How to fight the ‘pink tax’ amidst inflation
(NerdWallet) – Trae Bodge, a shopper living in the New York City area, sees higher prices for products and services marketed to women everywhere: socks, razors, shampoo, and clothing are some of the types of products targeted at women , which tend to cost more.
“I don’t know why brands think that’s acceptable,” says Bodge. “It’s another punch in the stomach as we’re trying to manage our budgets,” she adds, referring to rising prices across all consumer goods categories due to inflation.
The phenomenon known as the “pink tax”, whereby products and services aimed at women cost more than their counterparts aimed at men, is well documented for many goods and services. A 2021 paper co-authored by Stephanie Gonzalez Guittar, an assistant professor in the department of sociology at Rollins College in Florida, found that women are paying more for deodorants and lotions and that personal care products are becoming increasingly differentiated by gender. For example, a lotion for women averages $2.97 per ounce compared to $1.86 for men.
While Equal Pay Day on March 14th focuses on the pay gap between men and women, it can also serve as a reminder of why being a woman so often comes with a higher price tag – and what you can do about it.
Here are ways to avoid paying the pink tax.
Opt for gender-neutral products
As Gonzalez Guittar points out, there’s no reason why women need to use lavender scents while men stick to pine. Companies also often market multiple products to women — like separate shampoos, shower gels, and conditioners — while marketing a three-in-one product to men.
“These are simple hygiene products that don’t have to be gender specific,” she says. Shoppers can save by purchasing generic or gender-neutral products instead of the gender-specific versions, she says. “Ultimately, [these products] are realizing what femininity looks and smells like, and that comes at a price.”
Study the fine print
Gonzalez Guittar is urging consumers to take a close look at the ingredients and sizing information on the packaging to make more informed decisions before purchasing.
“Look at the price per ounce because women’s products tend to be smaller,” she says, and you can often get a better deal by buying unscented products in bulk instead. In grocery and drug stores, you can often find the unit price on the shelf label in front of the product.
Comparison shop in advance
Ian Ayres, a professor at Yale Law School, first noted that in the 1990s car dealers often offered the best deals to customers who were white males with research. Follow-up studies since then have confirmed the persistence of discriminatory pricing along with some advances, particularly among online and no-feil retailers, Ayres adds.
Consumers can protect themselves by researching car costs to be better informed negotiators and learning about financing options upfront.
“You can get a competitive interest rate by looking around and you don’t have to go through the dealers,” says Ayres.
Ask for same prices
When it comes to services like dry cleaning or haircuts, men’s prices tend to be lower, but Bodge says they don’t have to be.
“If I have a cotton oxford shirt cleaned, I just ask for the men’s option, especially when the prices are posted,” she says. “Haircuts are more difficult, but if you have a short pixie cut, ask for the men’s price.”
know your rights
California and New York have enacted gender pricing laws that provide a remedy for consumers who notice price discrimination based on gender. You can report violations to the New York State Division of Consumer Protection or the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Other states have proposed similar legislation.
“We have to look at how we push back with the legislation. When we think of economic justice, we often only think of equal pay, but that’s not the only area where women experience economic injustice,” said Christian F. Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women, an advocacy group dedicated to the Defense of women has prescribed rights.
“They charge more, but also pay too little,” says Nunes. “It’s harder to live a sustainable life.”
With the wage gap and longer expected life expectancies for women, it’s imperative for women to accumulate savings to get through the years after retirement, says Cindy Hounsell, president of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, a nonprofit dedicated to retirement savings used by women. “People always say, ‘I wish I had saved more,'” she says.
That means leveraging all available work assets like 401(k)s and cutting back on unnecessary spending.
“It makes a big difference how you spend your money,” she adds. She urges people to use online calculators to figure out how much you’ll need in retirement so you have a clear goal. “Everyone needs a different amount.”
With high rates of inflation in many consumer categories, the added cost of the pink tax only makes saving more difficult for women.
Bodge: “That’s another hurdle we have to jump over.”