According to the aptly titled report Beauty at Any Cost, which the YWCA released in 2008, US women spend $7 billion per year on cosmetics, averaging to about $100 per person per month. That’s a whole lot of lipstick, mascara, and other beauty products!
Before you roll those smokey lacquered eyes or shoo us away with a perfectly manicured hand, we should note that we don’t expect you to run around town with exposed roots or chipped nails.
Beauty may be only be skin deep, but your appearance impacts how you feel both inside and out (plus, if you’re interviewing for jobs, you’ll want to look and feel your best). As Carolyn Brundage, founder of PrettyCity.com, says, “it’s not about fitting into a certain model profile. It’s about feeling comfortable with you.”
Here’s how to get the most bang (or curl or sheen) for your buck.
1. Consider mane-tenance
That hairstyle may look incredibly hip when you leave the salon, but is it going to means frequent blowouts because you can’t style it yourself? Does it require gobs of über-expensive styling gel? What about that hair color? How long before you need a touch up?
All of these questions should factor into your beauty budget. “Once you start to color, you’re into it,” says Rosalyn Hoffman, author of Bitches on a Budget. “But if you stay close to your [hair’s natural color] range, you can go longer [between appointments].”
Prolonged sun exposure can fade color treatments, so that’s another consideration, she says. On top of that, blonde is the toughest color to maintain: some women have gone brunette so they can stretch out their color sessions in the midst of the recession. Generally, highlights or a tinted glaze are cheaper (and lower maintenance) than a single-color process. However, a single-color process is easier to DIY at home.
2. Schedule your beauty sessions strategically
Weekends and evenings are prime times for salons and spas, so if you can squeeze a weekday session into your schedule, you may score a better deal. “During business hours, you can usually find the most aggressive rates,” says Brundage.
According to Hoffman, you can often score a discount on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Don’t be shy about asking, especially if you’re a repeat customer. Hoffman says to “think about if you’re in a neighborhood making a deal with someone you use a lot. ‘Can you give me a bargain if you come ten times?’”
3. Get social with your salon
Many spas, salons, and other beauty spots offer discounts through sites like Groupon and Living Social. As Brundage points out, the downside of these deals is that sometimes it might be tough to get an appointment if hundreds of others have purchased the very same deal. Her advice? Monitor social media so you’ll know when your favorite spa or salon is running a promotion themselves.
“Anytime we hear of something fabulous, we’re spreading the word on Twitter,” Brundage adds. “Make a list of people who specialize in beauty promos. One thing I’ve noticed is a lot of companies are doing ambassador programs. If you join, you get free samples of their products. I’ve noticed a huge increase in the amount of spas, salons, and beauty brands that are doing events or giveaways.” Be sure to “like” them on Facebook and sign up for their email lists, too.
4. Keep it simple
The simplest way to save money on beauty products is to focus on one feature and forego the unnecessary extras. “The key factor here is what is important to you,” says Brundage. “That’s what defines what you do yourself. My sister has problem skin, so for her getting facials is more important to her.”
Maybe you feel best after a blowout, but don’t mind painting your own nails or shaving at home with a razor. Some stylists and aestheticians are masters of the up-sell, but you needn’t to succumb to that $50 bottle of face cream or the $100 hair treatment.
“A lot of people get sold on special products, but you can go to CVS and find products that work just as well as the really expensive stuff,” Hoffman says. “You don’t need a basket filled with 12 products to moisturize and clean your face.”
Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer who covers business and lifestyle topics.