Shelling out for an expensive meal and uncorking a fine bottle of wine often makes romance a cinch, but many couples can't always afford an extravagant night of loving.
"Good Morning America's" "Romance Brigade" of Matt Bean, editor of Men's Health magazine, and Nicole Beland, deputy editor of Women's Health magazine, recently helped one couple find romance on a budget and showed how easy it could be to get a lot of love for a little cash.
Lacey and Ben of Tulsa, Okla., have been married for 10 years. Lacey spends most of her time running after their three daughters, 5-year-old Faith, 3-year-old Clara and 1-year-old Anna. Ben's job as a product manager for a fencing company keeps him out of the house most of the day.
Tip #1: Budget-Friendly Baby-Sitting
With their hectic lives and single income, romance often has to take a back seat. Lacey told Beland that a night out could be quite expensive because of baby-sitting costs.
"It's not hard to get a baby sitter, but it is hard to pay for the baby sitter, and then go out to eat and then go to the movies. You know, it really adds up," Lacey said.
Bean showed the couple how they could find a budget-friendly baby sitter. By going to moms.meetup.com and plugging in their zip code, Lacey and Ben could find other parents in the area who wanted to meet so they could work out supervision for each other's kids.
"Once you get to know them, once you get to trust them, you can work out something," Bean said. "Maybe they'd take your kids for a weekend, and you'd take theirs for another weekend."
Tip #2: Make a Romance Request Bowl
Beland also showed Ben and Lacey a no-cost way to spice up their love life and be spontaneous.
"When you get into the bedroom at the end of your long day … put a bowl of romantic requests next to the bed, that you guys each write," Beland said. "So, they say things like, 'Let's arm-wrestle,' or 'Nibble on my earlobe.' This gives you these fun, silly, playful things to do, so that you can finally connect."
More Effort Means More Romance
No matter their budget -- for all couples -- romance takes effort, something Ben and Lacey need to work on.
When Bean asked Ben about the most romantic thing he'd ever done for Lacey, Ben seemed stumped. Lacey finally came up with an answer: a song Ben gave her 12 years ago.
Tip #3: Mister Clean
In addition to lack of effort, Ben and Lacey struggle with another common obstacle: a messy house.
Beland asked the couple whether chores played into their lack of romance.
"Just the cares and concerns of every day … sometimes we forget to put each other first," Lacey said. "And, you know, the kids are demanding your attention. And when he comes home, I'm like, 'Please take the children and let me go breathe for a minute.' It takes away from us."
By divvying up chores around the house, Ben and Lacey can go a long way to improving their relationship without spending a dime.
According to a Men's Health magazine survey, 65 percent of women said that one of the best ways to up their relationship's romance level was for their partner to help out around the house.
"Wake up early a couple of times a week, just 15 minutes," Bean said about pitching into household tasks. "It's going to pay dividends for you all day long. She's going to love you when you get home at the end of the day."
The Romance Brigade recommends using Williams-Sonoma aprons to stay clean while you clean.
Tip #4: Plan Minidates
Once the kids are asleep, take 15 or 20 minutes to share dessert or a glass of wine. It's not a night on the town, but it will be time for just the two of you to get away from the usual routine.
The Romance Brigade loves the picture frames from Crate and Barrel; think of them as an inexpensive way to surround yourself at home and the office with the faces of the ones you love.
Last-Minute Gift Ideas
Skip the candy and flowers -- it's too obvious that you forgot a gift -- and go for something meaningful like a nice gift bag of your significant other's favorite things, such as her favorite drink or his favorite magazines.
Surprise your S.O. with a coffee at his or her office or bring lunch. The unexpected is always appreciated.
Melt a dark-chocolate Hershey bar and buy some strawberries for quick and easy fondue.
Don't just send a cheesy e-card. Find an actual, bona fide card and put a great picture of the two of you inside, with a heartfelt message.