Help A Shopaholic Manage A Shopping Addiction

by Jacques Sprenger on April 20, 2009

Let’s say you’re the main breadwinner, pulling in a six figure income and trusting your spouse or partner to take care of essential payments, and to deposit the surplus into a savings account. Lo and behold, he/she is diverting the money to his/her own goals, be it gambling or buying expensive stuff. So how can one hard-working individual detect and prevent such “infidelities”?

shopaholic, shopping addiction

Help A Shopaholic Manage A Shopping Addiction

If you opted for joint accounts, you both receive monthly statements. It may be a good idea to get together once a month (it would be awkward to signal a lack of trust by checking the accounts on your own), to sit down and verify each account against the original bank documents. That is, if your relationship (hopefully) allows for this sort of cooperation.

Your wife, whom you love dearly, may have a shopping or gambling problem. She might max out her credit cards. If your partner is financially vulnerable, then I would strongly recommend not using separate credit cards, so that both of you can keep tabs on your credit card debt together. As it is, credit card companies will keep enticing you to spend more by increasing your credit limit over time; hence, going joint will allow you to detect problems before they become unmanageable.

Don’t Put Your Marriage At Risk

“By lying about money, or by even just not telling the whole truth, the foundation of a couple’s trust and loyalty begins to crack.” ~from

Lying about money (and other such behavior) may be the beginning of the end for many marriages. It is thus most important to establish a clear communication channel to detect and correct existing and potential problems before they destroy the relationship. But it’s not only the wife who may be guilty of secret purchases; how many husbands order that magical (expensive) new tool on the Internet while at work, knowing that the budget does not allow for that additional expense? If we don’t have the money, we should avoid charging anything to our credit cards: simple abstinence from spending is something I do to avoid making financial mistakes and getting into an unwanted financial mess.

Stop Overspending and Fight The Addiction

If you suspect your wife suffers from “shopaholism”, there are ways to confirm and cure the addiction. Does she have unused brand-new clothing hanging in her closet? Does she buy stuff even though she knows that the family suffers from excessive debt? These are signs of shopping addiction.

Nowadays, there are several ways to stop overspending and cure other addictions, from group therapy to hypnosis. But one of the essential conditions to cure any psychological problem is to have the desire to receive help. That is where a loving family will contribute enormously to convince the affected person that a treatment is necessary. Make no mistake, shopping addictions are very serious problems, just like gambling and drug use.

According to one expert, “there are no standard treatments for shopping addiction. Medications have been used; in some cases, antidepressants can treat the underlying issue of depression in someone with an addiction, but with mixed results.” The best results are obtained by joining a support group of addicted shoppers, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. The action of recognizing the problem in front of the group of people who share the same addiction is in itself therapeutic. If your family has an addicted member, make sure you treat it as an illness and not as malicious behavior. Yelling and insulting your loved one will only cause the affected person to feel worse, thus running the risk of destroying your relationship with them.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Beth April 20, 2009 at 7:50 am

Did I wake up in the 1950s this morning? Attention, men! Here’s how to protect your little woman who just can’t control herself.

Sarcasm aside, I think this article has many great points but it relies on old-fashioned notions of male bread-winners and female spenders, and treats shopaholism as a “female disorder” (which it isn’t, according to experts men are shopaholics too though less likely to label themselves as such).

Furthermore, men are also guilty of making stupid financial mistakes (or do you mean to tell me that women are the only ones to blame for the economic crisis?) Problem gambling is also more common in men than women.

This is a good post — but more research and less bias would have made it better.

2 SVB April 20, 2009 at 11:53 am

Yes, the writer is an older male, but I think he was just making an example here. I get the message. The author does say this:

But itโ€™s not only the wife who may be guilty of secret purchases; how many husbands order that magical (expensive) new tool on the Internet while at work, knowing that the budget does not allow for that additional expense?

3 Jacques Sprenger April 20, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Absolutely Beth, I take your valid point and believe me, even though SVB classifies me as an Older Male (sounds like the male member of a pride of lions who let the females do the shopping), I totally depend on my wife for budgeting the expenses. I will be the compulsive spender, at times, and she has to reign me in to respect the financial limits. I was just making an example when using wife, though I could have used husband instead. Yes, I am of the older generation who grew up in the 50s, so maybe I harbor a secret bias :))

4 Beth April 20, 2009 at 3:59 pm

I did notice that part of the article, but that only reinforces the point. The husbands sneak in a purchase that isn’t in the budget, but it’s the wives who have a serious problem. The man makes a purchase online, while the woman seems to buy whatever she sees.

I still think this article would have been more useful if it wasn’t written in a “how to manage your wife” sort of tone. Just to give some perspective, a friend of mine in university was a shopaholic who wound up in serious consumer debt — and he’s male. It would have been useful to know how to help a friend or family member with this problem. Moreover, it could have clearly identified warning signs and steps to get help. The content wasn’t focused, and the author seemed to wander all over the place. (Sorry… my English teacher background is kicking in here…)

5 SVB April 20, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Thanks for the constructive criticism Beth. I hope that the article was useful in that imparted a message on the topic of overspending. You may want to visit this one on the same subject: Stop Overspending Now.

I do understand your sensitivity to the gender positioning of the article, but as the author explained, he writes from his standpoint and experience. Regardless of how the article is positioned, we always do our best to provide readers with content that sheds light on financial issues on a daily basis. Hopefully this will prove helpful to readers nevertheless. Personally, I think the article makes some great points (I realize that the use of gender here was more of an example, so I didn’t really notice it much).

6 Beth April 20, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Hey, thanks for the link. I apologize for letting the critic get the better of me ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s great that someone is calling attention to this important issue — especially these days.

7 Jacques Sprenger April 22, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Anytime, Beth, anytime you decide to comment on my articles, whether positively or negatively, please do so. This older male :)) is still flexible enough to accept criticism and mend his ways. Besides, there is nothing I like more than a lively back-and-forth among interesting people. Since you are an English Teacher, we have something in common, since I also teach English, but to special needs teens. Maybe we can exchange some teaching strategies.

8 Karey October 13, 2009 at 6:11 am

Thanks for the article, I just discovered by mistake that my wife has been spending too mooch $$$ every month for the last 2yrs… during the time I was unemployed..yes unemployed. It almost cost us our marriage and may cost us our home. College education (daughter graduating this year from H.S.), 1/3 of retirement, savings, is deleted. Now, I did not want to monitor her every move but now I have no choice. Thanks for the article.

9 Joseph Ferrera November 18, 2009 at 11:06 am

Compulsive shoppers looking to raise awareness.

Dear fellow compulsive shoppers, family and friends,

My name is Joseph and I am producing a new documentary film aimed to raise awareness of compulsive shopping and shopoholism in America.

Both I and the film’s director are recovering compulsive shoppers. I know the feeling of having an uncontrollable urge to shop and consume to fill something within, but only to be left with an emptiness at the end of the day. We seek to bring to light both the psychological and cultural forces that have brought about our epidemic of compulsive shopping. What is it that drives us to fill our lives with “things?”

We are searching for someone who would feel comfortable in front of a camera, and would like to share with us the motivations behind their shopping.

If you would like to raise awareness of the issue by sharing your story in our film, we would love it if you could send us some information about yourself – your name, age & general area of residence, as well as some insight into your situation. How does compulsive shopping affect your day-to-day life? Are you stuck in a cycle of shopping to make yourself feel better? Does compulsive shopping hold your life back through debt, or other financial obstacles? Has the ritual of shopping replaced other, more productive or personally beneficial activities you may have previously participated in?

Please just let me know if you feel you may want to participate.

Thank you so much and best of luck!

Joseph Ferrera

10 cheryl from thatgirlisfunny February 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm

My goodness! You picked a challenging topic. Whether the characterizations are male or female didn’t bother me as much as the landmines exposed when one person starts to feel like they can’t trust the other.

Ouch! I feel all the air being sucked out of my lungs. Money is such a volatile subject.

Control issues abound whenever money enters the conversation regarding who gets what and why. When addiction, of any sort, enters the picture, counseling is needed. This is just too big of an issue for most of us to handle well.

11 emma wilson January 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm

i will tell you how to really stop your man from spending all of that money first you cut all of the credit cards off then you make sure you put all the money in a bank account and then you tell them no.

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