I’m not sure when it started to happen. Somewhere between the sleepless nights and the toddler chaos, the end of the month stresses about money or the evenings tied to the sofa – and our computer screens – the NLM and I had lost something. I’m sure it happens to all parents, especially those with young children. You put all your energy into your kids and your work and the business of being an adult that by the time you make it to the end of the day you’re spent. You know you love each other, so you sort of stop trying. And that’s where things get dangerous.
Life as a parent is never easy. We all have our own struggles. But our daily routine has always involved working often unsociable hours, squeezing into the time “normal” couples get to spend together. For us, then, Valentine’s Day this year was about reconnecting as a couple and spending some time just being together, away from work and kids and life in general.
This year, Valentine’s Day was a thing of two halves. It was half extravagant, with a night away, presents and a couple of meals out (minus the kids). But the day itself – that half – was far lower key. This might sound ridiculous and over-inflated to some, to have a Valentine’s Day consisting of two parts, but for us this year it felt necessary. Valentine’s gave us a marker to actually stop and take note of each other. To remember that we’re also a couple, as well as a parenting team.
Valentine’s Day on a budget
The second half of our Valentine’s Day celebrations happened on the day itself. Seeing as we’d already been away for the night the weekend before, we didn’t want to go overboard with a meal out and a babysitter. But there were certain ways we managed to make it special without spending a fortune. (There are lots more ideas over on the Payplan website by the way, including one particular one for a memory box which I think I might steal for myself next year.)
First up we opted for home cooked food over a takeaway or meal out. As a treat, because neither of us had the energy to spend all night in the kitchen, we went for a curry kit from the supermarket (these ones from the Spice Tailor are our favourite). Add a few poppadoms and a couple of samosas from the deli counter and you’ve got the makings of a meal that’s definitely up a notch from a usual mid-week supper.
Next up, and perhaps not the most inspired of activities, but we pledged to turn off our computers for the night and settle in front of the TV. We watch telly together so rarely these days it’s a real treat to get into a show or film together. At the moment we’re enjoying W1A – a BBC comedy on Netflix. If you liked Twenty Twelve you’ll love this.
To drink, we had the champagne the NLM bought me for Valentine’s Day – a bottle reduced from £20 to £10 at the supermarket. Win!
Other ideas for budget Valentine’s Day celebrations that we’ve tried in the past include making a home cooked surprise meal complete with written up menu. The NLM did this for me the first year we lived together for Valentine’s Day. I got home from work to find a treasure trail with a clue at each point. At the end of the trail there was a glass of champagne, along with a menu of what he was going to cook me that evening (all together now – awwwwww).
We’ve also done a Valentine’s Day picnic on an unseasonably warm year – this one included the kids! A Valentine’s Day games night (loads of card games and board games, a bottle of wine and that’s basically it) and a Valentine’s Day movie night with popcorn and all the posh crisp trimmings.
How about you? Have you got any great budget date night ideas to share?