Monday, October 28, 2013

Date Night Series: Dinner and a Movie for Cheap (Babysitting Included!)

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My sister-in-law once mentioned that she and my brother have made date night a priority. "It may be expensive, but it's cheaper than marriage counseling!" Seriously though, spending time together as a couple is important, especially when you have little munchkins. They say the best way to have happy, secure children is to have a happy, secure marriage. But really, for me, it's just nice to have a meal in which my table companion doesn't end the meal by dumping his bowl of Cheerios and milk all over himself and the floor. But what's a couple living on a tight budget to do? Enter Money Hip Mamas. We're starting a series of posts about how to do Date Night for cheap (subscribe by e-mail or like our Facebook page for updates). So let's start with the classic dinner and a movie. Here are some ways to save some of that precious moo-lah you've worked so hard to earn:



This is key. Where we live, babysitters run $
6-$7 per hour, especially if you have a little trouble maker like we do. Case in point:
If you're gone long enough for dinner and a movie, you're looking at $35 per date just for babysitting. Therefore, babysitting swaps ROCK. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Find a couple(s) willing to swap

Tap into your mommy networks through work, church, playgroups--whatever. Send out an email and find out who's interested, then narrow down to those who have similar availability. If some couples have more availability than most, they have the option of doubling up (swapping with two couples).

Step 2: Pick Days to swap

Method 1: SET DAY EVERY WEEK. If both couples are generally available on a certain day(s) each week, make those the official "swap" days. I know some couples who swapped every Thursday and Friday night. If that's too much, set aside Friday nights and switch off who goes out each week. It may not work every week, but it helps to set it aside as "Date Night."
Method 2: MONTH BY MONTH. If you or your spouse travel a lot and your schedules are erratic (aka my life for the first half of this year), you can do what my friend and I do: At the beginning of each month, we get our calendars out and figure our which days we're both available. We declare those official swap days and switch off who goes out. We may only find a few nights in the whole month we're both available, but that's more than we would've had otherwise!

Step 3: Swap!

When it's your turn to babysit, one spouse stays home with your own (perhaps sleeping) little ones while the other spouse goes over to the swap couple's house to watch their little ones. Oddly enough, the babysitting nights are almost as good as the date nights because after being at work all day, my husband gets a chance to vege out at home without being forced to work on all my DIY home projects. And being away from home forces me to relax, read, and enjoy my friends' Netflix.


Above: My sweet husband knows what a high I get from saving money so he kindly pretended to be interested when I told him all the ways I'd saved money on this particular date night.
I feel like this one is pretty easy. Between sites like Groupon*, Living Social*,*, Like-A-Coupon and individual restaurant mailing lists, there are a million reasons why you shouldn't be paying full price for your restaurant bill (I like Yipit because it combines a lot of those offers into one e-mail, but warning: you MUST update your "preferences" to get infrequent, high-quality e-mails with only the types of deals you'd be interested in, otherwise it's spam city). It takes a bit of online prowess but the savings add up. By planning ahead and using all these offers, you can usually cut your bill in HALF.
*Note: If you do buy a certificate from Groupon, Living Social,, etc., be sure you go through Ebates since they give you an *additional* cash back amount (between 3-15%), no strings attached.
Also, when family members are harassing you for birthday/Christmas gift ideas, tell them you want restaurant gift cards. I, for one, can be so cheap with myself, sometimes it takes a gift card to get me to treat myself.


Tickets: Anyone still buying movie tickets at the box office? H-uuuuge mistake. Epic. In addition to all the other deals out there (like the deal sites listed in the dinner section above), we almost always have a pair of vouchers on hand from Costco. These discount tickets used to be limited, but Platinum Supersavers are good for any movie and never expire. Other than having to pay the cost upgrade for special 3-D movies, you can use them anytime--for brand new movies on opening weekend, if you want.
This was from our Valentine's Date to see Warm Bodies. Pretty sure I ate that whole thing.
Concessions: I mentioned this in my Best Birthday Freebies post, but if you like buying popcorn/drinks from movie concessions (buttery movie theater popcorn is my naughty food addiction of choice--feel free to judge), I would highly recommend signing up to be on your favorite theater's e-mail list. We usually go to Cinemark and they send me a new concession coupon every week (sign up here). I let those pile up in my alternate e-mail (that I only check occasionally so I'm not inundated with spam). Before we head out to the theater, I log into my e-mail, print off that week's coupon and we're golden. Last time we went to the theater, we paid all of $1 for a jumbo refillable bag of popcorn.

And that's how it's done! Budget or not budget, there are no more excuses for not making date night a priority. Set up your babysitting swap, gather up your restaurant coupons and gift cards, whip out your movie passes and concession coupons and hit the town! It'll be good for you, I promise.

Speak up, PLEASE! - How do you save on dinners and movies?

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