Having a period is an expense we often don’t think about, but can really add up!
Granted, it’s not that expensive to menstruate, but it’s still a cost that men don’t have to factor into their budget!
In this post, I only address the cost of a period using my own calculations, but if you want an excellent read on a similar topic, this Jezebel post shares How Much It Costs To Own A Vagina: An Itemized List. Waxing is a real budget killer. Ouch!
How much does having a period cost per month?
The average period lasts 3-5 days. For a regular 28 day cycle, a woman will have 13 periods per year. How heavy or light your period is will determine how many tampons or pads you purchase during this time. For the sake of simplicity let’s assume you buy one $5 box of tampons or pads every period, for a total of $65.
I know right now you’re thinking, “$65? That’s nothing!” and you’re right, it’s not very much. But I also know that it does not cost only $65 to have a period.
I know you spend money on ibuprofen, chocolate, romcoms, or whatever other little treats you need to get you through that week. I bet whatever you buy to console yourself costs more than the box of tampons. Furthermore, you will spend this money every month for every year of your life from the time you are 12 years old until you are 45. And that adds up.
Your period will cost almost $5,000 over your lifetime
Over 33 years at $150 per year, a menstruating woman will spend nearly $5,000 having a period.
I can think of a lot of things I would rather spend $5,000 on in my life than my vagina. That would be one of those, “did I really just type that?!” moments. I did. Nevertheless, we cannot avoid nature entirely but that doesn’t mean we can’t reduce the cost of having a period.
How To Have a Frugal Period
Thankfully, there are a few ways to cut the cost of menstruating. By simply investing in cheaper (and greener) collection methods, or skipping your period altogether, you can save the cash it costs to have a period!
1. Use a reusable menstrual cup instead of tampons.
Choices like the Diva Cup have been around for a long time, but menstrual cups are only now really gaining popularity. These reusable cups are made of medical-grade silicone. Unlike tampons, they can be worn up to 12 hours.
Menstrual cups are priced at $30 to $40 each, but you only need to buy one every 5 years! Since you simply wash & reuse, not only are you avoiding spending money, you’re also keeping used tampons and pads out of landfills. A menstrual cup is frugal and eco-friendly.
Once you switch to a menstrual cup, there’s little chance you’ll ever go back to traditional pads and tampons. It’s a more comfortable and sanitary choice and a way better defense against leaks. You can also finally put on your bathing suit without worrying about the tampon string.
2. Invest in period underwear
One of the indirect expenses of your period is how many pairs of underwear (and sometimes pants, shorts, dresses, and bedsheets) you’ll ruin in your lifetime. Now you can spare your clothes by choosing period underwear, like Thinx.
Thinx can be worn as back up to whatever menstrual product you’re using, or all by themselves on lighter days. The website says they’re only meant to be back-up protection, but they do work on the frontline if your flow is not too heavy. These underwear are comfortable, effective, and work to reduce the number of pads and tampons you need and therefore the amount of money you spend.
3. Use reusable cloth pads instead of synthetic pads.
If you’re not down for a menstrual cup, you can purchase reusable pads like Lunapads (or even make your own). These work just like traditional menstrual pads, except they’re made by super soft cotton which means no synthetic plastic against your very sensitive skin.
Unlike the menstrual cup which you can wear up to 12 hours, you will need to change your reusable pads as often as you did disposable pads. However, like the menstrual cup, this is a one-time investment and then you reuse pads so you don’t have to keep buying more every month. This also keeps pads out of landfills.
With over 20 billion used pads and tampons getting sent to North American landfills annually (EW, just ew), making sustainable choices with our periods is really important! The only downside of reusable pads is you will have to wash them, but they can be washed by hand or as part of your laundry so it’s only a little bit more effort.
4. Change your method of birth control
Slash your period budget down to 1/3 and make yourself 300% happier by switching to a form of hormonal birth control that eliminates your period. It’s a very common misunderstanding that your body needs, or even should, have a period every month.
Realistically, having a period every month is not natural OR healthy! I was shocked when I learned this (in a Malcolm Gladwell book, of all places!), but it makes sense: since our hunter-gatherer ancestors spent so much time pregnant and breastfeeding, they only had approximately 160 periods per lifetime, and now we’re having over 400 and it’s hard on our bodies!
Having periods less often can lead to a load of health benefits, including preventing cancer and osteoporosis. While it seems unnatural to regulate your body with hormones, it turns out it might be much more unnatural than to just let it do its own thing.
Serious downside? Contraceptive hormones in urine are feminizing fish. So while it’s frugal and much more comfortable to be on birth control, it is pretty harmful to the environment. Of course, whether or not this is really right for you depends on your body. Hormonal birth control can cause more bad side effects than its worth.
Want to do some good with your new knowledge of period prices? Donate menstrual products to a woman’s shelter
Even if having a period is affordable for you, it might not be for someone else. We tend to think mostly about donating food to the poor and homeless shelters, but personal hygiene items are also always in demand.
Find the local woman’s shelter in your community and throw a box of pads or tampons their way. No one needs the stress of deciding between buying dinner or a box of tampons with their last $5. Donating these necessities is a simple way to make someone’s week significantly less stressful!
Hope you found this post informative and money-saving!
I enjoyed reading your post but I thought I would add that the depo shot is associated with a slew of extremelely negative side effects. I know any medications come with potential side effects, but I would recommend anyone considering that approach to stopping their period to read up on it first! Some things I’ve heard are bone density loss, infertility, depression, etc.
As for the pill… I spent about 13 years on it, and after months upon months upon months of random, annoying, erratic bleeding at random times of every month, I finally kicked it to the curb and feel like my body is back to “normal” … and all the problem bleeding stopped completely! Although there may be no long term proven medical issues with taking hormonal birth control pills, I’d recommend everyone listen to their own body and do what feels right and makes you feel healthy.
I stopped the pill because I read recently in the papers (the month before I stopped), that the pill caused blood clots and killed 3 girls within a span of a week. 😐
That scared me enough to stop, even though it was just a coincidence they all died within that week and the risk was very low / had been there the whole time I took the pill.
The second reason why I stopped was because I knew at least 3 cases where women I knew who took it, ended up infertile. I figure I’ll go back on the pill after my babymaking days are over, so it won’t matter if I am infertile or not.
Or I may never go back on it and figure out another alternative like an IUD.
So wordpress totally ate my first reply gah..
I agree that you have to do what’s best for you. The pill has always worked for me, but I have friends that can’t be on it. Likewise I have friends that love the depo shot, but others that can’t stand it. I’ve also had friends try different IUDs and those work or don’t work for them. Additionally I’ve had others that don’t want to take hormonal birth control because they feel it’s unnatural or they’re concerned about feminizing the fish (seriously.. I’m friends with a lot of conservation biologists).
All about doing what’s best for your body!
Just to clarify for the first 2 commenters there is no such drug as “the pill” there are multiple versions all with different hormone amounts and different side effects. I would encourage any one who is thinking of trying oral or injectable contraception to go to a specialist family planing clinic- they will be much more knowledgable than your family doctor.
And Bridget- thanks so much for highlighting that it is actually unhealthy for our bodies to have so many periods, I learnt that many years ago in my endocrinology class and wish more women knew it- I will check out that book!
I so agree that you have to find a birth control option that works best for you and your body! I work in sexual health and I so know that ‘what works for my friend/mom/best friend’ does not mean it will work for him. I wrote about my frugal birth control here: http://prosperousnotforprofit.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/saving-money-on-birth-control/
I am a huge fan of the reusable silicone cup. A lot of people think it’s gross but after trying it, it is LESS disgusting than using tampons or pads. Seriously. And if you change it constantly, you will NEVER worry about leakage. I have never once leaked in my life after using the cup. I only leaked if I didn’t change it regularly (depending on how heavy your flow is).
I really highly recommend the Diva Cup, or the more natural alternative is The Keeper (rubber).
Otherwise, another way to stop having periods is to have a baby and then to nurse said baby. 🙂 Of course that baby will cost a lot more than $5000 a year but… hey.. it’s still an option 😉
This may be difficult (embarrassing) if you work in an office and need to clean it. I know it shouldn’t be, we’re all big girls, but even still I would feel awkward unless everyone was doing it. Guess we need to start a movement! All breastfeeding mothers and menstrual cup users please line up to the left.
One solution is to keep a second diva cup, baby wipes and a plastic bag in your purse. Dump out the contents in the toilet, wipe it down, and then store it in the bag and put the new one in. You can wash the old one thoroughly when you’re in a more private place. (I realize this means keeping a used diva cup in a bag in your purse, but it might be slightly less garish than washing off all the blood in a public sink, depending on your situation).
Generally I find because you can wear it so long you don’t have to change it any public place! It’s not often I’m out of my home for more than 12hrs straight (especially when I have my period and don’t feel like doing much haha)
Good idea! Thankfully those days are (recently) gone for me, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel for you young ‘uns!
I bought the sanitizing wipes from the cup company and used those when I was traveling and couldn’t always find a single person washroom. They were pretty helpful! If your period is truly heavy enough that you need to change the cup while at work, I would try that. Or Bridget’s idea.
I know my cup says to not store it in a plastic bag because it needs to breathe though, so I would use its original bag.
haha a baby….
I switched to a menstrual cup (a Lunette) last year and I love it! It took many months for me to get used to it, but now? It is wonderful. I shouldn’t have to buy another one for a few years either. I think I calculated that I spend about $40-80/year on liners and pads, but now I’m just buying liners. I’ve debated switching to cloth liners as well since the cup does occasionally leak when I don’t get it put in properly.
I only change my cup once or twice a day (now that I’m used to it), usually in the morning before work and then in the evening sometime before bed. If it’s near the end of my period, I’ll skip the morning change. I don’t know how I sleep, but it’s always pretty much impossible to get the thing out in the mornings, so I have to use lube to get it out 95% of the time in the morning. There are some non-re-usable cups with which you can supposedly have sex, which I keep meaning to try occasionally too.
With Obamacare, I have actually pay $0 out of pocket for my birth control pills. It’s pretty sweet! My health insurance did go up $2/month this year though and I’m guessing that’s related to Obamacare, but that’s much cheaper than what I was paying for my birth control pills. We still use condoms sometimes and buy them with Amazon’s Subscribe and Save feature which makes them like < 1/4 of the price at the local drugstore. I've started wanting to try something else though as I'm tired of planning vacations around when I'll get my period…or not doing that and then having it while traveling. sigh.
I’ve heard of the non-reusable ones that you can use during sex, but I’m still trying to stay away from disposable products. Still, intriguing.
I’m a big fan of the Diva cup, have been for years! I actually find it way cleaner than tampons/pads, there’s no way I’m ever going back. Also, as you mentioned, it’s better for the environment and doesn’t have the same risks of TSS. I totally skip my period every now and then by taking back to back packets. It’s worth it, especially if your pills are covered through your health insurance! Great post, Bridget.
Amen!! I’m surprised sometimes by the number of women that don’t manipulate their pill schedule to skip periods — then when they try it, they never go back! It’s so liberating to be in charge of that schedule!!
Options number 1 & 3 seem very reasonable. I’ve only heard good things about the Diva Cup and similar devices maybe a revolution will get started soon! Option #2 is totally out of the question for me. Ain’t nobody got time for that… and don’t even try to compare it to the whole cloth diapers with babies situation! Just ew, no!
hahahaha everyone has their own limits! 1 & 3 are definitely my choices.
Good post! I love Diva Cups and have been a user for years. I’ve only replaced it once or twice, so it’s very cost effective. I think some people are skeeved out by the idea but I find it much more sanitary and comfortable than other options. Plus, it’s better for the environment AND my super sensitive skin.
A Diva cup is NOT a one time purchase. You need to replace it every four to six months because the material degrades. Using the same cup for the next 25 plus years would be a good way to get. Costly yeast infection …. or worse.
How does one wear out medical grade silicone in 4 to 6 periods?
If you sanitize the cup properly (as you should) there’s no way you would get a yeast infection from it (or “worse”, whatever that is), no matter how many subsequent uses.
I’ve been a Diva Cup user for over six years. In this time, I’ve bought three: the first cup, the second cup when I dropped the first one in the toilet (luckily it happened at home and obviously I threw it away immediately), and the third cup when I turned thirty last year (had to upgrade to the bigger cup). Other than that, I haven’t noticed it disintegrating over time and very rarely do I get yeast infections so I would say this is a great investment. I always have it handy whenever I travel, it’s environmentally friendly, holds more, and no need to be covert when running to the bathroom at work (I don’t carry a purse so there’s really nowhere to hide a tampon).
How could women be having 400 periods a year? I’m so confused
Sorry it was supposed to say “per lifetime”. It’s fixed now!
This post is so relevant RIGHT NOW if ya know what I mean 😉 I’m way too chicken to try the Diva Cup, at least right now. I’ve got to do a lot more research on it before I take the leap. But it definitely sounds convenient!
Just grab it and try it out!! Even if you don’t like it and decide not to use it, it’s only $30 spent. Or you can transition slowly using it some days while using traditional products the rest of the time until you get used to it. It’s really cool!
I love the Diva cup, too. When I first got it, while in school, it was a lot of money up front. I much prefer it to tampons, and over the last few years it’s saved me a TON of money!
You totally went there Bridget. I am curious about the diva cups but am too chicken to make the switch. What if it gets stuck up there, or I forget? Lol. The places where my head goes sometimes. Good post
I love my menstrual cup so much that I got a tattoo of it. I also wanted to share the Vancouver-based brand https://www.revolgirl.com/ that makes the most sexy and comfortable period panties. They’re hand-sewn in Vancouver and the company is incredibly inclusive. Check them out!
omg amazing!! Thank you so much I love being able to support a local Canadian brand!!