Living on $13,000 or Less: Work Hard Play Hard

The Cheap Date list: Compiled during a year this family lived on less than $13,000-including rent.


This is part 16 of the Living on $13,000 or Less series. Click through if you missed earlier posts.


I learned early in my marriage that the best way to start a new habit was to bribe myself. Yup, I totally bribed myself left and right. I needed to start doing dishes more often-by hand I might add. So I got ice cream if I stayed on top of it the whole week. I had to do 5 loads of laundry at the laundromat? Cookies were my game.

I was a reeeeaaaaallly great housekeeper at the beginning of our marriage-ah hem ah hem. But I’ve come a long way. It wasn’t always food, those were the cheap ones we could afford at that time. Having something fun really motivates me.

Just like those new habits, chronic frugal living can totally burn you out. It takes a lot of time, effort, and discipline to do it. So you need to throw some fun in there and if you’re like me, some bribes.

I do need to add in here that fun is not an extra thing, it is not a waste of time to fit in when convenient. It is a necessity! Our brains, bodies, and spirits need some down time in our days and weeks. If we go, go, go, we’ll eventually break, break, break. It’s counter intuitive but relaxation is a crucial part of productivity.


So here’s our productivity enhancer list—A.K.A. Our Cheap Date List


This literally saved us. We hardly got a date night out, so turning our front room into a dim theater was heaven. Besides then we could cuddle up on the couch. Who needs those annoying theater arm rests anyway?

The Cheap Date list: Compiled during a year this family lived on less than $13,000-including rent.

Board/card games

When we wanted to talk, we’d pull out a board game. My favorite is Knights and Settlers of Cataan. I’d have the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ theme song set to play whenever the pirates pillaged. Why yes I am a geek. 🙂

Kitchen dancing

Once in a while we’d also bake in the kitchen, especially when I was craving fresh baked bread (I was pregnant after all). Yes, this included much dancing at times.

Swap babysitting with friends

We did this once or twice but not often. It was nice to get out and know we’d be returning the favor for some friends. We also would get family to babysit and find a way to repay them. I try to be very careful not to abuse family as free babysitters. I’d just hate to be ‘those siblings’, so I’m a big fan of doing swaps.

The Cheap Date list: Compiled during a year this family lived on less than $13,000-including rent.

Read a book together

The hubster is not a big reader (partially because he’s such an oral learner-have I mentioned the guy has perfect pitch?) but he loves to read one aloud with me. Then we can sit back and discuss and hypothesize. Our latest was Fable Haven and it was sooooo fun! We kept coming up to each other with our new theories and predictions. If you feel a slouch in your marital conversation I definitely recommend reading a book together!

Dress up

Even if it’s a holiday family dinner, having the excuse to dress up lifts my spirit. It’s nice to feel beautiful for me and the hubster, it makes all the scrimping and saving feel more worthwhile. If I’m in my sweats day in and day out, it gets monotonous and I wonder if any of this work is worth it.

Go to an arcade

The hubster absolutely adores Pump It Up- a dance game typically only found in arcades. It’s like DDR only (in our opinion) with better music and the steps are choreographed for each song instead of being randomly programmed by a computer. It’s a special treat for him to show off, and costs less than $10. He’s pretty good too, made it in the newspaper for it and everything. Proud of you babe!

The Cheap Date list: Compiled during a year this family lived on less than $13,000-including rent.

Go take a hike

We’d typically do this as a family.  It’s great to get outdoors, feel the wind instead of the keyboard. One of the most relaxing things I can do is enjoy nature. Just sit and listen to the birds, water running, wind through aspen trees, feel the grass beneath my fingers…Mmm relaxation heaven.

Play a sport

Physical activity is one of the absolute best ways to combat stress. Work your body enough to get those endorphins running through your veins. Now that’s chemical warfare.

On my left I have team ‘stressed out to the Max’, and on my right I have the ‘mighty endorphin power rangers’.

If fighting’s not your thing you could be like us and go for soccer or gymnastics, the hubster and I do both (aren’t I lucky to have a male gymnast!?).

The Cheap Date list: Compiled during a year this family lived on less than $13,000-including rent.

Pack a picnic

This is another way to allow nature into your busy life. We even did this in winter, with a ton of blankets and a thermos of hot coco. It was wonderful. We enjoyed nature, chocolate, and had a good reason to snuggle up to one another. It was great!

Do something creative

I know this will come as a total surprise-hardy har har– but we love to do artistic things at our place. Whether it’s; singing a duet together, choreographing our own silly dance, or illustrating last night’s dreams—they’re all good choices.

Having  a creative release allows us to release our feelings and let go of thoughts and emotions that can turn to poison inside of us. My favorite way to release emotions is to belt out a Broadway tune at the top of my voice; either Les Miserable for my deep and difficult feelings or Wicked for my bubbly over the top happy ones. Find a way to release and you’ll feel amazing.

Find something that fits you and run with it. There are tons of ways to do this that doesn’t have to be performance based. I have a sister that is amazing with math and fully enjoys solving mathematical equations. My dad is an engineer and is amazing at making tools they need with items right off the shelf-he’s got quite a few patents under his belt due to his creative abilities. Just because you’re not an artist doesn’t mean you can’t be creative!



What’s your favorite cheap date?


Want more from the ‘Living on $13,000 or Less’ series? Check these out!



This is part 16 of the Living on $13,000 or Less series. Click through here to read the rest.