ERP 403: How Do Spendthrifts and Tightwads Learn To Work Together In Relationship — An Interview With Dr. Scott Rick

By Posted in - Podcast December 19th, 2023 0 Comments

Spendthrifts and tightwads represent opposite ends of the financial spectrum. A spendthrift tends to be more liberal with spending, often embracing a carefree attitude toward financial matters. On the other hand, a tightwad tends to be more frugal, prioritizing saving and cautious spending. Navigating these distinct financial personalities can pose challenges in a partnership, requiring thoughtful communication, compromise, and understanding to create a balanced and harmonious approach to shared finances.

In this episode, we delve into the intricacies of these differing financial approaches, offering actionable strategies to foster collaboration between spendthrifts and tightwads. From exploring joint accounts with individual freedoms to deciphering the art of thoughtful gift-giving beyond monetary values, the conversation provides practical insights. By emphasizing the delicate balance between shared financial goals and individual autonomy, the episode aims to equip couples with tangible steps to navigate the complexities of money matters. Tune in for valuable guidance on building financial harmony and strengthening communication in relationships marked by diverse spending tendencies.

Dr. Scott Rick is the author of Tightwads and Spendthrifts: Navigating the Money Minefield in Real Relationships. He is a marketing professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and holds a PhD in Behavioral Decision Research from Carnegie Mellon, where he was a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow. His research on consumer behavior has been covered in outlets such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He has published in premier journals spanning marketing, psychology, and economics.

In this episode

5:49 Scott Rick’s journey into exploring spending orientations shaped by spendthrift influences.

10:17 Navigating the dynamics of tightwads and spendthrifts in relationships: Understanding protective strategies and attraction.

20:18 Financial continuums, tensions, and the concept of financial translucency.

26:05 Balancing financial transparency: Navigating autonomy, trust, and communal approaches in relationships.

36:19 Unlocking the art of gift-giving: Thoughtful gestures, sacrifice, and relationship enrichment.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Recognize if your partner is a spendthrift or a tightwad and work towards understanding and appreciating each other’s perspectives.
  • Consider adopting a financial translucency approach where you both have a general understanding of each other’s spending without delving into every detail, reducing unnecessary arguments.
  • Utilize joint accounts with attached individual spending allowances to foster a communal mindset without engaging in scorekeeping, enhancing financial harmony in relationships.
  • When giving gifts, prioritize thoughtful gestures that demonstrate understanding, appreciation, and sacrifice, avoiding the tendency to simply throw money at the situation.
  • Plan surprises for your partner, using reminders or apps to prompt thoughtful gestures, recognizing the importance of surprise in maintaining a strong emotional connection.
  • Acknowledge that not all financial secrecy is detrimental; distinguish between harmful financial secrets and minor omissions that may not significantly impact the relationship.
  • When children are involved, be mindful of their observations and create an environment of convergence in spending habits, fostering a healthy financial atmosphere for the family.

Mentioned

Tightwads and Spendthrifts: Navigating the Money Minefield in Real Relationships (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

The 36 Questions That Lead to Love (*The New York Times link)

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Connect with Dr. Scott Rick

Websites: scottrick.com

Twitter: twitter.com/scottianrick

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/scottianrick

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Scott, thank you so much for joining us today. 

Jessica, thank you! Excited to be here.

Yes, I am really excited about all the things that you’re going to share. Even in what you had shared with the team about some of the questions, I was like: Oh, I want to know what he says about that. It seems like you’re really well-informed and have done a level of research, and obviously doing a lot in the field. So I love having people on the show that can really offer really distilled input on some of these topics in the world of financial as it relates to relationship. Is there anything you want to share with listeners who maybe don’t know you or just starting here with you today? 

Sure. Well, I’m a marketing professor at University of Michigan, and I’ve been doing work on couples for a while now. It just kind of seemed like time to share this more broadly, some of these insights. I think we finally kind of pinned down some of the important open questions over the years. So yeah, I just got kind of excited about this broadening out and inviting more people in to learn about this stuff. Because you know, there’s a lot of good books out there. But not all are informed by the latest science. So I thought that that could be a good thing to do.

Absolutely. So as you focus on relationship, and it sounds like it’s related to consumerism, and it sounds like, what your latest book about the spendthrifts and the tightwads. Is that right, you’re saying? 

Yes. 

That’s largely about financial health and well-being, right?

Yeah, and they go together, as you might imagine. 

Yes, they absolutely do. Now, was this an interest of yours? Or did this start to bear out through some of the research and what you were looking at?

Yeah, I think it probably started in childhood. I’m a spendthrift; I was raised by spendthrifts. We grew up in Houston, but we spent a lot of time in Las Vegas. My grandparents got bored in Houston, they said we’re moving to Vegas. I spent a lot of summers there, watching some pretty free-wheeling usage of money. I saw that there were some not so good points, but it was kind of a fun thing, and I enjoyed it. But as I grew up, I kind of discovered that not everyone had this approach to money. Certainly in my college and grad school years, I started noticing I was being surrounded by tightwads; an affectionate term, I assure you. 

So I got interested in these very different orientations to spending. So that’s what sparked the research on how people make purchase decisions, and then that led to what happens when you’re making it with someone else and they might feel different, and all the adventures that entails.

No kidding! Now, I know you wrote your latest book on this, and I know it’s going to be upcoming and we’re really excited to be sharing, I’m sure you are excited about sharing that with the world. I know we’re not going to go into every aspect. But I think we all have an association with what a spendthrift and a tightwad, what those two camps might represent. Is there anything you want to talk about just for us to orient in your languaging today, and also just things to consider? Because my experience, Scott, is that people that are pretty polarized in those, there’s a big difference between them, and then there’s also a lot of tension, and there’s a lot of judgments. So I’m curious if you want to give us some background here.

Yeah, they’re very interesting characters. 

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“The tightwads, they experience a lot of distress when they’re thinking about spending money, and this kind of serves as the brakes on the car. The problem is the brakes work a little too well, and they end up not buying things that they think they should.”

It’s not a matter of frugality. There are frugal people who think you should reuse an item as much as possible, and they enjoy saving, and they’re happy, and that’s great. That’s not really what a tightwad is. A tightwad knows they should have taken their spouse out to a nice anniversary dinner, their spouse likes nice restaurants. But they just can’t bear the thought of spending the money. So they end up at Ruby Tuesday, and they kind of kick themselves, because it was just an unhappy experience. So they often look good on paper, you would think they would not be so anxious about spending. But for a lot of tightwads, there was a time when money wasn’t so abundant, or they didn’t think it was so abundant, and they developed this protective response to prevent themselves from financial ruin. It helped at the time. But then circumstances change; maybe things financially loosen up for you later in life. But the feelings that developed at formative moments are hard to shake. I talk about, there’s a character in Love in the Time of Cholera, and he is an industrialist. He grew up poor, but he has become a very rich person. Someone describes him as rich, and he says: “No, no, I’m not rich. I’m a poor man with money.” So you can look good on paper, but you develop a kind of protective response that doesn’t go away.

So the tightwads, they have some regrets. Again, they look good financially, but they’re not like the happiest group out there. But then there’s the spendthrifts, that’s more of my people, and we are an interesting bunch too. So we don’t have a strong pain response when we’re considering spending, and we tend to spend more than we think we should. But it’s all kinds of funny spending. It’s a lot of “just in case” spending. So I might go out: “Oh, I need a new blazer for work.” And while I’m at the store, I might notice: “Oh, well, there’s kind of a fancy velvet blazer, that might be fun for a fancy holiday party.” It’s not on the calendar. I don’t have any plans to go to such a party, but it would be nice to have it. Or maybe I’ve been, I don’t know, going to Starbucks too much in the afternoon at work for a little pick me up. Maybe if I buy this nice thermos, I’ll start bringing my coffee to work. So I’m hoping that the purchase itself will spark some new habits. Or maybe I’ll join a gym, and just joining will spark me going. 

It’s funny. Tightwads, they have needs that they’re not shopping for. Whereas, spendthrifts are shopping for needs that they don’t obviously have. So the spendthrift saying I think is like, “I’d rather be looking at it than looking for it.” We feel better just knowing it’s there, and we have it just in case. So spendthrifts themselves are not the happiest bunch. So we call the people in the middle, unconflicted consumers. They have a good amount of distress; you need a little, you need some brakes on the car. But not too little, not too much. They spend more or less what they think they should. It’s kind of an inverted U where the unconflicted people are the happiest, and the two extremes are a little, they’re conflicted, which to me makes them so fascinating. There’s a lot of them. We tend to hear about spendthrifts and people being wasteful and so much credit card debts out there. But there’s a lot of hidden tightwads running around. So I think both need some tender love and care, so to speak.

Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate you just highlighting for the tightwads that, again, they might on the outside appear or on paper appear really in a more optimal place. Yet, on the inside, there’s a degree of anxiety, perhaps even a mindset of scarcity or fear, that really dictates a lot of their behavior, and that it is a protective strategy. Then for the spendthrifts, that there’s this anticipatory almost, that this will help me, and it’s almost in preparation. Is there a protective strategy to that as well? Have you seen that come out at all?

Well, I mean, I think they’re protecting themselves from the disappointment of their future selves in case. If I wanted this thing and didn’t have it, I would be disappointed. So I want to protect that future self. So they’re both protecting their future self, but they have very different views of that future self and what that future self might be upset about. 

Right. So the spendthrift, I can imagine, is a little bit more like, I don’t ever want to be in a position of actual scarcity or not having. So it can feel like more abundance, or more opportunity, more possibility, that gives more freedom and allowing to live more fully. I don’t know. One of the things that you highlight also, I understand, is that often in relationship, these two orientations will find each other.

They do. I found a tightwad, and I was kind of curious, like, I wonder how this normally goes. Because you tend to hear in the research that birds of a feather flock together; Democrats marry Democrats, Republicans marry Republicans. So this seemed like an interesting case, where the two extremes, the tightwads and spendthrifts, are both conflicted. They don’t love this aspect of themselves. 

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“There is some work noting that when you see one of your own flaws or imperfections reflected in someone else, it shines a spotlight on it, and an uncomfortable spotlight. It really brings your own bad feelings to the surface, and it can be really painful to see someone else act out exactly what you are self-conscious about.”

So we think initially, when you find yourself in this dimension, it’s kind of a bad thing. So we thought: Oh, this might be a rare case where opposites attract. We surveyed many married couples, did it a few different ways, and we kept finding, there’s this tendency that you’re more likely to marry your opposite on this dimension than you are to marry yourself. We think it’s fun at first, particularly for the tightwads who are just so amused and delighted. With the spendthrifts, like: “Really, that doesn’t bother you? Oh my gosh!”

Like, they take delight and joy in the expression of their relationship with money. Like: “Oh, isn’t that cute, or isn’t that nice?” But that’s not until we partner and inter-weave our lives together.

I think it can be quite fascinating, and the spendthrifts might find the tightwads’ reluctance to be cute or endearing or also quite charming and different. But there are some, we call it a fatal physical attraction. There are lots of fatal attractions out there that are fun and interesting at first, but can irritate over time. So like, the shy person getting in a relationship with a real extrovert and party person. Again, that can sweep you off your feet. But eventually, the more introverted person will want to have some quiet time and downtime and space, and they can get overwhelmed eventually. Like, the workaholic married to the more pro-leisure person, and eventually it’s like: “No, we do have to work!” We do find that over time, these differences can degrade marital happiness. Because at first, it’s still a big deal what kind of date do we want to go on? But when you get into, do we want to remodel the house, or where should the kids go to college, kind of big, consequential choices, then those differences can really fray at the well-being?

Absolutely, I agree with you. I think as we look at this development of relationship and intimacy, those first few stages are highly fueled by neurochemicals, and we’re often projecting, imagining who they are, rather than really knowing. So when we get into the real partnering, and then negotiating differences and conflict, and really trying to get towards win-win, that does take a level of effort and work, and it’s not easy. It can be, to your point, extremely confronting when someone is presenting quite polar opposite of what the other is wanting. I do think that can be really great ground to lean in and workshop so that they can. Because psychologically, I don’t know if you would agree with this, that often when we’re attracting something, a characteristic or quality in a partner that’s very different, it can be underdeveloped in ourselves, or it can be something we’ve disowned. So it’s like parts that I haven’t actually… Like, the tightwad hasn’t perhaps looked at how to grow themselves with money and how to spend. I don’t know if you agree, or if that’s taking it too far. 

I’m not sure that people have taken a close look at their common reactions, and can they articulate them, can they put their finger on what it is that they don’t like in themselves or don’t like seeing reflected? I certainly don’t think this is an on-purpose thing. When we ask people, when we describe these tendencies and say, who do you think you’d be happiest with, they say: Oh, someone like me! They’re kind of right long-term. But I don’t think. It is a surprising development who you get swept up by.

Well, and also, it occurs to me that there’s probably a continuum, and that we’re really talking about two ends of the continuum. But I definitely have a lean towards the spendthrift, and my husband definitely has a lean towards the tightwad. Maybe, I don’t know, I’d have to explore more around, but I feel like we’re a little bit more moderate. But at the same time, those tensions still exist. So when we look at this continuum and we’re already on one end, and then if we partner with somebody that’s also on that side, it’s almost restrictive, more restrictive. Rather than if we partner with somebody that maybe is different. It adds more range, but it’s obviously more difficult.

Yes, dating is the time for adventure and the new possibilities, of course. But yes, it is this frustrating tension between what attracts us and what keeps it stable and happy over time. 

Totally. So I know you have a lot of things that you can share with us. One of the things you talk about is financial translucency. Would you be willing to talk about what that is?

Sure. As I consume news and opinions in this realm, I see a lot of emphasis on the importance of being financially transparent, everything out in the open. That’s kind of essential. But my work suggests that maybe we don’t need to be 100% fully transparent about every little cent that we’re spending. 

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“I propose financial translucency, where we both need to have a sense of what the other person’s doing. But I don’t know that we need to be exposed to every little detail. I think it leads to a lot of unnecessary arguments about things that don’t ultimately matter for the couple’s financial status.”

There’s lots of reasons for this. We might have different interests, different hobbies. If I’m not a specialist in your thing, and I see what you’re spending on your interest, it’s all going to seem very overpriced to me and outrageous and vice versa, and it’s going to squash some of your joy for your individual pursuits. That’s really bad. But if I have a high-level understanding of, we each take X dollars out of, say a shared account, and we do what we want with that, I think that’s plenty of information. So I talk about like, if you think about courtroom standards for honesty, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I’m all about nothing but the truth. But the whole truth, maybe that’s just available on request. You don’t have to proactively say, here’s the exact amount I spent on everything. People are a big believer in, maybe you’ve heard of the latte factor, like: “Oh, if you could just stop buying lattes, you’ll save the money and invest and be rich.” The math doesn’t work. This is partly my spendthrifty brain. But yeah, we need some lattes; we need some fun. So that’s why I like the translucency concept. 

I really like that, I had never heard of that before. It gives some contrast, that the idea of transparency, we can all really appreciate that that level of openness and honesty is valuable. Also, it can run the risk of feeling maybe intrusive, not really being very supportive for individual discretion and real trust. That one’s making some personal decisions, that it’s not hidden, or that they would share. But that it doesn’t have to be under a microscope or be scrutinized at every little step. That that can feel like a sense of agency, as you mentioned, autonomy, individual pursuits. This is part of the health of relationship. It’s both. Intimacy and closeness, and also separateness and individuality.

You say trust. I mean, this is not the approach I would recommend if the couple is very distressed and there’s reason to be concerned. This is for most of the other couples where things are generally going well. It is a bit of a leap of faith, you have to have some trust. A lot of the book assumes that you’re not super risk-averse. I think my approach is more for couples who are on good standing, but they can be even better. I’m not really talking to couples necessarily on the edge of something bad. 

Right. There’s a lot of trauma or betrayal, or they’re trying to find their way back to each other, and there’s not this foundation of goodwill or trust. I don’t know if you would agree, but it feels as though, as you’re talking about this financial space and the translucency, that it feels analogous to if my husband wanted to look at my phone, I would probably let him. But he doesn’t have access to my phone. Well, for my personal email, but definitely not my professional email. But we don’t share that because it’s part of my individual operating. Of course, I have nothing to hide, and if he wanted to see something, I could walk him through or show him or whatever. But it’s kind of my inner workings, and it just sounds exhausting that one person would have to police. How would it even be feasible to track every little thing? Even if one attempted, there’s no way everything’s going to be visible to your partner ever. You have your individual thoughts. You have your whole internal world. Even if one wanted to share every little thought, it’s impossible. 

Impossible, and totally not advisable. I say in the book, like, “If you ever thought in the sunlight, I could really tell my husband’s hair is thinning. Could you keep that to yourself? Do you have to share every single?” Even in the financial realm, you can never get full transparency anyway. Even if it’s like, I spent $200 at Target, well, what does that mean? Like, what level of detail do we need here? 

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“I think interiority, people having a somewhat life of their own, a mental life of their own, is essential. It’s that combination of shared and individual.”

Yeah. Well, I mean, there’s a couple threads from here. But one of the things that you have a recommendation around structuring accounts, and I know a lot of couples ask me this. I say, look, I have couples all across the board that either share accounts and they have certain agreements around when they get approval from one another, a certain value, like $50 or $500, depending on their financial status or arrangement. Others have different things. But sounds like you actually have some recommendations based on research, which I would love to hear. 

Yeah. Well, I’ve always been curious about this question and what is better for couples? There’s a lot of research showing that couples who have joint accounts are happier than couples who have separates. That’s a very interesting correlation. But you never know what causes what. Maybe happy couples just choose joint or vice versa, who knows? So we did the experiment. We took newlywed couples who had separate accounts, and we paid them to either merge, or keep it separate, or do whatever they want, a sort of control group. Then we followed them for two years and we kept asking, how’s the marriage, how’s the money? 

We found that the couples who we prompted to merge into a joint account were happiest at the end of two years. The other couples who kept it separate or just did whatever they want, most of the people who did whatever they want kept it separate. But they had this normal decline. Normally, the happiest day is the wedding day, and then there’s a bit of a decline from there, and we saw that with those groups or couples. But joint couples were better off, and we think there’s different reasons. You want to keep the relationship communal, and I think a joint account is good for that. So what I mean there is, I help you because you need it, not because I’m looking for prepayment for a future favor from you. The relationship might start off, like: “Oh, can you do the dishes tonight? Because I’m really tired.” That’s communal. You don’t want to get into exchange, which is: “Can you do the dishes tonight? Because I did them last night.” You don’t want to get into scorekeeping. And when you have separate accounts, you get into big time scorekeeping. 

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“You want to make everything our money. You don’t want your money, my money. Put it into our money. Psychological money laundering: all of the incoming income goes through joint accounts, and you want to erase income differences.”

So again, high trust. It is a high-trust approach. But that is really important if you can. Now obviously, if I work and my spouse doesn’t, we’ll still be aware that there’s an income difference. But you want to do whatever you can to erase that difference from people’s minds. It’s all our money, common pot. It gets people on the same page, they have more conversations, align their goals. It doesn’t necessarily mean a saving goal. It could mean: “Oh, we should take more vacations, we can actually swing this.” So it’s good to go through joints. But I would say that only joint is not the right approach. I think the best approach is joint where we have two separate accounts attached to it. Again, you launder all the money, it’s all our money. But then, we each get a little bit to spend without close monitoring. So that I think is the approach for happiness. As you say, there are many other structures, and people can make it work. Like, some, I hear, it goes into separate accounts first, and then they chip into a joint for shared household expenses. But to me, that just reeks of scorekeeping and percentages. I think it really eats away at the communal nature of the relationship. 

Thank you for describing that. Because it really gets at the essence of maybe what the research is really indicating around it supporting the more communal mindset and approach towards relationship and money, and that that can get lost when it gets to scorekeeping, and that can be damaging and really not a great setup. Because we look at the cumulative effect over time. It’s not just so much that, oh, I want a little bit for this. It’s like everything is through that lens, and over time, there’s a lot of separation. Seeing the partner as othered, and maybe financially, I don’t know if that is too far. But it creates separation and not communal, not fully for each other. 

Yeah, it’s a balancing act. I think if the money starts out as ours, then we can be licensed to use a portion of it and engage in some individual pursuits. That individuality is so important. You hear some therapists when they say the couples come in and say: “Well, we have no secrets.” Well, okay, that’s not necessarily a wonderful thing. Because there are secrets that I know you have. Like, you have a diary, and I’m not using the key to break into it. I know you have it, and you need that to process your thoughts and resets. So those kinds of secrets, I guess you could say open secrets.

Yeah, privacy, that someone’s in their personal space. Okay, great. This gives so much guidance and orientation. Because it seems as though a lot of people who look at the money see it as a tool, and that it’s often an expression. It’s not so much money in and of itself means something one way or another. It’s how we use it that’s often indicating what the dynamic is.

Oh, yes. Well, that’s reminding me, I have a chapter on gifts and how we show our appreciation for our partners. There’s research showing that we’re more likely to appreciate and admire our partners than we are to tell them that. I think we get shy, we get tired. Once you get into a busy family life, you might not feel like it’s the right moment to just give your spouse a poem about how wonderful they are. Okay, let’s figure out who’s picking up the kids from soccer. It can get lost. 

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“Gift-giving is a really crucial opportunity to reveal what you understand and appreciate about your partner, and it’s just so easy to get it wrong.”

One way we can get it wrong is just like, oh, let me just throw money at this and get a nice version. It can really fall flat. So it’s really about learning about the mental life of your partner, which cannot be done the night before. This is not a Christmas Eve exercise. This is, you have to set aside time. There are these 36 questions that lead to love. It’s usually meant for strangers, and they can feel much closer after the interviewer’s questions. Like, oh, if you could have anyone over for dinner, who would it be? Or what’s keeping you up at night? I think these are important for spouses, for romantic partners. You might think: “I live with this person. I’ve lived with them for years. I’m good on them. I know.” But I guarantee, there are things you could use a refresher on; their hopes, their goals, their worries, their interest, ambitions. We can all use a little refresher. Through that learning, that should inform what the gifts look like. So I’m very much anti: “Oh, your birthday is coming up. What would you like?” Now, if you happen to say: “Oh, I really like this thing.” Well, if I can afford it, sure, I should get that thing. But I should also get something else that you did not ask for. Surprise is important. That’s why I recommend, there are apps for this where you can put in random reminders. Like, oh, consider giving your partner a gift today. You’re busy, maybe you don’t have the money. You can just say, ignore it. But just those prompts to think about, oh, is there some surprising joy I can add to this? 

Oh, I love that. It’s such a great reminder. Even when I read that question around you wouldn’t recommend that, I was like, oh! I actually like being really pragmatic. I don’t like giving things that somebody maybe… Well, obviously, my partner hopefully, to your point, would have a better discernment about what they want. But if he really wants something and I don’t know, I do want to get him the thing that he wants. But I think what you’re getting at is perhaps, can we put thought, can we put care, can we really convey effort that they are important and special and we’ve put quality intention into that gift-giving? Is that what I’m hearing? 

Yes. My wife the other day, she loves to cook, and we have these old baking pans. She’s like: “Oh, that could be something, like a gift. I said, well, that sounds great. That’s not a gift. But I mean, we should get that. That doesn’t convey anything. But yeah, my approach is is risky. There will be some bad gifts, and a truly bad gift can leave a mark. You’ve got to reveal the understanding, the appreciation, and the surprise. It’s really tricky. If I’m a spendthrift, a good gift requires some sacrifice of something. It needs to be not the easiest thing in the world for me. So if I’m spending a bunch of money on your gifts, well, that’s not much of a sacrifice. Maybe I buy you a new iPad, that’s nice. But you saw me buy myself a new iPhone yesterday, you know that’s nothing to me, I don’t care about that stuff. So if I want to demonstrate sacrifice, I’ve got to plan a trip, or set up a picnic in the park, or hunt down a concert poster from your favorite band from when you were in college. I need to do the legwork. I mean, it’s good for everyone, but especially as spendthrifts, we’re used to seeing them. We know it doesn’t bother them to spend money. But actually, my wife, she’s a tightwad. When she does spend a lot of money, I know that was hard for you. That’s a real sacrifice, wow! So you’ve got to think about what they know about you.

I’m really appreciating what you’re describing. I actually have a dear friend who ended a relationship, a seven-year relationship, that she really wanted it to be long-term and life partnership, perhaps marriage. She ended it because, it wasn’t this as the only reason, but she wasn’t seeing sacrifice demonstrated on special occasions, her birthday, at all. Then in life, day-to-day, she had a really hard time. I mean, they were great companions in so many other ways. But this was something she was really struggling, even with articulating and expressing. So I think you’re speaking a lot of people’s language right now, just how we miss this. We do miss this.

Again, in the absence of verbal expressions, what else is there? How else are we demonstrating this? So it’s essential. Yes, some gift-giving occasions are like: Oh, it’s a hallmark. Maybe, but it’s not going anywhere. This is the world we live in. So even if some holidays mean more to our partner than us, it’s kind of whoever it matters the most to. That’s how much it matters. That’s something that I came to learn in the marriage. For whatever reason, certain holidays weren’t a big deal for me. But I very quickly noticed, for her it is. So yeah, let’s have fun with it. It is, it’s a big deal.

Yeah, and you got that and you really put effort into it. It’s not easy. It’s a risk for some people who have anxiety of not getting it right, or fear of lots of reasons. So just the real prompt here of, there’s a huge opportunity, and we’re missing it if we don’t put energy and some sacrifice. Well, I know we’re winding down. Did you want to say anything about financial infidelity? I know that’s something you had mentioned as couples get really focused on, and maybe not in the right way.

It goes back to our privacy discussion, and you see a lot of headlines about how it’s a real plague on marriages. There are some true acts of financial dangerous secrecy. You have a secret gambling addiction, that’s a real thing. But when I take a close look at what has been categorized as financial infidelity out there, I think it’s overstated, the problem. “Oh, I don’t tell you I bought my friend a gift, but I didn’t report to you the amount I spent.” Yeah, we probably don’t need to know. Or like, “I went to the grocery store, I spent 100 bucks with a debit card, and I withdrew $20 on top of that. I didn’t tell you I got the cash.” That seems fine to me. So yeah, there’s a lot of little technical things that people are saying, oh my gosh, financial infidelity! But I think the things that really stress out a couple in terms of spending are usually things we know about. You quit your job to take on a passion project. We take on a risky home renovation. Or get a mortgage that we are not being able to afford. So I think it’s usually stuff we know about that’s going to make or break things.

Okay. So it sounds like you’re really inviting people to really focus on some of the things you’ve already mentioned about things being communal, looking at how to work together if we have really different orientations. Did you want to say anything else about how spendthrifts and tightwads can work together better?

So I think that combination of the account structure that we discussed is a big thing. So you can have a global view of how the household is doing, but we don’t get into each other’s details. It is tricky. I think it’s good for them to be aware that in a mismatch couple, the spendthrift tends to win. Because I can ask my spouse about something and she’ll say no. I mean, it’s not like no forever, I can ask again. Eventually the tightwad says, okay, fine. All it takes is that one time for the money to be spent; you can’t get a refund on a vacation. That’s good to be aware of, spendthrifts do tend to win these things. But I think that’s not always bad. Tightwads need the spendthrifts to win some time; they need to take some vacations and have some fun. By the way, a good couple, there’d often be a convergence over time to make it work.

Yes, we learn from each other. 

Yes, we loosen up. Or to say: Okay, I don’t need that. Certainly, when there’s kids involved and you’re worried about them picking up on things, you can do some helpful convergence there. It’s a real adventure. 

No kidding! I know there’s so much more I could ask you about, and I know you want to also, maybe you wanted to talk about children. But I get we’re at the end of our time. So I want to just hear from you a little bit about where people can get your book, anything else you want to say about the book, and will you just remind us the name here?

Yeah. The book, Tightwads and Spendthrifts: Navigating the Money Minefield in Real Relationships. It’s out January 9th, I believe it’s pretty much everywhere books are sold. I hope it’s a fun mix of science and stories. You know, in my day-to-day science life, I don’t really get to delve into stories of what people have done with their spending. It’s usually just very abstract. But here, I really get to dive into stories. I also look at a lot of memoirs. So I hope it’s a fun and educational blend of stories and science for couples. 

For couples, yes. This is my favorite style of books is that it offers some real research-based information that can feel reliable and trustworthy, and also how it’s implemented or how it’s expressed, and having stories to exemplify that. It makes that much more relatable, and like you said, fun and personable. So I am super excited about what you’ve given people and how you’ve distilled this all, and helping offer some real wisdom and guidance to navigate, like you said, these minefields that we’re all up against in relationships. 

Yes. Well, thank you so much for having me, Jessica. I really enjoyed it.

Me too. Thank you so much for spending your extremely valuable time with us here today.

All right, thanks. 

Signing Off

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching