A money date is time allotted each week or month to review and audit your finances with someone important to you. This could be your spouse, your boyfriend, or anyone special you share your life with. You can even have a money date with your child! During the money date, review and audit your finances and talk about your financial goals with your significant other.
It’s important to have money conversations weekly because it makes the topic of money, finance and planning for your future the norm.
When Should Couples talk about money?
Start discussing money immediately once you believe the relationship has long term potential. Discover what is your potential partner’s financial position and ask them what their financial goals are. This is especially important if you’re going into a more serious relationship like an engagement or where you’re going to be combining your finances.
You want to make sure their goals align with your own financial goals and that they have shown interest in reaching those goals based on their financial position. If you’re not on the exact same page on financial expectations or goals, that’s okay, you’re not carbon copies of each other, but you need to have a peak into their financial mindset to see if there is a chance of compatibility.
Also, are they even willing to have these conversations? Many couples put these conversations on the back burner. Be careful, if your potential partner is unwilling to discuss finances, this could lead to financial infidelity in the future.
How to Start Money dates if its Uncomfortable
Money is an uneasy topic for many people. If it’s uncomfortable for your spouse, clarify that the initial talks will be constrained, equal and fun. By keeping a money talk constrained, you limit the scope of the money talk. By indicating the money talk is equal, you’re signaling that you will give your spouse equal time to give his thoughts and concerns about the finances.
By constraining your money talk, your goal is to ensure your spouse that the discussion won’t wander away from a focused goal and more importantly, you’re signaling the conversations won’t wonder into blaming. The easiest way to constrain the money talk is to set a timer. For your first money talk, set a timer for fifteen minutes. Money discussions can induce real physical stress on people. By setting a timer, your spouse has a reason to believe you will follow on your promise to limit the discussion.
Another way to constrain the discussion is to throw topics into a hat. Whichever topic you pull that’s what you talk about. Some example topics include saving for vacation, starting to invest, or budgeting with coupons. To make the money talks equal, write half the topics, and then let your spouse write the other half of the topics. By letting your spouse write the topics as well you’re creating an equal money talk where both partners set the agenda.
Once you pull out a topic, that’s the one thing you will talk about. Nothing else. Once you go through all the topics in the hat, those topics will become comfortable, and you’ll be excited to see what topic is next.
Once you’re comfortable with a topic, you don’t have to pull out topics each week. You can use the hat to pull-out topics once a quarter.
It took time for my spouse and I to be able to both contribute to the conversation. Some people take information differently, so you need to trust that they are listening. My spouse listens to what I’m saying, but it takes more time for him to process a response. He may come back with feedback an hour later or even the next day.
Finally, make it fun! Partners, especially men, get nervous that the money date is just a vehicle to be told what to do. Do something fun while discussing money. Make enjoyment a part of your financial planning. In the next section, we’ll give some examples of how you can make your money date fun!
Financial discussions are typically hard for couples. It’s rare to have two super savers together. Its more normal to have two spenders together! Because money talks are uncomfortable for most people, remember, ease your spouse into money dates by keeping them constrained, equal, and fun.
Couples New to Money Dates
Alright, you’re about to go on your first money date! You convinced your spouse to go. You promised you’d set a timer. And you swear it’s going to be fun! So how do you keep these promises and go on a rewarding first money date?
Make money tangible!
Seeing money and what you can do with it helps to keep the date focused but also light-hearted. I bought some jars at Dollar Tree (DLTR) and labeled them adventure, time is money, and make memories. We throw all the loose change into one of the jars. This is the money we will spend on our next date. We try to only spend what’s in the jars to give us a fun challenge.
We count the money together, and if we have enough, we high-five each other and ask, “what do you want to do?”
Keep it small, short, and fun!
For date number one, keep the adventure low key. Maybe have fifteen minutes set aside for money talks, while the next hour is just the fun part. For example, if your first money date is bowling, take fifteen minutes to grab a snack and talk finances, then enjoy bowling without anymore financial topics. Remember, we want your spouse to associate financial planning with fun!
There will be days when your spouse will not want to talk about money. Life happens. Maybe he is having a tough time at work or maybe is exhausted from the work week. As long as its not the norm, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt and focus on the fun section of the money date instead of the money talk. You must keep to your money date weekly, but don’t force your spouse to talk money if they aren’t in the mindset.
Set the appropriate schedule.
You set your schedule when on your financial date, just be sure you give yourself time to discuss your finances. At a minimum, expect to spend at least fifteen minutes on your finances. Plan a shorter discussion for your first date, and when you’re just doing a check-in on your finances.
Be ready to discuss your finances for at least an hour if an important financial purchase like a house or car is on the agenda.
You don’t have to discuss finances the whole date. You can start the date discussing finances, or you can have the discussions at the end of the date.
Money Date Ideas Don’t Require Spending!
Meet during a work lunch.
A great money date is meeting your spouse at their work during lunch. Bring leftovers from yesterday’s dinner and use the time to have fun and get your mind off work.
Meetup at the park
You could go to a park or even have a picnic in the park. Or just walk around the park. Your money date doesn’t have to confine you to a table! You don’t need to bring spreadsheets and tax forms. Your money date can be simply an open discussion about finances.
Head to the gym.
On the subject of exercising, you could have your money date at the gym. After you get those ten reps in for your triceps, take a break and touch on one money topic.
Take a hike.
A money date could be a hike or a run. Most trails are free to use and the serene atmosphere is a great background to have a calm discussion about money.
Money Dates that Don’t Break the Bank
Cooking classes are a great way to combine fun and budgeting. One of the biggest spending culprits is eating out. Cooking classes are fun and inexpensive ways to learn a skill that can save you money. These classes are like an investment in yourself.
Groupon flash sales.
Groupon (GRPN) has great flash sales for fun activities in your area. Grabbing a flash sale allows you to try something new while also being cost-effective.
Try a gift card only challenge.
Imagine this. You’re on a date with your spouse. You have only two $20 gift cards and your licenses. You went out for dinner, and you are now looking at desserts? You realized you have only enough for one dessert. That’s okay, who needs all those calories anyways? You get the bill and you’ve got just enough for the bill and tip. You made it by the skin of your teeth.
Fun activities like this are not only great for keeping to a budget, but also brings back some of the euphoria from the first 90 days of dating. Though stressful, it can also be fun to force a limit on your spending. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and have to wash the dishes in the back!
Be intentional when on your money date. Do activities that are fun but also related to the topic of the week. The gift card challenge is a great idea when the topic is budgeting food costs.
Where Have I Taken my Spouse on Money Dates?
So, one of my favorite places to take my spouse is of course Starbucks. However, we only do this once every few months after I’ve saved enough points for a free coffee.
We’ve had money dates at Home Depot (HD) and Lowes (LOW). It was great having our money date while shopping for home improvements because it helped us focus on what we wanted to improve in our household and what we needed to adjust in our financial goals to make these improvements a reality.
One of our favorite stops while shopping is the plant nursery. When one of our money dates was a nursery, we got the idea to grow our own vegetables. This idea of gardening allowed us to save on our grocery bill.
Remember, you don’t have to get dressed up at all for your money date. You don’t need to break the bank just to discuss your finances.
We’ve jumped in the car and explored different parts of the city. This gave us ideas for future places we wanted to go, restaurants we wanted to try, and small boutique stores with crafts we wanted to check out. Thanks to being on our money date, we were able to discuss how to fit these new interests within our budget goals.
On another date my spouse suggested, we went to the airport to watch planes take off. This background location inspired us to plan our next vacation. Which flights did we want to get on? Which locations should we go to? And of course, how many frequent flyer miles have we accumulated.
Why Should you do a Money Date Weekly?
A money date is time spent together as a couple while checking in on your committed financial goals. Meeting weekly is a perfect way to align your money date with your date night.
By meeting on a weekly basis, you can gain awareness of your spending habits and correct them to meet your monthly financial goals. You can get a good sense of the ebbs and flows of your spending and can adjust as needed. If you’re spending too much, reducing spending doesn’t have to be the only solution. You can look for Groupon deals or coupons to supplement spending habits. If you’re spending too much on Starbucks (SBUX), buy a Cappuccino maker to supplement your coffee habit.
Be intentional about sticking to your money date schedule. You can be flexible on what you do on your money date and on which day you have your money date, but you must commit to having your money date every week. Even when my spouse and I are traveling separately, we still make time on Saturday to Facetime and check-in on our finances.
Special topics on a Monthly Basis
Your money dates need to be fun first, but there are times when you need to focus on some important special topics. My spouse and I lay out these topics on a Google Doc. These topics come up monthly. We even add articles for us to read in the comments of the Google Doc.
We do a financial freeze every January. This means we do no outside spending. That way we can reset after a full year of spending, especially after the holidays. Our goal is to readjust and understand our minimum costs.
Flash through February is the next monthly topic. In February, we look back at our January freeze to really assess our minimum costs. This review allows us to prepare for spring cleaning.
In March, we jump start our finances. We look to start spring cleaning through May, where we eliminate credit card debt, reduce unnecessary costs, and refocus our financial goals.
In December, we spend on gifts every other year. When we don’t spend on gifts, we use those savings to spend together on an activity or vacation. So in the Fall, one of our topics is holiday planning. Many people overspend during the holidays, so credit is taking a toll for some people during this time. By budgeting your holiday spending, you can minimize the cleanup you have to do in the spring.
During other monthly topics, we bring in our money team to talk with us during our money date. This helps us get a bird’s eye view of our finances, including our tax planning and financial planning. On some dates we’ll Facetime our CPA. On other occasions we may go and visit our tax planner.
When we have a check-in with our money team, we will bring our credit reports, investment reports, and other financial reports needed to have a fruitful discussion. Credit reports may be scary, but its important to build a healthy relationship with your credit in a marriage.
This money team helps us stay accountable so that we can reach our goals.
Money Dates with Your Child
Even with my son, I have money dates. It’s never too early to take your children on money dates. My son loves to go on a Groupon adventure. You can start an investment account with your children. Since you can invest for as little as one dollar, put half of their allowance into investing, then discuss investment with them.
Money dates are a great way to check-in with your spouse and your finances. Be sure to keep it small, short, and fun until your spouse feels comfortable. Money dates are about making financial discussions regular and easy for you and your spouse. Ultimately, they will become check-ins for your longer term financial goals.