You’ve probably thought about the difference between being a ‘spender’ or a ‘saver’ at some point and decided which category you fell into. What was your conclusion? Do you have a pretty easy time burning through your pay check? Or does it give you heart palpitations every time you swipe your credit (or debit) card?

In truth no one is fully a spender or fully a saver. Most likely at different stages in your life you’ve leaned more toward one side or the other.

If you’re in a relationship there’s a good chance one of you becomes the saver and the other the spender (whether or not those are the terms you use).What makes someone a spender or saver? Is there a right or wrong default to have? 

The Spender

Our typical picture of a spender is someone who is always buying, buying, buying. The person who loves to get coffee every morning, can’t say no to a little treat for the kids at the grocery store and LOVES giving nice gifts to friends and family. Perhaps you envision something like this:

 

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If you consider yourself a spender you’ve probably recognized the positive aspects to being ‘free’ with your money.

  • Spontaneity, you can embrace experiences in a way someone too concerned with saving can’t.
  • You are flexible and easily adapt to new situations, even financial ones.
  • Your bank and credit card statements don’t cause you to have a panic attack. 
  • You refuse to sacrifice enjoying the present.

Spenders understand that having a sizable savings account is far from the most important thing in life. They derive value from relationships and see their money as a way to invest in the people around them.

The Saver

Those of you who may have rolled your eyes at the above list thinking “I enjoy life because I have security,” well you are probably at home in this category. You are likely the saver.

Savers understand that you have control over your future. Life is not to be lived on a whim but on a plan that provides structure for enjoying what’s ahead. Spending without a plan doesn’t appeal to you because you are motivated by achieving your goals and keep things in order.

Here are the great things about being a saver:

  • You’re easily motivated by financial goals.
  • You don’t often succumb to what everyone expects you to spend money on.
  • As a saver you staunchly reject fads and trends that cost money.
  • You’ve learned that enjoying life is as much about having security as it is embracing spontaneity.

Savers understand the importance of structure and responsibility.

So… Which is Better?

The answer should be fairly clear right? Savers are better! (Kidding). Both. It’s always both.

There are wonderful aspects of being a spender and being a saver. Every business can tell you it’s a fine balance of responsible saving and spending that moves you forward. Too much spending will lead to bankruptcy, too much saving will prevent you from future growth and fulfilling your mission.

The same is true in your personal finances. The trick is understanding how to balance out your default with the other side. Whichever side of the spectrum you fall on, you need to exercise empathy and understanding if your significant other is on the other side. 

Strategies for Balancing out the Spender

The spender can do a couple things to balance out their natural financial tendencies. Although you may cringe at the thought, consider getting on a budget. Don’t think of your budget as a set of rules that keep your from enjoying your money, instead think of it as a plan that empowers you to say yes more in the future. Understand where you want to go, determine how much it will cost to get there and use these goals as motivation to make some spending-sacrifices. Sometimes “it’s the responsible thing to do” isn’t the best motivation for a spender. Keeping a dream you have in mind can help those spending sacrifices sting a little less. 

Another strategy for the spender is to bring savers into your life who can hold you accountable. No one wants to be told what to do all the time, but if you ask for advice before it’s given it’s a little easier to take. Find a friend who is good at saving and ask them to check in with you every couple months. Have them remind you of your goals and that your budget is going to help you reach them.

Strategies for Balancing Out the Saver

Savers have a tendency to look at their habits as superior to spenders. Of course your ability to make all kinds of material sacrifices is worth touting right? Wrong!

Your financial sacrifices do not make you noble. Your dreams make you noble.

If you only focus on your dreams you may lose sight of the present. Build into your oh-so-structured budget a ‘living life’ category. Give yourself space each month to be spontaneous, just put it in your budget so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank.

Much like a spender needs a financial accountability partner, a saver needs to be reminded to live in the present and not the future. A great way to do this is to create a list of questions that will balance out your tendency toward penny-pinching. Some of those could be:

  • Where is my guilt in this potential purchase coming from? Is that justified?
  • Will this purchase enhance a relationship I have?
  • How long has it been since I spent money on myself or my family?

Know Yourself

The point of the spender/saver conversation is not to decide which type of person is the best to be. Instead it is to to acknowledge which you are, live into the positives and mitigate the negatives. Don’t feel guilty that you’re a spender or a saver. There’s a reason both types of people exist!

Choose to appreciate the parts of your financial habits that bring value to your life, whether that’s your spontaneity or your financial stability. After you appreciate those, address the areas you struggle with and develop strategies to balance out the potential pitfalls of your habits. Bring other people in, ask critical questions and relax. It’s just money!

So are you a spender or a saver? What do you value about the way you use/view money? 

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