A few years ago, VH1 aired a reality show called Dating Naked. The premise was fairly simple — two unclothed people go on a date, and by baring it all right off the bat, they hope to shock and awe each other.
The show was full of drama, booze, and uninhibited contestants, but I’m not sure it would work for most singles on a first date.
On the other hand, it got me thinking about being radically transparent when dating. Is it best to put all your cards on the table on your first date with the intention of figuring out if the person sitting across from you is a good match and not just an attractive one?
This includes finding out whether you and your date are financially compatible, a topic that can be tricky between two recently introduced individuals.
How and Why You Should Start Talking About Money
One thing that’s important for me to establish right off the bat is that I’d like to have a family someday. What if I date a great guy for a couple of years before finding out he doesn’t want to have children? I would be back to square one.
That’s why my approach to dating involves discussing serious topics like money, life choices, and other important issues.
Dating and Money Tips From the Pros
“Financial compatibility comes down to shared priorities and values,” says Brie Sodano, a personal financial analyst managing her own company, From Sheep to Shark.
“On a first date, spending time getting to know your date’s goals and dreams and asking questions about what they do for fun can probably give you an idea about where they are financially and where they hope to be,” Sodano adds.
Unfortunately, money is a taboo topic that many avoid like the plague in their romantic lives.
“Money can be a personal and touchy subject. Be gentle on a first date,” says Sodano. “It may come off as rude or intrusive. You may assume inaccurate information, as the date may be trying to impress you.”
Not Knowing Enough Can Cause Problems
Some don’t even know how much their partners earn. No wonder there are so many cases of financial infidelity in which someone’s significant other racks up enormous debt, only for it to be discovered when making an important joint financial decision (like buying a house together).
Though I wouldn’t ask someone for his credit score on the first date, I think knowing a bit about his financial situation is important.
How I Handle Dating and Money
Usually, in the early stages of dating, I introduce myself as a vague “online content writer.” People assume I’m just a broke freelancer who will never make it to major publications. And I’m okay with that.
I once tried to be more honest when talking about money. A few months back, I went on a date and told the guy I was a blogger. (Yes, my sites make money — I write about cash all day, so I know how to properly save and invest it.)
At the end of the date, we asked for the check and I took my credit card out to pay. He didn’t make a move. He didn’t even say thank you.
I decided to end it abruptly and asked him to drive me home. He kept talking about how he’d like to see me again — or even better, spend the night with me. I was so offended that he wouldn’t even pretend to make a move to pay his share that I cut the night short, and never contacted him again.
It’s a two-way street, obviously. Being a guy and having a girl expect you to pay can be a pretty disappointing experience, as well.
“I’m a guy, so if a girl takes it as a foregone conclusion I am going to pay, for me, it’s already a bad sign because I am looking for a partner who contributes,” says Lucio Buffalmano, a life and dating coach at The Power Moves.
What I Want When It Comes to Dating and Money
It’s not that I want to date a rich guy. I just want to date someone who’s financially responsible and honest.
This means someone I can make plans with. Someone who says, “Let’s save $50 a week so we can go on vacation next summer,” and is true to his word. Or more simply, someone who can take me on a date once in a while without me having to worry about how he’ll pay for it.
In college, I dated a fellow student who was responsible but broke. Our dates were hikes and cycling trips. We’d take a train or hitchhike somewhere and then camp in the wild. Or we’d pick wild berries and make jams at home together. We made each other cards for Christmas. It was awesome and required very little money.
If you want to have a more traditional date, there are still ways to keep it affordable.
Questions to Ask About Money on a First Date
To make things easier for you, Laura Goldstein, a marriage and family therapist from the DC metro area, and Susan Roman, a certified financial planner, suggest some questions that aren’t overbearing, but give you an idea of your potential partner’s money habits.
- Do you prefer special occasion luxuries (like big but rare vacations) or more frequent nice things (like smaller getaways)?
- Do you prefer a nice house with modest spending or a more humble living arrangement with experiential spending?
- If money weren’t an issue, would you change careers?
- If you received an unexpected bonus, what would you do with it?
- Do you think it is better to lease a car or buy a car? While there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer, you may learn a lot from an answer such as, “I always lease — I wouldn’t be able to afford my [insert luxury car] otherwise!”
“You could extend this to any category of spending whether it be travel, home, children, activities, etc. It also applies no matter one’s socioeconomic status because it is based on values and not in dollars,” says Goldstein.
Money plays a big role in my dating life. I want a partner — an equal who will put his fair share into the relationship. And that includes money. It may seem awkward, but by baring it all on the first date, I save a lot of time and avoid potential heartbreaks. Let these tips guide you to broaching the subject early on!
Additional reporting by Kelly Meehan Brown.