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(NEW YORK) — On a sunny August day, Rachel Dos played with her kids at a park in Livonia, Michigan. As they played, Dos chatted with other moms about growing her own vegetables to save money on groceries and seeking out wholesale butchers to buy meat.
“I’m trying to cut those costs and save that extra money, because every little bit counts with its inflation going on,” she told ABC News.
Pushing her daughter on the swings nearby, Noelle Wylin shared her own recent cost-savings tactics.
Wylin said she started making granola and jam at home when prices shot up. She talked about all the hours she spent researching how to refurbish old furniture instead of buying new pieces for her daughter’s bedroom.
She added that she felt it was unfair that so much more time and effort on managing the family budget was landing on her and other women.
“I think whenever something happens with the economy and things aren’t as optimistic, and [things become] more expensive, a lot of the burden gets shifted onto the mom,” Wylin said.
“If I were to buy granola that used to be $3, but now is $7, I have a choice to make. Do I cut it out? And then my daughter’s exposed to less food groups,” she said.
“Do I take on that labor?” she continued. “Home-make the granola, look up the recipes — figure out, should I do hemp parts in there or chia seeds or flax seeds? What’s gonna give her the Omega-3s? … As a woman, it feels like, you know, all the thrifty things that you can do to make the budget work, it gets shifted onto me.”
The additional hours spent at home trying to save money has made Wylin rethink her part-time work situation. At what point, she wondered, is the answer taking on more hours?
Research has long shown that inflation hits women harder, as women are more likely to have accumulated less wealth and earn wages that do not keep pace with inflation.
From groceries to clothing, women today also do the lion’s share of shopping for the home in married, heterosexual couples. The result, experts say, is that women are often the first in the household to see price changes for everyday items and experience the sticker-shock and worry that comes with those changes.
“COVID really showed us what we know intimately, that even when women work full-time, they are still shouldering the bulk of unpaid labor at home,” Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab at New America, a public policy think tank, told ABC News over the phone.
Schulte pointed to research — such as this study from researchers at the University of California, Berkley and Boston College, published in the journal PNAS in May 2021 — that shows that women who do the family grocery shopping tend to be the more pessimistic about the economy and future inflation.
According to Pew Research, which cited data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2014-2016, more than 80% of married women in households with kids said they did most of the grocery shopping and meal prep at home.
Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet and author of Smart Mom, Rich Mom, said that, not only are women the first to see food prices go up, but they tend to take on additional, unpaid labor as a result.
“All of that labor — and it is labor — of saving money falls largely on women,” she told ABC News over the phone.
She said that, right now, amid record inflation, she sees women looking up recipes, forgoing pre-packed snacks, and spending hours on sites hunting for used clothing and toys for kids.
“People are coming together more, so nothing goes to waste, but that takes so much effort and time and largely it is [on] women,” she continued.
As for cost-saving tips, Palmer agreed it is a tradeoff between investing time and saving money. She recommended planning out meals ahead to save money while grocery shopping, downloading apps that search for coupons and having staples on hand like frozen fish and tomato sauce to help avoid last minute takeout orders.
Schulte argued women should also strive for more equity at home, noting that she had seen in her work how resentment, often over labor at home, can lead to break-ups and how important it is for couples to learn how to talk.
“We can take a page here from same sex couples. They can’t fall back on traditional gender roles. You have to develop standards both can agree to,” she said.
As for the workplace, she said women should continue to fight for better wages and family-friendly policies like paid time-off. But she said the stress women are feeling at home right now “begs a much larger conversation about public policy” around child care, health care and workplace conditions.
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