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When Spenders and Savers Collide

Savers and Spenders.  We come in varying degrees and shades, and might even be in self-denial.  But there’s no need to fight it.  Because despite what you think, neither is better than the other.  If you’re married or in a relationship with someone, your money personality starts to get magnified and potentially criticized.  Thankfully there are ways to avoid some of the relational drama of money personalities and have your differences work in harmony.

The Saver

Savers often look great on the outside.  They tend to be more responsible with their money and there aren’t many “unplanned” expenses.  Savers tend to think through all of the possible things that could go wrong and plan accordingly.

They’re more likely to have 15 different savings accounts earmarked for different goals, and a spreadsheet to manage it all.

Because Savers dislike spending money, they tend to find more contentment.  Or more accurately, because these folks have learned the secret of being content, they don’t look to spending money to offer them satisfaction.

The Spender

Spenders don’t mind using their money to enhance life.  They would rather die with an accumulation of experiences than money.

Spenders also have an innate freedom that can elude Savers.  They tend to deal less with anxiety, because they’re not as concerned with the future.  Spenders know how to have a good time, and don’t have to consult a spreadsheet before they make a spontaneous or overly generous decision.

Saver Pitfalls

The downside to being a Saver is that it can lead to hoarding and stinginess.  Proverbs 10:15 warns us that “the wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.” Savers tend to look at their savings as a castle with a moat around it, and money represents security.

Because we can never have enough security, Savers will pile up more and more wealth.  A number of years ago, someone asked John D. Rockefeller how much money would be enough, to which he famously replied “Just a little bit more”.

Savers also tend to be frugal (their words), or cheap or stingy (the reality).  For some, spending money isn’t neutral, it actually feels awful, so they avoid it whenever possible.  Even Warren Buffet suffers from this.  Because our money habits were formed early on, Savers aren’t going to change no matter how many billions they’re worth.

Taken to an extreme, Savers become Hoarders.  Hoarders will pile up lots of money and can never have enough.  Contentment from things turns into discontentment with savings and investments.

Spender Pitfalls

The downfall of Spenders is that they tend to compromise their long-term goals for short-term satisfaction.  Because spending money feels good, they tend to have less savings and more debt.

Rather than looking to money to offer security, Spenders tend to look to it for satisfaction.  Whether it is through “stuff” or experiences, Spenders can never have enough.

Why we need each other

The similarity here is that both Savers and Spenders are prone to idolatry.  Looking to money to provide what it was never intended to.  That’s why Jesus warned in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Each personality has its pros and cons.  Sometimes it feels like mixing oil and water.  Savers will give Spenders guilt trips.  They act like parents rather than partners.  They confuse “Saver” and “Savior”.  Spenders would rather avoid conversations about money.  They might even be tempted to hide some of their purchases from the other.

So how do we redeem this and turn the conflict into a blessing?

Here are a few pointers for dealing with the inevitable conflict that will arise:

  • Examine your heart for idols.  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?…First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3,5).  There’s a blessing in seeing the issues of our own heart, and it’s an absolute requirement before you talk to anyone about theirs.
  • Pray and ask God to reveal what’s really at the core of what you’re fighting over.  I often found that (as a Saver), it was some form of security or control that I was being asked to give up.  Once I could acknowledge that, it helped loosen the grip that money would sometimes have on my heart.
  • Recognize the goodness in the other.  God has made us all unique.  We’ve been shaped by a lifetime of experiences and aren’t going to change.  At our core, we’re all looking for satisfaction, and all tend to look for it in the wrong place from time to time.  The other person isn’t crazy and (hopefully) doesn’t want to do anything to hurt you!
  • Compromise is key.  Because Savers and Spenders have different value systems, we’re going to want different things.  No one should have to always give in.
  • Categorize expenses into wants needs and goals.  If we can separate the things we view as truly important versus the things that would be nice to have, we can identify the things that are really worth fighting for.

When we are willing to actually face the conflict head on, there’s great hope.  Our money issues become a way to encounter grace, love and contentment.  We also begin to find a deeper level of intimacy.  Real intimacy starts when you can acknowledge what money represents to you, and the fears that you may subconsciously have if it is taken away.  And that is a blessing that is worth the conflict.