Why women are spending too much money

Name two things that make all women bond. Talking about their periods and shopping? That’s right! Funny enough, these are probably also the two things that will make most men want to step out of the conversation immediately. But for two things that are considered so “typically feminine”, it is strange how little we actually know about the two.

Do not get me wrong: we all know what being on your period means (although the male perspective might differ a bit from the female perspective) and we all know what shopping means (yet again… perspectives might differ), but did you ever stop and wonder whether the menstrual cycle and shopping behaviour are somehow related? Well the authors of the paper we discuss today, Pine and Fletcher, did.

Why should we be interested?

So far, research has shown that women are more prone to compulsive spending than men are. Women also consider money to be a more emotionally loaded topic. This is not surprising given that women’s self-image tends to be more closely tied to shopping. Women also tend to value shopping experiences more than men do. To explain this, researchers often refer to social learning theories: girls grow up with the idea that shopping is the thing that defines them as a woman. “Shopping is fun. Being a woman is fun!” Men, on the other hand, are taught to shop for efficiency: get what you need and then leave as quickly as possible. “Shopping is for women, and we are men!”

But what if there are other, non-social ways to explain women’s vulnerability for spending money? Pine and Fletcher started thinking about the menstrual cycle, and considered all the ways the cycle can affect a woman’s emotional state, impulsiveness, motivation, and so on. In the end, they wondered if the menstrual cycle could serve as a new, biological explanation. This had not been considered before.

The menstrual cycle (crash course edition)

I hear you think, wait a minute, before we dive into this study, what does the menstrual cycle look like again on average? Here a quick overview:

Days Phase In English please?
1-11 Follicular The menstrual and post-menstrual phase
12-16 Mid-cycle The ovulatory phase
17-28 (± 5) Luteal The pre-menstrual phase

The study 

Thus, the study by Pine and Fletcher is the first study (and the only one so far) to examine the possible influence of the menstrual cycle on spending behaviour. They recruited British women to complete the Recent Spending and Saving Scale. This questionnaire included items on saving money, impulsive buying, over-spending, lack of control, and buyer’s regret. Examples are: “I have gone shopping for something and came home with something completely different” and “I have bought something on impulse”. To know where women were in their menstrual cycle, the option was given to indicate the last period’s date in the demographic questions section. This way, participants did not know that the actual purpose of the study was to examine spending behaviour throughout the menstrual cycle.

In the end, Pine and Fletcher recruited 443 women between the age of 18 and 50 years old. The majority of the sample was between 25 and 44 years old (70%) and earned their own income (75%). Importantly, 121 women used the oral contraceptive pill. Because the pill suppresses ovarian hormone releases, women who use the pill might be less susceptible to menstrual cycle fluctuations and were therefore not included in the analyses. Eventually, the final sample consisted of 322 women.

And?

The results suggested that self-regulation of spending decreased throughout the menstrual cycle. Women who were in the luteal phase scored significantly higher on the scale than women in the follicular phase. In other words, women who were about to have their period indicated less control over their money and more over-spending than women who were on their period or just had it.

However, it should be noted that the found correlations were small (r range = .11 – .20). This could mean that the relationship between the menstrual cycle and spending behaviour is not very prominent, or that there are other factors that are better at explaining why women sometimes spend their money impulsively. It is also possible that the Recent Spending and Saving Scale was simply not the best way to measure spending behaviour, and that another questionnaire might lead to other results. Future research should look into this.

Conclusion

In short, the study by Pine and Fletcher suggests that women in the last phase of their menstrual cycle experience more problems with spending money in a controlled manner. Although it should be noted that the correlations were small, it might be helpful for women to be aware of the effect the menstrual cycle can have on their spending behaviour!

Ladies, what do you think? Are the results of the study by Pine and Fletcher relatable or do you think research focus on other explanations?


If you are interested in reading the literature used for this post, references and links are provided here:

Pine, K. J., & Fletcher, B. C. (2011). Women’s spending behaviour is menstrual-cycle sensitive. Personality and individual differences50(1), 74-78.

image derived from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/wealth/spend/spending-behaviour-why-women-enjoy-shopping-but-most-men-dont/articleshow/54749973.cms?from=mdr
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