Show of hands: Anyone out there like to give surprise gifts to your husband or wife, but you can’t sneak it into the budget without them noticing?
If so, you know how tricky this situation is to tackle. You always want to be on the same page as your spouse about how money is handled, so you work on the budget together. But that means you both know what is going in and out of the account, so being covert with the cash isn’t really in the cards.
What’s more, it’s frustrating to the giver because we aren’t able to get that feeling of giving a surprise. That brightens our day and jazzes us up.
But that feeling seems to go out the window if the other person knows you are up to something. It seems like a catch-22: Either we don’t give a surprise and it feels boring to us, or we do give a surprise and have to sneak around to fund it, which can lead to trust issues.
Related: 3 Money Fights You'll Have This Year (and How to Prepare)
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But there is a way. Let your spouse know they have a gift coming, but don’t tell them what it is.
Create a line item in your budget for “Surprise.” If they ask what’s up, just say that you’re working on a surprise for them. Give them a due date, as in, “I’m giving you a surprise the last week of August,” or “In two weeks.” That way it doesn’t seem like you’re just trying to cheat the budget. By giving a due date, you are telling them when you expect to be held accountable. By showing your spouse that money is being allocated for something, you are keeping them in the loop. You still get to surprise them, but there won’t be any questions of money missing from the account.
When you start hiding your spending, it can only create trouble. Doing it this way is a compromise, but it’s a compromise where everyone wins.
And that should come as no surprise.