Written by Danielle Kubes
Friday, January 26th, 2018
I was enjoying a Caesar at brunch with a good friend when she blurted out that she was considering breaking up with her boyfriend of three years.
"We haven't been on a vacation since we've been together!" she told me. "He keeps suggesting we have a staycation because it will be so much cheaper, but I just want to relax and go somewhere warm!"
She was in law school and living off student loans, but was still willing to spend $1,200 or so on an all-inclusive vacation to the Dominican Republic. She was burnt out and just wanted a break. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, was a lawyer with many years work experience who was comfortable, but he was trying to put every penny toward his mortgage and didn't want to divert funds to a tropical holiday.
"I can't imagine spending the next 50 years with someone who doesn't want to spend just a bit of money on having fun!" she said.
When One's A Spender and the Other a Saver
It's easy to see why finances are a main reason why couples divorce. It can be hard to avoid getting resentful when you're with a partner who has a different attitude toward money than you do. A frugal person might think their partner is stopping them from meeting their financial goals in the time frame they want, whereas a spendthrift may feel bored, or may feel like their partner is stopping them from living life to the fullest.
So Can It Work Between a Spender and a Frugal Person?
Shannon Lee Simmons, a fee-only CFP, created an online relationship and money course called "Budget with your Boo."
"Everyone spends and saves differently," she says. "The major goal is to identify those big differences in money habits early on in dating, so you can navigate them together before the financial and emotional stakes are really high."
But How Exactly Can We Navigate These Fiscal Waters?
Communication, unsurprisingly, is everything. If you go into a relationship with a team attitude, then you can prevent blaming each other and get into more constructive dialogue. It helps to use "we" language, instead of "I do," and "You don't."
Simmons recommends having quarterly or annual money meetings where everything is laid out and discussed. And she means everything: money goals, debt, household budgets, desired big purchases etc.
Once you're communicating more effectively, recognize that if you choose to be in a partnership with someone who thinks differently about money, then you're going to have to compromise. You're unlikely to ever convince your frugal partner to go out and spend money often, or that a $1,200 handbag is a "must-have."
Pick Your Battles
It's okay to bend a bit to your partner's desires. "You don't grow resentful if you feel like you also get some say," Simmons says.
The most important thing, according to Simmons? "Have empathy," she says. "It will take you far."
And what about my friend? She decided to commit to the relationship. Instead of going down south, they booked a romantic long weekend closer to home, where they had a fabulous time for about half the price.