Whether you’re single and looking, seriously dating, or in a long-term committed relationship, conversations around money are going to come up. Knowing how to navigate money talks at every stage in the dating game and beyond is one of the keys to keeping your financial health in check.
Nearly half of those polled for Credello’s Love & Debt survey say couples should start talking about their finances at some point in the first 6 months of dating. In fact, 49% of respondents either say they would be more comfortable dating a person if they learned about their financial status early on in the relationship. This way, any money red flags that pop up are caught and addressed sooner rather than later when they may be more difficult to overcome.
As relationships progress, disagreements over money can be a huge stressor for couples. From how much to spend to what to spend it on, what to save for, how much to invest, paying off debt, and so much more, things can get complicated when you’re not on the same page with your partner. Wouldn’t it be great to mitigate some of that stress at the outset of your relationship?
Having transparent and honest conversations about money is easier when you have a plan and a money date checklist tailored to the stage you’re in:
- Money Date Checklist: Your First Few Dates
- Money Date Checklist: 3 Months
- Money Date Checklist: 6 Months
- Money Date Checklist: Engaged Couples
- Money Date Checklist: Married Couples
For your first date or your 50th, each money date checklist below has tips to keep in mind as you navigate all that comes with finances and finding love at each stage of your relationship.
Money date checklist: your first few dates
- Don’t reveal too much too soon.
- Keep financial conversations high-level.
- Manage expectations regarding date costs and budgets.
- Explore topics closely related to money.
- Keep your eye out for money red flags.
For dating advice, Credello turned to Shannon Smith, resident dating expert at Plenty of Fish. ”Finances are very personal, so I encourage singles to keep most private information like that to themselves while they’re in the early stages of dating,” Smith explains.
Managing expectations upfront is key when you start dating someone, according to Smith. “For example, if the person you’re dating expects champagne treatment (e.g., multiple fancy dinners a week, lavish weekend getaways) on a beer budget (e.g., you can manage one fancy dinner a month), make sure that’s clear sooner rather than later to avoid unnecessary frustrations down the line.”
Basically, make sure your date is on-board with the type of lifestyle you can currently afford. Perhaps exchange your thoughts on the latest infla-dating trend when you’re first getting to know each other. But also, don’t be closed-off to the idea that someone’s financial situation may change over time. At this point, just make sure you’re generally compatible.
As far as what not to do when you’re just getting into a new relationship, Smith recommends not revealing too much too soon where things like the amount of debt you have or your exact assets are concerned.
To help give you insight into how your date may spend their money, Marsha Barnes, a Certified Financial Social Worker and founder of The Finance Bar suggests picking topics that touch on values. “Conversations around finances are extremely personal to the individual, and there are closely related topics that can be discussed while dating such as what does your date value the most? We often spend on what we value,” says Barnes. “While this does not provide intimate details around the state of someone’s finances, it does clue you in on how or where someone likely spends money.”
She says that this stage is more about exploring a person’s habits than the numbers involved. “An example of this: ‘Do you enjoy traveling?’ Or being open to share more personal thoughts such as, ‘My parents are divorced, and sometimes I assist my Mom or Dad with their X expenses,’” Barnes shares.
Money date checklist: 3 months
- Broach the subject of debt.
- Consider frank discussions about salary, saving, and spending.
- Determine (on your own) if your money goals can be aligned.
After a few months of getting to know one another, if you’ve already touched on a few money-related topics, bringing up finances with your date should naturally evolve a bit without feeling as overwhelming as it might on a first or second date.
“Finances — especially debt — can be a stressful topic for couples, so there’s no need to rush this conversation until you feel ready,” Smith says. “Of note, it also doesn’t have to be an in-depth conversation when you first bring up the subject of debt. Rather than providing all the details, like just how much debt you’re in or your plan for paying it off, you can keep it high-level.”
Keep things casual and natural as you discuss money at this stage. Smith recommends saying things like, “‘A vacation next month sounds great, but I need to get my credit card under control,” or “I, too, hope to one day buy a house, but I’m hoping to pay off my student loans first,” as these topics come up in conversation.
Dig in a bit more on the idea of how you personally each view saving and spending, plus what your overarching financial goals are. While you may not be quite ready to commit to merging these ideas with a partner yet, you can still learn whether or not your financial ideologies are somewhat on the same page already or if you’re even in the same ballpark.
If you’re feeling anxious about bringing up debt, getting a handle on the situation before you discuss it on a date can help. Use the tool below to see how a debt consolidation loan could help you clear debt quickly and learn which one is right for you. Once you’re on the path to becoming debt free, you can feel more confident talking through it with your date.
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Money date checklist: 6 months
- Review your financial histories together.
- Talk about your plans for money management.
- Go deeper on debt.
- Discuss whether or not you’ll merge finances in the future.
The timing may not be exact here, but once you’re in a committed relationship, it’s time to have more serious money talks with your partner. “Talking about financial goals at a very high level in the early stages of dating is fine, but there is no need to worry about aligning those goals until you are in a committed relationship,” Smith says. “At that point, you and your partner will be invested enough in each other and your relationship that you can really get into how you view finances, your financial history and your plans for money management. This conversation can be difficult, but it is incredibly important — especially if you think you may end up together for the long-haul — in which case you’ll likely make financial decisions together, and merge finances down the line.”
While this looks different for every couple, Barnes explains that when a relationship becomes more intimate and discussions about moving in together or marriage occur, “this is when moving towards conversations of how to manage finances separately and together are suggested.”
Money date checklist: engaged couples
- Determine the level of financial security you’re comfortable with.
- Talk about what stresses you out where money is concerned and how you deal.
- Put the assets and liabilities you’re bringing into the partnership on the table.
- Get on the same page regarding short-term finance topics.
- Talk through what money should look like for you long-term, as you both evolve.
- Make decisions regarding merging finances.
So, when you’re ready to make the jump into marriage, you’re also ready to get on the same page with both long- and short-term money management. Will you use a budgeting app together? Do you have any personal money issues to overcome before merging money matters? Will you open a joint account? These are all extremely personal decisions to cover when you’re at this stage of the dating game.
“Working as a team is the primary goal opposed to focusing too heavily on if finances should be combined,” Barnes suggests. “One key piece of advice to remember is that each individual should have a level of awareness of ‘what is going on’ with expenses and income in the household, where important documents such as life insurance policies, and investments are stored. Separate or joint accounts together aren’t mandatory; however, financial awareness should be mandatory for all couples.”
Just like you and your partner, love and money are intimately connected. Christiana Cioffi, author of An Unapologetic Spinster: True Modern Dating Stories, tells Credello that before you even talk about combining finances, “ensure you’re choosing the right person for you for the long haul.”
Even if you haven’t done the work to check all of the boxes where finances are concerned as your relationship evolved, there’s still hope. “If one person brings a drastically different financial situation into the relationship, or if you have conflicting views about the role of money, consider how you can still maintain balance within the relationship despite the difference,” Cioffi says. “Then seek professional guidance to help navigate an acceptable path forward for both individuals.”
Money date checklist: married couples
Go on regular money dates to:
- Plan ahead for big purchases.
- Review and assess investments.
- Discuss career shifts and job changes.
- Manage savings to offset potential future financial stress.
- Prepare for upcoming life changes (like a baby or a new home).
Whether you’ve been married for a decade or are just considering taking the leap, you can set an intention to get on the same page about your finances by planning regular money dates.
“Across all aspects of your relationship, it is important to feel that you are in a partnership with your life partner. That means, quite literally, that you are in it together when it comes to both financial gains and loss,” Cioffi says. So, when there’s a shake-up in your life that will impact your finances, getting out ahead of it before the situation becomes stressful is key.
Barnes suggests that “being proactive as opposed to reactive” can help couples through financial changes that are both expected (like an investment) or unexpected (like job loss). According to Barnes, “The singular question to ask is: ‘What are we working on this quarter, or this year, that will lead us closer to our level of financial comfort?”
When you’re talking about love and money in a marriage, it really all boils down to how well you navigate things together. “Communication and honesty go hand in hand to create feelings of trust and security,” Cioffi says. “When big financial changes occur, draw upon that love for one another, approach with compassion and support, and stay focused on solutions for the future rather than pointing blame for the past.”
“We say we are going to marry for love – ‘for richer or for poorer,” explains Cioffi. “Yet, when financial trouble strikes, a relationship on shaky ground may just crumble.” Use these money date checklists to get out ahead of stressful love and money situations before they wreck your romantic partnership or ruin your next date.