August 10, 2011

Can I afford to date?

By Anthony Buono *
Dear Anthony,

I only make $35,000, and the woman I just started dating makes about the same. It’s hard for me to find work that pays more. I want to fall in love and marry one day and provide for the family. Should I feel guilty about dating? How do you date someone when you both have very little money? This is even more challenging if you are trying to fly or drive to meet someone in another state or country.

It is a very difficult financial time. It’s easy to be distracted by financial set backs when it comes to marriage.

We live at a time when people must get creative about how they go on dates. Men have to know how to take a woman out for an enjoyable time that is not costly, without looking like a cheapskate, or making the woman feel like she should help pay. Women have to be open and help the man feel good about his inexpensive date ideas.

The dating period is an important time to discover the character and quality of each other. Those who have particular expectations and tastes when it comes to what they do on a date will display their standard of living preference and their tolerance for financial uncertainty pretty early on.

For men who don’t have what is known as a “living wage,” establishing a single-income family is going to be challenging. Finding a woman who can be content with a lower standard of living and find happiness in a life of love with you and her children is important if your earning potential is not likely to change dramatically. Perhaps she will be able to help out financially if she chooses and if it does not interfere with her role as mother and homemaker. If there are desperate times, it helps to have a woman who joyfully does whatever is necessary to help the family financially. Hopefully the woman you are dating is showing this kind of character and willingness.

Another consideration is that financial issues are in the top three reasons for most divorces in this country. Whether they were not on the same page about money or whether they let the pressures of financial trials destroy their relationship, it is important to realize just how powerful finances are in a relationship.

I know a couple who dated for a year before they were married. They both made very little money and lived in different states, about a 3 hour drive apart. Each weekend he drove to her and was able to stay in a spare room at her employer’s house. For their dates, they would find places where they could talk and not spend much money (a park, a coffee shop, etc). The first year of their marriage, they lived on a salary of $20,000, had a very small one bedroom apartment, and had one beat up old car to share. They struggled, but they were together on living the struggle and doing what was necessary.

Many people would determine that this couple who can barely make ends meet can’t afford children. But they began having children right away. And wouldn’t you know that with each child came a financial blessing of some kind, usually in the form of a better job opportunity for the husband, and a better home for the growing family.

This couple were people of prayer and faith. Their dating life was centered on their Catholic Faith and their trust in God, both as individuals and as a couple for the future. Their marriage was entered into with trustful surrender to God’s will. They believed that being open to life as the start of their marriage would mean God would bless them in turn with providing for that growing family. Did they pray for riches and expect that God would give them a standard of living that society was dictating? No! They were content to be poor and struggle all of their married days. They only expected God to provide for the needs of the family.

The needs. That is where the breakdown begins for many people. What is a true “need” and what is just our desires? Too many people want to live the higher material life that they see all around them, and will not accept a life of poverty. Too many people don’t want to get married or have children because they believe they must make a certain amount of money in their job, or have a certain amount of money saved, or have no debts or creditors, etc. They want to be financially secure and independent before they will commit to marriage. They want to know they can achieve a standard of living they have erroneously come to believe is the standard of living that makes for an appropriate life for a family.

This blindness to what true needs are and ability to accept a life of poverty if necessary stems from the greatest problem of all; lack of faith. The couple who lives humbly on a meager single income has a strong faith in God as Father and truest provider, and has a firm trust that He will provide as they step out in faith to make commitments like marriage and having children. The people who fear making such commitments put their trust and faith in money; more specifically in themselves and their own ability to make enough money to afford marriage and children.

The focus on money makes people incapable of coming to a place where they finally say, “I have enough money and I’m ready to make a commitment.” There is seemingly never enough money to afford getting married. When you think about having a big enough house, two cars, having money for college, etc., your mind explodes with the “reality” that you cannot afford such a life.

There is no shame in choosing to accept living without the luxury items of life that seem to be necessities. If you can make more money to afford to do more expensive things on dates, or to provide for your family more things like vacations, big screen TVs, iPods, dancing lessons, paying for college, etc, then wonderful. A man should not stop trying to improve his financial circumstances wherever possible (i.e., finishing college, looking out for better job opportunities, etc). He does have a moral obligation to do this. But that does not mean that more income should translate into having more material things. Saving money as you make more money while still maintaining a simple life is noble too.

Whatever a couple decides about their financial choices, there is nothing wrong with dating and being open to love and marriage while you don’t make much money. Are you a good man capable of loving and serving a good woman in every way God expects you to? Is she a good woman capable of the same? Do you both have a profound faith and trust in God to provide as you make life decisions? Then truly, that kind of love can get you through anything life deals you, because God will be your Father and He will provide.

Anthony Buono is the founder of For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.