“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” – Dr. Seuss
I was listening to the Dave Ramsey radio show recently and one of the calls that came in was from a 27 year old man who wanted to get out of debt but felt that his plans kept getting derailed by his relationship. He had set the intention to live more simply this year in order to clear his credit card and student debts but, unfortunately, his 23 year old girlfriend wasn’t prepared to simplify her expectations when it came to nights out and weekends away. Seeing the pictures her friends posted on social media sites of their travels and adventures made her very aware of all the fun they were having and she didn’t want to miss out just because her boyfriend was trying to improve his financial situation. The caller was clearly torn between his love for his girlfriend and his desire to get out of debt. His situation got me thinking about the financial price of dating and relationships and how to keep it under control:
Communication is Key
Miscommunication can create a loss of stress and tension. As much as we might wish our partner could instinctively pick up on our every need and concern, the reality is, that the most effective way for them to figure out what we need, is for us to tell them! Unfortunately, when it comes to money, people often don’t want to discuss their financial situation with their partner. This seems to be especially true in the early days of a relationship when we’re trying to make the best impression possible while also trying to figure out if the person we’re dating is someone we actually want to be in a more serious relationship with.
Related article: Couples need to talk about money
With money often cited as the number one reason that relationships fail, it seems to be incredibly important for couples to get on the same page when it comes to finances. While it’s understandable that you might not want to disclose your financial situation to someone you haven’t known very long, there’s a lot to be said for not giving the impression that your financial situation is a lot better than it is. As Dave Ramsey’s caller discovered, wherever you set the bar at the beginning of a relationship is where it tends to stay; not being honest about how much you’re comfortable spending on things like eating out and entertainment can create a lot of tension later on. It’s important to understand your cashflow and to know where your limits are so you can set clear boundaries for yourself that you can communicate to your partner.
Striking a Balance
Finding happiness in many areas of life often comes down to striking a balance between competing factors. In dating and relationships, finding a balance that both partners are happy with can be incredibly tricky, especially when spending time together often involves spending money. If both partners are in similar financial situations it’s often easier to choose dates and activities that fit both your budgets. If one partner’s situation is very different to the other’s though, it can create tension and this is where finding balance becomes very important.
Related article: Three reasons couples fight about money
Making simple choices such as cooking dinner together once in a while instead of eating out or watching a movie at home instead of in the theatre can save you money without cutting back on the experience of hanging out together. Spending money on one really nice weekend away every couple of months instead of more frequent trips allows you to feel “spoiled” without draining your bank account. There’s nothing wrong with splurging on something that makes you happy but choosing those splurges as a couple and planning for them, allows you to truly enjoy them.
Part of the fun of dating and being in a relationship lies in sharing experiences with someone you care about and enjoy spending time with. Part of the challenge of sticking to a budget lies in the fact that many people enjoy spending money on people that they like and often we get carried away. It’s important to remember that those gestures don’t always have to be extravagant; a single rose is likely to be appreciated just as much as a bouquet and a home cooked, candlelit meal can be just as romantic as a fancy restaurant. No matter what your situation, it makes sense to start out as you mean to carry on. What do you think?