POSTED ON MAY 6, 2009:
Money Wasters & Deal Breakers
A real looker must question what's worth the dough these days
Etymology 101. To know if any beauty treatment--facial, manicure, massage, whatever--is worth the cash, you really need to only look at the first part of the word treatment: treat.
Do you ever feel life is a bit like Groundhog's Day? Only instead of Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" waking us every morning, it's the somber news of what we can ditch to save a dime.
We no longer need extended cable channels, daily expensive coffee beverages, magazine subscriptions, pricy bar drinks and dining out multiple times per week. Get rid of your gas guzzling car, your cell phone, high speed Internet and extravagant vacations.
I know I'm forgetting some expendable items, but media giants will be sure to throw in some new things tomorrow morning. We are being advised to rid ourselves of the mechanisms that keep us from thinking of the economic black hole.
Never mind that by saving our own money we're depriving industries and employees of their own financial security. I don't know that I've heard anyone discuss shunning the fashion and beauty world as a way to save some pocket change. Needless to say, there's a bundle of things in the fashion and beauty world for people to throw overboard as they salvage their sorry financial ship. There is a small difference between kicking some of our fashionable splurges to the curb versus the entertainment and dining money-wasters.
Eventually, things will creep back to normal and we'll gladly fork over the cash to have hundreds of television channels and eat out more often than not. What we might not do is embrace the shopping habits we made before this whole mess because it may seem they were expendable all along. But, just like anything else we don't need, we might find that we still want cool clothes and beauty products.
When budget-crunching, one of the first things to likely go are elements of the beauty routine. A person's full regimen is largely--if not entirely--disposable. We won't start with the day-to-day items, but rather ditch the services we do semi-regularly.
Take for instance, facials. Those who regularly indulge visit a spa roughly once a month at the cost of at least $50. "Facials, a pillar of the $10.9-billion spa industry, are the third most popular service at spas nationwide, after massages and nail care, according to the International Spa Association," reads an article from The New York Times this past March.
People question whether or not this particular treatment has any validity. The argument, as it turns out, boils down to aestheticians against dermatologists: "Aestheticians and spas have long promoted such routine facials as required maintenance for radiant skin. But dermatologists don't necessarily agree. Today's bloated and breathless spa menus promise more than what a mere facial can deliver, dermatologists say, and have people thinking that monthly facials can be their first line of defense against wrinkles."
But consumers care less about the war between the two professions and about if the services they pay for are actually worth the money. As it turns out, it depends on what you want the services to accomplish. Facials do provide a deep clean and advice on how to maintain a healthy routine. What facials don't seem to do (based on the information in the article) is prevent aging and the reduction of wrinkles. Facials only temporarily plump the tissue thereby diminishing the appearance of lines and wrinkles. The "cure-all" for wrinkles would probably be an injectible, like Botox or other fillers. But, if you want to get picky about it, those are also temporary fixes, ones whose effects last only a little longer than those of a facial.
To know if any beauty treatment (facial, manicure, massage, whatever) is worth the cash, you really need to only look at the first part of the word treatment: treat. The money spent provides a brief escape from everyday stressors. For that hour, a recipient feels pampered and relaxed. You're clearing your mind as you're getting a massage or perhaps chatting with a friend as you both get pedicures. It's the opportunity for you to spend the time and energy on yourself. And yes, that means spending money, too.
Many people--especially those who are penny-pinching--can resist the lure of spas and their services, but fewer can resist the retail clothing trap.
The only thing that society asks of us is that we wear something to cover up certain body parts. It could care less about pretty toe nails.
But the fashion industry presents itself on a completely different level. Going back in time, you'd find eras during which the average person owned one outfit for every day and one for Sunday church services and other formal events.
The desire for new clothes was valid only if the wearer outgrew old clothing and there was no way to let out the garment or if the fabric had become so threadbare that clothes needed to be replaced.
"Threadbare" is not a word we use anymore. Clothing doesn't even get anywhere near threadbare nowadays before it is replaced. The fashion industry has grown so much that consumers have more garments than they could wear in a month; there are hundreds upon hundreds of stores bringing in new merchandise every few weeks, which consumers gobble up.
Clothing and accessories have always served a purpose beyond that of covering up the parts that identify us as men and women. Even ancient civilizations had jewelry. We use clothing as a form of expression; an extension of who we are. We frequently purchase items to keep up with the times and feel good about our image.
The problem doesn't lie in that we shop; it's how we shop. We shop in abundance, amassing items of piss-poor quality in the grounds of being trendy.
It's these exact reasons that will inhibit consumers from severing ties with fashion for too long. That's how they get you. We won't be able to not shop and wear the items in our closets a year from now. Excessive washing and drying will destroy shoddy fabrics and craftsmanship. The styles are so trend-specific right now that they will soon look dated. So, when it comes to our spending habits, the clothing we should omit is the kind that needs to be replaced routinely.
Ironically, the best way to cut costs and extraneous items is to initially spend more money. The items that are a bit more expensive are that way because of the quality. The fabric is more durable and the seams more sturdy. The designs are usually thought out so that they straddle the fine line between fashionable and classic (you'll be able to wear them next year without looking dated).
This could mean designer duds, but better quality clothing doesn't have to be. With high end designers, it's likely that 80 percent of the cost pays for the label.
Is it worth it? Who knows? A dress that costs $2,000 is probably not that different from a dress that costs $200 in terms of construction. Both are significantly different from a dress that costs $20. The $20 dress is more of a money waster than the $200 one in terms long-term wearability. It's a waste of closet space and hard-earned cash if a garment can only withstand two washings before the seams come loose, it dries weird and loses its original shape or fades.
Durable, fashionable clothing is worth the money if you're making the right choices. If you can't make the smart decisions, you'd best to just keep your coffee addiction; you'll go through cheap clothing just as quickly as that coffee goes through your body.
Yes, money should be saved in the upcoming months--possibly years. We should be logical in our spending but not neglect the things we like to do that make life worth living. If that means spending money on personal grooming or image, then so be it. But weigh the value of the purchase as it pertains to your life.
If the garment makes you feel like a million bucks, it's worth the expense. If the spa treatment you experience clears your mind of all the troubles swirling around you and it's making your skin better, then it's okay to indulge. If those fashion and beauty purchases aren't doing both of those--providing you with a service and giving you a good feeling about yourself--then it's a deal breaker. And if that's the case, throw fashion concerns to the wayside and turn on the cable TV.
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