Hack: budgeting as a Black bachelor whose looking to date

My best friend came into town the other week. As with most best friends when traveling to reconnect, shopping, eating out, and the turn up were all top priorities.

So we plan trips for the middle of the month as to avoid the “rent check”. Maybe we set aside a couple duckets to ensure the first round is on us. But what was expected to a $200 excursion turns out to be a “let me hold $20 til payday” disaster.

As gay men, we are keenly aware of how we express ourselves. We clue in to our mannerisms moreso than our straight counterparts, I’d imagine. We tend to our hygiene, shine our shoes, and have impeccable taste. But all that attention to detail comes at a cost and, I’d wager, more of us are paying for a lifestyle we can’t actually afford.

When I was younger, long before I ever earned a paycheck, I’m proud to say that my mother had me balancing her checkbook. For a while it was a calculator and an actual checkbook, then we got Windows 95 and Quicken…we were fancy. But every month, I sat at that desk for hours calculating things we could afford. I saw clearly that, although the bank says we mama had $X.XX, she actually had a different amount completely. What the debit card would swipe for and what she actually had the money for were different.

Now to my broke ass–or at least the broke ass I had before I had sense and motivation enough to do something different. There was a long time when the only marker of my financial stability was there my debit card would clear.

At every cash register or open tab, I was frantically scrolling through my banking app to make sure I had just enough money for the transaction. Sometimes, the solution was just a transfer from my much-smaller-than-it-should-have-been savings account to cover a transaction. But for a long time, getting a card declined or a writing a hot check til I get paid on Friday was my norm.

But how long can that go on? It’s easy to get lulled into thinking that everyone is checking bank accounts before they swipe because we probably don’t have conversations about money all too often and we’re single. But when you’re attempting to build a relationship, do you really want to have to check your bank account every time you and Bae go out to eat?

As bachelors we have to understand things like budgeting and financial stability on a whole new level. Think about it–how sure can you be of your future with another person if you’re not completely sure, moment-to-moment, if your debit card is going to clear? Or if/when a bill has come out of your account? These are signs that we’re building a financial life around things we can pay for and not living within a lifestyle that we can actually afford.

Dating someone isn’t an arbitrary act. It should be an intentional process of joining your self with another’s. We can be etherial and believe that our souls connect and the stars align, but the truth is that this life, whatever it looks like, will have to be paid for eventually. And how you manage money as a single person–an adult–is the best sign of how big and blessed a life you can build for you and your partner.

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