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Frugal Living & Freebies

Cheap Dates: Entertainment on a Budget
by Kimberly Danger
My husband and I had plenty of time for each other before we became parents. With four years of dating plus six full years of married life before our first child came along, we were able to take trips and taste the Good Life. We were the couple others turned to for restaurant and movie recommendations. However when our daughter was born and I became a stay at home mom, our "couple time" went by the wayside. Not only did we not have the time we used to, we didn't have the money.

These days, dinner and a movie can run as much as $100. It's no wonder that families on a budget often eliminate going out as a way of saving money. However, even frugal parents need time alone to nurture their relationship. Here are some ways my husband I have learned to enjoy a night out without spending a bundle.

Care for the Kids
Sometimes the cost of a babysitter is more than the date itself. Many couples are fortunate enough to have Grandma nearby to watch the kids. That's great. Consider yourself lucky! If you don't have family close by, find another couple with kids the same age as your own children to exchange babysitting hours with a couple times a month. Not only will you be getting qualified caregivers, you will be getting playmates for your children as well. Don't be afraid to ask. Most parents are happy to swap.

Dinner
My husband and I both like to eat. Luckily, we also both like to cook. One of our favorite things to do is to pick a new recipe to prepare together. Sometimes my husband is in charge of the main course, and I prepare the side dishes. Cooking together serves two purposes -- the most obvious being to create a great meal, but it also allows us to spend time doing something together.

If eating out is more up your alley, order one entree to share -- then splurge on a dessert. Also, check into which restaurants in your area run Happy Hour specials. These specials may be 1/2 price appetizers, free munchies, or drink discounts. Other resources:

  • http://www.restaurant.com This site offers restaurant gift certificates at half their retail price. The site lets you search for restaurants in your area.

  • Buy an Entertainment Book. It costs approximately $20 and it comes with at least 100 "Buy one entree, get one free" coupons to both upscale and fast food restaurants in your area. It also contains coupons for services such as dry cleaning, car washes, etc.

  • Read the Mommysavers Article: Eating Out: Money Saving Tips

And a Movie . . .
If you're planning on a first-run movie, check to see if your local theater offers discounts for movies before 6:00 p.m. By going an hour or two earlier, you may be able to save up to 50%. If there is a college campus nearby, check to see if they show movies. While they probably won't be first-run, they will most likely be deeply discounted. Of course, renting is even cheaper than going to the theater. Skip the movie rental stores. Instead, visit your local library. You can find just about any movie you want to view if your library has an interlibrary loan service -- all it takes is just a little advance planning. Our local library allows you to order videocassettes and DVDs from other libraries in their library system. We can even request them online -- no need to leave the house! My husband and I also are Netflix subscribers. We get unlimited DVD rentals each month with no late fees.

Other Ideas:
Visit a museum
Go to a high school or community play
Prepare a candlelight dinner
Go on a walk in the woods
Have a picnic complete with wine and cheese
Fondue night
Play board games
Shoot a roll of film together
Stargazing

Finding your own "couple time" is definitely worth the effort it takes to make it happen. Cultivate your relationship, and you'll be a happier mom.

About the Author:
Kimberly Danger is the owner/publisher of Mommysavers.com, an online resource for parents interested in saving time and money. She is the author of 1000 Best Baby Bargains. Ms. Danger lives in Southern Minnesota with her husband and two kids.

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