Don't braid your own hair

You might have seen this Cafe article, Don't braid your daughter's hair, making its rounds on social media.  The author is encouraging parents to not spend too much time on grooming their daughters as it will set them up for adult grooming habits that could cost them $1.4 million in lifetime earnings.  The reason behind this is that women who spend one and a half hours grooming themselves every day make 3% less than women who spend half as much time (45 minutes). An economist did some fancy calculations and, voila!, found that this adds up to a serious chunk of change.

As a mom of a little girl, this article resonated with me. I don't want my daughter worrying spending hours each week in a bathroom primping on details that, to be frank, most men don't notice. When was the last time your significant other noticed the color of your nails?  

As a professional woman, I wanted to send this to my (female) network and say "Look!  We can end the disparity right here! Right now!" I haven't shared it yet, because I was left wondering which direction to go in. (Probably not learning to do this:)

Original photo by Wicker Paradise/flickr

Original photo by Wicker Paradise/flickr

 If we take the article to the extreme, does it mean we stop plucking, plastering, and preening altogether? I think there is something to being the fairer sex, so perhaps we take a look at ways to find parity with men, who spend 30 minutes a day grooming. Or if you are my husband, maybe 10 minutes. (Honey, when is that beard going to disappear?)  

Simplify your life.  

If you spend more than 30 minutes a day on average "getting ready", find one routine to cut from, well, your routine.  Do you straighten your hair?  Start getting back to your wavy or curly roots.  Your natural hair texture is, in all likelihood, a good one!  Do you wear a half dozen makeup products on your face?  Cut that in half.  Maybe you can find some two-in-one products or just start embracing a less-is-more look. 

I work from a home office and there are days when I have video conference calls and I actually stop and consider whether I should fix my hair or put on some makeup.  Because coiffed hair and an impeccable face are the true marker of competence in my job...  But for the most part, I don't have to worry about the morning routine because I don't have an office to go to.  I'm not saying that picking a virtual work environment should be your next step to reducing the amount of grooming time, but it sure does make that part of my professional life easier!

Save the difference.

The Cafe article also overlooked another key financial aspect to men and women's grooming habits - the cost of products and procedures!  If you straighten your hair, and you do it right, you are looking at an investment in a decent straightening iron and heat-protective hair products. You also have the added cost of more frequent haircuts since you are damaging your hair with the frequent application of heat. Between the cost of makeup, skincare products, haircare products, and salon visits, how many hundreds of dollars a year could you redirect towards investments that will put you closer to financial independence?  How much would those add up to over time?  Here's my analysis:

I estimate that I spend $600 a year on products and services (many women probably spend more). If I cut that amount in half, I'd save $300 a year.  If I invest that $300 every year, in 30 years (around age 60), I would have almost $60,000 JUST FROM CUTTING BACK ON GROOMING!

Invest in yourself.  

If you are the average woman and you are trying to cut back from 45 minutes to 30 minutes of prep time, that means that you will be "creating" 1.75 hours a week (15 minutes a day, 7 days a week).  If we look at this across an entire year, that's 91 hours or almost 4 days. What else could you spend that time on?  

Perhaps you could use more sleep (I know I could), which may make you more productive at work.  Or you could spend that time reading a book on leadership.  Or spend more time just being with your spouse and kids.  

Ultimately, if don't want your daughter to lose out on $1.4 million in earnings because she spends more time on her appearance than her brother, the person to start making this change is staring at you in the mirror.  Or hopefully, just glancing at you quickly.

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