Have you ever noticed how many items seem to come in pink or are categorized as “for women”? These products marketed to women are effectively the same products that anyone can use. And yet they often cost more.
This type of marketing has been coined the “pink tax.” It is a form of gender-based pricing that is often attached to products specifically marketed toward women.
These products tend to be more expensive than similar products marketed to men. Sometimes the increased price is justified because of the ingredients in the product. However, more often than not, there is no reason for the inflated price.
In 1994, the state of California studied the pink tax and found that it cost women an average of $1,350 annually. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Democratic staffers of the Joint Economic Committee calculated this figure at $2,135 in 2015 dollars.
That number is staggering. Over the course of a woman’s lifetime, this extra pink tax adds up tremendously.
There are several common products that carry a pink tax. Identifying these common goods and services is the first step in paying less. The second step is finding ways to avoid them.
Personal Care and Hygiene Products
It is no secret one of the most common places the pink tax crops up is on personal care items. These products alone cost women 13% more than men.
Razors are one of the best-known culprits of the pink tax. Though sometimes the only difference seems to be the color, razors marketed to women cost more. Many times, companies will market fewer razors to women for the same price as a men’s multipack. They then obfuscate the price differential by adding more frills to the women’s packaging. This pricing difference can also be seen with shaving creams.
Another place you’ll notice this pricing disparity is in shampoo and hair products. It also appears in products for adult incontinence. Though there’s no comparable male product, feminine hygiene products such as pads and tampons also have a significant markup.
One way to avoid paying the female surcharge on these products is to purchase the gender-neutral options that may be available. You can also purchase men’s products such as shampoo and body wash.
Many women have found purchasing non-gendered or male-oriented razors saves them money, and the razors sometimes last longer. Men’s subscription shave clubs have experienced a boom in sales to women.
Companies like Harry’s and the Dollar Shave Club offer subscription-based razors that ship right to a consumer’s door. After seeing massive sales to women, some companies have developed spin-offs geared toward female consumers that keep the prices comparable.
Likewise, there are several online companies that offer lower-priced subscription services for pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. Many of these products offer neutral packaging and are sustainably made as well. Like the razor companies, they ship their products right to your door.
Several telehealth companies offer options for ordering birth control online that are convenient, discreetly packaged, and sent directly to your home. Many of these companies can offer the birth control pill, shot, ring, or patch: it’s your call.
The pink tax starts early. From baby clothes to toys, products geared toward girls come with a higher sticker price. Take, for example, a pink bike helmet that costs $28, compared to a $15 blue version with a similar character on it. Or the pink Radio Flyer scooter that sells for a higher price than its red counterpart.
As with the other examples, looking for neutral options or purchasing products geared toward boys can save you money. Letting children pick the products and colors they like most without labeling them “for boys” or “for girls” can help. Legos and cars can be enjoyed by any kid, and so can play food and dolls.
The cost differences in clothing start in childhood and continue into adulthood. Products like jeans from the same brand are often more expensive for women than for men.
Another place you’ll see the difference in cost is in sports apparel. From golf polos to cleats, gear marketed towards women is frequently priced higher.
If you can buy the men’s version, you will likely save money. You can also look for companies that have comparable versus inflated prices. There are many new companies actively working to bridge the gender-based pricing gap. Shopping at overstock stores that offer similar products at a fraction of the price will also help you avoid the markup.
Office Supplies, Tools, and Household Goods
Though they’re biased, you can see why products tailored specifically to men and women might exist. But can office supplies be gender-based too? Apparently, the answer is yes. From Bic for Her Pens to purple calculators, the pink tax has crept its way onto your desk.
Just as office supplies are surprising with their markups, so are tools and household goods. Ear plugs and ankle braces labeled “for her” or “women’s” sell for more money at drug stores. These are effectively the same product. Even items like tool boxes that are pink can come at a higher price. There are many instances where the same brands’ products online and in store cost more in the traditionally female-colored versions.
To avoid paying more for office supplies and tools, again go with the neutral options. But what if you like purple or pink and want that color? Must you resign yourself to paying a higher price? One option is to purchase the assorted color packs that are marketed to everybody.
Knowing which products tend to carry the inflated pink tax can help you save money over your lifetime. Using online subscriptions, shopping gender-neutral or men’s products when possible, and looking at overstock stores can result in huge savings.
Now that more consumers are aware of the pink tax, and more online subscriptions are available, shoppers have more options. Hopefully consumer resistance will cause more companies to take note and start eliminating the pink tax in the future.