Published on 02-27-2020
On the Couple Money podcast and site, I hear from different members of the community. Chatting with everyone, it’s interesting to see how others handle their finances.
Something I've noticed in these conversations is how many times, married couples find themselves being financial opposites.
While that can cause stress with some, it can also be an opportunity for others to use what skills they naturally have and channel it so they become stronger with their relationship and finances.
One of the biggest tensions I see with couples is when one spouse gravitates towards stashing away and building up savings and the other is focused on enjoying what they have (usually in the short term).
Typically, they’re referred to as a ‘saver’ and ‘spender’, but as I’ll get into in a bit, that’s not a complete picture.
Today I want to highlight how you and/or your spouse can make a mental shift from being a ‘saver’ or a ‘spender’ to become ‘doers’.
Let’s start off with the spender because whenever you look at personal finance article it usually highlights the negative side of spenders.
Let me be clear - spending itself isn’t bad. After all, to be able to take care of the bills, have what we need like food, clothes, and to enjoy life, we have to spend.
When I spoke with Bethany and Scott Palmer, financial advisors and authors, they mentioned how they noticed spenders tend to be generous. Whether it’s giving to worthy causes and organizations or helping out loved ones, they are usually on the front lines.
However when spending becomes part of our identity, then finances (and more) can become more stressful. Impulse buys, breaking the budget, and slacking on saving can be a big hurdle to reaching your financial goals like retirement.
Before you can tackle the how part, you need to identify the why. Why do you spend?
There are several reasons why you overspend, but I want to highlight two major ones and how to work to towards financially healthier habits.
FOMO: FOMO is “fear of missing out”, and if you’ve been on social media for any amount of time, it’s usually something that kicks in after you scrolled through seemingly countless pics of family and friends on vacation, eating at some of the most popular spots, and /or trying a new and exciting hobby.
Try this: Define what you want to do for fun and include that into your budget.
You definitely want to take care of the essential bills and set aside money for your long term financial goals, but do you have money for discretionary spending?
You should be able to enjoy your hard-earned money now. An unrealistic budget is just as bad as no budget.
Try something like a 50/20/30 budget so you can cover all the main areas and still have some money set aside for fun.
Unconscious spending: Most of us are guilty of this to some degree. It can show up through our quick run to grab coffee or lunch. Perhaps it’s through those amazon deliveries or ‘needed’ GrubHub drop-offs.
Mindless or unconscious spending is made even easier in an app world where you can order with a click of a button. Small changes every day can snowball into big spending.
Try this: Make tracking your money easy and fun (really!).
Most people aren’t interested in tracking each and every penny of their money, but they do want to make sure they have a clear picture of what’s coming in and out.
Besides spreadsheets, there are several wonderful free and low-cost money apps and options that can go as big picture or detailed as you want and need.
Now let’s look at the other side - savers. One of the first pluses of being a saver (or marrying one) is that they are typically self-disciplined.
They can be diligent about making sure that the emergency fund is up, and the family’s financial cushion is healthy.
However, just like with spenders, things can become a bit unbalanced. I usually see this when all they do is focus on growing their balances. In some cases, the saver develops such a rigid budget, any ‘extra’ spending is frowned on.
With the money you can basically use it in three ways: spend, share, and save.
Hyper-savers miss out on some fantastic and fulfilling experiences that can happen when you spend money on the people and projects that matter to you.
Family vacations can be a wonderful opportunity to draw closer. Giving to a local charitable organization can add
Believe it or not, many of the ‘downsides’ of spenders can be pluses when redirected.
Seeking Security: Either from personal past experience of money being scarce (or given the impression of it) or having seen someone close get hit with a financial blow, it can be understandable why your spouse may seek some security in the form of saving.
Try this: Define a saving goal that makes them comfortable.
First start off with discussing, how much saved in the emergency fund would allow them to rest easy? Is that a doable amount or do you need to adjust it based on your circumstances and goals?
Hoarder: Extreme frugality is almost seen as a game, but it’s no fun living with someone who is constantly looking at the numbers.
Try this: Find a local charity that you can support and include it in your budget. Besides contributing financially, get involved or at least see how the organization is making an impact.
Generosity can not only benefit the recipients but the giver as well.
One of the best ways you can improve your finances and marriage is to play to your strengths. Use some natural talents to create a plan and execute it together.
The saver can create a plan and initial budget that can cover hitting major financial goals including any savings needed for the short and long term.
At some point though, you have to move from planning to actually doing it.
The spender can help out with reviewing the budget to make sure there’s a balance to it. They can also execute the plan, by setting up the automatic bill payments, transfers to savings, and coming up with an agenda for specific spending such as family vacations.
To keep each other accountable and to make sure you’re making progress, have a regular get together - like a money date -to go over things.
Both spouses can login into their money apps or review their bank accounts. They can also tweak their goals as life happens.
The regularity of these check-ins also helps make talking about money less of a big issue and more of your routine.
If you’re ready and looking forward to moving your money towards who and what matters to you, and would like a financial professional go over the numbers with you, set aside time to meet up with a member of the Coastal Wealth management1 team.
They can help you create a financial plan that helps you reach your big life goals faster while still enjoying the journey!
Elle Martinez is the creator of Couple Money, a personal finance podcast and site focused on helping couples get on the same page, dump their debt faster, start building wealth together
1Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS; are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. Coastal Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.