True Life: I Have a Blow Dry Budget
I am someone who enjoys playing with numbers, deriving genuine satisfaction out of planning my finances out for the year. I am also someone whose hair has been the bane of her existence since middle school. And so it is that right there in my budget for each month, along with rent, utilities, savings, and medical expenses, there’s a little line item for…blowouts. Allow me to explain.
I don't like how I look with curly hair. I never have, and can confidently say that I never will. It doesn’t matter how it's styled, even if the premier curly hair guru worked their magic on it. I would look in the mirror and want a blowout.
I’m not against curly hair itself—I think curls look great on plenty of people. It's curly hair on me that I’m opposed to. We don't vibe. As such, this is a not going to be a story about how I learned to love my unruly hair and embrace my curls. It's a story about knowing yourself, learning what matters to you, and making room in your life for the things that add genuine value to it.
If we’re being real, it's kind of a stretch to even call my hair curly. I don't even know what it is. It's like 1/4 tight spindly curls, 1/4 layer of frizz that extends horizontally outward, and 4/4 bird's nest that's been electrocuted (it was like this pre years of heat styling, FYI). In its natural state, my curly hair is massive mop of cray (see below).
When my hair is in it's usual state of disarray, and I’m invited to go somewhere, I am less excited about the prospect of going because I feel unpresentable and unattractive. To be perfectly honest, I feel as though the way my hair looks is almost disrespectful to the external world.
In middle school, I dreaded social events like school dances, proms, and even going to the movies with my friends, because I never knew what I was going to do about my hair. I hated how I looked and felt with my natural hair. In 8th grade, with the dog-sitting money I’d made, I bought myself my first ever blow dryer and flat iron and would spend hours doing my own hair, only to like the result slightly more than the alternative.
I learned early on that even finding a professional person who could handle and manage my hair, and make it look good, was difficult and cost-prohibitive. I would get a blowout for very special occasions like my birthday or whenever I got a haircut. On those rare days that my hair was “done,” I wanted to do everything and see everyone. But soon as I washed my hair, it was back to the default Ugly Betty state.
A few years into high school, I discovered that a friend of mine really enjoyed doing hair and was pretty good at it, too. She also really understood my hair stress because her own hair was similar. So the two of us joined forces. I had purchased a fancy, top-of-the-line Solano hair dryer because a stylist told me it was the best. I paid for it with babysitting money (dogs and babies—whatever it took to afford the cost of my hair burden). I had the tool, but not the skill to blowout my own hair; my friend, meanwhile, had the skill, but needed the salon-grade dryer I had.
So I gave it to her, and we agreed it would stay at her house so she could use it whenever and she would happily do my hair for the weekends when I came over. For almost two years, I went to Michelle's house straight from school on Friday afternoons, and we'd talk and play music and have a blast while she blow-dried my hair. When it was time to go to college, I let her keep the Solano because I knew it was a lost cause for me to try to use it on my own.
I was basically prepared to spend the rest of my life in a mild state of personal dissatisfaction—that is, until blow-dry bars came along and completely changed everything for me. Suddenly, getting a blowout by a trained stylist was quick (compared to my attempts) and (sort of) affordable. In about an hour and for $40, I could have my dream hair.
At first, it was a luxury I indulged in in doses. But then I began to consider the sheer joy and tangible positive effect getting blowouts had on my life. I like to read personal finance blogs, articles, and books, and consistently and across the board they underscore the same thing: Assuming you're not in debt and once expenses are covered and your personal goals are being saved for (whether that's buying a house or affording a trip—whatever matters to you and is in your future), you should evaluate what types of purchases make you the happiest and spend/put your money there. Look at where you get the best return on your investment (ROI in finance-speak), and those are the purchases that are worth it.
What I came to learn, and realize, was that nothing else I spend my money on gets as much mileage as a blowout. They provided the maximum ROI in my life. When I get one, it lasts about 11 days, thanks to dry shampoo and some creative hair styles. During that time, I’m happier, more confident, and more game to do things. Happy hour after work? New life experiences with friends? Impromptu movie date? Yes, yes, and yes. I want and am inspired to do things and live a fuller life, because I feel good about myself.
I used to agonize over the unmanageability of my hair, and the complete impracticality of getting a regular salon blowout. At upwards of $65 a blowout for hair like mine, it was a non-option and somewhat unheard of for most people—unless you were a Vogue editor. I remember reading a quote from Lauren Santo Domingo, about how she hadn't washed her own hair in years. It was a sentiment others were horrified at, but one I completely understood. If I could afford it, I thought, I'd never do my own hair either.
Now, more reasonably priced blow-dry bars are nearly as prevalent as coffee shops and gas stations in major cities. I know that no matter where I am, I can pretty much pop into any dry bar within a five-mile radius and walk out with a boost of confidence—without breaking the bank.
These days, I get a blowout every other week, so twice a month. They’re $40 each and I always tip $10, so it's a $100-per-month cost. I could spend that $100 on anything, but you can't put a price on how you feel about yourself, and for me, blowouts are the gift that keeps on giving.
Do you have any regular beauty treatments that you budget for? Do you think this is crazy? Tell me what you think in the comments below!