Is it possible for people to change? Can money habits be transformed, one way or the other? In other words, looking at the spender vs. saver framework,
My thought process has generally been that most people truly don’t change at the core. We are shaped by how we grew up, and our life experiences when younger, and this manifests itself in our behavior when grown up. This includes our money habits, and whether or not we are inclined to spend or save.
So, what to do if the person you have fallen for is on the opposite side of things? If you’re a saver and he or she is a spender? Well, I think it is important to try to do one of 3 things:
- Get the other person to change
- Change to match the other person
Being on the same page, one way or the other, is better than having money conflicts.
There are two examples that I have, from couples I have known, that can illustrate this topic in some way. I’ll keep out certain specific details, but will share the high-level information that is salient to the topic:
This was a couple where the woman was seemingly financially responsible, and the guy was a big-time spender.
She came from a humble blue-collar background, but worked very hard to earn great grades in college, then went on to get an advanced degree (doctorate). A nice mix of being down to earth, yet very smart and ambitious. Accomplished but able to relate to people of different financial means. How this translated into her finances was that she didn’t seem to be a big spender, and was more modest in her wants.
He came from more money, and had visions of grandeur. He was a fast talker, highly energetic and ambitious, and quite entertaining. He wanted to be the life of the party, and had no problems with spending on entertaining. He drove expensive cars that belied his age, but did not have the advanced education she did – and one would perceive didn’t have the perceived career status that she did.
From the outside looking in, it appeared that the she was financially conservative and more of a saver (or at least middle of the road), while he absolutely seemed like a hall-of-fame level spender – to the point of seeming out of control to the casual observer.
How did this go? The didn’t seem to have complementary habits. The couple ended up divorcing.
This situation was kind of the opposite, where he was the saver and she was the spender.
Both had similar levels of education, as well as similar years of work experience. They were both talented and somewhat ambitious, and they both truly enjoyed the finer things. However, he changed his ways after a few years in his 20’s, and did a 180 degree turn from being a spender to becoming a budding, serious saver. She, on the other hand, loved to shop and carried a fair amount of consumer debt. This is where they were at upon being married, he with a small but growing stash of savings, and her with debt.
What happened? He worked on her big time for the first year or two, and basically got her to adopt his saver mentality. My guess is that it was mostly her changing to meet his way of doing things, as she suppressed her shopaholic ways and they jointly saved quite a bit of money regularly.
The result? Well, much better than the first couple. They are doing very well for themselves, and according to him, are on their way to financial freedom at a much younger age than most could think of. It’s a true success story.
Why Did Couple B do Much Better Than Couple A?
Now, first off, clearly money isn’t the only dynamic in relationships. There are many that are part of the interaction between two people.
However, it’s one of the hot buttons people have, and clearly there were differences in how these couples handled things.
My view is that Couple B succeeded because they were able to get on the same page on how to do things, even though he was a saver and she was initially a big shopper. While purely joint compromise might be great, at least they got on the same page one way or the other.
The other couple simply wasn’t on the same page. The guy spent money like it was going out of style, and was the antithesis of frugal. Clearly she was more responsible, at least to most observers. They didn’t get on the same page, and even if they did – my guess is that the force of his personality would have meant that she would have had to cave in to his spender mentality.
Bottom Line: People can change in some cases, and if that’s what it takes to get on the same page, so be it!
My Questions for You
Do you think that it’s important for two people to truly be on the same page in terms of spending habits?
Have you known people with different approaches, where one is a saver and the other is a spender?
Do you think that it’s truly possible for people to change in terms of being a saver vs. being a spender?