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Coupons on a first date, yay or nay?

Even romance can’t escape the recession – lately, I’ve been seeing frugal dating tips everywhere. One thing I’ve read is to use a coupon on a first date.

I love eating out, I love good food, and if I can do it for 10% or 20% or 50% off, all the power to me. CB and I have no qualms about busting out a restaurant.com coupon and enjoying a $60 meal for $40, or going to Restaurant Week, or ordering specials. But using coupons on the 293rd date is very different than doing so on a first date.

Using coupons on a first date, especially in a restaurant, a bit awkward to me. ChowHound had a very spirited debate on this matter, with the Yay-coupons coming slightly ahead of the Nay-coupons. I think I’d lean towards Nay to coupons on the first date, and this is why:

  • First date should be the time when you are extra careful to make sure the other person is comfortable. A coupon might give the appearance that someone picked the restaurant only because of the discount, and not because of its great lighting or special tapas or cool drinks menu. Even if that’s not the case (i.e. the asker has a coupon to a great restaurant that he/she already knows and loves), I’d much rather avoid the impression.
  • Most coupons require that you announce the fact that you have a coupon at the beginning of the meal. Some coupons are really hard to figure out. Buy 2 entrees and get an appetizer (but not entrees in the XYZ section) or spend $50 in these categories and get 20% off. The date might feel as if he (or she) must order in a certain way because of the coupon, and that’s not cool.
  • Some waitstaff are not as attentive when you mention that you have a coupon. It’s not right, of course, because people should tip on the original amount so the waiters who provide the same level of service should receive the same tip from a party using a coupon and a party that doesn’t. But I’ve gotten bad service just for only getting water and not the cocktail the waitress pushed, so.. imagine if I used a coupon. Again, having a snippy waiter is something to laugh about when you have been dating the other person for a while, but it can add to the stress on the first date.

The one thing that I don’t like is how using (or not) coupons is seen as an indication of character. For the purpose of simplicity I will make the very general assumption that men tend to ask ladies on dates and women tend to be asked (understanding that there are no hard-and-fast rules and that this gender dynamic rules out gays and lesbians).

In the ChowHound thread most of the comments either said that men who uses coupons are either financially responsible stewards of money or cheap stingy penny-pinchers. And that women who don’t like coupons are gold-diggers who are only out for a free meal ticket. I would never discount someone for using a coupon on a first date, but my personal preference is against it. But coupon is a coupon – you can’t extrapolate that one instance to make assumptions about a person’s whole financial outlook / money management skills (good or bad).

Instead of having my date use a coupon at a more expensive place on a first date, I would much rather have a first date at a cheap neighborhood place or a a taco truck. First dates don’t have to be expensive (seriously – my favorite taco joint sells $0.80 tacos – get 15 of them, grab a bottle of $6 Moscato, and take me on a picnic. I will swoon), but it should be comfortable for both people.

Coupons on first dates can bring mixed reactions, so I say it’s best to wait until the dating relationship is a little further along before those 2 for 1s and buy one get one 50% start coming out. Of course, if both people met on CouponCupid.com, then go forth and coupon!

So.. coupons on a first date. Yay or nay? I’d be very interested in hearing feedback from both guys and gals.

  • DebtHater - Interesting one! I'm in a relationship, so if my guy busts out a coupon, I'm more likely to be impressed that he's using his noggin (since I'm the penny pincher, not him)! But on a first date… hmm… I think I'd still be impressed if he has a coupon. It's tough out there, so who can we assume he's a tightwad if he has a discount? There are other ways to find out about how a person feels about money. Besides, there must be a slick way to use a coupon. Like, when the girl goes to the bathroom, then hand the coupon to the wait staff. :-) ReplyCancel

  • Kim - I honestly don't think it would bother me too much, but I think I'd prefer if the guy told me up front. For example, "I know a great restaurant, and I actually have a coupon! What do you think?" Something like that…though actually, if he pulled out a coupon mid-dinner I probably wouldn't mind either. I'm big on coupons, and I'd probably be excited that he was into saving money too.

    Then again, I've been with the same person for over 5 years, and I never really did any traditional dating before that (where a stranger takes me out for a dinner or something), so perhaps I am not the best judge. ReplyCancel

  • Tweets that mention Coupons on a first date, yay or nay? | Well Heeled Blog -- Topsy.com - […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by WellHeeledBlog, Financial Uproar. Financial Uproar said: RT @WellHeeledBlog: New Post: Coupons on a first date? http://bit.ly/9v6WKM Probably not the best idea. […]ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - Definitely nay. It's just not a good look for the first time.

    The tipping thing is SUCH a minefield. I'm glad I live in NZ. Then again, I suppose it means less incentive to deliver outstanding service. ReplyCancel

  • me in millions - Absolute nay! I fully support coupons in general, but not until much, MUCH later in the relationship. You just look cheap and tacky. ReplyCancel

  • L.A. Daze - Big nay! It's really awkward and if a guy did that to me on the first date (or second, or third, or fourth…and so on), i'd wonder what else he counts in his head, or if he will get upset if I want to order desert (and it's not included in the coupon). I don't mind it once we've been together for a while and know each other's spending habits. ReplyCancel

  • emma - Wouldn't bother me – but I would sort of expect a, "hey, I got this awesome deal from TeamBuy for [insert awesome thing, like kayaking to the island, rock climbing, dinner at xyz, etc], and I think it would be great to use it with you, if you're interested.

    That way, I could say yes or no to whatever the planned thing is, instead of just assuming I would want to do whatever it is that he had a coupon for.

    Incidentally, I see a date as more than just going out for food together. I would probably prefer an activity, and have no problem using the Groupon/TeamBuy/whatever deal of the day you ended up using coupons.

  • Money Beagle - A first date is too early to involve money, but that's exactly what you're doing if you bring a coupon into the mix. There's a time and place for this but I just don't see a first date as being either. Back in my dating days, I never would have done such a thing though it made sense down the road when we started understanding each other more from a personal and financial level. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - "A first date is too early to involve money" <— I agree. I think there are just so much going on on a first date that there's no reason to inject more potential discomfort into it. ReplyCancel

  • financiallypoor - I'd say nay. The first date is your chance to impress the lady and in our current society coupons are considered penny pinching. This is your first real impression and you don't want to come off as someone like that. Unless you truly are like that then go for it but there are good odds that you won't have a second date. ReplyCancel

  • Jessie - My best friend recently went on a date and the guy used a coupon for everything – the movie and the dinner. It was horribly akward! a big nay! ReplyCancel

  • Evan - No way would I do that. It seems awkward to even read about it! Interestingly, it seems that when in a relationship say its ok cause its what they want their guy to do… ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen - I like coupons and would totally welcome them a few dates down the road, but I find the idea of using one on a first date to be tacky. I agree that you don't have to spend a lot of money to make a good impression, but the coupon sort of automatically cheapens the date. ReplyCancel

  • onegirl - Is there really a site called couponcupid? That cracks me up.
    I'm on the dating scene, and I say 'nay' on the first date. Sure, once we realize that we're penny pinchers, go for it, but it's not a good first impression. If you want to impress me, wine me and dine me, don't tell me what I can and cannot order.

    I also think that it would be wiser to go to the cheap taco joint that you LOVE versus an expensive restaurant that you know you can't afford in order to show off. I'll get to the bottom of it. hee hee.

    Great post today, babe. ReplyCancel

  • Early Retirement Ext - I think a first date should be an indication of subsequent behavior. If you don't use coupons, don't use them on a first date. If you do, do. Otherwise, people are just faking it. This may be alright depending on the goals of the first date, but if a long-term relationship is intended, it would be disheartening to learn that the other person was either putting on an impression or alternatively no longer cares to. ReplyCancel

  • Kim at MMI - Great question. Even though I am a huge fan of coupons, I also vote "nay" for the many reasons you outlined. I also suggest that you take enough cash to cover the dinner. There are many reasons a credit card might be denied. Having no way to pay is much more uncomfortable than any coupon-related issues! (I learned this the hard way at very swanky resturant when the creditor rejected my date's credit card because they thought it had been stolen!) ReplyCancel

  • Squirrelers - As a guy, I say No to coupons on first dates.

    Now, I only say that because its so socially unacceptable, and it would unfortunately make the girl feel bad. Having said that, I also think its smart for guys to be true to who you are. If you tend to save and aren’t a big spender, don’t splurge up front. Spend modestly, be creative, and do what you can. If the girl ultimately sees you as a penny pincher and wishes you were different, then you’ll know she’s high maintenance and materialistic, which won’t be a match for you.

    That said, while its unfortunate, its not good to use a coupon on the very first date. Even a very practical girl wouldn’t feel great about that. It is what it is, and you can just make other choices to show that you are practical and a saver. ReplyCancel

  • KNS_Financial - Definitely all for it! Why hide who you truly are? Why should you change who you are and then pull a "bait and switch" later on in the relationship? If I meet someone and they have negative opinions about coupons, I'd rather know that up front – maybe it's a sign of some deeper financial irresponsibility (or she's just embarrassed), who knows? ReplyCancel

  • Fig - Too awkward for me. I'd save it for date number 2. First dates are already bad enough… no need to introduce coupons into the mix. ReplyCancel

  • Sandy L - I initially thought I wouldn't care, but I haven't dated in so long I don't even remember what it's like. Most people I dated though were people I knew for a while first, so that's probably why I wouldn't mind.

    I've had a first date once where I got food poisoning and my date had to keep pulling over so that I could throw up on the side of the road. It was the longest 2 hours of my life. ReplyCancel

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  • Eric - Narrow Bridge - I just used a Groupon on a second date. It didn't seem to be a big deal, but Groupon deals seem to be trendy these days. ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie - I'm from the South, and personally, I would be absolutely appalled if the guy didn't care enough about pulling out the stops on the first date. That said, it's a good idea to discuss money soon after you start dating. Not details, but things that might have an impact on the the relationship in the short run (like, "My income varies…so we can't go out to nice restaurants every week," etc.). ReplyCancel

  • Andi@ModernTightwad - I think you should if you can, but you might have to sneak it. I know when we're out with friends my guy gets up to go to the bathroom and slips the waiter a cc for the check. I see nothing wrong with doing that on a first date and slipping a coupon with it. However I do think you should only do that if you're planning on picking up the check and tipping for the full amount, otherwise your waiter might be an arse about the coupon and blab. ReplyCancel

  • hsa in indiana - Maybe if you stated the coupon was a gift certificate to the waiter it could fly, but I think it would send the wrong message to some people. ReplyCancel

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