Are you a secret shopper?

10 August 2012

by Peter Wilson for Standard Life

As the recession forces households to rein in their spending, new research shows significant numbers of Brits are turning to secretive spending to get our retail fix.

More than a million Brits are hiding secret credit cards from their partners as they splash out on luxury purchases during the recession, a new survey reveals.

Guilty purchases

Estimates suggest that 1.18 million of us have a secret credit card tucked away, with women using it to buy clothes and shoes, while men tend to buy gadgets.

The research, conducted by Debenhams Personal Finance1, found that many are massaging the figures when it comes to revealing how much their shopping sprees cost.

When asked why they played down the true cost of their shopping, 14 per cent of those who took part in the survey confessed to feeling guilty about splashing the cash during a recession, while almost one in five (18 per cent) are embarrassed about their extravagance.

Who we keep secrets from

Over half of British adults (54 per cent) admit to glossing over the true value of items they buy when quizzed by their nearest and dearest. In another recent survey by Good Housekeeping, supported by Standard Life2, 49 per cent of the all-female survey admitted to evasive responses such as “It's ok, it was in the sale” or “I bought this ages ago”.

According to the Debenhams Personal Finance survey, of those who keep their spending secret six in ten (59 per cent) fudge the issue with their partners, and a third (29 per cent) play down the costs of items to their parents. Yet it seems we’re a trusting nation, as just under one in ten (9 per cent) Brits suspect their own partner of secret spending.

Taking control

“Keeping financial secrets from partners and family isn’t ideal,” said Standard Life Head of Customer Relationships Julie Russell. “Being honest - particularly with ourselves - is the only way we can start to regain control of our spending and saving. If we save sensibly, then we can enjoy spending without feeling guilty.”

Interestingly, though, only 14 per cent of people in the Debenhams Personal Finance survey said that they felt guilty about splashing out during these tough times…

Secret spending league table


  1. Clothes (47 per cent)
  2. Shoes (30 per cent)
  3. Gifts (28 per cent)


  1. Tech / Gadgets (30 per cent)
  2. Gifts (19 per cent)
  3. Alcohol (19 per cent)

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    1. National representative research conducted by Vision Critical 29-30 March 2012 amongst 2,000 UK adults. Figure of one million obtained by multiplying the three per cent of respondents who said they had a secret credit card by the amount ofadults aged 18-65 in the UK (39,467,800) – ONS data 2010
    2. OnePoll, February 2012

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