Isla Fisher, one of Australia’s best-known young actresses, starred in a movie several years ago titled ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’. In the movie, she played the role of a budding journalist who simply couldn’t resist a sale. No matter what she was in the middle of, if there was an opportunity to get something at a discounted rate – even something she had no earthly use for – the credit card would be out in a flash! Basically the character was addicted to shopping, even down to the denial that she had a problem.
While the movie is a light-hearted look at the pitfalls of unrestrained spending, the truth is that there are many Australians who have spending habits very similar, yet far less humorous, to Isla’s. The advertising industry continues to make a fortune out of convincing consumers that they absolutely must have ‘their’ product, and the average credit card debt of over four thousand dollars in Australia shows that their efforts are effective.
So, do you have a problem that you aren’t willing to accept? And just as importantly, are you hiding it from anyone? Here a few signs to look out for.
Is your credit card regularly close to max?
Most credit companies now offer zero percent interest for a limited period as long as you pay your card off within that period. This can give a false sense of security, because if you start to fall behind and miss one payment, the interest will kick in and you can get trapped in a situation where you are constantly a month or so behind in payments. Even if you don’t have a huge credit limit, high interest rates can add hundreds or thousands to your annual costs.
Do you have a ‘secret’ account?
Depending on your relationship status, you may have separate accounts, joint accounts or a mix of each. The make-up of your accounts isn’t necessarily the issue. The important point is whether or not you are forthcoming with your partner about those accounts and what goes into and out of them. Are you either hiding transactions or even hiding an entire account because you don’t want to explain to your partner about your purchases?
Do you manage the finances in order to keep information from your partner?
Partnerships often have one person that manages the finances, either because they have a professional understanding, a love for numbers or simply that their partner has no desire to do the paperwork. Did you volunteer to manage the accounts so that you could control the flow of information to your partner? It’s easy enough to say, “Wow, we spent a bit more than we planned this month!” But it can be much harder to explain when you are sitting down with your partner in front of an itemised credit card statement.
Do you buy things you don’t need?
We all make impulse purchases from time to time, but if they are too large, either in value or frequency, then you may have an issue. Additionally, are you hiding the actual purchases from your partner? This is an extension of the previous point about hiding purchase details. Obviously it is hard to hide that information if you regularly turn up with brand new items. If you are keeping things at work, in the car or hidden in some other location, you need to have a good look your spending habits!
Do you feel guilty after impulse purchases?
How do you feel after making these purchases? Guilt may be buyer’s remorse that you didn’t get a good deal, but it may also be regret that you’ve given in to an impulse or unease for keeping the purchase from your partner. If you feel guilty about a purchase yet aren’t prepared to discuss it with your partner, then you have some financial secrets that need to be addressed.
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it is worth assessing your spending habits with respect to your relationship. Are you keeping secrets because of your spending, because you aren’t fully committed to the relationship? Either way, it is probably something you should look at addressing.
Rather than trying to hide purchases from your partner, a better course of action is to agree on an acceptable level of spending each week or month, and create separate accounts for each of you. The idea is that as long as you stay within those limits, you can spend on whatever you like. That way you can both buy the occasional indulgence without feeling guilty or seriously impacting the finances, and possibly future, of the relationship.