Money Dates

Money Dates
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When I throw around the word budget, it is not often met with a vivid image of sitting across from a hot date while sipping on some bubbly. Talking about “the budget” is supposed to be a rigid and intense process which includes combing through spreadsheets and telling your partner that you are spending too much, right? This is what my wife and I always thought, so historically, we avoided discussing our finances in a numerical sense and just hoped that we weren’t spending too much. It is difficult to start these financial discussions, because talking about your budget offers the possibility of becoming aware of your shortcomings as a budgeteer.

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When I finished my medical school education and still had a few months left before residency, I discovered a curiosity with personal finance. I became obsessed with listening to podcasts and reading books about personal finance for physicians. With all of my bubbling excitement concerning my new found interest, I couldn’t help but tell my wife all the nerdy finance things I was learning. She humored me for a while, but after a few weeks, I could tell that she was getting tired of me rambling on and on about personal finance.

I have found it true in my relationship what is said to be true about most relationships: one partner is normally all about the finances while the other does not like to focus too hard on the money matters. I had made some great spreadsheets for our budgeting and future financial outlook, but I could not find a context in which I could implore my wife to go through cells and cells of numbers with me. That is, until one of my nerdy financial podcasts gave me a great idea. On the podcast, financial residency, the host, Ryan Inman, discusses what he calls “The Money Date.”

Other fun names include: Budget Bonanza, Financial Summit, Frugal Rendezvous, or possibly even The Council of War on Debt (it’s 4am and I’m trying to make a funny list to keep myself awake). Either way, the Money Date has really changed the way my wife and I talk about our finances. The premise of the money date is to sit down with your partner and discuss your finances in a real and relaxed way. This could be taking your partner out for a nice dinner where you talk about your financial lives in the candlelight while eating some delicious Italian food. This could also be drinking a bottle of champagne, laughing, and talking about your budgets and goals after you put your kids to bed (that’s what we do). The idea is that you spend quality time with your significant other with your finances as one of the talking points.

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Over the past few months, my wife and I have really made strides in our financial journey by having this set time to discuss our financial goals. These monthly discussions have sparked conversations that occur at other times throughout the month as well. Reviewing our past month’s spending at the money date has been like watching the film of our last game; we are able to see our successes and mistakes. We also take this time to talk about our long term goals and what we need to do now to reach them.

Now, getting started with money dates can be a little complicated if not done correctly. This is especially true if one of the partners does not like budgeting or spreadsheets. I told one of my colleagues about the money date idea, and he went to his wife and tried to bring up budgets immediately. Guess what? His plan for the discussion got shut down. Money dates are supposed to be fun for both people involved. If one person does not find budgets and spreadsheets fun, then they will have an awful time if you talk about budgets and spreadsheets.

So, how does one get started having money dates? Well, topics of the first money date should include things like:

  • What are our dreams?
  • Do we want to live in a big house?
  • Do we want to drive nice cars?
  • Do we want the ability to travel, if so, where?
  • Do we want to retire early?

Do you see what these things have in common… they don’t include numbers. They don’t require spreadsheets. They don’t make my wife run away when I start talking about them. For the first money date, sit down with your partner and talk about what you want your lives to look like. This helps illustrate your WHY. Why do you want to budget? Why are you working hard to make money? Why should you save money? The first money date is all about dreaming.

After you have your why in place, it is much more motivating to focus on the HOW. Your how is the subject of subsequent money dates. This is when you can start to break out those spreadsheets and talk about your budget. The budgets and spreadsheets are used to illustrate how you are going to retire early, how you are going to be able to purchase the car of your dreams in cash, or how you are going to be able to take nice vacations with your family.

Alright, so, if you are a financial nerd like me, go ahead and make some spreadsheets and get the ball rolling on figuring out your financial plan. Even if your partner does not want to be a part of the planning, it is crucial that they be included in creating your goals. When those goals are set and your partner is excited about them, I am sure that they will be willing to indulge in crunching a few numbers… especially if you pick up a bottle of Moscato.