How a Saver and a Spender Made a Budget

How a Saver and a Spender Make a Budget

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?

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  • Reply Rob February 3, 2014 at 9:39 am

    “How have you made budgeting work?”

    Exactly like you – to a tee! We are soooo much like you guys that it’s a tad scary! 🙂

    I tell my wife that she’s the Purchasing Manager and that I’m the Treasurer in the family and it works out very well. I track the monthly spending and set up the budget; and, not wanting to brag too much, after having done this for many many moons (and knowing my wife the way I do), our variances (budget vs actuals) are pretty much minimal throughout the year. I do however budget using some minor fudge factor contingency, just to play safe, and to address the Murphy’s Law issues than do tend to creep up from time to time and were not foreseen. All is good, all in all.

    • Reply Johnny February 4, 2014 at 10:58 am

      We’re actually you and your wife time warped a few years. So that’s why we’re so similar. I don’t know why I changed my name to Johnny from Rob, but I’m guessing I’ll make the change back in a few years. Now if I could just find that DeLorean…

  • Reply Little House February 3, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Mr. LH and I are also in a spender-saver relationship (I’m the saver). Thankfully, we took a hard look at our finances a few years back and started working within a budget. I handle most of our day-to-day finances, but he has a say in every purchase and investment. It’s worked for us so far and it’s helping us achieve our financial goals.

    • Reply Johnny February 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Sounds we’re in the same boat. It’s funny how for many people, all it takes is one hard look at how much money is bleeding from their accounts each month. That’s what kickstarted our budgeting, too. Which would explain why there are certain months that we want to avoid looking at our accounts at all costs.

  • Reply andee February 3, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Yes! In all the marriages I’ve seen there is a saver and a spender to some degree. It took me a while to appreciate our different stances on money but it really is a wonderful thing to be married to someone different than you – it opens you up to so much more than you would do by yourself.

    • Reply Johnny February 4, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Like allowing yourself to buy new clothes. 🙂 Seriously, without Joanna, I’d probably still have all my 10-year-old pairs of Vans. It really is nice to have someone pumping the gas when you’re inclined to keep the foot on the brake.

  • Reply Michelle's Finance Journal February 3, 2014 at 10:40 am

    My hubby and I are both spenders. That’s one of the reasons why it’s taken this long for us to finally have a budget and stick to it. Even if we’re both spenders, what we’d rather spend money is different, so there’s conflict there. But we’re getting better at fine tuning our budget and understanding the other person’s needs.

    • Reply Johnny February 4, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Most days, I wish I was a spender. My internal calculator never stops and sometimes I want to just shut it down and spend at ease. On rare occasions, it happens. But usually I need the help of Joanna to push me off the “it’s okay to spend” cliff.

  • Reply Anna February 3, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I love this post! My beau and I are similar, only he is more of the spender and I am more of the saver. I really like your approach as a couple to budgeting though. YOU GO GLEN COCO! (Drop everything and watch Mean Girls if that reference did not resonate 😛 )

    • Reply Johnny February 4, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Haha. Glen Coco reference understood. But I made sure to watch that clip on YouTube four times for good measure.

  • Reply Emily @ evolvingPF February 3, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing about how you started budgeting. My husband and I are both moderate savers so we don’t have much conflict but I always wonder about the ‘opposites attract’ situation

    • Reply Johnny February 4, 2014 at 11:12 am

      Oooo, two savers? That’s rad. Joanna has moved quite a bit toward the saver personality since we got married, but she’s still solidly in the spender camp. At the end of the day, I’m glad that she’s still the spender because despite all my intentions of spending more freely on budgeted discretionary purchases, I still have a really, really hard time letting go of that green.

  • Reply Jill February 3, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Can I call Johnny Calculator, too?

    But seriously, reading through this post was actually super interesting because I feel the same as you! I Funny how that works. But I’m trying to be less of a spender because, let’s face it, I’m a college student with very little in flow! But, hopefully I will be as lucky and find my opposite in that sense, too!

    • Reply Johnny February 4, 2014 at 11:16 am

      I’d prefer to be called “TI-83,” my calculator of choice.

      If you’re on the hunt for Mr. Saver, just look for the guy at Subway standing in line, audibly calculating how many hours of work the $5 Footlong of the Month will cost him. Not that I’ve ever done that or anything….

  • Reply Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life February 4, 2014 at 8:30 am

    I’ve always been the saver in the relationship. It’s just how I was raised. But then everything that the bf wants to spend his money on frustrates me to no end. I’m always like, why do we need to buy these. It’s definitely going to take a few months of adjusting when we finally agree to combine our finances.

    • Reply Johnny February 4, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Combining finances is definitely a baptism by fire type experience. At least it was for us. I think it actually expedited us coming together and agreeing on goals and budgets. Hopefully that’s how it works for you two, too!

  • Reply Kasey @ Debt Perception February 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Still trying to make the budget work. I’m the saver, hubby’s the spender. Spenders shouldn’t get credit cards…we got one for hubby to build his credit and he spends, spends, spends. :/

  • Reply Rebecca February 5, 2014 at 8:13 am

    I’m definitely the saver between my boyfriend and myself. But I always feel like there is always something that you spend money on- some people it’s clothes, video games, myself it’s books! I have a slight problem…okay maybe more than slight. But I won’t spend money on other things that people will- like an new lanyard for work that’s only $7 or clothes.

    My boyfriend and I just spend money different and handle it differently too. We are definitely trying to save up money for a wedding in the somewhat near future and have so far agreed that we want to keep our money separate so I won’t nag him about money since I’m OCD about it and he won’t drive me crazy for not keeping track of things. Honestly we might combine later on, but at the beginning separate is what I think is going to work best for us.

    • Reply Johnny February 18, 2014 at 1:23 am

      Bingo. That’s really all personal finance is — how people choose to spend their money differently. Obviously there should be restraint in how that spending is done, but everyone chooses to do it differently. And that’s fine. Unless it’s books (which happens to be Joanna’s guilty spend pleasure as well) :). It’s also fine to choose whatever money management and budgeting system works best for you.

  • Reply Favorite Posts, Mentions, and Top Comments Week of 2February2014 - Evolving Personal Finance | Evolving Personal Finance February 9, 2014 at 6:02 am

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  • Reply Claude Lessard March 30, 2016 at 2:08 am

    Nice post! Thank you for sharing. I’d like to hear more from you.

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