Frugal Living

Be frugal, not wasteful, when it comes to purchasing personal care products. Here are some tips for trimming your beauty budget.

Women today often spend a large portion of their income on cosmetics, hair products, and beauty treatments. Many wonder how to cut spending on personal care and still achieve results. Saving money on beauty products and services is easier than you might think. Here's how.

ASSESS YOUR SPENDING. The best--though perhaps hardest--way to trim down your beauty budget is to determine why you spend the amount you do. We live in a culture of overspending, quick fixes, and an obsession with surface beauty. Are you happy with your looks (and yourself) overall, or are you trying to fill a void with treatments and products? Be honest with yourself. It's not unusual for people to scour high-end beauty counters and salons when they're feeling down. If this describes you, re-think your spending. Remember, you'll look and feel great when you can handle your ups and downs without buying things you don't need.

CHECK THE LABELS. Decide which products you really need to have and which you can do without. When shopping, check the ingredient lists and think about what you're really about to buy. High-priced sugar scrubs, for instance, are mostly (you guessed it) sugar. Body sprays are little more than scented alcohol. Cut down on the obvious cash-wasters, and you'll have more money for the things that are worth the price.

DO IT YOURSELF. Get creative. Search the internet for low-cost beauty recipes. You can make your own scented lotions with essential oils. With petroleum jelly and the last bit of lipstick left in an old tube, you can make your own lip gloss. Remember that the kitchen is still the best place to find ingredients: why pay big bucks for an oatmeal face mask when you can make one right at home?

RECYCLE. Everybody makes mistakes when it comes to buying makeup and lotions. The colors look wrong for you in daylight, or the product doesn't feel right for your skin type. Instead of just throwing them away, why not trade with friends? Put the word out that you're willing to exchange products, and you may walk away with great items you might never have tried otherwise. (Note: for sanitary reasons, avoid exchanging used eye products.)

DO YOUR HOMEWORK. We've all been had by products that promise results but don't deliver. One of the best things about the internet is that when a new product comes out, you can check out how other people liked it before you plunk down your credit card. Dig up those product reviews and decide for yourself if some new cellulite treatment or wrinkle reducer is worth the risk before taking it on yourself.

BE A DRUGSTORE COWGIRL. Many of the designer products you find in specialty shops have low-cost counterparts at the drug store. Vegetable-based soap, for instance, can be had for $18 from a catalog with a fancy name, or you can get a product with the same ingredients for a dollar or so at your local Osco or Walgreen's. Caring consumers, take note: some of these low-cost lines are as organic and/or cruelty-free as the specialty brands. The drug store is also the best place to pick up basics like cosmetic brushes and implements (tweezers, eyelash curlers, etc.) without a huge mark-up.

BUY A WASHCLOTH. And a loofah. And a pumice stone. Gently scrub your face, body, and feet (respectively) with these three inexpensive items every day with a little soap and you'll never need to drop money on any cleanser with a gritty texture that promises to "exfoliate."

DITCH THE NAIL POLISH. Nail polish is a prime impulse purchase. Unfortunately, it tends to dry out your nails, makes them crack or peel, and needs frequent reapplication. If you go for professional manicures, this can really add up. If you must do your nails, opt for a natural, polish-free buffed look. Or, if you really want the polish, go for a light color; chips will be less noticeable and you may be able to get away with going longer between touch-ups.

TAKE YOUR VITAMINS. Expensive shampoos and conditioners are loaded with vitamins and herbs, but these ingredients are simply washed down the drain. There's evidence that vitamins can be absorbed through the skin, but definitely not the hair. You'll get healthy-looking hair (and everything else) if you take a daily multivitamin, and opt for the less expensive hair care products.

GO AHEAD AND SPEND. This last tip may be one you didn't expect: if you're really happy with the expensive treatment, get the expensive treatment. Nothing is a bigger money-waster than sub-par products that don't do the job as well as the good stuff. If you're going for a beauty treatment, manicure, or special procedure, stick with the professionals who know what they're doing and will do the job well, even if they charge more. If you can afford it, enjoy it!

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