I'm a tightwad. I've always been that way with money. I've been carefully planning budget-savvy meals since my college days to keep my food costs low. I'll use an almost-empty tube of toothpaste until every last bit is gone. I've sometimes gone years (yes, years!) without buying more than a single item of clothing.
My husband, on the other hand? He dropped $4,000 on a mountain bike a few months ago even though biking is merely a hobby for him. He knew he could get a cheaper one and fix it up, or choose a more reasonably priced bike, but this was the one he wanted. He had no problem spending the money.
I didn't know much about my husband's financial attitude until the summer before we tied the knot. We had recently moved in together, and he was spending the summer away working. He had taken a job at a mining site in the middle of nowhere. He was living out of a camper with his two brothers, working 12- to 15-hour days. The purpose of this stint was to put away a lot of money, fast. The wages were decent but mostly he assumed he'd come home with a bunch of cash because there was no time or place to spend it.
We spent a couple weekends together over the course of the summer, one for my birthday in which he pulled out all the stops — including buying me some fancy and very pricey jewelry. He returned home with enough for his half of the rent, and nothing more.
That's when I learned he was a serious spender.
As a polar-opposite serial saver, I was pretty appalled. As soon as we got married, I mostly took over our finances, helping him budget so we didn't end up broke at the end of every month. This worked well for me for a while (and in fact, probably could have worked out just fine for me forever), but I was completely stifling my husband's spender tendency.
He constantly felt worried that I would become mad at him for making any purchase. He felt like he had no control over his money, because "ours" really meant "mine," since I ran the master budget spreadsheet. When he finally told me this, and I changed my budget to include his wants and needs, I didn't find that we were suddenly careening off-track from my financial goals. They shifted slightly, but in a good way: Having my financial opposite as a partner brought our budget (and life) more balance.
As the more conservative side of a relationship, I keep us on track for savings and long-term goals (and generally make sure we don't end up destitute). My husband makes sure we don't live like extreme cheapskates and instead get to enjoy our money every now and again. It's a win for both of us, because we each bring our own strengths to handling money.
Marrying my financial opposite actually turned out to be a pretty great decision. Sure, we've had the occasional fight about money — like the time when he wanted to buy a new house and I wanted to stay put and pay off our existing mortgage (he won, by the way, and it was totally the right call). But most of the time, we help each other find a financial middle ground that makes us both happier.
He is starting to see that my saving isn't all that crazy, because we've avoided debt through three kids (and all the ER visits that come along with that), and we are on track for a fantastic retirement. I, on the other hand, am starting to see that spending money can be fun and good for me. Wearing a single pair of jeans until they have holes in them, then feeling panicked about buying new ones, isn't really the best option. Spending money on things I need, and things that bring me joy, isn't a path to moral or literal bankruptcy. It's something I actually need to do, just like he needs to set aside money for his 401(k).
While we will probably never see eye to eye on financial issues, I think we've both gained a lot of perspective by living and budgeting through our financial opposition. I no longer want to go back to being the frugality queen I once was. I like having more than one pair of pants, living in a decent house, and going out for dinner instead of eating rice and beans every night. As long as I can keep it all in the budget and within our means while still saving, why not? I can finally see the downside of never enjoying my money, something I'm not sure I ever would have realized without marrying my financial opposite.