A while ago, I was writing an article on budgeting and I asked my Facebook friends what they spent at the spa. Some of them didn’t spend much at all, but others spent up to R4 000 on various treatments and indulgences. R4 000? For real? I couldn’t spend R4 000 a month at a spa if I tried... Ok, maybe I could.
At the other end of the spectrum, a woman I know who earns very little always gets her hair done on payday weekend. Sure, she’s not going to the top hairdresser in Sandton, but she can ill afford the couple of hundred rand that she does spend.
Whether we are big earners or not, women spend a lot of money trying to look the way we think we should. And for all we’ve fought for equality in the workplace, we have to spend more to be there, because it doesn’t cost men very much at all to look “good” or “professional”.
Sure, they get their hair cut every now and again, but other than that, there aren’t many expenses associated with just being a man. Women, on the other hand, are expected to spend money on grooming, make up, clothes, jewellery, hair styles, hair products and beauty treatments just to make it out of the front door every morning.
This got me thinking. How can we reduce the beauty taxes we pay, just for being women? Here are some of the things I came up with.
I can give myself a reasonable manicure while sitting in front of the TV on a Wednesday evening. I don’t need to pay someone to doll up my nails when I can do it myself.
More and more women are opting to let their grey shine through, or to give up on highlights, or quit the weave simply because the time and money required to sit in a salon and become “you, only better”, are prohibitive. By sticking to a natural shade and getting a cut that doesn’t require frequent maintenance, we could save ourselves an arm and a leg in hairdressing.
I understand the need to power dress, especially in a corporate environment. But work is not a fashion parade, and it’s possible to assemble a basic professional wardrobe from a few simple, classic items, and then dress them up with accessories for variety.
This one, I’ve actually got right. I used to spend a pile of money on vitamins. Then, after doing research for various health and nutrition articles, that cost became a bitter pill to swallow. Most dieticians say that you can get almost all the nutrients you need from a healthy diet – and I eat very well – so I stopped buying vitamins. Obviously, if you live on pizza and hot chips then this tip isn’t for you. But you can do a lot for your health and your budget by eating better instead of spending money on supplements.
OK, how many pairs of shoes do you have in your cupboard, really? I have loads, and I’m not even that in to shoes. I once went to see Barbara Kingsolver speak, and she said she travels with a pair of “lady shoes” and a pair of “adventure shoes”. I’m not suggesting that every woman should limit her footwear to one pair in each of these two categories, but what on earth do we need so many other pairs of shoes for? Try buying simple, durable, stylish shoes that are versatile, rather than ten strappy pairs that each only go with that one pair of pants, but look amazing twice a year.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that we should all become miserable and unkempt in the pursuit of financial security. I know that we indulge for a lot of reasons other than just trying out a new nail colour every week – we need the break, it makes us feel better about ourselves and it can give us an all-important lift when we need it most. But that said, I do think that we should be giving more thought to reducing the money we blindly spend because of an ingrained belief that we must do these things to be a presentable woman.
The only question is, which one am I going to give up first
Georgina Guedes is a writer, editor and content producer with a passion for reading, eating and travel. She has learnt a lot in her journey as a personal finance writer, and even manages to put some of it into practice! She lives in Johannesburg with her husband, two children, two dogs a cat and a white picket fence. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.