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He's frugal, She's a spender

By Cheval Breggins

He's frugal, She's a spender

Larry and Elaine have been married for just over a year. They are both working full time and have no children. Larry is an accountant and Elaine manages a retail store. They have very different styles of financial management, an issue that has become a regular source of argument and irritation in an otherwise happy relationship.

He's frugal

He said: I’m getting really concerned about our financial situation. I know we’re both only 26, but we do need to think about our future. We’re both hoping to be blessed with children and that’s a huge financial responsibility. Not only do we have to consider what it costs to raise them, but there’s also college. We also need to be financially independent in our retirement. I realize it’s a sacrifice, but it’s prudent to be saving 25 percent of our monthly income. Elaine seems to think we can just live paycheck to paycheck and worry about the future when it comes. That’s what her parents always did, and now they’re paying for it with financial hardship. This is causing a lot of tension in our marriage.

She's a spender

She said: I honestly don’t understand why Larry is so upset. We’re only 26, we have great jobs and this is the time we should be able to enjoy our lives a little. We’ll have to settle down soon enough and I don’t see why we shouldn’t splurge a little now. My parents always believed in living in the moment – one day at a time. After all, you don’t really know what the future will bring. I agree with Larry that this is causing a lot of trouble between us; I feel as if we argue about it all the time.

What should they do?

Although Larry and Elaine should avail themselves of financial planning seminars, budgeting guidelines and other information to address the practicalities of their divergent attitudes toward money, their fundamental need is to tackle the underlying philosophy about finances and stewardship.

This can be addressed spiritually, and I would suggest that Larry and Elaine consider Benedictine spirituality and its focus on moderation, stewardship and stability. Stewardship is the godly use of our resources – including our time and money. Both of these things, like all our material possessions, are on loan from our Creator. It is our responsibility to manage them well and care for them, without developing an unhealthy sense of ownership over them. It is also our responsibility to use our resources to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless, as Jesus asked us to do.

Larry and Elaine should ask themselves whether their purchases and material possessions are things they need or fulfillments of excessive desires. Is Elaine’s spending preventing them from giving to the poor and supporting their parish? Is Larry’s desire to save prompted by a desire to prudently plan so that they will have enough to raise a family and not be a burden to their children, or is he hoping to live lavishly later in life?

This couple will benefit from prayerfully considering their responsibilities as stewards of God’s creation, discussing with each other how they will manage their finances in order to do so, and then living a Christian witness of charity and moderation. If they focus on their common goals in this regard, their arguments should cease and their relationship will improve.