The Shriver Report – Couples and Money: 6 Ways to Deal with Holiday Spending Stress

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Couples and Money: 6 Ways to Deal with Holiday Spending Stress

lying-about-spendingBy Meredith Lepore

December is a great time. Who doesn’t look forward to giving gifts, parties, and general festivity? But it’s also a time of lying and major financial anxiety, according to a new survey by McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union. Egg nog, mistletoe, and lying to your significant other? Happy Holidays!

The survey polled over 1,000 couples in three different segments: married, same-sex and divorced but remarried/in-a-relationship. It found that about 40% of all couples—and nearly half of all heterosexual couples—have disagreements about how much to spend during the holidays.

In each of the group segments, at least one-in-four couples confessed to lying to their partner about holiday spending habits. More than half of married couples reported paying with cash to cover up large purchases and in 10% of couples, at least one partner has taken a credit card out in their own name to hide their spending.

In an interview with MarketWatch, Shawn Gilfedder, president of McGraw Hill Federal Credit Union, said this type of dishonesty could be a reflection of more complicated relationship issues. “It’s a sign that you have a problem and the problem is probably a lot bigger than managing your budget.”

We spoke with some experts about how to deal with spending stress during the holidays – and get over the temptation to lie.

6 Ways to Deal With Holiday Spending Stress

1. Have “money huddles” with your partner. Mary Beth Storjohann is a CFP and the founder of Workable Wealth, a financial planning firm for Gen Y based out of San Diego, CA. She suggests doing this monthly.”If you’re not checking in on your finances jointly at least once a month, the holidays are a great time to start. It will help both of you zero in on where the money is currently going and pinpoint where there is room for adjustment during this season and going forward,” she says.

2. Create a plan of attack when it comes to gift giving. Make sure you aren’t both buying gifts for the same person. Decide on a dollar amount for the gift before. Designate who will do the shopping and how (online verses in the store). Resist the temptation to do what’s easiest – make sure you research and compare prices. Storjohann also suggests creating a joint goal. “Agree that if you come in within (or under) your budget you’ll celebrate by doing something just the two of you – a date night, lunch outing, or even buying each other an additional small gift. Setting incentives to reach together will help make staying on track fun.”

3. DIY it. On her website, Storjohann suggests considering DIY gifting. It can be fun and creative. Still want to spend? Think about ways to fund purchases with credit card points or a side hustle income.

4. Draw names. Imagine if you are one of five children? What about their spouses and children? Casey Bond, the Managing Editor of thinks there’s a smarter (and more affordable) way to do things. “It can be much more economical for everyone to pool their names and draw a single gift recipient, rather than feel obligated to spend something on everyone.”

5. Be sure to put spending caps on any gift exchanges you do with friends or family. And Storjohann cautions: resist the temptation to go over.

6. Celebrate another time. Presents plus airfare equals major dinero. Travel gets to be outrageously expensive during the holidays. Bond suggests scheduling visits with family days before or after the actual holiday to save on airfare and hotels.


The holidays, though wonderful, can be incredibly stressful from a financial perspective. Lying about your spending will only make things worse. Taking action now will keep from landing you on Santa’s bad list.

This post originally appeared on


Meredith Lepore is the former editor in chief of the women’s career site, The Grindstone. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire @ Work, The Jane Dough, DailyWorth, Business Insider and Learnvest. She earned her Masters in Magazine, Newspaper and Online journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Meredith resides in New York full time and enjoys reading, jogging, SoulCycle and playing with her small dog, Otis.