Walmart is not exactly high on the list of places to go for a great date.

Yet, believe it or not, Jon and I spent part of our very first date at Walmart picking up a few items one of us needed … perhaps school supplies for a child’s project or maybe it was to replace necessary household gadget or gizmo. I can no longer recall the exact purpose. All I remember was wandering through Walmart thinking how natural it felt to shop with this man and how strangely odd it was for a first date.

Even stranger is that our second date included a trip to the grocery store. And please don’t think it got more exciting from there because on our third date we spent time together searching for Christmas gifts for our children. (At the time, we didn’t know much more about each other’s kids than their names and ages. We actually learned quite a lot on that date … not that we had any idea at the time that someday these would be our future step-children!)

During the 14 months Jon and I dated, we did a lot of “errand dating” as we tried to make the most of our time. As single parents, we both understood it was infinitely easier to take care of business without our children in tow. While it may have created some rather strange and mundane “dates,” in the end I believe it was those every day sort of activities that really helped us get to know each other in a more realistic way than if we had just gone out for fancy dinners or to the movies.

photo credit:
photo credit:

To this day, “The Errand Date” is still the most frequent type of outing Jon and I share without the kids. It’s a quick way to get in time alone without spending a lot of money.  Often we will end by grabbing a cup of coffee or a smoothie, which makes it feel a little more like an official date while still keeping to our tight budget. But still, for the most part, we just take care of business in our time alone.

While I must admit that I love running errands with my husband and much prefer that than doing those same errands alone, I sometimes wish we had more money to spend on date nights. Between the cost of childcare, dinner out and any other activities we plan to enjoy, one night out can easily cost over $100. That’s a lot of money for most couples with children!

The bitter truth is dating your spouse on a budget is hard.


Recently, Bethany House Publishers gave me a free copy of the book “$10 Great Dates: Connecting Love, Marriage and Fun on a Budget”  (written by two couples, Peter & Heather Larson and David & Claudia Arp) in exchange for my honest review.   While I was excited about the opportunity to review a book on my blog, I had very low expectations about the book itself. I figured this would be another book filled with the same old tired suggestions for dates on a small budget.

I am happy to report that what I expected was not at all what I got when reading this book.

Photo Credit: Baker Publishing Group
Photo Credit: Baker Publishing Group

In fact, I was so delightfully surprised at the ingenuity and creativity of this book that I couldn’t wait to share it with my husband. Together, we spent several hours reading through the 188-pages which were filled with interesting ideas for dates and practical ways to grow closer to each other and God through marriage.

Writing especially for married couples, the Larsons and the Arps share 52 fun date ideas, giving you and your significant other a year’s worth of weekly dates.  The great date suggestions are creative and flexible, taking into account that certain activities may not be readily available in all areas. The various ideas really do take into account the $10 budget. The authors also included a section at the back of the book with fresh ideas and timely suggestions for ways to find inexpensive or free childcare.

The book is divided into eight categories of dates, such as adventure dates, at-home dates, romantic dates and even seasonal dates. Many of the date ideas are simple enough to plan and enjoy on the same evening, but others will require prep work which is why there are lists of things to do before going on the date to help with planning. There is also a list of things to keep in mind while enjoying your date, as well as ideas to further spice up the activity should you have more than a $10 budget.

Some of my favorite dates were:

~The Workshop Date: Find a free workshop on a topic that interests one of both of you.

~Parade of Homes Date: Go check out local homes for sale by attending an open house showing or even a larger parade of homes.

~Gifts on a Budget Date: Go together to a department store. Separate and shop for a set amount of time. Each person has $5 total (including tax) to use to buy a gift for the other. At the end of the date, find a special location or time to give your gifts.

However, my favorite part of this book was not the date suggestions.

Wait … don’t get me wrong! The date ideas were fabulous. In fact, there are so many great suggestions, I honestly don’t know where to start! Yet this book is much more than a list of ideas.

The Larsons and the Arps put together a complete resource to help couples strengthen both their marriage and their faith in God. For each date, there is a list of suggested talking points to help couples delve into a deeper relationship as well as to extend the date. These questions and discussion topics may be enjoyed during the date or at some point afterwards. Furthermore, each date suggestion ends with a “Great Date Takeaway” in which the authors share a truth from God’s word or an application for improving your marriage relationship that could be learned from the date.

This book is priced exactly right  … just $10!  Perhaps your first “great date” could be reading through the ideas with your spouse and deciding upon which date to try first. You can purchase this book at a number of online stores such as Amazon, Christian Book Distributers, and Mardel, among others. You can also order it directly from Baker Publishing Group.

With 52 great dates to choose from, there is something for every couple in this fantastic resource!


Now for the fun part … my very first give away!

One lucky reader will receive a copy of $10 Great Dates (by Larson & Arp), along with a crisp $10 bill  which will cover the cost of a great date for you and your spouse.

All you have to do to enter is write about your favorite date. It can be your first date, a special date, a funny date, or a really bad date that somehow brings back fond memories. Share your date story on your blog.  Please be sure to ping back to me or put a link in my comments so that I can read your story on your blog.

(I know, I know … some of you are saying, “But I don’t have a blog!”  That’s okay. You can share your favorite date by writing about it in my comments section. Do this and I’ll enter you into the contest as well.  See … I am looking out for you non-bloggers too!)

Feel free to share my book review and contest with others you know who may need some fun, creative ideas for dating on a budget. (Yes, this is a shameless ploy to attract more readers to my blog, but I am offering the chance to win a great book so in reality it’s a win-win for all of us.)

Please note: This is not a random drawing type of give-away.  My husband, children and I will enjoy reading about all the great dates and then will vote on the winner.  Therefore, please only share family friendly versions of dates.

Entries are due by August 31st. Winner will be announced Sept. 1st.

Good luck!!!

20 thoughts on “A “Great Dates” Review … along with My Very First Give Away!

  1. i will have to get the book. while i am not trying to enter the contest, i will tell you my favorite date is always my next date with my wife.

  2. Andrew, good for you! It’s always wonderful to know couples like you and Gail, who obviously enjoy loving each other. 🙂 (PS : Let Gail write up a fun date to share. I’d for your family to be entered in my contest! No pressure though … )

    1. I can’t wait to read your entry, John Mark! I’ve read some of your dates you and your wife have taken from your regular blog posts and I’m willing to be that whatever you share would be quite a story to tell. 🙂

  3. I’ll give it a ‘go’ but even if I was a contender for the book … since I live in Canada .. the shipping cost would be too much so you could give the book to someone closer….Diane

  4. The best date I can remember was an overnight trip to New Orleans for my birthday. Chubby arranged all the details: hotel, paddle boat lunch, sitters, everything. We enjoyed lunch while chugging along the river, had dinner while enjoying a jazz band on Frenchman Street, took a bike taxi (whatever they’re called) back to our room. We walked, shopped, and talked. The conversation was the best part and what made this particular date the most memorable. While the plans and entertainment were great, the best part of it was the communication. I printed out a list of conversation starters from dating divas website and we went thru all the questions. We talked about favorite memories, dreams, hopes, experiences together, thoughts, likes, dislikes and opinions. This was such a sweet time of bonding and closeness. It was great to have his undivided attention and to just be us. Together.

    1. Jon and I have taken many trips to New Orleans, Misty. We’ve never done a paddleboat lunch or a jazz band. We typically take a yearly trip to New Orleans in December to attend Jon’s company Christmas Party. I love that we get to stay at a really posh hotel (which the company pays for) and eat a fancy dinner at some French Quarter restaurant (again on the company’s bill) and dress in fancy clothes. Maybe this December we could save up to add in a few extras of own on to make the trip more memorable. 🙂

  5. I’ll take myself out of the contest, since I’m Paige’s mom and I don’t think it would be very good if I won. It would look ‘rigged’.
    My favorite date was most unusual because it never happened. I had met my future husband–Paige’s dad at the college where we were both freshmen. I managed to be around when he came to eat or study or check mail or whatever. I knew he was attracted and finally at the end of a week he did ask me for a date. We were going to a basketball game on campus. The day of the date I went to visit a friend off-campus and we went bike-riding. I had a bad accident and busted my left elbow. It required surgery. When I woke from the operation, my intended date was feeding me ice chips and saying, “You didn’t need to go to so much trouble to break our date.” I think I fell for him right then! Two and one half years later we married. And we are still having dates.

    I think you will see from this account that Paige did not get her writing ability from her mom!

    1. You know, Mom, I don’t know that I ever connected that story to the fact that it was your first date with Dad. All these years I didn’t realize! It’s a good thing I had this contest and give-away or I might have never known. (And you are a fine writer. Besides, I would have never made it out of Mrs. Clay’s English classes in high school without your editing skills!)

  6. All my great dates were with you and I definitely can’t win, but here goes.

    I would say our recent trip to Colorado Slrings counts as a great date. We got to spend 4 entire days together, go to IHOP every morning for breakfast, see the garden of the gods, Indian cliff dwellings, Helen hunt falls, focus on the family HQ, and the coups de gras driving up (and down) Pikes peak!! It was a vacation well deserved for my wife and me. She’s the best!! Next is Ireland !! Well maybe not next but definitely goes on the bucket list!

    1. Is it any wonder I fell for you, Jon?! Colorado was perhaps our greatest date, but I also really enjoyed the surprise trip to Natchez, Mississippi when we stayed at the antebellum bed and breakfast and toured all the antique shops together. Is Ireland really on the horizon?! My bags can be packed quicker than you can say “YES!” 😉

  7. Troy and I had our first date in high school. We went to our school’s bonfire and then out to pizza at Pizza Hut. Troy likes to tease me about it because I was cold and he hugged me near the bonfire. He lovingly likes to joke about how could I possibly be cold standing near a bonfire—I REALLY was… LOL

    Another memorable one was when Troy took me to Tokyo Live. He turned to me before we even ordered and blurted out “How would you feel about adopting a little girl from China.” (I start crying even now thinking about it…) Of course my answer was YES as God had been preparing my heart for that question. And 18 months later, we got our Shaoey-girl.

    1. Awww … I loved hearing about how Troy asked you about adopting from China! That’s definitely a memorable great date! (And yes, it is possible to be cold at a bonfire … lol!) Thanks for commenting, Charlene! 🙂

  8. A memorable date…. I enjoy any moment I get to spend with Joseph all to myself!! We are just like you, most of our dates are with a shopping purpose, but we always have more fun than shopping alone. 🙂
    One year for our anniversary, a friend offered to keep the boys for Friday night and most of Saturday so we could do something. We didn’t have much cash for an “excursion” so we stayed in. I made a fancy dinner, and we rented a couple of movies we had wanted to see, and we camped out in the living room. It was great!! We even didn’t answer the door when someone knocked because we knew if it was something for the boys they would call. It was fun giggling quietly with my husband so as not to be heard. LOL A true “staycation” and it was GREAT!! So relaxing!

    1. Michelle, I think “stay cations” are great dates, too! This past summer, Jon and I literally had several weekends and even week days with all five kids gone. We really enjoyed those times just being at home and alone. I love sushi, but it is always so expensive to go out to eat it … so one of those times we ran over to the nearest grocery store and picked up a small tray of sushi from the deli and some salad and something sweet for dessert. After we ate, we watched about 3 or 4 episodes of The Paradise … talk about bliss! Stay-cations really can be a great date! Thanks for sharing!

  9. I think I’ve told you all this before…but here goes!
    I apparently was a hard catch to ask out for a first date.
    There was a Church Singles evening planned to go to the corn maze in Vidalia. I was the one who had basically planned it, so the mail out had my name and number as the contact. Chris called me one afternoon and began to ask me all sorts of questions. When were we meeting? Where were we meeting? How much? Would we eat afterwards? Could single parents bring their children? All of these questions were answered on the mail out, which he admitted that he was holding in his hand during the whole conversation. Now I really didn’t know Chris that well at the time. In fact, I couldn’t even picture who he was while we were talking. So I was thinking, “Who is this guy?”
    After the question and answer session ended, I was expecting to say a quick goodbye and hang up the phone. But out of the blue, Chris asked, “So what are you doing home alone on this Friday evening?” Oddly enough, right before he had called, Mom and Dad had called me to say they were heading to Natchez and would take me out to eat. So I told him that my parents were coming into town and I would be spending time with them. Chris quickly said his goodbyes then.
    I thought nothing of it until the next evening.
    Our singles group had a nice turnout, including Chris and my now step-daughter Madison. While walking through the corn maze, Chris kept running ahead, hiding, and jumping out to scare Madi. Now I didn’t really know her at the time, but this little girl kept grabbing onto me and screaming and literally just used me as her protector. Then the group decided to go to Dairy Queen to eat. I was the last one to order my food and so I was the last one waiting at the counter. That’s when Chris walked up and stood beside me (his food was on a table getting cold.) He asked me how my visit with my parents had been and made some small talk. Then he just nonchalantly said, “Yeah, I was calling to see if you wanted to go to the football game with us, but you already had plans.” It suddenly dawned on me that all those unnecessary questions were buying him time to work up to asking me out. DUH!
    A few weeks later, I came home from (yet again!) eating out with my parents. There was a message on my answering machine from Chris. He was calling to see if I would like to go to dinner with him and Madison. He ended the message by saying he would see me at church on Sunday. I was excited that this man would be looking forward to seeing me on Sunday. When Sunday came around, Chris totally ignored me. He has claimed he didn’t see me, which is probably true. But he walked right by me at least 3 times without stopping or looking. I was livid! Do you know how much time I spent on getting myself beautiful that morning?!? LOL! Looking back, it was probably God teaching me a lesson about what I should be focusing on during church.
    It was 2 months later with no word or contact between, when my grandmother died. A mutual friend at the wake told me that she had told Chris about my grandmother’s funeral. The next day, Chris Newman showed up. I knew then that there really must be something special about this man. Then 2 weeks later, I was home and the phone rang. Chris invited me to dinner. I met him and Madison at La Fiesta. We had a good time talking and eating. When we went to leave, Chris and Madison had gone ahead of me and were talking. Suddenly, Chris turned to me and was laughing. He said that Madison told him that he should ask me out on a date and he had answered her by saying “What do you think we just did?”
    I was a bit shocked myself. I hadn’t thought it was a date…but Chris had! So my first date with Chris was a long time coming and we shared it and many others with a little, blonde-haired girl. So glad God put both of them (and now Sage and another one on the way) in my life! I’ve been blessed!

  10. Ireland is on my bucket list. Hope to see it one day. My favorite date with Chris ( who is now my husband) started with a drive from Natchez to Vicksburg. We wanted to see the new Casino that just opened. We talked the whole way to Vicksburg, drove by the casino, and stopped at some all night diner. We shared an order of french fries and a coke, got in the car and drove back to Natchez, again talking the whole way. If you knew Chris you would know that spending 3 hours in a car talking, well just the talking really, is not something he does. I loved being alone together just learning more about each other.

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