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Husbands or wives: Who spends the most?

Americans aren't great savers, and statistics show we're taking on more debt. Here are 5 tips for pursuing joint savings goals without giving up individual freedom entirely.

By Smart Spending Editor Jul 10, 2013 11:54AM
This post comes from Robert Barrington at partner site

MoneyRates logoAmerican husbands and wives both have reputations for overspending. He can't resist the latest high-tech gadget. She can't walk by a department store window without caressing her credit card. But stereotypes aside, who is the real saver in a typical relationship?

Couple counting money © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, Blend Images, Getty ImagesA new survey conducted for by Op4G asked men and women whether they prefer to save more or less than their spouses. Not surprisingly, neither men or women generally perceive themselves as the spending problem in their household -- and that's just one of the disconnects in this data that might explain why American savings rates are so low.

He spent, she spent

There is no question that somebody is spending the money in American households. Americans in this century have been saving money at less than half the rate they did over the latter half of the 20th century.

Failure to save is bad enough, but Americans are also building up massive amounts of debt. According to the Federal Reserve, consumer credit balances outstanding recently hit an all-time high of $2.82 trillion.

So who do husbands and wives think is more to blame for this problem? The survey results point to some things that suggest that Americans are not acknowledging their savings problems and not communicating well on savings goals. Here are some ways husbands' and wives' perceptions about saving money don't add up:
  • Only a minority of those surveyed -- 37% of women and 26% of men -- report usually wanting to save the same amount of money as their spouse.
  • Neither men nor women think they are coming up short when it comes to saving. Just 16% of women and the same percentage of men say they usually want to save less than what their spouse would prefer.
  • In contrast, men and women often think they save more than what their spouses prefer, with husbands perceiving themselves as the real savings heroes. Some 46% of women and 58% of men say they usually want to save more than their spouses.
There are always caveats to surveys based on self-reporting, but these answers are revealing when contrasted with hard data about debt and saving in America. Neither husbands nor wives see their savings habits as a problem, but the facts show that saving money is an issue in most households.

Savings tips for couples

Saving money as a couple can be very different from saving money as an individual. Here are some keys to being able to save money while in a relationship:

1. Plan for the future. The first step toward saving is acknowledging that you have needs beyond the present. If you are in a long-term relationship, then start planning for the long-term by setting some money aside for the future.

2. Communicate your priorities. She may want a bigger house. He may want a flashier car. Most budgets can't afford every extravagance, so you have to communicate. Neither side should give in on every spending decision, so each person will have to set priorities.
3. Keep savings together, and checking separate. If there are two incomes, both husband and wife should be responsible for contributing agreed-upon amounts to a joint savings account and long-term retirement vehicles. Everything beyond that amount should be kept separate, so each person is clear on how much he or she has available for discretionary spending.

4. Have a no-credit-balance policy. It's no use saving money when there is a growing balance on either spouse's credit cards. Credit cards are not only an easy way to undermine your savings goals, but with credit card interest rates at around 13% and even high-interest savings accounts paying less than 1%, even a small credit balance can negate the positive impact of saving money. Keep yourselves on track by agreeing that all credit card balances should be paid in full every month.

5. Be a coach, not a codependent. Give positive feedback for positive financial behavior, and help your spouse look at the bright side of spending less money. Love does not mean allowing your spouse to indulge every whim, which can be bad for you both in the long run.
The survey suggests that neither husbands nor wives tend to see themselves as the primary problem when it comes to saving money, but statistics on debt and savings rates make it clear that Americans do have a serious problem. Like most things in a relationship, responsibility for solving that problem will be handled best if it is shared.

More from

Jul 10, 2013 2:17PM
Whole article and no answer to the title. Asking questions about savings won't answer the question of who spends more. Time to find a title that actually matches the article.
Jul 11, 2013 11:42AM

it is all a matter of perception (or misperception) . . .

'we' have a joint account which we both deposit money to cover monthly utility bills (gas, electric, cable, property taxes, sewer/water/trash), her student loans, and to put about 1k/month into savings (beyond our individual 401k/brokerage/ira).

and we each have our 'own' account/money outside of the 'we' account.

i spend 'my' money on transportation, groceries, improvements to our home and rental properties, maintenance on both of our vehicles, gas, and gifts/dates with my wife.

she spends 'her' money on lunch dates with her girlfriends, gifts/clothes for herself and our daughter, mani-pedis, clothes, starbucks and dairy queen.

to her, my spending is unnecessary and takes away from spending more money on her and our daughter.


to me, her spending is unnecessary and takes away from us saving more money and retiring earlier.

Jul 11, 2013 1:00PM
Women are suckers for the automatic re-fill and shipment gimmick.
They gave a solution to a house with 2 incomes, how about a house with only one income?
Jul 11, 2013 12:59PM
Jul 11, 2013 11:28AM

Just my 2 cents, but I think if this survey was done back in the days when men were the only breadwinner, I believe she would be the bigger spender in a lot of cases.  In today's world, women are the breadwinners too.  There's something about earning money and that is, it hurts a lot more to spend it because it's your blood, sweat and tears.  When I was in university, I loved spending my parents' money.  It was the most enjoyable time of my life for spending.  Once I got my job, started paying for my own stuff and taxes, then the enjoyment was over.

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