What is the 3-date rule?

The three-date rule suggests that the third date offers the ideal opportunity for potential partners to initiate physical intimacy. The idea is that by the third date, both partners will have a much higher comfort level and a better appreciation of where they’d like to take the relationship.

While this rule is more of a guideline, some statistical evidence suggests that waiting until the third date — or longer — can help improve the quality of a relationship. In a 2014 study, authors Brian Willoughby, Jason Carroll and Dean Busby concluded that “waiting to initiate sexual intimacy in unmarried relationships was generally associated with positive outcomes.”

Perhaps this is why the ‘3-date rule’ has been immortalized in various Hollywood movies and TV shows, including Sex And The City, where the character Charlotte York used this dating trend as her urban romance mantra.

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How the 3-date rule can hurt

For those dating in Canada, the three-date rule can be helpful, but it can also add a sense of urgency and implied importance to the third date. This can be a problem as the added pressure can lead to dashed expectations, blown budgets, or both.

To set realistic expectations and reduce the pressure to be intimate before you are ready, it’s best to set clear boundaries, explains dating and relationship expert founder of LoveQuestCoaching, Lisa Concepcion, in an interview with Cosmopolitan.

On the flip side, you’ll need to set dating financial boundaries to avoid depleting your cash reserves while looking for love. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to a Bumble survey, there’s been a noticeable uptick in removing money from the taboo topic list. As a result, 28% of dating app users chose to set financial boundaries in their dating lives in 2023.

How to set dating financial boundaries

Setting a financial boundary can be uncomfortable but necessary. Consider it a critical skill that’s required to accomplish bigger financial goals.

To set a financial boundary you need to establish and stick to limits, which are dictated by your current budget and future goals.

The only difference with dating financial boundaries is that the limits focus on what you spend on dates — and this includes transit, food, entertainment, gifts and even your wardrobe.

Setting a date budget

To set dating financial boundaries, start with establishing a date budget. Once you know what you’re willing to spend, you can narrow down your options.

To help, consider making a list of restaurants based on price points and always check out the menu online, so you know exactly what to order ahead of time and can estimate what the total bill will cost. Do the same for entertainment options.

By doing this research beforehand, you can easily build out ideas for each date that fit your dating financial boundaries.

The best part is that almost a third (32%) of those dating in Canada would be impressed by “over-the-top” first dates, while more than half (57%) are more interested in casual, not fancy dates, according to survey data from Bumble.

Dating in Canada: 3 cheap date ideas, plus tips for keeping costs down

If you’re looking for a solid date idea while still keeping cash in mind, here are three strategies. Just remember, to keep within your dating budget, it’s best to do some research before setting off for a romantic soiree.

No. 1: Take it outdoors

One great strategy to keep costs lower is to set up an outdoor date. This helps eliminate budget creep as it eliminates many budget-buster temptations, such as buying a better bottle of wine or staying for another round of cocktails. To make the most of an outdoors date, make sure you know the weather and have a backup plan — oh, and let your date know so they can dress appropriately.

A few suggestions for outdoor dates include:

  • A park and a picnic
  • Plan to complete a photo shoot or movie montage
  • Set up a scavenger hunt
  • Spend the day at the beach or lake
  • Go for a hike
  • Rent a tandem bike
  • Visit a farm, garden or bird sanctuary

No. 2: Unconventional entertainment

While dinner and a movie or a late-night cocktail are often the standard go-to date ideas, there are plenty of other options. As such, it pays to keep in mind the unconventional entertainment options that can make for a great date.

A few suggestions include:

  • Art galleries
  • Roller skating
  • Ice skating
  • Board game cafe
  • Aquarium
  • Stroll through a farmer’s market
  • Bowling
  • Check out free concerts
  • Go indoor rock climbing

No. 3: Stay home

By the third date, you may want to try a more intimate setting — just keep in mind that this intimate setting is about getting to know one another, not about setting the scene for physical intimacy.

A few suggestions include:

  • Cook dinner together
  • Watch a movie (great option if you have a good home theatre)
  • Download a karaoke app and sing the night away
  • Make mocktails together
  • Play board games or solve a puzzle together

BONUS: When dating in Canada, you need to tap those deals

For those still interested in the more traditional date options, there are ways to cut costs. The best way is to tap deals, use loyalty programs and look for ways to subsidize your dating costs. To help, here are three strategies:

Strategy #1: Use Scene points or go to a movie on cheap Tuesday If you’re a movie fan, chances are you already collect Scene points — the loyalty program for Cineplex that lets you collect points that can be traded in for free movie tickets and concession snacks. To maximize your Scene points, consider using a Scene+ credit card, such as Scotiabank’s Scene Visa card. For every dollar spent on the card, you earn 1x Scene+ points (or earn more by shopping at select retailers). Spend $1,000 in a month and that’s two free movie tickets — perfect for date night.

You can also reduce the cost of your movie date night by agreeing to out on ‘Cheap Tuesday’ — the day Cineplex and Landmark theatres offer discounted movie tickets.

Strategy #2: Use loyalty programs or work perks to get cheaper tickets Some loyalty programs offer access to discounted tickets. For instance, RBC customers (along with a number of Canadian employees) get free Perkopolis memberships, where they an buy discounted tickets for major attractions across North America, including Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum.

Another option is looking for deals using coupon sites like Groupon or shopping using deal sites, such as Capital One Shopping or Swagbucks.

Strategy #3: Use cashback to reduce overall costs Even with a dating budget, it’s a good idea to maximize potential savings when it comes to spending on a potential partner. One easy way to do this is to use a cashback credit card for all dating expenditures.

For instance, if you use the no-annual fee Tangerine Mastercard, you could earn up to 2% cashback on every purchase made on your date. On a dating budget of $500 per month, that’s $120 in cashback earnings in just one year.

Bottom line

There’s hope for single Canadians looking for love in 2024. If your goal is to find love, without going broke, concentrate on setting your financial and personal limits. The more honest and committed you are to yourself and your own goals, the more attractive you may be to a potential partner.


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About the Author

Romana King

Romana King

Senior Editor, Money.ca

Romana King is the Senior Editor at Money.ca. She writes for various publications, and her book -- House Poor No More: 9 Steps That Grow the Value of Your Home and Net Worth -- continues to be an Amazon bestseller. Since its publication in November 2021, this book has won five awards, including the New York CPA Society's Excellence in Financial Journalism (EFJ) Book Award in 2022.

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