How we go on dates for CHEAP! (or even free)

how to have an affordable date night

On Instagram I placed a call for help, asking what you wanted to see more of on there. The answer was loud and clear…more of me and my family showing what we do to save money and how we put our money-saving philosophies to action! Well, wish granted 🙂 As uncomfortable as it is for me to take/post pictures of myself, I promise to show more of how we save money at our house! Be sure to follow along so you don't miss anything.

So I thought I'd share with you how we go on dates for cheap (or even free!), and how we pulled of eating out, going to movies, and having fun on a dime this weekend. Enjoy!

Friday night we grabbed a $5 pizza for the kids and hades to the park. We wanted to make it a bit of a “family date night” before Bubba and I went on our own date. Plus, we wanted them nice and worn out for the babysitter.

Oh, and just in case you ever see me in public with my kids, yes…they do, in fact, always look homeless. ALWAYS.


Hey, if I ask them to get dressed and they are willing to get themselves, I've learned I have to let go of control and let them do it their way.

Plus, believe it or not, they actually had normal outfits on earlier, and this is what their multiple changes throughout the day evolved to. Pick your battles, right?


Where's Waldo meets Buzz Lightyear

After dinner at the park we got the kids home, in the tub, and ready for bed. We put the baby to bed then had a sitter come over to watch the kids so we could go out. We normally try to trade babysitting with friends, but our options are a bit limited so we've been hiring out a lot recently (see below for full details).

Before we left, we pulled out our pile of junk mail and dug through quickly looking for the best deal.

How to get a good deal on a date night

We wanted to try a new restaurant for the 30 Days of Positive Change Challenge, but the best deal we found was for a Thai place that we love…and the best deal almost always wins at my house. #CheapskateProblems

Just because I'm sure you are all so curious (ha) here's the rundown on what we wore. We went pretty casual for this date because we weren't doing anything fancy, and frankly, I didn't have the energy to change my clothes.

Bubba wore a button-down shirt (that he's had forever) and Buckle jeans (that he's also had forever).

What we wore

I rocked some fierce leggings (given to me by Agnes and Dora for our music video shoot with Alex Boye, more on that soon!) and paired it with a $10.99 dress I got a while back from Ross. The shoes were on clearance at Charlotte Russe once upon a forever ago. The bag I got from Zulily using store credit I saved up from referring people (which everyone can do, by the way!)

What I wore

Even though we didn't try a new restaurant, we promised ourselves we'd order something new to still be able to cross something off the 30 Days of Positive Change list. We tried some fish cakes as an appetizer, and duck stir fry as an entree and they were pretty good!

Affordable date night The coupon we selected was from a value calendar thing that we get in the mail every year, with tons of coupons for our local area. I used to ignore/throw those away until I WISED UP and realized the are the BEST THINGS EVER!

The coupon we used was “spend $40 get 2 movie tickets” coupon. Dinner and a movie for $40? Not bad!

Affordable date night

Hiding my brace-face mouth (I got Invisalign this week, more on that soon too).

We asked the restaurant in advance if we could use the movie tickets same-night, and they said we could. They were nice enough to bring us the movie tickets before we even ordered, but we ended up spending exactly $40.00-even on dinner (including tip), so it all worked out 🙂

Our affordable date night

We ended up getting an appetizer, 2 entrees, a dessert, a diet coke (I splurge on the weekends, what can I say), and 2 movie tickets for $40. Heck yea-yuh! Oh, and we have leftovers that we will eat for lunch another day, which is a bonus.

The movie passes had no dollar amount to them, so we opted for the most expensive movie that night,  the 3D showing of The Amazing Spider man. We NEVER pay extra for 3D so it was fun to get an upgrade for free.

3D movie date

And in case you're curious, we thought the movie was great. I don't understand how they can keep changing the Spiderman story line so I need a comic book expert to explain that one to me, but otherwise I was thoroughly entertained!

We ended up paying our babysitter $30 that night, ultimately making it a $70 date night (ouch, I know).

How do we afford it?

It stings, and it's hard…but we make it work. So, to afford babysitters here's what we do:

  • We space it out. We try to only hire a babysitter every-other weekend. One weekend we'll go out to dinner and hire a sitter, the next weekend we'll have a dinner party or game night at our house, or we'll do a movie night in the basement so we don't have to hire anyone.
  • We try to trade babysitting when we can. But again, we're low on options right now because our trade partner just had a baby.
  • We make up for the cost by doing affordable dates. We RARELY go to movies (expensive, you can't even talk, and you can rent it later for $1), we try to always use a coupon when we eat, and we take advantage of free or cheap events/activities in our area, and we use and love gift cards.
  • We try to budget dates for around $30 (not including the sitter). Sometimes it doesn't work, but by getting creative, we can get pretty close. If we want to do something nicer that costs more, we will do a free date night at home the weekend before and save the $30, so we have $60 for the next weekend.

What do we pay our babysitters?

This is definitely a post for another day. But to briefly outline…

In our area (Utah) $2 per hour, per kid is a reasonable rate for the age of babysitters we use for a date night, which is 12 – 15 years old. I pay more like $5/hr if the kids are asleep the whole time we are gone, but I paid my babysitter the full $6/hr this night because she did our dishes for us. (For the record, we do pay a married nanny considerably more per hour to help us with more intense babysitting and overnighters, but because I know you're curious, that's the quick overview. Yes, Utah is extremely affordable and has a plethora of young, competent babysitters – we are so lucky here! So yes, pricing and rates will be very different everywhere. But that's just what we do in our area.)

Going back to affordable dates, here's another example of how we saved money eating out today (Saturday)…

We were out running errands and wanted to go to lunch. We decided to go to Olive Garden because you can get a lot of food for cheap if you work it right! We had $24 left on this Visa gift card that we got for attending a timeshare presentation forever ago and decided to use that.

Affordable dinner date

Bubba and I ordered the unlimited soup/salad/breadsticks for $6.99 because it's affordable, delicious, and unlimited (um…yes please).

We have only recently started ordering kids meals for our kids (we would share our food or order sides for them since they eat so little). And even then, we will order one kid meal and share it between all 3 kids.

The kid meal at Olive Garden was $5.95 and was HUGE, so it was more than enough for all 3 kids. We even had them split the cup of milk in half for the big kids.

Saving money while eating out

Usually  at OG you can box up anything that's already on your table, so we try to make sure to refill our soups, salad, and breadsticks when we start winding down so we have lots of leftovers to take home. But today our server was AWESOME. She let us take what was on our table AND brought us out fresh rounds of everything in to-go containers, and even brought us salad with dressing on the side so it wouldn't get soggy. We have SO MUCH FOOD left over.

Saving money when eating out

2 bowls of soup, 1 bag of breadsticks, full salad, 1/2 a kids meal, and 4 kids cups that we reuse again and again…

…Dinner for a family of 5 and leftovers for the next day…all for $21.

We even came in $3 under on our gift card! Woo hoo!

So there you go! No crazy magic tricks, just a little scrappiness that can go a long way. How do YOU save money on your date nights? I'd love to hear it!

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  1. Love your blog my dear! In fact, my husband and I sat down at our cheap chinese restaurant we like to go to, last Friday night and read through the 7 bank accounts you posted. It’s genius really!
    This weekend, we tried to be cheap. i don’t usually get coupons,which I’m trying to figure out how to get. We went to Pizza Limone (which is delicious) and my husband ordered a pizza and I ordered the salad so that we share. I do splurge on weekends too and we ordered a Diet Coke to share. Total was $16.99. 🙂 Not bad right?
    Last night, Saturday, we went on a bike ride together and just hit up the Maverick gas station right after our ride and had dinner there. 2 hot dogs, one bag of chips, shared diet coke, and a peanut butter bar to share for a total of about $9.00. 🙂
    So, it’s definitely doable. I love hearing how you do things so please keep it up! How do you get these awesome VIsa cards for timeshares?

    Thanks again for all the time you put in!

  2. Something we like to do is take advantage of when restaurants sell gift cards with “bonus gift cards” as an incentive for customers to buy (usually around the holidays). We got a $20 bonus card for buying a $100 card to one of our favorite places. We knew we’d end up spending the $100 in three visits anyway, so why not get a bonus $20 card and be able to go again – on them!

    • YES! Us too, we love those! They often expire quickly (we learned the hard way) so keep your eye on the expiration date and that works great. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Question on price of babysitters do you know if that’s how much peeps pay in salt lake proper? Just curious as I may be grossly overpaying my sitters hahaha hmmmm I always ask but the babysitters always say they’ll take however much I pay em! It’s so frustrating but I’m LA we paid $10/hr so I’ve just stuck to that here too and yeah all girls from church so all between 14-18. Help!!

    • Yes, it’s pretty much guaranteed that WE as the adults are the ones setting the high rate, not the girls! I paid the same when I lived just south of down town. Honestly, the girls are young and can’t work, so they are getting great pay for a job that most of them really enjoy! So I would go with the $2/hr per kid rate and see what happens. If they do a phenomenal job then round up and tip them extra.

  4. Love this post! Your kiddos are adorable, you crack me up. Also had to comment on the babysitting, I remember you getting flack on this before but your rates are the same as mine (WI here). I think it’s completely reasonable for a young teenager, just wanted to let you know you aren’t alone!

  5. Loved this post! Even though DH and I are able to go out sans kids anytime we want and save on sitters we still spend more than we should. I like your ideas to make it sting less. I also love the other poster’s idea about earning bonus gift cards for an extra date. Great Ideas!

    • Thanks Melanie! Yes, you’re lucky that you are able to save on sitters. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I am grateful that I have never paid for a sitter. I have parents (Grandparents) and aunts who just love to babysit for us. I think we might stay home if we had to shell out 30.00 for the evening!! LOL Love this post

    • Oh my WORD I can’t tell you how jealous I am!! You are beyond lucky. Happy for you to have good Grandparents around!!

  7. Love your site!!! I am always looking to save money. You make it look so easy. Keep on posting money saving ways your family saves money. I need all the help i can get, my husband lost his job in December. We only have 1 child, but our income is not that much for 3. Thank you for your inspiration!!

    • Bless your heart, losing a job is like losing a family member, isn’t it?? Hang in there, you’ll do great! And thanks for reading and commenting, means the world XOXO

  8. Hey Jordan! Great post, and my kids look homeless often as well, but at least they’re having fun! 🙂 I noticed you had your kids split a cup of milk at Olive Garden. My two girls are 2 and 4.5 and I always split kids meals between them. I’ve found though that I can order two kids drinks and am never charged for the 2nd one. Like never…So you might not even need to split the drink!

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