If you’re anything like my husband and I, you might not get out much for date nights. Dates can be expensive on their own before factoring in babysitting. For us, it can be hard to plan a romantic date while still sticking to a budget. Most parents with toddlers at home can relate. We are in the stage of life where we are paying off debt, saving for down payments, or paying high costs for daycare. This is a season of sacrifice, and all too often couples sacrifice date nights because of the budget. My husband and I have been in this season for almost 5 years now, so we have some experience in planning cheap dates.
One of the biggest obstacles we encounter is child care. We have very little family that lives local to us. Because of this, it’s very easy to find ourselves faced with a large babysitting bill. There are a couple of hacks we have discovered to overcome this hurdle:
Trade babysitting with a friend.
If you are in this season, there’s a chance you friends are too. Find one of those friends and offer to trade-off babysitting for date nights. Work out an arrangement for you each to get a date night once a month and trade-off watching each other’s kids for free.
Share the cost of a sitter.
Another way to bring down the cost of babysitting is to share a sitter with a friend. Most sitters will allow you to do this for a small additional cost-per-hour. For example, the average cost of a babysitter is anywhere from $10-15 per hour. Most babysitters will add an additional $1-5 per hour, per additional child. Although this brings the overall cost of babysitting up, once the cost is split between a friend, the shared cost is much lower. Plan a date the same night as a friend of yours and plan to split the bill. No need to double date (unless you want to); coordinate the start and end times with your friend and go on your separate dates.
Some of our best date nights have been those that are done on a budget. Limiting yourself to a budget requires you to get creative – the typical “dinner and a movie” can easily cost well over $100. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I love going to the theater, but most dates we avoid it. It’s expensive, and we try to make the most of our time together. Avoiding the theater saves money, but can leave you scratching your heads for what to do instead. Here are some of our favorites.
Picnic and coffee
We love going to the park for a picnic or a walk. If your date involves a meal, consider packing food and a blanket from home and enjoy a romantic picnic together at a local park. Most parks provide beautiful scenery and an easy walk when you’ve finished your meal. Afterwards, head over to a coffee shop to talk over dessert and coffee.
See a recital
If you live near a college or university that has a music program, check out the events calendar to see if the students perform recitals. My husband was a student at the FSU College of Music and shared with me a secret I did not know: most concerts and recitals at the FSU CoM are free to the public, unless otherwise noted. If you are a couple that is into the arts, visit your local College’s events calendar to find a concert or recital that appeals to you.
Are you a couple that likes music or dancing? Often you can find a local place that offers dance classes or open dance for an affordable rate. In Tallahassee one of those places is The American Legion; they offer dance classes of various types throughout the week, such as ballroom dancing on Monday nights for a $5 suggested donation. If you have an American Legion in your city, they may also offer similar classes. Many dance clubs also have dance classes throughout the week as well. This makes a fun and unique date night experience!
Visit a dollar theater
If you’ve truly got your heart set on a movie, try to find a discount theater in your area. Many cities have these, often called a “dollar theater” that offers older or less current movies for a discounted rate. In Tallahassee, our discount theater shows movies that are no longer in theaters but are still popular, so this is a great alternative for us when we want to see a movie.
Date night at home
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out with a sitter – either you wait too late to book (been there), or it just truly isn’t in the budget (done that). Those times when we desperately need a date but can’t get a sitter, we try to find a way to fit in some quality time at home. Instead of watching TV, pull out your favorite game or a puzzle. For something more romantic, set up a candlelight dinner after the kids go to bed and dress up like you would for a night out. After dinner, set up a blanket in the backyard and do some stargazing.
Whatever you decide to do for your date, emphasize quality and not quantity, and you’ll be sure to have a good time together.
Have you gone on a budget-friendly date that you enjoyed? What did you do? Share with us in the comments!