On November 24th 2020, Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free pads and tampons. That inspired us to built a tool that calculates period related expenses - which should ideally be free for every woman in every country around the world. 🌎
Period product
Tampons
Your menstrual cycle:
days
Tampons used per cycle:
Amount of tampons in one box:
Cost of one box of tampons:
$
Do you use tampons with pads or panty liners?
No
How much money will you spend over...
a lifetime?
An average woman gets her period for around 40 years! During that time, you will spend an extra $1964.33 on hygiene products, just because of your menstrual cycle. But, we all know the true cost is higher - we also need painkillers, new underwear, and comfort food 🍫.
You will also use 8349 tampons. Consider using menstrual cups or period pants - they're cheaper in the long run and are much more eco-friendly! 🌿

Period Products Cost Calculator

By Dominika Miszewska, PhD candidate and Julia Żuławińska
Last updated: Dec 09, 2020

As the ominous year, 2020, comes to an end, there's finally some fantastic news - on 24th November, Scotland became the first country to make menstrual sanitary products free.

What does this mean for us? Every day, about 800 million women and girls menstruate. 🩸 And nearly 80% of them will have to choose between essential menstruation products, such as tampons, and buying something else during their lifetime.

On the 20th October, a little more than a month ago, the US celebrated its second National Period Day to help raise awareness about period poverty. At the moment, 35 states impose a sales tax 💸 on menstruation sanitary products, considering them luxury items, also described as nonessential. Yet, aren't they as necessary as access to toilet paper or everyday groceries? It's about bloody time!

Feminine hygiene products

Period poverty around the world

Period poverty is a thing. In a study of over 2000 Scottish women of reproductive age, nearly half of them have experienced menstruation obstacles. 👩‍👧 The problem is lack of access to toilets, menstrual education, hand washing options, and, finally, sanitary products.

Around 60% of women have had to organize their budget and put an item back on the shelf to afford menstrual products.

More than 70% of the respondents have had to use an alternative, such as toilet paper, when they've been surprised by an early period and didn't have access to sanitary products. Menstruation education is low, and in some regions, having a period is a cause of shame and stigmatization in society's eyes.

Campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament
Source: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

How much does it cost to have a period?

Studies have determined that a period costs approximately 10 dollars or 9 pounds per month, depending on the country. This number includes tampons, pads, or menstruation cups, depending on which the woman uses, and eventually - painkillers. The amount of money varies from woman to woman due to differences in the amount of blood and pain experienced. Finally, we should mention that there are certain medical conditions, such as endometriosis or anatomical differences, that can substantially impact a woman's need for sanitary products and medicine.

Yet, there are some other costs we don't tend to discuss daily:

  1. Birth control 💊 - the only thing that could stop you from bleeding every month. However, it costs more than $15-$50 a month. Always consult a physician before you decide to start the pill.
  2. Productivity 🖥️ - mentioned above, but worth repeating. Studies have determined that 1 in 10 women cannot pursue their daily activities due to cramps, fatigue, pain, and general malaise. Such a state can last from one to three days per menstruation. Two years ago, the period tracker app, Clue, found that 18% of US women have missed school, work, or an event due to their period. The reason was not pain, fatigue, or any of the above causes - they didn't go because they were afraid of someone finding out they were menstruating.
  3. Laundry 🧺 - even if you're super careful, wear bigger pads, or try double-protection, you can still leak. And the additional expense on changing sheets, washing underwear, and sometimes - buying new clothes when the blood does not come out.

Shopping inequalities

At this point, we need to mention the pink tax - not a literal tax, but how the same object often costs more just because its marketed towards women. The name pink tax comes from the fact that most of the affected products are pink. Products marketed for women, such as cosmetics (13%!!!), clothes (men pay 8% less to get dressed), tend to be more expensive than those for men. Interestingly, the differences are visible already in the prices of toys for kids - for a toy marketed towards girls, we pay 7% more.

And here comes one more thing - there is an actual pay gap between the two genders, which also varies not only between men and women but also between races.

All these reasons make us wonder - why do so many women have to struggle to meet the necessities of life that are not even a choice?

New legislation in Scotland

It's just hit all major news outlets - Scottish Parliament voted for free period products for the whole country.

What does this mean for women and girls?

These goods will be available free of charge in public buildings, including universities and schools. It's a huge step for all women's rights supporters and fighters for gender equality. Also, a real life-changer for those struggling with poverty.

The program should cost around £8.7 million a year from 2020. Is that a lot? Let's recalculate it for one person - as mentioned above, a woman spends on average 10 dollars per month. Supposedly, periods happen between 12 and 52, which means more than 450 periods in a single lifetime.

That's almost 5000 dollars spent on hygienic products, just for the simple reason you are a woman and have no alternative but to bleed. Not to mention the losses in productivity and relaxation during your monthly menstruation.

Eco-friendly menstruation? 🌴

So you feel pain, bleed, need to buy sanitary products (not everywhere, thank you, Scotland!), and now you also need to think about the environment? We're not here to put pressure on you, we're just carrying out some advice on making this world a cleaner place. It's similar to using reusable eye pads - just switching to an eco-friendly option is an excellent step forward!

One pad is equal to four plastic shopping bags, and tampons are not to recycle due to the plastic applicator.

Yet, there are some solutions:

  1. A menstrual cup, a tiny device made of rubber or silicone. You put it in your vagina, where it collects blood. And it can stay there, without needing to be changed, for up to 12 hours. In total, you can use one cup for six months to 10 years, depending on what it's made of. How comfortable!
  2. Reusable cloth pads - made of organic cotton, estimated to last up to five years. To wash a cloth pad, toss it in the washing machine. How many pads do you need? Most brands recommend about a dozen pads. For example:
  • Three to six pantyliners;
  • Six to twelve day pads; and
  • One to three overnight pads.
  1. Reusable tampon applicators.
  2. Period pants . Give yourself some time, try them out, and find the one that suits you best.
Menstruation cup
Menstruation cup

Period products cost calculator

This tool helps you estimate the amount of money spent on sanitary products over a chosen time, based on the essential supplies a woman needs during menstruation.

To get your result, follow the intuitive steps explained below:

  1. Choose what period product you use most: tampons, pads, reusable pants, or menstrual cups.

2a. If the product is either tampons or pads, input:

  • The length of your menstruation cycle (on average between 21 and 35 days);
  • Number of tampons/pads you use during one period;
  • The number of items in one package; and
  • The cost of one pack of pads/tampons 💰

2b. If the product is reusable pants or a menstrual cup, fill in:

  • The lifetime of the product - on average, it's five years for pads and between 6 months and ten years for a cup; and
  • The price of the product 💰
  1. How long do you want to calculate the cost over 📅:
  • A month;
  • 6 months;
  • A year;
  • Five years;
  • Ten years; or
  • A lifetime.
And that's all, after filling in all the fields, you get your result - the cost of buying sanitary products over a chosen amount of time.

How to save up? 🌺 Reusable products, such as menstruation cups or cloth pads, cost less and have a smaller impact on the environment. Of course, you'll need to wash them regularly and remember to carry them around with you. Not so easy, but while we wait for other governments to follow the Scottish lead, maybe it's worth considering?

Dominika Miszewska, PhD candidate and Julia Żuławińska