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Dear Frugal Gal Who is Married to a Spender Husband…

Dear Frugal Gal Who is Married to a Spender Husband

Dear Frugal Gal Who is Married to a Spender Husband,

Oh, how I get you. Because, you see, I am you!

When my husband and I got married, I totally had no clue that people could truly find fulfillment in spending money. Yup, it was a recipe for complete success and harmony in our marriage. Ahem.

I knew he liked to buy brand names. I knew he liked nice things. But I figured that I could help him see how it was so much better to shop at thrift stores and get bargains.

So I went into marriage all prepared to fix my husband. Because, in my incredibly humble opinion (not!), that boy needed a lot of fixing.

I was going to help him understand how we could save so much money if he would just come over to my frugal side. I was going take those extravagant blinders off his eyes and help him see the frugal light.

It shouldn’t take much work, I was sure. Yes, you could say I was a wee bit naive. 😉

Then we got married. And I set to work fixing him.

For the first few years, we were so poor that there wasn’t any money to spend on anything but necessities. So I really thought all my “sermons” and words of wisdom had cured his “extravagant” appetite.

A few years into our marriage, with law school behind us and a blog that was quickly growing, our income began steadily increasing and my fantasy ideas of how I had fixed my husband were all shattered by reality.

The reality was this: I had married a guy who liked to spend money.

I was aghast! I loved this man, but how on earth could he find fulfillment from spending money?!? My frugal self just couldn’t fathom it!

I had tried fixing and that didn’t work. So then I tried criticizing. And, as you can imagine, that was a complete flop.

I was stubborn and frustrated. However, I loved this man. I really did. And I didn’t want to live life feeling constant tension over money.

So, I humbled myself and started asking questions trying to determine what Jesse’s heart really was. And little bit by little bit, I realized that he wasn’t trying to be extravagant or ruthless; he just enjoyed spending money. It was the way he was wired.

Just like I was wired to enjoy saving money (and he had trouble understanding my frugal nature!), he was wired to enjoy spending money. There was nothing wrong with him. He just had a different personality than me.

I have slowly come to really appreciate him for how different he is than me. Without him in our family, I’d probably be a miser. He’s helped me realize that there is more to life than always doing everything possible to get everything at the rock bottom price.

He’s also helped me to realize that breathing room in our budget can allow us to enjoy some memory-making experiences — like taking the kids out for a special outing or enjoying a date night together at a fun restaurant. Without him in our family, we’d probably have a lot less fun at our house.

I’ve also learned that sometimes, it truly does pay to spend more for a nicer brand. Yes, really. Not always, but sometimes. 🙂

And, most importantly, he’s helped me learn the joy that comes from generosity. I love watching how much he loves to give and how he is always going out of his way to give to others. Seeing his heart for giving inspires me to live with arms even more outstretched.

The beautiful thing is, Jesse has also learned a lot about me and has come to appreciate my frugal nature — even if he doesn’t always understand it. He thanks me often for how I help our family save money and stick with a budget.

As my attitude changed, it’s made him a lot more open to making compromises for the health of our family’s finances. He’s learned to look for great deals on things he needs to purchase, he’s waited to buy items he wants until we could afford them in our budget, and he’s talked himself out of many purchases because he knew that it wasn’t a wise use of our money.

Dear Frugal Gal Who Is Married to a Spender Husband

We still have moments when there is tension or disagreements when it comes to money, but I’ve learned 4 strategies that have helped bring a lot more harmony to me as a saver who is married to a spender:

1) Nagging Doesn’t Work

If you want to ruin your relationship, start trying to nag and drag your spouse along with your latest and greatest ideas. It’s a recipe for disaster — and discord.

2) It Has To Be an Us Thing, Not a Me Thing

There is no “I” in team. If you want to successfully get on the same page, it has to be a game plan you come up with together.

Don’t expect your spouse to jump on board with you. Instead, ask your spouse if you can sit down together and talk about where you both are financially and where you both want to go together.

3) Compromise Is Key

When you sit down to discuss your finances, come with an open mind. Don’t have everything all mapped out and badger your spouse into signing off on your plan.

Share your concerns in a gentle manner and then listen to your spouse’s thoughts and concerns. If they see that you genuinely want to work with them and want to hear their heart on the matter, they are going to be much more apt to join you in the journey. But they will likely resist from the get-go if you don’t seem to care about their desires and or have any willingness to compromise.

4) Give Grace — And Some Breathing Room!

Because of our different personalities and natures, we’ve found a beautiful compromise in an agreed-upon Blow Category in our budget. We each get an allotted amount of money that we can spend on whatever we’d like, whenever we’d like. This set-up has worked well for us and prevented many unnecessary arguments over money.

When we both accept our differences, agree to compromise, set goals for our family together, and give each other grace, we have so much more unity. And this unity propels us to both be working together to wisely steward our money — instead of constantly fighting and bickering over stuff that really isn’t going to matter too much in 25 years from now.

These four strategies won’t completely remove any money fights or misunderstandings, but I truly believe that they will help improve your communication and oneness in your marriage. And when there’s more communication and oneness in finances, it usually will have a trickle down effect and improve many other areas of marriage.

So hang in there! Start taking baby steps forward and hopefully your effort to better understand and get on the same page with your husband will result in some of the same rewarding results that it has for us in our marriage!

Don’t give up! I’m cheering for you…


P.S. For more suggestions, check out my post on How Can We Improve Communication About Finances In Marriage?

photo credit #1; photo credit #2

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  • Jessica says:

    I have read your blog for 6+ years, in many different stages of life. Early marriage, early parenthood, toddler chaos, and preschool fun! This was a really good post for me, as my husband is a live in the moment kind of guy. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement.

  • I love this post! We are getting ready to sit down and go over/rework our budget for 2015 and I love the wisdom that you share here. I think we are going to work in an individual blow money category into the budget next year. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • I love this article! We too have a “blow column,” and I know my husband laughs when I blow money on amazon, and I roll my eyes at PS4 games. Compromise is golden! 🙂

  • Dee says:

    I was skeptical when I read the title, but this was really encouraging and well written! I am definitely a frugal woman married to a spender, live in the moment, man. 🙂

  • Michele says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I have followed your blog for years and wondered how you and your husband always seem to be on the same page with your finances. I am married to a spender too and while he does often thank me for my frugality, other days, well….there is less thanks

    • We were much more on the same page with finances when it came to goals and long-term vision than probably a lot of couples are when they get married, but the day-to-day working it out has definitely been a BIG years-long learning process!

  • Marianne Hardy says:

    I love your recent transparency.You are allowing yourself to be so vulnerable. I am shocked to hear this is the case in your marriage.I thought you guys have been on the same page and have accomplished so much. I have admired that. It’s a bit of a relief that you guys are not perfect no insult intended. I wonder if you would pray for me. I would love to be able to communicate my heart to my husband regarding my fears over our debt and finance s.I seem to just blow it and we’ve gotten nowhere for longer than I’d like to admit. It seems I insult him and make him defensive. I just think I need the Lord to intervene in my communication with my husband because my attempts causes strife and nothing changes.

    • Yes, I will definitely prayed for you. I just stopped and prayed for wisdom for you in knowing what to do in this situation and for unity and deeper communication in your marriage.

    • lyss says:

      This may as well have been my comment! My husband makes the money and doesn’t want my opinion on it. Any time I bring up budgeting, or ask if we can afford something, or anything of the like, he is hurt. I think my questioning his financial decisions over the years has led him to feel disrespected.

      I’m learning to just not ask, although inwardly I’m always cringing at his spending and our lack of savings. And while I believe it’s ideal for spouses to be on the same page, the whole “teamwork” and “compromise” thing doesn’t work when a husband gets defensive whenever you bring up the topic.

      Articles like this have helped me to understand that my husband is wired to spend, and that it’s fruitless to try to make him change. So thank you, Crystal.

      Maybe God has me in this situation to trust in Him(not in money!) and to teach me to submit even when I disagree. Submitting sure is easy when you agree, ya know?! Hopefully by keeping my mouth shut about money, he’ll feel more respected and be willing to communicate about finances one day…

      • Cindy says:

        You are most definitely not alone in this! I am in a similar situation. Anytime I try to discuss finances, he acts like it is a personal attack. If he brings it up, we can discuss it. If I bring it up, in his mind it means I think he isn’t taking care of things correctly and he feels disrespected. Difficult to say the least!

  • Kristen says:

    I chuckled when I read this because a lot of this sounds SO much like me and my husband, right down to me learning generosity because of him. 😉

  • Kim Anderson says:

    This is a great post that is important for the frugal and the spenders to read because its about a balanced marriage. I’m so thankful that my husband is the saver. His willingness to save up all his money before we got married put us in a perfect spot to be able to move to Atlanta after we got married to pursue his educational goals in graduate school without going homeless. Even though I’m frugal too, I do like to shop and I like to get great deals. He’s a saver but drops big bucks on big purchases when he makes them. In the end, I feel we are a great balance and one thing we are going to talk about on the 1st of December when we sit down for budget night is adding the “blow” category you mentioned to our budgets. I don’t need an allowance line, I need a “blow” line because it makes me feel freer to splurge when I want to! Great tips. Thanks for you sharing your life.

    • You are so welcome! I hope you find a Blow Category to be as helpful as we have!

      • amy says:

        Awesome article! I am the saver and my husband is the spender for sure. We have a blow category too in our budget. I am curious as to what you spend your blow money on. Even though I have it, I still have a hard time spending it. LOL He has video games but I don’t really have anything I want I guess??

  • annie says:

    Thank you, crystal, for being our cheerleader.

    I’m enjoying your posts lately very much. Thank you!

  • Alexis says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I am the spender in our relationship and we are still trying to figure out how to make it all work. Your post was really encouraging and helped me to see more from my husbands frugal side of things. I’ve learned a lot about saving money from your blog (I especially love your grocery trip posts!) and as a young stay at home mom and wife, I am so inspired by you. Thank you!

  • Lindsay says:

    I’ve never commented on a post before, but this one was written for me! Just an hour before I read it my husband came home all excited about some purchases he made and I could barely even pay attention to what he bought because all I could think was, “did he spend his ‘blow’ money on this or off the debit card?” (he spent his money :)) My husband has thanked me many times for my frugal ways that have kept us out of debt and helped him to make wiser purchases by delaying instant gratification and searching for the best deals, etc.

    But I have realized that though my methods are good, sometimes my motives are not. I find that I often operate out of fear and control in the area of money and budgeting so we are both trying to change and help each other. Thankfully I am married to very patient man!

  • Rebecca says:

    This describes my husband and myself exactly! I was born a saver. As a teen I would allow myself a certain amount of spending money from my paycheck and many, many times when the next paycheck rolled around, I hadn’t spent a penny of it! I just didn’t want anything. I was easily content which was a blessing during our very lean years on the mission field years later. My husband is more a “have money will spend” person. We’ve been married 23 years. I keep us out of debt, and he adds the fun things! If we were both like me, we’d be richer and “boreder”. If were were both like him, we’d be broke and “funner”. We’ve learned from each other!

  • Nicole says:

    I loved reading this article because I could really relate. My situation is similar but my husband has us in debt and I’m really concerned about this and I’m told to not worry about it. I have heard you speak at Hearts @ Home and I have your book. Any suggestions would be great.

  • b says:

    This is excellent advise when both people are healthy individuals with different ideas. In my case, after years of struggling with my husband, I learned that his spending was part of serious mental health problems. Fortunately, almost losing our house made him wake up and get into therapy. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but if your husband is really out of control (we had credit card balances of over $60,000 and he kept insisting it wasn’t a problem as long as we could make minimum payments) you should seriously consider some kind of counseling–for yourself if he won’t’ go.

  • Tricia says:

    I think that the recommendation for blow money is right on. From the beginning, my husband have operated on a yours, mine and ours system. We have joint checking and savings accounts where our paychecks go every month and then a small amount is transferred to each of our personal accounts. Our money is ours to do with whatever we want. We can spend it, save it, give it or anything else we want. We don’t have to justify what we do with it or even necessarily let the other person know if we don’t choose. For me, this lets me indulge in guilty pleasures which I might be a somewhat embarrassed by without having to own up to them, something that was especially valuable when we were newly-weds.

  • I love all these strategies. I am also a big fan of the blow category. My husband and I usually run purchases past each other, but not when it comes to this category. My husband jokes that he gets this amount to spend each month and that I “have to spend” this amount. We added it to our budget about five years ago (after many arguments) and I truly think it was one of the best things we have done for our marriage (and my personal sanity)!

  • This is wonderful! Actually, in our marriage the roles are reversed….my husband has EXCELLENT taste and grew up with money, but is insanely frugal. I grew up with very little money, so when I got a job and moved out on my own I budgeted well but spent a lot on fun things. So when we got married and our income went waaaay down (many crazy circumstances), it took me FOREVER to choose Aldi over Whole Foods and stop shopping online. But we just celebrated our 11 month anniversary yesterday and we’ve gotten SO much better at communicating and being on the same page with money. Quite a journey, but I love it. 🙂

  • A.W. says:

    Team work makes the dream work! Thanks for posting good tips that help couples manage money together. There are of course, situations involving denial, lying, non-compromise etc., that are more difficult to deal with. Sometimes, looking at money from a holistic perspective rather than a separate issue may be beneficial in terms of a balanced relationship with imbalances in different aspects of that relationship. In other words, if flaws can be tolerated and kept within reasonable boundaries, then one partner’s poorer spending habits may be made up for with better cleaning skills, higher income or superior cooking…or not. It is at least partially dependent on the couple’s intent, motivations, communication patterns and quality of relationship.

  • Megan Baxter says:

    You are spot-on with your advice about having a “blow category”… we call it our “personal money”. Something just relaxes in my spender hubby when he knows there is going to be a bit of money for him to spend however and whenever he wants. It’s not a lot in the big scheme of things and it takes a lot of pressure of both of us- he doesn’t have to feel anxious about running a purchase by me and I don’t have to feel anxious about him blowing the budget. Other than getting out of debt, making a personal allowance line item in our budget has brought the most peace and harmony to our married financial state!

  • Jenny says:

    Same situation here.

    I would also add that determining the “big rocks” (like you do with your time) and making a plan for what’s most important to both of you and then filtering the spending there helps. First we pay the bills. Then we discuss our joint goals- retirement, early mortgage payoff, education- and we funnel money to those. Then we determine important fun money areas and other important spending that’s not necessary but desired by both of us… we say our health is important to us so we make sure to allocate money to preventative efforts (workout money, healthier food, etc) and travel is important (so we allocate a chunk to a nice vacation every year). It’s helpful to come to joint decisions on money– I would be upset if my husband spent without full discussion.

    I feel like its important in a marriage for everyone to have spending/saving power. I’m an excellent saver but I still enjoy spending, as much as the next person. It’s funny to consider someone who is not wired to enjoy fulfillment by spending money 🙂

  • Cheryl says:

    My husband and I were completely entertained by this… only because it could be describing us instead of you. Good to know we’re not alone! 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    Thanks so much for the article. My husband and I have made great progress through out our marriage to find a happy medium. I’m in charge of budgeting/banking so sometimes I feel like I have a teenager who is always asking if he can buy stuff and I get frustrated. I really think a blow fund may help us. Just curious how much people budget for this. We are dual income family and do have some wiggle room. Is it wrong that I would want to put my blow money on the mortgage

  • What an encouraging post Crystal.

    It’s taken me a long time to learn to communicate with my husband about money in a happy and respectful way (instead of waiting till I was in tears)!

    I don’t think we’ll ever have a written budget, but I’ve finally come to see that we can faithfully honor God with our finances without one. (If we did make a written budget, I would probably be the one policing it, which doesn’t seem like a very good recipe for a joyful marriage.)

    P.S. Your posts just seem to be getting better and better! <3

    • Can I just encourage you? My parents never had a written budget — they were just frugal, wise, and generous… and it worked for them!

      Also: Thanks so much for your kind encouragement!

  • Krista says:

    Both my husband and I are pretty darn cheap, er “frugal” 🙂 but there’s always “stuff” in every marriage…and this post can apply to just about any of it! Your “it has to be an US thing, not a me thing” totally stopped me in my tracks. Thank you for the awesome reminder that it’s about being a team…and an example to our children! I appreciate all that you do & share–you DO make a difference 🙂

  • Erica says:

    My husband and I have been married for 5 years and figured out really quickly we needed a “blow category”. We call it our walking around money. He spends every penny of his every single month while I squirrel away most of mine and he is always still astonished when I occasionally find a camera lens I want or an expensive pair of shoes and I have the money in my stash for it 😉

  • Amanda says:

    Were you writing about my life? Lol. I have totally noticed and appreciated the same things about my husband. Two additional strategies I use are prayer and including my husband in on the budget. For a long time I was the one who solely handled the budget and he would get frustrated when I would say we didn’t have the money for a or b. He would say we make this much how can we not afford that?!! Now he is the one who pays the bills and now he sees how money flows in and out. It’s helped him be more thoughtful of spending money and me not quite so uptight.
    Also, an answer to prayer… I came home one day and my husband was watching Dave Ramsey on you tube and has decided to sell his beloved truck to downsize our payments! ?? in case I needed anymore proof that there is a God! Haha ??

  • I’m with ya on this one. I’ve learned same as you. There must always be a balance. Thanks for posting, now I don’t feel so isolated on this subject.

  • Karen says:

    We were young when we married, and now it has been 40 years. We had little money when we first got married, but saved up and bought our first house about 4 years in. Then circumstances improved, and we traded it for our dream home. It is still small enough to manage without outside help, except for a few landscaping jobs.

    Both of us have funds that are used for items just for us. That is the “room” you write about.

    Thank you for such a great post.

  • Erin says:

    After the last fight my husband and I had over money I looked up a sermon that made me see things differently. I’m frugal to the core and though my husband has adopted many of my frugal habits over the last few years we’ve been living on one income, he still makes plenty of impulsive (though smaller) purchases. The sermon said that tension in marriage is actually a GOOD thing. Say what?

    He talked about tension being like the straps keeping a motorcycle standing upright. Each partner pulling the same amount creates balance. The problems come from each of us pulling too hard in our own direction.

    You’re right, pushing won’t work. It’s about finding that balance of tension and realizing, if it were up to me we would forgo so many things in favor of getting out of debt that we would be miserable. If he pulled to hard we couldn’t have paid off as much debt as we have.

    I think we subconsciously push and don’t really see it until the tension pulls too tight and our partner snaps at us. Literally, the tension snaps you. Two things help me:

    1. Knowing hey, I gotta give a little and give him the credit he deserves when he gives a little in the name of our shared goals.

    2. Looking him dead in the eyes and saying, “You and I both know, neither of us is going anywhere.” It sort of reaffirms that a fight is just a fight. It’s temporary.

  • Jen says:

    I’m so happy I read this post and the attached comments! The reader who posted about the dedicated spending money allowing their husband to relax is spot on for us! While we have a tight budget with no extra free spending room I think my husband gets that instant gratification (almost a high) from making what I’ll call unintentional purchases (like that seventh pair of expensive running sneakers), whereas if he had dedicated spending money all the time it wouldn’t be so much instant gratification as it would the sustainable warm fuzzy feeling we get when we find a killer deal.

  • Kimberly says:

    Same struggle for the past 21 years here. Especially with the grocery store he likes compared to the one that saves us the most money. That one is a constant battle. I tell him all the time that “he will cut off his nose just to spite his face” when it comes to saving. He wants what he wants and that is it. Fact is, I married a man who was set in his ways when I got him. He is a “Spend-thrift” not a “thrifty spender” like myself. Thanks for sharing, I know I am not the only one in this battle. Love your blog!

  • This has been my life, too, Crystal. I’m a saver, and my husband is a spender, but I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that his impulsive purchases are just the flip side of a very admirable trait that is central to his character: He is the most generous man I know and has always given lavishly to those in need. Yet “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor his descendants begging bread.” Our family has never wanted for anything — even during the lean years we were living on loans while he completed medical school and residency — and I strongly suspect that has much less to do with my ability to stretch a dollar than it does with the fact that God heaps His blessings upon those who, like my sweet husband, are open channels for sharing those blessings with others. “God loves a cheerful giver,” after all. Incidentally, we’ve known several couples where the wife is the spender and the husband is the saver, and that seems like a more frustrating situation for everybody. I’m so glad God gave me the husband he did, as he has been exactly what I needed.

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