With a nod to Sex & the City's Carrie Bradshaw, I used to joke that shopping was my cardio. It turns out that the punchline is actually less "funny ha-ha" and more "funny because it's true" than you might have imagined.
According to a poll of 2,000 female shopper-gatherers by market research firm OnePoll.com, the average woman spends 399 hours and 46 minutes on 301 shopping trips a year. That adds up to 8 1/2 years of shopping over 63 years -- or 3,148 days (25,184 hours) of retail therapy over one's lifetime.
Retail therapy or routine errands?
Before we cue the survey highlight reel and accuse the fairer sex of rampant shopaholism, consider two important points:
Households don't automatically restock themselves when they're out of milk, toothpaste, and proper gym shoes. Women tend to do the bulk of the shopping for the entire family. In other words, those aren't warm-up laps at the strip mall. They're a chore.
It's not like gents spend their spare time toiling to find a cure for cancer. Or cleaning out the garage. One study in Britain found that over a lifetime, the average man spends 10,585 hours parked on a bar stool in a pub. Another 11 years is consumed by watching the telly, and one entire month gets frittered away looking for socks.
With that, let's dig deeper into the results of the study:
- Food: Squeezing fruit and corralling unruly kids during 84 annual trips to the grocery stores eats up a total of 94 hours and 55 minutes a year.
- Clothing: Finding the perfect pair of jeans takes time -- 100 hours and 48 minutes over the course of 30 trips to store dressing rooms, to be exact.
- Shoes: Given our supposed obsession with footwear, 15 yearly excursions (and 40 hours and 30 minutes spent admiring ourselves from the ankle down) hardly seems excessive.
- Books: Who doesn't like to spend 31 hours and 21 minutes a year in a quiet place, flipping through the New York Times best sellers? Or the latest People?
- Toiletries: It takes 17 hours and 33 minutes annually to gather what everyone needs to shower, shave, brush, pluck, exfoliate, deodorize and moisturize. And, yes, it probably does take 27 trips to the drugstore to figure out the four aisles of toothpaste options.
- Window-shopping: The chase is indeed more fun than the catch. Learning the art of retail recon -- keeping cards and cash in our wallets -- takes 49 hours a year to master.
- Gifts: Proving that shopping is often a selfless act, 19 of women's 301 annual shopping trips are spent buying stuff for friends and family.
What exactly is shopping "too much"?
If someone buys themselves into a hole of credit card debt with unnecessary purchases, that's a problem. But what about the person who can afford to pay in full for the items they acquire on their shopping sprees?
But is the amount of time spent in stores (actual or virtual) an accurate measure of whether or not someone has a shopping issue? Would someone have a "reading problem" if they spent 399 hours a year reading fiction? Some psychologists would define doing anything in excess as a "soft addition" -- a subtle but emotionally and financially harmful line that's easy to cross.
Have you or anyone you know ever had to consciously cut back on the amount of time you spent shopping -- and not just for financial reasons? What were the signs indicating there was a shopping problem? Please share your insights below.
Fool.com's Dayana Yochim retired from the professional shopping circuit after the media got wind of her flea-market sofa shopping mishap and marred her good name. Back in the day, however, she'd win nearly every competition by three or four shopping-cart lengths.
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