The Spender vs. The Saver: How to Balance Your Spouse's Money Habits

Generally speaking, we can pretty much classify people into two categories when it comes to their money habits: the spender and the saver. Spenders like to spend money and savers would rather save it. The question is, can the coexist in a marriage without pulling each other’s hair out? The answer is a definite yes, and in fact, I think that having both types represented in a marriage will ultimately set you up for financial success….when you’re balancing each other’s money habits.

The Spender vs. The Saver

What is the difference between spenders and savers?

First, I’d like to define the major differences between spenders and savers. Keep in mind these differences are not concrete and you (or your spouse) may be able to relate to both types although generally you will sway more towards one side than the other.

The Spender:

  • Spends money in a carefree way and enjoys immediate gratification.

  • Sees value in money by way of the experiences and things it can buy.

  • Finds thrills in making a purchase whether it’s a luxury item or from the thrift store, it’s just about buying.

  • Tends to be more open handed and generous with the money especially when it comes to buying gifts for others.

The Saver:

  • Spends money in an analytical way and enjoys the process of saving up for an important purchase as well as analyzing which purchases will save the most money.

  • Sees value in money by the way of security it can provide.

  • Finds thrills in setting aside money in savings, even if there’s no specific purpose to save for.

  • Tends to be more tight fisted with the money and would often prefer to donate their time or skills in generosity.

Before we continue, please note that neither personality type is right or wrong. They both have healthy and unhealthy characteristics. Having both personality types in a marriage can bring balance to the way you manage money as a couple when you are communicating and playing to one another’s strengths. In some marriages, both spouses may have the same money personality type and that’s okay, too. If you and your spouse have the same personality type, you’re going to have an easier time communicating and working together, but you made need to reach out to a third accountability person (or another couple) that can bring you some perspective from the opposite personality type. And remember, individually, you may not resonate completely as a spender or a saver, it’s possible that you have a mixture of both personality types but most people tend to sway more towards one side than the other.

How to Balance Your Spouses’s Money Habits

My husband and I started dating in high school and got married during college, so we basically grew up together and neither of us had really developed a way of managing money as newlyweds. I tended to spend money, he tended to save it, and we just never really talked about it because we were kind of coasting through the waters at that point. We lived off combined finances from the very beginning, but we weren’t really working together when it came to money until we started working through Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. In hind sight, I can see some major financial mistakes we made (and especially me, being the spender). Most all of these mistakes could have been prevented if we were communicating about money, working on a plan, and playing to one another’s strengths. And that begins with understanding the two money personality types that most often appear in a marriage and knowing how to balance with your opposite spouse.

1. Accept who they are.

As previously mentioned, neither personality type is right or wrong, they both have strengths and weaknesses. You need to accept your spouse’s opposite personality type and understand the value they bring to the table. You cannot convert a Spender into a Saver, or vice versa. Our money personality types are rooted in who we are as a person. So you can implement better money habits, but don’t try to convert your spouse to your way of thinking. Accept them as they are and use your differences to balance each other and find ultimate success in your finances. Thank the saver for providing financial security for your family and for helping you both to focus on the things that are most important. Thank the spender for being generous and making sure your family has a life full of experiences and memories to treasure.

2. Work together towards financial goals.

You and your spouse need to be communicating when it comes to finances, let’s call it financial intimacy. You are a team so it’s time to act like one. Talking about money can be scary and difficult, but the only way you’re going to reach financial freedom is by working together and working towards the same financial goals. If you’re working to pay off debt, it’s easier because you both know what the goals is and the only difficulty is in the beginning when you’re trying to navigate paying it off and using each other’s strengths. Post debt pay off, you are presented with a lot more options and that means that communication is even more critical. If you’re trying to save while you’re spouse is trying to spend, you’re going to be working against each other. Set aside time at least once a month to talk about your financial goals. This means really listening to your spouse and sometimes it will mean compromise. If you’ve really been wanting to spend money on a vacation to get away but your spouse is concerned about the life left in your vehicle and wants to save up money to purchase a new one, you’re going to have to find a way to compromise or discuss which one of those goals you’re going to work on first. This ties into my next tip…

3. Communicate About Money Constantly.

It’s important to make sure the lines of communication about money are always open. You have to talk about money with your spouse so that you can make decisions together. As the spender, you need to keep your spouse updated on purchases you’d like to make in the upcoming future so they can be planned for as well as keeping them informed of receipts and your spending habits. As the saver, you need to analyze your family’s spending habits and bring attention to any spending that needs to be reduces as well as keeping your spouse aware of upcoming purchases that need to be saved for in advance. Communicate with your spouse about both the positives and negatives. If they’re doing a good job with something, acknowledge it, and likewise be prepared to be their accountability partner when it comes to their weaknesses.

4. Give Freedom.

Consider it a gift and give your spouse some freedom to be the spender or saver that they truly are. The best way to do this is to budget for personal spending money (or saving money) in which each spouse can do with as they please without the input of the other spouse. This personal spending money needs to be a predetermined and agreed upon amount that you both feel comfortable with. At times, you might only budget $5 for personal spending and that’s okay. It’s really about the act of giving your spouse freedom so that neither of you feel too confined. The important thing is to do this together so you can experience the freedom without sacrificing any goals or making someone feel uncomfortable.

Full disclosure here, while we were paying off debt we never budgeted for personal spending money. We kept the budget tight and wanted every extra dollar to go towards paying off our debt so that we could reach that goal as quickly as possible. We did designate monetary gifts for birthdays and Christmases to be for personal spending only. This gave us the freedom to do with it as we wanted.

5. Offer forgiveness and understanding.

You have to accept that marriage is made up of two imperfect people and you’re both going to make mistakes regardless of which money personality type you are. There have been times when I’ve forgotten to track our receipts for eating out and our restaurant budget category starts to get out of control so we have to commit to eating at home for an entire week or even the rest of the month. And there are times my husband has bought the wrong thing because of trying to save money and it ended up costing us more in the long run. We both make mistakes. Marriage is about loving each other through your imperfections. Help each other correct the mistakes (as much as possible) and work together to prevent things like that from happening in the future.

If you’re just starting on the journey to financial freedom and wanting to pay off debt, you’re going to need to be extra forgiving and understanding of your spouse. Both of you have made choices that put you in the financial situation you’re in whether it was spending and taking out a bunch of debt or not being dedicated to communication and accountability in your marriage. Pointing fingers at your spouse won’t do any good. Offer forgiveness for your spouse, and yourself, for the financial mistakes you’ve made and commit to moving forward together.

So, can a spender and a saver remain happily married and reach their financial goals? The answer is definitely yes. It’s going to take acceptance, forgiveness, understanding, and communication which are all great traits to practice in a marriage even outside of financial intimacy. Schedule a date night with your spouse to talk through these characteristics, determine which category you each fall in, and then begin to implement the tips I’ve given so that you can begin to work together in a beautiful way.

After reading this, what do you think, are you a spender or a saver?