This article first appeared at U.S. News and World Report Money.
My wife and I have three children in elementary school and/or preschool, so the opportunity for “escape weekends” have been few and far between for a very long time. When we get those opportunities – usually thanks to a generous grandparent – we deeply enjoy the chance for a bit of “us time.”
Still, an escape weekend isn’t an excuse to go break the bank. We strive to escape the stresses of our day-to-day life for a little while, but that doesn’t mean we need to add to those stresses.
Here’s how to pull off an “escape weekend” with your partner without melting your credit card and adding to your financial stress.
First, we think about experience, not location. Why do we want this weekend of escape? We want to spend it together, first and foremost. The real value in an escape weekend is to retreat from the stresses of your everyday life and to perform “maintenance” on your relationship by spending time together. Those two things, above all, are the sign of an escape weekend with your partner.
So, accentuate those signs above all else. What stress do you need a temporary escape from? Do you yearn for a break from the nonstop responsibility of parenting? Are you looking for a time-out from the demands of your career? A getaway weekend should provide that respite. Similarly, if you’re engaging in a getaway with your partner, part of the value of the getaway is the strength it can add to your relationship.
The thing is that a lot of getaways provide both that respite and that relationship building. Quite honestly, my wife and I can enjoy this kind of respite and relationship building simply by sending the children to the grandparents for the weekend.
Once you’ve established what you’re really yearning for when it comes to an escape weekend, your next step is to plan something simple that accentuates what you need most. What kind of weekend enables you to escape from your biggest stressors and spend time with your partner without adding to other life stresses (like your debts)?
Here, simplicity lends a hand. Look for an escape weekend that’s simple.
You can have a great escape weekend at home. Send the children to the grandparents, turn off the phones and the computers, and just enjoy each other for two days. Pop a giant bowl of popcorn and curl up under a blanket in the basement together while watching a movie marathon. Take care of a project around the house you’ve been putting off. Simple things like this can be a wonderful escape because they take care of the things you need most from a weekend retreat without adding complexity to the situation.
If you need something more, tap your social network for ideas. You may find that a friend has a guest bedroom just waiting for you in another town or that someone you know has a cabin they’ll let you use for a weekend. There’s also the possibility that a friend may be able to point you toward a steep discount or another opportunity in the area.
If you feel that a larger splurge is in order, start socking away money now. Put aside $20 or $50 a week for a few months, then spring for something special that you can afford out of pocket without contributing to the problems that you’re trying to escape from.
The most important thing to remember is that a weekend escape gives you a respite from the stresses of your life and some time to bond with your partner. Ideally, you should return from it rested and ready to handle the challenges of life. Spending money you don’t have simply means you’re going to return to bigger issues than what you left behind.
Escape with your heart and your mind, not with your wallet.