By Liza Witonis
Couples tend to talk about just about everything on date nights, right? So, why not talk about “bread” when breaking bread?! Money is an important part of all relationships. With it, you buy an engagement ring, put a down payment on a house, take vacations and so on. Unfortunately, couples argue about money twice as much as they fight about sex, according to a “Money Magazine” survey. What if there was a way to talk about money with your partner and have fun while doing it?
Years ago, money was one of the last things that came up on date night. I wanted to talk about it, but my husband didn’t. We didn’t know where or how to even start with the topic. Every time I’d initiate a conversation about money ─ which was often and, yes, even on date night ─ he would go silent and stoic. It was not fun. And, at times, a date night buzz kill. Seeking security, I kept bringing it up… again and again. My attempts almost always erupted with an argument and tears. There was a time when we just stopped communicating about it altogether. Then, we purchased a house and we had to talk about money.
Fast-forward five years: We learned how to communicate about money and we did it with love. Going through our bucks battle, if you will, even made our relationship stronger and more intimate. We’re a better team and talk daily about money. We even giggle about it on our date nights (seriously… check please!).
Here’s how you can bank on unified money matters and have fun!
What You’ll Need
- 2 pens
- Paper or notebook
- 2 cookies
- Open mind 🙂
Share Your Story
Sharing your story, as it pertains to money, to allow your partner to understand where you’re coming from. Opening the communication around your money memories — good, bad or neutral — will provide your partner opportunities to offer understanding, love and support. Eventually, your story and your partner’s story will evolve into a new “our” story.
Start with your first money memory and how money was talked about or handled while growing up. Then move through the years until present day. This is a neutral way to communicate without projecting emotion toward each other or into the conversation.
Date Night Dough Factor: Think about songs that represent your money story. For example, “Bills, Bills, Bills” by Destiny’s Child or “She Works Hard for Her Money” by Donna Summers. Create a playlist that you can tune into together while getting in tune about moola. Maybe even dance it out to these songs as you discuss.
Value of Values
Once you’ve told your story, it’s time to dig deep into the things you want. Write down what is most important to you. What things bring meaning to your life? Your values? Be sure to honor what makes your heart and soul most happy. Then, discuss what your values are together as a couple and family. What do you value most? This allows each of you to see what are priorities and sets a joint foundation for your life together. This is a great place to come back to when you have larger purchases or when you are going through your budget. You can ask yourself ‘does this align with our values?’
Date Night Dough Factor: Pictionary! Draw out what is most important to you and have your partner guess what you are sketching. Round 2: When you have established collective values, throw them into a hat and pick one out… draw and guess again.
Team Up & Dream
Discuss what you truly want first financially in your joint life. Do you want to work toward building your first savings account, pay off debt or buy a house? Deciding together is empowering for both of you, and can build a shared understanding of accountability for contributions. Make a list of three to five goals you want to accomplish together within the next year or three years.
Date Night Dough Factor: Play Hangman. For each letter in the word or phrase of what you want, make a line. When your partner guesses a letter, write it in the appropriate spot or start building your stick figure for wrong guesses.
Plan for success with a budget. Aim to have your budgetary plan completed before the money has started coming in and, yes, done every month. This allows both of you to be intentional with your money. It gives your money a job in the sense that you are telling it where to go rather than it disappearing. Start with what both of your incomes are for the month (look how many times you get paid and add it together). Then list out your expenses (housing, groceries, pets, car and personal expenses, saving and tithing). Seeing what is left over will allow you room for the goals from above.
Here’s a clever budget item that’s impacted our date night: childcare swapping! My husband and I actually trade date night babysitting with another couple. We have them mapped out three months in advance. We set money aside for what we want to do for our date night, and then the other couple watches our children while we are out. And vice versa.
Date Night Dough Factor: Each of you picks a favorite number (if it’s a two-digit number you get two numbers). So, let’s say my favorite number is 24 — 2 and 4. Attach an action to the numbers. For example, “2” means a kiss and “4” means a hug. Every time these numbers come up in the budget, do the designated action.
Follow Through & Lean
Finally, lean on each other. Things look great on paper but following through with the plan you put in place in key. Set up 10-15 minute money talks before the week starts. My husband and I literally schedule it on our calendars AND we set the timer. When the timer goes off during our chat, we check in. We see if we have talked about what we wanted to and see each other’s emotional state. Then we extend the chat or discontinue depending on what is best. If the conversation is heated, sometimes it is best to take a break and come back to it in an hour or the next day.
Date Night Dough Factor: Make a list of your favorite ‘Minute to Win It’ games (the minute isn’t really the focus though). Here’s my favorite: Put a cookie on your forehead when you are beginning your weekly check-in. While talking about where you are winning and where you want support this week financially, work the cookie to your mouth without it falling off. Monetary betting chips… chocolate chips… a stretch but why not?
The ripple effects of this work can forever change your relationship. So cash in on a strengthen bond… by talking about cash!
Feature image credit: OneWed.com
Liza Witonis is a personal wealth coach for couples. She helps heal their money relationship and establish real wealth-building strategies to fulfill their lives. She loves spending time outside with her husband and toddler. She contributes to the Seacoast Mom’s Blog and others.