5 Simple Ways to Save on Date Night

Guest post from Alison of Experimental Wifery

My husband and I dated for six years before we got married. We thought we had this relationship thing figured out. But, after only nine months of marriage, things had started to get a little rocky.

My gentle, understanding husband had suddenly become grouchy and irritable. Instead of helping him, all I could think to do was nag him to tell me what was wrong. Because we were saving up for a down payment on a house, we didn’t go out together often.

We worked. We ate. We went to bed.

No wonder our marriage was running into trouble. We barely ever talked to each other!

So we went on a date. He told me how much he hated his job (that’s what was making him grumpy) and we problem solved about how to fix it. For the price of a $20 dinner, we solved a problem months of evening meals together hadn’t.

Nine months into our marriage, I learned that great conversations — the kind that make or break a happy marriage — don’t just happen. I believe that healthy marriages need regular date nights — weekly, if at all possible.

A date night is a night that you and your husband set aside to spend time alone together. It’s a time to refresh as a couple. It’s a time to reevaluate what’s working for your family. It’s a time to discuss big ideas together.

But I don’t believe that it is a luxury. I believe that setting aside money every month for a date night is one of the most important things you can do for your marriage.

Still, $20 (or whatever you can budget) doesn’t go far — especially when you throw in the added expense of babysitting. So here are some great ideas to make your date night money stretch a little further:

1. Shorten your dates.

When you have kids and are paying for a babysitter, the longer you’re out, the more expensive the date — no matter what else you’re doing. Try going out for dinner only. Or have dinner at home before you catch a movie.

2. Split the babysitter costs.

Sitters normally charge only $2-3 more for extra kids, so split a sitter with friends. Or check out these great sitter savings ideas.

3. Bring your own dinner.

Look for local restaurants with moderately priced menus. Many restaurants have early-bird or two-for-one specials.

In warmer weather, break out the picnic basket! Visit a local playground or nearby national park for some sandwiches and dessert.

4. Buy discount tickets.

Check out organizations that sell cheap events tickets. Think about events that always have inexpensive tickets — nosebleed seats at a baseball game are a great venue for a little couple’s time.

5. Avoid dinner and a movie out.

My husband and I have found that dinner + a movie + a sitter is just too expensive. Instead, choose a special film (in advance!) and order out. Put the kids to bed and enjoy an evening in.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but I believe a weekly date night is an important investment in your marriage.

What are your creative ideas and suggestions for having a date night without breaking the bank?

Alison blogs about learning to be a better woman and wife at Experimental Wifery. She’s a wife, mommy, and high school English teacher. She lives near Washington, DC, where walking around the monuments at night is a cheap, date-night favorite.

reposted from May 2012

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Comments

  1. Meredith says

    I am going to contradict #5 for this reason: check to see if there are any dollar theaters in your area. We have one that has $2 nights for movies on Fri & Sat ($1 on weekdays!) that are just a few weeks old. Beforehand, we go to a nicer fast food restaurant (no tipping required) and talk out our day and week. We usually try to pick out a shorter movie too which saves on the overall sitter costs.

    • says

      I have special dietary requirements, so fast food isn’t always an option. Besides, the conversation over a leisurely dinner is my favorite part of date night.

      The dollar theater is a great idea, though. I’ll definitely look for one in my area.

  2. Hannah says

    I really like this post. I strongly agree that date night is essential, and also that it doesn’t have to be expensive.

    We don’t have kids yet, so luckily we don’t have to worry about babysitters or being bothered at home. We usually have a couple dates at home and a couple out per month. We will often make a low-maintenance meal, open a cheap bottle of wine, and watch a movie on netflix. Other times, we will walk or drive to a coffee shop after dinner and just sit and chat for a while. Occasionally we will splurge a bit and go out to dinner, but that is a luxury our tight budget doesn’t allow a lot, which is fine. The important part is to spend intentional time together.

    • Hannah says

      Also, I might add, we often ask for restaurant gift cards for Christmas/birthdays. This allows us to have some dinner dates every now and then and also helps cut down on “stuff” coming into our home.

  3. Mandy says

    I appreciate the heart of this post – that consistent, open, honest communication is necessary for a healthy marriage. However, to imply that this communication happens only when a couple “goes out” frustrates me. Dates are special, and if a couple can go on dates then, of course, that’s a positive thing. But there are so many people who don’t have enough income to hire a babysitter and go out, even just for coffee.

    I do truly love the ways you listed to cut the costs of a date. There are just so many people that can’t afford even five extra dollars a month (much less a week) to go on dates. Dates ARE a luxury – even the cheapest, most cost-effective dates are a luxury. You won’t see them as a luxury until you’ve been in a place where you couldn’t afford to go out. At all.

    Dates aren’t necessary to a healthy marriage. Communication is necessary to a healthy marriage.

    • Hannah says

      I absolutely agree that dates, even inexpensive dates, are a luxury. I also agree that open, honest communication in marriage should be constant and not limited to date nights. However, I think that, when at all possible, it is healthy to get out (or stay in) and have some intentional time to just be together. We have been in a place where we didn’t even have $5 to spend, and our “date” consisted of taking a walk together or just setting aside time to cuddle on the couch (we do not have kids and I realize that children complicate things, but this is just the perspective from where we are at in life).

      Dates aren’t necessary for a healthy marriage, but I know that my husband and I always feel refreshed after a relaxing evening together, which in turn helps us communicate better on other days.

    • says

      Mandy, I agree with your comments on communication.

      We have found ways to have date nights at home, without going out. I understand very well not having $5, or even $1, to have a date at home.

      We also have 7 children, and after we had 5, we found it impossible to trade babysitting with anyone (even if we had the gas money to go somewhere free, which we did not).

      We have played games together many times. I like games where we can talk while playing (on some games I will lose if I talk too much while playing, so it depends on what game you pick). My parents gave us 4 decks of their old cards (they go through so many decks a year that they wear them out; we don’t mind worn cards) and we play a game called hand and foot. With just the two of us, it sometimes takes 2 hours to get to 10,000 points.

      We talk every day, but the dates at home give us something fun, even if we don’t have any money. It’s nice to have that fun together.

      If you don’t have any cards and you’d like to learn to play hand and foot, let me know. My parents just gave us several more sets of cards, and I would be happy to send them to you. Click on my name and go to my About page for my email.

      Also, here’s my date nights at home lists of things that we do: http://theprudenthomemaker.com/index.php/frugal-living/date-nights-at-home

    • Ita says

      Date nights do not have to cost any money. You can take a nice long walk with each other.. You can stay home and play a board game while talking after the kids are in bed.. If you don’t have money for games there are tutorials online to make them.. Date night just means quality time with your spouse.. I think it’s wonderful.

    • says

      I agree with Hannah that the point is more to set aside intentional time to be together than to go out and spend money.

      With a toddler, my husband and I usually want to collapse every evening. If we don’t go out, we usually end up falling asleep instead of spending special time together.

      We have started building intentional time into our daily routine. For example, we both take a bath together every night so we can relax and talk. It has really had a difference in our marriage and in our day-to-day lives.

  4. C says

    We have been trading off with a neighbor one night/month for years. It’s free, the kids love it and once the children are put to bed, I can read/watch tv/etc. without worrying about laundry, etc. because its not my house. Best solution ever of you can find someone to swap with you. :)

    • Sandy b says

      I agree!! My kids are grown and married, but we did that for a number of years. It worked out great because time wasn’t a factor, we would do things for free, and on the rare occasions we had money, we didn’t have to use it to pay a sitter! And it was very relaxing for me for the same reasons you mentioned – I looked forward to it!

  5. NaDell says

    Another option to save money on dates is to find a family who you can trade babysitting for dates with. Then you both win. Kids play, you date, they date.

  6. says

    We use restaurant.com gift cards a lot to save money- it’s also gotten us into trying new places. If you buy them with the coupon codes you can save a lot- just print them out when you need them :).

  7. Jennifer says

    I agree that one of the best things you can do is trade babysitting favors with a friend. Whoever is sitting can catch up on work/reading/tv, etc., and then you get a free sitter the next time you want to go out. Brilliant!

  8. jennifer says

    It is a challenge with children. For us, high childcare costs and limited time spent with children make date nights difficult to arrange. Now that I am part time (such a blessing) I don’t feel as guilty to leave the kids for a few hours but even when your income is stable, paying an extra $12-15 an hour for a date makes dates very $$ so we use coupons or do free activities when we actually go out.
    We just talked about this today. Our nanny “owes” us a day so we may take the already paid for day and go out, walk, watch a cheap movie and just spend time together.

  9. Elisabeth says

    Who says a date has to include a meal? To cut costs, eat dinner at home, then go out for dessert or coffee.
    I will add that going “OUT” on a date IS a luxury in our family. But I will also add that my husband and I are very intentional about having alone time together where we are focused on each other. We have seven young children, so we half jokingly say that we can either pay for the babysitter, or pay for the date. (In actuality, we can afford neither regularly).
    I also think that “dating” is a relatively new concept in the whole scheme of things. How did couples stay close back 200 years ago? I would assume they had less technology to distract, fewer calendar items to hustle all the children to, and more evening hours to sit in the same room and make real conversation.

  10. says

    I can’t exactly agree that this is ‘needed’ for a marriage. My husband and I are going to celebrate our 13th year in May and yes around oh the first through second anniversary it was rough and we hit quite a few bumps along the way. I think for many people it’s natural once you get out of the honeymoon phase and especially if you have children before or early into the marriage.
    Communication is important but sometimes just ‘being’ there with each other is important. Always budget a little aside for entertainment so it doesn’t feel like you are working for nothing but I can’t really say that the ‘entertainment’ is for the marriage sake.
    My husband and I use the time after the kids are in bed to zone in front of the TV for a little just to let our heads stop spinning and then we can to start to really talk.
    There’s that old adage of never going to bed angry. I can’t say we’ve ever followed it because we both have strong personalities but sometimes the next day you realize those are the most productive types of conversations to really get things off your chest so each side knows where the other is coming from.
    Sometimes a change of atmosphere is nice but you don’t need a ‘date’ sometimes just moving the conversation to the front porch (Well when it’s not so cold Frosty the Snowman comes by saying ‘Hey Cous’) can be enough. Or if your blinds are always closed try opening them up.
    I’m not trying to discredit the author it sounds like they dated for a long time so that was the norm for them. My husband and I knew each other in person for about two months before we got engaged and married a year later and I’m not sure we ever went on a ‘date’ so every relation functions differently.
    There is no magic bullet to every relationship.

    • says

      I don’t feel discredited at all. I’m grateful for the advice of women with more marital experience.

      I think your point about the length of our marriage is a great one. As we’re getting more used to having a family, we’re finding better ways to build time together into our daily routine. But for the tumultuous first years of marriage and life with a newborn, the change of venue was even more important to us than it is now. Transitioning from a single life to life as a mom is really hard!

  11. says

    Great ideas. My husband and I used to have weekly date nights, and we always went out to eat. But eating out that one extra night a week really ate into our budget, together with all the other eating out we had to do just to survive our busy schedules. Now we aren’t doing that but aren’t doing very many date nights either. We need to get that back into our schedule. I agree – the conversations you can have while out alone together really help. Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. says

    My dh and I have weekly coffee dates. I have a 14 year old that can babysit and for an hour or 2 each we we can talk without being interrupted or listened in on. We just started doing this a couple of months ago and it has made huge improvements in our marriage. Coffee out is way cheaper than a meal out, yet you can take just as long and really get to talk since you won’t be interrupted by waiters or anything.

    • Patty says

      My parents are going on almost 6 years of marriage and had Friday night dates – almsot every Friday night and though there are no kids left (they had 7) at home they still go out every Friday as a planned night out. They obviously go out other times too, but still their special night. However, they rarely actually went out – my dad would bring home my moms favorite bag of chips that cost like .5 at the time and they would share it and chat after the kids they had at the time went to bed. Their nights changed as times changed and the amount of kids changed. They had their ups and downs, but never went to bed angry. I did not take their advice and did not date my husband once I had a child. I work full time and felt too guilty and was too in love with my child to leave him. My husband and I are now struggling. It is not just becuase we didn’t “date” – it is becusae we didn’t communicate and make time for our marriage. However, we see where we failed and are trying to pick up the pieces….So please please please communicate. It isn’t about the money – that wasn’t an issue – it is about communicating and making the other person feel special. (:

  13. says

    Something we do – that had a big outlay originally but costs nothing now is spend a half hour in our hot tub after the kids go to bed. We purchased it used years ago, and have found that great conversations occur when we relax in it. An extra bonus now that the kids are a bit older is that all of us will often go out there on a snowy weekend morning, and hear a lot more from them about what’s going on in their life than we would around the breakfast table – and I suspect that will only continue as they get older.

  14. Rachel says

    I agree 100% with this post. It’s amazing how much you can relax and have fun together when you’re out alone with nothing to do but hold hands and gaze into each others eyes. Date night is an essential thing to budget for and plan for!

  15. Melissa says

    Our local library has a program where you can obtain 2 passes to local museums or other cultural spots for free. When my husband was laid off for five months this program provided us a way to have a free (except for the cost of gas) date night (we don’t have children so babysitting wasn’t required). Over the course of a few months we visited two local art museums, the botanical gardens and the zoo using tickets we picked up for free at the library. Another thing we like to do is to go to the ‘first Friday’ art events that our city holds each month. Attending is free and we bring our own water and snacks along. We also watch a lot of movies that we borrow from the library.

  16. Nicki says

    My husband and I enjoy “Date night at home.” We put the kids to bed super on time and make a special dinner, play a game, watch a movie…we spent more on the dinner than I would for a family dinner, but it costs less than going out and we don’t have to pay a sitter.

  17. Claire says

    I agree & do believe date nights are a neccesity for married couples. & as much as possible, I think it is important to make that investment in your marraige no matter what your budget is. When I my husband and I first got married, we budgeted $100 a month & most times spent $120. We look back & both admit that was quite extravagant but we did enjoy the memories. & we most certainly don’t get to splurge that way now. Now I stay at home, our budget is $25/month. Our ideas for date nights are quite simple: 1) keep it simple. The point is not to be all stressed out about dinner, etc. but to focus on eachother. 2) Keep it intentional. Regardless of whether or not actual money is spent, Friday nights are our intentional time to spend with eachother each week that we can look forward to & count on. We both need that. 3) Remember it is an investment. Sometimes, we do just need to get away & have some fun time together & I need to get out of the house (since I’m a stay at home mom & my job is ever before my eyes). So for example, we splurged on dinner and imax movie in December. (Total cost around $50). So for January, we didn’t have any money to spend on date nights. Here’s some free ideas of what we did to get us back on budget;-):

    1) I made homemade pizza each Friday night using a super quick recipe for pizza dough on Tammysrecipes (google it;-) )
    2) After our son went to bed, we played Monopoly one night and drank hot chocolate. For other “dates”, we downloaded for free Seasons 1 & 2 of Downton Abbey & started a crazy marathon that we’re still working on;-) We usually have ice cream to go with it (I cheated & took the expense out of the grocery budget). I am signed for text messages from Redbox that usually offers one free rental/month. We simply play card games- we love rummy:) We make a special atmosphere in our room just to enjoy being with eachtoher. We’ve also borrowed movies from friends. & We have read through books aloud together- like the Hobbit & A Christmas Carol & are starting the Lord of the Rings.

    There are so many things you CAN do to intentionally pursue & love your spouse even if your budget is $0 I strongly advise to make the TIME. All that to say, I’m a huge fan of date nights:) I also stumbled across a fun website recently that has some great ideas for dates: thedatingdivas.com (google Dating Divas blog if I typed the wrong address;-) )

    Hope these ideas help & inspire! I love reading everyone else’s ideas as well. Thanks!

    • says

      I second the Dating Divas! They have great ideas, including lots of date nights at home. We try to get out together at least once a month. It was something we were encouraged to do at our wedding and it helps keep the love alive. Every time we go on a date I remember all over again why I fell in love with this man!

    • says

      I wanted to share what I asked my husband for on Valentine’s Day this year. (We always make a meal at home) so I asked that we have a night with no tv. My husband is the type that turns the tv on all the time out of habit, just to have the sound in the background. Well last night we made dinner and dessert together, sat down at the table and ate it together then sat and drank our champagne and talked while the dessert finished baking. Normally, we would have jumped up and started doing laundry, the dishes, watched a movie or whatever. This gave us a great time to talk. Our conversation led to us talking about the movie “Grease” and we ended up putting on the Grease soundtrack and dancing and singing. Talk about a great, connecting night with your spouse! You can connect so much deeper when technology isn’t demanding your attention all the time. Also, it didn’t cost a thing. I just worked the meal into our weekly grocery budget.

  18. says

    My husband and I joined a once a month bowling league. It forces us to go out together once a month. It only costs us $22 to bowl and we usually do dinner beforehand. It is a great time to spend with other adults and it is a committment we have to fulfill, so no excuses not to go! We are lucky that we both have parents more then willing to watch our kids for free. They actually ask us when we are going out next!

  19. Ann says

    What works for us:
    1) we have lunch dates. We both work, but don’t have someone watching the clock, so we try to meet for lunch out. Lunch typically costs less than dinner, and we already have childcare for that time.
    2) Form as “supper club” with some friends. We’ve done this where either we order pizza for the kids and they watch a redbox movie in the LR while the adults enjoy a more leisurely dinner in the dining room. We enjoy the company and the kids do too! We’ve also done it where the families have all shared a babysitter and had the kids at one house, adults at another. Potluck or rotating chef, it’s cheaper than eating out…and more fun!

    • says

      Dinner parties are a lot of fun–especially when they’re at our house after our son has gone to bed (no baby sitting costs!). We’ve been hosting pot lucks as dates more often, but we try to limit them to one a month. Otherwise, we feel a little lonely for each other and miss a dedicated evening a week.

  20. says

    We are blessed to have family members near by to help, but we only go out to dinner for our birthdays and anniversary. We can’t afford it! Usually a date night is me being able to stay up after our son is in bed and spending some time together. Or, just talking in bed before he gets up. Walks are good too :) I think it is definitely important to have open communication in a relationship- but as people commented before me, you don’t have to go on a date to communicate;)
    Kate

  21. Rena says

    Communication is major. If you don’t have a willing partner who wants to communicate it does not matter about date night. My hubby works late (2 nights a week) and when he comes home I will often fix a snack and we watch something on tv. But honestly he never wants to “talk” about anything important and doesn’t communicate very well. I feel like if we took the time to go out it still would be the same.