Money is a funny thing.
For one person it can cause enough stress and consume all of their focus, effort, and energy. It can make a person pursue a career they hate, pick up a second job or side gigs. Some people love to scrimp and save while others would rather binge and spend.
It’s easy to think that money is only math. Save the right amount, invest it and earn the historical stock market average, plug it into this super duper retirement calculator and you can find out exactly when you’ll be able to retire.
Pick up a side gig in your time off to boost your income and find more ways to save money (<– there’s 150 for ya!) and you’ll be able to speed up your timeline. Save more, invest more, and watch your net worth skyrocket.
Saving money is never that easy, especially when you’re trying to do it with someone else.
All the people who are married or even dating someone are saying, “PREACH!”
Dealing with money doesn’t just get twice as hard when you involve another person–it gets 10x harder. The issues you might have when it comes to money multiply, cross lines, and weave together with all of your partners.
You see, the way we view money is rooted in our backgrounds, family dynamics, culture, and the communities we grew up in.
If you grew up poor, you might have more experience being frugal and going without certain luxuries. But at the first taste of wealth or income you might be just as likely to spend it to reward yourself.
On the other hand someone who grew up wealthy might be more accustomed to a life of luxury and therefore “need” more money to “get by”. However, they also might have more experience learning how to save money because growing up they had money to save–something not everyone experiences.
Side note! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments! What are some tips you have for getting on the same page financially with your spouse?
The reality is everyone has a different attitude or “personality” when it comes to money.
You’re either a spender or you’re a saver. Maybe you’re truly somewhere in between or you have areas where you spend and others where you save, but generally… you lean one way or the other.
Money Dynamics: Saver Spender Marriages
When it comes to marriage there are three possible money dynamics for the spenders and savers out there.
- Two Savers
- Two Spenders
- Saver and a Spender
My guess is that most couples fall into that third category. One of you is a spender and the other is a saver.
Congrats! We have something in common.
My wife would rather go on fun trips, buy new clothes, and regularly update our furniture. But in all fairness to her, she is pretty frugal. But frugal doesn’t necessarily mean that you save money! She loves scoring a good deal and getting the most bang for her buck. But as my FIL says, “We’re going to go broke with you saving money.”
Me on the other hand… I don’t even like celebrating my birthday because I know it means spending money. I’ve even told her before that the gift to me is NOT having to spend anything.
She’s a frugal spender and I’m a miser. Yet we’re happily married!
Here Are 9 Helpful Tips for Saver Spender Marriages
1. Acknowledge and talk through your differences.
Honestly, this step would hopefully come before you say your “I do’s”. Talking through finances is an important part of dating and engagement.
For my wife, she grew up in a well off family, but they spent their money on private school education. Her parents were huge Dave Ramsey fans and so for 10 years my wife believed her family was severely in debt (mortgage debt) because every time she asked for something that’s what she heard.
Well, now that we are not in debt and are saving 50% of our income, she doesn’t see the need to save more than we already are. Why not enjoy life a bit more?
On the other hand, I grew up in a solidly upper class family. I’m not ashamed to admit that. My grandpa and dad were incredibly successful in their careers. They worked hard and took advantage of every opportunity they were given. They both provided well for their families and have been able to give their kids a head-start in life. I’m thankful for that, not ashamed of it.
I want that same security and I want that same level of comfort.
More than that, I want to be the kind of dad and grandpa that they were.
However, I’ve chosen to work in a career that isn’t necessarily known for bringing in the big bucks. I work at a church and make less than $45k a year in one of the biggest cities in the country.
My mentality is this: If we want to provide for our kids and live the comfortable life we desire then we’ll have to make sacrifices to get there! The only way to do that is to scrimp and save everywhere while we’re young and let compound returns take care of the rest.
Here are a few of my favorite books on marriage! If you want to get better at communicating and loving each other well, check them out
1. Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler
2. Catching Foxes by John Henderson
3. Next up for us: Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
2. Institute a monthly allowance
I know this one might seem childish, but it has been a life-changer in our marriage. The first year of marriage I might as well have been “Mr. No”. Every time my wife asked to buy something big I said no.
She thought I was unfair and at the same time I thought she was spending money like crazy on dozens of $8-15 purchases.
Turns out we were both right. I was being unfair and dictatorial about money and she was spending money like crazy.
We put into place a monthly allowance for each of us that could be spent ANY way we like. This freed us up to stop bickering about money and instead just spend our designated amount however we like.
If I wanted to spend all of mine on starting a blog and buying fancy coffee while studying I could–and I did!
If she wanted to spend it all the first week of the month, she could–and she did!
3. Talk through the “why” with your “spender” spouse.
If you’re the one reading a personal finance blog then I’m just going to assume that you’re the saver in your marriage.
One of the best things you can do is share the “why” with your spouse. Why do you care about saving money? What are your goals financially? Why is this important to you?
My wife probably thought I was just being selfish and greedy. It totally changed her perspective when I shared with her that I’m trying to be frugal now so that we can be great providers once we have kids.
4. Decide what to do with extra-income
This one is hugely (bigly?) important. Once we had our monthly allowance in place I thought we were all set. No more arguing, no more debating, just pure marital bliss.
If you’re in a saver spender marriages, then you definitely need to put together a plan for when your income increases AND you should do this before it actually happens.
We had it all together until we got our year-end bonuses.
Me: “Great! Time to put this into our IRAs.”
Her: “Let’s go buy a new couch!”
Same thing happened when we got raises.
Me: “Time to go change our automatic withdrawal so we don’t inflate our lifestyles.”
Her: “Now we can move into a nicer apartment!”
This is what has worked for us: any extra income from job raises is automatically saved for retirement and we split our bonuses into fun money and our future house downpayment.
5. Plan celebratory spending
You ever get in a fight over how much should or shouldn’t be spent on birthdays?
For all the saver spender marriages out there, take some time to budget out and agree on how you’ll celebrate some of the bigger events that come up every year.
How much are you going to spend for each other’s birthdays?
What about your anniversary?
Do you have an allotted gift amount for Christmas?
Those are great things to iron out ahead of time! My wife and I know exactly how much we plan to spend on each of those things so that we never have to argue or debate on how much is too much!
6. Work together on making a budget
This one should be totally obvious, but SO many people mess this up, including yours truly. Usually the saver in the relationship puts together a budget and then forces it runs it by their spender partner. The spender gets no say in how the budget looks and then by the end of the month, you’re back to arguing.
The best thing you can do as a couple is work together on a budget that will meet your shared goals. The more involved both of you are the more successful you’ll be together,.
7. Both be willing to sacrifice
Marriage is about working together, compromising, and loving each other well. This post isn’t meant to let the saver get their way and just learn how to “manage” their spender spouse. I truly want y’all to learn how to work together to save money and have a better marriage.
To do that, both halves of a marriage have to be willing to sacrifice and compromise.
8. Create visual reminders that celebrate progress
Most spenders love the feeling of tangibility when it comes to money. 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.
If your significant other is the same way, I HIGHLY suggest putting together some visual reminders.
Here are 8 things you could make visual reminders for:
- Student loan payoff
- Credit card debt
- Retirement accounts
- College tuition for kiddos
- Your “Freedom date” for those chasing financial independence
- Vacation fund
- Emergency fund progress
- Total Net Worth
9. Downsize your space to upsize your lifestyle
Two years ago my wife and I downsized our living arrangement out of necessity. I had been unemployed for several months and was about to start a 6 year long grad school program. We lucked into an amazing deal on a one-bedroom here in Houston and our living expenses (rent + util) went down by about $600/month.
After two years of living here, we’re both back to full-time incomes and we are saving over 50% of it all. We’ve been thinking lately about moving out into a bigger place but I cringe at the idea of seeing our monthly living expenses double.
So for now, we’ve come to a compromise. As long as we’re living here, we’ll live it up and still come out ahead.
Downsizing your living space is a great way to upsize your lifestyle. We’re embracing some lifestyle inflation. If you don’t mind a smaller or not-updated place to live, then this can be a great way to save money and enjoy some of your favorite luxuries.
Wrapping it up…
To everyone out there in saver spender marriages, hope is not lost! You can still save money, plan for retirement, AND be happy together. It takes work and it will definitely take some compromise. But more than that, it takes communication.
If you get anything out of this post, then I just hope you walk away knowing that you need to communicate better with your spouse.
I would LOVE to hear what you think in the comments below. What advice would you have to those in saver spender marriages? What has worked for you?