Cou­ples’ spend­ing habits linked to hap­pi­ness

The Morning Call (Sunday) - - BUSINESS CYCLE - By Dar­cel Rockett

One may be the loneli­est num­ber, but cou­ple­dom car­ries pit­falls with it as well — when it comes to hol­i­day spend­ing, that is.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the per­sonal fi­nance soft­ware­maker Quicken that looked at spend­ing lim­its and cou­ples to gauge their hap­pi­ness dur­ing the hol­i­days, it ap­pears that those who agreed on hol­i­day bud­get lim­its rated their re­la­tion­ship sat­is­fac­tion higher than those who didn’t.

“In­ter­est­ingly, hol­i­dayspend­ing de­cep­tion is in the spirit of the adage, ‘It’s bet­ter to give than re­ceive,’ ” said Aimee Young, Quicken’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer. “Seventy per­cent of adults said they agreed on an­nual spend­ing lim­its with their part­ner, but iron­i­cally 81 per­cent of those ad­mit­ted to over­spend­ing those lim­its — specif­i­cally on gifts for their part­ner.”

The on­line sur­vey was con­ducted Nov. 3-4 among 1,046 mar­ried adults in the United States, age 18 and over. Other find­ings in the sur­vey re­vealed:

Forty-seven per­cent of the peo­ple who said they set a limit on spend­ing have de­ceived their sig­nif­i­cant other about how much they spend on gifts.

One in 5 adults have for­got­ten to buy a hol­i­day gift for their part­ner (and they re­port be­ing less sat­is­fied in their mar­riages).

And 28 per­cent of those polled say they spend more on them­selves dur­ing the gift­giv­ing sea­son than they do on their spouse.

Dr. Rachel Nee­dle, li­censed psy­chol­o­gist and co-di­rec­tor of the Mod­ern Sex Ther­apy In­sti­tutes in West Palm Beach, Fla., said the hol­i­days can be a stress­ful time and one of high ex­pec­ta­tions when feel­ings and thoughts can have an im­pact on the re­la­tion­ship.

“Money se­crets are not un­com­mon,” she said. “Peo­ple hide their spend­ing habits for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, in­clud­ing be­ing em­bar­rassed; not want­ing to be con­fronted by their part­ner; to not up­set­ting their part­ner; and be­cause they do not agree with what­ever agree­ment they have come to with their part­ner with re­gards to spend­ing, if they com­mu­ni­cated about it at all. It’s a sen­si­tive and dif­fi­cult topic to dis­cuss, and we are used to keep­ing gift-giv­ing in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing cost, a se­cret.”

Robert and Mary Wil­son, a Pala­tine, Ill., cou­ple mar­ried for 28 years, said they can see some truth be­hind the num­bers but don’t fall into the cat­e­gory of ly­ing about their spend­ing.

Mary said the hol­i­day sea­son is the one time of year that she likes to spend money. Robert said he likes to spoil his fam­ily and friends when it comes to gift-giv­ing, but while he doesn’t want to chintz, he also doesn’t find him­self want­ing to be ex­trav­a­gant.

“I don’t think we ever come up with a dol­lar amount of this is the limit,” he said. “We have an un­der­stand­ing of what’s avail­able to use. We do have a daugh­ter in col­lege, so that kind of lim­its our spend­ing. When I buy gifts, for the most part, I try not to use credit cards, be­cause my wife pays the bills, so she would know what I spent or where I bought things, and I like presents at Christ­mas to be a sur­prise. That kind of plays into a lit­tle bit of not re­ally know­ing the spend­ing lim­its be­cause she doesn’t know what I’m buy­ing for her.”

Nee­dle, a 12-year prac­ti­tioner, said that when dis­cussing a hol­i­day spend­ing bud­get, be sure to leave a lit­tle wig­gle room. Each part­ner can get an agree­able amount of un­re­stricted money to spend to help pre­vent hid­ing and spend­ing se­cretly.

“Com­mu­ni­cate with your part­ner, and be hon­est about what you want and ex­pect,” she said. “If you have an idea of what you want, rather than hop­ing your part­ner can read your mind, set­ting them up for fail­ure and then har­bor­ing re­sent­ment to­wards them, ver­bal­ize it.”

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key when it comes to fi­nances be­tween a cou­ple, ac­cord­ing to Scott Tucker, pres­i­dent and founder of Scott Tucker So­lu­tions, a Chicago-based re­tire­ment and fi­nan­cial plan­ning firm.

“Part of be­ing a cou­ple is com­mu­ni­cat­ing, and this study is scream­ing you need to com­mu­ni­cate,” he said. “Agree on what you’re go­ing to do, and do what you say you’re go­ing to do. It’s pretty much what you ought to be do­ing in your re­la­tion­ship any­way. I al­ways rec­om­mend that cou­ples work to­gether on ev­ery­thing, and that wouldn’t be any dif­fer­ent at Christ­mas time or Hanukkah or what have you.”

BU­RAK KARADEMIR/GETTY

A sur­vey of more than 1,000 cou­ples and their hol­i­day spend­ing habits found that spend­ing has an im­pact on their re­la­tion­ship hap­pi­ness.

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