If you are trying to live on a budget, do you find that some things are harder and some are easier? Do you like balancing your checkbook, and you get a tiny thrill when everything adds up as planned? Are you a big picture thinker who enjoys putting money away a little at a time, watching the number in your savings or retirement account go up so that you can achieve some big goals down the road? Do you like to spend your paycheck more than you like to save it? Does the money burn a hole in your pocket? Perhaps you are a combination of things, but it is important to identify how you relate with money, and where your talent actually lies. For me, I am a good spender, but I have an anxiety attack over saving money and creating a budget for myself. So what do I do? How do I prevent spending our family into a hole?
I have accepted that I am the spender in my marriage.
I wholeheartedly embrace what I am good at—spending. I enjoy going to the store, I like to buy things that our family needs, and I have learned to do this on a budget. Rather than just buying things for no reason, I have started to focus on smart spending. I have taken my proclivity to be the spender in our family and I have applied it to things like hunting for the best deals, couponing, and stretching a dollar. It took a little while to control my impulses and turn them to new spending habits, but it has worked wonderfully. I now really enjoy going to the grocery store with a tight budget, because my love of spending has been molded into a love of stretching money. One of my favorite things to do is show my husband a receipt proving that I got $50 worth of groceries for $30, or to prove that I made smart shopping choices to save money. I get such a big thrill from finding good deals! I love shopping just as much as I did before our family went on a tight budget—when I impulsively spent money—but now I have turned that habit around so that I love the deal as much as the product.
Smart spending means using coupons.
I used to hate it when someone in front of me in line pulled out a wad of coupons. I thought, “Ugh, now I am going to be here forever.” Now I am the coupon lady! I pick up my weekly flier at the grocery store and try to meal plan according to things that are on sale, and then I go to Coupon Mom and print out coupons for them. That’s the trick, the secret to saving big when you shop—sales plus coupons. This doesn’t just go for groceries, but for everything you buy for your home.
Smart spending means hunting for deals.
When I need something big—maybe a carseat, a new blender, or a new phone plan—I do my research. I read reviews, I look up the price at various stores, and I check to see if the item will go on sale soon. I hunt for coupons or store loyalty programs that can help me, and I find the cheapest possible way to buy the product. I even go into the stores to take a look at the product—sometimes when I see it in person, I realize that we need something different. I shop and shop and shop for the same item until I find the cheapest way to buy it. If you embrace that you are the spender in your family, it’s important to get into the mindset that deal-hunting is shopping! Take it to heart and enjoy it, and revel in your victory when you find the product for a fraction of the cost.
It’s okay not to be good at everything—just ask for help.
I ask my husband for help with the things that are a struggle for me. Creating a budget is like pulling teeth for me, but my husband really likes it and he is very good at it. So we have an arrangement—he sets the budget, and I spend it. It works out great! Maybe you and your partner are both spenders…then what? Well…there are lots of apps for that. Mint is one of my favorites, because it can help you not only see how you spend your money, but it can also help you set up a budget and stick to it. A lot of banks have a similar program to track your spending and help you budget. You don’t need to be good at everything, and in so many cases, there is an app to fill in the gaps for skills you lack or tasks you just don’t like to do. There is no shame in that!
When you are a better spender than you are a saver, it does not mean that you aren’t good with money. You just have to focus your natural inclination to spend in a way that is smarter for your family. Once you do that, your expenses will naturally go down. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you aren’t good at saving money or budgeting, because when you have people (or apps) that have talents you are missing, using them is the smartest way to keep your household accounting on track.