Top Saving Tips to Manage Cancer Expenses

When you are going through cancer treatments, one of the topics that is unavoidable is cost. Losing your hair will present added expense. Here is the skinny on what you need, what you don’t need and how to get through it for the least amount of money while still looking your best.


What You Do Need:


There are "nice-to-haves" and "must-haves" when losing your hair during chemotherapy treatments.  These are the "must-haves":


Sleep Cap – Every cancer patient needs a sleep cap. Your head gets cold without the insulation of hair.  Body heat escapes through the head. Also, when coming out of surgery or during hospital stays, you will want something soft to cover your head.  Therefore, a soft sleep cap is absolutely non negotiable.


Headwear – Some women choose hats while others choose wigs. Even if you go with a wig most of the time, you are still going to want at least a couple of comfortable hats, turbans or scarves to wear for quick errands or around the house. 


Hairpiece – Some women don’t have a wig in their budget. For those who don’t, one option is buying bangs or halo hairpieces that give the look of hair without buying a full wig. They look very natural,  breathe, are more comfortable and are very affordable.



Ways to Save Money on Wigs:


One to Wash and One to Wear?

Most wig shops will insist that you need to buy two wigs – one to wash and one to wear. If you are wearing wigs every day, this isn’t bad advice. However, we suggest starting with one.  You may discover that wigs aren't for you after all in which case you can use that money to buy headwear or scarves that you do like. Or, you may discover that another color or style would be more to your liking. Wait and see how you feel wearing your first wig before spending the money on a second purchase.


Buy Online

Online, you can find wigs in reputable online wig salons for up to 75% less than what you would spend in a brick and mortar shop. Tips for buying online:

  • Save a hair swatch for color matching. Learn more here.
  • Educate yourself. This Wig Buying Guide is very useful.
  • Buy only from Authorized Retailers. Knock offs and fakes of designer wigs are rampant and won't be of the same quality.
  • Don't spend less than $85 on your wig. A wig below this amount is going to be of poor quality and ultimately a bad investment.


Wig Accessories – Do you really need special shampoo and hair care products for your wig? The answer is yes. Your wig will not only look better, it will last longer, giving you the most from your investment.


Buy Synthetic - Many wig salons will push you towards a human hair wig because they are more profitable. We always recommend starting with a synthetic wig.  They are easier to care for and require less maintenance, which makes them much more suitable for first time wig wearers and women with cancer. It is key to note, however, that not all synthetic wigs are the same, despite how they might look in a picture. The key is to purchase a synthetic wig of high quality. Human hair wigs are many times the price of a quality synthetic wig and in most cases, it would be extremely difficult to tell the difference. In fact, a quality synthetic wig will look more natural than an economy priced human hair wig at many times less the cost.


Free Wigs?  Your cancer center or the American Cancer Society will sometimes give away free wigs. For those on a budget, this may be the only wig they receive. If buying a higher cost wig isn't within your budget, take the wig to your hair stylist and have her cut it. Thinning out a lower cost wig and styling it to take shape around your face can really improve the appearance, making it look much more natural.


Insurance: Many insurance plans will reimburse at least partially for your wig. Check with your insurance provider. To ensure the best success, ask your doctor to write you a prescription for a "cranial prosthesis". Most online retailers or wig shops can give you a special receipt for a cranial prosthesis, which is what you will need to successfully file for reimbursement with your insurance company. 



Headwear Cheats:


Basics: Start with basic colors that can go with anything in your wardrobe. This will allow you to stretch your penny the furthest. Neutrals include: Black, cream, denim, navy, khaki, brown, taupe and grey.


Double Duty: Several beanies or turbans can double as a sleep cap. Here are just a few items that can be worn both during the day as well as for sleeping:

Three Seam Turban

Cozy Cap

Comfort Cap

Synergy Cap


Check your closet – You may already own scarves that you have forgotten about. If those you own are not the right size for tying on the head, many can be used to accessorize your hats and turbans, to create an abundance of looks.


Get crafty - Make your own head coverings. 


Hat party - Ask your friends or family to throw you a hat party. What's a hat party? It's like a baby shower but for chemo. You can even register for a gift registry and select your own items so that you don't have duplicates or items you don't want. Go here for more tips.


Knit - Do you have any friends who knit? Ask them to knit a head covering for you. Or, take up a new hobby and learn how to knit and make your own. Knitting is a great way to pass the time during treatments.


Accessorize - Buy basic turbans or caps and add accessories to create a whole new look and to match your current outfit. You may even have some in your wardrobe already.


Only One? If you only get one item during chemo, treat yourself to a soft bamboo cap. They are durable, fade and pill resistant, have wicking and naturally antibacterial properties and are as soft as silk.



Additional Resources:

Cancer Survivors Share Their Best Advice

Chemo & Hair Loss: A Complete Guide

Hair Loss During Treatments: Money Saving Tips

Why does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss?

10 Tips for Getting Through Chemotherapy


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