I’m always surprised when married couples use gift-giving secrecy as a reason for having partially or completely separate finances. My opinion is that married couples should have joint finances (perhaps with “allowances”), although if a couple agrees to practice partial pooling or have separate finances I recognize it’s none of my business.
I really think it’s silly when couples say that gifts are the reason that they don’t have completely joint finances. To be fair, I’ve never heard someone say this was the sole reason, but I don’t think it should even be a minor contributor. There are so many benefits for doing money together in marriage that gifts seem like a relatively inconsequential obstacle.
When you’re considering making such a huge decision as to how combined your finances should be with your spouse, you shouldn’t change from what you really want unless the obstacle(s) would be frequent, weighty, and not able to be worked around.
Frequent: How often do you really expect to be giving surprise gifts to your spouse? If it’s just major holidays and his birthday, I really don’t think that is going to cause a problem. Maybe when you get into the multiple-times-per-month range you could make an argument for having some separate money or a credit card or something. I know Kyle and I have virtually ceased giving surprise presents to one another since we married, choosing instead to save money for fun joint experiences like travel.
Weighty: I can understand having separate finances because of deeply disparate views in how to handle money, like spender vs. saver or differences in risk tolerance. (Well, really, I think that’s reason not to get married, but that’s another discussion.) Choosing to keep separate money from your spouse is a really serious decision, and using something as trivial as surprise gifts as a reason seems out of line.
Work Arounds: It would be super easy to still surprise your spouse with gifts even while you have totally joint money – or you can let your spouse know that you are buying a gift but keep what it is exactly to yourself. Here are some ways you can keep her in the dark as to what your gift is, where it’s from, or how much it was:
- pay with cash
- mix the gift in with normal purchases
- buy from a large retailer like Amazon or Target
- ask a friend or family member to buy it for you (and pay them back later)
- ask your spouse to turn a blind eye
I think that people who use gift-giving as a reason to keep separate finances – unless their behavior is truly off the scale – are simply trying to list another justification for their choice. They want freedom and a lack of accountability and are dressing it up as something nice for their spouses. The real reasons for keeping separate money should come up much more frequently and be very serious in nature. For those of you who are deciding whether or not to keep joint finances, please don’t let gift-giving be an obstacle to that wonderful objective!
Do you think gift-giving should be used as a reason to keep (partially) separate finances? How often do you give surprise presents to your spouse? If you have joint finances, how do you surprise your spouse with gifts?
photo from Free Digital Photos