Romance on a Budget

Did you ever try to celebrate Valentine’s Day on a budget?

My budget includes borrowing art supplies from my children and crafting a card that would rival any second grade artist, but I wanted more for this year’s love fest. 

I asked myself if I could make a romantic dinner for two at home, after tucking the kids snugly in their beds.  Sounds budget-friendly and doable in theory, but allow me to demonstrate a real-life romantic dinner at home:

5:30 pm - Throw several dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets in the oven, rescue favorite stuffed animal from the grasp of the dog’s jaws, inspect and sign homework papers, and throw the clean laundry into the dryer. Take the dog outside because she’s chewing on your slippers.  Answer the phone.

6:00 pm – Get OFF the phone and scrape all black residue from the chicken nuggets. Serve your kids dinner. 

6:30 pm – Listen to reading homework; make sure the kids shower and brush their teeth; do the dishes; don’t kill the dog; go to the bathroom.

8:00 pm – Assign your daughter the job of setting a ‘fancy’ table.  Make her promise not to lick each fork to remove dishwasher spots.  Send your husband down to the corner market to get the cashews for the cashew chicken.

8:30 pm – Tuck your kids into bed, and take a much-needed shower.  Put the dog in her crate so she doesn’t push the bathroom door open and run off with your clean underwear.

8:40 pm – Tame your hair, paint your face, and dress in the first clean outfit hanging in your closet.

8:55 pm – Snack on the burnt crisps leftover from the kid’s nuggets.

9:00 pm – Start cooking.  Again.

9:30 pm – Serve a lovely cashew chicken dinner minus the cashews, because apparently there was a run on cashews this afternoon.

9:40 pm – Light the candles and take out the crying dog.

9:45 pm – Just as your husband leans into the flickering light of the candles to smooch your lips, the dog freaks out because your neighbor decides he’s going to shovel the sidewalk. Save the kiss for later and grab the dog before she wakes up your kids.

9:47 pm – Too late.  The kids filter through to use the bathroom and get a drink.  It’s an emergency, of course.  You can faintly see symptoms of dehydration in their eyes.  Let them taste your cashew-less chicken.

9:55 pm – Explain the importance of alone time between parents and threaten their lives with ten years of morning-til-night homework, year-round school, and a chore list that stretches to New Jersey and back.

10:00 pm – Throw out the cold chicken and go straight to dessert.  Assure your spouse that yawning and drooping eyelids are the latest signs of true love.

Reality says, when you have children, romantic dinners at home do not work.  My heartfelt advice to you is, forget the budget and GO OUT.  Beg your parents, friends, coworkers, family, neighbors, and the teenagers next door to watch your kids for a few hours.  Even if you have no money, go sit in the car (without the kids) and steam up the windows.  Just get out of the house! 

Tricia Gillespie is looking forward to a Valentine’s Day when she takes her own advice and goes out, sans kids.  She writes about real-life chaos on her blog, TheDomesticFringe.com.  She’d love for you visit!


  1. Hey, I'm first to comment!

    So you can return my comment favor....when I start blogging again, you can read mine.

    I love you!

  2. I love this! Oh so true! Tricia is the best writer!

  3. The reality really makes me laugh. We've steamed a few car windows in order to find a little privacy once or twice! : )

  4. Ha! Great post, Tricia! :)

  5. Our baby is only 6 months' old now, but even a simple sit-down dinner is near to impossible now, much less a romantic one! Great post! :) Happy non-romantic Valentine's day to all moms/dads!

  6. Too funny!!! Four kids later, I don't even try to do romantic dinners. The closest I get is lighting candles while we're eating with the kids. Perhaps, PERHAPS our eyes will meet across the table in the candlelight, and we'll call it a win. :) Thanks for this post! Hysterical!

  7. Even sitting in McDonalds for dinner is more romantic than trying to eat at home with kids. haha

  8. I hope this comment takes LOL. Tried earlier as you know but couldn't do it...now to the matter at hand...I know it isn't nice to laugh and roll around on the floor at someone elses lost date night..but it could not be helped! Honest!!

  9. The truth is always funnier than fiction; that's why this is hilarious. Love the dog parts ~

  10. So true! And, forgetting the romantic dinner at home, I've just wondered about how to get the kids to sleep so I can have some time with my husband before I conk out. Take starter home with two kids bedroom doors FACING our bedroom!

    I can so identify! The most romantic thing I've done in two weeks is go for a walk with my husband.

  11. It's true that children almost always make a romantic dinner at home impossible, unless of course they are having a sleep over at Grandma's. We got to go to a movie last Friday sans kids and it was wonderful. I second your advise.

  12. ....so close! Better luck this year with the budget-busting but kid/dog/fiasco-free plan :)

  13. LOL, "go sit in your car and steam up the windows" cracked me right up! Hubby and I always to Valentine's Day on a budget. Just cards and nothing fancy.

  14. I love cashew chicken! I also love it that my kids are grown so I can go out. Only these days I can't stay awake. After you turn 50, 7:30 is the new midnight.

  15. Amy, at least you can enjoy the 'early bird' specials. ;-)

  16. Very cute post. When our kids were younger and we couldn't really afford to go out, we'd eat dinner at home and then just go out for coffee and dessert. We could afford a piece or two of pie. As soon as our oldest turned 12, we had her babysit. We'd put the younger kids to bed, put a movie on the older ones, and go to a restaurant that was ten or 15 minutes away so the kids could call if they had any problems. Romantic dinners at home didn't happen very often, but it was good for us to get out from time to time. Hope you're able to find a way to make it work.


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