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The cost of going out for dinner and drinks has skyrocketed, and those looking for love are among the hardest hit. Will 2022 be the year that financial pressures alter traditional notions of what makes a perfect date?

“So much of dating centres around a meal,” says 38-year-old Jessica Scott, who admits she has changed her approach to dating in the face of soaring costs.

A writer living in Winnipeg, she loves to cook and would typically make her date a meal at home. But higher grocery costs have prompted her to reconsider: “It’s suddenly crossed my mind that this is a big commitment now to make a lasagna for someone.”

Although overall inflation stabilized in October, food inflation remains stubbornly high, with grocery prices rising 10.1 per cent during the month on an annual basis. To help cover the cost of soaring prices for everything from meat and produce to supplies, higher rent and wages, restaurants have been hiking their prices, prompting would-be daters to make tough decisions.

When Ms. Scott does go out to eat with a potential love interest, she consistently offers to pay a share of the costs, even though her dates aren’t taking her up on it. “Everybody is dealing with inflation,” she said.

Another change she sees is that talking about money is more common now. “When I’m offering to cook up a meal, now there are conversations around, ‘Can I offer to help you pay for it? Are there some groceries I can contribute?’ These are things that definitely would not have been asked six months ago, or a year ago.”

Love in the time of inflation: How to manage rising costs when dating

The cost of dining out is soaring alongside inflation. Here’s how to keep your budget in check

Ms. Scott is not the only one changing her dating habits or their approach to spending on dates.

A spending survey of U.S. daters from, released in August, found that 83 per cent of those surveyed were looking to spend less than US$50 on a first or second date, while 67 per cent were seeking out simpler, cheaper date options. That’s down sharply from a July, 2021, spending survey that found 75 per cent of singles planned to spend more than US$100 on a meal during a date.

Vancouver-based financial coach Parween Mander said one strategy for keeping costs in check is called “step-down spending.” Instead of spending money on both dinner and drinks, have dinner at home and meet for a drink later, Ms. Mander said. “The key here is that you’re still finding ways to spend quality time with your partner, but it doesn’t always have to be the $100 dinner and drinks.”

Ultimately, someone who wants to keep going out on dates has to free up money from another part of their budget. The best way to do this is to identify “wastage,” which Ms. Mander describes as “money that was spent that you regret and got minimal value out of – this is typically impulse spending.”

Start by tracking three months of spending patterns to find out exactly where your money is going. Once you have identified your wastage, come up with a plan to reduce spending by 20 per cent. “It could be impulse Amazon purchases, drugstore purchases, take out, shopping,” she said. That money can they be allotted to other spending categories – like dating – or saved.

The rising price of dating goes beyond food. For instance Ms. Scott, who is a mother, has to hire a babysitter if she’s going out.

If you are driving to your date there’s the cost of gas, which has climbed 17.8 per cent in the past 12 months. For those without a car, there’s public transit or an Uber, as well as new clothes, haircuts and makeup. It is after all a date, and everyone wants to look and feel good.

Anne Bokma, who runs the relationship coaching service Chapter Two Dating with her partner Amit Karia, said money isn’t a pressing issue with their clientele of men and women over the age of 50, though they still recommend low-cost outings for dates, particularly at the beginning.

“We suggest keeping first dates simple, short and inexpensive. A walk or a coffee,” said Mr. Karia. “It’s a mistake to go out for a meal on the first date or two. If you don’t hit it off you have to sit through the whole experience plus deal with the awkward issue of who picks up the check.”

“Ditto with theatre and concerts and movies – no need to spend the money on those things initially. Besides, you sit there in silence when you should be getting to know one another better,” said Ms. Bokma.

For daters stressed about spending, or even raising finances in conversation, she offered this advice: “Be frank and upfront after the first few dates with someone about your expectations around how often you can afford to dine out. The best relationships are honest ones, and being honest about money early on will serve the relationship well.”

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