Want to protect your marriage? You should have a monthly money date night! Use these tips to start talking about your finances the right way, plus learn the best way to have a money date!
Do you talk about your finances regularly with your spouse? No? Well don't feel bad, because a lot of people don't! And even if they are talking about them, they're not necessarily talking about them in the right way. You know, the polite, not-pointing-fingers kind of way!
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Bubba and I are all about holding routine money date nights (or finance date nights, as we also call them) to keep tabs on what’s going on with our money. I wanted to take a quick minute to explain what the heck that is, and give you some guidelines for success… Because nobody wants to end the night on the brink of divorce with drawers full of clothes scattered all over the front lawn!
So, first things first…
WHAT IS A MONEY DATE?
Good question! The best way to describe it is…well…a date where you talk about finances and where all your money is going! That's it! Super simple!
WHY IS A MONEY DATE IMPORTANT?
Have you tried to have a conversation about money in passing? Maybe in the middle of dinner, or in the car on a quick drive somewhere, or while shopping for something, or even while getting ready for bed?
How'd that go for ya?
I'm 99.9% positive it wasn't that effective for you. The reality is that money is a tense subject that needs time to work through. Talking about it in passing not only adds stress and anxiety to the situation, but it's physically hard to get very far before being interrupted.
Holding a formal, official, planned money date FORCES you to set everything else aside, sit down, and hash it out (in a positive way, of course). Plus setting a time allows you both to prepare mentally so that you are open to talking about the touchy stuff.
HOW TO HOLD A MONEY DATE
It's so easy, and believe it or not, really fun! Here are the simple steps:
- PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR – It MUST be planned in advance! Doing a spur the moment money date is N-O-T effective, I promise.
- NO KIDS ALLOWED – Get a sitter. Can't afford a sitter? Do a babysitting trade with someone. Cut back on groceries, eating out, and fun money to make it happen. Call in a favor. Whatever you have to do, find a way to make it happen. You cannot, should not, and will not (I forbiddeth you!) have these conversations with kids around.
- MAKE IT A REAL DATE NIGHT – This date is about more than just talking about your finances. It’s also a time to connect with your spouse. Get glammed up and feel good about yourself! See my super fast tips for how.
- DO IT OVER DINNER – No one needs a hangry money conversation…
- BRING YOUR LAPTOP AND PAPER/PEN – Yes it looks a little nerdy. No, no one will care. Yes, Bubba and I do it all the time. We use Google Docs and Google Sheets to track everything, including our goals.
- DO IT IN A RESTAURANT – Choose your favorite restaurant; preferably one that takes a long time so you can sit and stay for as long as you need. Just make sure that you account for your meal in your budget! Try to get out of your house if you can afford it. Look on Groupon for any great deals at your local restaurants.
*Note: If your finances are too tight and you shouldn't do a sitter and restaurant, feel free to make it a date at home. However, make sure the kids are in bed, the electronics are away, the TV is off, and you focus on NOTHING but your finances!
WHY TO HAVE A MONEY DATE OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE
So you may be wondering why I HIGHLY suggest having your money date at a restaurant. First of all, you’re more likely to get distracted, cranky, or be interrupted when you’re at home. There’s always things that need to be done while you’re at home and you don’t need to worry about trying to do the laundry while holding your money date.
If you have your money date in public, then you're less likely to yell at each other and have an epic fight! Seriously, I’m not kidding with this one. If you’re in public, like at a restaurant, you will be on your best behavior. You will speak quietly, won't get up and storm out (hopefully!), won't yell, will try not to cry…
It sounds dramatic, but those things happen – even for Bubba and I! Sit next to each other, hold hands, look into each other's eyes, and enjoy your night! It IS a date, after all. You need to have some fun while you’re on it, especially if you don’t usually go out like this!
WHAT TO DO ON A MONEY DATE
Then, sit down and get real about your numbers. If you are part of my Budget Boot Camp program, you have the BMI tool that allows you to punch in your numbers. It spits out numbers and budgets for you which is GREAT. So be sure to use it! (If you want to sign up for my program use the code FCFBLOG for an extra 10% off!).
You need to go back for the last full month and look at everything you've spent money on. Categorize it. Find out where your money is going. Work backwards and figure out how much you need to pay off pressing debt. Set budgets. Talk about the future. Dream about the future.
There are so many things to do! Just pick ONE purpose to start (don't overwhelm yourself), then don't stop until it's done. Once your first purpose is done, choose a second one and go from there.
HOW OFTEN TO HAVE A MONEY DATE
You should have at least one money date per month. But if you are just starting to work on your finances, do one every week until all your initial tasks are accomplished and budgets are set. I promise, the more often and more frequently you have them, the easier and more pain-free they become!
There's also a lot less to cover if you do it every week so you will prevent yourselves from getting overwhelmed or bogged down! You will be more likely to accomplish something and move forward quicker and that momentum will help you be successful as you continue to work together to manage your money!
HOW TO TALK ABOUT MONEY WITHOUT GETTING UPSET
These 7 simple tips will have you breaking down barriers and talking about the nitty gritty in no time! You’ll be able to have tough conversations (about anything, really) without finger-pointing, feeling defensive, or offending.
I’m not sure what it is, but when you are touching, you are less likely to be angry and mean! It breaks down walls and keeps your emotions (and even temper) in check. If you're at a restaurant, sit close enough to hold hands. Sit next to each other rather than across from each other if you need to. If you're at home, cuddle on the couch while talking. Find a way to have physical contact and I promise, it will help.
If it feels weird to hold your spouse's hand, touch their leg, or cuddle on the couch…you might be losing touch with each other a bit. No fear, it can be rekindled! Make it a point to make physical contact more. And no, I'm not necessarily talking about sexual intimacy.
Hold hands in the car, while walking, sit by each other at church or at the dinner table, hug each other for Heaven's sake! There's no trick to getting started, other than to just DO it! If it feels awkward, fake it 'til you make it. Or as Bubba likes to say, “It's only as awkward as you make it.”
REMOVE THE WORD “YOU”
Make a game out of not saying the word “YOU.” It may be impossible in some situations, but for the most part, you should be able to get along without saying it. Maybe you have to do push ups, chug soda, or add 5 minutes to a back massage each time you say “YOU.” Choose something lighthearted, and commit to it.
It forces you to avoid pointing fingers. You turn the focus on yourself and what you can do to be better and change, rather than focusing your energy on nitpicking the other person. Flip the tables and say, “I feel like we could be doing such and such with our money…”, “I find it hard to…”, “I would love to…” It changes the entire course of the conversation, and forces you to choose your words carefully.
Absolutes tend to dramatize a sentence and can lead you to exaggerate a situation. They’re bound to make them feel defensive. Avoid words like “always”, “never”, “every time”, or “everyone”. Change them to “sometimes I feel…” or “there are times when…”
HAVE AN OPEN MIND
Try to have an open mind and see the other person's point of view. Sometimes, just sometimes, they might have a good idea about something! (Said from a control freak…) Just like you want them to have an open mind for what you’re talking about, you also need to have an open mind for their ideas and opinions.
GET THEM TALKING
If we were to record ourselves having a “conversation” with our spouse, my hunch tells me we would hear ourselves talking 80% of the time, and listening only 20%. Let's flip that – 80% listening, 20% talking is the new goal, and asking a question is the best way to get them talking.
Ask questions and then keep your mouth shut! Chant “80, 20! 80, 20! 80, 20!” in your head as you keep your lips zipped. Ask a question, then practice silence. Listen! Sometimes it may take a minute for them to find the words to express what they want to say, so just sit in silence. Don't bail them out, interject, discount their answer, cut them off, or finish their sentences (some of my worst habits). Just sit and wait for them to completely finish what they have to say.
Here are some questions to ask to get the ball rolling:
- “What would you do with 1 million dollars?”
- “Tell me what you think about our finances right now.”
- “What about our finances stress you out?”
- “Are we where you would like to be financially?”
- “Where would you like to be financially in the next 5 years?”
- “What can we do better in terms of managing our money?”
REPEAT WHAT THEY SAY
In my experience in working with at-risk teens, I learned an important communication script at a rehab facility. Many times, those who are struggling with addiction are at odds with their family members because both parties feel they are misunderstood. Here's a script format that facilitates a healthy conversation, even in the most tense of circumstances:
Spouse #1: Asks a question while holding hands (i.e: “How do you feel about our financial situation right now?”). Silence.
Spouse #2: Gives their answer, 1-2 minutes max.
Spouse #1: “What I understood is…” repeats what spouse #2 says with as much detail as they can remember.
Spouse #2: Agrees/confirms, or corrects any misunderstandings spouse #1 may have about their answer.
Spouse #1: repeats “What I understood is…” until Spouse #2 confirms that spouse #1 is understanding correctly.
Spouse #2: They then ask a question to spouse #1 and the process repeats.
Pull this post up on your phone when it's time to have “the talk” and literally read it like a script! It may seem weird, but I promise it works.
BRING SOLUTIONS TO YOUR PROBLEMS
If you have a problem to talk about, don't bring it up unless you also bring 2 possible solutions to the problem. It does no good if all you do is complain, so be a problem solver! Make a rule – no talking about problems unless you also have 2 solution ideas!
Alright, well there you have it! Good luck with your money date night! Let me know how it goes in the comments below.
(Again, my Budget Boot Camp walks you through this in great detail if you're interested, otherwise just go follow the tips above and you'll do great!)
Looking for more great posts?
- Make this delicious homemade caramel sauce for a yummy treat after your money date!
- Learn how to save money fast with a spending freeze.
- Come see how I meal plan for my family of 8 without overspending!
- We've got the top reasons that couples fight about money and how to stop fighting and get on the same page on your finances.
- If you've got leftovers to eat at home during your money date, make sure that you use these tips to spice them up and make them delicious again!
Excited for you, have a good time!