Survey reveals Australian attitudes to partner spending habits

Do you have a spendthrift partner? Would you expect a friend to even ask you such a question? Most would probably say no, but it’s one that has been asked of Australians in a new survey about partner spending habits.

Commissioned by loan provider, the survey posed a series of questions to more than 800 Australians with partners. Their aim was “to gauge whether they believe their partner spends too much on non-essential items or services, and how this might impact their own financial profile”.

According to the published results, more than a quarter of respondents believe they have a spendthrift partner. The Oxford Dictionary defines a spendthrift as ‘a person who spends money in an extravagant, irresponsible way’.

In this survey, the definition is more or less the same: someone who “spends too much on non-essential items or services”. Responding to the question, ‘Does your partner spend too much on non-essential items or services?’ 26 per cent answered ‘yes’.

Interestingly, the results indicated that concerns about having a spendthrift partner appear to diminish with age. In the 18-30 age bracket, 35 per cent of respondents thought their partners spent too much. Those in the 31-50 age range were slightly more forgiving of their partners, with 33 per cent answering ‘yes’.

In contrast, only 15 per cent of those over 50 surveyed felt that their partner was spendthrift, a significant drop compared to the younger cohort.

Are over-50s more frugal?

That is something of a $64 question (although those with an allegedly spendthrift partner would probably prefer a $32 question). And it is one that this survey, which comprises only four basic questions, makes no attempt to answer. It is, perhaps, one worth pondering though.

The main question itself, ‘Does your partner spend too much on non-essential items or services?’ invites subjective responses. Each respondent is left to decide for themselves what ‘too much’ means. Even the term ‘non-essential’ could spark disagreement. What one person sees as non-essential may be regarded as essential by their partner.

Those over 50 who have a partner might be more likely to be aligned in their interests and aims. They may be disinclined to believe they have a spendthrift partner if that partner is buying items of mutual interest.

Older Australians might also be at a stage of life at which they want for less, and thus are less worried about a partner’s spending habits. They are also more likely to remember past times of higher interest rates.

Many younger Aussies will not have experienced interest rate pressure before. Feeling such pressure for the first time could lead to tension between partners.’s Helen Baker, a licensed financial adviser, says communication is vital, especially early in a relationship. Ms Baker also cautions against joint accounts for those in the formative stage of a relationship.

“Set clear boundaries on your joint spending, and agree on what you each deem wasteful – as people may have different interpretations of what is wasteful to them,” she said.

The full breakdown of the survey’s results can be found via this link.

Also read: Could ditching your card and using cash help you budget?

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.
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