My husband Jordan and I were together for 13 years before we had a baby. We had 13 years to hone our communication skills (which were pretty terrible at the beginning) and learn to work together as a team. And after a lot of work, I can safely say we were rock solid before we expanded our family. So much so that I was completely blindsided when, post-baby, our communication broke down, especially around money.
When our baby boy Henry was born 19 months ago, I noticed almost immediately that our communication had taken a nose-dive. We were both so focused on Henry (and tired, so tired) that we were only half-listening to each other. When we both accidentally paid the daycare bill the same month — and only realized it when the daycare called to tell us — I knew that we needed to make a change. So, we started having weekly meetings which quickly evolved into a sort of regular date nights in.
Over these last few months, Jordan has left his job, we’ve moved from London back to the U.S., we’ve launched a full-scale remodel of our home, and I’ve transitioned to being the primary breadwinner in our family for the time being.
It’s been a lot of change.
And being in a constant state of transition meant we let a lot of things slip, including these weekly dates. As a result, things got messy. Our money got messy, our communication was completely out of wack, and we were grumpy with each other. I didn’t realize how valuable these weekly dates had become until we stopped doing them.
We finally got back on track with these weekly dates, and I noticed a change for the better almost immediately.
Creating our weekly date
Post-baby, nights out became few and far between. In the past, we’d pop out to a pub on Friday night or grab dinner with friends on Saturday. Now, we have a lot more evenings to fill at home. To avoid slipping into a dull routine every night, we carved out one night of the week to do something special. We open a bottle of wine, plan a fun recipe or order in, make a decadent dessert, and break out a board game or dive into a movie or show we’ve really been wanting to watch.
But before we get into all of those things, we get out our computers and talk about money. It sounds romantic, I know. But it is incredibly satisfying.
We usually start at the dining room table, computers and notebooks out. We each come with our list of topics that we need to talk about. Things that we weren’t able to talk about during the busy week, like who needs to pay the daycare bill, who wrote the gardener a check, or what healthcare elections we should make.
To keep this from feeling too much like an impersonal business meeting, we open the wine, break out a few snacks, and throw on some music. We do anything to keep the vibe light because money can get serious quickly.
What we talk about
Depending on what we need to talk about, these conversations can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. When we lived in London, we had a great money routine and system set up, so we’d breeze through some basics and get on with our night.
Now that we’ve relocated back to the U.S. and we’re in the midst of big changes, we’ve had to add a lot more to our weekly agenda.
Here are some things we cover regularly:
Review our spending
We generally pull up our bank account and credit card statements and start looking through the purchases. We don’t use a detailed budget to track our spending, but we know how much we’re allowed to spend in total each month.
Looking at our spending regularly does two things: helps to make sure all transactions are legitimate and helps us correct course if we’re having a particularly expensive month. Sometimes we sit down mid-month and realize that our spending has been totally over the top and we need to rein it in for the next couple of weeks. That isn’t fun to see, but I’d rather we know that early and make changes rather than point fingers when we’re out of money at the end of the month.
Plan for upcoming big expenses
We used to have a panic moment each time big bills like property taxes were due. Now, we talk about these big, planned expenses well in advance and make sure we each know how it’s going to be paid. If we have big bills due that aren’t on autopay, one person takes responsibility to make sure it’s paid. And with the holidays coming up, we’ve started to talk about what we’ll buy our family, how much we’re going to spend, and who is going to take the lead on ordering what things.
Talk about unexpected expenses
With our move, we’ve had more unexpected expenses than I care to think about. But we take the time to look at each surprise expense and decide how we’ll pay for it. We’ll also try to figure out if there’s anything we can do differently in the future to plan for this or ask ourselves if it is truly a one-off.
These are the things that used to drive me crazy because they seemed to pop up every few days. We need to sign this, mail in that, make a decision about this. Now, we save them for this meeting. Some examples: tonight, we’re talking about changing our bank, hiring someone to do work on our windows, booking an Airbnb and rental car for our next trip, and new childcare for Henry. Dealing with these little nagging to-dos all at one time has been a sanity saver.
Our net worth
This isn’t something we review weekly because it doesn’t really change all that often. But usually once a quarter, we’ll look at everything: our retirement accounts, our total savings and investments, and our debt. It helps us to know where we are and redirects our focus on where we’re going. Watching that number go up — even if it’s only a little bit — gives us the motivation to keep making intentional decisions with our money.
Goals and dreams
To be honest, we talk about our goals and dreams a lot, but it never hurts to sit down and talk about it again. Sometimes we focus on big goals, like where we want to live, what’s next for our careers, and how we want to raise Henry. Other times, we talk about smaller things like dreaming up our next trip, testing out new schedules and weekly routines, or new meals that we want to add to the weekly rotation.
This part of the conversation is the most fun and free-flowing. By this point, we put away our computers, leave the table, and head to the kitchen to cook or dish up our takeout. From this point, we just flow to whatever we want to do next and either curl up on the couch or break out a competitive board game.
If you also struggled to communicate well with your partner after having kids, a weekly date to reconnect, talk, and plan might help you get back on track. Having a designated night set aside to check in on important things as well as spend time connecting has improved our communication around money — and really everything else — tenfold.