Dating Etiquette: The debate about coupons

As most of you know, I’m a single gal (James Franco, are you reading this?). And if you’ve been with my blog since the beginning, you also probably know that I’ve been in long-term relationships for almost six years (2 years, 3.5 years). So I’m a little out of touch with dating etiquette. Specifically the use of coupons on the first date.

Six years ago, I probably would have considered it a little tacky to use a coupon on the first date. But then again six years ago, I was in massive debt, and using coupons probably could have helped out my cause. Well it’s 2011 now, and with the economy what it is (where all of a sudden frugal is the new cool), I thought that perhaps there had been a switch in mentality regarding coupon use.

So I went and asked the good people on Twitter what they thought about using coupons on a first date. Here are a few of the responses:

I could post more responses, but you get the picture. It was a resounding HELL NO (with a few ‘why nots’ sprinkled into the mix). Which leads me to this question: WHY?

I mean, yeah, okay, maybe using a coupon can be viewed as tacky. But couldn’t it also be viewed as smart? Why would you willingly pay full price for something when you know you don’t have to? To show that you’re not cheap? Because it’s awkward to hand over a coupon and still feel confident? Your value isn’t dictated by the amount of money someone spends on you. Let’s say you took a date to a restaurant that you could afford. But you had a 2-for-1 coupon anyway. You wouldn’t use it? Do you really have to spend more money on the first few dates in order to get someone to like you and want to go out with you again?¬†Because let’s face it: if you weren’t on a date, you know you’d be using that coupon.

Which brings me to another question: why, then, is it acceptable to use a coupon once you’ve been dating for a while? You don’t have to impress anyone anymore?

It’s such a weird thing, that so many people area against using coupons on a first date. Not that I’m for it (or against it), I really don’t have an opinion anymore. It’s just really interesting to see that coupons are viewed as a negative thing on a date, yet completely acceptable for everything else in life. Especially since most people who follow me on Twitter are personal finance bloggers, or are interested in personal finance in general. You would think that that group of people (out of all of the different kinds of people in the world) would be most willing to accept coupons within first date etiquette.

In my dating history, no guy has ever used a coupon on the first date, and truthfully I’m not sure how I would respond. Maybe it would be negative. Or maybe I’d be so impressed that we’d high-five each other and talk about how much money we’ve saved by using coupons over the years. Who’s to know what would happen! Since I’m single and (sort of) dating at the moment, I’d like to test this theory out. I’m not sure how I can naturally create this coupon situation, or what would happen (or if I could even find a guy who use a coupon on a first date), but I’m going to try. Maybe I could be so bold as to whip out a coupon of my own! All in the name of very scientific and extremely important personal finance research, of course. :)

Would you use a coupon on a first date?

P.S. if you’re on Twitter, follow me @krystalatwork! :)

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

57 comments

  1. I probably wouldn't be too impressed if the coupon was for fifty cents off the appetizer's cost, or something small like that. But a 2-for-1 coupon? Heck, I'd ask him where he got it, and if he had any more!

    So in short, I'd be pleased, because it would show the guy and I had something in common. And hey, if he complimented my blouse and asked where I got it, I could reply, "Le Chateau in the Eaton Centre" or "It's Le Chateau, but I got it at a garage sale". Guess which one would be the truth.

    By the way, I really like your blog. Thanks to your posts I joined Swagbucks too, and am looking forward to ordering books from Amazon this way.

  2. I suspect that, in line with your poll so far, people will generally look down on it. They will see the couponer as cheap and tacky – and perhaps be embarrassed over it. But if you ask me, that's not an opinion worth catering to! As the one with the coupon you can say: "You prefer to have your meal paid at the full price? Be my guest!" And as the one receiving the benefit of the coupon you can say: "I prefer to have my meal paid at the full price. I'll get my own tab."

    The latter one in particular sounds absurd. I think rather than worrying about what the other person will think, we work on coming to peace with our own decision to be frugal and let other people worry about wasting their money if they want – and not to judge other people who are trying to be sensible. :)

    Having said that, I think I too would have an initial unfavourable reaction to a coupon – I see it as my problem to overcome.

    Good luck in the dating world… it's complicated out there!

    My recent post What My Dad Taught Me About Money

  3. Back in my dating days, I never would have considered that. In those 'first dates' period of any relationship, you're there to sell the really great things about you. While being a saver might be considered by some girls a great thing, chances are it's not high on your list (or many others). You don't want something that could be perceived as a negative or maybe even 'neutral' to block something that could be seen as a really positive thing.

    A guy wouldn't hide the coupons forever, but in the first couple of dates where every single move matters (really, no pressure) you have to make sure that you're not throwing a bad vibe.

    In other words, you might not see using a coupon as a way that defines you, but if you do it, that girl might see you that way.
    My recent post Friday Link Roundup- June 10- 2011

  4. How good is your coupon that you'd be saving enough to "impress" your date? If it really is worth it, maybe call the restaurant ahead of time to let them know, or tell the waiter before he brings the bill. Not that you have to hide it, but unless he/she is an Extreme Couponer, it's probably not a story they'd want to share with their friends. OR just save the coupon and bring your friends/family :)

  5. I don't think that the feeling that it's wrong comes from saving money, I think it's that if the other person only takes you to a certain restaurant because he or she knows it's cheap because they have a coupon.

    If you pick a restaurant because it's really great and has a nice atmosphere, it's just a bonus if you have a coupon.

    If you pick a restaurant BECAUSE you have the coupon, and it's, like, Red Robin or something, no, I'm not impressed.
    My recent post How To Land an Internship

  6. It's interesting, a resounding NO from the masses, but I think it depends.

    You are trying to impress, so you take your date to a nice restaurant, and probably run up a tab of, say, $150. Expensive for 2. What if you have a coupon or Groupon to one of the best restaurants in the city like Per Se in NYC. Normally meals cost $150+ per person and I've seen Groupons for almost buy one get one free to places like this (not Per Se exactly).

    I wonder, would people think it tacky still if you used a coupon to go to the best restaurant in town, a place where you would otherwise never go?

  7. I wonder how people would feel about using gift certificates on the first date. Would the response be the same?

    I once had a guy hand me $20 to go buy a movie ticket for myself (I think he already had this ticket or something). I thought that was tacky, and he was still paying for me!
    My recent post My clothing shopping ban

  8. On a first date I don't know a guy well enough to know if he's using a coupon because he's A) a frugal guy who likes to save money where he can while trying to meet a series of smart financial goals or B) a cheapskate who's going to ask me to order off the kids menu to save a few bucks. While he may be an A, I don't know him well enough on a first date to know he's not a B. If, after a few dates, I've gotten to know him better and discovered that he's a great guy who's responsible with his money, then is the time to whip out the coupon and impress me with your financial savvy.

  9. I think the guy or the girl should absolutely whip out the coupon if that is something they usually do and here's why…that's something they usually do, whether because they are frugal and smart or just a cheapskate jackass, either way you know where this person stands on money topics and you can bond or back away slowly from the crazy. Wouldn't it be worse to go out on a few dates with a guy who takes you to nice restaurants and pays full price, only to find out a few months later that his real personality is to take you to Denny's on your birthday cause it's free?
    My recent post Rapture Cake

    • That's so true. Why hide who you are during the first few dates just to try and impress someone? If you're always going to use a coupon, then you might as well be up front about it. Interesting point of view!

    • Absolutely. If the guy is thrifty enough to use coupons, whom would he be happier with – Date #1, who is also frugal and careful with finances, or Date #2, who is impressed by spending money? Paying with a two-for-one coupon will at least prevent him and Date #2 from wasting their time.

    • Because for the guy, you might have a chance of sleeping with her after a few dates.

  10. The way I see it, the more he can save on dinner, the more money he'll have to spend on things for me later.

  11. Well, are you a pf blogger or not? ;)

    As Tom says, what if he explained to you that he had this Groupon for 50% at the swankiest restaurant in town? That can't be as bad as taking you out for 10 cent wings, can it?
    My recent post What’s New Around The Blogosphere- June 10th- 2011

  12. Having been unemployed for the past two years, my friends and I eat out based upon the coupons we have. As far as dating, what do I know. I have been with my husband since I was 19 (uh, I think that makes it 20 years! Oi! I am old.). He is a non-coupon guy and seems embarrassed when I pull out coupons. Hey, if a guy is smart enough to use coupons, it means he knows how to save money. It's also a fun game to see how little you can spend on a day out. BTW, love your blog and it's fresh outlook on finances. Where were you when I was in my twenties throwing away money? :)
    My recent post In the Mail and Other Free Stuff

  13. It is like the eleventy hundredth date with my husband and I and he is still loathe to use a coupon. I don't think I would have minded if he had whipped out a coupon on the second date. That would mean more money for us years later.
    My recent post onward

  14. No coupons on a first date (or any other restaurant trip). Reasons: you save a couple of bucks, but you become a pain in the ass to the server (and if he does whip out a coupon but doesn't tip on what the full charge would have been, there wouldn't be a second date). I am a big proponent of saving money, but I do that by going out to eat rarely, and eating at places I can afford both the food and a generous gratuity, and I would like a date to do the same. Coupons are fine for groceries and goods, but I don't like them at restaurants.
    My recent post Professional dilemma

  15. I think it's mostly about context.

    "I've got a coupon to this super expensive place that I wouldn't otherwise be able to afford – wanna go?"
    I'd be flattered that someone wanted to share a special experience.

    "I know you want to go to McDonald's but I have a coupon for Wendy's!"
    Personally, it would depend on how badly I wanted the McDonalds :) And if I REALLY wanted the McD's, my date had better relent.

    • Interesting point. Also, if a guy took me on a first date to McDonalds OR Wendy's, I'm not sure how I'd feel about that. Coupon or no coupon. Haha :)

  16. Totally – my frugal grandmother was all for coupons, but would never take a doggie bag from a restaurant! It was a leftover idea from the Great Depression – you never want people to know how poor you are (tho we weren't, and didn't look poor!). We kept explaining times had changed (1990s) especially since restaurant portions are huge, but she wouldn't hear it!

    I love to save money but still would cringe at a coupon on the 1st date. Early in dating you don't talk about money. How many of the commenters would talk about our debt (if any) on the first date?

    • True, I would never talk about debt or anything to do with personal finance during the first date … but using a coupon really has nothing to do with it. It's just about saving money, isn't it? I can see both sides of the coupon argument, and it's a tough call!

      • Yeah, I used coupons when I had savings of over thirty thousand and no debts at all. I think a two-for-one on a first date says "direct and upfront frugality" rather than "debt".

  17. Interesting choice of words at the end there.
    My recent post What’s New Around The Blogosphere- June 10th- 2011

  18. I think it depends on the situation. I once went to a movie for a first date, and the guy and I agreed that I would buy popcorn and he would get tickets. That was all well and good until he whipped out coupons that got us tickets for $0.50 each…

    I mean, come on.

  19. For me it would probably depend on the nature of the coupon. Like, if he took me to a crappy chain restaurant because he had a coupon, or if I had to order a specific thing because that's what the coupon was for, then that's pretty tacky. But if it's just like a percent/dollar value off your order, or a groupon or something that he'd just slip in with cash when paying the bill, then I wouldn't have a problem with it. Like, sometimes using a coupon is just indicative of someone who's smart with their money, and sometimes it's indicative of your date being a cheapskate.

    I'm totally with Vanessa above me, too. What? Haha.
    My recent post DEAL ALERT- Neutrogena sunscreen at Winners- 799

  20. I wouldn't do it because I don't want to talk finances on a first date. I don't want to talk about what I earn, what I save, and how I spend until I'm more comfortable with someone. That's why I wouldn't do it. Because I would be concerned about it leading to a discussion that early on, I don't want to have.

    However, and this is probably because I only know you through this site, you are good at talking money and it's a big part of your life. Big enough that talking money is part of your income. If we went on a date and you whipped out a coupon I would giggle but there would be no judgement. It would just make sense.

    I think the reason people don't love coupons on dates is because it's as if you're implying that they weren't worth the full cost of the item. And they brought you somewhere so they could use the coupon in case the date turned out to be a bust.

    I guess if coupons are part of who you are, bring it up. It can come up now or later.
    My recent post Long train rides and pushing old ladies to get a seat

  21. Depends what kind of coupon, if it was something that was worth it then yes. But I would totally use it anyways because usually the first thing a guy asks me is "Where do you work?" and "What are you taking in school?" and since both are finance related, he probably wouldn't be too offended if coupons were used. But then again, don't guys usually pay for the first date anyways?

    If a guy used coupons, I'd encourage it since I'm all about saving money. And exactly like you said.. why pay the full price when you KNOW you don't have to?!
    My recent post my first tattoo!

  22. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that since i'm engaged. I wouldn't be put off about it if it happened to me…

    But I personally wouldn't whip one out until maybe the 3rd or 5th date… Or i'd offer one up if I had one for where we are going if I wasn't picking up the tab.
    My recent post Low Wedding Attendance Rehearsal Dinner

  23. thewanderingbudget

    No joke I had a guy take me for 2-for-1 chicken fingers on a first date. Granted, we were broke in university and it probably helped that we had been friends for awhile. My friends frequently make fun of both him and I now for that story (we're not together anymore but still friends) but he's still pretty proud of his frugality- apparently he thought it was an honour to share his coupon with me!

    To be perfectly honest though, the coupon should have been a red flag. It really, really should have.

  24. I just found your blog, and interesting article. Coupons don't generally bother me, unless someone becomes obsessive about them and refuses to go somewhere unless they have one. I'd likely view it as financially smart more than tacky.

  25. A coupon wouldn't bug me but if he was a bad tipper, we'd have to part ways. Remember to tip on the full amount, not the discounted total. :)

    • Totally agree. Nothing is worse than a bad tipper.

      That being said, if the service warranted a smaller tip than normal, I'd be okay with that too. I think. Maybe that's a post topic in itself.

  26. Hi Krystal,

    Did you see this guest post on The Frugalista? Real men use coupons! http://www.thefrugalista.com/2011/05/real-men-use

    I use coupons all the time an with GroupOn growing in popularity, I think *using a coupon on a date will no longer be such a faux-pas. I'm with you on the bonding experience – my bf and I high-five each other all the time on the money we save. Why not save $10 at dinner and use the extra cash for a cocktail night-cap?

    *Rosie*
    My latest post: Money Management Tips for Grads http://financiallyfabulous.blogspot.com/2011/06/m
    My recent post Money management tips &amp tricks for grads

    • Interesting guest post! Thanks for the link. I totally agree with you – using coupons lets you stretch your dollar farther … but I'm still undecided as to what I really think about them on a first date.

  27. I really wouldn't mind if someone uses a coupon on a first date. Even if we were only at that restaurant BECAUSE of the coupon, at least i got to go to a nice restaurant!
    My recent post The Canucks Win! and the city breaks my heart

  28. I busted out a 2 for 1 at the water park on a first date. The guy was impressed with my frugal ways. I was in university at the time and totally broke so it was more of a necessity. If it has been the other way around I think I might have thought he was cheap… double standard I know.

    • Okay I would totally bust out a 2-for-1 water park coupon too, no matter who I was going with. Those places are expensive! But it's interesting about the coupon double standard. I might have felt the same way too.

  29. I would admire it.

  30. This is very topical! I was just reading a chow hound article about this very thing/..
    http://www.chow.com/food-news/79606/can-i-use-a-c

    Apparently, it's all in how you frame it.

  31. I loooooooooove coupons. But alas, using a coupon on a date is like Kryptonite and/or birth control. Most women hate it. In fact, I even created a goofy animation on this very subject. It can be found at my website:
    http://www.DoNOTdateMe.com

  32. This exact question of whether coupons should be used on a date is asked when you create a profile on the free KIDFREE dating site called:
    http://www.IdoNOTwantKids.com

  33. What's incredibly sad is why this question is considered important at all. Are you both considerate and kind to each other and show some level of affection ? Do you try to make the other feel more comfortable and at ease to be themselves? That is where any intimacy would come from! Authenticity is dead. It's all about appearances and ' sending the correct message'.

    Wake up people! It's about being together doing something fun and seeing if that magic thing might be there…, not who pays or how.

  34. I was taking a first date to the State Fair (I was paying) and she showed up with 2 for 1 paid admission coupon. I was impressed that she thought about it.

  35. Well the first 2 dates so far with this guy…both times he used a coupon at dinner, and I just did a google search to see if I was wrong for being a little embarrassed about it. I feel bad that I think it's low class, but I sort of do. I do understand coupons and why pay full price for the same meal I can pay 1/2 price for. I'm not crazy, but it was sort of uncomfortable for me, and I keep trying to over look it, but it totally put a negative spin on him and I keep looking now for any other indication that he is cheap.

  36. After reading this, I will purposely use a coupon to see how the girl reacts. If its a problem for her, she can get to know someone else. I will save money and weed out right away incompatible people. It’s a win win for me.

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