Research by Moneywise reveals that women’s spending is motivated by factors such as biology and the gender pay gap, and that we spend more on clothes and beauty products and donate more to charity than men do.
We’re also more willing to wait for online specials, and we pay off debt faster. However, we don’t put those savings towards retirement funds, saving less than men do in this area. But this isn’t the full picture.
What motivates us to spend the money we do, on the purchases we make? We spoke to clinical psychologist Enzo Sinisi, who provided us with some insight in what drives our buying behaviour.
“The motivation driving consumerist purchases are as diverse as the people making them.
On the surface, you have the item itself and all the bells and whistles that signal its superiority and quality,” Dr Enzo says, “But then, you have the silent story of how that item will meet your deeper desires.
The link is often irrational but the wish for it to be true is enough to convince us that the item will make us more lovable, important, independent, fulfilled, secure, sexy, and in control.”
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As an example, he describes how purchasing a musical instrument could support a fantasy of future love, admiration, mastery and control. This fantasy, he says, may have more to do with upholding an illusion of immunity to rejection than music.
“Similarly, money spent on maintenance and routine repair might have more to do with a craving for security and independence. Big money purchases can be especially complicated and can express anger and destructiveness, as well as pride and self-love,” he explains.
It is difficult to make broad generalisations about men and women. The distinction between the genders is routinely challenged as people point out that the boundaries between them are fluid.
Dr Enzo describes women as generally more prosocial, while men tend to be more territorial and domineering. These differences play out in shopping choices, he says. “Some women are interested in household items as a way of also asserting caregiver needs, while men may aim buy an expensive watch as a way to say “I am successful and capable”.
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”The examples above are all completely normal, he assured us. “There are instances where a person’s relationship to shopping becomes compulsive and disordered. While dynamics differ from person to person, some common themes include a person’s attempt to fill emptiness, loneliness, and sadness, with things rather than relationships. Others may be too ‘high’ from buying to realise that consequences follow purchases.”
In these cases, therapy may be necessary to help the person understand their behaviour and to then make better choices.
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So what are women really spending their money on in 2018? We asked what these 20-somethings to reveal what they consider to be the biggest purchases they’ve made in the last year:
*Some names have been changed by request.