The last thing you want to do on a first date is hand over a coupon while paying the restaurant bill! The difference between being frugal and looking cheap is a fine line. Here’s how to stop frugality from ruining your dreams of life-long companionship.
I must confess that Familyancial’s Charles’ comment on my Valentine’s Day post is the inspiration for this little gem of advice (If you are reading Charles, consider this a friendly intervention). One of my issues with the principals of frugality is that it often requires you to look cheap. Let me illustrate.
You have planned the perfect date. The strategy is to impress her by going to one of the hottest restaurant in town. You are very intelligent with your money so you crawl through several google searches for an online coupon and are rewarded with 50% off. If you are used to being frugal, you print out the coupon without a second thought.
The perfect date: a fancy, expensive restaurant at half the price. From frugality’s perspective, you’ve just made a smart move. This is precisely how frugality tricks you into looking cheap.
The problem with using coupons on a date is that the stranger that you are trying to impress doesn’t know you and is left to make assumptions about your character based on your actions. It doesn’t matter the quality of your plans. A coupon will make your date feel like your dinner plans were devised around the deal and let’s be honest, would you have changed plans if you weren’t so talented at finding coupons?
If you want to avoid looking cheap then coupons are out. However, this doesn’t mean that you must pay tons of money. There are plenty of frugal rules that will save you money without looking cheap.
Look for Frugal Add-ons
Did I say coupons are out? What I meant was, coupons are banned during the date, but you can use them before the date. One of the best ways to save on a date without looking cheap is to look for frugal add-ons.
Your date certainly doesn’t need to see you pay for everything. Flowers, candy, jewelry can all be purchased before hand and presented on your date. That gives you all the time leading up to the date to use the coupon burning a hole in your pocket.
Even dinner at a restaurant can be managed with frugal add-ons. Choose a restaurant that lets you bring your own wine and you can save on the drink tab and at the same time break ice with a unique drink choice.
Pay For the Date Ahead of Time
Add-ons aren’t the only things that can be purchased in advance. The same goes for tickets to plays, performances and movie theaters. These can all be purchased ahead of time and will not look suspiciously cheap.
However, I would advise against buying then using gift cards. You don’t want it to look like you are using last year’s Valentine’s Day presents from the ex to fund this year’s romance.
You Don’t Need to Pay for Location
Everyone has their own idea of the perfect first date, so use your judgment. However, there is no rule that you must locate the most expensive fine-dining for your outing. Local parks, beaches and attractions often provide a great setting for a romantic date at little to no cost.
My first date with my wife was a painting-picnic at a beautiful local park. My wife was a talented artist and I’d always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my idol, Bob Ross. The problem was that I didn’t know how to paint happy clouds or bushes and I didn’t have any of the expensive painting equipment to experiment.
I made a deal with my date. Teach me to paint and I’ll provide the scenery and the food. Later I proposed in the same free park. It’s romantic; get it!
The important thing is that you stop and think about how your actions appear. Frugal is a good characteristic to have, but dating is an arena where false impressions are easily made. Making efficient money decisions is easily misunderstood for being cheap. Avoid sending the wrong signals and looking cheap, but don’t waste your money either.