How to Cope When a Spender Marries a Saver

Do you and your partner have different spending philosophies? Here’s how to manage those differences without ruining your relationship. 

When my husband and I got married, we had very different philosophies on money. Although I wasn’t irresponsible with my cash, I was also a much bigger spender than my husband. My husband tended to spend virtually nothing, instead preferring to save almost every spare dollar for the future. 

Our story is a common one. After all, opposites tend to attract and it’s incredibly common for spenders to marry savers. The problem is that when people with totally different financial philosophies decide to merge their lives, it doesn’t always lead to happy endings.

Man points at paper while arguing with woman on computer who shrugs.

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But the good news is that spenders and savers can coexist quite happily, and can even complement each other to create much more balance in their financial management. You just need to know the right way to approach your joint financial life. Here are some tips to help. 

Talk about money often

When you have different spending philosophies, talking about money can often cause arguments, so it may seem easier to avoid those conversations. The problem with this is that you end up not finding a way to work together and manage your joint financial lives.

Even if you keep separate accounts, the financial decisions you make in a committed relationship will affect your partner. After all, if one of you constantly reaches for the credit card and gets into debt, this could make accomplishing any joint financial goals much more difficult. 

You need to consider your partner’s wishes when it comes to spending and saving, but without being controlling. And the only way this can happen is if you understand where your partner is coming from. The more conversations you have about your spending and saving philosophies and your goals, the easier these conversations will become.  

These conversations are also necessary to negotiate on issues where your opinions differ so that you can find common ground. When you talk about money decisions before you make them, you can stave off fights and reduce the risk of financial infidelity that can undermine trust in your relationship. 

Get on the same page about the big stuff

It’s OK to not agree on everything about money -- but you do need to compromise on some key financial issues. Usually, this means you need to agree on a broad budget, on how to handle debt, and on savings goals that you will work together to accomplish.  

If you’re able to jointly decide how much to save each month and what you’re willing to borrow for, you can give one another a lot of leeway on other day-to-day financial decisions. For example, if you know that you’re going to save 15% of your income and that you won’t be borrowing to pay for anything except a house or a car, this makes many other decisions easier because it sets natural limits on how much you can spend. 

When you agree on the big stuff, the saver will also have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the spender will not stop the couple from achieving important financial goals. As a result, the saver is far more likely to feel relaxed when the spender hits the mall. 

Don’t abdicate spending and saving decisions entirely 

Sometimes, it’s tempting for the person who’s more prone to saving to manage the savings and investment accounts while the spender makes the purchases. And although this may seem like a natural division of labor, it’s usually a bad idea.

The spender should definitely be involved in making decisions about what to invest in and what should be allocated toward different savings goals. It is important that the spender is on board with the sacrifices necessary to save -- and also essential, for if something were to happen to the saver, then the spender would have to take over.

At the same time, it’s a good idea for the spender to encourage the saver to make some purchasing decisions -- and even to have some separate money to spend on having fun. This can help you find more financial balance in both of your lives. 

Spenders and savers can coexist

By following these tips, both a spender and a saver can be happy in a relationship in which financial philosophies differ. Important financial goals can be accomplished, fun purchases can be made, and financial fights can come to an end in favor of compromise that leaves you both in a better place. 

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