Date Night: 5 Frugal Ideas for Parents

Last Updated Jun 22, 2011 2:52 PM EDT

My husband and I like to go out every Saturday night. It's how we cope with the insanity of parenting two very young kids. It also helps us maintain our relationship. But our weekly dates don't come cheap since we have to hire a babysitter. That's why I'm always on the lookout for new and inexpensive ways to share time together.

I know I'm not the only parent looking for frugal and romantic things to do. So I thought I would share a list of cheap summer dates that were sent to me by Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert.

Cheap Thrills
1. The Babysitter Swap
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I drop at least $75 every time I hire a babysitter. Woroch reminded me that there is a solution for avoiding this cost. Her time-tested strategy: Swapping sitting services with a neighbor, family member or friend. If you're going out with another couple, you could also share a sitter and split the cost.

2. Watch Your Bar Tab
Even the most inexpensive trattoria can get pricey once you add in couple of glasses of wine. Woroch recommends skipping anything alcoholic or dining during happy hour so you can take advantage of the cheaper cocktail prices. My idea: Find a BYOB establishment and bring a bottle of your favorite inexpensive vino.

3. Use a Gift Card
Here's something I always forget to do. If you purchase a restaurant gift card through websites like CardAvenue.com or Restaurant.com, you can save 5% to 50% off your total tab, recommends Woroch.

5. Plan a Picnic
Take advantage of the nice weather and plan a romantic picnic, complete with wine and chocolate covered strawberries. I also like to take advantage of New York City's free outdoor concerts during the summer months. Chances are your town or city offers them too.

6. Get Smart Advice from Smartphones
If you have an iPhone or iPad, you may like this idea. Woroch found a cool app (called Date Night) that helps you find unique, interesting and affordable local events. Woroch particularly likes the "thing to do" feature, which randomly selects an activity for you.

7. Look for Daily Deals When I think of daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social, I tend to look for family oriented discounts. I guess that's just what moms do. But there are lots of offers for things like wine tastings and comedy clubs that make for some great dates, says Woroch. You may also want to check out sites like Lifesta and DealsGoRound for past deals that other folks can't use and are trying to unload at discounted prices.

8. Go Cultural
Consider adding a little culture to your dates. Many libraries and coffee shops offer free poetry readings and musical entertainment, says Woroch. If you prefer art, look for gallery tours and reduced cost museum events.

One last idea: My husband and I sometimes skip dinner and just go out for drinks. Sitting at a bar not only saves us money, but it also reminds us of what life was like before we had kids.

How do you save money on date night?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Date Night image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
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  • Stacey Bradford

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