Author Topic: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.  (Read 4608 times)

tungsten

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Within the past year I started dating someone with very different views on money.  Although I have only been a follower of Mustachianism for about a year, I have always been relatively frugal and lived well below my means.  Being in my early 30's now, I feel a certain responsibility to be honest with myself about the long term compatibility of the people I date, at least more so than when I did when I was younger and things felt a little more mutually casual.  So to get to the point, I've been dating this person who is otherwise very intelligent and kind but insists on living a lifestyle that involves fancy things (clothes, nice car, expensive food, eating out) and is willing to keep this up despite worrying about whether or not she will be able to pay her rent each month.  She's in debt from her car loan and feels no urgency to pay it off despite the high interest, and will not even entertain the idea of anything less than a $200/mo clothing budget or $400/mo food budget, and high rent in a fancy HCOL area. She is often struggling to find stable employment to pay for it all, too.  I am very aware of how sensitive money issues can be to people, and I don't expect anyone to live up to my standards of frugality because they can be kind of intense. However, when I broached the subject and offered to help her put together a plan, she told me "Ugh, you sound like my mom" and rolled her eyes. She was actually raised by frugal parents who have long tried to help, but alas, her idea of being an adult involves things like having matching furniture instead of financial security.  We've had more intense discussions on the subject, but I feel like she's hoping that if she ignores the problem and/or dates a financially stable guy, the issue won't need to be addressed at all.

Am I being too harsh?  Is it reasonable to try to change the course of someone else's lifetime of bad spending habits or am I just barking up the wrong tree?  I don't expect clear answers, but I'd appreciate insight from anyone who's been down this road.
Thanks,
Tungsten

Miss Piggy

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2017, 02:54:43 PM »
Hello, and welcome.

I don't think you're being too harsh. Sounds like you know what's important to you and you are trying to make decisions (and suggestions) accordingly. Her reaction (the mom comment and the eye rolling) tells me that she's not even close to being curious about getting her financial self straight.

She has both shown you and told you that saving and having financial security are not things she values.

Marriage is hard enough when people do share values. Not working toward the same goals would make it even harder.

gypsy79

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2017, 03:11:52 PM »
I don't think you are being too harsh.

When I met my partner, he was spendier than I and had some credit card debt and student loans, but when I talked about my financial goals and perspectives, he was interested and you could see the light bulb. He actually asked me to help him figure his issues out, which is how I knew he was different from the guy before him (who I had to get away from because he was going to try to take me down with him).

My partner and I are still together a couple of decades later, and while he still has a spendier outlook than I do, he has fully turned the bills/savings/investing over to me because he knows he is just better off that way. He also reins himself in on spending more than he would have without me, and he would never make a large purchase or take out a loan without discussing it first.

I agree with the other poster who said this woman has both shown and told you that saving and financial security are not things she values.

Apple_Tango

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2017, 03:22:13 PM »
If she literally rolls her eyes? That’s a huge sign of disrespect. I don’t think I would want to stay very long if the money part of your relationship continues to be similar to a parent/child. There’s  definitely a communication breakdown. I wouldn’t throw in the towel if you like every other part about her, but if a conversation starts to happen about marriage and a future, I would bring it up as a concern. Framed in a way about where you see yourself, where does she see herself, what are your individual and shared goals surrounding money. Money problems are one of the top issues causing divorce and it would send up a red flag for me if a compromise and a mutual understanding is unable to be reached.

It sounds like not only are you unclear about what her goals are, but she is unclear about what her goals are. She’s missing the “why” part about why people save money. what it can bring as far as security, flexibility, and freedom, and why more things do not bring more happiness. Be sure not to patronize her like a father would, but instead discuss it as peers/equals. Maybe you can recommend FI  podcasts? I love to listen to podcasts at the gym or in the car, and they’re free!

mm1970

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2017, 03:28:49 PM »
If she literally rolls her eyes? That’s a huge sign of disrespect. I don’t think I would want to stay very long if the money part of your relationship continues to be similar to a parent/child. There’s  definitely a communication breakdown. I wouldn’t throw in the towel if you like every other part about her, but if a conversation starts to happen about marriage and a future, I would bring it up as a concern. Framed in a way about where you see yourself, where does she see herself, what are your individual and shared goals surrounding money. Money problems are one of the top issues causing divorce and it would send up a red flag for me if a compromise and a mutual understanding is unable to be reached.

It sounds like not only are you unclear about what her goals are, but she is unclear about what her goals are. She’s missing the “why” part about why people save money. what it can bring as far as security, flexibility, and freedom, and why more things do not bring more happiness. Be sure not to patronize her like a father would, but instead discuss it as peers/equals. Maybe you can recommend FI  podcasts? I love to listen to podcasts at the gym or in the car, and they’re free!
+1

You don't want to be the "parent".  Time to move along.

SlowMustachian

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2017, 06:24:40 PM »
I was only able to get my partner onboard when I spoke about retiring in 5 years, that peaked his interest. Then a friend of his actually hit financial freedom (just a coincidence) and he really got on board.

Syonyk

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2017, 06:41:53 PM »
Am I being too harsh?  Is it reasonable to try to change the course of someone else's lifetime of bad spending habits or am I just barking up the wrong tree?  I don't expect clear answers, but I'd appreciate insight from anyone who's been down this road.

You're unlikely to change her spending if she won't even discuss it with you like an adult, and there's likely to be long term resentment if you do marry her and change things.

Might I suggest looking for teachers?  They tend to be pretty good at stretching a dollar thinner than you thought possible. :)

mjr

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2017, 06:44:32 PM »
A saver and a spender is a disastrous combination for a couple.  Wait until things get hard and she starts spending money like it's going out of style to make herself feel better.

Granted I'm carrying some baggage in this area.  But don't make the mistake of assuming it'll just get better.  This needs to be sorted out before you get too involved and if you can't reach common ground, time to leave.

tungsten

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2017, 06:51:34 PM »
Quote
Might I suggest looking for teachers?  They tend to be pretty good at stretching a dollar thinner than you thought possible. :)

I have many friends who are teachers and yes, they do appear to be unusually good at saving!

Thank you all for the advice!
« Last Edit: December 28, 2017, 06:53:42 PM by tungsten »

Noodle

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2017, 09:26:37 PM »
I think you can shift a partner somewhat. For instance, if you were dating someone who was spendy but spending within their means, or someone who carries consumer debt because that's what they assumed everyone did, you might be able to persuade them to adopt another perspective. Someone who persists in high spending at the risk of their rent payment is probably too far down the "spender spectrum" to make a happy match with a Mustachian.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2017, 09:28:43 PM »
RUN!

CharlesBronzee

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2017, 11:14:29 PM »
I've always been the more frugal one and my wife the spendthrift.  Almost all her family are that way - parents, siblings. 

Over time, she has learned to appreciate the importance of managing finances and to be more frugal.  And me, I've learned to know when to live it up a little bit.

We've been happily married for 25 years now, so I guess it can work.  The important thing is that there are other key areas in your life where you are compatible - religion, personality, family views.

So look at the big picture, there will be challenges, but a long term relationship is possible.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2017, 11:17:04 PM by CharlesBronzee »

zeli2033

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2017, 11:19:53 PM »
Am I being too harsh?  Is it reasonable to try to change the course of someone else's lifetime of bad spending habits or am I just barking up the wrong tree?  I don't expect clear answers, but I'd appreciate insight from anyone who's been down this road.

You're not being too harsh, no. I will say that when the flag is this red, starting to plan your life around whether or not someone is gong to change some fundamental part about themselves is a recipe for unmet expectations, resentment and overall relationship disaster.

That said, as the former spendy, complainy pants half of a now married, MMM-aspiring couple, I was always open to hearing what my then-boyfriend had to say about his method of approaching finances, even if I wasn't ready to make changes at the time. Respect was always on the table, even though our perspectives were oppositional. I wasn't anywhere near ready to live a frugal lifestyle at the beginning but we had several tough, pragmatic (and vulnerable) conversations about our financial goals and expectations for us independently and eventually, as a joined couple. Over the years and well before we married, we got on the same page about our financial goals. If there's no shift in her willingness to even have a conversation about it over time, then you have to decide if that's a game-changer for you or not.

Additional food for thought: One thing that probably helped get me onboard faster was my now-husband was very good at letting me come to him in terms of when it was time to make a financial change. He didn't push anything on me and he only made suggestions when I asked for them (we're both stubborn and figured out early on that telling the other person to do something was a guaranteed "NO"). This was all while we were still dating and hadn't merged finances yet so it was easy for him to be patient as I slowly shifted my mindset. As it stands now, I'm the obsessive numbers cruncher and financial projectionist (is that a word? Probably not but let's go with it).

In a nutshell: People don't change unless they want to. Don't expect her to change but if she shows a willingness to then I think you've got options. If she keeps shutting down even having a conversation about it then you have to decide 1) If that's a deal breaker for you and 2) when it's time to cut your losses and move on.

researcher1

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2017, 09:56:34 AM »
Being in my early 30's now...
The critical question here is...
Do you have a desire to settle down and get married?

If you do NOT have this desire, then continue on in the relationship without worrying about her financial issues, since she clearly has no desire to change.

If you DO have a desire to get married, then you need to dump her today and move on with your life.  No sense wasting away any further time with someone you are not compatible with.

slappy

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2017, 10:13:12 AM »
I dated a guy once who was pretty bad with money. His account was always overdrawn and he had terrible credit because he never paid his bills. He kept talking about wanting to buy me a ring and get married, buy a house, etc. I kept thinking "with whose money? am I supposed to finance all of this?"  Needless to say it didn't work out, although not just because of the money thing.

Catbert

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2017, 10:38:48 AM »
I think you can shift a partner somewhat. For instance, if you were dating someone who was spendy but spending within their means, or someone who carries consumer debt because that's what they assumed everyone did, you might be able to persuade them to adopt another perspective. Someone who persists in high spending at the risk of their rent payment is probably too far down the "spender spectrum" to make a happy match with a Mustachian.

I agree with the others, particularly this post.  It also sounds like you aren't "in love" - at least not yet.  So move along now rather than writing again in 5 years when you're married with two kids and a spendy spouse.     

former player

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2017, 11:31:34 AM »
One thing not mentioned yet that is a red flag to me is that this person "is struggling to find stable employment to pay for it all".  If there was a stable career with prospects and money going into a pension fund then someone having a car loan and spending their income might not be a worry: they are at least supporting themselves and looking to the future as much as most people do.  Absent someone creating their own long-term support system through employment and pension it seems to me to be far too easy for the person to fall into someone else being their long-term support system.  The eye-rolling tells me that this person is both conflating your views with the unwelcome ones from their parents and that they see no reason to change their current attitude, and so just confirms the lack of personal responsibility.  (You don't mention their age.  If they were still very early 20s, I guess there might be more prospects for future change.)

I think you need to work out how you see your life going.  I'm guessing based on your post that you would like a long-term relationship.  The current person is not that, and I suspect that even if you take no steps to end the relationship it may well fizzle out sooner or later in any case.  And a lingering but not long-term relationship might not be the best thing for you, as it cuts out the opportunities to find that person who could be the long-term compatible person that you really want.

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2017, 11:39:50 AM »
I do think that people can change (my partner did!), especially with education. But since her parents are frugal it sounds like she has had some education, but still wants to live a flashier lifestyle, then I'm not sure there is much you can do.

I will say that people's spending habits often reflect their values, fears, emotions, etc. If she sees being an adult as getting the things she wants it may be a reaction to her feelings growing up in a frugal home of not having what the cool kids had. That kind of stuff is deep-seated and difficult to get over, but might be worth a conversation so you can understand where she's coming from.

This was actually how I got my partner to change. He was always gainfully employed, and had high earning potential, but he would just buy things and fancy foods he didn't really need without thinking about it, since he could always turn on the money faucet and make more. He wasn't in debt, but when he went to grad school his spending habits began eating away at his savings. When I first brought up budgeting and Mustachianism (about 6 months before we got married, when we were merging our finances) he was resistant. It was really helpful to talk about our feelings around money. For example, I value security, and budgeting makes me feel secure. He values freedom, and he thought budgeting would restrict his freedom. We also talked about our parent's approach to money, what worked and what didn't (actually, I think this is how the conversation got started, because it's easier to talk about other people than ourselves), and what kind of retirement and other long term dreams we want to achieve for ourselves. We also talked a lot about what makes us happiest, and how we can better use our money to facilitate that, in both the short and long term. He agreed to try budgeting (and we had a small amount of no-questions-asked spending money for each of us built into the budget so he wouldn't feel too restricted), and he actually really liked it. I think he enjoyed feeling like things were on track, and that we had a plan and were on the same page, and he realized he didn't feel deprived or restricted in the way he thought he might. We also learned to communicate about money in a healthy way, which has been huge.

So that's my advice. Try and understand what's behind her spending habits, and communicate the thoughts and values behind yours in a way that she can understand (don't just say "my way is obviously better because look at this spreadsheet"). Best of luck.

clarkfan1979

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2017, 01:14:25 PM »
When I met my wife she was 25 with an undergrad degree. She worked in college to help pay and graduated with no student loans. I was 29 and a 3rd year grad student in a Ph.D. program for Social Psychology.

She made 40K and spent 40K, while living with her parents (no housing costs).

While it was great that she graduated with no student loans, it was weird that she made 40K, lived with her parents and carried about 5k of credit card debt for two years. I think her only savings was 5% in a 401K. She contributed 2.5% for a 2.5% employer match.

After two years of dating and graduation coming soon, I told her that if we were to be married, she needed to pay off the credit card within one year. I don't think it was that difficult, but she did it. She just needed a reason.

When it was time to buy our first house I couldn't put her name on the loan because of her car payment. Her debt put us over 45% debt to income ratio. After that happened, she got more aggressive in paying off the car loan. Again, she just needed a reason.

My wife doesn't save anything unless she has a reason. I try to help her find reasons to save. Some years are better than others. Her habits have improved, but she is still the same person. Doesn't expect anyone to change who they are. I don't think that's realistic.


Josiecat

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2017, 01:26:47 PM »
I'd be very careful about marrying someone who has a spotty employment history.  I suspect this person will not want to work and you will be stuck being the bread winner by yourself. 

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #20 on: December 29, 2017, 02:52:44 PM »
You're right to think on an accelerated timeline at your age, and it's not fair to you or her to stick together when you're not going to get married. Personally I'm a fan of direct conversations: "you need to get your shit together or we can't get married." Not to have exactly the same approach, but at least responsibility.

stoaX

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2017, 03:04:49 PM »
Nope.   I've been married over 30 years and can't say that I changed my wife's spending habits.  However, her spending habits, while not mustachian, aren't as bad as what you're describing.  Please know that if the spending habits cause resentment, that's poisonous to healthy relationships.


Zamboni

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2017, 03:16:51 PM »
Nope. In the end, we divorced, and spending habits (particularly problematic when unemployed) were part of the reason.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2017, 10:25:35 AM »
You two are very far apart on how you view and handle money.  That is really iffy in a marriage.

For the record, I know thrifty teachers and spendy teachers, my Ex is a spendy teacher.  They just can't be as spendy as someone making 2X the salary.

Peony

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2017, 11:08:04 AM »
I was the spendy partner in my marriage and I have changed a lot. I can see now how frustrating my behavior and attitude must have been for my ExH, who was 9 years older and much more naturally frugal and non-materialistic.

That said, our marriage didn't last, and I only got my act together once I was on my own. And while I am still a happy co-parent with my ExH, I can see that in a weird way our spending habits still wouldn't be compatible. We have each have a distinct aesthetic sense that we can't compromise on without feeling, well, compromised. I'm naturally minimal and, in my thrifty way, I will pay (via eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, etc.) for things that I find beautiful and useful. He's tolerant of clutter and tchotchkes can have sentimental value for him, and I don't like being in his space for very long because I just find it kind of ugly.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, yes, she certainly could come around to your way of viewing money eventually. But there also COULD be other aspects to your money differences that might preclude a happy relationship.

Also, I do find the inability to find or commit to steady work to be a significant red flag. Neither my ExH nor I had that issue.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2017, 11:09:59 AM by Peony »

SeaEhm

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #25 on: December 31, 2017, 11:46:46 AM »
How old is she?

My biggest worry is her lacking the ability to keep a stable job.

My wife is quite spendy.  This means a lot coming from me because I am probably the less frugal person here. However, she currently accepts her future in terms of employment to fund her lifestyle.  She is a hard worker and I know that she will be able to fund her lifestyle without it causing a financial issue.   Though she spends A LOT, she still has a good financial cushion.

People and their financial outlook can change.  I know that I have seen this in my personal beliefs.  I think it would suck if I was "passed up" on because I had a short period of my life when I was a bit more spendy and "immature" in my spending. 

Work ethic and ability to deal with the punches of employment rather than spending is what I would focus on

C-note

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #26 on: December 31, 2017, 12:15:31 PM »
Yes - he was able to change my spending habits because I wanted to change and I wanted to do that for us.  While we were dating, I paid off my Macy's credit card and cut it up.  He sent me flowers with a sympathy card for my "loss" - and the rest is history.

If she's not showing any inclination towards a modest or frugal lifestyle that would indicate to me that she's not interested in changing towards one. 


Drole

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #27 on: December 31, 2017, 12:22:12 PM »
Not really able to change my partner's habits, but I work hard to minimize the potential for issues (I do the shopping and try to stay ahead of needs, etc).  There's been some improvement for sure, but still all budgeting, tracking and planning falls to me. 

Mrs. S

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #28 on: January 01, 2018, 03:20:51 AM »
I changed but I never started with finding expensive clothes necessary. As long as I was not in debt even from a friend I had absolutely no problem spending my money. I still saved 10% of my salary and for the longest time that was all. My habits changed when it became clear that I could either travel or buy shoes. Every piece of clothing became something that stood for a meal in some foreign destination and I drastically cut down on expenses. Eating out still remains a huge expense for us and we are trying to tackle it with all our might. We are cooking more and improving the variety of food we make.

To put it simply I had a reason why spending became a bad thing. Travelling still motivates me but the habit has tuck and even though our salary is over 2 times of what we bought home then we are still spending far less on almost everything. I wanted to change and saw reasons why it would benefit me. Had I been forced into it I would have pushed back with all my might. We did have those fights initially but we kept money separate so I always came back with I am not infringing with your money don't tell me what to do with mine. I always had a stable job with good prospects and as our income increased we actually reduced our expenses.

More importantly (since you are in the dating phase of relationship) I never thought he would be spending money on me or as much as me. We have fairly cheap dates which we each paid 50% for. Is there an expectation that you would match her at some level? Does this mean eating out is more expensive for you if you are together? Is your effort in cooking for her appreciated? Most importantly are you OK to keep separate finances and let your partner go through the consequences of their actions? Will bailing her out make you resentful?

Laura33

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Re: Were you able to change your partners spending habits? I'm in a pinch.
« Reply #29 on: January 01, 2018, 01:12:31 PM »
Unlikely from what you have shared.

Question:  have you talked to her about why she likes living this way?  Not in a snotty “how can you live this way?” way, but to genuinely try to understand?  What I am reading suggests that you see your way as right and hers as wrong, and you then further see it as your job to persuade her of the wrongness of her ways.  That never works — as you saw, you offered to fix her (putting yourself in a superior/parental position), and were then surprised when she responded like a pissy teen. 

If you are interested in making this work, you need to understand why she likes spending money — why she values that more highly than the security you value, why the present matters more than the future.  It may be a temporary stage; since she grew up frugally, she may be enjoying the freedom to buy all the stuff she couldn’t have growing up.  Or it may be a more permanent part of her personality (the $200 in clothes is less concerning than her apparent inability to keep a job and lack of any fire or desire to get on some kind of career path).  The only way to know is to stop trying to change her and focus instead on understanding what is driving her — and to give her the chance to understand what is driving you.  That way, you can see more clearly whether you are willing to meet each other partway — not because one of you is “right” and the other is “wrong,” but because you both love each other and want your partner to be happy.  Lord knows my DH still doesn’t entirely get why I am so obsessed with having a big ‘stache — but he went along for years before FIRE even seemed like a realistic option, simply because he knew I needed it to feel safe and happy.