How a haircut led to a handy acronym

From my toddler years on, I've had long hair.There were a few years when I would get it cut shoulder length, but I never ventured into short hair territory.That is, until about a month ago.

I found a cute hairstyle from the virtual salon at MarieClaire.com (you can upload your picture and try on different styles — it's free!). I printed my new style and ventured out to the hair salon. I showed the hairdresser the picture and sat in the chair. I got an uneasy feeling in my stomach as the cape was placed around my neck.

I should have listened to my gut — it was trying to tell me something. Before I knew it I heard the scissors and she held up a long clump of my hair: “There's no going back now.” I managed a nervous smile. No…there wasn't.

The hairdresser was great. It took about 20 minutes for the cut and then the fancy hair product came out. She explained everything she was using so I could learn what I needed to do. First up was the root boost to give my hair some volume. Then my hair had to be dried with a hair dryer in a specific way to make the ends flip out. To give the style even more “sassiness” as the hairdresser put it, she used a curling iron to curl the ends up. Sculpting wax and hairspray locked the style in.

What did I get myself into? For the past ten years all I had to do was wash, brush and let my hair air dry. It was perfect for my busy schedule. I feel a bit embarrassed about the whole situation because I didn't do one thing…

I didn't really think through my purchase before I made it.

One of the best tips I have picked up from reading personal finance blogs is that I should ask myself whether something I want to purchase is a want or need. That single question has saved me from many frivolous purchases. The decision to get my hair cut passed the want or need test through some creative justification on my part (more about that in a bit).

With my haircut experience as my guide, I came up with a set of questions that I felt would help me really think through purchases – beyond the want or need aspect. My memory can be rusty at times so I needed something to help me remember them. It took a while to situate the questions and the wording, but finally I came up with an easy to remember acronym…WEALTH.

Here's how it breaks down:

  • Want or need? Even though I was looking for more questions to ask myself, this question is still important and at the top of my list. My haircut was a want, yet I ended up justifying the purchase. I convinced myself that I needed a change since I've had the same hairstyle for over a decade. My mind has a sneaky way of justifying things sometimes.
  • Ego? Was I getting a haircut to boost my ego or keep up with the Joneses? I became fixated on the picture I printed. I thought I would look more attractive with the shorter cut. In hindsight, I didn't appreciate what I did have with my long hair.
  • Add-ons? The haircut itself was one expense, but I didn't take into account the added cost of hair product. The product ended up costing as much as the cut – doubling the amount I originally planned to spend.
  • Lifestyle? I thought short hair would be easier to handle than long hair. Oops! I should have done more research and asked the hairdresser what was needed to maintain my style even before I sat in the chair. I'm a wash-n-go type of gal, and my new haircut is far from that.
  • Time? Is the purchase a one time thing or will there be multiple purchases in the future for upkeep? To maintain my haircut, the hairdresser recommended coming back to the salon every six weeks. A $25 haircut was going to be over a $200/year expense (my previous expense was once every few years since I trimmed my own hair). That's not even counting the cost of replenishing hair product after it runs out.
  • Happiness? My haircut is cute, but the happiness started to fade the first time I tried to recreate the style on my own. My little pic used for the audition here at Get Rich Slowly was taken right after I got home from the salon – my hair never looked the same again. It didn't take long for frustration to set in and I found myself spending way too much time getting ready in the mornings. I would rather do other things during that time.

The WEALTH acronym has already come in handy. A relative was selling a canoe in excellent condition that would fit our entire family. It has been a want of ours for some time, but the price was such a great deal ($150) that the want versus need question was teetering. After going through the other questions, there were add-ons to consider (canoe carrier for our vehicle, extra oars, etc.) and I wondered how much a canoe would affect our happiness. After all, we had a problem spending money in the past on things we thought we would use for family fun but rarely did.

In the end, we didn't make the purchase and the WEALTH acronym had its first success story. Hopefully there will be many more to come – including when it is applied to my next hairstyle — I'm letting this one grow out 😉

Haircut image via shoothead.

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Generation Y Investor
Generation Y Investor
10 years ago

This article brings up a great point in that sometimes we forget that the initial purchase is just the start and that future costs are also present in the form of upkeep, maintenance and add-ons.

These extras that we don’t think about can sometimes get us in trouble. For example, many people bought houses they thought they could afford; however, they didn’t take property taxes, maintenance and utilities into account.

Nice Article.

-Gen Y Investor

Marcy
Marcy
10 years ago

This post reflects all the reasons I am letting my hair grow out long. I wash and air dry now, but it’s not long enough for me to cut myself. That’ll change eventually (boy, but hair does grow slow when you want it long; when you keep it short, it seems to grow like a weed). I think owning cars is another example. Sure, you can afford the car, possibly, but can you afford the insurance, gas, maintenance, etc.? I was never prepared for an expensive repair. I hated owning cars, so I gave up and moved to a town… Read more »

Chamoiswillow
Chamoiswillow
10 years ago

I keep my hair long for the same reasons – low maintenance and no cost other than shampoo and the very occasional clip or scrunchie, which last a long time! Wash and go, I can even put it up still wet in a clip. I don’t wear make-up either, or lotion or perfume, or nail polish, or lots of jewelry, or any of the other things so many people are convinced they can’t live without. And I have still managed to climb the corporate ladder quite successfully, so don’t listen to people who say you can’t. As long as you… Read more »

Lesley
Lesley
10 years ago

One thing that isn’t specifically mentioned in the article is consulting an expert. In this case, the hairdresser. Even though you did your own research, it’s a good idea to consult an expert before taking the plunge because they might think of something you didn’t… in this case, the maintenance.

From the sounds of it, you may have needed the change… unfortunately it was just the wrong one for you.

Jason D Barr
Jason D Barr
10 years ago

Outstanding article, Lynn. Really great stuff!

Kevin
Kevin
10 years ago

Wow, this was a great article. The story was apt and poignant, the content was concise and stayed on point, and her acronym made sense and didn’t feel as contrived as many do (PATRIOT act, anyone?). She even backed it up with another short, relevant story at the end.

This is an example of some great writing, in my opinion.

Paige
Paige
10 years ago

I agree with Lesley, and would like to add that making sure you trust the expert and are up-front with him or her about your needs is important as well. My stylist is amazing, and she knows that I don’t blow-dry, curl, or spend more than 5-10 minutes on my hair. (She also knows I use the cheapest drug-store products available.) When I told her I wanted to go short, she created a short cut that not only looks amazing and takes minimal effort (I still air-dry it), but also grows out well so I can maximize my time between… Read more »

Lindsay
Lindsay
10 years ago

Another super post! I find this really applies to me, because I ALSO recently started going to a salon after a lifetime of keeping my hair long and trimming it myself. I actually like my hair now, but I have been making compromises. The stylist told me I would need to come back every 6 weeks, and I told her I could only come back every 8-12 weeks, depending on finances.

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

Really great post. I love the acronym and it really takes into account all of the possible costs – financial & otherwise – hidden in a purchasing decision.

This is a tip that I know I’ll be applying to my own life. Thanks!

EscapeVelocity
EscapeVelocity
10 years ago

It’s very important to consider the costs of ownership. The purchase price of my car now comes to somewhat less than $1000 per year, so the considerable majority of the money it has cost me has been for insurance, repairs, and fuel. I’m sure both my boats have cost me more in storage fees and accessories than purchase price, and I haven’t even bought new sails for either of them yet. Very much worth it (and they’re both in dry storage, about $80 a month for the two of them), but certainly a consideration. And with a house, you typically… Read more »

Shane
Shane
10 years ago

Another incident that I can personally relate to is gym memberships. Two years ago I bought a three year gym membership for $50 a month. My stupid twenty year old self didn’t spend the time following the steps in the WEALTH acronym. Now I find that I can achieve great workout results with simple one time investments: a pull up bar, some dumbbells, and my bike, which I’ve had since I was 9 years old. The only real recurring expense would be my running shoes, which I would have to buy while having my membership anyway. I also do a… Read more »

Chanceh
Chanceh
10 years ago

I’ve really been blown away by most of these audition posts, but this definitely hits the top 3. My wife and I will definitely be incorporating WEALTH into our monthly budget meetings and occasional impulse-buying situations.

Grey Walker
Grey Walker
10 years ago

Great acronym! I’ll be using it a lot, I can already tell.

RB @ RichBy30RetireBy40
RB @ RichBy30RetireBy40
10 years ago

This is a fun article 🙂 I like the acronym. A lot of my buddies have a fear though that as soon as they marry their girlfriend, they will chop their hair off…. what do the ladies have to say to that? One friend was so traumatized by his new wife’s haircut, I think he broke up with her because of it! She had chopped her hair so short, that when the lights were turned off, her silhouette looked like a guy and they divorced a year later!!! For guys, the best investment is a set of clippers for $19.99… Read more »

Kevin M
Kevin M
10 years ago

I like the “add-ons” part. There is a cost to cluttering up your life and this addresses it perfectly.

steamincuppaliz
steamincuppaliz
10 years ago

I love the post and have passed the WEALTH acronym onto my husband. One thing that was not mentioned was the importance of appearance in creating income. You got your haircut for the interview – this may or may not have boosted your chances at GRS, but in many industries an up-to-date look is important for raises, promotions or sales. I opt to spend some money on keeping up my hair (I found a no-frills place that does it relatively cheaply) because I know I present better when I feel better about my looks. Just a thought. I know there… Read more »

Justin Show
Justin Show
10 years ago

hi JD,
Great post! Although I am loosing my hair and pretty soon won’t need haircuts, I still understand the difference between a NEED and a WANT. Not understanding that is what gets a lot of people in financial trouble. Your acronym is great! ~ Justin Show

saving it up
saving it up
10 years ago

Good writing and good advice!

Each person has different priorities, so long hair is not the answer for everyone – although it is very easy. I feel better when my hair looks more “professional” so I have made a choice to spend more in this area. On the other hand, I don’t watch TV, so that part of my budget is $0. Everyone is different.

The WEALTH acronym works for all those different areas. Good advice.

hanna
hanna
10 years ago

Even with telling my hairdresser for years to cut my hair REALLY short and that I wouldn’t ever style it, she couldn’t get it into her head. Nor could many other hairdressers. It drove me crazy… but sometimes I would buy the recommended product — they last me many many years, because I never remember to use them. Earlier this summer I didn’t want to spend any of my blow money on a haircut (it’s a want), so I asked my husband to use the longest attachment on the clippers — he cut my hair, it looked fine, it was… Read more »

Martin
Martin
10 years ago

Enjoyed this one very much. This is what frugality is all about, assessing value before buying. And value comes with many factors. The WEALTH acronym boils it down very well.

Thanks!

Allison
Allison
10 years ago

Loved this article! I agree with other comments that the “Add-ons” consideration is really important. Makes me think of some (especially young people) who confuse the need for transportation with the need for a car. Maybe they can afford the monthly payment, but when you factor in insurance, gas, upkeep, etc, it gets really expensive. Comparing that to a public transportation pas with no add-ons, and the occasional rent-a-car or taxi, and some might realize that a car is not a need. Also reminds me of when I got highlights in my hair for my wedding. After they started growing… Read more »

Rachel
Rachel
10 years ago

Great Great Great article. WEALTH would have come in handy when we just spent over $200 on Halloween decorations (yes in August). We collect Lemax Halloween houses, and we made the mistake of going into the store that sells them this weekend. They were ALL so adorable!! And out of fear of them not being there in October (or even next year), we spent $200 we didn’t have. We paid with cash though, not CC, and we can make it up in the next 2 months, but it’s still $200 that could have gone towards our snowball. I am going… Read more »

Hogan
Hogan
10 years ago

Thanks for a terrific post! I can relate, often having not thought purchases through all the way, and paid dearly for it. I have short-ish hair (almost to my shoulders) and am trying to grow it long again. My hairdresser often ignores my request to just give it a trim to clean it up, and snips away all my hard “work” at growing it back. I got so frustrated the other day that in desperation, I trimmed my own bangs and the crown of my head. It worked! It may not be perfectly beautiful, but it cost me zip and… Read more »

Peggy
Peggy
10 years ago

Great post and could really relate to Lynn’s experience as I’ve had similar ones more times than I can count. Unfortunately, unlike Paige, I have rarely found a stylist who understands hair. Of course living overseas and moving around every three years has something to do with it, but even when I was in Tokyo and Canberra, and paying quite lot, it was no easy feat to find a stylist who really knows how to style. I love the WEALTH acronym. I’ve already become much more frugal since discovering GRS, and will add WEALTH to my arsenal in my fight… Read more »

Kevin@OutOfYourRut
10 years ago

The WEALTH acronym is right on the money, but I think that it (along with all other matters of rationality) fade away when vanity is at stake.

It’s too easy to tell ourselves that by looking better, this and that will improve in our lives and you just can’t put a price on it.

I’ve been thinking about that clippers idea that RB mentioned at comment 14. That would save about $150. But vanity prevents me from actually doing it.

Sally Parrott Ashbrook
Sally Parrott Ashbrook
10 years ago

Great post, Lynn! I like your acronym and plan to use it when my husband and I are thinking about decision-making. I’m fortunate in that shorter hair is easier for me to maintain than longer hair in the sense of wash and wear. (My hair is curly, so it styles itself.) But when I got my hair cut off from very long to pretty dang short, I admit I was thinking, “I’ll save so much on not buying hair products!,” and I didn’t think about the fact that I had to get very regular trims till I’d already gotten it… Read more »

Eden Jaeger
Eden Jaeger
10 years ago

I like the idea, but that is too much for me to remember. 🙂

Johannah
Johannah
10 years ago

It’s interesting to see several people acknowledge that long hair can be less maintenance than short. I have very long hair and often have a hard time convincing people that it’s not as much work as they imagine. I wash it every other day at night, it dries by morning, I brush it and then it takes me about 2 minutes to put it up. It’s a few minutes more if I want to braid it or do another style. Ladies with short hair who bleach it, dye it, blow dry it, straighten it, etc. spend a LOT more time… Read more »

Nate
Nate
10 years ago

RB, you crack me up! I actually lucked out. My sister is a fabulous hair stylist — so I get that done for free! As along as I have been in my professional career, I have never paid for a hair cut. If I didn’t have my sister around, I would probably chop it all off as you suggest! I am normally pretty good about not making a purchase unless I either need it – or want it REALLY bad. I walk away for a week, and if I still have the desire for the purchase – I pull the… Read more »

The Frugal New Yorker
The Frugal New Yorker
10 years ago

Great article, and great acronym. Add-ons, in particular, can really get you. I pay $130 per month for tae kwon do classes, which at $15 a class is pretty good. What I didn’t know going in was that…every time you take the test for a new belt, it’s another $60! (that’s every 2-4 months) Then you have to buy a second uniform if you want to enter the Black Belt club. And don’t forget about sparring gear–helmet, padding, etc. $130 a month is worth it to me for exercise and fun, but the rest is like a black hole of… Read more »

Sunandshine
Sunandshine
10 years ago

Nice post and I can relate to it, since I just had a haircut yesterday:-) I have always had shoulder length hair and since its dry, I have to have a haircut every month:-( But I usually go once every 2 weeks. I got a coupon from Great clips for $6.99 so I did not regret:)) While at the salon, my hairdresser tried to sell me hair products saying my hair is dry blah blah…But the ‘Matrix Biolage’products are expensive!!!! I told her I’d come back and I did some research and found out that these products ‘eventually’ dry out… Read more »

Marco K
Marco K
10 years ago

My first impression of Lynn wasn’t too great. I liked that she had experience in good and perhaps more importantly – bad – financial decisions. However, it came off, at least to me, very pretentious when she described herself as “CFO” of her family. Kinda like when a guy is the self-proclaimed “president” of his family. With that said, this article really hit it home! I love the acronym and found it had more validity than most acronyms made up that seem much more forced. Also, I love how your story accounts for the time and money involved AFTER the… Read more »

Chetan
Chetan
10 years ago

My favorite paragraph:

One of the best tips I have picked up from reading personal finance blogs is that I should ask myself whether something I want to purchase is a want or need. That single question has saved me from many frivolous purchases

The same applied to my GPS purchase – which I eventually cancelled (and saved myself about $250)

Sarah
Sarah
10 years ago

Last time I got my hair cut I was sitting in the chair staring at all the products for sale. One bottle caught my eye as it mentioned “trauma” on it.

Tyler@Frugally Green
10 years ago

The trap of add-ons and accessories seems to exist in just about any purchase you can make these days. Products and services are cleverly designed to be less than “all-inclusive,” getting you on board with a reasonable price and then upselling for all the bells and whistles.

The line between what you need and what you’d like can often be a blurry one that can be rationalized any direction with a little bit of effort. Drawing it clearly in the sand before you’re in a position to be sold to can be a very helpful exercise.

Jessica
Jessica
10 years ago

I really like this acronym. I just wrote it down (and the word or two description for each letter)and put it in my wallet to remind me the next time I make a purchase!

What a great idea, thanks! I never really think beyond the initial cost, and this is a great way to remind myself.

Lynn
Lynn
10 years ago

@Chamoiswillow – The funny thing is, after my hair was cut I felt that I had to wear make-up more. I am using a heavier hand when applying it now. With my long hair, which was left natural (no product), I barely used any make-up. I didn’t even think of that until I read your comment. Interesting… @Lesley – Yes, an expert would have definitely helped. Since I rarely went to a hairdresser, I didn’t have a relationship with one established. The woman I received my cut from was great so when I do go for my next cut –… Read more »

Suzy
Suzy
10 years ago

Thank you for this post. Not only have you helped me decide to keep my shoulder length hair (thanks again on that – I refuse to spend more then 5 minutes on my hair), but you have given me a guideline to keep my spending in line. It’s funny how seemingly small things can lead to a lot of extra money! I recently went back to my natural hair color in order to save money. I haven’t looked back since! Good luck with the contest. I’ve enjoyed your articles the most so far. I seem to identify the most with… Read more »

Sandy E.
Sandy E.
10 years ago

I keep my hair at shoulder length, let it air-dry the nite before, then flat iron it in the morning, which doesn’t take long at all. I wash my hair every 3 days and for shampoo, I use whatever is cheap (seriously doesn’t matter), then once out of the shower, use a spray, leave-in conditioner, and that’s it. I know that I save a small fortune, not buying expensive hair products, and I always get compliments on my hair. At the salons, they use 14 different things on your hair, hoping you’ll buy a couple of them, but I never… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
10 years ago

You seem to have trouble distinguishing a “want” from a “need”. You acknowledge now that the haircut was a want, but say that at the time you thought it was a need. You also say that the price of a canoe was almost able to sway you from calling it a want to a need. The price of an item doesn’t affect how much you need it. I can understand the trouble you might have here — sometimes we’ll think we need something more than we really do because we want them so badly. But then, the conclusion you seem… Read more »

Caitlin
Caitlin
10 years ago

Still not my favourite applicant, but good article. @Sunandshine – If you hair is dry enough that you have to get it cut every 2-4 weeks, try coconut oil. It seriously helps with dry hair. Put it on your hair and leave it on as long as you possibly can before your shower (yes, you will smell like coconut!); even a half hour works wonders. Then shampoo as normal to wash it out. @Lynn – you can easily get a short haircut that requires only the amount of effort you put into your previous long hair style. Just as for… Read more »

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
10 years ago

Overall, I liked this article a lot. I definitely have learned through mistakes to take into account all the aspects of a potential purchase. On to the short vs. long hair debate. I used to have very long hair (below my butt) and now I have very short hair (1″-2″ long for the most part). I’ve also had cuts in various stages inbetween. It is possible to have cuts at all lengths that require almost no maintenance. It is also possible to have cuts that take a lot of energy to maintain. My current hairstyle takes me two minutes to… Read more »

Bear
Bear
10 years ago

Great article Lynn, I enjoyed this much more than the first one. Nice practical example with a very practical acronym to help us remember!

Sandy E.
Sandy E.
10 years ago

@Tyler – you know I find this whole want vs. need thing overtalked about (btw, judgment is spelled w/out the e), because it’s human nature to talk ourselves into purchases. So instead, maybe we should just zero in on what our values really are, factor those into our budget, then forget about the rest, knowing our values will be met. (If people still insist on the want vs. need thing to help them curtail spending, they could change those words instead to essential vs. not essential, as in: is this purchase essential? That way it’s harder to talk yourself into… Read more »

Foxie@CarsxGirl
10 years ago

The acronym is interesting, but I’m not sure how much I’ll use it, honestly. I’m pretty good at admitting when something’s just a want, though it’s, “I need this!” a lot to me. Right now, on my “must buy” list is an oversized cocktail ring… Clearly a want, but at $4, I’m not going to chide myself if I get one. I guess maybe the key is having some money to devote to just wants? A slush fund of sorts? When I find something I can’t live without, I have a savings account for those unexpected wants. Funny enough, I… Read more »

ebyt
ebyt
10 years ago

I think thinking things thru is all part of growing up, in my case anyway. I dyed my hair a few years back and did not think about the upkeep. After many hundreds of dollars of maintenance I just decided to cut my hair short and grow it back to the way it was originally. A LOT of time and money. I think your short cut is hardly something you should regret unless you actually hate the cut itself. I think it’s fairly normal to spend $200+ a year in a salon (I spend $200 a year too – but… Read more »

EscapeVelocity
EscapeVelocity
10 years ago

It also depends on what kind of hair you have. I have very fine, thin, oily hair. It has to be washed daily (twice if I’m going out in the evening), but it takes no time to air-dry. I’ve tried wearing it long, but the last six inches is all split ends, and when I pull it back in a ponytail it breaks off so I wind up with lots of little out-of-control wisps in my face. Fortunately, I inherited my father’s hair color rather than my mother’s and it is going grey in a reasonably slow and attractive fashion,… Read more »

Chickybeth
Chickybeth
10 years ago

This post was excellent because it had an actionable element. I will try to ask myself these questions the next time I am making a purchase.

Charley Forness
Charley Forness
10 years ago

Interesting and timely. I’ve been going with the buzz cut for four years now, haven’t had to pay for a hair cut because my wife does it. And I do this year round even though we live in Buffalo, with extremely harsh winters. I was just thinking yesterday that, feeling a bit old, what would happen if I grew it out and went with a little dye job to make it more platinum blonde (i have dark brown hair). But now, taking the acronym into consideration, I realize that I would have to go in frequently to re-dye since my… Read more »

Emmy
Emmy
10 years ago

RB- Um, what? Is this a thing, women keeping their hair long to snare a man and then chopping it off after the wedding? I don’t really think a woman’s hair length is linked to her femininity, and even if it is I’d like to think most guys would care about a woman for more than her shiny locks. If your friend really ended his marriage over a haircut, he sounds extremely shallow and a bit sexist and homophobic. I’m sure you meant your comment in a joking manner, but I personally find it a bit off color.

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