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Date night doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re stressing about the high costs of traditional dates, like dinner and a movie, don’t panic!

When my husband and I were first married, we were so bogged down with paying off student loans, two car payments, saving to buy a house, create a rainy day fund, and start our retirement funds (phew! Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that we accomplished that in three years). We didn’t have a cent to spare on fancy restaurants and entertainment. Instead, we tried to spend time together and start our marriage off on the right foot by going on cheap dates.

It is possible to have an enjoyable date night without breaking the bank. Here’s a list of three ways to have a fun, cheap (or even free) date night and how to plan it.

Couple in living room watching television

Have a date at home (plan a “stay date”)

You don’t need to leave your home in order to have a date night. In fact, sometimes you can even relax and enjoy yourself more on a date at home.

When to plan a stay date

After the kids are in bed, taking their naps, or even during lunch if your kids are in school, you could have a date in the comfort of your own home.

What to serve at a stay date

In order to maximize your date time, try to serve something simple, easy to prepare, or even make the meal ahead of time. Set the table ahead of time (you can even involve the kids for this part), chill a bottle of wine, and get ready for a delicious meal in the comfort of your own home.

Prepare a simple meal for your date nightThese are some of my favorite ways to prepare a delicious “date night” meal as quickly as possible:

  • Make a meal in the oven. You could prepare it ahead of time, and then pop it in the oven so that it’s ready just as your date begins. Try this simple chicken marsala recipe that you can start the night before.
  • Use your handy slow cooker. For an evening date night, prepare dinner in the crock pot. Once the kids are in bed, viola, dinner is served. I love these 9 chicken slow cooker recipes from Real Simple Magazine.
  • Serve appetizers. If you eat dinner with the kids, you might not be hungry for a full meal. Try serving some appetizers with a glass of wine. Prepare a cheese tray with some fruit. Simple but delicious!
  • Dish up some dessert. Make a dessert before your date, or even send your husband on an ice cream run (this happens more than I care to admit in our house) while you get the kids ready for bed. Once the kids are in bed, dish up and enjoy!

What to do on a stay date

In addition to serving a simple yet delicious meal, you may want to plan other activities to round out your date night. These are all simple to plan and easy, cheap ways to have fun as a couple.

  1. Plan a movie night. You can rent a movie from Redbox or watch something on Netflix. Amazon Prime even offers movies that you can watch for free or rent.
  2. Have a game night. When we were first married, I dragged all my childhood board games to our new apartment. We played everything from Backgammon to Monopoly to Battleship on date nights.
  3. Host a couples night. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law come over periodically for a couples’ night. We put the kids to bed (our kids are too little to enjoy a sleepover, so we put them in their separate beds) and then spend the evening together. Sometimes we watch movies or play cards, but often we just spend time laughing and sharing stories.

Cheers to a frugal date night on the town

Have a cheap date on the town

Babysitting options

  • Find family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and Godparents are almost always looking to spend more time with your kids. Let the kids have a sleepover, or help your family members plan fun activities to do with your kids. The kids (and your family) will love it.
  • Trade babysitters. Find another parent that would be willing to trade. You could watch her kids one night and she could watch your kids while you have your date night.

What to do on the town

4. Dine out using gift cards

  • Use credit card reward points to earn free (or discounted) meals.
  • Ask for gift cards for your favorite restaurants. For Christmas, my in-laws give the farmer and me gift cards for the local movie theater and our favorite restaurant (and they offer to watch the kids as a bonus). Our anniversary is in January, so we get to celebrate our anniversary for free!
  • Buy discounted gift cards on sites like restaurant.com. You can sometimes find discounted gift cards as part of Amazon’s Lightning Deals, too. Tonight, a dinner and a date gift card will be available at 5:00 p.m. for Prime members (5:30 for non-prime members).

5. Explore a new city

Go to a nearby town and check out the sights. Go for a walk through downtown, window shop, or check out a local attraction. When the farmer and I lived in New Jersey, we would often go on free walking tours in Manhattan. We got to try new foods, see sights that we wouldn’t normally see, and learn fun facts about the city.

Attend a free event in your town on your frugal date night

6. Attend a free or sponsored event

Check community boards in your local town (you might find some in your local library, small businesses, and the community pages of your local newspaper) to find out about upcoming events. Attend a free festival, seminar, or even a free dinner.

7. Get creative on your frugal date night

There are so many more ways to have a fun and frugal date night, both at home and out on the town. For more unique ideas for your frugal date night, check out the following posts:

10 Best Frugal Date Night Ideas from Orthodox Motherhood

25 Frugal (and Free) Date Night Ideas from The Intentional Mom

32 Stay-at-Home Date Ideas from Six Sisters’ Stuff

Finding frugal ways to have date night can be a fun, exciting way to spend time with your spouse. Spending time together and enjoying each other’s company doesn’t need to break the bank!

What have you done on frugal date nights?

Frugal date nights don't have to be boring. It's possible to plan a fun, cheap date night. Check out these 7 ways to plan a date night.