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On a Budget Dates for Less On a Budget Dates for Less
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On a Budget: Dates for Less

Insights & Ideas Team •  June 16, 2016 | Your Finances, On a Budget

Whether you have been married for 25 years or dating for 25 days, quality one-on-one time can strengthen your relationship. But dates don’t necessarily have to be expensive dinners at five-star restaurants. You can reap the same benefits while spending less money.

If you’re looking to heat things up without breaking the bank, consider these five options for dates on a budget.

1. Day dates. Lunch and a matinee often cost less than dinner and a movie. If you want to change things up, head outside for a day date, going on bike rides or hikes when it’s warm and playing in the snow or ice skating when it’s cold. Even bowling can be less expensive during the day.

Parents may also pay less for daytime babysitters. Rather than hiring a more experienced sitter to manage dinner and bedtime for four or five hours, ask a pre-teen neighbor to come play with your child for a couple hours on a weekend afternoon. This will not only cut down on the number of hours you are paying for, but also how much you pay, as a younger sitter will likely charge less than a more seasoned one.

2. Sitter swap. Even better than paying less for child care is finding it for free! See if a friend or neighbor with kids the same age might like to trade babysitting duties.

Let the kids entertain each other on a play date or sleepover, or have one parent babysit while the other couple goes out. Take turns so that each couple gets to go on dates regularly, such as once a month. And it goes without saying that you should find families whom you trust and your kids get along with.

3. At-home date nights. Avoid the restaurant markup by staying in. Whether your taste is formal or casual, you can recreate the ambiance at home for much less than the cost of a night out.

  • Romantic dinner for two: Set the table with candles, a nice tablecloth and your wedding china. Take it to the next level with a few stems from your garden or an inexpensive but pretty bouquet from the grocery store. Select a recipe that mimics your favorite restaurant meal and spend the night cooking together and enjoying the fruits of your labor.
  • Wine and cheese: Pick up two or three small wedges of cheese, some dried fruit or nuts and a little sausage or prosciutto. Add crackers or bread, and you’ll have quite the spread! Most of these items have a decent shelf life, so you can repeat the date next weekend. For the price of one glass of wine at a restaurant, you can buy a bottle to share at home. Most stores offer a discount for buying multiple bottles, so shop the sales and stock up for future dates.
  • Sports bar at home: If your favorite team is playing, bring the sports bar feeling to your living room. Make appetizers like buffalo wings, nachos and potato skins; grab a six pack; and cheer on a victory. For inexpensive at-home entertainment, play a board game that’s been collecting dust, watch a movie from a subscription service you already pay for or revisit some old favorites in your music collection.

Creating a Solid Financial Plan: Your Guide to Money Management4. Explore your city. Even if you’ve lived in the same city your whole life, you and your mate will have different perspectives about what makes it interesting and unique. Take turns planning tours or scavenger hunts that include your favorite things—the best people-watching spots, the best windows to browse, the best park for a lazy afternoon.

Up for an adventure? Grab a city guide from the library and choose a neighborhood that’s new to both of you. Wander on foot to discover favorites together, and take advantage of inexpensive public transit options. In some cities, simply riding the train and watching the world go by can be a fun option.

5. Support up-and-coming talent. Rather than paying top dollar to see Broadway musicals, professional sports teams or stadium concerts, you can spend less by supporting local talent.

Watch the newspaper, fliers posted in local businesses and websites for your city to learn about local theater productions, semi-professional or college sports and local musicians. Improv troupes and open mic nights can also be fun! In the summer, many areas put on free or cheap concerts, movies and plays in the park, where you can pack a picnic and enjoy entertainment under the stars. You may find the same caliber of performance for less than half the price.

Having a solid, long-lasting relationship takes work, but it doesn't have to take money. Planning budget dates will help you reconnect and spend quality time together without emptying your wallets.

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