If you want to see the “face” of our economy this year, we’re told, just look at the sag in cosmetic surgery. Since medical costs are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy, I make a special effort to stay on top of news reports having to do with healthcare in our country, and especially here in Indiana. A recent CNN online piece discussed a survey in which 53% of cosmetic surgeons reported business being down by as much as 30%.

It’s understandable that in tough economic times, spending on luxury items and services is negatively impacted. That’s even more the case when prices for essential items are rising (see Add Some Water To Your Soup). The CNN article brought out a nuance I hadn’t considered, though. With the job market being so competitive, older workers sometimes consider that appearance improvements are not a luxury, but a necessity, to help them appear to be “at the top of their game” when compared with younger job candidates or co-workers. So, what has happened, according to some of the medical professionals interviewed by CNN, is that, while cosmetic surgeries are down, there has been an uptick in cheaper, less invasive options such as Botox injections and wrinkle filler. “Instead of shelling out $7000 for a face lift, patients spend $1000 for less dramatic results,” says Dr. Patrick McMenamin, president-elect of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.

As a bankruptcy lawyer in Indiana for the past two and a half decades, I’ve helped many, many people gradually rebuild their financial lives after bankruptcy. While these clients may not be in a position to afford even the less expensive forms of cosmetic treatment while they’re working on rebuilding their financial lives, the principle outlined by Dr. McMenamin would be a very appropriate one for them to follow. Rather than foregoing all discretionary spending (Spartan diets of all types are difficult to maintain over time), buying “cheaper and less invasive” would be a good standard to follow.