TOP 5 tips to keep HOLIDAY spending from ruining your marriage

My mother had married my dad at the age of 18, and I guess never felt completely at ease with the fact that neither one of them got their college degrees. SO she made it her mission to assure that each and every one of her kids would “marry” better. Looking back now I realize  how flawed and misguided her thinking was and how I wish she would’ve pushed me to attain a higher level of education, beyond my college degree, but I guess being of a different generation, where men brought home the bacon and women cooked it up- she must have believed my best bet at securing my financial future was to marry someone with money (as opposed to encouraging me to make my own). And as a young impressionable 18 year old, I so desperately wanted her seal of approval and so I specifically sought out suitors who would measure up to her version of what an ideal husband  for me should be.

TOP 5 tips to keep HOLIDAY spending from ruining your marriage #marriedmysugardaddy

My mother convinced me marrying a medical doctor would guarantee me a life of luxury, and security, she scoffed at the D.O. (the osteopath I once dated, claiming he WASN’T a REAL M.D.)  And for several years I dated with this singular mission. But here’s the thing about marrying someone who is established and has money– after all is said and done– that money is theirs and nothing in this world is free. Doctors are also a whole different breed of man– imagine going to school for another good ten years after college, having to work for so long to achieve that title- it’s takes a certain kind of personality to sustain that kind of pressure and singular focus. Still I kept my focus and I dated many doctors who wore their MD’s like badges of honor, drove expensive cars and were incredibly enamored with themselves and their titles and sense of power. Of course, those relationships never ended  all that well. And then I met my husband, who was THE ANTI-DOCTOR.

Fast forward 14 years and our attitudes about finance have been clearly delineated- and are pretty much the same that they were when we first met– I like to spend and he likes to save.  Apparently our financial issues as a couple ARE NOT UNIQUE to us!

And according to a new survey—released today—by McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union, one of the nation’s leading credit unions, not only do today’s couples experience anxiety over holiday shopping, but many partners also lie to each other to cover up just how much they’ve spent or plan to spend.   To understand just how couples are spending this holiday season, MHFCU recently polled over 1,000 couples in 3 different segments: married, same-sex and divorced but remarried/in-a-relationship.

Here are some of the more fascinating findings:

 ·         48% of all heterosexual couples disagree with their partner on how much to spend during the holidays


o   43% of divorced but remarried/in-a-relationship couples disagree with their partner’s spending


o   However, the percentage drops to 37% for same-sex couples


·         34% of heterosexual couples have lied to their spouse about holiday spending


o   While 25% of divorced/remarried or in-a-relationship, and same-sex couples lie to their partner

·         More than 50% of married couples report paying with cash to cover up a large purchase and more than 1-in-10 has taken out a credit card in their own name to hide their spending


o   Same-sex couples are more likely to retrieve/pay a bill before a partner notices

McGraw-Hill FCU President and CEO Shawn Gilfedder believes greater access to financial wellness resources can help all couples be more transparent and avoid a potential holiday spending hangover. So I figured, McGraw-Hill FCU President and CEO Shawn Gilfedder would be the best professional to give my husband and I guidance on how to keep financial issues from killing our marriage especially when it comes to HOLIDAY spending! Keep reading for his 5 tips and insights!

“The holiday season amplifies the anxiety that couples can sometimes feel, especially during uncertain economic times,” says McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union President/CEO Shawn Gilfedder. “We find that some couples go into ‘defense’ mode and avoid difficult yet necessary financial conversations. Avoiding money talk can create tension in relationships that only honest communication and financial education can heal.”

 When asked if they disagree over holiday spending, nearly half (48%) of “general market” married couples say they do clash about how much to spend during the season.  Of the divorced/in a relationship segment, 43% disagree on holiday expenses.  Among committed same-sex couples, however, the percentage that disagrees falls to 37%.

When it comes to fibbing about what they spend, fully one-third of the heterosexual marrieds (34%) admit they’ve lied to their spouse, making transparency among married couples the lowest of any group. Of the divorced and same-sex segment, only 25% admit to white “spending” lies, possibly indicating that gay and previously divorced couples may be more transparent when it comes to financial issues, or that they may not comingle finances and are therefore not discussing financial issues.

Both straight married and divorced couples show a propensity to hide extravagant spending. More than half the marrieds report paying with cash to cover up a large purchase, and more than one in ten has actually taken out a credit card in their own name to conceal spending.  Among gay couples, only one-third say they cover up by paying with cash; however, the same-sex couples admit to their own subterfuge. Same-sex couples are more likely to retrieve and pay a bill before the partner notices, by 15% compared to 9% in the general population segment.

Despite the tendency to disagree over how much to spend and to cover up splurges, 55% of Americans have never returned an item because they felt guilty about the price.  MHFCU CEO Gilfedder attributes that to either “lack of financial awareness or to an overall need for more information and access to educational resources for financial wellness.”

To that end, Gilfedder also offers up 5 concrete holiday spending advice for any couple trying to spend smartly this season:

#1 Be Honest – Write down the ABSOLUTE MOST you will spend on each person.  Next to this number, write down the amount you would IDEALLY like to spend.

#2 Let’s Have “The Talk” – Sit down and share the budget with your spouse or partner. Remember, both parties have to be comfortable with the numbers. Be sure you have the resources (money in the bank) to cover this budget, while paying all your other living expenses and contributing to savings accounts.  If not, make adjustments.  DON’T borrow (credit card debt) to pay for Holiday gifts!

#3 Know the terms – Check your overdraft protection.  Make sure you have enough funds in your checking, savings, or money market account so you don’t overdraft and incur unnecessary fees. These can really add up.   Make sure that your savings account and debit card are linked as overdraft protection to avoid costly fees in case of an overage.

#4 Be a “Team” at the department store –  If  driving all over town comparing prices drives your spouse crazy, download the app  which allows you to scan items in the store and compare prices – What’s better than a free app that helps you save money? Saves time, gas and frustration.

#5 Make a Honey-Do list  – Create a project and ask your spouse to check out sites like and for the latest promotional codes for extra savings. The Internet is a wealth of resources for shoppers looking to shop on a budget. Show your partner how much you saved thanks to their online coupons and they’ll be searching for even more savings.


  1. says

    Being a stay at home, it’s so hard trying to buy my side of the family gifts without my husband getting crabby. I tried saying let’s compromise and not hand out gifts, just have a large family dinner but he won’t budge. I’m guilty of spending behind his back LOL

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