How spenders and savers can talk their way to holiday harmony

Published Dec 6, 2018


You're a spender. Your partner's a saver. If your "match made in heaven" had a critical stress node, this would be it!

To add insult to injury, it's the holidays and "the season to be jolly". For you it may mean having some fun with a wallet of savings you’ve been eyeing all year…for your partner it may be a time to lock away the plastic, especially in the current economic climate, with the increased repo rate and 1% increase in VAT adding to the pinch consumers are already feeling. Or vice versa.

South Africans collectively owe about  R1.73-trillion in debt, and, although there have been signs of improvement, the urge to splurge could cause more credit spikes this summer. Which makes it more important than ever for families to have those sometimes-awkward money-management chats.

Danelle van Heerde, Head: Advice Processes and Tools at  Sanlam Personal Finance, says there's no reason to wait out the holidays before families and partners have frank conversations about their spending preferences. On the contrary, she says turning a blind eye to the differences in how we either spend or prefer to save can lead to a lot more stress further down the line.

"It's best to get on the same page as soon as possible. We don't all have to do things the same way, and it's important to acknowledge personalities and to support each other's savings goals as much as we like to plan purchases together."

Van Heerde says you should start by agreeing on your saving and spending priorities for the festive period.

1. Have a  conversation with yourself before you chat to your partner. Are you a saver or a spender? What aspects of money management do you need to work on? How different is your partner's money habits and preferences from yours? Consider how you want to constructively address this with him or her. Then, have an honest discussion with your loved one. 

2. Set savings goals, together. And make these concrete and specific. Like buying a home in 2019 or consciously putting away money in December to pay for some of your child's extra-curricular costs in January.

3. Decide on your budget. Look at your past bank statements, think of the big payments you still need to make (bond, rent, student debts, etc.) and keep your savings goals in mind.

Now, how much do you want – and can you realistically afford - to spend? Drill down into the detail: If you cut down on the festive feast, can you reduce your groceries budget? Who do you want to buy gifts for and how much should you spend? What activities do you have planned and what does that mean for your entertainment allowance?

4. Decide how you’ll manage your money. There are myriad ways to do this – like contributing to a shared account or delegating certain ‘financial responsibilities’ to each partner – i.e. one does the groceries, the other takes care of various debit orders, including savings. Again, play to each person’s strengths.

"Remember, there's nothing wrong with either being a spender or a saver - both have their strengths. Moderation is key, though. If you're too frugal, you may forego investing in things that could add real value to your life. If you spend too liberally, you could end up using debt for day-to-day expenses, which may damage your finances in the long-term. Learn from one another and stick to your plan."

After you've got your plan in place, here are Van Heerde's other tips for spenders and savers to find harmony over the holidays:

- Be smart about your bonus. If you're lucky enough to get an end-of-year bonus and feel comfortable doing so, discuss it with your partner and decide what you'll do with it together. The saver may want to invest some of it in a "holiday" savings account. The spender may want to use it to spoil special people. There's merit to both, so have a frank chat and agree balance that works for you. As soon as you get the money, send it off where it's meant to go so the temptation to spend it isn't there.

- Keep some money separate. This is important. Each partner should have some money completely independently to the other person. It's his or her prerogative how this is saved or spent.

- Find positive uses for your spender's special talents. Set him or her challenges - like a budget of R500 to source thoughtful gifts for five friends.

- Reflect on what the holidays are all about. Family, friends and spending time together. Challenge yourselves to come up with activities that don't involve spending much - or any - money. Capitalise on the summer sunshine with plenty of outdoor adventures like hikes. 

- Do the DIY thing. Homemade, thoughtful gifts are often the best. Plus, there's plenty of inspiration on Pinterest so you won't be short of ideas.

- If you have kids, use the holidays as a teaching opportunity. Be very open and tell your child how much you have to spend, what you're planning to spend it on and why. Give your child the chance to earn extra pocket money through chores and encourage him or her to use this to buy little gifts for someone special.

- Track your expenditure. And try not to hide anything from your partner. Keep each other accountable to the budget you created together. Be very intentional about any money you spend - small amounts tend to add up fast.

- Avoid debt

- Discuss presents for each other upfront. If a saver splurges on a spender and a spender suddenly decides to go frugal on gifts for a saver, a few issues may arise! Rather set a budget so you're both on the same side of the wrapping paper.

To learn more about conversations around saving, click 

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