My wife and I have had the same fight for years and I am becoming very resentful of her because nothing ever changes. In a nutshell, my wife is a “shopaholic.” She seems to be unable to stop spending money and it is often on really stupid things. For example, when I left for work this morning she was outside decorating the front door and yard with the 100s of Halloween items she has purchased over the years. Don’t even get me started on her obsession with Christmas crap and expensive antiques which just go into the basement or garage because our house is already full.
She has a closet jammed with very nice clothes but every week she seems to find something else to buy. She shops online all the time and we get packages several times per month from expensive department stores. When I get mad about this, she gets really defensive and insists that whatever she bought, she really needed.
Last week I lost it when I came home to find a brand new barbeque on the back deck. We just bought a really good one two years ago, but she told me she went to see a friend’s deck remodel and they had this fancy BBQ, and she had to have it. Then she tried to pass it off as a “gift” to me. Yeah, a gift that I pay for ($2,400), that I don’t need and I don’t want.
I would say this is the number one problem in our marriage, although there are plenty of others. We have one kid who is a senior in college and so it’s not like she is spending money on our child, although she did go way overboard when he was younger and I know she wants to buy him a trip to Europe for his graduation gift (I am against this but she has already promised it to him).
I make a good living but this excessive spending is really impacting our ability to save for retirement. I have asked her repeatedly to get a job to help pay for her shopping, but she says she is too old and not interested. I am 52 years old and worried that I’ll have to work forever to keep up with her spending.
Robin, how do I get my wife to stop spending so much money?
Tapped Out in Tampa
Dear Tapped Out:
Oh, dear. I know from emailing with you that you have been married for 24 years. The reason this concerns me is because you live in one of the many states which will hit you with permanent alimony when you divorce.
“But Robin,” you are thinking, “don’t you mean if I divorce, not when?”
Nope. I’m afraid that my AskDesCamp Divorce Prediction Formula (“DPF,” patent pending) has given your marriage a rating of “4” on a scale of 1 to 25, 1 being “papers are filed and murder-for-hire being considered” and 25 being “still have sex, laugh together and are devoted to the marriage.”
In comparison, I was recently asked to rate the Khloe and Lamar Odom marriage using my DPF, and they got a 7.5.
I’m going to answer your question first, then tell you why I think you have an ENORMOUS problem to overcome. You asked me how you could get her to curb her spending. Since you told me you have made it clear that this is unacceptable to you repeatedly since almost the beginning of your marriage and she has refused to respect your feelings, the only way to solve the problem is to stop giving her money.
Close all your credit card accounts and ask her to sign a postnuptial agreement in which she takes full legal responsibility for any credit cards she may have in her own name or open in the future (I’m guessing she will refuse). However, this may have no real legal effect, because as her husband you are lucky enough to be responsible for debts incurred during the marriage, even if you had nothing to do with them. Yay, marriage!
If you have a joint account, notify your bank that you wish to close it. Do not make any further deposits into the joint account. Put your earnings in a new, separate account which she cannot access. Handle all of the household bills yourself. If you want to remain married to this woman you will need to assume total control over your finances. In other words, treat her like a child, because she has the maturity and self-control of a 7 year old.
I know a lot of people are going to hate what I am about to write because it will seem I am not a supporter of marriage:
Divorce this woman. Now.
I like marriage, I really do! I think a marriage between two people who love and respect each other and who take the relationship very seriously can last a long time, maybe even until one of them croaks, or best case scenario, they both go at the same time on 1,000 thread count sheets at www.meadowood.com. *wink*
Your wife clearly does not respect you, and she doesn’t love you either, as evidenced by the following:
1. She knows you have worked hard for years and want to retire early, but she will do nothing to help make that happen, and instead is actively working against you on your goal to wind down your working days;
2. She does not care that you are feeling enormous stress over her spending and she refuses to cut back;
2. She wont even consider working to support her profligate spending habits, even though your only child has been out of the house for years and she is only in her early 50s. You also told me she has hired out all the job duties of a housewife, including gardening, cleaning, cooking and even shopping for groceries. This princess loves to shop, except to put food in the house. She sounds like a real doll.
3. She spends on things you don’t need or want and then tries to manipulate you by passing them off as a gift, when in reality she has a major case of Keeping Up with the Jones Disorder.
4. She has put you at odds with your son by promising him a very expensive graduation gift without getting your buy-in on it.
Honestly, your wife sounds like a major bitch. Sorry, but we emailed a few times on Sunday and you told many more things I won’t get into here, because I have some toilets to scrub and a dog to run. If I only focus on this spending issue (and not the lack of affection, her previous affair, her non-support of you in your career and the funny smell you said she has developed) I see a man who has been toiling away for over 20 years to support his family and who, in thanks, is being repeatedly shit upon by his wife.
You work in a high-pressure sales industry and I understand your income has fluctuated over the years but remained pretty impressive. Still, you told me you w
ork 60+ hours a week to keep that money co
ming in, and you’d like to retire within 10-15 years, but sooner if possible. Your wife knows you are hoping for an early retirement and that her spending is directly impacting your ability to save enough money to make that happen.
She doesn’t love you. She doesn’t respect you. And if you put the financial restrictions on her I described above, I’d bet you dollars to donuts that she files for divorce. She can then collect thousand of dollars in alimony from you every month for the rest of your life (or hers, if one of the expensive armoires she favors fall on her – let’s hope), PLUS she gets half the assets you earned during the marriage and whatever you have managed to save for retirement.
Your letter makes me sad because I’ve seen this over and over again, and not just with spoiled housewives. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I have given my son too much of everything. When his dad and I divorced, I felt and still feel enormous guilt I was not able to give my son a two-parent household.
To assuage that guilt, I made sure he had anything and everything he ever wanted. Puppies, toys, clothes, phones, laptops: you name it, he got it. As a result, I have created a child who thinks that he deserves these things merely because he exists. I worry he does not appreciate the things his parents do for him, and we are now working full-time on bringing him back to a place where he earns what he wants, expects nothing but the basics, and is grateful for everything in his life.
But, Tapped Out, my son is 12. His brain is still developing and in my efforts to change his paradigm, I can treat him like a child because he is a child. Your wife is an adult and a selfish, stubborn one at that.
Similarly, you created this monster. Why? I recommend some serious time on the couch with a therapist to help you understand why you kept giving and giving over the years despite the lack of reciprocity in your relationship. You don’t want to make this mistake again. You can’t afford it: financially or emotionally.
My real advice to you is this: stem the bleeding now. Your marriage is dead and by staying with this woman, you are severely impacting your future financial health. I can’t say much more than that without veering into giving legal advice, and that’s a no-no.
My readers can’t know how much you told me in our email exchange so they may think my advice is an overreaction to your wife’s spending problem. Trust me readers, it isn’t. Tapped Out in Tampa has been beaten down for years in a loveless marriage of convenience, and by convenience I mean his wife’s convenience.
Also, he sent me a picture (I asked him to). Tapped Out, you are handsome, successful and I can tell from your emails you are funny. Girls like funny; it’s sexy.
Get a lawyer. Get a girlfriend who works. Get a life. It’s not too late for you.