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Financial Infidelity of the Best Kind

February 17, 2009

Secret spending and secret debts can destroy relationships.  But what about secret savings?   “Surprise, we are going on a great vacation!!”

(Image by by Marvin Stelljes)

An acquaintance of mine has been secretly saving up “her own money” for over two years, and surprised her husband with plans for a vacation to Costa Rica later this year.   We are no longer close friends (I may have procured this info through facebook…) so I have no idea how they manage their money as a couple.  Still, that has to be at least $200/month in secret savings!  That is no small feat!  How would you feel if your significant other surprised you with this news?

I’d be really excited/happy about the trip, but at the same time, I’d really rather be “in” on the savings.  I think I’d be annoyed that there was $200/month going towards something I didn’t know about.  It was “her own money”, which implies somewhat separated finances or some sort of allowance system where they each get (significant!) blow money.

I’m strangely uncomfortable with the idea of a big money secret, even if it is a good one!  What about you?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2009 9:07 am

    Nice! I’d be all kinds of excited myself 🙂 I have no problem w/ secret expenses and/or savings really because we do the same – have separate “me only” accounts where we can do whatever we please, as long as we’re both contributing enough to the “house funds”.

    I guess if the amounts were HUGE (that’s what she said) it would be kinda scary – like $10k+ in the red or black – cuz at that point it’s like “what do you do again for that money?” haha…..but all in all i think that’s totally awesome of that chick to plan that vacay like that. Interesting post!

  2. frugalcpa permalink
    February 17, 2009 9:23 am

    I agree with you. I’ve considered surprising TheFieryOne with a vacation package (as recently as last week), but I just know she’d prefer to be in the loop when it comes to planning it, and especially when it comes to financing it. But we’re both very involved in our finances. I can see it this type of surprise being a better fit for couples who don’t share financial planning and budgeting equally.

  3. February 17, 2009 9:24 am

    Well, i won’t be comfortable with this secret savings, even if its for two of us. Simple reason, once allowed then this “secret idea” can be overstretched and deviate us from common goals of budget and debt reduction.

    Well I am a new reader of your blogs, and i must say it rocks. Looking forward to reading more of your blogs.

  4. February 17, 2009 10:18 am

    While in theory I’d be thrilled, I think when it came down to it, it would throw me off a bit. If it was so easy for them to keep a $200 savings per month a secret it would be just as easy to keep a gambling addiction a secret (or something like that). You’d never know about it!

    Its not the money that does the destroying, its keeping secrets of that great a magnitude.

    Since we don’t know a lot about their situation, maybe its possible that he knew she was saving up for something, but just didn’t know that it was for him? I’ll give them the benefit of the

  5. February 17, 2009 10:23 am

    Oh, I’m not worried about them and their marriage or anything. I’m sure he was thrilled, and perhaps just not into day to day finance stuff, or whatever. I think this is a situation where it really depends on the individuals, and a whole heck of a lot of people would be like “sweet! vacation!”

    I’d be fine if I knew that some amount was being saved up for “a surprise” (maybe that is the case, who knows?), but to have no clue money was being stashed away? I don’t know. I just like to be in the know.

  6. February 17, 2009 10:27 am

    Right now Chad and I have separate finances, and I would be thrilled. After we get married, though, I’m going to extend my obsessive tracking to his accounts so I doubt he’ll ever be able to hide money from me!

  7. February 17, 2009 10:52 am

    I’m actually okay with it. As long as money was going towards are shared expenses and shared savings I’m okay if I don’t know exactly what my SO was doing with his money.

    I’m controlling so I know that if we shared everything I would want to control where his money goes. Instead I think its better if we have our own accounts and shared accounts so if I wanted or if he wanted he could surprise me with something!

    I guess my opinion would change if the secret money meant that enough wasn’t going towards are shared funds or he was spending it all on strippers or something like that.

  8. February 17, 2009 11:04 am

    Huh. You know, until about six months ago, I didn’t even know it was possible for a married couple to have separate finances. In retrospect, it makes sense, but I based my assumption of “normal” marriage finances off my mom and dad, who had joint everything. (The division was actually more like this: Dad makes money. Mom then manages it. Every once in a while dad begs mom for cash. Mom gives dad disapproving looks and says things like “I just gave you $20 two weeks ago!”)

    I guess, for me, I’d be a little weirded out if I thought that I knew where my SO’s money was going, and it turns out that I didn’t. (If you can hide something like this, what else aren’t you telling me?!?) On the other hand, if we had already established that we’d have separate “just for me” funds, then I’d be perfectly okay (or more than okay!) with a surprise vacation.

  9. February 17, 2009 12:00 pm

    I am much the same. Though it would be exciting to all of the sudden hear about something like that, I would be much happier if I knew about it first. However, if you are handling your money like you should and watching things, I don’t know how $200 per month could just get away from you like that. That’s crazy! 🙂

  10. February 17, 2009 12:27 pm

    i don’t consider this secret savings. i think of it more as surprise savings. so long as the friend was abiding by whatever financial system they established as a couple, i don’t see anything wrong with it.

    quarterlifegirl and a couple others suggest that if you can hide this kind of savings, who knows what else you’re hiding? i think it comes down to trust. if you don’t trust that your partner will follow the rules you set together or keep disturbing secrets, the problem is not one of money.

  11. February 17, 2009 12:43 pm

    Of course, I don’t see anything wrong with it for them or in general for anyone! I just thought it was really interesting to imagine.

    For me, I’d much much much rather just know about it all along, even vaguely.

  12. February 17, 2009 1:53 pm

    Leaving the money part aside: Since most of the fun (or a lot of it) is in the planning of and saving for vacation, I’d prefer to be in on it as well. But that’s just because I’m an organizer at heart.

    Still, I’ve been surprised by a weekend trip before, with absolutely no idea what was going on, and it was pretty spiffy not to have to do any work at all on it. I also didn’t have anything at stake here, mind you, no prior expectations or misleading statements about where we might be going, so there was no risk of disappointment in the surprise itself.

    “We’re NOT going to [the Bahamas]? Because you arranged a [insert something less fantastic here] instead? Oh… how sweet….” That’d be my biggest concern. Again, leaving the money thing out of it.

  13. February 17, 2009 8:22 pm

    That’s the kind of surprise I can live with! Good secrets are OK, obviously they didn’t miss the money she squirreled away. I hope they enjoy the trip.

  14. February 18, 2009 5:19 pm

    I would be really annoyed. Saving/spending your “own” money on small things like lattes and shoes is one thing, but several thousand dollars? It’s definitely above my comfort level. (I know my girlfriend would SAY she didn’t mind, but I think deep down she would become more suspicious about money in the future.)

  15. February 24, 2009 9:41 pm

    Hrm two years at $200/month would be $4800. I guess it all depends on what kind of income they have. If she was saving every penny of “her” disposable income for this vacation I’d be weirded out but if it didn’t really affect daily life or savings plans that’s just an incredibly cool gesture.

    I seem to be in the minority when it comes to planning vacations. I tend to book flights ages in advance then pull up a guidebook and some review sites the week or so before and kind of “wing it.” If the husband is like me I’m sure he didn’t mind her handling the boring stuff 😉

  16. ldub permalink
    February 26, 2009 8:56 am

    my gut reaction was that i would be a mixed bag of happy/miffed – then i realized, this is essentially what happened when my fella bought my engagement ring and proposed to me, and, umm, i was fully happy about that. we have had a de facto his/hers/ours system for a while, and, out of “his,” he got me a ring and set off our marriage. that one’s all happy memory and no mistrust – i mean, he’s secretly squirrelling money away… to do something amazing for ME. if anything, i’m going to try to rearrange my gut reaction to realize that’s incredibly sweet and an interesting expression of “we” rather than “me” thinking.

  17. March 11, 2009 2:24 pm

    Depends on how the finances are managed. In the case of saving up all her ‘allowance’ money, that would be totally cool and I’d be excited. If there were separate finances and all goals and plans were still being met, also good. In both these cases, the money is hers to spend as she wishes and no harm is being done to their joint or individual financial positions.

    If finances were separate but goals weren’t being met, or debt or retirement savings were being neglected, I’d be very disappointed in them. In this case, the secret is harmful to their individual and/or joint financial positions – no good.

    There is no acceptable situation for joint finances. This I would consider the most unacceptable. In this case, she’s spending both their money for something she wants, possibly harming their goals and plans in the process. It’s also not cool to spend joint money on a vacation that was planned without input from the other person. What if he was hoping to spring for a romantic second honeymoon in Paris next year or something?

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