Reader Question: Love and Money + How to Find Your Perfect Money Match

A few weeks ago, I got an interesting question on my blog from a reader named TJ. It was about money, dating and how the heck they work:

“What’s super discouraging to me as someone on the frugal side in Southern California is finding a partner who shares said frugal traits. It sounds like you paired off at a time when frugality was probably necessary for both partners (college students).


Do you have any tips on where a frugal person might meet other frugal types? You don’t want to make it all about the frugality, but it’s also hard to reconcile a lifestyle when you are on polar opposites on the frugal scales.


On one hand, I feel like I’d rather be emotionally and romantically content than incredibly rich, but I also don’t want to just blow all my $$ on a new partner. This is something that I find a lot of frugal blogs don’t seem to really touch on. The single people either don’t talk about it and the ones who are coupled off have been that way forever.”

The question is super interesting, but also complicated. In fact, it’s taken me almost a month to answer.

The truth is that I did get lucky with my partner, Alex. I was 19 when we met and Alex was 20. And while it’s true that both of us were in college, we were also young and (occasionally) dumb with money.

My Perfect Money Match

We met in London while I was studying abroad for four months and in many ways, we were on “vacation mode” for the first few months of our relationship. I had worked part-time jobs leading up to the trip, and as a result, I had a huge chunk of money that was set aside for “fun.”

We traveled to Paris, consumed delicious pub meals and ran through the streets of London after nights of clubbing with friends. Life was fun and carefree.


But of course, the vacation eventually came to an end.

When I returned to sunny California, I was prepared to return to my normal budget. I had worked and saved for the trip, so I knew that my “fun” budget wasn’t sustainable in the long run.

However, I wasn’t prepared for the other change: (almost) poverty.

Alex picked up the financial slack in a lot of meaningful ways as we navigated this new reality and entered a period of extreme frugality. There were still hilarious nights of clubbing, silly dances and the occasional dinner out, but there were also 3 part-time jobs, tears and seemingly endless stress.

We weathered the storm together and it ultimately had a happy ending: graduation, full-time jobs and a strong partnership.

However, the good (and bad) news is that financial life lessons aren’t limited to your early 20’s, so if you meet your partner later in life, you still have plenty of time to grow together.

Some people meet after college, are further into their careers or even switch partners halfway through. And from what I understand, navigating the world of Tinder swipes, first dates and funny encounters is enjoyable but also overwhelming.

If you’re anything like TJ, you’re looking for a partner who shares your values, including the financial ones. But chances are that if you’re in the young adult dating pool you’re, well, young.

In other words, we’re all still figuring it out. So don’t panic if it seems like everyone is spending like crazy to impress his or her date. Instead, focus on the big picture.

When it comes to finding your money match, these are the traits that actually matter:

1. Financial Responsibility

I agree with TJ that a lot of people in Southern California (and the world) are not frugal. But that’s not the whole story. Millennials, especially young twenty-something year olds, care more about money and creating a prosperous life than any other generation.

Sure, they might own a car or indulge in beers on the weekend, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care or are financially irresponsible. It probably just means that they’re young and having some fun. But even beyond that, it might simply mean that they have different priorities than you, and that’s okay. Perhaps your date eats out every weekend and drives a new car, but shares a house with five roommates or lives with parents to save money.

Those priorities are completely different than mine, but that doesn’t make one of us better than the other. Instead of looking for someone who matches your exact spending patterns, try to find a partner who lives a fiscally responsible life.


2. Generosity

When you’re trying to find your perfect match, generosity is the #1 most important factor and can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. Just because your partner spends more money than you doesn’t mean that he or she is frivolous and materialistic.

In fact, it could mean the opposite. For example, my mom and stepdad tithe 10% of their salary to church, no matter what. They are generous with their money and occasionally prioritize giving over saving because they truly believe in their church and community. That’s a beautiful thing.

Similarly, I spent over $3000 last year on surprises and gifts for my family, partner and friends. When it comes to the people I love, no expense is too high and I love being able to spoil them. However, generosity doesn’t always take the form of cash. Sometimes, it involves giving time or energy instead. Regardless of the form it takes, a generous heart is more important than a frugal mindset.


3. Frugality Isn’t Always Best

Living a frugal life comes with a lot of perks: peace of mind, travel and even early retirement. But the truth is that it can also come with a lot of stress.

Advocates of frugality rarely talk about it, but more often than not, frugality comes with a side dish of guilt.

When you’re in the mindset of scarcity and fear (which often accompanies extreme frugality) you are depriving yourself from a life of joy. Agonizing over every purchase and depriving yourself of a dinner out or drinks with friends sets you up for failure because it inevitably leads to a spending binge.

But even beyond that, it’s important to enjoy life and TREAT YO SELF. Moderation is the key to success in life and in finances.


4. Respect

If you and your new partner have different money mentalities, than respect is crucial to the relationship’s survival. If your partner respects you and your opinions, then there’s a very good chance that he or she will respect your lifestyle and even make changes to accommodate your beliefs. (Of course, the reverse is true as well. So be prepared for some personal change too!)

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T: You’ve got to have it to get with me,” should be your new dating mantra.


5. Honesty…Fast

Get honest about your finances upfront. Debt isn’t shameful and a low salary isn’t a deal breaker (unless you’re this girl…).

But in all seriousness, get honest with your partner as soon as possible. Share your money goals and aspirations. Talk to each other about where you currently are and where you would like to be.

If you’re afraid of being judged, just remember that the sooner you determine whether or not you are a good match, the better because it means that you will waste less time and money. In other words, if someone is a jerk, bad match or financial train wreck than it’s better to know as soon as possible so you can get out.


6. Have Fun

In order to minimize the expenses of dating, be sure to keep the first date relatively cheap by opting for coffee or a drink. (That way, if they’re a dud, you’ll have minimized the money you spent.) But once you’ve determined that you like the person and that you enjoy his or her company, allow yourself to have some fun, enjoy the process and date to your heart’s content.


Do you have any advice for TJ about dating and frugality? Any experiences of your own? I would love to hear them!


12 thoughts on “Reader Question: Love and Money + How to Find Your Perfect Money Match

  1. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure says:

    I like this take on things. I’ve wondered about this myself as Mr. T and I got married as poor students and I had a kid before I graduated from Grad school, so we’ve always felt rich with even one full-time job. So I’ve wondered about people hooking up later in life when making more money and set in financial paths. Your advice is great in this situation.


    1. Taylor says:

      Honestly, that’s exactly how I feel, haha! Even with one full-time salary, we’re like, “WOAH.” Which is a nice way to feel, I think 🙂 You and Mr. T got married even earlier (21, right?) so you two are definitely the relationship pros! 🙂


  2. Des @ Half Banked says:

    Oh my gosh YES to getting honest really early on! That has been, hands down, the most important thing for me, and this is as someone who navigated the online dating world (albeit briefly) after university. While there were a whole lot of awkward, uncomfortable conversations – NOT just due to money, unfortunately – I got pretty good at being really upfront, really quickly. Like, “I’m not moving to San Francisco with you, it’s a hard no, let’s call it a day” on the third date, haha.

    But when my boyfriend and I started dating, it was really nice to be able to open up quickly and be able to get those “Oh, we agree? Cool.” moments out of the way. I *may* or may not have also conned him into doing a Myers Briggs assessment pretty early on too… So I might actually have overshot what a normal person would consider “opening up early.” But whatever. It really helped us both have a clear view of what the other person could and couldn’t easily afford, and it made so many conversations so much easier!

    Awesome, awesome advice on this one Taylor – and you and Alex look SO happy in all your photos, it’s so sweet to see! I’m so happy for you both!


    1. Taylor says:

      Oh my god, Des! ME TOO, haha. I had Alex take the Myers Briggs test after our second date! That is way too funny. (My love for those tests are truly out of this world, haha) But they WORK, right?? You can learn so much about another person (and how they will mix with you) with a simple test. It’s like magic, but better because it’s real, haha.

      I’m so glad that you found your perfect match 🙂 I love how much you love your little fur baby family. It always makes me so happy when I see you post about them 🙂


  3. Andrew @ Quest for Billions says:

    I actually met my girlfriend while studying abroad in Europe as well. Amazing!

    Back in Canada we live about 8 hours away from each other at the moment. I use a ride-share service called Kangaride when I drive out to visit her, which covers gas money and allows me to meet new people.


    1. Taylor says:

      Yay for finding love overseas! That’s so cool that you two met while you were studying abroad and that you were actually from the same country. So amazing. Kangaride sounds amazing as well. I hadn’t heard of it before (does it exist in America?) but it seems AMAZING. I love that you are saving money and making the 8 hour ride more enjoyable all at the same time!


  4. Our Next Life says:

    Welcome back, Taylor! 🙂 I love that you point out that we’re all still just figuring this stuff out. That’s true, for us at least, in our late 30s, so it’s not just an early 20s thing. The best advice I can give is to remember that frugal isn’t something that someone either is or isn’t. It’s something you can dabble in, embrace, work at, etc. And people change — sometimes a LOT — over time. I was definitely not frugal when Mr. ONL and I met, and had heaps of credit card and student debt. If he’d said, “Nope, she has debt. She’s not dateable,” and walked away, we both would have missed out on an incredible, life-changing and — eventually — *frugal* relationship. It’s also good to remember that people evolve, sometimes rapidly, in their 20s, and are often impressionable or malleable. So a frugal partner can have a big influence on a less frugal one — that for sure happened in our case. Instead of looking at a person’s money habits, look at their values. Someone having fun with money can still become frugal if they value stability and experiences over things. Someone who spends too much because they’re materialistic has a whole different set of issues. Okay, that’s enough for one comment, but you get the idea! 🙂


    1. Taylor says:

      Hi, ONL 🙂 I completely agree and couldn’t have said it better myself, frugality isn’t an all or nothing thing. Instead, it’s constantly evolving, changing and growing…kind of like a relationship 😉 It’s so amazing to hear that you and Mr. ONL started on different pages and have grown together as a team! So inspiring to hear and definitely what I aspire to in my own relationship.


    2. NZ Muse says:

      Great point! Money has been a big issue for us at different points over the years and sometimes I wonder what it would be like with a partner with more similar styles to me. If I were to date today financial compatibility would be at the top of my list. But we have had some amazing experiences together that I wouldn’t have had otherwise and like you say…. evolving.


  5. Alyssa @ GenerationYRA says:

    I could imagine how discouraging dating & finding someone who shares (or respects) the same financial mentality/practices is! For me – I started dating my now fiance out of school when we both had established jobs & salaries. At the time, I wasn’t incredibly personal finance savvy – and really started digging in to it all after a year into our relationship. The great news & advice I could give, is if you find someone who maybe may not match the same money ideals – with the honesty (so key!) and conversation, you may encourage the other person to participate in your journey. It’s amazing when you care for someone what you can accomplish together! My fiance encouraged me to start my blog, and is now reading & conversing with me about personal finance more than I could have ever anticipated form the start. 🙂


    1. Taylor says:

      Ahh, I love that so much and I totally agree! Alex and I are exactly the same — our money conversations naturally progressed and it’s now something that we talk about a lot. I think that most people are always changing and growing, so as long as both people are honest and open, I truly think that any two people can be a perfect money match 🙂


  6. TJ says:

    Hi Taylor, I like a lot of what you have to say here, but I definitely struggle with agreeing with you that one should be quick to openly talk about one’s finances with new people. I think it’s easier for people in debt to reveal where they are at, because most people can relate to it which might just be because most people in this demographic tend to have debt or have had had debt at some point. I definitely don’t think that people should rule out one another over debt load or if they have higher expenditures on similar values, that would be uncool, but I’m not sure how those conversations would even come up naturally

    That’s because those who are further along are generally more protective about where they are at, for whatever reason. Not everyone, I mean, they do have that ridiculous show called Millionaire Matchmaker.

    What I mean is, you’ll inevitably see the person on facebook who is super excited to publicly voice about getting out of student or consumer debt, but you’ll never see the person post about hitting six figures in investments or whatever…that’s just not a normal thing that people do. That might be considered flaunting by the majority of people, whereas the debt removal post would have been more well received by the vast majority of people.

    In essence, I don’t think you want to come off as being too money-focused early on, yet if you’re trying to achieve FI/RE, you, by definition, probably ARE going to be more money-focused than the average person you meet. It’s definitely not easy, but I already told you that. 🙂


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