When a saver loves a spender
March 20, 2008, 9:13 am
Filed under: Frugality, Relationships

This post was included in the March 24th Carnival of 20something Finances over at Keep the Reins Tight.

While alike in many other aspects, my fiance, Jake, and I handle money just about as differently as two people could possibly handle money. As you can probably guess, I am very much a saver, seeking out the best bang for my buck and not squandering a single dime that lands into my hands. Jake, on the other hand, spends and spends until he can’t possibly spend anymore- then he whips out one of his credit cards to inflict even more damage.

At least, that’s how it used to be. Once we started to share our financial habits with one another while we were dating, I realized that Jake was setting himself up for financial disaster. If there was going to be a future for us, he better put away those damn credit cards and pick up a brochure on his company’s 401(k) instead. As non-confrontational as I could be, I started to talk to him about how he shouldn’t do this and shouldn’t do that with his money. “Cook at home! Open a savings account! You don’t need another CD!” He would usually grumble, jump on-board, and then a few weeks later be back to his old habits. I really couldn’t do much though; it was ultimately his money and he was going to spend it how he pleased, no matter how much I scolded.

Then, we signed a lease and got our very own apartment together. Exciting, except for the fact that we were both flat broke. I didn’t have a job and he didn’t have a penny saved from his steady paychecks (despite someone urging him to do so for two years). Now that we were living together, I finally had some leverage. If we were going to make this work, both financially and relationship-wise, we needed to work together.

Over the years, many an argument has broken out between us regarding everything from taking an extra slice of pizza for lunch to which toothbrush holder to buy to coupon usage. Luckily, I’ve managed to make some headway and Jake is on a much better financial track than he was when I first met him. Plus, we are engaged now, so I must be doing something right.

The arguments have taught me many things about how a spender’s mind works and I try to keep the following points in mind when I need to approach the subject of money with Jake:

Set savings goals. If there is something that your significant other really, truly wants, bring it up whenever they are about to spend money frivolously. During one of our greatest moments of contention, I said the following to Jake: “Do you really want to marry me? Because if we don’t start saving money for our wedding, we’ll never get married. We can’t afford it. For every $10 you spend on going out to lunch, we are $10 farther away from having a wedding.” I literally saw the connection being made and the light bulb going off. Keep your eye on the prize, any prize.

Automatic savings. Make it as easy as possible for your significant other to save money: set up an automatic bank transfer from their checking account to their savings account. Every two weeks, a set amount is withdrawn from Jake’s account. He doesn’t even have to think about the fact that he’s saving.

Meet them half way. If you constantly say no and deny them things that they want or think they need, your significant other will start to resent you and tune you out. One of Jake’s favorite hobbies is playing guitar. He owns about 6 or 7 of them. I told him early on, “If you want to buy another guitar, you have to sell one of the ones you already have.” His guitar buying as significantly slowed since then. Jake also likes to eat out despite the fact that he’s a great cook. I’ll agree to go out about once a week; we just have to pick from the restaurants that I have coupons for.

Appreciation of possessions. Jake insisted that he needed a new pair of shoes (it’s true, they were looking very worn) until I opened up the closet and pointed out 3+ pair that were sitting there unused. He had completely forgotten that he had them. Another way to approach this point is to call attention to items that are unappreciated in the hopes that your significant other will sell them. The first time I did this, Jake flipped out. He thought I was forcing him to sell all of his possessions. I simply asked him to look through his CD, DVD, and book collections and to set aside ones that he no longer used. Once I explained to him that we could sell a book he hadn’t read in five years for $10 and that $10 could then be put into a savings account and accumulate interest instead of letting the book continue to just sit there, accumulating dust, he understood it wasn’t a personal attack on him.

Patience is a virtue. Anything can be endured for a trial period, right? If your significant other protests against a frugal move you’d like to make, ask them to grin and bear it for a few weeks, maybe a month. I had to do this when I told Jake we were unplugging our appliances and electronics when we weren’t using them in order to save money on our electric bill. Talk about flying off the handle. “Just wait and see if there’s any difference in our next electric bill,” I told him. I sure didn’t hear him complaining about paying 50% less for our electricity the following month. Additionally, if they want to buy something and they want to buy it now, ask them to wait it out for a week or two. Does it still seem as urgent and rational once they get some distance from it?

Lead by example. There will be no blind leading the blind here. If you want your significant other to change, you need to show them that you’re dedicated to a frugal lifestyle, even when the going gets tough. Once they see the results of all your sacrifices and realize you only want the best for your future together, will they really be able to find any ground to stand on?

3 Comments so far
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[…] Sarah tells her story of When a saver loves a spender. […]

Pingback by Keeping The Reins Tight…. » The Carnival of 20-Something Finances:

There’;s a fine line between educating someone and nagging the poor dude to death! Sounds like you’re being very careful with his money, which now you’re engaged is fine…but it eeks of my wife, who no saver, likes to allocate the money I earn and have earned through constant hard work and drive, in place of the money she has not earned as someone with low career aspirations. There’s also a fine line between sharing and relying on the other person in the relationship. Just because I earn more money doens’t mean that I always have to, or by default that my wife doesn’t need to go out and be the person she can be. She’s the 4.0 student, I’m the immigrant from England who started all over again at 25. If I’m making 6 figures and she’s on less than a quarter of that, something is very wrong.

I feel taken for granted, and believe me when I suggest I ‘should’ (being facetious) have an allowance 4x her it doesn’t go down well.

Comment by Al

The situation my fiance and I are currently in is temporary and we both know that. I have had bum luck finding a full time job, so I’m working two part time jobs, plus any side jobs I can get my hands on. I don’t expect him to always provide for me or be willing to do so. Once I get a full time job, I will more than likely be making more than he does. I will also more than likely wind up making more than he does in the long run since I have a college degree (and am considering getting my masters) and he is a college drop out. We have discussed all of these things and we are both fine with how things are and how things probably will be in the future.

Comment by Sarah

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