Is ”Frugality” an Important Trait When Choosing a Date or Mate?

Hands down, we can probably all agree that initial physical attraction is the first criteria when choosing or accepting a date. But as the saying goes: Beauty is -- or may be -- only skin deep. When it comes to sourcing that special someone with whom you might hope to spend the rest of your life (you know, that "until death do us part" thing): how big of a role does "frugality" play in the process?

Last Sunday's New York Times says "...it is a term that the online dating company eHarmony screens for in its patented compatibility test, asking people to rank themselves on a seven-point scale for frugality (along with things you would expect, like compassion and generosity)." But what if "frugality' is not viewed as sexy and "has the potential to turn off nearly half of the mating pool ... How best to broadcast your financial values and seek significant others who share your approach without coming off as a tightwad or a gold digger?"

Traditionally, men have chosen to advertise themselves as well established and capable of providing ample support, while women have purported to be attractive and possess the attributes needed to be a good wife (whatever that encompasses these days). The NYT piece cites two anachronistic examples from 1860 in The New York Herald, when "personal ads could not have been more explicit about finances, since everyone knew that women generally had no income and a marriage involving a man of means was the only way to live comfortably." To wit: "A young lady, rather good looking, and of good address, desires the acquaintance of a gentleman of wealth (none other need apply), with a view to matrimony," and "The advertiser, a successful young business man of good education, polite manners and agreeable address, having recently amassed a fortune and safely invested the same, wishes to meet with a young lady or widow"...

While the first ad would obviously not garner much if any response today, I'm not so sure about the second. The Times quotes Gian Gonzaga, 40, who has a doctorate in psychology and is eHarmony's senior research director: "You look at the attractiveness angle, but farther down the road, money and finances are one of the biggest conflict areas couples traditionally face. And a lot of that comes down to having enough or not having enough." The author had eHarmony crunch the numbers on 30 million matches it made in July "and found that both men and women were 25 percent more likely to have a potential mate reach out to them if they identified themselves as a saver rather than a spender.

The trick today seems to be one where both potential mates advance their capacity to be financially secure while at the same time willing to have fun and spend in a responsible manner. Or as Reuben Strayer, 34, a physician in Manhattan "who does not broadcast his profession or true income online..." is quoted, "My suspicion is that the value of frugality depends on whose money will presumably be spent..."

All of which begs the question "who should pick up the check on the first date?" I suggest going Dutch (with apologies to our readers in the Netherlands).

William Busch

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