Are You A Selfish Spender: Frustrated By Your Spouse’s Spending Habits


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.

Selfish Wife

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? That wife is selfish.”

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 vices of their own. 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.

Selfish Husband

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?

What do you think? 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

10 thoughts on “Are You A Selfish Spender: Frustrated By Your Spouse’s Spending Habits”

  1. This comes across as very judgmental. Maybe they are millionaires and like to spend their money on things they like rather than hoard it like many people (esp pf bloggers). Maybe her husband derives a lot of pleasure from seeing his wife look beautiful.

  2. I appreciate your comment. No doubt this post is judgmental, but even if the woman was a trophy wife I still don’t think she warrants four closets worth of clothes. I actually don’t think she needs to hoard her money, I’m just wondering if it’s fair to spend so much money on something that doesn’t benefit both partners equally.

  3. Honestly it depends on many factors:

    – whose money it is (his / hers / theirs)
    – why she needs as many clothes (maybe a model or TV persona would need that many!)
    – whether she and her huisband are okay with her spending that much on her clothes
    – maybe she got all her clothes on sale or consignment shops
    – what their income level is
    – whether her spending money on her clothes is really affecting her family even in a small way

    If it is the last one, I would defintiely say selfish. Others – I might or might not depending o nthe answer.

    I would say the same thing for a guy spending a LOT on electronics, vacations or whatever his vice is – if its affecting the family, yes, selfish, if not then we need to consider other factors..

    • Interesting comment Kay. I think it depends on how you quantify how spending “is affecting her family.” There is typically an impact of some type. If you use money for “x” than you can’t use it for “y.” But your point is valid. If it isn’t causing them to delay retirement, live in a house that’s too small to fit their needs, etc. then maybe it isn’t the worst financial offense. The problem is that many of these effects are difficult to see in the short term. You can’t look at the costs from day to day. I think you have to look at them over a life time.

  4. While I agree that this particular situation is PROBABLY an example of compulsive shopping and/or clothing hoarding, I don’t think you can look at everyone who has a larger wardrobe and enjoys fashion/shopping as being selfish with $. Everyone has different things that bring them joy, and for some people (myself included) that includes fashion and shopping. It helps when you are a size/height that is easy to fit and find. But I truly enjoy both creating cool outfits to wear and the process of finding new styles. However, I’ve found a way to enjoy my interest w/o using any of my or my husband’s regular paychecks: every clothing purchase of mine for the last 9 or so yrs (since I left the full time workforce) has been financed by side income (surveys, credit card rewards, consignment sales proceeds, babysitting, etc). I average $75-$100/month on such purchases (although the MSRP of what I buy is 4 or 5 times that – I’m pretty good at the discount thing!) – and I don’t think that is excessive given that we are on track financially. If I couldn’t spend my extra earnings in a way that I enjoy as much (as in something that would be meant for the whole family), I probably would not work so hard to earn the extra stuff, and think that taking care of my family and working PT would be enough. That said, I organize and store my clothes in a way that is a bit more normal – carefully hung in a walk-in closet I share w my husband, with out of season stuff on one rack in the basement. Probably part of your husband’s reaction comes from knowing the girl’s husband would have no place for his own things!

    As an alternate example, my husband loves watching sports on tv which means a HD level package ($95/mo) from Direct-tv. While many (especially PF bloggers) think this is wasteful, it is something he really enjoys. Our overall entertainment type expenses are very low – no clubbing, eat out only occasionally, no expensive vacations – so it’s not something I’m going to worry about as long as he remains employed at the level he is. Would it be more prudent to put it towards retirement – maybe – but within reason life is meant for living and enjoying (whatever ones particular interests lie).

    • Hi Jen – Thanks for the detailed comment!

      I am certainly not saying that everyone who has an interest in fashion is being selfish. I think your solution of spending ‘extra’ money to make yourself happy is a wise one. I’m also not saying that you can never use ‘family’ money to splurge on yourself. It’s more a matter of how much are you spending. Four to five closets worth of clothing is a ridiculous amount even if she purchased everything on sale. And yes I think not having a place to store a husband’s things would be a big part of the problem.

      Every spouse should be able to spend money to make them happy and as a married couple you are still two very separate individuals. I think your example of your husband’s spending on HD packages is a great one.

      I also completely agree that money should be spent now and now all hoarded and saved for retirement. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s all about balancing expenses.

  5. It can definitely, potentially be selfish. Especially if it’s in lieu of protecting the family financially (i.e., savings), and/or it precedes paying other, more important bills. If little Lucy can’t pay for her softball gear because Mom needs another sweater (Designer or not, high-income or not), there’s a problem.

    Full disclosure, I am in a relationship where my partner’s spending is above and beyond mine, so I am familiar with the issues of selfishness. Our income is also higher; I guess I would categorize it as upper middle class.

      • Thanks for the write-up! I’ve definitely tried to talk to my spouse, whom is generally a generous and kind person. But, there is an entitlement that exists, that never gets us past point a.

        • That’s too bad. I would keep the lines of communication open if you can. Try to frame it a little bit differently. Try to talk to her about the ways that her spending impacts the household at large. Talk about all of the things you could do with that money as a family or even how much your money could grow if you saved it for awhile.


Leave a Comment