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Comparison of the week: The cost of being a woman

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While there's plenty to celebrate about being a woman, that's not always the case when it comes to money. We put the cost of being a woman versus the cost of being a man to the test.

When Beyonce asked "Who run the world?" her answer was "girls!" Thanks Bey, nice sentiment, but regarding our finances, women are still very much on the back foot compared to men. We break down the details when it comes down to our cold hard cash.

The essentials

According to Finder research, Aussie women have it all over men when it comes to taking control of their finances. An impressive feat in between fighting the patriarchy and trying to ignore ridiculous products like Bic Pens – for her.

Finder research found:

  • 20% of women have never had a credit card debt, compared to 12% of men
  • 42% of women will wait for an item to go on sale before purchasing compared to 33% of men
  • 44% of women make extra repayments on their home loan compared to 37% of men

Pretty nice hey? But that's where the feel-good financial news ends.

In Australia we still have a gender pay gap, where on average Australian men earn 14% more than Australian women. Which, and I'm sure even Beyonce would agree, sucks. What makes this suck extra hard is that despite this deficit in dollars in the hand, women often pay more for products and services.

Ladies, we break some of the bigger costs of being a woman down below, all because of what you've got down below.

The comparison

PayThe Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) calculated the gender pay gap for Australians most recently on November 2018. On that date women's average weekly ordinary full-time earnings across all industries and occupations was $1,455.80.Men's average weekly ordinary full-time earnings were calculated at $1,695.60 which gives Aussie blokes an extra $239.80 in their pocket each week.
Personal care productsA report by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs in 2015 found that women paid an average of 13% more for hair products, razors, deodorant and moisturiser products that were specifically marketed as being "for women". Examples in Australia reveal a similar price hike when it comes to personal care products marketed to women in all these categories.Razors, deodorant, hair products and moisturisers in more "masculine" looking packaging often labelled "FOR MEN" cost up to 13% less than identical items in the women's section.
ClothingIn the same study it was found that women pay on average 7% more for identical pieces of clothing such as T-shirts and shirts available to men.A study done by GetUp! in Australia found identical men's and women's shirts for sale at a number of well-known national retailers yet the men's apparel retailed for $10 less in every case.
Dry cleaningOnce you've paid an extra $10 for that shirt how about shelling out a few extra bucks for dry cleaning it too? Many dry cleaners charge up to $3 more for dry-cleaning women's blouses. Why? Most blame the equipment they use as it's designed for a standard men's business shirt which makes women's shirts more work.Fellas, with the $10 you've saved on buying your shirt you can probably afford to get an extra couple of shirts dry-cleaned while you're at it as they will cost less to dry-clean too. Win, win!
Feminine hygiene productsThere's a good chance many Australian women aged between 13 and 51 will be menstruating. That means having a period each month and shelling out for the euphemistically named "feminine hygiene products" AKA pads and tampons. And while the GST on these products was finally removed this year these products still cost money. A box of tampons and a box of pads each month is going to cost about $14. Doesn't sound like much? When you consider that the average woman endures around 456 periods over that time we are talking over $6,000.Yeah? Nah...
PMS reliefPeriods frequently mean period pain for plenty of women, so let's add a packet of Naprogesic to the monthly menstrual shopping list too. At $12.49 a box over a period lifetime that will be another $5,000+ on the bill please, ladies.Nope.
ContraceptionThe oral contraceptive pill is still the most popular form of contraception in Australia and depending on the brand can cost up to $290 a year. Other forms of contraception for women range from implants to IUDs that range in price from $30 to $150 a year plus the added costs of doctor's appointments and days off work to have these fitted.It seems incredible that in 2019 the only form of male contraception (apart from a vasectomy) is condoms. But they sure are economical, a pack of 10 from the supermarket is the bargain price of $5.
Emergency contraceptionThe morning-after-pill costs between $15 and $45 a pop depending on the type and brand.Nope.
Car insuranceFemale car owners of Australia, rejoice! Here's a product that's going to cost you less. Women are statistically safer drivers and can get lower premiums than more dangerous or inexperienced drivers.Sorry, guys when it comes to driving you're more of a statistical risk and insurers will charge you more. Especially if you're younger.
Life insuranceWhen it comes to life insurance overall women do tend to pay less than men, because women on average tend to live longer.Men of Australia you'll pay more and you probably won't live as long. But at least you'll probably earn more while you're alive so why not check out if life insurance is for you?
Health insuranceEquality reigns in health insurance, so make sure you get the best deal.Equality reigns in health insurance, so make sure you get the best deal.
Travel insuranceEquality reigns in travel insurance, so make sure you choose the best deal and the right cover for your trip.Equality reigns in travel insurance, so make sure you choose the best deal and the right cover for your trip.

The lowdown

Okay, we know what you're thinking. This is all very interesting and possibly quite infuriating but aren't comparisons meant to be useful and help people make a decision? What can we actually DO with this information?

Well that's true. But if you're the owner of a vagina in 2019 and you don't have any plans to change that fact in the short term, we do have some suggestions on how you can lessen the financial load of owning (and maintaining) a lady garden.

  • Dodge gender pricing (aka the pink tax). Check out the equivalent personal care items in the men's section. Sure they come in dull grey or blue packaging and will probably scream "FOR MEN" on the label but there's a good chance they will cost a bit less and do the job just as well.
  • Use unit pricing where you can. Unit pricing is available in most supermarkets, some larger pharmacies and online and gives you the total price of a product but also the cost per unit (e.g. millilitres, grams or per item). What this allows you to do is truly compare apples with apples when it comes to pricing products. GetUp!'s gender pricing campaign found examples of sneaky gender pricing when unit pricing is used. Like a women's deodorant which appeared cheaper than the men's version but actually contained less product and was therefore more expensive.
  • If you see do examples of unfair gender pricing, call it out. Online campaigners GetUp! encourages members of the public to capture their own examples of gender pricing and post them here. Or use social media to contact and encourage companies to use fair pricing.
  • Try reusable sanitary items. If you're buying tampons and/or pads why not try a menstrual cup or period underwear instead? Not only are they better for the environment they're designed to be reusable which means you won't be shelling out for them every month.
  • Negotiate a better deal. If you think you're "financially fit" (and there's a good chance you are if you're a woman according to our stats) then use your reputation to negotiate a better deal when applying for a loan or a line of credit. A good start is to get a free credit report to see where you stand financially. Use your loyalty as a customer and excellent credit history as leverage to negotiate a better deal with everything from mobile phone plans to energy bills. Give it a go, you might be surprised what you get if you ask. After all, "you're worth it".

Data in this article was relevant as of March 2019. Our latest report, International Women's Day report 2022, explores the drivers and consequences of financial inequality across work, wealth and household finances in Australia.

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