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Dating disclosure - when you don’t have any money

Tags: money
Categories: Money

At the start of a relationship, you’re often so keen to spend all of your time together that you might accidentally spend all of your money together too. Eventually, as you come down from the initial high of new love, and settle into a more sustainable lifestyle, the idea of checking your bank balance to see how much all this fun has cost you might feel utterly horrifying.

Arguing about money

It’s not the most romantic of topics but, at some point, you will have to talk to your partner about money – how much you can comfortably spend, your plans for the future, and any problems you’re dealing with. Many young couples agree that having similar attitudes to money can make it easier to get along [1], but it isn’t always that straightforward. In fact, money worries are among the biggest causes of arguments in couples [2].

If you and your partner earn different amounts, or if one of you is trying to pay back debts, you could find yourselves at odds with each other. You might have different ideas about how to spend the weekend, what to eat, or where to grab a quick drink. More than a quarter of couples say money troubles can put a strain on their relationships [2], so if you and your partner find it difficult to talk about money, you’re not alone.

It can help to know how you’re going to manage your money together as your relationship progresses. If one of you likes to save for the future and the other likes to book holidays on a credit card, it’s best to figure that out early on. That way, you can work out a financial strategy as a couple and you’ll be less likely to come to conflict over money in the future [1].

Getting money talk out in the open

Money is a big topic, and you might end up having several conversations about it over time, but there are a few big areas you’ll want to cover:

  • Attitudes to money. If you like to borrow or splash out, be honest about that. If you prefer to scrimp and save, or if you’re worried about spending too much, make sure your partner understands your situation. It can feel awkward if one partner has more money than the other. Being treated can feel lovely sometimes, but it can also make you feel guilty or less independent. Be honest about what you feel comfortable accepting, and how you like to handle your own finances.
  • Spending. Talk about what you can and can’t afford. If your partner loves fine dining, but the thought of the bill arriving makes your stomach turn, agree that this will only be an occasional activity. It can be useful to plan some nights in, or pick some cheap activities to do together, so you’ve got something to look forward to that won’t cost much.
  • Budget. Yes, it’s tedious, but having a budget can save you so much hassle. If you don’t want to make a full budget for everything, at least discuss your shared expenses, and agree not to spend more than a certain amount each week or month on things like takeaways or going out.
  • Debts. It can be difficult to talk about debts, but it’s important to be upfront about this with your partner. Most young people have had to borrow money from family or friends at some stage [3] and paying off debts should be a priority in your budget. If you owe money, even to a family member, let your partner know. Talk about how you plan to pay it back, so that they know to factor it into other financial decisions.

For more tips on how to talk about debt, head to our Debt and relationships pages.

Merging your finances

More young couples than ever are merging their finances with joint bank accounts [4] and young couples tend to be more open about finances than previous generations. Having a joint account might feel like a big step, but you don’t have to merge everything. You can use a joint account for shared expenses and keep your personal accounts for individual purchases. This can help you avoid having to remember who paid for what or which of you owes the other for shopping or drinks. You will still need to manage the account – make sure you agree before making any big purchases with shared money.

If it feels too soon to start thinking about joint accounts, or if you’re worried about merging your credit ratings, there are other, less scary ways to manage your finances, such as a kitty for shared expenses. You might have one kitty for nights out, and another for food or bills, or whatever works for you. If you manage these well, they can be a useful way to keep within a budget without accidentally overspending.

Alternatively, you can just keep track of who buys what, and make sure you settle up regularly enough that it doesn’t get confusing – if you aim to get balanced out within a day or two, you should be able to keep on top of things. However, there is a risk that your partner will ending up spending more than you intended to, so try to keep an overall figure in mind for what you can afford to spend.

However you decide to manage your finances, make sure you have a plan, keep talking to each other, and check in from time to time to make sure things are still working for both of you.



[1] Rea, Jennifer, Virginia Zuiker, and Tai Mendenhall. 2016. “Money and Emerging Adults: A Glimpse into the Lives of College Couples’ Financial Management Practices.” Journal of Financial Therapy 7 (2).

[2] Marjoribanks and Sserwanja (2017) It takes two: the quality of the UK's couple relationships. Relate: London.

[3] Borrowed Years: A spotlight briefing on young people and borrowing from family and friends. National Debtline and Money Advice Trust, 2016.

[4] Credit Karma (2016) Everything you thought you knew about millennials may be wrong.

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