Can a Saver and Spender Live Happily Ever After?

Photo (cc) by andrewmalone

Like careers, kids and criminal records, money is one of those topics that’s supposed to be discussed well before we say “I do” and head down the aisle. But for many, the topic lingers on the margins as one of the most taboo subjects we ever dare broach with our betrothed. It’s as if net worth, spending habits and credit scores are too personal to discuss openly — even in the most personal of relationships.

So what happens post-honeymoon when you wake up and discover that the dutiful saver your mother raised just married a wild-eyed spender with a nervous twitch and a dozen credit cards? Is there any chance that the thrifty and the “spend-thrifty” can make it work?

I think so. Whether you’re just dating, newly married, or have been together so long you have matching recliners, there’s always hope for the money-mismatched.

Making it work

If you and your significant other speak different languages when it comes to saving and spending, it’s time to start translating — quickly. According to a 2012 survey by the American Institute of CPAs, more than 27 percent of people who are married or living with a partner cited money as the topic most likely to cause an argument. That makes it the most volatile topic for couples — far more sensitive than children, career or friends.

But constructive communication can go miles in resolving nearly any relationship conflict. Good communication is the first step in understanding where the other person is coming from and how you can both, over time, meet in the middle. Without clear, direct, honest and ongoing dialogue, differences in money management styles will erode trust and sour even the sweetest unions.

If money has made your partnership feel more like a battleground, here’s how to clear the air and begin working together:

Understand your distinct histories

Everyone approaches saving and spending differently. And often, our relationship with money is established very early in life. Explore how money was handled in your homes as children. Was there always enough cash, or did your family struggle to make ends meet? How do you think those early experiences set the tone for your saving and spending style now?

Understanding the history each person brings to the table can help temper egos and reduce anger.

Set goals together

Whether you’re a saver or spender, financial success is driven by clear goal-setting. Sit down with your partner and discuss what your financial priorities are and how those priorities translate into specific short-term and long-term goals. As a couple, define goals around things like:

  • Retirement. When do you plan on retiring? How much will you need in savings and investments by your retirement target date?
  • Real estate. Do you want to buy a home or move into a larger home? Would you like to have rental income down the road?
  • Debt. What’s your comfort level with debt? What debts do you have and which one carries the highest interest rate? When would you like to be completely debt-free?
  • Saving and investments. How much of your income would you like to save, or what target amount would you like to have saved 10, 15 or 20 years from now? Do you plan on paying for all or part of your children’s education? What investment risk level are you comfortable with?

Work to find a middle ground if your goals and your spouse’s goals are significantly different. The object is to reach consensus so that each person feels invested in the process and the outcome. Motivate and encourage each other by keeping the goals top-of-mind and doing some constructive daydreaming along the way.

Establish an approval limit

Many couples with different spending philosophies set an approval limit for each other. Purchases below a certain threshold, say $100, don’t need to be discussed or agreed upon beforehand. But any single expenditure that exceeds the limit needs to be approved. It may not sound like the most romantic approach, but establishing clear boundaries for spending helps avoid the day-to-day frustrations that can build into more serious conflicts.

Create separate “mad money” accounts

If you can afford it, consider setting up individual accounts that you and your partner can fund independently. After each person contributes an equitable percentage to household expenses and joint savings, the rest can be deposited in the “mad money” accounts and spent on whatever little luxuries or hobbies each person chooses. This approach is especially helpful for couples who connect later in life and are used to managing their household finances solo. Mad money accounts preserve a bit of saving and spending autonomy and take some of the pressure off of conforming to new spending and saving expectations.

Check in regularly and track progress

Reserving time weekly or monthly to check in with one another is essential to the success of any effort. Are you and your partner on track with your savings goals? Did someone dodge the agreed-upon approval limit? Is there a new or unexpected expense that needs to be tackled together? Keep the tone positive and constructive, bask in your successes together and, when there are challenges, look for solutions that empower each person.

No doubt savers and spenders have their work cut out for them when they pair up. But few things in life are impossible. With a little patience, a lot of communication, and some creative strategizing, compromises can be made and even the most profound differences ironed out.

Just remember, information is power. Make saving and spending philosophies part of what you discover about each other long before the weddings bells ring.

Does your partner have a saving and spending style that’s in conflict with your own? How have you made it work? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze
7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze

These small appliances and cooking aids make healthy eating easy — and they’re all available on Amazon.

3 Bank Accounts With Perks for Customers Age 55 and Older
3 Bank Accounts With Perks for Customers Age 55 and Older

These checking accounts offer exclusive discounts and other perks — including interest — to older customers.

13 Affordable Products for a Better Night’s Rest
13 Affordable Products for a Better Night’s Rest

These Amazon products can help you finally catch 40 winks — or more.

5 Ways to Save up $500,000 in 15 Years
5 Ways to Save up $500,000 in 15 Years

Even if you’re behind in preparing for retirement, there’s still a way to pull together a solid nest egg if you focus.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.