4 Ways to Have a Fun, Frugal Date Night

As the mom of a toddler, date nights with my husband are pretty rare. I was happily surprised when I got to enjoy a random, last-minute date with my husband recently, thanks to a visiting grandparent who offered to watch our daughter.

Naturally, we jumped at the chance and were out the door before grandma could change her mind. We decided to do dinner, drinks, and a movie (very original, I know).

I was thrilled to eat a nice meal at a restaurant and not have to worry about flying Cheerios or booster seats for once.

When you have a child, it doesn’t take much to feel special on a date night. Even Applebee’s feels magical.

It was sure to be a great date night, and it definitely exceeded my expectations. But it has been about 4 years (the age of my toddler) since I’ve been to a movie theater, and I was suffering from some sticker shock at the price of the movies.

$10.50 per ticket! And that’s before the popcorn, soda, and candy you can’t seem to live without as soon as you step into a theater. (Who can resist the smell of popcorn coated in a disturbingly bright yellow faux butter? I can’t.)

If we had to pay for a babysitter on top of that, a simple dinner, drinks, and movie date night could set us back $150 pretty quickly.

I could think of so many better ways to not only spend time with my significant other (not in a movie theater), but to spend that hard-earned money as well.

Luckily, going on a fancy date doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are 4 ways to have a fun and frugal date night.

1. Share Babysitting Services

Since we don’t have any family close by who can watch our daughter for the evening, we often have to resort to paying a babysitter an hourly rate to watch her. That can get expensive in a hurry.

Sometimes, the cost of babysitting matches the amount we spend on dinner. It’s expensive, and we can’t do that every time, but we’re not going to give up our date nights.

To combat the cost of hiring a babysitter, we sometimes swap the service with our neighbors. We both have kids, so when we need a date night, they watch our daughter, and when they need a date night, we watch their boys.

Because the kids play well together, it always ends up being a fun evening that flies by because the kids are entertained. Plus, when the evening is over, the kids are just right across the street.

Consider asking your neighbors or some close friends who also have kids if they’d consider swapping babysitting services with you. It’ll save both sets of parents money and give each of them quality time alone as well. In my mind, that can’t be beat.

2. Have a Date Day

Remember that dates don’t have to be exclusively at night. Because our schedules are flexible, sometimes we’ll take a day off to enjoy a date day together, just the two of us.

Date days are our new favorites, and we always feel like we’re getting away with something sneaky when we do it, which adds to the excitement. Because our daughter is in school during the day, we don’t have to pay for childcare, so that problem is solved (and free!).

During the day, you can take advantage of more affordable lunch specials and emptier restaurants since most people are still working. If you want to go even cheaper (in warm weather), have a picnic, walk through the park, or hike a local trail. Take advantage of the free time while your kids are busy in school.

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3. Find Free Entertainment

If you want to splurge on dinner, you can save money by finding free entertainment afterwards. No matter where you live, odds are you can find something free to do.

Our favorite dates involve eating dinner and then walking around downtown at night. We live in a rural area, but the closest big city is only a 20 minute drive, and the lights at night are beautiful. It’s worth the short drive just to take in the beautiful nighttime scenery.

Walking downtown without a destination affords us time to talk, check out the evening views, and people watch. Many times we end up at a coffee shop or bakery, but the entertainment is in the walking and the company. Not to mention walking helps you burn off calories from dinner, drinks, and dessert.

You can also check local museums to see when they have a free day (many of them do), volunteer somewhere for a good bonding experience, or find out if a local band is playing somewhere for free.

4. Stay at Home (But Make It Special)

If all else fails, make it a date night at home, but make it worthwhile. Leave the phones in the other room, get the kids out of the house (or at least in bed), dress up in your finest, and plan a gourmet meal.

Cook the meal together, set the table with fancy dinnerware, a tablecloth, and candles. Lower the lights, and get a bottle of wine and a decadent dessert beforehand to make it feel like a true restaurant experience. Make each other feel special.

Afterwards, give each other a massage or watch a movie you’ve both been dying to see. You don’t have to go out and spend a lot of money to make it feel special.

Date nights are important to keep a healthy marriage going strong, so don’t feel like you have to completely give them up if they don’t currently fit in your budget.

No matter how you spend your time together, it’s important to make alone time a priority whether you visit a luxury spa or simply go outdoors. The important thing is to spend quality time together to remind yourselves why you fell in love in the first place.

Do you think date nights are important? How do you keep your date nights frugal?