Relationships require two people, and with two people often come two personalities and skill sets. You have the “good cook” and the person who can’t make toast without setting off the fire alarm. Then there’s the “clean freak” and the college roommate nobody wanted. But, most importantly, there is the “spender” and the “saver.” In just about every relationship, each person has a different financial philosophy. Let’s take a look at these two approaches and talk about ways spenders and savers can overcome their differences.
Do You Spend or Save?
Figuring out who is the spender and who is the saver can go a long way to improving communication in a relationship. It might be a little tricky at first, and you certainly don’t want to approach your loved one with a pointed finger, calling them a spender, a “squanderer,” or some other explicit term that we can’t include here.
With that said, honesty is the best policy in any relationship, and having a clear understanding of each other’s personalities and financial tendencies can make a big difference. And, believe it or not, spenders and savers each have certain positive and negative qualities. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.
You are the chronic budgeter, the record keeper, the one who will be “living the dream” on a private island at the age of 65 because you made smart retirement choices. But to your partner, you are a miser—a stingy, party-pooping “buzzkill” who is incapable of having fun at the drop of a hat.
- You always have money set aside, likely in large amounts.
- You are prepared for emergencies.
- You have a long-term outlook that likely includes smart retirement planning.
- You don’t own the newest gadgets; you may be less “in touch” with technology.
- You may miss out on short-term fun because you don’t want to spend the money.
- Your partner might feel like you don’t have enough fun and may feel like he or she has to ask for your permission before spending money.
You know how to have fun. When you cash your paycheck you are already planning a weekend Vegas getaway. You have an awesome wardrobe. And, you’re happy-go-lucky – never stressing about money. But to your partner, you are financially immature–a teenager who missed the cue to “grow up.”
- You have more possessions. You get what you want, when you want it.
- You are spontaneous and have less “holding you back.”
- You make a lot of great memories along the way from all of your spontaneous adventures.
- You might be more willing to use credit for purchases.
- You will not be prepared for an emergency.
- You might rely on others to manage your finances.
These are two very different approaches to money. You might be asking yourself, “How can any relationship make it work?”
A Few Hurdles
There will be some obstacles for spenders and savers to work through. Here are a few common but serious problems that can arise between savers and spenders:
The Parental Problem
If the saver is strict and keeping a close eye on finances at all times, he or she becomes a parent figure in the relationship. This then leads to the spender having to “ask permission” before making purchases and sets up a tense and unhealthy dynamic.
Hiding Money and Keeping Secrets
Relationships with trust issues can lead to financial infidelity. Partners may hide money from one another or even make secret purchases. This is probably a sign that the spender has really poor financial habits or feels overwhelmed by the control of the saver in the relationship.
Why Communication in a Relationship Helps the Finances
It’s a cliché that holds a lot of truth—communication is the key to a successful relationship. Communication can lead couples to an understanding of their financial goals and can help them reach an understanding about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, including their tendencies to either spend or save. Regular and healthy communication is a much better alternative to the issues that can come from keeping secrets or creating an unfair power structure in a relationship.
Does this all come down to gender? Not so fast
Women aren’t always the spenders, men aren’t always the savers, and vice versa. We need to dispel a few myths about gender and money:
Myth #1: Women are the compulsive spenders in a relationship.
Busted: Yes, some women have a habit of compulsive shopping, including “retail therapy,” and when they go it’s often to purchase make-up and clothing. But they aren’t the only compulsive shoppers. Studies show that men compulsive shop almost as often as women. Gadgets, tools, and electronics are men’s products of choice (think: man cave).
Myth #2: Men can’t budget.
Most women will tell you: “Men don’t budget; it’s like stopping to ask for directions—they just don’t do it.”
Busted: Recent evidence says otherwise. Men hate budgeting, it’s true, but they can do it. And when men budget, the results are often better and lead to less spending than when women plan the household budget.*
*We should add that men struggle with investments. They tend to take more risks and lose more money than women investors. So, a good strategy might be to have men do the budgeting and let women plan the investments.
Budgeting isn’t Sexy but Neither is Being Broke
Savers need to lighten up; spenders need to tighten up. If you’re going to make your relationship work with these two very different financial personalities, you’re going to have to make a strategy to meet in the middle. You’re going to have to budget because, whether you like it or not, it’s the responsible thing to do. But you also need to add more fun and spontaneity to your life. Here are some ideas on how you can do both:
“Spontaneous Fun” Fund
If you are a spender and want to show your partner that you can budget and have fun, this is a good option for you. Budget to put some extra funds in a special “spontaneous adventure” envelope. Put the envelope in a safe and out of sight location in your home. Weeks or months later when you are ready to do something unexpected, grab the funds and go have fun.
Have Affordable Fun
If you are the saver and want to show your partner that you can have more fun, you have several options. You can save coupons to your loved one’s favorite restaurants or places of interest. You can also plan fun and romantic activities that are free or inexpensive, such as going hiking or to a park.
If you are the saver, loosen your grip on the finances and pass the monthly budget worksheet over to your partner. Let him or her budget for a few months. You can keep an eye on it (if you must), but now your partner can learn skills that will help your financial situation.
Spender or Saver, We Can Help
If you aren’t sure of where you stand or just need some help, we are here. When you work with Clearpoint in a Budget and Credit Counseling session, you receive a free credit score, review your credit report and get a personalized action plan based on the specifics of your situation. The best news is that this is all offered for free! If this sounds like something you and/or your partner can benefit from, then get started today!