I don’t know why it is, but it seems like almost every marriage comes with a spender and a saver. I have seen rare exceptions where both are unleashed spenders – which often turns out to be quite disastrous, and even rarer still I have seen marriages with two savers. But for the most part, it seems like most have an eternal struggle between the spender and the saver.
So, as expected, I am the saver in my household, while my wife is the spender. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy spending, it is just that I enjoy saving a lot more than she does.
From early on in our marriage, I realized that if we were going to have a marriage that wasn’t a constant fight about money, we needed to figure out a way to make it work. As with most disputes, the key to solving it was compromise.
Focus on the Big Picture
For my wife and I, a key to making a solid budget was to talk about our financial goals. Not just we want to pay all the bills this month, but rather our long-term goals. How and when we want to retire, when we want our house paid off, etc. We spent a little time soaking up what it would feel like to reach the goal – basically just letting our minds wander and dream about how wonderful it will be when we reach those goals. In doing this, we found that we had quite a few common goals that we were trying to achieve.
But My Spouse Wants Both.
I am not sure why, but for some reason I can focus on the big picture for five minutes and be motivated to save money for the next 2 years. But my wife will be motivated just like me, until she sees a pair of shoes on sale in the mall. She still does want to reach the end goal, but she also wants the shoes – does this sound familiar to anyone else?
Giving Up Something Small in Order to Get the Big Prize
This is where the compromise comes in. Being the saver that I am, I can look at that pair of shoes and just see it as an obstacle preventing me from reaching my goal, or I can see it as a stepping stone. What I mean is that if buying that pair of shoes is going to pacify her spending tendencies and keep her from throwing in the towel, it is probably worth the sacrifice.
I look at it as taking a longer route to get somewhere instead of not moving at all. If both spouses want to go in different directions, you are not going to go anywhere fast.
I know it was difficult for myself to do something that I think is taking us away from the path to freedom – but over the last few years I am realizing that this was one of the best things I could do to help us reach the goal.
Obviously, there needs to be balance when it comes to this. So, just as I have made the sacrifice to allow a little more discretionary spending than I would like, she has made sacrifices by fighting against her frequent spending urges. I must say that I have been amazed. As I showed some goodwill by not fighting against every pair of shoes that she buys, she has worked even harder to stick with the budget.
Allow Your Spouse to Change Gradually
The key that has worked for us is that both sides have to give something up and also allow the other person to gradually change. Expecting immediate and drastic changes has always led to disappointment in my experience, but allowing my wife or anyone else for that matter to change gradually and giving them incentive to do so has worked wonders.
Editor’s Note: While Emma is not a spender, there’s still similar struggles because I’m much more frugal than she is. In our family, we take this idea one step further and instead of focusing on our goals, I remind her of the big goals that she holds dearly in her heart. It may help Emma spend less thinking about early retirement, but thinking about being able to buy a house (a dream come true for her) drastically reduces her desire to buy any luxury items.
This is a guest post from Bob who writes for about getting out of debt, budgeting, making money, and other personal finance topics from a Christian perspective at ChristianPF.com.