With our hectic lifestyles, many modern couples find that having a weekly or monthly date night is a good way to relax, check in with each other, and spend some undivided attention on their relationship.
It might sound strange to apply this principle to your ‘relationship’ with your checking account and stack of bills, but oddly enough, a lot of people say it helps them adjust the way they approach the dreaded task of spending time with their finances.
To see how it might work, let’s apply the principles of date nights to routine money tasks:
Something to Look Forward To
One of the things that makes date nights so special is the anticipation. When you’re having a rough week, there’s a bright spot on your calendar to look forward to — something that promises fun, comfort, relaxation, and company. If you’re single, you can still have a date night ritual — perhaps a bubble bath, piece of cheesecake, and an engaging novel you’ve been wanting to read.
Now apply this to your finances. What would it take to make you look forward to spending a little quality time going over financial goals and transactions? It looks a little different for every person. Some find it rewarding to put on a pair of sweatpants, dim the lights, pop some popcorn, and cue up the sports channel. Others might enjoy lighting a few candles, tuning up some favorite music, and sipping on glass of wine. What if you combined a few of these ‘favorite things’ with the task of balancing your budget? Would it make it more enjoyable and less tempting to put off?
Associating things you enjoy with something you dread is basically a psychological trick on yourself… but it works. Like the proverbial carrot, as long as we feel like a task will be rewarded, we’re more likely to do it without resistance or procrastination.
Fun That Helps You Focus
The purpose of date nights between couples isn’t to have fun doing things individually while sitting in the same room. You’d consider it rude if your significant other sat there scrolling through their smartphone or staring at the T.V., ignoring you during a time set aside for focusing on each other.
In the same way, your date nights with your finances shouldn’t be an excuse to vegetate and merely pretend like you’re spending quality time with them. Whatever you decide to include in your money date nights should help you focus. If the television distracts you, or the comfort of massage slippers makes you fall asleep, these might not be the most beneficial to include in your money dates. Choose fun, comforting things that increase your focus and interest in what you’re doing.
Keeping It Fresh, Checking In, and Goal-Setting
Some couples get stuck in a rut when it comes to date night activities. If it’s always a movie and dinner, for instance, they might cease to use the time to connect with each other and let other distractions creep in. It’s helpful to change things up a bit now and then. With your finances, this might mean a change of setting (taking your laptop outside, for instance) or the order you perform tasks.
During date nights, couples might also maintain a habit of reporting on the week or month in a fun way. This accomplishes the ‘task’ of communication, but with a playfulness that makes it easier to handle. Applying this to money dates could mean finding a creative and easy way to get a snapshot view of your finances — an interactive graphic, a colorful spreadsheet, or maybe an old-school cardboard cut-out with a thermometer gauge to mark your milestones.
Couples benefit most, perhaps, from using date nights to’ dream’ a little — to goal set in all areas of life. Don’t forget to include this in a money date night, too. Having financial goals and dreams can put that ‘spark’ back into your financial planning that’s been smoldering for years. Who knows — money date nights might teach you to love handling personal finances, after all.