June 23, 2021

How Money Shapes our Relationships—for Better or Worse. 


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When a Penny Pincher and a Compulsive Spender Fall in Love.

He’s the penny pincher.

I’m the compulsive spender.

We wouldn’t have fessed up to our titles when we first met. I liked to keep my impulsivity and spending habits on the down-low. Mostly because I was in denial, but also because that’s not something you come clean with to a potential partner. I should have known our differences when on our first date he ordered a short and I ordered a grande.

He pulled up in an older Ford Ranger, and I had a newer Volkswagen Jetta. This was in 2008, and I was done with the dating scene. The last guy I dated drove a Lexus, and I just didn’t care anymore about any of that. I had gotten a run for my money from the dating scene. I had been wrung out and left to dry, so to speak. I was gasping for air after way too many bad dates, and by the time I made it to this one, I truly wanted something to click, but my expectations were low.

Twelve years later, and we have our fair share of battles over money. Of course, most of us want more. I read somewhere that even millionaires think they would be happier if they just had a little bit more. I know the clichés about the more you have, the more you need. I know it’s true for me. I learned recently that the happiest people have what they need—not too much, not too little.

I don’t believe that money is the root of all happiness. I’ve had less. I’ve had more. I’ve struggled the same.

I believe many of our issues with money stem from childhood programming.

For instance, I had a mother who refused to use a checking account. She had tried it out and overdrew and from then on gave it up. She never had a credit card or financed anything. It was cash only. She knew she couldn’t trust herself. She got paid every Friday, would blow right through her check, and then we would wait for payday again.

My husband grew up with parents that had a more conservative view of money. They worked hard and saved, paid off their house quickly, tithed, and only spent money on necessities and few extras.

In our marriage, I will easily drop 20 or 30 dollars on a meal out or some clothing without really thinking about it. In comparison, my husband will deliberate about which can of soup to buy to save a dime or two.

My husband remembers not being able to get a BMX bike when he really wanted one. He learned he needed to work and save up and then was able to buy his own at age 12. Until then, he had to ride his sister’s pink one—not sure why she had a bike and he didn’t, but that’s another story.

I had my own black and gold Huffy that he would have loved, but also I grew up on government cheese and powdered milk and lived in low-income apartments. I never learned to save because I had a single mom on minimum wage. I learned to get what I needed fast before the money ran out. I still live by that fear-based mentality and it has caused me a lot of problems financially.

It’s hard for me to look at the big picture and plan for the future. I have a ride-or-die mentality with money and I want what I want when I want it. I like instant gratification, and as a former drug addict, I definitely switched addictions. I’ve gone to Debtors Anonymous and my husband and I have done Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I am a thousand times better than I used to be.

I have a financial accountability person who I see monthly. She helps me differentiate wants versus needs, and I can tell her when my spending feels out of control. She helps me feel less alone and has even helped me put money aside. And for the first time in forever, I have an “emergency fund.”

I have anxiety about getting what I need and my husband has anxiety about running out of money.

Where do we meet in the middle? Well, I usually pull the trigger on larger expenses like travel or new carpeting after we have discussed it. It can be hard for him to spend money in general and the fear of not making the right decision can be debilitating for him. He will go back and forth and usually end up not making the purchase.

Me on the other hand, I usually know what I want and have no problem buying it, but the problem with me is knowing when enough is enough. The excitement of the purchase wears off and I’m off again looking for the next best thing. It’s a real compulsive shopping addiction. I stay out of Target or Malls unless I’m there for a specific purchase. I don’t need to get more ideas for things I think I need.

I am learning to be content with what I have. I am learning to compare myself less. I am learning to make do with things I already own. I also claim to be a minimalist and I don’t want to hoard. I try to get rid of at least one thing for every new thing I purchase—and to buy second-hand when possible.

For over a year, we wrote down everything we spent on a tablet and saved all of our receipts. It was wild to see how even our little purchases added up and how much was spent on Amazon or kids’ birthday parties. This formed an alliance between us where I had to be honest with my husband and myself. It’s really easy to run that card and not be aware of how much money we are actually spending.

And now to lighten the mood: I got a chuckle out of watching this video and would love to hear how you have made it work in a partnership with different spending styles.

Humorous money video:


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