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City Dates on a Budget

February 12, 2015

By Jessica Vician

City Dates on a Budget | Music, BYOB restaurants, Babysitters | People gather on the lawn at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in Chicago for a concert and picnic.

As you know, practicing parent engagement includes knowing when to spend time taking care of yourself and your relationship. And based on the popularity of our date night outfits board on Pinterest (and of course this time of year), we know you’re aching for a night out with your parenting partner.

While date night always sounds like a great idea, it can be expensive. A babysitter and dinner alone could put enough of a dent in the wallet to make it an infrequent occurrence. But there are always options if you’re willing to get a little creative.

A good-sized city often has many budget-friendly options for couples. Even if you don’t live in the city, if you’re near one it might be worth the extra 45 minutes in the car or on the train to have a fun night out with your partner. Here are my favorite budget date night options in the city.

As Chicagoans, my partner and I often visit Millennium Park for free concerts in the summer. Even though we could sit in the pavilion and have a view, we prefer to bring a picnic and sit on the lawn. That way, we can listen to the music, eat together, chat, and lie down and watch the sun fall behind the skyline while the city lights brighten. Not only do we get quality time together, live music, and a great location for free, but since we prepare the picnic food at home, we save a lot of money on this “dinner out.”

If you live in a part of the country with more mild weather, this might even be an option during these winter months. If you’re in a wintery city like I am, try a local music school or university—students often perform regular concerts for free.

BYOB Neighborhood Restaurants 
Every few months, we visit our friends’ apartment to watch their kids while they head across the street to a local BYOB sushi and robata grill. Mom and Dad are able to pop out for a few hours, pick up a bottle of wine at the shop, and share it with delicious food and engaging conversation. Since the restaurant is BYOB (bring your own booze), they often spend under $50 on the full dinner. But the time away from the kids and the constant chores needing to be done is worth much more than the low cost of dinner.

Speaking of watching our friends’ kids, babysitters can be one of the most expensive parts of a date night. Enlist the help of friends and family. Arrange for the kids to play at a friend’s house or with their cousins so you can take the night off. After a few hours of playtime, they will be ready for bed (or already asleep) by the time you pick them up.

If friends or family are not an option, see if you have a neighborhood high school student looking for some extra money. High school students are old enough to watch kids of all ages, provided they are trained in CPR and first aid, but won’t charge as much as college students or professional nannies might.

These are just a few budget-friendly ideas to help you and your partner get out of the house and spend some time alone together. What are your ideas for date nights on a budget? Share them in the comments below.


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