Most of the money advice targeted at couples is for people who are married or at least cohabiting. But knowing how to handle joint accounts, split the rent and divide up grocery bills isn’t of much use to the couple who are dating but not married, at least not anytime soon.
But money can get in the way of your happiness, even in the early stages of a relationship. And while things might not result in an acrimonious divorce or your bank account getting emptied over night by a vengeful spouse, arguments about money can quickly cancel out any romance.
Here are four issues you should discuss with your partner once you hit the stage where you’ve seen each other in your ugliest clothes but still cringe at the thought of balloting for a flat.
1. How much to spend on dates
When you’re dating, it’s natural that most of the time you spend consists of, well, going out on dates.
At the start, you might have gone exclusively to nice restaurants and chic bars. But in the long-term, most couples start to show their true selves.
If he’s happier chowing down on oyster omelette at Chomp Chomp than paying top dollar at Luke’s Oyster Bar, after the initial euphoria wears off, you’ll find out about it sooner or later.
If her shopping addiction is out of control, it will eventually come to attention after you’ve witnessed her behaviour at Orchard Road a couple of times.
And if your spending habits aren’t in sync, you can be sure there’ll be friction, unless one party foots the bill every time. To avoid passive aggressive behaviour or flat-out arguments each time you go out, it’s probably best to start discussing your date spending habits, and how to move forward.
If eating out at fancy restaurants four times a week is burning a hole in your wallet, it might be time to suggest you downsize your date night budgets. On the other hand, if your date never wants to leave the house, you might want to hint at your need for excitement that doesn’t involve the TV.
2. Who pays for what on dates
I think it’s safe to say that in a large number of heterosexual Singaporean couples, the man chivalrously tries to foot the bill, at least on the first few dates.
But as time progresses, unless one party is significantly wealthier than the other, the contributions tend to become more and more equal. And at this point it might be wise to enter into a discussion about who pays for what.
You might not want to be too anal-retentive about splitting the costs (I pay for lunch, you pay for dinner), but a few ground rules might be necessary, especially if you tend to spend a lot when you go out. For instance, when you go out drinking with his friends, he foots the bill; but you pay for lunch when he accompanies you on your shopping trips. You might decide to go Dutch instead, or pay for alternate dates.
Even if you end up not following the rules most of the time, having them in place gives you a reference point when in doubt, and helps to curb resentment.
3. Your approach to money
When you’re dating but not married, money can be a tricky topic. While married couples often save up together for the kids or the house, for those who are just dating, talking about money can be awkward.
However, it’s advisable to shed some light on your past experiences with and current attitudes to money. You don’t need to bare your soul, but having a construction discussion on your thoughts about money can go a long way towards helping your partner understand why you make the money decisions you do—which can prevent conflict.
While you might have previously derided your partner for being a tightwad, you might change your mind after he explains to you that being poor as a child and seeing his parents struggle to put him through school has made him determined to live within his means.
On the other hand, if your partner thinks he deserves to splurge often because he puts in long, miserable hours at work, a candid discussion might help you pinpoint ways he can solve his problems without spending too much.
4. The truth about your financial situation
Boys and girls, there’s no need to make your partner believe you can give him or her a life of luxury.
Being realistic (and not dramatic or self-pitying) about your financial situation is important unless you want your relationship to be one based on well-manicured appearances.
There’s no need to reveal exactly how much you earn or how much your investments are worth, so you can breathe a sigh of relief if you’re intensely private about such matters.
But if you’re suffering from any financial difficulties, it’s best to be upfront about your situation.
While the fact that you’re heavily in debt might freak your partner out and in some cases send them running for the emergency exit, if the relationship is one based on genuine respect and affection, he or she might even offer to help you out or plan your finances.
At the very least, your partner will no longer expect you to take them on extravagant dates. It might hurt, but it will be better for you and your wallet in the long run.
Are there any other issues you think couples should discuss? Share your wisdom in the comments!