4 Ideas for Frugal Parent/Child Dates

frugal parent:child dates

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.

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Weekend Giveaway: $50 Cozy Wall Art Gift Certificate (5 Winners)


I love wall decals! They are such an easy, mess free, and inexpensive way to dress up a room.

Cozy Wall Art is a small group of parents who have joined together to create family-friendly vinyl wall decals. They create and cut all of our wall decals out of their tiny Texas studio. They believe that everyone should have a home they love without spending a lot of money!


They allowed me to choose one wall decal and I chose the Cherry Blossom Triptych shown above. I LOVE it and can’t wait to put it on the wall in our new house when we move to Tennessee in just a week and a half!


Cozy Wall Art is offering all my readers a discount this weekend only. You can save 20% off any purchase when you use coupon code MSM20 at checkout. This coupon code is valid through Monday, April 21, 2014.

Would you like to win a $50 gift certificate to Cozy Wall Art? Five winners will be randomly chosen from all the entrants and will receive a $50 gift certificate good toward the product(s) of the winners’ choice plus you’ll get free shipping.

To enter, just click on the graphic below and type in your name and email address. Five winners will be chosen and posted early next week.  This giveaway ends Sunday, April 20, at 11:59 pm, CST.

Enter the Giveaway

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12 Months to a Healthier You Challenge: Week 15 Check-in

Are you joining us for the 12 Months to a Healthier You Challenge? If so, it’s the weekend and guess what that means? It’s time for our weekly check-in to post our progress.

April’s Challenge:

We’re focusing on developing the habit of cutting back on sugar. I encourage you to set a simple and doable goal for eating less sugar and to stick with it.

New to this challenge? Read more details on the plan for this year here.

My Goals for Cutting Back on Sugar During April

My goal for April is to cut back on sugar — which is hard for a girl like me who has a strong sweet tooth! :) I’m going to make it my goal to only eat dessert once a week and to cut back on the sugar I use in my coffee on a daily basis, too.

I’m also hoping to keep up with January’s habit of exercising at least 4-5 times every week, February’s goal of eating a big salad at least six times a week, and March’s goal of drinking 8 glasses of water a day.

This Week’s Progress:

Believe it or not, this eating less sugar thing is becoming a HABIT for me… which is something I never thought I’d say. I look forward to eating dessert once a week, but I’m not craving it every day like I used to. That’s a pretty massive shift for me! I’m also noticing that our family as a whole is eating healthier as a result of this challenge.

In other news, I hit my water goals four out of the seven days, exercised four times, and ate a salad at least every day.

How Are YOU Doing?

Leave a comment telling us how you did on your exercise goals this past week. If you’re blogging about this challenge, leave the direct link to your blog post about the challenge below. Are you on social media? You can also share your progress on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter by using hashtag #12MonthstoaHealthierYou.

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How We’re Saving $50 Per Month on Our Bills (and it just took two simple phone calls!)

How We Negotiated Lower Monthly Bills

Guest post from Lydia of Five4FiveMeals.com

There are some bills you have no control over, like your electric bill. Yes, you can turn the air conditioner off and not use as many lights, but you are still at the mercy of what the power company charges per KWH.

However, there are some bills you can negotiate down with your service provider.

Last week, my husband called our internet service provider and cell phone carrier to see if we could lower our rates. We have been long-term customers of both and thought it wouldn’t hurt to see what they could do. Two phone calls later and we were saving a little more than $50 a month… and we could all use an extra $600 a year, right?

If you’d like to lower a few of your monthly bills, here are some of our tips:

1. Look for a cheaper package.

If you have had your same package for a long time, rates may have change. We found that was the case with our service provider, Verizon.

They had recently upgraded us to a larger data plan for free as part of a promotion to get us to buy a new phone. But we were not using the extra data and don’t need a new phone and asked to be bumped to a lower plan. That saved us about $25 a month.

2. Find where you’re wasting money.

Our internet bill was the next place we looked and we realized we were wasting money by renting our modem. We could purchase a modem for about $75, while we had been renting it for $7.95 a month for the past 26 months! If you do the math, that’s over $200!

Of course, if something happens to your modem you have to replace it on your own dime.

3. See if a long-term contract is worth the money.

We have very few internet service providers where we live. And we have had the same one for over two years. We realized it was about $15 a month cheaper to just go ahead and sign one-year contract with them.

Since I use the internet to run a business from home, I don’t see us cutting that expense within the next year — so that simply change saved us another $180 per year.

4. Ask the right questions.

My husband just flat out said, “Your competitor has a cheaper rate and we are thinking about switching, what can you do to change our minds?” That got a quick response and a small discount!

You might also ask if they have a customer appreciation discount. Some providers will knock a few dollars off your bill as a one-time discount if you ask politely. Politeness goes a long way.

These are just a few of the ways we’ve successfully lowered our monthly bills. Have you tried anything similar? Or do you have other ideas and suggestions?

Lydia Senn is a Jesus-lover, wife, Mama, blogger, writer, small business owner and reluctant domestic. She’s a former stressed out newspaper reporter who turned in her reporter’s notebook for cloth diapers and a simpler life. She lives in rural Alabama with her husband and two sons. You can visit her at Five4FiveMeals.com

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Gretchen’s $55 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan



1 Red Grapes – $3.18

1 loaf Bread – $1.29

1 gallon Milk – $2.68

1 Roma Tomatoes – $1.19

1 Baby Carrots – $0.69

1 bag Navel Oranges – $1.99

1 bag Tortilla Chips – $1.19

2 packages Cheese – $1.99 each

3 Cucumbers – $0.59 each (I will also get back $0.25 from Checkout 51!)

1 Italian Dressing – $1.39

1 Cauliflower – $1.69

1 Celery – $0.69

1 package Pecans – $2.99

1 can Refried Beans – $0.79

1 Flour Tortillas – $1.19

Total: $27.59


1 Kroger Unbleached Flour – $1.99, used $0.40/1 coupon from mailer – $1.59 after coupon

1 Triscuits – $2, used $1/1 printable - $1 after coupon (I will also get $1 back from Checkout 51 making this free!)

3 Annie’s Mac & Cheese – $1 each

1 Kroger Frozen Chicken Breasts – $6.99, used $1.45/1 coupon from mailer – $5.54 after coupon

1 Kroger Sandwich Slims – $1.79

1 Kroger Ice Cream – $2.50, used $0.40/1 e-coupon – $2.10 after coupon

1 Hormel Natural Oven Roasted Turkey – $3.59, used $0.50/1 coupon from the 3/16 SmartSource insert – $3.09 after coupon

1 Thomas English Muffins at $2.99 – On Sale Buy One Get One Free, used $0.50/1 printable - $0.99 after coupon

4 packages Carrots – Marked down to $0.25 each

1 Lettuce – $0.99

1 Kroger Brown Rice – $1

1 Kroger Cherry Tomatoes – $2.99

0.96 lbs Broccoli @ $1.59/lb – $1.53

1 Green Bell Pepper – $0.99

Total before coupons and sales: $41.38

Total after coupons and sales: $27.60

Total for all grocery items: $55.19

Menu Plan for this Week


Cereal, Homemade Granola, Homemade Veggie/Fruit Juice, Resurrection Cookies (I will be making these with my son on Saturday evening to eat Easter morning as a special treat!)


Mac & Cheese, Fruit/Veggies/Crackers, Cheese Quesadillas, Leftovers, Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches


Turkey Sandwiches, Chips, Fruit

Dinner with family (I’m bringing Herbed Carrots.)

Homemade Cheese Pizza, Breadsticks, Tossed Salad

Rice & Beans, Steamed Broccoli, Sliced Oranges

Deer Steak, Biscuits, Peas

Lasagna Casserole, 30 Minute Rolls, Tossed Salad, Green Beans

Oven Fried Chicken, Toasted English Muffins, Steamed Cauliflower

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