When I talk to CycleGuy about a date night, my palms start to sweat and my mind races. But after nearly two decades of being together it’s not because I’m a nervous nellie. Date night makes me anxious because of the potential to break the budget. With movies almost $10 per person, dinner for two averaging $50 and a sitter, we’re easily nearing $100 just for a night out.
Psychologists and marriage experts say that date night is critical to the longevity of a marriage. It’s a way to stay connected, talk privately, catch up on what is important to each other and spend time together. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. Budget date night can be creative and fun. So even if you have to spend your entire budget on a sitter, don’t cross off date night (or afternoon or morning!) from your calendar.
Here are eight fun and creative budget date night options to help you focus on the reason for date not, not the dollars:
1. Eat breakfast for dinner – almost every town has a 24-hour joint that servers breakfast all day long. Often, breakfast is a less expensive alternative to dinner. And you’re likely to skip dessert and appetizers.
2. Enjoy game night in – if the kids are off on a sleepover, there’s no need to go out. Make an easy meal or even just a bunch of appetizers and pull out those games the kids never want to play. Don’t do the laundry or clean the bathrooms. This is time to talk (about each other, not the kids!). And, of course let him win (maybe).
3. Check out a new restaurant – since you’re likely to be planning a bit in advance, why not take advantage of dining deals available in your community. Instead of heading to the same restaurant, try something new using a discounted certificate from Restaurant.com or from one of the daily deal sites like Groupon or Living Social. You’re sure to find something you both like and with the discount you’ll be keeping to your budget date night needs.
4. Go out during the week – Rather than wait until Friday or Saturday, consider making a week night your budget date night. Often restaurants have special deals just to drive in traffic. Museums, art galleries, plays, musical performances or the local theater will have discounted rates for certain nights during the week.
5. Meet for Happy Hour – a few months back I heard that Morton’s steakhouse has a ‘power hour’ type happy hour where everything on the bar menu is $5 and they have drink specials. For $40 you can have a really upscale evening!
6. Take a walk – now might not be the best time, but when the weather is warmer take an afternoon or evening walk in your neighborhood. Drop the kids at a friend’s house and find a local park and just walk, talk, hold hand, and look at each other. Remember those days when you were courting and just being together was enough.
7. Try a gallery hop – many cities have a specific day of the month when art galleries are open and have a special social atmosphere. Where I live, we have First Friday. There is an area of town where there are several blocks where art galleries and studios are located. They open their doors from 7 – 10pm and invite the public to visit, have some wine, hor d’oeuvres and look at beautiful art. Maybe it’s not your particular taste in art, or you’d never spend that much money on a piece for your home. But that’s OK. It’s a way to spend time together, have some tasty tidbits and a glass of wine (or two), and enjoy your community.
8. Plan a picnic – whether at the park, by the lake, in your back yard or even your living room, pack a picnic and find a place to relax and connect. This is a great option for a budget date night if your night happens to be in the afternoon. Not everyone’s schedule works for going out at 7pm. Sometimes, it’s better to make date night at a different time. Who’s to say date night must be at night?
Whatever you do, just do something! Don’t fret about the planning. Set your budget and be creative. Check out your local newspaper’s community page online to see what’s going on in your area. You don’t have to spend a fortune to go out on a date with your spouse or partner. Date night can be budget friendly. It may take some creativity, but regardless of what you do, the goal is to make budget date nights something you can do every few weeks so that you can keep fanning the flames.
Are date nights a priority for you? How do you make them fun and still budget friendly?