Guest post by Kimber
This year, I’ve had a fun opportunity to spend two hours a week, one-on-one, with my sweet kindergartener. Once a week, my 3-year-old son is in preschool until 2:00pm, while she gets out at noon. I quickly realized that this little chunk of time is precious… so we instituted a tradition: Mommy-Daughter lunch dates!
I know what the most frugal idea is for a lunch date: make it yourself. But she and I both love going out to lunch, and frankly, it’s a splurge-worthy treat for “just the girls”!
Our lunch dates are a special thing for us, and it’s worth spending a little bit of money on. But our weekly adventures could easily end up costing us at least $50 a month. So here are a few tips I’ve learned to make our dates more affordable:
1. Use coupons.
This is a no-brainer, I know. But make sure you look all over as you never know where coupons might be “hiding”!
I’ve found Chick-Fil-A and Panera coupons in the back of our phone book. Schools and libraries often offer free kids meals as rewards. Check out RetailMeNot’s app (or website) to see what deals are available at your favorite restaurants.
If you have the Ibotta App, check for restaurant rebates. And if there are any restaurants you love, sign up for their e-mails and keep an eye out for great deals! Instead of asking, “Where should we eat today?”, I tell my daughter, “These are the places we have coupons for. What sounds the best?”
As an example, right now I have an iBotta rebate for $1.75 back if I buy an $8 “Southwest Pairings” meal at Chili’s. I also have a free kid’s meal coupon that they e-mailed me. So after my rebate comes through, I will have paid under $10, tip included, for a meal for both of us at our favorite lunch spot.
2. Don’t feel like you have to order two full meals.
If your children are like mine, a lot of the fun of going out to eat is to get a meal that comes with a little prize. But it’s okay to think outside the box. If I have a coupon for a free appetizer, we’ll share an appetizer and then share a meal. Or sometimes we’ll order several things off of the dollar menu.
In the past, when money has been really tight, I’ve fed my kids a big, healthy snack right before we’ve gone out to lunch. You’ll spend way less, but you’ll still have the fun of a lunch date.
3. Earn gift cards.
There are several ways I do this. One is to use Swagbucks – I’ve cashed in several times to pay for dates. Sometimes I will use other survey sites, cash out, and use my cash to pay for lunch. I’ve ordered gift cards using our credit card points. I’ve even used my Jingit debit card to pay for lunch at Sonic.
Since all of this is “extra” money, I don’t count it in my budget. And it’s fun to do a little bit of extra survey-ing (or Swagbucks-ing), knowing that the end result is a date with my sweet little girl.
One more tip – check out websites that sell discounted gift cards, like CardCash.com. I just cashed out my Swagbucks account for a $50 Paypal deposit. I am planning on turning around and using that money to buy discounted Chili’s and Applebee’s gift cards, saving me around 10%!
4. Ask for gift cards as gifts.
This isn’t something I’d ask for from many people – in fact, we specifically request no gifts at our kids’ birthday parties. But if you have family members who ask for gift ideas for birthdays or Christmas, you might suggest a gift card for lunch.
It doesn’t have to be expensive – I’ve told family members that even a $1 gift card to buy an ice cream cone would thrill my kids. I’d much rather my kids get a gift card (and a fun date with Mom) than more stuff.
These are a few of the things I’ve done to help pay for my special lunch dates with my daughter. Would I have saved money by staying home? Absolutely.
But I am so, SO glad that I’ve taken this special time once a week to create memories. We’ve had so much fun, and we’ve even stuck to our budget.
What are some ways that you’ve inexpensively “dated” your spouse, significant other, or children?
Kimber is the happy mom of two beautiful kids and the wife to a hardworking man. She has lived in five states, and she’s currently loving life in Texas. She loves reading, chatting, napping, and shopping year-round for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.