I definitely go out for food and drinks with my friends quite a bit. Some of my friends are in the same boat as me, and are keeping careful track of their spending. Some of my friends are not, and can be much more free with their cash.

Regardless, it can be a very annoying experience to be sitting at a table with someone who is clearly counting their pennies and desperately searching for the cheapest thing on the menu. (Have you ever gone out for a drink with a group of girls, and one orders water? It’s the worst! It’s like a roommate who’s not paying rent – we’re all here at this establishment, we’re all a part of this society, we’re all chipping in for the right to be using this space, and then someone piggybacks on the group and ends up getting a free night out at the expense of the rest of us! Not to mention the evil eye from the server that the entire entourage now must suffer for the rest of the evening. This is truly one of my pet peeves. In case you couldn’t tell. But no judgment. Rant over now.)

Believe me, I understand the need to find the best deal. But there are some tricks to making it just a little less obvious to those around you so that there’s no money tension in the air as you order a cocktail that has you collecting the change at the bottom of your purse.

First, if you can’t afford to go out for drinks, then just don’t go out for drinks. Seriously. If it is going to be something that will stress you out, then don’t do it. There are many other options for activities with friends. We live in Vancouver. Go for a walk at the beach, go window shopping downtown, make some snacks at home and binge watch Sex and the City. I really believe that there is no shame in saying, “Hey, I’m trying to rein in my spending these days and don’t think a night out is the smartest for me right now, do you want to do X, Y, or Z instead?” Any good friend won’t bat an eyelash, and it will become a nonissue.

But, I also firmly believe that if you’ve worked out a smart budget and have been sticking to it, you should be able to say yes to just about every reasonable request that comes your way. And, you should be able to give off an air of ease when gazing over the menu and making your selection.

My first tip is to make sure you have a tentative number in mind for that particular outing. You know how much you can spend per month, but it is very helpful to know exactly how much you can afford to spend this evening. If I’ve got plans with friends for tonight, I take just a couple minutes beforehand to check where I’m at with my spending for the month and what other plans I’ve got in the near future. My internal monologue sounds a little like: “It’s September 16 and I’ve spent half my monthly budget for going out, so I have $150 left. I know next weekend is filled with work so I won’t be going out at all, but I do have lunch plans with this person tomorrow, which will probably be about $20, and I have to buy a birthday present for that person, which will probably be about $30. So I should probably stay fairly frugal tonight to keep it safe. I’ll try to only spend $15, but if it becomes $20 that is fine too.”

Now you’re thinking, “$15!? How is that possible!?” Trust me, it is.

Just by having that number in mind, I’m going to be able to stick to it. It is so easy to lose control of spending if you didn’t give yourself a limit beforehand, but now I’m going to eat before I leave my house, and my eyes are going to skip over any drink that has a price tag higher than $10. I know going into the evening that I’m probably only going to have one drink, maybe two if they have really good specials, and so my idea of how this night is going to go is set in stone. And, I don’t have to live through those awkward moments of doing mental math as my friends look on and the server hovers over me waiting to write something down.

Which brings me to my next point: specials. Always. Ask. For. The. Specials.

Every bar has some sort of deal that you should know about, whether it’s a daily deal, an hourly one, a house wine, or whatever. Just ask. As the server comes over to greet and fill your water, ask what the specials are. Ask for the specials!

And, in case, for whatever reason, you are not going to ask for the specials, I have taken the liberty of gathering some of my favourites right here.

Here are my favourite drink deals and happy hours in Kitsilano:

1) Local

I usually order the Mystery Wine. You just pick white or red, and they bring you a generous glass of $4 wine. A habit of mine is to meet friends at Local, order one $5 taco and two glasses of wine throughout the evening, and I get out of there for $15 after a delicious snack and a couple drinks. I also love that they let you linger on the patio for hours with no pressure to build up a big bill. The servers are always friendly, the view from the patio is famous, the food is the same – completely delicious – every time, and the price tags are ideal.

2) The Kitchen Table

The Kitchen Table is a new spot that has taken over The King’s Head’s old spot, and I am loving it! They have created a cozy little patio, complete with pillows and blankets, twinkly lights, and a view of all the Kits folk meandering down the hill to the beach. They have an extensive beer menu with reasonable prices, but I, of course, have been opting for the $4 house wine. It’s tasty, and best served with their $5 fries (the best fries I have ever had, hands down), and their $5 edamame beans covered in sea salt. Split those two nibbles with a friend and indulge in a glass of wine, and you can have a lovely evening for $10.

3) Lucky Taco

First Abigail’s Party, then Supermarine, now Lucky’s. This is the best reincarnation yet. An authentic (feeling) Mexican cantina has brought some colour and music into the neighbourhood. Also with a sweet little patio for outdoor diners, complete with a cozy bar tucked into the back corner inside, Lucky’s essentially has a taco menu and a margarita menu. Warning: it is easy to rack up a big bill here. By the time you each order a drink or two and then sample enough tacos to make it feel like a meal, the tally is climbing towards a hundred bucks. So save a real dinner date at Lucky’s for an occasion. The atmosphere is so fun and friendly, you’ll want to stay all night, and you’ll continue ordering as you do so, which can be dangerous. BUT, they do have one of my new favourite drink deals in the neighbourhood: a tequila shot and a can of Lucky’s beer for $8. Go with a couple girlfriends, and if you each get the Lucky’s special and share the nachos, you can have a blast for about $12.

Last modified: February 3, 2018

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