You can buy kitschy doormats that tell delivery drivers, “Please hide packages from my husband” or “Please hide packages from my wife.”
Splurging, it seems, is a lot of people’s dirty little secret.
Codetic recently surveyed nearly 2,000 Americans on their budgeting and spending habits and found 1 in 4 respondents have kept a purchase secret from their significant other out of fear of how they would react.
Of those, 57% were women. The survey also found that 62% of those who said they’ve made a secret purchase have credit card debt.
Those who kept a purchase hidden from their significant other were also more likely to have splurged on something in the past two years that impacted their ability to pay bills.
What is it that causes us to be so secretive about our spending?
“I think a lot of it has to do with just not talking about money,” said Brittany Davis, an Accredited Financial Counselor and associate financial planner at Brunch and Budget. “People don’t like to discuss money, and I think that needs to stop.”
Managing Money — Honestly — as a Couple
People stay mum about their spending, experts say, because it’s easier than potentially upsetting their partner. If you knew saying “I dropped $200 on Nikes” or “I’m going all in on crypto” would start an argument, it’s tempting to just stay silent.
Orienting money conversations around shared goals can help couples nix the secret spending.
“Broke Millennial Talks Money” author Erin Lowry recently spoke with Codetic about having tough financial conversations. One piece of advice she had for couples was to create financial goals together and refer to those goals whenever there’s a disagreement about how to spend money.
“[Think] about what do you want this year, what do you want in the next three to five years, what do you want your future to look like,” Lowry said. “Is your money being put in alignment … with those goals?”
Set goals you’ll actually achieve by making them SMART goals. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
Establishing a regular budget date night or family budget meeting is a way to get in the habit of openly discussing money together.
“You don’t have to get into the numbers,” Davis said. “You can just talk about, ‘Hey I feel guilty about this spending habit.’”
“The goal is to keep the meeting brief and light and talk about where you’re at and where you want to be,” said Scott Henderson, an Accredited Financial Counselor and marketing manager at Qube Money.
He suggested that couples decide on a monthly amount each person can spend that is guilt-free, no-questions-asked spending. Establishing a fun money budget gives each person the freedom to spend how they wish without having to worry about their partner’s reaction — and without it getting in the way of financial obligations or goals.
You really want those Nikes? If you’ve got $200 in your fun money fund, go for it.
Sharing the same budgeting tools can help. Qube Money, for example, is a budgeting app that lets couples set up a joint account with real-time transaction notifications, giving each partner complete awareness of what’s going on with their money, Henderson said.
Not ready for so much sharing? Another solution for couples is to keep their finances separate. You both commit to covering an agreed-upon portion of household bills, expenses and savings, and the rest of your money is yours to spend as you please.
There’s no need to keep a purchase secret from your significant other, because you’ve already incorporated that autonomy into your spending.
Knowing When to Bring in a Pro
Not all financial issues in a relationship are an easy fix. Sometimes it’s best to bring in a professional before you get into yet another argument.
A financial counselor or financial therapist — which both differ significantly from a financial planner or adviser — can assist you in sorting out financial infidelity in your relationship. The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education has a portal where you can search for an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC). The Financial Therapy Association maintains a directory of financial therapists.
The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education is offering free counseling sessions for people who are struggling financially due to the pandemic.
Whether or not you seek help from an objective third party, it’s vital to come up with a plan that gives each person some autonomy over their spending without wrecking your collective money goals.
Because no one needs secretive spending derailing their finances — or their relationship.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at Codetic.