Beauty or Bucks? How I Slashed Thousands in Beauty Costs

Ladies, we go through great lengths for beauty, don’t we?

And men, I know this baffles you.

Men, you probably wonder why it’s so integral we get our nails done, and women, well, you understand why.

Simply put, being pampered makes us feel beautiful. It’s no wonder that women across the country who can’t pay their bills still manage to get a manicure.

Why do these smalls acts of beauty mean so much to us? Why are we consistently willing to give up other “necessities” in order to keep the beauty budget?

For the last few years, I convinced myself that highlighting my hair blonde was the one thing I’d do for myself that was nice. I even used this blog as one of my many excuses, “My brand is Budget Blonde. That’s why I should keep it that way.”

After seriously looking at my bills and building the momentum to pay off my credit cards once and for all, I decided to do the unthinkable: I went brunette!

This is after 10 years of highlighting it blonde, ever since it got darker from being blonde as a child.

It might sound a little dramatic, but I almost felt like I lost a piece of me when I dyed it back to its natural color. I have countless pictures from special trips, events, and even my own wedding that have this blonde person in them that looks very different from me now.

Budget Blonde Paris

Still, the numbers don’t lie.

By not highlighting my hair, I’m saving $975 a year.

By letting a friend cut my hair on her front porch instead of getting it cut at a salon, I’m saving $130 a year.

Now that I’ve given up regular manicures, I’m saving $300 a year.

By plucking my eyebrows instead of letting someone at a salon wax them, I’m saving  $104 a year.

By buying only clothes that we need and shoes we need replaced, I’m saving approximately $700 a year.

All in all, I’m saving $2,209 a year!

That’s a nice trip. That’s two plane tickets home. That’s a great start to an emergency fund.

And you know what? This actually works well for our lifestyle now, since we live in such a relaxed environment.

My dress code at work is what you’d expect for a tropical island. It’s very beach casual. The women wear sandals and flip flops with pretty skirts and the occasional long board shorts with a nice top. Many of them hit the gym before coming to work, shower, and let their hair air dry. Others, like myself, just throw our hair in a ponytail. So, there’s not this constant pressure to look a certain way or have certain brands.

Everyone is free to be who they are.

Also, I don’t feel like I am “letting myself go.” Rather, I feel like I am embracing the casual minimalist life that this island has to offer. I’m sure when I get back to the U.S. it would be great to get my nails done from time to time. For now, however, I’m enjoying life without budget strains or credit card payments. It’s a great place to be, blonde or no blonde.

What is the one beauty treatment or pampering secret that you just can’t live without? Does anyone else D.I.Y. their own beauty treatments? Men, I’m looking at you here, too. Don’t tell me you don’t have a special shaving cream you splurge on. :)

About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford aka "Cat" is a personal finance freelance writer who currently lives in the Caribbean with her husband and spoiled pup, Julep. To learn more about her writing services, please visit her Hire Me page or e-mail her at Cat[at]BudgetBlonde[dot]com. Follow her on Google + to get all the latest updates.

Lovely comments:

  1. Decent hand lotion. It’s on every counter in our house, and next to my keyboard at work =)

    But I’ve never been one to spend much on beauty products/services. I have recently switched to only getting my hair cut once every year or two. I can count the number of manicures I’ve ever had on 1 hand. Mr. PoP on the other hand uses $14/bottle hair gel and I make fun of him for it!

    I think a lot of it has to do with what is standard. Where I grew up, there was not a big premium on looking “professionally made up” all the time, and where I work now, it’s pretty similar. No one cares if your hair is wet after lunch if you showered at the gym – they’re just glad you showered!

  2. The one thing I cannot live without is a massage. I get one about once a month. I don’t know if it was all those years of dance, or the mattress, or just me, but my back gets SO tense, I need a professional to work it out. Every three weeks is ideal, but I usually end up going about once a month. It’s totally worth it…if I had to give it up I would be in a lot of constant pain and not a very nice person, lol.

    I do tend to spend a lot these days on beauty products – lotions, facewash, shampoo, deoderant, etc because I’m trying to avoid gluten, parabens, and other chemicals, but the upside of using more expensive products is that I waste nothing. Gone are the days of twenty shampoos lining the showers, only to get thrown out because they’re clutter. I buy one product, use it up, and then get a new one. I haven’t done any calculations on how much money that saves (if any), but it’s certainly less wasteful.

    As far as saving money goes, I like to make my own salt scrubs (kosher salt + grapeseed oil + essential oils) and bath salts (the kind that go in the bath, not drugs, lol – epsom salts + baking soda + grapeseed oil + essential oils). I love that I can mix the scents that smell good to me, as opposed to being stuck with somebody else’s ideas. Also, I always do my own nails, unless getting a mani/pedi is a social event (which doesn’t happen very often).

  3. I “have” to get my hair cut about every 8 weeks, otherwise it looks limp and stringy, and makes my face look more hollow and longer now that I’m getting older. I’ve tried and tried to grow it long-I just can’t take it. The lady who cuts my hair is expensive, so I kind of keep my eye out for someone cheaper. The one thing I do myself is color it. I have for years. And although I don’t do it as frequently, I will go get a pedicure now and then and the occasional massage.

  4. I, too, gave up the highlights and have stuck to my natural brunette for the past few years. Saves money and– when I was in grad school– precious time. But, like Pamela and Budget & the Beach, I can’t give up massages. I don’t go all the time, but about once every two or three months, if I know of a decent spa nearby. I’ve been told on countless occasions that my muscles are too tight and the build-up of lactic acid can cause crystals to form in my shoulders, so it’s beneficial to my health AND beauty. And, I really love going to the spa and feeling pampered for an afternoon ;).

  5. I’ve always been a big fan of embracing my natural beauty and keeping my beauty routine at a minimum. Except for my hair! I HAVE to get my hair colored (and it has to have some streak of blue, purple or pink in it). Ever since I was in high school, I never cared much about makeup, or clothes or getting my nails done. But I always had to have my hair colored! Thankfully my BFF is a hair stylist so she does my hair once every other month for less than she normally charges people. Still, though, getting your hair done all the time is expensive and I’ve gone more natural over the past few years to make it less high maintenance – and to save money!

  6. Hi! Just stopping by to let you know that Wherever Wednesday is up on Texifornia. I’m seeing how hard it is getting participation! But, I’ll give it a go!

    http://texifornia.blogspot.com/search/label/This%20is%20Wherever

  7. PS: Very cool on how much your saving. It’s always been the reason I don’t START dying my hair. But then, I also like it brown. :-)

  8. PPS: Oops…I set the tagged link (the one that shows all the the TIW links)…only I forgot to tag the one with the actual linky! I realized that when you commented on my “It’s coming” announcement from last week in stead of the newer one, and said “I’ll check back.” :-) The actual linky is here (though I fixed the tag and it should show up on the other now too):
    http://texifornia.blogspot.com/2012/11/this-is-wherever_7.html

  9. I’m cutting my haircut (or trimmed) next week. I’m a brunette and love my natural color. Typically, if I want to add more shine I use a glaze. Like you, I enjoy being pampered. Around my area, I have a foot massage place that charges $25 for one hour. I love using baking soda to scrub my face with a black soap that doesn’t dry my skin. I used to buy Olay Lactic Acid peel, but now I used a 30% glycolic acid once a week for four weeks and then I stop for a month or so. In addition, I use face mask for my combination skin. When I can, get a massage! Got to love ‘em! :-)

  10. I know exactly what you mean — when I moved to a new city and was unemployed, beauty extras (and coffee, and eventually any sort of non-food shopping) went out the window immediately. It’s amazing how little you can spend in a month if you cut out the non-essentials!

  11. Nice! I’ve thought about threading my eyebrows; it would cost money but seems like less of a pain than plucking. I don’t really have anything that I MUST keep up, other than a pretty simple make-up routine. I probably need to spend more on my appearance. I’ve been looking too much like a mom lately.

    By the way, you’re beautiful! Blonde, brunette, does not matter even a little bit!

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