How to Date When You’re on a Budget
Dating can be hard once you have kids.
Unless you have family who can mind them, you’re looking at babysitting costs on top of the date itself.
These costs often aren’t practical for the average family, but ‘dates’ and time with your significant other are important for your relationship.
Or if you’re single and want to get to know someone, you need to date.
Check out some free and cheap date ideas below.
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Out And About
I prefer dates where I am out doing something, trying something new and not at home.
Many people I talk to feel the same.
You’re at home all day with the kids, or work from home etc and want a change of scenery.
I do share some at-home dates further down, but first, here’s out of the house options.
1. Freel Local Entertainment
Check out events in your area through Facebook, Meetup or your local gig guide to see what is happening, what free festivals and things are on then book one in.
This has been a little harder the last 2 years but with things opening up now, more is happening.
2. A Comedy Club
Local comedy clubs often have discounts on Groupon such as two for 1 tickets, free nights or free drinks with a ticket.
Many are under $15 normally and the big, headlining comedians from around the world test their new material in small clubs so not only do you get new comedians, you can get some of your favourites.
3. Trivia Nights
Your local pub or club probably has a trivia night.
Get a team together with other couples or head out on your own.
You never know, the prize could outweigh any cost if you win too.
4. Picnic at a Park
Pack a picnic and head to the park, the river or somewhere else nice to enjoy it.
Most places I’ve lived, people often have picnics including wine at local parks.
Check the weather before you select this option and the laws in your area and local laws regarding alcohol.
5. Do Each Other’s Hobby
Take it in turns, one night do your hobby, the other night your partners.
Go fishing, shopping, do some art, whatever your hobby is, share it with each other.
You don’t have to do it regularly, but it can help bring you closer and understand each other more.
We love hiking, bushwalking, diving, snorkeling, sailing, surfing, doing tastings as places, farmers markets and live bands.
6. Do a Class Together e.g. Salsa Dancing, Paint & Sip etc.
What things have you always wanted to learn or try?
Find out if there are classes available in your area you could both attend.
Salsa and other Latin dance classes often have their first lesson free.
Tai Chi, yoga, martial arts and other fitness activities offer a free first class as well.
This can be a great way to find a hobby you might want to take up as well.
Sip and paint has become extremely popular or you can do your own version with YouTube tutorials and wine at home.
I did a cooking class in Vietnam years ago with someone which was surprisingly fun.
It was not something my travel buddy was overly interested in initially then they ended up being amazing at flipping the pancakes.
Are there types of cooking you’ve always wanted to learn?
Or maybe a cocktail class? I did one for a networking event and had loads of fun.
Various bars offer tastings or classes on how to make cocktails.
Look up some options online or check out Groupon. I’ve found heaps on there.
Research pretty, historical or interesting hikes in your area then head out and do them.
Take some snacks, water and your camera.
Not all hikes and bushwalks are strenuous but even if they are, it’s usually worth it.
This is something I look for everywhere I go.
We’ve hiked into some amazing waterfalls, along gorgeous coastlines, down into caves, and through historical sites (check legalities).
8. Visit a Museum
Many museums have free or cheap entry plus visiting exhibits which have a fee.
Check out your local one or look for one that specialises in an area you are interested in such as fashion, history or the culture of certain areas etc.
9. Local Food Trucks
Food truck hot spots are popping up everywhere. Head to your local one, pick a few treats to share and find your new favourite meal.
Or find out when a food truck festival is on in your area and head to it.
10. Do a Photowalk
Take your cameras and explore an area, taking pictures of the scenery, each other and enjoy the moment.
Don’t worry about posting to social media right away, just get the pics you like, edit them at home then upload or print them later.
11. Double or Triple Date
Go out or stay in with other couples as many places have discounts for groups.
Do drinks or a potluck style dinner then play games like cards against humanity for loads of laughs.
12. Go out for Drinks Only
Dinner, drinks, and movies add up quickly. Head to a new bar in your area and try one of the drinks only instead of everything.
It’s not the cheapest option, but cheaper than going the whole hog and still fun.
Alternatively, do a tasting or get rid of alcohol altogether.
You’ll find other drinks significantly cheaper anyway.
When is the last time you went swimming together?
Head to the beach, river, lake or pool near you to go swimming, diving and have fun.
14. Be a tourist in your city
Have you ever done touristy things in your city?
Walk around and explore all it really has to offer.
I have lived in 4 states and did the tourist thing each time I moved.
Often we take for granted what’s in our area because it’s ‘there’ and you can do it any time.
Pick some touristy things you’re interested in and do them on a date.
Check out your local tourism board as they have lots of options and many are free or locals sometimes get a discount.
Also look at Facebook to see the events in your area.
15. Matinee or Preview Show
The early shows are often cheaper than the evening shows but just as fun.
Some even offer rehearsal tickets at a discount while they practice as well.
An added bonus is it might be easier to get a friend or family member to watch the kids since it’s an early one.
16. Arcade Games
When is the last time you hit the arcade? When you were a teen?
Pick a budget, then head out and play all those games you used to love.
Most guys I know love the opportunity to play games and while you might look like big kids, it’s lots of fun.
Alternatively, play pool/billiards at your local pool hall or pub.
17. Future Night
We love to pretend we’ve won lotto and what would we do with it.
Sometimes this includes driving past real estate we’d buy or businesses etc.
It’s all about dreaming big, what we want for the future, how we’d spend our time etc.
For example, we know we want to have a boat and sail the world so sometimes having a picnic, hot chocolate or something at the marina picking out our boat and discussing what we’d have is fun to us.
It also helps keep us focused on our goals and the life we want.
18. One on One Basketball or Other Sports
Grab a basketball, head to your local court and play a game of basketball, tennis or any other sport that you can do one on one.
It’s usually cheap to buy what you need and it’s something you can reuse and do with friends later.
19. Attend a Local Sports Match
Cheaper than professional games, but still fun. Head to a local club and watch them play – football, cricket, ice hockey, netball, whatever sport you are into you should be able to find a game to watch.
Professional games have discounts and special offers at times too or memberships can make the cost lower if you love a team and want to go regularly.
You could even ask for a membership as a gift for Christmas or your birthday.
At Home Ideas
While my preference is to go do something, home dates can be fun and sometimes it is all you have the budget for.
Having young kids, getting a sitter can be expensive and difficult
Pick a show that will be a show you watch together as a sort of date night.
Be careful you don’t get in a rut with opting to just watch Netflix all the time though.
If you haven’t used it before, the first month is free.
All streaming services offer the first month free so you could rotate through them and not pay until you are ready.
21. Dinner at Home with the Kids as your Waiters
We did this one night and my kids loved it.
They helped cook, set the table, picked music for us and giggled being our waiters.
Not the same as going out and having your own space, but it can be fun.
I remember doing it for my parents as a kid and had a blast.
You could even have the kids create menus, plan the meal, etc as well.
22. Play Games
Uno, board games, cards, whatever games you enjoy, have a night playing them.
Either do it for fun or up the stakes and put down bets to add to the competition.
You can find lots of apps to play games with as well or printables online for different ideas.
23. Nerf Gun Wars
If you don’t already have Nerf Guns, why not? They are so much fun.
You can set it up without your partner knowing and leave a note with a nerf gun on the bench when they get home for ‘game on’.
24. Dinner at Home with Special Questions
Have a dinner at home, but do one of those activities like the 36 questions that lead to love.
It will help you get to know each other on a whole different level.
25. Tech-Free Night
Switch off your phones, the TV, computers, all technology and do things together.
Ideally, you should be doing this on dates anyway, but sometimes we need a little prompting.
Play games, have a candlelit dinner, give each other a massage or do something you both enjoy.
Spend quality time together.
I know I say 25 ideas, this idea is a series of dates and sure to get your finances in better shape. Grab a copy of The Barefoot Investor and do his date nights.
Within a few weeks, you will be seeing your finances in a whole new light and quite possibly, have a bigger budget for dates.
Note: It is general advice. Just because he mentions a specific superannuation account or pillow, doesn’t mean that is the right one for you.
Money With Jess is another great finance book.
And if you decide doing a book together is a great way to align your goals, values and improve your life, I have 23 books that will change your life.
How to Afford a Babysitter so you can Date
The cost of a sitter can be more than the date itself.
While a good sitter is worth it, they aren’t always available and the cost doesn’t always fit in your budget.
A few options to reduce the expense are:
Look after someone else’s kids one night and they look after yours on another.
I’ve done this everywhere I’ve lived for both work and being able to date.
This works best if your kids are friends or similar ages because then all the kids get along too.
It gets harder when they aren’t or they don’t have similar interests.
With kids the same age, you are likely to have the house set up in a similar way to childproof it.
When there is a large difference in age, you might find your home or theirs isn’t suited too well to the younger kids.
Have an Au Pair or Demi Pair
Either as your own or hire one for the night.
If you are hosting an au pair or demi pair you need a spare room and with au pairs you need to pay them.
They assist with childcare and things during the week for an agreed amount of hours.
Demi pairs are free because you provide room and board for up to 20 hours of care.
I’ve used au pair groups to find sitters and if you look up Au Pair *your area* you’ll find ones relevant to you.
It’s easy to check with their families and people they have worked for as well.
Friends and Family
When I lived in Canberra, I relied heavily on my family and a few friends.
I’m fortunate to come from a large, supportive family.
However, in other cities, I didn’t have this option.
While you probably can’t get them to sit all the time, every now and then they usually don’t mind.
Pay a Sitter
In my area, it’s $20 to $30 per hour for a sitter.
Not a cheap option for most, but worth it. You can find sitters through Facebook, Gumtree, friends recommendations and of course, babysitting agencies.