The Cheap Date

markbarbieriJuly 9, 2006

I was reminded today of a conversation that I had with a friend back in our college days. He was telling me about a date he had that ended up only costing him $25 (1984 dollars). I was astonished that he'd pay that much for one date for someone he barely knew. He was astonished that I would ever consider spending even less.

His dates ALWAYS included a nice dinner and usually included other expensive (for college kids) entertainment. My dates were usually to someplace free and the meals were usually either made by one of us or quite cheap.

He couldn't believe that I could find anyone that would be interested in a date like that. I told him that it definitely thinned the available dating pool, but it left the remainder more concentrated with people that I'd like to be with.

Now after about 15 years of being married to a wonderful caring, giving, and frugal woman, I'm have to say that I like the way my dating strategy worked out. We're quite happy with the things we have and are well on our way to putting our kids through college and retiring comfortably.

He's on his second marriage and still fighting to achieve a positive net worth. He did, I must admit, get more dates.

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I am firmly convinced that arguments about how to spend money are some of the most detrimental to a marriage because money stands for so much -- power, spiritual values, etc. A similar attitude toward money is one of the things I look for before a relationship gets serious.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 7:10AM
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One of my most fondly remembered dinner dates was when my now-husband invited me to his apartment for the first time and served canned corned beef with mashed potatoes, garnished with chunks of aged cheddar. He explained that this dish was something cheap and quick that his mom sometimes made during a busy week. Now, some young women, presented with such a gourmet meal and suggestion of frugality, would turn and run, but I felt oddly touched by the implication that he considered me a part of his family.

We still make this dinner every once in a while and if you overlook its health and environmental drawbacks, it's really, really tasty and filling :)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 5:54PM
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I have to admit that I was the broke college female who went on more dates than I care to admit, with guys I didn't really like, because of the promise of a meal. Happened toward the end of the pay period. I can't image that I would have turned down the opportunity to spend time with some I DID like because they didn't have much money for dates. I think most of us were pretty broke at the time, so I can only imagine the "payment" your friend tried to demand for such a nice date. Went on a few of those and it wasn't a pleasant ending to the day.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 3:55AM
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I remember the first time my boyfriend invited me to dinner at his apartment. He made the meal from scratch,it was spaghetti and meatballs with a chocolate milkshake for dessert. Our first restaurant dinner, he had a buy one-get one free coupon. It was a very fancy restaurant and the bill was about $30. We got married in 1979. Best thing I ever did.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 9:13PM
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Nowadays, male and female college students/young adults generally have about equal earning power, so they should probably just split the bill :) If they can't agree on a restaurant/locale, well then maybe it's not meant to be...

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 9:19PM
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There's a lot to be said for long walks in the park...

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 5:13PM
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What a great thread! When I met my DH, I was newly divorced, trying to go to school, work and raise my two kids. The last thing I wanted was a DATE and I made that clear. But, he was pretty persistent and I finally said yes. We went out for a drink and apps at the Ground Round. I really could not possibly care less about how much he spent. What was important was how he treated me. He treated me with kindness and caring then and does now 20 years later. He still is on the frugal side, but that's okay by me!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 11:13AM
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A date does not have to be *dinner*. It can be just coffee and sweets.

*First dates* should be something 'special' not just having meatloaf at somebody's apartment. Sharing meatloaf or spagetti dinner is something for later, when the relationship becomes established and comfortable.

I have a theory that a date likes to be impressed with the idea of special treatment, and not feel like they are just tagging along while you eat your dinner.

If you have a small budget I suggest spending that $10 at the finest and trendiest coffee shop, for some super latte and some tiramisu. She'll feel special that you picked out the best place in town for coffee and conversation with her. This is preferable to taking that same $10 and spending it on dinner at one of those noisy buffet places or worse yet, a fast food chain, for no other reason than you felt you had to provide DINNER.

Same amount of money. Waaaay different ambiance.

Also, note that a lot of women won't accept a first date that is going to take place in your home. They began to worry about their saftey. It is better to get to know each other in a public place first, before inviting a woman to your home. Also, a man often jumps to the wrong conclusions when a woman invites a guy to her home. He may not be thinking that a 'home cooked meal' is all you are offering.

I think that nowdays the rule for a first date is that whomever does the *inviting* does the paying - man or woman. One should not be expected to whip out their W2 form for income comparison as to how, or if, the bill is to be split. Splitting a bill in a restaurant is just tacky. There are other ways to make things more 'equal'. One person can get the tickets to the show and the other can pick up the food tab, or one can get dinner and the other take care of all the drinks at the bar, or one can pay the cover charge and the other pick up the drinks. Even casual friends do it this way.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 5:37PM
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You are right on! Sounds like you have a lot of experience too. I couldn't see myself with someone who begrudges buying dinner (or as Bud mentioned, a Latte & scones etc) out somewhere nice on a first date. I hope that doesn't mean I'm shallow, because I'm not. I feel a first date is special and if a man has issues with that concept right from day 1, I just know it would get worse from there :-).

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 6:17PM
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One thing I do know is that women HATE cheap and stingy. So if you do use *coupons* in a restaurant do so discretely. Hand the waiter or hostess your credit card AND coupon ahead of time. This is best done by making an excuse to leave the table momentarily, and quickly handing it to the waiter saying "Put everything on my card." and when doing so, it is nice to add "Write in a XX percent tip too."

That way the waiter brings you your bill with everything already calculated and he doesn't have to run back and forth re-calcualting the bill after you dig out, and unfold your coupon in front of your date, making it obvious. She won't suspect a thing. Even if the charge slip and bill should happen to come to the table for you to sign, with the big brightly colored coupon stapled to it, she is less likly to react negativly if the whole proceedure was done in a smooth discrete manner.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 10:08PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Hmmm, I agree with you Bud, but ten bucks won't buy two nice coffees and a dessert here! More like eighteen. And that's one dessert.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 4:21PM
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My husband and I often do the dessert-and-coffee thing instead of dinner, and yes, it's still $20.

What do guys think of a woman who just orders a salad and then picks at her partner's steak/fries/whatever? Do you admire her apparent self-restraint and frugality?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 5:36PM
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I wonder what's too frugal. A friend of mine got really angry because her husband put their anniversary dinner on his business credit card, so he could tax-deduct it. I am not sure how I would feel if my husband did the same, but I don't think I'd be too upset, as long as it's legal (which I am pretty sure it isn't).

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 6:09PM
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It isn't.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 2:27AM
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My husband and I just came back from our "vacation" visiting my 82-year-old mother in Buffalo . We ate every meal out because mom no longer cooks. Every meal ran over $20, including last night, two slices of pizza and two beers, $22.50.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 8:26AM
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Beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) add a significant percentage to the restaurant bill. When we order a full dinner we usually get tap water only.

Hope your mom got to go out on a "date" with you :)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 10:17AM
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My husband and I just came back from our "vacation" visiting my 82-year-old mother in Buffalo . We ate every meal out because mom no longer cooks. Every meal ran over $20, including last night, two slices of pizza and two beers, $22.50.

Jannie, I live in the area and that is insane! Where in the world did you go that two slices of pizza and two beers were so expensive?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 11:36AM
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Posted by bumblebeez: Hmmm, I agree with you Bud, but ten bucks won't buy two nice coffees and a dessert here! More like eighteen. And that's one dessert.

I just used an amount as an example. If 2 coffees and one dessert cost $18 where you live then dinner is probably $80. The point is to pick a something light and go to the best place that offers those items. This is preferable, and makes a better impression, than taking the SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY, *whatever* the amount, and spending it on dinner at a sub rate place.

Which would you rather have your date remember, the capucinno with the cute peaks and swirls of froth and the scintillating conversation that you shared, or standing in the long line at the greasy salad bar with the din of undisciplined children screaming in the background?

I do have another 'cheap date' tip to share. Rather than going out to eat dinner at the busy times and then going out for entertainment (movie, theater, concert), try doing the entertainment first and then going out to eat.

A lot of the finer restaurants offer an "After Theatre" menue around 10-11 o'clock as an option. It has smaller portion offering and sometimes things not on their regular menue. Naturally a smaller price that goes along with it. This way you can dine at one of the upscale places without spending a ton.

Ask for the 'After Theatre' menue to be brought to your table when you make your reservations on the phone. They will notate this on your rez and it will all be handled smoothly. You won't look cheap in front of your date. She may never even realize that the restaurant even has another menue offering hunks of prime rib and platters of BBQ. Most women don't want to stuff themselves while out on a date anyway, and will prefer ordering from a menue offering things like, light pasta plates or baked brie with mini croissants. Ask about special menues at restaurants - Early Bird, Senior, After Theatre. Lot of places have them but don't automaticly offer them, you have to ask.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 2:29PM
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You make a big deal about trying not too look frugal in front of your date (hiding coupons, secretly requesting special menus). I think that's a BIG mistake. If you are openly engaged in getting the most for your money, some dates will definitely be put off by that behavior. These are EXACTLY the sort of people that I wouldn't want to be invovled with. I like the idea of impressing frugal dates and offending big spenders.

Also, a lot of modern women these days like to share the cost of dates. My wife certainly did while we were dating. She didn't have much money, so the fact that I was openly cost conscious made her feel less self-conscious about her own frugalness.

I guess it all depends on what you're after. If you want the most dates, spend the money or hide your frugalness. If you want to find a frugal partner for life, be open about your "alternative lifesyle."

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 8:31AM
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I see what you're getting at, but I'm afraid that I would find a man whipping out coupons, without a thought, on a first date just a wee bit tacky for my tastes and personally I would take it as a "red flag". Kind of like a woman who talks excessively about ex-lovers or her pet cat ;-)

The fact that Bud is creative about using a coupon when he has one and not making a big show of it (that he saved a couple o' bucks) speaks volumes of the type of man he really is. I see it as he's being money wise, but also knows that it's important to have some mystery, and good ol' fashioned romance, at least on the first date.
Did I get that right Bud?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 2:27PM
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I'm talking about using coupons with class. Just be smoooth about it. I'm not talking about being phobic and sneaky. The financial aspects of a date should always be handled discretely anyway, no matter how you are paying. Your date should never be made to feel uncomfortable about the money. I do believe that with *first dates*, whomever does the inviting does the paying.

One of the reasons the Entertainment Card ( was was so popular intitially, was because they gave you a little plastic card that *looked* like a credit card that was punched when you used it. It could be discretely slipped on top of a CC or cash and quietly returned to the customer without looking like a cheezy coupon. Waiters were trained how to handle them.

This is different than what offers. With them, you have to print out a LARGE coupon and the waiters always seem to be confused about them. Which is another reason to hand the coupon to the server ahead of time. That way they don't stand at the table reading it and mumbling that they have to get it OK'd with the manager because of a void on the check...blah ...blah. They can get all of that out of the way while you dine and just have the check ready and all tidy for you by the time you are finished. Like I said, the object is to be smooooooth about it - not create a rukus at the table with distracting coupons and membership cards flying around.

Like Kimba00 says, pulling tattered coupon out of your "coupon keeper" on a first date makes a bad impression. Women HATE that sort of thing. It's just the way it is. I didn't make the rules. Once a realtionship gets going, you can slowly 'come out' about your frugalness - right about the time she feels comfortable having you meet her cat. LOL.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 3:13AM
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I have to say, bud_wi, that you have come up with some very creative ideas for saving money but not looking like you are. Bravo!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 11:33AM
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I think Bud's ideas really get to the heart of the frugal vs. cheap debate.

I want to date a man who is fiscally responsible and frugal. I don't want to date a man who is cheap.

Later on in a relationship, it is totally cool to say "hey, let's go out to X - I have a coupon."

On a first date, I want to feel like I am worth full price. That doesn't mean I want dinner and theatre tickets and coffee and dessert afterwards. (a) it is a first date - I may not want to spend that much time with you and (b) any one of those things would be a lovely evening out.

Using a coupon on a first date doesn't have to be a totally covert operation, but some discretion would be nice.

It is all part of the first date sizing up ritual. When the check comes, I intend to reach for my wallet and I intend for my date to decline and pay the bill - if it is a multi-activity evening, I'm okay with getting the movie tickets or whatever (assuming I did not to the inviting - otherwise it is the reverse, he should offer, but I should pay).

Ideally, later in a relationship you can settle into alternating who pays for a date and choosing activities and destinations according to your respective finances. Except for extenuating circumstances, I never like splitting the check.

Here is a link that might be useful: craftfetish blog

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 11:35AM
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I guess we just disagree. I don't see anything wrong with coupons. In fact, I'd be put off by someone that thought there WAS something wrong with using them. I guess it goes back to the original issue - being yourself on a first date can usefully turn off people that would eventually be turned off by your behavior anyway.

I remember a friend that took a girl out for pizza on their first date. This was way back in our high school days, well before cell phones. When they got there, the place was packed and the line to order was 20 minutes long. He told her to get a table and that he would "take care of it." He then went over to the pay phone and called in the order. When he told her, he expected her to be impressed with his clever problem solving, instead she was annoyed because what he had done was "wierd." They never went out together again and are both probably much better off for it.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 10:25PM
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So, how was ordering from a phone *frugal*???

I'm puzzled about that. Was he trying not to have to tip a waitress? That's not frugal that's just being cheap. Why did he think he did not have to wait in line like everybody else to order and called his order in ahead of those who had been patiently waiting? I bet she was embarrassed.

If he was trying to impress her he would have placed a *time order* in hours ahead of time. You know, call ahead and say something like "Hey this is Bob. My GF and I are going to be coming in at around 8:00 and we want a Large Deluxe ready. Do you need my credit card number or should I just pay when I get there?"

Then they could have just walked in and gotten their hot and pipping pizza right away while the others were still waiting in line to order. >>>>>>>>She would have been impressed!

Most restaurants will do a time order. If you are a 'regular' and they know you they will be happy to do so. If not they may take a CC# and they will bill you if you don't show up. This prevents hoaxsters.

I guess impressing a date by using your brains, and a little class, IS a frugal dating tip. It doesn't cost any money at all to do so. LOL.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 12:54AM
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I must admit, I wouldn't dream about dating someone who couldn't afford to take me out! I'm kind of old fashioned and I firmly believe that the male should do all of the treating! :)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 6:23PM
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I remember a few years back mentioning that I didn't drink (alcoholic beverages) The guy standing next to me said "Aha, a cheap date!" "AHA", I said, "but I don't drink in very expensive places"

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 4:39AM
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"I must admit, I wouldn't dream about dating someone who couldn't afford to take me out!"

I think I would take into consideration WHY he couldn't afford to take you out. If he's a grown man still living at home and can't get and/or keep a job...that's one thing. If he's a struggling student trying to finish his masters in physics at MIT while trying to keep his educational costs under control, it's another....

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 10:39AM
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I wouldn't care at all if someone used a coupon on a first date. In fact, I may consider it a positive. All things being equal, why would you pay more for something than you have to? And, why would you feel the need to try to hide it?

This is sort of drifting from the point, but I was dating a very traditional guy who always wanted to pay for everything. On his birthday I really wanted to take him out for dinner and pay. I could tell it was bugging him that I wanted to pay even though it was his birthday. We decided on a nice Italian rest. he liked near his house. When the check came I grabbed it, again stressing it was his birthday and I was paying. At that point he whipped out a 2 for 1 coupon and said well, at least use this. I thought it was very endearing that he wanted to try to save me money. And, yes, of course I used the coupon.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 12:41AM
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carla (who's 35,at least),

And how long ago was it that you treated your traditional male friend?

And you're still friends?

Updated news is always refreshing.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 6:30PM
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carla35 is not at all related to my real name or age...but I answer to it, and good guess!

That date was about ten years ago.

I wouldn't say we're 'not' friends, but considering I'm married now, and I make it a habit to not to hang out with old boyfriends, I wouldn't call us best buddies either. We parted amicably for ways that had nothing to do with money...(ok, don't think I'm mean but the old boyfriend, he just cried too much. Now, I don't mind a sensitive guy and a little crying from time to time, but this guy kept kleenex in business. I'm, like, suck it up, for pete's sake, it's only a commercial/paper cut or whatever it happned to be that day). Just think of the water works if I had choosen not to use his coupon!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 8:34PM
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I'd rather have several "cheap dates" (those using coupons and such) rather than several 'the sky's the limit' dates that end up as credit card debt on his end, and 'maybe this guy is for real' on my end.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 1:39AM
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Many years ago, ex DH and I had a NY Eve dinner with friends. The husband was notoriously cheap. We ordered dinner and she wanted bleu cheese on her salad which was an additional 50 cents. She had to pay her husband the difference!!!!!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 4:41PM
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There's frugal...then there's cheap. I would have paid "hubby" for the dressing. Then had the great pleasure of seeing him have to wear it:)

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 6:38PM
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