6 easy (and inexpensive) ways to bring date night back now!

Enjoy more romance for next to no cash

If a tight family budget means you’ve seen date night less often than the northern lights, here’s help. Resourceful parents from across Canada share their antidotes to overpriced movie popcorn and losing your shirt to the babysitter — proof that finding more couple time requires only a kiss of amorous originality.

Daytime dalliances

If your kids are at school or in daycare, plan to squeeze in a little courtship over lunch. You’re already paying for the child care, so consider it a freebie!

• Meet for takeout burgers and a milkshake to share, or head to the public rink for a skate. It could become a regular date.

• Consider booking a half-day off work for a longer kid-free adventure, such as a couples massage at a spa. If one or both of you have health coverage at work, you can claim and recoup most of the cost (check your health plan for particulars).

After tuck-in, let it begin

Even if you can only keep your eyes open for an hour or two, use the time after your kids are in bed to reconnect with that fantastic person you married. The laundry can wait.

• Picture this: The little ones are finally asleep and your partner calls you outside. In his hands — your favourite snacks, a portable coffee mug filled with a grown-up cocktail, and the baby monitor. It happened to Jenn Sephton, mom to a two- and three-year-old, in Burlington, Ont.

“He opened the back door of our SUV, where he had set up a cheesy ’80s romantic comedy on the DVD player and a blanket for us to snuggle under,” she recalls. The sweet surprise allowed the couple — whose babysitting budget is used up for their weekday work commitments — to go “out,” minus the cost of kid care and movie tickets. “We did wonder if our neighbours would think we were nuts,” she said. “We decided we didn’t care.”

• Parka-clad romantics can build alfresco affection with after-dark bonfires (or by lighting up the hibachi) for marshmallow roasting. (Keep the baby monitor within earshot!) For an affordable indulgence, send one partner for drive-through hot chocolate; you’ll still spend way less than the conventional dinner out.

• Too chilly outside? Grab a blanket and sit by a window to stargaze and just talk. Samantha MacLeod is a mom from Calgary who says those chats about everyday life keep her marriage romantic. She uses a larder metaphor: Dates, like caviar, are a luxury; nighttime chats are a staple. Indulge only in caviar and you’ll starve. But “if you stock up on staples, you always have plenty to eat, and you appreciate the caviar all the more.”

Practise distraction

If you tend to crash right after the kids do, try setting them up with a DVD and takeout pizza while you and your partner retreat to the next room for some alone time. No need for a baby-sitter — and no need for guilt. You put energy into parenting all week and your relationship deserves the same.

Need ideas for at-home dates? Check out Project 52: Date Nights at simplymodernmom.com.

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