they are entertained (movies, concerts, group activities, etc) that they
miss out on opportunities to entertain each
other with meaningful conversation.
Go on dates where you can engage each other in deep discussions
while you hang out. Enjoying the outdoor beauty and silence of God's creation
is a great opportunity to do that. Activities such as hiking, biking, tubing,
kayaking, and canoeing are either free or require only a nominal rental fee (or
borrow from a friend!). At the same time, such activities create meaningful and
lasting memories and provide the one-on-one quiet time to get to know each
other on a deeper level.
This takes some nerve and stamina, but I promise you'll
learn a ton about each other if you do it. Find a family at church or perhaps a
relative who could use some time away from kids – and volunteer to babysit for
an afternoon or evening.
Babysitting places you in a real-life (perhaps even high
stress) everyday situation, far different from being all dressed up, sipping
wine and ordering appetizers at a nice restaurant. Working together in
real-life situations is a key component of discerning your future spouse. I'll
never forget the babysitting experience I had with a boyfriend and his four
nieces and nephews, all under age 7. We took the kids to Sunday mass together. It
was a good test to see what life would be like if we had to handle four rambunctious
little ones all by ourselves!
You can work any place, topic and price cap into this idea,
but the Six-Dollars-for-Sixty-Minutes activity is a fun (and funny!) activity
for any couple on a budget.
Visit a favorite bookstore and challenge each other to find
a book on any topic that the other person would love to have, and it has to be
done in under one hour and cost no more than $6. You will be amazed at how much
fun you will have talking and laughing over titles and topics as you search for
the perfect volume. You'll be surprised at how much you'll learn about the
person you are dating as well – his or her interests, favorite topics, books he
or she has read, etc.
If books are not your thing, implement the same idea with a
different topic – such as movies, music, clothing, antiques, or something else
that interests both of you. Even a sixty minute thrift store challenge would be
a hilarious activity to see what kind of gift you could come up with for the
other person for just a few cents.
Take a Class Together
Throughout the year, but especially in the summertime, many
schools and stores offer free (or very economically priced) classes that you
can take to learn a new skill. Classes teaching everything from landscaping,
gardening, home decorating, pottery, painting, cooking, and the like are offered
throughout your community. For example, Whole Foods markets offer cooking
classes right in the grocery store on the weekends. Craft stores such as
Michaels offer weekend or weeknight classes teaching a variety of crafts and
skills, and places like Home Depot or Lowes frequently offer Saturday morning
sessions on a variety of do-it-yourself projects. Take advantage of the
opportunity to spend time together and
learn a new skill without spending considerable funds.
Before you girls starting thinking "ewww, yuck!" to my
subject heading above, let me share with you an interesting poll finding
regarding the romantic desires of men.
In her best-selling book For
Women Only, author Shaunti Feldhahn polled thousands of men asking how they
define romance. She discovered that for many men, being active together as a
couple is even more romantic than candlelight dinners and watching sunsets on
the beach. In her poll, nearly 40% of men said they found the idea of getting
out and doing things together (like hiking, golfing, driving around and
exploring) more romantic than the traditional dinner with candles idea of
romance. According to Feldhahn, this means that many women are missing a prime
opportunity to engage the men in their lives in their definition of romance when the ladies are not willing to participate
in activities with them.
This summer, decide as a couple to try a few more active
(even dirty and sweaty!) activities together. One idea is to train for a 5K
race together, or a gonzo hiking trip. Spend an afternoon at a driving range,
or challenge each other to a tennis or racquetball match. If either or both of
you are not athletically inclined, attending a sporting event or some type of
outdoor activity that the guy especially enjoys is a great alternative. Many
communities are home to a minor league baseball team that sells summertime
tickets for as low as $3 or $5. Or, perhaps one or both of you have younger
siblings or nieces and nephews that have games on the weekends you can attend
Eat In and Cook Out
After travel expenses, food is one of the most costly
components to a dating relationship. Instead of spending most of your dating
budget on food and beverages, prepare meals for each other and take them to a
local park or beach for dinner. Summertime is a perfect opportunity for
cookouts and picnics that cost just a fraction of the price you'd pay for a
restaurant meal. Then, with the money you have saved by limiting your
restaurant visits, splurge once in a while and get dressed up for a nice dinner
out together – one you will appreciate and enjoy all the more because of your
commitment in other areas of your dating activities that made the event
"[A] cheerful heart
has a continual feast. Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great
treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a
fatted ox and hatred with it." – Proverbs 15:15-17