What to Do Before Marrying: Saver vs. Spender

You’ve found the one you love and have decided to get married. However, while making plans for your shared life, you and your soon-to-be spouse discover that one of you is a spender and the other is a saver! Luckily, there are ways to manage joint finances that will leave both partners happy. Here are some tips to help you successfully navigate your way to a financial agreement:

Talk About Your Feelings Toward Money

Much of our approach to money comes from our feelings: Money may make you feel anxious or excited, and money management may fill you with calm or dread. Take some time before you get married to explore how you feel about money and why. Did you grow up in a household where money was tight? Did you never worry about where money was going? Your upbringing will have a strong impact on your feelings toward money, and your future spouse may not always agree with your stance.

If you understand the source of your spouse’s point of view regarding money, you’ll be better able to empathize and communicate compassionately if you disagree on a financial issue. (For more, see 5 Ways to Control Emotional Spending.)

Discuss How You’d Like to Spend Your Money

One partner may value designer clothes while the other may have an expensive hobby. You both may love to travel, want to own a home or retire early. If you and your partner spend time discussing each of your desires, you will likely find some overlap. If you plan to save for the things you want together and then spend the money on an item or experience you both really value, you and your partner will walk away from the purchase happy. (For more, see Are You Spending Too Much?)

In addition to saving and spending for fun activities, it’s imperative that you and your partner devise a budget together. The key word here is together: it is a negotiation, but if both partners agree, then you will have a solid plan for discretionary spending and how much you’d like to save for financial goals, such as retirement. You can reassess the plan if it isn’t working, but having an initial budget provides each partner with acceptable guidelines to build upon. Rather than wondering if you should buy the $50 jeans or splurge for the $150 pair, you will know exactly how much you have to work within your budget, ultimately avoiding a fight with your spouse over spending. (For more, see The Beauty of Budgeting.)

Budget for Unrestricted Spending

If a detailed budget sounds like it won’t work for you, consider adding a “mad money” line into your list of expenses. Pay your bills, save for emergencies, long-term goals and retirement as agreed upon, and then give each of you a set amount of money to spend on whatever you want. If you want a piece of jewelry, go ahead and buy it – but only with your “mad money,” not a credit card or your emergency fund. The spender will have the freedom to buy whatever, and the saver won’t have to worry about not having enough set aside for a rainy day.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Professional Help

Whatever you do, don’t lie to your significant other about your spending. If you feel like you can’t be honest about money with your spouse, that just means you haven’t come up with a plan that works for you as a couple.

If you’re having trouble agreeing on a budget or a plan, visit a professional financial planner together for assistance in making a budget that will work for your relationship. Financial planners are not emotionally invested in your finances and will be able to help you decide if that beach vacation is an affordable trip or a splurge you should pass on this year. (For more, see Financial Planning: It's About More Than Money.)

The Bottom Line

Savers and spenders in love can be a beautiful thing, so long as both partners have agreed to a plan and a budget and are able to stick to it! If one plan does not work for the two of you, try another. Financial planning is meant to make your lives easier, so make a plan and enjoy your marriage!

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