Frugality And The Sexes

Are men and women really that different when it comes to their approach to frugality? It appears so, in certain areas. Take the thermostat for instance. Most men prefer to keep things cool in the summer, while women like a higher temperature setting. Me? I compromise for the sake of being frugal – if money was not a consideration I would prefer to see my breath when I walk in the door.

But preferred temperature settings could be blamed more on biology than bad frugal habits. A recent article, The Thermostat War, And 6 More Silly Compromises, quotes the Georgetown University Center for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Aging and Disease as saying, “We have lots of data showing that women generally are far more sensitive to feelings of cold.” That’s certainly the case in the Frugal household.

What are the areas where men and women share differing ideas on frugality?

Clipping coupons. This one may be more a gender stereotype, but I used to get some strange looks when I pulled out the coupon binder at the checkout. Maybe because couponing has traditional been an activity headed up by the woman of the house, in the capacity of CFO of the household. These days, more men are sharing these duties and I say that’s a good thing.

Water usage. Water usage rolls several fringe frugal topics up into a potential marriage squabble. I know men who brag about 2-minute showers and their refusal to run the water while shaving or brushing their teeth to “conserve water.” The same men run their sprinklers twice a day for half an hour per zone because they want the greenest lawn on the block. Go figure.

Toilet paper. Entering dangerous territory here. Since the number of males and females are even in my house, I feel fairly confident making the statement women use more toilet paper than men. However, it is a battle that should simply be conceded by men. And whatever you do, never remind your significant other that Sheryl Crowe can get by with one square per “incident.” Trust me; it’s not pretty.

Shopping. I love my wife dearly, but we have agreed to disagree on shopping strategies. I’m more of a get in and get out kind of shopper. What can I say, I don’t like stores. I don’t like window shopping, “just browsing,” or any other unproductive forms of shopping. On 99% of my trips to a store I’m armed with a list (mental or otherwise) of the few things I need. My mission is to enter the store, roundup the few things I need, and exit as quickly as possible. I’ve made it sort of a game. My wife, on the other hand, snakes in and out of every single aisle in case she sees something she forgot to put on the list.

Money. Finally, something men and women can agree on. Then why so many money fights? The differences in men and women and their handling of money are well-documented, so I won’t rehash it all here. However, from the perspective of living frugal, I have to concede that most women are far better at living the frugal life than men. Sorry guys.

Women as generally less impulsive with major buying decisions (think appliances, not shoes and purses). Women prefer larger amounts of emergency savings, and less risky investments. Dave Ramsey often credits a “security gland,” only found in women, for this desire to minimize risk. Personal experience leads me to agree.

Just about every bone-headed move I’ve made with money followed a “I’m not sure that’s a good idea” statement from my wife. When I ignored her, I crashed and burned – from stock picks to business ideas to financing that Chevy Silverado.

You think I would have learned my lesson, but men are equipped with an equally strong, equally empowering “stubborn gland,” which causes us to ignore all reasonable objections, throw caution to the wind and “just go for it.” Sometimes it pays off, but most times it doesn’t.

My wife and I make a good team. I’ve encouraged her to take a few more risks, and she’s encouraged me to be more conservative. I don’t mention toilet paper, and she ignores the sprinklers. We both clip coupons, but we usually spend them in separate shopping trips.


  1. “My mission is to enter the store, roundup the few things I need, and exit as quickly as possible. I’ve made it sort of a game. My wife, on the other hand, snakes in and out of every single aisle in case she sees something she forgot to put on the list.”

    YES. I go into the store thinking we’re going to get milk, eggs, and bread. Maybe 10 minutes at the most. We end up in there for two hours going through every aisle and picking birthday cards. 😛

  2. Think it just depends on the individuals 🙂

    I can handle the cold better than my boyfriend can. We both cut coupons and he’s GREAT at using them. We’re both frugal on the water use. We’re both in and out shoppers – mostly because we both hate crowds and want out of the store as quickly as possible. He does however splurge on the chips and cookies etc, while I avoid anything that is not on my necessity grocery list. 🙂

    Where I see the big difference is with Grandkids… men are more apt to give in to their demands for “something”, where as women tend to not spoil them so bad…maybe it’s that the women have less to spend than the men and have to hoard it better, so aren’t as apt to let go of the money.

    I think one reason that women tend to be more conservative in their savings strategies, and more frugal in their day to day lives, is that money is harder to come by (less earning power generally) and women (me anyway) know if the savings is risky and goes bust that women do not have the greater earning power to recoup from a bad investment. That has always been my thoughts on the matter anyway. Especially as I get older – there is no TIME left to recoup from a savings mistake!

  3. men like shopping just as much as women. Just not at the mall or grocery store. Put a man in a best buy, sears, or comic book store he’ll snake through every aisle just touching everything, reading the back of games, and playing with gadgets.

  4. Also, women like shoes, men like golf, women like salad and men like steak, which is expensive. Don’t even get us started on chocolate.

    Seriously? Some pop sci article that glanced at one studies abstract–maybe–gets taken seriously like this. Women are people. We prefer hot or cold depending on the individual. Men may or may not like shopping based on who they are. It’s ridiculous to think otherwise.

  5. I’m the coupon-cutting, reusable bag toting, grocery shopper in our family. More often than not, I go solo, early on Saturday mornings. I’m a comparison-shopper & label-reading and my wife can’t handle it. She’s imagining that it’ll be a 10 minute “milk, eggs, and bread” trip but I’m trying to stock up for the next 2-3 weeks.

    Definitely the women use more TP!

    Dede is insanely non-frugal when it comes to bags. Not purses, exactly, and smaller than what you’d consider luggage, but bags. She has bags that hold other bags that’re used to contain even smaller bags. It’s like some kind of Dr. Seuss nightmare!

    Then again, I went to the hardware store for a $15 tool on Saturday and left with $63 worth of stuff… but it’s all very useful stuff!!

  6. I have to beg to differ on a couple of things. I’m the only woman in my family that hates shopping and I absolutely loathe it. I pop into shops to and from clients, when they are empty, during the sales on a Monday and that’s it. I’ve had the same bikini since my honeymoon. I’ve never understood the feminine tendency for shopping as sport. And my husband will treat himself from time to time with something new, but has got us deals on everything from insurance policies to mortgage to cars.

  7. I needed a new hairdryer when I was in the car with my boyfriend, so he drove me to the nearest discount store. Once in the door, he pulled me by the elbow at a rapid pace to the hair products isle. While en route, I was getting whiplash, turning my head, trying to see all the new products that were on display that I wanted to check out, but couldn’t. We were moving so fast that they all were a blur. Just as I was about to catch my breath, he planted me in front of the hair dryers, and motioned with his arm and said: “here.” I picked 2 that were in my price range. One was black and one was a icy blue color. I had one in my right hand and the other in my left, debating mentally about which choice to make. I really liked that icy blue color, but wondered if it would clash w/my towels. On the other hand, it was such a refreshing change from black, which is so boring, and I thought the icy blue hair dryer might give me a “lift” each time I used it. All of a sudden, because I guess I had spent 30 seconds going through these things in my mind, my boyfriend grabs one out of my hand and abruptly says: “here, take this one” and puts the other one back, and once again, I’m escorted to the check-out stand in a rapid fire pace. It was the worst shopping experience that I have ever had in my entire life!

  8. When I saw the TP mentioned I had to look and make sure it wasn’t a guest post from TSD:)

  9. @almost there: Oh, that’s bad! I remember that TP post of Trent’s causing quite the stir. I mentioned it here only to add a little humor to the post. I am not very consciencious of my own TP use, nor do I harp on others for how many squares, revolutions, etc. that they go through per “incident.” Entirely a personal decision!

  10. I thought the mention of “the thermostat war” was very amusing. I hadn’t even read the rest of the post but still instantly knew what that meant. DW and I have gone rounds about this for 13 years. She seems to think I won’t notice if she turns it up “just a few degrees.” I ALWAYS notice.

  11. LOL. In my house, the males DEFINITELY use more toilet paper. I’ve suggested options for reducing toilet paper usage, but my husband balks. This is one of his luxuries, I guess. 😉

  12. I’m in complete agreement on the shopping issue. My family is also a 50/50 split, and where my wife and daughter thrive on the mall, my son and I largely tolerate it. We’ll go in, find what we want, buy it, or if we don’t find it in 15 minutes we’re gone, convinced that what we want doesn’t exist.

    My wife and daughter will check out all the possible options, and if they buy, they’ll spend some additional time continuing the options search–just in case they might have missed something.

    What I noticed is that where my son and I see shopping as something functional, my wife and daughter thrive on it. When they’re shopping, they’re in “the zone”. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is they’re shopping for, even if it’s something for my son or I.

    I do have to agree with Chris (5) and Jessica (6) that men do like to shop, but in a very specific way. My son can spend half a day in a music store, I can do the same in a large bookstore. The difference though is that we can be content even if we don’t buy anything.

  13. I always despised the mall and shopping in general; it’s one of the reasons I’m an absolute failure as a female. But if you drop me in a hardware store, a bookstore, or a music store I can gleefully spend lots of time and money.

  14. Squeaky–I suspect that at deeper levels you aren’t as unique as it appears. Malls and shopping centers in general are stereotyping at it’s finest. Stores are set up with women in mind, at least based on the consumption patterns the media has laid out for them.

    Most of us kind of go with the flow in most areas in life, and shopping is probably no different. Conditioning has so much to do with everything!

  15. Marci (18)–There’s a major point in what you’ve written that we can all come away with.

    Sometimes the best way to control our bad habits is to stay away from places where we might be tempted to lose control.

  16. I wonder where my huband and I came from because he is the cold one while I’m the hot one. I do not like to shop and have finally met some women who don’t like to shop either. I don’t have a lot of shoes or purses. My husband absolutely uses less toilet paper because he doesn’t have aunt flo every month. My husband loves coupons but I have to say in Canada I don’t find them as fun as when I lived in the USA. I do collect points like crazy to save us at least $100 a month on our groceries. Water-it’s a clean thing for me but I mastered the 5 minute shower. I shower daily but my husband takes a longer, less often shower. My husband will water the lawns versus leaving the water running while he brushes his teeth. I won’t go there as I am a gagger. Shopping-he likes the big ticket items while I would much rather buy things that makes my life easier. Thank God we don’t have any debt besides our house and our payment is cheaper than rent. One square of toilet paper? I hope she’s drinking enough water. Ha ha.

  17. JN(17) I don’t have one either
    Marie (18) AFter 20 years in cities we now live about 50 miles from the nearest mall. My dh considers Amazon a mall though. I never order.
    Dad- wait until the mid fifties hot flashes and your house will be in the 60’s all of the time (and there will be NO complaining about the bill!)