Food for Thought: Mate Dollars.

Food for Thought: Mate Dollars.

While on vacation last spring, my friend Kate introduced Becca and I to an interesting concept:

“mate dollars”

The idea is that you are “shopping” for your person and you have a fixed amount of “mate dollars” to spend.  There are five categories and you can spend up to $100 on each one: kindness, physical attractiveness, creativity, wealth, and liveliness. But you only have $300. At first. And then… your “budget’ is reduced to just $100. It makes you really think about what you want in a long-term partner.

With nothing to do besides lay in the sun and chat, we spent an entire afternoon debating this. The idea is to think pragmatically about dating. Of course we all want a “perfect” partner, (and also love to think of ourselves as perfect, too). But no one is actually perfect… so imagine if you had only $100 to spend. Would you spend the whole $100 on someone really attractive and wealthy, only to have them be unkind, boring, and uncreative? Would you date someone who is really ugly but is super creative and smart? Kind but boring? Interesting but completely broke? It’s REALLY HARD when you have to break it down to specific dollar amounts.

I first thought about how someone who was perfectly equal and average across all of the categories would be. $20 to each. From there I thought about which thing matters least. Wealth is the lowest for me. I do pretty well for myself and don’t want kids so I’m not really looking for a “provider” of sorts. Buuuuttttt, I also don’t want someone who doesn’t care about money AT ALL. Like, I like my life and don’t want to make concessions to be the sole provider:  I want a true partner who can also contribute! So let’s give $10 to wealth.

Physical attractiveness brought up more questions. Is it what is attractive to YOU personally, or society’s standards?? Because they can be very different and for me, while yes looks matter, personality matters more when it comes to actual physical attraction. So I gave that one $10.

Liveliness is also interesting. We all giggled, laughing a bit – what is “lively!?” Is that that annoying guy who can’t ever sit still and wants to tell you about his crossfit  and protein shakes and bee pollen smoothies and insane morning routine? (Truly sorry if this offends somebody but it’s not my thing!). So we reassigned “lively” as “interesting.” And that’s an important one.

And just how important is creativity? My friend reasoned that she’s very creative so she didn’t need a creative partner. I argued that as a creative, I’d be sad if my partner wasn’t at all creative. I would want someone to brainstorm and ideate with. But if they’re really interesting, maybe you could cut down on creativity? I liked that my friend and I had different views here. Her view that she could be the creative one; my view that I wanted someone as creative as me. It really goes to show that what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another.

Kindness is where the debate really kicked in. If someone is really creative and interesting and fun, do they need to be kind, too? (Yes, of course.) But which one is more important? At this point, you have only $80 to spend across the three. (Stressful, right!?!?!?). And just how kind do you want your person to be? Are they volunteering at a soup kitchen every weekend? Are they a bit of pushover? Kind is good but I want someone who challenges me.

Anyway! This really made us all think!!!! We drank several mezcal margaritas and laid in the sunshine and ultimately brought out pencils and paper to write it down because it was so hard to decide how to spend our precious “mate dollars.” Ever the Libra, I ultimately ended up being diplomatic: spending my money across all three, evenly… $26.67 across kindness, creativity, and liveliness.

We kept thinking and changing numbers. I’m an introvert – do I really want someone super lively? Could I cut down there a little bit to have someone a bit more kind, a bit more creative? But then creativity came into question. Do I even really want someone who is THAT creative? Could that get annoying? Would it be fine if they were just really kind? Ugh but not too kind, you need to have an edge, too! I shuffled things around… $20 to kindness, $30 to each creativity and liveliness.

LUCKILY, this is not a real thing – it’s purely hypothetical. But it’s an interesting (I won’t say fun, it was slightly agonizing!) exercise to do, if anything, to get a bit more clear on your priorities and what you want. Could you settle for a less attractive mate if they treated you well? Does it really matter if your partner is that creative? Would you be okay being the breadwinner? Fully supporting a partner? There are no wrong answers here, it’s about figuring out what is best for YOU and where your priorities/non-negotiables are.

Curious – how would you spend your mate dollars!? Tell me in the comments if you feel comfortable sharing!

If I had $300….

  • Creativity: $70
  • Kindness: $70
  • Liveliness $60
  • Physical Attractiveness – $60
  • Wealth $40

If I only had $100…

  • Creativity: $25
  • Kindness: $35
  • Liveliness: $20
  • Physical Attractiveness: $10
  • Wealth: $10

Even just writing them down I want to change things around, but that’s what I settled on. 😉

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment


  1. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog:

    This is a great read! I honestly have no idea how I would spend my mate dollars… need to think about it! I would say kindness and then liveliness then creativity though! ❤️✨

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    1.22.20 Reply
  2. Brandi:

    Can I get a refund? Baha! Just kidding! 14 years of marriage joke. This is very interesting Grace. It is fun to think of what I would spend these dollars on if I was shopping and also kinda fun to assign value to my husband now and see how I actually shopped! Great thought provoking morning read- love that you keep it real! Happy Birthday to the blog also!

    1.22.20 Reply
  3. Julia:

    Interesting discussion and also interesting to think for the ladies who are dating/married if their actual partner is close to the “perfect one”. I feel like sometimes it’s hard to place an actual person into certain caterogies as things are always intertwined!

    I had one question though while reading – how does it matter if you have $300 or $100? The allocation is based essentially on a % you attribute to a certain quality… so shouldn’t change regardless of the amount. Unless the assumption is that certain people can have a total of $100 only to allocate while others would have a total of $300 (meaning they are ultimately “better” on all qualities)?

    1.22.20 Reply
    • grace at the stripe:

      I think that the idea is that because the max per category is still $100, you can maybe “splurge” a little on categories you wouldn’t if you only had $100!

      1.22.20 Reply
      • Julia:

        Thank you for the reply, Grace, I guess that makes sense. That being said, from microeconomic standpoint, I think it’s interesting to see how your implicit % split changes when you move from $300 to $100, though not significantly;)

        1.22.20 Reply
        • Elizabeth:

          I was thinking this too! Your ratios are totally different with the $300, even though the principle should be the same. The only category where you would go over $100 if you kept your ratios the same would be kindness – but only by $5. So by your list, if you had $300, your partner would be hotter and richer, but also meaner 🙂 also, nerd alert over here

          1.22.20 Reply
          • grace at the stripe:

            Let me live! LOL 😉

            Hotness/richness are nice to haves. Since I have triple the money, I spend more. I don’t need someone who is $100 worth of kind, but with the incremental budget I went all the way up from $35 to $70. He needs to have an edge.

          • Julia:

            Haha I guess we can say that after the basic $100 package is there the marginal value of kindness becomes lower hence the changes in the % split whereas “upgrades” in hotness/richness become more relevant!

            PS. Totally a nerd alert! Thank you, Grace, for letting us look at your split;)

  4. Sasha:

    This is SO interesting. Can’t wait to sit down and think about it!

    1.22.20 Reply
  5. Sharon:

    I could easily spend an afternoon discussing this with girlfriends. So fun. I am the opposite of you. I’ve talked about this in different terms before and I think we all choose mates differently based on our values and needs. Here are mine with $100 to keep it simple…

    1. Attractiveness: $35 – to me this is overall swagger, cool factor. And it’s huge for me, because I find I’m a better partner if I think I have a catch. 5 years in, my husband is still the coolest guy I know.
    2. Wealth: $35 – not necessarily wealth, but financial understanding. I do well and I want a partner to be doing just as well and be just as responsible. Wealth equals freedom and choices.
    3. Kind: $15 – mostly just a person who does the right thing.
    4. Liveliness: $15 – wants to have fun
    5. Creativity: $0 – eh… I’m okay without it.

    I would totally vote for integrity and character up there with attractiveness. Because for me this is definitely attractive. But being with a partner who gives you all the tingles, is so helpful when they drive you crazy with their dishes on the counter. 😉

    1.22.20 Reply
  6. Dana Mannarino:

    This is actually really interesting and SO hard to think about! I love that you said you even wanted to change things around while writing them down for the post.

    Dana | The Champagne Edit 

    1.22.20 Reply
  7. Theodora:

    This is FASCINATING (and timely, I’m trying so hard to be open to dating/love this year.)

    Lively: $30. This one is SO important to me. I like to think I’m relatively interesting, and I want a guy who’s also dynamic and has a lot to talk about. (Though now that I write that, I guess there’s also guys that have a lot to talk about and ONLY talk about themselves…) But there’s been so many dates I’ve been on where he’s fine on paper but just doesn’t have the kind of energy I’m looking for.

    Kindness: $30. This one’s pretty simple for me: don’t be a douche. (Man, simple but not easy!)

    Creativity: $20. I’m also a creative person and would like someone who at least sees the world in a more creative and open-minded way.

    Physical Attractiveness: $10. Obviously I want to be attracted to someone, but I think someone’s personality is what makes him more attractive to me. Looking back at guys I’ve dated in the past, they haven’t all been conventionally attractive, but they were to me because of personality.

    Wealth: $10. Just have a job, that’s all.

    1.22.20 Reply
  8. Raquel Fancher:

    Thanks for the discussion! I think kindness/big heart/generosity is #1. I would put $100 on that. Over time physical attraction fades but if my partner is very supportive, kind and generous to me he becomes more attractive and my sensual nature gets triggered. That big heart would make me feel ‘warm and fuzzy’ all over. But someone who is stingy or who gives with conditions or limits…that makes my soul shrivel up. So coming from a 60 year old, my advise to my younger self would be to be open for that man who bends over backwards for me, that man who can’t do enough for me because doing so would make him happy. He most likely is not the prototypical package so he would easily be missed if we weren’t looking. He would be like a puppy dog; full of adoring unconditional love. In retrospect I let some of those go.

    1.22.20 Reply
  9. Rachel:

    Sense of Humor: $100

    1.22.20 Reply
  10. Bethany:

    Where is intelligence? That would be my number one.

    1.23.20 Reply
  11. Sylvia:

    Such an interesting exercise (and worthwhile so you can determine what is truly important). Years ago when I was in university my friends and I spent an afternoon throwing out options and deciding if we could marry someone like that (eg had one leg; bit their nails; drank too much; was a workaholic; was cross-eyed. Etc etc). It was equally enlightening. A project for your next trip. Haha.

    1.24.20 Reply
  12. Kate:

    Almost a year later and still not sure what lively really means – but I know I want it! That and those mezcal margs.

    1.26.20 Reply
    • grace at the stripe:

      HAHA truly to both of these things!

      1.27.20 Reply
  13. Em:

    Omg, I LOVE these kinds of posts. Like a few others, I was immediately struck by how the ratios change as you have more money. I think because of how hypothetical the question is, I (and those other commenters) were viewing this as inflation, where $300 buys you the same amount of “goods” as $100 did. I liked your view that the $300 scenario was just buying you more of everything. Fun to see what you’d splurge on!!

    I also found these categories really telling of the person who came up with the question. I’m not totally sure what lively means, but as an introvert, it sounded like my worst nightmare. I’d ask for cash back on that one! I think you kind of have to keep looks and maybe wealth in there (it’s a nod to the fact that we all have some slightly shallow desires), but if I had to choose the other categories I think they would be intelligence, ambition, kindness, humor, interesting-ness (for lack of a better word), athleticism, and level of butterfly in stomach feeling they induce. I’m outdoorsy, I have my MBA, I’m a very logical thinker, and it never would have occurred to me to put creativity in there.

    I do think attractiveness is an interesting topic. I honestly might give it $5, not because I’m so ~*deep*~ but because when you really love someone they become so attractive to you. My boyfriend has the face and body of an actual model, 6 pack, high cheek bones, square jaw line, piecing blue eyes, glowing tan skin. I think he’s the best looking person out there. But he’s also just shy of 5’7 (I’m 5’1) and has reddish blonde hair . Some of my friends have told me they’re jealous he’s gorgeous, while I know others see us as mini humans, and others have described him as “hot, for a ginger” (before we were serious). I’ve also been madly in love with a dude with a dad bod and an extremely weak chin, but you couldn’t have convinced me he wasn’t the sexiest person on earth. He was smart, ambitious, held a lot of power, and was very kind. All those investments elsewhere made the lack of attractiveness irrelevant.

    2.1.20 Reply