Sunday, July 27, 2014

Date Night on a Budget

I love date nights with my gives us a chance to spend time together without the kids, and talk for a couple hours without hearing any screaming or whining. Ahhhh bliss.

Date Night can take a chunk out of your budget, though, so here are some ways to save on your next evening out.

1. Consider Sitter Options
With most babysitters getting $10-15 an hour, you've already spent at least $50 for an evening out, before ever even leaving the driveway. If you don't have family nearby to watch your kids, try a sitting swap with friends or neighbors. You go out one evening while they watch your kids, then you return the favor another evening.

If that's not an option, reconsider your definition of Date Night. Can you have a date with your spouse after the kids go to bed? Share a special dessert and watch a movie or play a board game to get some kid free time.

If you really want to leave the house but can't afford a sitter for dinner and a movie, how about getting a sitter for only an hour or two for a coffee or ice cream mini date. Sometimes getting away for an hour makes all the difference.

2. Have a Picnic
Since Date Night is all about the person you're spending the time with and not where you go, a picnic at the beach or a park is cheap and allows you time to really chat and connect with your spouse. If you don't want to tote along a picnic basket, check online reviews for the best local takeout joints and take your food to go.

3. Browse Your Area for Free Events
Many cities and towns frequently have weekend festivals, fairs, or shows. Some are local mainstays (state/county fairs), while others are just fun and quirky (think ethnic festivals complete with food samples and dancing). There are also art shows, craft fairs, and free museum days, that just require some time and an open mind.

4. Use Coupons or Gift Cards
When my husband and I really want to treat ourselves and splurge on a fancy meal (such as our anniversary), we check Costco for reduced rate gift cards. Costco often has nice restaurant offerings, a $100 gift card for $79.99. That's a 20% savings right off the bat. I've seen local burger places, pizza places, and delis all sell gift cards for 20% off at Costco.

Also, check Groupon for restaurant specials. Some local places will sell a credit to their restaurant for up to 50% off.

Besides food, there are also coupons for activities such as bowling, ice skating, or miniature golf that would make for a fun date. You don't have to splurge to have fun!

5. Get Out and Get Active
You may not think of exercise as a traditional date, but hiking local trails, going for a scenic walk, taking a bike ride, or playing tennis are all great bonding experiences that cost very little, if anything. A meal for an exercise date could be as simple as a smoothie. (My Costco also has discounted Jamba Juice gift cards!)

6. Remember What Date Night is All About
Even when you have a tight budget, it doesn't mean you can't have fun or enjoy an evening out with your spouse. Date Night is not about going to the most upscale restaurant, or checking off boxes, it's about spending quality time with your spouse, without the concerns of daily life working their way in. Money shouldn't determine how much fun you have, and sometimes the cheapest dates are the most fun. Start your evening with gratitude, and you'll enjoy your date, no matter how much you spend or don't spend.

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