Why Taking Yourself on a Financial Date is Essential
Dreading a deep dive into your financials? Make it a date.
March 11, 2022
Like a monster lurking under the bed, many people fear taking a peek at their finances.
Whether it’s from a weekend of spending that went out of control or ignoring your pocketbook for a few weeks, many of us associate checking on spending with fear and anxiety.
Financial anxiety is real, and taking yourself or your partner on a financial date is a great way to combat this issue. By turning money conversations into a positive experience, you may be able to stay on top of bills, start saving money and feel more confident about your financial future.
Why a date?
At first glance, dating and dollars don’t seem to have much in common. But that’s where positive reinforcement comes in.
Positive reinforcement is a basic concept in behavioral psychology that can help foster certain habits. For example, when you train a puppy, they’re likely to learn faster if you use treats as a motivator. If the puppy does something good, they get a treat, motivating them to continue that behavior. It’s the addition of something good rather than subtraction (sometimes called negative reinforcement).
Studies suggest that positive reinforcement can help foster better habits faster, resulting in more change over the long term.
So how does this translate into money conversations?
If you’re learning how to talk about money with your partner or taking a look at your spending, you may end up approaching the conversation with a sense of apprehension. You might even put it off altogether, possibly leading to missed credit card payments, overspending or additional financial stress. To eliminate or dampen those negative feelings, consider adding in positive reinforcement.
What can you do to make reviewing your spending more pleasant? This will look different for everyone, but a financial date could include:
Reviewing credit card statements over a good meal
Enjoying a coffee at your favorite cafe while checking off your financial to-dos
Lighting a candle with a relaxing fragrance before diving into budgeting spreadsheets
Treating yourself to a home pedicure after completing your financial tasks
Taking yourself to the movies, out for ice cream or another fun activity when you’re done
When you reward yourself with something you love during or after completing tough financial tasks, you’re creating that positive reinforcement. Using financial dates can help alleviate nerves around money and make it more likely that you’ll check up on spending again soon.
Setting up a solo financial date
Whether it starts with opening a favorite bottle of wine or ends with a trip to see the latest Marvel movie, here are a few steps you can take for a successful solo financial date.
Opening any untouched mail
If you have a stack of unopened bills and other financial mailers, now’s the time to rip off the Band-aid. Flip on your favorite album or Spotify playlist and start sorting. Create piles, including:
Trash (promotions, duplicate letters, etc.)
To pay (credit card bills, medical bills, etc.)
To revisit (401(k) statements, etc.)
The key with this step is to sort through and determine how much needs to be done. You may be surprised when much of the mail is promotional or duplicate.
Once things are sorted, take a break! You’ve already done something great.
With some of the scariest work out of the way, it’s time to look back on your spending from last month. Monitoring your monthly expenses can help reveal spending patterns and where you can cut unnecessary expenses.
Print out statements from the last month or import them all into a spreadsheet. From there, color code each transaction. Budget categories will vary, but could include:
Home expenses (mortgage/rent, utilities, home improvement)
Streaming or subscription services
With everything color-coded, some patterns may start to emerge. Are you overspending on dining out or streaming services you rarely use? Take note of these insights for the next step.
When you’ve completed this step, take a break.
If you have a budget, it’s time to check it against your spending habits from the last month. Have you blown certain categories out of the water or unspent in others? You might decide to rebalance your monthly spending categories.
Don’t have a budget? It’s time to set one up.
Depending on your goals and spending habits, consider one of the following budget strategies:
Budgeting isn’t one-size-fits-all, so try to find a method that works well for your needs and personality.
Finally, take a break before moving on.
Checking in on mid-and long-term financial goals
If you have short, mid-and long-term financial goals set up, take a few minutes to check in on your progress. If you’ve fallen short, it may be time to review these goals. Are they attainable? Can they be adjusted?
Don’t have any financial goals to set up? Consider these resources:
Believe it or not, the end is in sight! It may be time for another break or a treat.
Setting up next steps
With the financial date drawing to a close, it’s time to set up your next financial date. Timing will vary, but you may opt for a standing monthly date or decide on a quarterly appointment.
Regardless, put a reminder on your calendar and block off time for the next financial date. Consider what goals you may want to achieve before this date, as well as what you’d like to revisit (retirement allocations, health insurance, etc.).
Planning a financial date with your partner
Learning how to talk about money with your partner can be tricky. Both of you may come from different financial backgrounds and have varying degrees of comfort in having money conversations. But, similar to a solo financial date, duos can find smooth sailing through the often-challenging topic of money.
Here are a few ideas to consider when planning a money conversation with your significant other.
Make the timing work (for both of you)
An essential step in figuring out how to talk about money with your partner is understanding that timing is everything. Avoid broaching the topic of finances without proper notice — nobody likes to be blindsided.
Set a time and date that works for both of you, giving plenty of notice to collect finances and rest up before beginning.
Sharing finances can be very vulnerable, and when one of you feels shut down, you might take it personally. Understand that you and your partner probably have different beliefs and approaches to money.
Debt and low account balances can carry stigma and shame, but they’re common realities for many people. Make it a point to avoid any judgment between the two of you, ensuring you’ll continue to have healthy money conversations in the future.
Consider money and relationship goals
Money is often the means to achieving a goal, not the ultimate prize. Just like setting future follow-ups on solo financial dates, it’s important to talk through the money or relationship goals you hope to achieve together.
Perhaps it’s instituting “No Spend” days, where the two of you spend nothing but the day together. Maybe you both start saving for a future vacation by skipping the takeout for a month.
When setting goals, you can be each other’s support system — setting goals and achieving them together.
Doing date night right
Setting a formal financial date for yourself and your significant other can make examining your accounts seem a little less painful.
Turning it into a regular habit can help ease any lurking anxiety.
And using positive reinforcement throughout the process might even help you look forward to it.
If you’re tackling credit card debt, consider making a date with Tally†. Tally is a powerful personal finance tool offering a lower-interest line of credit that can help you pay off credit card debt quickly and efficiently.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. Based on your credit history, the APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% - 29.99% per year. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.