Once you're a parent, a cheap date is no longer a bad thing. After all, it's the family money you're spending when you shell out for a babysitter, drinks, dinner, and a movie. Sometimes the cost of child care is half the expense of a lovely night alone with your spouse.
After all, date night can potentially save you money -- think of all the couples therapy and divorce fees you'll avoid if you keep your marriage strong.
Go Out for Lunch Instead of Dinner
Everyone thinks of dinner and dancing as the ideal romantic date. But many working moms and dads are exhausted by 9 p.m. on a Saturday night.
Instead, go out for lunch with your partner or spouse. Lunch menus are always cheaper than dinner, and you're less likely to drink a lot. (That saves cash.)
You'll be more awake and able to enjoy a lively conversation at lunch compared with a late dinner. Moreover, if you plan lunch as a couple during the workday or on a weekend when the kids are at soccer or ballet practice, you don't even have to pay the babysitter.
Go Out for Breakfast Instead of Lunch
Try this on for size: scrambled eggs and holding hands across Denny's table. Or even meeting up for a cup of coffee could cause sparks between the two of you.
Okay, so maybe Denny's doesn't exactly conjure up any romance. But there are plenty of breakfast cafes with charm -- and breakfast is an even cheaper date than lunch. If you can rearrange your work hours to come in late on a weekday, you again save by avoiding the babysitter.
Or on a Saturday morning when the kids are at a sleepover, you can bring the paper and pretend that you're a childless dating couple again, with the whole weekend stretching ahead of you endlessly.
At least until it's time to pick them up.
Go Out After You Eat Dinner with the Family
You're not convinced. You love being out at night when the rest of the grown-ups play. That's all right, you can save money then too.
Try having dinner at home with your children before the babysitter comes. It'll be a fraction of the cost of dinner at a restaurant and give you family bonding time.
Your babysitter will love not having to wrangle the kids at the dinner table. And with the cash you're saving, you can afford two margaritas at the club when you go dancing. (Just decide in advance who's the designated driver.)
Browse a Bookstore
On those late night dates, you don't have to drink and dance. Try wandering through the racks of a bookstore, then sitting down next to your spouse to read in the attached cafe.
You get to preview the new releases without buying any books. The cafe is usually bustling enough that you and your spouse can make comments to each other about what you're reading without bothering anyone.
If you agree ahead of time not to buy any books, your only cost is the cup of Joe. (With perhaps a small slice of pound cake.) And what parent can turn down coffee, no matter the time of day?
Find Free Entertainment in Your Community
You don't have to pay a cover charge at a fancy club to hear live music. Explore your local music schools and universities for free or low-cost concerts that are open to the public. There are some good high school performances to your favorite musicals out there! Those kids give it everything they've got up on that stage. Go enjoy their hard work!
You could also go check out a school sporting event like football, hockey, or baseball and cheer on your home team! Those kids work hard all week for each game. Plus you could see other parents and get the scoop on what's going on in the community.
Check out the museums and local art galleries for a visually stimulating date. You can learn about the history of your region or explore a new field of art while bonding with your spouse.
Hang Out Outside
Send your kiddos to the neighbor's house and hang out in your own backyard. This doesn't mean start gardening unless that's your thing. Try lying in the hammock snuggling, go for a walk or run together, or just lay down on a blanket and stare at the clouds.
If you want to get away from the house head to the local park and people watch. Or head over to your local bike trail to bike, rollerblade, or take a leisurely stroll. There are are many state parks you could hike in and in the off-season, there may be no fee!
If you live in a cold climate and there's snow on the ground there's more outdoor potential! Grab your kids sleds and find a hill. Why do the kids get to have all the sledding fun! Or find a frozen pond and ice skate (do you think you remember how to?). If you head out around the holidays take in your neighbors Christmas lights! They work hard, too, on creating beautiful displays. Grab a cup of hot coffee or cocoa and get some fresh air.