In a typical marriage, there are usually two types of people: one spender and one bookkeeper. This is not always the case, but since we tend to marry our opposites, chances are if you’re a spender, you married a bookkeeper, and vice versa.
Spenders, see financial security differently than bookkeepers. To the spender, earning a regular income is seen as financial security. As long as there is a paycheck and someone else pays the bills, they are content to keep spending. .
The bookkeeper is the opposite. To them, financial security is money in the bank. Each bill is carefully analyzed to minimize the effect it might have on their bank account. The bookkeeper wants to protect the balance in the account at all costs, and marriage to a spender-who shows no appreciation for the mathematics of spending less than is earned-can be extremely stressful.
When a bookkeeper is married to a spender, the spender often spends money or assumes a financial obligation, and then drops the bill off with the bookkeeper for them to deal with it. The bookkeeper at some point feels pressure to confront the spender to stop them from spending, but they oftentimes prefer to avoid such confrontations. Spenders often incorrectly assume they are earning more than they are spending, and when confronted about excessive spending, they can accuse the bookkeeper of poor bookkeeping.
Much of the time, the two different philosophies balance each other out. The spender gets what they want and the bookkeeper gets what they want, so long as there is a working relationship between the two.
But when that working relationship breaks down, financial chaos can—and most likely will—ensue.
So what can be done to maintain a healthy working relationship? The spender needs to sit down with the bookkeeper and understand the finances. Typically, the spender just knows when the money comes in and then spends it. The bookkeeper then has to make sense of that spending and make sure it’s sustainable.
Ultimately, there needs to be a calm, rational conversation about savings goals and what level of spending will support those goals. I recommend spender and bookkeeper spouses sit down with one another at least once a month to discuss the family finances. This will ensure the spender sees what the bookkeeper is seeing. WARNING: The spender needs to maintain a level of interest and empathy for the bookkeeper’s role during the meeting; bookkeeping is more stressful and important than the spender usually realizes. The bookkeeper shouldn’t attack the spender, and the spender shouldn’t accuse the bookkeeper of being a financial “buzz kill”.
Remember, if you’re married to your financial opposite, it’s a partnership, not a war zone. Bookkeepers aren’t magicians; they can’t create money out of thin air to cover the spender’s expenses. Make a budget that allows for spending but also allows for savings. I also recommend that both the spender and bookkeeper be allocated monthly “Mad Money“ that allows each spouse the ability to spend (or save) without acquiring the permission or involvement of the other. Mad money alleviates a lot of marital financial tension; make sure it is large enough to alleviate stress but small enough to ensure all family financial goals and obligations are met.
Yes Virginia, spenders and bookkeepers can live under the same roof, and truth be known, they probably should.
Image credit http://blog.timesunion.com/518life/files/2014/05/Money_Illus_tp.jpg