More Women Confess to Hiding Purchases

By Kelly Dilworth (

Several times a month, my husband and I sit down at our computer, open up the personal finance software Quicken and audit our personal spending.

The semi-weekly ritual has helped us spot problems with our spending early on (such as our frequent trips to the luxury grocer a few blocks from our home). And it’s brought us closer.

Working together to catalog expenses, track savings and pay down debt can give a surprisingly effective boost to a relationship. It fosters a sense of teamwork and can make you feel less alone when you’re trying to figure out how to get by each month.

On the other hand, it can also make you feel a whole lot guiltier when you slip. Every time I overspend on something frivolous — whether it’s for a massage or a pair of shoes I don’t need — I have a hard time confessing what I bought.

So rather than confess my financial sins each time we open Quicken, I furtively pay for my purchases in cash, tag the ATM transactions as personal and cross my fingers my husband won’t ask. He usually doesn’t.

According to a new poll from American Express, I’m not the only one who has a hard time coming clean about frivolous spending.

Forty percent of women respondents in the poll admit to hiding at least some of what they bought from their partner. That’s up from 27 percent of women who admitted to the same thing last year.

Meanwhile, 53 percent of women and men confess to buying at least one item against their partner’s wishes. Thirty-five percent admit they’ve fibbed about how much they paid.

Disagreements over spending may also be causing more arguments, according to the poll. A larger number of men (24 percent) cited frivolous spending as their single biggest gripe with their partner — up from 18 percent last year. Twenty-one percent of women said the same — down from 22 percent in 2013.

Most talk frequently

The good news is that even though some couples are having a hard time agreeing on what to buy and what to pass up, most people are at least talking about money on a fairly frequent basis.

According to the American Express poll, for example, 64 percent of couples talk about money several times a month, while 32 percent say they discuss their finances a couple times a week at least.

The number of people who talk about money regularly has fallen somewhat since 2013, the study found.
In addition, fewer people are bringing up money early in a relationship. For example, just 36 percent of couples say they began discussing finances in the first six months of their relationship — down from 44 percent in 2013.

Still, a large percentage of people are talking frequently about their finances, according to the poll, which is a good sign considering that most personal finance experts say that talking openly about money (and being honest about it) is key to a stable relationship.

Kelly Dilworth is a former staff reporter at She began her career in journalism at The Atlantic in 2007, then detoured into nonfiction book publishing for several years. She returned to journalism in 2010 and since then has written about everything from 20-somethings with Herculean credit scores to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions. Kelly holds a degree in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Austin, TX.