If you are like most couples, one of you is more of a spender, and the other a saver. Most months, those tendencies probably work together nicely—the saver keeps the bills paid and the retirement fund going, the spender keeps the family from staying home eating ramen noodles every night. Overall, it is a great system.
As the holidays approach, however, the differences between spender and saver can become less enjoyable and more explosive. The cards say “Peace on Earth,” but the challenge for many of us is simply to attain peace in our household. The trick, as always, is to achieve balance.
The spender may like playing Santa Claus. It is fun to imagine what presents friends and family will like, to see people open their gifts, to indulge his generous spirit.
You know what?—he has it right. There is real joy in seeing loved ones embrace thoughtfully chosen gifts. He also has it wrong. People rarely remember what they got for Christmas a year or two down the road. Try it yourself: What did you get two years ago? Are you plunging your family into debt buying items that will be forgotten before they are paid off?
Clearly, the saver is the smarter one. Um, not necessarily.
The saver may have a hard time enjoying this “season of joy” if she takes on the role of Scrooge. She may be miserable, hyper focused on what everything costs and driving herself crazy trying to find the best possible price for each item.
You know what?—she has it right. Staying within reasonable spending guidelines may be difficult, but doing so will prevent the money hangover many of us suffer in January. Of course, she also has it wrong. The saver, like it or not, must loosen the reins and remember that December will probably be a more expensive month than, say, August. Imagine a holiday season involving no gifts, no get-togethers with friends, no cookie exchanges with neighbors. Where is the fun in that?
If you are the spender, resist the urge to snap up the first, coolest gift you see. Seek a less-expensive alternative that will evoke the same “I am loved” feeling. Your daughter would love that new snowboard, but the greater gift may be a two-day pass to Mt. Rose and a promise that you’ll go up the hill with her.
If you are the saver, resist the urge to hunt endlessly for the absolute best bargain. More importantly, resist the urge to second-guess every purchase your spouse makes. Perhaps he spent more on your brother-in-law’s Killer Salsa gift pack than you would have. Keep your mouth shut and consider the extra expenditure an investment in your marriage.
A peaceful, joyful holiday home—now that is priceless.