When Brandon and I got engaged, we had some pretty lofty goals.
We planned to plan and pay for a wedding in four months, travel to Spain for our honeymoon, pay off our non-student loan debt, and save for an RV to travel the country.
Oh yeah, and we hoped to do it all within one year.
While it might sound farfetched, we checked everything off this list within one year of getting engaged. And one of the most important factors I attribute to us reaching all of our goals?
Money dates. We communicate openly and respectfully about money, and we do it often.
I put together a guide for you to answer the questions of what is a money date and why you should plan one now to take your finances to the next level.
What is a money date?
A money date is a regularly scheduled conversation between you and your partner where you discuss finances. They’re an opportunity to talk about your day-to-day finances, as well as prepare for any short or long-term financial plans.
Why plan a money date
A money date might not exactly be your idea of a romantic evening, but they’re important in maintaining a healthy relationship and healthy finances.
THEY TEACH YOU TO TALK ABOUT MONEY
First, having regular money dates gets you in the habit of talking about your finances often. And as with anything else, the more you practice, the better you get.
Money dates also allow you to be proactive about talking about finances in a confrontation-free way.
Here’s how most couples communicate about money:
They don’t really talk about it until a problem comes up. Maybe one of you overspend, you were late on a bill, or you were hit with an unplanned expense.
When this is the case, you’re pretty much only talking about money when it’s bad news or you’re fighting. This trains your brain to believe that money is a source of conflict, and talking about money means fighting.
Then, as your relationship progresses, you both go out of your way to avoid talking about money. This can lead to financial infidelity. It also means you’re unlikely to meet any of your financial goals together because you aren’t setting them in the first place.
THEY HELP YOU STAY ON TOP OF YOUR FINANCES
Even for couples who can easily talk about money, these money dates are a good way of making sure you’re staying on top of any financial changes.
Let’s say you and your partner set up a budget together when you got married. But a few years later, your life might look totally different. Maybe your income has increased or you’ve changed the way you spend your free time. Chances are your budget could use some refreshing.
Regular money dates help you to stay on top of those changes so your financial plan always fits with the rest of your life.
THEY ENSURE EVERYONE HAS A SEAT AT THE TABLE
Finally, money dates make sure that everyone has a seat at the table. In most relationships where the couple has joint finances, there’s one person who is responsible for managing the finances. It’s also likely that one person makes more money than the other.
Both of these factors can cause one or both partners to feel like they don’t have equal say. Money dates can help avoid this.
For part of mine and Brandon’s marriage, we have had a large income disparity. But in both of our eyes, we were a team, and each had equal say in our financial decisions. I believe that was possible only because of how often we communicate about money.
How to plan a money date
Now that we’ve talked about what a money date is and why it’s important that you have them, let’s talk about how to plan one.
1. PLAN YOUR MONEY DATE IN ADVANCE
I promise you that your partner isn’t going to appreciate you springing this on them, especially if you two don’t talk about your finances often. So schedule it in advance and put it on your calendar.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can even come up with a day of the week or month that works for both of you and set this as a recurring event.
2. MAKE YOUR MONEY DATE AS DATE-LIKE AS POSSIBLE
One of the reasons so many of us hate talking about money is that we have negative memories associated with it. Maybe it’s that we normally only talk about money when we’re fighting, so we associate money with fighting.
You want to make your money dates a time to enjoy. Throw on your favorite music. Eat your favorite food. Drink your favorite cocktail. If you have a favorite restaurant together, have your money date there.
The key is to make this an enjoyable experience so you don’t dread it.
3. SHOW UP TO YOUR MONEY DATES PREPARED
Finally, show up to your money dates prepared. Have an agenda of things you’ll discuss, and be ready with your laptop or notebook so you can do any budgeting or notetaking that you need to.
What to talk about on your money date
Now that I’ve gotten you on board with the idea of a money date, you might be wondering what you should actually plan to talk about. You might even feel like you don’t have enough to discuss to warrant scheduling time. But there are plenty of things you can discuss!
TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE YOUR LAST MONEY DATE
First, this means going over last month’s budget and seeing how well you stuck to it. If you didn’t stick to the budget, identify areas where you struggled and what changes you can make to ensure you’ll stick to the budget next month.
There may be other things that have happened outside of your budget, too.
Maybe one of you got a raise, and you want to discuss how you’ll allocate that new money in your budget. Or maybe one of you is feeling particularly burned out in your business, and you want to figure out if you can still meet all your financial obligations if you pull back at work a little.
You want to make sure you’re covering everything happening in your finances right now.
CHECK IN ON YOUR PROGRESS FOR YOUR FINANCIAL GOALS AND DEBT PAYOFF PLAN
You can use a digital or printable tracker to monitor this. On the topic of financial goals, you can also use your money date to talk about new financial goals.
You aren’t going to have new goals to discuss at every money date, but this is the perfect time to talk about anything new you’d like to start setting aside money for.
Talking about your progress helps to ensure you’re staying on track. If something held you back from making much progress, you can acknowledge that and come up with strategies to address it.
You might also discuss working a bit more aggressively toward your financial goals (or taking your foot off the gas pedal a bit).
BE READY TO HAVE TOUGH CONVERSATIONS
Now whether you’re married or dating, I’d be lying if I said that money dates won’t sometimes lead to arguments. Money can be an incredibly sensitive topic, and it’s likely that you and your partner won’t see eye to eye on anything. Be sure to come to these dates with an open mind.
Additionally, be solution-focused. Let’s say that you and your partner have a money date and discover that they overspent last month.
Judging or berating them isn’t going to change what happened. Rather than focusing on the problem (your partner overspending) focus on possible solutions.
During these money dates, it’s important to use the opportunity to bring up anything that might be weighing on you. Sure, confrontation – especially around money – can be uncomfortable. But it’s far worse to let it continue to weigh on you and eventually become an even bigger problem.
END ON A HAPPY NOTE
As I said earlier, you want to make sure that these dates create positive associations around money. If they always end with fighting, you probably aren’t going to stick with them very long.
End the date by celebrating your financial wins or talking about what you’re most excited about for the upcoming month. This is a great way to end the date in a good mood.
Should you have money dates if you’re not married?
Now you might be wondering whether a money date is still necessary if you’re not married. After all, if you don’t have a joint budget or shared debt payoff plan, then you might think you won’t have anything to talk about.
Here’s my general rule of thumb — If you’re planning on spending your lives together, incorporate money dates into your month. Topics you can talk about if you’re not married include:
- How you split expenses and whether this system still works.
- Progress you’ve each made on your individual financial goals and debt payoff plan
- Progress you’ve made on shared financial goals
- Ideas you might have for future financial goals
Another really great way you can use these money days if you don’t share finances yet but plan to someday is to talk about what that might look like. Talk about how you’ll handle certain situations, like debt you each brought into the relationship.
Talk about who will be responsible for managing the money or if you’ll always do it together. Consider making mock budgets to see what joint finances might look like for you.
Finances can be one of the most significant sources of conflict in any relationship. If you’re married or have been with your partner long enough to tackle financial topics, I’m sure you can relate.
Regular money dates are one of the best ways to take the conflict out of talking about money — and you might even start enjoying it!