Listen to your uterus before you embark on that payday shopping spree. University of Amsterdam economist Thomas Buser has demonstrated that the hormonal fluctuations of each phase of the menstrual cycle can affect our decision making, which can have a significant economic impact. Because these hormonal peaks and troughs could also affect one of the most stereotypically ‘girly’ of pursuits: shopping.
This is a field that has gained notable interest from marketing experts. In 2012, researchers from Concordia University in Canada conducted a study led by Marketing professor Gad Saad whereby a group of 56 female participants were asked to keep an in depth 35 day diary in which they diligently recorded their consumption habits. Particular attention was paid to factors such as ‘beautification behaviours, clothing choices, calorie consumption, and purchases’. Participants were asked to measure daily their interest in activities such as eating highly calorific foods or wearing clothing with the partial intention of attracting romantic attention.
Interestingly, the participating women were much more frugal and penny counting during their periods, whereas during ovulation, they were more inclined to splurge on luxury items such as pampering. According to consumer psychologist Kristina Durante, women are more in control of their spending urges during their periods due to the relatively low secretion of oestrogen in comparison to progesterone. Necessities appear more desirable than impulse buys which makes this the ideal time to hunt for a bargain. A woman is far more likely to shop for highly calorific food during her most infertile, luteal phase: menstruation. This is because during this time a woman is traditionally engaged in non-mating activities such as ‘foraging’, which for modern ladies naturally means eating a whole box of doughnuts whilst bingeing through Netflix.
Dresses & calorific treats
It was found that participants were more likely to hit the high street looking for a stand out, fashionable dress when they were ovulating. When on their periods, perhaps unsurprisingly, they instead tended to buy tasty, calorific treats. During ovulation, when oestrogen secretion is at its highest point, women spend more time and money on their physical appearance. This is biologically prime mating time and our inner naughty monkeys are priming themselves ready to reproduce and want to look at their most beautiful and confident best. Also according to Durante, it is during ovulation that a woman is most likely to buy something striking or unusual in order to stand out from the crowd and ultimately to attract a mate. Due to the comparative lack of interest in food during this phase, this is the perfect time to go grocery shopping without getting distracted by the thought of loading your trolley with a tonne of pizzas.
It could therefore be important to keep track of your menstrual cycle in order to plan your shopping trips accordingly. This doesn’t need to be limiting; professor Saad argues that knowledge of how your menstrual cycle affects you as a consumer can be extremely empowering and can actually help you make conscious decisions and informed shopping choices.