Are you wanting to make more date nights happen in your life, but wondering how that fits in your budget? Dating can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be! We’ve learned several ways to create and inflate a date night budget, and we’re spilling all our secrets so you can boost your date night budget too!
When Jacob and I were newlyweds, we were a little older and more established than many of our peers. But that didn’t mean we had endless funds and didn’t have to create and plan for a date night budget.
We got married in the height of the great recession, and I was a few weeks away from graduating with my master’s degree. An expensive master’s degree, that I’d had to take on student loans to pay for. The moment I graduated I faced instant loan payback with bills coming in.
Jacob had owned our home for two years before we got married, but it was a true fixer-upper that needed just about everything fixed and updated. We were just getting started with our life, and it would have been easy to say we didn’t have the money to date.
But this little project of ours to go on one date a week no matter what ensued, and we decided before we got married we’d be going out. And that meant a date night budget!
Navigating Budgets and Prioritizing Date Night
We’ve had ups and downs financially. A job loss left us wondering if we should any money or even had a budget. Leaving my stable corporate job kept us guessing what would happen. And of course, we’ve had seasons that have been great and we’ve had to make calls what to do with budgets and how to achieve big goals too.
I could write a novel on prioritizing dates and making a budget happen no matter what. But for this post, I am simply going to focus on how to create and inflate a date night budget when money is tight. If you’ve already decided regular dates are happening and you just need to find a little more cash somewhere to make them work, these tips are for you!
First of all, Change Your Mentality.
So many people who are out of the habit of dating panic at the thought of creating a budget that didn’t previously allocate for. But it all starts with changing your mentality about the budget.
Is there something else you can cut? Maybe that daily Starbucks run could skip a day or two each week. Perhaps your car payment is too high and a downgrade could give you hundreds more dollars a month.
We all choose how to spend money, and changing your mentality that date night is so important is the first step!
From there, you’ll start finding ways to gradually increase the budget. Any extra money we come into (like a bonus or an insurance check) we now instantly think as money that could help the date budget.
We have all kinds of tips and tricks we’ve used to find more money and allocate more to create and increase our regular date night budgets. Here are some of our favorite budgeting tips for married couples.
Creating and Inflating a Date Night Budget
- Gift Cards
Whenever our favorite restaurants or date spots do credit card specials, we buy like crazy people! For example, most restaurants do a holiday deal where you can buy $40 in gift cards and get a bonus $10 card. If there are places we know we’ll include as part of a date night in the near future, it’s a no-brainer to get gift card deals.
These almost always exist somewhere. Watch for your favorite places and buy them when you can! This site is a great place to find restaurant deals too!
We also hoard gift cards others give us for the months the date night budget feels leaner. In fact, during a time of unemployment in our marriage, that’s how we kept dating! Hooray for a little stash of gift cards for times we really need them!
Finding Money in Your Existing Budget
- Credit Card Rewards
Welcome to my biggest date night budget hack! I research credit cards with great reward programs. I have a handful I use for every purchase just to earn points or cash back.
Also, I have to add, I pay off my cards each week so it’s used as a debit card. I’m team don’t spend more money than you have! Just be careful to think of these cards like a debit card and only spend what you would have spent anyway.
I like to wait a few months until some reward points have built up, and then I go look for gift cards we can use for date night.
- Get Extra Cash at the Grocery Store
Next time you buy groceries, get $20 cashback. It doesn’t feel like that big of a step outside your normal budget for most people. However, a few $20 can add up to a big date night budget! Feel free to use it weekly, or hoard it until you can buy one of those big spender date ideas you’ve had your eye on. It’s an easy way to add a little money here and there to create a budget.
Ways to Increase Your Date Night Budget
- Mystery Shopping
This may sound like a funny one, but it’s one we’ve done before! Jacob used to mystery shop in college to get a few free meals and pick up a little side money. We realized this trick at some poor moments of marriage. It was an easy way to try somewhere new and inflate the date night budget!
A quick Google search will yield all the marketing companies looking for mystery shoppers. From there you apply and decide if gigs are right for you. We were always happy to take on restaurants and order food we knew would be reimbursed. Several offered some money on top of food for surveys and feedback on specific places.
Look into it! It can be a super-easy way to pick up some money and some free dates!
- Side Gig
If you’ve been with us from the start, you may remember me sharing a time I decided to monetize this blog. The main reason I chose this? It provided us more budget for date night! This cool job of mine began as a hobby and project. However, when I had the opportunity to turn it into a side gig for date night funding, I was beyond thrilled!
I have many friends who work a job just a few hours a week so they have “fun money” to travel and date. There’s no shame in taking on a side gig just so there’s more fun in your relationship!
Save Money on Childcare
- Trade Babysitting
There was a phase of life where we’d go out once a month and drop kids off with friends without any babysitter cost. Later that month, we’d have a pizza party at our home and welcome our friend’s children over.
If you can find a friend willing to trade, you’ll make date night happen so much easier with one less expense.
- Save Money for Childcare and Do More Free Date Ideas
Often, we need to get out of the house and get alone time for two. That means spending most of the budget on babysitters sometimes. And you know what, we’ve learned that free date ideas are plentiful! If you need to splurge on a sitter then save on the actual date. That’s a good way to work your budget!
- Skip Childcare Costs, Have More Date Nights At Home
Put the kids to bed early and have a date night in. If you have teenagers, remind them you’ll be kissing on the couch to gross them out and scare them from leaving their designated rooms or spaces. We’ve got really creative with at-home date ideas we’d actually want to do that are as fun as a night on the town.
I’d also recommend a date night box subscription if you want dates to show up at your porch each month! No planning and the cost is often less than you’d spend on a sitter!
Ways to Increase Your Budget
- Skip Dinner, Put all the Money Into Date Night Activities
In our early years, when we were really broke, we rarely went out to dinner. It was an extra expense we could save if we made dinner at home ahead of time. It gave us so much more money to do great activities!
If you really need food to feel like it’s a date, opt for cheaper dessert options. Alternately, you could skip dessert and find places with large portions you can split. Food adds up fast!
Need new ideas? Groupon! Want to get great deals? Groupon! Seriously, Groupon has saved us money and helped us find so many fun new places to go and things to do. Often, a Groupon deal helps us get 50% off what we would have paid, which inflates our date night budget for the next outing.
Gift Date Night
- Ask for Dates as Gifts
I’ve seen engaged couples put experiences and date ideas on their gift registry- brilliant! However, no matter what your age, asking for dates is a great idea! We love date night gift ideas! Jacob and I often gift each other a Year of Dates as a Date Night Gift (there’s a freebie printable in that post too!) so we can inflate our normal date night budget. We almost always give each other dates instead of things anymore.
Beyond that, we love asking for dates from parents for Christmas. My favorite gift my parents gave to all their children and spouses was a set of movie tickets and babysitting on them for the night. If they can’t or won’t gift actual dates, I’ll ask if they can babysit. That gives more budget for our date night budget.