No one really likes talking about money, do they? It’s been drilled into us for our whole lives that it’s taboo or rude to discuss our finances out in the open—and for many people, the topic of money brings up a mountain of stress that they’d rather not deal with.
But burying our heads in the sand and peeking at our bank balance through our fingers won’t actually make our money problems go away. In fact, it often leads to even bigger issues.
It’s crucial to learn how to handle your finances in a mature way. And when you’re combining your finances with a partner or significant other? It becomes that much more important to be upfront and honest.
So how do you get comfortable sharing your money situation, celebrations, or concerns with a loved one? Or how do you improve your own relationship with your finances? Money dates.
Now stick with us, they’re not as formal and scary as they sound! We’ll walk you through exactly what a money date looks like, why they can make a significant difference in your financial future, and how you can bring them into your normal routine.
What is a money date?
A money date is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a dedicated time that you’ve set aside on the calendar to check in with yourself (or your partner) about your finances.
Yes, they can be super uncomfortable at first, but this is an essential step to take if you’re serious about your relationships with both money and your other half. Particularly if you’re planning to move in together, get married, or make a significant joint purchase, you both need to be open and honest about the state of your finances before any big commitments are made.
Money dates aren’t only about looking at your current and past finances. If you’re sharing your money with someone else, you should be on the same page about what the future looks like too.
Recent studies show that 34% of Americans have less than $1,000 of cash on hand for emergencies. Where does saving stack up in your partner’s priorities vs. yours? Do they agree with your plans for how you’re going to pay down debt? Having these conversations now can save you plenty of heartache and potentially complicated situations down the road.
Why do you need to have a money date anyway?
At the end of the day, money can’t buy happiness—but it certainly makes life much easier. It gives you choices over the type of lifestyle you want to have, so getting on top of any problems or issues now will always be better than letting them spiral out of control.
If you’re having a money date on your own, it’s a good opportunity for you to sit down and proactively assess what your situation looks like. Checking your bank account regularly, sticking to a budget, and making savings or debt repayment plans will feel like hard work at first, but it’ll soon become second nature.
When you’re looking at your money more often, it’ll gradually feel less overwhelming because you should already have a rough idea of how much you have. You’ll be on top of your finances and can address any issues as and when they come up, rather than months or years later when the situation could be dire.
The same goes for talking everything through with a partner. Discussing finances is one of the most vulnerable conversations that you can have, so doing this frequently will help you to bond, feel closer as a couple, and build those all-important communication skills.
It can also help to remove the shame that you might have around debt and stop there being any secrets between you when it comes to your money. All in all, couples who have regular money dates are usually more relaxed and less stressed about their finances. Healthy relationships with money, both individually and together, are a great first step in creating healthy romantic relationships.
Ok, so how do you start having money dates?
When you’re working on your own finances, the sooner you can start your money dates, the better. With that said, in romantic relationships, this probably isn’t the best conversation to have on a first date. Wait until you feel like your relationship is progressing to a stage where you might need to combine finances, make a big purchase together, or align your future priorities.
For those of you with a partner, bring up the conversation in a casual way. Something like, “I think it would be great if we could chat about money, what’s important to us, and what everything looks like right now.” Suggest a few times and a private place (home is best, rather than a noisy restaurant or cafe) so that they can think about preparing anything that they want to share.
To make sure that your date is successful, you’ll want to plan ahead and bring information about:
Your current budget. Bank or credit card statements may be useful if you find tracking everything accurately a challenge.
A list of subscriptions or bills that you’re thinking about canceling or renegotiating.
The current balance of your savings or retirement accounts.
The outstanding balance on any debts (like student loans, car payments, mortgages, etc.).
On the day of your money date, the key is to make yourself (and your partner) comfortable. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine but keep other distractions to a minimum. That might mean asking a friend or grandparents if they can take the kids for the evening, or switching off the TV so that you’re fully concentrating on the conversation.
What do you need to discuss?
Having all of your talking points written down will keep you on track during your conversation. Of course, let the natural flow take you wherever it does, but if there are specific areas that you want to bring up, note these down before you get started.
A good starting point for every money date is a quick overview and check-in of:
Your financial “State of the Union”: What does your money situation look like today? How has this changed since your last money date?
Your goals: What do you want to achieve as a result of your financial situation? Is there anything you’re specifically saving for or a lifestyle change that you want to make?
Your thoughts and feelings: How do you feel about your finances right now? What improvements can you make to have a healthier relationship with your bank balance?
You can get as granular as you like with these discussions. Stick to the bigger picture, but also mention where day-to-day spending is impacting those goals or wants. You don’t necessarily have to go through every receipt or line of your bank statement, but you do need to be honest with each other about any areas of overspending that could be affecting your financial plans.
Give each other the chance to ask questions or clarify anything that you’ve discussed so far before moving onto the next topic. Remember that these dates are about being judgment-free and finding solutions together to create a stronger financial future.
How often should you have financial discussions?
How frequently you have these conversations is really up to you. If you’re working on your own individual finances, weekly or, at minimum, monthly, is best for keeping track of your spending and savings plans.
Within a couple, you should be checking in with each other on your big financial goals at least quarterly. But the more often you have money dates, the more comfortable that you’ll both be with having difficult conversations. Addressing your money head-on each week or biweekly is a great opportunity to remove the anxiety that you might be feeling and work on strategies to tackle your finances together.
Schedule your next money date right now
You know it’s important, so put your next (or first) money date on the calendar. Go on, we’ll wait.
Now is the time to start gathering all of the information that you need to make your money date effective and successful. If this is the first time that you’ve done this, don’t let it hang over your head. Instead, think about how you’re taking active steps to regain control of your finances and plan for the future. That’s definitely something worth celebrating.