Created By: StevenT on June 14, 2012 Last Edited By: Antigone3 on August 16, 2012
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Women Waste Money

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Oh, that dress would look lovely on me. And it's on sale, for only $5000! Perfect! I'll take it!

... only, there wasn't a spare five grand in the budget for that month, and she's just put the family into serious debt.

This trope assumes that female characters are incapable of handling money, and will therefore waste it. This is loaded with Unfortunate Implications, and fortunately is going Discredited Trope on us. Straight examples will usually be from older media, and/or be set in an era when women were deliberately not taught anything about money management because her father or husband was supposed to take care of such matters for her. (And never mind that given relative ages at marriage in that era, a woman could expect to spend the end of her life as a widow, with no one but herself to balance the checkbook.)

Typical variants include store charge cards and a Credit Card Plot, equating "checks left in checkbook" with "money left in checking account", and expecting presents that are more expensive than the husband can afford. The trope normally requires that the money be spent on luxuries. If the husband is present when the purchase is made, expect a scene where the wife loads her bags and boxes into his arms.

The trope would be inverted in cultures where women are in charge of the household budget, or in situations where the wife is the wealthy one (or breadwinner) and the husband is the one on an allowance.

This can overlap with Henpecked Husband, Trophy Wife, and especially Gold Digger. It can also be a case of Most Writers Are Male And Venting About This.

No Real Life Examples, Please!.


Examples:

Film
  • In The NeverEnding Story 3 Bastian's sister steals the wish granting auryn from him to go on a shopping spree. The message here (apart from stealing is bad) seems to be that wasting wishes is wrong, also it's never explained why, bordering on Informed Wrongness. (In the 1st movie making wishes was a good thing that helped Fantasia grow, in the 2nd it was bad because it erased memories. Neither seems to be the case here.)

Literature
  • Bujold's Barrayar plays with this. Cordelia Naismith, having grown up on egalitarian Beta Colony, is perfectly capable of earning her own living and living within her means; but she's married into a patriarchal culture where upper-class ("Vor") women are expected to be decorative and waste their husbands' money on frivolities. Early in the book, she purchases a sword-stick for one of her husband's retainers, not realizing that non-Vor are not allowed to own weapons; but because she paid for it with her husband's money, it is technically his weapon, which he can allow his servant to carry around. Much later, at the climax of the novel, we get this exchange:
    Aral: Where have you been, woman?
    Cordelia: Shopping. Want to see what I bought?
    Cordelia removes the severed head of Vidal Vordarian from her shopping bag and rolls it across the conference table, to everyone's shock.
    Aral: But of course. Every Vor lady goes to the capital to shop.
    Cordelia: I paid too much for it.
    Aral: That, too, is traditional.
  • Agatha Christie was fond of playing with and inverting this trope.
    • In Death on the Nile Linette was a very wealthy woman who had been trained by her father in managing her financial and legal affairs, and as such was very clever and and capable in business matters. Her husband, on the other hand, had no business sense at all.
    • In Witness for the Prosecution Miss Emily French was a shrewd business woman. She pretended ignorance in order to have an excuse to flatter the handsome young Mr. Vole and ask for his help with her finances.

Live Action Television
  • In a Christmas Episode of Married... with Children Peg & the kids steal money from Al's wallet and buy stuff for themselves. When he discovers that he has no money they complain that he didn't buy them any presents.
  • Seemed to show up from time to time on I Love Lucy...one that sticks out was Lucy Is Enceinte and Ricky's "Lucy...what did you buy?" when she's trying to tell him she's pregnant.
  • On Mad Men Lane Pryce's wife buys him a brand new Jaguar car as a present. They are in fact completely broke but Lane has kept her in the dark about their dire financial situation. She thinks that they have lots of money and he is just too frugal to spend anything on himself.
  • Sex and the City plays with the idea that this is a Dead Horse Trope. Carrie has no savings because she has spent literally thousands of dollars on shoes. On the other hand, conservative Charlotte who quits her job when she marries Trey has been careful with the money she made at her gallery and refuses to offer Carrie a loan due to her irresponsibility.
  • How I Met Your Mother plays this pretty straight with Lily, while also deconstructing her Unlimited Wardrobe: she's a kindergarten teacher, her husband's up to his eyeballs in law school debt; how does she afford the clothes? Charge it!
  • In the Made-for-TV Movie Hostage for a Day the protagonist's wife takes the almost $50,000 he has saved in his credit union account and gives it to a home remodeler/decorator as a down payment. This despite the fact that she had just had the house redone a few years prior. It is strongly suggested that she has hired the remodeler in order to have an affair with him, as have other women in the neighborhood.

Music
  • Led Zeppelin's Lemon Song
    Went to sleep last night, worked as hard as I can, Bring home my money, you take my money, give it to another man.

Newspaper Comics
  • Used in The Lockhorns every now and then, with Leroy making comments on Loretta's spending habits.
  • This sometimes appears in the Blondie strip, with the title character (Dagwood's wife) buying armloads of items for herself at a store.
  • FoxTrot inverts this trope with Closer to Earth Andy and Bumbling Dad Roger. Roger is usually the one who buys expensive luxury items, usually related to golf, and he's even shown sometimes paying the kids to not tell Andy what he bought. However, this trope is played straight when it comes to Paige and Peter, where Paige is the stereotypical teenage girl who LOVES to shop and she always makes Peter drive her and carry her purchases.

Theater
  • The play My Lady Friends' and its better-known musical version No, No, Nanette had the explicit moral that the only way for a wife to keep her husband from spending his money on other women was to spend it all on herself. It's Values Dissonance indeed: the line "No good woman has two hundred dollars!" has been bowdlerized in revivals.
  • Suggested in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, Torvald Helmer has a pet nickname for his wife Nora: Squanderbird. Whether she's that much of a spendthrift is not mentioned.

Western Animation
  • In The Flintstones, Wilma and Betty were often wasting their husbands' money, usually on clothes. "Chaaaaarge it!" was practically their Catch Phrase.
  • The opening of The Jetsons has George handing each family member a bill from his wallet, but when he gets to Jane she takes the wallet and leaves him with the bill.
  • Usually inverted with Homer and Marge Simpson.
    • In one episode, after Homer comes home with yet another expensive useless item. Marge reminds him that they're supposed to discuss unnecessary luxury purchases before making them. He retorts, "You didn't ask me before you bought that new washing machine!"
  • In the Robotboy episode "Traffic Slam" Tommy, his friends and his parents are stuck in a traffic jam. Kamikazi, disguised as a girl scout, tries to sell cookies to Mrs. Turnbull so he can steal Robotboy while they're busy stuffing their faces. Mrs. Turnbull tries one and gets instantly hooked, taking the entire contents of her husband's wallet to buy Kamikazi's entire supply.
Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • June 14, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Guess this has to do with Most Writers Are Male. Also do we need a No Real Life Examples?
  • June 14, 2012
    lexicon
    The description sounds horrible. "steal his wallet and spend his hard-earned cash" What, are these wives supposed to be on an allowance? Don't they not work themselves? Also it's too short and makes no reference to other tropes.
  • June 14, 2012
    bananasloth
    The description is definitely bad. But about "spending his hard-earned cash", I thought that was sarcasm, or just portraying how the trope (essentially a terribly misogynistic stereotype) works. That last question makes it ambivalent though.

    May overlap with Henpecked Husband, Trophy Wife, and especially Gold Digger.
  • June 14, 2012
    StevenT
    I'll just leave it Up For Grabs.
  • June 14, 2012
    SKJAM
    This is a Discredited Trope nowadays, due to women largely having their own jobs and hard times requiring better budget sense. It was a side effect of expecting women of middle class or above not to work for a living, and actively discouraging them from learning how to handle money or how economics works.

    Typical story points include store charge accounts being used in a Credit Card Plot, inability to recognize that having checks left does not equal money left in the bank account, and expecting presents well above their husband's actual income level.
  • June 14, 2012
    Prfnoff
    The play My Lady Friends and its better-known musical version No, No, Nanette had the explicit moral that the only way for a wife to keep her husband from spending his money on other women was to spend it all on herself. It's Values Dissonance indeed: the line "No good woman has two hundred dollars!" has been bowdlerized in revivals.
  • June 14, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In a Christmas Episode of Married With Children Peg & the kids steal money from Al's wallet and buy stuff for themselves. When he discovers that he has no money they complain that he didn't buy them any presents.
  • June 15, 2012
    chicagomel
    • Seemed to show up from time to time on I Love Lucy...one that sticks out was 'Lucy Is Encente(sp?)'' and Ricky's "Lucy...what did you buy?" when she's trying to tell him she's pregnant.

    • Used in The Lockhorns every now and then, with Leroy making comments on Loretta's spending habits (newspaper comics).
  • June 15, 2012
    nielas
    I would definetly add SKJAM's comments to the description.

    Is this only about the woman spending the money that her husband earned or does this also apply to women in general spending money wastefully? Various examples of single shopaholics come to mind.

    • On Mad Men Lane Pryce's wife buys him a brand new Jaguar car as a present. They are in fact completely broke but Lane has kept her in the dark about their dire financial situation. She thinks that they have lots of money and he is just too frugal to spend anything on himself.
  • June 15, 2012
    SquirrelGuy
    Not sure if this one is folklore or Truth in Television. On a first date, Bob takes Alice to a pricier (not necessarily "fancy") restaurant. Alice orders the most expensive item on the menu. When the food arrives, Alice takes one bite, and doesn't even ask for a box/doggy bag for the rest when they leave. And of course, Bob is the one who pays for it all because (this would be a different trope altogether) "The GUY is supposed to pay."
  • June 15, 2012
    SquirrelGuy
    ^ To be fair, the convention of the man being the one to pay, especially on dates that take place earlier on in a relationship, is more of a Discredited Trope than it once was, since there's often an unspoken/uncomfortable notion that the woman "owes" the man something (if you know what I mean) in return. Dutch treat (anyone use that phrase anymore?) is more common.
  • June 15, 2012
    elwoz
    Bujold's Barrayar plays with this. Cordelia Naismith, having grown up on egalitarian Beta Colony, is perfectly capable of earning her own living and living within her means; but she's married into a patriarchal culture where upper-class ("Vor") women are expected to be decorative and waste their husbands' money on frivolities. Early in the book, she purchases a sword-stick for one of her husband's retainers, not realizing that non-Vor are not allowed to own weapons; but because she paid for it with her husband's money, it is technically his weapon, which he can allow his servant to carry around. Much later, at the climax of the novel, we get this exchange:

    Aral: Where have you been, woman?
    Cordelia: Shopping. Want to see what I bought?
    Cordelia removes the severed head of Vidal Vordarian from her shopping bag and rolls it across the conference table, to everyone's shock.
    Aral: But of course. Every Vor lady goes to the capital to shop.
    Cordelia: I paid too much for it.
    Aral: That, too, is traditional.
  • June 15, 2012
    BlueGuy
    Should be related to Double Standard or something like that. May be part of a Credit Card Plot.
  • June 15, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Unfortunate Implications. In older examples this may be because women were unable to hold their own jobs or expected to leave their jobs when they married.

    Sex And The City plays with the idea that this is a Dead Horse Trope. Carrie has no savings because she has spent literally thousands of dollars on shoes. On the other hand, conservative Charlotte who quits her job when she marries Trey has been careful with the money she made at her gallery and refuses to offer Carrie a loan due to her irresponsibility.
  • June 15, 2012
    nitrokitty
    This is definitely a trope in media, but naturally we should be careful to mention that it comes with Unfortunate Implications and is likely a Dead Horse Trope these days. But the negative stereotype that women are frivolous with money does exist.
  • June 15, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Mentioned/inverted/parodied/what-have-you in an episode of The Simpsons where Homer comes home with yet another expensive useless item. Marge reminds him that they'e supposed to discuss unneccesary luxury purchases before doing it, and he rejoinds, "You didn't ask me before you bought that new washing machine!"
  • July 17, 2012
    elwoz
    Bump. Does anyone know if I Love Lucy used this? It seems like they'd almost have had to.
  • July 17, 2012
    NESBoy
    • The Jetsons example was highlighted in the Family Guy episode "Meet the Quagmires". In the new timeline Peter had created, we see a recreation of the opening sequence from The Jetsons. But when the scene gets to the part where Jane steals George's wallet, George stops her from leaving the Flying Car and accuses her of stealing the wallet just so she could go shopping. Jane claims that she's just getting groceries, and George exclaims, "Bullcrap!" Jane's death actually causes the episode's plotline (Peter trying to fix the timeline with Death's help) to progress.
    • The Classic Disney Short "Get Rich Quick" had George Geef coming home after a fruitful day of gambling, only for his wife to take all of his newly-won money to buy things for herself.
  • July 17, 2012
    Dacilriel
    This trope can vary a lot according to time and place. In the U.S. it's mostly a Discredited Trope as mentioned above, though it was valid fifty or sixty years ago, which is when most examples probably date from. Today, women are expected to be responsible for their own finances.

    This trope would be completely inverted in cultures in which the wife is responsible for keeping the household budget. It is also likely to be inverted in stories in which the wife is wealthy but the husband is not, since the wife is probably the one holding the purse strings.

    Agatha Christie was fond of playing with and inverting this trope:

    In Death On The Nile Linette was a very wealthy woman who had been trained by her father in managing her financial and legal affairs, and as such was very clever and and capable in business matters. Her husband, on the other hand, had no business sense at all.

    In Witness For The Prosecution Miss Emily French was a shrewd business woman. She pretended ignorance in order to have an excuse to flatter the handsome young Mr. Vole and ask for his help with her finances.
  • July 18, 2012
    peccantis
    A Proper Lady is never wasteful.

    But yeah, this is a thing. When I compare how many times I've seen a female go shopping in a TV show or a film and buy what they planned to buy and/or what they actually need, and how many times they go on a crazy spree and return with a stupid number of bags and boxes...

    And on top of that, the subtler implications that All Women Are Shopaholics. It's about as widespread as All Women Love Shoes.
  • July 19, 2012
    Arivne
    Newspaper Comics
    • This sometimes appears in the Blondie strip, with the title character (Dagwood's wife) buying armloads of items for herself at a store.

    One common element of such a shopping spree is the husband walking around with her carrying all of her purchases.
  • July 19, 2012
    donald
    • In The Neverending Story 3 Bastian's sister steals the wish granting auryn from him to go on a shopping spree. The message here (apart from stealing is bad) seems to be that wasting wishes is wrong, also it's never explained why, bordering on Informed Wrongness. (In the 1st movie making wishes was a good thing that helped Fantasia grow, in the 2nd it was bad because it erased memories. Neither seems to be the case here.)
  • July 19, 2012
    Antigone3
    I rewrote the description and inserted examples -- opinions?

    Also, would the Peloi from The Elenium fit here? Peloi women control all the wealth, but we don't see Kring go nuts buying presents for Mirtai.
  • July 19, 2012
    surgoshan
    • How I Met Your Mother plays this pretty straight with Lily, while also deconstructing her Unlimited Wardrobe: she's a kindergarten teacher, her husband's up to his eyeballs in law school debt; how does she afford the clothes? Charge it!
  • July 19, 2012
    RedneckRocker
    I came across this image that kinda demonstrates this idea: [1]
  • July 19, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    The description gets the idea across much better now. I actually kind of worry that it's a bit too condemnatory now, but I'd rather err on that side than on the "Bitches be crazy, am I right bros?" side.
  • July 19, 2012
    AgProv
    Music: Led Zepellin's Lemon Song

    ''Went to sleep last night, worked as hard as I can, Bring home my money, you take my money, give it to another man.''
  • July 19, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Made For TV Movie Hostage for a Day the protagonist's wife takes the almost $50,000 he has saved in his credit union account and gives it to a home remodeler/decorator as a down payment. This despite the fact that she had just had the house redone a few years prior. It is strongly suggested that she has hired the remodeler in order to have an affair with him, as have other women in the neighborhood.
  • July 20, 2012
    Antigone3
    Redneck Rocker -- I'm not sure how to insert pictures in a YKTTW, but that would probably work as a page image for the launch.

    Shrikesnest -- Yeah, it probably needs to be toned down a bit, but I may not be the best person to do that. Mom used to work for a law firm, and saw too many female clients who were raised financially ignorant and got ripped off once hubby died.
  • July 20, 2012
    Rainbow
    Fox Trot inverts this trope with Andy and Roger, given their Bumbling Dad and Closer To Earth relationship. Roger is usually the one who buys expensive luxury items that are usually related to golf, and he's even shown sometimes paying the kids to not tell Andy what he bought. However, this trope is played straight when it comes to Paige and Peter, where Paige is the stereotypical teenage girl who LOVES to shop and she always makes Peter drive her and carry her purchases.

    The "females love to shop" thing could be a new trope, because it's related to this one yet at the same time, the women who love to shop are also often shown to be excited over bargains and sales, which would show that they are looking for ways to save money as well.
  • July 21, 2012
    Chabal2
    A common joke (I think they used it in a Spider Man movie) is the wife losing/having her credit card stolen, only for the husband to not report it to the bank, as the thief spends less than his wife.
  • July 21, 2012
    Antigone3
    Rainbow, do you want to start the "females love to shop" YKTTW, or should I? I agree that it's tropable.

    Chabal, I'm not up to date on the Spider Man films, any idea which one had the joke?
  • July 21, 2012
    Antigone3
    We've got plenty of examples, and four hats. Do we want to keep the current title or change it?
  • July 21, 2012
    Rainbow
    @Antigone3: I could try to start it, since it's definitely a stereotype I'm familiar with.

    Edit: I did start it, although I will probably need help on adding examples. I know it's a common stereotype, but the only main examples I can think of are from newspaper comic strips.
  • August 8, 2012
    Antigone3
    Bumping for name and index ideas.
  • August 8, 2012
    surgoshan
  • August 8, 2012
    MrInitialMan
    • Suggested in A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen, Torvald Helmer has a pet nickname for his wife Nora: Squanderbird. Whether she's that much of a spendthrift is not mentioned,
  • August 16, 2012
    Antigone3
    I like Ms Red Ink, what do the rest of you think?

    As far as indices go, I don't think this quite fits in any of the categories of the Gender Dynamics Index. I was going to leave it in Double Standard and No Real Life Examples, but I'll take suggestions for others.
  • August 16, 2012
    ThreeferFAQMinorityChick
    Film
    • Inverted in Thicker than Water, starring Laurel and Hardy. Ollie and Stan repeatedly demonstrate an inability to competently manage their finances. In fact, Ollie's wife actually goes to the bank at one point to instruct the bank to not allow her husband to withdraw any money from their account... after he's already spent all their savings on a grandfather clock that ends up being destroyed anyway.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ibizxajf024ak8zbrx00z1kn&trope=MsRedInk