Water and FIRE: Dating and Frugality Don’t Mix

Her shoulders stiffed and her smile became like plastic. Shutters went down behind her eyes and her fingers went inert, like sticks of dry kindling. My date was not going well in the slightest! What did I say to make her draw back so much? That I had just paid off my student loans and was saving more money than ever.

What I thought was a sign of financial intelligence and value (Hey, no debt!) was apparently interpreted as a mark of poverty (Hey, no money! Because it all went to debt!). To those who are familiar with the methods of FIRE, it’s a transparently better way of life than nearly anything else you can imagine. Without a stable financial foundation all other dreams tend to crumble like a house built on sand. With a stable foundation, everything is possible.

Yet it cannot be denied that FIRE can interfere with its practitioners dating life, particularly men, by masking many of the markers of success that women look for. Whereas men tend to seek younger partners, women prefer older partners who demonstrate ambition, drive, wealth and humor. And not by a little either. As Thomas Stanley noted in his book The Millionaire Mind, women are 3 – 4x more likely to select a partner based on their wealth, income potential and ambition.

Yet, how is a man to prove to a woman that he’s ambitious and driven when he’s angling to retire early from full-time work? How is he supposed to demonstrate wealth when he is frugal and doesn’t spend much on clothes, cars or other success markers? Can he be funny when he despairs over how others are ruining their lives financially?

The answer to all three is “Yes”.

When it comes to demonstrating ambition, the trick is for men to become even more passionate about the “goals” of FIRE as opposed to the “how.” You would like to live independently from the man! (even if means counting pennies). You want to run your own business! (as soon as you pay off all your other debts). You want to learn an instrument and play in a band! (as soon as you no longer have to work 40 hours a week). This can give even the average man the sort of charisma that people find attractive.

As for wealth markers, it’s simply a matter of quality over quantity. You can make dozens of different outfits from only a handful of shirts and pants if they are carefully selected. You don’t need that many pairs of shoes so long as the ones you have are clean and polished. If you cut your own hair to save money, do it often so your look is clean and tight. You don’t need to show her your rust-bucket car on the first date, even if you are proud of it because its free and clear and every day spent driving it is another dollar in your wallet. Save your personal finance philosophy for future dates.

Being humourous when it comes to money may be the trickiest of the three to deal with, especially if you’ve seen people ruin their lives over it or struggled with poverty personally. You can try to joke about it to be more lighthearted, but this may backfire on you. If you joke about being poor, then your date might actually think you’re broke and dump you. If you joke about being rich, then they may expect things from you that don’t want to give. If you can’t stay away from the subject altogether, it may be best to just stick with dry wit. The Reader’s Digest has an excellent list of jokes you may want to study in case money comes up in conversation.

Overall, not all hope is lost to guys who are navigating the dating scene while practicing FIRE. Dating may require more effort and deliberate thought, but so does everything when you’re taking the path less traveled. There is no reason those moments need to be make or break, when you can turn them into fun times and possibly bonding over shared values.


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