Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City joked that shopping was her cardio. Evidently, she's not the only gal who likes a good retail workout.

According to a recent study by GE Money, the average woman spends 399 hours and 46 minutes shopping each year. If the time trolling stores were limited to typical 9-to-5 business hours, it would add up to nearly nine years of retail therapy over a lifetime.

The study, reported by the Daily Mail, was based on a survey of 3,000 women in the U.K. The article reported that food shopping was the most labor-intensive retail activity, followed by outings for fashionable togs (that's clothes for those who don't speak British). Not specified was time spent at the cash register scanning trashy tabloids for scuttlebutt on the royal family.

Habits of the shopper-gatherer
The women surveyed report that they make 301 shopping excursions a year. (Amateurs. In my younger days, I practically invented the pro shopping circuit.) Here's how their retail reconnaissance shakes out:

  • Food: Eighty-four trips to the grocery store per year, for a total of 94 hours and 55 minutes squeezing fruit and corralling unruly kids.

  • Clothing: Thirty outings, totaling 100 hours and 48 minutes to find the perfect tweed suits and rain gear.

  • Shoes: An average of 40 hours and 30 minutes over 15 trips a year (which, frankly, strikes me as a tad too cursory to do any real damage).

  • Accessories: Eighteen stops at the shops, spending nearly 30 hours looking for handbags, jewelry, and scarves.

  • Toiletries: 27 trips, totaling 17 hours and 33 minutes annually.

  • Window shopping: 51 times a year -- nearly 49 hours -- leaving nose prints on the glass at Harrods, but smartly keeping their cards and cash in their wallets.

  • Gifts: Nineteen of the average 301 annual shopping trips are spent buying stuff for friends and family.

Gender spender
Before you get smug, guys, consider how the hairier sex fared on this side of the pond during the Olympics of shopping -- the holiday season.

According to the National Retail Federation's Black Friday weekend survey, 140 million consumers hit stores the day after Thanksgiving. Although more women than men turned out for the competition (47.9% vs. 37.4%), there's no question about who won the gold medal.

More than 17% of men said they arrived at their first shopping destination by 4 a.m., compared with 8% of women who were up before sunrise. The big attraction was electronics, with stores such as Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Circuit City (NYSE:CC), and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) taking advantage of the testosterone-fueled shopping frenzy.

Men also outspent women by 38.1%, shelling out $420.37 on average compared to the fairer sex's $304.30 Black Friday weekend tab. (Though without proper training, many may find that their supposed "bargains" -- particularly during the competitive holiday season -- are actually dud deals.)

He spends, she spends. Who saves?
I'm all for togetherness and sharing hobbies to foster a more harmonious relationship. But if shopping is your sport of choice, consider coming up with a different -- more lucrative -- competition in your household: See who can save the most money. (Here's some advice on getting your better half excited about the concept.)

This isn't an excuse to switch to the "spend money to save money" style of financial management. Instead, think of it as a way to amass a bigger pile of green for the near and distant future.

Ask Santa to bring cash (no gift receipt required!). You can put it in a high-yield savings account (such as those at ING, HSBC, or Emigrant Bank), invest it in a stock market index (such as the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund (FUND:VFINX) or SPDRs (AMEX:SPY)), or put it in an individual stock. Bonus points for creative wrapping.

If you're single (or simply need encouragement to change your retail habits), take a cue from an old-fashioned knitting circle and gather your gal pals together for some juicy girl talk. (Here's a sample syllabus.) By cutting down on your time at the mall, you may just start 2007 on the best financial footing of your life.

Dayana Yochim helps people make better financial decisions through our Motley Fool GreenLight service. Take it for a free 30-day spin and check out the November issue for nearly $6,000 in savings advice on everything from appliances to wine to concert tickets, and dozens of discount websites. She owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. Best Buy is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Wal-Mart is an Inside Value pick. The Fool has adisclosure policy.