Dinner and a Movie (On a Budget)

Hopefully all of you had a wonderful evening last night.  We somehow had managed to have 2 dates in one week (that NEVER happens,) so I knew that we would be staying home.  Maybe you did not go out last night and do not have the resources to do so in the near future.  Here are some ideas on how to have dinner AND a movie on a budget.

When my husband and I were newly dating, he came to the airport to get me after I had made a week-end trip to visit my siblings at their colleges in Indiana.  When we stopped at Perkins before he took me home, we ordered a shake to share.  The waitress thought that it was so cute that we put 2 straws in the glass and started sipping away, so she told us that the dessert was on the house.  Little did she know that we really weren’t sharing to be cute – we just tend to be cheap, I mean frugal.  (And while the shake was free, we really did leave her a tip, I promise.)

I can only recall one time, even when we were dating, that we went to both dinner and a movie, other than around our anniversary.  That type of outing can be expensive enough, but then you add a babysitter … whooee!  If I am going to spend $60+ on an evening with my husband, it better involve an overnight getaway.  Especially if you are like us and working on a single income budget.  But this doesn’t mean that “date” time has stop until your kids are old enough to stay home by themselves.  Here are some ideas.


1)  Swap babysitting.  This has obviously been suggested before, but I want to twist it up a bit: do this in one evening.  Talk to one of your couple friends and pick who has the most kid friendly house (meaning the one where the kids could play for several hours without driving the watching parents as crazy).  Then one couple goes out for 2 hours, while the other one stays, then the couples switch place.  This would involve around a 4 hour chunk of time so a movie need to be involved for the kids (especially during transition time!).  This way you are not loading/unloading kids the whole time – the kids play and the parents are the ones who are coming and going.   A Saturday may work the best for this.  But, you could try a weeknight depending on schedules.  For instance, my husband is off work at 3.  We could drop off our kids at 4:30, be back at 6:30 for the other couple to go out and still be home by 9.  (No – I am not looking for lots of friends to do this with 🙂 – we are entering into the new stage of parenting where we have evening events now.  While I may try this sometime, we would not be up for making this a weekly occurrence.)

2) Go out for an alternative meal.  I know that we would have an easier time helping watch friends’ kids during the day, then for supper (especially on a Saturday night when you have church the next day).  If your husband has an hour lunch break, meet him someplace then.  Most MOPs moms would be willing to do this for you – watch a few kids for 90 minutes – NO problem.  Also, consider going out for dessert.  I would think if you promised to pay a college student a few dollars to sit at your house while you go out for a few hours, this would work well for all involved.  He/she could study in a quiet house, you could leave, and your kids would never have to know you were gone.  Especially if you went on a weeknight, you should have no problem finding someone to help you.  We did this once the night before my sister’s wedding.  I have to admit it was kind of fun to leave the house together at 8:45 at night – we were definitely yawning by about 10 though. 🙂

3) Use one of the “free” babysitters in your home: the television or the mattress.  Now, I am not recommending that you do this every night – kids NEED to spend time with your whole family together.  But there is definitely no harm in occasionally feeding the kids, setting them in front of a movie and having dinner with your husband where you can avoid being interrupted.  If your kids go to bed early, start having a meal alone together once a week.  You can enjoy hot food, and if you are not too exhausted, maybe even a conversation.  If you skip nap time that day, you may be more assured that you will be uninterrupted (and could possibly do bedtime even earlier).


Most of my recommendations are going to be for staying in to watch a movie.  But, there are actually less expensive times when you can enjoy a movie on the big screen.  At Marcus Theatres, you can go to certain movies on Wednesdays and Thursdays for only $5 (usually the ones nearing the end of their run).  Definitely easier nights to find a babysitter anyway.  You do need to sign up for their promotional e-mails to get to do this.


They also have certain family movie mornings for only $2 periodically.  This may not be particularly date friendly, but if you would like to go together to see a “G” rated film in a movie theatre full of children, more power to you! 🙂

Movies at home: Redbox is obviously a feasible option – this is much easier and less expensive than the Blockbuster days of my teenage years.  But if you are willing to wait to watch movies, I have a much more viable option – the library.  Yes, that place is not just for books anymore.  They typically get several copies of the latest in “feature films” (that term is how you search for them).  You often have to put the title on hold, but then you have 3 weeks to watch the movie, as opposed to one night.  And if you hate the movie, you can just return it.  Free (other than your tax dollars being at work).  They also put several of the titles on “one week only” checkout – you cannot put these on hold, but if you walk into a library on Monday or Tuesday morning, you can often find a great movie.

I am very thankful that the movie industry is starting to come out with some better titles that are more morally sound.   I told my husband after we watched a movie the other day that I do really enjoy watching shows where you do not have to turn away or fast forward through certain scenes or even tune out a bunch of words.  Some of the original inspirational films could be a little bit hokey, but they have along way.  Walmart has added to Hallmark by broadcasting family friendly movie nights that have good story lines as well as being more appropriate.  Here is a list of movies that fit this category.  Note: these are date night movies.  Some of these films would definitely be appropriate for the whole family to watch, but some of them do have intense scenes.  Please preview first.  Movies with a * can be found at the library.   I liked some of them better than others, but they are all “good.”  Since I do not want to turn into Siskel or Ebert AND the fact that I do not have hours more to spend on this, I am simply going to list the movies and not rate them.  Any  movie noted with a can be found at the library.  Some are Hallmark (or that type), but hey, it is a date night after all.  🙂
Movies I Have Seen
Sherwood Picture films: Flywheel*, Facing the Giants, Fireproof *, Courageous*
October Baby * (okay – sorry – one comment – just saw this and LOVED it!)
Come Dance at My Wedding *
The Lost Valentine *
Truth Be Told
Change of Plans
Heart of Christmas *
The Second Chance *
Come What May
Front of the Class*
Ultimate Gift*
The Shunning *
Believe in Me
Soul Surfer * (clean but lots of swimsuits, so …)
Christmas Card
Movies on my “could watch” list (all can be found at the library)
The Grace Card
The Last Ounce of Courage
Dandelion Dust (one disclaimer on this – evidently the movie is less about Jesus than the book is)
What If?
Seven Days in Utopia
A Mile in His Shoes
Hidden Secrets
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
Amish Grace

“Love Comes Softly” Collection – various titles – different content than the books
The Way Home
Mighty Macs
Well, I am sure there are many that I am forgetting – if you  have any great suggestions, please comment below.  Hope you get some down time together at least once this week-end!