Financial Compromise: Being Right vs. Being Happy

by TTMK on October 14, 2013 · 5 comments

be_right_or_be_happyIf you have a spouse that absolutely loves to spend money, yet you most definitely don’t, it seems likely that things could get interesting.  How many people just have trouble understanding a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse when it comes to that person’s money habits?

Well, if opposites attract as is often said, these differences in money habits might not even make it on the radar screen when people figure out if they want to marry another person.  Thus, you can take a few different approaches:

  • Insist that the other person follows your way of doing things (potential for his/her to resent you later)
  • Do things that person’s way (potential for you to feel resentful or stressed later)
  • Compromise

I think the 3rd way is probably the most successful approach.  Even if you’re a saver, and your spouse is a hardcore spender, you just can’t approach things in a way that implies you’re right and the other person is wrong.  While I personally would be supportive of those who are savers (because it fits my style and I intellectually believe in it), I realize that no matter how “right” they may be, sometimes it’s important to see the big picture.  In other words, is it important to be right, or is important to be happy?

This gets me to some discussions I’ve had with one of my friends. I’ve mentioned him before here, as he has a wife that has been craving a new kitchen and also wants an upscale, luxury brand name car.  This couple is doing very well with both people in high paying positions.  He is a saver and wants to put away as much money as possible.  She, on the other hand, is seemingly always thinking about how they can spend their money on fun and enjoyable things.  Beyond that, she’s very into what material things her friends have (home, cars, clothes, vacations), and is always wanting to keep up with that standard.

The way he describes it, when he met her she was in credit card debt.  However, once they got married they he imposed his approach on to the marriage of being focused on making money and saving money, and delaying spending gratification.  He’s so passionate about it, and intolerant of spending, that I think she probably just relented and has been going along with what he’s been expecting.

However, she apparently nags him all the time about wanting to buy things.  For example, she wanted a $20,000 bedroom set.  Yes, $20,000.  He obviously fought it, and they’re using the same one they’ve had for 10 years instead.  He has no intention of spending money on a new one, much less something for $20,000.

That being said, this frugality has apparently worked in terms of finances.  They’re doing very well, and have accumulated a fantastic nest egg based on what he’s shared.  Again, he’s been the driver behind that.  Both have been successful in their careers, but the focus on saving is through his relentless pursuit of it.

I think he should be commended for doing the right thing for them.  It has really been to their benefit to do this, as they are working toward financial independence in a big way.  They’re doing very well, and it sounds like they’ll be able to retire early with kids college expenses substantially paid for.  Very impressive considering when they married he had nothing and she was in debt.

However, I’m not sure that people fundamentally change.  My guess is that despite his guidance and leadership to get them to save and put away money with such success, she is probably resenting not being able to spend a lot or even most of it.

I asked him a hypothetical: what if you came home one day, and said:

Honey, let’s do the kitchen upgrade you want.  Not only am I now okay with doing that, but I’m okay with going all out and having you spend as much as you want on it.  Even if you spent $100,000 on a world-class kitchen beyond anything we ever need, I’m okay with you spending that money if it makes you happy?

He said that it would take her no more than 2 seconds to say “YES!”.  There would be no hesitation, no worrying about savings, nothing.  She would jump at it without a second thought or care about the ramifications.

He, of course, would never spend that kind of money.  It would torture him to spend $5,000 to upgrade it if it already works just fine.  The cosmetic aspect of it means zero to him.

But the reality that she would be so willing to spend that kind of money tells me that she has a bottled-up urge to spend.   That’s how she must be wired, to crave certain material things and just not be too concerned with the importance of focusing on saving and differentiating between wants and needs.

My comments to him were along the lines of this: :

You just may have to give in and spend some money on things you find entirely wasteful and trivial.  I know you’ve worked hard for your money, but she is wired to believe that if she and her husband make good money together, that she should be able to pamper herself with a few luxuries in her life.  Do you want to be right – which you are – or do you want to be happy?

I think that’s part of the deal when a saver and a spender marry.  No matter how much the saver may be right (and he or she is, in my biased opinion), or how much the free spender may think he or she is right, it doesn’t really matter in the big picture.  If people have differences, compromise is often necessary for long-term happiness.  Because once again, we have to consider that preference of being right or being happy.

My Questions for You

Do you think that sometimes it’s important to compromise, even if you feel strongly about your opinion?

Could you spend on wasteful things if you thought it would be good in the big picture?

What are your thoughts about being right vs. being happy?


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Little House October 14, 2013 at 8:41 am

I’m a saver at heart, but married a spender. However, my husband is no where near this extreme when it comes to spending. Sure, he yearns for very expensive cars (cars are his weakness) but then logic sets in and he knows that he needs to be more realistic. As for this scenario, if they are doing so financially well, I’m sure they could compromise on the kitchen upgrade. He could set a budget that he’s comfortable with and she could get her wish within limits. She must be incredibly frustrated most of the time.


TTMK October 14, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Little House – it seems like you two have a nice balance As for the people in the post, I agree that they could compromise if they’re doing well. Having said that, while she may be frustrated I actually think he must be frustrated too. While I agree with his intentions and purpose, sometimes we have to think bigger picture even if it means wasting money on something she simply wants but doesn’t need.


thepotatohead October 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm

My girlfriend is definitely a bigger spender than I am. Often times I convince her that we should do the more frugal things, but every once in awhile we will go all out on a dinner or a date and it sort or relieves that bottled up pressure for a bit so we can go back to being frugal.


TTMK October 14, 2013 at 9:01 pm

There you go! Good example of how the momentum is just mean to be toward compromise. There has to be some equilibrium unless one person changes habits, which ideally would be the spender but that’s far from a sure thing!


Money Beagle October 15, 2013 at 10:16 am

I’m a saver that occasionally likes to spend, and my wife is a spender that also likes to save. This actually makes us work pretty well together. There are times that she gets me to loosen up the purse strings and there are times when I get her to scale back on what she’s looking to buy. There are, of course, tense moments along the way, but overall things work out to a balance that I think makes us both happy.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: