Have you ever picked up a date in a Reliant K car? Politely asked the person across the table from you to only order from the “turf” options in a seafood restaurant? Slipped a coupon in with your credit card in the oh-so-stylish black notepads come bill time? Or perhaps you were fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of these frugal tactics. How did you feel about them?

Paul and I have had several discussions in our relationship about being frugal, saving money, and never paying full cost. Much to his surprise, I let him know that if he had used a coupon during any of our early dates I would have felt relieved and probably have taken him home to meet the parents even sooner (yes, when you are a frugal person going out on a date with a man who does such things as wearing expensive clothing, a flashy watch, and toting around the latest cell phone might actually turn you off, though Paul did not know this at the time).

But I am not like most people, and I realize that.

From some of the comments left over the last year, there seem to be several single men in the audience looking for ladies who are concerned that any acts in the name of frugality during the initial phase of a courtship may make women squeamish. So let’s open up this topic for discussion: why is it that flashing a coupon might turn someone off? I’ve given this a lot of thought over the last several months and I think the best way to illustrate this is to give you a glimpse into the female mind. Picture this: you are on a date with a guy whom you know hardly anything about. You need to figure out whether or not he is partner material (yes, women think light years ahead, even on that first date), and you would prefer to do so within the first half of this date if at all possible so that you can exit politely in order to find another date with greater potential for next Friday night. No matter if it’s right or wrong, moral or immoral, primal instincts dictate that the following would be most beneficial to you in a potential life partner: someone with a secure and stable job, someone who is on a career path of a profession he/she is passionate about, and someone who seems like they will be able to provide at least in an equal capacity as you. Since women have limited time and think deep into our futures on a daily basis, everything that you do during that first date becomes a sign or signal for us as we start to put a picture together about your life and whether or not we want to become a part of it. Just like it is a red flag for us that you still live with your parents, whipping out a coupon is typically a sign for “he doesn’t have money” and most women will want to bail.

In my opinion, the motive for the act of frugality is way more important to use in determination of red flags than the actual act of frugality itself. What I mean is, are you whipping out coupons at the burger joint because you have no money (and actually scheduled this date on your payday), or are you frugal at heart and saving money on this date means you can stash away yet more money into your savings? If you are frugal at heart, then you should be your true self and save money on your dates, but it would be a good idea to show that you are the latter guy and not the former. (If you are the former guy, the one who has no money and is woefully lost when it comes to finances, keep reading as you can still afford to send a good impression. However, please don’t mislead women about your weaknesses—they will eventually find out and this could lead to a mismatch for you).

How to be Frugal but Not Send the Wrong Message

If you are worried about sending the wrong signal during a date or embarrassed about your money situation, there are some ways around the handing-a-coupon-to-the-waiter approach. For one, you could choose a less expensive venue for your date and still be quite romantic and even demure. Cooking for a woman can be very romantic (green flag!), especially when candles are involved (just make sure you are not doing so in your mother’s kitchen—red flag). Packing a picnic basket with luxurious items like wine and strawberries can lead to a lovely afternoon. If you are eating at a restaurant and want to use a coupon, you can leave the coupon with the host or hostess in the front and see that it gets subtracted from your bill before you receive the check (you could even make these arrangements ahead of time). You could cash in on your reward points (from credit card, online surveys, health insurance companies, etc.) for a gift card and still be able to flash that plastic for the bill. Finally, who says you need to foot the bill on the first date or every date thereafter?

You Should Show Your True Colors

In the end, it all boils down to whom you are as a person and what you are looking for in a mate. Wouldn’t you rather show your true colors and find the right person for you than to be potentially partnered up with the wrong one? Dispute over money is one of the leading causes of divorce. By being frugal on your dates, you could snag another person who is frugal as well, which could save you monumental headaches in the future.

What are your thoughts on using coupons/being frugal on dates and how the opposite sex (or how you) would perceive that? Is your partner/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse frugal, a spender, or somewhere in between?

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
11 replies
  1. Duchesse says:

    There is a difference between taking advantage of an offer (the coupon at the restaurant) and telling another person what he or she should order. One is about value, the other seems to me about control. On a date (if I can stretch my mind way back) I would have been happy to share the cost, but I would have run screaming from a date who told me what I could order.

  2. Michael says:

    My wife and I are both frugal, so it was fun to discuss. She thought that there is no way you should use a coupon on a first date. You are much better off finding a less expensive location.

    • Amanda L. Grossman says:

      Hello Michael! Thank you for sharing the conclusion of your discussion:). I am glad to hear you guys are paired well financially!

  3. Melissa says:

    My husband just doesn’t spend money. I am the one who does all of the bills and almost always decides when we eat out. He defers to me.

    However, when I was dating, I broke up with someone because he bought a BMW in part financed by lying to his parents who were out of country as to his reasons for needing thousands of dollars to buy it. HUGE turn off and red flag.

    I also went to grad school with a guy who would only take his dates to Applebee’s during happy hour. They had to order off the appetizer menu so he could get them for half price. I am still amazed he could get any dates at all. 🙂

  4. Adam says:

    Awesome. I love the tips! This is interesting. Thank you for posting.

  5. krantcents says:

    I like your idea of giving the coupon early so it could deducted from the bill. I would take a completely different approach of not going to venues where that would come up. I would do the beach picnic, cook for her at her place or mine, or take her to exciting but inexpensive events. I think it is more important to impress her with my creative date (solution) than my wallet anyway.

  6. Lauren @ Pineapple Pizza says:

    I don’t mind frugality; I use coupons all the time. That being said, for the first few dates, I would rather he show his creativity. Picnic lunches, flying kites, walks in the park, ice cream cones, etc. aren’t expensive, but they’re great dates. I would greatly prefer those than being at a nicer restaurant where he makes a big deal out of a coupon.

  7. optionsdude says:

    An interesting perspective that I really hadn’t thought about. My spouse tends to be in between a spender and frugal whereas I am probably borderline pathologically frugal. It occasionally causes some disagreements that get resolved usually with her pointing out that I am being unreasonable. I just have a hard time not planning and putting aside as much for the future as possible. Plus carrying some debt just drives me nuts.


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