We hear lots about women earning less than men, but less about it costing more to be women.
Some of the costs relate to physical reasons – like feminine hygiene, which costs up to $18,171 over a lifetime. But the majority of the costs of ‘being a woman’ relate to socially constructed gender. We’re told that to be ‘feminine’ there are certain things one must look, smell, and feel like. In this post, we’ll look at how you can catch these tricks and save.
Makeup and hair
“The most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” – Yves Saint Laurent.
Women spend an average of $15,000 on cosmetics. Women who wear makeup are more likely to be awarded prestigious jobs. Given how much time and money it costs to maintain a made-up face, there should be some compensation!
Similarly, women are typically expected to have longer, more complicated hairstyles, resulting in more shampoo, products, and accessories. On average, women spend around $700 a year on their hair. Some report spending more than $10,000 a year – more than the average global household income. But men use around half the number of products women do. There’s little evidence that these products have real benefits in any case. As The Checkout points out, your hair is dead.
Tip #1: If you want to smell girly -or manly- buy the cheapest shampoo and splurge on conditioner.Tip #1: Buy the cheapest shampoo and splurge on conditioner. Click To Tweet
The Pink Tax
In addition to physical differences and social expectations, there’s another reason for the difference in spending. The ‘pink tax’.
Hairdressers, regardless of the complexity of the request, charge women higher prices. Razors marketed to women simply cost more than those packaged in more masculine designs.
Two Schick razors have the same specifications (number of blades, number of moisturising strips).
The “women’s” version costs $9.97, the “men’s” $8.56. This is an example of gendered marketing. Companies segment the market to sell more products, some at a higher price than otherwise possible. Of course, there are times when products targeted at men cost more, however the opposite is more likely.
Tip #2: Check the men’s and women’s sections of any store to choose the cheapest product.Tip #2: Check the men’s & women’s sections of a store to choose the cheapest… Click To Tweet
Clothing is one significant area in which women spend more. Women tend to buy more clothes, and women’s clothes are generally more expensive.
Women appear to buy more clothes because women’s clothes are more subject to fashion, and women are judged more harshly on this measure.
A man can wear the same suit to work every day with a different shirt and tie, and wear the same suit to special events for years. Society expects women to have a ‘work wardrobe‘, and to not only follow fashion, but to have a different dress for every event of the season.
The reason women’s clothes are more expensive appears to be simply because they can be.
Take the example of scarves. Unlike clothing tailored to a particular body shape, scarves are essentially ‘unisex’ garments. I found a cream scarf in the ladies’ section, and was on my way to the checkout when I wandered through the men’s section. There I found the exact same scarf for significantly cheaper – another example of the ‘pink tax’ at work.
Tip #3: For items like socks, scarves, beanies, earmuffs, gloves, flip-flops etc. check the men’s and the women’s sections – even the children’s section can be useful depending on your size. Tip #3: For items like socks, check the men’s & children’s section Click To Tweet
Adding it up…
Women often pay more than men for basic categories like toiletries, hair care and clothes, largely due to social and economic reasons, rather physical differences. On rare occasions, like Ladies’ Night it can cost less to be a ‘woman’. But unlike basic expenses incurred in everyday living, these discounts are generally for unnecessary costs, and generally aren’t truly ‘free’.
Women typically earn 78% of what men do, although once you adjust for education, qualification, experience, level of risk etc. the figure is closer to 94%. While the gap might not be as significant as it sometimes sounds, over time, it adds up.
A man who receives $40,000 might earn $2,400 more each year than his female counterpart. A woman who adheres to social pressures to dress in a certain way (and of course, not all women do, and not all men don’t) might spend so much on these things, the disparity is more like $5,600 a year.
If you invested that $5,600 each year at a 5% interest rate, you’d end up with over half a million dollars at the end of a 40 year working life. By contrast, a woman who manages to avoid the ‘pink tax’ and social pressures will, on 94% of a man’s salary,end up just under $300,000 behind. It’s still not great, but it’s a lot less than half a million.
We all need clothes. But none of us need ‘this season’s’ dress we won’t even wear for a whole season because someone’s already seen it once. None of us need to paint our faces, tear out our body hair, change the color of our legs with nylon or glue our hair in place. These are socially constructed desires.
They aren’t the only ways of expressing your identity, or of being beautiful, no matter your gender. If you enjoy these things, by all means, do so. But recognize they may be costing you more than you think.
For more on women and finances, check out my 5-part series introducing the connection between gender and money on Enrichmentality, a blog dedicated to helping you learn the language of money and enrich your future.
After achieving financial independence at the age of 30, Sarah resigned from her position as a lecturer in Japanese sociolinguistics to travel the world with her husband. Her blog, Enrichmentality, is dedicated to helping people learn the language of money and enrich their futures. Sarah believes that the best way to achieve a more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable and equitable society is for more people to become empowered, and that enrichment is not just about money, but about living a rich life more generally. You can find out more about Sarah, including how she paid off her mortgage in just over 4 years and gained financial independence at https://www.enrichmentality.com/about-me/
Latest posts by Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou (see all)
- The cost of being women: 3 tips to avoid the ‘pink tax’ and save - April 6, 2017
- Travel longer, for less - February 22, 2017
- Live a beautiful, creative life – frugally - January 25, 2017