Death of Date Night? Struggling Economy Forcing Couples to Change Traditions

Remember when dinner and a movie was the standard for couples on a Friday night?

Ladies dressed up for their fellas, and pairs set out for a night on the town.

But the economic downturn has forced couples to rethink date night, if not drop it altogether. Expense cutbacks, children, time and other reasons keep people from spending their extra cash, and many couples opt to stay home.

Does that mean dinner and a movie is dead?


Twin Falls, Idaho, film lover and former Lamphouse Theatre owner Dave Woodhead says the number of people going out to the movies isn't what it used to be because there are other, cheaper options for film watching.

Every time someone rents or downloads a movie, "that's one less time they bought a ticket to the theater," he said. Netflix, home movie theaters and illegal downloading may be keeping people out of the theaters and in their homes.

One year Woodhead and his wife, Tris, saw 70 movies at the theater, he said, going at least once a week. Last year, Woodhead said, he went to the cinema four times.

Although Woodhead still watches movies, his theater routine has diminished and he suspects he's not alone.

While some couples may be letting the tradition die, some believe in keeping date night alive -- in a new and cheaper form.

One young Wendell, Idaho, couple has vowed to keep it strong. Scott and Renae Tree, married 7 1/2 years, rarely miss their date nights.

The Trees began their date-night routine when newly married and have managed to keep it alive even after four children. Three girls and one boy, all younger than 6, keep Renae busy during the day, while Scott works in Twin Falls. But commuting and children don't keep the two from planning to spend time alone every week, usually on Friday evenings.

"It keeps the romance alive," Renae said, "and it gives us the opportunity to talk one-on-one about things we usually don't get to talk about."

The standard for the Trees' date night used to be dinner and a movie, Scott said, but now with money a little tighter they have become creative in their date plans.

"I budget a lot," said Scott, who sets aside $20 a week for date night, "and we use a lot of coupons."

Going for ice cream or just playing Frisbee in the park helps the Trees stay on track with their money while maintaining a healthy relationship.

That's not to say they don't make some date nights extra special -- including once when Scott took Renae to Stars on Ice in Sun Valley for her birthday. But at other times, Renae said, it's best to keep it simple.

Though baby sitters are expensive and it can be hard to find a time that works, they said, the Trees have never thought about giving up on date night.

"If nothing else we could probably go for a walk," Renae said, "or just do something to get away for a while."

So if you find it hard spending $8 on a movie that may turn into a nap or spending $10 on a meal you could make at home for $3, that doesn't mean you and your partner have to sacrifice alone time.

Try renting a movie and pop your own corn to create a home theater. Go out for just dessert, ordering two different treats and sharing to get the most for your money. Pick a bottle of wine and take a blanket outside for some intimate stargazing.

"I would encourage people to do something where you have to talk," said Scott, who has noticed that since the Trees' date night has evolved the couple has been able to share more.

"Make it a priority," Renae said, "and make it fun."


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