Before we had kids, Date Night wasn’t a phrase in our couple lingo—hanging out together in the evening happened every evening because it was just…us. Once upon that unscheduled time, we had date nights more frequently, rarely going out simply because it’s ‘been too long’ since we ‘had time to ourselves.’ Evenings out were often spontaneous, revolving around lively events like birthdays, vacation, and yes, even happy hours (remember those?) made a regular appearance in our activity rotation.
I don’t have to tell any parent that kids are a game changer. That certainly was the case for us. Not only did we have trouble fitting in extra time to do anything beyond child maintenance, it was also tough (again, I don’t really need to share this reality) financially to justify spending on something so frivolous. Near the time when Ilana was six months, Ben and I decided we needed a regular date night. It’s easy at this point of life—stretched so thin growing careers, growing families, and growing friendships—to forget about how you and your partner got to where you are—through togetherness. Thus, Operation Date Night became a ‘thing’ in our household.
Because I am at home, my job encompasses all domestic things, especially our family calendar. When I look for date night ideas, I keep a few things in mind: cost is at the forefront (always keeping in mind the cost of a sitter, too); my next two focuses are bang for the buck and timing. Below are some of our tips for Date Nights; most of the activities listed are very affordable, and the pricier options at least give great value for the money spent:
Fabulous Flash Deals: Circulars that appear in the mailbox and Groupon/Living Social/Amazon Local deals make for awesome date night plans. I’ve found half-off deals to fairly decent restaurants in town—Boardwalk Bistro, Crumpets, Silo, Ajuua, and La Fonda. True, sometimes the restaurants might not be your top choice, but when you have little ones, a meal out as a couple is a treat, no matter the location. What you save on the cost of the meal can be spent on a sitter, a cocktail with your meal, or an appetizer or dessert to share (or, as my husband would say, what you save could just be saved).
Culture on a Budget: We enjoy our tickets to the Vexler Theatre. This experimental theater is located at the Barshop JCC, and for $60 per season pass, you are able to enjoy four unique performances by local talent ($30 per date night). Four enjoyable date nights planned in one purchase! They have several options for times and performance dates, so scheduling has yet to be an issue for us.
Weekday Wonders: By taking advantage of specials at restaurants, we can up the ‘wow’ factor of the date. For example, on Mondays at Liberty Bar, all their wines are 50% off, so buying a bottle of wine to have with dinner suddenly becomes more affordable at $13 or $14 a bottle.
Be a Kid Again: Bowling or Mini-Golf are very affordable options for a date night, and I consider them to pay a big return through the amount of quality time they provide. Because of the nature of the length of the activity coupled by (usually) popularity, you’re guaranteed to be occupied for the evening. In either case, if you eat at home, your cost for the night out is about $30.
Save on the Sitter: If you have someone who will watch your kids for free, take what you would have spent on childcare, and make that your date night budget. We are blessed to have in-laws in town who enjoy and are generally available for sitting. If you don’t have that option, maybe a friend without kids could watch your child(ren) or perhaps, split the cost of a sitter with another couple, cutting your sitter bill in half.
Say Yes: When you receive wedding, graduation, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Quincinera, etc. invitations in the mail, just say YES! Not only will you support your friend or family by attending, it’s a great opportunity for a Date Night.
For us, quality time together is a must; spontaneity will have to wait by the side for the next decade or two. Time together strengthens our relationship because we see each other in a different light—no half-done appearance covered in the child-goo of the day, no workout outfit ‘uniform’ I live in daily. We listen to each other and have time to talk—not while consoling a baby or answering our toddler’s question about why the green bean has THAT stem on it or why Isaiah wasn’t in school today. Date Night is a way of saying to each other: Hey…we are worth this, I want to spend time with you.
We’d love to hear some of your best tips for affordable, fun date night options.