How to deal with savers and spenders in your family

There are healthy levels of spending and saving for every family budget, but what happens when someone spends too much, or is too frugal?

Richard B. Levine/Newscom
Are you pinching or spending every penny? Here are some ways to deal with spenders and savers in every family.

If you’re married, you probably know most families have a saver and a spender. Often times this can cause friction over money matters. There are drawbacks and benefits to both types of persons. So, let’s take a look at each of them. And by the way, singles are either savers or spenders too!

What’s a saver?

A saver is someone who is primarily concerned with security. They think about saving first and spending last. You would probably expect a saver to be interested in building the retirement nest egg or putting money aside each month for emergency savings before spending money.

What’s a spender?

A spender can be seen as just the opposite. They like to spend first when they have the opportunity. Saving may still be important but it’s often a second thought. It’s important to note spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it’s within the boundaries of a personal budget or monthly spending plan.

Meeting the needs of both the saver and spender

So how do you meet the needs of both without causing friction? Well, I’m not a relationship expert, but there are a few things I’ve learned along the way I think can be helpful.

1. Set saving and spending boundaries

Make sure there is a portion of money available for both saving and spending each month. Once budget categories have been created the saver can be satisfied money is being set aside for emergency savings, retirement, or other needs. The spender can also be satisfied in knowing some of the money can be used for spending on fun things.

The spender should have a set amount of money for spending on things of interest each month. My wife and I call this blow money. We both have money we get to blow each month on some items we enjoy. However, it’s important to know we don’t over spend. When the money is gone, it’s gone; there is no more spending. This is our agreement.

As an aside, it’s helpful to have some money to pick up a copy of your favorite magazine, or grab a cup of coffee. In approaching spending this way, it’s not necessary to communicate where the money has been spent. We don’t worry about it and it reduces potential friction.

2. Balance

Both parties must realize it will do more harm than good to lean too heavily to one side or the other. Don’t go overboard. You have to have some spending fun, but you also have to be responsible in saving and preparing for the future.

How do you achieve this balance? Balance is about finding the right amount of money to contribute for spending and saving categories. The family of four spending guide from Crown Financial Ministries recommends 7% towards entertainment for income of $65,000. In addition, the guide recommends 5% towards savings and 5% towards investing. Using such reputable 3rd party guidelines can help insure one side doesn’t crowd out the other.

3. Communication

Find neutral times for savers and spenders to talk about money. Unfortunately, the time that savers and spenders often discuss money is when a money decision needs to be made in a spending moment.

Money in-hand at the store is not a good time to have a saving or spending discussion, or discuss differences of opinion. Therefore, I recommend a weekly money meeting to discuss spending or saving topics. This is a good time to revise the monthly budget and discuss new saving or spending needs.

Dealing with two-headed monsters

Now I suppose some families have two savers or two spenders (husband and wife are both a saver or spender). This can be equally challenging. On the saving side, you might find too much saving, or even hoarding, if not careful. Fun or entertainment may be almost nonexistent.

But on the spending side, you might find reckless spending on too much entertainment or excessive use of credit or debt. Savings is far from the minds of this family and trouble abounds.

What do you do to avoid creating a two-headed monster? Spenders and savers need to first recognize how this can be a big problem for the family (hopefully, with the help of this article). But the answer to fixing it is the same way we approached it for families with one of each role. First, identify the categories for spending and saving with a monthly budget; next, balance spending or saving across the categories; and finally, communicate.

Final thoughts

In regards to communication, there needs to be an extra level of accountability present during spending and saving discussions. No discussion is far from good. In living with a saver or spender (or even in the two headed monster case), both husband and wife can hold one another accountable for wise decisions.

Finally, don’t forget financial responsibility. At the end of the day, whether you’re a saver or a spender, you still have a responsibility to God to be a good steward of the resources entrusted into your care. Too much savings, or spending isn’t good financial stewardship.

Are you the saver or the spender for your family? If your spouse is the opposite, does this cause friction? How do you deal with it? Or, do you have a two-head monster in your family? Let us know in the comments.

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