Couple goals: getting ahead with different spending habits

6 July 2024

Nutritionist and massage therapist Nicole Stimpson and her partner Alex Mullins
  • Nicole and Alex have very different approaches to managing money: Alex is a spender because he has more cash flow; Nicole is a saver making ends meet on a student budget
  • It’s possible for opposite money personalities to come together and structure their savings and expenses to better align with their combined long-term goals
  • Relationships change, so restructuring expenses so that one person is temporarily paying less doesn’t mean they aren’t pulling their weight. Chances are, they could be the higher earner at some point and it will be time for another restructure

Nicole Stimpson, a nutritionist and massage therapist, and Alex Mullins, a builder, from Tweed Heads, New South Wales, have bought their first home together – and it’s beautiful. The repayments are getting tricky, though, and the situation is not helped by their very different approaches to managing finances. But Nicole and Alex have found that while their money mindsets can create friction, there can be a silver lining, too.

They have vastly different incomes and spending styles

Alex owns a building company and is used to having cash flow freely, while Nicole has been on a student budget struggling to make ends meet. Whether it’s their money personalities or circumstance driving behaviour, the couple admit to approaching spending and saving in completely different ways. “It takes me a lot longer to say ‘Yes, I’m going to buy that’,” says Nicole. “I’ll be looking at something for months and then I’ll be ready.” On the flipside, Alex recalls registering interest in a new car and then transacting within hours.

Video: Nicole Stimpson, nutritionist and massage therapist, and Alex Mullins, builder, from Tweed Heads, New South Wales, discuss their differing financial habits.

Their differences may have helped with long-term goals

When it came to buying a home, their different money styles meant they were able to talk about the risks and rewards before making a decision. “I thought it was way beyond our budget,” recalls Nicole, who admits she was thinking about not only the mortgage but other costs like rates and bills. Alex was confident they could make it work. “And that was great because even though we were reaching, we have the house now.”

They’re both willing to work hard to reach their financial goals

Looking ahead, Nicole and Alex have their eyes on the same prize: buying an investment property and visiting Japan are top of the financial goals list. With a lifestyle that combines study with full-time roles and side hustles, the fact that they’re both hard workers has helped them manage the financial pressures and still dream a little, too. “We want to work as hard as we can and really spend the next five years setting ourselves up financially,” says Alex. “And if we have kids, we can give them a good life.”

Top tips from a personal finance expert on how to improve their financial position

“Having different money styles can be a strength for a couple if you can use them to work towards a shared financial vision,” says Jess Irvine, CommBank personal finance expert. Here are three steps she would love Nicole and Alex to consider as they work towards their financial goals.

Get on the same page with your goals

“Purchasing an investment property and paying off your mortgage are two goals that can support each other,” says Jess. “When buying assets, like an investment property, as a couple, it’s important you’re both active decision-makers. Investing can increase your wealth but it also comes with risks. And borrowing to invest can magnify both the gains and the losses. So it’s important to ensure you’re on the same page.”

Manage your cash flow

You may have equity in your home that you can borrow against but you also need to show that you can service the repayments from your incomes. “A smart way to stay on top of cash flow is by jointly tracking your spending, setting budgets for major expenses and giving yourselves a limit on your ‘fun money’,” says Jess. “There are many tools to keep track of your spending but there’s an easy feature within the CommBank app called Money Plan. It helps you set weekly, fortnightly or monthly budgets for spending categories like entertainment, eating out and shopping.”

Optimise your home loan repayments

One strategy for accelerating the process is using an offset account. “They can help you pay less interest and reduce the time it takes to pay off your home loan. Every cent in your offset account will offset the balance of the home loan, saving you interest every day that it’s there.” says Jess. This means you will pay less interest over time and pay the loan off sooner.


For more information about CBA’s flexible home loan features and tips on how borrowers can manage their home loan in the current rate environment, visit our home loans page. 

Things you should know

This article provides general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as personal financial product advice. The views expressed by contributors are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CBA. As the information has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions, and whether the product is appropriate to your circumstances. You should also consider whether seeking independent professional legal, tax and financial advice is necessary. Every effort has been taken to ensure the information was correct as at the time of printing but it may be subject to change. No part of the editorial contents may be reproduced or copied in any form without the prior permission and acknowledgement of CBA.