Frugality on a First Date: Are Coupons Off-Limits?

How early do you reveal your frugality to a potential boyfriend/girlfriend? I heard an interesting discussion about coupons on a morning radio show the other day. The main gist of it was whether it’s appropriate to use coupons on a first date. Most of the women felt it showed the guy to be cheap — rather than frugal — if he whipped out a buy-1-get-1 entree coupon at the end of the meal. Apparently, it’s all about first impressions, and most of these ladies didn’t feel this made for a positive one.

Poor, poor frugality. It’s unappreciated, unwanted and looked down upon by others.

According to the female radio callers, pulling out a coupon on the second or third date is more acceptable…sort of. But on a first date, it’s a total no-no. They want to know that you men out there are willing to spend money on them from the very beginning, even if it means spending money you don’t necessarily have. I didn’t hear one woman say that it’s okay to use a coupon on a first date — it’s a total turn-off to them.

It seems paying with a credit card is okay, though. But to me, it’s the same idea: By using the plastic, you’re telling me that you don’t have the cash to pay for the purchase. I’m willing to bet more than 80% of people who pay with credit cards aren’t doing it for the points or cash rewards — they’re doing it because of their lack of funds.

My Thoughts

I’ll freely admit that while I have always watched my finances carefully, I didn’t classify myself as truly “frugal” until a few years ago. That was when I started seriously couponing and looking for deals for everything from groceries to clothing.

We’re way past the honeymoon stage of the relationship — Mr. Saver and I have been together for almost 6 years and married for 19 months — but my frugal ways have rubbed off on him. Whenever he wants to make a purchase, he runs it by me first to see if it’s a good deal, and he now takes his own initiative to look for promotional codes or coupons for meals or purchases. Just yesterday, he found a promo code for a movie ticket purchase — I was so proud of him!

But how would I have felt had he brought me out on our first date to a nice restaurant and proceeded to pay for it with a coupon? I can’t honestly say, as the situation never happened. Further into our relationship, there were times when I was the one who brought a coupon, proffering it to our server when the check arrived, much to his embarrassment and chagrin. So I don’t think I would have frowned upon Mr. Saver bringing out a coupon during one of our first dates.

So is it a poor decision to use a coupon on a first date? I think it only offends people because many Americans have trouble managing their finances. And some people believe “frugal” is a dirty word. But in my family, it’s not.

Another way to look at it: When you’re auditioning potential mates, wouldn’t you want his or her true personality to shine through from the very beginning, rather than pretending to be something he or she isn’t?

13 comments to Frugality on a First Date: Are Coupons Off-Limits?

  • Bringing a coupon on a first date it might help them see each other for who they are, if they accept the others habits and lifestyle they can go on, if they don`t it is better for both to search someone else who can accept, it can be considered a test if you like, or you can just pretend of not being who you really are and go on

  • I think if a woman brought a coupon to a date to help pay for the date it would be a home run. If the guy did not like it the lady would know that she would have a life of monetary strife. My guess is if a man brings a coupon to the first date the gal may think he is really cheap and sees her as cheap.

  • I don’t like using coupons at restaurants at all. They make me feel cheap, date or no date. My wife and I are both pretty frugal, so we look for restaurants that are a good value to begin with. If I have to use a coupon for a restaurant to be a good value, I would rather skip it altogether. We have a lot of great dining options where we live.

  • “…wouldn’t you want his or her true personality to shine through from the very beginning, rather than pretending to be something he or she isn’t?”

    I agree completely. Except on the first date:)

    I didn’t use a coupon on the second, third, fourth, fifth dates either. That said, I see nothing wrong with doing so AFTER the first date if that’s who you really are. I want my date to think that I’m a big spending guy, when that’s not who I am. Best to be genuine….except for that first date when it comes to coupons.

  • Yes, coupons are absolutely a no-no on the first date! The only way I could see it being acceptable is if the guy went up to the front, paid their server without his date knowing/seeing, and using the coupon that way LOL!!!!!

  • I don’t think I have a clear cut rule about this one even though I don’t think I ever broke out a coupon on any date. In principle I agree with @Patti that coupons on a first date indicate poor taste. Since I don’t consider myself having poor taste, I do not want to convey such a wrong impression on a date. Having said that, I can see myself using a coupon on a first date, if the event is suitable for a first date. I might suggest the event to a date but I would let her know beforehand that I got a coupon for it. I think this would take the poor taste part out of it.

  • Patti

    When I was single, living in NYC, I went on quite a number of 1st dates. While none were outlandishly expensive, no coupons were used. I think that if my dates had used them, I would have definitely been turned off. Not because I wouldn’t have admired their efforts, but because I would have deemed it in poor taste. I always *sincerely* offered to split the bill and was denied most time. In the same manner, I would have been equally turned off if they had taken me to extremely expensive places knowing full well that they couldn’t afford it, according to their careers. (I knew what they did for a living before our 1st dates).

    So it is all about moderation in expectations. Coupons on the 1st date? Not for me. 2 x 1 coupons on subsequent dates and now that I am married w/mortgage and baby on the way? BRING. IT. ON! 🙂

  • michele

    First date shouldn’t be coupon time. Not as a matter of frugality; I’m perfectly okay with a first date that involves two coffees and a shared pastry, or drinks during happy hour, or a meal during Restaurant Week. My first date with my boyfriend was a long walk, a free ferry ride and a shared Snapple, and it was just perfect. It’s just that most places that take coupons are chains, and I’d rather have the guy think of something more creative than a chain restaurant visit.

    • Nicole

      @Michele: I agree that there are definitely other ways to have a first date. But these women were specifically talking about dinners. And yes, the coupons are almost always for the chain restaurants — not a fan.

    • Nicole

      @Michele: Another thought — it’s easier to have “simpler” first dates in a big city like NYC than it is in the ‘burbs.

  • I couldn’t agree with you more! I’d so much rather know what or who I’m dealing with honestly, from the beginning. I think it’s so easy now to get away with frugality because the economy has utterly collapsed and people don’e have the money they used to. I wonder, too how much money people really had anyway. Alot of people got into the predicaments they’re in because of overspending and trying to be something that they weren’t. Enough with the facade, nowadays you have to be smart with your money. I don’t think anything is as stable as it once was (namely, good jobs!) and if you can save a dollar here or ten dollars there, why not?! You might need it for a rainy day 🙂

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