To Get Your Coupon Out on the First Date…Or Not?!


Written By: Joanna Jaoudie

A few months ago, I headed to the great city of London for a birthday weekend with my boyfriend. Making the trip was a bit of a last minute decision – not exactly the wisest choice if you haven’t really thought about how much it’ll cost you.  Nevertheless, we let our friends in London know we were coming, packed a backpack, and booked the cheapest hostel deal we could find for 4 nights (averaging at £ 30 a night per head, with breakfast included) as well as our not so cheap plane tickets to set off (around £ 80 return with British Airways).  Before we even set foot, we were already set back a couple of hundred euros. That was fine though. We knew what we were getting ourselves into and weren’t expecting luxury to follow us around anywhere we went- that’s not how we roll to begin with.

Take me hiking, show me a beautiful sunset, set up camp in nature at absolutely no cost and I’ll be the happiest girl alive. I guess it really depends on where you’re headed though and whether or not you have given away clues about what the girl should expect. Context is king. If we’re in the middle of nature, a mini black dress to mirror Mr. Fancy Pants’ tux would be the last thing on my mind. But when you’re wandering into an expensive gem like London, practically anything except camping in a forest can happen, and while you can get around on a budget, glamorous scenes do pop into mind just as easily. It becomes harder to tell what sort of adventure you’re about to have, but that’s all part of the thrill! A small part of me deep down wanted at least one night of this trip to be a bit fancy and romantic— maybe because it’s cliché to think that a guy should pay for her at a fancy place, though the other side of me is all for equal rights. I wanted to be wined and dined although I knew (without further discussion) that we weren’t travelling under those pretences.  Plus, we’d never really had a romantic date night out before which got rid of any expectations of this happening, but a girl can dream…right?

Now the internet is full of tips on how to show a girl a good time without spending too much money, or any money at all for that matter, as well as countless other tips on how to plan the perfect first date as well. I’ve read through at least a dozen articles on the topic, written by both men and women, so it’s no secret that this is something we ponder about often. How much money are you meant to spend on a first date out, or on any date? Should your first date be fancy and expensive or down to earth and simple? What do girls even like (well obviously it depends on the girl!)? What is the meaning of the universe? Is there an etiquette one should follow when it comes to deciding on a first date or subsequent dates? This list of questions can go on and on.

I find it interesting, though not so unusual, that there’s no clear-cut answer to any one of these questions and if anything, seeking the help of an online guide, reading the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or asking a friend for advice may just confuse you even more. The funny thing is that, although everyone’s asking the same question (just in different ways); they’re getting a whole range of contradictory responses.   For instance, the author of this article thinks that you should spend as little money as you can, and “never” take a girl out for dinner even, on the first date. He makes some valid points, namely that certain traditional setups like a face-to-face dinner can impose certain pressures when it comes to splitting the bill for instance (hence making you look cheap), or by spending a lot of money you could be setting up the wrong tone and possibly even showing off.  It’s complemented by articles like this one that question whether or not men should even pay for dates, as you’ll come to find that this traditional way of thinking can actually hurt your chances of ending up with a girl. Ever heard of the expression, “going Dutch” instead?

If men shouldn’t spend a lot of money taking a girl out and should even consider dropping the conception that grabbing the bill in full is a good idea, does using a coupon or a Groupon on a date differ? Let’s back track to that birthday weekend of mine in London. I was eventually told to get all dressed up because he was taking me out somewhere nice.  As forthcoming as anyone should be in a relationship, he revealed that this surprise was part of a great Groupon he’d found last minute. Oddly enough, I work in this industry and regularly add coupons to the discount coupon site that I manage, but had never actually used one myself for the purpose of gaining a discount on someone else’s behalf. Nor had I been subject to it before. Come to think of it, every date I’d ever been asked out on was always paid for until I’d met my current partner in an environment where “going Dutch” was literally the norm- surprise, surprise, but we are in the Netherlands after all!  Yet, the idea of using a Groupon still felt different (not bad- just different), and a few months later, having the very same person offer to pay the full bill at an expensive sushi restaurant we opted to try out felt even more awkward and unnatural, that the Groupon deal made me feel more comfortable than what I’d originally been “dreaming of” in retrospect.

It has a lot to do with the way in which both dates were approached. My Groupon date was fabulous because we were dining somewhere that we couldn’t have possibly been able to afford (on a regular day) without feeling inadvertently pressured about how much money would have originally gone into it. Our sushi date, on the other hand, made me feel rather nervous when I thought about how much money he was about to spend on his own-and how that was meant to make me feel better! How could it though? We’re meant to be equals, and in retrospect, I was never really able to fully enjoy all those dates I didn’t pay for because of this empathetic factor (or lack of) that plays a role. I’d order a salad because it was cheaper, instead of that delicious king prawns dish I wanted, because I didn’t want to seem high maintenance. But if casual was the plan from day one, that never would have happened, which is why it’s always a better idea to go for a setting where it’s a lot easier to be yourself and be free.  I’ve asked many people I work with how they would feel if their first dates were covered by a Groupon and many of the responses I got looked at how important first impressions are, which can be skewed when you come off as a cheapskate because of a coupon. Then came the exceptions like, if you plan on using a coupon, it better be for something you or her can’t afford on your own or it best wait till when you’re already a couple. Others went as far to say that they’d rather not know if a coupon was being used on the first date because it would ruin the romance, and that there are many ways a person can be discreet about these things, like waiting for the girl to go to the bathroom first before ordering the bill.

However, as it turns out: honesty is always the best policy. If you’re going to use a coupon, don’t be afraid or ashamed to let your date know this, but it’s probably better to wait a few dates before you play the coupon card. If she doesn’t handle it well because she’s some sort of gold digger, do you really want to be with her anyway? If you’re worried about how she’ll react, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it to begin with and should consider going for something that’s better for the both of you: taking it easy and keeping it real especially on the first date, because if the girl’s going to fall in love with you, you’ll want her to fall in love with the real you and the experiences that a coupon cannot buy.