Marriage And Money: Do You And Your Spouse Differ On Finances?

My wife and I have been married for over eleven years now. When we first married we were complete opposites on all things financial. I am, by nature, a saver. My wife is the free spirit, or the spender, in our relationship. In an effort to keep things civil those first few years I spent a little more than I was used to, and she sacrificed a little more than she was used to.

We were convinced our compromise of financial personalities was for the greater good of marital harmony.  However, over the years our natural tendencies were overridden by circumstances – circumstances we created for ourselves, but had to work through nonetheless.

Just a couple years into our marriage my wife quit working as we decided she would stay home with our children. It was a decision we made together, and reflected both of our desire for her to be home until the kids were school age. Neither of us downshifted our spending appropriately for living on one income, and soon we found ourselves in debt. Our growing debt had an interesting effect on our relationship. My wife became a saver, and I sobered up (financially) after a couple years of spending more freely than I was comfortable with.

These days we are both enjoying a more frugal lifestyle. Just the other day my wife went grocery shopping and picked up $273 worth of groceries and cleaning supplies for $186. For hardcore couponers out there that might not sound like a huge savings. But for us it is huge! We both resisted using coupons for years, dabbling with services like The Grocery Game and other coupon websites only half-heartedly.

The reason we weren’t gung ho was because we weren’t both enthusiastic about couponing. I would clip, she would forget. She’d clip and give to me for my after-work run by the store, and I’d forget to use them at the checkout. But when we both got on the same page we started realizing some serious savings.

This same synergy developed through shopping with coupons has carried over into other areas of our financial life. We both decided we were tired of being in debt and have been paying it off like crazy the last several months. We are now equally passionate about building our savings, our kids’ college savings plan and our own retirement.

How much do you and your significant other differ on finances? Has this changed since you first met?


  1. My husband and I married before we’d ever heard of credit cards. We spent only what we had and managed to pay our bills, or make payment plans when unexpected events came up. We waited for Christmas bonuses or tax refunds to have some major fun money, or buy things we really needed. I love the old layaway plans at the department stores and used to do our Christmas shopping then, carefully planning out the weekly paychecks until I had enough to pick up our children’s gifts. I wish the stores still did that kind of thing.
    My husband has always had me handle the finances and I give him weekly spending money based on what we both agree on. He earns the money and I use it to keep our home running.
    Mrs. White

  2. Coupon clipping can fuel the thrill of the chase just as much as it can help you save money. Be wary of buying a product just because you have a coupon. Sometimes it makes sense, especially when you combine coupons with “BOGO” or other store specials.

    I’ve found that most store brand items cost less than the national brand with a coupon. Not all store brands are created equal, and when you must have the national brand version, coupons are great.

  3. I am very blessed in that my wife will follow my lead on most anything as long as it makes good sense! Since the beginning of 2009 I have done a personal finance 180 and my wife has supported every part of it.

    We have accomplished an incredible amount in just 6 short months and are happier than ever with our financial future. We have been married for just over 4 years now and are just now trying for children… I’m really looking forward to a few little buggers running around the house!!

    Great article, this topic seems to be buzzing in the PF community. Just a few days ago I wrote about the quiet existence of money anxiety in relationships & the devastating effect it can have if left undetected.

  4. I really wish my husband and I were on the same page.

    There are two sides to the financial equation. 1. Spend less, and 2. Earn more. My husband has no interest in spending less, he just wants to focus on the other half – the earning. I have been completely unsuccessful in convincing him that reducing our spending would go a long way in creating the margin we need, and to get out of debt.

    I do what I can for both sides of that coin. I help with the family business, I do freelance work, as well as wearing the stay at home mom hat. And I also watch what I spend. I don’t make unnecessary purchases, I use coupons, I don’t spend money on myself, etc.

    This only goes so far though. My husband prefers to spend. He eats out all the time, he insists on having very expensive satallite TV packages, he buys unnecessary things like DVDs. He is also pretty convinced that he has a handle on money. Reading a book like a Dave Ramsey or something like that is so out of the question for him it’s not even funny.

    I don’t have a clue how to move past this financial brick wall. I am very thankful that he is willing to work hard and try to increase his income. His go get em attitude is a force to be reckoned with.

    I just wish we had more balance, and more agreement in our finances.

  5. I’ve done a couple of posts about this very subject in June. When my husband and I got together, we had very different standards. He liked to spend; I preferred to save.

    Over the last three years, though, we’ve come to a good middle ground. We allow for a couple small indulgences — the occasional movie out, for example — but mainly work at throwing toward debt anything we can from our limited income.

    He’s really learned a lot about frugality, and sometimes he now thinks of things I wouldn’t have. It’s really quite wonderful!

    A lot of this has to do with attitudes toward finance. He grew up with the idea that people always struggle financially, so you might as well enjoy money while you have it.

    Once I showed him that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel, he was a lot more willing to jump on board. There are still times when I have to talk him out of a purchase. But they’re a lot fewer and farther between.

  6. Great post, FD!

    We are mostly on the same page around here. I’ve always been the family CFO and we have excellent credit to show for it. I would like to be more out of debt though. Our problem is though that every time we start getting ahead we take one or two steps backward. Oh, and that pesky college tuition!

  7. What are your coupon sources? The ones I receive in the mail are never for the items that I normally buy. Do you forego your usual brands and take the best deal?