Couples and Money: Lessons from the Toilet Paper Aisle

As a marketer, I rely on the truism of the “two types of people in the world”: for example, there are those who “invest” in a premium brand of toilet paper and those who prefer to save on this necessity with econo-brands.

Now follow me – and these two types of people – to the world of personal finance. As Valentine’s Day rolls around, I want to draw a connection to my 13-year marriage and personal finances as one of its defining features.

Let’s start with something specific I know about money: no matter what the pundits, advisors and Bay Street bankers say, money is not rational in personal finances. Attitudes and emotions play a driving force.

Years ago I came to see attitudes towards money and personal finances to be more akin to how we value our family relationships and how we feel about celebrating birthdays, for instance. These are all issues that, as my grandmother would say, are baked into our bones. This is why money can be a hot topic for couples.

If it is true that opposites attract, you could google that phrase and see a picture of my partner and me. And we embody the toilet-paper types perfectly. For me it’s not a luxury worth indulging in; I prefer to save my pennies. For him, in-the-moment comfort is a priority.

When it comes to finances, this situation perfectly captures our “money” personalities. I like to save for something bigger later; he prioritizes short-term personal experiences. You can probably imagine how these opposite viewpoints lead to some vibrant conversations on financial matters.

What does this mean for a blog on couples and finances?

The finance experts can talk in generalities, but you need to focus on what’s right for you: what to splash out on, when to hold back; how far ahead to plan, how much credit to tap into. I say the definition of the best way to invest, save, spend and enjoy whatever financial freedom you have should not be carved in stone. Life changes, facts change, you change. Be prepared to roll with it.

You may wonder what kind of toilet paper we use at our house. It’s the premium kind. In the end I decided it wasn’t so important to me, and it is – for reasons I still don’t fully appreciate – really important to him. The compromise? I shop ruthlessly for sales!

Personal finances are woven into almost every decision we make in our lives and they are laden with your own values. I can only underscore, as you make choices about self-indulgence at Valentine’s or, more prudently, invest in your RRSP for your future, that there are always things to learn about your financial self.

As much as money can appear to be a black and white matter, especially for a couple, sometimes it’s just about letting each other be who they are to enjoy the life you’re sharing. Who knows – along the way perhaps you’ll grow a little and find a better financial balance because of it.


Christine Saunders
 is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. Prior to founding her marketing strategy firm, Halmyre, in 2014, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.

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