I had two serious relationships in my 20s, both of which ended in some part because of money incompatibility. When I saw the red flags I had to ask myself, “Can I accept this person as they are, including their money management skills for the rest of my life?” In both cases the answer was a clear ‘no’ and I knew it was time to end the relationship.

I am a huge believer in accepting people as they are and never having an agenda to change anyone. When I saw the red flags I mentioned my concern. When I realized we were on different money planets, it was time to move on.

Here are some things to look for when dating and to be careful about yourself.

1) Be wary of stinginess

I wanted to find someone who was practical and good with their money, someone who hated debt as much as I did but valued generosity and wasn’t afraid to spend as long as they had the funds to pay for it. I did not want someone who was stingy.

I went out with a guy once who bought me flowers at a roadside stand. How romantic! That was until we drove past the next stand and he saw they were selling for $1 less. He returned my flowers and bought me the cheaper ones. Was I touched at his frugalness? Not a chance.

Don’t use coupons on the first date and whatever you do, don’t gasp when the restaurant bill is delivered. Don’t complain about the price of movies or the size of the markup on popcorn and drinks. Trust me on this one. Life within your means and date within your budget but don’t complain about money, especially money spent on the person you’re dating!

2) Have and look for financial integrity

The first guy I dated was a writer and seemed to be making a good enough income. Money wasn’t an issue. He didn’t live lavishly but he dressed well, drove a newer model Toyota and spend money freely. It was nearly a year into the relationship when he confessed he was $40,000 in debt (none of it mortgage debt or student loan debt) because he’d hadn’t made any money from writing ‘yet’. It turned out the car was his mother’s. He was 30. He didn’t see it was a big deal but I was disappointed. He was pretending to be someone he wasn’t.

If you sense dishonesty in others, be very careful. Living a life funded by credit cards or bank loans is a lie you don’t want to buy into, especially if you find out the debt has been kept secret. If you are deeply in debt and are working your way out, be honest from the start about your plans to turn your life around.

3) Don’t be controlled or controlling

It’s perfectly acceptable once in a long term relationship for one person to take over the money management. In our house, I do it all. I pay all the bills. I track all the spending. I manage the investments, TFSAs, RESPs and RRSPs. I am not, however, controlling about it. I do it because I enjoy it and Brian is extremely grateful because it’s one less thing he has to think about. I don’t tell him how to spend money. He doesn’t tell me. We share our money goals with each other and check in with each other when a purchase is over $100 to double check if it’s in the budget. If either of us wants something, we make a way for it to work. We don’t control each other’s spending.

Find someone you respect enough to trust their money judgments from their investment choices to their spending habits. If they ask you for advice, great! Share away. Just be very careful if someone is trying to control you in any way, especially when it comes to money. This will only get worse as the relationship progresses. If you don’t trust your partner with their money management skills, I’d encourage you to get help or end the relationship. It’s not worth continuing to date someone you can’t trust or tries to control what you do.

4) Talk about finances

Don’t do this on the first date. Don’t even try this in the first few months. As the relationship progresses, begin to have money conversations and see how your partner reacts. Do you agree with your partner’s answers? Does he or she show a lack of basic financial knowledge? Is there a willingness to learn?

Some great questions include:

If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it? Bachelor #1 said he’d buy his Mom a new house. Sweet, yes, but no thought to paying of his debt or anything about our potential future together sent up the first red flag.

Have you started any RRSPs yet? Your partner doesn’t need to tell you what the balance is, but his or her response can tell you a lot about their money habits. If they answer “What, I’m only in my 20s!” or burst out laughing, you may want to reconsider.

The idea isn’t to quiz them on their financial knowledge. The last thing your partner needs is to feel like you are testing them. The idea is to get a sense about how similar they are when it comes to their money management skills and how open they are to discussing it with you.

When I met Brian, we realized we had a lot in common. We both liked camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, photography and books. When we found out we were on the same page financially, it was the icing on the cake.

How did you find a similar money-minded life partner? Have you have any relationships end because of financial incompatibility?

Kathryn works in public relations and training for a non profit. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Her passions include personal finance and adult education. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.


  1. Ray on September 1, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Money can be is an important issue in relationships, the main cause of divorce is financial issues. I don’t think you need to find someone with similar money philosophy as long as you both can make compromises and have an understanding.

    My wife and I have different views and believes about money, but we discussed things extensively before getting engaged and have found a middle ground. She is very frugal and does not like to spend a lot of money on things, money gives her a sense of security. I on the other hand, have never been very frugal I like to spend money to enjoy things and travel a lot to me money is not a big issue. But I liked her frugality and saving money on items, so I adapted that to my financial life and she agreed that we will travel more often but on frugal bases……marriage is all about compromise.

    Yesterday I started a series on personal finance for couples, this week we discussed money management for unmarried couples:

  2. Olivia on September 1, 2009 at 9:41 am

    well the post was a nice read.. but to have a date with the same financial goal is hard to find… no matter how much you avoid contradiction on the financial matter with a person you get it started somehow at some point so this is a hard thing.

  3. as on September 1, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Idea for a Hallmark card:

    Love is…

    Not using coupons on a first date.

  4. M Hawk on September 1, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I’d have to say that if someone isn’t on the same page as you, it doesn’t mean they can’t get there. My partner laughed at the first mention of RRSPs, wanted to buy his mother a house when he got some money, and had lots of hidden debt.
    BUT – he was willing to accept my opinions and help, open an RRSP, and give money to his mom every month while paying down his debt.

    Now, we are on the same page, and it’s fantastic. But, I would say don’t let initial impression stymie you too much – those might change. A lot of times, people never had someone to show them the right way to do things!

  5. Kathryn on September 1, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Great points about people getting on the same page if they aren’t there already. That’s where the willingness to learn comes in. This was true of Brian too. He didn’t have any debt and lived within his means but he didn’t know the first thing about investments creating a financial plan. He was, however, willing to learn and that made all the difference.

    So true about people never having someone to show them the right way to do things.

  6. No Debt Guy on September 1, 2009 at 11:33 am

    My buddy and I were both just out of long term relationships when I joked to him that any dating I did would go like this.

    Date 1. Meet for coffee to chat and see if there are common interests.

    Date 2. Tests at the local “STI” clinic.

    Date 3. Go over credit reports, income, debt, net worth, etc.

    Date 4. If all has gone well the results from Date 2 should be back and you should be good to go.

    Shortly after I met my girlfriend and although it didn’t exactly as I had joked we did compare credit scores and they were equal for a short period of time.

    Money causes tension in relationships and you must be on the same page.

  7. Will on September 1, 2009 at 11:41 am

    You were bang on with this post, Kathyrn! This very contentious issue and is pretty much a deal breaker when you’re in your mid-20’s and more financially aware.

    Having a good sit down after you’ve dated for a period of time (say a few months), no matter how uncomfortable it may be, just to be on the same page is highly invaluable. It’ll help you figure out how “truly” compatible you are with someone because it ties into the future a couple may share as well as sustainable lifestyle goals.

  8. Victor on September 1, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    If I may be allowed to summarize for us simple men everywhere:

    “Men, don’t use coupons or try to save or be someone you’re not on our first date, but if you don’t agree to using coupons and trying to save after our first date, we’re through.”

    – Fruagl Women

  9. Will on September 1, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I have to share this with you guys as this article is right up my alley :)


  10. nobleea on September 1, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    It sounds cold and unromantic to choose your partner partly based on their financial personality, but money is one of the top three argument subjects for couples (along with inlaws and parenting/kids).

  11. ctreit on September 1, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I stopped dating quite a few years ago, but when I checked out some dating sites then, your post reminded me that money issues were never really part of a dater’s profile. Somehow we tend to gloss over money as if it did not matter in a relationship or even in marriage. But it does. That is why I like this post. You highlight that while dating we should be very conscientious whether we and our date ares also compatible with behavior around money.

  12. CexintheSity on September 1, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I love lists like this, which basically amount to the top 2 or 3 selfish and immature requirements women make of men:

    1. Have money (like how much? at least more than I have, silly boy!)

    2. Make me feel special by spending it on me (like, totally, otherwise how would I know for sure?)

    3. What you don’t spend on me, you better let me control (like, I have goals, and if you can’t afford them now (loser..), you better let me save for them.. it’s OUR money, honey).

    Bah… Cue the name calling and the phrases like “you’re just mad `cause…”.

    But I don’t get mad, I get a separate bank account… Hopefully Brian has one.

  13. fern on September 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Most of the men i’ve dated have not been stingy, and i agree that seeing evidence of that would be a huge turnoff.

    there was one guy i met online, a psychotherapist for a public school system, who I met for dinner at a nice restaurant, and when it came time to pay the tab, he looked in his wallet and said he must’ve left his money home and could i chip in $20? I thought this was totally lacking in class and needless to say, i never saw him again.

    He was all excited about the date and called me at home once we’d both returned home after the evening. When i informed him i wasn’t interested, sorry, he threw a hissy fit, which i thought was unusual, given he was a shrink. Very immature, and very tacky behavior.

  14. Vanda Orsini on September 1, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Kathryn: this is the best article and wish I had your insight when I was in my 20’s (it would have helped me avoid a very bad marriage), and money was a huge issue or lack of good financial stewardship.

    Thank you for writing this and I agree that you need to be on the same page financial otherwise one partner can easily distinegrate the savings accumlumated.

    I believe respect for hard earned money is very important and children need to understand this early on in life.

    Best regards, Vanda

  15. Caitlin on September 1, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I totally agree more with the “getting to the same page” rather than getting discouraged if you’re both not on the same page from the get-go.

    Neither my husband nor I knew much about money when we first started dating (in high school) but we were not on the same page either, simply due to differences in upbringing. We were both willing to learn, and now we’re on the same page (even though we still approach our joint plan in different ways).

  16. Caitlin on September 1, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    While CexintheSity’s comment does sound bitter, I can attest that there are people out there with that mentality, as awful as it sounds. Before I got married, I spent a lot of time on wedding/bridal forums online, and some of the stuff there just made me sick. Most people in there were quote-unquote “normal”, but occasionally there would be a person making serious comments like that that just make you think “well no wonder so many marriages fail if that’s the attitude going into them” and shake your head.

  17. WM on September 1, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    For me, compatibility in financial values is absolutely key. It’s something that I personally have very strong feelings about and I know I need someone who has similar values. I haven’t actually ended relationships because of financial incompatibility but I’ve known that they would not last for the long term when we were not on the same page with that issue.

  18. cannon_fodder on September 1, 2009 at 4:24 pm


    Let me say that I appreciate that Kathryn’s perspectives have brought a new dynamic to this blog. Judging by the comments, it seems that more women take the opportunity to let themselves be heard when Kathryn posts – good to see!

    I’m going to show this article (and this site) to my teenage daughters. I don’t think it is too early to start establishing the types of characteristics one looks for in a successful relationship – and this could also include best friends. As they are just now entering the (part time) work world, money is becoming ever more important to them. I hope they begin to realise the effort to not only make, but strategically spend and even grow those dollars.

    As M Hawk pointed out, people can change. My wife was previously married to a man that earned a decent wage but never saved for the future. That fit well with her philosophy at the time since she was young, only 1 child and had the unfortunate tragedy befall her of losing her father when she was quite young. She used to say that tomorrow is never promised so why sacrifice joy today when you may not be around?

    But, when she separated, she became a model of fiscal responsibility. Working two jobs or one job and going to school at night, she managed to save together a substantial amount for a house downpayment within just a couple of years. The security of owning her own home was the key motivating factor.

    When I arrived on the scene, she and discovered that we were quite different when it comes to managing the money. I have always worried about the big things and the small things. But, over time, we have come to find a middle ground where I loosen the purse, ahem, wallet strings a little more and she makes sure RRSP and RESP contributions are a top priority.

    We have always had a joint and separate bank accounts and there is enough trust in our relationship that we don’t even have a threshold for personal spending. I think it is a good idea but it is something we have not needed to implement.

    As Kathryn does, I handle most of the money management in the house. I encourage my wife to participate more in it for a couple of reasons. One, I think she needs to have a voice as this is critical to her future and my perspectives are educated and assured – but they are not infallible. The second is that I would hate that if something happened to me she would be further burdened with trying to develop a critical skill set such as financial management especially as our affairs are more complex.

    But, I’ve stopped asking her since it is clear she is very comfortable with our assigned responsibilities. It just means my 2nd career as a lion tamer will have to be put on hold a little longer…

  19. Kirk S. on September 1, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    For any relationship, the ability to discuss and find middle ground is important for all aspects of the relationship, not just the financial. I don’t necessarily believe that the starting point is where people should be looking, it is how couples treat their finances a few months after they have begun dating to see if it will work.

  20. Ms Save Money on September 1, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    That was funny – I can’t believe the guy would return the flowers he bought you because he found cheaper flowers – what a weirdo.

    I’m in my 20’s and I have to agree – stingy people and leeches turn me off – lucky for me I haven’t really ran into too many.

    Guys should always remember – if you go on a date – you gotta pay if you like the girl – if you don’t have money and not willing to pay, staying home is better. :) – And it’s not about girls being gold diggers – it’s about showing your character to a possible potential life long partner.

  21. Ms Save Money on September 1, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    ohhh… & CexintheSity, awesome comment :) pretty much summarizes everything LOL

  22. Kathryn on September 1, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Ms Save Money: I don’t think that guys should have to pay .. but what do I know, I’ve been with the same guy for 14 years!

    I just don’t want them complaining about the cost of things when they do pay! :-)

  23. Thicken My Wallet on September 2, 2009 at 10:37 am


    Good post but just a comment so that people are not taking away the wrong lesson. Having read your work, you are an astute manager of your own finances and a good giver of advice. Thus, the viewpoint in which you give your advice on dating is from the perspective that you have controlled your own financial house and you are looking for others who share similar values and that is implicit in your outview.

    However, what I would caution anyone reading this piece is to think that as long as the other person (male or female) has their financial house in order than no self-reflection has to occur on the dater’s part. I would not want anyone taking away the message that “the guy/girl has to have their stuff together on money or its dumpsville” without actually looking at oneself since the only constant in your dating life is yourself.

    Thus, if you want someone to have a healthy attitude about money, a good starting point is to look at oneself since like do tend to attract like.

    Keep up the good work.

  24. Alexandra on September 2, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I don’t think the guy has to pay. I think whoever asked the other one out in the first place should be the one to pay. If I ask someone to dinner, then they are coming as my guest. Gender should have nothing to do with it.

    I think it’s okay if people have slightly different money styles, as long as they are somewhat compatible. My husband and I are both responsible about money, but he likes to take risks, whereas I tend to be conservative. It still works…

  25. Kathryn on September 2, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Thicken My Wallet: That is an excellent point and one I hadn’t considered. It IS important to do some self reflection too and ask those same questions of yourself. It isn’t always about the other person.

    Alexandra: I agree. It has nothing to do with gender. Different money styles ARE ok as long is there is agreement and respect for the other’s choices. Great comments.

  26. Jen on September 3, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Like you said, it is important to avoid being controlling or controlled when it comes to finances. Stick to your financial plans unless you really believe that your significant other has a better idea.

  27. used tires on September 3, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Wow returning the flowers for a cheaper flower right in front of you, now that is messed up for sure!

    Luckily for me right now I am attending a university with the intention of graduating in the area of Finance, so all of my classmates are financially educated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they all make good choices with their finances, but it certainly does increase my chances to find someone who handles their finances similar to me. =D I am still single though! :(

    Till then,


  28. Rosie Broberg on September 3, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    AS Kahlil Gibran said, “Save the best for your friends” The best comes in different packages.

  29. PD on September 6, 2009 at 10:43 am

    There is definitely a difference between frugality and stinginess. I dated a guy who apparently wanted to make an impression on my father the first time he was to meet him. He knew my father liked wine and was a bit of a connoisseur. So what does my date do? He debates between an eleven dollar bottle of wine and a fourteen dollar bottle of wine? I eventually turned to him and said, “You’re debating over 3 dollars!!” He was smart enough to get my tone and my point and he bought the more expensive bottle, but long term we were not compatible in the financial department.

    I don’t think it is absolutely necessary to be completely compatible with your partner in the financial area, but it is important to be open about how you view money and to have a willingness to resolve how the finances are to be worked out once you are in the same household. If you don’t address it assumptions are made that may lead to major tension down the road.

    Being up front about large debt is important, too. No one likes to admit they have major debt, of course, but as Kathryn says, you don’t want it to be this huge secret. To me not admitting about a large debt is akin to not revealing you have a child. And isn’t it interesting that how to raise children is also a source of marriage tension. :)

  30. Toby on September 10, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    How important is similarity in financial status (of the guy) to women?

    I recently had this extremely bad incident whereby this girl whom I had known for a few months and gotten together less than a month back decided to end the relationship abruptly on advice of her parents due to “socioeconomic differences”. We had an excellent history of bringing up issues in the relationship for discussion, we’ve had a good relationship so far, and we used to have a perfect record in resolving issues, but this was something that she didn’t bring up for discussion before breaking up. Instead, she asked me several very probing questions about my financial status one night, after which, she called her parents for advice, then a few hours later she ended the relationship. This occured in the context us not having a chance to even talk about our financial habits seriously.

    I am studying for my degree part time and working full time to pay for it. I am not in any debt whatsoever besides the university fees (which I can handle with the wages I’m making at my job), and I tend to be a frugal person. No car, average housing in apartments.

    She on the other hand comes from a wealthy family with landed property and two cars. From what I’ve seen of her spending habits, she isn’t the type of rich girl to splurge. She is currently on a scholarship getting her degree, and she manages her own finances.

    How does this story strike you?

  31. Kathryn on September 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm


    I’m sorry this happened to you. It sounds as if she is influenced far too much by what her parents think and possibly what others might think of what seem like small socio-economic differences. Nothing you shared would have caused me to question a relationship, especially one that seemed to be so open about other issues.

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