Can You Curb a Compulsive Shopper?

Hank and Marilee had a stormy marriage. The eye of the storm was Marilee's compulsive spending. She was an impulse buyer. She rarely decided to buy something but if she saw an ad that appealed to her, she bought. Granted that they could use one cedar chest but why three? When asked why, she responded, "They were half price." While Hank and Marilee never agreed about money, they did agree to see a marriage counselor. The counselor assured Marilee that her compulsive spending was leading to a divorce. Marilee made a real effort to curb her spending, but after a few weeks her favorite boutique had a "once in a lifetime" sale and Marilee was first in line when the store opened. The next time they saw the counselor, Marilee was put on an allowance and if she went through the money, she could not get any more until the following month. The first month her allowance was gone in eight days. But her closet was so full of sweaters, she had to move some of them to the guest room. When Hank came home he pointed out that she rarely wore sweaters, but Marilee felt good because she got them at a bargain and she knew she wouldn't need another sweater for a long time. At the next meeting, the counselor said that the best way to help Marilee was to take one problem at a time and work on that. She did admit to the marriage counselor that she had a closet full of clothes and didn't really need any more. The counselor suggested that she give up reading the ads, which seemed to help curb her purchases. He also suggested that when she was tempted to buy, she go home and look in her closet before making a purchase, and see if she had something similar. This seemed to work, and she soon realized that she had practically a dress shop full of dresses she hadn't worn. The next financial problem they had was gift giving. If Aunt Frieda gave them a gift worth ten dollars, Marilee responded by giving Aunt Frieda a fifty dollar gift certificate. Wedding showers and baby showers were really a problem. Every other guest took one gift, but Marilee always took two. When the marriage counselor asked her why, she said she just couldn't pass up a bargain. "Sometimes I can't decide which I like best, so I buy both. Hank who hated shopping knew that they were spending too much on gifts. He had been happy to let his wife shop for presents, but he reluctantly agreed to share the shopping and he limited the amount of money spent as well as the number of gifts. Now, Marilee and Hank agree on each purchase of a gift. After a few months, they had saved enough money to double their payment on their second mortgage. But then there was the supermarket. Marilee loved supermarkets. Unfortunately, supermarkets had daily specials, which was a great time to stock up. And Marilee did. It wasn't so bad when she bought ten cans of their favorite soup, but when she came home with a dozen oranges, Hank was not very understanding, as Marilee was allergic to oranges, and Hank knew that most of them would be trashed. Eventually with the help of the marriage counselor and Hank, Marilee did improve. She decided not to read the ads so she wouldn't know when they had specials. She stopped going to stores "just to shop." Hank, who hated to shop, began accompanying her and they agreed to agree before making a purchase. *The names and incidents in this case have been changed and not identifiable to any particular person or persons. Copyright 2006 Robert T. Lewis