Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Would you ever date someone who had debt?

I’m talking about a lot of debt. Like, $40,000+ in student loans, or thousands of dollars in credit card debt – without a solid plan to get themselves out. Or what if you’re a saver, and they’re a spender?

It’s obvious that the financial habits of your significant other can play a huge role in defining what kind of life you would have with that person – both short-term and long-term. But are poor financials a big enough reason to eliminate someone as a potential mate? According to a new survey by, almost half of Canadians would not date someone who is in debt. At all. That’s huge.

Now, I usually don’t write about press releases or surveys that I get sent, but I thought this one was fun, and also pretty interesting. Here are a few more results:

  • 57% of singles have stopped dating because of their own lack of money.
  • 50% of singles have stopped dating someone else because of a partner’s lack of money.
  • 75% of singles would not borrow money from a partner
  • 42% of singles say they have lent money to a partner in the past

Related: Could you ever marry for money?

I’ve dated guys in the past with wildly different financial histories and ways of managing money. One was extremely frugal, to the point where it was sometimes frustrating. One was incredibly bad with his money, and didn’t seem to think it was an issue. One had a weakness for expensive cars. One had more money than he knew what to do with.

I think that I could date someone with a moderate amount debt, as long as they had a reasonable plan in place to get themselves out of debt.

But there are definitely big differences in the type of debt that someone has.

For example, maybe you’d date someone that had $12,000 in credit card debt, but had a plan to be debt-free within a year.

But would you date someone that had just $5,000 in credit card debt (and was currently sinking further into debt), but had no plan (and no means) to pay it off? Maybe. Maybe not.

Would you date someone with $100,000 in student loans, knowing that their debt would likely have a significant effect on the timing of buying a house, getting married, having children, travel, etc?

When I was $20,000+ in the hole, I hope nobody would have dismissed me as a potential match just because of my financial situation. I knew my debt was a burden, but I had a plan to get myself out of that mess. And it definitely would have been nice if I had found the courage to confide in my partner at the time about my debt (and the serious stress I had because of it). But instead, I hid it because I was ashamed. However, if I had $200,000 in debt, maybe that’d be a different story. I would never want my debt to hold someone else back from achieving their goals in life.

And it’s not just being in debt as a potential factor in determining whether someone is (financially) compatible. Debt is just part of it. I think it’s important to have open discussions about money, debt, and goals on a regular basis – and if that doesn’t happen, regardless of the person’s financial situation – in my opinion, the relationship is likely doomed from the start.

Related: Talking about money with your partner

Could you date someone who has debt?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. it all depends on the type of debt. student debt is a kind of debt thats acceptable in my eyes (I do have a considerable amount of student debt myself), but if it was all consumer debt, and the person showed no sign of doing anything with it,, then I`d probably be hesitant!

    • The Norwegian Boy says:

      “student debt is a kind of debt thats acceptable”

      It depends! If the person took the loans and never graduated – thats a red light!

      If they did, its somewhat understandable. It also depends what they graduated in and how big is the debt.

      For us Men, who usually have to pay the first few dates and are more inclined to be providers – This can completely make us feel terrible.
      Been with a girl with a huge debt and just always doubted her motives.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I could date somebody with debt, but I would have to know that they were serious about getting rid of it pronto. Otherwise we probably have too many philosophical differences to make it as a couple.

  3. Michelle says:

    I could date someone with debt. I do think I would probably think twice if it was like $200,000 of credit card debt though.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Oh man. I could definitely date someone who was actively trying to get out of debt, but $200k in debt would likely mean I’d have to put many of my life goals and aspirations on hold for them to catch up. And at this point in my life, I’d probably say no.

      • Noel D'Souza says:

        I can understand shying away from consumer debt. But how about $200K+ of mortgage debt? Or $200K+ of business-related debt (i.e. necessary to start up a business that is now quite successful)?

        Or does does “good debt” vs “bad debt” make a difference when we’re talking about HUGE debts? Interesting discussion!

        • Krystal Yee says:

          Well I have over $200k in mortgage debt, but (I think) that’s a lot different than having $200k in consumer debt. When I decide to sell it, I’ll likely get around the same amount that I paid for it. My monthly payment and interest rate is reasonable – unlike consumer debt, where I might be swimming in credit card debt, and struggling to pay things off that I purchased years ago.

          I would definitely date someone who had (reasonable) mortgage debt, or business-related debt. But that much in consumer debt? That would take so long to pay off, that I wouldn’t feel comfortable waiting. There’s only so long you can put your life and your dreams on hold, before you start to feel resentment. And that’s not fair to either person!

          • Noel D'Souza says:

            I totally get what you’re saying.

            In my experience, large amounts of consumer debt generally go with a lack of financial focus and clear goals… and that can be a big impediment to any relationship. Having a plan is important, and debt can be a part of that plan, as long as it is… well, planned. :)

            On the other hand, although mortgages are considered by many to be “good” or “neutral” debt, very large mortgage debt – relative to one’s income – can similarly severely impede one’s quality of life and financial stability. I am concerned about what will happen to people with large mortgage debts when interest rates eventually do go up… and what that will do to their family relationships.

            • Krystal Yee says:

              Totally agree. Having a large mortgage without the wiggle room to comfortably keep making payments when interest rates go up is a pretty scary thought. Especially if you have a family to think about as well. Very stressful.

  4. Kara says:

    I think it also depends on where you are in your life and how old you are. For example, in my 20s and 30s, I could have easily dated someone in debt – at that age I was still paying off student loans, digging out of some youthful credit card issues, etc. Now that I’m in my mid-40s, I would seriously think twice about dating someone with a lot of debt, and especially someone with a negative net worth. My finances aren’t perfect by a long shot, mind you, but I am able to pay my bills, put aside money for savings and retirement, and generally have a positive cash flow.

    Oh, and as a ps – I’m not including mortgage in the debt figure. Most men my age have a mortgage and it wouldnt’ be a show stopper for me.

  5. Meghan says:

    I would hesitate if they had credit card debt, and would hope that they’d accelerate payments on a car loan, but would not care if they had student loans. I WISH I only had 40k. I have 8 years to go myself.

  6. When my husband and I married – we were both debt free. In fact, I had just made a huge profit on my starter home – like tripled my money investment! And he had made a bit on the sale of his first home. Neither of us had any credit card debt nor did we have any student loan debt. We also were very smart in planning our wedding – we went all out for the banquet (my family wanted a traditional Chinese feast with 8-10 courses), but I found ways of skimping where it didn’t matter as much – so I made my own veil & flowers… etc. So when it came time to buy our first home together we were able to put 55% of the cost of our home down – this is a home that we had built for us in a very nice part of the city. Fast forward 4 years and we’re in a position of paying off this family home… and perhaps plan on baby number 2. I think if you pick your partner well, then you are on the road to financial independence. I see so many out there that are a slave to their jobs, a slave to their mortgage and all I have to do is shake my head… like seriously? Why? It makes no sense what so matter. With two professional incomes we most definitely could have bought a bigger home… but why would we? We already have a 3 bedroom, 2400 sq feet… which is plenty spacious for us 3. In about a year we’d have a home that’ll be free and clear – that will be the best feeling of all

    • Anonymous says:

      What would you do if you are dating someone 3 years and all time you know she lying about money.When I decided to live hers she starting cry , cry and promising again and again

  7. I could date someone with debt from student loans, but I don’t think I could date someone who had more than $10,000 in consumer debt. Like you said, it all depends on their attitude about it.

    • Will says:

      I could date someone with consumer debt and a mortgage payment. Both can be charged off in bankruptcy. But student loans can not.

  8. Karie says:

    All depends on attitude and age. I got married and had student loan debt, hubby was 28 with no savings. We are doing really well now. I think you go with your heart and instincts. You can tell their attitude when you’re dating. My ex before him I lent money to and was always broke – bad signs. I just pictured a financially miserable life. He has his own business now and may be doing quite well but not sure if those character traits change or maybe they do once you have more responsibilities especially kids!

  9. Consumer debt, and excessive amounts at that is a huge no-no. I couldn’t imagine putting in a ton of personal effort on my part to reduce my student debts and be frugal to then have to start all over again. Consumer debt is scary, it means that there’s a spending problem that has to be fixed in order for debt to derease

  10. Hmmm good question.. I think would have to see the big picture, how much debt vs there yearly income.. $200,000 debt is killer but not so bad if making 7figures a year.. as well as what there financial attitude is..

  11. TeacHer says:

    I think about this a lot; to me, as you pointed out, it depends on what kind of debt they have and what their attitude towards it is. If someone had 20K in credit card debt but was paying it off aggressively, fine. If some had 20K in student loan debt and was paying it off at least semi-aggressively, fine. If someone had 20K in credit card debt and thought it was no big deal…forget it.

    All that said, I’d date someone who was in debt WAY before I’d date someone who didn’t know the difference between two, to, and too. A girl’s gotta have standards!

    • Kara says:

      “All that said, I’d date someone who was in debt WAY before I’d date someone who didn’t know the difference between two, to, and too. A girl’s gotta have standards!”

      Hahahahah! So true!!

  12. Liquid says:

    I would date someone with any amount of debt. Doesn’t matter how much or what kind since capital is fungible. I think as long as someone can control their debt and spending then I would have no problem going out with them :) I once dated a girl who bought a car on credit while still in debt. It wasn’t the best financial decision but she wanted to have fun so I can understand since I’ve also bought a car using my line of credit when I still had a credit card balance when I was younger.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Interesting. Your comment makes me wonder … do you think that just by having consumer debt, it’s a sign that someone cannot control their debt and spending?

      • Liquid says:

        That’s a great question. I don’t think someone’s consumer debt is an accurate indicator of their spending behavior :D But I’m not the best person to ask this since I took out a $2K bank loan earlier this month to buy an expensive ornament for myself lol.

  13. mytoughgirl says:

    Before I was married, I never thought about my boy friend’s debt. Partly because I didn’t date them long enough to be serious and partly because I just wasn’t aware of these things. I ended up marrying a guy that has about the same amount of debt as I do. So, we’re trying to pay off them together.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      My BF and I just had this discussion last night. He said that he didn’t really care about debt, and wouldn’t care if I had consumer debt. But then I started to ask him questions like… “what if my debt were to hold you back from your dreams of owning a home, traveling, or living the lifestyle you want for us?” and “wouldn’t my debt be a pretty big indication that I wasn’t good at being organized and managing my own money?” He said he never really thought about it that way before.

  14. When you see that cute guy or girl in the city or about town, their phone number might not be the only digits of interest.

    Credit scores are becoming ever more crucial to Canadians; it doesn’t happen every day – but from time to time we encounter mistakes on people’s credit reports, dampening their credit scores and making financing more difficult on them. That’s likely a discussion for another day….

  15. Ginny says:

    I don’t know what my breaking point would be in terms of a potential partner’s debt, but I would proceed with caution if they had a large amount of debt. However, I am way more concerned about their whole philosophy with regards to finances and earning money. Do they file their taxes on time? Do they have a defeatist/lazy attitude towards work/business? Do they care about spending wisely/getting deals when possible? Do they care that they have debt or do they think it’s just “one of those things”?
    I figure the overall picture is more important because I wouldnt want to end up with a cyclical debtor who racks it up, pays it off, then racks it up then pays it off ad nauseum…

    • Ginny says:

      I should add that I don’t believe in separate finances, so if my partner had screwed up finances and a bad attitude I would have a lot on my plate, and would likely have to make sacrifices I don’t care to make.

  16. Renar says:

    When I got together with my (now ex) husband, I had approx 15K in personal debt but also had the money to pay it off, within 4 years, I no longer had the money to pay it off, and almost triple that amount in debt, (he wasn’t able to get finance, should’ve been a red flag to me, but “love”, so I put it all in my name). His concern was keeping up that lifestyle and my concern was trying to keep it all under control.
    Now, I have no husband and about 40K in debt for almost nothing. Less than 12 months on, and I’m back to less than 15K. A hard lesson learnt but not one I will forget easily.

    • gg says:

      So,your advice is:Get out from someone who constantly going deeper in lies and debt

      • Krystal Yee says:

        Well, I’m not really giving advice – more just talking about what I would do in certain situations. So if someone is lying about money, in my opinion that’s a serious problem. The same goes with someone who is sinking further and further into debt, with no plan to get themselves out of that mess. Money is a tricky subject, especially when it comes to relationships. I’ve been the one in debt, the one out of debt, and equals… and I gotta say that being on equal financial ground with someone (little to no debt, similar goals, etc.) is a pretty good feeling. :)

  17. Renar says:

    I would hate to think that my debt would stop people from thinking I’m datable though. Although, if all goes to plan, within the next 12 months (AT MOST!) it won’t be an issue.

  18. Depends on the amount of debt, type of debt, and their plan to pay it off. I had a huge sum of debt (student loans) when I met the bf, so I’d be a hypocrite if I said I wouldn’t date someone who had the same.

  19. Savvy Buck says:

    So you wouldn’t date a newly graduated doctor with 200K debt then?

    • Krystal Yee says:

      At this stage in my life, I’m not sure. $200k is a lot of debt, but potentially not a lot for a doctor who could command a large salary. I guess if he had a plan in place to aggressively pay off the debt? It may seem super selfish to say this, but I’m not really into changing my lifestyle and waiting around for someone to pay off their debt, so that we can start a life together. I’ve done the waiting around game before, and it has burned me every time. My ideal partner would already be on the same page as me financially – but that being said, stranger things have happened. I never said I would date a student again, but then I met Nic. So who knows. :)

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