The Money Date

How Mixing Food, Finances & Honesty Can Result in Savings

by Stephanie Berenbaum– January 25, 2010


Last weekend, my husband and I went on a “money date”. I know it sounds less than romantic, but we wanted to go through our budget for the year.  Nothing like talking yearly cash flow to really get you in the mood! Things were off to a good start when David told me he was taking me to my favorite restaurant!  The bad news? It’s pretty hard to get a Saturday night reservation at the last minute.  So yes, we were going at 5pm…   I luckily remembered we also had a gift certificate to the restaurant which under most circumstances would make our night totally Fab & Fru.   However, coupled with our plans for an early bird special,  the normally sweet deal was feeling more like the foreshadowing of our future golden years down in Boca.  The planned discussion of credit card bills wasn’t making me feel any more like a rock star either.

Come Prepared… Armed with notebooks, pens, paper, credit card statements and highlighters, we sat down and quickly ordered wine.  We made small talk about the kids, upcoming work travel and what looked good on the menu.  Being Fab & Fru, and being the one who handles the monthly bills, I was feeling confident that we had been pretty close to on budget in 2009.   So we dove into it: how much did we actually spend last year?

Fixed & Not So Fixed Expenses We started out slow, on the (sort of) neutral territory of blameless fixed expenses.  How much is our mortgage, property taxes, and childcare.  All remained status quo even when we compared our splurges of Sigerson Morrison shoes and a professional grade digital camera… After all, you know what we always say: half of being Fabulous & Frugal is just being Fabulous!

woman-grocery-shoppingForgotten Grocery Bills Then came food.  A girl’s gotta eat, right?  As the family grocery shopper and chef, I figured I wouldn’t even need to glance at my bills to tally up what I spent on groceries each month.  Not so easy!  I knew that when I placed big orders at the grocery it could easily be a couple hundred dollars.  But when I finally broke down and looked at my statement there were a bunch of $30 and $50 grocery charges in there that I had no recollection of — but they certainly added up!

The Trappings of Discount Stores And then of course there was the Target near my son’s school.  So easy to just swing by after drop off and pick up cheap paper towels in bulk.  I was just being efficient, wasn’t I? But the multiple monthly Target visits on my statement told a different story. Clearly, I was either buying A LOT of paper towels, or other stuff was sneaking it’s way into my basket!

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5 Responses to “The Money Date”

  1. Virginia says:

    How do you keep track of all of your expenses? Is there software that you recommend? I would love to take my online bank balance sheet and sort it by expense type.



  2. polly says:

    isn’t spending money to talk about your budget…counterintuitive? why would you want to talk about your credit card bills together.. in public? Assessment of where it went is good, but seems like something you’d do at home, where the food and wine are cheaper!

    • steph says:

      Hi Polly – We certainly lucked out because since we had a gift certificate to the restaurant, dinner only cost us $5! Of course it is a personal choice where you feel most comfortable talking about money. Some couples actually do better in a public place because it tends to keep the conversation more civil than if in the privacy of ones own home! For others, as you mention, a cozy home dinner might be just the thing. Personally, we tend to get so distracted at home with our two young children that we kept putting off having the budget discussion, so setting a special date night out was a great solution for us. I don’t think spending money on a special night out is a problem, but certainly I would not advise spending more than you can easily afford. The important thing is to make sure you discuss the topic of money – in whichever setting works best for you!

Any Thoughts?