Mesorah (Jewish stuff)

Budgeting Priorities – Sheitel or School?

‘Tis the season for sheitel sales.  I’m talking about the pre-Chanukah sale season, which is in full swing here.  There were at least two in Baltimore yesterday, maybe more.  As you may recall from my post on sheitels – they can be pricey.  OOOEEE!  Thankfully, it is not written in stone that one must pay over a grand for a sheitel (thank G-d!).  There’s a thriving consignment sheitel business that exists here in Baltimore, which is a fabulous, fabulous concept.  There are also brands of sheitels (yes, sheitels come in brands) which are more affordable.  One brand is Michal Wigs.  I heard about them a few years ago, and wanted to try one, but kept missing the sales, and then I wasn’t in the market for a sheitel for years, so when I did hear about a sale, it wasn’t relevant to me.

Well, the stars finally aligned, and I was looking for a new sheitel at the same time that one of my friends was hosting a sale for Michal Wigs.

Yes!  Yes yes yes yesssss.

In case you’re curious about what a sheitel sale is like, here’s an brief description:  A sheitel macher – someone who “does” wigs – comes into town with a large amount of wigs, and, in this case, cut and styled them at the sale.  Or, a sheitel macher in town gets a large shipment of wigs, which she sells and then does the sheitels by appointment later.  Either way, it’s usually a good way to get a sheitel at a somewhat reasonable price.

So, I went to my friend’s apartment yesterday for the sale, and I got this:

NewSheitelcollage

I’m not just fishing for compliments on my new sheitel here.  During this recent quest for a new sheitel, I was reminded of a question I received from a reader after my sheitel post.  I think it’s a very relevant question, especially in this economy, especially with the cost of private school in the Orthodox community.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Dear Rivki,

I would be curious to know how people feel about how much is appropriate to spend on a sheital when finances are tight.  Part of me would like to set money aside and save up to purchase a sheital that I would be able to wear and feel good in, but then I think about how the school drastically reduced our tuition. If I had two thousand dollars, or even four hundred, I just feel like I should give it to them.  Is that crazy?

So, my wonderful readers, what’s your take?  

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44 thoughts on “Budgeting Priorities – Sheitel or School?

  1. Tough one, because even if you save for a YEAR or get it used on on sale, there’s always the “maras ayin” factor! So you either have to explain to everyone you see that the sheitel was cheap/you saved for a year, or you drive yourself crazy worrying about whether you deserve it and whether people think you’re taking advantage of your tuition break. I don’t really have an answer, but I don’t think we have to forgo all things nice and lovely that make us feel good about ourselves just because of a scholarship or what people might think. (For the record, my sheitels cost less than $200 each b/c they’re synthetic, and I STILL have a problem justifying getting a new one!) :)

    1. True, and I didn’t even consider the ma’aris ayin factor when I posted my sheitel purchase on my blog. Hmmm… But at the same time, I think it’s others’ obligation to be dan l’chaf zchus on our purchases, and while we should be considerate of others’ feelings, we shouldn’t be paralyzed by them. Which is kind of the same thing you said. :)

  2. During these fiscally difficult times, we need not deprive ourselves of all worldly possessions. And yet, this is a good question. My thoughts (as a non-sheital wearing woman) is that this falls into the same kind of category that our family has each December when we discuss our charitable donations. We try to figure out who we are giving to — and how much. So maybe you don’t get a new sheital EVERY YEAR, right? But once in a while, yes, you need a new one. We always give to a few Jewish organizations, several health organizations, a local women’s shelter, etc. But this doesn’t mean we don’t take care of our own needs, too. It’s a balance. I guess I would say: If your writer would feel guilty about wearing a new sheital, than maybe this is not the year for one. But there comes a certain point when every woman knows it’s time for a new pair of underpants: they get stained, get holes, lose their elastic. I imagine the same thing happens with a sheital, no? So, if her sheital is in bad shape, I would view it as more of a necessity than a luxury. Does it have to cost a gagillion dollars? Probably not — but it seems possible to give to the school and still get a new ‘do. I could be wrong. How much are these things?

    1. Thank G-d, sheitels last a while, if treated well. Buying a new one each year would be intolerable. They run between $200 and $2500 (?!) depending on quality of hair (synthetic vs. real) and length and versatility (some sheitels have bangs that will only ever be parted on one side, others have “multi-directional” parts that let you style them more to your preferences).

      And your analogy is lovable. ;)

      1. I know how much they cost because I read your whole series about head coverings. That’s why I was thinking it would be possible to get one and still be able to have some money leftover for tzedukkah. I’m glad to know they last a few years, if cared for properly. I cannot imagine spending $2500 for a sheitel. Oy. I have never, ever spent THAT kind of money on anything temporary. Our monthly mortgage isn’t even that much! Oy!

  3. I think in most frum communities, a sheitel is a need, not a want. And no one knows but the purchaser whether they paid full price on a credit card, or they saved up for years to buy a new one, or they bought a used one, or got on one clearance (me!).

    We get a significant tuition reduction. We recently bought a new (to us) car. Should we have given that $4000 to the school? We couldn’t get both of us to work (to pay tuition) without a second car. We did our due diligence, our old car was past redeeming, and we got the best value we could, and I think that’s all anyone can do. I think it’s the same with sheitels.

    Now, what if I took all the money we spent on slurpees and gave it towards tuition instead….

    1. Lol, redistribution of slurpee money. I think the car analogy is apt. We also had to get a new car about six months ago. We could’ve fit all three kids into the car, but it was a 2001 Alero, and was not going to pass inspection (there were some lights on the dash that just never went out). And then someone broke into it over Shavuos, so we had this janky oldsmobile with a taped-over window to drive our new baby home in. Even after all that, I still felt self-conscious when we purchased our new vehicle. Go figure.

  4. I don’t wear a shietel for two reasons: I don’t really want to, and I could never justify spending that kinda money on something that goes on my head. We are having a really difficult time financially and so I try to not spend a cent extra, but last week I bought a $13 hat b/c my other was falling a part. And maybe it’s “just $13” but when money is tight it suddenly becomes “a whole $13!” and so I had a lot of guilt over this purchase. In the end I’m glad I got it, because I feel good in it and it’s warm and comfy. But, I’m also glad I thought long and hard about it before hand because I would feel awful if my family ended up not having enough money for food/gas/rent b/c I splurged on clothing.

    That said, I choose to not live in a community that “requires” me to spend a certain amount of money on my worldly possessions b/c that doesn’t fit into my world-view.

    So I guess said all this to say it’s all about priorities and your financial status at any given moment.

    1. I’m glad you got it too. Sometimes when money is tight, you need a $13 splurge to release the tension. You know? But I’m glad that you feel good about it, and that it wasn’t just an impulse buy. I bet it’s cute on you.

  5. I agree with Tzipporah. I can’t imagine spending that much money on something to wear on my head. And I wouldn’t want to be very involved in any social group that requires that kind of expenditure, or that makes people feel they don’t fit in if they don’t wear some particular item (sheitel or otherwise). I don’t think receiving tuition help means that parents can never buy themselves anything again. But it might be a good idea to consider whether they really want to spend that money on a sheitel instead of education–even if they don’t give it to a school, the price of a sheitel could pay for a lot of tutoring or books.

    1. Rereading my comment, I don’t think I expressed this so clearly… I was trying to say if people are having financial difficulties so that they have to drastically cut spending on other important things like schools, then they should rethink if the sheitel is their top priority in that situation. I don’t think everyone needs to buy books instead of sheitels when they’re doing fine financially. There is nothing wrong with spending on a sheitel if you can afford it, although I probably wouldn’t buy one myself and don’t want it to be a requirement for social acceptance.

      1. I hear your point on social acceptance; you would probably like Baltimore as it seems fairly open here. That said, if sheitel-wearing is the norm in one’s community, most people, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the custom, will feel more comfortable blending in. In that case, perhaps putting a small amount aside on a regular basis and finding a sheitel on clearance or consignment would suffice.

  6. To my mind, a sheital is a basic need in the standard Orthodox communities, at least in Metro New York, which is where I live. I don’t think it would be fair or reasonable to expect any woman to forgo one where the normal expectation is to have one. So that means either change expectations (which unfortunately is laughable in this region), or accept that sheitals will trump tuition, if they are bought infrequently.

    For reference, my wife has been using the same two sheitlach since we’ve been married (7 years), and they are looking OK as far as I can tell, but will probably need replacement in the next couple of years. (She hasn’t complained.) They were donated, so I don’t know, but I imagine they were of high quality – expensive, but durable, apparently.

  7. As Rivki’s cousin and a non-Jew my only comment is that this whole discussion is a non-starter. First of all, it’s nobody’s business as to what you spend your money on. Gossip and having your noise in someone else’s business is wrong no matter what your religious affiliation. Seems that those tablets Moses brought down from the mountain said something about not coveting your neighbor’s possessions. Frankly, from the various pictures, I can’t tell any difference between Rivki’s sheitel’s. I am sure that for her they are different but that’s HER private business and not subject to community approval. Sorry if I sound harsh, but I know how hard it is to make decisions on spending money wisely even without others looking over one’s shoulder. Hooray for Rivki…she is an amazing wife, mother, cousin and person.

    1. Diane, I agree that how people spend their money is a private thing. Those of us discussing sheitels and budgets in the comments were just responding to the question from the reader at the end of Rivki’s post. I think it’s okay to weigh in when someone is requesting to hear different perspectives. My comment above was meant to be about the situation in the question and not about Rivki’s purchase at all (which as you say is none of my business).

  8. Thankfully I love my tichels and have no desire to wear a sheital/wig. I wait for tichels to go on sale and buy a few at a time which keeps the expenditures small. I also never feel bad asking for them as gifts on Mothers Day or my birthday. My family knows they cant go wrong with a scarf.

    I do put it in a frame of mind similar to having my hair done. In the past when I was working a high powered professional job and earning the same level of income it cost me about $150 every 6 weeks for a cut and color. I don’t even want to admit what I was spending on styling tools and products.

    Later I started working from home and did my own color and switched to a much less expensive cut.

    Now that I wear tichels I don’t color my hair at all and I have it trimmed twice a year and I spend next to nothing on all the styling tools and hair products.

    So if someone has the income and has the need why should they not buy what they need to style their head? If you can afford $150 every six weeks then you could easily switch to a cheaper haricut and buy a sheital every year!

    If you switch to only trimming your hair now and then and instead put those $20 bills in an old coffee can and you buy a sheital every year or two that is very reasonable too!

    I really like the underwear analogy. Sometimes you just have to make room in the budget for necessities – getting ones hair done (real or wig) is at least from time to time, a necessity.

  9. To directly address the question though, if G-d is speaking to your heart and telling you to find a less expensive way to cover your head and to put the money to the school then perhaps that IS precisely what you should do.

    1. Hi Lzbth! Thank you for liking my underwear analogy — and I like what you said about G-d guiding us what to do. I was trying to convey that point across as well; although, it didn’t come across as eloquently as your words. NIce to meet you. ;-)

      1. Funny when that came up on my comments list it said “Hi Lzbth! Thank you for liking my underwear…” LOL THAT was too amusing not to share ;) Looking forward to reading your blog and getting to know you better.

  10. Sarah and other posters:
    My comments were not prompted by anything you all have posted on this page. I was just opining on how sometimes a community can cause its members pain by being too into everyone else’s business. Another friend is dealing with some of the same issues with people commenting on purchases or personal decsions that should only be the business of the specific individuals involved. I think you wonderful women shouldn’t think twice about purchasing a new sheitel since you are required to cover your own hair and that fact has nothing to do with scholarships or tuition credits or such. You all probably don’t spend any more money than I do with color and anti-frizz treatments and regular cuts. Celebrate your feminity because it is a gift from G-D.

    1. Love this encouragement on hair-covering! And again, wearing a sheitel can indeed be more cost-effective that regular hair care. It’s just more expensive initially. I hope your friends gets some peace from nosiness soon.

  11. A sheital is not just something you wear on your head. For women who wear them, it’s their hair. I may not wear head coverings but I see them like I see my contact lenses and glasses. I am not going to sport coke bottle thick glasses instead of spending the large amount of money I do on contacts and expensive lenses because my appearance is important to me and it affects how others see me including my husband and my colleagues at work. I would not feel all that good about myself if I had no choice but to wear the cheapest glasses available and forgo the contacts. Not all work places accept wearing tichels and hats. Most women I know who cover their hair feel more like themselves and more attractive in sheitals and tichels. No one is saying that children are losing out on an education because a woman bought her sheital. Women should not be told to forgo caring for how they feel in terms of their physical appearance because she should be sacrificing all money for others. A happy woman makes for a happy husband and happy kids. I am not saying spend a gazillion dollars or go into credit card debt but I don’t think women should feel guilty about caring for their sheital look.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree that a happy woman makes for a happy family, and that a woman shouldn’t sacrifice every penny for others. We also do need to take care of ourselves, in order to better take care of our loved ones.

  12. I love that you’re so open about this. AND, those pictures are fabulous. New blog look is great too. I saw your tweet re: not self-hosting because you want to be able to change it a lot. I feel that concept . . . because I’m already getting tired of mine and I paid a lot to do it. So guess who is NOT changing it???

    1. Thanks and thanks! Your blog looks pretty fabulous, but I understand the itch to change. Maybe you could have a small area that you could play around with. Say, profile picture or your about blurb on the sidebar? I’m curious – what specifically do you like that I’m open about?

  13. Our rebbe said to always wear a sheitel in public, not a tichel or kerchief. I was fortunate that my parents bought me my original sheitelach for a wedding gift but that was over 7 1/2 years ago and they have since bit the dust. What to do, I have 4 ka’h children. Last year before pesach I chose a sheitel at a gemach for $25 and I wear it everyday. I would love to have a $1000 wig but the chinuch of my children is just too important. If I see a new wig giveway, I enter in hopes that I might get lucky. If not I can hope to get a second wig at the gemach. This year I am also saving money by home schooling. Next year I will have tuition but the kids are the future and I want the best for them.

    1. Sheva was telling me about that a little while ago. I do feel like my hair is very thoroughly covered when I wear my sheitels. Gemachs are a good option, and not every $1000 wig is even a good one, so in my opinion, it’s better to spend less anyways. I hope that the next sheitel you get makes you feel beautiful, no matter where it comes from, and may you have a lot of hatzlacha and schar with all your children.

    2. I am curious – why would a sheitel be preferable to a tichel? I see Rivki says something below about the hair being fully covered… I find that if I wear the proper “undergarments” ie a velvet headband I can wear a tichel for 10 hours or more with no issues… if they ever do come a bit lose I just duck into a restroom for a quick re-tie… but maybe that is not the issue at all?

      1. It’s not that one is preferable to the other, per se. From what I understand, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that Lubavitch women should wear sheitels when out of the house. I’m not Lubavitch, so I’m not going to try and explain it, as I’m not familiar enough with the reasons and would probably get it all wrong. Here’s a link to something on the topic over at chabad.org – http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/72875/jewish/Wearing-A-Sheitel.htm

        Also, I should add that I have many friends who cover their hair exclusively with tichels and do a beautiful job of it.

  14. Sheitels are really expensive. I am still wearing the first one I bought, almost two years ago, even though it is slowly losing hairs, especially in the back. And it really needs to be reset, even though I wash it myself and it does just fine. But, I hate sheitels. I have a second one, that was a barely-used hand-me-down, and is very fancy.

    If I don’t go out, then I don’t have to wear a sheitel. And if I decide that I’m not Chabad, then for sure I don’t have to wear one. :sigh: Unfortunately, Chabad makes sheitels mandatory. Too bad for me, right?

    1. Sorry that your sheitels are such a source of aggravation. :( I used to wash my sheitels myself, too, but I really messed my first one up, and so we decided it probably saves us more money to have me send it out. That was an expensive mistake on my part.

      1. How did you mess it up? Before I touched my sheitel, I asked someone else how she did it. I’m not sure if I messed mine up, but it sure could use some TLC. I just don’t feel like adding hair to it – but that’s not because I washed it, it’s because those hairs got slowly, slowly pulled out. By pins, by little hands, by hairbrushes, by me confusing it with my own hairs.

  15. Yet another post I’m responding to waaay after the fact, but whatever! I’m a hat and tichel girl myself. For a little while I liked the idea of getting a wig, but after researching the cost, I can’t justify it. I think there’s a huge difference between spending money on things that make life more enjoyable and spending money on things that improve our quality of life. I wear hearing aids which have drastically improved my ability to communicate, and the money I have to spend on accessories, upkeep, and repairs is worth every penny. For me, a wig just can’t measure up to the ability to understand people and talk on the phone!

    1. I like the after-the-fact comments! I know some people who have synthetic wigs and are happy with them, if you ever wanted to go that route. I think for a lot of Orthodox women, a wig actually does improve quality of life, as there is a strong cultural expectation to wear one. Though, obviously, there are wonderful women (Wranpuzel!) who do just fine without them. But the vast majority of us wear them because that’s our custom, and is what’s normal, so it makes the choice more grey.

  16. Hi there , I’m a muslim and I was googling about headcoverings and I was shocked that other religions demands that too ! We have too much in common than we know ! Any how I just have one question and I hope I’m not being impolite but cant you just buy a wig from anywhere ? There are great wigs websites for much cheaper price tags ! The one I use is RBJ show and the quailty and price tags have a huge range !
    Thank you again and I apologise if my question is rude

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