Sign in / Join

Let’s save the money; let’s just spend it!

spend-vs-save copy

Picture this- Mr. and Mrs. Gori have been married for over four years. Mr. Gori has given his Mrs the responsibility of managing the finances of the joint savings account. She more than manages it. She keeps it in tight order. When Mr. Gori feels like it’s time to buy a not essentially needed but wanted item, he has to literally convince Mrs. Gori about the purchase. In a nutshell, Mr. Gori just likes to spend, when he wants to spend, on what he wants to spend.

Mrs. Gori worries too much about being broke. She takes a certain comfort in having funds in reserve for those ‘days’. She wouldn’t normally splurge unless there is some justification for it. She buys the needed and fantasizes about the wanted. She is in control of the family funds and is always thankful that her husband has readily relinquished this authority to her. Though, she worries that her husband can sometimes be a big spender. Mrs. Gori thinks people should save more than they spend.

The above scenario is not uncommon among families. As a matter of fact, arguments over money is one of the major issues among couples. Many couples have differing opinions about money (like Mr. Gori being the spender and Mrs. being a saver) and a lot of it has to do with background, upbringing and life experiences. For instance, people who have wealthy or more comfortable parents don’t have any qualms about spending even when they are not as rich as their parents because that is the way of life they have been used to. Also, people who grew up with parents who were once rich and then later struggled would be more inclined towards savings or investments. The other end of the rope is that some people who had tough upbringing and later made wealth for themselves could easily turn out to be big spenders to make up for the hard times. In essence, spending and saving habits are experience led. Can I add here that, compulsive spending isn’t just about a different train of thought or experience, it’s a serious addiction that requires professional help.

Just identifying who’s the spender and who’s the saver may be enough, but a deeper, more nuanced understanding can pay greater dividends of curbing incessant arguments. These are some deliberate steps that need to be taken to ensure excelling as financial opposite couples:

I know communication is a term that has been over flogged when it comes to marital issues but the reality is that in order to manage conflicting spending habits, the parties involved need to communicate habitually. Regardless of who manages the joint account, it is vital that both parties talk about the family finances. It is advisable to be proactive by talking about money matters in a calm state rather than when one person or both are already upset from arguing about spending. A more casual conversation helps the couple to better understand each other’s motivations with money.

Keep a visual and physical spending journal. It is useful to do a spreadsheet of the family monthly earnings and expenses. It also comes in handy to set a budget for essentials such as feeding, bills, home improvement, childcare etc. Going over all the bills and credit card statements can help couples to have a clearer picture of their actual financial situation and hence no one is under any illusion that they can go on a spending spree when there are bills to sort out.

A compromise might seem dangerous in this money spending instance from a financial point of view but compromise has to be made from time to time to keep everyone’s happiness balanced. Here was Mr. Gori’s response when he was asked about his wife’s annoying response to his request to buy a new technology gadget – ‘It’s hard not to argue when my wife’s immediate reaction to any of my purchase idea is ‘no’, without even taking the time to listen or review my thought, her first response is usually ‘we can’t afford that’. Sometimes she is right but other times, there is room for compromise. “As much as I get the idea of savings, I should also be able to live life well” Clearly, the savers can’t be right always, we do need to spend sometimes too.

Another important way of managing spending habits conflict is learning to keep some play money aside for personal use. When couples communicate about their finances, they could decide on what percentages of their salaries would go into the joint purse, leaving the rest for personal “mad money” that each of them can spend how they wish. This way, they are both contributing to the bills and savings and still get some spending money left. Still on the topic of spending budgets, it is also useful to set an “approval limit”. This means that both parties agree on any purchases over a certain amount using the savings. This implies that Mr. Gori can’t just buy the latest iMac and claim that it came out of the “home improvement” budget.

According to an article titled “60% of Men and Women Agree: Honesty about Money is as Important as Remaining Sexually Faithful” a lot of couples keep money secrets from their partners. In other words, they lied or remained silent about their spending, which is a bad idea all round. I bet it would be tempting for Mr. Gori to just tell his wife “Oh, these old things? I’ve had them for years,” when she notices the fabulous new pair of Yeezys on his feet–but lying about his spending just creates a lack of trust which is the beginning of a bigger problem. By the way, the article further revealed that both genders think cheating is cheating, whether it’s financial or sexual.

So who are you in your marriage? The spender or the saver!