You’re a Saver; She’s a Spender: 5 Secrets to Gender Budgeting Successfully

It's rare to find a husband and wife who have the same spending styles. That's why couples have to work together and learn gender budgeting.


It’s rare to find a husband and wife who have the same spending styles. That’s why couples have to learn gender budgeting, which means working together and setting financial goals while overcoming financial obstacles and disagreements along the way.

For men who are ardent savers, it can be challenging to have a wife who is a spender (or vice-versa). However, with patience and regular communication, it’s possible for both a savings-minded husband and his wife to set short- and long-term financial goals together. Here’s how.

1. Give each other spending money

Men and women might have different values when it comes to spending, which is a component of gender budgeting, so it’s important to respect what’s important to each other. For example, while one person might not value a massage, it might be really important to the other person for his or her self-care.

That’s why I advocate giving each other spending money. My husband and I call it an allowance. Although it hasn’t always been the case, I’ve become the spender in the relationship since having children. We realized that we both benefit from having a set monthly amount, usually $50 to $100 that we can spend on whatever we please, no questions asked.

Giving each other a set amount helps to put a cap on discretionary spending without instituting strict rules that the spender in the relationship might find difficult to follow. This way, each person can spend on what they value — as long as it fits within their allowance budget.

2. Budget one month ahead

It’s easy to get angry and blame the spender when you feel like you are behind or don’t have enough money to pay your bills. However, by working together with your spouse to budget one month ahead, you can set clear guidelines on how you plan to spend money you already have.

Keep in mind that it could take some time to get one month ahead, especially if you typically use a credit card and pay it off after you get your paycheck. When you work one month ahead, you budget the money you have in your checking account and allocate it into categories. Again, one of your categories should be an allowance for discretionary spending. In many ways, budgeting gives you permission to spend.

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3. Recognize each other’s strong suits

Brandon and Joylynn have been married for several years now. They live near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and have reached many financial goals together at a young age. Brandon is the Saver and Joy is the Spender. According to the couple, Brandon’s strength when it comes to money is that he helps Joy see what she needs to do to reach long-term goals. Joy’s strong suit is that she enjoys organizing the finances and budgeting.

Brandon helps Joy understand how long-term goals are impacted by things like eyelash extensions, weekly trips to the nail salon, and designer clothing, and helps her say, ‘no.’ By doing this, they can achieve long-term goals they both value — like traveling.

As evidenced by Brandon and Joy’s experience, it’s important to learn each person’s strong suits when it comes to finances. Even if your wife is a spender, that doesn’t mean she won’t have financial skills when it comes to organizing money, remembering to pay bills and more. The key is to find the middle ground and focus on your joint goals so you can work in harmony towards them together.

Want to see what your strong suits are? Take the Love & Money Dimensions Assessment.

4. Set joint and individual financial goals

Each person in a relationship should have their own goals, but joint goals should be something you both believe in and are not necessarily specific to gender budgeting.

“Our next big goal is to save for a new car,” Brandon said. “Ours is 14 years old and, although it has been good to us, it won’t last forever!”

Goals like this help to remind both partners that savings goals are a joint effort that are worthwhile because they will benefit everyone.

5. Be supportive

Even if you don’t spend money on the same things, it’s still important to be supportive of each other’s goals. As mentioned, different people might buy different things or value different assets. However, you still can build on each other’s strengths and help each other.

In Brandon and Joy’s situation, the couple said that Brandon teaches Joy responsibility, and Joy teaches him how to have a little fun. With that kind of balance, their marriage works quite well.

“He may value something that I don’t care about at all, but I love him so much that I want to make sure he is able to have what he wants,” Joy said. “Similarly, he may not understand why I want some of the things I do, but he helps me reach my goals responsibly.”

Because of their mindset, Brandon and Joy have overcome catastrophic financial events like job losses, surgeries and health problems. They’ve built a solid enough financial footing that they’re able to own their home, travel and do what they love without going into debt.

Ultimately, even if each person in a marriage has different spending styles and different money habits, it’s still possible to learn how to work together, set a budget and allow each person to spend based on his or her values. The key to gender budgeting is organization, lots of regular communication and having strong goals that get you both excited to work together.

If you want more resources on navigating money with your spouse, check out The Love & Money Project™.