Saving Is Sexy: Beauty Budget Tips So You Can Stop Being Broke

I think we can all agree that no one should be going into debt buying lipsticks.
Publish date:
January 7, 2014
shopping, bargains, budget,, money

Growing up is
rad as hell. Yeah, it’s tough, but taking control of my own life gives me more
satisfaction than anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m stoked about what’s still
to come.

One of the
biggest aspects of this is MONEY. Money is wild stuff. Learning how money works
and how to make money work for me have been some of the most fun, challenging
and exciting lessons I’ve learned so far in life. Budgets, savings, earnings,
taxes, retirement, oh my!

Raaaaaachel, this is boring! What does this have to do with makeup?”

Well, not much!
But this is a website about beauty, and at the top of the page there’s a big
button that says “BUY STUFF!” I work three jobs, this being one of them, and every
single one of them is for a company that’s advertiser-supported. So I’m really,
really into the idea of people buying stuff, and lots of it.

But I think it’s
important to talk about the ways we spend money on makeup and beauty products.
It’s complicated, because everyone has different budgets and priorities, but I
think we can all agree that no one should be going into debt buying lipsticks.

Yet, I did
almost just that. After graduating college in 2012, I was unemployed for about six months. I spent the majority of my time on my couch bathed in the laptop
screen’s soothing, warm light as I bounced from website to website searching
for meaning and deals. I just kept buying things to fill the empty, worthless,
cheeto-scented void inside of me. In just a few months, I accrued about $3,000
in credit card debt.

What did I get
out of it? Clothes and makeup I feel very “meh” about. My favorite items I own
are things I wanted for a long time and saved for. Everything I bought on my credit
card during those six months feels like a reminder of the poor spending choices
I made. Sure, I got some baller lipsticks and stuff, but I also got a mountain
of debt I was ill-prepared to climb.

Slowly, over the
past year or so, I’ve been working to pay down that credit card debt before it
eats me alive. Spending money on credit felt like free money, but it ended up
costing me way more than I could have imagined because I was dumb.

Since then, I’ve
been VERY strict with myself about my budget. I have a very specific beauty
budget for each month, and I only allow myself to spend a certain amount of
money on it. I do this with every category of my spending, to keep myself in
line because I am terrified to go farther into debt.

Budgeting is
hard, though. Every time I walk into a store, I’m hit with beautiful images of a
new lipstick that I just know will make me feel better than I’ve ever felt.
It’s tough to go to Sephora and try things, or buy the one thing I came in for,
without spending half my paycheck on pretty, sparkly things.

Beauty products
are awesome but can have such power over us with their claims to change the
way we look and, sometimes, feel because of that. I do have some tips for
learning to budget your beauty spending, though.

Track Your Spending

The best way
I’ve learned to do this is through I promise, this article is in no
way sponsored by Mint, but that website has improved my life by a TON. (But hey
yo, Mint, if you want to sponsor my whole life, I’m down with that. Holla!)

Basically, you
link your bank accounts to your Mint account, and Mint tracks your spending. The
site will break down the ways you spend your money, via pie charts and other
graphs. You can see if the majority of your budget is going towards gas, shopping,
food, or something else.

Seeing that
chart and seeing that I was spending almost half my budget on shopping made me
upset. If I had spent half that money on travel, I could have gone so many
places! Or, if I had just saved it, I’d be in such a better place financially.
Alas, we live and learn. I’m just a single white female addicted to retail.

Define Your Budget

Mint also helps
you create budgets for every part of your life you spend money on, so you can
keep track of your spending. A couple months ago, I created shopping budgets
for myself. Mine are VERY strict since I’m paying off debt and saving
aggressively right now.

Your budget is
obviously up to you and your priorities. I find it helpful to check in with
Mint a few times a week (they have an app, too!) and make sure I’m staying
within my budget. I got a problem with spending before I get it. The site
doesn’t, like, punish you in any way if you go over, but it does make that
budget bar turn red and scary to remind you that you have failed.

They also have
an option to let budgets “roll over.” So, if I don’t spend ANY of my
makeup/beauty budget this month or next month, I’ll have $90 to spend the month
after that. It’s a helpful way to save if I’ve got my eye on a big-ticket

They’ll also
help remind you when bills and payments are due. It’s helpful for me to see
everything together, since I have accounts with several different institutions
between credit cards, checking, savings and brokerage accounts, and it’s hard
to get a big picture of my finances when they’re spread across so many sites.

Obviously, there
are other ways to keep track of your budget. You can do it without the help of
a website, by just writing things down in a checkbook. My boyfriend likes to
use spreadsheets to track spending and savings goals. It’s up to you. I highly
suggest Mint, though, as it’s been incredibly helpful for me.

Do Your Research

While there are
definitely products that work on some people and mysteriously don’t work on
others, there are tons of sources out there for you to read about other
people’s experiences with products. There’s LOTS of reviews right here on

Know what your
skin is like on all parts of your face, and which kinds of products work best
for that. The more you know about what works on you, the less likely you are to
spend money on things you don’t enjoy.

Also, lots of
makeup sites, blogs and YouTube channels will be able to tell you about
products that do very similar things, but at different price points.

Think about spending
on makeup the way you view your other spending. For example, I’ve always only used
drugstore moisturizer. I’m aware there are fancier, more expensive moisturizers
that might work better, but they aren’t in my price range, and my drugstore
moisturizer works really well. (Shout out to Clean & Clear!) Similarly,
there are apartments nicer than the one I live in, but I can’t afford them, so I
live in this one. And this one’s great! Maybe one day, I can have a nicer
apartment, but not at this point. That’s OK.

Know When to Buy

If you keep up
with brands and stores, it’s not hard to tell when they’ll be having a sale.
Big stores like Sephora and Ulta will usually have sales to accompany major
holidays. These are great opportunities to get discounts. Just because
something is discounted doesn’t mean it’s automatically a great deal, but if
it’s something you’ve been lusting after but waiting for a sale, go for it. Follow
your heart.

Also, keep track
of when brands release new colors and products, because this sometimes means
older products will go on sale. Sign up for e-mail lists, but be careful not
just get excited and buy things every time you see “Sale!”

Make Your Products Last

All beauty
products have an expiration date, but companies aren’t required to list them on
the product as if they were milk. I consume way more lipstick than milk,
so this is annoying. It’s a very sneaky, shady world and we’re all living in it.

Here’s a basic estimate of how long you should be using your products:

Mascara/Cream Eyeliner: 2-3 months. You’ll know it’s gone bad if
it gets clumpy or starts to smell. Since you use these products on your EYES,
make sure they don’t get gross stuff on them or you will go blind and then how
will you do your makeup? Be careful!

Foundation: 6-12 months. Look for any changes in its
color or texture to know if it's turned. Keep it in a cool, dark place to
prevent discoloration.

Lipstick: 2 years. Make sure to periodically clean
your lipstick, to help keep it free of bacteria that could be sticking around
because your mouth is a disgusting place and you know it.

Powder/Shadow/Blush: These basically last forever. They’ll
follow you to your grave. If you clean your brushes religiously, these should
be fine unless you notice changes in their consistency or coloring.

Nail Polish: 1-2 years. You can keep them in the
fridge to make them last longer, or get a nail polish thinner to mix in with a
polish that’s become too thick and goopy to use.

Try to use
products as long as they’re good. If there’s a new one you want, it will
probably still be around in a few months so long as it’s not a limited edition.

Use Your Brain

You’ve been
exposed to advertisements your whole life, so by now you know better than to
believe everything they tell you. We’re all smart, competent people, so don’t
let anyone take advantage of you!

I know a lot of
us adore beauty products, and buying things is definitely a lot of fun, but be
careful with your money. Growing up is hard, and financial planning is hard,
but I get the idea it’s totally worth it. Also, if you think of saving as a
game, it’s way fun. I like to challenge myself each month to save more than I
did the month before. In that way, I can put my competitive personality to good
use instead of just torturing my younger sister and alienating my friends, like
I usually do!

Do you guys have
monthly budgets for beauty products, and how do you stick to them? Are you
already great at saving money and thinking about what a no-brainer this article
is? Let’s talk money in the comments.