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Boys Gone Shopping Wild

You’ve heard about our hunter and gatherer ancestors, no? Did you know that you can find them at your local Target? Humans have carried some of their ancient, gendered instincts with them when it comes to shopping, at least according to one U Penn study, “Men Buy, Women Shop.” Women tend to browse around, “gathering” up the best from various sources and enjoying the experience, while men tend to buy, going straight in for the “kill.”

If you saw this harangue on women’s shopping habits, I want to set the record straight. It’s not that either sex is better or worse—They’re just different. There are certainly things that guys spend more on:

Eating Out

Source: Flickr
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest poll, the average guy spends about $1,800 per year eating out while ladies spend $1,145. Is the significant difference because so many men are treating ladies to dinner? Possibly. I find that cooking at home and lugging the leftovers into work saves me at least $100 per month—and that adds up.

Instead, check out this cookbook, Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food, which will lend some cooking inspiration to even the most amateur of home cooks.

Electronics

Source: Flickr
Men spent an average of $701 per year on “audio and visual equipment,” while women clock in at $536. (Yes, we all spend more on audio and visual equipment than drinking, below, thankfully.) There’s enormous evidence that this is changing as all of our lives become more digital and connected, as everyone relies on technology to navigate life and do business, but men still seem more willing to pay for the high-end gear.

Instead of always having to have the latest and greatest, go second-hand shopping for electronics. I met up with EBay Gadget Director Cat Schwartz at an event geared to Christmas buyers and she was singing the praises of some incredible deals found by browsing for cameras, phones, and computers that have barely been used.

Sports Tickets

Source: Flickr
The 2008 season at Yankee stadium, the last season in the iconic stadium, sent hoards of fans from all over the country to New York City. Every weekend, it seemed, another one of my friends here was hosting another group of young guys who were simply not going to turn this prospect down (and who underestimated how far 160th Street really is from Midtown). Official seats were going from $12 to $400, but on unofficial sites like StubHub.com, the most expensive seats were a painful $1200.

The point? I am not sure how many fans of any particular team are male or female; I am certain that both sexes appreciate their teams. And I know that advertisers and sponsors of these events are zeroing in on the guy’s night out. The upcoming Superbowl has reportedly sold ad space for $3 million, including some 3D ads, despite the economic downturn. If the years gone by are any indication, it will be a study of what marketers think that guys like. (The SoBe lizards will be making an appearance.)

Instead, check out Spring Training for your favorite team in Florida or Arizona’s burgeoning Cactus League.

Drinking

Source: Flickr

Men spend almost twice as much per year on alcohol than women–$552 versus $233. I can just hear the bad jokes now: Men have to drink to deal with women’s shopping, right? Since the price of a drink is usually marked up at least 50 percent if you’re out at a bar, a night out can get seriously expensive, as too many people probably know.

Instead, check out Esquire’s awesome drinks database for inspiration on making your own cocktail. Or plan an “apartment crawl” with your friends, where each person prepares a special cocktail and appetizer and you migrate from apartment to apartment (responsibly, of course), instead of bar to bar.

Cars

Source: Flickr

Yes, it is unfortunately very true. Men do the majority of the car buying and they tend to buy the less energy efficient models. The LA Times reported that there were only 9 cars that women bought more than men. And they’re not just cute (OK, some of them are…) but they’re also practical.

In a time when we most certainly know that our choice of cars affects not only our pocket book but our international policies, it’s better to drive with a sound mind. And… a Prius is much sexier.

Memberships (i.e. Boys Only Clubs)

Source: Flickr

When you think about “exclusive” clubs, most of which involve funny hats, secret handshakes or both, they are by-and-large male. (We’ll try to forget any Ya Ya Sisterhoods for now. You do have to born into that, right? Ha, no fee required!) In fact, the Supreme Court ruled in 1989 to allow women into Rotary Clubs, the international small business do-gooders with a steep entrance fee. Women made up 12 percent of the members as of 2003, according to this article in the Rotarian magazine.

Instead, join a professional organization that is more focused on your field—and inclusive—like the Society for Professional Journalists, or one of the thousands of others out there.

Dating services

Source: Flickr

Not that there’s anything wrong with EHarmony. Many people have met the love of their life through online dating services. But it still costs money. And, according to at least one study in Canada, “For every woman using an online dating service, there are more than 2 men.” And the total amount spent on online dating each year? $214 million. Ouch!

Better than that: keep up with friends of friends. If my anecdotal evidence is worth anything, almost all couples meet through another mutual friend.

Gender wars aside, the moral of this story is to spend wisely, know what it is that you spend on—and what businesses and advertisers want you to spend on—so that you can live more of the good life down the road.