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.
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I think we can all agree that no one should be going into debt buying lipsticks.

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!

I feel you, girl.

I feel you, girl.

“But 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.

An overview of my past year’s spending. See how much I spent shopping? That’s crazy. This feels like a dirty secret I shouldn’t be sharing, but oh well.

An overview of my past year’s spending. See how much I spent shopping? That’s crazy. This feels like a dirty secret I shouldn’t be sharing, but oh well.

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.

Oh, I should probably buy cat food soon. Here are my monthly budgets. Is this as strict as I feel like it is, or was I just out of control before?

Oh, I should probably buy cat food soon. Here are my monthly budgets. Is this as strict as I feel like it is, or was I just out of control before?

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 item.

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 xoVain!

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.

All I see are signs. All I see are dollar signs.

All I see are signs. All I see are dollar signs.

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.