spender vs saver

Financial Mindset & Relationships: Spenders, Savers and Tips for Bridging the Divide

Money management philosophies are not something that is with us inherently from birth. Our feelings around money are often shaped at a young age when we start to have an understanding of the value of money and our perception of whether it is plentiful or scarce. Money and financial planning are logical topics that are known to have often very deep and emotional roots that can significantly impact relationships, even all those years later.

Though feelings around money tend to exist on a spectrum, at the core there are two main, more broad categories we fall into – spenders and savers. A common misconception is that being a saver is the “right” way to be, and often causes those who exhibit more spender tendencies to feel guilt or shame. The truth is that it’s genuinely dependent on a person’s circumstances, finances, and goals. There is no true “right” way, and the proper balance of these two mindsets lies somewhere in the middle and is a little different for everyone.

With that in mind, we want to take a hard look at the differences between being a spender or a saver, what it means to be that way, and how you can manage yourself effectively. On top of that, we also want to take a moment to talk about how your financial personality can extend to (and significantly impact) your relationships.

Most likely, when you find your life partner, you didn’t stop in the middle of falling in love to ask them their philosophies on spending and saving. Even if that was a conversation you thought essential to touch on; there will still be some difference in perceptions that can come up between two people with different backgrounds and experiences. There are obvious difficulties when a saver marries a spender, for example. However, many times, when two of the same type are trying to build a life together, there can be just as many difficulties that come up. Two savers may disagree on when something is a “necessary” expense, and two spenders might feel stressed that they can’t reach long-term financial goals.

These small discrepancies can add up to big trouble and mounting stress if you’re not prepared for how to navigate them best. That’s why we want to break down the best way to balance the tendencies of your own and understanding the beliefs and behaviors of both personalities and how to keep your communication open and relationship healthy.

What is a Saver?

A saver is, in short, a person who thinks ahead to the future. While they can live and enjoy the moment, when it comes to money, they’re always thinking about how they can stretch it to last as long as possible. An excellent way to describe them is that they’re always looking towards the horizon.

Overall, a saver is someone who is excellent with budgeting, as well as living within their means. If you were ever going on a group vacation, you would want to put a saver in charge of the money because he or she is going to make sure that you’ll stay within your budget while having a good time.

As we mentioned, most people would assume that it’s better to be a saver. After all, if you can live comfortably while keeping some money for the future, that will pay off a lot better than being a saver. On the surface, that is undoubtedly the case, but being a saver is not without its downsides.

In more extreme cases, savers can have much anxiety when it comes to spending money. They don’t like to do so unless it’s absolutely necessary, and parting with the money they’ve worked so hard to can be difficult at times.

The other disadvantage is that they can be seen as cheap by others, particularly spenders. While they see the value in delayed gratification, others may think that they’re too tight or rigid with their money. After all, life is for the living, right?

Savers are also much more patient. They are good at setting financial goals and working towards them. However, in some instances, if something derails those goals (i.e., a major unexpected expense), it can have an adverse impact on them as well.

How do I Know I’m a Saver?

For the most part, people can pretty much tell whether they’re a saver or a spender, but if you want to be sure, then here are a few ways you’ll know if saving is in your blood:

  • You feel good when saving money. Seeing your accounts grow over time fills you with pride as you contribute more and more into those funds.
  • You tend to think more about the future and retirement. You feel more confident about the future when you’re able to save more than you anticipate.
  • You live within your means. If you can’t afford something right now, you wait until you have the money to buy it.
  • You have no problem downsizing if it means saving more. You can forgo many of the “luxuries” in your life if necessary, especially when you’re trying to reach a financial goal, or you’re saving for something in particular (i.e., a vacation).
  • You are detailed and organized, particularly with your finances. Not only that, but you feel much better when everything is laid out neatly and in order. Managing multiple accounts is easy for you.

Overall, the most notable aspect of being a saver is that you take more pleasure in earned purchases, rather than impulse buys. If you’ve saved money for a new car, for example, you feel much better about getting it than you would if you put it on credit or bought it without going over the financials and the options available.

Tips for Being a Saver

While saving money and planning for the future is a good thing, it can also have some negative aspects as well. If you’re worried that you’re too tight with your money or that you’re so focused on saving that you don’t want to spend any money, here are some ways to alleviate that stress.

Consider your purchases as an investment

All too often, savers get so wrapped up in the dollars and cents that they attribute any major purchase as money lost. However, if you pay for a dream vacation, that’s not money out the window. You’ve invested in making memories that will last a lifetime.

Instead of paying attention to the cost associated with purchases, focus more on the value you’re getting from them. If the value is as much or more than the dollar amount, you should feel good about paying for it- and some things are just priceless.

Don’t be afraid to spend a little

If you get a holiday bonus or you get some money from somewhere (i.e., inheritance, lottery, etc.), it’s tempting to save all of it for a rainy day or put it towards something big.

However, while that’s a good idea in theory, in practice, it can take a lot of the fun out of the experience. You’ve just gotten a windfall, why not enjoy part of it? Even if you save 80% and spend 20%, that can be more enjoyable than not doing anything with the money. Yes, your account will grow a few more zeroes, but is that everything?

Build flexibility into your budget

Rather than trying to be as strict as possible with your spending habits, why not plan for some splurges now and then? When drafting your budget for the week or the month, consider taking some of that money for something nice. A new outfit, a nice dinner, a day trip somewhere.

Doing this can eliminate a lot of the stress that comes from spending without purpose. Many savers will have to justify buying something, but when you build it into your budget, you can feel a lot better about it in the end.

What is a Spender?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have spenders. Unlike savers, they are more concerned about living in the moment, not necessarily planning for the future. While most spenders are not out of control with their habits, they value what’s happening now over what’s going to happen tomorrow.

In our group vacation scenario, you may not want to put a spender in charge of the budget. Yes, you’ll have a great time and do some incredible things, but you may have to cut your vacation short because you ran out of funds too fast.

Spenders are usually more outgoing and see money as a means to an end. I’m buying this thing because I want it. I’m going out to eat because I’m craving this type of food. Instead of seeing the intrinsic value of money, they think about it concerning what it can be used for.

Overall, spenders are not that great with budgeting, but they are fun to hang out with. At the bar, they’re more concerned with the great feeling that comes from buying drinks for their friends than they are with the bill that’s going to come at the end.

The other side of being a spender is that it can create anxiety when the other shoe drops. Yes, you engaged in instant gratification, but it may wind up costing you more than you expected in the long run. Usually, spenders find it easy to get into debt, but really hard to get out. In many cases, they may wind up living beyond their means.


How do I Know I’m a Spender?

Once again, you should already have an idea of the type of financial personality you embody, but here are some ways that you can be sure you’re a spender.

  • You dip into your savings more often than you contribute to it. In some instances, you may not even have savings.
  • If you get a raise or a bonus, you think about what you can buy with the money, not how much of it you can save.
  • You’re susceptible to impulse buys on a regular basis. You’ve certainly had buyer’s remorse more than a few times.
  • You’re not too concerned about putting things on credit. The concept of “buy now, pay later” speaks to you on a deeper level.
  • When you go out to eat, you focus more on what looks good, not the menu price.
  • When you think about your next vacation, you consider what’s going to be the most fun rather than what your budget will be.
  • You can usually set financial goals, but they often take much longer to happen than you anticipate.

Because spenders are the opposite of savers, they focus more on living in the moment. The idea of delayed gratification seems like too much of a downer. In some cases, spenders may be able to stick to a budget if they’re sufficiently motivated, but they can’t go too long without splurging a little.

Tips for Being a Spender

One of the primary downsides of being a spender is that you’re borrowing against your future self. While savers will forgo creature comforts now so that they will pay off later, you prefer to do the opposite and indulge whenever you can.

Unfortunately, this can lead to things like debt, financial insecurity, and the stress that comes with it. Thankfully, there are a few ways to ensure that things don’t get out of control.

Use automatic saving tools

You should know by now that having money in your wallet or your bank account means that you’re going to spend it. So, the best way to save it is to have some of your money taken out automatically. The more you can do this, the better off you’ll be. Just try to imagine that the money is locked up somewhere and inaccessible, so you aren’t tempted to spend it.

Save a little of your next windfall

Unlike a saver, getting a bunch of money at once is like Christmas for you. You think about all of the stuff you can buy with it, including things you have been putting off because you know you can’t afford them. However, before you go on that shopping spree, save a percentage of it. Even if it’s just 20%, that’s better than nothing. Also, the sooner you can do it, the easier it will be to keep it for the long term. Remember that you are building your financial future and do your best to consider how you can save incrementally to get there, so it feels less daunting.

Consider this recommended article: Three Simple Steps for Planning a Sound Financial Future

Try to organize your money

When you have all of your funds in one big pot, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of transactions and purchases. To help combat this messiness, you can try to organize your money into different accounts or budgets. For example, if you spend a lot on food, create an account just for that. This way, you can base your spending habits only on the money in that fund, rather than trying to estimate how much you’ll have left in your main account.

Overall, the more organized you can be with your money, the easier it will be to stay on target. Instead of mixing funds, each one has a particular purpose, and you can divvy up your money according to your preferences.

Build a flexible budget

Generally speaking, the idea of sticking to a strict budget probably sounds like torture. However, if you can come up with something, anything, it will be better than nothing. Even if you just have estimates instead of hard numbers (i.e., about $300 for food for the month), it will help you stay focused.

Another thing to remember is that your budget doesn’t have to be adhered to religiously. If you go over budget a little this month, you can try to make it up next month. Over time, it will get easier to stick to your goals, but you have to build a foundation first if you want to get to that point.

Having a Relationship With an Opposite Financial Personality

For whatever reason, it seems that opposites attract when it comes to financial personalities. In many cases, savers and spenders wind up together, which means that they can be at odds with each other when trying to manage their joint finances.

We’re not going to lie – it can be stressful and put some strain on your relationship. However, it’s not going to be as difficult as you may think. It may be better for both of you.

For our money, we believe that spenders and savers should be together. Since there are pros and cons to each personality type, being together can bring out the best of both worlds while ensuring that one doesn’t outpace the other.

Savers can help spenders stick to a budget or save automatically. Spenders can help savers learn to embrace the experiences and see purchases as an investment, not a cost.

Here are some tips and tricks that we’ve found when it comes to making your relationship work, even when you’re at opposite ends of the financial spectrum.

Be Open and Honest

According to most surveys, the one thing that couples fight about more than anything else is money. If you’re the opposite of your partner, it can cause a lot more strain than usual, but the worst thing you can do is lie about your habits.

Spenders may feel tempted to lie about a recent purchase. Savers may want to lie about how much money is in the bank so that they aren’t tempted to buy anything. In either case, this dishonesty is going to have a much worse impact on your relationship than any arguments.

It’s natural to want to avoid conflict, but if you approach these discussions the right way, they don’t have to be shouting matches. Which leads us to-

Listen and Talk Through Your Financial Decisions

Another common argument that arises in relationships is that each side has their views on the subject and aren’t always willing to budge. The spender may feel like he or she needs to buy something, while the saver will try to prevent them from buying it.

Thus, instead of making a decision and standing your ground, talk about and work through it together. What’s going to make things work better is a compromise, which can’t happen if you’re not willing to listen and discuss ideas from your partner’s point of view.

Overall, the best thing to do is approach these situations as discussions, not arguments. Instead of trying to persuade the other person to follow your rules, consider the options available and try to find a middle ground where you’re both satisfied. As with any relationship, it shouldn’t be about “winning” an argument, but coming to a decision that works for both of you.

Set Some Ground Rules

Along with being open and honest about your financial habits, you should agree to some rules at the start. Doing this will help establish trust, and it will build a foundation upon which you can work together.
For example, if you have a shared bank account, perhaps you only put a portion of your individual incomes into it (i.e., 80%). This way, you’ll have your own money that you can spend (or save) however you like without needing approval from your partner.

When it comes to big purchases, set a limit of what you can spend without talking to each other. A good rule to follow is that anything over $200 should be discussed beforehand, whether it seems like a practical purchase or not. This way, no one is making all of the financial decisions, and you are both on the same page.

Figure Out What’s Most Important

As a spender, you value experiences. As a saver, you appreciate setting goals and reaching them. No matter what, there is going to be some flexibility. You don’t always have to spend money on things you want, and you don’t always have to stifle your impulses because it’s not “in the budget.”
For both of you, there should be some leeway that allows you to compromise your habits without feeling left out.

For example, as a spender, maybe what’s most important to you is providing nice things for your children or going on exotic vacations every so often.

As a saver, what’s most valuable to you could be saving for retirement so that you can enjoy your golden years together.

Both of these things can coexist. You can save money for the future while traveling to a tropical beach. You go on vacation every few years instead of whenever you have the money, and you don’t save quite as much for retirement when it’s time to break out the passports.

Overall, you want to discuss these things with your partner so that he or she understands your point of view. Having this conversation at the beginning will make it much easier to come together to make financial decisions because you know what the other person values most.

Bottom Line – Be Flexible

Yes, it can be challenging to be in a relationship with someone who has the opposite view on money that you do. However, look at it as a positive thing. If you’re a spender, being with a saver means that you can have someone watching your finances so that you don’t get out of control. As a saver, you have a partner who knows how to create lasting memories and can help you see the brighter side of spending money.

There are no right answers, and one method is not “better” than the other. In the end, it’s imperative that you understand the benefits and downsides of your and your partner’s habits and that you’re willing to work through them. Having this mentality will ensure that your relationship will be stronger in the long run.


Opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.

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