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Do you struggle when it comes to buying gifts for your other half?
I’d love to hear from you if you don’t! I always find it difficult, and I suspect I’m not alone.
We can find it hard for all sorts of reasons, not least because our money and possessions are shared, so it sometimes feels like we’re giving them what they already own! Or else we buy something that’s secretly a present for us: a gadget we’ve been after, or a new game we’ll both enjoy.
My trouble is that my husband is entirely un-materialistic, so there’s usually very little he wants anyway – and his paltry list gets passed on to other family members who are looking for ideas. I understand that, out of everyone, I probably know him best – but I still really have no idea what to get my husband for Christmas!
Last year, however, I did something different. And it worked brilliantly! So brilliantly, in fact, that I’d go as far as to say it was the best-received gift I’ve ever given my husband (and we’ve known each other nearly 20 years…).
If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t, why not?), you may already know what I gave him – because I’ve been sharing updates each month.
You see, I gave my husband the gift of time – in the form of a Year of Dates. And it’s worked so well that I’m here to share what I did and how you can do it too, if you think it’s something which would be appreciated by your loved one this year.
I honestly think that time is one of the best gifts you can give your other half, because time is something we almost unanimously feel we don’t have much of. Giving time – setting a pattern of a monthly date which has to happen because it’s been planned/booked/paid for – says to our partner: “You are important. Our relationship is important. And I want to invest in that.”.
It makes them feel ultra special! And it does us the world of good too! (You know when I mentioned ‘selfish’ gifts that we get for our spouse which are actually for us? Well maybe this is one of them! But it’s so good they won’t even care that you’re enjoying it too! In fact, the whole point is that you enjoy the dates together!)
Coming up with Date Ideas
Obviously there are trillions of ways you could do this – do check out my post 25 Stay-At-Home Date Night Ideas for loads of free/cheap suggestions – but here’s how I went about it.
First-off, I had to think of 12 dates that he’d enjoy that we could manageably do together during 2019. I considered my budget – I couldn’t afford every date to be extravagant, but was prepared to splash out on a couple. After all, it’s only money we would have spent on dates through the year anyway.
I started by scouring the local theatre guides and listings to see if there was anything he’d enjoy – if there was, then this would obviously be time-restricted to a particular month, and I could start filling up our Year of Dates.
I discovered that The Bob Dylan Story was on in February, so went ahead and booked tickets for that. Taking inspiration from the Dating Divas and their incredible library of different date ideas (well worth checking out), I also checked the dates of our city’s Food Festival and Chocolate Festival (yep, York is that cool – and yep, it’s totes why I live here). A trip to each of these, with cash to spend, would fill another couple of months.
After the time-sensitive dates had been planned, I decided to get a voucher for our favourite restaurant – this and the Bob Dylan Story were the most expensive dates, after which I was going to need to be a bit more budget-conscious!
How to put together A Year of Dates
I took 12 large manila envelopes, and on each one I attached a month printable from the Dating Divas’ Year of Dates. (This is a great resource if you want things to look pretty but are short on time – or skill – to do it yourself. I got the resources free as part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle 2018, so it made sense to use them – but if you don’t have this bundle, then they’re fairly inexpensive to buy separately.)
In each envelope, I put something relevant to the date for that month: the tickets for the Bob Dylan Story, the restaurant voucher – and for the Food/Chocolate Festival dates, I popped in £20 cash and some food truck score cards (another printable from the Dating Divas!)
We happened to have an unused cinema gift card lying around, so I popped that into one envelope, and after a bit of research I bought Hive, a game I thought he’d enjoy (we love strategy games), which just about fitted in another envelope, along with some chocolate.
You Don’t Have to Go ‘Out’!
For me, it was important that a good number of the dates involved staying in – we don’t want to constantly be forking out for babysitters (or relying on the goodwill of our lovely church 20s group who come and do it for the love!) – and, besides, some evenings we’re so knackered that a trip into town is the last thing we’re up for.
So I went roughly 50:50 with in/out dates. You might like to plan all ‘out’ dates, or need to have them all ‘in’, depending on your circumstances.
Our Year of Dates
I’ve written elsewhere on 25 Stay-At-Home Date Night Ideas so do check that out if you’re looking for inspiration.
But here’s what we did this year, with the contents of the envelope in brackets:
January – games night (Hive game and chocolates)
February – The Bob Dylan Story (tickets)
March – movie night (DVD and snacks)
June – cooking together (I made a flyer to show how this would work – we would plan and cook together a 3 course meal)
July – ‘Spoil Your Spouse’ evening (printable for him to fill in about what he wanted to eat, do, watch, play etc – he got to choose the whole evening!)
October – cinema trip (cinema gift card and snacks)
November – fondue night in (recipe cards, skewers)
December – unplugged night (unplugged games and activities printables from the Dating Divas website)
Everyone will have their own budget for Christmas presents. Did I spend more than I usually spend on my husband?
Yes, undoubtedly. But, it’s only money that would have been spent through the year anyway – we’d likely have had a meal out at some stage, and gone to see a performance of some kind too.
Whilst it was a big payout all in one go at an expensive time of the year, it was so lovely going through the year knowing that all these dates had already been paid for!
And, as you’ll have noticed, many of the dates were very cheap or even free, so get creative – you can spend as much or as little as you like!
Opening the Gift
On Christmas Day, I handed my husband a huge gift bag containing all 12 envelopes – but obviously (and tantalisingly!) he was only allowed to open January’s envelope!
Whilst this felt a bit underwhelming on Christmas Day, it became a really fun part of each new month during 2019 to open a new envelope and discover what we were doing that month – fun for me too, because I’d forgotten what I’d planned!
It was so successful that I’m doing it again for next year. I’ve tried to plan out 12 new dates, which was quite a challenge, but the Dating Divas website has helped enormously. When I went for my Christmas shopping day, I bought a few bits that I’ll need, and I have a few other things needing to be printed out or made over the next couple of weeks – then, job done!
Invest in your Marriage
Above all, it has really blessed our marriage to do this Year of Dates this year. We prioritise spending focused time together every Friday evening, but get stuck in a rut so easily of doing the same thing. This gift got us out of our comfort zone, making new memories together and trying new things.
I hope you’re inspired now to plan your own Year of Dates for next year! What will you include? Let me know in the comments!