Couples Embrace the Least Romantic Date Ever: The Money Date - Kanebridge News
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Couples Embrace the Least Romantic Date Ever: The Money Date

The case for making financial plans over candlelit dinners

Mon, Sep 18, 2023 10:12amGrey Clock 4 min

To set the mood for poring over budgets and savings goals, Tierra Bates and her husband, Gregory, get dressed to the nines and head to dinner at a fancy steakhouse.

“We’re discussing things, but we’re celebrating at the same time,” said Bates, a school therapist and real-estate agent in Shelby, N.C. “Treating ourselves while still talking about the goals we have in mind.”

This mix of romance and finance has been dubbed a money date by financial advisers and others in the business of building wealth. The idea is to carve out time for the sort of conversations couples often dread by making it an event to look forward to.

Advisers and relationship counsellors say couples who go on regular money dates can better manage their spending, saving and investing. Since disagreements over money can strain marriages, having regular open discussions about financial decisions in a fun and intimate way can help address any troubles before they become a source of resentment.

“I have even suggested to clients, ‘Have the money date in your sexy clothes,’” said Christine Luken, a financial coach based in Cincinnati. “Just go ahead and have it naked—as long as you get the money stuff done.”

Bates and her husband plan money dates throughout the year. In January they set goals for the year, then they set up shorter quarterly follow-ups, as well as brief monthly check-ins for short-term concerns and week-to-week budgeting.

At their August check-in, Bates and her husband visited a local food hall and hired a babysitter to keep the focus on the big conversation: the Bates’s back-to-school budget.

Talking about something as stressful as the school year can bring up a lot of emotions, Bates said, but the money date gives them a specific time to work through everything together. Plus, doing it with good food and adults-only time makes it more enjoyable.

The art and science of the money date

Turning financial planning into a date might sound like a mismatch, but science backs up the premise. It is a form of temptation bundling, pairing a less exciting task with a more exciting reward, that research suggests can actually help people change their habits, said Scott Rick, associate professor of marketing at the University of Michigan.

“Pair the want with the should in order to entice you to do the should,” he said. “Get each other money date presents. Open the nice bottle of wine. Say, ‘This is the night we order in from the best restaurant in town.’”

You might have to spend money to make better money decisions, as counterintuitive as that might seem. As Adam Kol, a financial therapist based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., likes to remind his clients: “You don’t get bonus points for having a money date if you’re sitting in a dark room and you’re in a miserable mood.”

Box-office receipts

When Megan and Bronson Allen got married in 2019, the Chicago-based couple pooled their finances. They also set up a regular recurring calendar invite that prompted them to sit down together to go over savings, investments and personal-account expenditures.

Megan will pop a big bowl of popcorn and project their laptop onto the TV screen so they can review the money-date agenda items almost “more like a game or a movie that’s playing,” Bronson said.

They have taken their laptops to a coffee shop and cozied up while reviewing coming travel and other big purchases. They also tried a double money date with Megan’s brother and his wife.

“It’s about finding ways to make them kind of lighthearted, like a date and not like a chore,” said Bronson, a 33-year-old software designer.

Their money dates can take several forms, Megan, a 28-year-old product designer, said. Sometimes they look at the calendar and plan travel spending for the month. Or they look back at the previous month’s budget and compare it to the bank statement.

Then there are pitch days, when one of them makes the case for an especially big purchase or financial goal. On a recent money date, Bronson made the case to take some money from their shared account to invest in a new road bike for his triathlon training, laying out his plans as he and Megan mixed drinks.

“I’ve been running the numbers, and this is what I’m thinking, and this is the account it would come from,’” he told her.

They landed on a compromise: Bronson would sell his old bike to invest in the newer one.

Making a first money date

For couples looking to set up their first-ever money date, Kol recommends reviewing the most recent credit-card statement as a duo. When both partners are looking at the transaction history, they are better able to get on the same page about what needs to be done about recurring subscriptions or spendthrift tendencies.

“It doesn’t have to be ‘I can’t believe you spent this, we need to cut this,’ but instead ‘Let’s make sure nothing weird is going on here. Let’s make sure our kid isn’t charging $700 to Candy Crush,’” he said.

From there, you can build onto your money dates and introduce different themes or topics to organise them. For example, maybe one month you and your partner review your respective student-loan payment plans, and the next you could price out travel options for a coming vacation.

“Having that monthly touchpoint allows you to feel like ‘OK, if I have a concern, it’s not going to go on indefinitely. I’ll have a chance to talk to them, I don’t have to confront them,’” Kol said.


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Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, and graduations are momentous life occasions that some like to mark with large and elaborate celebrations.

And the deep-pocketed set are still in catch-up mode after a party-throwing standstill during the pandemic that went on for many months during the height of the lockdowns and social distancing. Bashes since then have become ever more extravagant and experiential—mere get-togethers, they’re not.

Hosts are also seeking any excuse to throw an event and having parties with the same “wow” factor for far less significant reasons, or for micro-occasions as they’re called, and even “just because,” according to luxury event planners who work with this elite set.

Colin Cowie, a planner based in New York and Miami who regularly orchestrates multimillion-dollar gatherings and was behind Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s wedding, calls it the “event revolution.”

“Large-scale events have become the norm,” Cowie says. “The wealthy, who are used to celebrating their life moments in a big way couldn’t do anything during the pandemic and are now going all out for anything they host.”

His company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle, plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid and has a lineup booked for the next two years. An example includes an upcoming million-dollar dinner party in the Hamptons simply to socialise with friends. It’s an affair with free-flowing Dom Perignon, centre-cut filet mignons, and unlimited caviar.

Colin Cowie Lifestyle plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid
Calen Rose

Other high-end planners also attribute the rise of over-the-top celebrations to a “live life to the fullest” attitude that’s become prevalent in the last few years. But they say that these parties aren’t necessarily about spending more than before—rather, they’re increasingly creative, thoughtful, and, with respect to weddings, longer.

Lynn Easton, a Charleston-based planner, says that her typical wedding used to span two days and entailed a rehearsal dinner plus the wedding itself. “Now, it’s a five-day bonanza with events like a groomsman lunch,” Easton says.

Easton also plans glitzy milestone birthdays such as one for a 60th where the host flew 60 friends and family to a private island. Dinners were multi-hour affairs in various locations around the isle with the showpiece being a five-course meal where the food was presented on dishes that were hand-carved in ice.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, based in New York and Miami, says that, in a new precedent, the weddings she’s tapped to design kick off with striking welcome meals. She recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden. Elements included potted herbs, lemon trees, vintage olive oil cans, ceramic plates, and table cards presented with palm leaves in limoncello cans.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden.
Aletiza Photo

Pashmina shawls hung from chairs to keep guests warm, and freshly baked pizzas and Aperol spritzes were in ready supply throughout the evening.

Stacy Teckin, the groom’s mother, hosted the party with her husband, Ian, and says she sought to pull off a dinner that made an impression on their guests. “The wedding was delayed because of Covid, and now that we had the chance to celebrate, we wanted to go all out,” Teckin says. “I’m not sure we would have done that before.”

In another example, acclaimed planner Norma Cohen threw a wild safari-themed bar mitzvah for a client.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon
Norma Cohen Productions

The memorable occasion transpired at Spring Studios in downtown Manhattan and saw 400 guests be transported to the African plains: Details included mammoth replicas of wildlife such as giraffes and elephants, servers in safari themed attire, and entertainment dressed like giraffes. The event was one of several over-the-top parties Cohen’s arranged recently.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, also ranks high in Cohen’s memory.

Then there’s a destination party in London that Cohen planned for a client who was turning 40. It as a six-day affair with dinners at swanky spots such as Cipriani, the Arts Club, and Cecconi’s at Soho House. The finale was Lancaster House, a mansion in St. James, where guests were entertained by cabaret dancers from the famed Ibiza club Lio Ibiza and feasted on prime rib and lamb chops and imbibed on Krug champagne.

“People today don’t want to host events,” Cohen says. “They want experiences that take you away to a different place and make you forget that the real world exists.”