• Paul Gordon

The way you buy a toaster could save your relationship

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Money attitudes are called Spenditude. When these hard-wired attitudes collide in a relationship there is a mis-matched Spenditude. It happens in far too many partnerships.

A reminder ... There are three types. A Spender transacts with money but no sense of how much and no guilt when spending, a Defender hates waste, craves financial security and always considers before a purchase and a Slender who is somewhere in between - occasional Spender and Defender but more of a money worrier?

Here is a tale of Spenditude and making decisions in a relationship. It may well be the key to a happy ending.

A Spender and a Defender are married. The Defender fell for the Spender and their exciting lifestyle. The Spender loved the strength and commitment the Defender showed to planning a good life. Until of course the differences became the problem. Spender buying too much crap. Defender becoming more of a tight arse. From little differences big differences grow (apologies to Paul Kelly).

The topic of money (and finances in general) became more taboo as the relationship went on. Instead of mutual dreams and goals – there was a great divide. The elephant in the room becomes a permanent tenant and that tenant is the unspoken money discussion.

Drip, drip, drip. Slowly the divide grows. Unspoken dissent for the spending attitude of the partner. “Bloody hell, it would not kill you to just buy dinner rather than dissect the bill” or the other side, “another mindless purchase online of stuff we don’t need.” It festers. Silent but deadly protests.

Without intervention, cracks are forming. This is often the catalyst for the relationship split. Heavy, but real. If only these two had a common Spenditude. A common ground that they could form on the basics of money. It is not difficult, but requires a formula which is based on the Defenders ‘value equation’. Without it, the Spender and Defender couple are in deep trouble.

Here is how it works. This is where the Toaster comes in.

A Spender goes into a shop to buy a toaster. Simple task. The first toaster they see is a fancy colourful one at $250. It will warm your muffin on a Sunday morning, amongst other special toasting options. A solid addition to any kitchen. Spenders rarely do their homework so the $250 price becomes the anchor point for a toaster.

A Defender walks into the same store, with a plan in place. They have applied ‘the value equation’.

Value = Performance x Time


In the toaster’s case... Performance = all toasters cook toast. Time = most of them last about 5-8 years. Price = wide range from $30 to $400+. The equation tells the Defender that most toasters are similar. The decision is then placed on price.

What if these two are a couple? Neither can understand the way the other approached the purchase. Both are frustrated. The Spender is keen on the first one they saw - it’s on sale, an inviting purchase. The Defender has found one for a quarter of the price - it looks like it will meet their needs. Who wins?

If the Spender (who was anchored on the $250 price tag) agrees to the cheaper option, they will think they have another $150 to spend – after all they just saved that much! The Defender placed no weight on the $250 price tag and just wants to leave, to go make some toast!

To expand on the equation, there are times when purchases comes with a bigger price tag – say a fridge or a heater. The equation may spell out a different response.

With colder days looming and a house that gets cold, the equation becomes more about performance. Those fancy heaters that you can put your hand through get the attention of both the Spender and the Defender. It has reverse hot and cold (making it useful all year round), and a long term warranty (time). The performance feels superior and safer, with an air purifier that might help with the kids’ asthma too. The differentiator in this case is not price.

Back to that couple. They are parking their car at the store. Let’s have a sliding door moment where there was a conversation about the value equation.

Mystically, the equation appears on their dashboard. A sign from above. They pause. A conversation is had – where performance and time are discussed and this becomes the determinant of price. They have avoided conflict, both felt heard and they created common ground. For this purchase they had come together with a common Spenditude.

The result? ‘Let’s buy the cheaper toaster and invest in the good heater and get out with time for a coffee.’

The lesson in all this is for couples to talk more about money. Build a common Spenditude. Use the equation. It works on most spending and can be the referee for disputes. Have it plastered on your fridge. Seriously, it is a partnership saver.

In C-19 times this equation is even more dramatic and effective.

With most of us feeling high stress and on alert during this pandemic, particularly with regard to finances, the unaligned Spenditude between two people can create all sorts of problems. A common Spenditude for all couples could put (some of) the divorce lawyers out of business and may well help your relationship deliver a much happier ending.

Anyone for a piece of toast?

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