Is It Ever Worth Going into Debt for Love?

DEBT HELP - CREDIT CARD DEBT
Think twice about spending more than you have in your romantic relationships.
Updated May 3, 2023
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multiethnic couple in love standing and holding hands

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Most things aren’t worth going into debt for. 

The only things that usually make sense to buy on credit are appreciating assets — things that tend to gain value over time such as a house, stocks, or a business. The appreciation helps you crush these debts over time.

But what about a relationship? It would be easy to argue that an investment in this area would pay dividends for your entire life. Let’s explore which aspects of looking for love are (and aren’t) worth going into debt for.

If you have more than $10,000 in debt from credit cards, medical bills, collections, or personal loans, this company might be able to assist you in consolidating your debt into one low monthly payment.

Dates

DragonImages/Adobe asian couple enjoying date in cafe

Dumping a ton of cash on initial dates will limit how many you can go on, and there’s no sense going into debt to impress someone who may or may not be relationship material. 

There are plenty of fun, cheap dating activities, and (according to one survey) 85% of people are not offended by low-cost or free dates.

Clothes

mimagephotos/Adobe woman with afro shopping for clothes in store

You’re dating the person, not their clothing. While we all want to look our best for our significant other, clothes aren’t a good reason for taking on debt. 

If you love brand-name clothing, look for quality, gently used pieces on sites like Mercari and Poshmark.

Gifts

Quality Stock Arts/Adobe boss giving present gift box to office staff partner

This one can be especially tricky because gifts are woven into our culture and expectations not only in romantic relationships but in almost every other one as well. 

Giving gifts can even be a “love language,” or how some people prefer to give and receive affection.

However, gifts don’t have to cost anything to be meaningful. A massage, a favorite meal, or a heartfelt letter can be incredibly significant, especially if you put thought and effort into it.

Wedding

Wedding photography/Adobe wedding tradition sprinkled with rice and grain

Recent research shows that going into debt for a wedding doesn’t lead to the fairytale ending that wedding vendors would have you believe. 

In fact, brides who spent more than $20,000 on a wedding had a divorce rate that was 3.5 times higher than those that spent between $5,000 and $10,000.

Vacations

alvaro/Adobe a gay couple using a mobile phone

A special trip with a significant other is a tempting big-ticket item for many couples. 

While spending a lot on a honeymoon doesn’t have the same negative correlation with a divorce that a wedding does, starting your marriage off with a high debt load isn’t a good idea. 

In fact, 42% of divorcees said that disagreement on large purchases was among the financial difficulties that contributed to their divorce.

Furniture

fizkes/Adobe couple carrying modern chair together

With all the free Craigslist couches in the world, there’s little justification for furniture debt. 

If you and your significant other are just starting out, look at your local thrift store or scratch-and-dent outlet for cheap furnishings. 

A couch cover or a new coat of paint will make your home look decent until you can save enough for nice furniture.

An engagement ring

Piman Khrutmuang/Adobe luxury engagement diamond ring

A diamond may be forever, but hopefully, the debt to pay for it won’t be. Using plastic to pay for an expensive ring isn’t an investment worth making. 

Many couples are opting for more affordable alternatives, such as lab-grown diamonds, other gemstones, simple metal or silicone bands, or matching tattoos.

Adoption

Rido/Adobe mother holding adopted child

Growing your family is expensive any way you slice it, but adopting a child can run anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000. 

While we won’t judge you either way for this one, know that fostering a child usually costs less than $1,000 and comes with additional benefits, like free Medicaid, tax credits, and a monthly subsidy. There are also grants that can help couples adopt.

Significant other’s debt

Wayhome Studio/Adobe family having debt problems

This one can get sticky, as every person’s debt situation is different. 

If you and your partner are married, paying off one person’s debt — such as student loans or the note on a car you both use — could bring you closer together. 

However, if you’re unmarried, tread with caution about paying off your partner’s debt, especially if they’re considering bankruptcy.

Car

hedgehog94/Adobe Happy beautiful young woman buying a new car at the car showroom

Surprising your significant other with a car as a gift may look great in commercials, but in real life, people like to be consulted about large purchases with long-term financial obligations. 

The only way you should really buy someone a car as a gift is to pay cash or take out a loan in your own name and add them to the title. 

Generally, if you want to purchase a vehicle, that’s a decision you and your partner should make together.

House

Atstock Productions/Adobe female real estate agent showing gay couple around new house

With the current real estate market as volatile as ever, don’t feel like you need to own a home before you and your partner start a life together. 

The benefit of buying a home as a well-established couple is that you have more time and income to save for a down payment.

Boat

luckybusiness/Adobe luxury couple on the boat enjoy on summer holiday

Boats are what financial experts call a depreciating asset whose value declines over time. 

So while you and your significant other may have a great time boating during the summer, it will sit in your driveway for the rest of the year, collecting dust and costing you interest. 

If you and your honey want a trip on the waves, consider renting a boat instead.

Electronics

New Africa/Adobe gamepads mice headphones and keyboard on table

Most electronics we replace still work just fine, so replacing yours with the latest model to impress your partner isn’t worth taking on debt. 

Looking cool with the latest smartphone is nice, but true connections are built on shared values and experiences, not material possessions. 

If you can swipe right, text, and make a phone call, your phone is as ready for love as it will ever be. An ideal partner cares about your time and attention, not your iPhone.

Cosmetic surgery

New Africa/Adobe doctor preparing female patient for cosmetic surgery in clinic

Most insurance policies won’t cover cosmetic surgery unless it’s deemed medically necessary (correcting a deviated septum) or reconstructive (breast reconstruction after a cancer-related mastectomy). 

If you need a medical procedure for your body to function properly, going into debt may be justifiable. However, you should avoid swiping plastic for a purely cosmetic nose job.

Bottom line

MISHA/Adobe couple in love celebrates their engagement on the seashore

While it's possible to climb out of debt, don't dive into the hole unnecessarily.

If you’re going into debt to impress a potential partner, it’s probably for the wrong reason. And if you acquired debt to attract a partner, you’ll probably end up disclosing that to them eventually. 

Besides, there is usually an affordable alternative to get what you want when it comes to romance, whether that’s a fun date, a meaningful Valentine’s Day gift, or an engagement ring.

It turns out the Beatles were right: Money really can’t buy you love.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.

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