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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.

photo source

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123 Comments

  • Meredith says:

    Date night is so important. We didn’t do it for 3 years after we had our daughter.

    We can’t afford a babysitter for an entire evening. So we enlisted our 13 year old neighbor to come from 6-8 on Fridays (she’s thrilled to get the opportunity). It costs us 10 dollars for that and her mom is always right next door. We will go do something we enjoy, usually free…live music at the shopping centers, walking in stores we can’t go in with our daughter because she’s so wild, etc., and then we come home, get our daughter into bed and I cook a late night romantic dinner. All in all, we get an entire evening, just us for really cheap!

  • Dawn says:

    I absolutely agree that you MUST take time for regular date nights!!! They are such a special time cultivating your relationship. Just think, when your children are all grown and out of your home, you and your husband will still be best friends and even more in love, because you took the time to cultivate your relationship all through the years 😉

  • My husband and I love to get icecream. It is a lot cheaper than eating an entire meal out, but it still feels like a special treat and gives us time for relationship-building conversation.

    • Chelsea says:

      We like this too! Our favorite is to share a banana split or make our own root beer floats. When we were dating, he once told me he’s convinced I would do anything for ice cream… including go on a date with him. 🙂

  • Krysten says:

    Our parents still want to give us gifts for our birthdays and Christmas, so they give us restaurant gift cards. They’re always used, they help us with our date nights, and they can fit in a birthday card so they don’t have to pay postage on a box!

  • Ginger says:

    Home dates. We send the kids upstairs to watch a movie and we dim the lights, light candles, and snuggle on the couch to talk while we eat carry-out or watch a movie together. Theater & restaurant seats can’t compare.

    • Kristine says:

      I agree. Movies are way too expensive at the theater, and it’s much more comfortable to watch them at home. 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    My husband and I frequently go out for coffee. For $5 we get an hour or so away from the kids and can focus on each other.

  • Kathleen says:

    One thing I want to add to the dating your husband discussion. My husband and I go out on a date every month. We set up a weekend to swap babysitting with another couple so we don’t have to pay for a sitter.
    We only go to a movie maybe once or twice a year, it is a special event for us. We find that if we go to a movie, we really didn’t spend time together. We sat next to each other and didn’t talk.
    So, our dates usually mean a walk and happy hour or bookstore and dessert.

  • We go out for coffee and dessert – easy and affordable! We’ve even been known to just get a coffee to go and then go for a walk around a nearby neighborhood. Great conversations happen while walking!

  • Heather says:

    I’ve heard the saying that you can pay for dates now, or you can pay for divorce lawyers later. One is definitely cheaper and more enjoyable than the other!

    • Carrie says:

      This might be one of the best saying I have ever heard. Had my xhusband and I knew that then we might still be married. With my second marriage we try very hard to make time for each other alone.

  • Dawn W. says:

    If babysitting costs are daunting check into your local babysitting co-op! Get to know the people who are involved and start swapping hours instead of paying cash for date night sitting. This is a great money-saver!

    You can google “babysitting co-op (your town & state)”, check the local paper listings or check on http://www.babysitterexchange.com for just few ideas to get started.

  • JK says:

    We never pay for babysitting. Just trade favors with friends. Also, get your dinners out via coupons that come in the mail. ValPak is a great resource the most people just throw away. Or use Groupon, Amazon Local, Certifikid, or Living Social to get a great deal on a dinner out. Never go to dinner without a coupon. Use the points you’ve saved on your credit card. After Christmas we cashed in a bunch of points from our discover card for movie passes and we’ve been using date night to see the great movies ever since. With a Groupon or coupon for dinner and a free movie pass, you really get a great night out. And utilize the free activities. Now that it’s spring/summer, there are tons of free music concerts in our area. Bring a dinner picnic dinner and enjoy some free music. Or sometimes we just go for a walk in the neighborhood after dinner to extend our time out a bit for free. Once we hopped in the car, went to McDonald’s for some free frozen lemonade via coupons we got in the mail, and then drove to the Washington Monument. It was gorgeous at night and all free.

  • Leah says:

    we try to do date nights as often as we can—maybe once a month if that, because sitters are EXPENSIVE and so is gas! we live in a small town but our favorite date night is to drive to the larger town just 20 minutes down the interstate, grab coffee and two donuts at dunkin’ donuts (our favorite coffee) and hit a local used bookstore. it’s become a tradition!

    p.s. look for parents night out programs at your local churches..free babysitting (we offer it once a month at our church—unfortunately we are the coordinators so it’s not a date night for us..but others enjoy it!)

    • Allison says:

      Can you give me some info on how you run the parent’s night out program? That sounds like something we need at our church!

      • Abby says:

        The high school youth group does this sometimes as a fundraiser to offset costs for events they attend. They’ll host a parents’ night out at church, where they can just use the nursery and other classrooms. They don’t charge, but they welcome donations. It’s a great way for parents to have an evening out while paying what they can afford, and since there’s little or no overhead cost to the youth group, they get to keep all the money they make. Of course, there are also youth group staff and parents on hand, too.

      • michelle says:

        Our church does parents night out. The youth do it once a month as a fundraiser. They charge five dollars per child with a Max of $12 per family. Its from 6-10 on a Friday night. I haven’t used it because my youngest has a lot of allergies and I don’t feel comfortable leaving him with people I don’t know very very well. But a lot of my friends do it and love it. The youth group advisors are always there to supervise in case anything goes wrong. Even though it costs it os still cheaper than a sitter.

    • Ac says:

      Thank you for coordinating Parents Night Out at your church, Leah! We frequently took advantage of ours at our last night (it was $5/night) and I took to calling it our church’s Anti-Divorce Program. 🙂

  • Loved this! One of our favorite “cheaper” dates is to grab a coffee and head to the local park or lake to walk. Another fun date night is just going to the local stores to “window” shop. 😉

  • Donna says:

    Looks like that couple is gonna save on date night by getting a rain check!
    Look at those clouds! 😉

    Love The Prudent Homemaker’s suggestions for date night at home:
    http://theprudenthomemaker.com/index.php/frugal-living/date-nights-at-home

    Especially the Bible Study!

  • Jodi says:

    i wish my husband would go out on a date night with me.
    Lately hes been working really late at his job doing a project he brought on himself and then leaving me to tend to the house and the kids all by myself 100% of the time without a break.
    He always gets mad if i ask if we can go out with each other even though my friends daughter always offers to watch the kids.
    He says hes too busy for our marriage right now and when the kids are older (they are 5,4 and 1) and hes talking 13-14 yrs old that we will get to go out.
    I cant wait that long and its destroying our marriage in the process…

    • Beth says:

      I am sad for you. I hope your husband comes to realize he has to work on your marriage with the same dedication he gives to his job. If he didn’t work at his job, he wouldn’t have on. I’m saying a prayer for you guys right now.

      Maybe take the offer of babysitting and get a little time for yourself.

    • Alaine says:

      I agree with Beth, take advantage of that babysitting offer and take some time for yourself! Even if it’s just to go window shopping, a walk in the park, an hour to read at the library alone, or a coffee at a coffee shop. Take care of you!

      I suspect your husband is probably worried about the $ (or maybe wants to do things with the kids when he has time off?) so maybe suggest to your family members when it comes to birthdays, holidays, etc that you’d like a gift certificate to a restaurant or the movies… maybe if the in-laws are insisting they need a visit with the kids and “paying” for your dinner, he’ll find it harder to turn down. Keep on trying, just try to use different angles for it… and good luck!

  • JW says:

    We always check the A&E section, library bulletin board, blogs, etc for free events. We’ve seen movies, concerts, museums, and plays for free. We’ve taken lessons from archery to pottery to vinegar making for free.

    Dessert dates are great, but sometimes it’s fun to have someone else cook dinner. I don’t need a full restaurant dinner to be satisfied, so we split a meal and DH has a P&B sandwich after the date if he’s still hungry. Sometimes restaurant meals are big enough that even DH can’t finish his half! Or we go to happy hours. A coke can count as your drink, and full size burgers and sandwiches are $2-3 each.

  • Shelisa says:

    Excellent suggestions! Invest in your marriages! My husband and I are celebrating 14 years married (19 years together) this month. We’ve never stopped dating, but it was much harder with 3 toddlers, away from home/support, and on 1 budget! We’ve always considered after the kids’ bedtime “date time”…dessert, candlelit dinner, foot rubs, tv/movie time…Now that the kids are 8,6,5, we’ve used this trick we call “The Fake Date!” http://thinkmagnetkids.com/2012/01/16/fake-date/

    • Kristine says:

      I love that. We sometimes sit at separate adult and kid tables, too. There are still interruptions, but it’s a little easier to talk with just the two of us at a table. 🙂

  • Jen says:

    Our local YMCA offers a Parent’s Night Out each month. The kids are there for 3 hours. It includes dinner, snacks, crafts, and a movie.

  • Hannah says:

    Love this post!

    We love coffee or ice cream/sweet treat dates. We find they’re much more affordable than a meal, and we seem to talk more freely just from the more relaxed atmosphere.

  • kj says:

    We don’t make it on date nights once a week not even once a month. Life can get so busy! Grandma babysits for us so when we do go, the sitter is free. However, we do try to have home dates. Our favorite is starting a fire in the fire pit (outside) and just sitting by the fire and talking while the children sleep. It is great couple time and we usually get about an hour to just talk and look at the flames (very relaxing!).

    • Kristine says:

      That’s great. I enjoy sitting and talking to my hubby, also, or going for a walk together. Simple pleasures. 🙂

  • Chelsea says:

    I agree that date nights are important. I struggle with finding new, fun things to do! I know it’s more about the time spent together, but the hubs isn’t so much of a “let’s just go get coffee and chat…” kind of guy. 🙂

    • Allison says:

      My husband isn’t a huge ‘chatter’ either. When we were dating I bought a couple books like ‘questions for couples’ and the ‘if’ book. Those produce funny questions and start converstations. Or, we enjoy going to the book store and grabbing a book off the shelf and reading it together (usually some funny self help book or another question book)

    • Try playing a card game like Uno or apples to apples:)

  • Sarah says:

    How about tips for agreeing to have a date night in the first place? I have a “date night” budget I set aside for every month, but that we use maybe every 6 months. My servant hearted husband works 6 days a week, and sometimes 14 hours a day. He’s so exhausted at the end of the week, date night is the last thing he wants. I’m praying it’s just a season, as we do have young children as well that makes things more hectic, but any tips on budgeting time when it is so scarce?

    • Amy R says:

      My husband has a very demanding full-time job and is also the youth pastor at our church where we run about 80 teens. His schedule is insane! I have had to sit down with him more than once in our married life and remind him that I need him to make our marriage a priority and that for me, that means scheduled time together. It’s hard to budget time when all the other things you’re doing our “good” things.

      • Sarah says:

        I am blessed that he works so hard for whoever needs him, but by the end of the day he just wants to tune out and be silent. I think he uses his “word quota” at work. Haha 🙂

        • Andrea says:

          I totally know what you mean, Sarah! My husband works very long hours and has a long commute. Sometimes, he really needs to zone out in the evenings. I don’t plan date nights, because he’s often too exhausted.

        • Erika says:

          Recently, when our hoped/planned-for date nights kept having to be nixed b/c of crazy schedules and emergencies, my husband (an assistant pastor for music and youth) and I started to have early morning dates. We both think better in the morning, but I have a hard time getting out of bed usually. The motivation to get up is GREAT for me–special coffee and/or muffin, etc. and chatting/dreaming with my husband! And he’s fresh so he can truly focus on the conversation. Though we are blessed with several free options for babysitting, the lack of complexity of having the kids just sleeping in their beds is yet another perk of our bi-weekly mornings!

        • Kristine says:

          My husband is always very tired when he gets home from work, too, and just wants to sit around and relax. We don’t usually go out on work days for that reason even though I, as a stay-at-home mom, sometimes feel the need to get out of the house and have someone else cook for me. My hubby usually prefers it if I go out and pick up some food and bring it home to eat. Even if it’s fast food, a night at home with candlelight, and maybe a movie or something if he’s not feeling up to talking much, can be romantic.

    • Your question was so compelling that I called my husband at work to ask for a man’s perspective!

      In the short-term, try planning low-key date nights for your husband. You put the kids to bed. You pick a movie he’ll enjoy. You call out for pizza. You clean and arrange the bedroom nicely. If a date night doesn’t require any extra trouble for him, he’s more likely to get excited about it.

      If you do get a chance to sit down and talk to each other, maybe you can talk evaluate together whether he has taken on too many responsibilities. It sounds like his heart is in the right place, but he might be starving himself of the rest, joy, and peace he deserves. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

      • Bobbie-Jo says:

        I totally agree about doing something that isn’t extra trouble for him- sometimes just the fear of us wives having unrealistic expectations is stressful enough 🙂 Be creative – maybe its a Saturday morning breakfast, or a week lunch date, or coffee and dessert one evening. Or do something he really likes to do (or needs to do). Get a sitter and do his errands with him and maybe coax him into getting an ice-cream while out. Then build on that 🙂

      • Sarah says:

        Very good idea. I guess I assume he needs to make the effort, but I’m sure he would be a lot more receptive if he could just relax. Thank you for the “male perspective”…I forget men think differently 🙂
        I love the frugal tips in the article. Well written!

    • Danielle B says:

      Everything in life is a season. There has never been anything that lasts forever. The God who created this world and the parameters that it operates in is a God of seasons. Our lives are nothing more then flowing seasons. So don’t get discouraged. Where you are right now isn’t where you’ll be a year from now. 🙂

      This is probably a “sowing” season for you. I don’t say that from a judgemental perspective, but from a “I’ve been there, and I’m just now coming out of it, so I know it doesn’t last forever” perspective.
      Sow grace, mercy, understanding and compassion into your husband now, and you’ll reap the harvest in the future.

      Find a copy of the “Power of a Praying Wife” book by Stormie O’Martin. Pray for your husband continually, and if having regular or even just semi-regular dates is important to you, then put it in God’s hands through prayer. If you nag your husband (not saying you do, just saying that I definitely did!) then he may change for a moment, but his heart won’t change. Only God works heart changes.

      Make it your mission to do absolutely every single little thing you can for husband, to make him more comfortable, rested, relaxed and less burdened. Maybe date night doesn’t look like other people’s date nights, but that’s ok! Maybe a close family friend or relative could keep your littles overnight? If so, do all the prep work before hand.

      Have the kids picked up before he gets off work if possible. Have his towel, washcloth and clean clothes set in the bathroom already. Greet him at the door, help him with his shoes, have an ice cold drink ready for him. Have supper ready as soon as he’s out of the shower. Prop him up on the couch, feed him an amazing meal and then maybe rub his feet and legs as you watch a movie or just talk. And if he just passes out from fatigue, that’s okay too. He’s peaceful and being restored by your gentle touches, warm presence and compassionate spirit. No one can minister to your husband like you can. You’re building a stress-free, expectation-free, open “zone” for him.

      If no one can keep the littles overnight, maybe they can go to bed a little earlier, or someone can just watch them for a few hours to let you both have a bit of time together. I know what a struggle this time can be, even if I don’t know all the specifics of your situation. And I cannot encourage you enough to pray over your husband and sow ministry into him enough, because this season WILL pass, and when you begin reaping the harvest from your servant’s spirit towards him, you will never regret what you went without during that sowing time!
      Don’t take my word for it, take God’s:
      “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7

      I hope this helps! 🙂

      • Sarah says:

        I found the original post and your comment very encouraging. We have only been together 3 years but I feel that we have had our share of those seasons. When we were engaged we were working hard to save for our wedding and pay off some debt. We finally realized that as much as we wanted to get through our wedding debt free and pay off the debt we had we NEEDED to make low-key quality time for one another too. It wasn’t healthy to be so focused on our goals that we forgot the reason we were working towards those goals in the first place.

        My husband has just come off of 4 months of 80-100 hour work weeks… the season is ending and I am so glad but we got through it with lots of prayer, and allowing ourselves grace. He was so stressed out and it was at time so overwhelming that allowing ourselves the money in our budget to splurge on a pizza in an actual restaurant was well worth it. It provided us with that break we needed from the stress of everyday.

        During that time I also found all sorts of great meal deals that made going out affordable, everything from 25 cent pierogies to 1.50 hamburgers. A local blog in my area highlights the best meal and entertainment deals. I now quite a few of great options that allow us to go out to a local restaurant for a meal and spend less than $20.

      • Sarah says:

        (comment from the Sarah who wrote the original comment, who is a different Sarah than just commented 🙂

        Those words are SO encouraging to me. Thank you. I need to pull out that book again and remember that God can change situations in ways that I can’t. We are very blessed because of my husband’s hard work and I should seek to bless him instead of looking for ways to bless myself. Thank you for the encouragement!!!

  • Jessica H says:

    My husband and I don’t go out for a date night very often even though we could fit it into our budget. Since we rarely ever watch TV, we usually spend our evenings doing something together at home. We play cards or board games, have a campfire in the back yard to roast marshmallows, cook a special dinner together, etc. We have so much fun around the house that we have found that we don’t need to get out as often.

  • amy says:

    We did a progressive picnic dinner date last summer (can’t wait for warm weather to arrive and do it again). I packed a cooler with different courses of dinner (appetizers, salad, main course) and we drove to different beautiful sites in the area for each course. Then we went to a nice restaurant for dessert and coffee. I think it cost about $20, but was a perfect way to spend an extended time together. We are also fortunate to live by grandparents, so our sitter was free.

    • Chanda says:

      I LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea! I am going to surprise my husband with this one in a week or two! We love to picnic!

      • michelle says:

        This idea is great! Totally going to do this for hubby! He works offshore and right now is gone for 2 weeks then home for one so its hard for us to get in good dates. My mom watches the kids for us but she works so she can only do it on fridays and Saturdays so weekends where we already have things to do we usually don’t get to go out. Like this weekend we want to go see the Avengers but its our sons birthday party Saturday and we have family coming in on Friday so we wont be able to do anything. This would be a good Sunday afternoon date 🙂

  • Kathy says:

    We are so blessed. We live within a mile of both my parents and his, so we have free babysitters most of the time. We only have to hire when there is an event at church (we all go to the same one) that all 3 couples want to attend. We live 20 minutes from a town with restaurants and 45 minutes from a town with other entertainment options. We still like to go out as often as possible. A favorite date night is kids stay all night at grandparents, then you can have date and then sleep in next morning.

  • Amy R says:

    The best thing we ever did was swap babysitting with other couples our age. Most of them have a hard time paying for sitters and a night out too. We just take turns keeping each other’s kids.

    As far as the date itself… After years of battling obesity, and then a successful gastric bypass, dinner out was now the enemy. So, we have developed a love for activity based dates. After 16 years, we discovered that we both love to play tennis. You do have to make time for conversation, but doing something you enjoy together is a lot of fun.

  • Jessica says:

    We haven’t had one in almost 10 years of marriage. Most of these suggestions don’t work for us. We don’t have a babysitter. My next door neighbor is a convicted murderer and the dude behind him is a convicted rapist, so I won’t be asking the neighbors! Family lives 2+ hours away. Babysitters here cost more per hour than my DH earns. I’m a SAHM. Our kids are too little to be left alone for us to go to the park, which by the way, attracts gangs after dark. I’ve frequently found used condoms and syringes at our local parks 🙁 So I don’t take my kids there anymore. I go to bed by 930pm and my little boy would just love to stay up till midnight, so there is no time “after the kids go to bed”. I retrained my son from going to bed at 1am when Daddy goes to bed, to going to bed at 930pm. It’s just how he’s wired. And now that I’m pregnant, well, I have no energy and can barely function anyhow!

    • diane says:

      I wish i lived near you and would come sit for a night…. but maybe you should move closer to me as my neighbors are just loud once in awhile…not murders. Is there any moms you are friendly with that would sit for an quick date.

    • Heather says:

      Not sure how old your son is – how about having him stay in his room to play quietly at a predetermined time? Even if he’s not ready to go to sleep, he can play and you and your husband can have a “stay-in” date.
      If he’s only one year old, I realize that might not work so well.

    • Allison says:

      It would be worth staying up past 9:30 once a week or even once a month for a date night ‘in’ with your hubby. Take a nap that day so you’ll be ready for the night in after your son goes to sleep.

      • Andrea says:

        It’s not always possible to nap when you have older children. Mine all stopped napping at 18 months, long before any of them were old enough to be trusted.

    • Andrea says:

      Go on family dates. Hold your husband’s hand or arm while you walk around a nicer park in another area of town with the kids. Go out for an inexpensive meal or ice cream with the kids; sit close to your husband or play footsies with him under the table.

      Do the kids sleep in? You could try getting up early once a week to have breakfast with your husband (easier said than done when pregnant, I know!)

      Send him love notes via email or text, or leave a post-it on the fridge for him to find in the morning.

    • Andrea says:

      Another idea — will your kids fall asleep in the car? When we had three under the age of 4, sometimes we’d go for a short hike or playdate with their friends to wear them out, then take the long way home. We also had a few minutes to chat and hold hands while driving and could usually steal a kiss or two in the driveway before anyone woke up 😉

      • Jessica says:

        My 5.5yo daughter gets up at the crack of dawn, and my 22mo son is the night owl! My DH is also a night owl and stays in bed till the last possible second. The rare times we do go out to dinner, it’s as a family.

        • Andrea says:

          It’s so hard when everyone has a different internal clock! I’ve been there.

          We don’t typically do date nights; we went out twice last year (our anniversary and a work function DH couldn’t skip) and haven’t been out at all this year. Instead, we do little things like I mentioned above. Honestly, I don’t think date nights are all that important, but finding ways to connect with your spouse throughout the week is.

          • Kristine says:

            Yes, I think it’s much more important to talk to each other and to spend time together regularly even if it’s just at home than to have an official “date night.”

      • Danielle B says:

        Hahaha! I love it! My husband and I used to do this before he got the job he has now where he works very long, tiring hours. Both of our littles were very little and we had just moved to our new home. We had no family within 2.5 hours distance and we didn’t know anyone yet enough to trust them with our children. We would just drive around, exploring our new surroundings. The kids would konk out in their car seats and sleep while we’d just talk and hold hands. A few times we were actually able to go through a drive through and get a bite to eat! Of course…gas prices were much, much, much lower then…. 😉

    • Erin Martin says:

      Seriously, I would babysit for you, too! We don’t “go out” often, but all 5 of our children go to bed at 8-8:30 every night. We have a good hour or two that we just spend together. Sometimes we get ice cream or something, but mostly we just visit.

    • Maegen says:

      Can I suggest finding a mom’s group?

      I think that would be a great way to get to know other moms you could exchange sitting with, and I think it would be a great source of support. It sounds like you could use some tips about safe area places to play, too. God Bless and Good Luck!

    • Diane says:

      Sounds like you live in a dangerous part of town. If you know other mothers with young children you might be able to set up a babysitting coop. I belonged to one in the first place I lived and helped set one up in the second place I lived. Basically you trade babysitting with other members hour for hour. Who ever keeps the books get credit for 1 or 2 hours per month. After the initial group is set up the only way for new parents to get in is to be sponsored by a member. Babysitting can be done at either home. We had a member who had 9 kids and I always went to her house to watch her children and took my kids to her house when she watched them.
      If you husband works second shift date night might be date morning. we love going out for breakfast.

    • Katie says:

      Oh Jessica, I wish I were your neighbor instead and could give you some time out with your husband!

      My husband and I are in a tough situation as to finding time to date (though it’s not nearly so tough as yours and is getter better). We enjoy the hour long drive to church and then home again each Sunday. We turn music on for my 3yo to listen to and we’re blessed with a happy 4 month old, so we take that time to chat about our own lives. Though we can’t talk about child rearing because the kids are present it is nice to be “stuck” in one place and feel free to talk about plans and dreams. I hope your situation improves!!

      • Katie says:

        Another idea if you feel comfortable walking outside in your area (or if you can drive fairly quickly to a nicer area) is to just take the kids out in a stroller as a family after dinner. This is really nice in the later daylight hours off summer and you can talk while the kids just enjoy the walk and you don’t have to worry about finding a sitter or being away from home or spending money you don’t have. I also find these kind of dates take the pressure off for those of us who are not accustomed to dinner dates and would feel awkward and end up not having meaningful conversation.

  • Brandy says:

    This is a great post! Thanks!

  • amanda says:

    I have found that reconnecting kid-free is more important than a fine meal. So, my husband and I take advantage of the free babysitting at our local Giant Eagle and grab a cup of coffee in their cafe to chat for half an hour or so. A very inexpensive date, and the kids LOVE to go to the Eagle’s Nest. I know that we are lucky to live by a grocery store that offers this, but there are other options for free babysitting, such as your local gym or even ikea!

  • Bobbie-Jo says:

    Totally agree – date nights are a marriage saver. It has made a dramatic difference in our marriage. We budget – spending some on a nice dinner date one week and then maybe just coffees at a cute coffee shop another. We also look for deals (sometimes local radio stations have restaurant deals at half price). Another night a week we also read a book together at home – taking turns reading (and giving footrubs at times). There have been times we have gone out to rake in the coupon deals for the night or take a stroll through Home Depot. The key is we are together without kids and away from work (which for me is home:) 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    We exchange babysitting with other couples at our church. That way we know our kids are with people we trust, and everyone gets a date night at least once a month! Our favorite cheap date nights? Free outdoor concerts, our local observatory has free Friday nights once a month, there is a free “First Nights” showing at all the local art galleries the first Friday every month, and sitting in a coffeeshop playing Scrabble.

  • Ellen says:

    My husband and I work opposite schedules. He works from 3am-230pm, so he is usually ready for bed by the time I get home from work, so date “nites” are very difficult to plan. We make time on his days off, usually a Saturday morning. We go out for coffee, or occasionally out to breakfast. Date nites don’t always have to be after dark 🙂

  • Rebekah says:

    In March our coupon circular had a Dunkin Donuts card good for a free iced tea or coffee every Monday for two months. We decided that was going to be our date night. We have a baby that is too young to leave with a babysitter yet, but each Monday night after dinner we would head out for our free drink, then often as the baby slept in the back seat, we would stay in the car and talk for an hour or so. Sometimes we’d swing by the thrift store before heading home and just look around, never spending more than $5. Cheap, great conversation, wonderful time to connect with my husband!

  • Sarah says:

    We love going for walks, hikes, and drives together. I’ve found that my husband will tell me what his goals and hopes are when we take time to do these things, and we come home refreshed from our time away.

  • Michelle says:

    We enrolled our children in a local church’s Awana program. We drop the children off then run some errands if need be or go to a coffe shop. We didn’t enroll to have a “date night” but it did turn out to be a side benefit. It is a win win in that our kids are learning about God and memorizing tons of verses and we get a bit of a break. You can find Awana programs in your area at their website http://www.awana.org. Awana has different levels for ages 2 all the way up to teens but not every church offers every level so you have to check the list on the website to see what each church has. My kids love the club and I like helping them work through their books and learn their verses, and a date is a big bonus on the side.

  • cathy says:

    If your kids go to public school–go out for lunch while they learn!
    Not only is there no babysitting to pay for–lunch out is generally cheaper 🙂

    • Christy Carden says:

      We haven’t been on a date (out of house at night, official date) in I don’t really know how long. We did have a sitter twice in Dec. to go to a Christmas party and shared a sitter with a friend to go to New Year’s Eve Party, so fun, but not really dates/one-on-one time. I teach public school and we use daycare. Since we pay the same for a week, whether they go all 5 days or not and have to pay at least part-time to hold our spots over the summer, we often go out to lunch and a matinee at what we call the “cheap theater”–$1.50 matinee. This really only happens during the summer or occasionally something like Martin Luther King Day if it works out with my husband’s schedule. So, we have not done this in a while. Yesterday, he ended up getting off work early, so we went to grab coffee together before picking up at daycare.

      We live near no family. Almost all of our friends are from here and have free grandparent sitters and so they are not interested in trading services. The few that don’t would rather pay money than have their child up late or have to transport them after bedtime. I guess we are in the minority in our crowd as far as bartering!

      When we do get a sitter, it usually ends up being ridiculous (like $60-$70 bucks and planned and budgeted for months out). We did this twice last fall for a wedding and a football game (our alma mater played local college). $10/hour is a lot!!

  • katie says:

    We started going to a few local places that have live music on the weekends – all are casual (a coffee shop and 2 specialty market/delis). The music is free (though we budget $5 for a tip) and for less than $15 we can have a light dinner (salad or sandwich) or coffee and dessert. Makes for an inexpensive night. We have a group of friends who join us, so it’s a great social time and no one is feeling like they can’t participate financially.

  • Tracy says:

    One thing I just heard on the radio this morning was that a monthly date night might not be enough – if you only use it to complain to each other or discuss schedules while you “reconnect”! You need to schedule something fun to do and agree to not to talk only about the kids, maintenance tasks, money, etc. but to simply enjoy being together as friends and partners. They suggested one night for fun and then trying to find another time to discuss the important details. I loved this perspective and admit that I often jump to discussing other administrative issues instead of simply enjoying my wonderful husband.

    • Andrea says:

      So a date night with rules? Sorry, but it sounds pretty fake to me.

      • Tracy says:

        No, it’s not fake. A date is a time to enjoy each other instead of arguing about tasks and the little things. That’s what you did before marriage wasn’t it? Why shouldn’t the fun continue? That’s all I was trying to say. If that means rules to you sorry but you missed my point.

        • Chanda says:

          I see what you’re saying. Just go have fun, let it flow naturally, but don’t let it become a night to create your budget or set your new discipline plan for your crazy two year old.

          • Tracy says:

            Yes, thanks Chanda! And I just reread my reply and it sounds WAY harsh…..sorry Andrea! Yet another example of why I ask DH to reread my emails before I send them! 🙂

          • Katie says:

            I totally just what you’re saying. However, realistically this may not work for everyone. I DO miss having “fun” dates with my husband, but the reality we don’t have time or money for those right now. I think it’s more important in a situation like mine to work on cultivating contentment and peace; being thankful when you have time to talk about the nitty-gritty details of life with your husband and then using it as a time to work on peaceful communication where you build each other up, encourage one another’s ideas and try really hard not to argue or complain but come up with positive ideas and plans and get excited TOGETHER about implementing them. And maybe looking forward to having those fun dates someday!

            I know I sometimes struggle with contentment, but I want to learn to see the rearing of our crazy 3yo and building a life together as the fun part!

          • Andrea says:

            No worries, Tracy.

            If DH and I get time alone together, we don’t spend it arguing, but we do spend most of it talking about the kids and our responsibilities and, like Katie said below, that is more than okay with us. Making a rule that we can’t talk about those things would make it very challenging for both of us, because the conversation wouldn’t flow naturally.

  • Maegen says:

    What great advice! We are trying to make this a more regular event at our house.
    Our biggest obstacle is that neither of us are planners, and trying to get a babysitter and tidy up at the last minute is hard (Does anyone else frantically clean for the babysitter, or is that just me??)
    It’s definitely worth doing, and we’ve found that we really need to get Out. I love the idea of a date at home, but when we’ve tried it, it just hasn’t worked that great….maybe it’s too much like our usual non date nights! I love all the clever tips from the readers, too.

    • Christy Carden says:

      Yes, I frantically clean and it is almost sometimes more stress than it is worth!

    • Emily says:

      Find yourself a good babysitter who will do some light cleaning after the kids are in bed! 😉

      Maybe that was just me as a teen and young adult? lol! Anytime I babysat, I always made it my goal to leave the house cleaner than when I got there. I often did all the dishes/loaded the dishwasher, cleaned the counters, picked up toys, etc. I did not do laundry, though!

      But seriously, I would not worry about frantically cleaning before the babysitter comes. That takes the fun out of date night! More than likely, it won’t bother her (him) one bit! 🙂

  • amber says:

    My husband and I have been married for 9 years. Once our first child came after a year of marriage we never went out for date night. We still have date night here while our kids are in bed. My favorite thing to do is cook a special dessert after the kids go to bed. Then enjoy talking together or watching a movie together while we eat it. The other night my husband and I just sat on our swing out back and talked for awhile after the kids went to bed.

    My sister told me the other day when her and her husband are low on money they drive to goodwill and will buy a VHS movie for 50 cents to watch.

  • Jen says:

    For the longest time we considered church our date – we go on saturday evenings – kids go to their own class – we wld go as soon as the doors opened, drop our kids off, grab a cookie and coffee and sit and talk before the service started then walk slowly back to pick up the kids – top it off with a family dinner out (if in the budget). Otherwise a free date with added benifits (spending time together praising God). Not fancy, but US time for sure!

  • Stephanie says:

    My husband and I have come to see our Monday nights as our “date night” and 3 times a month we have an at home date and once a month we go out. It is so important to fight for some time alone after the little ones are in bed to spend time on your marriage. If you need any ideas for fun dates and easy themes…check out thedatingdivas.com they are a wealth of information!

  • Brooke says:

    My parents have been married for 35 years and the one thing they were a great example of were date nights. I agree that this is so important. And yes, a babysitter + dinner + movie ends up costing us over $100 where we live so we don’t do that often but there are so many other options that can be cheaper. We have some friends who started a babysitting swap with four families. One couple watches all the kids on Friday for 3 hours. They feed them dinner and the kids all hang out a little past bedtime without having it get too late. This way they each get 3 nights of free babysitting a month and one night where they watch everyone else’s kids. We don’t really have a big enough house to host that many kids but I think it’s a brilliant idea if you can do it. We trade often with other couples– ie: you go out Friday we’ll go out Sat or vice versa. When you cut out the babysitter cost it makes a big difference. But I agree that it is worth doing what you can to have time together. I can see a big difference in our marriage when we don’t make it a priority.

  • Lacey F. says:

    I bought a groupon for a resturant downtown, that my husband and I had never been to. We enjoyed the new resturant. Then after wards we walked around down town. Which is some thing we had never done before. We went into the shops and enjoyed talking to each other and looking at things. We found a chocolate shop owned by a lady from Europe. The shop felt like we were in Paris. We found a newly opened used book store, that was very charming. The cost of the date was approximately 16.00 dollars after dinner and some special chocolates.
    We enjoyed each others company and found new places to have dates. The chocolate shop is a repeate date in itself!

  • Leah says:

    Sunday evenings are date night in our family. We swap with our best friends. We have our 2 kids and their 3 kids who are all close in age. Date night is from 5-8. When it’s your turn to sit, you are in charge of feeding the kids and making sure they are Jammie’s when they get picked up so that they can go straight to bed when they get home. Our kids LOVE this arrangement – just as much as the parents do! They get a “date night” with their friends every week and we get a night out every other week without having to pay for a babysitter. We even added a third family with 2 kids for a few months – which meant we were “on” one Sunday night and then dated for 2.

  • jen says:

    Date night is essential. Here are some tips from seven years of dating my hubby through three degrees and little money.

    Babysitting. Swap with friends trading weekends. Find a young college kid who doesnt mind babysitting for the price of a free pizza and use of your laundry room…..you miht be surprised.

    Date ideas. Find the local dollar theater. Just grab appetizers and desset. Coupon! Walk around a museum. Window shop. Find an arcade. Etc.

    Date nights are so important to get away from stress, kids, housework, etc.

  • Date night has always been a priority in my nearly 14 years of marriage. We go out at least twice a month and sometimes every weekend. We’ve traded babysitting with other parents to save money.
    For variety we try to do different things- we’ve gone to a local high school play instead of a movie (it’s cheaper!) and grilled steaks at a park for a picnic.
    There are so many options to keep out of a rut. When our church hosted a parent’s night out we dropped off the kids and enjoyed the house to ourselves & made dinner together- more frugal & intimate than a fancy restaurant.

  • Sara says:

    We love to go to our local Farmers’ Market to browse. It’s fun, even if we don’t have money to spend! (Although usually we end up using our grocery money there. Right now fingerling potatoes are in season- roasted, they are like candy!)

  • Sarah says:

    Something to try is get a neighbor or friend and alternate babysitting duties to help ease the costs. You have your night out one night and the other couple another night. We also sign up for the newsletters for all of our favorite local resturaunts, then we go by what deals are going on at the time of the date.

  • I also believe date night is a very important investment! We have neighbors with kids also, so we trade off babysitting for each other. We watch their kids for free so they can go out and then they return the favor the next time. Plus the kids love hanging out together. It’s a win-win for everyone!

  • Jessica says:

    My husband and I do lunch dates together at least once a week. He works overnights and has two weekdays off, so we go during the week while I’m on my 1-hour lunch break from work. Our daughter is already with either my parents or his parents for the day, so no extra babysitting required. And lunches are cheaper than dinners. It might not be as romantic as a dinner date (which we do when we can), but it works really well with our schedules and that makes it easy to make a habit of!

  • Ruthie says:

    My daughter has been growing out of her nap and going to bed most nights before 8 so the upside is lots of quality date nights. I think some of the best date nights are spending time together catching up on some shows on Hulu or making some tea and chatting.

    • B says:

      Your post was very encouraging.

      We do not have the option to get a babysitter, and we have very little help from family. So, a date night is just not possible for us. Your post is a great reminder that we can put the kids to bed and have a date night at home.

      • Rachael says:

        You can definitely have a great date night IN. It’s how we’ve survived the past 3 years since we moved away from family. The kids go to bed between 7 and 7:30, and once a week we have a home-cooked gourmet meal and a glass of wine. We could get a babysitter every now and then if we wanted, but I feel like we’d just be looking at our watch the whole time. We’d both prefer to be home. It’s zero stress.

      • We have two children, 2 1/2 years old and 16 months old. They both go to bed at 8pm. My husband washes the dinner dishes while I bathe the kids, so we’re both free by the time the kids go to bed. We’re both night owls anyway, so this schedule gives us time to talk, watch a movie together, eat some ice cream, pop some popcorn, or share a glass of wine by the fire. We live far away from our parents, and we’re on a tight budget, so this is how we date without needing to pay for a sitter. 🙂

  • Kristine says:

    My hubby and I have had some of our best conversations walking at the park while our kids play. It’s free, keeps the kids entertained, and gives us some quality time together.

    When we are planning to go out for dinner, I look for 2-for-1 deals and coupons for restaurants in our area, or we just go somewhere cheap. Sometimes we go out for just dessert or coffee.

    We are fortunate to live close enough to my in-laws that the kids can stay with them for weekends about once a month, so we rarely have to pay for babysitters.

  • natalie says:

    We have 3 under 5, & have a leave the house, get a sitter date every 3-6 months. Due to being rural, it means 2 or 3 hours of driving, taking kids (and packed jammies, etc) to the grandparents, driving to town, driving back, and taking sleeping kids home & hoping for smooth transfers into their beds. It can’t happen on weeknights because my husband doesn’t get home til 6pm usually so it would be too late of a night for him since he gets up pretty early.

    Since he gets home at 6 or later, we usually eat around 6.30/7, and start bedtime at 8 or 9. This means he is asleep before/when they are, usually. We have had a lot of discussion on whether I should feed them earlier and try an earlier bedtime…but we have decided that it is more important to pour our efforts into making family dinners and family worship a priority.

    BUT, twice a month or more, we’ll stay up far too late & curl up with a movie & big bowl of popcorn. 🙂 I make a point to put movies on hold at the library that we both enjoy.

  • kathleen vasquez says:

    sites like groupon is always a fun idea too. it allows you to do fun things you wouldn’t normally do (because they are now affordable)! scuba diving, rock climbing, horse back riding, etc at more than half off! it allows us to try new fun things and step out of our comfort zones! 🙂

  • Jane says:

    I don’t have children, but I often babysit for free for friends who do, and I know I’m not the only childless person who’d love to spend some time with your kids! I can think of three other single women in their late 20s who also watch friends’ kids occasionally for free– just because we want to bless our friends and because we, who have no children, enjoy the chance to spend some time with someone else’s cute kids!

    If you don’t want/ can’t trade babysitting, see what else you have to offer to a single friend who will watch your children once a month. For me, the chance to sit around a family table is worth it. For others, perhaps your laundry room, or learning a new skill in trade would be an option.

    • Martina says:

      You are a true blessing Jane, my husband and i used to watch Kids to while we were still single ( we now suspecting that people set us up, to ask us both to sit the kids at the same time, of course it was all an accident). Just wished there would be more people out there like you, in today’s society is had to find people who aren’t selfish and are willing to help others.

    • Sarah says:

      I agree Jane. I’m happy to baby-sit if that means there’s a homecooked meal somewhere in it for me. It’s tiring cooking for myself.

    • Mom of Littles says:

      I agree as well. It is a great help to other moms for you to help them in this way. I have sought out even a mother’s helper, and I haven’t been able to find anyone. It can be overwhelming at times to work from home, homeschool, maintain the home, etc all with a husband who works long hours.

    • Jen says:

      My cousin, in her late twenties, babysits for us for free occasionally. It is so wonderful! She always brings her laundry (she lives in an apartment where she pays for laundry), and I always have a home cooked meal ready for her and the children. We so appreciate her! Thank you for doing the same for other couples who need an evening out.

  • Laura says:

    For Christmas this past year I gave my husband a ‘Year’s Worth of Dates.’ It was an idea I found on Pinterest. I planned one date for each month, many of them are things that we have never done (a new restaurant, tickets to a play we’ve never heard of, touring the Governor’s mansion), a few favorites (cheap tickets to a college basketball game), and many are free (a hike in the canyon, bike ride around the neighborhood, local musuem, etc).

    This way we are sure to have a date each month (especially if there are tickets already purchased) and I circle the date on the calendar. Since it counted as a gift, I felt like I could splurge a little here and there. Also, the venue each month is different, so that adds to the excitement.

    We’re five months into this year, and so far it’s been really fun. The hardest part of the whole thing is securing a babysitter, but we usually trade with other couples in the area. I’m already thinking of new things to try for next year! 🙂

  • Book store dates hang out visit ask questions

  • tere says:

    Me and my husband try to have a datenight every week (if we can.) Hes not working so much so not that much money to spend on for “datenight” he works at the movies he cleans up. i work at a waterpark for the summer. So we watch movies for FREE!:) thats ours Datenight for us and we go to the waterpark for FREE since i work there. We only have one son so ours parents take turn watching him for ours datenights. Which helps ALOT! on the babysitting cost. We hardly go out to eat and when we do i always try to find a coupon for us it helps alot.

  • Annie Kate says:

    We don’t do regular date nights, nor do our two sets of parents. I think the key in these three very happy marriages (about 120 years in total) is to make time for each other every day, in the little ways. We hold hands at meals and in the car, inspect our fruit trees together, look at the lawn and the gardens…. I pop into the study for quick chats while I sit on hubby’s lap.

    All this is to say that while date nights might be fun, a good marriage is based on what happens every day. If you can’t manage date nights, don’t worry; you can make every day special…and that goes a lot farther in the long run.

    • Annie Kate says:

      I mentioned this discussion to my husband and he said that it is more important to go to bed than to go out. He said every man will agree with that.

      So ask your husband what he thinks.

      And if your husband agrees with my home-body hubby, make home pleasant, simple, and streamlined. Develop a few super-easy and delicious meal plans and train your children to be pleasant and mannerly. Then you won’t be as desperate to get out, and can enjoy every day at home rather than feeling sorry for yourself about missing going out date nights.

  • We do date night at least every week – sometimes we’re fortunate enough to do two a week! We rarely go out – a homemade desert and a boardgame, puzzle or Netflix, Library, borrowed or from-our-stash movie. Last week we needed something shorter so we made our own “Subway Art” with Power Point using our family mission statement as inspiration. Along with hot tea and some homemade cookies we had a great time!

    We are terrifically fortunate to have free childcare the first friday of each month at our church – to participate we have to “work” as care providers one month a year. This gives us 3 hours of time to do something. We’ve gone hiking at a nearby park with a picnic dinner, grabbed a cup of coffee/cocoa at a local coffee shop and talked, or even gone out for dinner.

    We are also very, very blessed to have a couple at our church who raised their children away from their extended family as we do ours. A couple times a year, they take our children overnight so we have a child-free evening all night long! An older couple did it for them and now they’re “paying it forward”. Their only criteria is that we “pay it forward” someday too! We definitely plan on it!

    Love reading all the ideas here!
    Lea

  • Meghann says:

    My husband and I watch a couple shows together but they are always on right when we are putting the kids to bed. We record them and then sit down one night and watch them together. We can pause them and talk and also talk on the commercials. Its some guaranteed time to snuggle on the couch next to each other!

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