Money and Relationships: Frugal vs. Spendthrift

Money and Relationships: Frugal vs. Spendthrift

”Jack Sprat could eat no fat, His wife could eat no lean,
But just between the two of them, They licked the platter clean.”

“There once was a girl from Nantucket…” Just kidding–we won’t go any further into that limerick. But I do have a point to the Jack Sprat poem: Sometime opposites attract. One man could have fat-related indigestion while his wife is an Atkins fanatic. Another man could be a Packers fan while his wife is a die-hard Bears fan. A third man could save every penny while his wife is a spendthrift. Whatever the case, sometimes the most unlikely pair can be the strongest.

As we continue our Relationships and Finances series, let’s look closer at the best way to deal with marital differences in finances, using the example of a frugal husband and a spendthrift wife.

How to Make it Work

If you’re in a situation where one of you spends while the other saves, it can be very frustrating. You may feel like your spouse is limiting your personality. Since spending and saving can be huge indications about a person’s personality, having a spouse on the opposite end of the spectrum can also be, well, a little annoying. So, what’s a spouse to do?

Let’s take a look at Jack Sprat–saver-extraordinaire–and his wife, Jill–spender-extraordinaire. Jack is a tight-wad. He adds water to the bottom of his shampoo bottle to make it last longer. Jill, on the other hand, likes to have every variety of shampoo on the market at her disposal. When the shampoo no longer works on her hair, she sees no problem with throwing it out.

This waste drives Jack nuts. He’s pulling out his hair trying to think of a solution to Jill’s shampoo addiction. He even started pulling her shampoo bottles out of the trash and placing them in the closet. What’s a guy to do?

Jack drives Jill crazy. Her shampoo bottles keep reappearing in the linen closet, and she knows Jack is digging through the trash to save 50 cents worth of shampoo. Jill also knows Jack stretches his 99 cent bottle of shampoo way past the point of usefulness–crazy! And she knows of an excellent shampoo that could give him more volume. What’s a gal to do?

One day, Jill tosses a perfectly good bottle of shampoo over the shower door, and it knocks Jack in the head. “That’s it!” he yells. “Use all of your shampoo!”

Jill pops her head around the shower curtain. “OK,” she says. “On one condition: I get to buy you a new shampoo, and you cannot add water to it.”

"Deal," says Jack.

In a few months, the couple is as happy as could be. Jill is using up all of her old shampoo, and the money she saved on shampoo pleasantly surprised her. Jack has to admit Jill was right about his shampoo switch–his hair never looked better.

In taking a step back, both could see the benefits of coming to the compromise, and they began to compromise in other ways, too. They talked about what they really wanted to do with Jill’s shampoo savings, and they decided to save for a nice vacation together. Both were happy to save for (and to spend on) a Caribbean vacation.

In all seriousness, having a spouse from the opposite end of the financial spectrum can actually be a blessing. A spendthrift can open a saver’s eyes to the perks of opening the purse strings. But a saver can help a spender appreciate the benefits of saving. Communication -- as always -- is the smart way to compromise.

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