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The Best Money Tricks My Spouse Ever Taught Me The Best Money Tricks My Spouse Ever Taught Me
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The Best Money Tricks My Spouse Ever Taught Me

LearnVest •  September 8, 2015 | Home and Family, Your Finances

When I married my husband Mike seven years ago, meshing our finances was something we’d already been working on for a few years.

Were we particularly good at it?

Let’s just say we were still ironing out the kinks and figuring out the best ways to communicate about our joint goals.

But there was one little money trick of Mike’s that I instantly embraced.

Whenever he gets change back from a cash purchase, he puts the quarters into a jug in our bedroom. Once he fills up the jug, he takes it to the bank. This “quarter money,” as he calls it, translates to a couple hundred bucks every few months.

It may not sound like much, but I love this habit—and look forward to the free grocery trip or date night it funds.

Believe it or not, I’m convinced this simple trick has contributed to more financial harmony in our marriage—a trait research has found is key to a successful relationship.

Want a few more examples of financial harmony at work?

Then say hello to these seven people who’ve picked up a killer savings trick from their other half—strengthening their love and money connections in the process.

What He Taught Me: “Create a Color-Coded Budget”

Arlene Melo, 27, a web content specialist in New York City

“Looking at the big-picture view of my finances was always a pain point for me. In fact, I never used to track my spending, and the farthest I looked ahead was the two weeks until my next paycheck.

So it’s no surprise that I found it difficult to pay down debt or even buy new clothes without having to swipe my credit card to pay for them. But that all changed when my fiancé, Charlie, turned me on to a great trick.

He neatly lays out his financial responsibilities in a color-coded Excel spreadsheet. For example, his student loan balance is listed in one color, his rent payment is in another, saving goals in another, and so on. It’s a one-stop shop where he can easily see his progress and goals at the same time.

What I really like about it is that your eye automatically registers which color is making up the biggest chunk of the pie, so you can see where you’re exceling with your money and where you could do better.

That’s ultimately what inspired me to adopt this system for myself—and I immediately found it easier to track the areas where I could be spending less, helping me free up more cash to pay off my debt.

Before that, I was putting only $100 a month toward my $6,000 credit card bill. But these days I’m paying off at least three times as much—and my balance has decreased roughly 50% as a result.”

“When my wife, Tiffany, and I got engaged and started planning our wedding, we quickly realized how fast expenses add up—especially because, thanks to large families, our final head count was nearing 150.

Unfortunately, our parents weren’t able to contribute much to help cover the costs, so the mounting bill was shaping up to be our responsibility.

As the big day drew nearer, and we started talking about our living arrangements, Tiffany had an epiphany: I could move into her room in the house she shared with four roommates in Pasadena, Calif.

While certainly not the ideal way to kick off a new life together, not having to cough up a security deposit, plus first and last month’s rent, would save us thousands. So I moved in a few days before the wedding, and split her $700 rent.

Sure, it was a little crowded at times—but it was a move neither of us regretted.

After the wedding we were left with about $10,000 of debt. But paying only $700 in rent—instead of about $1,400 for a one-bedroom place—helped us cancel out that debt in just a year and a half, and truly start our marriage on the right financial foot.

Of course, we then promptly found an apartment of our own!”

What She Taught Me: “Nix Soft Drinks at Restaurants”

Chad Whaley, 32, a media specialist in Sandusky, Ohio

“I work a 9-to-5 office job, and grabbing lunch on the go every day is part of my regular routine. I know I can save money by brown-bagging it occasionally, but I enjoy going for takeout as a way to break up my day.

So I didn’t give this habit much thought—until my girlfriend, Amber, called out something I hadn’t considered before.

By always adding a soft drink to my order, I was throwing away an extra $3 a day—or $720 a year! When I thought about it, I realized soft drinks aren’t even that important to me—picking one up every day had simply become part of a mindless routine.

Since Amber brought this to my attention about a year ago, I’ve starting opting for water with lemon, and I don’t miss the soft drinks at all.

It’s, by far, the easiest way I’ve ever saved $720—money I’ve since put toward a new pair of snow skis and an upcoming trip to Jamaica.”

What He Taught Me: “Buy Based on Quality”

Sandy Arons, 51, a divorce mediator in Nashville

“When it comes to making big-ticket purchases, I’ve always been tempted to go the inexpensive route. But I’ve learned from my husband of 24 years, Murray, that price isn’t necessarily the most important factor.

Case in point: About 10 years ago I needed a new car. Murray has always been a car enthusiast and knew that Porsche makes high-quality vehicles, so he suggested a used Cayenne for about $45,000.

That was about $10,000 more than I had in mind—but my husband insisted that spending more upfront on a better-quality car is more prudent than paying a lot to repair a cheaper car over the years.

He was right. More than 120,000 miles and a decade later, the car runs great and still looks fantastic because we’ve made it a priority to take care of it.

That’s become our philosophy when it comes to spending money on anything. We’d rather pay more for a few high-quality items that last than snatch up a bunch of average ones that don’t.

Shoe shopping is another example. While I used to purchase $50 shoes that eventually hurt my feet and barely lasted a season, I now opt for more well-made options. They may come with a $125 price tag, but they rarely need repairs, feel comfortable and save me from replacing the $50 pair each season.”

What She Taught Me: “Use the Savings-Jar Method—With a Twist”

Kevin Haas, 37, a business consultant in Santa Monica, Calif.

“My wife, Meaghan, is an all-star saver. Her money smarts keep us on budget all the time—whether we’re car shopping or booking an Airbnb apartment instead of a pricey hotel.

In March 2014 she did it again. When we started playing with the idea of taking a vacation in Greece the following spring, she suggested a new twist on the traditional cash-in-a-jar system to help us save up.

The idea is that, together, we’d deposit $1 in a jar the first week, $2 the second week, $3 the third week, and so on. After a year, this would add up to about $1,500 to spend guilt-free on a getaway.

The best part? Because the weekly savings is minimal for most of the year, we wouldn’t have to sacrifice much from what we already budget for fun.

We started doing this about 10 months ago, and taped the payment schedule to a jar on a bookshelf in our home office. So far it’s been incredibly easy: We’ve already socked away nearly $1,000!”

What He Taught Me: “Negotiate … Everything”

Brandon Kelly, 38, CEO of NYCVanity in Miami Beach, Fla.

“After being with my husband, Keith, for 11 years, I’ve definitely picked up some of his money habits. But, hands down, the most valuable thing he’s taught me is how to effectively negotiate.

Whether you’re after a better salary, a business contract or a new dishwasher, one thing is true: There’s always room for negotiation.

This skill doesn’t come naturally to me, but soon after we started dating, I realized that Keith was a pro. Whenever he made purchases—from booking flights to buying insurance—he would reflexively ask about specials, discounts and any other extras that might sweeten the deal.

To my amazement, it really works! Once, while securing a new partnership for our business that sells home decor products, I watched Keith talk the other party into throwing in 100 free units that weren’t even part of the original deal.

So, a couple years back, I decided to put my own skills to the test for the first time while interviewing for a job. Instead of accepting the company’s initial offer, I treated it as a starting point—and countered with a much higher figure.

The result? A cool $15,000 extra.”

What She Taught Me: “Organize With the Baggie System”

Andy LaPointe, 46, a marketing director in Bellaire, Mich.

“When my wife, Jen, and I started dating over 20 years ago—long before the days of online banking—I had the terrible habit of losing receipts. This naturally made it difficult to track our spending, and that much harder to create a realistic budget.

But Jen introduced me to her “baggie system” technique of organizing receipts—and it’s made all the difference.

Here’s how it works: In each of our cars, there are five Ziploc baggies in the glove box—one for groceries, gas, eating out, shoes/clothes, and miscellaneous purchases. Each time we buy something, we immediately put the receipt in the corresponding envelope.

The system is great because it shows you, in black and white, exactly where your money’s going—and also eliminates a lot of guesswork that sometimes comes with online banking, like when the name of a business doesn’t match up with the charge on your statement.

Plus, we’ve been able to keep our spending in check. For example, after reviewing the baggies—which we do every couple of weeks—we may catch that we’re spending too much on eating out. This, in turn, will prompt us to take a closer look at our grocery shopping habits, so that we start buying foods that are more appealing than eating out.

If I had to guess, this approach easily saves us $500 a year. Over the course of our 20-year relationship, that’s big savings.”

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LearnVest, Inc. is owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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