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Women are Better Than Men at Managing a Holiday Gift Budget

Here is some more fuel for the battle of the sexes: When it comes to shopping for holiday gifts, men should look to women for some serious shopping advice.

The big news from National Retail Foundation's Mother's Day spending estimates was the massive scale of the average man's gift budget. On average, men planned on spending $189.74 last Mother's Day. Not only did men overspend the average shopper by $37.22, they exceeded the average woman's budget by $72.32.

Unfortunately, the fact that men dramatically outspend women on holiday shopping isn't just a Mother's Day phenomenon. Any holiday where gifts are exchanged, men typically overspend women by large margins. Last Valentine's Day, the average budget for men nearly doubled that of women.

As a guy, I wish I could say that massive holiday budgets are a result of male generosity and goodwill. However, differences in male and female consumer behavior offer the most reasonable explanation. When it comes to shopping, women know what behaviors will bring home the lowest prices and best deals.

Women Use Coupons

There are these tiny slips of paper floating around the newspaper and the Internet that can give you instant savings. They are called coupons. Yet, despite how abundant and easy to locate they are, men don't use them as often as women.

When Neilson conducted coupon usage research, the one demographic that clocked in with the lowest usage was male head-of-households. While overall usage among men has increased since the most recent economic recession, men have always lagged behind women.

I know that when I think of couponing, I'm reminded of the hours my mom spent poring through the newspaper to save a few dollars on groceries. That memory is a poor representation of couponing in the 21st century. There are thousands of online coupons for nearly any retailer or service. All you need is Google and the name of the retailer you plan on shopping; the internet does the rest. It's a process of seconds, not hours.

Women Shop Earlier

Research has shown that men are slightly more likely to be procrastinators. In 2010, nearly half of women (42 percent) started shopping for Christmas around Halloween. Only 32 percent of men had started shopping as early.

Now, I'm not about to recommend shopping at Halloween, but there is an advantage to an early start. What many women understand is that finding a coupon, sale, or discount is just a matter of time. The earlier you start looking for a deal, the more likely you are to get a better price. Men need to realize that the late-night trip on holiday eve usually comes with a higher price than shopping months in advance.

Women Buy Online

Men may have a higher adoption rate of smartphones and tablets, but women are the ones shrinking their gift budget by buying online.

When it comes to shopping at traditional stores versus online shopping, men choose to brave the holiday bustle of malls and stores. There are many reasons why this behavior will impact consumer spending. First of all, shopping online allows you to search through more retailers for a better price. Second, online retailers do not have to pay for real estate, shelf space, and cashiers. This means that online retailers are able to sell at a lower cost.

Buying online isn't guaranteed to be the best deal, but leaving the internet off of your shopping excursions will likely lead to higher prices.

Women Buy for Uniqueness

Even the motivation for buying a gift skews in different directions for men and women.

Men are more likely to buy a gift based on an object's ego appeal than the price tag. Generally speaking, any activity involving one's ego usually ends with a hand in your wallet. Your gift budget is no different.

Women are five times more likely to look for gifts that are unique to the person they are shopping for. It doesn't always translate into the lowest price gift or best deal. However, this approach does not rule out potentially lower-cost items.

So, men, before you start complaining about how long it takes to go shoe shopping, perhaps you should sit back and observe a professional at work.

JP is the author of the money blog My Family Finances, a site dedicated to helping families make wise financial decisions. He is also an MBA and works in corporate finance.

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