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Assessing Your Spending and Saving Habits

Two Spenders

In a household where both of you are spenders, you will still probably have some financial disagreements. Unless you have unlimited resources, you will also run out of money and run into trouble.

Lisa and Judd both found it very easy to spend money. When they were dating they would go out to fancy restaurants and run up big bills. They didn't think twice about going on vacation and staying in pricey hotels. When they got married, they had no money in the bank and thousands of dollars in credit card bills. For the first few years of their marriage, they continued their same spending pattern and rarely had any arguments about money.

Then they talked about having a family and realized they needed to get rid of their debt and start saving money. Neither of them knew how to change their spending habits. They started fighting about money for the first time in their relationship.

Marriage Q & A's

Q: My spouse and I tend to be spenders. What can we do?

A: Recognition is the first step! You have identified yourselves as spenders early on. Get financial advice, make a budget, and stick to it. Then you can prevent bankruptcy and constant arguments about money.

One time Lisa bought a new outfit and Judd chastised her for it. Then when Judd planned a romantic weekend, thinking it would make Lisa happy, she took it as his way of expressing his desire to put off having kids for a while! They were no closer to saving money than before, and now they weren't even enjoying themselves!

Read the following list to find out what can be expected in a two-spender household:

  1. Rather than constant squabbles, you will probably have big blow-ups when the monthly bills come in.
  2. When you need to start planning for the future, it will be hard to break your spending habits.
  3. You will probably owe money on credit cards.
  4. You might not have enough money in savings and investments.
  5. You might blame each other for your money problems.

Two Savers

In a household where both of you are careful about money, you might have trouble enjoying yourselves. You might both be spending a lot of energy thinking about the future and not enough focusing on the present.

Melanie and Greg were proud of themselves. They put away money every month into their savings account and their investment portfolio. Most months, they were even able to save more than they had planned. They never owed money on their credit cards. They both brought bag lunches to work and rarely ate out in restaurants. They were prepared for the future.

But Melanie and Greg had trouble really enjoying themselves. They talked about money constantly. Any time they went out together, they focused on how much it was costing and if it was “worth it.” They found it difficult to relax and just have a good time being out. Melanie and Greg were suffering from being too cautious.

Marriage Q & A's

Q: Is the answer to money problems to be extremely cautious about spending money?

A: Not necessarily. Every couple needs to strike a healthy balance between spending and saving. Consider setting aside money every week for entertainment, even if it's a small amount.

Read the following list to find out what can be expected in a two-saver household:

  1. You won't have substantial credit card debt.
  2. You will likely have money in the bank.
  3. The two of you might be too focused on money.
  4. You might find it hard to spend even a reasonable amount of money on yourselves.
  5. You might be focusing too much of your attention on the future and not enough on the present.

Making Financial Decisions Together

Whether you and your spouse are both savers, both spenders, or one of each, both of you should be involved in the financial planning of your lives. If one of you were bringing in more income than the other one, it would be easy to feel that he or she should have more control in the decision-making about the budget or have more discretionary income. The person making less might feel less valuable and give up an equal voice in financial decisions. Money can mean power in your relationship.

Think Twice

Don't fall into the trap of assuming the person who makes more money should have more say in how it's spent. Don't forget that you are part of a team!

Thinking “This is yours, this is mine” can be devastating to a marriage. Although it's valuable for each person to have some of his or her own money, the basic thinking must be “This is ours.” Money that either of you makes must contribute to the household, not to the individual. The person making less money might be taking time off to raise the children, starting a new business, or running the household. That partner's contribution, although maybe not financial, is equally critical to the happiness of your family. Making financial decisions together is the healthiest way to approach money.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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