Personal Finance

Do You Lie to Your Spouse About Holiday Spending?

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If you have been less than forthright with your significant other about what you spend on holiday merriment, you have lots of company. Holiday spending can be a minefield for couples, and some partners who disagree resort to subterfuge. Among couples, a third have lied to their partners about holiday spending, and many say they have tried to conceal purchases, according to a new survey.

The report from McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union outlined findings from a survey of 1,000 American adults in three relationship categories: heterosexual married couples, same-sex couples in a committed relationship or married and couples in a relationship or remarried following a divorce. The heterosexual married couples reported the highest rates of lies, disagreements and cover-ups.

Spending soars in the last two months of the year, particularly credit card spending in December, and many consumers acknowledge getting carried away with gift shopping and social expenses. That can strain anyone’s finances, so it’s not surprising to see tension arise when couples tackle the holiday-spending budget.

That’s the first thing — there should be such a budget, and everyone needs to stick to it in order to avoid overspending and potentially racking up credit card debt or overdrafting bank accounts. Two people may have different ideas about how the budget should come together, which is reflected in the survey, but it’s important to discuss it and come to an agreement.

Nearly half (48%) of heterosexual married couples reported disagreeing over how to approach holiday expenses. That share falls to 43% among the divorced group and 37% among same-sex couples.

The trend held mostly true throughout the survey. About a third of married consumers had lied about spending behaviors, whereas 25% of both divorced and same-sex couples said they had been untruthful. More than half of the married group had used cash to conceal spending, with a third of same-sex couples doing so, though same-sex couples were more likely to intercept and pay a bill before a partner could pay it.

A majority of shoppers have experienced buyer’s remorse: More than half of us (55%) have returned items because we felt guilty about the cost.

Spending more during the holidays is entirely reasonable, as long as there’s a plan to manage the costs and it doesn’t interfere with financial obligations, such as loan and bill payments. There are many tools consumers can use to make the most of their holiday spending, as long as they’re used responsibly, like layaway and store credit cards.

But overspending can have serious consequences. Things like late bill payments and credit card debt can result in both anxiety and lower credit scores. Before you break out out the gift wrap, get a clear picture of your financial standing by looking at your credit reports. You can also see how credit card usage would impact your credit scores by looking at your profile through’s free Credit Report Card. While gift-giving and party-hosting can be sources of joy, they shouldn’t lead to a financial hangover.

Image: iStock

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