I’m a saver who rarely splurges on anything. My husband is a spender who freely gives away his money to anyone in need. Needless to say, our first few months of marriage involved a lot of discussions (ahem, arguing) about money. The truth is: I’m a saver and my husband’s a spender.
We not only deal with money in opposite ways but we also were raised in two different cultures that are worlds apart when it comes to how to approach finances.
My hubby, Saia, comes from the Tongan culture where the family unit is valued above the individual. If someone in the family is struggling then his or her siblings and parents send money, and vice versa. Money flows freely throughout his family to whoever needs it. There is not much value placed on becoming financially independent, because money is a resource of the family and not each individual.
I, however, grew up in a middle-class, American family. I was taught how to be independent, to save my money, and eventually become self-sufficient. I was raised to believe that there is pride in building my finances, and taking care of myself. I would never ask my parents for money (unless I was in dire straits) and they would never ask it from me.
When we started dating we talked a lot about money, then we got engaged and we continued trying to find a middle ground. However, it was not until we were married for a few months that we finally found a system that works for us. We opened a savings account, cut back on frivolous spending, and stopped arguing about money.
We set money aside every month for both saving, and giving before we creating the rest of our budget. My main priority was getting money saved for the future, and Saia’s main goal was to have extra money for play and/or giving to others. When we put together our budget we decide on those two categories before attempting anything else, because we have decided they are, personally, the most important to us.
We focused on culling spending in one category of our budget at a time. For the first six months of our marriage we wasted a lot of money. On a whim, I printed off our bank statement at the end of a month, and added up how much we had spent on eating out. The number was about four times larger than I would have expected. The amount we had spent supporting the local fast food restaurants not only shocked me, but also my husband. By focusing on cutting back (way, way, way back) in that one area we were able to achieve success within a couple of weeks. After we stopped our eating out addiction we moved on to our second biggest weakness on our budget.
We set specific goals for our future. It is hard (even for us savers!) to let go of a dinner out or a night at the movies unless it is tied to a dream for the future. We have savings accounts labeled “new car”, “trip to Italy”, and “apple laptop”. We talk about these items regularly, and it really helps to cut down on unnecessary spending, because we are both committed to saving up for these items.
We took a lot of baby steps to get on the same page, financially. Our spending (and saving) habits are still a work in progress, but through lots of communication, and more than a few mistakes, we have gotten markedly better at handling our money.
Yes, my husband and I are pretty opposite when it comes to money (and many other things as well). However, working through money problems has taught us how to celebrate our differences, that we can make it through anything, and that every saver needs a spender in their life and vice versa.
Are you a saver or a spender?