I firmly believe that savers and spenders come from two different frames of reference: seekers of long-term and short-term gratification. These decision-making mindsets tend to bleed into other areas of life, but are definitely apparent when it comes to financial decisions. I am a lifelong saver who married a more natural spender and these are the three lessons I’ve learned since we’ve started living together.
3 Things to Remember When Creating a Budget with a Spender
Hi, I’m a “saver” and I’ve struggled with feelings of superiority and frustration whenever I’ve had to work with “spenders”. Then I met my husband and realized that there are a lot of really wonderful things about spending time and building a life with someone who spends money more freely.
Both Savers and Spenders Are Worthy of Being Heard
As is the case with any differing viewpoint, both a spender and a saver are worthy of having their own way of thinking and opinions. The trick is finding a way discuss and consider each person’s perspective without one person walking all over the other.
It can be difficult to avoid starting a fight when a spender and a saver come together to make financial decisions or create a budget. However, I’ve found that the real problem is that I am often unwilling to listen to what my husband has to say — especially when his idea involves spending more than I would. When I take the time to listen to his perspective and reasoning for wanting to spend when I’d instinctively save, I usually realize that I am just being defensive.
There are times where a short-term perspective is the best one, and there are times where my instinctive long-term mindset helps us to save when we need to. Both the saver and the spender in a relationship deserve to share their perspective and a decision should be made based on agreed-upon priorities and goals.
Here’s an example: When my husband and I are going camping for a weekend in the summer, one of us is usually winning to shell out a few extra dollars on treats and supplies (hint: it’s not me). When we are standing together at the grocery store looking at our list, I have to choose between being frustrated that he wants to spend more on something we don’t need, or listening to what he has to say. When I’m open to listening to his perspective, I am opening up an opportunity to communicate. And guess what? A lot of the time, he isn’t crazy!
Here’s another example: My husband and I get home from work every so often and notice that there aren’t many ingredients left in the fridge for making dinner. My husband might voice his opinion about how convenient and tasty it would be to order a pizza. I usually disagree. He has the choice to find fault with every other solution I offer, or he can listen as I share my perspective on the situation. When he takes the time to hear me out, he usually realizes that the prospect of an unexciting dinner is not worth spending some of our “wiggle room” budget money. We make a box of mac n’ cheese and vow to make something delicious over the weekend.
Spenders Are Not Inherently Irresponsible
Here’s where my superiority issues come into play: I have always unfairly deemed more natural spenders irresponsible and short-sighted. Of course, I still roll my eyes from time to time when I hear stories of someone dropping serious cash on something that seems trivial. However, I make a concerted effort to avoid jumping to conclusions when it comes to discussing finances with my husband.
My husband may be a more natural spender, but it doesn’t mean that he is irresponsible. I am only setting him up for failure if I have decided he is going to fail before we start. Sure, we may have situations that come up and we have to discuss a spending opportunity, but our open communication keeps him from feeling like he needs to sneak or hide financial decisions from me.
It would be irresponsible of me not to trust him and to create an environment of fear or resentment in our marriage.
There have been many times where his more natural spending habits have not only improved our experiences, but have created experiences we never would have had otherwise. My instinct to sit still and to avoid risk might work well for our day-to-day plans, but his spender habits have been both freeing and exciting to live with.
I’ve learned that not only can it be worthwhile to spend when you could save, but that considering spending on “non-essentials” doesn’t make someone weak or silly. Being a saver doesn’t always equate to being responsible, and being a spender doesn’t equate to being ridiculous and irresponsible.
You Can Find a Balance Between Saving & Spending
Finally, it’s possible with honesty and consistent communication to find a healthy balance between saving and spending. Finding a balance means giving up the idea of winners and losers in conversations about spending money.
There will always be times where I struggle not to shoot down “spender” opinions and ideas. I am sure I’ll always have pride in my ability to scrimp and save when times are tough. However, finding the healthy balance between spending nothing and everything comes down to conversations around priorities and goals. These goals include the ones that I have for myself, and also those that my husband and I have for our marriage and future.
Whenever we have a disagreement or find ourselves at a crossroads, we can turn to our financial goals and use them as a guide for our decisions. Instead of wasting our time arguing over who is more “right” about what to do with money, we discuss how a decision will impact our goals and whether it goes along with our priorities.
Here’s an example: My husband and I are planning to have our student loans completely paid off by the end of 2019. We are looking to the months after that last loan payment leaves our account. At that time, we have to reorganize our budget to fit our new goals and priorities. Previously, the loans came before all other spending, but we’ll be shifting our focus to saving a down payment for a home.
The idea of a small reward for our hard work has already been brought to the table. My saver instincts say “every penny we have should go towards a house now!” but my sweet husband sees this as a huge benchmark and wants to celebrate a little. Is he being irresponsible? Absolutely not. The trick will be getting together and making a plan we both agree on.
5 Great Things I’ve Learned from My Spender Spouse
I still have my saver tendencies that make it tough for me to shell out any extra cash. However, there are a few things I have learned from being married to a more natural spender:
There are some experiences worth paying for — whether it comes to a really delicious dinner or even just a weekend away, there are some experiences that are worth spending a little more on. Not only can a little extra expense open up opportunities for making some really cool memories, but it also makes those special events feel MORE special (assuming you don’t do it every time!)
It’s really fun to give things away — when I’m not SO focused on getting through life on as little as possible, I am also more comfortable sharing things I have with people around me.
I love hosting guests/family — Having people over is one of my favorite things now, and previously I might have found myself feeling very conflicted about spending money on food or entertaining others. My husband has helped me to realize that loosening the purse strings to entertain is almost always worth it.
Quality over quantity can save money in the long-run — I’ve been the queen of hand-me-downs and taking whatever was cheapest and most convenient to save myself money. However, I’ve learned that spending a little more up-front, while challenging at the time, can save money on cheap replacements down the road. (ex: camping gear, kitchen tools, shoes)
We should care for what we have — When I spend a little more on items or experiences that I really love, I am more willing to take the extra effort to care for them. I’ll prepare more for an expensive trip because it’s a treat. I’ll carefully wash and fold a nice sweater because I am lucky to have it. Being willing to spend a little more than I used to has made me more careful and considerate of how I take care of what I have.
Setting Financial Goals and Priorities in a Marriage
Two individual people with their own hopes and dreams enter a marriage. The difference between success and defeat when it comes to finances is having open, honest conversations and being willing to listen. Sounds cliche — but it’s 100% true.
The first step is to figure out what’s most important and then agree to work together to move towards those priorities and goals as a team. The good news is that being on the same page financially makes even paying off student debt more fun. The bad news is that it requires us to set aside our ego — and we all know that’s easier said than done!