Health & Beauty / Money Management

I Saved $6000 By Ditching This Weekly Beauty Regimen In 2020

By Thursday, December 31, 2020

Let’s get this one very important and relatable thing clear-

I am in no way, shape or form rich, upper-class nor in a position to “throw away” $6000. 

And while I may not desperately need $6000 for anything in particular right now, I could sure as hell use it to put towards more practical use. That’s why it shocked me that I had no clue I was somewhat throwing my money away for the past couple of years until 2020 forced me to place my finances into deep perspective. 

It’s crazy how it took not spending my money to realize how much of it I was wasting.

Now, with that said — for the past few years, I’ve turned to wearing faux-hair (wigs in particular), as a form of protective styling and as a style choice, overall. For those who may not know, “protective styles,” are hairstyles you wear to protect your real hair from sustaining the damage that comes with the constant manipulation of coloring/dyes, heat application, constant cutting, brushing and combing. 

To open up the floor a bit more, while the term itself is often used in the Black community, almost everyone reaps the benefits of protective styling, and often indulge in it too. A perfect example is Ariana Grande‘s now-famous and signature phony-pony, which actually started off as her simply just giving her real hair a break. The famous popstar once admitted a few years back:

“I wear it in a pony tail because my actual hair is so broken that it looks absolutely ratchet and absurd when I let it down. It’s all that works for now, AND I’m comfortable [with my hair] for the first time in years.” – Ariana Grande

And as many of you know, extensions, weaves, and clip-ins are popular across all cultures, and provide some added length and highlights when one is either:

  • A) lacking length in hair or —
  • B) craving highlights without the dyeing or frying that comes with hair coloring and bleaching.

For me, I actually didn’t take to the fake hair trend until my 20’s, and when I did, I was so excited. This was primarily because I didn’t decide to go natural with my hair until I was about 21;  meaning I was ditching hair relaxers and chemicals, and embracing the beautiful curls and kinks that grew from my scalp.

For the first two years, it was fun playing in my own bed of healthy thick hair, until it became a real-life chore and task for me to style and manage. Not to mention, sometimes I wanted straight hair, but feared heat damage and the risk of frying my curl pattern. 

Here are some pics of me with my beautiful, natural hair that I truly do embrace and adore:

Thus, I turned to playing around in wigs, and more specifically, “lace wigs,” which often give one the appearance of “scalp” to offset that more wiggy-look. In my opinion, lace wigs are sent from heaven itself, and I will forever be grateful to the person (or persons) who decided to reinvent wigs with HD lace to create the “invisible” appearance of scalp, along with a natural-looking hairline and of course, precious baby hairs.

Here are some fun pics of me with my various lace wigs:

Like seriously. The fact that I can stuff all my hair under a wig, allow it to thrive and grow unmanipulated, and transform into any type of alter-ego I want to, on any given day? Too much fun!

But this praise is for another day. For now, let’s focus on the finances behind fancy faux follicles.

Like most people, once the practice of self-care got a name (not to mention, once the concept of self-care was highly liked, favored and encouraged by the masses), I filed certain beauty regimens and indulgences under “self-care,” as an excuse to splurge senselessly. This included getting the following things done, regularly, for years:

  • Bi-weekly massages
  • Weekly pedicures & manicures
  • Monthly facials (and eyebrow threading, which is included in the package)
  • Waxing (every 3 weeks)
  •  …. and of course, getting my hair professionally done and styled every two weeks!

For now, we’re focusing on the hair part. With that said, here is what comes with getting one’s lace wig installed (aka placed on one’s head to absolute perfection):

  1. You buy a wig (if you don’t already own one) – $220 and up
  2. You book an appointment with a stylist for the “install” or re-install  — $120 – $180 
  3. Curling, cutting or coloring – $ 30 – $60 + extra, per service

Now, to be fair, pre-COVID, your most “expensive” booking would include buying a wig, getting it installed for the first time and adding some type of coloring service to it if need be. This would run you about $400 and up per appointment.

After you’ve purchased a wig, depending on the quality of the hair and how you maintain it, it can last you up to a year. So moving forward, each “re-install” (yes, re-installs are cheaper since the stylist often cuts you a break for being a recurring client) is $120 instead of $180. If you bring your own wig, you do not pay for the hair, just the install. So the follow-up appointments often run much cheaper than the initial install.

However, if you’re like me, I would often get a new wig every 3 – 4 months or so, because I like to experiment with lengths and colors. Plus, I went to an appointment every two weeks ($120 per visit = $240 a month).  Often times I would want a cut or curls or styling or both, which ran me up to about $150 per visit, pre-tip. With tip (I like to give at least 20-25%), so about 180 a visit.

So let’s say:

  • $180 x 2/week = $360 / month
  • $360 x 12 months = $4,320 / year

… and this is just the “styling” and installing of the wig, alone.

Don’t forget that I like a “new wig” every 3-4 months or so. So now:

  • $220 x 3 / year = $660 / year or $220 x 4/ year = $880

So the grand total, pre-covid, was about $4,980 – $5,200 a year, give or take styling and if I’d choose to reuse an existing wig, or not.

That’s insane right? But, well, it gets crazier.

As most know, the pandemic ultimately placed a halt on beauty services (and rightfully so), at the top of this year. However, what most of you didn’t know, is how hard this hit the hair industry, particularly the wig and weave industry.

North Korea also faced a “lace shortage.”  That’s where most of the beautiful and bountiful bundles of human hair weaves and lace wigs, reside. Not to mention, per an increase in security for international shipping, export and import, delays in packages became a real thing. This means supply went down, and demand went up. And well, we all took economics in middle school, right?

So to place things into perspective, after seven months of personally being wig-free, I decided that, given my stylist had reduced her client intake and was in-line with COVID  safety procedures, that it was safe to book an appointment. My stylist was the real deal with her pandemic protocol. She only allowed one customer inside the salon at a time, masks on ALWAYS — the whole nine. However, when I was quoted for a new wig, the price went up from $220 to $400 (her vendor in North Korea had to charge more since the demand was higher and supply was the same if not —less).

Not to mention, I will ALWAYS tip extra during a pandemic. If I can afford any type of anything that includes someone servicing me in any way (food delivery, groceries, Uber, beauty, etc.), at the risk of their own health, I will tip extra. While I did decide to indulge in this service, between the rate to install ($120), the hair itself ($400) and my tipping (I gave $80), it ran me about $600 for that appointment.

To be fair, my stylist hesitantly took the extra money. Often times your tip is based on the “service” not the hair cost itself. She said she did not want me to tip on the “total” cost, but to be fair, it just felt good to do something for myself, plus I know all stylists have been going through a hard time. Not to mention, she waved my hair cutting fee, so I included that as well.

When I asked my stylist how long rates have been this high for hair supply, she said since peak lockdown (March). That means that had I continued my regular routine, I would have undoubtedly spent, at minimum, $6000 this year. 

For the first seven months that I opted out of doing my hair, I saved a ton of money. It was bigger than not getting my hair done, it was also not having access to regular nail salons and spas, and my whole “self-care” routine, period.

I soon realized that for past couple years, I’d been abusing (or rather, misinterpreting and misusing) the concept of self-care, in order to excuse what was ultimately my own mindless spending habits.

Like I said, if I include my massages, nails, and facials, for the past two years, it’s safe to say that I was spending upwards of $10K on beauty annually. Which is not only absurd to me but for me. While it’s not my job to tell anyone what to spend their money on, I’d assume that anyone who can comfortably dish out that amount of dough for beauty maintenance should at least be raking in a quarter million a year, at minimum.

Unfortunately, the reason why this habit was easy for me to indulge in, without realizing the damage, was simple. While it was super wasteful, my bills still got paid, I never, ever fell behind on a payment, and I found no real harm in wasting what I wasn’t saving. 

As the saying goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t track,” and I feel the same goes for money: You can’t miss what you don’t know is missing.

While I work very hard and I pay all of my own bills solo, down to the penny (I also live alone in NYC), I am fortunate enough to where I don’t have any college debt, and it’s only recently that I realized the privilege in this, alone. After my costly rent, my next big payments are the usual utility bills and such, which isn’t saying much. If anything, my biggest bill after rent was clearly, self-care.

I say this humbly, but also, naively, as it was only this year that I fully realized how much I was missing out on not saving or investing my surplus money, more effectively Again, since I never had a debt to pay down, I always got to “see” my money, and clearly, blow it in the name of beauty, travel and well, food (I used to love eating out in New York City!)

Also, to be clear – yes, you can place a wig that you own, back on your head, however, you so choose. So no, you do not always need to go to a stylist to put a wig on your head, once you own it. Clearly, you can put on your coif, and take it off, as you so please. Similar to a fancy hat!

However, unless you are blessed with the gift of making your wig look as close to real as possible by yourself (trust me, it is a process that includes bleaching the knots, color correcting and color matching the “net” to your skin color, applying hair spray and/or clue to make it stay, etc.) most people (like myself), enjoy having a stylist do the work. Plus, you still have to braid your hair down to go under the wig. While HD laces have removed the added burden of the skin-matching process, it’s still a skill to get your wig to appear seamless and “laid” on your head.

In the end, while I still enjoy the look of a finished wig, I’m no longer splurging that much on hair. I’ve watched YT tutorials on how to place them myself (although, I still hate it), plus I’ve also found cheaper alternatives (including, purchasing from the vendor themselves, for much cheaper!) No seriously, the last wig I got cost 1/5 of the price. 

Not to mention, I’ve also taken to having more fun in embracing my natural hair. Although winter air wreaks havoc on my hair, it does feel good to brush, comb and scratch my scalp, as I so please. Ha!

In short, I will not be taking to spending that much on hair and beauty services for 2021, and I have since redefined my definition of self-care (or rather, self-soothing), and I’m happy! While I agree you should “Treat yo’ self,” as you so please and can afford, I also believe in being responsible and doing so modestly, and within your means.

Images via Soraya Joseph / Unsplash

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