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Secret spending: A look at financial infidelity


Well-Known TRIBEr
Thought some of you couples out there would find this interesting.

Secret spending: How much can you buy without clearing it with your spouse or partner first? Who sets the limits? And what happens if you get caught cheating? A look at financial infidelity

The Calgary Herald
Fri 05 May 2006
Page: C14 / Front
Section: Real Life
Byline: Susan Schwartz
Source: CanWest News Service

We don't dwell on it. But a lot of us are, well, less than candid with our partners and spouses about how we spend. And on what. And how much.

From leaving purchases in the trunk until the coast is clear to discounting what we paid for something to pretending a new jacket isn't really new at all, we edit reality somewhat.

So, is that OK?

One fiftysomething lawyer limits her surreptitious shopping to items "that don't put a dent in our finances, things we can afford but that I want and will appreciate -- shoes, clothes, jewelry -- and that I know my husband won't appreciate.

"And acquiring them covertly is a tidy way of avoiding a conflict which would see him say, 'No: don't want it' and me having to go to the barricades for it."

Others are more categorical: "My feelings are simple," one fortysomething woman observed. "I work; he works. I have my money; he has his. I feel zero obligation to inform him of my spending and do not expect him to tell me about his."

Spending, then, can be seen as a way to assert one's independence within a partnership.

"I think there's something about keeping your own identity, your own style, your own self -- it's something that's just yours -- that motivates these purchases," said the fiftysomething lawyer, mother to two university-aged children, one of a couple of dozen people who agreed to discuss their secret spending habits as long as their covers weren't blown. "I also think there's something therapeutic about splurging in a way that's a complete indulgence."

According to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, up to half of all couples acknowledge they spend surreptitiously. Like the Montreal executive and mother who waits until her husband is out to retrieve her purchases from the trunk of the car.

"I just don't want to hear the groaning or grunting about my decision," she said. "If you feel you need a new suit or a new dress, or you want it, you don't necessarily need his opinion on it."

In calling the act of spending behind one's spouse's back financial infidelity, writer Jeffrey Zaslow ascribes a moral dimension to the practice.

To business coach Fred Horowitz, "hiding spending from a partner suppresses self-expression and hurts the relationship."

For Shelagh Coinner, a Montreal-area psychotherapist who does individual and couples therapy, "money is a metaphor for what sort of communication a couple has. If there are secrets, what does that say about the line of communication between them?"

Others, like business etiquette consultant Lynda Goldman, believe partners should have discretionary spending money, no questions asked, with amount and circumstances to be decided together according to finances and lifestyle. Decisions on substantial purchases, it's generally agreed, should be joint ones.

Secret spending becomes detrimental to a relationship when it becomes a problem of communication, says Mara Riff-Melnik, a clinical psychologist. Budgeting is a huge issue for many couples -- and that's whether they're both employed or one is, whether there is little money or a lot. Money is "up there with the two or three things couples argue most about. I see it all the time."

A 2005 Investors Group/Decima poll showed 25 per cent of adults describe disagreements with their partners about finances as severe and that 31 per cent cited spending as the cause of their most recent disagreement about money.

Money is such an emotional topic, said Debbie Ammeter, vice-president of advanced financial planning at Investors Group. "We bring all sorts of attitudes to money, depending on upbringing and personality, to a relationship -- and our money personalities aren't necessarily the same as those of our partners."

Some people are planners; others are spenders. "And it's difficult to know which your partner is if you don't communicate. The more you can be open, the better your money relationship can be," Ammeter said.

Which is why it's sometimes helpful, she said, to have a neutral third party -- be it financial planner or therapist, since the good ones are a bit of each -- and some uninterrupted time to discuss your joint financial goals. Realistically.

For one management consultant for whom financial independence has always been crucially important, "there are things I would not consult my husband about because it holds no relevance for him knowing I went for a facial or decided to buy underwear, for example. And he doesn't discuss what he buys on his side."

If he wants an expensive television set, then, it's his decision. "On the other hand, if we are talking about a painting, or something for the two of us, we consult."

The two are clear on their long-term financial objectives, she said. "And as long as we are working toward that, even in a couple, I think it is important to have some privacy."

Riff-Melnik calls herself a huge believer in couples making sure they are on the same page.

"You will never have exactly the same parameters, because you are two different people, but compromise and flexibility are important. To me, that is the bottom line."

• Cartoon: Illustration by Pierre Lamielle, Calgary Herald / (See hard copy for illustration).

Edition: Final
Story Type: News
Length: 855 words
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TRIBE Member
same. I work for my cash, and she wor.....oh wait there is no she.

I'm gonna go cry now


TRIBE Member
lets hear from people that are married. I don't think being 1.5 years into a relationship and sharing finances is really a reality anyway.
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TRIBE Member
Boss Hog said:
I work, my money. She works, her money. end of story.

wait till you have to buy a roof/ house/ cars/big trips etc... suddenly his/her expenses become a factor.
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TRIBE Member
kids change everything though... its more than just another bill you have to pay. plus i think people start to expect some accountability when it could go to their baby.


TRIBE Member
My girlfriends office is in a mall. I see a new shoping bag everyday. I dont complain because sometimes the bag is for me.


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kyfe said:
wait till you have to buy a roof/ house/ cars/big trips etc... suddenly his/her expenses become a factor.

My ex bought a condo without telling me. Is that what you’re talking about?
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TRIBE Member
Thanks to online banking my wife and I can see where all our money goes, so items that show up that aren't in our budget are subject to, how shall I say it, inquiry.

That leaves personal credit cards, and I admit to making more than a few secret purchases (buying records or mixtapes and immediately shelving them with the rest of my collection so nobody was the wiser) but that had to stop as my credit card payments were growing ever-larger and that became suspicious all on its own. Plus it was stupid of me to go into debt for stuff like records and $20 ATM withdrawls so I could buy fast food or something. I got rid of the card.

Plus, our budget's so razor thin that a shopping spree on either of our parts pretty much takes food out of our daughters' mouths. So that's a strong deterrent.

Dr Funk MD

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Subsonic Chronic said:
ahahaha... Memories of my dad showing up one morning with a fucking BOAT, and the unimpressed look on my mom's face.
My dad did the same thing only with a 1973 Mercedes. No one knew he was buying it until the previous owner showed up at the door with it.


TRIBE Member
Good work brandon (On keeping priorities straight). I'm going to definetly have 2 accounts: one for me, one for her. the third one will be the joint account. however, i believe in financial flexibiltiy and that the person will make the right choices. right now, kidless, i don't see a problem when my chick spends $$$ on jeans. but i'm sure she'll re-think those purchases when there is a little fat sausage to feed. Or two.

Interesting article, to say the least.
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TRIBE Member
i think if i just discreetley sell her old shoes as she buys new ones a cycle of financial renewability can be achieved. She will have so many shoes as to not notice, and perhaps if I open a dummy corporation I can depreciate her shoe purchases so as to recoup any losses taken from the price differences between a new shoe purchase and a second hand shoe sale.


TRIBE Member
i've always kept my finances completely separate from my partners - even in long term relationships. it just makes things easier (assuming you don't own property together or have a kid.)

also made the breaking up much less hassle. ;)

i do understand the convenience of combining forces once you have mutual financial interests (i.e. a mortgage), but it makes me a little squirrely. [i trust easily, except when it comes to money.]


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Bumbaclat said:
lets hear from people that are married. I don't think being 1.5 years into a relationship and sharing finances is really a reality anyway.

married 4 years together 13.

my money is my money and her money is her money.

it's just easier that way. buy whatever you want and i'll buy whatever i want as long as we can both afford it.
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