How much are you planning on spending this Valentine's Day?
According to a February 2016 survey by the National Retail Federation, Valentine's Day spending is expected to reach a record high this year, with total spending estimated at $19.7 billion and the average person expected to spend $146.84. That's a lot of chocolate.
At Credit Karma, we're all for spoiling loved ones, but we also know that not everyone has $150 to spend and that you don't always need to spend money to give a great gift. Instead, why not give your valentine something priceless?
That's right -- we're talking about swoon-worthy financial habits. Sound silly? Consider this: According to a 2015 survey sponsored by the Citi® Double Cash Card, 78 percent of Americans in a committed relationship would rather have a partner who is good with money than one who is physically attractive.
Let's give the people what they want! Here are three habits that could up your financial game and win over that special someone this Valentine's Day.
Knowing (and working on) your credit.
Let's face it. Good credit is sexy. It seems that many people in the dating scene are concerned with their potential partner's credit health, and there are even dating sites, such as creditscoredating.com, that match people based on their financial compatibility by allowing members to view the scores of those who agree to provide the information.
This may sound ridiculous, but maybe the founder, Niem Green, is on to something -- in 2015, the site had 35,000 members, up from 15,000 in 2013.
How: Knowing your credit score is the easy part -- you can check your credit scores for free each week with Credit Karma. And working on improving your credit health doesn't need to be difficult either. Here are some quick tips that may help:
- Make each payment on time. It's pretty simple -- your credit score is meant to tell lenders how likely you are to repay debts in a timely manner, so on-time payments can help build your credit, while late payments could hurt your score.
- Don't max out your cards. Your credit utilization rate, calculated by dividing your total credit card balances by your total limit, is often a major factor used to calculate your score. A high utilization rate could raise a red flag that you may not be able to pay off your balances, so a good rule of thumb is to keep this rate under 30 percent if you can.
- Dispute incorrect information on your report. Errors on your credit report could be negatively impacting your score, so it's important to regularly scrutinize your reports and dispute any major errors you see.
Being open about your finances.
I know ... talking about finances isn't usually fun. In fact, it can be downright awkward. It's easy to understand why 18 percent of millennials said they find it difficult to talk about finances with their spouse -- shelling out that $146.84 might actually be easier than talking about why or how you're spending it.
However, being open about your financial situation isn't just good for your relationship -- it may also be desired by your partner. According to the Citi® Double Cash Card survey, 29 percent would prefer that their significant other discuss finances more often.
How: Be honest about your finances from the get-go. The longer you hide an enormous pile of debt or a poor credit score from your partner, the harder it'll be to bring up in the future. If you haven't yet, consider discussing your debt obligations, savings and credit in the near future. It may be tough, but hopefully your partner will appreciate your honesty.
This may be the hardest habit to conquer. Saving money is hard -- it's no wonder the Federal Reserve found that only 53 percent of survey respondents said they could cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money. This Valentine's day, give the gift of peace-of-mind: Getting into the habit of saving money could help you and your partner in a variety of ways:
- It could prevent you from having to rely on credit in case of an emergency, potentially saving both your credit and some money (on interest).
- It could help you live more comfortably in retirement.
- It could help you achieve major financial goals, such as buying a car, a home or that dream trip to Patagonia.
How: You're already saving money by working on these good financial habits instead of spending a bunch on flowers and candy!
I kid. Have you ever heard of the phrase "pay yourself first?" This is a great strategy that can help prioritize saving, as it involves setting aside a certain amount or percentage of your paycheck and putting it into a separate savings account.
Over time, you'll likely be able to adjust your spending habits so you won't miss those funds, and you'll gradually save enough money to make things easier if a crisis hits. Being able to afford an emergency car repair or hospital bill may not make your partner physically swoon, but the stability and financial security you bring to a relationship should be enough to win over anyone.
We're not advocating that you replace your grandiose plans and gifts for Valentine's Day with a piece of paper that says, "I'm working on improving my finances!" However, adopting one or more of these habits could end up being the gift that keeps on giving for both you and your partner. Happy Valentine's Day!
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