There may be no bedfellows more uncomfortable than love and money. That’s especially true during the early stages of a relationship, when we’re all trying to make a good impression – sometimes at the expense of our own best interests.
New love is a wonderful, exciting thing, and you may be tempted to leave the decidedly unromantic notion of smart money management out of the equation. But if a relationship is going to last, you can’t run away from money forever. That’s why it’s important to lay a few ground rules for yourself before a new relationship begins.
With that in mind, here are three common new relationship money mistakes and how they can be avoided.
Outpacing your means
A new relationship is a clean slate. It’s a chance to show someone your best possible side and create a memorable impression.
That openness, however, can be both a gift and a burden. It may sometimes lead us to try and create an impression that doesn’t match with who we really are and what we’re really capable of. One of the areas hit hardest by our attempts to make a strong (if inaccurate) impression is our money.
If you find you get a little carried away with your spending, consider creating a dating budget. It should be an extension of your existing budget – meaning you should be able to stay on track with your normal bills and long-term goals. The discretionary funds left over – and only those funds – can then be used for dating.
Letting emotions overrule reality
A recent poll from Money found that 85 percent of men believe they should foot the bill for a first date. It’s hard to say pinpoint exactly why so many men feel this way, though it likely boils down to a feeling of expectation. Men have traditionally paid for first dates in the past, and although circumstances today are quite different than they once were, that expectation (or at least the perception) remains.
Of course, it’s perfectly fine if either side of a date wants to pay or even if the costs are shared. The trouble comes when decisions are made based on emotions, like pride, rather than the reality of what you can afford and what you’d actually like to spend.
If you find yourself making spending decisions based on emotions, independent of what your brain is telling you, you need to take a step back. Remember that no one benefits in the long run from you spending yourself into debt. More importantly, it is very rare that you’ll ever meet someone who actually wants you to spend beyond your means. And, even if you did find someone like that, chances are that’s not a relationship you want to be in.
Making assumptions about your partner’s values
Finally, you do yourself and your partner a disservice by assuming to know what they want or need in a relationship, especially if you’re assuming they want expensive dinners and fancy gifts. Be honest from the outset about what you value and enjoy and take your partner at their word when they tell you about their preferences.
By avoiding assumptions, you can avoid unnecessary and wasteful spending, while focusing your time and energy on more meaningful activities. That’s a much more solid foundation for any relationship that’s just starting out.