Value-Based Spending: The “Brace-Lift”

DH = Dear Husband

DH’s teeth

Shortly after I met DH, I noticed that his teeth were very crooked – probably more crooked than those of anyone else I had ever met. The set of his mouth covered his teeth most of the time though, and it wasn’t something that bothered me or that he seemed to care about. Eventually, he told me that many years earlier he’d been advised that in order to have his teeth straightened, he’d need surgery on his jaw, and his mouth would have to be wired shut for a few months. DH hadn’t been keen on the jaw surgery, so he’d let it go.

“Brace lift”

Fast forward a couple of decades, and for the first time, I read the term “brace-lift” in an ad in our local newspaper. Orthodontic work for adults – of all ages. It seemed like a radical concept to me, but before long, I saw that a female colleague of mine, definitely past 50, was wearing braces. And while I was taken aback, I thought, Good for you! Within in a year, I noticed another fellow-teacher with braces – a man in his 30s. “I honestly got weepy when I first noticed my front teeth straightening out,” he told me. “I’d learned over the years to cover my teeth with my lips. I’ve always mumbled because of it. I’m unlearning it all, and it’s giving me a lot of self-confidence.”

New options

Last summer, we went to visit DH’s sister and her family for a few days. While there, DH had a long conversation with his nephew about the orthodontic work he was getting done. DH wanted to know how his nephew, who has a similar jawline, was able to get his teeth straightened without the surgery and jaw wiring that DH had been told would be necessary. Apparently, things have changed in the world of orthodontics. “I was told that it wouldn’t be perfect without surgery,” his nephew explained, “but it will be pretty close.” DH started to think . . .

New insight

I told him about my colleague – about the way he had covered his teeth with his lips for so many years. About the confidence he had gained by getting the orthodontic work done. “I’ve always covered my teeth with my lips,” DH told me. “And whenever I forget to – if I’m laughing and someone takes a picture – I see it later and think it looks just awful.” I was stunned. I had always assumed that my husband’s mouth just naturally went into that tooth-hiding formation. Never in over 2 decades of marriage had he ever mentioned this to me before.

A value-based expense?

I encouraged him to consult with the orthodontist who had straightened our daughter’s teeth. He did, and he got the same message as his nephew: It wouldn’t be perfect without surgery – but just about. Braces on their own would not do the trick for DH’s crowded teeth. Two upper teeth – one behind each eye tooth – would need to be pulled; two bolts would have to be drilled into the back of his upper mouth to help move things in the right direction and with sufficient force. My benefits plan from work would cover about half of all expenses, but it would still cost us quite a bit – close to $3,000 over two years.

For people like us- people trying to get out of debt – would this undertaking go against everything we are trying to accomplish? After all, it isn’t as though DH’s well-being has been impacted by his crooked teeth, right? Well – in a way, it has been. A forced facial expression, set to hide; a caution in laughter. Cemented over the years to the extent that I always thought it was natural. Just the way he was. How might this orthodontic work change him? Allow him to open up, loosen up, gain confidence? Talk with unreserved expression? Laugh out loud?

Fruclassity Commandment #4 is about value-based spending. Here is a part of it: “What does value-based spending look like for you? REMEMBER, nobody else needs to approve of your spending values.” We’ve decided to go for it. The two crowding teeth have been pulled; the bottom braces and half of the upper braces are on. Bolts will be drilled in next month. It takes a while for people to notice. His lips cover the braces along with his teeth, and that long-established habit will serve him well over the next two years. But then it will be time to unlearn.

You might think we’re wasting money on cosmetic vanity. But I don’t. Everyone has to decide what value-based spending looks like for them. And for us, at this time, it looks like a “brace-lift”.

What is an example of a value-based spending decision you’ve made? Your comments are welcome.


*Photo courtesy of Gaby Av

8 comments on “Value-Based Spending: The “Brace-Lift”

  1. We had a similar situation with dental work for my wife during our debt repayment journey. Some would say it was cosmetic, but it meant a lot to her and her self confidence. We cash flowed the $2K cost.

    1. I’m surprised you had such a similar experience! Obviously, I think you did the right thing in going for it, and it’s great that it meant so much to your wife. I’m so glad that you let me know about this : )

  2. I agree with your choice, Ruth. Our dd#3, at the tender age of 9, suffered severely from a lack of confidence due to her crooked teeth, and we too got her braces last year. SO nice to see her smiling with confidence now instead of refusing to smile because of bad teeth alignment.

    1. Ha! You and Brian both have personal stories to share in line with the whole “braces” question. Wonderful to know your daughter is smiling with confidence now : )

    1. The fact that this “made your day” proves what a generous heart you have, Kay : ) So glad to see your little gravatar out and about!

  3. Deep debt isn’t really my problem at this point, but for various reasons I have very little income and a higher income isn’t really on the horizon for now. There are things that I really would be wise to save as much for as I can (and I do save), but I actually try to spend money shopping for clothes these days. I know, gasp, the horror!

    Now, I absolutely loathe shopping, mostly because I can’t find anything I like. I can look for years and years and years without any luck. My wardrobe is far from where I want it to be, but I have made some progress lately. And when I wear practical, comfy and cute clothes, it makes such a huge difference to my quality of life, I almost can’t believe it. And I’m not a fashionista. And since I hate shopping (unless I find something, which I rarely do) and lean towards the minimalist side, I don’t worry that it’s an addiction or anything like that. I’m just happy when I find something, and spending the money is often worth it then. 🙂

    1. It sounds like you have absolutely the right attitude in your clothes shopping: minimalist, comfy, and cute. (I find it interesting that you have such a hard time finding things you like. Ever tried shopping with a trusted “adviser”?) The fact that you experience such a great boost in your quality of life as a result of making this modest investment in yourself is more than enough proof that you have value-based spending down pat. Thanks for your comment, Maria!

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