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For Love or Money: Finances & Relationships

The Beatles famously sang “money can’t buy me love” – however, for those of us in search of a romantic connection with someone new, the fact remains: there’s a certain dollars and cents matter-of-factness about the experience of dating and the pursuit of longer-term relationships.

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Spend Time, Not Money

Going out for a drink or a coffee with a potential match, or finding mutually enjoyable activities in which to partake, shouldn’t be a source of strain on your personal budget. There’s definitely some degree of social-monetary stigmatization around the idea of a more frugal approach dating –  it’s understandable that nobody wants to feel “cheap” when making plans – but there’s an art to finding ways to connect that don’t involve excessive spending. The real value of going out with someone is showing them that you value spending time with them, rather than showing off your taste in restaurants or gifts.  And who knows – maybe your ideal date will be impressed with your commitment to sound personal financial management!

Ask The Right Questions

It’s difficult to avoid having to assess someone’s financial compatibility as well as their likability – knowing how and what to ask, how to do so tastefully, and at what point it’s appropriate: these are all admittedly tough questions, and the answers will vary from person to person.  I’ve heard variations on the question: “so-and-so has a certain amount of debt. Is that a deal-breaker?” There’s even an online dating service that matches up people with compatible credit scores, if you can believe it. Ambiguity or uncertainty about a potential partner’s financial situation (do they carry debt, but continue to spend lavishly?) might erode the trust and confidence that are needed to build a stable relationship. It’s important to get a sense of this compatibility without alienating the other person.

“We find that self-control matters more than what you have in the bank account” – the words of Prof. Scott Rick of the University of Michigan.

Share and Plan Together

If things are getting more serious between you and your partner, it should be evident that good communication is part of the strategy that has brought and kept you together through times both good and bad. Couples need to be on the same page about their finances: open disclosure of current and historical spending patterns, credit history, debts and income are critical. Start saving together – and planning for ways to build on those savings to achieve your mutual goals. This experience can bring couples closer together – especially when they make sure to use their personal-finance savvy to be able to set aside a bit of discretionary money to use for enjoyable activities.

Whether you’re in the dating pool or trying to build a stable long-term relationship, avoiding financial stress is key to helping things go smoothly.

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