Do you worry that your student loan debt might hold you back or affect your relationship? Student loan debt can feel like a big, ugly secret. It can also feel scary to disclose the truth about it to your partner. But let's be honest, many people have student loan debt.
"Student debt is stigmatized," says Heather Taylor, 31, a communications coordinator. "It is something we are taught to be ashamed of, hide, deny, and avoid. However, I often find that debt talk brings people together. It's a shared experience, like binge watching Game of Thrones*," says Taylor. "Student loan debt, for better or worse, shows that you chose to prioritize your education and invest in your future. It's really nothing to be ashamed of at all."
And, Taylor doesn't believe student debt has to detract from dating and having a great time dating on a budget. Here are some tips for how to handle debt and dating.
Disclose Your Debt
Talking about your student loan debt is important when it comes to negotiating debt and relationships successfully. There's a time and a place that's right for you to disclose your debt. Depending on your preference, you may prefer to do so early in the relationship or wait a bit for it to advance. When you feel you're ready to talk about your debt, it's equally as important to look for opportunities where the discussion flows naturally as part of a conversation.
For Taylor, she's much more transparent about her debt early on. She says, "It's good to discuss debt early because for many it's considered to be a red flag." Some might worry about having to eventually help repay a partner's loans or that the debt would mean their partner's budget was too tight to have much fun while dating.
Focus on Your Plan
How you talk about your debt is important. Focus on how you are taking responsibility for your finances and how you are prioritizing it.
"The conversation needs to focus on what you're doing to repay it," Taylor says. "Maybe you're working extra side jobs or budgeting some other part of your life. Whatever it is you're doing, tell the other person about it because it shows that you are being proactive and taking control of the situation."
Get Creative to Stick to Your Budget
When it comes to having a great time when you're dating and repaying debt, the first thing you should remember is to set a budget for how much you want to spend on your date and be respectful of your partner's financial boundaries. Talk about how to share costs and how much you both want to spend per month. Then, get creative and plan dates that don't break the bank. And, yes, dating on a budget can be fun.
Find things you like to do together that don't cost a lot of money or find cheaper ways of doing them – like check out daily deal sites, go to the movie theater for matinees, do things outdoors, and look for free events. Taylor says, "Hit up food trucks, go for hikes, and yes, binge-watch TV shows or bad movies together."
Balance Repayment With Your Relationship
As your relationship becomes more serious, you might want to start making long-term plans such as moving in together or maybe even considering marriage, children, or buying a home. So, how do you balance life and debt with these big relationship milestones? Start making financial decisions together by creating a plan for how you'll tackle future expenses and your loans. Talk about your debt in greater detail and save money in an emergency fund to help cover you in case of unexpected expenses.
Last but not least – Celebrate Repayment Together
Ultimately, one of the best things about repaying debt with a partner is that you have someone to celebrate with when you achieve a repayment milestone.
*Game of Thrones is a trademark of Home Box Office, Inc.