Money can get awkward. It’s one thing to face that awkwardness every now and then when you go out to dinner with your friends and can’t quite figure out how to split the bill, or when your notoriously-bad-at-paying-people-back friend neglects to Venmo you for that Uber you guys shared after drinks that one night; it’s another thing entirely when you’re in a relationship and have finances that are intertwined or joint with a partner. One way to get around the awkwardness of financial conversations with your partner, though, is a good old date night. A money date night, that is.
What is a money date, and what’s the point?
A money date is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a date where the primary goal is to discuss money. Much like you’d schedule real date nights to prioritize quality time together, putting money dates on the calendar is a way to commit to a designated time to sit down with your S.O. and talk about finances in an open, distraction-free setting.
Ultimately, locking down a time to talk about money is one way to remove at least some of the awkwardness involved in financial conversations because you get to eliminate the first point of awkwardness, which is bringing up the topic of finances in the first place. With a money date, there is an understanding that at a certain time on a certain day, you and your partner will be talking about money, and that’s already less riddled with pressure.
A money date is also a way to avoid spur-of-the-moment money conversations, which often come up during a particular point of frustration or stressful period (and are pretty prone to turning into fights, as a result).
What should you take into consideration when planning a money date?
Now that you have a sense of why a money date is worth adding to your couple calendar, it’s time to dive a little deeper into the strategy behind planning that meeting by covering a few of the most important things that you ought to consider when going about it.
For starters, you’ll want to consider how often you want to have these conversations. There’s no optimal frequency, and picking the cadence that works for you and your partner is the key to finding a rhythm that makes sense in your case. For some couples, touching base once a week is the way to go, while others might prefer to limit money dates to a monthly affair. Either approach works, though it’s recommended that couples try not to have their money conversations less frequently than once a month, since things can start to fall through the cracks.
Something you’ll also want to consider –– which is kind of linked to frequency –– is how long you want your money dates to last when you have them. For the most part, if you’re having the dates more frequently, they probably don’t need to be as long. If you’re just having them once a month, you’ll likely want to make them a bit longer to make sure that you touch base on everything you need to.
Another thing to consider when planning your money date is the vibe that you want to go for with it. Do you think it would work best for you and your S.O. to go for a professional sit-down, or a more casual situation with takeout and wine? Much like a regular date night, picking the right vibe and environment for your money date will largely come down to your dynamic and personality as a couple. This is because a money date really only works well when you and your partner are feeling comfortable, and that’s best achieved by establishing a setting and a vibe that feels most on par with what you’re already familiar with or what you respond well to.
What should you talk about at your money date?
In addition to taking the right things into consideration when planning your money date, you and your partner want to make sure that you address the right points and ask the right questions when you’re actually on the date. To help guide the conversation, here are a few of the things that you should make sure to cover during each of your financial conversations.
Something that you’ll want to do during every money date, but especially when you’re first starting out, is set goals. This includes both short-term goals (e.g. adding 20% of your net salary to a savings account each month, or limiting your individual monthly takeout budgets to $200 each) as well as long-term goals (e.g. buying a house together in five years, or putting money away for a wedding or your kids’ college fund). Once you’ve nailed down some goals that feel good to both of you, start identifying the key things that each of you will need to do to achieve – or to work towards achieving – those goals. Maybe one of you needs to start taking lunch to work instead of picking it up every day, or maybe it means one of you needs to cut back a bit on the shopping. Be open with each other about the expectations that come with achieving those goals and aim to have a candid but cooperative conversation that leads to a game plan you both feel good about in the end.
While there’s no need to actually go through line-by-line expenses together or to go through the efforts of paying your bills and actually tying up financial ends together during your money date, some couples might like to use this time to actually go about scheduling payments or checking off their financial to-do list for the month together. This can be helpful in that it offers couples a chance to talk about the expenses as they go through them and to address different financial decisions together as they actually go about making them, in a sense. That said, using your money date as a time to just carry out your financial chores together, so to speak, can quickly turn into a more systematic, habitual experience than it is a problem-solving one. Be cautious not to let housekeeping keep you and your partner from having more openly productive (and even critical) conversations about your finances.
Once you and your partner have had at least one money date, it always makes sense to start all subsequent ones with a review of the financial progress that you’ve made since the last time you met. This means talking about where you stand on the goals that you set last time you met, talking about any financial decisions or changes of note, and addressing both your and your partner’s feelings around everything since your last discussion. This is the part of the conversation where you might talk about how well you’re doing sticking to the budget that you set, or if you both feel any kind of need to rework the budget that you set for yourselves (which may very well be the case, since setting a budget often involves a lot of trial and error before you get it just right). This is also a time when you can definitely celebrate the wins of the week or month prior, as well as have an open talk about some of the areas where you feel like you and your partner could have done better.