A couple of years ago as my wedding anniversary approached and a romantic excursion to Italy seemed unlikely, I came up with another idea guaranteed to make any penny-pinching mother swoon.

I call it the “babysitting swap.”

I approached a friend whose anniversary is within weeks of mine and offered to watch her kids so she and her husband could enjoy a night out -- with free childcare!

The only catch -- she had to return the favor later that month.

The plan worked great. My husband and I splurged on a fabulous dinner with wine and dessert at our favorite restaurant. I also spent a quiet evening at her house reading a book while my husband tackled bedtime at our house. (I gotta call it a win-win.)

-- Melissa Kossler Dutton, contributing writer for Columbus Parent