Frugal beauty: How to look good on a budget

Pinching pennies doesn't mean you can't make yourself pretty. Yes, it's true that personal-care products and services can take a big bite out of your budget. By the time you've paid for your salon visit, your skin cream, your hair product, and your lip balm, you can easily be out $100 or more in any given month. You don't want to overindulge and blow a lot of money on personal appearance. All the same, it's important to take care of yourself, and it's possible to do so frugally. Here's how.

Do Less

I'll tell you a secret: I haven't washed my hair in weeks. I rinse it with water every morning when I take my shower (in my fancy, newly-repaired shower that now features hot and cold running water!). But I only shampoo and condition it about once a month. When I do, I use a 50-percent solution of shampoo and water. This means I'm using about 1/60th of the shampoo I used to use when I washed my hair every day with full strength shampoo. Needless to say, one bottle of shampoo lasts me a whole lot longer.

There's a whole “no-poo” movement for people who don't want to shampoo their hair. A lot of them rinse with baking soda and vinegar instead, but I've found that even that is optional.

But you don't have to dive into the deep end to minimize your beauty routine. Simply taking good care of yourself can dramatically cut down on the number of beauty products you need to use. When I asked readers for their favorite DIY beauty tips, a lot of them boiled down to simple self care.

Simple, free things you can do to take care of yourself without the need for products include:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Drink lots of water. No — I mean more water than that. Lots of water.
  • Smile!

Do It Yourself

Whether it's doing your own manicure or making your own deodorant, there are lots of ways you can cut down on personal care expenses by embracing the DIY spirit. Look at each of your regular personal care expenses and ask: Would this be cheaper if I did it myself?

Some ways to take charge of your beauty routines include:

  • Have a friend cut your hair. This clearly doesn't work for everyone, but if you have a relatively simple cut and don't need it to look perfect all the time, having your hair cut at home by a helpful friend or family member can save you a lot of money. Haircuts are probably my biggest personal care expense, so I try to space out trips to my stylist by trimming my hair at home and seeing her once every few months.
  • Use oils as skin cleansers. Instead of indulging in expensive skin treatments, many of my friends swear by the oil cleansing method for cleaning and moisturizing their skin. I've never used the exact method, but I have used olive oil as a skin moisturizer for years and love it.
  • Make skin scrubs out of sugar or salt. It's surprisingly easy to make very good salt scrubs at home with sea salt, massage oil, and a little essential oil. These are great for home use and make lovely gifts.
  • Making your own toothpaste. It's easy to make your own toothpaste. You can do it with just baking soda and water, or you can get a little fancier. Either way, it will totally get your teeth clean. Confession time: I did this for a year or so and then went back to using Tom's of Maine. It was just too weird to switch away from the toothpaste I'd grown up with. For me, toothpaste turns out to be one of the products I prioritize spending on, as I'll discuss below.
  • Make your own deodorant. Making your own deodorant is dead simple and it comes out great. Plus you can scent it any way you like. If mixing a few ingredients is too much for you, or if your skin is very sensitive, one commenter on the Instructables article linked above suggests getting a small spray bottle and filling it with apple cider vinegar to spritz under your arms.

Virtually any beauty product can be made simply and cheaply at home. Lip balm, soap, lotion, face masks, shampoo: A quick Google search will turn up DIY recipes for all your favorite stuff.

Doing it yourself isn't always worthwhile. Some DIY approaches, like making your own soap, can be time-consuming and expensive. Sometimes you can't easily replicate the quality you'd get from a commercial product. But often a DIY solution is fast, cheap, and easy. It's usually worth considering.

Prioritize Your Personal-Care Spending

Once you've minimized your beauty routines to the really worthwhile stuff, you'll probably find you have a few luxuries you're loath to part with. I have a dear friend who cuts her own hair, makes her own shampoo and deodorant, and never wears make-up. She splurges on $75 French moisturizer for her face, though. Nothing else works as well on her delicate skin. Since this is her one personal care luxury, she feels good about paying for the product she really loves.

You may find that homemade skin cream, or cheap stuff from the drugstore, suits you just fine, but you're unwilling to part with your Aveda hair product or your monthly visits to your stylist. Great. This isn't an exercise in deprivation. It's about examining your spending so you can prioritize paying for quality on the things you really want, while saving money on ones that are less important to you.

How have you saved money on your personal care routines? Tell us your favorite DIY beauty tricks in the comments.

More about...Frugality, Health & Fitness

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