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With the arrival of Valentine’s Day millions of Americans will be venturing out on dates this evening.  For many young adults this is will be the first or second date. And while it’s not exactly the most appropriate stage in the relationship to discuss personal finances, one may be able to pick up a few signals about his or date’s money savvy (or lack thereof) just by observing and listening.  Here’s what to be on the look out for and what it may potentially mean:

(Disclaimer – Please take this with a grain of salt. There’s no way to be absolutely sure of your date’s financial situation without communicating openly and directly, so never jump to conclusions or act on assumptions.)

Some potential indications that your date is financially savvy…

  • Pays for dinner with cash. Cash is the almighty form of payment since it limits how much you can spend. For those on a budget or conscious of saving, cash is an excellent way to limit frivolous expenditures since there is more “pain of paying” with cash than with credit cards.
  • Leaves a generous tip. Generosity is a great virtue and by leaving a nice tip your date may be showing that he or she isn’t cheap either.
  • Mentions he/she attended a public university. I may be biased since I attended Penn State, but when someone says he or she attended public school (as an in-state student) it probably means they have relatively little debt, as public school tuition is far less than what private institutions cost.
  • Takes a doggy bag home. A nice sign that he or she is not wasteful and likes to stretch a dollar. Or it may just mean that the pasta dish was just so good it was worth saving some for lunch the next day. Either way, this is a positive financial behavior.

[Related Article: When Financial Opposites Attract]

Some potential indications that your date is financially messy…

  • Lives an upscale life…on a small salary. Who knows ? Maybe the Prada jacket was a gift, but if your date, who proclaims to be a starving artist, is donning designer goods, you have to wonder whether he or she’s in credit card debt or just really good at finding upscale bargains.
  • Uses a credit card to pay for coffee: In the event that your date purchases an inexpensive item (say, less than $5) using a credit card, you ought to wonder.. is that $4 latte actually being financed with a high-interest loan?
  • Has many store cards: As he/she takes out a wallet to pay for coffee, you may catch a glimpse of the credit cards. If you count more than two or three bank cards and a few store cards, it may be a sign that this person is going a bit overboard with plastic.

[Related Article: Love and Money — What You Should Know Before You Tie the Knot]

Some ambiguous indications….

  • Lives at home with mom and dad. Socially speaking this may be best situated on the negative list, but living with your parents at a young age to save is a fantastic way to get ahead financially, considering all the money you can save on housing. Of course, if it seems like he/she is just bumming off the ‘rents, that’s potentially worrisome. And if he or she is above the age of 30 with no exit strategy from mom and dad’s house, you have to wonder if he or she’s grown too financially dependent.
  • Says it took 5+ years to graduate college. Few students are graduating in four years these days, which can result in bigger debt loads upon graduation. That can be worrisome. On the other hand, some students need that extra year to complete a dual major and the money spent on a fifth year makes them more attractive to employers and wins them a higher paycheck. Still others may have worked and gone to school at the same time, stretching out their years in school. Or, hey, maybe he or she had a scholarship? Dig deeper to find out.

Have any other Valentine’s Day date night observations that you’ve found to help determine your date’s money sense? Let’s hear it!  Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image by nathanborror, via Flickr

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