Saver vs spender: how we found our money groove

5 steps to getting on the same financial page with your partner


You know you’ve come full circle when your spender partner doesn’t want to spend the money he’s been saving for a particular thing, on that particular thing.

I find it amusing, anyway.

How did we get here?

I’ve alluded before to how we have somewhat separate accounts (the mixed method really) and it’s working so much better compared to when I handled basically 100% of that stuff. Overall, money meetings/talks are now way less stressful and anchored in positivity more often than not.

That’s not to say it’s been effortless, especially at the beginning. But like with most things, getting into a groove starts with laying the groundwork.

Banish the cobwebs

Step one for us was getting back to ground zero. And that meant a little bit of individually reflecting and looking back before we could move forward.

Where are you now and why? What’s your role in the situation? Hopefully you’ve become aware of your own blind spots, tendencies, and yeah, mistakes. We’ve all made missteps at some point, some more serious than others. It takes two, rarely is one partner entirely faultless. Even if (ahem) you feel hugely slighted, if you’re committing to making this work, being the bigger person goes a long way initially. Have the grace to forgive yourself, forgive them and let the past go.

Forgetting may not be possible or desirable, but forgiving is necessary to make progress – if that’s what you want to do.

Pick the right time

Okay, so you want to actually talk money? Set up for success – timing is everything! It’s got to be a place and time where you’re both relaxed and have the headspace to give the topic your full attention. You wouldn’t want to hit your boss up for a big raise when they’ve just spent all day rushing from workshop to meeting to conference and are totally exhausted. Context matters.

So don’t force the money talks. They may (and probably will) initially kick up some complicated feelings and negative energy. Pushing and pushing for a conversation at that point is only going to lead to hurt feelings, taking things personally and wrongly perceiving things as an attack or criticism. Keep it short, know when to stop.

Back to basics

Don’t assume anything, especially if you’re the person who’s been doing it all. T literally did not know what we spent on most of our key expense categories, because it’s not something he’s all that interested in and thus I didn’t make an effort to involve him. But (duh) him not being across things at that basic level made it really hard to talk about money in any detail let alone our bigger goals for the future and what we might need to do to reach those.

Make it a conversation

Keep the dialogue going and try to avoid absolutes – you always, you never etc. Also bad: taking opposing stances on everything – you’re careless, you’re stingy, you’re too generous, you’re too obsessive. 

Try and turn each point around and look for examples of contradictions – I bet you’ll find a few cases where you broke with the pattern. The time when you splurged randomly – why? The time when you saved for something and actually stuck to a plan – why? While we all have tendencies we naturally fall into and revert to, we’re also capable of acting out of character and understanding what drives that can be really insightful.

Speaking of ‘why’ … that’ll be the next step. Figuring out your goals and getting aligned behind them.

Take it slow

Don’t expect to see 100% eye-to-eye. This is totally natural. Resist the urge to nag and try to convince your partner that your way is the only way. Particularly if you’re paired up with a Rebel (Four Tendencies anyone?) that’s gonna land like a lead balloon.

Wishing for them to change (especially overnight…) does not work. Focus on what you CAN control, namely yourself: doing what you can and leading by example. Odds are that they’ll increasingly get onboard once the benefits start to become clearer under your steering. Or you may gradually come around more to your partner’s way of thinking and adjust your approach accordingly. For us, he’s moved a long way towards me on the spectrum, but I’ve also loosened up a little and shuffled his way a bit. And let’s be honest, it hasn’t hurt that our income’s gone up, meaning the purse strings are less tight – that’s a luxury that’s helped a lot in this regard.

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2 thoughts on “Saver vs spender: how we found our money groove

  • Reply K June 13, 2018 at 09:03

    Great advice. My partner and I need to get serious about finances/saving in the next while, so this is very timely! I’ll have to bookmark this post.

    I’m also a NZer, and I’m thinking about trying to save in order to buy property at some point. I know you’ve written about buying your place and I’ll read back those posts, but any advices on where to begin? If you have a recommendation for books, resources, etc – there’s a lot to learn, and it’s overwhelming. Thank you so much!

    • Reply eemusings June 14, 2018 at 19:24

      Advice on the buying process? It definitely seems overwhelming but in hindsight I think the broad steps were actually pretty simple. Get preapproved (including KiwiSaver stuff if relevant), know what you’re looking for in a property (I wasn’t keen on shared driveway, preferred brick or similar as a low maintenance material, wanted proximity to amenities but not on crazy busy road), get onto listings early and coordinate your weekends to fit in all those viewings, be sure to get a property/building inspection done … really the only thing that tripped me up was not being able to use my KS money towards the first vendor deposit so I’d stress making sure you have enough cash for that initial deposit.

      For every property I was interested in I’d go look up the annual rates and the type of land ownership (cross lease/fee simple etc … things to get familiar with and what they mean) on the council site for that address, and anything else that I could find out via QV. I don’t think TradeMe Property Insights and Homes.co.nz were around back then sadly but they’re quite handy today. You might be interested in school zones etc too and that’s all info that’s quite easy to find now.

      Not sure that you need books necessarily, I seem to recall the TradeMe property guides and the REAA home buyers guide were quite useful. There are different sale methods to get your head around … I did not consider anything that was going to auction, buying at auction is a different beast obviously! Oh and there’s that new site oneroof.co.nz that has lots of features and tools which might be worth checking out when you’re ready to start your search!

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