Love Don’t Cost a Thing: 11 Cheap Date Ideas for Cash-Strapped Parents

Date night ideas for married couples
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If you’re anything like my husband and me, who have two boys under 3, you don’t have nearly enough time alone together. Yet we all know that quality time is essential for a  successful relationship.

While you might not have the funds for a sitter and a fancy date night, a tight budget doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed! Here are some cheap or free date night ideas for married couples that will help you enjoy quality time with your significant other without breaking the bank.

Finding a Sitter

The first challenge to enjoying alone time is often finding a babysitter. Here are a few inexpensive ways you can make sure the kids are cared for while you take some time to care for your relationship.

Drop the Kids at Grandma and Grandpa’s House

We don’t have family in our area, but if you do, by all means use them! Whether it’s just for a few hours or for an overnight visit, let the kids have a little quality time with their grandparents so you can have a night out.

Ask Your Friends to Babysit

Offer food, wine or even a little cash, but they might even offer to do it for free. And you never know, you might find a friend who enjoys hanging out with your kids so much it becomes a regular side gig.

Schedule a Playdate

Ask the parents of your children’s friends if they’d be willing to trade playdates. One night, you host all the kids; another night, it’s another parent’s turn to host yours. You’ll all get some quality time with your spouses or significant others, and the kids will have fun hanging out at someone else’s house for a change.

Put the Kids to Bed Early

No one ever said you had to leave the house to have a date. Some of the suggestions below are easy to try at home after the kids are all tucked in.

Date Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

Now that you have childcare covered, let’s plan your date. Here are a few of my favorite options.

1. Enjoy a Romantic Dinner at Home

Shop deals at the grocery store and work with what’s on sale. Cook up something special (bonus points if you cook together) and don’t forget to set the mood. Light some candles, set the table with the good china and turn on some soft music. Then enjoy some quiet conversation and savor a delicious meal in the comfort of your own home — without any interruptions from the kids.

2. Make It a Movie Night

Redbox rents movies for less than $2 and sends out text coupons for free flicks regularly. Netflix has plenty of free movies to choose from, as does Amazon Prime.

Pick a movie, grab a couple of your favorite snacks at the dollar store and pop some popcorn once the kids are in bed. Curl up on the couch together and have a good laugh or get sucked into an action flick.

3. Get Competitive

If you’re not in the mood for a movie, try a game night. Pull out the playing cards for some poker and play for chips, change or something a little more “adult.” If cards aren’t your thing, try Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit or any other game you and your partner enjoy playing together.

4. Have a Picnic

Pack up a lunch and head to the park to enjoy some sun and fresh air together. Bring a frisbee or soccer ball to get some exercise while you’re at it, or just lie on the blanket, relax and talk for a while about anything but the kids.

5. Check Out a Museum

Take advantage of free days or special admission rates and experience some art or history. You’ll find new topics to talk about and share something new together: Two things that are sure to add a little spark to your relationship.

6. See a Concert

Most towns and cities have a free concert series or live outdoor music during the summer months. Pack your outdoor chairs, a bottle of wine or your favorite drink and some snacks to take with you. Just make sure to check the venue’s policy on outside food, drinks and alcohol before you head out.

7. Enjoy the Great Outdoors Together

Find a preserve, arboretum or nature trail and take a walk or hike. Smell the flowers, take some deep breaths and get your hearts pumping while spending some time communing with nature and each other.

8. Check Out Local Universities or Colleges for Free Events

You never know what speakers or events might strike your interests. You may even find an educational program so you can learn something new together.

9. Explore a New Neighborhood

Take a drive to a nearby town or a neighborhood you don’t spend much time in and check out the local sights. Browse in the local shops, have lunch at a new restaurant, look for historic landmarks or just take in the local vibe.

10. Catch a Movie

If you’d rather get out of the house for a film, go to a drive-in theater where you can usually see two or three movies for the price of two tickets at the local cineplex. Bring some already-popped popcorn and sodas so you don’t need to hit the concession stand, and enjoy a night outdoors.

No drive-ins near you? No problem. Some towns offer free outdoor films throughout the summer, and if that’s not an option either, you can always get to the theater early for a matinee showing of that latest flick. Just skip the popcorn to save a few more bucks.

11. Gaze at the Stars

Head to the backyard or a grassy hill near home, lay out a blanket and snuggle under the stars. Look for constellations, count shooting stars, or time your date for a super moon, comet or aurora sighting.

If none of these ideas get you excited for date night, check out Groupon, LivingSocial or your favorite discount site to find deals on local activities that will get you and your spouse out of the house and enjoying some quality time.

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Ami Spencer Youngs is a freelance writer and yoga teacher, raising her career alongside two boys under three. Learn more about her life and her writing at or on Twitter at @writingherlife.