My Husband and I Are Financial Opposites—and It Works

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When Our Spending Habits Come Into Conflict

I say more power to couples who are totally in spending-saving sync, but that’s just not us. Usually, my husband holds steady when it comes to big spending decisions, but every once in a while, I manage to convince him otherwise.

Sure, there have been arguments along the way–like that new Gucci watch I just had to have back when they were the “it” status symbol. We argued about it for weeks . . . and eventually put it on our credit card. It took months to pay off, and it’s now a decision that I, too, regret.

RELATED: Money Is Ruining My Marriage

A few years later I just had to have a red sports car, and after badgering him about it for months, he finally caved and we bought something that we definitely could not afford. Looking back, that was an even dumber decision than the watch.

But it’s hard not to argue when my husband’s immediate reaction to any trip or major purchase is “no.”  Without even taking the time to listen or review our budget, his first response is usually, “We can’t afford that.” Sometimes he is right. But other times there’s room for compromise. Would it be better to save more? Sure. Am I willing to only give our kids one childhood vacation? No.

I like to think that we’re still growing and learning about money management and our core values as a couple–and as a family. We aren’t in debt, we don’t use credit cards and we have a retirement account, so we’re doing enough to satisfy both of us, which is what really counts.

What Our Differences Have Taught Me

One of the biggest lessons that we have learned: If one of you is a spender and the other one isn’t, it’s not time to call the divorce attorney.

We all know that money is the number one thing that couples fight about–in fact, a recent survey revealed that couples argue, on average, three times a month about finances. But, for us, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve had our share of I-want-to-buy-this-no-you-can’t fights, but each of us “wins” about 50% of the time, so it’s all fair in love and money.

RELATED: How to Splurge Right

For example, last summer, I really wanted–no, needed–a vacation to the tropics. (OK, no one actually needs a trip to a tropical island, but I was severely burned out at work and had to get away.)

My husband immediately started to stress about our finances. “We’re poor,” he said. So I broke out the spreadsheet–and the wine–to show him precisely how much we had in savings and where the money would come from for that vacation. In the end, we compromised and settled on a trip to a more affordable spot in Costa Rica, where the hotel was only $40 a night.

Another important lesson we’ve learned is to keep some play money for ourselves. From day one, we’ve combined 75% of our finances, leaving the rest for personal “mad money” that each of us can spend how we wish. This way, we’re both contributing to the bills and our savings accounts, but we still get some spending money.

  • Nancyt62

    Thank you so much for this article! My fiance and I have the same issues: I like to spend and he likes to save. I feel overall that we handle it well but as we are about to get married I really like your suggestions of keeping some money for yourself and having both people agree on larger purchases. Thanks again for sharing!!

    • laurashin

      Hi Nancy,

      Glad you like our story, and congratulations on your engagement! If you want more suggestions on how to manage your finances with your fiance, sign up for our Getting Hitched Bootcamp. It has all kinds of tips on getting your financial lives in order, plus fun quizzes and easy-to-follow checklists:

      http://www.learnvest.com/how-lv-works/bootcamps/getting-hitched/

      Check it out!
      Laura

  • WorkerBee

    My hubby and I are similar, except that I am the saver. Actually, he strikes a pretty healthy balance between spending and saving, whereas I probably take the saving a bit too far. When I was single, I arbitrarily put myself on a strict grocery budget and if I ran out, I just wouldn’t eat for the rest of the week, which was crazy as I HAD the money! I just refused to deviate from the budget! He has slowly been bringing me more towards his outlook on money, but it’s been hard and stressful (for me, anyway!)

    We’ve solved a lot of issues by having him buy / pay for most shared household items. At the end of each month, he tells me what my half is and I just write him a check for it. It’s MUCH easier for me that way!

  • Alison

    Having been with my husband for almost 20 years I couldn’t like this article more! Communication and Compromise are definately “where its at” when it comes to marriage and money.  Knowing yout differences (and your similarities) can really help you make the best decisions. The biggest difference that helps us is that he’s the researcher and I’m the impulse buyer.  Either quality can actually be the asset depending on the purchase! When he gets mired in research and seemingly unable to make a decision I can push him a little to just pick one (when clearly either would do just fine).  On the flipside, that look before leaping tendancy on his side has saved us from more than a few potential impulse disasters of mine!

  • LeeLee

    I like this article.  I think it’s healthy to have different opinions in a marriage as long as you can communicate to resolve.

    I am thankful in that my husband and I are both very fiscally similar.  We have a “Save as if you’re going to live forever, live as if you’re going to die tomorrow” philosophy.  We will spend the dough on things (like travel and time with family) that we feel are important, but we make sure to prioritize saving and retirement.  Expensive material goods that we don’t need are typically only gift purchases and not every day purchases. 

    We don’t combine all of our income.  We each put in a set amount into our joint account that covers the mortgage, utilities, insurance, and car.  The remainder that each of us have in our paycheck is ours to spend how we want.  If he wants to spend it golfing, I don’t judge.  If I want to spend it at the spa, he won’t question it.  It’s worked out very well for us for the past 5 years, but we may need to revamp when we have kids.