We had a 24 Hour Money Date!
Here’s what you can learn from it…

written by Bari Tessler September 18, 2017

A couple months ago, my husband, Forest, and I had an epic, 24-hour Money Date.

If you’re new ‘round here, a Money Date is simply a time you set aside to put some love and attention on your money relationship — on a practical, emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual level. You might have smaller, 30-minute Money Dates once a week to pay your bills (while nibbling some dark chocolate) … and have larger ones monthly or quarterly.

We knew we were a little overdue for a longer, in-depth Money Date, so we scheduled this one in advance. We sent our son, Noah, to his Grandma’s for a sleepover. We went out for lunch together, then to a cafe — and brought our spreadsheets along!

Going in, we already knew what our monthly expenses had been over the past few years and that our lifestyle had increased over the past six months. But we wanted to get clear on the specifics and the bigger picture, too.

  • Where exactly had we increased our spending?
  • Was it aligned with our values, still?
  • Where could we pare down our expenses so we could make sure we were still on track with our larger goals around spending, saving, and giving?

We talked numbers, feelings, values, and dreams. We didn’t always agree about everything, but we stuck with it, stayed honest, showed each other compassion and respect. We’ve worked for this level of intimacy in our marriage around money — and it’s such a gift.

By the end of our Money Date, we emerged with a ton of clarity on our next steps. We made some decisions about what we wanted to fine-tune, tweak, and shift. And we celebrated some accomplishments and milestones.

It’s this kind of constant fine-tuning that I’d like to address with you today. Because it requires a bit of a mindset adjustment. But it’s incredibly comforting and awakening and practical, too.

Is part of you secretly hoping you can be “done” with this money stuff someday soon?

It’s a seductive (and common) fantasy to think you’ll start working on your “money stuff,” workworkwork at it for awhile, and then reach a plateau where everything is figured out and you can coast, for awhile. You’ll knock all those financial To Do’s off your list and then finally be done — hooray! Set up tracking system, hire new accountant, journal about that scarcity thing, forgive Mom — that’s it!

Once you take care of all of that, you’ll be good, right? Done. You’ll finally be able to exhale, pour some champagne, and stop thinking about all this money stuff. Right?

Well … not exactly. But hang on: that’s actually great news.

Money is a continuous dance of fine-tuning, evolving, shifting, responding.

The goal isn’t a quick fix. Or perfect. Or even good enough to go back to ignoring things, again.

The goal is to face your money enough, with enough compassion and openness and honesty, that you can keep looking at your money. Day to day. Week to week. Month to month. In small ways and slightly bigger ones. Woven throughout your life. With less hyperventilating and shame and avoidance.

Money is a part of your life, and it’s not going away.

You won’t file this year’s taxes, set up a will, forgive your mother, and then be ALL DONE with your money work. Nope. The day you’re totally done dealing with money? Is when you die. And not a day before.

If that sounds like an ordeal that just won’t stop, please consider this re-frame:

Your money relationship is a never-ending stream of opportunities for you to deepen your awareness, gentleness, and savvy.

I didn’t figure out all of my “money stuff” on some particular Tuesday 16 years ago and coast by, ever since. Nope! I am continually revisiting things, fine-tuning, tweaking, going deeper, expanding, simplifying, meeting the new challenges of life, and surfing the cycles of life: in my personal money relationship, within my business, with Forest and Noah as a family, and as part of ever-widening circles of community.

Money is a life-long journey. With ebbs and flows and ups and downs. And constant invitations to fine-tune, each year. On practical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels.

This photo is from a cold + pouring rain soccer game. It represents how we can feel during a money date (and that’s ok). Until we get through it and can celebrate.
(Which is what we were doing in the red-cup chocolate sipping photo above!)

Here are some of the celebrations + tweaks + growing edges that emerged from our epic, 24-hour Money Date.

I hope this intimate list inspires you to look back at your own year and reflect on all the things you’ve accomplished in your own money life … and maybe jot down a few things you’d like to fine-tune to in your money relationship soon.

1. {Celebration} Our expanded lifestyle

Last year, my business grew thanks to the exposure from my book and the book tour. So we’ve been able to afford and enjoy some next-level (for us) things: soccer camps for Noah, the cycling team for Forest, and more frequent acupuncture and massage for me. We were able to clearly see the impact of this business growth in our epic Money Date, name it, and honor the work that went into it, and be grateful for what we have.

I’m also spending more on my business team than ever before, this year — but this is a celebration for me! I have a co-writer, virtual assistant, online business manager, and business bookkeeper. My team feels really solid, and I’m so happy about this.

2. {Fine-tuning} Getting thriftier

We’re happy about our increased income, but it also landed us a larger tax bill than ever before. We looked at this, too, in our Money Date and looked for places to reduce expenses, plug “money leaks,” and be very intentional with our spending. We decided to send Noah to a more affordable soccer camp this summer, cut out Hebrew Sunday School this semester, reduce the amount of my acupuncture sessions for now, and found a more affordable health insurance option.

3. {Fine-tuning} Moving online with QuickBooks

QuickBooks was the tracking system I fell in love with many, many years ago. I did all of our personal and my business bookkeeping on it for 8 years (in separate files). When we had our son, Forest declared he was taking over the tracking of our personal finances, and he used Mint and iBank for the next 8 years.

This year, though, I really wanted to be able to access our personal data from everywhere and not have to wait for Forest to do the bookkeeping. So we decided to move to QuickBooks online. Now we can both see our data, categorize transactions, and pull reports easily, from anywhere. This is a small, practical shift that has big benefits, for us!

4. {Smart move} Not buying a new car.

A few months ago, after 11 years of family road trips, our Prius was looking worn-out enough, Forest and I started wondering: did we need to buy a new car?

We had a big Money Date and used the same decision-making framework we’d spontaneously created during another car-related conversation 3 years ago. We discussed our values and the timing. Short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. We did some research and communicated our emotions. We didn’t love the idea of another monthly car payment — especially when the Prius still ran well and had been paid off for awhile.

We ended up deciding not to buy a new car, but instead spend a few hundred dollars giving our Prius some much-needed love: replacing the steering wheel, fixing the driver’s side mirror, replacing some of the interior, and getting it professionally detailed. Now, our 11-year-old Prius feels great — and we couldn’t be happier with our smart money decision.

5. {HUGE Celebration} Paid off book expenses!

Someday I’ll share a full article about this with you, but for now, just know: writing a book can be a costly adventure — especially up front. Between paying my co-writer, funding my book tour, hiring a photographer, paying an attorney, and on and on — it really added up.

I didn’t have the cashflow to cover all of my book expenses, so I consciously took on some debt. This made me nervous, but I did it with a very clear plan for how I would pay it back: I knew if I got more exposure from the book, more folks would sign up for my year-long Art of Money program, and I could recoup my investment.

It took me a month longer than I’d originally planned, but we did it! All of the debt I took on from the book is now paid off — and I’m so happy.

(If you’re curious, I open up more about the finances of publishing my book in this podcast episode with Caroline Donahue.)

6. {Adjustment + Celebration} Forest’s new, second revenue stream.

After helping run the Art of Money behind the scenes for many years, my amazing husband has launched a new business, Clarity Lab, helping other entrepreneurs, teachers, and creators in many of the ways he’s helped me (and tons of other people). So: getting their businesses online and running smoothly, finding the best tech tools for them, along with consulting and coaching.

Getting this up and running has been a big time/energy/money investment, but it’s starting to pay off — not just financially but emotionally and spiritually. (The money is never just about the money, you know?) I’m so excited for him to be doing what he loves.

7. {New Practice} Sunday Giving

Generosity has always felt very important to me. I love to be generous with the free content we share on our blog, and I’m generous with all of the content we share inside our year-long Art of Money program. But I wanted to increase my giving with money, this year, too.

I’ve always felt like where I give money is a private, personal thing, and while there are still parts that I will keep to myself, it feels important to name some of the places our family is contributing money to, along with one more version of a family Money Date we’ve started (and are still fine-tuning).

Last week, Forest and I had a Sunday Giving Money Date. We settled on four places to give some money this week: the Red Cross and Emergency Underwear for Hurricane Harvey, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a writer/artist/social justice activist woman on Patreon. We gave money to all four — not big chunks, but what we could do. It was a beautiful way to complete our weekend and head into a new week more aligned than ever to giving our resources where our values are, right now.

The following weekend, during our Sunday Giving, we included our 9 year-old son in the conversation. Earlier, I had shared a story of a boy his age who had experienced a terrible hate crime. We decided together that we were going to donate some funds to this boy and his family so they could go to therapy and get some help to heal this trauma. A GoFundMe campaign had been set up for him and his family. We donated together as a family. Or son gave from his allowance account and we contributed from our family account. 

We all go through phases where we can give more or give less. Or where we can give time, energy, money, or not all of them at the same time. Here’s to continuing to give our resources where our values are!

8. {Growing Edges + Celebrations} Money lessons with our son.

I absolutely love having honest, gentle, age-appropriate money conversations with our son Noah, who turned 9 this summer. It’s an area where we’re continuously checking in, adjusting, and growing.

At the beginning of this year, when he was 8 years old, we had a big Money Date with him to negotiate whether he could save up for an X-Box (which made me nervous!). We talked it all through, though, and it went really well!

Our latest growing edge: Now that he is 9 years old, I’m teaching Noah how to order our groceries on InstaCart! Now he’s doing everything, from choosing the items to putting in our delivery address to paying with a debit card. This is new territory — and a big deal for him and us!

I’m so happy Forest and I are choosing to support Noah with the kind of financial education most of us never received, from childhood on up. This is an ever-stretching edge for our family, and I think we all learn from each other.

9. {Growing Edge} Looking farther down the road.

It’s sometimes a challenge for me to think loooong-term about the future, savings, and a “peace of mind fund.” But aging is real, folks! So I’m putting forth effort to do more of this, in a variety of ways.

At the end of 2016, we increased our life insurance plans. And Forest and I recently discussed Noah’s schooling costs. We’re committing to two more years of private school and then will be looking into a charter Montessori school (which is a longer drive but free).

Also we’ve scheduled a meeting with our Financial Advistor, Christopher Peck, to clarify our Sep IRA -Social Responsible Investments. And, we have scheduled our November meeting with our Accountant, so there are no surprises with our 2017 taxes, and we can plan better for the next few years.

Take a few moments. What small steps can you celebrate or plan?

Make a list of what you’ve done this year, within your money relationship. The small, baby steps. The medium steps. Any big leaps. It all adds up!

We usually forget the small steps along the way, but they all add up — that’s why it’s so good to write them out and celebrate!

Celebrate the small stuff, the hard stuff, the subtle stuff. Celebrate turning within and getting an insight into one of your patterns with money. Celebrate making that phone call that other people might not think twice about — but was a huge deal, to you. Celebrate sitting down for a full ten minutes to reconcile your accounts — and showing yourself gentleness when it got to be too much.

Here’s an incredible example of this kind of list, which one of my dear Art of Money students spontaneously shared in our community. I’m so grateful she gave us permission to share this vulnerable piece with you, our wider community.

The Art of Money course has been a steady and deep journey of financial transformation over three years for me.
The first year, I ended up staying in Money Healing and did months and months of somatic therapy just so I could feel my feelings sufficiently to do the body check-ins. Lots of childhood trauma finally got shifted too…

Over my second year, I was able to do the full course each month by taking baby steps. That year, I finally got a full range of data from my money practices and both my emergency fund and safety net fund back in place. This was a great relief following financial devastation due to divorce, then redundancy, underemployment and falling off the housing ladder between 2010-2014.

In this, my third, Art of Money year I have:

– Dealt with both my elderly parents’ financial affairs, having been asked by them to take on their financial Powers of Attorney. I’ve sorted out their financial problems, some of which have roots going back 52 years ago. My mother is now financially stable, thanks to mine and my sister’s efforts, and my father is safely in a good nursing home having care we can afford. We finally found the proof of what we had always suspected, that my father had spent and gambled all his income, while we had grown up living on my mum’s school teacher income. I found managing their affairs so much more straightforward thanks to the AoM course. Having to deal with my parents’ finances brought up Everything… and I body-checked and consciously money-dated my way through every stage of sorting out their matters.

– Sorted out my income levels and saved sufficiently to have a range of very basic options to consider for my next steps, including a possible longer term savings/investment commitment and possibly taking on a mortgage again. I found exactly the right expertise, advice and understanding of my situation amongst the Transformation Assistants on the course and have taken every opportunity to get advice from and do some additional work separately with them.

– Appointed an accountant so that my limited company accounts are filed and the tax office has been given my position Yes, in my third AoM year, I have also interviewed and appointed an accountant, brought my small teaching business out of dormancy, as well as working in full-time, demanding employment. There was a small, planned-for loss in my business due to start-up overheads and no tax to pay. And I have also just paid my accountant’s fees having already saved the funds for this.

– Saved up to go on a holiday with my honey and to buy a small special gift for his 60th birthday next month. I am finally with a good life partner, with whom I can have conversations about money without there being any power issues or drama, who pays his half of the household overheads and who also saves his own money for his own future.
I would not have been able to go so far financially and personally over the past 3 years had it not been for the learning on this course, including all the contributions from the AoM community, which I’ve leant on, not just learnt in, these past few years.

It has truly been a healing journey, which will continue. There are still a couple of hurdles and challenges to overcome, but I am looking forward to exploring the next phase with curiosity and openness, and an emerging sense of optimism about what future might bring.
~ Sarah Jane Williamson

Sarah Jane Williamson

I’m so touched by the depth of Sarah Jane’s share, which beautifully illustrates the kind of incremental progress I’m talking about. We’re not after quick fixes, here — but deep, sustainable change.

This is all part of the dance. Keep dancing, my friends. With all the awareness and honesty and love and courage you can muster. Keep going. This is the real work.

Yours in the dance,

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