Making Space in Your Budget for Romance

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Early in our marriage, I sat nervously sweating in a room of women similar in age and stage of life. We read a book together and had some frank conversations about the realities of marriage and sex. Overall, it had been an eye-opening experience for me and was one of the first times other women shared their intimate struggles in a healthy and God-honoring manner. But this particular week a guest speaker came in to share some of the specific ways she and her husband placed a priority on romance. From ending each and every evening sharing a bowl of ice cream in the tub (I’m still not sure we’re coordinated enough to pull this one off. Maybe our tub is just too small?) to candlelight dinners prepared from ALDI (much more my speed), this couple learned to keep love alive without dropping too much cash.

I love a good bargain, so this advice made sense to me. That was until she began talking about buying lingerie from secondhand stores. I shuddered at the thought of wearing someone else’s underwear, even if it had been washed in my home. Look, this frugal girl has her limits. I’m sure I do plenty of things that might gross out the wise woman who just wanted to help me have a better marriage. But I couldn’t hear another word after she mentioned her sexy money-saving hack. Nope.

Kudos to you if you can scare up a great slinky at the thrift store. Cognitively, I know washing the item makes it “like new,” but I can’t get over the icky mental hump. But this teachable moment did help me realize a number of life lessons. (1) This strategy would definitely not work if you have a husband with germophobe tendencies. Say, a guy who barely touches doorknobs. Let’s just say I know someone. (2) When it comes to lingerie, frills can be fun, though many fellas also appreciate the color naked. (3) It’s important to budget for romance, even if you’re living on limited resources.

While we were paying off $127,000 in debt, we devoted each and every extra penny we earned to our financial goals. We didn’t have enough money to pay a babysitter, let alone enjoy a fancy dinner out on the town. Honestly, there weren’t even funds for secondhand negligees (thank goodness for teachable moment lesson number two). We even paused from giving each other gifts for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, and “just because.” There were no romantic weekends away to exotic destinations or couples-only trips. But we derived just as much pleasure from working together toward a common financial goal as any purchased present.

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Somehow we still managed to scrape up enough money for an occasional moment together. It honestly wasn’t about how much we spent. Instead, setting aside money—no matter how small the amount—made us realize that romance is a priority in our marriage. Don’t misunderstand me. Love and sex don’t depend on spending money. You can have both in spades without cracking open your piggy bank. However, placing a value on romance by setting aside hard-earned cash with the intention of investing in the flourishing of your love speaks volumes about the importance you place on the intimate bonds of your marriage.

Use the money you set aside however you both see fit. You could spend your romance budget on one nice evening out per month. Or you could roll over the dollar amount until you save up enough for a weekend getaway. Even if you only have a dollar apiece, you can go to the dollar store to purchase special gifts for each other. Your spending doesn’t have to be flashy. You could even use your romance budget to purchase secondhand lingerie. I promise I won’t even judge. Just don’t tell me, okay?

Whatever you choose to do, place a priority on spending money in a way that develops your love for one another and enhances your intimacy. Already feeling stretched financially and not sure where your romance budget might come from? Check out these ideas to kick-start your funds:

Save your change. Each time you receive a dime, penny, quarter, or nickel, place that change into a jar. Once you fill up the jar or reach a specific date, count the money and plan to invest in romance.

Sell some stuff. Books, exercise equipment, home decor, outgrown toys and clothes, household goods you never use . . . your junk might be someone else’s treasure. Hold an online yard sale to begin building your love fund.

Set a percentage. Each month, set a small percentage (it could even be as little as 1 percent) to save toward your marriage enrichment fund. When your income arrives in your checking account, calculate that percentage and withdraw the set amount. Place it in a savings account or even in your change jar. An automated version of this practice works even better.

Specify a goal. Saving without a specific end in mind can become burdensome and feel pointless. Whether you choose a marriage conference, a beach getaway, or simply a new restaurant you’d like to try together, set an explicit goal for your romance budget. Do research on where you’d like to go, and, if possible, set a date on the calendar. Clear-cut plans yield concrete results.

Taken from Your Money, Your Marriage by Cherie and Brian Lowe. Copyright © 2018 by Cherie and Brian Lowe. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.