Being Frugal and Dating

by Jon Dulin

Being frugal and dating is hard to do. It’s a fine line that you have to walk. Step too far to one side and you come off as cheap. Step too far to the other side and suddenly you need to take a night job to pay off the credit card.

So how does a single guy on a budget make it happen? How do you show off your best to a potential mate without breaking the bank? Below are some tips for walking that fine line.

Don’t Use Coupons on The First Few Dates

I know all you ladies out there love a frugal guy who has his sh!t together. But let’s be serious, if I pulled out some coupons on our first date, you may question just how cheap I really was. After all, you really know nothing about me at this point.

Using coupons can send off the wrong signal to the ladies. If the girl you are on a date with has an issue with you using a coupon, it doesn’t immediately mean she is a gold digger. She may just need clarification on why you are using it. I would not use coupons on dates at first. Get to know each other a little bit and through your stories, you should be able to show her that you are smart with your money.

Once this happens, then you can use a coupon. Of course, you’ll need to present it the right way too. Don’t say you were dumpster diving and scored a 2 for $20 deal. Tell her you got a flyer in the mail for a dinner special and that you checked the place out online and it looks fun and gets great reviews.

Don’t Make the Lady Pay

Look, there are certain things about being a guy that sucks. One includes watching football and having your girlfriend/wife/sister/mom interrupt it to ask you to move something heavy. Another is being the lucky one to investigate that noise downstairs in the middle of the night. And yet another is paying on the first date. Don’t ask the girl to pay and don’t suggest you go “halfsies”. If she is a girl with manners, when the check comes, she will either

A) make a move for the check
B) if you get it first, she will ask you what she owes you.

Politely decline saying that it is your treat.

Now, there are some guys out there ready to email me about how much it costs to take a girl out. I know it costs a lot for dinner. But this is just the way is it. Once you are in a more committed relationship, then you can start splitting the bill or switching off on who pays depending on who asks who out.

One other option that I have heard is accepted today but never used is to take her up on her offer to pay half. Before you say this contradicts what I just wrote above, read on. This option should only be used when you both know there will be no second date. Again, call me old fashioned but I think the guy should pay regardless. But, as with the changing of the times, this option is acceptable.

Options Other Than Dinner

Go out for drinks, not dinner. This is especially key if you can work it around happy hour. But don’t pick Applebee’s because you know you can get a 24oz Brutus for $1.50. Find a nice place to go that “just happens” to have drink specials. But don’t make your date order off of the specials menu.

When all else fails, pull out the coffee card, but don’t go to Starbucks. Find a nice Mom & Pop coffee house. It shows you put some thought into the date. Don’t use the excuse you hate coffee. I hate coffee and I took dates to coffee shops. I just ordered a hot chocolate.

Ideally, find something fun to do instead of dinner. Sitting across from one another is a lot pressure. You HAVE to make conversation and deal with the awkward silences. If you can find something fun to do, you are ahead of the game. You will both be focusing on the activity and the conversation will come naturally. Ever wonder why all of the dating shows have the people doing all of those things? It’s because it’s more natural and fun than just sitting at a table talking. Plus there are many free or low cost things you can do that are fun.

For more low cost date options, check out my post of 50 cheap date ideas. You’re certain to find something in there that interests both of you and won’t break the budget. If you are looking to meet someone to go on a first date with, be sure to read up on this website dating comparison chart.

Readers, do you have any tips for those looking to be frugal while dating?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean @ One Smart Dollar September 20, 2012 at 10:10 am

I agree with all of your tips. I think the best way to cut down on the bill the first few dates without seeming cheap is to do something besides dinner. Dinner can easy get prices if you go somewhere decent. Take her to a museum or even the zoo. It’s going to be cheaper than dinner if you’re including drinks in the cost as well.
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moneysma September 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

A decent place for dinner with drinks included is usually always more expensive than other fun options.


Shannon-ReadyForZero September 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I like the idea of meeting over coffee and drinks. It allows you to get to know each other in a more casual and relaxed way and saves you money (plus, individually owned coffee shops often have much cozier atmospheres than many bars and restaurants).
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moneysma September 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Coffee shops are great dates. It’s usually quieter and more relaxing than a bar. If you get lucky, there will be an acoustic band there to cover you durig “awkward” silences.


Veronica @ Pelican on Money September 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I would break out laughing if a guy pulled out a coupon to pay for first date’s dinner lol. What does that say about them? Also, guys, if you don’t pay for first dinner well that’s just breaking some common sense rules.
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moneysma September 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Exactly how I feel, and I’m a guy!


John S @ Frugal Rules September 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I agree with all of your points. I think a lot of it just comes down to being creative. When my wife and I were dating we’d do things like do a picnic dinner or other simple things. I agree that it’ll generally just look ridiculous to pull out a coupon on the first few dates. After you get to know each other a little better you can see if the two of you are on the same page in terms of finances.
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moneysma September 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I agree. Once you get to know each other better and can see if you are on the same page then you can pull out the coupon. Even if you are not on the same page, at least she knows you are frugal by your conversations. Plus, she won’t think you are cheap. You can spend money on the things that matter the most to you.


Garrett September 20, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I often spend very little on dates, but not because I am intentionally trying to be frugal. I just find that a lot of the more interesting date ideas I think of involve very little if any cash to do.

The bonus is that most of these types of dates also require some additional thought and your partner will recognize that. It will stay with them a lot longer in most cases and have more meaning than five expensive wine and dine at a fancy restaurant dates.
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moneysma September 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm

The thoughtfulness of the date does have a big impact. I’ve been told many times about how thoughtful I was to suggest a certain date.


Frugal Flip September 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I think coffee is a great first date choice because it can last 20 minutes or 90 minutes, BUT I will expect him to treat. It’s not like we just want a free meal; there are few things more torturous than having to make it through a dinner when you’re clearly not compatible.

On one first date, my potential suitor complained about the price of drinks at the bar that HE suggested. There was no second date.
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moneysma September 22, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Yeah, coffee shops are good in that you can “call it a night” rather quickly if it’s not working out.

That’s crazy about complaining about the price of things when you suggest it. With the internet, you can easily see how pricey a place is before going to it, so there is no excuse not to know ahead of time.


MakintheBacon$ September 25, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I’ve asked a few guys out, including my bf, and funny enough, even though I had asked them out, they paid for the first date. I have no problem paying for the first date and although I offer, the guy always insists on paying. I’ve dated a couple of guys who have insisted on paying for almost everything. I felt bad and also a little insulted because I think girls should be able to pay for their dates as well if they want.

With respect to frugal dating, alternatives to dinner can include going for sunday brunch or just dessert, if you need some food to go with that coffee. :)
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moneysma September 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I always make it a point to pay for the first handful of dates. After that, I let her pay if she wants to. There comes a point where by me paying all the time is sending the wrong message.


Kevin Mzansi September 29, 2012 at 11:06 am

I agree that paying for the first date is definitely the guys’ treat. This can get expensive, though, if you are a serial dater. Remember that you can set the agenda – you don’t have to go to a Michelin 3-star restaurant every time. Be creative and your love life can fit any budget…
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