How To Have A Money Date

A Money DateA couple weeks ago, Tim and I payed off all our credit card debt. It was a joyous occasion with much merriment and some living room dancing {um, more from me than Tim}. The next week, we had all of these overly adultish things happen at once. Being debt free was short-lived due to root canals and tax surprises. Those unexpected expenses were the best thing that could have happened to our finances, despite the damper they put on our recent freedom.

That sounds utterly absurd, but those expenses forced us to finally sit down and have a serious chat about our budget – a Money Date as I like to call it. {I’m capitalizing here because I really think it should be a recognized proper noun :) }

Money Dates are the best thing you can do for your finances because talking about money  is the first step to financial health. You have to communicate to make money work for your family and your budget. Plus, the date aspect makes financial planning fun – well, at least more fun that it would be without the date part.

Our Money Date

Tim and I wanted to be more intentional about how we spend our money, so our Money Date revolved around building a detailed budget. We are excited to take on April expenses with this new structure in place, though our budget system is by no means revolutionary. We haven’t taken Financial Peace, but we believe in Dave Ramsey’s money principles. So, we created a budget that snowballs debt (which for us includes Tim’s student loans), creates an emergency fund, and leaves a zero balance at the end of each month.

We happened to be staying in a beautiful cabin in Montana last weekend, which was the perfect setting for our Money Date. A large fire roared as we snuggled into the couch with blankets, tea, dessert, and a spreadsheet. A calculator came in handy, too! The atmosphere made a somewhat stressful topic seem less daunting.


How To Have A Money Date

Here are our recommendations on having a successful Money Date:

  • Who: Just you two. This is a great time to build intimacy as you work together to examine spending habits, fight financial woes, and create a budget. The less distractions the better.
  • What: Both Tim and I think Money Dates work best when they are part of a shared experience. You want to already be relaxed and having fun. This could be a day trip, a hike, a few hours in a coffee shop… Whatever you do, make the experience feel special and work in time to discuss your finances. The fun will make finances less burdensome. 
  • Where: If you can avoid distractions in your home, being alone is really nice. However, a cozy coffee shop or secluded restaurant booth would work nicely as well. Just be sure you can camp out for a while. Tim mentioned it’s nice to be in neutral territory where you wouldn’t incorporate past discussions or stressful associations into an already sensitive topic.
  • When: Be wise and know thyself. Pick a time when both of you will be alert and happy. Don’t force your night-owl husband to go on a sunrise hike then expect him to settle in to a cheery discussion about finances over a latte. That won’t end well.
  • Why: Communication, communication, communication! It’s so important to get everything out in the open – bank statements, credit card debt, receipts, pay stubs, etc. If you don’t have a budget, make one. If you do have a budget, evaluate how it’s working. Money Dates are for you to communicate and get on the same page about your finances. It’s not you against your spouse because of finances; it should be you and your spouse against your finances. 

Tim and I built our budget using Mint – it’s free and you can access it on any electronic device. After importing your bank accounts, Mint will categorize all your transactions and keep track of your spending in an easy to read chart. If we weren’t using Mint, we would probably be doing the envelope maneuver {putting cash for each budget category in envelopes and purchasing everything from those envelopes}.

We plan to have weekly or bi-monthly {haven’t decided yet} mini Money Dates to go over our budget and see how our spending is adding up.

After lots of calculating costs and allocating funds, we were pleased to have a solid budget as a result of our date. Though we have always been of similar mind about money, both of us kept saying we wished we had had this detailed of a discussion at the beginning of our marriage. It’s surprisingly liberating to live on a budget.

Have you ever been on a Money Date? What are your strategies to keep money from creating marital conflict?

photo credit: donbuciak via photopin cc
photo credit: 401(K) 2013 via photopin cc