7 Date Night Ideas that are Unique and Free

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Having regular date nights is important to protecting and improving your marriage.  Especially when a couple has young children and has to pay for a babysitter, date nights can become too expensive to maintain.  Earlier in our marriage, The Husband and I made the mistake of not setting aside time for just the two of us.  We now have scheduled date nights, but one of the challenges is fitting those into our budget.

We brainstorm a lot about how to have fun for less and we often use Groupons to cut down our costs.  But here are some fun date night ideas that don’t cost any money:

Make a Drive-In.  This one can save you even the cost of a babysitter!  If you have a portable DVD player or a built-in DVD player in a vehicle, park the vehicle in your driveway, and climb in the backseat.  Bring with you a blanket, some drinks, and a big bag or bowl of popcorn and any other snacks you enjoy.  Climb into the backseat with your spouse, cuddle up under the blanket and pop a movie into the DVD player.  If you have young children, be sure to bring a baby monitor with you in case one of the kids wakes up.

Real Life Drama.  This date will have to take place during the day instead of the evening, but will provide free entertainment and be a change from the ordinary.  Go to your local courthouse and sit in on some of the proceedings.  There are some court cases that are closed to the public, but most are open to the public.  Not only will you get good seats to a real life “Law & Order” unfolding in front of your eyes, but likely, you will feel much better about the blessings in your own life by the end of it!  It will also give you and your spouse many conversation starters in the days to come!

Love Others.  A great way to increase your love for each other is to work together to serve others.  Consider spending one of your date nights serving meals at a homeless shelter, coaching the Special Olympics, or serving another need in your community.  You will be glad that you did and may see your spouse in a different light afterwards.

Invite Yourselves Over.  Call up some friends or a family member and invite yourselves over for coffee, dessert, or to play board games.  Likely, you will be welcomed and enjoy an evening of fun and laughter!

Imagine Another Life.  For one night, act as though you have all the money in the world.  Visit high-endShowhomes and choose which one you would buy (remember, in this exercise, you can have it all!).  Next, go to a furniture store, one that you normally could not afford to even consider entering, and choose the furniture you would put in that dream house you just chose.  Window shopping in this way can be fun and it is really important to keep dreaming no matter where your reality is.  Just be sure to make it a fun time, not getting caught up in what you can’t have, and instead just focusing on possibilities and dreaming together once again!

An Old-Fashioned Picnic.  Pack a picnic basket or bag of goodies.  Bring a blanket to the nearest park and enjoy a meal outdoors while you people watch or bird watch or just watch each other.  Afterwards, go for a stroll hand-in-hand and discuss the blessings in your life.

Crash a Party.  Sneak into a wedding, a bar mitzvah, a business seminar, a fundraiser, a birthday party, or other event.  If you don’t feel right about doing something like this, then just enjoy the entertainment of the wedding ceremony, keynote speaker, or dance and don’t partake in the food.

Just get out and do something different.  By getting out of your comfort zone, you and your spouse will have more to talk about and will feel more connected.  There’s nothing wrong with going out for dinner and a movie once in awhile on a date night, but it can quickly become expensive and monotonous if these are the only date night activities, so try a suggestion or two from this list and let me know how it goes!

Creating a Family Newspaper

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Creating a family newspaper is a unique and fun idea that strengthens relationships, develops stronger writing skills, builds self-esteem, and creates a lasting family historical record.

Creating a family newspaper is a great activity.  It promotes family, togetherness, creative writing, and preserving memories.  A family newspaper can be worked on all together or you can assign different sections to each family member.  Simpler tasks, such as making comics, writing jokes or trivia facts, and drawing pictures can be given to the youngest family members, while the older children and parents take care of other sections.  Making a family newspaper can be done on-line, printed on the computer or written by hand.  There are no rules.  It largely depends on the purpose for making the newspaper.

Some families create an annual newspaper, complete with pictures and send it out to friends and family as their holiday letter.  Some homeschooling families see a monthly or quarterly newspaper as an effective and unique way to promote creative writing and teach about subjects such as advertising and record keeping.  Some families just make a one time family newspaper as a fun project to do together.  Whatever your reasoning, hopefully these ideas will make your family newspaper a success!

The possibilities with a project such as this are as limitless as your imagination.  Some ideas include comics, movie or book reviews, family news (such as which cousin is expecting a baby or what dad had for breakfast), community events, neighborhood happenings, weather, accomplishments of family members (a child getting a swimming badge, losing a tooth, or getting a driver’s license), big announcements such as births and engagements, sports (a recap of a child’s last soccer game), recipes, and crafts.  Having a child interview a grandparent or other relative can teach them a lot about history, ancestry, and family, and can be a great contribution to your paper.  You can also add crosswords, jokes, and family trivia for a laugh.  Adding pictures or drawings is visually appealing and will only enhance the look and overall interest of your newspaper.

Working together to create a family newspaper will also make a paper time capsule, a treasure for years to come.  Seeing their accomplishments, writing, and drawings in print will enhance your children’s self-esteem and reading about family history will help them to feel connected to something larger than themselves.  Creating a family newspaper is a great tradition to start.


The Grocery Challenge

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Can I feed our family of nine people on only $200 in March by being creative and using what is already in the freezer and pantry?

the Grocery Challenge

A few years ago, my husband and I decided to get out of debt and we were almost able to do so by using the system in Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover“. When we were close to our goal, a series of circumstances beyond our control including an unexpected crisis with the adoption we were in the middle of, a real estate holding disaster, the area of my husband’s work being hit hard by the economy, and one of our daughters becoming gravely ill, led us back into a debt as large as the one we had just clawed our way out of. Dave Ramsey’s system is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme or a strategy of getting out of debt easily. It is hard work and just as it took time to get into debt, it takes time to get out of debt.

After we descended back into debt, we abandoned Dave’s system, largely because my husband’s income could not be counted on and because of how overwhelmed we felt. Even though we knew the system worked, we were afraid to look at the numbers (ie: the truth!) and create another budget and debt repayment plan. Things only got worse. Burying your head in the sand helps no one!

Finally, we decided that we would begin Dave’s Total Money Makeover again on the first of March. This week, I sat down to run the numbers and fill out the worksheets and come up with a plan. What I found is that we will need to be very creative to find extra money to put down onto our debt. I came up with a few ideas and the first is a grocery challenge, whereby we could cut $1000 off what we normally spend a month for groceries, cleaning supplies, and toiletries and apply that onto a debt. The way we would do this would be to eat out of our pantry and freezer and buy as few groceries as possible for March.

I have set the amount we are allowed to spend on groceries at $200 for March. Considering that we have seven children, including two teen boys and two pre-teen boys, this is no small feat! What I did was to inventory everything that is currently in our freezer and pantry. I then tried to create as many meals as I could from that list. My goal was to come up with 31 suppers and 31 lunches.  Breakfasts will be oatmeal and perhaps eggs or pancakes on Sundays (if we can fit syrop into the budget!)


Chicken Fried Rice

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Mexican Lasagna

Not-so-chili pasta

Basa topped with Salsa, Rice, and frozen vegetables

Shrimp Stir Fry *will need peppers and mushrooms


Chicken Teriyaki, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Corn

Beef Hash

Soup made from leftovers

Asparagus and Asiago Quiche

Cod and French Fries

Tamale Pie

Frittata and Hash Brown Casserole

Sweet Chicken Tostadas *will need tostadas

Tortellini Soup

Meatballs and Rice

Soup made from leftovers

Beef Hash

Lemon-Mustard Chicken, Basmati Rice, and Green Beans


Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, and Peas

Tamale Pie

Beef Stew *will need potatoes and carrots

Lemon Mustard Chicken, Green Bean Casserole

Meatballs and Rice

Teriyaki Chicken, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Creamed Corn

Macaroni Casserole

Pinto Tortilla Soup

Baked Pasta *will need mushrooms and peppers

Beef and Bean Burritos *will need peppers

Voila!  31 Suppers!

For the lunches, the list is mostly soups, (Pumpkin Soup, Minestrone, Black Bean, Mushroom Cheddar, Lentil Soup, Tomato etc.), Bean Casseroles, and Pastas.

Snacks will be the most difficult, but I do have some baking in the freezer that can be used and some of the applesauce left that I made in the Fall.

The only things that are on the” approved list of things to buy” are milk, eggs, Good-Night diapers for Dancing Queen, and the few items needed to finish the above dishes. I am excited to see how it goes!

Not only will this free up a big chunk of money to put towards a debt, it will also clean out the pantry and freezer and ensure that none of the food gets wasted!

I think that this grocery challenge will really get our new financial life off to a great start. I will let you know how it goes!

Here are some of the soup recipes I will be using:

Crock Pot Tortellini Soup

Soups Using Leftovers

Spicy Lentil Soup

Healthy Lentil Soup

Update: You can now read the Grocery Challenge results.

Cool Crafts for Kids – African Masks

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This art project is one that my kids loved doing and the finished products were fantastic.  It was inexpensive to do and easy to adapt for kids of different ages.

Cut pieces of different shapes and sizes in cardboard.  This is something that older children can do themselves, but for younger children, you will want to have the pieces cut ahead of time.  You can use cardboard in a variety of thicknesses.

Provide glue (hot glue sticks work best but to use these, they will need to be supervised) and paint.

Have the kids layer pieces of cardboard to create the look they want.  It’s a good idea to show them pictures of actual African masks to give them ideas.

When the pieces are layered and glued on the way things want them to be, provide the kids with paint and have them use their imaginations to create the masks the way they want them.

This craft is also great to tie in to a homeschool lesson about Africa.  There are many books and Internet sites that can aid you in this lesson and the craft can be a fun way to finish off and to add a hands-on aspect.