Opposites attract. Where Johnny’s patient and calculating, I’m impulsive and spontaneous. Where Johnny would rather talk through a stressful situation, I’d rather keep it inside until it’s over. Where Johnny’s wants to take it easy on a day off, I’d rather go and do and see. And where Johnny’s a saver, I’m a spender. Neither of us are at the extreme ends of the saver-spender spectrum. But where Johnny enjoys seeing our money grow, I enjoy seeing the cool stuff I can buy with said money.
So five years ago when he and I decided to start keeping a budget, we realized we were not on the same page. Luckily, we’ve had years to perfect our budgeting styles so it fits both of our personalities — the spender and the saver, or the spontaneous and the calculator. (Yes, Johnny, you are a calculator. I’m calling you Calculator from here on out.) And here’s how we did it:
Created Long-Term Financial Goals
Usually, living in the moment is seen as a good thing. YOLO, y’all!! But when it comes to budgeting, those of us who live in the moment tend to struggle. Our focus is so in the present that we have a hard time seeing how little day-to-day purchases will make much of a difference. “I’ve had a long day. I deserve this pedicure. And book. And donut. And lip gloss.” And a budget really cramps our YOLO style. And Johnny has a hard time understanding where I’m coming from. But one thing we could agree on is where we wanted to be 2, 5, or 10 years from now. And once we could agree on that, creating and sticking to a budget became a much more unified effort.
Created an “Everything Else” Category and “Blow” Money
Johnny and I are all about being unified with our budget. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need breathing room. As the more passionate budgeter, Johnny really enjoys tracking each and every cent that’s spent. But that doesn’t jive well with me since I do most of the purchasing. It was hard to stick to strict budgeting guidelines from day to day. And so we created an “Everything Else” category, which is where most of our discretionary spending goes. As long as we stay within the overall budget for that category, we can spend as we please within it. That category covers items such as home care, pet supplies, entertainment, dry cleaning, baby supplies, etc. Johnny compromised to fit my crazy brain, and we’re both happier because of it.
On that same note, we also have personal spending that we spend on whatever we want, no questions asked from the other person. For me, the spender, I am able to fulfill my need to be spontaneous by having my own money to blow on whatever the heck I want. And we’ve budgeted it, which means we’re still meeting our savings goals each month.
Played an Equal Role
I have a secret. Johnny’s a bit of a control freak. I have another secret. I’m a bit of a control freak, too. Oh, and we’re both extremely stubborn. One of the main reasons I dragged my feet when Johnny and I first started a budget was that I felt like I’d be giving up control. I’d have to answer to him if I overspent money in a certain category of our budget. No thank you. And so we set up boundaries. It wasn’t his money or my money — it was our money. One of us wasn’t in charge — we were both in charge. And it worked. One of us doesn’t go and spend $200, while the other person asks permission if $20 is on the line. We both discuss every major purchase before it happens. But we also trust the other person. For instance, I do all of the grocery shopping. That’s my domain, and Johnny trusts that I’ll do my best to stay within our budget. Johnny takes care of paying our rent and utilities, as well as paying off our credit cards in full each month. I’m very happy he’s willing to do those boring, albeit very important tasks, and I never question whether he’s gotten it done. It’s a dance, and we each do our part.
I think there’s a saver and a spender in most marriages. Sometimes both spouses are pretty close to the center. But other times, each spouse is at completely opposite ends of the saving-spending spectrum. But however different two people are, they can still successfully budget together. Johnny and I are proof. And chances are, deep down you’re not quite as different as you think.
Any other saver-spender couples out there? How have you made budgeting work?