“A college friend of mine and I moved to the same city after graduating. We were in the same field and got somewhat the same starting paycheck. It’s ridiculous how I spend more money than him on basic things”, says Janvi, a fresher who’s moved to a metrocity for her first job. Janvi goes on to describe that there’s already a glaring difference between how she spends and how her male classmate does. Now, I know most of you must be thinking that spending is a part of personal finance. It changes from person to person.
While that’s agreeable, the difference in spending between men and women stems from something far deeper than just lifestyle.
“I’ll tell you what the biggest difference for me is - it’s safety. I moved to a new city andl I couldn’t settle for anything less than living in a society which has a 24*7 security system. Most of my male friends don’t have to really think about this, and have even gotten cheaper deals. Apart from the difference in rent, the difference in transport preferences too bothers me. I stop taking buses or trains after 7-8 at night, I’m a bit apprehensive about rickshaws at night as well and choose an Uber. It might not be the case, but I feel safer, and these are not risks I’m willing to take.”
For most women, safety costs are a hidden one. I didn’t notice the same until Zarine pointed it out, and I couldn’t help but agree. Be it necessities like safety, hygiene, or health, women end up paying more. And the only question I had to find an answer for was this - “How do women manage their money, especially in the beginning of their careers?”
“If I have to go a bit further in the city, I try to go with a group of friends. That way I’m safe and it helps with the money. I also use public transport as much as I can, and try to leave before it gets a bit too late for comfort to use buses”, says Shraddha, a fresher based in Delhi
Like Shradha, many women, including me, subconsciously manage our “Safety tax” in similar ways. And surprisingly, it seems to work. Metros are a blessing because they’re cheap, fast, and have a designated compartment for women. We also try to take the bus whenever possible. Cab fares can be a bit too high for long distance travelling and we try to get at least another woman to come with us.
When it comes to housing, there isn’t much that can be done. Women are willing to pay the extra price instead of playing with their safety.
Health expenses always baffle me. For starters, I don’t understand why menstrual care and hygiene products are priced so high.
“Who doesn’t love being healthy? But when you’re living with issues like PMS- Depression and Polycystic Ovaries, health goes off the edge. I’ve had to swap my entire diet for whole foods and vegan dairy, as much as I enjoy it, it does cost me a bomb. I try to reduce costs in other areas of my life. I’ve cancelled two streaming services, I don’t need those for entertainment. With work, hitting the gym doesn’t seem very concrete for me and I realised I was paying alot for nothing. I try doing home workouts and heading for walks.”, says Sera*, a freelance designer based in Bangalore.
With ovaries, comes the potential threat of multiple hormonal issues. One in ten Indian women have PCOS. If weight gain and acne weren’t bad enough, regular gynac appointments and PCOS medication is highly capable of burning a hole in your pocket. While taking care of your health is vital, many young women are trying to find the most cost-effective ways of the same.
Swapping pads or tampons for long term menstrual hygiene products is turning out to be another favourite. A one time investment in a cup or in reusable pads is cheaper and better for the environment too.
Every minute a woman out there buys a pink razor instead of a blue or black one for three or four times the latter’s price because “it’s made for women”. Pink packaging, ‘feminine patterns’ and what not shoots the price of a usual grooming essential to a luxury item that women indulge in.
“I try to avoid it as much as I can. Pink Tax is a real thing, and it’s around wherever you go. At Salons I really can’t avoid it, but if I’m buying basic clothes I try to look into the mens section. The same applies for things like towels, socks, and whatnot”, says Naina, a Bangalore based fresher.
Pink Tax products are endless, many women have swapped it for regular looking products. My favourite game to play at the supermarket is to see what normal grooming products are priced like for men and women,
I’m not even talking about skincare or makeup here, basic costs which are hard to leave behind can be quite a bit for women. For many women, investing their money, especially in more stable outlets like mutual funds is gaining popularity. Apart from the hacks they try to reduce their expenses, the women I’ve spoken to have tried to negotiate equal pay and raises. They also try their hands at a side business or freelance work which helps reduce the financial gap. I know it can sound bizarre but no, women don’t always spend more money because their standard of living is higher. Sometimes they do, because they have no choice but to. Surviving hidden costs of being a woman is an extremely subjective thing, regardless, there isn’t one woman I’ve met that hasn’t spend more on something their opposite sex wouldn’t.