Family Finance: Try a Daytime Date

Jennifer Wray

For as long as I can remember, I was an insomniac. Sleep never came easily, and nearly as soon as I learned to read, I began staying up well past my appointed bedtime, devouring books into the wee hours.

For better or worse, parenting an infant has virtually cured me of this particular problem and left me with a new one: complete and utter exhaustion. Pair that with the responsibilities of a full-time job and the constraints of a limited budget, and “date night” sounds less like a treat and more akin to a form of torture that keeps me from my precious sleep.

Enter the dateday.

When a mom-friend first mentioned the idea, it was a revelation: If your son or daughter is enrolled in child care, preschool or school, there's no need to pay a baby sitter. Plus, daytime-only hospitality discounts (think: cheaper admission, lower food prices and drink deals) can save you some serious cash.

Some movie theaters offer ticket deals for early birds.Cinemark Stoneridge Plaza Movies 16 near Gahanna, for example, offers a special price ($5) for the first matinee of the day before 1 p.m.Gateway Film Center, near the Ohio State University campus, offers a similar deal: $5 tickets for screenings before noon (plus all day on Tuesdays).

Another favorite stop isHarvest Pizzeria. We stick close to home and hit the Clintonville location, where $9 gets you a 9-inch gourmet pie, with a lunch-size salad for just $2.50 more.

Akai Hana's lunch deal is so great, it has its own category on the Japanese restaurant's website. Little wonder, when its top-notch sushi—which comes with salad or miso soup—costs about what you'd pay for packaged fare in a grocery store deli (two rolls for $13 or three for $16).

For parents who can extend a day date into the early evening, a happy hour—or hours—may be just the thing. One of our favorites isThe Market in Italian Village's “Aperitivo” menu, which offers a free small bite with select beers, wines and cocktails during the hours of 3-6 p.m.Tuesdays through Saturdays.Another prime choice isRockmill Tavern, whose happy hour (3-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays) includes half-off draft beers, $5 wines and cocktails, and $10 sandwiches. My husband's favorite is Tex-Mex chainChuy's, where drink deals from 4-7 p.m. are paired with a “Fully Loaded Nacho Car,” which is, literally, a faux classic car trunk stuffed with chips, salsa, queso, ground beef, and more—all free.

Find other ideas at sites such as andGroupon, which offer discounts on places to eat and things to do. Another option isDine Originals Columbus, which releases a limited number of gift certificates at 30 percent off in January, April, July and October. You'll need to act quickly, though: Quantities can be small, and the deals to popular bars and restaurants go quickly. (With all of these, be sure to note exclusions that prohibit using gift certificates on a happy-hour deal.)

If the idea of a date night is still alluring, youcan treat yourself without breaking the bank. For starters, save on a sitter by trading off child care duties with friends. If your kids are roughly the same age (and, importantly, get along), they can keep each other entertained. Or, instead of indulging in a whole meal out (including the attendant drinks and dessert), consider having a light dinner at home and then grabbing dessert from someplace special.

Some movie theaters offer discounts on off-peak days of the week.Marcus Theatres has $5 tickets on Tuesdays and $6 tickets for students and school faculty every Thursday. Pair your stop at Marcus Crosswoods Cinema near Worthington with a visit to nearbyLevel One Bar + Arcade, which offers a solid selection of retro games. Play is free (with the exception of pinball machines) for bar customers, and outside food is welcome. Plus, a weekday happy hour from 4-8 p.m. gives a $2 discount on drafts and specialty cocktails and $1 off domestic beers and well drinks.

If all else fails, wait until the rugrats have gone to bed and set out a nice meal for just the two of you. Light some candles. Turn off the TV. Put that phone down. (Seriously, put that phone down!) Enjoy some quality time together.

Jennifer Wray is a freelance writer and new mother.