When a Saver Marries a Spender
Married to a Spender?
Married to a Saver?
It seems like, in most marriages, people are either one or the other. Savers feel nervous about their lack of a cushion. Spenders feel strapped down and confined. So how in the world do you make it work? How can you put your differences aside and balance the books – both in your check book AND your marriage? According to this infographic, spouses normally aren’t on the same page regarding money in their relationship. So let’s talk about that.
This is a regularly asked Reader Question on our Facebook page, so it’s clear that so many of our fantastic followers are struggling with this topic. We Divas put our heads together, (and called upon some great advice from the experts!) for 18 fantastic tips below on how to make it all work.
1. Accept their money personality. Just like you accept your spouses’ personality for who they are (strengths, weaknesses, and all), it’s important that you also accept their “money personality.” Just like their overall personality, their “money personality” is unlikely to change. They have been shaped to be a Saver or a Spender, and there’s not much you can do about it. Dr. Jon Rich, a clinical psychologist in Irvine, California, and author of The Couple’s Guide to Love & Money said, “Your financial styles were developed long before [your] relationship started.” He continues, “Because basic personality types don’t tend to change, you have to try to find a way to work with the personalities you have.” So accept your spouse, and whether or not they are a spender or saver. Realize that the differences are what makes marriage a challenge and exciting, so embrace them, and make a plan.
2. It’s not always personal. It seems like, in a lot of marriages, people take their spouse’s spending habits personally. According to Dr. Rich, it’s rare that spending (or restricting) money is an attack on the other person. It’s just part of their money personality. “For instance,” says Rich, “a spender may be thinking, ‘If my partner cared about me more, she would spend more money on me.’ A saver, on the other hand, might be thinking, ‘If my partner cared more about me, he would be saving for our future.’ These are erroneous beliefs,” Rich says. “Your spouse’s financial behavior might have something to do with the relationship, or you might just be reading too much into it. It often causes needless distress to believe that one’s partner is sending a message by the way he or she spends money.”
In the early days of our marriage, I thought my husband was sending me a message with every single thing he did. I’ve learned over the years that 99% of the time, he isn’t. If you do feel like your spouse is truly trying to “get personal” in your finances, that needs to be addressed, so it’s time to sit down and have a chat as to why you think that’s happening. But chances are, they aren’t.
3. Get a cushion. We can’t predict the future. Car trouble, medical woes, and unexpected bills are a part of life, and we need to be prepared for them. No, money doesn’t solve every problem, but to have a bit set aside in a bank account for those rainy-day emergencies can provide huge piece of mind, and put a big stress relief on your marriage. We really, really love financial guru Dave Ramsey, and if you aren’t familiar with his Baby Steps, we highly recommend them. Take a guess at what #1 of his Baby Step plan is? That’s right – establish a $1000 emergency fund. Before you conquer any debt, before you put away money for that anniversary trip – save $1000. In my marriage, as my husband is a university student, we’ve found that $1000 is more than enough to handle most day-to-day emergencies. We keep this cash in a separate account that’s not easy to access, so we only draw from it when it’s a true emergency. Even if you’re a Spender and not a Saver, this is one tip that is non-negotiable. That amount of savings might not happen overnight, and that’s okay – just set a plan to make it a reality.
4. Set goals together to determine what you need to accomplish your dreams. So many couples dream of home ownership, traveling the world, or finally owning that Porsche. And guess what? Dream big, my friend! Those things can totally become yours! Determine your dreams, write them down, then set a plan, and make it happen. (Our goal-setting pack is a good place to start if the idea of breaking down your goals into do-able steps seems overwhelming). More important than the goals themselves is to ensure that they are set together. If you are only out for your best interests, your spouse will pick up on that – trust me, they can smell it from a mile away! The motivation to save as a cohesive unit will go out the window, and you’ll be right back where you started. Oh, and chances are, you can’t make these types of purchases on a whim, so guess what Spenders…that means you have to take notes from the Saver this time!
5. Be open-minded – your way isn’t always right. Awww…say it ain’t so! Unfortunately, yes, it’s true. What you see as the “right” thing to do (or spend money on) might not always be so. Just like you have needs, so does your spouse. If your financial goal is to be driving the aforementioned dream Porsche by the end of the year, and your spouse has a goal of being out of debt before December 31st, take a note. Think about what is best for your family, and future. Sometimes compromises have to be made, and your dreams have to be put on hold for that of the greater good. It takes some give-and-take, just like a lot of issues in marriage!
7. Set boundaries. Okay, okay, you got me – this is another phrase for BUDGET. Now that you’ve determined your goals and set up some automatic savings to help you get there, it’s time to talk about what’s left over! I know, I know – it’s not the most fun suggestion, but an important one at that. Control your money; don’t let it control you. Rather than one person (most likely the Saver!) dictating where all of the money goes, be sure to make the decisions as a couple, so nobody is the “bad cop,” and there aren’t any power struggles. Building a budget together can enhance your marriage in a way that will totally surprise you! I love that this article points out how it enhances communication, trust, and accountability. It’s absolutely true! Decide on what your priorities are, and how much money you think you’ll need to cover those priorities. I think every couple has a bit of a “learning curve” as to how much they think they spend, and what they actually spend, so it may take a few months for it to fall into place. Be patient, and adjust the numbers as needed!
And psssst…don’t forget to write date night into your budget! I once had a recently divorced friend tell me, “We should have gone on more date nights. At the time, I thought we couldn’t afford them. But the reality is…they would have been cheaper than our divorce lawyer!” Date nights don’t need to be expensive – in fact, MOST of our dates here at The Dating Divas are frugal as can be. My husband and I really love doing at-home date nights, as we have young children – and a lot of them are free!
8. Utilize awesome resources. Thankfully, we live in a day and age where keeping each other in line financially with a budget is easy. First and foremost, check out this incredible post from Diva Megan on our favorite financial resources. A bunch of us Divas swear by Mint.com, (although we mostly use the app). If you love a good challenge and stats, you’ll adore it, too. You can set up budgets for things like “Entertainment,” “Groceries,” or whatever else your heart desires on the website or in the app, and Mint does the rest! If you go over budget for that week, the budget line in the app turns red…and it’s a bummer! (Okay, maybe just for my husband and I – we view it like a game!) We each have access to the app, so we can be in on our budget together. You also can keep track of your net worth, debt repayment, 401K, and tons of other stats, too. We also have heard FANTASTIC things about Personal Capital, so that one is worth a try, too! If you need some more serious help, Jordan Page has an incredible Budget Bootcamp that will be sure to on track — it’s amazing! Enter code DIVAS at checkout for 10% off! If you prefer your financial details offline, there’s also the envelope system or keeping a ledger, like this one. It doesn’t really matter what system you choose, just decide on one together, keep it consistent, and stick to it.
Also, our Reclaim Your Marriage Program has an ENTIRE session dedicated to finances! It has helped dozens and dozens of couples take control and make their finances work for them, along with guiding them smoothly through 9 other hot-button topics in marriage. If you really feel like you need some serious help in a variety of areas (not just finances), check out our incredible Reclaim Your Marriage Program!
Here’s one of our favorite testimonials for the Finances Session of our Reclaim Your Marriage Program:
“When we first started this program, we were well over $50k in debt and barely surviving. Money was a constant fight for us, and was eroding all of the other areas of our marriage – it always came back to our finances. We followed this program to a “T” and, though it was REALLY hard, we were able to get completely out of debt in a year! There was a lot of compromising, and a lot of struggling along the way, but it was completely worth it. Now we don’t have a dark cloud looming over our marriage! We’ve learned how to get on the same page with our spending and our saving. It’s such a relief to no longer have debt weighing us both down. Our relationship grew stronger from that big road bump, and we’ve learned to really focus on our needs – rather than what we want right now.” – Kari and Adam Elordi, Utah
9. Have some “fun money,” and keep it equal. You know when you go to a wedding, and they ask you to write down some marriage advice for the happy couple? Well, among a few other things, I always write this one. After my husband and I had been married a whole week, we sat down and got our budget together. Once we divvied out the money to groceries, date nights, and emergency funds, my husband pointed out that there wasn’t much leftover for some “fun money” for each of us. (A term he forever coined in our marriage from that day on!) So, we took a little cash from a few of the more unnecessary categories, and created what then forever became “weekly fun money.” Weekly fun money is for wants, not needs. Each Monday, the “fun money” transfers automatically to separate savings accounts. So if I want that darling new top, well… I better have enough weekly fun money saved up! It has been one of the best decisions we’ve made for our marriage. Why? We have never argued about money. Not once. When we bring up something we want, the first question is always, “Well, do you have the fun money?” If the answer is “yes!” then go for it! If it’s no, then you are going to have to wait. (Okay, I will say, we occasionally allow some “fun money debt” for those moments when we see something we’ve been wanting forever on a crazy sale. When that happens, we stop the weekly automatic transfer until the “debt” has been repaid). We’ve found our “impulse” shopping has been kicked to the curb, and that’s another great perk! We also keep the amount exactly equal to keep things fair.
We’ve loved this idea so much that we have also extended it to our children, too! Although they are too young to understand or even know about it, they also get $5 transferred to separate accounts for them every Monday. When it’s time for swimming lessons, new clothes, or their birthday party, it’s so nice to know that they have a bit of “fun money” that we can draw from to make nice things happen for them, even though our finances are limited right now. Honestly, we feel like we’ve never “gone without,” and it’s aaallll because of this system. So decide an amount, and let loose! (…within reason, of course!)
10. Develop a system. If you don’t already have a procedure for paying bills and keeping tabs on your finances, figure one out. Several of the Divas mentioned that they divvied up bill-paying duty with their husband; so they pay half the bills, and their man pays the other half. Each have their own responsibilities and make it work. In my marriage, we have found it works better if I manage all of the bill paying and balancing. When my husband is home, he is often engrossed in school work or other home duties. However, I pay everything online when he’s at home at night, so he peeks over my shoulder from his school work and we discuss what’s going on with our finances together. So either split it up, or pick a family “account manager” – whatever works for you in your marriage and schedules.
11. Get involved. Right along with a system to pay bills, ensure you both are involved and know what’s going on with your finances. If the Saver is always solely in charge, they might feel like they are the “bad cop,” and become resentful of taking on all of the responsibility. If the Spender is oblivious to the current financial situation, and you don’t have a “fun money” system in place (see #9), spending can quickly spiral out of control. Check in weekly or bi-weekly if you can, but aim for at least once a month. Doing so will help the Spender be more aware of where money really goes, and the Saver will love to chat about achieving their financial goals.
12. Revisit your goals – often. 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.
13. Be watchdogs. Regardless if you are the Spender or the Saver, both people should try to be actively keeping an eye on all bank accounts. Like I’ve mentioned a few times, we want to avoid the “bad cop” mentality. That’s just not what marriage is about! There may be times when spending needs to be reigned in, and that’s okay! Learning to roll with the punches in marriage is an important aspect to your relationship. So check your accounts often, and discuss together if, when, and why purchases need to be held back. (Plus – it’s always a good idea to keep a sharp eye on your accounts anyway; we’ve been lucky and able to catch fraudulent issues really fast, because we are watchdogs!)
15. Honesty is always the best policy. Don’t keep secrets from each other…(okay, okay, unless it’s a special surprise!) According to this article, 46% of people have lied about finances with their spouse. Isn’t that heartbreaking? If you bought a pair of shoes on a whim because you just couldn’t resist (hey, no judgement here…been there), tell your spouse. Tell them Every. Single. Time. We all make mistakes and slip, and chances are, they will too at times. The fact that you told them will speak volumes, and will encourage a more open and honest conversation about where money goes in your marriage. As you open up your heart and commit yourself to honesty within a relationship, your trust and confidence in each other will grow by leaps and bounds in so many ways…and not just in the finances department!
16. Discuss, discuss, discuss. Are you ready for probably my favorite marriage quote in the history of ever?
“What ruins marriages is what’s not said, not what’s said.”
I’ll be honest, I had to read that a few times to grasp it. But hoooly cow – that is one true sentence. (I read it in this article that I mentioned earlier). Going along with vitally important #15, talk. You can put a number limit on how much is “too much” to spend without discussing it first. (So, for example, $75). If you just have to grab those $80 boots, talk to your spouse first. Or start implementing “fun money” (#9) and have open discussions about your upcoming wants. Whatever tactic, whatever budget, whatever system works for you – just make sure communication, openness, and honesty is your foundation.
17. Seek professional help if needed. If your financial problems are beyond your control and it’s causing issues in your marriage, it is totally okay to get outside help. TOTALLY okay. Ask around your circle of friends and family to see if there is a financial adviser or accountant they can recommend. The last thing you want to do is try to tackle it yourself, but get overwhelmed and let it affect your marriage and other relationships. Debt is conquerable. Self-control in finances is real. And – you don’t have to do it alone if you don’t want to.
18. Never let the problem become more important than the person. Thomas S. Monson wisely stated, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than the person to be loved.” Isn’t that the truth? If you are trying and trying to make it work with a Saver or Spender, and it’s just not panning out – think of the big picture. Make #17 happen. Your finances are of vital importance, absolutely – but it’s not worth losing your precious marriage over. So stay calm. Remember why you love them, and why you married them. You got this.