I spent two hours the other day trying to secure a babysitter for a little Valentine's Day date with my honey! I guess for "love month," babysitters are in high demand. But for a family on a budget, finding a trustworthy sitter just marks the start of the search for savings for our date night. Here's how we save, what we splurge on, and how to stretch those dollars for your big date.

The babysitter

We try to not scrimp too much here. I've found that a good sitter deserves their pay, and if you pay well, they want to come back. We’re lucky to have a number of wonderful sitters who we adore, and who we pay as much as we can to ensure their care for our girls remains top-notch (some of them even clean my house!). Allow the biggest portion of your date night budget to encompass a sitter who feels rewarded and who will do a good job.

If you can’t afford a sitter, consider swapping a date night with another family whose kids are similar ages. You might find these families at your children's school, church or similar place where you congregate with your kids. Also consider trading a skill, like house cleaning or cooking, with another family to help cut the babysitter costs.

The dinner

This is where you can start searching for the savings! A good meal out can cost upwards of $100 for two people, so for a budget-conscious couple, that's a lot. Try these ideas for meal savings:

  • Use restaurant.com gift certificates: This is an easy and quick way to snag a good meal for cheap. Use the location search to find the restaurants who participate in the program near you. Don't forget that these certificates have a minimum purchase amount for use.
  • Facebook: By “liking” and friending your favorite spots, you'll be the first to know when they're having specials, sales and discounts. This is an easy way to score some savings. I spotted one of my favorite restaurants doing a Facebook-exclusive discount when you mentioned their ad!
  • Check out Groupon: Groupon has some of the best deals for eating out, especially if you're in a large city. I spotted wine and cheese pairing tours for as low as $20! That's less than we pay at our local Mexican restaurant for some tacos. Plus, they offer unique ideas that may be more fun that just a sit-down meal.
  • Plated.com can make for a great meal: Consider using plated.com where you can order ingredients for a fancy dinner and have them shipped right to you! The boxes start at meals for $9.99 per person. Plus, it's very chic and you can say you made it yourself! This will also work perfectly if you can't find or afford a babysitter, since your kids could even help.
  • Split a meal: If you're really pinching pennies, consider splitting an entree at the restaurant, and stick to water instead of pricey alcoholic drinks (our local favorite spots can cost upwards of $9 for a margarita). And remember to never skimp on the tip just because you're watching the total…you need to account for the tip when you make your budget.

The gifts

We aren't really doing gifts this year, but in the past I’ve saved up my Swagbucks and purchased fun gifts on Amazon. Right now, there are some amazing deals on there! This smart watch is hugely discounted, and it’s just $35. This fitness tracker is still super nice and won't cost you the price of the FitBit. Magazine subscriptions are also up to 90% off on Amazonand some are as low as $5.00—an ideal gift that will be used through the year!

The extras

Okay, ladies, you may need to drop some hints for this one, but you may end up with a gorgeous bouquet—for a fraction of the price. I'm sending my husband to Costco this year! He can get a HUGE bouquet for under $20 at our local Costco, and the same bouquet would cost more than $50 at the florists. Another spot to get beautiful flowers is Trader Joe’s, where a six rose bouquet was only $4.99 when I was there last week, and a large bouquet was only $13.99.

Don't forget you're going to need gas to get where you're going! Gift cards for Chains like Applebee’s, Olive Garden and Red Lobster are all available at my local Fred Meyer, and by purchasing them there I can get extra fuel points. This is an awesome way to save money on gas: use the cash I was already going to spend on dinner to buy a gift card!

This is a guest post by Grace A. of Medford, OR.