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Everyday Cheapskate: Why Money Is Hard for Couples

Mary Hunt on

The phone rings. You pick it up to hear your husband say, "Honey, seven years ago tonight we got engaged. Let's go to dinner and a movie to celebrate!"

Long ago, in what seems like another time and place, you fell in love with this man because he was spontaneous and sentimental. Now when he asks you out for a date, the first words out of your mouth are, "Are you crazy? We don't have money for that!"

Your calculator-like mind whips through the figures: $50 for a babysitter, dinner at least $150 because of course he'll insist on a "nice" restaurant, another $50 for a movie if you share popcorn and a soda. That's $250 you just don't have to spend right now.

All week long you scrimp and do without, but does he even notice? Or care? Apparently not. While he's off in the big adult world enjoying his job, you're at home with laundry, dirty dishes, kids and bills.

Doesn't he know the mortgage is due, the Visa bill is late, your daughter's birthday is two weeks from Tuesday, and the washing machine is just one spin cycle from total meltdown? Sure, you have a few bucks in the bank, but you've been counting on that for a weekend away with your girlfriends -- something you haven't had a chance to tell him yet. With all this financial stress, all he can think about is dinner and a movie?

He's hurt because you come across cold and distant. You're hurt because he is insensitive and uncaring. Both of you think this is about money. You believe with all your hearts that if you won the lottery none of this would be a problem. And you are wrong. Money problems are rarely about money alone. They are all mixed up with issues of self-worth, fear and power.

Money exposes the differences in our personalities and what we believe about money. But money issues are often buried so deeply in our emotions it is difficult to know where our money attitudes came from. And if you don't know a lot about yourself, it's likely you know even less about your spouse.

I can nearly guarantee one of you is a "spender" and the other a "saver." A saver doesn't necessarily have a big savings account nor is the spender always shopping, although that would make both types very happy. This is about attitude and temperament.


Savers are not generally anxious to spend money. They hesitate and drag their feet, always preferring to wait for a sale.

Spenders on the other hand are carefree with money. They are optimistic and daring. They assume there's more where this came from. They see available credit the same as income. Spenders view a sale as a way to get more stuff, not to spend less.

In a healthy relationship, the saver-spender combination creates a perfect financial balance. Spouses keep each other from going to extremes. But put a saver and a spender together in an unhealthy marriage and watch the fireworks!

Of all the issues in a marriage, money has the greatest potential to ruin it. In fact, research tells us that the No. 1 killer of marriages in the United States is unresolved money conflicts. But it doesn't have to be that way, no matter how different you are. Learning why money is so difficult is the first step to seeing yourselves as "us against the problem," not "us against each other," and that's the key to debt-proofing your marriage and creating financial harmony and prosperity.


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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