Matchmaker, matchmaker find me a sucker

It may be true that money can’t buy you love, but according to the Web site Business Insider, some women have found a way to sucker relationship-seeking men into buying them dinners so they can save on their monthly food expenses.

One 23-year-old woman claims she used online dating site Match.com to find men to pay for fine dining, the Web site reported. The New York woman said she had a hard time paying her bills and buying food and meals on her $45,000-a-year salary. So she would set up dates – five nights a week – with different men whom she met through the dating site. She went from spending $500 a month on dinners alone to getting free meals -- with the men paying an average of more than $60 a meal.

“Before, I barely had enough money to pay for food,” she told the site. “After using Match.com I found I wasn’t going into debt anymore.”

The woman’s roommates apparently also joined in this scheme, creating spreadsheets to keep track of their dates.

Do I even have to comment on this deceitful, trampy money-saving swindle ? Business Insider said it had to go into the post and change the woman’s name and shut down the comments feature on the story because “people were taking it waaaay too seriously.”

Guys, is there a lesson here?

I think so. Split the check, at least after the first date.

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Responses to ‘Friend with Benefits’

I guess the women who were using men to get free dinners have something in common with Ginger White, the single mother who alleged that she had a 13-year relationship with Herman Cain. In interviews, White admitted that she wasn’t interested in a relationship with the former presidential candidate but was willing to take money from him to help pay her bills. (Cain denies that he had an affair with White.)

Last week in an opinion piece on Salon.com, Irin Carmon asked whether White was a victim of sexual politics or a savvy player in a transactional economy. I asked you to weigh in with your answers to that question. Here are a few responses:

“I do not think she was a victim. She was a player with a few men taking advantage of her womanly goods,” writes Kyle Cohen of Newburyport, Mass. “I know how hard it is to be the single mother of two children. I did it and survived without selling my body. There are ways to take care of things without White’s type of behavior. You do without some things and the kids do without some things. They learn to value what they have. If you have to go to the food bank, Salvation Army or buy second-hand items, that’s what you do.”

Sherri Hargrove of Virginia Beach, Va., says: “I think that she was a savvy player and Herman Cain was a savvy player as well. I don’t feel sorry for Herman Cain because he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He should have known that running for President of the United States came with an open invitation for the press or his opponents to knock on his closet door to release the skeletons in it. Politics is a dirty game and all the dirt will eventually come out in the wash.”

Roommate Financial Drama

I read an interesting question from a reader who wrote to advice columnist Ask Amy. The writer wanted guidance on how to handle a roommate who is habitually late paying his share of the rent. The delinquencies are causing the writer’s bank account to be overdrawn since the rent is automatically withdrawn from his checking account. The fees have added up to several hundred dollars.

The writer asked: “Am I wrong to believe that he needs to cover these fees, too, since the overdrafts are the result of my account being short the amount he owes?”

Here’s what Amy said: “If you are paying the rent, etc., from your account, it is your responsibility to have enough money in the account to pay these bills, regardless of the money your roommate owes you. Think of yourself as a small-business owner. You are still responsible for paying your bills — even if your vendors owe you money and don’t pay on time.”

Initially I thought the writer was right in asking for the fees, especially since the guy who wasn’t paying his share of the rent on time was jetting off to various places and spending money he didn’t have.

But Amy is right. The one handling the rent payments isn’t managing his account well. I would tell him to stop the automatic payments to his landlord and, as Amy suggested, make the roommate pay any late fees if the rent is overdue.

Have you had to handle any roommate money issues? If so, how did you resolve it, or are you afraid to confront your roommate? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. Put “Roommate Financial Drama” in the subject line.

Living Rich

A Gallup survey asked people how much money they would need to have to consider themselves rich.

Most respondents said they would consider themselves financially stable if they made $150,000 a year. Thirty percent said less than $100,000 would be enough, and 18 percent would consider themselves rich if they made less than $60,000 a year. However, 15 percent of people polled said they would need to earn at least $1 million a year before thinking of themselves as rich, according to Gallup’s research.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median annual household income in the United States is roughly $50,000.

And when it comes to savings in cash, stocks, real estate and other investments, Gallup found most Americans say they need $1 million in net worth to feel rich.

Gallup points out that the money people say it will take to consider themselves rich differs from the federal government’s definition of rich. When Congress debated extending the 2001-2003 federal income tax cuts, the debate centered on whether to extend those for single Americans earning $200,000 and couples earning $250,000 or more per year, Gallup says.

This week’s Color of Money question: What would it take for you to feel rich? Send your response to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Living Rich” in the subject, and be sure to include your full name, city and state.

‘Toys to Go’ Comments

Last week I also asked if you would rent toys for your kids. A report on MSNBC.com found it’s becoming more popular for people to rent consumer products such as toys.

“Renting toys would be, in my opinion, more expensive than buying them,” writes Monica Rivera of Austin, Tex. “But ‘checking out’ toys seem to be a very good deal. Or at least it was for us, while it lasted.”

Lynn Marie Steinmayer of Connecticut wrote: “I have never rented toys, but the concept is tempting. I would think that for the more expensive toys this might be useful just to answer the question, ‘If I buy it will my kids play with it?’”Also --if you have limited space -- renting toys might be useful for kids THAT will play with something for a while and then it ends up under the bed and forgotten. When the toy is ‘found’ again it seems ‘new’ and they play with it again. When my kids were young I would purposefully box up some toys and bring them out a month or two later just so I didn’t trip over everything all the time.”

Debt Defeaters

Have you finally defeated debt?

Tell me the amount of debt you got rid of, how you paid it off, and write a statement describing your new debt-free life. Send your debt defeater story to colorofmoney@washpost.com, and include your full name, city and state.

You will receive a free Debt Defeater T-shirt if I read your story during my live video chat.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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