Among my circle of friends - a group comprised mainly of couples in their 30s with young children and big mortgages - the women make most of the spending decisions. Even while holding down full-time jobs, they are the ones buying the groceries, clothing the kids and decorating the home. Often, they are behind the family's major purchases as well, determining where they live and what car they drive.
It seems to me that this gender role has not changed much since I was a kid, casually observing the spending patterns of my own parents and their friends. Yet I have never actually considered whether women view this role as a perk or as a burden to be endured, much like childbirth. According to a survey of Canadian women by MasterCard, released on Wednesday, a growing number of us like holding the family's purse strings.
MasterCard's 2010 MasterIndex of Canadian Women Consumers paints a portrait of Canadian women as powerful consumers, with half of those polled saying they are responsible for most of the day-to-day household financial decisions. More than half of those (56 per cent) say they enjoy being the primary decision maker. When MasterCard conducted its first survey on the matter in 2006, it found that only 45 per cent of women were pleased with their role.
In fact, overall, women have become happier with their lot in the past four years. Sixty per cent of Canadian women describe themselves as being satisfied with their personal financial situation, up from 54 per cent in 2006. The findings are particularly interesting coming, as they do, directly on the heels of an economic recession.
Since the recession, nearly six in 10 (57 per cent) of Canadian women categorize themselves as savers - up from four in ten (41 per cent) in 2006. We have also become more discriminating on price when we shop for ourselves or for our households. Fewer of us are now willing to pay more for a brand name product over the generic version.
The full report, which examines the role of Canadian women as they move through life's stages as economic players and looks at the effects of the global recession on their consumer behaviour, concludes that while there has been a shift to thrift since 2006, Canadian women are happier now with their financial roles and responsibilities than before.
"The recession was a financial marathon, but Canadian women emerged leaner, stronger and more financially satisfied," says Julie Wilson, director of public affairs at MasterCard. "They are more confident in their financial situation. They are still spending, but they are now dollar-store chic."
It seems that we have chosen to adapt to the economic turmoil around us and take tighter control of our family's financial situations. So, a note to those Canadian men who have been all too happy to let their significant others bear the brunt of family spending: Women have taken the reins of the family budget - and we're not giving them back.
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