Shopaholic wife caused heavy credit card debt


#1

Hey guys!
The short version of what I have to say is: we are in a lot of debt and wants to get out of it somehow.
I will make it a little more longer to make you understand the situation. My wife is a shopaholic and I realized it only recently. She buys things she will never use. And before I knew about it, she has maxed out 3 credit cards and we are deep in credit card debt.
This is in addition to the house mortgage we are paying and the finance of our car. Her credit score is now very bad and mine is not excellent either. I had an argument with her, but what can arguments do here. The thing is we need to get out of it somehow and we aren’t sure about it how.
I am a Software programmer and earns just enough to live a normal life with family. A huge debt is not what I need.
The monthly payment as of now is too high and I am trying to reduce it.
Please try to answer a few of my concerns here and if possible advise me on how to handle it. Is it possible to reduce the amount payable if we try to do debt consolidation with her credit card debts? What all factors may ruin our chances of getting a consolidated debt approved? What’s our best way out of this situation? How will a debt consolidation affect our credit score?


#2

It’s shocking to see this behavior accumulate without any prior warning, but to fix this once and for all you need to change the behavior that got you into the problem in the first place.

  1. Does your partner recognize she has a problem? Will she cut down her spending to just necessities to help both of you dig yourself out together?

  2. You don’t need things already bought? Return as much of it as humanly possible. Can’t return it? Time for a spring cleaning and garage sale.

  3. Does your partner work? If not, it may be a good time to get a part time job to help with the finances.

Debt consolidation is an option but I think you have more work to do before that’s the biggest priority.


#3

Good for you to recognize it and decide to do something about it. Read all the great posts on these forums and the main page to learn various tricks. And don’t go nuts - people make mistakes and we all learn from it. It will be fine - you have already started to course correct now by asking for ideas.

On your consolidation question. At first most folks look for a financial fix such as a home equity loan, consolidated debt approaches and payment plans.This is the same thing as got you all here: buying one’s way out of a problem by signing a contract. I haven’t seen one success story on all the financial blogs where that was the key item.

Instead, stop signing papers.

Example: About to sign a rental agreement for that nice summer vacation? Rip it up and enjoy a lovely stay-cation. And sell a bunch of the crap on craigslist and Ebay that week. Buy a few more on craiglist so she can have fun shopping for stuff without signing away future income. It will take so much time and cost so little that you won’t be able to break the bank. Besides Vacations are for wimps anyway.

Slowly learn about a new philosophy by reading all the stuff on these forums and it will be only amount of time it will be second nature to save $3000 in a single weekend.

You will get there. It will take multiple trys. Don’t get discouraged and keep at it. I look forward to reading about you and your wife’s success in the future.


#4

I totally agree with @FeatureCreature and @GRuga. But if the answer to FCs first question is no there’s not going to be an easy fix for this until she is ready and willing. If her answer is yes, most certainly you can get out of debt if you make a plan together.


#5

Thank you guys! She regrets her actions agrees to do whatever she can to solve this problem. I hope she means it. But I have heard that in most cases of shopaholics, things are not in their control.
Anyway, she gave me all of her credit cards and asked me not to allow her to use them unnecessarily. She also has a small job, doesn’t earn a lot, but still a job. we were able to return a few things, but not all. I guess as FeatureCreature said, a spring cleaning will be required.
I am sure we won’t have a vacation until everything is solved.
What I need as of now is a plan to get out of all the debt. I will make sure things won’t be so messed up like this again.


#6

That’s great that she’s on board. The next step is to determine her triggers so that they can be changed or avoided.

As for the debt itself, just start paying it down. Since you’re worried about the payment, I’d start with whichever has the highest required payment or whichever is the smallest so you can get through it fastest. Here’s a calculator that might be helpful.


#7

First thing is first and that is to cut up the credit cards. It also sounds like the two of you do not have a financial direction or plan. You both need to sit down and decide where you want to be in 5, 10, 15, 20 years. Agree on it and work together towards that goal. Every month you can chart your progress together. You can also both set up monthly allowances that you each get so you can both spend some money on your hobbies guilt free.


#8

Obviously, I know nothing about the situation, so take this with a grain of salt… BUT oftentimes, things like reckless spending are signs of deeper psychological issues. Sometimes, a person with bipolar disorder will enter a manic phase and it can be marked by spending like this. You may already know that, you may think I’m wrong, and it may not have anything to do with it at all, but you might think about having your wife talk to someone about this.

I have a close family member who is bipolar, but we didn’t discover it until they were 29 years old. They have their spouse keep all the credit cards for them so they aren’t tempted to spend recklessly.

Send me a PM if you have any questions.


#9

Sorry to hear it, OP! Dreadful situation to find yourself in. At the very least, it sounds like everyone involved is apologetic / willing to work through this. As for next steps, I’d be thinking of:

1. Look for ways to improve your credit score. This will help you get a better rate if you do decide to consolidate your loans.
2. Devise a plan to pay off your credit cards, and stick to it! This could include using the tried-and-tested Debt Snowball payment method, or consolidating your debts. Posts like these are a great place to start.
3. Cut up the cards! As others have mentioned, this spending might be the result of some deeper cause. It’s probably best to remove the temptation to spend alltogether, so get those cards in the bin.

Hopefully this helps! Best of luck with it, and be sure to keep us updated on your progress.


#10

Great job with the progress. If you need help formulating a plan, I’m sure the forum would definitely be happy to point you in the right direction. Think of this as a chance to start over with your partner and get on track for what matters to both of you.


#11

I’m sorry you were surprised by this situation!

Like others, I suspect there’s an underlying issue, but that’s better left to an amazing therapist.

The other piece of advice I have is a post-nuptial agreement. Functions like a pre-nup, but is created after marriage (if you don’t already have a pre-nup). It’s worth considering if you’ve been surprised by the financial behavior of your spouse, to protect one another now by thinking through the financial ramifications and responsibilities of a future split (which hopefully never, ever happens.)

I’m a huge pre-nup / co-habitation proponent, as it forces these discussions into the light, and attorneys being involved can clarify agreements that can be left unsaid.

Good luck in moving forward from this, and I hope your wife shifts from finding solace in things to finding solace in more meaningful sources. (heart)


#12

My best friend has the exact same problem. She racked up $80K worth of debt and decided to run away to Canada (9 hour drive on a gas guzzler) for a week to hide out with another friend because she “couldn’t make rent anyways.” I was sorely disappointed in her. I wrote a post specifically for her and her credit addiction - http://www.thefrugalgene.com/effectively-overcome-credit-card-addiction/

Please note you do not have to read it, this is not self promotion. I really think it helps to lay out the amount of damage credit addiction can do to someone so they take a second look at themselves

I did send it to my friend to read after she got back from her adventures in Canada and she told me she wish she read it before leaving. Now they apparently froze her account and yeah poor thing…the story continues…

P.S. I know it seems cruel to some people (marriage is sacred blah blah) but maybe like @feministfinancier advised…is there legal protection to keep you from financial ruin?


#13

Great article. With the average balances that people carry on their credit cards, they are literally burning at least $200 every month into thin air.

I use Capital One for 3 services: checking/savings/credit. I always keep more in savings (transfer to checking to pay off balances) than I will ever put on my card so I never carry a balance. That money earns .75% interest while it sits there. There is also 1.5% cash back for every purchase. Every purchase is of course the bare essentials. This is how credit can be done correctly if you avoid the fees and leverage your own money while exercising discipline. Sorry if this was a Capital One commercial…


#14

Lol no not at all. I’ve heard wonderful things about Cap One before Joe. The .75% is definitely better than my credit union’s at .1%. I like to support my local CU but Ally Bank offers a 1.0% interest and I think Discover offers 1.25% interest.

Some are higher (1.5% is the highest I’ve seen) but the higher the interest the more hoops the bank makes you jump through.


#15

I am using Synchrony for my main savings account. Their website isn’t the greatest and you cannot access your account with an app. Other than that, the 1.05% interest rate is pretty good.


#16

Ohhhh, is that the bank Amazon partnered up with on the Amazon store card? I agree their interface is terrible! We have only interacted with them through Amazon but it was like 20 minutes just trying to get the correct login credentials, and then…1.05% you say?

…but for 1.05%…I might hit them up LOL.


#17

I believe Synchrony was formerly GE Capital which was a long time legit company. When signing up online, I had to call them to complete it which was a minor PITA. Interest posts on the 6th of the month which is odd and interest doesn’t show as accruing daily like Capital One does.