A third of our weekly grocery budget. That’s what my husband and I spent on our last dinner date. And that was just the restaurant bill. Add the after-dinner lattes plus cash for the babysitter and whoa—I hope the kids aren’t expecting lunch this week because Mom and Dad are broke.
Was it worth it? Sure. Quality time together, just the two of us, reconnecting and investing in our relationship—that’s priceless. That’s crucial to the health of the whole family. And we do have a jar of peanut butter in the fridge, so the kids won’t really starve.
But. What if we could snatch that quality time without breaking the bank?
Recently I asked a room full of fellow moms to brainstorm a list of cheap date nights, giving them multiple scenarios:
…You have two hours and ten dollars while the kids are at school.
…You have ten dollars but no babysitter.
…You have zero dollars and a weekend to yourself while the kids are at Grandma’s—and so on.
Every option assumed either no childcare (in which case, timing is everything; set aside a quality hour or two while the kids are sleeping or at school) or free childcare (such as grandparents or swapping with another family). Here’s what they came up with—a list of 50 fun date ideas for ten dollars or less.
- Bake a special dessert for the two of you to share after you tuck the kids into bed.
- Enjoy coffee and donuts on the patio before the kids wake up.
- Share a bottle of wine in front of the fireplace.
- Rent a movie and pop some popcorn.
- Play board games.
- Read the Bible together.
- Make s’mores over the backyard grill or fire pit.
- Buy $5 subs and enjoy a picnic in the park.
- Better yet, pack food from home and head to the nearest picnic table.
- Attend a free concert.
- Go sledding or ice skating and drink hot cocoa.
- Attend a program at your public library.
- Hike a local nature center.
- Go for a car ride and “park” like newlyweds.
- Take a nap together!
- Lay a tablecloth on the carpet and enjoy frozen pizza by candlelight.
- Write a list of ten questions for each other and discuss your answers.
- Lay on the floor, hold hands, and listen to music.
- Attend an open mic or karaoke night!
- Go to the gym and work out side by side.
- Go out for ice cream.
- Break $10 into change and spend the evening taping coins to parking meters or soda machines as random acts of kindness.
- Browse a bookstore.
- Go for a walk around the neighborhood.
- Spend $10 worth of tokens at an arcade, then bring your prize winnings home to the kids.
- Cook a meal together.
- Watch old home movies.
- Find a cheap DIY project on Pinterest and do it together.
- Play yard games.
- Plan a couples’ book club—even if it’s just for the two of you.
- Enjoy a round of mini golf.
- Go bowling on BOGO night.
- Watch a local Little League game and cheer for both teams.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Play tennis.
- Go geocaching.
- At your favorite restaurant, order one dessert and split it.
- Volunteer together.
- Visit a playground and swing on the swings.
- Take a dip in the city pool.
- Watch the sun set on the beach.
- Buy a bag of M&M’s and use the candy as poker chips.
- Visit a new coffee shop.
- Go rollerblading.
- Borrow skateboards and check out the local skate park.
- Buy dinner off the dollar menu.
- Visit real estate open houses and scout for new decorating ideas.
- Grab your favorite snacks and have a two-player video game challenge.
- Drive to a deserted parking lot, turn up the radio, and dance like nobody’s watching.
- Get naked. Need we say more?
No matter what you do, the important thing is to do something. Budget and babysitter limits don’t have to keep you from investing in your relationship. For richer or for poorer—you can have fun (and feed the children, too).