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Financial Conflicts: When A Spender Partners With A Saver

As part of my budgeting plan, I transfer a set amount every month into my chequing account to pay for the household bills and regular monthly spending. I have this figured out pretty accurately. This month, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had almost $700 extra – money that wasn’t spent.

I told my husband, thinking we could use the money to splurge on something, and I just about fell over backwards when he said, “You should save it.”

You see, I’m the saver in our family, and he’s a major spender. Even though we both had a frugal upbringing, we ended up with totally opposite money styles.

Mr. E always wants to buy something new, and it seems he just can’t rest until all his available funds are gone. He thinks I’m a crazy miser lady.

Financial Conflicts: When A Spender Partners With A Saver

Spenders vs Savers

Our money philosophy is not entirely based on family upbringing. Often, even siblings who grow up in the same household – whether frugal or affluent – can have totally different perspectives when it comes to money. It’s how we view life.

Spenders have a natural propensity to acquire and consume. They may think that because they work hard they deserve to go out, take expensive vacations, and buy nice things for themselves and for their friends and loved ones. They may try to seek acceptance from their peers by being ultra-generous.

Related: Of course, but maybe.

Unfortunately, spenders also tend to be quite wasteful. Who cares if you throw away produce that’s gone bad, or if the hydro bill is a bit 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.

Here’s a couple of common conversations between us:

Me: Can you pry this container open?

He: Why don’t you just throw it away? It’s empty!

Me: Are you kidding? I can get at least five more uses out of it!

Me: This is a great deal on tomato sauce. We should stock up.

He: Nah! We don’t need to. We still have a can in the pantry. (My translation: He’ll buy one later when it’s at full price.)

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 damaging.

Savers pay themselves first, look for sales, research the cost of items, and consume only as necessary. These frugal activities are commendable but it is possible to analyze potential purchases too much or get mired in research. Savers can be neurotic: “I can buy this $3 coffee, but if that money was saved, with interest over 25 years, it would mean the coffee actually costs $11.85.

Not spending any money, or 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 or experiences?

Allowing for the occasional splurge is not going to be the end of the world.

When spending habits come into conflict

It’s great when couples are totally in sync with spending and saving – but that was just not us.

It didn’t always make for automatic marital bliss those first few years. We all know that money is ranked high on the list of topics that couples fight about, and a reason for splitting up.

But, even if you and your spouse are polar opposites when it comes to money attitudes – don’t think it’s hopeless.

Experts say the saver/spender combination in a marriage can actually complement each other. 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 does require communication, compromise, and lots of negotiation to find a happy balance.

  • Set financial goals and priorities together – for retirement, large purchases, etc.
  • Maintain individual accounts as well as joint
  • Agree on a spending budget – either an “approved limit” for individual purchases, or a monthly allowance.

Be honest and trust your partner. Don’t resort to blaming and name calling. You have to pick your battles. Lying or keeping secrets about what you are spending is definitely not OK.

Final thoughts

While people hope to marry someone with a money style similar to their own, they often marry their financial opposite. It takes a bit of effort to find some common ground. With a well thought out financial plan and a realistic budget you’ll be able to make better decisions as a couple.

As for my bonus money, instead of putting it back into savings, I’ve decided to use it to fly out and visit my newest baby granddaughter.

Are you a saver or a spender? How do you manage your money as a couple?

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8 Comments

  1. Retiring On My Terms on July 25, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    That sounds like the perfect use for your bonus money. Congratulations!!!

    I am fortunate in that both Mrs. ROMT and I tend to be savers. We have had very few conflicts about money over the years – but that doesn’t mean we haven’t found other things to disagree about!

  2. Jon on July 26, 2017 at 4:04 am

    My wife and I make a great team. I generally take the lead keeping our household budget and long-term plans on track, while she saves me from being left cold, alone, in the dark, with nothing but the balance in my savings account to keep me company. Some of my life choices have indeed been based on $3 coffee considerations.

  3. al on July 26, 2017 at 4:22 am

    once your savings plan is in place, is adequate for reaching and covering your agreed needed end goals and you still have spare cash left (because you earn enough) , then the best approach is to use it for new experiences.

    We only have one life, and at the end of the road, it is game over and we can’t take the saved money with us. The only thing we will remember just before the last heart beat, will be a string of good experiences, not how many $$$ we managed to save (half of it will go to Uncle Sam anyway, and the rest to our eventual successors, who might waste it all, or put it to good use too).

  4. Ian on July 26, 2017 at 4:29 am

    Savers need to make sure they don’t become misers. If you are meeting your savings budget it seems ok not to save underspending.

  5. Owen @ PlanEasy on July 26, 2017 at 7:39 am

    My wife and I are both savers and sometimes we can go a bit overboard. Having a budget helps. We have money set aside for entertainment, vacations, and other fun stuff. This makes it easier to spend that money because it was budgeted for.

    Any combo can work, saver+saver, spender+saver or spender+spender, as long as there is good communication.

  6. Cheryl on July 26, 2017 at 10:11 am

    I’m a saver (frugal but not stingy) and my now ex was a spender. To the point of maxing out his credit cards. It was a huge source of friction and the main reason for splitting up, no different than many couples when one person is financially irresponsible. He was really bad about putting things back where they belonged. When he couldn’t find something he needed his solution was to go buy a new one. My solution is to put the item back in its designated spot when you’re done using it. I estimate he had at least $40,000 in credit card debt when we split up. I got really lucky in family court that he had very bad legal advice and he didn’t bring up joint marital debt before the judge. I also had a lot of credit card debt due to joint marital debt, but most of my debt was emergency related and I finally paid it off 2 years ago.

    So that’s something else people need to keep in mind with the saver/spender relationship if you end up in family court, the assets and debt can be split if it’s put before the judge. Good news for the spender but the saver can end up in worse shape financially.

  7. Keith Cowan on July 26, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    I am blessed to be a saver but not radically so. DW is the spender and even buys my clothes (so I won’t wear rags). Any major purchase and some minor ones are subject to both our opinions although she has an override.

    My saving and investing has resulted in us becoming financially independent to the point where I am backing off and encouraging her to spend responsibly. It turns out that being a shopper is a lot of work which she enjoys and I appreciate.

    Being a portfolio manager is also a lot of work but I enjoy it. As long as I can generate 12% annual returns without taking much risk, we are both happy. I expect next year to be less and am taking steps to manage the risk.

  8. Diane on August 5, 2017 at 7:50 am

    My husband and I each have our own bank accounts. We have a joint account that pays all the living expenses. We have it set up so that on the first of the month the bank moves a specific amount of money from each of our accounts and deposits it in the joint account. We each have money left over for our own spending. I tend to save mine until I find something I have been needing. My husband used his to buy a $500 baseball bat. This is not a problem, as it is his choice what to do with his spending money, as it is my choice what to do with mine. We may not think what the other does with their spending money is the right choice, but it has never caused us to argue about money.

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