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Couples: The Spender and the Saver

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Bringing up financial issues with your spouse or significant other is never easy. In many relationships, couples differ when it comes to finances. 

Usually, one person likes to spend, while the other likes to save.

For some, differences in spending habits can grow out of control and eventually lead to a breakup or divorce. So how do you handle this issue?

My boyfriend and I have lived together for 3 ½ years out of our 4 ½ year relationship. He is a self-employed contractor who had a really difficult financial year in 2009.  It seemed no one, and I mean no one, was doing any type of work on their home. 

It was a year in which many people were just trying to figure out how to keep their homes. 

Because he didn't have a savings account to fall back on and he couldn't collect unemployment, he was selling items on craigslist and depending on me for groceries and recreational expenses. 

Was I frustrated? Yes. It was difficult to watch him struggle and get frustrated with himself. 

When we first met, he was working quite a bit, so I assumed he must have saved something for emergencies. I was wrong. 

Our first few discussions concerning this matter didn't go over very well. However, over the past two years, there are a few things I've learned.

Be Honest.  If you're in a situation where you can't afford something, just say so! Oftentimes, people are afraid to tell their partner they don't have the finances for something. If you can't be honest with your significant other, it probably means you're not being honest with yourself. I found that honesty helped open up dialogue concerning finances, and we were able to communicate and voice our concerns. 

Don't Nag or Pressure.  No one likes to be told what to do or be reminded of their mistakes over and over again. It will simply shut your partner out. As a graduate of the DMP, I had to remind myself that I also made financial mistakes in the past, but learned from them.  

Have Separate Accounts.  Aside from any joint accounts you may have, I believe it's important to also have separate accounts. This is money that you can either spend or save, depending on what you want to do. If you are married to a spender, you may want to keep your credit cards separate also. Although companies will go after a spouse for debt the other has accumulated, you are better off not having your name on the account, should you end up in divorce court. 

Couples: The Spender and the SaverKnow Your Deal-Breakers.  Although my boyfriend has difficulty saving money, he has never run up debt in my name, asked me to co-sign a loan, or borrowed money he couldn't pay back. If your significant other has taken advantage of your generosity or good credit, or refuses to help out with the finances, you really may want to rethink the relationship. Keeping finances in check should be something you work on together. If your partner is just spending and running up debt after you've discussed the importance of not doing so, then you could be on the path to financial ruin. Know when to walk away.

Find Common Ground.  It's easy to focus on what you don't agree on, so try to find something you do agree on. Although my boyfriend is not a saver, we both dislike credit cards, are debt-free, and are fairly frugal when it comes to spending money on vacations and extras.

Offer To Help.   I've offered to help him save by putting his extra money in an account that he can't touch. In the beginning, he had too much pride and insisted he could do it on his own. However, after two years of not having anything saved, he began giving me money here and there to save for vacations and/or extras. It's a start. 

I have found patience, honesty, and respect are really key when trying to work out a financial issue. Hopefully you will never be in a position where you have to walk away because your partner was in complete disregard of your finances. If you do have to walk away, do it knowing you are better off in the long run.

I hope these tips are helpful. I would love to hear your experiences with this issue!

Happy Valentines Day and Happy Finances to all the couples out there!

Related Links:

Purchases Spouses Hide From Each Other

7 Things You Should do Before Asking For a Divorce

New Year, New Financial Goals 

Cheryl BigosCheryl Bigos

Cheryl Bigos graduated from the Debt Management Plan (DMP) in 2008. She is now blogging about life as a DMP graduate in the My Journey out of Debt blog. She works as a Purchasing Manager in Los Angeles, teaches Pilates, and lives with her boyfriend of four years. Cheryl is looking forward to sharing what she has learned from her experience in the DMP and after! Look for great tips about life 'after' debt! Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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  • Man, I have difficulty figuring out how someone can NOT save.  You seriously spend every single penny you earn?  You don't leave any money in your savings account, or you keep taking out what you put in?  It's a foreign concept to me!  It's a lot easier for me to understand how someone could get into debt trouble than it is for me to understand how someone can't maintain a savings account...I think even if I had a mountain of debt I'd still have a significant emergency fund in the bank.

  • Wow... Thumbs down to forced sites through stumbleupon...

  • @Stutz  I know what you mean.  Not saving is a difficult concept to grasp.  He did have a few hundred dollars in his savings, but he needed a lot more than that to get through all those months of no work.  When you're self employed, you need a huge emergency fund to get by because you can't collect.  You need be even more prepared with a fund of at least 6 months of living expenses.  Also, If you don't know how much you'll be making every month, it's a bit harder to budget.  He is the homeowner to a fixer-upper and those expenses can rack up.

    I do think debt is worse.  When your income fluctuates, you can still try and manage a budget, but if you add debt on top of that, I think it would be much worse.  Thanks for your comment!

  • Just interested in the article.

  • Thanks Patricia!

  • You have a fantastic grasp of how savings and money management should work, but you show a huge lack of understanding of how a relationship should work...

  • Thanks for the article. I have a join account with my husband. i also have a separate account. This has helped keep money aside for out of budget items and helped our relationship in that still have some independence with my finances.

  • @ David,  Well I'm certainly not an expert.  Just trying to learn as I go and figure out what works best for us.  If you have any advice, that would be helpful.  Thanks for your comment.

    @Amber, separate accounts help.  My parents have always done that and it does keep some independence there.  Thanks for sharing!

  • Yup there is always the saver and the spender. in my case we are both spenders not a good match.

  • personally i feel like is crazy first of all second of all i am not in a relationship but i am  really not  saying that i aint looking though because of the simple fact that i just got of prison and i am trying to get back on my feet for what seems like the very first time even though times is really hard im still trying to stay strong and focus in which we all try to do day to day about the finace situation im currently job searching and its patient wacking and its hectic at the sametime but its a definetely that i am trying to earn money to save its 50 50 i like to save and spend money.  When it time i will find someone important that i can coup with and spend time with just being patient thats all.

  • LOL miami, there are spender couples out there too!

    Lewis, everyone goes through tough times.  Patience is key but it's no joke that financial issues are usually one of the top 5 reasons couples get a divorce or break up.  We were just trying to take it one day at a time, and now things are better for both of us.   I like to spend money too, it's just trying to find a balance...

  • baby boy shelbylee love you baby girl love you kid come games place kiss sexything baby boy sheby lee love you baby girl love you

  • Several years ago I was living with my boyfriend (now my ex-boyfriend) and since he wanted to go to school, I thought I could help him by paying the rent on my own--I mean, I had to pay it whether he was there or not and I figured this could help him get through a mechanic certification program more quickly so he could have a job that he really wanted (with a decent salary). So I asked him to pay one utility bill and chip in on groceries. After a few months, I realized though that I was sliding towards financial problems and since he wasn't doing much more than paying $30/month for one utility bill, I reiterated that if he could go grocery shopping one or two times per month and maybe $20 towards my cell phone bill (which he used), it would really help. He became very angry, and yelled at me that I he didn't have that kind of money. I was a grad student at the time, so my income was not very large--but I was managing alright until he moved in. Now I wasn't and I knew something had to change.

    Then I found out that even though he wasn't paying rent, he wasn't saving money either--he would buy breakfast and lunch out. He would buy video games and dvds. Even though he could spend $60 on a video game, he claimed that he didn't have money to chip in for groceries and he shouldn't have to pay for my cell phone since he only used it on the weekends when I had "free minutes". I explained that my cell phone minutes were not free--just unlimited on the weekends. He got angrier and stopped talking to me for about a week. Then he lost his job. One day, out of the blue, he admitted he could have saved some money, but NOW that he had lost his job, he wasn't at all able to. It was so frustrating, but the most upsetting aspect was that no matter how nicely I tried to bring up finances, he just flipped out--said I was being a jerk (except he didn't use that word) and always claimed that I was trying to blame him for my problems. Eventually he moved out to go back to school. I couldn't take his attitude anymore even though I wanted to continue to support him in his efforts (I know, I probably come off sounding like a moron, but we had been together for over 3 years at this point). I broke up with him. To add injury to insult, I found out that he and his roommates abused our cats that were with him while I was trying to find a job and living with my sister. It was just awful. I will never, ever allow someone to financially free-load again. I thought I was helping someone I loved to make it to a better job/better life, etc., but really I was just enabling him and hurting myself deeply in the process.

  • Sorry to hear that ACE.  Talking about finances is always stressful, but if someone is taking advantage of your kindness and then getting mad at you when you need help, it's time to move on.  You are not a moron; you were doing what you thought was right at the time and thinking he'd be able to help you the way you helped him.  Luckily, you knew when to walk away before the situation got worse, and you'll be able to take this lesson with you into your next relationship.

    I've been very lucky.  My boyfriend is now working a lot and is paying me back by continuously paying for groceries and other items that I paid for while he wasn't working.  That is really what a relationship should be - helping each other when the other needs it.  When one doesn't appreciate it though, it's definitely time to re-think it.

    Your pain will get better over time and you'll meet someone who appreciates what you have to offer.  Best wishes to you and thanks for your comment.

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