Dear Stavroula: Husband Concerned about His Wife’s Shopping Habits

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Dear Stavroula,

I am 42 years old and have been in the United States for five years with my wife and two sons. At first, we had a very difficult time, but now we have settled down and have become accustomed to our lives here. However, there is something that is bothering me. My wife has begun buying clothes, shoes, and anything else to do with her appearance. Her idea of fun is to go with her girlfriends to the mall and find “bargains,” and when she cannot find them there, she shops online. Almost everyday, packages arrive with things for her or for the house. At first I did not say anything to her, because it is true that for many years when our finances were tight, she sacrificed a lot to save money and never complained. Now, however, it seems to me that she has lost control of the finances. I tried to explain it in a calm way, but she does not seem to understand. She insists that she is shopping for things on sale and only what buys what she really needs. But I cannot understand why she would really need a big wardrobe and every kind of shoe. Of course, the truth is that she does not spend a lot, but still shopping so often? In the past, she was not such a big shopper. How can I help her understand it?

Andrew

Dear Andrew,

The truth is that often we women find pleasure in shopping and especially finding “bargains.” Most of us like to go shopping with friends and look for good and sale-priced clothes or shoes. Trust me, your wife is not alone, especially here in the U.S. where consumerism is a way of life and marketing and advertising are at their best.

The problem begins when shopping becomes addictive, to the point where the buyer does not respect the family budget, racks up credit card debt, impulsively buys anything that “catches his eye,” he feels the need to shop to feel better, so he cannot leave the house without buying something.

What you write of your wife is that she was deprived of a lot of things because of financial constraints, and it is likely that now that your financial situation has improved, she feels she is entitled to “pamper” herself and spend some money to renew her wardrobe and strengthen her self-confidence. You write to me that she does not spend big sums, which means she thinks about the budget of the family and is aware of her purchases. Therefore, it is most likely a phase that will run its course and she does not suffer from an addiction to shopping. However, it would be advisable to ask the opinion of an expert, because there are often problems related to the psychological state of the individual lurking behind such behaviors.

There are many things you can do to help her realize the problem.

First of all, discuss it with her, without criticism and accusations, but with love and willingness to understand. Try together to find out why it pleases her to shop so often, what she feels, or does she do it because she is bored, does she feel stress and pressure, and that calms her temporarily? Suggest to her that with the money she spends shopping she could do something creative, learn something new, join a gym, take self-improvement workshops.

You can even suggest some practical ways, for example to look at all the clothes in her wardrobe and to separate what she does not wear at all, what she seldom wears, and what she often wears. So maybe she will figure out that her purchases are useless. She would be very helpful in arranging her wardrobe in a way to easily find the clothes she wears so she knows what she really has and what she really needs.

Advises her to keep a detailed purchase list so she realizes what she buys and how much money she spends. To consult the list each time before making a new purchase.

Suggest to her when she wants to buy something not to buy it immediately, but to leave it and think about it in a few days. Thus, the first excitement and impulse will be gone and will be easier to understand if she really needs it.

It would help her, whenever she wants to buy something, to check if she already has something similar, and evaluate on a scale from 1-10 if she really needs it.

If she feels the urge to buy without the need for anything specific, suggests doing something else at that time, for example to go for a run or talk to her girlfriend.

Discuss with her the amount you could spend in a month without remorse for whatever pleases her and make her understand that if she does not spend constantly, buying cheap things, she could save enough money to buy something that will really please her.

Finally, set a common goal, for example an expensive trip to a faraway land, and suggest to your wife that she really needs it and should save up for that trip.