Listen. Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? (And if you’re a Beatles fan, you’re chiming in with a woh-oo-wooooooh-oooooo about now…) Today I am going to tell you a secret about secrets. It’s an amazing saving money tip, and yet it is not spoken of in polite company.
Here it is: don’t tell your significant other (you know, the spendy one?) about the money you are setting aside for savings.
Yes, we are always told that having secrets of any kind from our spouse is a BAD idea. With capital letters. And I would generally agree. But in my little life I have found that saving money (as in setting it aside for future use) is the exception to this rule. Let me elaborate by presenting a few examples of how one might put this saving money tip into practice.
An Effective Saving Money Tip in Action
Example 1: We are all familiar with the emergency fund cycle. It goes like this: 1) We scrimp and save and with a lot of effort set aside $1000 for an emergency fund. 2) The spendy spouse comes up with something he really NEEDS, y’all. His reasoning seems sound at the time. 3) We cave. And we are back to scrimping and saving again to build that “emergency” fund back up to its prior glory. 4) Later, we almost always find that he could have lived without whatever the supposed need was, at least for as long as it took to find the money some other way.
Here’s the solution The Man and I came up with: I finally asked him one day, after this had happened for the umpteenth time and we were BOTH sick of it, “Can I save up money and not tell you about it? Cuz we both know what happens when you are privy to the details of how much we have stashed away…” and he said YES.
Now when he has a “need,” I am in the amazing position of not having to volunteer the emergency fund to meet it. Because he TOLD ME it was ok to keep this secret from him. I can reserve the emergency fund for actual emergencies. What a concept.
Yes, this agreement has come in handy many times, and The Man has realized most of those times that I am holding out on him — but he knows that this is best for our financial stability. He grins and begins brainstorming other ways he can obtain whatever it is he’s “needing.” And our emergency fund remains intact.
Example 2: Certainly we can keep secrets about Christmas and birthdays, right? This we do all the time and don’t think twice about it. Sometimes those gifts can cost more than just a little bit, and we need to save up to buy them. Are you gonna tell your spouse that you are saving up x amount for his gift and he is not to use that money? Can you say, “spoiler”?? Just save the money without a peep. Withdraw it and hide it in the back of your underwear drawer until you have enough set aside. And enjoy the look of REAL surprise on his face when he opens your totally non-frugal-just-because-I-love-you gift. 🙂
Example 3: Friends of mine have a neat tradition: every year they go someplace different for their anniversary, and they alternate years as to which spouse does the planning. One year, the wife plans their trip; the next year, it is the husband’s turn to plan — and in each case, the destination and details are always a surprise for the other. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
And it’s the surprise part that makes it, right? So do you want to spoil that by cluing your spouse in on how much you’re gonna spend on the hotel, and what you’ve got saved up for activities, and the fact that you got a good deal on plane tickets? No, you do not. You just want to save up your money and keep your secrets and have a big reveal when you get to the airport.
Example 4: My pastor’s wife kept a HUGE secret from her husband. They were using the cash envelope system; but often when they would decide to stop at the grocery store and pick up a few things, they didn’t have their “food” envelope with them. So they would use their debit card. Did Mrs. Pastor voluntarily take the corresponding amount of cash out of the “food” envelope when they got home, to deposit into the account to cover that transaction? No, she did not, lol. She hung onto it and squirreled it away, and at Christmas she gave Mr. Pastor FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS IN CASH as an amazing gift.
(For all you old movie buffs, this is reminiscent of the scene in The Glen Miller Story when June Allyson whips out a hunk of cash that she’s been saving up from the household accounts without Jimmy Stewart (as Glen Miller) knowing about it — just the perfect amount to buy the band equipment he needs to really make his dream come true… She was totally using this saving money tip I am presenting to you today. Smart woman. 🙂 )
So you see, not telling your spouse how much money you have in reserve, whether it be an emergency fund or cash for some other purpose, can be a very effective strategy for saving money that stays saved. For me it has reduced my feeling like we’re on a hamster wheel and instead given hope that we might actually be getting somewhere in this struggle to get out of debt.
The fact that it is with The Man’s full agreement is what makes the difference between me just being über-controlling and us working together, albeit in a non-traditional way.
Maybe you should give this saving money tip a try — you might be surprised by how well it works! 🙂