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