Research by Moneywise reveals that women’s spending is motivated by factors such as biology and the gender pay gap, and that we spend more on clothes and beauty products and donate more to charity than men do.

We’re also more willing to wait for online specials, and we pay off debt faster. However, we don’t put those savings towards retirement funds, saving less than men do in this area. But this isn’t the full picture.

What motivates us to spend the money we do, on the purchases we make? We spoke to clinical psychologist Enzo Sinisi, who provided us with some insight in what drives our buying behaviour.

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“The motivation driving consumerist purchases are as diverse as the people making them. 

On the surface, you have the item itself and all the bells and whistles that signal its superiority and quality,” Dr Enzo says, “But then, you have the silent story of how that item will meet your deeper desires.

The link is often irrational but the wish for it to be true is enough to convince us that the item will make us more lovable, important, independent, fulfilled, secure, sexy, and in control.” 

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As an example, he describes how purchasing a musical instrument could support a fantasy of future love, admiration, mastery and control. This fantasy, he says, may have more to do with upholding an illusion of immunity to rejection than music. 

“Similarly, money spent on maintenance and routine repair might have more to do with a craving for security and independence. Big money purchases can be especially complicated and can express anger and destructiveness, as well as pride and self-love,” he explains.

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It is difficult to make broad generalisations about men and women. The distinction between the genders is routinely challenged as people point out that the boundaries between them are fluid.

Dr Enzo describes women as generally more prosocial, while men tend to be more territorial and domineering. These differences play out in shopping choices, he says. “Some women are interested in household items as a way of also asserting caregiver needs, while men may aim buy an expensive watch as a way to say “I am successful and capable”.

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”The examples above are all completely normal, he assured us. “There are instances where a person’s relationship to shopping becomes compulsive and disordered. While dynamics differ from person to person, some common themes include a person’s attempt to fill emptiness, loneliness, and sadness, with things rather than relationships. Others may be too ‘high’ from buying to realise that consequences follow purchases.”

In these cases, therapy may be necessary to help the person understand their behaviour and to then make better choices. 

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So what are women really spending their money on in 2018? We asked what these 20-somethings to reveal what they consider to be the biggest purchases they’ve made in the last year:

Besides paying off my uni fees(!), I spent quite a bit on a TV recently. My girlfriend likes TVs and we had kids coming over to visit and we didn't want them to be bored without entertainment. It's a great TV and it made sense. We got it on special and paid less than what we had budgeted for, for it. I still feel great about the purchase and it was a really good buy.
Ngxola

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I wanted a comfortable bed. It's been a year and I don't regret it, it's a really great bed after a long day of work and gym
Kussie
I bought myself an acoustic guitar. It was a bit over R1 300. At the time I was interested in playing the instrument, but since I still can't play it I feel like it was a waste of money.
Anna
I needed to service my car, which can to what I thought was quite was quite a hefty amount at over R2000. I really didn’t enjoy having to pay that!
Yonela
I remember the most expensive item I bought, a few years ago, was a pair of fur boots. They were ridiculous, and cost me R1 000, which was a lot at the time. But I loved them so much. More recently I’ve bought a return airplane ticket to London, which was a lot more!
Zintle
I bought a really good camera for R4999. It was on the Black Friday sale, and it’s original price was R8999, so I saved a lot on it.
Nicole
I had been working non-stop for a year, I needed a break and my friends wanted to bungee jump so we took a trip to Plettenberg Bay last year. It was a great few days to relax and be in the moment fully, and I got to experience my friends in a completely different light.
Mqulo

*Some names have been changed by request.

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