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Photo: groupon on Flickr

Let’s face it: we live in strange economic times. People aren’t jumping out of Wall Street buildings or anything, but pennies are being pinched and red ink is a lot more popular than black these days. This is no longer news. The simple luxuries we used to enjoy — extra cheese on our pizza, Supersizing, HBO and Showtime — are no longer practical.  We’re all cutting costs and that affects dating just as much as everything else. This brings up the $64 question: can you use coupons on a date?

I first started thinking about the issue when I saw a post on Consumerist that was itself a re-post of a blog called “Give Me Back My Five Bucks.”  In the original post, the author polled some friends and found that everyone thought using a coupon on a first date was a bad idea. I agree. Nothing says “cheap” more than the guy that pulls out a coupon when it’s time to pay the bill. But what about the second date? What if it’s a Groupon or one of the other social deal sites?

Obviously every situation is different. If you’re a guy who will eventually use coupons, it may be a good idea to play your cards early, especially if they happen to be those punch cards from Subway. First date is definitely a no-no and I personally think the second date is too soon. Third date, though, might be okay. You can even plan a whole evening around it. Take your date to the awesome hole-in-the-wall Lebanese place and break out your 50% off coupon before heading to the second-run movie theater. If your date is on board, you’re golden. If you’re a couponer who’s dating a girl or guy who thinks it’s gauche to use coupons, then perhaps they’re not the best match for you anyway. In fact, using coupons may be a great litmus test to decide if your date shares your thoughts on bargains. 

It gets a little trickier with social deals. I tend to think that social deals for experiences like architecture cruises or wine tasting would be just fine, but laying down a Groupon at the end of a dinner may wind up looking awkward.  As I said, every situation is different. I think as long as you’re upfront about it, you’re in the clear. Just don’t try to slip a Living Social print-out over to the waiter and expect to maintain your style points.

I’ve always been a fan of coupons but would never consider using them until I felt comfortable with a girl I was dating. There’s a difference between being smart about your money and being cheap, and as long as you walk that line without falling off, I think you’ll be just fine. I will say one thing, though, about people that go overboard with coupons: If you’re an “extreme couponer,” you don’t deserve to date. Take your thousand bottles of ketchup and move into a cave, you hoarder.

What do you guys think about using coupons on dates? Cool or terrible? Any other issues you want tackled in Heart Attack? Let me know in the comments.

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