I had been dating this guy for about six weeks, and one day we were grabbing lunch at a takeout counter. We both ordered a sandwich and a drink, and the total came to around $14. He went to pay, and I handed him $7, which he stuck in his wallet before pulling out a coupon for a free sandwich. It wasn’t a Groupon, or a punch card; it was from the back of a receipt. The cashier applied the coupon, which lowered the total to $9, and he paid with a $10.
I was stunned. As we walked out of the place with our to-go sandwiches I couldn’t help but think, if it were me, I would have shared my good fortune and split the coupon between us. I would have done the same thing even if we were only friends and not dating. I would have done the same thing if he were a coworker I didn’t like very much! It felt petty for me to say something over $7, but when I later told him I didn’t want to see him anymore, and he pressed me for a reason, I admitted that I thought we saw money differently.
Don’t get me wrong, I love coupons! I get emails from all those Groupon-type sites and I sometimes choose where I am going to buy my coffee based on where I can get a frequent buyer perk. I also save all the receipts from CVS with the coupons on the bottom, even for things like baby formula (which I will never buy, at least not before the expiration date). But there is a line between thrifty and cheap, and in the early stages of dating you want to be careful to not be on the wrong side.
Make it Part of the Invitation
After the first few dates, don’t be afraid to use coupons. Mike Dang, editor of Thebillfold.com, a website about money and how people spend it, says, “Deal sites like Groupon have made discounted consumer experiences so prevalent that most people probably wouldn’t bat an eye if someone wanted to use one on a date. If you want to use a coupon on a date, be sure to make sure that you’d take your date to the location regardless of whether or not you had a coupon in the first place and tell your date about the coupon so it’s not awkward later.”
You could say something like, “I bought a two for one Groupon for a Trapeze class, want to go with me?” (I have to say, even if this was a first date invite, I wouldn’t be offended.)
Don’t Use Coupons on First Dates
First dates are all about initial impressions, and breaking out a coupon is going to make you look like the cheapest jerk in history. Although money management skills are an important quality in a partner, there is nothing sexy about coupons. You’re telling your date that you chose the activity based on the money you could save, not on what he or she would like. Avoid using a coupon until at least the third date.
Once You’re in a Relationship, Coupon Away.
Use your coupons to explore new restaurants and activities, while saving money for big ticket items like trips. Coupon expert Ruth Soukoup from Livingwellspendingless.com says, “Sign up for Groupon email lists and watch for deals on local activities and restaurants. You can find some pretty deep discounts that way, and discover new places to explore or eat together!”
Don’t forget to tip based on the pre-discounted amount. Mike Dang adds, “You want to show that you’re smart with your money, not cheap.” Plus, everyone knows that good tippers are the best lovers.
Share the coupon!
This should be obvious from my tale of woe, but sharing is paramount to coupon usage. I don’t care if it’s a Groupon you paid for, take the discount off the top of the tab before you even consider splitting the rest. And by the way, Scrooge McDuck, this rule applies to dates and friends equally. If you think that coupon should only apply to your total, you deserve to go out alone with only your miserly self for company.