A Financial Fairytale: The Journey of the Saver and the Spender

Getting married is all about the merging of two lives into one, which typically includes finances. But when one of you is a spender and the other a saver, navigating your budget can be tricky.

Marriage is all about compromise. And what they don’t tell you before saying “I do” is that one of the biggest hurdles in marriages is money. In fact, a study of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Ramsey Solutions, said the more consumer debt a couple has, the more likely they are to fight about finances.

Whether it’s spending too much or saving too much, or anything in between, people have a lot of opinions about money. Those opinions are unlikely to change entirely, but how people handle their partner’s habits is something that can be handled with grace.

Whether you’re the saver or the spender, or even if this divide isn’t a challenge in your partnership, there are terrific lessons to be learned in the art of compromise.

Talk it out

The first step to making a relationship work between a spender and a saver, just like any other compromise in life, is talking it out. Make sure you lay your cards on the table and be honest with both yourself and your partner. No one benefits if you aren’t brutally honest.

Robert Taibbi, a licensed clinical social worker, wrote in a 2019 article for Psychology Today that there is often more to money worries than just the money side of things — it’s emotional too. It’s important to acknowledge the ways in which those concerns can spill into other areas of your life and address the conflicts as they arise instead of brushing them off as mere financial stress or lashing out when the going gets tough. Starting the conversation with a good attitude is key, he said, versus when you are tired or stressed. He also recommended the following:

Imagine each of you are at a team meeting at your jobs. Come up with an agenda and plan ahead of time. Your goals are to stay in your rational brains rather than your emotional ones, not endlessly rail about the past, but move forward toward an agreeable mutual solution.

Budget for the planned and unplanned

A no-brainer to be sure, but budgeting is a major key to making a spender-saver marriage work. If the partners can’t agree to a budget and stick with the budget, then there isn’t much room for compromise or understanding. Not spending extra money before discussing it as a family unit is a great way to build up nest eggs or knock down debts.

Two unrelated people are unlikely to have the exact same upbringing, so understand that there may be a disconnect between what you believe is the right financial decision and what your partner sees as the right decision. Budgeting (and spending for that matter) don’t come as second nature to some people, so it’s important to honor the budget, but also honor the person for sticking to it.

When it comes to budgeting, it isn’t just about what each person or the household can spend, Taibbi said; it’s about recognizing that there is sacrifice being made on both sides.

“If your philosophies are different, try and reach a middle ground,” he wrote, and go beyond just creating a budget for shared expenses. “Come up with a set amount for individual discretionary expenses. This helps the person who is more spontaneous not feel like he is locked into some financial cage, while the more anxious person knows there are limits on that is being spent.”

Set visual cues

The PF Geeks (Personal Finance Geeks) suggest using visual reminders to keep the motivation going strong. Having something to look at is a great way to remind yourself that you’re hitting the mini milestones on your way to the big ones.

“Most spenders love the feeling of tangibility when it comes to money,” Rich at PF Geeks wrote. “My wife loves being able to hold, use, see, or take advantage of something that money has bought her. Every time she lights a candle she gets to enjoy that $8 purchase. She knows that our retirement accounts are growing, that our emergency fund is fully loaded, and that we are on track to buy a house. But none of those things feel real to her because she doesn’t see the progress.”

PF Geeks suggest making visual reminders for certain goals such as:

  • Student loan payoff
  • Credit card debt
  • Retirement accounts
  • Vacation fund
  • Emergency fund progress

Always revisit your goals

Making financial peace between yourself and your partner isn’t a “one-and-done” kind of situation. It’s important to always be working on your monetary success and enjoy ticking the goals off your list. That said, it’s also important to keep making new goals. As you reach milestones and check them off the list be sure to replace them with more attainable ones. This way you’ll stay on track, and you and your partner can have more peace of mind.

Catharine at The Dating Divas wrote the following:

 Just as important as setting the goals is reviewing the goals. I find that my goal achievement plans need to be adjusted pretty consistently – either they were not realistic, or I’m not doing my part to achieve them like I should. My husband and I try to have a chat once a quarter about our goals, so we don’t lose sight of making our dreams happen.

By always having goals to motivate you and the drive to talk things out honestly and openly, you’ll be one step closer to achieving the spender-saver happily ever after.

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