My boyfriend, T, and I have been friends for five years now, and dating for the last two and half plus. In New York, we were both working a lot and had the means to have date night often. Over in Manhattan and Brooklyn, you can find the most delicious food for an affordable price all around the city, date night didn’t mean breaking the bank. For us now in Hawaii, there are two type of dates: the casual plate lunch, taco spot, acai/pitaya bowl brunch, and then date night. Date night means wearing makeup, heels (if my balance is good that day), and for him, no board shorts! We put in the effort for each other to make the night special. I read somewhere recently, “just because you’re married, doesn’t mean to need to stop dating.” And no, we’re obviously not married, but yes, it is easy to fall into the routine of a top knot and cutoffs and picking up our favorite pho each week and having that be date night. If you don’t make it special, you’re bound to fall into a routine and routines get boring…
Our last photo in Brooklyn before moving home to Hawaii
Here are some tips for dating on a budget:
1. Each week we plan one date night at home. We make Wednesday our bookmarked night, if plans come up that we can’t change, we move date night around but generally we try to keep Wednesdays for us.
2. Weeknight date night is cooking at home. We tried something new this week and each came up with an idea for dinner and we were going to pick our favorite of the two. Turns out, we both picked grilled steak, so “choosing” was easy. We save money by eating at home, but we still try to make it special, a bottle of wine, eating at the table not the couch, and helping each other cook and clean. I’ll be honest, I am a good cook, but T is a great cook, so this night is extra special for me.
3. Twice a month we go out to eat for date night. Unlike New York, if we want a special night out that isn’t just our go-to thai restaurant, or taco spot, it’ll be pricey. Most restaurants that are safe for me to eat at (as a Celiac), have a higher price per meal. We’ve built this night into our budget so we’re prepared for spending, and not worrying about being forced to pick the cheapest dish on the menu.
4. One of our favorite nights out are local markets around town. We have a monthly Honolulu Night Market with retail vendors, food, and music. It’s a way to go out without spending a lot, if anything at all. Sometimes we just walk around and listen to music and maybe pick up our favorite Wow Wow Lemonade. Farmer’s markets are a great “day date” spot too. We like to scour the freshest ingredients, and plan a meal with it for later that night or the week!
5. We really like to be active together. Some weekends we like to wake up early, get in a hike, and then relax on the beach for the rest of the day. In New York, we would wake up, make coffee, and go for a long walk from lower Mahattan around the water up to Tribeca. Even if you don’t have a mountain, or a beach nearby, just going for a long walk is a nice way to catch up after a busy week!
6. We try to treat each other in special ways. In New York, T would surprise me every Friday with flowers. A bouquet of peonies, or ranunculuses were under $10 at a bodega or trader joes. In Hawaii, peonies are $6 a stem! Eek. He does treat me to them on special occasions, like after my most recent surgery, but at that price Flower Friday had to be nixed. Instead, we find little ways that don’t cost a lot to treat each other: a Lanikai Juice smoothie, a bar of chocolate, a cool new home item (most recently a metallic coffee drip filter & cup, under $20). Or even cheaper, just small gestures: I love it when I come out of the shower and he’s made me my nightly cup of tea, or since I know he hates dishes, he loves when I wash the dishes post-meals he’s cooked.
I love that T is a romantic at heart, but also, treating little things as big things is what makes a relationship stay special. Making a meal together, brewing their cup of coffee while they stay in bed, I try to relish those even more than a gift or present, because that is what you’ll have for the rest of your life. We dream about trips around the world, and a house near the beach, and sharing those dreams has us looking forward to the future, but right now, in the present, there is nothing better to me than a man who will offer to run back to the grocery for Talenti double chocolate chip gelato at 9 pm because you have a craving for it. That’s love.