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What Is a Date Night Child Swap?

This Free Childcare Hack Is the Only Way My Partner and I Can Afford Regular Date Nights

It doesn't matter if you're a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between, the cost of child care can be enough to make just about anyone's head spin. Day cares and nannies can cost upward of $2,000 a month, while babysitters can charge up to $20 an hour. Some may shrug their shoulders at the hefty price tag that accompanies a date night, but there are others who find they have to sacrifice that much-needed one-on-one time with their partners because of the cost. But there's good news! Date nights don't actually have to drain your wallet.

When my husband and I were in our 20s, we went out a lot. Dinner and a movie on a random Tuesday? We were there. A comedy show on Thursday? We had tickets. But, surprise! Becoming parents changed all of that. When my daughter was a baby, my husband and I packed up and moved south. Moving several states away where we had no friends or family to babysit made planning a date night difficult, and adjusting to life on one income ensured that those nights we did plan were few and far between. Thankfully, in time, I fell in with a wonderful tribe of women, and one of those women offered up a brilliant date-night solution that had worked for her in the past: we would be each other's occasional babysitters.

Our arrangement couldn't have been simpler. We both had young children who were on similar schedules, and we lived less than 15 minutes away from one another. If it was my turn to go out, I would make sure my daughter had been fed, bathed, and tucked into bed by the time my friend arrived, so she would have nothing to do but curl up on the couch with her book. When it was time for me to return the favor, she would do the same with her kids. It was perfect. Not only were we saving an average of $30 to $40 every time we went out, but it was also incredibly comforting to know that if our children happened to wake up, another mom whom we trusted was there to make sure everything was OK. And, of course, babysitting gave us a few precious hours to ourselves.

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Exchanging babysitting services may not be for everyone, but if you happen to have a good friend who would be up for such an arrangement, I couldn't recommend it enough. Doing business with friends can be tricky, so work out the details beforehand. Discuss your expectations (do you expect them to actually take care of your children, or will you handle everything before you leave?), and make sure you both agree on the frequency and number of hours you will "work." After that, the only thing left to do is decide where to go on your date night. Enjoy!

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