Frugality When Dating

When you meet people in person, especially when it's through friends, you often know something about them already based on how you met them. If you met them through frugal mutual friends, or doing a frugal activity, you'd have an idea (though maybe not complete) about how they live, that they may be frugal oriented. But if you meet them through dating websites such as Yes Dates you can't make any assumptions about whether or not they'd be on the same page as you vis-a-vis frugality, and therefore, it should be discussed on dates early on in a relationship to make sure you're compatible in terms of lifestyle and financially.

When discussing frugality in relationships, though, things can be a little complex. Some people consider themselves frugal but in actuality are spendthrifts who lack money sense, and other people say they aren't frugal, but once you look at their lifestyle and spending habits, you'd see that they are.
While dating, obviously questions like "Are you frugal?" are great, but discussing specific habits and what frugality means to you would be more effective, as it would be a better way to gauge compatibility.

One thing that I'd warn people to watch for when dating when it comes to frugality is that stinginess and frugality can often go hand in hand. Or rather, what one person considers frugality is actually stinginess, which can clearly put a big strain on a relationship.
What is the difference between frugality and stinginess, you may ask?
In my books, frugality doesn't mean never spending money unless you have absolutely no other choice. My definition of frugality, anyhow, is living within your means, and prioritizing your money so that you make sure that the things that are important to you get paid for first, and then after that, with whatever money is left, you spend on extras.
When someone is frugal with their resources, they may choose to spend very little on clothing and vacations and housing, but because they spend less on those things, they have money to spend on things that are more important to them, like eating out or healthy foods or extracurricular activities for their children or private schooling. Other people's frugality can be exactly the opposite- using public schooling, skipping extracurricular activities, never eating out, but spending more on clothing, vacation, and housing. It doesn't matter which- everyone's frugality is different and should reflect their values.
For me, my values are number one, my mental health and my physical well-being. I will prioritize and spend very little on things most people consider basic things, going to extremes (hey, I get free produce from the trash wagons at the market, forage, live without a car, and for 5 years lived with my growing family in 484 square feet) but will spend more on gluten free and paleo foods, non refined sweeteners, little luxuries that make me happy (like Camembert or brie cheese or chocolate, vodka for homemade cocktails) and going on vacations (albeit frugal ones).

A stingy person isn't prioritizing money spent to reflect their values. A stingy person worships frugality, and their priority simply is to not spend money on anything that isn't absolutely imperative. When someone is single and they are stingy with their money, worshiping frugality to the extent that even when they have money they refuse to spend it (and not because they are saving up for a specific purpose), the only person they're harming is themselves.
But in a relationship, this stinginess with money can cause lots of problems, and can even lead to abusive situations. For example, if someone's shower is broken and they are too stingy to get it fixed, and because of that, their spouse and children are suffering without a working shower (that there is money to fix), that is bad news. Really bad. Probably fits under the criteria of spousal abuse.
When someone is super controlling of their own money to the point of excess, it hurts them. In a relationship, such controlling people aren't typically satisfied with controlling their own spending, but also controlling their partners spending, which is considered one of the types of abuse- financial abuse.

So, when dating and trying to assess whether a partner is on the same page as you when it comes to money, don't just ask whether they are frugal or not, and the different ways they save, but also discuss where they spend, why they spend, and how. Because this can be the key factor in determining whether someone is frugal in a healthy way, or stingy in an abusive way.

As for why to discuss frugality at all when dating? Because money issues are one of the biggest issues that come up as reasons for marital discord. Better be on the same page about money before making a commitment.

For those of you in a relationship, did you discuss frugality while dating? Why or why not? How does your frugality or money habits affect your relationship currently? 
Any tips to give to dating people about how to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to spending habits?

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See my disclaimer.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. excellent
    You should edit in a link to the interview with your father, who explains it very well, too.

  2. When we were dating, I was living on my own and my (now) husband was living with his parents and hence had nearly no expenses of his own. For that reason, we were able to go on fancy and expensive dates all the time, during which I kept bringing up the concept that life costs money and in the future, we wouldn't be able to go on the same types of expensive dates. I think he was a bit surprised in our first few months of marriage by how much of his income went to paying for life, but he got over it very quickly and now I think we are a great team in terms of managing our expenses. It also helps immensely that he is a bookkeeper by trade and thus we keep meticulous track of our income and spending. I feel very lucky that my husband and I are on the same page frugal-wise.

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