Why 'romantic' money dates can help couples talk about their finances

Money discussions can be difficult at the best of times but scheduling regular sessions with your partner can help you set financial goals together

Before having a financial conversation with your partner, it is important that you both understand your money values. Getty Images
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For some people, talking about money is as pleasurable a way to spend time together as going for a long walk on the beach.

“I am a money nerd, so to me, talking about money is super fun, and I’ve paired up with someone who is the same,” says Kate Fries, a certified financial planner and financial adviser at The Family Firm in Maryland, in the US. “For us, talking about money is the same thing as talking about dreams. Where do we want to go, what do we want to build? It’s a fun conversation.”

But not everyone looks forward to money discussions. Finances can be a significant source of stress in a relationship. As Valentine’s Day approaches, here are some ways to make talking about money with your partner more enjoyable or at least less painful — and possibly even romantic.

First, consider your own money values

Before initiating a conversation about money with your partner, Eugenie George, a financial wellness expert based in Philadelphia, suggests taking time to reflect on your own money values. In other words, what do you want to prioritise when it comes to spending and saving? Answers could include community, adventure and fun, she says.

“You need to figure out yourself first,” Ms George says.

Schedule recurring money dates

Start a money conversation with your partner by asking about their values, which allows you to find common ground even if those values aren’t identical, Ms George says. “If your values aren’t lining up, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. You could be complementing each other,” she says.

In Ms George’s case, her partner prefers spending on family experiences, like a good meal, while she likes spending more on larger group activities, such as parties. Once they understood and accepted their differences, she says it was easier to move forward and find shared goals, too.

You could also try having a money date with your partner at least quarterly to check in and review recent spending patterns and goals, Ms Frie says.

“Make sure everyone’s tanks are full. You’ve slept and eaten, so you are coming with your best resources available. Maybe a cup of tea … and a candle, so you are associating positive things” with the ritual, Ms Fries says.

Practise empathy

As those conversations progress, it’s common to uncover conflicts or sources of tension, says Ed Coambs, a certified financial planner and couples therapist in North Carolina.

“One way to avoid that is to acknowledge it,” he says. “Say, ‘Honey, money conversations have been difficult for us’.”

Then, try to listen and open up the conversation with statements and questions that help you better understand where your partner is coming from.

For example, if you are concerned about your partner’s spending patterns, you could start by saying, “I am feeling anxious and want to talk about our spending” instead of, “You’re spending too much and you’re making me anxious”.

A similar approach can work when tackling difficult subjects such as paying off debt or making cuts in your budget.

“You see how hard you work for every dollar, but you don’t see how your partner does. Try to extend them the same empathy that you give yourself, even if how they handle feeling sad or happy doesn’t make sense to you,” says Gaby Dunn, author and host of the podcast Bad with Money.

Focus on goals, then the logistics

Use your money dates to share your goals and make the conversation fun, Ms Fries says.

“‘Oh, you want to go to Paris? How can we make that happen in the next two years?’ Now that’s an exciting conversation,” she says.

Quote
If your values aren’t lining up, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. You could be complementing each other
Eugenie George, financial wellness expert

It’s also important to get a clear idea of your current financial situation, including an overview of your net worth, with how much you have in each account and how much you owe on any outstanding loans, Ms Fries says.

Then you can give yourself smaller tasks to complete before the next money date, such as making a budget or reviewing your retirement savings. Whether or not you commingle your finances, your actions still can affect the other person’s money if you’re sharing a home and other assets or debts.

Give each other flexibility

Maintaining flexibility within the goals and budget you share can increase your chances of success, according to Ms Fries. For example, you might not want to spend $200 a month on golf, but your partner does.

“Each person can have a bucket to spend however they want,” she says, adding that it can help to reduce conflicts over day-to-day spending.

Beware of these warning signs

Some money conflicts might require the help of a relationship counsellor or financial planner, or even signal that the relationship is not meant to be.

Certain red flags, such as controlling what you purchase, making comments about what you bought or value and even “love bombing”- showering someone with gifts as a way of buying affection — could suggest deeper problems, Ms Dunn says.

Updated: February 09, 2022, 4:00 AM
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