What is a single word for someone who spends their wealth very foolishly?

For example: A person is obligated to take care of their children but instead spends their money on unnecessary things leaving no money to provide the necessary things for their children like food and clothes.

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    In answer to your first question (and not necessarily your second question): a prodigal. Mar 17, 2013 at 1:53
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    The example sentence unfortunately makes the question a bit unclear. It seems like one thing to spend money foolishly in general, but spending to satisfy one's own whims at the expense of one's children's needs adds a level of selfishness (and child neglect) that is not present in the original question. Jan 2, 2017 at 3:02
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    It is not a very good question, as @Katherine Lockwood pointed out. The title and the first sentence imply a rich person; the second sentence implies a person with no wealth and not much income. Ill-nourished children in rags are not children of wealth, even if the parents are profligate spenders. The best I can come up with is "financial idiot", which is not a single word, but which is a much used current term.
    – ab2
    Jan 4, 2017 at 3:18
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    Just to clarify: I know it is not your question. All your questions are outstanding. I understand why you don't want to edit it. Good luck on getting a thoughtful answer out of a not very thoughtful question.
    – ab2
    Jan 4, 2017 at 3:33

12 Answers 12


prodigal noun
A person who spends money in a recklessly extravagant way.

From Twelve Emperors by Suetonius, the following description is of Caligula

‘In reckless extravagance he outdid the prodigals of all times in ingenuity… and set before his guests loaves and meats of gold, declaring that a man ought either to be frugal or be Caesar. [...] To make a long story short, vast sums of money, including the 2,700,000,000 sesterces which Tiberius Caesar had amassed, were squandered by him in less than the revolution of a year.’

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    I think Westerners are more attuned to prodigal as an adjective, i.e., The Prodigal Son.
    – Stu W
    Jan 1, 2017 at 19:16
  • @StuW I agree, apart from being old-fashioned, it is nevertheless still a noun and it fits the description.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 1, 2017 at 19:18
  • From Merriam Webster: "One who spends or gives lavishly and foolishly".
    – haha
    Jan 3, 2017 at 20:43

One word? How about if I force in a hyphen to connect a word more closely to 'wealth'?

Financially-frivolous or maybe frivolent-spender (frivolent isn't a standard spelling)

From Dictionary.com

frivolous [friv-uh-luh s]


  1. characterized by lack of seriousness or sense: frivolous conduct.

  2. self-indulgently carefree; unconcerned about or lacking any serious purpose.

  3. (of a person) given to trifling or undue levity: a frivolous, empty-headed person.

  4. of little or no weight, worth, or importance; not worthy of serious notice: a frivolous suggestion.

I think frivolous still might be a bit dated and formal for you goals though(even if it is closer to your average joe's spoken language than some of the more precise suggestions here).

Would something made-up like money-flake be more the feeling you're after?

  • 5
    +1 Welcome to EL&U! Great first answer--referenced, sourced, linked and not just a cop-and-paste. Jan 3, 2017 at 5:06

Lester Berrey & Melvin van den Bark, The American Thesaurus of Slang, second edition (1953) lists a number of lively synonyms for spendthrift, although many of them have dropped out of usage in the 64 years since the book was published. Here is the relevant entry:

SPENDTHRIFT. Dead-game sport, flasher of the green, good fellow or Joe, full guy, high roller, Jack Full of Money, live wire, rounder, spendicator, (big) splash, (good) sport, squandermaniac, two-fisted spender. Spec[ific:] angel, big-boat pilot, (big) butter-and-egg man, ... cloak-and-suiter, coal-oil Johnny, doughnut, goldfish, soft sugar, sugar sucker, [all referring to] a wealthy theatrical and night-club spendthrift.

Unfortunately, the most evocative of these options (including spendicator, squandermaniac, and two-fisted spender) were so little used after 1953 that Harold Wentworth & Stuart Flexner, The Dictionary of American Slang, first edition (1960) doesn't provide entries for them. That dictionary does cover several of the other terms, however:

high roller 1 One who gambles large sums frequently. ... 2 One who spends money freely, esp. at nightclubs, entertainments, and on whisky and women; a "sport."

live wire 1 An exciting person; an active, alert, reliable person. ... 2 One who spends his money freely.

rounder n. Lit., one who frequents or makes the rounds of saloons and other resorts; fig., a debaucher, a roué. ... Archaic.

sport n. 1 a handsome, generous, carefree, wisecracking, stylishly dressed roué; an irresponsible lover of wine, women, gambling, and gaiety; one who is eager for a good time no matter how much it costs or how many responsibilities he must ignore to have it; one obsessed with creating the impression of being carefree, generous, and having fun. ... 2 A term of somewhat disrespectful and belligerent address to a stranger. Archaic. 3 An agreeable, accommodating, fair person; regular fellow.

The trouble with all of these terms is that they can mean something besides what the OP is asking for. This would not have been the case with squandermaniac, if English speakers had had the sense to retain that slang term. (A Google Books search for squandermaniac turns up two dozen unique matches, many of them from the past 15 years, so maybe there's hope for the word after all.)

The most common slang terms for a wastral today are probably big spender and high roller. Barbara Kipfer & Robert Chapman, Dictionary of American Slang, fourth edition (2007) offers these entries for the two terms:

big (or big-time) spender n phr A person who is generous and extravagant, esp for lavish entertainment; HIGH ROLLER (1920s+ Nightclubs)

high roller n phr 1 A person who gambles for high stakes ... 2 BIG-TIME SPENDER (1881+) {gambling sense probably influenced by the idea of rolling the dice in craps}

The spendthrift sense of both live wire and sport have very nearly disappeared in modern slang usage, according to Kipfer & Chapman.

Actually, roué might be a suitable (less slangy) term as well. Here is the definition for that word from Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003):

roué n {F[rench], lit[erally], broken on the wheel, fr[om] p[ast] p[articiple] of rouer to break on the wheel, fr[om] M[iddle] L[atin] rotare, fr[om] L[atin], to rotate,; fr[om] the feeling that such a person deserves this punishment} (1800) : a man devoted to a life of sensual pleasure : RAKE

Like rake, roué focuses on the libertine excesses of the person so described, rather than on the waste of money involved, but dissolute behavior and financial ruin frequently go together.

  • I really love spendicator, I think it's a great word but I didn't find any references that suggested it was used for people. Instead it appears to have been a type of calculator. On the other hand, squandermania is listed in a number of dictionaries but not squandermaniac, which is again a great shame.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 5, 2017 at 18:55
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    @Mari-LouA: I did some searching for spendicator and found that it was some kind of home economy program—"a device for indicating expenses" (circa 1917). It may be that the slang term for wastral was a play on this "device." By the way, the Dialect Notes article that lists spendicator also offers such deathless product names as Jap-A-Lac (varnish), Oxydonor (cure-all), Locomobile (car), Asparox (asparagus-flavored sauce), Colax (medical preparation), Fordorn (car horn), Festino (dessert), Tiz (cure for enflamed feet), Canthrox (shampoo), and Crudol (hair preparation).
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 5, 2017 at 19:55
  • ...You can check out the Dialect Notes article, "Word-Coinage and Modern Trade-Names" here. Who wouldn't buy "Ka-Tar-No" cough syrup, "Catarrlets" antiseptic tablets, "Flistikon" flypaper, or a "Pro-phy-lac-tic" toothbrush?
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 5, 2017 at 20:02
  • They're all wonderfully dotty. I wonder if Coca-Cola played a hand when someone coined Colax for a laxative. OMG a prophylactic toothbrush?! ☺
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 5, 2017 at 20:02
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    The great thing about "Flistikon" is that you don't have to explain how the product works—all you have to do is say the name slowly.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 5, 2017 at 21:47

improvident From The Oxford English Dictionary

...fails to make provision for future needs; ... does not manage resources economically; thriftless.

2013 Sunday Tel. (Nexis) 7 Apr. (Features section) 21 He was charming but improvident, died with astonishing debts and..was impoverished

The ultimate in improvidence is illustrated by this qutation from Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy.

It was now the season for planting and sowing; many gardens and allotments of the villagers had already received their spring tillage; but the garden and the allotment of the Durbeyfields were behindhand. She found, to her dismay, that this was owing to their having eaten all the seed potatoes,----that last lapse of the improvident.


How about a misspender - one who misspends?


misspender NOUN rare
A person who misspends something, especially one who makes wasteful or inappropriate use of his or her time.

misspend VERB
[WITH OBJECT] usually as adjective misspent
Spend (one's time or money) foolishly, wrongly, or wastefully

‘I always believed that increased funding would help schools, but now I saw how existing money was sometimes misspent.’


The closest meaning I can relate to is Spendthrift. Spendthrift is a noun that means "a person who spends money in a careless or wasteful way." Careless or wasteful way can be manipulated as Foolishly.



From splurge - the act of spending money freely or extravagantly with little regard.


abuser - someone who abuses. Child abuse is the physical maltreatment or sexual molestation of a child. A parent who fails to provide for the basic necessities of their child is a child abuser. The cause may be a spending addiction. In either case the state should remove custody.

  • Dissolute : lacking restraint; especially : marked by indulgence in things (as drink or promiscuous sex) deemed vices

the dissolute and degrading aspects of human nature — Wallace Fowlie

“these are indeed bold convictions,” he wrote, “for a young and inexperienced man, imperfectly educated, irregular in his application, and shamefully dissolute in his conduct.” - H. S. Salt (The Critique of Shelley’s Life and Character)

  • Debauched : To reduce the value, quality, or excellence of; debase: debauch a currency.

    Archaic. to lead away, as from allegiance or duty.

    1590s, from Middle French débaucher "entice from work or duty,"

"And I say to myself when there's time for a word, As I gracefully grow more debauched and depraved, 'Ah, love may be strong, but a habit is stronger And I knew when I loved by the way I behaved.” ― Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn


Legally speaking, such a person is a self-dealer.

self-dealer Self-dealing is the conduct of a trustee, an attorney, a corporate officer, or other fiduciary that consists of taking advantage of his position in a transaction and acting for his own interests rather than for the interests of the beneficiaries of the trust, corporate shareholders, or his clients.

One of the most notable statutes relating to self-dealing by the United States Internal Revenue Service is 26 U.S.C.A. § 4941 (1969), which allows the Internal Revenue Service to impose a five percent excise tax on each act of self-dealing by a disqualified person with a private, nonprofit foundation. Disqualified persons include substantial contributors to the foundation, foundation managers, owners of more than 20 percent of the foundation's interest, and members of the family of disqualified persons. If the self-dealing act is not timely corrected, the IRS may impose on the self-dealer an additional 200 percent excise tax on the amount of the transaction.

  • 2
    The question specifically relates to someone's spending of their own wealth, even if that wealth ought to be used to fulfill their obligations to dependents, but it is their own wealth, not that of clients, a trust or corporation. Is there an application of self-dealer to that situation which you could make more clear?
    – Spagirl
    Jan 4, 2017 at 11:38
  • @Spagirl That is why I posted my second answer, dispossessor. Jan 4, 2017 at 14:00
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    But likewise, that is putting someone out of possession of something (and it more specifically relates to real estate). Failing to honour an obligation to provide for someone is not the same as removing possession of something from someone, surely?
    – Spagirl
    Jan 4, 2017 at 14:12
  • Legally, that parent is a child absuser. Jan 4, 2017 at 17:18

dispossessor To put (a person) out of possession, especially of real property; oust.


British: rakehell or rake. Seems similar but not exactly like a squandering spendthrift or a prodigal.

Wikipedia gives rake (stock character), emphasis added:

In a historical context, a rake (short for rakehell, analogous to "hellraiser") was a man who was habituated to immoral conduct, particularly womanizing. Often, a rake was also prodigal, wasting his (usually inherited) fortune on gambling, wine, women, and song, and incurring lavish debts in the process. Cad is a closely related term. Comparable terms are "libertine" and "debauchee".

  • This has been addressed thoroughly in other referenced answers. Instead of repeating other answers, which makes this a comment, please see the help center on how to write your own. Mea culpa for the edit.
    – livresque
    Sep 15, 2023 at 2:58

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