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Self Improvement

23rd Mar 2022

‘I’d rather have a house than a tuna sandwich’: Meet the couples torn by spending habits

Maddy Mussen

Everyone has gripes with how their partner or mates spend their money. Maybe they don’t get their round in as often as you, or they spend far too much on takeaways – or they’re such a super saver they’ll never just sack it off and buy a one way flight to Mexico. Or maybe they spend £30,000 on a collection of plastic ponies. Or buy a tuna sandwich every single day, burning through every quid of their savings by doing so.

With this week being Debt Awareness Week, we’re having our eyes forced open to our bad spending habits and their impact on our relationships more than ever. And look, not all financial decisions are dumpable offences, we get that. But some small behaviours become enough of a bugbear that they turn into an ick, especially once mortgages, joint bank accounts and credit cards enter the chat.

In JOE’s new Couples Talk Cash series, we bring pairs together to discuss their contrasting spending habits. We asked a financial love doctor, Ellie Austin-Williams, finance coach and founder of ‘This Girl Talks Money’, to assess whether these quirks will cause them to call it quits.

‘We’re buying a house together even though we’re best mates’

Ben has been good with money his whole life. “Ever since I was born I’ve saved money, I’ve saved my whole life,” says the 27-year-old. But to buy a house in the London rental market is near impossible, even for super savers. So Ben has set up with best mate Dec, who is 26.

“Me and my best mate are looking to combine our finances,” says Ben. “We’re going to buy a house together, maybe a car together, maybe even holidays,” Dec adds. “I think there are risks, from an outside perspective, that we could fall out, or decide we want different things.” 

In terms of spending, Ben and Dec already want different things. Dec has a “treat yourself” mentality once he’s earned his money, whereas Ben is all save, no rave. He doesn’t even believe in buying meal deals. “You can just make your meals at home,” he says. “I’d rather have a nice house than a tuna sandwich every day.”

With such different money mindsets, but a soon to be shared property portfolio, do Ben and Dec have hope for the future?

Expert opinion: The idea of buying property in less conventional setups is on the rise, so it’s no surprise that these two are considering the option. However, buying property shouldn’t be taken too lightly: not only is it a huge financial commitment, but it can become tricky to untangle if things do turn sour. 

There’s often a sense that buying a house is something to do as soon as possible, but given that Ben and Dec are still in their twenties, I would press pause on the plan for now and instead, look to rent together. Although living with your best mate sounds fun, dealing with changing directions and circumstances is far easier when you rent together than if you share a property

‘I will never stop collecting My Little Pony dolls’

Cathleen and Joran have been together for just over a year. She’s 28, he’s 22. She’s spent £3,000 on a single My Little Pony toy, and he’s never spent more than £1,000 on anything except his laptop. 

“I have 400 My Little Ponies, probably worth $30,000 (£22,689),” says Cathleen. “When I first saw her doll collection, I was a bit overwhelmed,” Joran says. “In the future, if we combine our savings then she has to tell me if she wants to buy toys, or how much they’ll cost.” Cathleen assures Joran this will never be a problem, as she has a “separate pony fund”. 

The two are really keen to holiday in Japan soon, but Joran worries Cathleen will need to save a lot more than him in order to afford their holiday. Recently she’s been sending her savings straight to her mum because she “just doesn’t trust [herself] with them”. 

But will their relationship eventually become as separated as the pony fund? 

Expert’s opinion: Although this couple clearly has different priorities when it comes to spending, it sounds as though they do have one key ingredient in their relationship: communication about money. People often think that a couple needs to share the same approach to spending and saving, yet what ultimately matters is an open line of communication about money. 

Joran seems open to Cathleen’s continued quest to buy more ponies, as long as they discuss purchases together. If Cathleen and Joran continue to be open about their spending, there is no reason why they can’t have a successful relationship!

‘Finding out you were in debt really scared me’

For 28-year-old Rosie, money is all about savings. So when she found out that girlfriend Charlie, 30, was in a fair amount of debt when they first met, it freaked her out. Rosie grew up learning to save every penny as her mum was out of work due to an illness, which means Charlie’s impulse spending is alien to her.

“I think I’ve struggled with saving my whole life, whereas you’ve been very on it,” Charlie tells Rosie. “And we’ve struggled before because Rosie hasn’t understood that I haven’t had any savings.”

The two now have a shared account, but that hasn’t solved the money troubles. “When I come downstairs and see all these boxes [of online orders] at the door, and we’re supposed to be going on holiday in one or two months, I think, ‘Has she just blown all our money on that?’”

The classic tale of spender vs saver – but will it end happily ever after?

Expert opinion: The risk in this situation is that both partners end up resenting each other. Rosie may end up resenting Charlie for spending their money on things she considers to be trivial, and Charlie may resent Rosie for trying to limit or control the spending. 

For this to work, Rosie and Charlie need to have an honest discussion about how they feel about money and their joint plans. It’s also worth considering how to build some personal money into their budget to allow both partners some autonomy about what they choose to spend on.

You can watch Couples Talk Cash on Snapchat now.

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