Does the cost of paying a babysitter keep you and your spouse from going on dates regularly? It’s time to stop using that excuse. Spending quality time together as a couple is vital for a healthy relationship. You shouldn’t put off dedicating time for one another even when finances are tight.
Or maybe especially when finances are tight.
I don’t need to tell you that money problems can put strain on marriages. You either know that or have experienced that. You might think you’re doing your budget a favor by giving up dates, but in the big picture you’re probably doing more harm than good.
Dates don’t need to be expensive. In fact they don’t need to cost anything. You don’t even need to pay for a babysitter.
Wait a second…
Now before I go any further, I want to set something straight.
I’m not saying to avoid paying a babysitter to be miserly. I’m not trying to put your teenagers out of a job. I’m all about teaching kids to earn money. In fact, babysitting was my main income stream in my early teen years.
There’s nothing wrong with paying for a babysitter. If you have funds for a babysitter in your budget, then by all means hire your favorite one, and have a lovely night out!
Maybe this isn’t for you
I’m writing this post for those parents out there who desperately need a night out or at least some time together, but are putting date night on the back burner because they don’t have the money in their budget for a babysitter.
Maybe you’re barely making ends meet, but you really could use some alone time with your spouse. Maybe you’re working really hard to get out of debt and you want to funnel every last penny toward your goal (know anyone like that?!).
Whatever your reason, don’t let the cost of a babysitter keep you from spending quality time with your spouse.
I’ve never paid a babysitter
In the eight years that we have had kids, we have never paid a babysitter. Not even once!
Part of it is out of frugality. We spent four years getting in debt (JDs and MBAs are expensive), then a year making very little money (but not being ready to face the debt yet), and now we’re going on three years of an accelerated debt payoff.
The other part is my control-freak-y-ness. I just like being here with my kids and in control. I think it stems from feeling invincible in my youth. Now I feel like if I am with my kids they are invincible along with me or something. I have spent exactly one night away from my kids ever. My husband and I went away for approximately 24 hours for our 9th anniversary.
In the past eight years, my husband and I have still gone on lots of dates but we have managed to do it without paying for a babysitter. Here are four ways we’ve avoided paying for a babysitter:
1- Babysitting Swaps
In the law school years, we had lots of friends in the same boat as us– squeaking by on student loans with several young kids and really needing time away from books and babies. We did a couple of different babysitting swaps with friends.
The simplest kind of babysitting swap is to just swap with another couple. On Friday you and your spouse take your kids and another couple’s kids while they go out on a date. The kids have a blast together and you get to have time with your spouse (and a houseful of crazy kids). Then on Saturday night, the other couple watches all the kids (yours and theirs) while you go out.
A slightly more complicated (well, more chaotic than complicated) babysitting swap is when you get more than two families involved. For example, if you have four families involved, each couple would have one Friday a month where they would watch all the kids of the four families. Then on the other three Fridays of the month you would have a kid-free date night.
Obviously the babysitting night is quite the party, but when the kids are similar ages it can actually really work out nicely. Play games, watch movies, have a dance party, make treats, get creative. Of course you’ll want to keep the group of kids to a manageable number, so if you have a big family, you probably don’t want to have a big swap group with other big families.
Maybe you don’t have cash to pay a babysitter, but is there something else you can offer? What skills could you offer in exchange for babysitting? Bartering is a great way to make use of your skills and talents and meet the needs of others.
Here are some ideas that you could barter with for babysitting. Some of them would be especially great for high school or college students.
- Music lessons
- Clothing alterations
- Sewing lessons
- Cooking lessons
- Cake decorating
- Products that you make or sell
- Haircut or styling
3- Ask Family
I know this one doesn’t work for everyone. We didn’t have any family for a thousand miles during law school, so I know what it’s like not having any family close. Now, we have family ultra close.
Most grandparents and aunts and uncles are more than willing to babysit their grandchildren/nieces and nephews free of charge as long as they don’t feel like you’re taking advantage of them.
Here are a few tips to keep things cool with family:
Don’t expect that they are always available at any given moment. They have a life. Respect that.
Don’t take advantage of their generosity. Don’t overdo it! Use their favors sparingly.
Show gratitude. They are doing you a huge favor! Let them know you are sincerely thankful and appreciate them. Gratitude goes a long way!
Think of ways to do nice things for them. Make them dinner. Bring them a homemade treat. Offer to mow their lawn or wash their car.
4- Have Date Night at Home
Bedtime is a great babysitter. It’s free. It doesn’t impose on anyone else. There’s no “payback” felt or needed.
Having a date night at home will force you to be a little more creative with your dates, but that makes it fun!
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
- Read together
- Play board games
- Watch a documentary
- Turn on some music and dance
- Do a service project
- Learn something new to both of you (knitting, photography, watercolor, woodworking, gardening, etc.)
- Snuggle and dream together
- Stargaze on the porch (if you live in the boonies like us)
- Make a new recipe
- Do brainteasers
- Learn to give massages
The important thing about a date night at home is that you have to be sure that you really do it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just being together working on separate projects. Having a scheduled plan will help preserve the sacredness of your date night. Put your phones away, turn the computers off, and give 100% of your attention to your spouse.
Honestly writing and brainstorming about this right now has me really excited for a date night at home. (So Babe, how does Saturday night sound?!)
You can do this!
If you’ve been putting off date night because a babysitter isn’t in the budget, will you make a plan today for how you can make a date work without paying a babysitter? You’ll be glad you did!
How about you?
- Do you pay for a babysitter?
- How do you keep the cost of date night down?
Hey moms! Need some encouragement?
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