Differences in views on how to manage money can cause relationship conflict, so it's a good idea to see if you share similar money habits with a partner before getting serious.
While probing someone about their salary potential and student loan balance may not be appropriate for a first date, there are other, less intrusive ways to broach the money topic. Here are 10 questions you could ask your date to help you understand their attitudes and habits regarding money to determine if you're financially compatible.
1. Do You Have a Budget?
Budgeting is a plan for how you spend your money, and that plan may be written down, put in an Excel spreadsheet or managed in an app. Talking about budgeting can help you find out your date's approach to money management and how it compares to your management style.
If you're a strict budgeter, dating someone who just wings it each month could cause conflict. On the flip side, dating someone who meticulously budgets when you take a more laid-back approach to money management could also cause friction if or when you start paying bills together.
Making sure you share similar views on how to plan for bills and monthly expenses can make for a smoother transition if you decide to commingle funds.
2. What Do You Like to Spend Your Fun Money On?
Finding out how a date spends their "fun" money could uncover similarities and differences in hobbies and spending habits. If a date says they spend money on fun stuff without much planning or saving, it could signify that they're more of a spender.
On the other end of the spectrum, someone who budgets carefully and rarely spends could lean toward frugality, which may be incompatible with how you manage money. Agreeing about the right balance between saving and spending can lead to fewer headaches later on when it comes time to make purchases together.
3. What Did You Learn About Money and Credit Growing Up?
What someone learns about money while growing up can influence their attitudes and mindset toward finances later in life. For example, a person who hears adults say, "Money doesn't grow on trees," or experiences financial insecurity at a young age could have financial anxiety that leads to frugal habits. Asking what a date learned about finances could give you a window into how their background forms their views on the best way to spend, save and use credit.
4. Do You Have an Emergency Fund?
Emergency funds are a safety net to fall back on if a surprise bill arises or you lose a job and need to bridge a financial gap for a few months. Finding out whether or not a date has a bit of money set aside can give you insight into their ability to prepare for the unexpected.
Ultimately, if you get into a serious relationship, unexpected expenses are almost inevitable. It's worthwhile to know if you'll be able to rely on each other to get through financial storms.
However, also understand that everyone starts somewhere with saving. If your date doesn't have a high savings account balance, learning they regularly put a portion of their income into their company's retirement plan could be enough to show they at least prioritize putting away money for the future.
5. What Are Your Short- and Long-Term Financial Goals?
Asking for specifics on exactly how much student loan debt or savings someone has could be intrusive for a first or second date. However, asking someone generally if they have goals could show you whether or not they plan for the future or if they just go with the flow. Plus, sharing your goals and why they matter to you could be an interesting conversation starter that leads to a greater discussion on personal and professional ambitions.
6. What Was the Last Exciting Purchase You Made?
Asking about major big-ticket purchases can help you learn your date's values and what they think is important to spend money on. If you feel comfortable with a follow-up question, asking how long it took to save up for the purchase or if they used credit could give you an idea of their credit habits.
Using credit cards and paying them off isn't necessarily bad, but over-reliance on them could lead to debt problems. And if you're someone who doesn't use credit for big purchases, pairing with someone who uses it often could lead to future disagreements.
7. Do You Invest?
Talking about your own investing experience and asking if your date invests could help you learn about their risk tolerance and investing habits.
If you're new to investing, this could be an opportunity to express your goals and desire to invest more. If you're a seasoned investor, discussing investment strategies, recent stock purchases and asset allocations could help you determine if your investing styles are similar.
8. Do You Track Your Credit Score?
Although a partner's credit does not affect yours, your credit scores are important because they can affect the type of credit and loans you can qualify for jointly. Say you end up getting into a long-term relationship with your date. A partner having a low score could mean the difference between you getting or not getting approved for a lease or a loan for a home together.
Inquiring about someone's specific credit score is a personal question that could be better suited for a fourth or fifth date. But knowing that your date tracks their score is a sign that they understand how important it is and are concerned about growing it.
9. What Tools Do You Use to Manage Your Money?
Some people like to budget with spreadsheets, apps or good ol' pen and paper. Asking how someone manages their money can help you find out whether your methods are compatible. During the conversation, your date might even introduce you to new budgeting, saving, investing and debt repayment tools that you can add to your arsenal.
10. Do You Listen to Any Podcasts or Read Books About Money?
Today, there are many books and podcasts about money, and influencers on almost every social media platform talking about money management, investing, increasing your income and more.
The money-related accounts someone follows or the financial books they read can show their interest in financial planning, but it doesn't have to be a deal breaker. After all, someone saying they don't read books or listen to podcasts about money doesn't mean they're bad with financial planning. Asking this question could be an opportunity to share the podcasts or books you're into and why, creating another way for you to connect with your date.
The Bottom Line
Money might feel like a taboo topic, but it's one you should discuss since finances have a far-reaching effect on the life you can live and the goals you can achieve. And discussing money topics early could help you avoid financial conflict as the relationship progresses.
First dates are for getting to know someone, and adding some light money-related questions into the conversation is a way to find out if you share similar financial habits. If you choose to get to know someone better, more serious talks about how much you both earn, how to split bills and what your collective goals are can happen before you move in together.