Couples Money: Savers Vs. Spenders

The conventional wisdom in relationships is that opposites attract.  It seems very common for a compulsive spender to hook up with a compulsive saver.

Research shows that men are nearly three times more likely to be tightwads than spendthrifts.

In my family it’s just the opposite.  I’m the saver and my husband is the spender.  Two more opposite people you would never meet.   He always wants to buy something new and it seems he just can’t rest until all his available funds are gone.

Lately he’s been on a kick about getting a new barbeque.  Our current one is about twenty years old but I think it works just fine.  He thinks I’m a crazy miser lady.

Related: The Best Time To Start Saving Is Now

I believe we are born to be either spenders or savers.  Siblings who grow up in the same household – whether frugal or affluent – can have totally different perspectives when it comes to money.

For example, if a favourite store offers a 50% off sale, the spender says, “Good, now I can buy twice as much.”  The saver says, “Great, now I will only have to pay half as much.”  It’s how we view life.

Related: 35 Ways To Save Money

Spenders often felt deprived as children.  They may be seeking acceptance from their peers.  They may think that because they work hard they deserve to go out, take expensive vacations, and buy nice things (often useless) for themselves and also for their friends and loved ones.  They have a natural propensity to acquire and consume.

Unfortunately, spenders also tend to be quite wasteful.  Who cares if you throw away produce that’s gone bad or if the water bill is higher this month.

I grit my teeth when I see my husband ripping off half a roll of paper towels to wipe up a spill.

There’s a lot of information available for spenders to help them change their ways and become more careful, reasonable and responsible with their resources, but not much is said about savers.  I guess it seems to be more of a virtue, but compulsive saving can be just as destructive.

Related: Voluntary Simplicity

Savers pay themselves first, look for sales, research the cost of items, save a little each month to pay for a large purchase, and consume only as necessary.  These frugal activities are commendable but it is possible to analyze potential purchases too much.  Some savers are so bent on never spending that they make themselves and everyone around them miserable.  That’s no more noble than overspending.

Feelings of enhanced security from not spending any money, or by doing without things that others might consider necessities is not conducive to a full and happy life.  Why don’t you think you deserve nice things?

We always read about people who live a sub-poverty life, wearing ratty old clothes, eating the cheapest food and not turning on the heat.  When they pass away it’s discovered that they have several hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) stashed away that they never touched.  They were just too afraid to spend.

Women especially have the “fear of becoming a bag lady” syndrome, but with a well thought out financial plan and a realistic budget it is most unlikely to happen.

Related: 10 Ways For Women To Achieve Financial Empowerment

The saver/spender combination in a marriage is actually ideal.  The spender makes sure that the family has nice things and does fun activities together.  The saver makes sure there’s money to support the lifestyle now and in the future.  Natural tendencies don’t have to rule our lives and cause problems.

It takes a bit of effort to create a balance provided we know how to communicate and strike a compromise when it comes to the management of household funds.

As for our barbeque purchase, my husband sold some unwanted items on Kijijii, researched his options and finally bought one he was happy with.

On the upside, he has been happily grilling away, preparing supper every evening.  On the downside, he’s been perusing the booklet that came with the grill.  It has about three pages of accessories that are “must haves” and he’s getting that look again.  Oy vey!

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  1. John @ Curious Cat Investing Blog on July 4, 2012 at 4:05 am

    This is one place where both can benefit from a compromise. I am a saver by nature, and probably too much of one. I have gotten a bit better at parting with my money when it makes sense. But I still want to hold onto it too much 🙁 even for my own good.

    • Boomer on July 4, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      @Curious Cat: John, I can totally relate to what you say. Occasionally I get anxious but I’ve learned to relax a lot more.

  2. krantcents on July 4, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Luckily, my wife and I are savers! I will have to break that habit somewhat when I retire. I do not think I can, but I will try to start spending, but very wisely.

  3. NormaK on July 4, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Both hubby and I are savers. We’ve had discussions, recently, about us both loosening the purse strings. We’re beginning to feel cheap rather than frugal. lol We got into the frugality habit so that we could accelerate our mortgage payments. Now, the mortgage is paid off, we have a healthy emergency fund, no debt, and we’re saving for retirement. It’s difficult to break the habits of frugality, though. It’s not that we don’t think that we deserve nice ‘things,’ it’s that ‘things’ just aren’t important to us. We’d prefer being spendthrift-y on travel and experiences.

    • Boomer on July 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      It can be hard to change course when you’ve saved and been frugal all you life. The trick is to spend on things that are worthwhile for your enjoyment of life at a price that seems reasonable to you – just like your travelling NormaK. What’s the point of saving and doing without if it just all passes on to your heirs.

  4. Mike on July 4, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    How true your comments are. I am the saver who makes sure there’s money to support our current lifestyle and save for the future. I have figured out a fun, frugal way to satisfy my partners natural tendency to spend. I take her to auctions and we spend “adventure” days looking for treasures in local thrift stores. She gets to spend money and I get to save some!

    • Boomer on July 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      @Mike: It seems like you’ve found your answer. My husband and I have also managed to compromise – he asks me first if he can spend 🙂

  5. MakintheBacon$ on July 7, 2012 at 11:57 am

    In my current relationship, I would say both of us are more savers than spenders. We both hate the idea of wasting money, try to buy what’s on sale,research on products before we buy them. My bf is quite handy and actually bought his vehicle from craigslist. The only thing I spend a lot of money on is travelling, whereas he prefers to spend the money on electronics. I don’t think I could ever date someone who wasn’t careful with their money or had expensive taste. We’d probably disagree on a lot of things and butt heads quite a bit.

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