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The hidden cost of being a woman

Beyond the pink tax, women pay more for a wide range of expenses every day


There are a slew of additional charges women take on every day that might not be accounted for in the average budget – from the pink tax to higher health care costs.

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It is a well-known fact that on average, women earn less than men. But what we often don’t think about are the extra expenses that women take on. Of course, there is the pink tax – surcharges on products designed for women where the same thing for men costs less – but that is just the beginning.

In addition to paying more for some products, there are a slew of additional charges women take on every day that might not be accounted for in the average budget. When taking charge of our financial health, it is important that we don’t overlook these hidden costs. We must adapt our budgets and financial plans to account for womanhood.

Hidden costs in transportation

In a study on New York City transportation costs by the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, experts discovered that the median extra cost per month for women to get around was between $26 and $50. This is due to a variety of factors, including the safety concerns of many women when choosing public transportation – especially late at night.

Sarah Kaufman, Associate Director at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation and co-author of this study, observes this cost as a direct result of the harassment many women face every day. “Women are being harassed sexually or otherwise,” she says, “and when they can afford to, they opt for alternative modes of transportation – usually for-hire vehicles or taxis – so that they can feel safer.”

While this issue is not exclusive to women, the study notes that “women are more likely than men to change their behavior in order to avoid harassment.”

Plus, women are more likely to be caregivers than men. That means many women are swallowing the extra costs of transporting children or elderly family members. The study found that female caregivers in New York City spend as much as $100 per month in additional travel expenses.

Hidden costs in health care

Within health care, there are a bevy of additional costs women shoulder that don’t affect most men. For many women, the cost of gynecology visits, birth control and pregnancy care need to be factored into their plan. Women also have longer average life spans – which leads to an average lifetime health care cost a third higher than it is for men.

Hidden costs in menstrual care

One big expense that generally comes around every month is menstrual care products. While it might just seem like a part of your routine to buy them, these purchases can add up to a huge expense over time. In fact, feminine hygiene products are a billion dollar market in the U.S., and many women struggling financially have to choose to go without these products.

According to Elise Joy of Girls Helping Girls. Period. – an organization that donates feminine care products to food pantries, school systems and outreach programs – not having access to these products “is a huge problem for women and families who struggle financially.”

Beyond significant short-term costs, not being able to afford menstrual care can have devastating long-term effects on women’s ability to afford those products in the future. One area where this problem is apparent is in education. Women who are struggling financially and cannot afford expensive feminine hygiene products are often left behind.

“What we’re told by schools and by students, is that if [girls] get their periods and then don’t have the products to get themselves to school, they just skip on a pretty regular basis,” Joy notes. By providing women who are struggling with free products, Joy notices that “we’re able to lift the financial burden for a family, but we’re also allowing people to get back to school and back to work where they might not have been before.”

These products are necessary to every woman’s health and long-term wellness – including their access to education – but they are expensive and inaccessible to lower-income populations.

Hidden costs in clothing, beauty products and grooming

You’ve probably heard about the pink tax, which is an additional cost added to women’s products that makes them more expensive than the exact same product for men. The largest culprits of this problem are grooming products, including shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, razors and other toiletries.

However, pink-taxed products are not the only extra cost that women face when it comes to personal grooming. Women also pay more for dry cleaning and services like haircuts – even if they are asking for the exact same service as a man.

Additionally, women have to pay more for clothing than men. This is due not only to higher clothing prices, but also to expectations that women should be well-groomed.

Studies have found that women who are less made-up are viewed as less professional and often suffer in the workplace. When it comes to makeup and similar products (which are incredibly expensive), one study found that women who wear makeup are likely to earn a higher salary. This fact makes it difficult for many women to choose to wear alternative clothing (like unisex clothes) or avoid makeup, despite the high cost of these products.

Don’t forget to factor these costs into your budget

It is no question that women have a bevy of extra charges that might go unnoticed in the average financial plan. But factoring these hidden costs into your budget is paramount to financial success. Once you have a better idea of the higher average price you are paying for things such as transportation, health care and grooming, you can start budgeting accordingly and working toward financial success.

There are several steps you can take to reduce some of these hidden costs in your life.

  • For example, you can buy unisex or men’s products (for ones that are typically pink-taxed).
  • You can also opt for reusable menstrual care products.
  • You can shop at online retailers that mark down pink-taxed grooming products, such as Boxed.
  • Use online shopping portals when shopping for clothes to earn cash back on your purchases and offset upcharges.

However, your safety, health and well-being are just as important as financial success. Spending a bit more might be an unfortunate reality.

  • If that is the case, you can offset some of the cost by tracking where you spend the most money and getting a credit card that rewards you for those purchases. You can find cards that award points or cash back on relevant purchases such as transportation and department store purchases.
  • Don’t forget to incorporate these costs into your monthly budget to ensure you aren’t living above your means.
  • You can also pledge your support to one of the many great organizations and legislations fighting against these higher costs.
  • Whether that means donating feminine products to your local food bank or writing your congressperson demanding policy that supports equality, women can support other women in small ways every day.

Learn more about women’s barriers to financial success – and how to overcome them

Beyond the hidden costs women must account for, there are plenty of barriers to our financial success. With the To Her Credit series, we are dedicated to empowering women to overcome these barriers and thrive financially.

You can follow along as we offer targeted financial advice by women, for women by subscribing to our newsletter.

If you have a story about your relationship with finance you’d like to share or questions you may have, contact us at tohercredit@creditcards.com.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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