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Where Women, Men Are More Financially Savvy Than the Other Gender

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While some movie tropes suggest women are more willing than men to whip out their credit cards, is one gender more financially savvy than the other? A LendingTree analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey data shows that it depends on the expenditure.

We analyzed 96 spending categories and compared how genders use their cash based on the percentage of total expenditures. Here’s what we found.

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Key findings

  • Based on the percentage of total expenditures, single women spend 1.79 times more on apparel and services for women 16 and older than single men spend on these categories for men 16 and older. Women spend an average of $671 annually, or 1.73% of their total expenditures, while men spend $398, or 0.97%. Men generally aren’t buying apparel and services — from clothing and footwear to watches — for the women in their lives at $32 annually, or 0.08% of their total expenditures. Compared with women spending 1.73% of their total expenditures in this category, this equates to 22.25 times less — the widest gap in our analysis.
  • Outside of apparel and services, women also spend significantly more on personal care products and services than men. According to our analysis, women spend an average of $596 annually on personal care products — from hair and oral hygiene products to personal care appliances — compared with $255 among men. This translates to 1.53% and 0.62% of annual expenditures for a difference of 2.48 times.
  • Women face a harder time in the housing market than men. Women pay 1.29 times more for owned dwellings — a category that includes mortgage interest, property taxes, home insurance and more. Individually, women pay 1.20 times more on property taxes, 1.11 times more on housing and 1.09 times more on mortgage interest and charges. Meanwhile, men spend 1.12 times more on rented dwellings, which includes rent, parking fees, maintenance and more.
  • Men tend to spend more on “other” entertainment equipment and services. Men spend an average of $675 annually in this category — which includes indoor exercise equipment, athletic shoes, fireworks and more — versus $141 among women. Based on annual expenditures of 1.64% and 0.36%, this equates to a difference of 4.51 times. Other categories with the biggest gaps where men spend more are alcoholic beverages (1.99 times, $542 versus $257), tobacco products and smoking supplies (1.98 times, $349 versus $166) and new cars and trucks (1.68 times, $1,219 versus $684).
  • Of the 96 categories tracked, the percentage of total expenditures was the same among women and men in just three. These were meats, poultry, fish and eggs (1.52% of total expenditures), nonalcoholic beverages (0.75%) and other meats (0.21%). That said, average annual expenditures among men are $41,203, versus $38,838 among women. So while total expenditures line up by percentage, spending isn’t even dollar-wise.

Single women spend more on apparel and services than single men

When it comes to spending on apparel and services, there are notable gaps. Single women shell out 1.79 times more — based on the percentage of total expenditures — on clothing, footwear and accessories for women ages 16 and older than their male counterparts spend in the same category for men ages 16 and older.

On average, women spend $671 a year, or 1.73% of their total expenditures, on apparel and services, while men spend $398, or 0.97% of their total expenditures. That equates to the 1.79 times difference.

The difference is far starker when you compare that $671 — or 1.73% — to what men spend on apparel and services for the women in their lives. Men spend $32 annually, or 0.08% — leading to a staggering 22.25 times gap — the widest disparity in our analysis.

Here’s a glance at some examples that fall under apparel and services:

  • Men’s and boys’ apparel: Coats, sweaters, shorts and uniforms
  • Women’s and girls’ apparel: Coats, blouses, dresses and nightwear
  • Apparel for children younger than 2: Coats, diapers, dresses and footwear
  • Footwear: Shoes, slippers and boots
  • Other: Material for making clothes, dry-cleaning, jewelry and watches

But that’s not all. Women also outspend men when it comes to personal care products and services. Our analysis found that women spend an average of $596 annually on personal care products (like hair and oral hygiene products and personal care appliances), while men spend $255. That’s a difference of 2.48 times between the 1.53% and 0.62% of their respective annual expenditures.

Spending on apparel and services and personal care products and services by gender

CategoryWomen’s annual spend% of women’s expendituresMen’s annual spend% of men’s expendituresDifference in % of expenditures
Women’s expenditures higher
Apparel and services, women 16 and older$6711.73%$320.08%22.25
Apparel and services, women and girls$6861.77%$410.10%17.75
Personal care products and services$5961.53%$2550.62%2.48
Men’s expenditures higher
Apparel and services, men 16 and older$250.06%$3980.97%15.01
Apparel and services, men and boys$460.12%$4070.99%8.34

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey data.

According to LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz, a major factor is at play here.

“The pink tax surely plays a role,” he says. “Over the years, it’s become clear that many products specifically targeted toward female shoppers tend to cost more than those aimed at men. Personal care products, such as razors, shampoos and lotions, are often considered the prime examples of these disparities, but it can go beyond that. Clothing and services such as dry-cleaning are often cited as well. The truth is that even if these price differences aren’t huge, they add up over time and they eat into women’s buying power. That’s the last thing women need, especially since they already tend to make less than men overall.”

Still, Schulz notes that the pink tax doesn’t explain the entire difference. Ultimately, some of the gaps in spending may be due to different spending priorities among the genders.

Women spend higher (based on expenditures) in 64 of the 96 categories analyzed

Among the 96 spending categories analyzed, women spend more on 64 categories, based on the percentage of expenditures.These categories appear in a range of major types of expenditures — as an example, among health categories, women are spending more specifically on:

  • Medical supplies, at $143 (or 0.37% of total expenditures), versus $97 (or 0.24%)
  • Health care, at $3,747 (or 9.65%), versus $2,845 (or 6.90%)
  • Health insurance, at $2,467 (or 6.35%), versus $1,954 (or 4.74%)

Generally, women also spend more on homes and housekeeping. In particular, they spend more on:

  • Maintenance, repairs, insurance and other expenses, at $1,795 (or 4.62%), versus $1,159 (or 2.81%)
  • Housekeeping supplies, at $597 (or 1.54%), versus $399 (or 0.97%)
  • Laundry and cleaning supplies, at $141 (or 0.36%), versus $95 (or 0.23%)
  • Household furnishings and equipment, at $1,784 (or 4.59%), versus $1,375 (or 3.34%)

Finally, data indicates that women love their pets. Women spend $575 (or 1.48%) annually on their pets, while men spend $367 (or 0.89%). Women also spend more on pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment than men, at $643 (or 1.66%) versus $458 (or 1.11%).

There’s a gender gap in the housing market

Glass ceilings don’t only apply to the workplace — when it comes to housing, the gender gap is striking.

On average, women spend 1.29 times more (based on total expenditures) on owned dwellings, which include mortgage interest, property taxes, home insurance and other expenses. Broken down more specifically, women pay 1.20 times more on property taxes, 1.11 times more on housing and 1.09 times more on mortgage interest and charges compared to men.

On the other hand, men spend 1.12 times more on rented dwellings, which includes rent, parking fees, maintenance and other related expenses.

Spending on housing by gender

CategoryWomen’s annual spend% of women’s expendituresMen’s annual spend% of men’s expendituresDifference in % of expenditures
Women’s expenditures higher
Owned dwellings$4,68612.07%$3,8429.32%1.29
Property taxes$1,5333.95%$1,3573.29%1.20
Housing$16,22341.77%$15,56237.77%1.11
Mortgage interest and charges$1,3593.50%$1,3263.22%1.09
Men’s expenditures higher
Rented dwellings$5,05113.01%$6,00014.56%1.12

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. BLS 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey data.

According to LendingTree senior economist Jacob Channel, there are a few reasons why women face more financial barriers when it comes to owning a home, largely boiling down to individual priorities.

“While the reasons behind their financial choices will vary by person, there’s some evidence to suggest that women prioritize homeownership more than men and are more willing to make sacrifices to become homeowners,” he says. “This can help explain not only why single women tend to spend more on homes that they own than men do, but also why single women are more likely to be homeowners, even if they tend to earn lower incomes. Men, on the other hand, might not be as keen to take on the commitment of buying a home. As a result, they could be more willing to spend a bit extra on a nice place to rent.”

Where do men spend more? Think entertainment, equipment

What about the categories where men spend more than women based on total expenditures? For “other” entertainment supplies, equipment and services — which include indoor exercise equipment, athletic shoes, fireworks and more — men spend an average of $675 annually, or 1.64% of their total expenditures. In contrast, women spend $141 in this category, or 0.36% of their total expenditures. Based on total expenditures, that’s a whopping difference of 4.51 times.

Physical activity could contribute here. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than women. In 2020, 28.3% of men met aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines, versus 20.4% of women. This could lead to them spending more on items like indoor exercise equipment and athletic shoes.

At the same time, men spend more on alcoholic beverages than women. With men spending $542 (1.32% of their total expenditures) annually on alcohol and women spending $257 (0.66% of their total expenditures), that’s a 1.99 times gap. Following that, men also spend more on tobacco products and smoking supplies. While men spend $349 (0.85% of their total expenditures) annually on smoking products and supplies, women spend $166 (0.43% of their total expenditures) — a 1.98 times difference.

Top categories where men spend more (based on expenditures) than women

CategoryWomen’s annual spend% of women’s expendituresMen’s annual spend% of men’s expendituresDifference in % of expenditures
Other entertainment supplies, equipment and services$1410.36%$6751.64%4.51
Alcoholic beverages$2570.66%$5421.32%1.99
Tobacco products and smoking supplies$1660.43%$3490.85%1.98
New cars and trucks$6841.76%$1,2192.96%1.68
Gasoline, other fuels and motor oil$8132.09%$1,2272.98%1.42

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. BLS 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey data.

Generally speaking, health habits may be to blame for the difference in spending here. CDC data reveals that men tend to drink more than women: Almost 58% of adult men reported drinking alcohol within the last 30 days, compared with 49% of adult women. In addition, about 21% of men reported binge drinking, while only 13% of women said similarly.

There are also some differences in smoking habits between the genders. While CDC data indicates that the difference in current smokers isn’t particularly significant (at 14.1% for men and 11.0% for women), women are more likely to quit smoking than men. According to a recent ValuePenguin study on attempts to quit smoking, a slightly higher rate of women (56.5%) who were current smokers in 2020 said they tried to quit in the past year than men (53.3%).

It’s also worth noting that men put more money toward their vehicles. They spend more money on new cars and trucks, with men putting $1,219 (2.96% of their total expenditures) annually toward new vehicles while women spend $684 (1.76% of their total expenditures) on this category, for a difference of 1.68 times. And those new cars and trucks may be gas guzzlers, as men are spending $1,227 (2.98% of their total expenditures) annually on gas — 1.42 times higher than the $813 (2.09% of their total expenditures) women are spending.

Certain food and drink spending is roughly the same among men and women

Of the 96 categories analyzed in our study, only three have the same percentage of total expenditures for both men and women: meats, poultry, fish and eggs (1.52%), nonalcoholic beverages (0.75%) and other meats (0.21%). However, even though the percentages match, there’s still a notable difference in spending between genders. On average, men spend $41,203 annually while women spend $38,838. That means that dollar-wise, their expenses in these categories don’t quite match up.

In fact, men spend $625 annually on meats, poultry, fish and eggs, while women spend $592. Similarly, men spend $309 on nonalcoholic beverages, while women spend $292. Other meats are the closest at $83 among women and $87 among men.

Spending by food categories

CategoryWomen’s annual spend% of women’s expendituresMen’s annual spend% of men’s expendituresDifference in % of expenditures
Women’s expenditures higher
Fresh vegetables$2020.52%$1600.39%1.34
Eggs$420.11%$350.08%1.27
Fresh fruits$2360.61%$1980.48%1.26
Dairy products$3060.79%$2650.64%1.23
Bakery products$2770.71%$2440.59%1.20
Food at home$3,0807.93%$2,8666.96%1.14
Fish and seafood$1030.27%$990.24%1.10
Women’s/men’s expenditures equal
Meats, poultry, fish and eggs$5921.52%$6251.52%1.00
Nonalcoholic beverages$2920.75%$3090.75%1.00
Other meats$830.21%$87%0.21%1.00
Men’s expenditures higher
Food away from home$1,3653.51%$1,9504.73%1.35
Pork$1160.30%$1340.33%1.09
Beef$1400.36%$1610.39%1.08

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. BLS 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey data.

While men and women share some similarities when it comes to food spending, they generally prioritize different groceries. Broken down more specifically, women spend a higher percentage of their expenditures on eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and fish and seafood. Meanwhile, men spend more than women on beef and pork.

Spending data also indicates that women prefer to eat at home, while men prefer eating at restaurants. While women spend $3,080 (7.93% of their total expenditures) annually on food prepared at home, men spend $2,866 (6.96%). That means women’s home-cooked spending is 1.14 times greater than men’s.

Full data

CategoryWomen’s annual spend% of women’s expendituresMen’s annual spend% of men’s expendituresDifference in % of expenditures
Women’s expenditures higher
Apparel and services, women 16 and older$6711.73%$320.078%22.25
Apparel and services, women and girls$6861.77%$410.10%17.75
Personal care products and services$5961.53%$2550.62%2.48
Floor coverings$220.06%$100.02%2.33
Residential phone service, VOIP and phone cards$1970.51%$1190.29%1.76
Drugs$4261.10%$2700.66%1.67
Pets$5751.48%$3670.89%1.66
Maintenance, repairs, insurance and other expenses$1,7954.62%$1,1592.81%1.64
Postage and stationery$980.25%$640.16%1.62
Household textiles$960.25%$630.15%1.62
Reading$1090.28%$720.17%1.61
Housekeeping supplies$5971.54%$3990.97%1.59
Other household products$3580.92%$2400.58%1.58
Laundry and cleaning supplies$1410.36%$950.23%1.57
Medical supplies$1430.37%$970.24%1.56
Pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment$6431.66%$4581.11%1.49
Miscellaneous household equipment$9682.49%$7051.71%1.46
Medical services$7111.83%$5241.27%1.44
Health care$3,7479.65%$2,8456.90%1.40
Household furnishings and equipment$1,7844.59%$1,3753.34%1.38
Fats and oils$860.22%$670.16%1.36
Apparel and services, overall$1,0802.78%$8422.04%1.36
Household operations$1,0542.71%$8252.00%1.36
Sugar and other sweets$1140.29%$900.22%1.34
Health insurance$2,4676.35%$1,9544.74%1.34
Fresh vegetables$2020.52%$1600.39%1.34
Other household expenses$9892.55%$7861.91%1.33
Furniture$3790.98%$3070.75%1.31
Owned dwellings$4,68612.07%$3,8429.32%1.29
Eggs$420.11%$350.08%1.27
Fresh fruits$2360.61%$1980.48%1.26
Fruits and vegetables$6371.64%$5361.30%1.26
Other dairy products$2130.55%$1810.44%1.25
Dairy products$3060.79%$2650.64%1.23
Processed vegetables$1180.30%$1030.25%1.22
Life and other personal insurance$2390.62%$2090.51%1.21
Bakery products$2770.71%$2440.59%1.20
Property taxes$1,5333.95%$1,3573.29%1.20
Major appliances$2150.55%$1930.47%1.18
Fresh milk and cream$930.24%$840.20%1.17
Water and other public services$4501.16%$4080.99%1.17
Cereals and bakery products$3881.00%$3520.85%1.17
Small appliances and miscellaneous housewares$1050.27%$970.24%1.15
Processed fruits$800.21%$740.18%1.15
Fuel oil and other fuels$830.21%$770.19%1.14
Food at home$3,0807.93%$2,8666.96%1.14
Miscellaneous foods$6361.64%$5931.44%1.14
Vehicle rental, leases, licenses and other charges$4701.21%$4391.07%1.14
Other food at home$1,1582.98%$1,0892.64%1.13
Natural gas$3040.78%$2870.70%1.12
Housing$16,22341.77%$15,56237.77%1.11
Fish and seafood$1030.27%$990.24%1.10
Education$6041.56%$5831.41%1.10
Food prepared by consumer unit on out-of-town trips$300.08%$290.07%1.10
Cereals and cereal products$1110.29%$1080.26%1.09
Mortgage interest and charges$1,3593.50%$1,3263.22%1.09
Cash contributions$1,6924.36%$1,6594.03%1.08
Footwear$2070.53%$2030.49%1.08
Utilities, fuels and public services$2,6876.92%$2,6606.46%1.07
Public and other transportation$2330.60%$2310.56%1.07
Poultry$1080.28%$1090.26%1.05
Electricity$1,0322.66%$1,0492.55%1.04
Shelter$10,10126.01%$10,30425.01%1.04
Telephone services$8182.11%$8392.04%1.03
Women’s/men’s expenditures equal
Meats, poultry, fish and eggs$5921.52%$6251.52%1.00
Nonalcoholic beverages$2920.75%$3090.75%1.00
Other meats$830.21%$870.21%1.00
Men’s expenditures higher
Apparel and services, men 16 and older$250.06%$3980.97%15.01
Apparel and services, men and boys$460.12%$4070.99%8.34
Other entertainment supplies, equipment and services$1410.36%$6751.64%4.51
Alcoholic beverages$2570.66%$5421.32%1.99
Tobacco products and smoking supplies$1660.43%$3490.85%1.98
Cars and trucks, new$6841.76%$1,2192.96%1.68
Vehicle purchases (net outlay)$1,6374.21%$2,7976.79%1.61
Gasoline, other fuels and motor oil$8132.09%$1,2272.98%1.42
Other apparel products and services$1240.32%$1870.45%1.42
Cars and trucks, used$9492.44%$1,4053.41%1.40
Pensions and Social Security$2,7287.02%$4,0019.71%1.38
Food away from home$1,3653.51%$1,9504.73%1.35
Personal insurance and pensions$2,9677.64%$4,21010.22%1.34
Transportation$4,62111.90%$6,46915.70%1.32
Toys, hobbies and playground equipment$680.18%$910.22%1.26
Fees and admissions$2050.53%$2710.66%1.25
Entertainment$1,6944.36%$2,1975.33%1.22
Maintenance and repairs$5231.35%$6731.63%1.21
Vehicle finance charges$960.25%$1220.30%1.20
Other lodging$3640.94%$4621.12%1.20
Miscellaneous$6351.63%$8021.95%1.19
Rented dwellings$5,05113.01%$6,00014.56%1.12
Cellular phone service$6221.60%$7201.75%1.09
Pork$1160.30%$1340.33%1.09
Vehicle insurance$8492.19%$9802.38%1.09
Beef$1400.36%$1610.39%1.08
Other vehicle expenses$1,9384.99%$2,2145.37%1.08
Audio and visual equipment and services$7051.82%$7921.92%1.06
Food$4,44611.45%$4,81611.69%1.02

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. BLS 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey data.

Reining in spending: 3 expert tips

Regardless of your gender and spending habits, cutting back may help you achieve your financial goals — particularly now, with inflation as high as it is. To do so, Schulz recommends the following:

  • A budget is a huge key. “If you have a handle on how much money is coming in and out of your household each month, you can have a much better sense of how much expendable income you have,” he says. “Then you can start to make informed decisions about your spending based on your priorities.”
  • Shop around. Whether you’re looking for lower mortgage rates or a better deal on personal care products, taking the time to comparison shop can save you real money.
  • Make lists. “Impulse shopping kills budgets,” he says. “You can fight that by being planful and making shopping lists when you head to the store or shop online. Just the act of making the list can change the shopping trip from an unfocused browse to targeted search. That change can make it less likely for you to succumb to impulse buys.”

Methodology

To rank how differently women and men spend, LendingTree researchers analyzed the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Specifically, researchers estimated the percentage of expenditures single men and single women dedicated to each category and then compared the two numbers.

For example, if 30% of men’s total spending went to housing and 33% of women’s total spending went to housing, we said women spent 1.10 times more than men on housing.

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