Don’t fall into these financial pitfalls. Here’s how to avoid the money mistakes women often make.

By Real Simple
Updated May 18, 2012
Lucas Allen

A version of this article appeared on

Some of us handle our money flawlessly, perfectly, brilliantly, all of the time. But most of us don't. Most of us make mistakes here and there. We make some mistakes more than others, because of our personalities or our upbringing or even our gender. Let's be clear: Not all women make these mistakes. Not all men avoid them, but these seven financial problem areas can lead to major debt and lots of stress. Here’s how to avoid them.

Feeling Guilty

A 2011 study from found that 67% of women have felt guilty about a purchase. But that's not the only opportunity for guilt: There's also staying in a job you feel guilty about abandoning, giving someone money because you feel guilty about their situation, and, oh, doing the opposite of what you want when it comes to working after having children because you feel guilty about being a good mom.

This guilt effect might not be limited to finances, either. Some studies suggest that women are more inclined than men to feel any kind of guilt. And we'd argue, more likely to bail out their exes, too.

Saving Others

It's long been said that women are more empathetic than men—they're instinctively attuned to what others are thinking and feeling. But one study published in Psychology Today suggests that this empathy isn't an innate's just that women try harder to empathize. Another study found that women feel equal levels of empathy no matter how they feel about the other person's morality, whereas male empathy is conditional on a moral judgment. In other words, they empathize only if the other person is worthy. So when women are actively trying to be understanding, and naturally not judging, you get saviors.

The savior lends money to her mother/sister/friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/neighbor to alleviate their burdens by taking on that burden herself. The next time someone else's finances look tight, direct them toward a financial planner instead. Lending money is a lovely gesture, but it's even nicer to help them set up a long-term financial plan.

Not Advocating for Yourself

Women can have trouble saying no. Whether in the office or at home, some women have a hard time advocating for themselves, especially when it means turning down a request. And it's understandable. Studies show that although women who advocate for themselves in the workplace are rewarded with due promotion, such behavior is often perceived as "aggressive" and "unlikeable" when it's from a woman.

But you can do more than just ask nicely to get your money back. It's important that you sign a contract or agreement when borrowing or lending a considerable amount of money. In fact, documents like pre-nuptial agreements were created for just this sort of situation.

Retail Therapy

That new pair of shoes might seem irresistible, but retail therapy, or shopping to influence your mood, is both common and unwise. A survey out of the University of Hertfordshire found that the primary motivation for 79% of respondents to shop was to "cheer themselves up." Emotional shopping is one of the most common bad spending triggers. Just know that it’s not always your fault—stores play their part in getting you to spend.

Letting Someone Else Handle the Finances

Many women out there take a hands-off approach to their finances, only to be thrust into the responsibility unexpectedly. It's crucial to not only build your own credit history so you can take out loans for major purchases down the road, like a house or car, but also to save for retirement and know the financial basics in case you ever need them.

Not Talking About Money

It's shocking how many couples don't discuss their finances until something goes terribly wrong. To be fair, the blame for this mistake probably lies equally with both partners. It’s important to establish financial intimacy, where both partners in a relationship have an awareness and mastery of the finances.