Why it pays to date the frugal

A study suggests that partners who save their money are not only more stable but more attractive.

By Jason Notte Aug 22, 2013 7:15AM
Woman grocery shopping with handful of coupons (© Fuse/Getty Images)A pile of money is understandably attractive. A mouth-breathing rube who spends that cash nearly as quickly as it piles up is somewhat less desirable.

That, if nothing else, is the lesson the dating world can take from an experiment conducted by the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

While compiling data for their working paper titled A Penny Saved Is a Partner Earned: The Romantic Appeal of Savers, researchers determined that in a post-recession economy, frugality is a highly appreciated trait among potential romantic partners.

The crux of the findings is that people who save tend to have far more self-control than their free-spending peers. While that reckless impulse can keep things interesting in the short term, it can be exhausting when the flighty individual in question is the one you've latched on to for the long haul.

The savers, for example, may also be more dutiful when it comes to exercise and nutrition. Ideally, that would make them better looking than their free-spending cohorts, thanks to the their disciplined approach to working out and eating well.

Just the knowledge that they're not going to throw wads of cash at the first gem-bedazzled phone or overpriced condo they see makes savers inherently attractive during an economic recovery. It all boils down to survival.

"It is natural selection at play in choosing a mate," Brad Klontz, a co-author of "Mind Over Money" and a financial psychologist in Kauai, Hawaii, told CNBC. "Saving behaviors hint at the potential to create a more financially secure household unit. With that come significant benefits to one's offspring and overall quality of life.

"Apparently, to our animal brain -- which is focused on optimizing the chances of offspring survival and success -- saving is sexy."

This doesn't come as news to anyone who's been dating during the low-income years that have followed the economic downturn. New York Times columnist Ron Lieber stumbled across the topic of frugal singles back in 2010 after unearthing a survey from now-defunct ING Direct. It found that 27% of people told they were being set up on a blind date with someone described as "frugal" equated that with "stingy."

So Lieber commissioned dating site eHarmony to dig through its 30 million matches made in July 2010. He found that users who labeled themselves as savers rather than spenders were contacted 25% more by potential partners, making it clear that public perception of stingy love interests was becoming less important than economic reality.

Although other studies indicate that just having a more exciting love life can lead to a bigger paycheck, making that paycheck last can stabilize both your economic well-being and your relationship.

More on moneyNOW

Tags: Economy
Aug 22, 2013 9:41AM
I'd take a woman who saves over one of those beauty queens any day.
Aug 22, 2013 12:21PM
There's a difference between frugal and cheap. Frugal buys a house and maintains it. Cheap puts off maintenance and hoards old newspapers which attracts rats and bugs. Frugal buys quality, cheap buy tomorrow's landfill. Frugal buys experience, cheap buys bling. 
Aug 22, 2013 11:06AM
You should only have to spend money to find a mate, the usually dating stuff. After you have found your mate, both of you should be frugal and enjoy each other, screw all the debt of keeping Up with the Jones. If either one can't do that, why even be together. It's then all about the money. If you care about each other, you can find ways to enjoy time together without spending a mint. If not, then it's really not real. Plan for your future, darn everything else.
Aug 22, 2013 10:22AM
Women like a guy with a big.....wallet.
Aug 22, 2013 12:23PM
No one ever got rich spending their money away.
Aug 22, 2013 12:23PM

Word to the wise - marry a frugal mate and save yourself the trouble.  I married my lovely sweetheart years ago.  She is a spender, and I am a saver.  I love her dearly, but money is her drug.  15 years ago when she wasn't working, she got and maxed out 10 credit cards - I didn't know as she pulled the credit card bills from the mail and hid them.  She claimed relatives were giving her money to explain away the items she purchased with credit.  One summer she took the kids on a vacation and for the first time I saw the credit card bills - $37,000!  She was using the cards to make payments on the other cards in a spiral of debt.  We had a family meeting when she came back - tore up her credit cards and almost got divorced.  She went to work and paid her debt.  She has no access to my accounts.  I manage her accounts and keep tabs on her and question her purchases.  She can be trusted with everything EXCEPT money.  Sigh

Aug 22, 2013 12:46PM

The only reason a woman would be turned off by a disciplined saver is because she intends to use a man as a money cow.  Beware of that kind of chick, she'll milk your bank account like that's all you're good for.  This is an absolute drain on one's finances and life force.


It's rare that this author comes down on the correct side of an issue, but he's spot-on accurate with this article.

Aug 22, 2013 3:51PM

I love my wife....she's coupon-sales with "written list" thrifty. I've been a saver since 8 years old with a bank account....we're in our 50's, college educated, no spectacular earning jobs and our net-worth is over a million. Who you marry is your business partner...so make it a good one.

Two additional tips beside marrying your favorite business partner:

1. Buy your home on one income and pay off the note in 15 years.

2. Pay off your monthly credit card debt EVERY MONTH...no matter how hard it hurts...dig down and pay it off.

.... and then you'll have money flowing into your accounts. It's like watching the lottery numbers roll upward. DO YOU FEEL RICH? 

Aug 22, 2013 12:43PM

One of the things my parents taught me at a very young age is the importance of living within your means, saving for a rainy day, working hard, and staying out of debt. I learned their lessons well, worked hard, and have been very good at managing my finances.


I do not think it is a contradiction to live frugally, enjoy the fruits of your labor, and to be generous to others. I enjoy giving and being bighearted. My fiancé is also frugal and sometime gets upset with me for spending too much money on gifts for her and her family. My response to her is I only give what I can afford and do not go into debt when I buy a present.


I believe one of the reasons why I have done so well with my investments is that I do not place a lot of importance on money or things you can buy. Although, I realize being finically secure gives you some peace of mind; it is more important to me to have family and friends that love me and that I love than to worry about dating someone who is frugal or has money.


It is the people in my life that make me happy and not my bank account.


Aug 22, 2013 1:28PM
This article mentions only "spenders" and "savers" and says nothing about men or women. Why are so many posters assuming the men make all the money and are savers. Look around you. Most women work today. Many women are heads of households. Do you really think they are the only ones who squander money? Who's clipping all these coupons and shopping for the best deals?

Where is the justification for these male/female comments?

Just another thought. Anyone who marries a gold digger, male or female, gets exactly what they deserve. They lured the person with money in exchange for what the other person has, usually youth or beauty. When youth and beauty fade, the gold digger gets dumped. When youth and beauty find a better offer, or can get the money without the sugar daddy or sugar mamma, the money provider gets dumped. 
Aug 22, 2013 10:24AM

A woman should always marry the cheapest guy they can find.They`ll have more

gold in their golden years.

Aug 22, 2013 12:43PM
Just don't be cheap on the attorney that draws up the prenuptial agreement! 
Aug 22, 2013 5:17PM
Bought a car last Saturday (less than 30,000 miles on it). Paid with cash....that we pulled from our safe:) When you are frugal you can do things like that and the salesman will work with you on the price when he knows that you don't need to secure financing.
Aug 22, 2013 2:35PM
Can we find a woman who is frugal under 40?
Aug 22, 2013 1:48PM
Somehow saying "I'm cheap...wanna hook-up?'....just don't cut it.
Aug 23, 2013 2:53PM
You can love and marry someone who is fugal and be happy.  Like everything else in life, be careful.
Aug 22, 2013 10:09AM
WRONG. Why do we call "conservative"... frugal? We have a SEVERE problem with people who are geared entirely to wealth generation but not society participation. It's CURRENCY, folks. Move it and keep it moving. You know what science calls a mass attached to a vital organ sucking the life out of it? CANCER. Right now we need everything we've got IN the economy, not preventing it.  
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