Are You Financially Unfaithful?

by Alex J. Coyne

Do you hide your spending from your significant other? Do you have credit cards your spouse doesn’t know about? Or perhaps your spouse is hiding their spending from you. If so, one of you is guilty of financial infidelity and it can be as harmful to a marriage as an affair.

According to this poll from CreditCards.com, 13 million Americans are guilty of committing financial infidelity, and that’s only those willing to admit it! Is your partner cheating financially, or are you the guilty one? Here’s how to spot and overcome financial infidelity:

Discuss finances early on.

Before entering into a relationship (or marriage), discuss how you will handle your finances as a unit. Decide who will pay for what and if your income will count as a collective. Now is a good time to set up a prenuptial agreement.

Look for the signs.

Just like with old school cheating, trust your intuition. Signs of financial infidelity can include:

  • Being denied access to accounts, statements, tax returns, and other financial information by your spouse (especially when you’ve agreed otherwise and things suddenly change).
  • Unexpected bills or packages showing up. This can include credit card bills you had no idea about, odd charges on statements (when it isn’t anyone’s anniversary or birthday in two weeks), and old school bills in the mail that make you wonder.
  • The budget stops making sense. Where is the $500 we were supposed to spend on gas this week?

It can start small.

Buying a $5 cup of coffee on the way to work doesn’t seem like a big deal, but multiply it by 365 days and you’ve got a total of $1,825. Secretly smoking when your partner isn’t looking can add up, too. Financial infidelity can be big. Some lead a financial double life entirely! It can also be small at first and add up to huge numbers over time.

Budget together.

Sit down to discuss the budget every week or once a month. Make a list of your income(s) and expenses and decide which money will go where. If any changes are made from the budget, discuss it with your spouse or partner. The best way to deal with financial infidelity is to sit down and discuss everything openly. Nearly everyone has made purchases in secret, but you can get a handle on it before it becomes a problem if you’re able to sit your partner down and be honest.

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Have your (credit and debit) cards on the table.

Be open about any accounts, credit cards, debts, and financial commitments you might have; in return, it’s not too much to expect the same from your partner. It’s much harder to run up an account that your partner knows about.

Put money away.

Everyone has something they want to spend their own money on once in a while like a beauty treatment, a stack of books, a special on consoles, and maybe a new guitar. When budgeting, leave some room on both sides for “money I can spend without you looking” and decide exactly how much.

Have you overspent your way into debt?

Make a plan to get back out. Get How to Conquer Your Debt No Matter How Much You Have and create a debt payoff plan personalized to your budget and lifestyle.

Starting to fix it.

It’s possible to fix things if your relationship has already hit rock bottom after financial infidelity. Here’s where to start.

  • Change the way you think and talk about money.
  • Reassess your income and financial responsibilities.
  • View the debt at a glance. Split it up into more manageable payments during a long period of time or pay ahead when you can afford to.
  • Cancel any unnecessary cards or accounts.
  • Sometimes financial infidelity is only the symptom of a bigger problem. It’s important to discuss why it happened in the first place as you plan on going forward.

Reviewed June 2019

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