Debt is a topic that many people do not discuss enough when dating, getting married, or even when you are already married. Debt is an ugly thing…it causes the majority of stress in a relationship. The problem is that most people do not even discuss this with their soon to be spouse. They don’t usually talk about how they feel in regards to credit card debt, or just debt in general until it piles up and you in a real pickle.
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In a study done by creditcards.com, one in five Americans have spent $500 or more on a purchase without their partners knowledge. In that study, men were more likely to have done so than their wives. Are you ready for this next statistic??? Approximately 7.2 million Americans have hidden a bank or credit card account from their spouse or partner. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number was higher today. This study was done in 2015. Why do you think people hide debt from their spouses? Have you done it? No judgement here, but I really wanted to write a post on how you can try to stop hiding debt and purchases and keep your relationship healthy.
I have had my fair share of arguments with my husband on finances. We spend money very differently and grew up very differently. My family put everything on credit cards, but paid them off before the interest accrued. They used them to gain rewards points, sky miles, etc…. So for me, credit cards aren’t for spending money you don’t have…I like to use them to make the same purchases I would already be making and earn some rewards in the process. My husband on the other hand hates the idea of credit cards. He doesn’t care how much money you can save or air miles you can earn. He would rather pay cash for everything. This is what led me to my own experience with hiding debt from my spouse. I could not turn down these offers. I felt a need to save money if I had the opportunity to do so. Now, when I say hiding debt, I mean just the way it was purchased. I did not hide the actual item that was purchased. He just never really asked about them because it wasn’t a compulsive habit. This started to become an issue when we were on a single income (and currently still on a single income). I would buy groceries, to earn my 2% cash back, then money would be tight and I would not be able to pay the full amount off. One night we stayed up late discussing this very issue and now it has been resolved, and the marriage is happier. See he did not care about saving money, he just wanted to not have to worry about what credit card bill was due at what time in order to prevent interest from accruing. I have a dang Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, doesn’t make it any easier…. I just know what I should and should not be doing. It is a constant battle.
Not all stories have a happy ending though! I still struggle with passing by opportunities to earn extra rewards and percentages off, but it certainly is not worth my marriage and stressing my husband out. So that is what I am here to do… to try to help others from secret spending so that they can have a healthier marriage as well. Here are some tips:
- Set up a monthly allowance in your budget. When you do a budget, and you should be in order to keep things on the up and up with your significant other, set an amount that you each get for “fun money.” The hardest and most important step is having self control. If you are truly trying to stick to your budget, then set yourself up for success by allowing personal spending. If you don’t have the money to designate to personal spending, then you shouldn’t be spending in the first place. (Again, I know this is easier said than done especially when you consider that the average U.S. household is carrying approximately $16,748 in credit card debt alone.) Which brings me to my next tip.
- When you think about purchasing that item you are hiding from your spouse ask yourself is it really worth it? Is it really worth the added stress of now trying to figure out how you are going to make credit card payments without your spouse knowing. Also, not an easy decision to make when you are an impulse buyer. So we need to get our impulsiveness under control. If you want some help on stopping impulse buying, check this out from WiseBread.
- Follow personal finance boards on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Subscribe to their emails. It is much easier to stick to your goals and budget when you have the resources to do so. When you get that email about “how to become debt free” and so on, read it… this is a constant struggle for most people and you are not alone! I can’t tell you how many times I just want to say eff it and use my credit cards. I just have to remind myself what is at stake and what is more important.
- This should really be at the top of the list…do not live beyond your means. Most successful debt free people live on less than they make. Another good saying to live by is from Warren Buffet “pay yourself first.” Which means, put your money in savings first (or investments) then spend what is left over. Do not spend first then save, because you will never save any money. You have to change the way you view your money. If you know you have a problem, then the first step is acknowledging the problem.
- Have a monthly discussion with your spouse about your financial goals. Reminding yourself of your goals will help you to stay on tract and make you think twice when you go to swipe that card.
- Finally, if you really find yourself needing something that bad, then just discuss it with your significant other. Tell them, look, I don’t want to hide this from you but I really want this new pair of shoes, or whatever it may be. You never know, they might be happy that you came to them first instead of secretly spending the money. Maybe they will give you some of their designated personal money to get your new item! It’s about give and take ya’ll!
If you still find yourself struggling with hiding debt and purchases from your spouse, then you might want to think about counseling. It really is a psychological problem for a lot of people, myself included. A therapist might help you to be able get it under control. There is nothing to be ashamed of about getting help. You are doing something most people are too proud to do and then they spend their lives miserable and eventually divorced all over the inability to get their spending under control. Let’s think about what is really important….and if your spouse is not more important that material things, then perhaps you should not be married.