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Number One Frugality Tip: Don’t Be a Woman

This article was written by in Debt Reduction. 53 comments.

I will admit that the title of this post is a bit inflammatory. I should specify that the more accurate number one frugality tip should be “Don’t be a woman (or a man, but in our society, mostly a woman) obsessed with beauty.” Newsweek illustrates this by breaking down the cost of female beauty maintenance over a lifetime in a recent article, linked below.

According to the study, the average “modern diva” will spend over $200,000 on hair alone. Add in the expenses for maintaining a beautiful face, body, hands and feet, and the average lifetime expense climbs to almost $450,000.

The Newsweek editors go into further detail by splitting the expense by age group. The graphic below shows how much a woman will spend throughout her “tweens”.

Now, I don’t judge. If you have the money to spend, spend it. But it’s better to be conscious about these costs than to let them go by without thinking about them.

The Newsweek study doesn’t go far enough, however. While they’ve provided details about the expenses, they haven’t studied the effect that spending money on beauty will have on a woman’s income or other levels of success. For example, one theoretical possibility is that a lifetime expense of $450,000 for conforming yourself to what the rest of the world considers “beautiful” will result in a lifetime increase of income of $1,000,000. If that is the case, it would be hard to argue than the price of beauty was not well spent.

Tween's Expenses for Beauty

And in real life, return on investment (ROI) is measured in other ways than money. If for whatever reason, spending money to fit into a certain category makes a person happier, and she can’t find happiness by any other means, how can you argue against spending the money if it is available? If the money is not available, and our diva relies on debt to finance vanity, the true cost out of the pocket could be much greater.

According to the survey’s methodolody, invasive procedures like breast implants and liposuction were not considered in the totals. You can view the raw data here or view the Newsweek story that offers a browsable interface.

Any divas out there? Can you cut back on spending on beauty or is it a justified expense?

Updated September 26, 2016 and originally published April 2, 2009.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I wonder if it lines up with other more stereotypically “male-centric” metrics. Like, do men spend more on video games or cars or computers than women?

Oh, and that woman in her 30s is WAY overpaying for her highlights. :) Then again, I’m probably not “average” – I don’t get laser treatment for my varicose veins or pay for tanning.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

Wow! i never see those kind of expenses as a hassle to spend! I PERSONALLY GET MY HAIR DOnE ONCE A WEEK $20, my nails $8, my eye browsand $5my feet once$15 a monthand i get a facial$55 every 3 to 4 months. These things to me are like getting a tune up $280 or my teeth $90cleaned by a dentist! i have a daughter shes 3 yrs old, if she comes along with me then her toes $10$4nails and hair $25-35get done as well, but not every week of corse but maybe 1x every 3 months or so. I also have my own car car note and vehicle expenses and i also save what ever i can, im not broke i make about 50 a yeAR AND I RENT. i AALSO SHOP AT BEBE i LOVE THAT STORE!! AND IM NOT BROKE!! I C MYSELF AS FRUGAL OH AND I SPEND A COUPLE HUNDRED ON MAKEUP A YEAR..BARE MINERALS , MAC , ESTEE LAUDER

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avatar 3 Anonymous

Oh no! I know it’s not my place to judge other folks; parenting’s seriously the hardest job in the world, and of course you sometimes just have to take your kid with you on errands. I get that. But… well, if you can avoid exposing your little girl to the harsh chemicals in the salon, I really recommend it! The neurological damage they can do is much worse for little kids, whose brains are still growing! They probably make kids nail polish that’s more like acrylic paint, so if you guys like bonding over nail polish and she thinks it’s fun, that might be a safer alternative. (You can even paint little flowers and stuff with it!)

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avatar 4 Anonymous

enogugh with the man/women
lets go with male/female
society has brainwashed us-
just look at our pets!
if you have a girl dog, you’re gonna put pink bows in its fur and dress her up and take her to salons and if its a boy we’re going to name it a ‘boy’ name like cooper or buddy but definitley not ‘sugar’ or ‘cookie’ because it’s a girl name!

If we’re putting so much pressure on our pet’s alone, how much more damage are we putting on our children? As kids, girls get introduced to barbie dolls and boys hot wheels and star wars. Have ever questioned why things were the way they were? Why is it that the girls have long hair and wear dresses? Why is it that there are girl/boy names? Why is blue a boy color?

We never questioned the cage we were put in. These social norms, in the bigger picture, is the America today. Why do we sexualise female vocalists? Oh wait, this can’t possibly do anything with the rise in eating disorders, that little girl on toddlers and tiara’s wearing Madonna’s cone bra, or the rise in cosmetic spending? Why are there so little female CEO’s? I just hate the glass ceiling its so unfair!! Oh wait this has nothing to do with me reinforcing socieities stereotypes on ‘women’ being vain! This absolutely doesn’t concern the things we introduce our kids into!!


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avatar 5 Anonymous

I was thinking about this the other day. I have a job where I can wear little or no makeup–small department, no interaction w/patrons–and I’m very fortunate that way. But my male coworkers wear absolutely none–they don’t even have to worry about it.

As it is, I’m very low maintenance. Spent less than $50 on haircuts last year, less than $50 on basic makeup, don’t like having my nails painted (I keep them neatly cut as an old violin habit, but that just requires scissors/clippers).

Given my field (library), I don’t think this will have a big impact on my career. But I would say that some high-powered women can’t afford not to look their best all the time. It’s as important that they wear makeup as it is that some men wear suits and ties. Sucks that society is that way, I think the problem is drawing the line between a good presentation (clothes, hair, face, etc) and unnecessary expectations (perfect body, beautiful face, etc).

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avatar 6 Anonymous

Difficult stat to check although I suspect, like most of these sorts of surveys, the figures are hugely inflated. I spend about $400 a year getting my hair done. I don’t separate out the cost of haircare products from my other expenses so I can’t guess at shampoo costs, but I doubt I will come anywhere close to $200,000 by my life’s end! I also suspect that, like most things, what one spends on beauty is affected by their income. Uber wealthy people spend more on everything than your average person. Also geography plays a big part. Getting your hair (or your nails) done in Manhattan costs a lot more than getting them done in west Texas.

The tween study is a little crazy too. $0 on body? What about lotions? Exercise classes? $2,000 on hands and feet? That’s a lot of mani/pedis for a kid.

I haven’t read the study but I’m pretty dubious about this one!

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avatar 7 Anonymous

Saw this article the other day…very amusing.

I wonder what the categories for males would be like for video games and sporting events (including $6 beers).

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avatar 8 Anonymous

Not even CLOSE to the same thing. You won’t suffer socially and in your work life if you don’t play games or see sports. Men aren’t punished and erased by the patriarchy the way women are for not being Sexy 2.0. Apples and oranges, dude- and a total derail FAIL.

And, ‘amusing’, huh? How condescending can you get? Ass.

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avatar 9 Simeon Hope

Men might well suffer socially or in their career if they don’t play games or, especially, watch sports. Football, rugby and cricket are de rigeur for male social acceptance and career advancement in many occupations, social groups or home locations. They are not cheap to follow.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

I guess I’m not much of a diva. I don’t spend much on anything like this, and don’t think that beauty, health or life can be bought. One can buy enhancements. I don’t buy hair or beauty services, but my husband goes to the barber he has gone to since he was a child.

I do have one spending problem. It’s called LOL

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avatar 11 Anonymous

The keyword there is “diva”, not woman. It’s often the women (with kids I assume) who clip coupons, buy on sale, etc. Whereas the average man can’t be bothered to save that kind of money.

So it probably evens out in the end.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

NOPE. NOT even close. It will never ‘even out’- not when women are still considered second-class. Maybe when the ERA is actually passed (Gerald Ford supported it, for f’s sake) and the U.S. Constitution includes women (Justice Scalia said it: Google it.), things will be different. Until then, FTP.

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avatar 13 Anonymous

I’ve thought about this too. I’ve had to watch myself thinking about a woman’s health,beauty expenses as excessive when I spend a significant amount of money on cars, electronics, sports leagues/equipment. The study should also look at what men typically spend on haircuts, shampoo, etc… Clothes and shoes are a whole different expenditure area where I would say women generally outspend men, but some men spend more than other women. It is all income related. But then, if a woman did not spend money on beautifying products, then she might be less successful professionally and personally, (sad but true). There is some value that needs to be attached to that.

As for my “health and beauty” expenses, I spend about $120 per year on haircuts, and the only “products” I buy are hair gel, soap, shampoo, and cologne. All those together probably cost me $100 per year max. But, I have an old car which I love too much to sell and I spend about $1,000 a year on it for maintenance, insurance. (Using it does save me miles on my new car, keeping that one in warranty longer though.) I also have satellite radio which has a monthly fee and I’m also looking at buying a new stereo receiver even though my current one works pretty well.

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avatar 14 Anonymous

I’ve realized recently that I’m on the lower end of the spending spectrum when it comes to beauty products. Part of is that I don’t think that the higher priced items necessarily work better. Sure, sometimes they do, but expensive doesn’t automatically equal better. I’ve tried $50 moisturizers, and go back to my $7 drugstore standby. I have thick, long-ish hair, so I go through a lot of conditioner to keep it manageable, and I’ve found a store brand that works great and costs $8 a liter. I’ve tried more expensive products, thinking I could use less, but that never pans out. I cut my hair maybe four times a year (sometimes only twice) but that’s because I prefer my hair long. I wouldn’t look good with the sort of cut that needs touchups every 6-8 weeks. And I was blessed with great hair color that I will never change.

Some of it is a career investment. Without makeup, I can pass for a fifteen-year-old. I’ve discovered that it doesn’t matter what I wear, but if I have on a good amount of eye makeup (shadow, liner, mascara), I get treated much better at work. More like a late 20’s lawyer and less like a college intern. I think it’s because it makes me look closer to my age. That doesn’t mean that I don’t splurge on fun things every so often, but it’s a splurge for a reason.

Of course, I’m not complaining about looking young! I like being able to pass for 10+ years younger. Somehow, I have a feeling that when I’m 40, I probably won’t look 30 without makeup though.

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avatar 15 Anonymous

Makes a lot of sense though. Winning spend a lot more on themselves with clothes, cosmetics, etc and guys spend more on material things and electronics.

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avatar 16 Anonymous

Hi! Here are my actual expenses, pulled directly from my financial worksheet. When I ran a business, I used to meet clients in person all the time, and now I do a lot of public speaking, so I still need to look good.

Highlights: $140 (including tip) 2x/year

Have just started doing haircuts in between the highlights; first one is tomorrow. Probably $80 or so, 2x/year

I do all my blow dry/styling at home or in my hotel room!

Aveda shampoo, conditioner, body wash: $130 2x/year I buy in July and December when they send the double points coupons. This often includes body wash for my boyfriend as well, since he uses some products of theirs.

Clinique lipstick, lotion, and face wash: $50 3x/year I use their 3-step system since it’s the only thing that can consistently keep my face free of acne. Lipstick is the only makeup I currently wear (I’m 27 years old.)

Eyebrow waxing = $30 3x/year

Laser hair removal: I did 8 treatments at $215 each. That covered my legs, underarms, and belly hair. Totally worth the $, by the way.

I don’t do tanning, “lip plumping”, mani/pedi, or any of that stuff.

So I’m at about $940/year plus the one-time $1720 for the 8 sessions of laser hair removal.

All of this is dwarfed by the $4500 I recently spent on Invisalign to have my teeth corrected, again. In total my parents (when I was young) and I have spent something north of $30,000 on 8 years of braces, 4 gum graft surgeries, a complicated wisdom teeth removal, and Invisalign tomake my teeth look even remotely normal, only a small portion of which was ever covered by insurance.

I figure the cost of beauty is dwarfed by the cost of healthcare.

I live in one of the most-expensive areas of the country (San Jose, CA), so I also think Newsweek’s prices are a bit inflated.


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avatar 17 Luke Landes

Erica: Thanks for sharing your own, real expenses!

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avatar 18 Anonymous

This reminds me of a quote from an old Pacino movie called Devil’s Advocate…

Vanity – definitely my favorite sin.

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avatar 19 Anonymous

I am a woman who was never comfortable spending a lot of money on fashion or beauty. If I had some money to spare I would rather save or invest it. I think that with everything balance is important. I will never no how many promotion I was passed over because of my lack of fashion cents, but the other extreme of putting your confidence into the your purchases can hurt financially and emotionally in the long run.

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avatar 20 Anonymous

I don’t trust some of those numbers. I get my brows done for less than half the $43 they list, despite living in downtown Seattle (and my salon is in a very expensive neighborhood). I spend a lot on do-it-yourself hair color (I buy mine from Whole Foods to avoid getting bladder cancer from traditional hair dye) because at 25 I’m going prematurely grey.

I think this is another case of everything in moderation. Getting all the treatments and at top dollar is unnecessary, but completely forsaking society’s standards for looking nice might be costing you in other ways (dates, promotions, etc).

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avatar 21 Anonymous

“…completely forsaking society’s standards for looking nice might be costing you in other ways (dates, promotions, etc).”

Different strokes for different folks, but that statement really shocked me. Any man that required me to spend money on beautification services to please him wouldn’t be a desirable man to me. To say the least. I definitely don’t want a job where I have to primp and pay to buy myself a promotion, but I don’t live in a big city and might be out of touch on that point.

I just don’t believe in (for myself) spending excessively or unnecessarily, and I hate waste. And I don’t support others doing it with my money – it makes me think before I spend, in some cases. I went to the dentist a couple of years ago, just wanting my teeth cleaned and two teeth recapped. It took a couple of visits and $635. The hygienist was gorgeous, but when I returned for another visit, she had black eyes from getting her nose broken for plastic surgery. I was not only not happy with the amount of money I spent there, but very disgruntled that I was supporting somebody’s completely unnecessary and dangerous procedure in the name of vanity. I haven’t been to the dentist since, and actually bought myself a scaler kit (less than $10.00!!! LOL) to clean my own teeth until I feel like spending a ridiculous amount of money again. It may be awhile.

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avatar 22 Anonymous

I think that in large corporate settings, you have to remember that you’re the face of the company–at least if you’re in one of the “face of the company” positions. So if you’re the receptionist, you have to look like you’re put together well, organized, neat, etc. This doesn’t mean looking like a model, but it may mean wearing a certain base amount of makeup, being well-groomed, and the like. In that way, grooming is like wearing suits. It doesn’t have to be expensive or dangerous, but it will cost something.

The real reason I responded, though, is because I think your reaction at the dentist’s was…irrational. We all need certain periodic services, like teeth cleaning. There are probably other dentists you could see, if you’re concerned with how the hygienist’s salary was spent, but all the money you spend on services is going to other people’s lives somewhere along the line. If their life choices really bother you, you can go elsewhere, but the money you spend anywhere may be financing someone’s Mercedes or someone’s facelift or whatever.

What matters is that you were or weren’t satisfied with the service you received and whether you do or don’t need the service. If the scaler kit gets it done, that’s great, but otherwise neglecting yourself and putting yourself at risk for major dental surgery (my dad’s had it done and it’s not pretty, painless, or cheap!!!) because you don’t like that someone at the office got plastic surgery is doing yourself a disservice and giving her actions undue power over your own.

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avatar 23 Anonymous

I like both the dentist and the hygienist and their work. What I didn’t like was the price. If I had been charged a price I considered reasonable, I wouldn’t have reacted as I did. As it was, I felt exploited by the high price and then as though I was financing ridiculously high living through being overcharged. And this in a country where people go without necessary care due to inability to pay. It just strikes me as extremely wrong.

I do agree that people ought to look their best, in the ways you described. I just don’t think it is that expensive a proposition to do that, and certainly doesn’t normally require surgery or professional services.

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avatar 24 Anonymous

Interesting that the article didn’t mention how single, employed women are an economic force. As goes that single gal, so goes the economy. These women (and I’m in this category) can spend more discretionary dollars than women who are married or have children. And let’s not forget that oh so important young male demographic who the advertisers adore with their video games and electronics. Newsweek isn’t doing a story on them because the story about women and spending is something we’ve all heard before and everyone loves to talk about it. Personally, a story about how my male co-workers spend crazy amounts on their game consoles, stereo systems, pull down movie screens, is much more interesting.

I live in Los Angeles, and compared to the women around me, I’m very low maintenance (no mani/pedis, no highlights, no botox). But it seems that compared to the other commenters here, I’m a diva. And I like it. The truth is that picking up a $15 lip gloss at Sephora makes me happy. Kid, meet candy store. Could I stick that money into my savings? Sure, but I’m on a budget and make enough to afford to spend on these things while STILL socking money away in savings.

The unfortunate truth is that in a professional environment, everyone is judged on how they appear to others. Men walk around here with expensive italian leather shoes and unbelievable cashmere/mink blended sweaters. If I were to completely stop spending on wardrobe, skin and hair, I would probably rise less quickly in my job.

This has nothing to do with vanity, it has to do with our culture as a country and the bubble that is Los Angeles. I have no delusions that living here is in any way a normal way of life. If I lived and worked in a different place, I would probably spend much less than I do. But I’ve made a choice to live here, and it’s part of the luxury tax that I pay. And I’m ok with that. I certainly don’t advocate women running up their credit cards to be part of the extremes mentioned in this article. But come on, give me a break. Let me play in Sephora without judgment.

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avatar 25 Anonymous

It’s really a matter of priorities and preferences. I’m not happy to hear that our local Gottschalk’s is going to close, and have been wanting a couple of cashmere sweaters. I hope I can find them there while we still have the store. Just like one man’s junk is another’s treasure, what is waste to one person is not to the next. I don’t buy Sephora, or lipstick/gloss at all, for that matter. I get lipsticks when I join Cosmetique for $5.95. I cancel after the intro kit, and then get invited back later. I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old, which is longer ago than I care to admit.

I like expensive French perfume. I’ll buy (or receive as gift) it once or twice a year. I like expensive leather purses and wallets, preferably on sale. I was given a gift certificate for a pedicure, and enjoyed it, but I would not spend anything on services like that or getting my hair done as long as I can do these things myself.

There are many things we do not spend at all on (like movies, games), but we get most of what we want – I want some gold chains and such, but can’t justify spending that much without having a much larger income and huge chunk of money in reserve – it’s just a matter of what you really like.

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avatar 26 Anonymous

well i dont really think i consider myself that high maintenance, I dont know anyone who doesnt get their nails done whether its just a manicure or gets the tips or UV gels put on. But i definitely need to get my hair $20-30 n nails $8 done every week, whether i do it myself or get the salon to do it , i need a touch up $65 to cover the grays and a facial $50-55$ every 3 months i need a pedicure $16 and my eyebrows $5 done once a month. sometimes i take my 3 yr old, she gets a pedi $10 and a mani $5. I get her hair done maybe 2 to 3 times a year. Her hair cost more $35-40.$ I also have a car car note and all of its maintenance expenses as well. I shop at stores like BEBE, GUESS, BCBG, coach, ANNI SEZ when ever i can, if not i just wont shop!! I NEVER throw anything away either i pass it down or make use of it , I HAVE BEEN THE SAME SIZE FOR THE LAST 7years !!also buy my daughter ralph lauren, guess, house of dereon, baby phat.GYBOREE, GREEN dOG . I make her take very good care of her clothes so we can pass them down, I own over 40 pairs of shoes, maybe like 2 pairs of sneakers. I am a single mom and only make 50 a year and have a savings account i consider all my purchases good investments if not i wont make em, and i have to save at least 200 a month to feel happy! i always say, if you dont have anything to show where you spent your money than its not considered a good investment

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avatar 27 Anonymous

That kind of spending doesn’t seem close to typical.

Seriously who spends $1,182 /year on cosmetics, pedicures and manicures for a 8-12 year old girl? That can’t be normal. I’m not THAT out of touch am I?

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avatar 28 Anonymous

It’s worth remembering that in hard times, a little pick me up is useful to keep spirits high and optimism up. The best indication of this is the story of Revlon:
Revlon was founded in the midst of the Great Depression, 1932, by Charles Revson and his brother Joseph, along with a chemist, Charles Lachman, who contributed the “L” in the REVLON name.

Starting with a single product — a new type of nail enamel — the three founders pooled their resources and developed a unique manufacturing process. Using pigments instead of dyes, Revlon developed a variety of new shades of opaque nail enamel. Successful in salons from the start, in 1937 Revlon started selling the polishes in department stores and drug stores. In six years the company became a multimillion dollar organization. By 1940, Revlon offered an entire manicure line, and added lipstick to the collection. During World War II Revlon created makeup and related products for the U.S. Army, which was honored in 1944 with the Army-Navy ‘E’ Award for Excellence.

Revson had been told that starting a makeup company during the depression was a bad idea, since women wouldn’t waste money on things they didn’t need. Except that the small amount of money they paid to look good helped them through their darkest days. As a result, a makeup behemoth was launched.

Who says that Depressions are bad for business? Not me…I view crisis as opportunity.

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avatar 29 Anonymous

This is a huge example of the subtle sexism that exists in our society. Women are held to higher grooming standards than men and they spend hours of their life fixing their hair and doing their nails that their male counterparts have free to do with what they pleased.

Imagine if the hours a woman spent grooming, she instead spent earning income? Imagine if she didn’t spent no more than a man on grooming products? I bet the distribution of wealth by gender would be a lot closer than it is now.

Personally I cut my own hair, don’t wear makeup, and I don’t even shave (i remember from when I did how much razors and shaving cream cost me). I thoroughly enjoy my free time and my extra money.

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avatar 30 Anonymous

I completely disagree.
As a male, if I showed up in my office in a somewhat disheveled sartorial manner, I would be asked to clean myself up and look presentable.
It’s not unusual for people who feel put upon to say they are being held to a different or higher standard – it’s the basis of their reasoning. But I have seen instances of women who have come into my office, clearly after a night on the town, who have not been asked to do anything. They are left to do their work.
Men, on the other hand, are asked to “buck up, clean up”.

The corporate office would most likely ask the women to clean up except that it’s likely they’d get drawn into a dispute of “what’s fair” and “what’s right” vis-a-vis the males of the office. Never mind that the women never see our managers giving a poorly displayed fellow a dressing down.

I firmly believe we are held to similar standards and it’s all in what you see. Since you believe this to be true, it’s unlikely anything I say can convince you otherwise. On the other hand, I see many things that are done behind closed doors which you do not…and thus have an awareness of the true sensibilities of what is occurring in at least one office.

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avatar 31 Anonymous

You think men are held to the same standards as women with regard to their appearance?! You have got to be kidding me.

In your example you say your boss doesn’t chastise women as readily for their problematic appearance. Could this be because he is simply more comfortable raising the topic with members of his own sex? Maybe he doesn’t want to risk a sexual harassment complaint or lawsuit by confronting a woman about something foreign to him like smudged eyeliner or messy hair? In any event do you really think she is not being silenty judged more harshly for that behavior than other periodically disheveled men in the office?

Do you honestly think in our society women are not held to a higher standard of looks?? A prime example without even considering makeup and hair is weight. It’s a complete non-issue if a man is 50 pounds overweight, but a woman who is 20 pounds overweight is considered lazy, indulgent, even less intelligent than her peers.

Would you ever see a fat woman advertising beer (gross!!)? What about a fat man (hilarious!!)?

Besides which women are evaluated solely on their looks in general. It’s the first question people ask or the first trait people compliment when hearing about or meeting a female. Successful women who aren’t good looking are often ridiculed in spite of their success. I once had a guy tell me he hates Oprah, and when I asked why and pointed out all she has accomplished, his response was “yeah, but she’s so…ugly!” No comment would ever be spoken about a successful male, no matter how unattractive.

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avatar 32 Anonymous

Yes, I stand by my statement.
I never said women weren’t held to a higher standard, but I really don’t think they are. You used commercials as an example. Interestingly, men are regularly shown as idiots on commercials, while women are always rational and fair.
Does that mean that I’m held to a lower standard, or that it’s OK to demean men regularly? I’m not sure, but I think the latter. There is NO WAY I could ever get on TV or the Movies (let alone radio, LOL) based on my looks. But if I act like an idiot, pretty much anyone will give me a show.

It is quite possible that my boss doesn’t say something to the women because of sexual harassment laws. The laws work, in every way, against the man. I say this with a boatload of unjustified experience. It’s very easy for a woman to say someone looked sideways at you and get a settlement.

That said, I currently work in an office which (if you were to take a walk through) would be the LAST place you’d say “wow they really hold women to a higher standard”, in a negative sense. In fact, it’s been at least 10 years or more since I’ve worked in an office where you could say that.

I think women often hold themselves to a higher standard because they BELIEVE that is what is wanted. And this is not a bad thing, because I do the same thing. Every time I go out, I try to look my best so that people will look at me and see something good. I TRY to make people see me as well-groomed, because I believe that is what they expect of me. I spend alot of time watching my weight, working out, etc. just so I can conform to a “look” which I feel (though I know others do not feel the same way) is the way society wishes to see me.

I think this kind of thing is perfectly justifiable, too. In my experience, I’ve come to realize that first impressions are very hard to overcome – most PEOPLE (not just men) are very shallow. As a result, it’s worth it to put in the extra effort.

So every time you think that you are being held to a “higher standard” (let’s say Penelope Cruz, maybe?), remember that I, too, am being held to a “higher standard” (perhaps it’s Brad Pitt…it used to be Tom Cruise, I suppose, until he went mental).

Also remember that when people think of men on sitcoms, dramas, or even commercials, they don’t consider looks – they consider brains. And men are not held in high regard in either event. If you’re not a fat, stupid, balding dope of a man, you are not likely to get portrayed on any video or film.
The rare exceptions being:
1. The absolute despicable chauvinist
2. The effeminate “sensitive” man

But, by and large, the slobbering idiot is the standard. The concept of showing a man who can actually dress himself, takes care of himself, and has an IQ over 120 is something that really just isn’t capable of passing muster in Hollywood these days.

For women, that’s a given.

Talk to me about higher standards now. I believe we may have some common ground, if you care to think about it.

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avatar 33 Anonymous

I completely agree about the sexual harassment laws working against men. In fact, I think they work against everyone, because sexual harassment is serious. When the term is applied inaccurately and foolishly, the real meaning is obscured and those subject to it are no big deal worth considering. We are desensitized to what is shoved in our faces and drilled in our heads constantly.

I’m in complete agreement as well about first impressions. There’s no second chance to make a good first impression, it is true.

I don’t agree about men on TV. Mark Harmon is very easy to look at, and I don’t watch dopy-looking men on TV. Mark Harmon is also not a chauvinist or effeminate. No, he is hot. However, I watch very little TV, so I’ve not had much chance to see the guys you are referring to.

avatar 34 Anonymous

This is hilarious. I am definitely not the typical woman. I rarely buy makeup or perfume and haven’t had my hair cut in probably six months. I’d MUCH rather spend my money on supplies for my business or even savings.

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avatar 35 Anonymous

Interesting conversations.

First of all, a lot of the make-up, hair, high heels, leg shaving habits that most women partake in were probably created by women so that they could one-up each other. Unless somebody has evidence to prove otherwise, it’s not fair to blame this sexism on men. And men have to do a lot to impress the opposite sex too. That’s part of what drives some of us to partake in competitive sports, work out a lot, buy expensive cars, dress well, go for careers that make good money, etc…

Secondly, the women who visit this site are by no means a good representation of the female population, and nor are the male visitors typical of the male population. Most people in the normal population set are clueless about finances and live a credit card mentality. They’re the ones who (used to) buy all kinds of things they can’t afford, including salon visits, boats, expensive cologne,

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avatar 36 Anonymous

I would disagree about whether the people here are a good representation of the population. First off, you’ve made a sweeping generalization about just what the population is. But even in that sweeping generalization, you’re wrong. Most families are not being run on a credit card basis. Many are, but certainly NOT the majority.
Secondly, judging by the diversity of opinion and experience listed in the conversations, it’s clear there is not a single “general” norm within our society regarding how people behave economically or socially. There is enough opinion here for me to say the people posting ARE the general population – the fact they disagree on so much is evidence of that.
Third, there is no doubt that the accoutrements of social visibility (leg shaving, fast cars) are developed by those who are within the same gender group to which they apply. Over time, however, as these behaviors and looks are absorbed into society, they become attractive features to the opposite sex. Think, for example, of the Rubenesque beauties of so long ago. Today, they’d be considered overweight.

However, at the time, nature had developed a means by which women could safely give birth – by maintaining a form and size that was optimal to survival. This look became the norm, and was adopted by the society as the highest form of beauty. Today, in movies, we see our thin actress beauties performing as the beauties of yesterday. But they were NOTHING like that. This is modern society imposing its view of beauty on the past.

Today, tans are considered beautiful. Prior to the mid 1900’s, being tan was the sign of being lower class – spending too much time in the sun. As a result, many paintings from long ago showed women and men with white lead on their faces to make them paler than normal. This was considered beautiful and a sign of wealth and health (imagine what that lead was doing to them!!).

We cannot hope to surmise what the next 20 years will bring with regard to the signs of beauty. Even now, these signals are changing, as we watch the younger generations engage behaviors many of us find repellent such as tattoos and piercings.

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avatar 37 Anonymous

If you claim that the readers of this blog are representative of the general population, then you are completely wrong. Many people in the general population don’t have a computer, some don’t have web access, many don’t know what a blog is, etc… Readers of this blog are probably more educated than the average population. On what basis do you claim that the majority of households aren’t being run on a credit card mentality? Why is the average credit card debt per household so high? I know averages don’t imply a distribution, but look at this report from 2002, way before the credit bubble burst and before it really even started. Look at page 2 which shows on average 4% of household debt is in credit cards and then look at the growth rate of that debt…

link [pdf], Page 2 where it says

The typical family is also mired in credit card debt. At present nearly two-thirds of all cardholders carry balances and pay finance fees each month—with the average debt balance per cardholder rising to $4,956 at the end of 2005.

It’s just as I thought. So if the readers of this blog have more money and are more into preserving wealth than the average random sampling of Americans, then it’s not a stretch to believe that we spend a lower percent of our income on what many of us consider to be extraneous beautification.

I do agree with you that societal standards of beauty change, but the basics don’t. We are psychologically hardwired as men to look for women that can bear children and as women to look for men that can provide for a family. There are many scientific studies which prove this and explain why we are attracted to different physical attributes. The trends in fashion accentuate these features differently with the filter of science and sociology put on. Some of us value financial security more than beautification and others do the opposite. That’s just our spectrum of society.

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avatar 38 Anonymous

I am a lot lower maintenance than most women, but the odds are stacked against us. Women are charged more for haircuts, women’s clothes cost more and are of poorer quality, so they need to be replaced more often. Societal pressures in the United States tell us we should wear makeup, which isn’t cheap either. Studies have shown that women bear a higher percentage of the costs associated with having children and maintaining the home as well. When you add it all up, it does seem like there is a financial penalty for being a woman!

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avatar 39 Anonymous

What a GREAT post.

It’s so true that women spend a lot of money on beauty. But I do have to note that it makes us happy. So what’s the difference between spending half a million on beauty, and spending that same amount in cars, technology, sports, DVDs, etc or other supposedly more practical pursuits?

Now, I don’t spend much. I really don’t, since I started becoming more eco-friendly, and now I spend $0 on hair except for a haircut once in a while, around $200/year at $100/cut every 6 months.

Makeup is minimal, facial care is too.. and I don’t use body washes, shaving cream, etc. I find that all to be not necessary (for me and my skin/body).

But not every woman can do this, and I acknowledge that. It’s a lot of time, effort, money and a bit of a pain in the ass to wash your hair only with water and not with shampoo.

Nonetheless, you’ve made some great points.

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avatar 40 Anonymous

Wow, I’ll have to think about this… but from what I hear, getting a sex change is probably even more expensive!

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avatar 41 Anonymous

My totally yearly costs are $60/yr for haircuts(3) including tip, and $20 for lipstick (mostly because if I don’t have something on my lips they get wind burned). That’s $80 per year. Period. Shampoo is something that both men and women use so I an not counting it in the total, and I buy whatever is on sale cheapest.

I quit worrying about what others might think of me a long long time ago – and it has been VERY freeing :) I’m happy with me and that’s all that matters to me.

Never dyed my hair and never plan to (with 8 grandkids I’m allowed some gray hairs) , no other makeup, no fingernail stuff except trimming by me, no eyebrow doings, or any of those other unnatural things.
Think of all the money I have saved over the years, and at NO detriment to my job. Now THAT makes me happy!!! And it could be a large part of why I am debt-free, including the house being paid for!

Luckily I live in rural NW Oregon, where women are not judged by looks, but judged by what they think/contribute to the rural lifestyle. Luckily I can wear jeans, sweatshirts, and hiking boots to work :)

Oh, and my fancy car? It’s a Silverado Pickup 4×4…. my grandkids think Grammi’s truck is just the coolest :)

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avatar 42 Anonymous

Marci, you sound way cool to me. Very refreshing.

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avatar 43 Anonymous

Thanks, Yana!

I just live in a way-cool place :)

Forgot to mention – I am an Office Manger/executive secretary/bookkeeper for one of the largest private employers in my county.

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avatar 44 Anonymous

There is a very valid point in this article. Whilst the absolute figures may be debated endlessly, the presssure is on the ladies, especially the working ones.

And I think this is not a habit from years past. The recent explosion of consumerism and advertising terrorism has driven ladies in this ruthless cycle.

We have 4 girls. Whilst we have not done much about this, I would like to get them to appreciate and understand the natural (and much cheaper) remedies that are available. Our Frugal Duchess writes quite a bit on this aspect.


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avatar 45 Anonymous

I suppose there should be a bit of a backlash here, but I think the overall message of this article was that many women (and men) feel as though “proper” women have to look a certain way — and that way costs money.

The commentators here have already put forth a more direct view: women shouldn’t have to, but perhaps both men and women need to change their expectations if anything’s ever going to change.

I suppose all it takes is a shift in point of view. I prefer that my partner, and women in general, look neat — but they don’t have to look made up all the time. It seems fake, like putting on a mask every day of the year.

I suppose it’s easy for me to say that, I’m a guy: I shower, shave, wash my face and apply deodorant.

How far would using only less-expensive products go? Is that even a viable option?

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avatar 46 Anonymous

I do not spend a huge amount. I (with advice from my pro hairstylist) color my own hair, have learned to do own mani/pedi saving $50 a month at least – my sister pays $125 every six weeks for haircolor so I’m saving a mint on that. I search consignment and secondhand stores to find quite a few really good label pieces. I purchase high-end cosmetics from cosmetics salespeople on ebay – they receive about $1000 a year is “gratis:” new products their company wants them to try. And if it’s not something appropriate for their skin type they are allowed to do as they wish with the products.

REASON I try so hard: I am over-40 and have to keep myself looking as youthful as possible – that is a career fact for a woman.

The ROI is clear: raises, promotions, even simply keeping a job. Unfortunately there is a double standard, but that’s OK with me as I enjoy looking the best I can at any age as my Mom always did and taught her two daughters to do the same.

Someone mentioned not having to look good in RADIO: some people say that “no one can see you.” On the contrary, the people who matter most in your company see you. At the company I previously worked for, the on-air floor was full of people who came to work without a bath, dirty wrinkled clothes, and just basically looked like “radio trash” as my DH and I call them. They looked like a bunch of losers no matter what their age. This company I will not name but their initials are CC. And the age prejudice is obvious to the point of face-to-face insults from management to employees about their age. I was asked by upper management if I spun records during Pony Express days and was called “old” by a young loser I was forced to train to take my place.

I did not overdress but I set myself apart from the pack in being neat, and looking my best even though it was OK to wear jeans & T-shirt mine was ironed, shoes and handbag good.

Know what? When I was a part of the recent cutback I got a job faster than anyone else. My reputation preceded me and now I work with the casually-dressed but classy team at a company whose initials are CBS. No “radio trash” there and we are on the same floor, same suite as Sales and where listeners are given tours. The technical producers act professionally and look professional.

So that’s my ROI…and it turns out that it has paid off for this Technical Producer for a morning talk show.

And yes…I get up at 2:15 am to be at work by 4:00 am….with makeup on & hair done. People really DO see you on the radio!

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avatar 47 Anonymous

I find it interesting that women always have to have these big ass gas guzzlers or if you see them in these super fancy vehicles like Paris Hilton you know that they are either got the vehicles from their daddy or borrowed the vehicles from their boyfriends or husbands. Women simply don’t go out and buy these kind of vehicles like an Audi, BMW, Jag, Hummer……

If you see a lady in a real nice expensive vehicle like I mentioned a (BMW, Audi, Jag or possibly a Hummer etc etc)you know that they are either a super dady’s girl or they just borrowed it from their boyfriend but it’s certainly not their own personal vehicle as in (bought with their OWN money :). Women would never ever go to a car dealer and say I want a BMW, Audi, Jag, Hummer.

Men just cring when a girl is a daddy’s girl and daddy’s buys her everything like a super nice vehicle. If women want these vehicles so bad then use you own DAMN money and get your own nice vehicle and don’t let your DADDY buy you one it’s time to grow up and if you can afford one then go buy it and learn about vehicles. Quit playing the oh poor me I don’t know shit about cars but I want to look like I do so I’ll just have daddy buy me one even though I’m 38 yrs old I’ll just be a daddy’s girl or my BF will always lend me his. Go get your own damn vehicle!!!

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avatar 48 Anonymous

I find it interesting MO ranted on women and cars? I have 2 SUV’s (one for work and one for play) bought and paid for myself. I used to own a BMW (paid for myself of course) and before that another BMW. Explain this one to yourself.

I do not spend money on over-priced brand make up from department stores as Almay, Maybeline and Covergirl work quite well for me :) I buy clothes at thrift stores or clearance racks and I refuse to tan or believe I have to wear fake nails to look attractive. This is probably why i can afford the higher end cars :-)

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avatar 49 tigernicole86

I’m pretty low maintenance. I splurge a little and go to a higher end salon and spend $40 on a haircut every 2 months. Yeah, I could go to greatclips and only spend $12 but to have somebody with a license who knows how to deal with my hair makes it worth it.

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avatar 50 Anonymous

Hm, seems like I’ve hit this post too late to skip people just telling anecdotes about their own habits that make no actual point about the article… but here goes:

Another reason not to spend so much money on beauty (and trust me, a lot of you other commentors who consider yourselves frugal really should recalibrate your definitions of the word) is *health*. Cosmetics are crap for you. Most hair treatments are crap for your hair. And everyone knows even one visit to a tanning or nail salon is flat-out horrible for you! Let’s not even talk about what happens to you four, six, ten years after you get breast implants. But even the things that feel like they’re healthy, like skin lotion, are usually crap for you as well, draining your wallet, ego and health and just profiting some man-owned enormous company that’s probably owned by P&G. That lotion is probably loaded with alcohol-based ingredients that dry your skin out in the long run and make you need more lotion later for another short-term fix.
Most makeup and sunblock have toxins that are tiny enough to fit through the pores in your face, and doing that “maintenance” day in and day out- that’s constant exposure! Shampoo with sulfites, many toothpastes, any deodorant with tin in it… not only was it a manufactured need- not a necessary health, hygiene or beauty product- but it probably has scary chemicals you shouldn’t expose yourself to, many of them cancer-causing. Any product that starts with the ingredient “water” will have a nasty preservative in it, and anything that says “fragrance” on it is probably worth avoiding. And we wonder why we have such high cancer rates in industrialized countries?

I wash my hair with baking soda and condition it with vinegar. I use vinegar as a facial astringent, and you can make all kinds of exfoliants out of coffee grounds or tea. I moisturize my hair and body with either olive oil or coconut oil. I’m still waiting for my Tom’s to run out, but you can also make deodorant with corn starch.
Use food: first of all, it’s cheaper. Second, your skin is a large organ that absorbs things. If something’s not worth putting in your body, why would it be worth putting on your body?

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avatar 51 Anonymous

You left out how much women spend on feminine hygiene products, that would take the place of your $0 for the body category. So, in light of this staggering information, which (some, not all) is essentially mandated in our society-hey even disney requires women to purchase and wear their own makeup and hosiery- shouldn’t women be receiving subsidies from the government to offset the cost of being a woman? Both sexes would benefit greatly from this.

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avatar 52 Anonymous

I don’t think these numbers are inflated one bit. Here’s my personal breakdown, which is similar to that of most of my friends and colleagues.

Hair: $3,000 per year (cuts, blowdrying, brazilian blowouts and hair care products. I don’t even color my hair)

Nails: $1,118 (no fake nails, just gel manicures and pedicures 2x month)

Makeup, lotion, sunscreen: $2000

Hair Removal: $1,300-2000 (waxing, lasers)

New clothes/shoes: $2000-$6000 per year

F.Y.I. I live in Los Angeles

Guys, think about this: for every penny you spend on a date, the lovely lady has already invested that amount, perhaps more, to look good for you! It’s just the way it is….

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avatar 53 Anonymous

Like the previous poster, I’m also located in Los Angeles. In order to be taken seriously here, you’ve got to fit with the herd. Just being clean and neat just doesn’t cut it here especially if you’re still a fairly young female. One who doesn’t take care of themselves is translated as being poor or cheap, not exactly the type of image you want to project as a professional especially when you’re trying to get a raise.

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