Most Important Budget Line Item?
What is the most important line item in your budget if you are married? It would be easy to say that this is your housing, utilities, food, giving, or savings. While all of these are no doubt important line items in any budget, one particular item, often put on the back burner, or removed entirely, gets overlooked.
Yes, date night. Couples fall in love by going on dates, talking for long hours, or in some cases being together, without much talking, and loving every minute. During this time there is little talk about managing a life and a budget together. As the couple nears and enters engagement and gets married they must be careful not to eliminate the date night from their life, even when and if kids enter the picture.
I have had numerous couples at my desk with financial struggles of varied levels and one common theme emerges. The most serious the trouble the less they are still dating each other. There is a common debt payoff philosophy called the debt snowball. This is a highly effective technique in which you list your debts in a particular order and pay minimum payments on all debt with the debt at the top receiving any extra money you have in the month. As you payoff each debt the money going toward the now paid off loan goes toward the next loan on the list. To often important things get removed from the budget in order to accomplish the debt payoff plan and discretionary expenses such as date night are too often the first to go. Do not remove this item even when in a debt snowball payoff plan or a big savings push.
Phil Vassar sings a great line in his song, "Just Another Day in Paradise." The lines says,"I guess it's Dominoes Pizza in the candlelight." Even if your date night is a walk through the park with a picnic lunch, costing nothing, it is crucial to make this event important. If you stop doing with your spouse the very thing you did when you were falling in love, it will make it much more difficult to manage your life and budget together, especially if you are trying to meet a difficult savings or payoff goal. I have seen countless couples in financial struggle and fights in which each blames the other and spends more as a way of ensuring "fairness."
Two people will have disagreements about money, this is unavoidable. A regular date night in which you attempt to take a break from the stress and struggles of life and simply enjoy the company of the one you love most will make these disagreements easier to resolve. Date night will not make your problems go away and it may still take hard work and discipline to accomplish your goals. Keep striving for better or for worse and date your spouse.