MONEY couples and money

How to Get Your Tightwad Spouse to Loosen Up

fingers untying change purse
Chris Gash

If you've ever felt frustrated by your partner's frugality, try these 4 tactics for untying the family purse strings.

Lauren Greutman’s couponing began as a practical way to trim her family’s household budget, but the Oswego, N.Y., mom’s mission to save quickly escalated to the point where she wouldn’t buy anything that wasn’t at a deep discount. “I went overboard,” she now admits.

Her husband, Mark, concurs—and says he frequently felt frustrated by her frugality. “There were many eye-roll moments,” he recalls not too fondly.

Perhaps you can empathize? When one spouse is more anxious than the other about spending, marital discord over money is pretty common. In fact, one study found that “tightwads” tend to marry “spendthrifts”—and those couples are 23% more likely to fight about money. “Everyday spending decisions can gnaw at them,” says study co-author Scott Rick, a professor of marketing at the University of Michigan. If your partner is economical to a fault, use these tips to pry open the wallet.

1. Find out what fuels the fire. Rather than passing judgment (again) on your spouse’s stinginess, discover what’s driving it. Break the ice with, “Honey, I’ve noticed that you are very conscious about our spending. Tell me what concerns you.” Is it a fear of going broke? Patterns learned as a kid? A countermeasure to your overspending? “The reason doesn’t necessarily justify the behavior, but if you can understand the fear or goal, you may be able to find a more agreeable way to address it,” says Brad Klontz, a psychologist in Lihue, Hawaii.

2. Look at the bigger picture. While you may never see eye-to-eye on spending, you’re likely to value similar financial goals, like retiring at 65 or going on vacation. From this common ground, analyze your finances to gain perspective on what’s rational (or not) when it comes to purchasing. “You can see where you have room for improvement or relaxation,” says Ed Coambs, a marriage counselor in Charlotte. Seeing where you stand may convince your spouse that spending $10 on lunch or $10,000 on a renovation isn’t apocalyptic—or may convince you that it is.

3. Request free rein day to day. Keep yourself from feeling hamstrung by your partner’s rules by asking him or her to allow you a splurge limit—say, $200 a month or 5% of each paycheck. That way you have limited license to spend as you wish, no questions asked.

4. Put a price on penny pinching. At the same time, help your frugal spouse do a cost-benefit analysis of his or her deal hunting. You might show how driving around to gas stations to save 3¢ a gallon actually wastes money. Or help your partner assess the hourly wage of cost cutting, as Lauren now does with couponing. “If I spend two hours a week and save $50,” she says, “then I feel it was worth my time.”

More Love & Money:
How to Tell If Combining Finances With Your Partner Is a Bad Idea
A Simple Rule for Raising Unspoiled Kids
How Well Do You Know Your Spouse’s Financial Habits?

Farnoosh Torabi is a contributing editor at Money Magazine and the author of When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. Her new podcast So Money features intimate interviews with leading entrepreneurs, authors and influencers. Visit SoMoneyPodcast.com.

MONEY credit cards

3 Things Millennials Need to Know When Choosing a Credit Card

hand choosing credit cards from a fan of cards
David Malan—Getty Images

Here's what young adults should consider when they finally bite the bullet and sign up for a credit card.

Today’s young professionals have a complicated relationship with credit. A report last year found that more than three in five millennials did not own a credit card, while another survey, by Creditcards.com, found that 36% of 18-to-29 year olds have never had one.

Millennials, of course, had the distinct misfortune of entering the job market during the greatest recession in generations, which may have made the prospect of borrowing less appealing, says Creditcards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz. Unemployment can make the task of paying off your monthly bill rather onerous.

Nevertheless, those in Gen Y who eschew plastic endure real costs that can make borrowing later in life that much more difficult. “Credit scoring models look at the age of your credit history,” says Credit.com’s Gerri Detweiler. “Specifically they take into account the age of your oldest account, and the average age of all of your accounts.” The earlier you start, the better your score will be. And a higher credit score can save you thousands over the course of your life.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are three things to consider when you pick and use your plastic. (These are also good reminders for those who already carry a card.) Remember, credit cards are tools and can dramatically improve your bottom line when used correctly.

1. Make sure you reap the credit

One chief benefit of receiving a card is proving to the world that you can be responsible with credit. However, if your lender doesn’t actually report your pristine credit behavior to a credit bureau, you won’t get the benefit of a higher score. “Ensure that your card reports account activity to the three major credit bureaus—which it should if it’s issued by a major bank and is a Visa, Mastercard, or American Express card—so that this first card can help build a credit history,” says Ben Woolsey of CreditCardForum.com. You can confirm this with your lender before you sign up for the card.

2. Skip the annual fee

“Get a credit card with no annual fee, since the first card you will get will be the card you keep the rest of your life to maintain a long credit history,” says Nerdwallet.com’s Kevin Yuann. The point here is that you don’t want to be penalized for establishing credit. But when you finally get that more elite card, don’t get rid of the original. “As you start to qualify for better rewards, keep a phone bill or something recurring on automatic payment on this card to ensure it doesn’t get canceled,” Yuann advises.

3. Pay your bill

“Many millennials incorrectly focus on the potential interest rate when shopping for their first card,” says CreditSesame.com’s John Ulzheimer. “This underscores a larger problem, which is that they are thinking about the cost of carrying a balance before they’ve even used their first card.”

Instead Ulzheimer recommends you consider other factors, like potential credit limit. (Aim to spend roughly 10%-20% of your monthly limit in order to optimize your score, which is a bit easier with a higher limit.) “Using the card only to the extent that they can pay off the balance in full each month makes the interest rate irrelevant.”

Still, credit cards are useful in cases of emergency, and sometimes you may find yourself with a revolving balance. That shouldn’t stop you from contributing something to your debt, says LowCards.com’s Bill Hardekopf. “Even if you can’t pay off the entire balance, it is critical to make the payment on time every single month. If not, this will significantly damage your credit score. That is something that will haunt you on future loans,” such as for a car or house.

Need help figuring out which card is right for you? Check out MONEY’s credit card matchmaker tool.

Read next: MONEY’s Best Credit Cards

MONEY Taxes

Is Your Tax Refund Too Big?

massive amount of cash in pocket
William Howell—iStock

Getting a big check from the IRS is exciting, but it might not be the best for your long-term financial health.

Taxpayers getting back money from the government this year have received an average refund of $2,893 so far, according to March 26 data from the Internal Revenue Service. That’s a nice bump up in cash flow, and a lot of people look forward to it as a chance to splurge, pay down debt or add to their savings.

But those people could have had that money all year, had they withheld less of their paycheck. Getting a big refund means you essentially gave the government an interest-free loan, when you could have put the money in a savings or retirement account to earn interest. You may see that money as a windfall, but you should really see it as the government making good on a year-long IOU.

There’s no right or wrong answer to how much of a refund you should aim to get, because it’s very much a matter of personal preference, and it can also be tricky to estimate. No matter how you choose to deal with your taxes, it’s worthwhile to regularly evaluate your withholdings. Here’s why.

Your Life Changes

About 82% of taxpayers receive refunds, but even if you’ve consistently gotten one, a significant life change may affect how much you receive or if you get one at all. Marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, or a drastic income change should trigger a review of how much you have withheld from your paycheck.

You Should Look for Patterns

Beyond re-evaluating your tax situation in the wake of a noteworthy life event, your tax-filing history will give you a good idea of when you should consider changing how much is withheld from your paycheck. It can be a difficult thing to estimate, because as much as you want may want to avoid owing the Internal Revenue Service in April, getting too much in return may not be the best for your long-term financial health.

“A good place to be is owing a little bit or getting a little bit back,” said Elliott Freirich, a certified public accountant in Chicago. But where exactly is that “good place”? “There’s no right answer. It’s a gray area, but I would tell people if they could kind of keep (their refund) under $1,000. … It’s not like it would go away and they would never have it if they reduce their withholding.”

Know Your Own Saving/Spending Habits

Some people feel that way — that they wouldn’t be disciplined enough to set aside the money they would otherwise get from a large refund.

“It’s sort of like forced savings,” said Jorie Johnson, a certified financial planner in New Jersey. She said she suggests her clients re-evaluate their withholding if their refund exceeds $5,000. “I encourage them to use half of their refund toward their IRA, if they haven’t already maxed it out, and the other half on themselves, as a reward — that’s assuming they don’t have any debt.”

Consider the big picture: Do you look forward to a large tax refund but struggle to meet your savings goals on a monthly basis? If you’re trying to work your way out of debt or regularly find yourself financing your lifestyle while also getting a large refund check every tax season, that’s a sign you need to revisit your withholding (you might need to re-evaluate your spending habits, too).

Remember that withholding is just an estimate of what you’ll owe, and it may take you a few years of consistent tax outcomes to confidently adjust that estimate to meet your tax needs without owing or receiving a large sum come tax time.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY Sports

4 Ways to Beat the High Cost of Bicycling

bicycle riders
Gallery Stock

Becoming an avid biker can be good for your health. But between the gear and the outfits, you could find yourself spending an unhealthy amount of money.

If you want to ask Jonathan Cane what he loves most about cycling, you might have some trouble catching up with him.

Chances are, the 51-year-old triathlon coach will be pedaling at 20 miles per hour on his Trek Domane, deep in the forests of New York’s Harriman State Park or alongside the cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades.

“There’s something nice and pure about being on two wheels,” says Cane, a Harlem resident who typically rides around 100 miles a week. “It’s like being a kid and getting on your bike for the first time.”

In fact, for many, cycling is not just a pastime—it’s something of an addiction. And it can be expensive.

Americans spent $2.3 billion on bicycles in 2013, up 4% from the year before, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. Meanwhile, also in 2013, we spent $188 million on helmets, $669 million on apparel, and even $75 million on special bike shoes.

When you separate out enthusiasts who ride an average of 140 miles a month, they spent an average of $1,622 on a new bike in 2014, according to the American Bicyclist Study from consulting firm Gluskin Townley Group.

Even if you subtract the bike itself, top biking buffs still forked out an average of $1,659 on other bicycling-related products.

All those lofty numbers don’t surprise Jonathan Cane at all. “If you see a pack of 50 guys racing around the park, that’s probably a quarter of a million dollars worth of bikes right there,” he says.

Throw in maintenance, other accessories like gloves and gear, along with a few race entries here and there, and you’re very easily looking at over $1,000 a year, he says.

Ben Davidson, an artist from British Columbia, Canada, spent almost $10,000 on his cycling habit in the past year, purchasing two bikes and doing a 1,000-mile charity ride for a children’s hospital.

“I’m not the best person to ask about saving money on bikes,” Davidson says. “It’s the one thing I love to spend money on.”

Thanks to a spike in city living, plus growing amenities for cyclists like bike lanes and European-style rideshare programs, there are more bike aficionados like Cane and Davidson than ever: The number of bike commuters grew by 40% between 2000 and 2010, according to the Sierra Club.

But you don’t have to go broke in the process. Here are a few strategies to cut your cycling costs.

1. Buy used

If you don’t know the first thing about bicycle mechanics, it probably makes sense to buy new, along with the manufacturer warrantees and routine maintenance checks.

If you’re handy, and want to save potentially hundreds or even thousands of dollars, there is no shame in buying a used bike.

In fact, during the recent recession, used-bikes sales exploded, says Gluskin Townley Group co-founder Jay Townley, and now comprise around a quarter of the total market.

Local bike shops often act as exchanges for used bikes, and you can feel more secure about your purchase there, says Townley. For deeper discounts, check out eBay or Craigslist, but buyer beware.

2. Use timing to your advantage

As this epic winter finally recedes and racing season starts up, you can forget about getting amazing deals. Especially since top manufacturers are increasingly insistent on fixed pricing, says Townley.

But the end of the racing season, like October, is when riders typically sell bikes and gear as they plan ahead for next year. That’s when to pounce.

3. Forget top-of-the-line

Yes, you could certainly spend $5,000 on an ultralight racing bike that will have your buddies drooling.

Unless you’re Olympics-bound, take it down a notch and get a perfectly excellent high-performance bike for $2,000 or less. If one pricey bike weighs two pounds less than a cheaper alternative, why not just lose two pounds yourself and save thousands of dollars, asks Cane.

4. Be immune to peer pressure

Some bike stores are rather snobbish, Cane says, and won’t give you the time of day unless you’re a muscled Adonis who’s ready to pay for the most elite gear.

Forget them, and stick to your budget. In fact, if you have a friend who’s an experienced rider, bring him or her along for any shopping excursions. They will know the lingo, what you really need and what you don’t, and won’t let you get bamboozled by salespeople who are just salivating over fat commissions.

TIME Aviation

Here’s How Much Spare Change the TSA Collected Last Year

People are leaving more and more coins behind at screening points

Harried travelers are increasingly leaving their nickels and dimes in the bins used during airport security screenings, which has led to a growing source of revenue for the Transportation Security Administration.

In the fiscal year 2014, the TSA collected almost $675,000 in loose change, according to the agency’s internal data, up from $638,000 in fiscal year 2013. The amount of money collected has been steadily increasing since 2010, even though Americans are increasingly reliant on digital payment methods rather than cash. Overall, the agency has collected about $3.5 million in loose change since 2008. The cash is used to fund TSA security operations.

Fliers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport left the most change behind, $43,000. Los Angeles International Airport ranked second at $42,000 and San Francisco International Airport ranked third at $35,000.

MONEY Holidays

A $49,000 Bunny and 6 Other Crazy Numbers for This Holiday Weekend

(left) Marshmallow Peeps factory; (right) Passover matzo at the Manischewitz Co. factory in Newark, New Jersey.
Kristoffer Tripplaar/Alamy (left)—Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg via Getty Images) Marshmallow Peeps factory (left) ; Passover matzo at the Manischewitz Co. factory (right).

Whether you want to spend thousands on a "prime Passover experience" or tens of thousands on a chocolate bunny, retailers have your holiday needs covered.

This year, Easter and Passover fall on the same weekend, which means grocery stores will be overrun by shoppers grabbing last minute-supplies for seders and holiday dinners. Consumers will shell out more than $2 billion just on candy alone.

Here are some other impressive numbers associated with these two holidays.

$16.4 billion
The amount consumers plan to spend this year on Easter, compared with $15.9 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. That averages out to about $140 per person.

35
The number of Peeps flavors available during Easter season. You can enjoy a sugar-coated marshmallow chick in flavors that include “party cake,” “sour watermelon,” “sweet lemonade,” and “mystery flavor.”

$49,000
Cost of a chocolate Easter bunny with diamonds for eyes being sold by chocolatier Martin Chiffers via luxury product site veryfirstto.com. Don’t worry about waste: The site states that “Once the bunny has been eaten, the diamonds can be set into a bespoke piece of jewellery (such as earrings) free of charge.”

30%
The typical premium for kosher foods versus nonkosher foods, year-round. Special “kosher-for-passover” products are even more expensive because of the extra requirements the food must meet.

$10,000
The penalty for price gouging on kosher-for-Passover products, as proposed by a new bill in the New York state Senate.

$11,000
The price of the eight-day “Prime Passover Experience” at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif. For that sum, you get an ocean-view room and butler service, plus options for horseback riding, private sailing, limo service, yoga, spa time, and vintage wine with your Passover meal.

More than 40%

eggs
Bon Appetit/Alamy (left)—Scott &Zoe/Getty Images (right)

Increase in the sales of eggs, which feature both in Easter egg hunts and on the seder plate, in the week before Easter.

MONEY Saving

U.S. Savings Rate Hits Two-Year High

150330_INV_HighSavings
GK Hart/Vikki Hart—Getty Images

Americans are saving 5.8% of income, according to a new report.

Americans are saving a larger portion of their income than they have in two years, according to a new report from the Department of Commerce. The numbers show savings amounted to $768.6 billion in February, or 5.8% of total disposable income. The last time Americans had a higher savings rate was in December 2012, when individuals saved 10.5% of their disposable earnings.

The higher savings rate corresponds with a small drop in inflation-adjusted spending and suggests Americans continue to use the recent drop in gasoline prices as a chance to beef up their bank balances or pay down debt.

More savings and less spending could have a negative impact on the economy, which has already seen slower growth in recent months. But Americans are still socking away less money than they did during the recession and its aftermath, when the savings rate regularly hovered around 6% and above:

150330_INV_HighSavings2

Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto, told Reuters that while consumption is currently down, strong economic fundamentals suggest spending should pick up again as the year progresses.

“Households are still flush with the money saved from the big drop-off in gasoline prices and, with the labor market still on fire, incomes should continue to increase at a solid pace,” Ashworth said.

Read next: Why Many Middle-Class Households Are Outsaving the Wealthy

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The prison system is costly and rarely rehabilitates prisoners. Imagine a better way to transition inmates to freedom.

By Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken, & Ross Halperin in Vox

2. Lawmakers should listen to the budget hawks, not the defense hawks.

By Robert Gard and Angela Canterbury in Defense One

3. For teenage girls, it’s possible to shift “attention bias” — literally focusing them on happy faces instead of sad ones — and fight the risk of depression.

By Jennifer Kahn in Pacific Standard

4. The next generation of American workers isn’t prepared to take over the jobs of departing baby boomers. The cost of this failure will be enormous.

By Jennifer Bradley in the Brookings Essay

5. As a four-year college education slips further out of reach, community college has some important lessons to teach us.

By Josh Wyner in the Miami Herald

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Holidays

Expect Less Green on St. Patrick’s Day

Spending nationwide on St. Patrick’s Day is expected to drop 3% this year, though celebrants will still be plenty enthusiastic.

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