If you follow me on Instagram maybe you saw that Marcello and I have started date nights twice a month! We paid off our minivan with our tax refund and money we had saved. (Insert the Carlton dance.) Little savings add up and now we have an extra $300 a month. Keep getting those deals and stashing the savings back little by little, it makes a difference!
So we thought about what to do with this unassigned money. Now that the kids are older and no longer babies, we really wanted to start going on dates. (Because our dating life was seriously flatlining.) At first I felt guilty at the notion because 1) mom guilt is a bully and 2) what about kids in the world without food and 3) maybe it would be better to put it in a Roth IRA or something financially smart. We did decide to donate more, but we also decided investing some of it in our marriage would be a very good idea too!
Here’s what we’ve learned about regular date nights so far:
Ask around and find a trustworthy babysitter if you don’t have family nearby. I’ve found a couple girls that I just couldn’t be more pleased with. You could also trade weekends with a girlfriend to save on costs. It makes it so much easier to leave and enjoy yourselves when trust isn’t a worry!
For the sitter:
- Before Marcello and I head out the door I prepare something for dinner that the kids will eat so they won’t give the sitter a hard time.
- I also lay out the kids’ PJs on their beds.
- I keep a family info sheet hanging on our little command center with our address, our cell numbers, emergency numbers, kid info and neighbor’s numbers. You can get your printable here. I make sure I point it out to anyone new watching the kids.
- Don’t forget to tell her what dinner is, what snacks are available, what TV shows are/aren’t ok, if they can go outside or not and what time the kids go to bed.
- I’m told the going rate for sitters is $10-15 an hour, depending on how many kids. Stings a little, I know.
This photo was from a beach date. We went to a state park, took a little tram down a nice boardwalk and enjoyed the view. It could have cost us nothing, but I haaaad to order a piña colada. I didn’t know that two drinks would cost us $30! Ouch. Next time we’ll skip the frozen drinks. Live and learn.
It’s important for us to set a monthly budget and decide in advance how much we will spend on our two dates. We live in a pricey town and could easily have our budget decimated after one dinner. We have chosen to do one nice date and one cheap date.
So that means one date we will go to a nice restaurant with lovely atmosphere and for the other we’ll eat someplace more casual and inexpensive. We try to do the fancier one first so if we blow our budget we can have a picnic at a park the next date!
For us it’s less pressure and more fun to plan our date in advance. I know some people like to take turns planning, which can be fun to have a surprise date every other time! We usually end up talking it out together. Thinking about it ahead of time makes it less likely that you’ll end up at a chain restaurant as a last resort and more likely that you’ll try that new cafe that serves crazy fancy milkshakes that look like a piece of art.
We usually leave for about four hours and tend to make it a two-part date. One place for atmosphere, like the beach or a park or historical site. This part is usually free. And then we like to go someplace for dinner. Sometimes I even plan what I will wear, but always I look forward to it all week! It feels so nice to get dressed up and focus on us.
When we went to this lovely restaurant we practically had the place to ourselves and ate at half price! How? We went late in the afternoon on a Friday and shared appetizers and wine from the happy hour menu. By the time we were leaving the more pricey dinner menus were out and the place was filling up fast.
The daytime trick
If you can get out during the day I supremely (that’s more than highly) recommend it! Here’s what happens when you make your date during the day:
- You get meals at a discount. Lunch menus are cheaper than dinner menus.
- You can hit up happy hour specials, especially if it is a weekday.
- Generally speaking, eating during off-peak lunch and dinner hours will get you zero wait, better service and fresher food.
- You can take a break from the everyday chores or everyday tasks that you would normally be doing at home.
- You still have your evening together when you get back! We’re old, what fun is it to stay out until midnight and then wake up at 6 with kids? It’s not.
- We try to do our dates from 4:30 to 8:30 and our kids go to bed at 8! See what we did there? Yeah. I kind of hate when people say you’re welcome when I didn’t say thank you, but you’re welcome.
Sometimes we go to fancy places, like the Ritz Carlton pictured here, and just have an appetizer or glass of wine at the bar and admire the setting. This is the view on the way to the little cafe by the beach! And I think we spent about $30. Sometimes upscale hotels have a more casual restaurant on the premise that is more affordable.
Saving money on dates
So now that I’ve blabbered on about preparing and budgeting and planning your dates, let’s talk about some options!
Play the hometown tourist and visit the most scenic places where you live. For us, as you can obviously see from my pictures, the prettiest place near us is the beach! We can’t get enough. If you live in the city, find that rooftop view. If you live in the country, find the prettiest hill with the biggest tree for a sunset. I even look at travel sites to find places in our town that I have overlooked or forgotten.
Keep a list of date ideas in your phone of places your friends are raving about or someplace you notice as you drive by. This comes in handy when you’re drawing a blank.
One time when we were wandering around, not quite ready to go home, Marcello thought to google “craft beer” and we found a seriously cool little place that we’d never heard of before. Do you have any repeat google searches that turn up good finds? I need to know.
If you want to celebrate or just make yourselves feel special order two glasses of sparkling wine — prosecco or cava. Bubbles make everything feel like a celebration! These two feel like champagne, but they are much less expensive.
My second wine tip. (Can you tell my husband works for a wine importer?) You can typically bring your own bottle of wine and they will charge you a corking fee, usually about $20, which is less than what you would pay for a bottle from the restaurant.
Free date ideas
Some of the best free options for dates are free local events, especially in the summer. Check out upcoming local lists of free concerts, museums, movie showings, festivals and mark them in your calendar so you can plan around them, otherwise you’ll probably miss them!
More free options:
- Picnic outdoors in a scenic spot.
- Go hiking or take a walk in nature.
- Find the prettiest place for the sunset and grab a bottle of bubbly.
- Play tennis or hoops or go for a swim.
- Pack a blanket and snacks and star gaze.
- Eat dinner on the patio and light candles.
- Visit friends.
- Go on your own bike tour somewhere new.
- Take a stroll downtown.
What are your favorite date nights? Do you stick to the same restaurant or never visit the same one twice?