Reader Question: How Do You Afford Date Nights?

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Q: I noticed that you talk about date night a lot and that you go on dates fairly often with your husband. How do you afford it? 


A: Yes, we love date night! We believe that marriage is the primary relationship of the family and that we have to make each other a priority. When our children see us choosing to spend time with each other, they will be more likely to have a healthy marriage themselves.

To maintain our relationship we need communication, time together and fun. Date night is the perfect answer!

So how do we accomplish frequent date nights on a budget?

Be Creative

We consider date night to be any fun event without our children. I suppose that sometimes it’s just spending time together, but by calling it “date night” it seems special. Suddenly a trip to the home improvement store becomes relationship-building instead of just another errand.

Your dates are only limited by your imagination. We have taken self-guided tours of quaint downtown areas, had lunch in the park while reading short stories to each other, hiked in the woods and painted pottery at a studio offering “buy one get one” night. When we have no money to go out, we’ll check out a movie from the library and have a date-in (the children have strict instructions not to bother us during this time, but if you have little ones, you will have to do this after they’re asleep.)


Be Cheap

We like to take advantage of free events in our area such as festivals, free concerts and free days at local museums. For other free date options, check with local universities for visiting speakers or musical performances; read your local newspaper or check online for community events; contact the library about special programs; or take advantage of free classes offered by art galleries or your extension service.

My husband loves to see movies in the theater, but tickets are expensive so he has found ways to earn free movie tickets and/or cash for dates:

(Click here for more recommended online survey sites.)



It takes some time, but by using these survey sites we are able to go to movies for FREE every couple of months. We just saw the Avengers movie using reward tickets.


Skip Dinner

When most people think of date night they think of dinner and a movie, but that is probably your most expensive option. We almost always eat dinner at home and then purchase dessert out or skip food altogether. One of my favorite dates is to go out after dark on a cool night and ride with the windows down while listening to music–very simple, but very relaxing.

If you want to enjoy a meal out, lunch prices are usually cheaper. We like to visit a local Cuban cafe where we can get authentic Cuban sandwiches for just $5. We drink water instead of ordering soda and have an enjoyable time for the cost of two specialty coffees.

You can also sign up for free local deal sites like Living Social. We actually found our Cuban cafe from a coupon offer on Living Social, and even after we used the coupon, we continued to go back.


On a side note, one way we try to make the evening special is by trying not to talk about problems. Keeping the conversation fun and light means we both have an enjoyable time and feel closer to each other. Often some very productive conversations happen after we’ve enjoyed a relaxing evening avoiding our issues. :)

Our children will be grown and out of the house within a few years. While we love them dearly and enjoy spending time with them, if we focus completely on them to the exclusion of our marriage, we will have a difficult time re-connecting once they leave. Date night ensures that we stay happily married now, and later.


What cheap date night ideas do you have? Leave a comment. :)


next post: Meet Future You

Click here to read other posts in this series. 


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  1. Mary says

    Renting a movie and popping popcorn after the kids go to bed. Or watching one that we recorded but haven’t seen yet. Also, walks at a nearby park, walking around the mall (we love people watching) with a cup of coffee, looking at the new car lots (those insane price tags there), or bike riding.

  2. Jen says

    All great ideas. Our biggest expense is the babysitter though and ours is cheap at $11 an hour. It’s not the outing that kills us….is the childcare.

    • says

      That was our problem when the kids were younger as well. We did a lot of at home dates, but you can also trade babysitting with other couples or barter. I exchanged Spanish lessons for babysitting from a homeschooled teenager and I know one mom who cooked for another family in exchange for babysitting.

      • Heather says

        Yes, we have several friends with kids similar ages. We watched their kids sometimes and they took ours. Now our girls are older and we can leave them alone for short periods of time but it definitely helps to have friends to barter with.

  3. Jennifer says

    We celebrate our anniversary every month. In addition to groupons & picnics, we keep a list of places that have great happy hour food prices. An appetizer can easily be a meal and costs much less (especially at half off). Often we don’t drink anything, just enjoying the atmosphere.

  4. Beth says

    My favorite thing to do is to go out to eat on dates!! To me it doesnt feel like a date if we dont eat out!
    So I either:
    1. wait around for deals where you can snag a 25 dollar gift certificate for just 1,2,3, or 4 dollars depending on when sales run.( Usually you have to spend a minimum of 35 dollars with the 25 dollar certificate but this way u can afford something fancier.)

    2. if you want to eat cheaper, go to a restaurant and order a large meal or appetizer to share and dessert.

    3. I also do and can earn gift certificates once a month or so.

    4. Cafe’s are a nice place to go on a date as well and just buy coffee if you are a coffee

  5. Mandy says

    We trade babysitting with my cousin and her husband. It ensures good quality care at no cost! Then we don’t feel as bad about going out.

  6. april ingram says

    My husband and I will be married 10 years in June. We have 3 kids ages 8, 5, & 4. We are very blessed to have family nearby who are willing to keep the kids for a few hours or for an entire evening. Since we are a one-income family and that one income is fairly low, we enjoy very simple things for date nights. First of all, we don’t regularly do date “nights” as much as date “afternoons”. Like you said, lunch is much cheaper! We will take an afternoon to go bumming around antique malls and local shops with little more than $30 to spend after eating a $12 lunch at some local eatery. We also love having a night in, rather than out. We arrange for our kids to stay over night with grandma and grandpa and will work on a hoe improvement project while indulging in some beer or wine. Afterward, we’ll watch a movie with a rating of over PG just because we can, or hang out in the den listening to LP’s on our turn table and talking, or dancing. Sometimes on a night in, we’ll even start a fire in the back yard and enjoy our time outside under the stars without the fear of a child getting too close to the road or setting themselves on fire, lol. We also like arts and crafts festivals, which for us, are painfully stressful with kids around. Most of them are free admission, you obviously are not obligated to buy anything but the time walking around, kid free, holding hands, mingling with local artists like ourselves, and then going to grab a drink at a bar to top off the afternoon is very enjoyable and relaxing for us!

    In addition, I am really loving and enjoying this blog right now. So many wonderful tips and ideas and we’ve put many to good use. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

  7. april ingram says

    *home improvement, not hoe improvement. That made me giggle re-reading what I had wrote. haha! I’m so immature!

  8. Jessica says

    We had a scheduled weekly date night before we had our daughter 8 months ago. Many of our friends stopped “date night” when kids came and we didn’t want to. So, we have our four couple friends that we swap date night babysitting every month and the tradition continues! We get our weekly time alone together, and an added bonus has been great fellowship and strengthened friendships with our friends.

  9. Laurieintexas says

    Remember, also the sites that give actual cash in your hand! I just got $183 earned toward my quarterly rebate, from (I had to buy a few big ticket items, lawn mower, washing machine, and dishwasher) I bought from Lowes online, but signed into the shopathome page first, and clicked the link there for the lowes page……… So, because of this I not only paid the sale price lowes had for online purchase, I get $183 back later! CASH IN MY HAND! That’s a lot of date nights!

  10. Tiana says

    We have 3 small children, so we usually do a night in rather than out. We have a fire pit, so sometimes we sit outside and light a fire and make hot cocoa and talk. We also have made the kids a simple dinner (pb&j or mac n cheese) and then put them to bed early and made ourselves a fancy dinner (we love to cook together). Or sometimes we fill our baby bath with hot water and set it in front of the couch and soak our feet together and relax while watching a movie! It’s so much fun to come up with creative ways to spend special time together!

  11. says

    Another idea for movies (we enjoy going) is to sign up with They offer free tickets to press screenings across the country. This is great especially in the summer! My husband and I have seen about 5 movies for free in the last year…many that were very popular or that we wanted to see! It works for us b/c I can go early and wait in line and then my husband joins me when he gets off work (in the summer I try to get there at least 2 1/2 hours before start time to ensure a good seat). We have family that will babysit for us and we normally buy popcorn at the theater and take drinks with us. It has been great (especially since we have family that can watch the kids for us).

    Two things (aside from needing to be there early) is that often you will get emails with ticket offers on short notice (sometimes just 2-3 days before the screening) and they fill up quickly. You have to RSVP on the website and I usually do it as soon as I get the tickets, then talk to my husband and decide if we’ll go, then I release/cancel the tickets if we don’t use them.

  12. Beth says

    Well all the good ones were taken but since this is our Anniversary weekend (28 years!) and it is also child #4 graduation, plus Mother’s day….we have to postpone our celebration. We aren’t worried about it though.
    There is one point to add to all the date night suggestions, though. For us, it has been very important to spend time together whenever we can since he works nights. We do have a little routine of sorts but if he sits to watch golf on tv then i will sit with him. We can hold hands and talk a bit. Go over the day, just chit chat. This time is very valuable to us and it makes a statement of liking to be together even in the small things.
    For dates, we will go to breakfast and split a giant cinnamon roll at a local cafe, or grab a Dutch Bros. coffee on the way to the golf range and hit a bucket of balls. We go to movies occasionally too or rent a redbox for home. The kids are bigger now so we can farm out the 9 year old, our youngest, easily.
    Farmers Markets in the mornings are great too because we can take our time, browse, and hold hands. He enjoys flea markets and massive garage sales too so we look for those kinds of things to do without kidlets.
    Blessings to you Kimberlee.
    You inspire me to chip away at our excess spending. And it is rather fun to find ways to save a buck!

  13. Kiki says

    Yes, the babysitter is the big expense when your children are little. Otherwise, date night can be very inexpensive. Gone are the days when parents took advantage of some poor child for 50 cents/hour!

  14. Kaycee says

    My husband and I have date night once every week-but to save money we stay in every other date night and cook together or he cooks for me. We’ve found some cool and inexpensive events online, such as art classes, concerts, and fun freebies. Sometimes we go to a coffee shop and play games.
    It’s actually more fun than just dinner– and I love to go out to eat!

  15. Amanda says

    We had a pastor counsel us once to dialouge daily, date weekly, depart quarterly =) Dating and Departing has been difficult on a tight budget – but – we do have a few tricks

    Eat at a mom and pop – the two of us could eat at red lobster for $50-60 bucks – eating at LaPaloma = $12 for both =) Prepare a picnic and go to the park = no more than you would normally spend. McDonald’s ice cream cone = 75 cents each. Go to the cheap seats $4 per person rather than $8.50 or more per person.
    Check with your local city or county visitor’s center – they have a TON of free and cheap things to do in the area. Ride bikes. Take Walks. Buy a museum pass that works at a lot of different places (we bought one to a science center, because it was cheaper than paying admission for the whole family, and we used it at several places locally for free admission, our $50 purchase granted our entire family entrance to at least 10 places in 1 year and our date nights 2 or 3 over the year) Trade childcare with another family to offset cost or trade services (I’ll clean for you if you babysit for me =)

  16. Amanda says

    BTW – I have to say – I ♥ your series of blogs! You are such an inspiration to keep trying and not to give up – I thought I was a weirdo doing all this stuff to scrimp and save. THANK YOU for you candor and honesty =)

    • says

      We consider each child’s situation individually. My son with Aspergers will probably not be successful in a traditional college setting, so we plan to send him to an internship program in the field he is interested in. He will get actual work experience rather than a degree.

      For our daughters, we will apply for scholarships and they will work to help pay for their degree should they choose to get one. We believe that it is our responsibility to help our children discern their God-given purpose in life and to enable them to fulfill it. There are many other avenues to achieve that other than college, but if college is the path they need to take, we will help them to attend.

  17. Jess says

    There is a restaurant/bar in our area that has a full range of fun drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic as well as food and desserts. They have a huge selection of board games. My Fiance and I will go to this place after dinner at home and get 1 drink a piece (maybe 2 if we make it by happy hour) and sit and play random board games. It ends up costing about $15.

    • says

      We did a couple of things when the kids were younger: trade with another couple so that you alternate weeks when one couple babysits and the other goes out; barter with someone (I traded Spanish lessons with a homeschooled teenager who babysat for us); try asking older women in your church whom you trust. Sometimes they are happy to help out. Hope this helps. :)

    • says

      Jessica, we have 3 kids under the age of 7 so I feel your pain. There is no such thing as “cheap” babysitting at that age really. We have family close by but honestly we can’t use them for every date night. One option that we’ve come up with in the past has been to trade time with another couple who have young kids. Another was to find a young couple who don’t have kids but who are on a budget. They were friends of ours and the way we paid them was in food. I would make a casserole (usually just double whatever we were having for dinner) for them and take it and our kids over for a couple hours after dinner. We never stayed too late but they were grateful for the free meal and we were grateful for the extra time to either go for a walk in a park or get Dunkin Donuts coffees and go parking, lol! Another option is to actually pay the full money for a sitter as long as they are willing to keep them at their own house. (Then you just go home for your free date in a quiet house) Oh, and some babysitters won’t charge as much if they are only sitting with sleeping kids.. so if you can figure out a way to get your kids in bed by 7:00 you may pay less that way? When all else fails, just put the kids to bed and stay up later than usual watching a movie or sharing a homemade dessert.

  18. Laura says

    My boyfriend and I both really like to cook, and make special meals on some of our date nights. It doesn’t have to be done with expensive ingredients either – it’s just the creativity and fun of trying a new recipe with someone you love.

    We don’t have kids, so that could be a challenge for some people. But, like you said, if your kids have strict instructions to give you space, it could work.

  19. Sarah says

    My latest favorite thing to do with my husband is play cards. It doesn’t cost money ($1 for pack of cards), we have great conversations, the tv is turned off and it’s fun competition. I really enjoy your blog and tips–thank you!!

    • says

      When we were first married, we played a couple of games of Scrabble, but then the competition began to threaten our marriage–LOL! I think I have mellowed out enough now that we could play cards or a board game again. 😉

  20. Leah Biard says

    My husband and I go on “car wash” dates. We go to the local car wash and for around $2 we wash/rinse off our vehicle. It sounds like such an unromantic date-place but it allows us to spend those few minutes alone literally washing away the distractions of the week and just be together. We started this on or second date and is still something we take time to do as regularly as possible.

    • says

      What a fun and creative idea Leah–thanks for sharing. I had a friend who told me that she always gets out of the car and talks to her husband while he is filling the car with gas. Those little moments add up!

  21. Kristin says

    When we first started dating, my now-husband would bring me dinner from a local Italian or Mexican restaurant every Tuesday night (I was working for my dad at the time.) Once I stopped that job we went out every single Tuesday. Sometimes dinner, sometimes a walk in the park at dusk, sometimes just driving with the windows down trying to get lost but never succeeding (in our area all the roads eventually lead back to one of the main ones). Once we got married we budgeted for the Tuesdays out and word got around that we were never available Tuesdays for ANYTHING. 😉 2 years ago my husband had to pick up a second job because of a pay cut at work and my own struggle to find a teaching job. He now works 70 hours a week, except during the summer, and Tuesday night date nights are a thing of the past (also add in our son who is 22 months old). We are blessed to have my in laws close by and my MIL will babysit almost whenever I need her, so sometimes we meet downtown for a quick bite on his less-than-an-hour dinner break. We never spend more than $20 for the both of us including tax and tip. Because of this we try to make use of every moment. Furniture shopping (or home depot dreaming), going for mochas at the bookstore, getting Redbox movies on weekends, and going for Sunday afternoon drives with our son asleep in the backseat are all “dates”. We read some of the same books and discuss them while we do chores or eat dinner (I do the same with this blog now, lol). My most proud moment was the beginning of this month (June) for our 5th anniversary. I got a 2 night beachfront hotel stay for 2 nights for $180 (free wifi and breakfast) by going to the Chesapeake Bay instead of the oceanfront. We picked 2 local restaurants and went for late lunches since lunch menus are cheaper. (I packed tea and homemade scones to snack on between meals.) Including gas (still around $3.45 at the time) we had a weekend away for under $300. To top it off, I used my direct sales earnings to pay for it, so none of it came out of our summer budget. It was the best weekend together we’d had since our honeymoon and the perfect celebration. I’m still floating on air. :)

  22. Kelsey says

    I’ve been loving your site, Kimberlee! Although we do a lot of what you suggest already, it’s always nice to hear that we’re not doing it alone!

    We live on a very tight budget, but we have found that you don’t need a lot of cash to have a good time! My husband takes me out once a week, and we try to keep each outing under $10.

    Our standard date is to go to Subway and split a $5 footlong. It’s healthy and filling, costing us only about 2.80 apiece with tax. Sometimes, if my parents are willing to watch our toddler, we’ll sneak out to Applebee’s after 9pm. All of their appetizers are 1/2 off after 9pm, which brings their average cost from $8 a dish down to $4-ish (and I absolutely ADORE their boneless wings). We can usually escape with a ten-ish dollar meal after the tip, and it feels like we’ve been to a nicer, sit-down place.

    Another favorite date is spending the evening in Barnes and Noble with a stack of our favorite books. We never seem to find enough reading time at home. This date can be free, but sometimes we’ll split a large coffee from the coffee shop.

    Of course, sometimes we just go out, do errands together, and come home with a special redbox movie and some ice cream.


  23. Christina says

    My boyfriend and I have been together for 3+ years, and after asking each other a million questions over the phone doing long distance, we sometimes forget that we’re still learning each other even though we’re living together. For a date night, we cut up some cheese and pepperoni, popped open a bottle of wine (Black Swan is a great brand – it drinks like a $12 bottle, but for half the price!), and we sat on the couch facing each other with our legs stretched out, entwined together. It was a nice way to feel close to each other and intimate – and it’s a way of sitting on the couch that made the space feel new and fresh. I found 10 questions online in a blog about dating, and we went through the questions together. Here are some of our favorites:

    1. What do you fear the most?
    2. List what you think my priorities are based on your perception of me.
    3. How do you describe me to someone who has never met me?
    4. What do you think is my favorite movie?
    5. What are some of your most favorite things that we do together?
    6. What can I do to help you achieve one of your goals this year?

    These questions opened up so many topics of conversation that we had to split them up between two date nights. I feel that we’re more connected now – it was interesting to see how much we’ve changed in the last three years, and how our perceptions of each other have changed as well. It was fun, intimate, and under $10.

  24. Lindie Dominguez says

    My husband and I once went to Costco, got 2 polish dogs and soda… and went to the beach and talked all night. One of our best dates ever, for $3.00. 😉

  25. Samantha says

    Cheap snack idea:
    Microwave popcorn. Buy a large bag or kernals. Put however much you want into a brown paper bag (for 1 person, I use 2tbsp). Fold over the top and toss it in the microwave. Viola! Microwave popcorn without the Orville Redenbaker price. Plus it’s healthy and you can season it however you like.

  26. Courtnie says

    I love this! Another cute date night option would be to make some hot chocolate, put it in a couple of travel mugs (or just one to share 😉 and go sit out under the stars. You could go in your own backyard, or even drive or walk to a special place. :-)

  27. Liane says

    I’ve just discovered your site via Pinterest and am loving it! Thanks for the great ideas here. My husband of 10 years and I have made weekly date nights a priority ever since our first child was around one year old. Lately I’ve found many great deals from Groupon. When we have the money (my hubby is self employed, so some weeks are better than others) I look on the site and find dinner and entertainment deals, usually for 40-50% off regular price. Since most deals won’t expire for months I can “stock up” when possible and date nights are all planned out in advance.

  28. meta Van skiver says

    First of all this is my first visit to your site but I have enjoyed what I have read. My husband and I have a 8 and 12 yr old so while they are in school we use that time to enjoy a mid afternoon movie. It does help that he works evenings but maybe some can get a lunch hour off and have a cheaper lunch date then dinner. We find that as long as we connect without the children around we are able to enjoy a refreshing time together. We are now at 14 1/2 yrs together. We also stick with the cheap theater in town for movies. We have done Living social deals and for gift certificates. Those help the cost as well.

  29. Vona Sue says

    I have found that when we give blood at the hospital LifeSouth, they will give us $20 is gift cards for movie theaters! Pack a purse with snacks and water, and see a new movie for free!

  30. Caitlin says

    If you have a Redbox kiosk in your area, you can rent DVDs for free all the time using the promo code “DVDONME” … FREE date night!! My hubby & I do this frequently

  31. Megan says

    Didn’t get to read all the comments yet… But I don’t have kids yet. But one of the things I see the women at church do is kid swapping. They’d make a system with a few others and swap babysitting. This allowed play dates with kids together and the other parents to have a date night. They just take turns so its free. Also, living social is mentioned a lot on this blog. Have you heard of yipit? 😀 I LOVE YIPIT! it all of the online deals put together in one place! It has living social, groupon, amazon, etc., and it even attaches rating on places from yelp or google.

    • says

      Thanks for taking the time to share that idea Megan. Swapping is a great way to keep the costs of childcare down, plus you know you can trust the people you are swapping with.

  32. Amanda says

    My fiance and I have a hard time getting to date because of our schedules; we’re both in school full time, and I have a daughter from a previous relationship, and he works outside the home. We try to set up our school schedules so that we’re off on the same day (each Friday) so we can have a lunch date. We also discovered that for $30, our zoo offers a parents night out on the first Saturday each month. We don’t get to do it each month, but we see it as a total splurge while our daughter gets to have a great night out. The zoo has animals brought in to teach the kids and provides dinner; my fiance and I get a change to actually connect. I already put it in my planner for December, for some kid free/no hassle Christmas shopping.

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