Nate and I have been dating again lately.

Each other, I mean.

Just in case that's not abundantly clear.

41 cheap or free date ideas to keep your significant other smiling (so many good ideas for Valentine's Day and a bunch involving exploring your own community).

It can be a challenge to squeeze in date day with three kids constantly demanding our attention. After months spent focusing on putting fires out between the baby and the house, though, things seem to have finally calmed down. We're re-prioritizing our own relationship and making an effort to squeeze in some more romance.

Of course, said children are also sucking every dollar out of the budget…but we make do. Here are our creative date ideas for squeezing in a little him-and-me time when moments and money are both a little bit limited.

41 cheap or free date ideas to keep your significant other smiling (so many good ideas for Valentine's Day and a bunch involving exploring your own community)

When you’re planning a night out with a long-term partner, creative ideas pay off in more ways than one. Unconventional outings are easier on your wallet AND their unexpected nature can help spark some excited anticipation into the relationship. Here are a few of our picks that are more creative, and less expensive, than the usual dinner-and-a-movie.

Plan an outdoor outing

Try taking a hike, a walk through public gardens, or a walk along the beach for some quiet time with each other. A picnic in the park is also next to free, or try renting a paddle boat at a municipal lake. If the season is right, go berry or apple-picking and then make your own treats. During summer, a water-balloon fight is a fun way to cool down, especially when you have a whole family to keep busy.

Connect while trying an interesting sport

Holding hands while roller-skating or ice-skating can be an adventurous way to get closer. Other good sporting activities for dates include rock-wall climbing or go-kart racing. Head over to the batting cages or driving range and show your partner the correct stance to hit a baseball or golf ball. If you’re feeling really bold, rent a gun at a local shooting range. For a more traditional date, get inexpensive tickets for a minor league game and cheer on the home team.

Put a new spin on classic dates

Instead of heading to the movie theater, look for drive-in movies near you. Your date will be impressed by the extra effort, and it'll likely cost less than a conventional spot. Instead of going to a fancy restaurant, bring the fancy restaurant home with a candlelight dinner. Make sure that your place is clean first; the effect will be ruined if you two are eating in the midst of clutter. Cook a nice dinner that shows effort – you could even call their parents to get recipes for their favorite dishes.

Expand your horizons

Cultural activities can show your artsy side without breaking the bank. Poetry readings and art galleries are usually free, and museums generally have one night per month where entry is complimentary. Other inexpensive cultural activities include planetarium shows, aquariums, zoos and high school/college plays. Also, check for free local concerts in your area.

Try something completely off the wall

Look into your community activities and see if they have any classes such as dance, cooking, or massage. Reminisce about your childhood by taking your date to play pinball. If you live in an area where television shows are filmed, it is free (and sometimes the shows even pay audience members to go) to watch a filming. Check tvtickets.com, tvtix.com or seeing-stars.com/tapings for shows near you. Comedy clubs are another entertaining, and cheap, date. For a totally free community-focused date, send your loved one on a scavenger hunt through places in the neighborhood that have been significant to your relationship.

Test your skills at pool. One of the best dates Nate and I have had was at a local pool hall, which is ironic because we're both terrible at the game. Despite their sometimes smoky atmosphere, they are a laid-back place to talk. Most towns have farmers’ markets or street fairs on a weekly or monthly basis. These can be fun to tour and sample the wares without spending a lot of money. Call your local winery or brewery and ask about tastings or tours; these are usually free or inexpensive. Find out if you have any interesting factories in the area. Chocolate factories, cheese factories, and even tortilla factories can be interesting to tour. If you’re the crafty type, stay home and build something together. Try painting or drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. If you’re handy and have some free time, build stilts and go for a walk!

Join a new world-wide fad

Our obsession with geocaching has only strengthened over time. People around the world hide waterproof caches discreetly in public places and then give clues to help other people find them. These boxes contain a small journal (or roll of paper) and sometimes tiny trinkets. This addicting activity caters to people’s secret childhood desires to be pirates and search for hidden treasure, an oh-so-romantic pastime that can uncover interesting items and secluded spots.

Cater to the individual

Think of a hobby that the other person is really into and create a date based on that. I once took Nate to a museum of model railroads because he mentioned that he had model railroads as a child. In return, he took me to a Thai food restaurant because he knows that's my favorite food. Pay attention. Those little things matter.

If you're still looking for ideas, search the internet for information about your city. Check out Yelp or ask friends for help finding activities around you. Dates don’t have to be expensive to be fun. Don’t make things too complicated, and always be flexible.

After all, spontaneity is sexy.