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Money management advice for couples who are financial opposites

If you’re a saver and your partner is a spender, or vice versa, how can you manage your ideas and impulses when making joint financial decisions? Without being on the same page, your finances and relationship will struggle, and the arguments over money—saving vs. spending—will only get worse.

In many relationships, there is a “higher self-control partner” and a “lower self-control partner”—one who tends to save money and the other who tends to spend money, respectively. Couples, when faced with financial disagreements, can help improve their finances, self-control, and relationship with this expert advice.


Do be realistic

Be realistic about the way you and your partner make decisions. Does one of you tend to indulge more often than the other? Is one of you more of a tightwad? Your self-control levels will change the way you navigate this decision together, so make sure you’re aware of your own tendencies.

Do stand your ground

If you have high self-control, realize that you’re going to be tempted to give in so that you can get along. Make sure this won’t have negative consequences for your joint well-being. Kindly voice your opinions and concerns if you feel there has been a lack of self-control.

Do be open to compromise

If you tend to be less stringent and frugal, be open to compromising on your immediate impulse. Your partner may have your long-term interests in mind. It’s important to find balance, and being willing to yield your spending habits to your partner’s saving habits will only be beneficial in the long run. Doing so will leave money in the bank for a time when you will need to spend it on something important.

Do discuss the importance of self-control

Exerting financial self-control together, as a team, will help keep your relationship healthy. Eighty percent of divorces are the result of disagreements about finances, so it’s imperative to work together to exercise self-control, especially to keep the relationship balanced. 

Do stress the importance of the relationship

Stressing the importance of the relationship to the lower self-control partner leads to better self-control in the joint decisions of mixed pairs. Instead of saying, "We need to do it my way,” the higher self-control partner could say, for example, "Honey, think about our relationship. Maintaining the harmony between us is far more important than sticking to what you want." This sort of dialogue would hopefully encourage the lower self-control partner be more willing to compromise, allowing the couple to make more prudent decisions together.


Do not make all decisions with your partner

Joint decision-making might not always be a good thing. If you have different levels of self-control, ceding control over some important decisions to the higher self-control partner might work better. Let the tightwad make the household budget sometimes, instead of arguing over it.

Do not get too caught up preserving harmony in the moment

When the individual with more self-control is concerned with maintaining tranquility, they will be more likely to acquiesce to their free-spending partner’s desires. This is the wrong direction for successful long-term outcomes like health and financial stability.

Do not try to outsource self-control

Don’t assume that if your partner has high self-control, it will allow you to exhibit better restraint. Work together to find an equilibrium and develop financial self-control together. It’s each partner’s personal responsibility to improve their self-control for both their own and partner’s benefit.

Do not automatically give in

Forfeiting your voice and opinion if you have high self-control means you’ve given up, and are left out of the decision-making process. Find a way to compromise, so both sides are considered.

Do not think you’re doomed

Don’t automatically assume that a mixed level of self-control is the kiss of death for your relationship. It will just take a little more effort to work together and understand how the other operates.

Jumping cartoon

Placing the burden of restraint on a higher self-control individual in a partnership can seem like the easiest move, but it might undermine your happiness down the road. Talk together about how you can secure your long-term financial and relationship well-being, and help each other stick to a plan.

More expert advice about Finance for Couples

Photo Credits: RockandWasp/; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Hristina Dzhogleva & Cait LambertonProfessors of Marketing

Hristina Dzhogleva is assistant professor of marketing at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Hristina’s research focuses on dyadic decision making, self-control, and healthy eating. Hristina’s dissertation (completed at t...

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