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Go On A Finance Date: It’s Sexier Than It Sounds.

  October 8

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Today, I’m really excited to be blog swapping with the very talented Mrs. Frugalwoods. She’s an anonymous blogger, which is why her head is chopped off in all the pics below (some cover-up for being a bad photographer, sheesh!) However, she is quite the excellent example in frugality. She will be retiring in three years at the ripe old age of 33, and she has a lot of great wisdom to offer all of us! Take it away…

I pulled back the curtain on my marriage in Behind the Scenes of a Happy Frugal Marriage and outlined (in more detail than any rational person would ever care to read) how Mr. Frugalwoods and I manage our household finances. But today, I’m thrilled to be here on Budget Blonde sharing how Mr. Frugalwoods and I keep the romance (and spreadsheets) alive through our recurring finance dates.

Hi! We're the headless Frugalwoods team!
Hi! We’re the headless Frugalwoods team!

Can you imagine a hotter date than one spent chatting up compounding interest with your lover? Don’t stop reading, I’m only joking (sort of…). Everyone heralds communication as the cornerstone of a loving, fulfilling relationship; however, it sounds so basic that it’s easily dismissed. After all, Mr. FW and I speak the same language and see each other’s face 900 times a day. So, aren’t we always communicating? Yeah sure, but the level of depth varies as does the intention we bring to each exchange.

Frugal Hound: was fine with 2 dinners
Frugal Hound: was fine with 2 dinners

We often multi-task and only half-listen to each other, which is fine when we’re discussing emptying the dishwasher or feeding Frugal Hound (we’ve only accidentally both fed her dinner once…. let me tell you, she was one fat and happy hound that night).

This quasi-presence is not OK, however, when broaching our finances. We don’t yell into the shower: “Hey Sugar-Muffin, I’m going to lease that car we sort of/not really talked about 6 months ago.” Nor do we blindside each other with finance sneak attacks: “Darling Sweet-Buns, I know the Joneses are coming over for dinner in 3 minutes, but real quick, it’s OK if I tell them we’ll go on that monthlong trip to the Bahamas together right?” No, fictitious scenario quote people, those things are not OK and those do not comprise detailed financial conversations with your partner.

Being on the same financial page as your partner is the #1, top, chief, primary, paramount way to achieve your financial goals. I 100% promise. How and why do I promise this? For one, you can’t hold me accountable because I’m just some frugal weirdo on the internet, and for two, fighting over money is the top predictor of divorce (source: Kansas State University). And divorce is, sadly, often finance-shattering.

Mr. & Mrs. FW in Kauai
Mr. & Mrs. FW in Kauai

So how do you sincerely communicate about this beast of all topics? Mr. Frugalwoods and I employ a strategy of finance dates. While we have ad-hoc money chats at random junctures in our lives (on mountaintops, in Costco, at other people’s weddings), our most pivotal financial decisions are made during these dates.

What, you may be asking, is a finance date? A finance date is dedicated, concerted tΓͺte-Γ -tΓͺte about your finances with your partner. Both parties should be informed in advance and feel prepared to discuss all things money. You don’t want to spring one of these babies on your partner. Since communication is the linchpin of a finance dates, it’s key to agree on the plan at the outset.

Over the course of our 10-year relationship (and 6 years of marriage), finance dates are how Mr. Frugalwoods and I:

1) Decided to pursue financial independence and devised our plan to retire in three years at age 33.

2) Concocted our ultimate goal of buying a rural homestead.

3) Asserted our objective, implemented our tactics, and achieved saving 65%-85% of our income every single month.

4) Dreamed up Frugalwoods.

5) Realized we had a dried fruit eating obsession and scaled back our purchases in that arena.

Once you’ve both agreed to have a finance date, it’s time to get prepared!

Finance Date Prep:

  • I know I just said this, but it bears repeating: the finance date plan should be established in advance so that no one feels blindsided or attacked.
  • Agree to create a respectful, judgement-free zone. This is not a time to penalize, call out, or otherwise hassle each other over past fiscal transgressions. It’s all about moving forward and setting goals.
  • Decide if you’d like to achieve a concrete outcome in advance (such as: devise a strategy to keep the grocery/food budget under $300 next month). I don’t think a goal is always necessary–you can have a thorough, deep conversation without creating a stone tablet of action items.
  • Select a venue. Since we’re frugal weirdos who rarely ever go out to eat, we have these dates at home. Pro tip: we always serve food. Sometimes it’s coffee in the afternoon with a nip of homemade banana bread. Other times, it’s over dinner and boxed wine.
  • Be fancy. We take the “date” part of this seriously and have been known to light candles and even shower beforehand. Brushing one’s beard never hurt either.
Brush that beard, Mr. FW!
Brush that beard, Mr. FW!
  • Bring your stated goals (if applicable) and any back-up materials (last month’s spending, net worth spreadsheets, greyhound costume budget). Have a notepad to jot down key findings or agreed-upon next steps.

Now we’re ready to go on our date (well, not me and you per se, but you and your lover). If you’re aiming to reach a specific goal (like reducing your grocery budget), you might want to pull out your receipts and simply assess spending.

On the Franconia Ridge summit
Mr. & Mrs. FW on the Franconia Ridge summit

If you want to generally talk about money, or explore some of your deeply rooted financial challenges or sources of tension, try the below framework, which Mr. FW and I often employ.

Finance Date Conversation Guide:

  1. Recap. Review how things have been going since your last finance date. If this is your first date (woo hoo!), consider the past week or month. Analyze arguments and conflicts as well as successes.
  2. Individual check-in. Take turns sharing your feelings about your finances. This is a time for purely individual reflection. No attacking of the other person!
  3. Praise and thanks. Not a joke, ya’ll. Things might’ve gotten heated during #1 and #2, so take a moment to voice gratitude for something your partner has done. For example: “I appreciate that you didn’t buy that ____ (guinea pig, yacht, ham sandwich) last week. I know you wanted it and I think it demonstrates your awesome self-restraint and focus on our larger ambitions.”
  4. Hot topics! Now we’re back in the danger zone. This is the time to really dig deep. Right about now you’ll be glad you’re eating and that you both agreed to this one-on-one in advance. Pour more wine, take another bite of escargot, and don’t baulk. Breathe and do as follows:
    • Address any serious financial issues. Let your partner know that you’re not OK with how much they’re spending at Starbucks every month. Be forthright that you think $300 on golf every weekend is not a sound plan for your long-term financial stability.
    • Explore the root of each of these issues. Why is your partner so resistant to investing? What’s really holding you back from a higher savings rate?
    • Use active listening phrases such as: “I understand that you feel ____ .” “I observe that you ____ .” And MOST importantly: “How can I be helpful to you in achieving this goal of ____ ?”
    • Write down your agreed-upon next steps.
  5. Three wishes. Take turns articulating your “three wishes” for the future. This is a fun bridge into talking about how to get on track financially to achieve these dreams.
Mr. & Mrs. FW
Mr. & Mrs. FW in San Diego

This framework enables Mr. Frugalwoods and me to keep the dialogue topical and prevents us from getting snarled up in the tough stuff. If it helps, set a time limit for each section of the discussion. Additionally, as you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t the type of date you can only go on once. Put a finance date into your rotation of date nights on a regular basis.

Mr. FW and I find that when you establish shared goals, frugality is less about sacrifice and more about making exciting progress together towards those mutual goals. At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about my friends: a shared vision of what you want your life together to look like.

Now, get out there and ask your partner out (or in) on a finance date! Have you been on a finance date before?

 

Pst, Cat here – After you’re finished thanking Mrs. FW for her awesome post, don’t forget to hop over to Frugalwoods to see my post over there! πŸ˜‰

Today, I'm thrilled to be here on Budget Blonde sharing how Mr. Frugalwoods and I keep the romance (and spreadsheets) alive through our recurring finance dates. http://catherinealford.com/2014/10/08/a-finance-date/

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56 responses to “Go On A Finance Date: It’s Sexier Than It Sounds.

  1. I think having honest and meaningful dialogue about finances on a regular basis is super important. Our discussions are usually on the weekend and we’ll typically sit down at the computer and look at Quicken. We’ll look at our budget, retirement and debt. Then we’ll discuss what we’d like to achieve over the next week/month/year. It works pretty well for us!

    1. That sounds like a perfect system, Liz! Our conversations are usually on the weekends too. It’s important to have the time and mental capacity to really dig in and discuss everything as comprehensively as you want.

  2. I and my wife have been married for three years. There are times that we have conflicts and argument about finances, that are inevitable. However, what are we proud of is that we made a board that illustrates our goals and plans placed in our room to remind us steadfastly. It implies that we should end up with mutual understanding. I think every couple should have one because it works.

  3. We have a finance date every month after I write up our monthly zero-sum budget. And let me tell you- it’s HOT! All kidding aside, I do think our “meeting” is good for us and very productive. It keeps us on the same page.

    1. Haha, I bet your dates are HOT! So are ours, there’s just nothing like looking at Mint with your honey :). I’m not surprised to hear you have a finance date every month–I bet it’s a commonality with most financially astute couples.

  4. Our grand scheme finance dates are always walks, usually along the beach at sunset. Without distractions we can really focus on what we want and how we’re going to go about achieving it together. Then I usually have to follow-up with some Excel modeling to make sure the ideas are realistic, so we sometimes have a quick check-in if Mr PoP wants to see the Excel, too… but they’re not the same as the beach walks. Those are focused in a way that’s hard to find at other times.

    1. Yes! Sounds perfect. We’ve had the same experience on hikes–really revelatory conversations about the general direction of our lives, etc. There’s definitely something about distraction-free nature walking that fosters expansive thinking. And then, Mr. FW hits the excel models pretty hard too :).

  5. It’s so true that we quasi-listen to each other on a day-to-day basis. At least you doubly fed Frugal Hound rather than neither of you feeding her! We are working on getting more on the same page, and it’s getting better. It just takes time. Thanks for the tips Mrs FW.

    1. I know, poor Frugal Hound! Best part is that she just scarfed both dinners without a second thought. And, agreed, it absolutely takes time to align goals with a partner. It’s an ongoing evolution for us and a constant process/project. As long as you’re communicating about it, you’re golden.

  6. This is a great idea. Our wish is always beach house or cabin in the mountains. We talk about it and then laugh knowing we’ll never do either one because we’d rather have the money to retire early and put our daughter through college than purchase another property. We love talking about finances in our house because we are on the exact same page and we love to watch our money grow. It took a while to get my wife to invest a part of our money outside of banks and credit unions, but now she loves that part and has taken the lead. Finances can be a major issue and they can also unite.

    1. I think you’re absolutely right that finances can bring you closer in your relationship. There’s something truly amazing about watching what you’ve built together grow and seeing your dreams come to fruition.

  7. Great idea for a date night! And I would argue that if you don’t think you could have a finance date, then maybe your marriage or relationship has some challenges. I see couples ALL the time who never talk about money or only talk about it with me present and I think that is extremely unhealthy. If you can’t fully expose yourself to the person you love, then you need to start questioning your relationship.

  8. In a similar way, my boyfriend and I sit down every Saturday or Sunday and talk about our budgets, money, and our plans for the week. It’s a great way to check in with each other. I lay out how we do it in my 14 step guide – How To Talk About Money With Your Hubby. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one intentionally discussing money with my significant other!

  9. I have suggested these to Mr. FP without success. He is not super-into talking about money (sigh) and if I suggest setting a time, he’ll generally just want me to tell him REALLY QUICKLY RIGHT THAT MINUTE what I want to talk about. (This is also how he was informed about our second child. “Can we talk later?” “Just tell me what you want to talk about.” “Umm…”) It doesn’t help that after the kids are sleeping, when we can actually talk to each other, we are generally pretty exhausted!

    I’ll keep working on it. Maybe if I promise to make pie?

  10. “Hey honey, I’m gonna lease this car, ok?” haha, I can picture it.

    Love the idea of your finance dates. I definitely talk “shop” with my bf. In fact, I revealed on date one my affinity for money chatting. But now, it’s all still fairly informal. We only chat about it when it comes up organically, which these days, thanks to the biz, is a lot. If our relationship does move forward though, I think we’ll have to buckle down and do a full on finance date!

  11. Love the concept of a finance date! In my opinion, communication is the biggest key to creating a healthy financial environment within a marriage. And as guys we should know by now that women love to talk so the more we do that the more intimate the relationship becomes.

    One question…at what restaurant will this date take place at? Cheapo street or upscale dining? πŸ™‚

  12. We call them coffee dates, but same thing. My wife doesn’t love talking about money and budgets like I do, but get her a nice fancy latte and pastry and she can make it a full hour. It’s well worth the $5-$7 each month, every once in a while I even can get her to have the coffee date at home! I sent her the link, I’m curious her thoughts, like my coffee date, she might just think it’s crazy;)

    1. I’m curious to hear your wife’s thoughts too! Hopefully she doesn’t hate me now :). Your latte & pastry strategy sounds pretty good–whatever you have to do to get her to have the conversation!

  13. I like your approach to add positive and negative. I think that might be why couple don’t like to talk about money more, the fear of being yelled at for buying the guinea pig. If you know it’s not all going to be negative, I think you’re more likely to sit down and have the conversation. Of course, wine doesn’t hurt either!

    1. Haha–the guinea pig :)!!! I’m a huge proponent of layering the positives and the negatives. I think it’s important to celebrate each other’s accomplishments while also focusing on what you can improve on for the future. And, you are so right, wine is a good choice πŸ™‚

  14. You guys are such nerds. πŸ™‚ I love the idea, and think we’ll give it a shot. Mrs. DB40 and I often feel a little odd or tense talking about certain financial matters, even though we’re both finance oriented. I remember Jason Hull writing about the fact that there’s a negative emotional reaction we get whenever we talk finances, and he recommended sitting close to one another when doing so. Your date idea is a great way to illustrate the same point.

    1. We are epic nerds. Personal finance is but one of our nerd-related outlets :). You’re so right–for some reason, anything related to money is preconceived as fraught when it doesn’t necessary have to be. If you two do go on a finance date, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m always curious to know how others approach it.

  15. We have a monthly date to discuss our spending and budget for the following month. We are pretty in sync at this point when it comes to our finances because we both want our relationship to thrive and that includes how we handle our money.

  16. Love this, Mrs. Frugalwoods! I agree communication between partners is so critical. Too many couples “think” they are communicating but they are not. Finance dates are definitely a way to keep communication ongoing and give clarity as to where your money is going. Even though it shouldn’t surprise me at this point in my career, it still dismays every time I meet with a couple who don’t have shared goals. They think they do but they have never really sat down and discussed them. Often time they are even inadvertently sabatoging them, which you can imagine doesn’t help strengthen their marriage.

    1. I think your goals comment is a great point–it’s not so much about money as it is goals. And if you’re not sharing your goals with your partner, you really need to sit down and earnestly talk!

  17. Sounds like a great idea. Can’t think of a better way to weave communication and financial health into one convenient package.

  18. Mr. Frugal Farmer and I are on the same page about money, but he absolutely HATES talking about it!! No finance dates for me, I’m sad to say. This is why I love my PF blogging peeps so much. Gotta have somebody to share my love of all things PF with. πŸ™‚

  19. Hi,

    I am curious to know how long your goal of FI has been? You two have been together for 10 years and has this always been a goal or is it something that came about later. Retiring in your 30s is extremely rare and something I was made aware with MMM and other bloggers (mostly male I must add). Either way I am grateful to have across your blog (thanks to Debt Debs). I have similar goals but I am 32 and nowhere close and I am female but no better time to start then now I guess. I really like how you mentioned you guys take finance dates so seriously you shower before hand. Thanks.

  20. We don’t have finance dates specifically, mostly because I can’t seem to shut up about budgets and our spending. I’m a tad obsessed, and the boyfriend does not have the same level of excitement as I do when it comes to such things. However, it eventually comes up on walks together (we discuss a lot of career-related things then as well), I make sure to show him our monthly budgets, and we always check in if we want to make plans to purchase anything.

  21. We usually have our Finance talks on Champagne Fridays in the tub. It’s not a weekly occurrence but maybe monthly. Does that count? I should bring a list though so I can review your points to make sure we cover all topics, even if the paper may get a bit soggy!

  22. I love this idea. For the most part my wife and I are on the same page, but every now and then I’ll notice that we are spending more money than is normal for us. This is a great way to discuss it.

    I’m going to ask my wife out on a finance date tonight!

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