Once you're a parent, a cheap date is no longer a bad thing. After all, it's the family money you're spending when you shell out for a babysitter, drinks, dinner and a movie. Sometimes the cost of child care is half the expense!
So for all the moms and dads counting your pennies, here are 5 cheap date ideas that you're guaranteed to enjoy. The money you save on your cheap date can go straight to the college fund. After all, in the long run date night saves you money -- think of all the couples therapy and divorce fees you'll avoid if you keep your marriage strong.
Lunch Is a Cheap Date
Everyone thinks of dinner and dancing as the ideal romantic date. But many working moms and dads are exhausted by 9 p.m. on a Saturday night.
Instead, go out for lunch with your partner or spouse. Lunch menus are always cheaper than dinner, and you're less likely to drink a lot. (That saves cash.)
You'll be more awake and able to enjoy a lively conversation at lunch compared with a late dinner. Moreover, if you plan lunch as a couple during the workday or on a weekend when the kids are at soccer or ballet practice, you don't even have to pay the babysitter.
Breakfast Is Even Cheaper
Have I convinced you yet? Try this on for size: scrambled eggs and holding hands across the Denny's table.
Okay, maybe Denny's doesn't exactly conjure up romance. But there are plenty of breakfast cafes with charm -- and breakfast is an even cheaper date than lunch. If you can rearrange your work hours to come in late on a weekday, you again save by avoiding the babysitter.
Or on a Saturday morning when the kids are at a sleepover, you can bring the paper and pretend that you're a childless dating couple again, with the whole weekend stretching ahead of you endlessly. At least until it's time to pick them up.
Go Out After Dinner
You're not convinced. You love being out at night when the rest of the grown-ups play. That's all right, I can save you money then too.
Try having dinner at home with your children before the babysitter comes. It'll be a fraction of the cost of dinner at a restaurant and give you family bonding time.
Your babysitter will love not having to wrangle the kids at the dinner table. And with the cash you're saving, you can afford two margaritas at the club when you go dancing. (Just decide in advance who's the designated driver.)
Browse a Bookstore
On those late night dates, you don't have to drink and dance. One of my favorite dates is wandering through the racks of a bookstore, then sitting down next to my husband to read in the attached cafe.
You get to preview the new releases without buying any books. The cafe is usually bustling enough that you and your spouse can make comments to each other about what you're reading without bothering anyone.
If you agree ahead of time not to buy any books, your only cost is the cup of Joe. (With perhaps a small slice of pound cake.) And what parent can turn down coffee, no matter the time of day?
Enjoy Free Culture
You don't have to pay a cover charge at a fancy club to hear live music. Explore your local music schools and universities for free or low-cost concerts that are open to the public. Believe it or not, I've seen pretty good high school performances of my favorite musicals.
Check out the museums and local art galleries for a visually stimulating date. You can learn about the history of your region or explore a new field of art while bonding with your spouse.
Or simply take a long walk in the woods or by a river and enjoy the beauty of the trees and water. Enjoying nature is the ultimate cheap date.