1 in 3 Aussies hide transactions from their other half

We look at the secret spending habits of those in relationships and how you can work together to manage your joint expenditure.

If you’ve been probing your partner about where all their money goes, or hoping they don’t ask you the same question, secret spending habits could be the reason.

According to research, released by comparison website Finder in 2017, nearly a third of those in relationships spend money they don’t tell their other half about.1

Who’s spending what?

The study, which compiled responses from more than 2,000 Australians, found2:

  • the majority (69%) of those in a relationship have not hidden purchases from their partner, while the rest (31%) admitted to keeping some transactions concealed
  • more men (33%) said they fibbed about spending, compared to 30% of women
  • fashion and beauty items, gambling and pleasure foods topped the list for secret purchases 
  • alcohol and cigarettes were also identified as common expenses people kept under wraps 
  • women were six times as likely to hide clothing and beauty purchases than men, while men were four times as likely to hide gambling transactions than women.

Is secret spending ok?

Bessie Hassan, Money Expert at Finder, said the decision to keep spending a secret from your partner depends on the nature of the relationship and for those who haven’t been together long, it can make sense to keep certain transactions private.3

She said there are many reasons why people may feel obliged to keep certain expenses hidden, pointing to people possibly feeling embarrassed by their spending behaviour and wanting to avoid tension if money is a common source of conflict.4

For those who are in a long-term relationship and trusted their partner completely, Hassan said opening a joint account can be a good idea as couples would pay fewer account-keeping fees and could work towards shared financial goals.5

How many couples have joint accounts?

While many prefer to keep their finances separate—whether they indulge in secret spending or not—around one in five couples have a shared savings account, and one in four, a joint credit card.6

Despite the potential benefits, such as paying fees on one rather than two accounts and repayments possibly being easier to manage, there are still pros and cons worth weighing up.

For instance, if your partner racks up a large debt on your joint credit card, you’re both responsible for paying it back. And, if they default, it will affect their credit rating as well as yours.

The consequences of financial infidelity

A survey by Relationships Australia highlighted that financial stress was one of the key negative influences on a couple’s relationship, with disagreements about money a major cause of divorce.7

About 85% of respondents indicated that financial problems were likely to push couples apart8, which was why openness, honesty, and planning together played a big part.

How you can work effectively as a team

With the average household debt in Australia sitting at around $245,0009, if considerable money is going unaccounted for, it might be time to come clean and devise a plan that works for both of you.

To ensure you and your partner’s current and future goals are being considered, there are a few things worth discussing up front and on a regular basis. This might include things like:

  • your views on money management
  • secret spending habits if you have any
  • your financial situation—income, expenses, assets and debts
  • your credit history, as this could impact your borrowing potential
  • your individual and shared financial goals—travel, marriage, children, property
  • what a workable budget and savings plan might look like
  • how you’ll contribute/divide repayments and bills – 50/50 or proportionate to income
  • your contingency plan if one of you is unable to work at some point in the future.

Where to go for assistance

If you want help creating a workable budget, try our online budget planner calculator.

If you want to track your spending, check out the Money Manager function inside My AMP.

To take the hard work out of managing your money, check out the AMP Bett3r Account.

For further information, speak to your adviser and if you don’t have one, call us on 131 267.

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Any advice in this page is general in nature and is provided by AMP Life Limited ABN 84 079 300 379 (AMP Life). The advice does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Therefore, before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of this advice having regard to those matters. AMP Bett3r Account is issued by AMP Bank Limited ABN 15 081 596 009, AFSL 234517. Consider the terms and conditions available on request by calling 13 30 30 or at amp.com.au/bett3r and whether this product is appropriate for you. Fees and charges apply.

Although the information is from sources considered reliable, AMP does not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any decision. Except where liability cannot be excluded, AMP does not accept any liability for any resulting loss or damage.