We dated the Zeros… so you don’t have to.


Is Your Guy a Cheapskate?


A couple of years ago my friend Missy was asked out on a date by a cute struggling musician.  They made plans for a coffee date. As she approached the counter, cute musician just shrugged and said he wasn’t getting anything.  After ordering her coffee, she asked him if he was sure he didn’t want anything. Cute musician revealed that he was broke, so she offered to buy him a coffee.  He took her up on it. Sitting there she told him, “Listen if you ask a girl out on a date – you need to be able to buy her a coffee. I’m not trying to be a bitch, but I think if you can’t afford a coffee, you can’t afford to date.”  Cute musician was embarrassed, and there wasn’t a follow-up date. He also told their mutual friends that Missy only cared about money and dating guys with money.  It was a coffee!

We’ve had the discussion about who pays for dinner and when on our blog before. I think we assume a majority of people believe a guy pays on the first date.  However, dating can get complicated quickly and money can become one more obstacle in an already complicated process.  So, it is in these early dates that it is important to recognize the signs of a cheapskate. There is a difference between being poor and being cheap. You may or may not want to date someone who is poor – that’s a personal choice – but trust me, you really don’t want to date someone who is cheap.

A few years back I dated briefly a fairly handsome, charismatic but total Zero guy. I do believe that being single for a long time can sometimes blur your judgement; it’s like going without food for a long time and before long a saltine cracker can look like a sirloin steak. At least that’s what happened to me. It had been a while since I’d met anyone interesting, and then I met this cute single guy. Huzzah! When we discovered that this cute, single guy lived a block away from me, I decided to see it as fate. It was just the easiest thing in the world to walk over to each others’ place and call it dating… even if ‘dating’ isn’t exactly what we were doing. Mostly we were just ‘hanging out’ and ‘making out’. Which I suppose is fine if you’re a teenager. We were not teenagers.

He went out of town almost every week for work so this was even better. Accessible, interesting and never around.  It seemed like a solution for my dating famine, though as I learned, it made it harder to see the Zero clues.  But one night, I saw them. We were supposed to see a friends’ show and then grab a bite to eat. He was running late from work, so I met him at the club.  Since we had separate cars we decided to meet at a diner just around the corner from both of our places. I got there first and ordered a beer. When he arrived, we quickly ordered.  I got a veggie sandwich and some fries (why the details? That’s important later).  He ordered and then while we were eating, he said “hey you don’t mind going dutch do you?” At the time I was doing standup at night and nannying during the day. I understood being broke. I understood pinching your pennies.  And having never wanted to be a woman who dates a guy for money, I honestly was okay with it.  What bothered me was his saying it after we had already ordered, and in the most awkward way. What are you supposed do, give back your food?  So I just shrugged and said sure.  I only ate half my sandwich and when the waitress came over, Mr. Zero asked for the checks – separate of course, and then she asked me if I needed a to-go box for my sandwich. I thought about it for a second because sometimes alpha sprouts don’t taste great a day later, and then I thought if I was going to spend the night at Mr. Zero’s house (yes, I was actually contemplating it) I didn’t want to drag along a soggy sandwich.  Somehow, in my 2 seconds of mental debate, he jumped in and said to the waitress “If she doesn’t want it, I’ll take it.Yes, we’ll take a to-go box. ” Really? Not only was I paying for my sandwich, he was taking it home with him? Mr. Zero was not only cheap with his wallet, he was cheap with his time and his interest in anyone other than himself.  The sandwich story was just a vivid example of who this guy really was. A total cheapskate.

I told my dad about the guy who took my sandwich once, and he was mortified on my behalf.  When he heard that a grown man would actually ask to go dutch mid-date he started to shake his head no.  When I told him he took my sandwich home with him, I think he was worried about my entire generation.  He couldn’t understand this type of behavior.  For a few years after that, if I’d mention a guy he’d say “he’s not that damn sandwich guy, is he?”

Sometimes it takes awhile to recognize a cheapskate.  Being poor deals with circumstances, but being cheap deals with a way of thinking that you will never change.  As we discuss in our Cheapskate chapter (fingers crossed we publish our book):

Just to clarify, there is a big difference between being cheap and not having a lot of money. You certainly don’t have to have a lot of money, nor spend a lot of money, to be a great boyfriend. Thoughtful gifts, whatever the cost, are always the best. How many guys were able to go up the shirt from a masterful mixed tape in high school? Enough said. The fundamentals don’t change when we get older. What could be more memorable than a guy packing a picnic for you, a walk on the beach or sitting on the roof drinking a glass of wine? Creativity and thoughtfulness will always beat out cost.

Here’s the thing . . . cheapness isn’t really about money; it’s about selfishness. The center of a Cheapskate’s world is always himself. A cheap guy will never make you a priority, and this isn’t limited to financial matters. A cheap guy may spend a fortune on his car or his stereo system but will begrudge you a Chinese chicken salad if he has to pay for it. No one is saying he shouldn’t spend his money on the things he wants. The problem is his not wanting to spend any of his money on you. With very few exceptions this is because you are not his real priority.  His cheapness is emblematic of a deeper selfishness that will manifest in many ways.

All of that being said … cheapness is in the eye of the beholder. Whether or not you are going to consider someone to be a Cheapskate depends on your expectations. If you expect a man to pay for dinner, find a man who expects to pay for dinner. This will become abundantly clear within one or two dates. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. If you and your date have different expectations when it comes to money, end the relationship. I know that sounds harsh, but people are their most generous at the beginning of a relationship, and they will only get less so. You need to be honest about your own expectations.

And remember, you don’t need some damn sandwich guy in your life.


7 Responses to “Is Your Guy a Cheapskate?”

  1. October 25, 2011 at 11:13 am

    The Nutty Professor I dated one and a half dates: I had left about half of my dinner on my plate on that first date and when the waiter came to clear the table, he looked at me and asked if I would like to take it with me. I said “I don’t believe so, thank you” and before the waiter could put his hand on the plate, the Nutty Professor said, “Oh, I BELIEVE so!” sort of harshly and HE took the rest of MY dinner home. I was mortified…

  2. Claudia Maittlen-Harris October 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Nutty Professor looks like he might be related to my Mr. Zero – are other people’s leftovers really that appealing??

  3. October 25, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    You are one hundred percent correct. To invite someone on a date for a meal and not pay shows a distinct lack of class, no wait, basic manners. To then proceed to lay claim to your leftovers is nothing short of bottom drawer. I would have been much more impressed if he had brought a sandwich or two from home and asked you to share them in a park.

    • Claudia Maittlen-Harris October 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      You sir, are a gentleman! And yes, a picnic lunch would have been much more preferable. But he was a Zero, so… moving on!

  4. August 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    OMG! I’m dating this guy and I started thinking he’s a cheapskate. He never pays for my drinks, though I always arrive first and pay for myself. He say he’ll call but he never. I traveled outside the country and kept calling him, and he said he was going to call my brother, who happened to have a sim card for that country, but he never did, he didn’t even take the number, just told me I’ll take it later. Oh My God! I started worrying.

  5. Claudia Maittlen-Harris August 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Missy – he is. But more importantly he’s never calls you. I think you have a host of Zero issues here. If you’re already filled with doubt, feeling awkward and unimpressed in the early days of dating – call it what it is and move on. Trust me, you’ll save yourself months, if not years, of frustration and disappointment with this guy.

  6. April 19, 2013 at 6:58 am

    These are all just very basic manners that make a gentleman. If a guy lacks them, it’s better to call quits on him to avoid disappointing yourself in the future.

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