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Is It Okay to Use a Coupon on a First Date?

by J. Money on Thursday, April 5, 2012

ho coupons

(Guest Post by Andrew at Money Crashers)

Ready for your big date? Your night is planned, you’re dressed up sharp, and you’ve got a wallet bursting with cash. No? Money’s tight these days? Good thing you’ve got a coupon for a big discount at that restaurant you’re headed to!

Perhaps you’re not entirely comfortable with the idea, however. While it’s always great to save money, can you really get away with using a restaurant coupon on a first date? Will she think you’re cheap? Or will she admire your financial savvy? Here are some pros and cons before you make your decision:

Pros to Dating on a Budget

  1. It Shows That You’re Frugal. If you choose to use a coupon on your first date, you are sending a clear message. No, it’s not that you are cheap – it’s that you realize the value of a dollar! With money being such a difficult subject for couples to discuss, your date will know right away that you’re smart with yours.
  2. You’ll Save Money. How much money have you put out by picking up first date dinner tabs? Now, how many of those first dates ever led to a second? I’ve been on plenty of dates in which I didn’t use a coupon, spent a boatload of money, and ended up never having any more dates. Had I used deals that were available to me, I could have significantly cut my losses.
  3. You Can Identify Her Values. If she agrees to a second date, you can bet you’ve found someone who appreciates frugality. And if she frowns upon your coupon use, you may have quickly identified someone with whom you’re not financially compatible with and saved yourself a lot of trouble.

Cons to The Coupon Date

  1. Possible Rejection. There’s a spark between you and your date, and you’re both feeling it. Things are going well until you whip out the coupon, and her entire demeanor changes. If you’re not an outgoing type of guy, and your dates are few and far between, the stakes on the table may be too high to risk .
  2. She Could Tell Her Friends. If your date views you in a negative light, and your usage of a coupon contributes to that, it could damage your reputation. This could be especially awkward if you have mutual acquaintances.

Final Thoughts

If you have a dining coupon you’d like to use, at least bring it with you on your date. You can decide one way or the other depending on how it goes throughout the night. If there’s no connection, by all means, take the discount! Or, if you sense that she is a frugal person (or at least not opposed to you being frugal), use it. Personally, I’ve whipped out coupons on all sorts of first, second, and third dates – even at some very upscale restaurants here in Chicago!

Ultimately, if your intentions are long-term, busting out a coupon for one of your first date ideas could very well be a building block for a long and prosperous relationship. Finding a partner with a similar financial mindset could provide for a relationship that will last. If you’ve got the courage to do it, you just might find yourself the perfect match.

Would you ever use a coupon on a first date?

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Andrew Schrage currently lives in Chicago and runs Money Crashers Personal Finance, a website that seeks to help readers improve their financial fitness and get on track with money management.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I just asked the wife what she would have thought if I whipped one out on OUR first date, and she responded with, “I would have probably been weirded out… On the first date?? Maybe on the 2nd or 3rd, but def. not on the 1st. That’s when you’re supposed to show me how generous you are!” Haha… it’s a good thing I wasn’t blogging back then ;) All I do now is use coupons on our dates!

(Hilarious photo by Fuzzy Gerdes)


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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mercedes April 5, 2012 at 7:51 am

I’m with your wife on the whole coupon on the first date. As much as it pains me to pay full price for a meal, if I didn’t know the person pretty well prior to that first date, I would be a little weirded out if they whipped out a coupon for that first meal.

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2 Michelle April 5, 2012 at 8:23 am

I agree with your wife. I think I would be weirded out but I don’t know. I’ve been with my boyfriend since I was 16 so it’s hard to think of what dating would be like haha. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

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3 Christopher @ This That and The MBA April 5, 2012 at 9:12 am

Yah it is alright to use a coupon if you want your second date to be alone. The first date is where you pull out all the stops. Use a new razor to shave the peach fuzz, put on your dads brut aftershave, use his original ralph lauren cologne and ask to borrow the parents car.

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4 Poor to Rich a Day at a Time April 5, 2012 at 9:13 am

When I met my second husband he was dating a couple other woman who all wanted expensive meals out. When he called for our first date he asked how much I thought he needed to bring, my answer was $2 , we don’t need money for where we are going and yes it was a test!

I took him to a STATE park ( thus the $2 for the park sticker) and we went on a 4 mile nature hike. I wanted a man who would walk with me as I love to walk. Our second date was a 8 mile hike he thought he was going to DIE on LOL.

Now 14 years later we continue walking side by side as best friends for long walks.

So I see no reason you can not use coupons on your first date, my rule is be who you are, even on first dates, I hate guessing games and pretenses of being somebody else just to charm, your true self comes out eventually, best to be that on the first date!

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5 Erin April 5, 2012 at 9:15 am

Let me start by saying, I thought the title of this post was “Is it Okay to Use CONTRACEPTION on the First Date?”

My immediate thought to the above was , “please do” because you really don’t want to have a child with someone you’ve only bee on ONE date with.

Moving along, I’m fairly frugal, and I HATE that I even think this, but in my early twenties my girlfriends and I definitely would have judged and laughed about a guy that whipped out a coupon on the first date. Now that I’m a bit older and more mature (and also married, and financially responsible), I would LIKE to think I would have the opposite reaction – specifically “Yes! This focker thinks like me! We’ll be retired by the time we’re 45.” Either way, if a lady (or gent) is judging your fiscal responsibility, they probably aren’t a great match for you :)

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6 Beth April 5, 2012 at 9:23 am

I’m thinking that if you tried to take your date out to someplace you can’t afford, and didn’t plan anything that could be fun that was something you *could* afford, or got a date with someone who isn’t open to doing something fun that cost less than what is “traditionally” expected on a first date, then whipping out a coupon on said first date is the least of your problems.

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7 Bridget April 5, 2012 at 9:36 am

I don’t think it would bother me… I’d probably find it amusing.

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8 John | Married (with Debt) April 5, 2012 at 9:43 am

This made me laugh. I’d try to find a way to slip it to the waiter or maitre’d when I went to the bathroom. Or you could fold it up under your credit card when you stick it in the envelope.

Or just tell her it’s a rewards certificate for being such a big baller at that restaurant.

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9 TeacHer April 5, 2012 at 9:44 am

Initially when I read this I was like, the FIRST date? No way!!! But on second thought I think that I’d probably be cool with it. It sort of depends on how the person IS about the coupon. If he makes a joke like, “and because I’m turning into my dad, I’m using a coupon!” or something kinda cheesy/cute like it would be ok. If he’s all serious about it, I’d get weirded out.

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10 Well Heeled Blog April 5, 2012 at 9:57 am

I think a first date is all about making sure the other person is comfortable – that means you don’t take them to an over-the-top restaurant, you don’t whip out the coupon, you don’t debate religion or politics in an impassioned manner (unless that’s your thing). If I go on a first date and the guy took out a coupon, I would’ve been weirded out. Because I would think that he chose the place with the coupon in mind, not with me in mind.

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11 Marianne April 5, 2012 at 10:18 am

I think that if coupons/ being frugal are important to you you should totally use a coupon. If the other person is turned off by this or embarrassed and doesn’t want to date you again, it’s probably for the better as you obviously have fairly different feelings about money. I don’t really get what the big deal about using a coupon is- do you guys do it in such a way that draws massive attention to yourselves?

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12 Felicia April 5, 2012 at 10:35 am

Before I started being money savvy, I would have been so turned off by someone using a coupon on a date. Now… I’m thinking it shows we have the same money mindset! I’d rather he use a coupon than waste money!

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13 Amy April 5, 2012 at 10:36 am

Since I’m the one usually whipping out the coupon, it wouldn’t have bothered me. In fact, it would have opened a whole new topic of conversation — being frugal! Which I love to talk about.

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14 Him April 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

Not on a FIRST date, maybe wait for the second. Or maybe when you get to first base.

We covered this in our blog a few years ago: http://www.makelovenotdebt.com/2006/10/finances_and_dating_coupons.php

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15 DebtnTaxes April 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

I don’t know how I feel about the first date couponing. I guess it all depends on how things were going at the time. We really don’t use coupons now when we go out to eat, mainly because we live in a pretty rural area with not much to choose from when it comes to restaurants. Even if we did use a coupon all I would do is add the saved money to the tip, cuz I feel like waitresses at times can be really underpaid.

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16 Yardwork April 5, 2012 at 11:14 am

I’d vote: “Heck Yeah!”

I mean, seriously, it’s not enough that guys are ALWAYS expected to pay for date one, even if the “lady” asks for the date, but we’re expected to financially bleed out in the process?

No.

If I need to put my card on the table, i’ll do it, but if my date is going to turn her nose up at the fact that I’m looking to save myself some cash while I’m going out of my way to “Wine and Dine” her, she will not be getting a second date.

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17 Andrew @ Money Crashers April 5, 2012 at 11:26 am

@ Mercedes, totally hear ya. This is a pretty polarizing topic!
@ Michelle, no doubt there’s nothing wrong in principle and I can see why that’s a tough one for you.
@ Christopher, love the colorful insights there…you must be a smooth guy! :)
@ Poor to Rich, great backdrop to the story…you two were made for each other
@ Erin, hilarious. Maybe that should be the next piece J does.
@ Beth, very true!
@ John, I’ll admit…I’ve tried to be super sneaky like this and it almost never works!
@ TeacHer, very true…a lot of it is how the person approaches it
@ Well Heeled, that’s a really interesting perspective. I completely agree if the coupon was his first priority, that’s a problem.
@ Marianne, I like that attitude…basically be yourself!
@ Felicia, very mature approach here.
@ Him, I didn’t know that the “bases” played a role…interesting!
@ DebtnTaxes, fair enough…use the coupon to help give more back to the waitress.
@ Yardwork, and she’s probably not the right fit for you anyways!

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18 Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple April 5, 2012 at 11:53 am

Personally, if your date judges you by how much money you spend on them, I’d run the other way. There’s a enough fish in the sea, so to speak, that you don’t need to pick one which is “high maintenance”

But this is also coming from someone who hasn’t been on a first date in almost a decade so what I do know? :)

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19 Melissa April 5, 2012 at 11:58 am

I think it would depend on the context. If a dude took me to a new place I might not have gone to otherwise, and pulled out a Groupon voucher, then I probably wouldn’t think too much of it. If he took me to McDonald’s so he could use Two Can Dine for $7.99 coupons, there almost definitely wouldn’t be a second date!

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20 Mrs. Money Mustache April 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Hahaha! I saw this tweet from J. Money this morning (just the title) and asked MMM if he would use a coupon on a first date and even he said NO. :)

But, I think it depends on how well you know the person and how it all played out. For example, if you’re trying to decide on where to go to dinner and you mention you have a coupon and that dinner “is on me” (with a wink and a laugh), then you’re probably fine, assuming your date has a sense of humor. But, if you whip it out last minute, it would feel cheesy.

I think if your date likes you, they are going to like you though… coupon or no coupon.

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21 Alice April 5, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Here’s my issue with the coupon on the first date– it says “I didn’t choose this restaurant because I like it, or I thought you’d like it, or I thought it would make a good first date; I chose it because I have a coupon, and I’m cheap.” It would be okay if it’s something we had talked about beforehand and I really believed that my date already frequented the restaurant, but otherwise I would rather just go somewhere more affordable and have them save the coupon for another date. Or they could make me dinner. That would be frugal, and not nearly as weird as the coupon.

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22 SavvyFinancialLatina April 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm

J. Money I agree with your wife. I actually went on out with guys that invited me because they had an extra free ticket to a movie, or a buy one get one dinner off, or would order one entree and split the check with me. Turnoffs! I am a frugal person, but I am looking for a generous man. My hubby spoiled me when we were dating. I loved it! Now, all the spoiling was within his means. He did not go into debt for me! Which is very important actually! Spoil your date within your means. I did not expect jewelry, etc. All I wanted was a good dinner with friendly conversation :). LOL guess it worked for him!

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23 Eddie April 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm

The coupon on a first date looks real cheesy. At least let the person know you before you get to the coupon stuff, because a lot of people don’t understand the difference between frugal and cheap.

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24 Good Cents Savings April 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Very interesting question! My last “first date” was when I was 19 with my now husband and involved Blockbuster and some really cheap beer, so I’m thinking a coupon wouldn’t have bothered me one bit. ;)

BUT – assuming the daters are grownups…I’d probably vote save the coupon for a 3rd or 4th date, and if you don’t have a lot to spend ask the guy or girl to go hiking or something else fun that won’t cost a penny.

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25 HP April 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm

No coupon on a first date. Even if she sticks around the event will forever be a point of ridicule.

If you absolutely had to use a coupon…I’d wait til the end and slip it in the bill along with a credit card. However, it’s a big risk if the coupon doesn’t work/expired/etc. because getting called out in front of the date for a broke coupon would be 5x worse.

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26 KimmyQ April 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I don’t mind coupons because they are an excuse to try something new. If we were all truly frugal, we would be living in tents eating food from the dumpster behind the grocery store…because expiration dates are estimates. To me, a coupon says “I am open to adventure, and I am organized enough to hang onto a coupon and plan to use it.”

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27 Bryan at Pinch that Penny! April 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Is there a difference between using a coupon and a gift card on a first date? I feel like using either would be weird.

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28 WorkSaveLive April 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I don’t think there is any chance I’d use a coupon on a first date. However, if it was the only way I could pay for the dinner (without going into debt) then I’d do it.

I think it is rather embarrassing to leave the night on that note. If the date went poorly though, then why not? Bust out the coupon!

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29 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager April 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Maybe a Groupon (because they are trendy), but not a coupon.

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30 Tackling Our Debt April 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I might find it okay for him to use a coupon if it was talked about before the date happened and it was done in a fun way.

Something like he says “hey I have a great 2 for 1 coupon for dinner at this new restaurant, are you up for it?”

Give the gal the option to say yes or no upfront.

But to wait until the dinner is over and then pull out a coupon to pay for it, to me screams cheap. Which she still may be okay with, but may not, you run the risk, especially if you find that you really like her.

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31 Cassie April 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Dates #2 through infinity, absolutely. Date #1? I don’t know how I’d feel about that. Whether I feel conflicted about it or not, the first date is when the assessment meter is in high gear. Compatibility, attitude, morals, looks… and finances. I honestly think I’d prefer to be taken on a cheaper date than a more expensive one with a coupon, because I’d get a better feel for the person. I don’t know, maybe I’m being shallow.

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32 LifeInTransition April 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I generally would advise anyone to use a coupon on the first date. The only justifiable exception is if you already know the person pretty well, and is positively sure that the date won’t take any offense. Make sure that you tip based on the pre-discounted bill though.

Right now, my fiance and I will not go on a date without a coupon/groupon…it’s the only way we can afford nicer places.

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33 Nick April 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I would ABSOLUTELY use a coupon on a first date. In fact, I would use a coupon as an excuse to land a first date? (“Hey, you’re cute. I’m looking for a #2 for my buy one get one sandwich free over at Arby’s…”)

Seriously though – I’ve used lines like that – they work with the proper confidence and delivery… and if you get rejected then it’s their loss! I’ll eat both roast beef sandwiches myself.

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34 This Aggie Saves April 5, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I’d totally whip out a coupon on a first date! No reason why someone shouldn’t. And I wouldn’t judge anyone for it either.

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35 Britney April 6, 2012 at 2:53 am

I’m pretty sure if I knew where we were going ahead of time… I’d bring the coupon myself! If he had one already, I’d probably swoon.

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36 Barb April 6, 2012 at 11:10 am

It would actually be a positive thing to me as I would think the guy might have a frugal head on his shoulders and be compatable with me! Be who you are. If you use coupons for most meals out (like I do) don’t hide it. I have found my life partner but if I hadn’t I would be looking for someone with similar values and the confidence to live them, first date or not.

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37 FB April 6, 2012 at 11:46 am

No coupon on the first date, your much better off saving money by splitting a dessert or appetizer.

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38 richard@moneygraffiti.com April 6, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Guys, guys–finesse! Hasn’t anyone considered diplomacy? You excuse yourself, get the waiter, maitre d’ or whoever aside, tell them it’s your first date with this lovely creature and you don’t want her to think you’re cheap but you do want to benefit from this coupon (that brought you here in the first place), so can you kindly apply it before presenting the bill? Thank you, my friend. I knew you’d understand . . .

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39 Doug April 7, 2012 at 8:11 am

The first thing I thought of when I saw the title to this article was “Wow, you better have a great personality”. Though coupons are smart and frugal, they do not convey special; which is what a first date should be.

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40 Mike Collins April 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I don’t think I’d use a coupon on a first date. Maybe after a few dates and you felt comfortable with her, but on the first date I think it would come across as “cheap” rather than “frugal”.

But I do like the idea of bringing it just in case…if the date is going poorly and you already know you don’t want to see her again you could feel free to whip it out!

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41 Andrew @ Money Crashers April 8, 2012 at 7:39 am

@Melissa, I guess there is a “too cheap” that we all need to decide with this stuff.
@MMM, I hear ya. I think as long as you’re comfortable about it and the date goes well otherwise, it shouldn’t make or break the chances for a second date.
@Alice, but what if they’re just super smart with money and can somehow find deals to even great places…why not take you to great place A that allows a coupon over great place B that doesn’t?
@HP, or could it be a point of where you felt comfortable with each other and saw some similarities in approaches towards money!
@WorkSaveLive, love it…use it depending on how the date goes!
@Nick, very original pickup line!
@Barb, love it!
@Richard, good way to straddle the line!

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42 J. Money April 9, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Glad you all liked the post! Was a fun one to consider for sure – thanks so much for the great discussion starter, Andrew. And for responding to everyone too! Huge help :)

Hope y’all had a great Easter!

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43 Melissa (Miss Lissy) April 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Would I use a coupon on a first date? Absolutely and it wouldn’t turn me off if the other person did either. Maybe I’ve just gotten lax in my ways, but eating out in general is special for me and I think saving money doesn’t take away from the specialness of it. The special part of the date should be the experience and the shared time together, not how much money someone does or doesn’t spend.

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44 J. Money April 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Preach on sista!

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45 Kelli-Saving Money May 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Not only is it ok to use a coupon it should be encouraged. If you are into saving money, your date should respect and appreciate the same things if the relationship is going to work. It is important to have the same ideals especially concerning money.

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