Last week Sierra wrote about how to look good on a budget with some great tips for the frugal and the do-it-yourselfer. It was popular, too — as of Sunday, her article had a whopping 275 comments! It seems most readers fell into one of two camps: the DIYers who enjoy making salt scrubs and don't mind getting a haircut from a helpful friend, and those who argued that products can be purchased inexpensively and nothing beats the results of a professional.
I'd read through comment #217 when I thought it'd be fun to write a follow-up with tips for the type who prefers to buy products and services rather than going the DIY route. Maybe you have no interest in making products or skimping on services, or maybe you you lack the time. I myself have tried DIY skincare using Ayurvedic methods and all-natural haircare recipes, but had disappointing results — no matter how I tried, it didn't work for me.
But there are ways to look good on a budget without changing your personal care routine too much. The following are the best ways I've found to save cash without sacrificing the treatments and products I've come to enjoy:
- Seek out discounts on personal care products. Sure, it sounds obvious, but there's more to it than Sunday coupons and store sales. Sign up for membership programs at stores you frequent. For example, Ulta regularly sends 20% coupons in the mail to members. Check out discount warehouses like Costco to see if they stock your favorite products. Even dollar stores and discount retailers like T.J.Maxx can have surprising finds — like $14 shampoo marked down to $4.
- Think big to save big. If the deal is better on larger sizes or bulk purchases, stock up. For example, I special order professional sizes of moisturizer from the spa because it's cheaper per ounce to buy the largest bottle. If you don't want to keep items in bulk in your house, check with friends and family members to see if they'd want to split a bulk purchase with you.
- When shopping online, get rebates. Ebates, which gives you cash back when you shop at certain retailers, is a favorite of mine, but online retailers also offer their own incentive programs. When you shop at drugstore.com and beauty.com, for example, you earn 5% back in “drugstore.com dollars” toward your next purchase. Stack this on top of the currently 8% rebate from Ebates, and it can add up to serious savings.
- Experiment with a mix of product price points. You might find that you don't need a pricey cleanser, but the only shaving cream that works for you comes from a department store. If you suspect you could swap a high-end product for something cheaper, give it a test run and find out if you'd want to make the trade. I've tried expensive eyeliner and drugstore brands, and I prefer a drugstore brand. You never know until you try.
- Do your research. Unused products cluttering your medicine cabinet are a waste of money. Rather than buying something on impulse, do a little homework. Check out reviews online before you make a purchase. Also, although I know magazines have monetary reasons to favor their advertisers, I've had good results with Allure's Best of Beauty award winners. And lest you think I'm forgetting the gentlemen, there's a guy's stuff section, too. In addition, there are tried-and-true products that are usually a safe bet. For example, many readers mentioned Cetaphil skin cleanser. It's been around for a long time, and it's popular for a reason — odds are good that it'll work for you.
- Use longer-lasting products. This tip came from GRS reader Ru, who writes, “A good bar of soap is much cheaper and just as cleansing as a bottle of shower gel, is better for the environment (concentrated and less packaging) and, in my experience, lasts a lot longer. You can get six-packs of moisturizing soap at the [dollar] store. Make sure you store it on a dish out of the spray of the shower so it lasts longer.”
- Consider beauty schools for haircuts, color, facials, and other services. A lot of finance writers recommend this, and I'm going to give you the low-down. You will pay less than you would in a salon, and the students are carefully supervised. That said, they are learning, so be prepared for your haircut to take twice as long. To improve your chances of getting the results you're after, ask the receptionist when the more advanced students are on the floor, and make an appointment to see one of them. Also, I can't stress enough how important it is to bring in a photograph of the look you're after. Telling a stylist that you want to go “shorter, but not too short in the front” is vague, and a recipe for disaster (or a mullet). Finally, go to a school with a good reputation or trusted name. Some schools churn out skilled professionals who are up on the latest in hair and skincare, while others can't be bothered to fix the faucet on the shampoo stations.
- Call around to comparison shop. You can comparison shop for haircuts, manicures, and any other regular service. Sometimes you get what you pay for, but other times you just find a great deal. I used to work in the beauty industry, and I've had awful haircuts from stylists who charge more than $100, and fantastic haircuts from $40 stylists. In fact, I feel that my current stylist should charge more.
Finally, to reiterate what Sierra said, if you want to save money on your personal care, make trade-offs. I like regular shampoo, but my favorite deep conditioner is coconut oil. I would never cut my own hair, but I prefer to give myself a pedicure because it's faster, cheaper, lasts longer, and I've gotten really good at it. Experiment and do what works for you.
How do you save money on personal care products and services?
Author: April Dykman
As a freelance writer, editor, and blogger, April Dykman specialized in personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship topics. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, Fox Business, Forbes, MoneyBuilder, Yahoo! Finance, Lifehacker, and The Consumerist. Now she does direct response copywriting but, in her free time, April is a wannabe chef, a diehard Italophile, and a recovering yogi.