Money Dates, Make Budgeting Fun, Physician Couples Go On Money Dates

Marriage and Money Dates: How to Improve Your Finance Drive

 

In this episode, I’m given the honor of talking to Elle Martinez, Creator and Host of Couple Money, about what it means to go on a money date. She’s helped a ton of couples hone in on their financial goals by breaking down enticing strategies to help them manage their finances and build wealth. She gives fantastic advice in this episode, so be sure to open your mind (and your relationship) to the information she shares on what a money date is and why financially frisky couples should care. And, most importantly, she answers the ripe old question, “What is a money date?”

Elle started Couple Money as a means to get out of debt and a way for her and her husband to work together towards financial independence. As a way to give back to others, she’s created a 4-week online course called “Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money.” I encourage you to take Elle’s advice. Build your marriage and wealth together by making money dates a priority in your relationship.

Learn more about Elle on her website.

Click here for a direct link to her course.

Buy her book, Jumpstart Your Marriage & Your Money: A 4-Week Guide to Building Wealth Together

It’s a must read!

 

 

What is a money date?

Bust out your spreadsheets and go on a money date! I’m kidding. I’m usually nerd-ing out on budgets and estate planning documents, but I’m not going to kill the money mood talking about that. Money dates are anything but drab, like what budgets are for some. They are a “fun and relaxed” way to connect with your partner on your finances and an opportunity to revisit what you both are working towards as a unit.

With money dates, the “actual looking at numbers” is about 10-15 mins. It’s an opportunity to check in with your partner about where you are financially. Money dates are meant to be fun. Check out the many ways they can be.

What You Will Learn:

  • Money dates for some couples work on a monthly rhythm.
  • Breaking out of your mental autopilot.
  • What is a money date?
  • Live life the way you want to by knowing your joint spending habits.
  • Review your financial goals as a couple on a yearly basis to keep the big picture in mind.
  • Initial money dates might be more about the finances.
  • Do a money coffee thing when you’re short on time.
  • Avoiding your finances can lead to blowing your budget—it happens.
  • Expense apps like Teller, Mint, and Personal Capital can keep your spending in check.
  • Identifying roles for financial oversight in your home is a place to start.
  • Start off with a win to keep discussions about finances positive.
  • Take the stress of the numbers out by talking about what really matters to you and your partner.
  • Some examples of money dates start with being excited about the location.
  • Take your partner to a baseball game to get out of the house for a date.
  • Tips and tricks for money date savings.
  • No need to feel like you’re constantly depriving yourself by gamifying your savings.
  • Try out meal planning to save you time, money, and mental capacity.

Don’t Forget to Add to Your Toolbox, Get Involved and Help. Here’s how:

If you enjoyed this episode, I’m sure you would enjoy reading this: How to Take the Anxiety and Stress Out of Budgeting

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Full Transcript – Marriage and Money Dates: How to Improve Your Finance Drive

Ryan

Alright. Elle, thank you so much for being on the show. I’m so excited that you’re here today.

Elle

I’m really excited too, Ryan. It’s always nice to chat with you.

Take Your Partner on a Money Date

Ryan

Oh, it’s always fun to nerd out and talk finance, but today we’re going to be talking mostly around the concept of a money date. And the financial planner in me is kind of sitting here and going hmmm. So, we’re going to sit around the dinner table. I’m going to bust out all my spreadsheets and I’m going to start paying bills and showing her what I do. Right? Is that how the money date works?

Elle

You better not, Ryan. I mean that is the easiest and fastest way to kill the conversation.

Ryan

Yeah. I already have a hard enough time for it.

Elle

Look, first of all, I love Andy from Marriage, Kids And Money; but he likes to call his budget parties. I’m like Andy, that’s not how you call them. It’s not fun.

Money Dates Aren’t About that Dreaded B-Word

Picture of couple reviewing finances

Ryan

Oh, the dreaded B-word. Oh, boy.

Elle

I know. Don’t put that in there. Money dates, basically, are a fun and relaxed way that the two of you can connect with your finances while going on a date. And, it’s not an oxymoron, I promise.

Ryan

Well, I mean, obviously I love talking money and numbers and everything, so the nerd side of me is like ‘yeah, this is cool. I get to go on a date,’ which is tough with a three-year-old and a one-year-old already. So, I get to go on a date and we get to talk about my favorite thing in the whole world. So, this sounds great to me. How is this going to sound great to my wife?

One Thing About Money Dates Is Going Over the Numbers in About 10-15 Minutes

Elle

Well, here’s the thing. With money dates, the actual looking over the numbers is probably ten to fifteen minutes, which I know the planner in you probably sounds counterintuitive, but that’s because the money dates are about checking in with each other. They’re allowing you to see what’s going on with the big picture…the goals that you created together, what are you working towards, and what’s not working and just adjusting it. I think too many times, couples approach when they go with the finances, it’s because, like ‘oh, my goodness, we’re dealing with a ton of debt; or we have this issue with the income and just trying to make it work and you jump into the numbers, I feel, too quickly and you don’t remind ourselves, like, what are we working towards?

Elle

So, a money date simply is, what are the things we’re trying to do this year and in a couple of years in the future, and then, down the line, the big goal? Maybe it’s retirement, financial independence by a certain day; and let’s knock this down and let’s make sure how we are spending is closer towards how we want to live our lives. So, this is why I call it a date, because, absolutely, Ryan, the tone is crucial to this. You want to be relaxed. You want to be in a good mood before you start talking about money and the finances. Now, I know you’re probably giddy. You probably have some spreadsheets all ready.

Elle

But, really, it is, again, having already had a conversation about this, I know you like to get into this, but money is simply a tool to take care of the necessary things and to get you closer to your dreams. And so, a money date should feel like that. It should feel like, you know what, we are working towards something. We are checking in with each other as a couple, first of all. With our relationship, what’s going on? Is there something we need to work on? And then, we can look at the numbers and then adjust month-to-month. Sometimes we just kind of go on autopilot and I get it. We have a six-year-old and a three-year-old. So, I totally hear where you’re coming from. It is all too easy to kind of push aside going on a date, first of all, any kind of date.

Take Care of What’s Necessary by Breaking Out of Your Mental Autopilot

Elle

But then, let’s be honest, like, with the budget, okay, we’ll wait ‘til next week. It’s just, it’s been a crazy week this week. And then next week, it’s a crazy week; and you’re kind of in a mental autopilot, but you’re not really going anywhere. And so, this is kind of a way to de-stress, refocus and then take care of what’s necessary.

Ryan

Yeah. I love that. So, a couple of things that you had said. I always look at it as like, time is your most precious resource. So, how you spend your time should be your number one; and I know residents are sitting here going huh, I wish I had more time and not sleeping every fourth night in the hospital and doing some of the terrible things that they’re having to go through. Right? But, it gets better. Right? As you become an attending and your schedule kind of relaxes, but if we’re looking at it in terms of timing, I have like; and I did a show with my wife about what we go through every year. Once a year, we go through our big goals and we ask each other a couple of questions, and we go through our answers to see if anything has changed and if it has, how has it changed?

Ryan

What path does that push us down now? And, I look at it on a yearly basis, because these are some really deep questions. And, for everyone listening, if you haven’t heard the episode with Taylor and I talking on our goals, I’ll put it in the show notes at financialresidency.com. So, just go check it there. The podcast is also listed there. So, you can read all about it and listen there. But, we do that once a year, because it’s kind of a real heavy conversation. How often do people do money dates? Like, do you kind of think of…how often do they do it and how deep does it go? Because I could see after a few months of, let’s say, once a month going, if nothing had changed and those big goals, usually, in a month or two. So, how deep do we go with the why? I think that’s what you’re saying. Right? Start with the why.

Elle

Yeah. And so, with the money dates, of course, every couple is going to be different, but we found the rhythm of a month works for us; and it works for a lot of couples and there are a few reasons. One is, even though, like you said, after a while, once you get that initial, like, okay, here’s what we’re working towards in general, here’s our spending, but the truth is it seems like every month something happens. Maybe you have a wedding to go to or a family trip to, you know, some family to visit, or maybe you have a project going on. So, most of the budget is the same, but there’s like one or two things that do affect your money. And if you don’t talk about it and just adjust ever so slightly, then it can snowball into okay, we’re overspending here because we’re still catching up from a few months ago. Or, if you notice you came up with a budget that isn’t realistic, reviewing it monthly saying hey, look, we tried three months in a row not eating out at all; it’s not going to work out for us. So, let’s come up with something more realistic where we’re enjoying ourselves now while still setting ourselves up for a better future.

Initial Money Dates Might Be More About the Finances

Couple money teaches couples to finance together

Elle

And so, it really is about going over your goals and it does get easier. I would say, honestly, the initial money dates are probably going to have more of the finances. Once you figure out what you want to do, and I think couples should always kind of have a couple of goals running around. You have the big picture one, but then, also, like, immediately what are we trying to do with debt? I know, you were mentioning to me with residency, that is a lot of pressure. I mean, you’re making what…like fifty or sixty thousand a year or something like that; and how many hours? I know it’s like insane hours.

Ryan

I will say in quotes sixty…wink, wink, but it is usually way more than that.

Elle

Yeah. So, I understand with the money dates, you’re going to have to tailor it for you, but I would say, especially when you are in the thick of things, it’s so easy to let the ball drop. We kind of had this phrase, like when we spend stuff. Right? We say “I deserve it. You know, I’m getting this because I deserve it” Well, you deserve having a plan that fits you and what matters to your family. So, a money date is an investment and a time to kind of take a break and make sure you’re still working towards that. And when you’re dealing with debt from school and everything, it seems like you have a whale to tackle.

Elle

And, it’s so much easier to just like, okay, next month we’ll talk about it…next month. No, you know what? It’s the first week of the month or it’s the last week of the month, so you can plan ahead. It’s time to go on our date. We’ll just sit down, we’ll plan for it. And really, nowadays, once you have it set up, it’s so much easier to kind of automate the payments and everything, so it’s not as stressful as you imagined, but you do have to get started with those first few steps.

Short on Time? Do a Money Coffee Thing

Ryan

And for those that are short on time, could this be like a money coffee kind of thing? Like, could it start small?

Elle

Absolutely. And listen, like I said, we have two small kids. So, there’s certain nights when they won’t go to bed; or there’s certain weeks where it’s just insane, but we know we have to talk. Look, a bottle of wine or, if you’re my husband, he likes scotch; once and a while, I’ll take some with him. We put the kids to bed and we go outside; and yes, it’s like 9:30, 10:00, whenever. We start the fire pit and we have our date there. And it doesn’t have to be long. It’s just to check in with each other, because that’s absolutely crucial. I’ve had, you know, when I interview couples and different circumstances and everything; I’ve had quite a few couples where things got so stressed out and they thought the other person was taking care of the money. It snowballed out of control. I had one husband, he was a very good husband in terms of he wanted to provide for his family, and the wife knew he was in debt, that they had some debt; but, because they kept putting it off, having the talk, it, just long story short, it was like a hundred thousand dollars.

Ryan

Whoa. Uh-oh.

Elle

Credit cards. We’re talking credit cards.

Ryan

Oh, no.

Don’t Blow Your Budget by Avoiding Your Finances

Money Dates, Couple Money, Elle Martinez

Elle

Yeah. You know, I don’t want it to be that drastic, but sometimes we keep thinking well, it’s not going to be a big deal. Well, it becomes a big deal and now you’re having a fight over money versus hey, we made a mistake, we screwed up here. A month, yeah could blow the budget, but it’s not going to ruin your finances. You know what I’m saying? It’s something smaller, something you could always adjust, and those money dates don’t have to take long at all. I mean, there’s different tools, whether you like spreadsheets, whether you like apps, or a mix of both that are out there that, basically, you can put it on your phone and you can look it over.

Ryan

Yeah. So, let’s jump really quick into that. So, what are maybe a few of the apps or software that you’re referencing here?

How Can Apps Like Teller, Mint, and Personal Capital Keep Your Spending in Check?

Elle

So, it depends on your style. I know every couple is kind of different with how on top of every expense they want to be. Like, some of us are naturally into the details. My husband’s a software developer, so he has this engineer mindset, so spreadsheets are great. You have Google Sheets. Also, something new that’s happened in the last couple of years is Teller, which I like because you can create and have complete flexibility with the spreadsheet, but it pulls in your bank transactions for you, for, I think it’s like five dollars a month. It makes it a breeze. And then, Personal Capital is also another one, where it kind of gives you that snapshot. And then, Mint, I think people visually like that, because you can kind of setup a little monthly goal that you want to track towards, like how much we’re putting towards a credit card; and it will also let you know in certain categories if you’re getting too high on spending.

Ryan

Yeah. And Personal Capital is a good one that I did use for a little bit and then when I ended up having some really great financial planning software, I kind of have, like, Personal Capital on steroids now, which is really neat for me. I know others can’t obviously take advantage of that, but Personal Capital is a good one. Mint, I used Mint, I think when it first started, like, a long, long, long time ago, I’m sure it’s improved.

Elle

I think we all did.

Ryan

I think I was the first one that was like, this is not that complicated. And if you’re a, kind of say, money nerd, you try everything and anything and want to see what it is and how it works. So, I feel like all of us, yeah, who all enjoy this type of thing ended up using that. Well, that’s neat. So, Elle, if I’m looking here and I say hey honey, I want to go on a money date or I’m trying to bring it up to her and she goes okay, or he says okay, like, kind of in a weird like what the heck are we talking about, but that’s cool and they agree to go on it. How does it start? When someone sits down and is like hey, I heard this on a podcast or I was looking at…and by the way everyone, Elle has an amazing podcast called Couple Money, and you guys need to check it out.

Elle

Oh, thank you.

Identifying Roles for Financial Oversight in Your Home Is a Place to Start

Ryan

Oh, no. I love it. I listen to it, because it helps me in how I communicate with my wife, honestly. And, you know, it’s tough, because I am in this all day, every day, and I look at it as very detailed and I want to get into the spreadsheets and I know my wife is significantly smarter than I am and that’s totally cool, but she does not want to talk about this stuff. Right? And actually, I see it a lot with clients that usually there’s one household CFO and the other person is like yep, you got it…I don’t care. And, more often than not, it’s the doctor that doesn’t care, and they really should, because they’re so busy and they’re wanting to take care of and help their patients, so they just say this spouse is going to take care of it. But, how do I sit down, or how would someone listening, sit down at the first time they’re about to have this meeting and how do they start it off so it doesn’t just go into like, and I was joking, but like we’re going to bust out our budget or balance sheet and I’m going to pay all our bills and show you what I’m doing? How do we start that?

Elle

So, first of all, put away the spreadsheets. Your first money date, actually, will not have any money mentioned. So, the person that is the go-to finance person, they’re going to have to just hold back, sit back, because the first money date really is about defining your goals. So, you don’t even have to call it a money date the first time. Say, I want to go on a date. Do you mind, I really want to kind of talk about what do we want to do in the next year or so. And just talk about your dreams. What are you trying to work towards? I think, sometimes you jump in like, let’s talk about money and the other spouse kind of feels like the hairs on the back of their neck like oh, what are we going to do now?

Ryan

What did I do wrong?

Start Off with a Win to Keep Discussions About Finances Positive

 Elle

Yeah. And so, for me, like we start off our money dates, and it’s not as formal as I make it sound; as you go along, you’ll kind of tweak it and it becomes so much more casual. But, you start off with a win, like, what has been going right with you guys. So, your first date, start off with like I’m really glad we’re sitting down; congrats, you’re doing the residency; we’ve worked hard for this and I know this is going to be crunch time. Or, after the residency, and they’re out, oh, okay, good. We’re finally, it’s going to pay off in terms of work and the schedule hopefully is a little bit better than residency. Start off with a positive and just say okay, for the rest of the year, where do we want to be at the end of this year?

Elle

You know, sometimes, I know, and this is the Personal Finance writer, podcast in me, like, we want to jump into like let’s plan out retirement, let’s plan out this. Kind of dial it back and go like what do we do by the end of the year and is there something we want to do in the next three to five years? So, at the end of the year, do you want to maybe knock down some of your debt? Maybe a particular credit card that’s been bothering you; or maybe you guys actually want to have like a cushion, where you feel like there is enough buffer, where you’re not stressed out with the bills; or is it something as simple as, you know, I’ve been grinding all this time with residency, I’d love to take a trip with you. You know, take a trip together, debt free, stress-free. How can we do that?

Elle

And so, when you’re starting off with a goal, you’re doing two things. One, you’re reminding yourself money is not the goal. Your goal is what kind of life do you want to design together? Money is the tool to get you there; but then, too, you kind of take the stress of the numbers out, not that the numbers themselves are, but for the first date you want to just sit down and talk about what really matters to us? What do we want to do together? And then, talk about why does that matter? Because sometimes when we talk about oh, I want to go on a vacation, I’m thinking for me, my vacation, I want to check out the sites, I want to go to the landmarks. It’s almost, don’t laugh Ryan, it’s like a research project. I get excited about that.

Take the Stress of The Numbers Out by Talking About What Really Matters to You and Your Partner

Elle

My husband is the person that says, I’d rather just sleep in bed ‘til lunchtime and then go to the bar, relax, do my thing. So, sitting there and establishing it, it just gets fun. And then at the end of the date, you say you know what, maybe next week, we can figure out where we are now so we can make this happen. And that’s when you start introducing the money. But, now you got them excited, because you’re both excited about this dream or this goal that you want to do versus okay, let’s look at this amount of debt we’re dealing with; let’s look at how much savings we don’t have. That’s very negative. You want to work together, and it gives a context with the numbers.

Ryan

Yeah, and you’re almost painting a vision of kind of what that ideal life looks like and I know I mention that a lot throughout the various shows because I really believe that it’s important to kind of cast your own vision of what does my ideal day look like? What does my ideal week look like? Heck, what does my ideal year look like? And, as you start to really write down these things and formulate these visions, if you will, it will give you excitement and vigor to go like yes, let’s go crush this and I want to, whatever it is, you know, travel to China and spend two weeks there; and whatever that trip looks like. Right? If that’s your thing. And then you figure out creative ways to not only pay for that, but then you’re like oh, we have debt and let’s put together a repayment plan for that. And it just kind of snowballs, if you will.

Ryan

So, I love it. So, if that’s how the first meeting looks, and obviously, every meeting will have some of that plus some finance component to it, have you found that there’s any location or do you have any other ideas or things that maybe we haven’t covered with respects to like example dates?

Some Examples of Money Dates Start with Being Excited About the Location

Elle

Oh, yeah. I mean, you can make it as low key or as out there as you want it. And something that I love that you said that it’s like planning a trip and you were excited about this. That’s the whole idea, Ryan. The idea is the goal that you have to know it’s the right goal, you guys are both excited about it and I kind of use an example of, think of this as you’re doing the epic trip of your life. Like, how excited would you be, your ideal location? Of course, you’re going to plan it out. You’re like, okay, I want to go here. Well, do I need to have money to fly there? Is it going to be a cruise? Or we going to drive there? What are we going to do? And then, you break it down, but that excitement is there.

Take Your Partner to a Baseball Game to Get Out of the House for a Date

Elle

You’re like, that is exactly what I want to do. I want to knock it out. And then you dig into the details. And so, you kind of want your location or some ideas. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be fun. It should be something that doesn’t bore you. It doesn’t have to be like a ton of out of pocket. Like, we live in Raleigh and Durham area. There’s a ton of universities and colleges here. A lot of great sweet spots that are cheap. You can go see college bands, you know. If you have Groupon deals. Something that I like to do is baseball games. Kind of going out there, watching the, not the major leagues, but the minor leagues. We have the Durham Bulls over here. Awesome spot, because there is a track of restaurants right by the ballpark.

Elle

Like, these are lowkey, fun ways; and mentally, just getting out of the house. I know in certain situations, you can’t, honestly, certain nights, you just don’t want to. You just want to stay in and relax, but that’s the idea. Can you kind of just get out of the day-to-day grind for a little bit and just focus on each other and focus on what you want to do together.

Ryan

Yeah. I have a more, kind of, structured process that I formally go through with clients, but I love this, kind of, on their own suggesting that they do something like this. I think it’s fascinating and I definitely want to bring this up with my wife and try to make this a little bit better and repair the damage I might have already caused by being like hey, let’s talk about this and boom, here are all our estate documents. She’s like, wait, what? Surprise!

Elle

Did you at least have some chocolate or, I mean, did you just present that, nothing else there?

Ryan

I just went right at it, Elle. I mean, no sugarcoating here.

Elle

No, like, no sushi, no pizza? Oh my goodness.

Ryan

I know, it was brutal.

Elle

She’s a wonderful wife.

Ryan

She is. She is. Right? You know, normally a happy wife, happy life. Well, she is not happy sometimes when I do that, but it’s okay. So, this will be…this is good. Right? Even for me to understand how to talk at the same level and not be super nerd on it.

Elle

Well, we’re always learning. We’re always growing. I’ve done the same thing. I mean, you know, I do…

Ryan

It’s tough to turn it off.

Elle

Yeah. And you get excited. Like oh, did you see that there’s this new savings app? And he like, what? No, no, no; don’t, don’t, don’t.

Ryan

I learned that a long time ago. Like, just keep it to myself.

Elle

Yeah.

Tips and Tricks for Money Date Savings

Ryan

Keep it to myself, unless it’s like honey, we’re switching banks and then it’s different; or hey, we’re going to track it this way. So, Elle, I go through this too, you know, I want to understand from their perspective, right, what is it that excites them, what is it that they want to do? Hopefully, their paths aren’t too different, so you can obviously merge them together; and if couples are listening to this and they’re going to go do this, that’s great. Now, they come out and they’re like okay, well we wanted to take this trip to China for two weeks. Do you have any tips or tricks for them on savings? You know, if this is what they’ve decided that they want to do…do you have anything that you can give to them?

Elle

Well, this was interesting, because, you know, we have our own personal experience, but I’ve been interviewing couples…some of them that have gotten out of a hundred thousand dollars in debt or retired in their thirties with kids, which is insane.

Ryan

That’s great.

Gamify Your Money Dates to Keep Your Spending Low

Elle

Yeah. And so, I’m always fascinated, like, how do you do this, because, honestly those are huge numbers. Whatever those particular goals are. How do you save that much? And a lot of it was gamifying it. Making it fun. It wasn’t okay, we have to save three hundred a month or save a hundred dollars here eating out. It was let’s do some kind of challenge. Let’s push ourselves for a month. I’m a big fan of monthly money challenge that couples can work together towards. I think that is absolutely helpful, because it kind of gets you into a nice competitive, I don’t know if you and your wife are like mean competitive, sometimes my husband and I do cross that line, we’ve gotten better; but it’s nice to kind of make this a competition where you guys are trying to find ways to save and get some big wins.

Elle

Something that I’ve done is twenty-dollar date night challenge. That saved us quite a bit of money and it was fun. We do it in the Summer, usually. It kind of brings us back to our college days. You know, we’re the fifty cent taco nights, because I think every town has them.

Ryan

Yeah, they have something or something equivalent to it. It might not be tacos, but something equivalent. It’s like, you know, a buck for a slice of pizza or something.

Elle

Yeah, yeah. And you go out there and the money that you save…boom, it goes towards that trip that you’re saving towards. Also, I’ve done the zero-day challenge, which is nice, because I think we’re all guilty of this, especially when you’re first kind of finding your rhythm together; is we think we know what we’re spending, but we’re usually spending more than we think. And so, with the zero-spending challenge, it’s not that you don’t spend anything, it’s just that you track every day okay, what do we spend money on? And, of course, the bills are going to be taken out, but what you realize is you know what, we go out a lot here; or we’re spending money on, you know, a lot of stuff on Amazon we don’t necessarily need, or whatever your, I call it latte factor, it’s not really, everyone has their own latte factor.

Ryan

It’s totally different. Yeah, some people are Starbucks and some people are other things.

Keep Expenses Low by Keeping Them in Mind

Elle

I’ve yet to meet someone with the avocado toast. I don’t know where this story’s coming from. I don’t know, but that’s the idea. Daily, what do you see? And then, you’re counting how many days you both spent zero. And then, you can actually do it individually, where you have, okay, there’s our money, which is the bills and everything we share; and then we have, like, my husband and I have small eat-out funds. And then, also, he likes to get tech stuff and I like to do travel, like weekend trips or some kind of daily getaway, social eating. Those little expenses individually, it’s a little competition, like, can I keep mine at zero today? Can I wait two weeks, so I can get zero here, so I can win? Yes, awesome.

Elle

So, make it a game. And there are so many different challenges out there. I saw one that was like how to save, I think it was like a thousand dollars in a month. It takes you, like, each day, there’s a certain thing that you do and you knock it out. I’ve had, I call it the five days to five-K challenge, which is, you make it a game, but for a week, you guys focus on okay, where are our big wins? And, you look at your expenses, one day, this way; one day, we’ll look at this section; the next day we’ll look like oh, is there something we can sell and plan for a yard sale in the next week or two? That keeps it fun. It doesn’t feel like oh my goodness, we’re forcing ourselves to be deprived for even longer. Because I know, that’s a lot of sacrifices, especially with residency; and as a physician, you’re naturally like giving everything. You do want to have some fun with it and you don’t want to feel like you’re constantly depriving yourself.

Cancel Subscriptions and Put That Same Amount into Your Savings

Elle

So, that was a huge key I noticed a lot of couples did; and then the other one was making it automatic. So, however, you decide to play the game or save, as soon as you do it, have it transferred or if you canceled a subscription, maybe it’s Birchbox or whatever, automatically have that same amount every month put into savings. And so, when we mentally start shifting that away, it takes the load off of you. You play the game, you have fun, and then the money is automatically sent towards your goal.

Ryan

I think that is genius. I’ve actually never thought of, even something stupid like Netflix at ten dollars a month. Right?

Elle

Yeah.

Ryan

If I’m already paying for it, and maybe this is a bad analogy, but if you’re already paying for it and you stop that; you’re already used to the ten dollars, why not just put the ten dollars into an investment? And here’s the thing, some listeners are like well, we make four hundred thousand dollars; I’m already going through training, ten dollars is nothing. Right? And someone in residency is like even ten dollars could be a big deal. Right? So, you’re five days to five K that you referenced, it’s five days to whatever is applicable to you. If you’re a residence, maybe it’s five days to five hundred. If you make four hundred thousand a year, maybe it’s five dates to ten-K.

Ryan

Adopt these principles and things that that Elle’s talking about here to your situation. I don’t want a resident sitting here going well, I’m never going to do the five days to five K while I’m in residency, like, I don’t even make five K a month. Right? So, adopt these things to kind of what you’re going on. Elle, it’s funny, because it reminds me of a story when my wife and I were in residency and you were saying kind of like your little eat-out funds and his tech stuff. We were joining finances for the first time and we had just got basically at the end of residency. We were getting married, but we had been engaged for a year and a half, been together though for like six years, seven years; actually, hold on, we were together, oh man, we were together like eight years…sorry honey.

Create a System Control Your Joint Spending and Saving

Ryan

As we started doing this, but it was like she was, you know, we were in college and then med school; and then when she came back off of residency, we were joining everything together at that time. I was kind of terrified. Right? I have no idea how she really is with money. I know that she asked me questions and things, and I know she doesn’t go out and buy expensive handbags or whatever it might be. I know she’s responsible, but still that first time, I didn’t know how it was going to go. So, I created a system and it was to kind of allow us to very easily understand how much money we could spend without going overboard or breaking the budget, so to speak. And we had it to where everything went into one joint account and that was all of our bills.

Ryan

Our rent, her student loan payments, everything kind of came out of there; and then groceries and all that. And then we had two separate joint accounts, but it was nicknamed like Ryan’s Fund and Taylor’s Fund. And every month, and I can’t remember exactly what the number was, but I want to say it was like two hundred dollars a month, because she was a residence and we weren’t making a ton of money, I think it was like two, two hundred and fifty bucks, would go into our respective accounts automatically. And then, if I wanted to go buy a tech gadget, right; or she wanted to go to whatever it is, she knew what she had in there and she could go spend it. That was a way for us to kind of bridge the gap and kind of merge the finances together in like a very safe kind of thing, and like restrictive a little bit, but it helped us kind of go through that.

Ryan

So, it’s funny that you guys have your own little squirrel away funds, it just reminded me of how we originally setup the structure of our joint accounts in the beginning and ultimately after about a year, it was very evident that she was kind of on the same page as I was in terms of spending and saving. It ended up working out. I always like, you know, that was a way for us to kind of foresave, especially if we were making more money. If we knew we could only spend what the agreed upon amount was in the beginning, that was a really easy trick for us to be able to save more while money was kind of tight at that time.

Develop Financial Habits and Build Your Relationship by Finding Ways to Coalesce Your Finances

Elle

Yeah. I think you hit on a big point…is what you’re trying to do no matter what stage you are with income and expenses, is you’re trying to develop financial habits, but then you’re also trying to build up your relationship. So, you’re going to find ways, now, say if you’re in residency now, yes, things are tight, but we got a system. It’s so much easier later, once you’re out and you’re making your money…don’t know the finances with that depending on your specialty. But you have a system in place, all it is, is a matter of tiering it up versus oh, we totally have to create this from scratch again. You don’t. You have the habits in place. You have a system. And yet, it’s going to adjust based on how things are going, but you guys have that established between the two of you.

Ryan

Yeah, personal finance is personal. Right?

Elle

Yes.

Ryan

So, that’s why I wanted to say what Elle’s referring to is make sure that you’re adopting it to what your situation is. If you’re a resident and you’ve got three kids and your spouse stays at home, whether it’s male or female does not matter, alright; if you have a stay-at-home spouse and three kids, it’s going to be hard to save. You are kind of at the point where it’s like the budget dates and the twenty-dollar dates and things really matter, the five dates to five-K is literally impossible. But if you’re an attending and you’ve been out for four years and you’re making three, four hundred thousand bucks; the twenty-dollar dates, you can still do those and those still will make a difference, because of your date’s lifestyle…probably your dates are a hundred, hundred and fifty dollars now when you go out. But the five days to five K might be five dates to ten-K.

Elle

Yeah.

Couples Should Build Stronger Financial Habits

Ryan

So, just make it personal and actually matter to you. Don’t do five dates to five hundred if you make three hundred thousand dollars. Like, that won’t make an impact. It wouldn’t make a big difference. So, Elle, you mentioned financial habits and I’m curious, what are some of the ways that, or some of the things that you’ve seen, for couples to build those stronger financial habits.

Elle

Well, I know this might sound weird, but sometimes it’s easier by discussing what you don’t want to do, but we’ve all done. First, we get like oh, it’s a matter of willpower. And so, by sheer willpower, we’re going to get out of debt. We’re going to save up a year’s expenses. We’re going to vest for our retirement and they’re trying to do everything at once. For couples, actually, for everybody…sit down and talk about what’s the most immediate thing we need to do. What’s that eighty-twenty win with our habits and tackle it one at a time. Something that I’ve noticed with a lot of couples is that they want to do all their goals at once; and I say why don’t we first of all, like we just discussed one of the first steps couples should have, is creating that roadmap. Where do you want to go? And then having a financial snapshot. Where are you now with your finances?

Create A Roadmap to Know Where You Want to Go and Where to Start

Elle

That applies to whether you’re residency or you’re out. You’ve got to know where you want to go and you’ve got to know where you’re going to start to build that roadmap. And then, you’re going to look at creating your spending plan. So, I think this is interesting because on my podcast I talk to couples at different income levels; some of them dual, some of them single, different situations. I have some people that work in Silicon Valley, IT, insane income; and then I have some people, they’re struggling, dual income, taking care of kids and they live in a very expensive city, like Las Angeles. You’re dealing with a lot of different situations, but some of the same foundational habits are absolutely crucial. So, take it one step at a time. Find out where you want to go.

Your Budget Has to Be Sustainable and Realistic as a Couple

Elle

If you are coming up with a budget, you’ve got to make sure that it is something sustainable and something that’s realistic for your situation. And sustainable, of course, is you’ve got to take care of the bills and everything and your goals. Realistic is, who are you guys as a couple? Where are you coming from personally? For some couples, they are both on the same page almost immediately. For others, one may be more of the big spender and one of them might be like, I wouldn’t call a hoarder, but they really are risk-adverse and they’re saving. That couple is going to have to work a lot harder to come up with a budget, but they have to respect each other with that.

 

Elle

I think that is a challenge, but it can be a fun challenge, because that’s where the strength of your marriage comes from, is that you guys have different personality types. When I talk about budgets for couples, I kind of even mention with the tools, it depends on the couple…what works for you and what doesn’t. So, when you come up with your spending plan and your budget, you have to make sure it reflects your goals and your personalities, where you are now. You can always change. I was definitely what you would call a spender. I was also investing and doing some other stuff, but I definitely, naturally, can spend, but I could also negotiate. And at the time, like when I met my husband in college, I was earning more. So, again, play to your strengths. Make sure you have these habits that are based on who you guys are and where you want to go, and then focus on one area at a time.

Place Your Financial Focus on Something Easy for Your Relationship and Build Upon That

 Elle

If you discover okay, we’re really good. We’ve found a great spot close to the hospital or wherever you’re working at, we got this, but our bills for eating out is ridiculous. Then just focus on that. You know, that intensity on one thing together, can make all the difference and then you can develop other habits. And then again, kind of going back to the savings, is when you develop a habit and you say you know what, this isn’t so bad, why don’t we automatically start saving? Or if you’re investing, put that towards investment and say if you learn that you know what, we’re doing really good. Eighty percent, we want to keep eighty percent at this level and we would feel comfortable, we’ll put that towards our goal…investing, travel, debt, whatever.

Elle

And then, the twenty percent is like a buffer to kind of give you some breathing room, to kind of give you some fun with that. So, to me, those financial habits are going to be more personal, but it’s, again, what are you guys working for, making sure you’re saving and making sure you have a system by default that’s moving closer to your goals.

Ryan

I think that’s amazing advice. So, in the show, I always…

Elle

We learn the hard way.

Fun Money Challenges, Tips, or Tricks to Start the Process

 Ryan

We all do. So, in the show I always ask the experts that I have on the show one or two questions that are more real life examples for the listener. So, the question I have today for you, Elle, is, let’s say that I’m a resident or my spouse is a resident, we have one child, maybe two years old, and we’re obviously still in residency, we’re making sixty thousand dollars a year; and we’re not going into credit card debt, but we’re having a hard time saving. What is, maybe, the one or two fun money challenges or trip tips or tricks that we could do to start that process.

Elle

Two that immediately jump to mind…my buddy, Liz from Frugal Woods, has this; she does it every January, but you can take it anytime, it’s the Uber Frugal Challenge. She does a great job with this, because it’s like a thirty-day, like once a day, you can look at this. This is something that we’ve kind of hit on with our conversation, not every tip will apply to you.; you know, our situations or circumstance, but within the thirty days, I would be surprised if you don’t find at least five tips that can help you save money. I think that is extremely helpful for couples. The next thing I would say, and this keeps coming up because I’ve seen this over and over again, and we’ve personally experienced it, is to try out meal planning.

Ryan

Interesting.

Elle

And I know, like, one of you are doing the kids, the other’s doing the residency, it sounds insane, but it will make your life easier. I’ve seen couples slash their food bill by a third and it saves time because they know that this week is what we’re going to have. When they go shopping, that’s what they get and they knock it out. It’s kind of like, you’ve heard…how many cities have there been where the very successful people, they’ve taken out certain decisions like what they’re going to wear that day, they kind of have a uniform, and it saves them a lot of stress, so they can focus on the big wins. That’s kind of the same thing with meal planning.

Elle

It’s not that you have the same meals every week, but you have tacos. Well, tacos can be beef, chicken, pork, veggie or however you want to do that, but you have a theme. And then, when you meal plan, it makes it so much easier because you’re not stressed. I work from home. I have my own business. I have my three-year-old with me and there are certain nights where I need something put together in fifteen minutes and it’s great knowing well, today I’m doing nachos.

Ryan

I want nachos.

Elle

You can make nachos. Okay, we have the quick nachos, which is the ground beef, but we also have a smoker, Ryan. So, if you’re ever in…

Ryan

Oh, look at you.

Elle

Yeah, if you’re ever in our part of the woods, my husband does an awesome roast pork; and it’s just smoked, and we pull it and nachos. That is intense. It’s awesome with a little bourbon on it.

Ryan

Besides meat though, do you guys meal plan?

Try Out Meal Planning to Save You Time and Money (and mental capacity)

Elle

We do. And people think oh my goodness, I couldn’t do it, it would be a spreadsheet and everything. But no, it’s kind of like we like stir fry and sometimes that’s going to be like a more Mediterranean kind of style and some of it’s going to be more Thai-style, because we love the flavors with that. We can do a curry. We do tacos and nachos. My husband is, if it’s grilled or smoked, those are his days, so he usually does the weekend cooking. But you see how you kind of have a theme and it doesn’t have to be complicated. So, I know during the week what I’m going to get. I shop about once a week.

Ryan

Yeah. I think that’s great. My wife does some meal planning, but not a lot; and I’m like the exact opposite, where I don’t meal plan at all. I walk into the grocery store and I’m like oh, I’ll do this; oh, I’ll do that and then my bill is like two hundred dollars and I’m like uh-oh, whoops. I’m like the world’s worst at a grocery store and I am the idiot that goes in hungry too. So, double-whammy of stupidity on my side.

Elle

I’ve done that. I mean, honestly, we’ve all done that. But we’ve seen some big savings. So, people think, oh my goodness, so you guys probably spend nothing on food. We are picky with our food. So, yes, we do shop at Aldi’s and our trips are like sixty to eighty bucks a week at Aldi’s, but we also have a weekly CSA delivery, which supplements. So, we get the organic stuff.

Ryan

Oh, that’s neat. Yeah, we used to do that in San Diego.

Elle

So, we get the organic stuff. Yeah, so we get like the fancy cheese and like oh my goodness, they have this honey fig…

Ryan

Nice veggies and all that.

Elle

Yeah. This honey fig, this goat cheese it’s incredible. You know, you get the cheddar bagels and homemade. So, yeah, we know where to save and then at the same time, we’re not going to sacrifice quality. We just found this system that works for use. And so, that’s what it’s about. Like with meal planning, there’s certain things I can’t get at Aldi’s. I’ll get it at Trader Joe’s. I know Trader Joe’s has it. So, you’ll develop a plan and it sounds like oh my goodness, this is a lot of work. Start off with step one, which is just plan out your meals for the week and it will save you time. I promise it will save you time and it will save you money.

Ryan

Alright, I think it will save mental capacity because I don’t know. You talk about like, everyone thinks that all of the people, all of us; we podcast, we blog, we talk all about finance. I’m a planner, like we don’t make any mistakes. I make plenty of mistakes. Elle, I know you make mistakes. We’re all human. My fatal thing and why I don’t go grocery shopping is because I’m an idiot when I go to the grocery store. And it pains me, because I’m like I know how much things cost and I know I don’t want to spend all that money on it, but then I’m like oh, that looks good and oh, the kids will love this and I’ll get something nice for Taylor and I’ll do this; and then my bill is two hundred dollars and I’m like how am I going to tell Taylor my bill is two hundred dollars? And she goes to the store and she spends half that with probably more food.

Ryan

So, in our house, I just know, it’s not because I don’t want to go do it; I just know it’s cheaper if she goes to the store instead of me. Well, Elle, thank you so much for being on the show. I know we kind of tangented off there in the last little bit, but I think it’s still really important for people to hear all about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. I’d love for you to tell everyone where they can hear your podcast, where they can read about the stuff you’re doing, some of the courses that you have out that are awesome. So, please let them know everything.

So, “What is a money date?”

Elle

Oh. Well, thank you. Wow. Well, you can find everything at Couple Money and to tell you, Ryan, the truth is, we started Couple Money because we needed it to get out of the debt, to work together towards financial independence. A lot of the videos I do, the courses I have are based off this idea…how do we take our marriage and our money in a direction together? So, I wrote a book last year, published it, Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money and I have a course that goes along with it, which kind of touches a lot of what we talked about today, which is okay, listen, I don’t have a lot of time, but we know that this is important, so how do we build from step zero? It’s a four-week guide to building your wealth together as a team. So, again, everything is at Couple Money and it’s been a blast talking with you. It always is. You’re so positive too and mellow.

Ryan

It’s always fun hanging out with you, of course. And I have read Elle’s book. She was nice enough to give me a copy and I read it on the plane coming to FinCon or back from FinCon, I can’t remember. It was a great book. I highly recommend it. I’ll put it in the show notes. I haven’t taken the course yet, but maybe I’ll twist her arm and get some access to check out the course. Elle, thank you so much for being on. It’s always a pleasure hanging out with you.

Elle

Awww. Same here, Ryan. I hope you guys have a great afternoon.

Ryan Inman