Emotional bank accounts

By glblguy


For those of you who might not be paying attention, Valentine’s day is this Saturday. I’m not a huge fan of it myself, but it’s important to my wife and thus important to me. Valentine’s day is a great time to make a deposit into your emotional bank account. Emotional bank account you ask? Let me explain…

The emotional bank account

I took a Stephen Covey 7-Habit’s class a few years back and one of the many things I learned from the class and the great instructor we had was the concept of an emotional bank account.

An emotional bank account is an account that you have with everyone you know, in particular friends, family and loved ones. You make deposits by doing something nice and meaningful to or for that person and you make withdrawals when you hurt them or treat them badly. The balance in your account is the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship, the more trust the higher the balance. Just like a monetary account, you want this account to have a large balance so that the relationship you have with that person is a high trust relationship.

Like a monetary account, it’s easy to take a high or comfortable balance for granted and begin making withdrawals. Maybe the initial withdrawals are small to begin with, things like: forgetting to say I love, not smiling or maybe being mean, grumpy or short. Then possibly those withdrawals become larger: fighting, saying something you regret, or forgetting important dates in your relationship. All of these things can very quickly deplete the balance in the emotional bank account. Before you know it, the balance is low…real low and possibly maybe even overdrawn.

Much like our personal finance lives, we often wait until it’s too late to change our habits. For the person living paycheck to paycheck, how often do you wait until you have $100.0o dollars remaining in your checking account before you suddenly stop spending money? I know for my wife and I some years back that occurred far to often. We would live “high on the hog” on payday and for a few days after. Then we would have to live like we were dirt poor for the remaining week or more. We were so bad we would have to borrow money from our credit cards just to get gas and food.

In your relationships, how often do you wait until the balance gets incredibly low or even overdrawn before you change your behavior? I’m still guilty of this occasionally.

Valentine’s day

As much as I can’t stand commercialized holiday’s, valentines day is one of those wonderful opportunities to either make a very large deposit or very large withdrawal from an emotional bank account. I cannot tell you how often I’ve seen men in the local drug store or Wal-mart on Valentine’s day in their work clothes and on their way home buying chocolates, cheap stuffed animals or whatever else they could find. I’m honestly thinking this may be worse than doing nothing.

For all of you men, it’s not about what you get or how much you spend, it’s about how much thought you put into what you get. Now, with that said, I’m TERRIBLE at this. For some reason I really struggle coming up with creative and thoughtful ideas, but I do try really hard.

Don’t confuse the amount of money spent with the amount of thought. You can’t make up for thought with dollars, or at least not in the long term. Sure a new diamond ring or necklace will make a wonderful deposit in the emotional bank account initially, but over the long term, like a declining stock, these types of items loose their value. The amount of thought you put into what you do or give is far more import than how much it costs.

Here are just a few of the nearly unlimited low-cost or frugal valentine’s ideas you can do:

  1. Have a romantic evening at home – One year I made CD containing some of my wife’s favorite romantic songs and cooked a special dinner. We ate dinner together while listening to the music. I then took her upstairs, where I had sprinkled rose petals all around the bath and lite a ton of small candles and ran her a hot bath so she could relax and enjoy some quiet time without the kids.
  2. 12 reasons I love you – Another year I purchased a dozen roses from a local store and taped a small card to each one. I hid the roses throughout the house and placed one where she would see it. Each card contained a personal note that provided one reason I loved my wife, a memory we shared related to that reason, and a clue to find the next rose. She loved it :-)
  3. Take the day off – If you work a lot or are away from home often, take the day off and dedicate it to spending time with your significant other.  Go for a walk, have a picnic, head to the local park and sit on the swings and talk. Opportunities for spending the day together and spending little or nothing are endless.
  4. Grab coffee – Head to a local coffee shop that isn’t real busy and has a nice relaxed environment. Grab some coffee, some desserts and sit together on the couch and just spent some time together.
  5. Make her something – Instead of buying something, make her something. If you’re handy with wood, make her something she would enjoy like a  planter or bookcase. A friend of mine once shared that the best gift she ever received from her husband was a hand-made valentines card.
  6. Write a poem or note – How about just spending some time writing down your feelings? You don’t have to be Robert Frost to write poetry, and frankly it doesn’t even have to rhythm. Just write down how you feel, or recant a story about how you met or a time you remember with your spouse that is important to you.

The possibilities here are endless. Just spend some time thinking through what is important to your significant other, and what would be meaningful to them. Couple that interest with some sincere feelings on your side and you have a winner!

But don’t miss out on the opportunity to make a big deposit in your emotional bank account this year, keep an eye on that balance and don’t wait until the last minute when the balance is low. Keep your emotional bank account balanced, and put more in than you take out!

Share your frugal or inexpensive Valentine’s day gift ideas by adding a comment below! Have a personal example of a Valentine’s gift that met a lot to you? Share that as well!

Photo by: Stumblingthrulifewithgr ace

14 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Emotional bank accounts”

  1. frugalCPA Says:

    We’re never done a lot for Valentine’s Day. But I keep seeing posts like this, and I may have to try something this year. The “12 Reasons” sounds like a pretty good idea.

  2. Jeff@StretchyDollar Says:

    I like the ideas you’ve listed – my wife and I are having a competition to see who can get the most gift for the least amount of money – should be interesting!

  3. Miranda Says:

    We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. But we do try to do nice things for each other throughout the year to build up that emotional bank account! After all, you need something in there to draw upon during the rough patches…

  4. Shawna Says:

    We rarely celebrate Valentine’s Day, but the first one we spent together, we weren’t even dating. My now-hubby bought me flowers in a mug with a card. Every now and then, he’ll buy me flowers in a mug with a card, and he will write the same thing on the card as he did that first year. Those are my favorite valentines gifts! :)

  5. Gina Says:

    V Day is the only day of the year I get a hand made card from my husband. Yes, I’m talking construction paper, macaroni noodles, and cotton balls. It is short (only a couple of sentences) and sometimes has a picture (like a dog or cat or car). It is usually about what is going on in our lives at the moment. For example, when our cat died, he drew a picture of her w/wings. Another year Ric Flair was on a “comeback” and there was a picture of him on that card saying “nature boy” with a cotton ball heart around the picture. It is a lot of fun to take out the box of them and walk down memory lane. Then we have dinner w/a candle burning in a candle holder we got from our wedding. Maybe this year I’ll get a picture of a budget spreadsheet – hahaha! – since we are working on getting out of debt.

  6. Nicki at Domestic Cents Says:

    I really like your “Grab Coffee.” How silly that we do that with other people but not each other. It’s talking for hours that’s kept us in love this long.

  7. Tookshire Says:

    Relatively new reader (via bloglines). I have to say that I really appreciate your including a posting on emotional bank accounts among your financial posts. When my husband and I first married (and for a few years thereafter) it was really a lot of work to transform our idealized way of handling finances into real life. The most difficult was while we had the same goal in mind, we had widely different philosophies in how to get there. And some of our philosophies were bunk, let me tell you. The same thing is true of our emotional bank accounts. Much of what you used as examples were our real life hurdles, including my not seeing his waiting until Valentine’s Day to scrounge around for something as reflecting my worth/value in his eyes..but, hey, it was better than when he forgot completely, LOL. I laugh now, but it did hurt, but while we now have come to a mutual compromise of I get him nothing and he must have something 3-days prior (and we make it a small thing like a candybar or grocery store flowers plus a cheapy/free activity that equates to valuable time together).

  8. Little Debbie Says:

    My husband donated blood for Valentine’s Day at my request. It was an inexpensive present (plus he got a free t-shirt from the Red Cross) and meant more than anything purchased.

  9. Aemilius Says:

    SO, I get that this is meant that they are “reminisce with all of you about our childhoods”, the location where the target group is numerous twenty-year olds. Consequently I won’t criticise the omission of all the classics. But I am going to point out this really shows just how even in it is best moments listing has really slipped. None of songs can assess to “I wanna be like you” in addition to “The Bare Necessities” (Jungle book)

  10. Grace the Dog Gates Enthusiast Says:

    Good post with some fascinating ideas about dog insurance! I can’t say that I agree with all you have said here, but there are a good amount of relevant suggestions you have emphasized that can be rather useful. Keep providing more information on dog insurance and related issues, as there are plenty of people who are attempting to understand the pluses and minuses of dog insurance.