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, because 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!