The Shame of Secret Spending
5. You Keep Your Bank Accounts Separate -- But Maybe Not Equal
Why you fight: Maybe one person takes on more of the fixed expenses, like the mortgage, car payments, and insurance, while the other pays for the variable expenses, such as clothing, food, transportation and household items. Variable expenses can't be predicted, so one partner can often wind up in the hole.
How to stop: Having separate accounts doesn't have to be a source of conflict. A good rule of thumb is to divvy up the monthly expenses based on the percentage of income each person contributes to the household. For example, if one partner has an annual salary of $50,000 and the other makes $25,000, the partner who earns $50,000 can contribute twice what his or her spouse does.
The bottom line: It's a good idea to sit down once a month and talk about what's being spent and on what, so each person is aware of the entire financial picture.
6. One of You Is a "Secret Spender"
Why you fight: This is sometimes known as financial infidelity? It may be that one of you isn't used to being accountable for your spending habits, or that you fear the reaction of your partner. But when your secret shopping sprees or piles of debt are discovered, your partner will feel betrayed, and you will be on the hot seat.
How to stop: If you're already deep into your relationship when this pattern of behavior is revealed, there are several ways to handle it. Create a separate bank account for the spender and give him or her a fixed amount of spending money each month, or, if the situation is dire, enlist the help of a counselor to find out why the shopper feels the need to keep secrets.
The bottom line: The easiest way to avoid this fight is to have an open discussion about your spending habits before you ever merge your finances. If you're already in the relationship, focus the conversation on the importance of trust.