My husband and I couldn’t be more different. He’s steady, reserved, and thoughtful – the kind of guy who will sit quietly and observe in group settings but surprise you with a hilarious one-liner when he gets to know you. I, on the other hand, am outgoing, expressive, and impulsive. If I’m not talking your ear off, there’s probably something wrong.
In most scenarios, our personalities complement each other. But they also shape our financial mindsets and behaviors, which can cause conflict between us. You can probably guess that my husband is a natural saver, and given my taste for instant gratification, I’m more prone to spend.
We’ve been married almost a decade, and we’ve definitely made our fair share of money mistakes – mostly due to poor communication and lack of planning.
Over the years, though, with the support of our financially savvy friends and a great financial adviser, we’ve made our spending differences work.
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Here are a few tricks we use to stay balanced in our differing financial approaches.
Creating a monthly budget
There’s no greater tool for keeping harmony between two different spending personalities than a basic budget, which keeps our attitudes and actions around money aligned.
The key for us is to designate every dollar we make during a given month to a specific line item, i.e. using a zero-sum budget. When we give every dollar a “job,” we prevent both overspending and potential conflict.
To make sure I have space to spend when it’s appropriate and we save as much as my husband thinks is wise, we can simply designate money to those categories. That way, both of us feel like our “needs” are being met.
Allotting monthly spending money
When it comes to our finances, the biggest point of contention in our relationship is unplanned purchases.
While I don’t see a problem with Happy Hour a few times a week, my husband would probably opt to stay home and cook dinner. The hard part is I’m a social person, and saying no to every get-together isn’t realistic (or fun).
Rather than spending mindlessly on restaurants or cutting them out altogether, we simply created a line item in our budget for personal spending.
Each of us gets a certain amount of cash every month, which we can use however we want. I typically use mine on food and drinks, and he will often save his over the course of a few months for a larger purchase. The caveat is, when it’s gone, it’s gone.
While setting a limit helps me understand how quickly I spend and keeps me from feeling as though I have to hide purchases, having the money available encourages my husband to invest in himself from time to time.
Running big purchases past each other
No matter how diligently we plan, there will always be times we deviate from our budget. In these cases, we always make an effort to run unplanned purchases of more than $100 by each other.
If my husband wants to order something expensive online on a whim, he will always ask what I think, and out of respect, I do the same for him. This simple exchange is all it takes to prevent conflict.
Using the “wait and see rule”
Another trick I use to curb my spending is the “wait and see rule,” which I picked up from a friend.
Often, I’ll see something I “have to have” at the store, and almost instantly regret the purchase when I get home. To avoid impulse buying, I’ll wait 48 hours before saying yes to something I want. If I still “have to” have it, I can go back to the store and buy it, but usually the “wait and see” time creates a buffer and I totally forget.
Going through bank statements together
One of my worst qualities is avoidance. As a result, I don’t prioritize reviewing bank or credit card statements. I’d rather pretend they’re not there – which has led me to spend more money than I should have at the grocery store or the mall.
To make sure we’re on the same page about how much we have coming in and out, my husband and I review our bank statements together at least monthly.
I’ll update him on freelance projects I’m working on and how much money I’m expecting to come in, and he’ll highlight (sometimes to my chagrin) ways we’ve overspent in the last month.
It’s not always the most enjoyable conversation, but taking time to get a big-picture view of our finances keeps us from poor decisions – and, more importantly, protects our relationship.