It’s No Secret, Women Shoppers Get a Bad Rap

Photo courtesy of dogfrog

My fellow male readers may view this as a “devil’s advocate” post, but I’m not calling it that because my wife is a reader and she may take offense!

Let’s play a little game.  Read the following line, close your eyes and pay attention to the image you have in your head:  “The shopper, loaded down with bags from a morning of scouting out sales, walked briskly towards the mall’s exit.”  Ok, you can open your eyes now.  Was your mental image of the shopper a man or a woman?  Right, it was a woman.  That’s because most stereotypical views of shoppers and shop-a-holics assume women are the major offenders.  However, I would argue that men are equally guilty.

The Male Shopper vs. the Female Shopper

After my wife and I first married she took up an interest in scrapbooking.  We bought so many scrapbook supplies that I joked we could run a scrapbooking supply store out of our spare bedroom.  Of course, I was reminded how much went into each scrapbook, including the books themselves, stickers, cardstock, stamps, etc, etc.  I wasn’t convinced.  I thought this ranked up there with one of the most expensive hobbies ever conceived.  I griped about the cost of everything, and trips to the scrapbook store frequently led to arguments about money and left us both feeling guilty–her for buying supplies, and me for being upset about it.

The funny thing is that during this same period I bought a laptop computer that I “had to have,” a pager with a texting feature (this was before the days of cell phone text messages), and a new truck.  Those three purchases alone were many thousands of dollars more than the money my wife spent on her weekly scrapbook supplies, but they were spread out over the course of a year or so.  Other than those luxuries I stayed out of stores for the most part, which somehow justified my spending over hers.  Not fair.

Women Buy Shoes, Men Buy iPhones

Some women like shoes or purses, while others enjoy spending money on cooking or crafts.  Some men like cars or electronic gadgets, while others pour money into radio controlled planes or sporting events.   The point is that we all have our weaknesses when it comes to consuming.  The infrequency of our shopping trips, or the resulting amounts, do not make one party fiscally superior to the other.  The average man has many jokes in his arsenal about how much his wife likes to shop, but if they really stopped to analyze spending they would probably discover they spend just as much (and in most cases, much more) on big ticket items.

How does this compare to the spending in your current relationship?  Are you the spender, or the saver?


  1. Fortunately, I’m not really into the ‘latest and greatest’ consumer electronics – I didn’t get an iPod till earlier this year, and it was a remanufactured older model one with free shipping; also we’re in the minority it seems that we don’t have a HDTV but rather our old trusty 26″ in the living room and a 19″ for the kids. (Some of my coworkers are quite taken aback that I watch standard def TV).

    We’re both savers, but my wife and I both have our little ‘things’ we like to spend money on. For her, its oils and candles, for me, it’s baseball caps. What we do is we each get a small amount each month to spend on ‘whatever’. We feel like we each get a little ‘fun money’ – I think it helps a tremendous amount when it comes to sticking to the ‘big picture’ of a budget that you get to do a little something for yourself.

  2. These days, I’m the saver, the tightwad, and the scrouge. I’ve never been a clothes shopper. But in the past I have spent a good deal of money on food and cooking ingredients and equipment. We both spent lavishly during our world traveler days. Now I cringe when my husband spends money impulsively. I try not to say much, because he is the earner. But I know my ultra-frugality has been rubbing off on him.

  3. I am having my husband sit down and read this article. Thank you for this!

    I have to say I am more of the saver and he is more of the spender. When I purchase, I buy small things that rarely hit over $10.00. His purchases, well, lets add a few zeros to that.

  4. This article truly points out a bias that we need to acknowledge in our marriages. My wife spends $5 here and $10 there. I save my fun money, but I’ll drop $100 to $300 when I decide to make a purchase.

    The key is to create a budget that you can both live with. We have always included a little fun money for each of us in our budget. We did this even while we were paying off debt. It made the whole thing easier to sustain.

  5. Thanks for sticking up for us! 😉 After I got married, I heard a lot, especially from people my own age, that I needed to be more careful with money now that I was married, I shouldn’t spend my husband’s money on frivolous things, etc etc etc. I think lazy thinking is the force at work behind those sorts of comments. It’s easier just to repeat a stereotype than to think beyond it. In our relationship, I was the saver and my husband was the spender. Like your wife, I felt guilty for a lot of things I shouldn’t have. It was hard.

  6. The true breakthrough in communicating with my wife about finances involved 3 things.

    1. Being completely honest about our situation.

    2. Not only pointing out where her spending was out of line with our budget, but also pointing out that I am capable of inappropriate impulse purchases as well. That involved actually itemizing some of the things that I broke the wallet out for, so that the evidence was out in the open. Without a doubt, the most important thing I did for our communication.

    3. When discussing money, not assigning blame, but trying to learn from the opportunity. When we are short of money, it’s because WE BOTH have pulled our wallets out when we should have reconsidered. Just because she may have spent more than me this month, since I am far from perfect, how can I expect her to be?

    Great post!

  7. This post makes such a good point… I just saw this happen in the past couple weeks.

    My last big purchase was my brand new MacBook. $1,300 of my money, saved over the course of four months.

    My husband’s last purchase: an intake system for our (his) S2000. $1,045 of his money, saved in less than a month. (Because he’s currently deployed and our expenses are extremely low when it’s just me. 🙂 )

    However, that’s an extreme example… I’m typically much less expensive. I’ll spend ~$150 on clothes, lunches or other little things, when everything he claims to want is a few hundred or so. I can be satisfied with a new mini skirt, but he would rather have expensive, high quality car parts. (I have had a very electronic summer… New computer, and earlier a new iPod and new phone.)

    There’s quite a bit of imbalanced spending in my relationship, and I’m going to try and even it out after my husband comes home. Right now our finances are all crazy because of his deployment and it’s hard to implement anything until things go back to “normal.”

    My hubby is looking forward to his nearly $5,000 shopping spree after he gets home though. 😉 He’s definitely earned it, both with putting up with me through all my money talks and for doing his duty overseas. The best part is we won’t have any extra debt because of it and I’ll have one satisfied hubby for quite a while. 🙂

  8. I use to be the “Queen of Small Spending” and my husband was the “King of Big Ticket Items”. That was during our pre-budget, pre-Dave Ramsey days.

    Now we have a budget with $60 fun money per month. By not dividing that into $30 his/$30 hers we communicate about what and it works for us. Some months I enjoy knowing if I sacrifice this month and don’t splurge he’ll get to use that entire $60 to purchase something he’s had his eye on.

  9. Another reason women seem to ‘always’ be shopping is that they are in charge of aquiring what the family needs. These days, the man may well be involved in the cooking and grocery shopping, even to the point of primary responsibility. But in most households, I’d venture to guess, the woman is responsible for all aquisitions other than vehicular or electronic. And for most non-frugal households, that’s a bunch of stuff. Even if the household isn’t extravagant, kids do have the habit of outgrowing clothes, toys, even beds. Things do wear out. And darn it, people keep on wanting to eat! That adds up to a lot of shopping trips even before you reach the point of overshopping.

  10. To mom, again, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s unfair when you’re charged with maintaining a household (whether it’s spoken or not), then accused of spending too much or shopping all the time. My husband used to do this until I pointed out some of his cola habits and other similar things. We had long discussions, and he gradually stopped, and I learned how to shop sales. I don’t entirely blame him. He comes from a family that believes fruit is a luxury, so he had a weird perspective on some shopping expenditures.

  11. it’s so true! when we were going through our stuff and figuring out what we could sell, I was staggered to discover what people would pay on ebay for my husband’s moog synthesizer. he admitted that it was a ‘pick-me-up” purchase (retail therapy) from his single days 🙂 unfortunately my used shoes will not fetch as much as the moog!!! in any case, it’s true. most girls like to buy “stuff” but when my husband blows the budget it is doing things like eating lunch out every day with his colleagues. hey, that’s a purchase too! it’s just not sitting in your closet!

  12. The biggest argument my now ex-husband and I used to have related to money involved whether or not his cigarette and beer expenses fell in to the same category as any miscellaneous spending I did. I would always insist that my buying a new shirt in a month was no different, and a lot less expensive, than him spending $10 a day on cigarettes and beer. He also contended that cigarettes and beer were “groceries”. We never did resolve that issue!

  13. Great post! I like to read articles where someone really steps back and sees the entire picture. This is indeed a common misconception, perhaps because women do most of the purchasing for the family and the household. When it comes to “fun” stuff though, I think men outspend women, generally speaking, of course.

  14. In fact, you can take the gender variable out of the equation and simply redine each shopper as either a “little purchases, big volume” spender, or a “large purchases low volume” shopper (of course, then you don’t get the interest from people who are specificaly attracted to the man vs woman debate!).

    It ends up being the same thing: each of these purchasing patterns are just as bad at the other: the small purchases add up, and the large purchases blow whole chunks of your money all at once.

    The trick is to recognize both patterns for what they are: both are extraneous expenditures which may contribute to financial hardship.

    I’m writing a proper article about this, I’;ll comment back when it’s done. Great post!

  15. That is so funny yet true for our family. I don’t really buy anything for myself but I do bargain shop for the kids clothes and buy a year ahead when the final season clearance is happening. I usually get brand new shirts from .50-2.00 a piece and pants from 1.00-5.00 a piece. My hubby likes big ticket items like chainsaws, snow blowers, wood splitters, wood chippers, etc…my little spending sprees amount to probably no more than 100 on each child which covers fall, winter, spring, summer clothes for a year….I am totally the saver in our family!

  16. We’re both. I can have sympathy for you both on the scrapbooking. I have both scrapbooking supplies (which I haven’t touched since my 2.5 year old was born), and quilting, which I still do, but have gone down from 6-7 to 1 quilt per year.

    In the first years of quilting, my husband decided to spend as much on his hobbies as I did on mine. Except I bought so much fabric, books, and a sewing machine, he really couldn’t get close (we’re talking a few thousand dollars). But it’s interesting…we never really did think about it and consider electronics as his hobby. We were just looking at woodworking for furniture. We didn’t think about the DVD player, laptop, new computers, etc.

    Nowadays we are both frugal. Our computer got a virus and stopped working. My electrical engineer husband spent days trying to fix it. We considered a new laptop, found one…and by the time we were ready to order it the price went up and the memory went down. So we waited…and my husband found a way around the problem (Linux instead of windows). We are both savers now. We still spend, but we really discuss it first.

    My mother still struggles with this. She is the one tasked with “paying the bills”, but my step-dad at the beginning of the month takes out money for his horse, his stamp hobbies, his household hobbies, and mom is left figuring out how to feed them on what’s left (she also doesn’t have the backbone to hand him the checkbook, but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

  17. Awesome post! I could have written this. I also have so many scrapbooking supplies.. (plus I go away 2 times/year for crafting weekends!) My husband has all the gadgets.. an iphone (which I lined up for!) and a kindle (amazon – he love it!)

    yes, we do have our weaknesses.

  18. @Million Dollar Journey: No, I can honestly say it wasn’t. I bought the pager because I thought the text feature would be “cool.” The laptop replaced my home desktop, but at the time it wasn’t a necessity.

  19. Well, I promised a proper post, and here it is!

    This article deals with the I Deserve Mentality that affects all kinds of consumers. I go into detail about the two kinds of consumers I mentioned in my earlier comment: High Price Low Volume consumer and Low Price High Volume consumers, as well as the unique financial risks they face.

    And yes, I linked back to this great post!

  20. This kind of attitude in my ex-husband actually led to our divorce (among other issues). He accused me of being a ball and chain and of spending all of his money. Yet, he was the one that wanted the $4,000.00 four-wheeler that I tried and tried to talk him out of.

    Funny, however, is that he came knocking on my door a couple of weeks after walking out and taking the checkbook. He wanted to know how I managed to pay all of the bills. I told him he’d have to figure it out for himself.

    Now, I am remarried and my husband and I talk about money, plan our spending and have a savings plan. It’s such a relief to be in a healthy relationship…especially where money is concerned.

  21. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I found myself relating to the wife and my husband fits in this as well. My husband loves electronics, and unfortunately, almost everything seems to be quite expensive in that area. We both have turned quite frugal since being married, which eliminates most disagreements in this area. But had we our dream, we would be spending away in these opposite areas.