I’m a saver and my wife’s a spender – she needs to grow up

10 June 2024

My partner’s a spender and I’m a saver. This didn’t matter until we had our two children, but now I find myself increasingly frustrated by our different attitudes towards money. Our eldest is about to start school in September and the dip in nursery fees means we’ll start having a little spare cash again. I want to plan for university fees and pensions – my partner can’t think beyond the next holiday. We both work hard in self-employed roles and our money is shared in a joint bank account. I have no concerns about us pooling our money because it goes on the family (my income is higher and I work longer hours) but I find it stressful that my partner can’t think long term. We’re in our mid-thirties and have responsibilities: I can’t help thinking that she needs to grow up.Paul, 35

‘Money is never really about money. It is about “stuff” that lies much deeper,’ says Lucy Cavendish (Photo: Nadezhda Kurbatova/Getty)

Much as I respect your frustrations and your need to plan for a safe and comfortable future, it might just be that the two of you are – or certainly can be – a match made in heaven, playing different financial roles in your relationship.

It’s interesting to me that things have changed since you had children. I wonder how much your attitude has evolved now you’ve got dependents and feel more responsibilities – and how much your partner’s attitude has remained consistent. Rather than seeing this as a failing in her, or a sign of immaturity, I’d encourage you to appreciate her attitude that adds a playful, free-spiritedness to family life.

Equally, I understand the pressure of your responsibilities. Bringing up children is notoriously expensive and families across the country are feeling hugely squeezed by the general cost of living crisis, coupled with the UK having the world’s highest nursery fees: no wonder finances are on your mind.

Hopefully, though, if you try to step back to gain perspective, you can both see that the balance between the two of you is a huge strength: life in the here-and-now would be bleaker if we sacrificed everything for future stability, while forgetting the future can be a recipe for panic and problems in years to come.


In so many families, especially in generations past, perpetual arguments about money have been hugely damaging to both parents and children. I’d encourage you to avoid this at all costs (forgive the pun).

Open communication surrounding finances is fundamental and it sounds as if having a frank conversation about financial facts, figures, needs and niggles is overdue. At the moment, it seems you’re managing your finances as one pot. While shared information about finances is respectful and healthy, you might want to chat about whether it would be helpful to you both to keep a certain amount of each of your incomes separate.

Or perhaps have different pots, or accounts, for different needs, such as “pensions’, ‘car’, ‘food’, ‘fun’ and ‘education’. Banks such as Monzo and Chase can help you track separate streams of money, while fans of the Good Budget app (free) and YNAB (You Need a Budget; paid but offers a long free trial;) say their budgeting has been hugely improved.

This might give you more clarity and freedom, either now or later, to start putting aside what’s needed for university fees and pensions, while keeping your partner informed of how you’re safeguarding both your futures. It might give her more freedom, too, to understand what’s available in the present so she can plan the next holiday.

I’d encourage you both to establish ground rules surrounding finances, and look to make plans for both now and the future, balancing your natural long term view with your partner’s natural short term view. Your financial planning for this year and next might be completely different in two or three years. Life changes fast and it may well be that in the future the balance between your incomes and your expenditure is more comfortable, so there’s no need – or at least less need – to compromise between holidays and pension plans.


If you have no spare income for savings this year, I’d recommend highlighting times in your future when you believe financial pressures might ease (for example, when both your children go to school) and working out how much you’ll be likely to save then. This will surely help to alleviate your concerns about the future.

Saving money for your children’s university education is prudent, but I’d suggest earmarking it (even just mentally) for their future. You might find your children have different dreams and don’t want to go to university, but would be grateful for a leg up in a different way. Be aware of not projecting your dreams onto their futures, or being restrictive and prescriptive.


Within the context of finances, it’s important that you and your partner also have an open conversation about what is important to you both when it comes to family experiences and values. I wonder how different your families were with their attitudes towards money and financial stability: maybe this is part of a bigger conversation about upbringings and the emotional stability you both experienced, so you can choose the best of both your childhoods – and decide what you’d like to try to replicate, and what you’d rather not repeat from your pasts.

Money, while useful, doesn’t guarantee a wonderful time, but your attitude and your connection with each other does. Presence and good company are what memories are made of, whether this is in the Bahamas or waiting for the bus. I say this as a refugee child who moved to a council house in a caring and sharing street in Pembrokeshire, Wales. I didn’t even realise we were poor: many of the local children played in our home, we had a sociable family and my parents gave us all attention.

You might find that exploring with your partner what’s really valuable in life – particularly from your children’s perspective – is helpful for you both so you can prioritise what to spend your money on. Your children won’t be young and available to you forever and your ability to enjoy the present moment is a huge gift to pass onto your children. Far beyond expensive excursions, presence and patience will set your children in good stead for their futures.


As your children grow, I’d recommend that you help them learn how to manage money, value it and prioritise. Discussing money matters and planning openly gives your children a safe financial education; it’s not a subject to shy away from, nor to imbue with unnecessary tension.

In times of friction, I’m often reminded that all parties are generally right – from their own perspectives. You’ve undergone a seismic shift in your lives as you’ve gone from a couple to a family with small children. Both of you have a new perspective, that of a young family with a future. This is a journey of learning for you both, shared with your children. By using your inherent strengths to enjoy the most life offers, both now and in the future, you’ll be unshakeable and your children will be well educated to live good, financially grounded lives.