“Life is too short to date a stingy man.” —Unknown
Women say that they hate stinginess in a man. Why? And if this is really so, who do stingy men marry?
Traits of a stingy partner
“I hate stingy men. A closed fist is also a closed heart.” —A married woman
While we usually think of stinginess as an unwillingness to part with money, it often means much more.
Here are some stories of women with stingy partners:
“Our first date was in a coffee shop. When the $10 check arrived, he said: ‘Shall we split it?’ Two months later, he brought me dried figs from a trip abroad.”
“My partner’s preferred date venue is my apartment, where he does not need to pay for coffee, cake, or a movie ticket.”
“When I asked my lover to buy the kind of cookies I like and keep them for me at his place for my weekly visit, he responded that it is not worth buying a whole box of cookies for someone who only comes once a week.”
“My stingy boyfriend would rather us watch TV than take me to the movies. I plan to leave him.”
Stingy and frugal people, and gold diggers
“Stay away from stingy people. They are trapped in small souls.” —Anne Fortier
Interestingly, men and women particularly dislike parallel traits in each other: While women hate stinginess in their men, men hate extravagance (or greediness) in their women. Both traits are money-related. Men are disgusted by women who are only interested in their money, and women are disgusted by men who do not want to spend money on them. In both cases, money goes far beyond the actual cash.
Let’s take a moment to distinguish between two frequently confused words: “frugal” and “stingy.” For frugal people, money is a means to prioritize values while allocating resources in an optimal manner. For stingy people, holding on to money has an intrinsic value, and this prevents them and their loved ones from enjoying life even if they have lots of money.
We might think about it as a spectrum: extravagance to generosity to frugality to stinginess. Evolution works against the two extremes, awarding best-chance-of-survival to the middle area.
Research indicates that, to a large extent, the traits of stinginess and generosity are heredity. Additionally, it has been found that women have a greater tendency than men for empathy and care; hence, compared to men, women give more and are less likely to be stingy.
I suggest distinguishing between two major types of stinginess. The first stems from mental scarcity, generated by the objective circumstances of extreme deprivation. An example might be someone on his deathbed who requests that the air conditioner be turned off in order to save electricity (while his nurses are perspiring). The second type is egoistic stinginess, relating to the subjective attitude of unwillingness to give more than one gets. One might think of a man who asks to split a $10 check on the first date. Although the lines separating these types can be blurred, their prototypes are quite different. My focus is on egoistic stinginess.
As stinginess is a basic trait that pervades one’s entire personality, it causes ongoing damage to a relationship. Generally beginning with money, stinginess tends to develop into a lack of kindness, respect, and mutuality of care. Stingy people experience a deep and enduring sense of deprivation, which inclines them to feel insecure, suspicious, and desperate for control. At the beginning of relationships, stingy people often hide this negative trait, but it emerges with a vengeance when the relationship deepens—at which time a partner often finds herself shaking her head in shock.
In a relationship marked by the stinginess of one partner, both partners suffer. As a single woman said: “I enjoy giving to the man I love, but when I understand that giving is asymmetrical, I don’t want to give. My frustration increases as I don’t behave authentically, which ruins my enjoyment.”
Let us turn now to the “gold digger.” This is someone who forms relationships with others purely to extract money from them—oftentimes a woman who strives to marry a wealthy man. It is said that one reason the movie star Zsa Zsa Gabor divorced her second husband, Conrad Hilton (she had nine husbands), was that he wanted to change their financial arrangement from an open expense account to a monthly allowance (about $4,000 in current value).
Extending our horizons
“For it is in giving that we receive.” —Francis of Assisi
The extension of personal horizons is highly meaningful. Indeed, our greatest regrets concern not traveling on roads that extend our horizons. Americans, for example, tend to express regrets concerning education, career, romance, and parenting—all of which extend our horizons (Roese & Summerville 2005).
Romantic love also extends our horizons. Lovers reveal unknown worlds, and these worlds smile at them. A survey conducted in China found that the three traits women hate most in men are stinginess, haggling over every last bit, and narrow-mindedness. The three traits men hate most in women are being money-focused, creating problems “out of nothing,” and narrow-mindedness. All of these traits have to do with narrow horizons.
Narrow horizons are linked to a further injurious aspect of stinginess: constant comparison and calculation. Stingy people are always calculating whether their activities further deepen their painful sense of deprivation. Rarely do they experience the good feeling of “giving without thinking.” Unsurprisingly, generous people make better lovers, as they enjoy the act of giving.
Moreover, research indicates that men and women alike value kindness and wisdom in their partners. These traits are connected to extending horizons and being sensitive. We love being with happy people, since happiness, like other positive emotions, widens our horizons.
Should we split the bill?
"Splitting the bill on dates sets the precedent for a relationship, one where everything is straight down the middle. And where does that end? Men who expect me to split the bill won't be getting a second date.” —Peta Serras
“I never dated a stingy man. All my lovers bought me diamond rings and golden necklaces, even when they had less money than I did.” —A married woman
Stinginess often makes itself evident on the first date. A mechanical splitting of the bill may indicate a calculating attitude, ignoring personal circumstances, and diminishing the joy of giving. Romantic partners are not accountants. In profound love, every lover wants to give more. When personal circumstances are taken into account, women may sometimes pay. The ideal is mutual care rather than tit-for-tat equality.
The issue of splitting the bill on the first date is complex in light of the value of women's equality and autonomy. One thing is clear: Mechanical calculations should not figure into the first date. New relationships are nurtured on mutual trust and kindness. Splitting the bill for coffee starts things off in a humiliating way and raises concerns about the future of the relationship. You do not need to be a millionaire to pay for your date’s coffee. Paying on the first date is irrelevant to feminism. Most women would like to be treated on the first date, an act that clarifies that the partner is not stingy.
Who do stingy men marry?
“My second husband is stingy. Instead of buying me a diamond ring for our anniversary, he bought me a cheap food processor. I married him in order to provide some stability for me and my little daughters (from my first marriage). Since I earn more than he does, I buy everything I want (including a diamond ring) myself.” —A married woman
In light of how negatively women perceive stinginess in men, we might wonder who would marry such men. But stingy people are not necessarily bad people. Women may see positive traits in stingy men or hope that, as time goes by, the stinginess will subside. Perhaps the woman is also stingy. Yet, given the toxic impact of stinginess on the relationship, the default choice should be that of “respect him and suspect him.”
In loving relations, partners want to give and receive care, warmth, help, and gifts. Why remain in a relationship where these important things are not forthcoming? A stingy person will always have trouble giving—whatever the specifics of the circumstances. Nonetheless, love for one’s partner may soften this difficult trait, which is acutely painful for both the non-giver and the non-receiver.
Roese, N. J., & Summerville, A. (2005). What we regret most ... and why. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1273-1285.