I recently came across a picture of a friend’s closet stacked from floor to ceiling with neatly folded piles of clothes. There was not an inch of free space remaining. She had taken over the storage areas in the rest of the house as well and had four similar closets packed to the brim. I knew that she had a small obsession with fashion. She once commented that she owned enough clothes to wear a different outfit every day of the year and a few extra to suit her moods.

I showed the photograph to my husband who immediately commented “I don’t think I could accept that. I think that’s just plain selfish. I wouldn’t want someone spending all that money on stuff that benefits no one but themselves.”

It was an interesting perspective. Sure I had thought it was a complete waste of money to own that much stuff and an absolute nightmare when it comes to sorting, cleaning, processing and storing, but when I looked at that closet selfish was not the first word that came to mind. Overwhelming, wasteful, unnecessary, but selfish?

“Why would you spend so much money on yourself?,” my husband asked, “What about shared goals? What value does the husband derive from all those clothes?”

I certainly understood his point. Money is not an unlimited resource for this couple. They have high paying occupations but they are certainly not millionaires. Even if the items were purchased at sale prices you are easily looking at thousands of dollars worth of clothes. Why not spend that money on something that both spouses would enjoy like a nicer home, a luxury vacation or frequent nights out on the town.

In this particular case the woman spent a ridiculous amount of money in the name of fashion, but there are similar scenarios where men spend an exorbitant amount of money on electronics or cars. Is it fair for one spouse to spend so much more money than another, particularly if the items they purchase only benefit themselves?

I am a modest spender. I don’t like to waste money and often delay purchases for as long as I can. To be honest I tend to think very long term. When I have a choice I typically opt for saving money rather than spending it. For as long as I can remember I’ve had big goals in mind. I want to pay off my homes, be financially independent, have a flexible career and stay home with my son. If I’m tempted to spend money I first decide if I’m willing to delay my other goals.

My husband has a similar mentality overall, but he can spend money much more easily than I can. He thinks nothing of dropping thousands of dollars each year on various projects. If he needs a new computer he buys one. If he wants to make home renovations he calls in contractors.

If we’re comparing apples to apples I will admit that my husband spends significantly more than I do each year, but most of his purchases do benefit our family as a whole. For example, he buys new computers to back up the thousands of photographs I capture each year and pays contractors to make our home easier, cleaner or better to live in. In fact, I can’t recall the last time he spent a significant amount of money on something for himself.

In general I think that both spouses should understand and manage their finances. I also think the majority of purchases should benefit both spouses.

What do you think? Do you think a woman with a closet full of clothes is being selfish? Are you frustrated by your spouses spending? Do you think he or she should spend more on things that would provide benefit to both of you?

Photo Credit: Andrew Morrell