- Money is a common source of conflict in relationships, especially when one person spends more money than the other thinks.
- We asked relationship and personal finance experts for signs your spouse is secretly spending more money than you think.
- Red flags include frequent shopping trips, a decreasing credit score, and a reluctance to talk about finances.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
All couples will likely argue over finances at some point.
But there’s a difference between discussing them openly versus overspending money behind your partner’s back. After all, trust is the foundation of a relationship, including being open about money, especially from a joint account.
Not only is money one of the most commonly reasons for divorce, it’s also the No. 1 thing couples argue about, relationship therapist Jen Elmquist, author of “Relationship Reset: Secrets from a Couples Therapist That Will Revolutionise Your Love for a Lifetime,” told Business Insider.
“When one partner feels the need to hide spending, it is a red flag that a money issue is affecting the relationship,” she said.
We asked Elmiqust and other experts for signs your spouse is secretly spending more money than you think.
Here are the red flags they said to look out for.
You find new items that you didn’t know they bought
Hiding purchases is a common sign that your spouse doesn’t want you to know about what they bought or how much they spent, Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings writer, told Business Insider in an email.
“Finding secret purchases is a big red flag,” she said. “It’s important to approach the issue delicately, though – explain that you feel it’s secretive and how their purchases affect your finances and future goals.”
Woroch suggests implementing a spending rule: Decide on a specific budget in which all purchases over a certain amount must be discussed together.
“This could be anything over $US100 or $US200, depending on your financial situation,” she said. “In some cases, it’s a good idea that each partner has some fun money each month, too, with no comments from the other partner.”
They intercept bills before you can see them
Trust is the pillar of a healthy relationship, so if your partner is hiding things from you, such as bills before you can see them, it’s not a good sign.
“If your partner is being sneaky and keeping statements from you, something’s off,” Elmquist said. “Once or twice could just be a mistake, but if it’s consistent, let them know you need to see the statements.”
You discover that they have new accounts, such as credit cards or personal loans
Another sign your partner may be overspending is if you find they have bank accounts or credit cards that you weren’t aware of, Nick Holeman, a financial planner at Betterment, told Business Insider in an email.
“Most accounts and credit cards have a monthly statement, or you may receive a 1099-INT around tax time from any bank accounts that paid interest,” he said. “Approach financial planning from a partnership perspective, and have a direct conversation on all bank accounts and credit cards under each person’s name.”
This way, you can have a better understanding of your larger financial picture as a team, he added.
Andrew Schrage, CEO of the personal-finance site Money Crashers, said to be aware of new credit applications or credit cards.
“If your partner is spending recklessly, it’s possible they will apply for an extra credit card or a personal loan to help cover their overspending,” he told Business Insider in an email. “If you notice an unusual uptick in letters from credit card companies or promotional offers for credit, then it’s possible they’re trying to take on more debt.”
They frequently splurge or justify big purchases you two didn’t discuss in advance
Schrage said that many financially savvy people will shop strategically – they will get their electronics on Black Friday or wait until the turn of the New Year to buy an appliance as a retailer brings in the next year’s models.
“An overspending spouse, on the other hand, might go out to buy groceries and come back home with a new gadget or a litany of additional items that weren’t on the shopping list,” he said. “If this happens on a regular basis, then it’s a sign they’re spending too much.”
Elmquist suggests that if your partner does this frequently, it’s good for you both to agree in advance to a maximum purchase amount.
“This is a boundary that can save your relationship from unnecessary financial conflict,” she said.
She added that if your partner doesn’t want a boundary or can’t honour it, it’s a sign of a spending problem.
Their credit score is decreasing
Holeman said another sign your significant other may be secretly overspending is if their credit score decreases.
“Many behaviours that are associated with a spending problem are also negative dings on your credit score,” he said. “For example, carrying a high balance on your credit cards can increase your utilization ratio, which can hurt your score, as can making late payments.”
In addition, he said that each time you open a new credit card, your score usually goes down temporarily by a few points.
They will round down when it comes to purchases
If your partner is ashamed or embarrassed about their spending, they may start to round down their purchases.
“If they bought an item for $US65, they might say it cost $US60,” Schrage said. “While seemingly insignificant, rounding down is a sign that a spouse isn’t being careful with their spending or that they’re trying to downplay how much they have spent.”
He said the danger comes in when these costs add up if a partner does this on a consistent basis.
They don’t want to have regular financial talks or check-ins
Holeman said a way to make sure you and your partner are on the same financial page is to have regular check-ins. But if your partner refuses, this could be because they know they’re spending too much.
“Check-ins will track your progress towards your financial goals, and see if anything needs adjusting,” he said. “If your partner is reluctant, it could mean they just aren’t comfortable with discussing money or something more serious, like they are hiding something.”
And Woroch said it’s not a good sign when your spouse is suddenly hyper-sensitive or uncomfortable about discussing your joint financial situation or budget.
“Someone who doesn’t want to talk about money or credit card debt is likely spending more than they should,” she said.
They want to control all the finances (and not loop you in)
Elmquist said another sign your spouse could be spending more than they’re sharing with you is if they want to control all the finances – and not loop you in.
“There are many ways for a couple to arrange their finances, but no matter the arrangement, they should both be aware of and have access to what’s going on,” she said. “This includes accounts, investments, insurance, and credit reports.”
She added that if your financial future is connected to another person, you are responsible to be in the know.
They don’t want to speak to a financial professional
While you may think a financial professional could help you and your spouse better align with money goals, if your partner is resistant, there may be a bigger reason behind it.
“It’s good to have both spouses be comfortable speaking with financial advisers or accountants,” Holeman said. “Getting more involved with your financial professionals can help you both gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on in your finances.”
He added that while observing one of these signs may not mean your partner is spending money without telling you, be wary if you see more than one.
“As always, it’s best to try speaking openly with your spouse about these things first, and to deal with them together,” he said.
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