Smart Buying

Should You Use Coupons on a Date?

Coupons and dating can mix, but only after a shared passion for frugality has been established.

Picture this: You’re on a date with someone you recently met, and it’s going well so far. The two of you have just eaten a great meal at a nice restaurant, and the waiter has brought the check. Your date eyes the bill then pulls out a coupon and places it with the check along with cash. What happens next?

A. You smile because you know that coupons are a great way to save money.

B. Your jaw drops and you ask yourself, “What sort of cheapskate uses a coupon on a first date?”

A survey by coupon Web site Coupon Cabin found that 26% of adults have used a coupon on a first date, and the same percentage reported that they would have a positive reaction if a date used a coupon. And nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they would go out with a person again if he or she used a coupon on a first date.

However, 12% of survey respondents said they wouldn’t go on a second date with a person who used a coupon on the first date; 3% said they would be offended; and 1% said they would actually walk out and leave the date.

Clearly, you take a risk if you use a coupon on a first date. But that doesn’t mean you should never mix coupons and dating, says Natalie McNeal, editor of TheFrugalista.com and author of The Frugalista Files: How One Woman Got Out of Debt Without Giving up the Fabulous Life. Here’s why she says the two can be compatible -- and make good financial sense -- as long as you don’t introduce coupons into the relationship too soon.

Don’t use coupons on a first date because you might offend the other person. More importantly, McNeal says, you shouldn’t take a date to a restaurant that you can’t afford without a coupon. You should choose an establishment with prices that fit within your budget, or find other ways to keep costs under control by taking advantage of happy hour deals, for example.

Don’t be sneaky about using coupons, either. If you think you can ignore the advice above by secretly slipping a coupon to your server to avoid offending your date, think again. McNeal says that your plan might backfire if you’ve budgeted a certain amount for your meal based on a discount. Your date might order more food than you expect or turn out to be a big drinker and run up a hefty bar tab that eliminates any savings that coupon might have provided.

Wait until after the third date to use a coupon, McNeal says, because you’ll likely know how the person will respond to your frugal ways. At that point, using a coupon can be a good way to gauge the person’s financial temperament and open a dialogue about money. Let your date know before you go out that you have a coupon and ask whether it would be a good idea to use it. If he or she acts resentful or angry about your attempt to save money, it might be a sign that your financial habits won’t mesh. On the other hand, if your date is open to the idea, McNeal says that using coupons -- along with finding free or affordable activities -- can be a great way to spend time together without spending a lot of money.

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