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.
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.
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.
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 tête-à-tête 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
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! 😉