By Kurt Smith
Learn more about Kurt on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor
Having the same goals as your partner is important, whether they involve your careers, family or finances. To achieve those goals and live in harmony, it helps to be on the same track, working together toward the same things.
If one partner has the goal of getting out of debt while the other is constantly spending, there’s bound to be friction. It’s important to discuss these differences and make a plan to address any issues as a couple. Remind yourselves that you’re a team and better off when working together.
Having some extra cash on hand will help you work toward goals such as paying off student loans, saving up for a wedding or a down payment on a house, or starting a family. Here are four simple ways couples can start saving money today:
1. Rethink date night
How often do the two of you have a date night? Some couples have a weekly date night where they go out to a fancy restaurant, order drinks and then do an activity afterward, like a movie or bowling. An evening like that can quickly add up to more than $100.
If you want to save money together, you may have to change what you do together. Keep date night a tradition, but decide on a spending limit that supports your goals and then get creative. You can have a “no technology night” where your turn off all devices, or a Netflix marathon, or cook up some food and play board games at your kitchen table. Whatever you do, make date night about spending time together and connecting with one another, not about paying an expensive bill.
2. Declare a ‘no dining out’ month
The money you spend eating out adds up quickly. Even fast food, lattes and vending machine snacks can slowly empty your pockets. You can make simple, homemade meals for a fraction of what you’d spend going out to eat. Choose one month and commit to making all your meals at home, including brown bagging your lunch for work. Then, fight the temptation to stop at the drive-thru or grab a sandwich at the office deli. You’ll have saved a substantial amount of money by the end of the month.
3. Forgo gifts for a while
While you’re looking to reach specific financial goals, make a pact that you won’t buy each other lavish birthday, anniversary or holiday presents. Couples often spend hundreds of dollars on these special-occasion gifts. By putting that amount into a savings account toward your financial goals, you’re both still receiving a gift. You can celebrate the occasion with a card and handwritten note reminding each other of what you’re saving for together, and then enjoy an intimate evening at home. If that doesn’t feel like enough, you can always be creative and make something for your partner out of inexpensive materials.
4. Plan a staycation
Instead of planning your annual getaway, consider having a staycation this year. You and your partner can take the same week off from work and do fun things around town together. Rent a movie and watch it in the middle of the day, have an at-home wine tasting adventure, go for a hike or to the beach, pack a picnic and have a day at the park. There are likely many activities you can do that are close to home and inexpensive. Keep your savings goal in mind, and let vacations be relaxing and rejuvenating, instead of draining your bank account.
Track your savings
As you follow these suggestions, keep a log on the kitchen counter that you use to write down how much you saved on a purchase that was reduced or forgone. Keeping a running tally of your savings can be exciting as you watch them grow and bring you closer to your goals.
Of course it’s fun to splurge and do new things or go to fancy meals together. But the most important part of your relationship is that you’re spending quality time together, and you don’t have to spend money for that to be enjoyable and meaningful. When you set financial goals, it’s good to have a plan in place for how you’ll reach them. Making sacrifices and staying the course together can make your relationship stronger and improve your financial position at the same time.
This article also appears on Nasdaq.