Jess Buscemi knows that her husband loves to cook, roots for the New York Giants and enjoys trying out new things. Rob Buscemi knows that his wife is crazy about chips and salsa, usually has three drinks (nonalcoholic) in front of her at one time and wishes for a craft room at home. What, however, don't the North Side couple know about each other? That's what they continue to find out.
Jess Buscemi knows that her husband loves to cook, roots for the New York Giants and enjoys trying out new things.
Rob Buscemi knows that his wife is crazy about chips and salsa, usually has three drinks (nonalcoholic) in front of her at one time and wishes for a craft room at home.
What, however, don’t the North Side couple know about each other?
That’s what they continue to find out.
Before they wed in October 2011, the Buscemis created the blog $20 Dates — the extension of a pledge to schedule regular (but affordable) outings; discover “hidden gems” in the area; and, in the process, learn more about each other.
“We were dating and broke, and we wanted to figure out a way to save money but still go out on dates,” said Mrs. Buscemi, a social worker for Columbus schools.
They have maintained the routine for two years, encompassing both an activity and a meal in each $20 date.
Almost 70 cheap dates later, their blog has more than 2,000 unique monthly visitors and 5,000 page views.
Francine Files of the Clintonville neighborhood has come to rely on the blog.“When you’re trying to pay off student loans, it’s nice to have cheap-date ideas,” she said. “Dating is the first thing that goes when you’re on a budget.”
Per the Buscemis’ suggestion, Files and her husband, Alan, have visited the Statehouse to read correspondence from U.S. soldiers of various wars (inscribed on outdoor monuments); scoured the shelves of the 32-room Book Loft in German Village in search of the “perfect” book; and skated at the Ohio State University Ice Rink.
“Columbus is a small big city,” said Files, 28, a nurse practitioner. “I knew there were resources there, but I didn’t know how to get ahold of them.”
Having grown up in the New York borough of Brooklyn, Mr. Buscemi was accustomed to frequenting quirky family-owned businesses.
After he moved to Columbus in 2002, the engineer said the city initially “bored the hell out of me.” He quickly grew weary of chain restaurants and movie theaters.
But that frustration “made me search out the little things that make each neighborhood unique,” he said.As a result, he has become increasingly drawn to the rich history of Columbus.
“I’ve gained more appreciation for Downtown and how old everything is.”
During their Statehouse date, he and his wife learned that the building was one of the stops for viewing the body of Abraham Lincoln on the funeral route from Washington to Springfield, Ill., in 1865. On another Downtown excursion, they discovered the eclectic past of the Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus: It used to be, at various times, a candy store and a speak-easy.
Recently, the Buscemis chose to combine a morning date with volunteer work, helping to make tables for low-income families at the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio in Franklinton.
Then they spent the full $20 at Tommy’s Diner.
“We celebrated with brunch,” Mrs. Buscemi said.
Readers of $20 Dates learn that many Ohio State athletic events are free — a discovery that delighted the Buscemis, who have attended a softball game and will cheer on other OSU teams in the fall.
They aim for suggestions that will appeal to all couples — “whether it’s your first or 1,000th date,” she said.
The Buscemis also list daily events and happy-hour specials on the blog.
They don’t profit from the project but are working with a friend on a business plan.
Meanwhile, the couple will continue to use the $20-date concept to enhance their relationship — and, they hope, those of their readers.
“It keeps the conversation fresh,” Mr. Buscemi said. “You can become roommates real quickly."