Spending

My husband and I paid off $200,000 in 18 months and saved our marriage thanks to our monthly money dates

The Frugal Physician's Dr. Disha Spath shares how monthly money dates helped her and her husband pay off debt, and set and achieve new money goals.

Disha Spath
Twenty/20

Just a few years ago, like so many couples, my husband and I were struggling to get on the same page about our money. 

We had the same general money goals, like paying off debt and investing, but we weren't making any good progress towards them. We wanted to pay down our debt and max out our retirement, but we ended up spending most of our take home pay on eating out and shopping. Both of us felt like the other one spent too much, and the finger-pointing led to a lot of arguments.

The status quo wasn't sustainable. I explained to my husband that I felt trapped in my job and unable to spend quality time with our kids because of the massive amount of debt we were carrying: $200,000 in student loans. When he understood where I was coming from and saw that we could pay down our debts and build the life we wanted by taking control of our spending and saving more, he agreed to work with me to pay off our debt. 

To make that happen, we decided to meet once a month for a "money date." Once we started doing that, things changed for us. We found that we weren't fighting about money anymore and we both started to make wiser spending choices. We spent less on daily coffee runs, online orders, and clothing. We still spent money on things that were actually important to us, but we cut back on extraneous spending elsewhere.

These money dates saved our marriage and were instrumental in helping us pay off our debt and create new money goals.

Today, I am student debt-free and my husband and I have created a plan together that helps us feel confident and in control of our finances. And in addition to my work as an internist, I now run a blog called The Frugal Physician to help others who are trying to achieve big money goals.

Here's my best advice about setting up regular money dates so that they can help you set and achieve your goals as a couple.

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Be consistent and take the long view 

For us, a money date is a dedicated block of time, generally about an hour on the last day of the month, when my husband and I meet with the goal of talking about how we are spending our money and what we want to do with it. We begin by tracking and recording our spending in a spreadsheet. We also go over our paycheck withholdings and make sure they are correct.  

Once we have done that, we talk about how we want to direct our savings to different investments and savings objectives and discuss other money goals we would like to meet. Then we set spending goals for the next month and try to anticipate any big upcoming expenses.

We usually finish by reviewing where our money is and updating our net worth.  

Dr. Disha Spath and her husband Josh paid off $200,000 in student loans.
Courtesy Disha Spath

Create a space where you can speak openly

My husband and I enjoyed our money dates so much that we decided to keep meeting monthly, even after we paid off my student debt, in part because they are the time where we can freely talk about one of the major stressors in our marriage. 

Talking about our money helps us get on the same page and understand each other's motivations. We discuss our goals and dreams and ways we can achieve them. When we are both focused on our money goals, our spending also aligns.

Reviewing everything together also helps us feel empowered because we are both aware of where our money is, and what money is coming in. Since we are going over things together, we are both looking at the same facts to make decisions that will affect all of us. 

When we are both focused on our money goals, our spending also aligns.
Dr. Disha Spath
Founder of The Frugal Physician

Develop a system for catching mistakes 

Another benefit of these dates is that because we are reviewing all our spending every month, we are able to catch mistakes. Whereas before we might have had to pay a late fee or not even notice a double charge, we are now able to catch fraudulent charges or missed bill payments early and correct them quickly.

Also, we are able to identify automatic subscriptions that we may not be using and cancel them.  

Planning for the next month helps us anticipate upcoming bills and spending so we can save for them instead of racking up credit card debt to pay for it. Planning for the next month also lets us spend with more comfort and intention, knowing we have the budget for it.

Finally, tracking our net worth helps us keep our spending in check and stay focused on the goal of saving. 

Money dates have helped my husband and I realign with each other's dreams and financial goals. Now that we have paid off our debts, we meet monthly to track our investing goals such as contributing to our retirement accounts, funding college funds for the kids, and investing in real estate. Having this dedicated time has helped us get better at working together to meet major financial goals and ensure a stable financial future.

Disha Spath is an internal medicine physician, a mother to two awesome boys, and a wife to Josh. She writes about money-saving hacks and personal finance to help doctors and other high-income professionals get out of debt and design their ideal life at The Frugal Physician.

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