When we hear women talk about how they bought an expensive pair of shoes and hid the purchase from their husbands, we don’t even flinch. Often, we just laugh about it. According to a poll conducted by and SELF magazine on financial infidelity, women are twice as likely to lie about financial matters as men. It seems we are able to justify or rationalize such petty deceits. Lying to your partner when the purchases are petty may just be a means to avoid a little spat. But when they are heftier expenses, it is more an act of betrayal. Many would consider it as morally wrong as sexual infidelity. Once you lie, some unspoken moral pact is broken and your relationship is threatened.

Most couples combine their finances, and one in three Americans admits to lying to their spouses about money. Another third have been deceived according to a survey by Forbes. The majority of people lied about hiding small amounts of cash, minor purchases, or a credit card bill. CESI Debt Solutions carried out a survey that broke down the not-so-grand expenses most couples kept secret from each other:

  • 34.5% Clothing and Accessories
  • 24% Food/Dining
  • 19.5% Beauty/Personal Care Items
  • 16.5% Gifts
  • 13% Alcohol
  • 9% Entertainment
  • 9.5% Music/CD/mp3
  • 8.5% Childcare/Items for Children

However, a significant number of people admitted to hiding heftier purchases, keeping secret bank accounts and lying about their debt or earnings. This type of financial infidelity is much more serious, since it can have detrimental emotional and financial consequences, such as one partner ending up tied to his or her spouse’s “till death do us part” debt.

Read Related: Tips to Manage Money in Relationships

But contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just women who commit financial infidelity. According to 37 percent of men have hidden purchases or money from their wives. This doesn’t surprise me, as through the years, I have had men confess their financial peccadilloes to me. Some left me bewildered and with others I just couldn’t keep a straight face given the ridiculousness of the fib. I have also heard third party stories about men’s hidden purchases.


I was surprised to hear a cashier tell me that some men, when doing their grocery shopping ask to be charged using two different credit cards. On one they pay for beer, chips, beef jerky and on the other card they charge regular healthy groceries. Where they hide the loot is beyond me! Maybe in the garage, behind the toolbox?

A male friend bought two expensive watches but he still hasn’t worn them after 6 months because he is afraid that his spouse won’t approve. Hum, so what’s the point?

Another male friend always buys very expensive shoes and always says he got them on sale, half price. He actually pays about $700 for each pair!

Dinners out with friends. Some will say that they were invited and a friend picked up the tab, when in fact they footed the whole bill.

Hiding a motorcycle for a month! A male friend hid a huge bike before he got the nerve to tell his wife about the purchase. The funny part is that they don’t share a bank account so all the money was his. He was ashamed of having made such an expensive purchase for himself.

Paying cash doesn’t leave a paper trail (as long as you get rid of the receipt) so a friend of mine uses cash whenever he can, to keep his wife out of the loop.

So why do women and men commit financial infidelity? Fear of a partner’s anger is one reason to lie. But lack of communication and trust are there too. If you lie about finances, you are likely to do so in other areas of your life. Lies come easier with practice, and if you are not found out, you are more likely to make it a habit. Lying about money, even if it’s about small things, dictates how you relate to your partner. You don’t trust he will accept the charges or expenses without quarrel; therefore you avoid conflict by lying or by omission.

Considering that financial disagreement is one of the leading causes of divorce. Maybe a spouse lies, thinking she is saving her marriage. But when the truth comes out, the marriage may be irrevocably damaged.

One way to avoid the pitfalls of financial infidelity is to share an expense account for monthly bills and shared expenses. Then each member of the couple keeps a  separate personal checking or savings account.

Lay your cards on the table with your spouse regarding your financial habits, from a shoe obsession to buying popcorn at the movies. If everything is laid out clearly, future lying and disputes can be curtailed. Having your own bank account gives you independence, and not having to justify all of your personal purchases will save you both from hard feelings and quarrels.