My phone buzzed and I got a notification from Hinge, a dating app. One of the guys I matched with said, “What do you do?”.
“I’m a money writer,” I responded, which was met with curiosity and fascination.
Telling people what I do makes it a fairly easy opening to start the conversation around money with prospective dates. Which is a good thing for me, as I want to be on the same page financially with future romantic partners. I’m single and dating for the first time in over a decade, so all of this is new to me. I want to find someone I’m financially compatible with as well, but how do I do that without making it seem all about money? Here are some ways I’ve been able to bring up money on a first date.
1. Talk about your own status
One big thing for me is debt. I want to know if prospective dates have it sooner or later or what their relationship to it is. When it gets to the point in the date where we’re describing work and education, I typically bring up that I paid off my student loans. This is usually met with someone telling me they still have debt and would love advice or they’re lucky and don’t have debt. And there I have an answer, or at least a gateway to a conversation.
Being open about my own financial situation — whether it be about my income being self-employed, paying off my debt, my relationship with money — typically puts the other person more at ease to open up about their own financial status.
2. Talk about your financial goals and values
In my last relationship, a major issue was that we had vastly different financial goals and values. When you can’t find common ground on how to spend, save, invest your money that will inevitably affect the lifestyle and type of relationship you have together.
I would want to save up for a trip together, but he’d want to save up for his music equipment. I was crazy about paying off my debt, he didn’t seem phased by his.
Knowing all of this now, I do want to have an idea of someone’s financial goals and values. Are they even thinking of retirement? Do they have a savings account? Is travel a priority for them? What are they working toward?
I usually tell people that I can be an utter cheapskate with things I don’t care about like trash bags or lint rollers, preferring to get those at the 99 cent store, but I’m not afraid to drop $100 on a killer meal or a musical or artistic experience.
Sharing this on a date usually gets people to open up about what they like spending money on. You can also ask a benign question like, “Are you interested in owning a home someday?” after talking about where you live and making a comment on rent or mortgage.
In LA, rent prices often come up and I blatantly ask people what they’re paying. It’s a good sign if someone easily tells me without hesitation, as it means they’re comfortable talking about money.
3. Spender or saver
If you get into a 20 questions style conversation where questions are shot off with a certain rapidity, one of your questions can be “Do you consider yourself a spender or saver?”. This is also a good time to check in with yourself and be honest. Having an idea whether someone is a spender or saver can give you insight into how it might work with this person given your various spending or saving styles.
And while the answer “saver” may seem like the “right” answer here, that’s not necessarily the case. There’s also too cheap, too. I once went on a date with someone who used a gift card for dinner and asked if we could share an entree so he could use the gift card again. That surpassed my frugality border into cheap territory. Obviously, that one didn’t work out.
4. Ask the “if you had a million dollars?” question
To open up the money conversation on a first date, ask the “If you had a million dollars, what would you do?” question. This can show you people’s values and what they’d do if they have a lot of money. Some people might immediately say “I’d pay off my student loans” or “I’d buy a house” which can give you some information about where they’re at. This questions provides insights without prying.
Bringing up money on a first date may seem taboo. But, it doesn’t have to be, especially if financial responsibility is important to you. Using these four tips, you can get the conversation started without being too invasive while giving you a better idea of how financially compatible you might be.
Melanie Lockert is a personal finance expert, the blogger behind DearDebt.com and author of the book “Dear Debt: A story about breaking up with debt.” Melanie paid off $81,000 of debt and is now on a mission to help others do the same.
Feature Image: HBO/Sex & The City