Debt For A Date: What Love Has To Do With It

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Many people think that personal debt is caused by living beyond your means – spending too much, buying things you can’t afford, and not being able to stick to a budget. While it’s true that many people need to be more disciplined in how they manage their money, according to a research study on how men make financial decisions there might be a simple and powerful cause behind some men’s high levels of personal debt: the search for love.

Studies Confirm What Men Already Know

According to the study “The Financial Consequences of Too Many Men: Sex Ratio Effects on Saving, Borrowing, and Spending” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,(which analyzes the effects of people’s social settings on how much they save or spend,) men who live in areas that have high ratios of men-to-women are more likely to have higher levels of personal debt.

For example, the study examined two cities in Georgia, Columbus and Macon, which are only 100 miles apart. Columbus has 1.18 single men for every single woman, while Macon has 0.78 single men for every single woman. People in Columbus have an average consumer debt that is $3,479 higher than in Macon.

Decision Making Power Hindered

This might mean that men are likely to spend more than they earn in an effort to attract women – or that men make poor financial decisions when they feel that they are in tougher competition for women.

What are some other tips and implications of this research, and how can you learn from its examples in trying to avoid debt?

Debt To Impress Who?

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"Keeping up with the Joneses" can be expensive! One of the interesting findings in the study was that it seemed to indicate that men spend more money in an effort to compete with other men. When more men are around (compared to the number of women), men tend to make worse financial decisions and rack up more debt. This leads to the question: who are the people that you are trying to impress with your financial decisions? Is it worth going into debt to buy a nicer car just to impress your neighbors? Is it worth taking on credit card debt just to have more expensive clothes to impress people that you don’t even know very well?

Bad Advice: Spend Like Your Rich            

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If you’re single, especially for men who have a more traditional idea that they are always supposed to treat women to a date, it can be tempting to try to impress people with showy displays of financial generosity. But in the dating world, you’re often better off attracting mates with your personality and personal strengths, not trying to "buy love" by spending lots of money. Besides, anyone who only wants to be with you because of your money is not going to be a good long-term romantic partner. You want to be loved and appreciated for who you are, not just for what your money can buy. Look for opportunities to go on cheap dates, and look for romantic partners who love spending time with you in a low-key, low-cost fashion, instead of constantly going out to the most expensive restaurants, bars and nightspots. If you can base your relationships on mutual attraction and respect, and not just on your personal buying power, you will enjoy more long-term financial security and more long-term relationship happiness.

Think Before You Buy

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Just like grocery stores stock their checkout aisles with magazines, candy bars and other items to attract last-minute impulse purchases, many of the stores, websites and companies that sell to us are designed to appeal to our fundamental instincts and impulses. But impulse shopping isn’t always smart shopping. Before making a financial decision – whether it’s buying a new outfit, signing up for a new credit card or splurging on a vacation – take some time to think about whether or not this purchase fits into your overall budget and your long-term financial plan.