6 cheap ideas for a date

Planning low-cost outings is totally doable.

By JoÈve Dupuis

Writer and novelist

When you're single, you tend to load up your social calendar with outings that are conducive to meeting other singles. But this hectic lifestyle can cost real money. So how can you go out a whole lot while sticking to your budget? And who pays? Here are some ideas on how to stay active in the singles market without losing your shirt!

How much money should I allot for dating?

Dates that are fun and that don't cost a whole lot are not only good for the soul, they can be easy on the wallet, too. It's all a question of balance and planning. Generally speaking, you probably shouldn't dedicate more than 5 to 10% of your take home pay to going out and leisure activities, and dates fit this category to a tee.

To avoid losing track of your expenses while pursuing a good time, our budgeting tool can help keep you from going overboard. And who says outings need to be expensive to be enjoyable? Actually, organizing dates that are affordable is easier than you think.

Where do you get ideas for cheap dates? Everywhere!

There are a lot of singles who choose a short meeting as a first date, like grabbing a coffee or a drink. Something non-committal, just to see if there's any chemistry between you. Easy and cheap. But when cupid finally strikes, how do you continue in this frugal vein without spending beyond your means? Here are some ideas that'll keep you under budget and still impress your better half.

01Stay on top of restaurant deals

Dinner dates never go out of fashion. It's a chance to get to know someone better and discover the other person's tastes in food, with the menu surely becoming a hot topic of discussion! A lot of restaurants grow their businesses by offering meal deals. These usually happen on low-traffic weeknights, for instance, half-price Mondays, Taco Tuesdays or oysters for a buck on Wednesday.

"Foodie-oriented events like MTLàTABLEAttention, this link will open a new tab. are a chance to go all out, as they offer gastronomic menus at reduced prices. So I can enjoy myself with my date for a lot less," says Mathilde, a young professional who does not hesitate to combine her love of fine food with the pleasure of meeting people.

A whole bunch of culinary events are held all over Quebec, like La grande gourmandiseAttention, this link will open a new tab. [in French] in Boucherville and at Tremblant, Québec ExquisAttention, this link will open a new tab. in Quebec City, or Le rendez-vous des saveursAttention, this link will open a new tab. in Gatineau.

02Enjoy happy hours!

When you want to go out after work, the happy hour tradition can help keep your costs down. Two-for-one offers, specials on feature products and free finger food when you buy a drink are a few examples of great deals. Keep an eye out for them and take full advantage. Sites like Resto MontréalAttention, this link will open a new tab. let you dig up establishments that offer specials in many Quebec cities.

The thinking is, places that are plugged-in and offer great specials are also going to attract people who are single, so on top of an affordable outing, you might also find yourself rubbing shoulders with people just like you!

03Take in cultural activities

Checking out the artists at a festival or open-air concert, whiling away the hours in a free gallery or museum, settling in at a bar-café that offers performances, going to see a movie on a Tuesday… all these activities are accessible, inexpensive and perfect for a couple's night out. So why do without?

Low-cost outings are so popular that the City of Montreal publishes a list of affordable cultural outingsAttention, this link will open a new tab. [in French]. Do a bit of research and you'll find a whole array of enriching cultural activities suitable for meeting people – and for potential romance!

Or you can do like Marc-André, a young single professional who looks for bargain prices. "If the person I'm meeting suggests a movie, I'll often say let's go on a Tuesday. It's way cheaper. And as there are often more people out, you don't feel like people are listening to you in a half-empty cinema before the film starts!"

04Check out open mike night

You've seen them in movies, heard people talking about them, but you've probably never dreamed of going to one. Not only do they make a novel first date, but open mike nights are most definitely entertaining and totally worth your while. You and your partner can relax; you don't have to get on stage to take part.

A lot of bars offer poetry readings, music or comedy. Who knows, you might discover your date's hidden talent, declare your love in public or live your dream of getting up on stage yourself. It's an environment that helps people warm up to each other and creates great memories. Most of all it's a lot of fun for not a lot of money.

05Take a hike

Whether it's the athletic or contemplative kind, going for a hike is a cheap date where you also get some fresh air. You can take a stroll just about anywhere. For nature lovers, SÉPAQ parks and reservesAttention, this link will open a new tab. offer a variety of walking trails for all seasons and fitness levels. The countryside, nature and pretty places to stop and relax all add a touch of romance.

«Awkward silences on a first date generally make me uncomfortable. On a hike, it's easier to manage those silences when I'm walking or admiring the scenery,» says Josée, a young professional who combines her love of nature with her single lifestyle.

06Bring your date to a group dinner

Planning your budget for cheap outings is one thing, squeezing it all into your busy life is quite another. Get the most out of your time by combining your different social circles. Dinner with friends can be a chance to get to know your date a bit better; your friends will have fun chatting with her and, when she meets them, your new flame will learn a whole lot more about you!

So, why put off a date so you don't miss a friend's birthday when, in any case, the invitation was for you and a guest? So man up and invite her! You may be surprised at how she answers.

The age-old question: who picks up the tab?

Concerns about who pays the bill after a dinner or activity shouldn't ruin the pleasure of each other's company. The question becomes a happy mix of social trends, tradition and independence. In Quebec, customs are changing: according to a Les Affaires online pollAttention, this link will open a new tab. [in French], 38% of Quebecers think the person who made the invitation should pay. This is the most widely held position. One tip to avoid discomfort: be prepared to pay your share.

Finally, what good is it to stress about who pays the bill when, in any case, you know everything you need to know about dating on the cheap? What's more, any link between the cost of dates and the duration of a relationship has yet to be determined, so you might as well stick to your budget!

The dating world is bursting with possibilities for every taste and budget. There is no miracle formula for finding love. Of course, with a bit of creativity, a can-do attitude and a healthy dose of communication, you'll have everything you need to organize dates that are original, memorable… and affordable. The very last thing: don't forget that, no matter how little you spend, you are the secret ingredient for success on a date!

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