Style & Decor

4 Steps I Took To Create A $400/Year Budget Beauty Routine

By | Thursday, June 30, 2016


I am a 20-something female, which is to say that I spend a good chunk of my money on ~perfecting my look~. I was practically raised by the Kardashians, so forgive me for the fact that I will eternally lust after thick, shiny hair, perfect skin, polished fingernails, and killer wardrobes. The key words there are “lust after.” Notice that I didn’t say “easily achieved.” Notice that I didn’t even say “attempt to have.” Although I will forever desire a level of physical perfection only found on Pinterest, I am not a person who will ever sink into crippling debt to test every product imaginable in search of the one that will mask even my deepest insecurities. In fact, I’m quite the opposite.

My mother is a Certified Product Hoarder, which isn’t a bad thing, because she not only has the money to do so, but she also has the soft, ageless skin and smooth shiny hair that comes from meticulous trial-and-error product testing. She has creams and oils and shampoos and deep conditioners for days, and I’m lucky she does, because that means I’ve gotten to test a decent amount of products myself. (I get a lot of the rejects – I’m not complaining!)

I find myself to be a little different. As far as maintenance goes, I spend very little. I do my own eyebrows and paint my own nails, and often trim my own hair too. As for products, the expense of collecting them alone makes them unappealing to me. I don’t want four different concealers, or three body lotions, or two shampoos. I want one of each product that works every time. I want tried-and-true. I want to know it will look good, and not make me break out in hives. (I have really sensitive skin, and lots of allergies to chemicals, so I can’t switch up my soap brands often, if ever.) I want effortless. And I want to know that these products will be somewhat consistent enough for me to accurately budget for them.

Being a product hoarder doesn’t really allow for budgeting, because new products at different price points are popping up all the time. After attempting to test-drive products like a YouTube madwoman for a couple weak months of my life a few years ago, I decided to make a change; I would create a budget that would help take the guesswork out of my beauty routine. It took a lot of planning, but I eventually came out with a routine that was easy to budget for, and has made my “getting ready” life so much easier. These are the steps I took to begin.

1. I eliminated every single thing I didn’t actually love and use regularly.
I have a huge bathroom with many drawers, so it got easy to fill them up with different scented deodorants or hair products that I never even touched. I got rid of everything, only leaving the few products that I actually religiously reused and repurchased.

2. I spent months testing exactly how long each product lasted me.
In order to budget for these things properly, I needed to know how many times per year I would need to repurchase them. I found a lot of interesting things during this time. For example, cheap-o $6 drugstore face cleaners were inexpensive, but contained little product and were used up within a month. The $20 Lush face soap I loved seemed so pricey, but lasted me about four months, so it really wasn’t costing me more than the cheap stuff. I also found that of the two sulfate-free (allergies, y’all!) shampoo brands sold in my local drugstores for the same price, one of them ran out very quickly and one lasted me months (I don’t wash my hair every day, or even most days – don’t judge). This helped me to further eliminate products and figure which ones worked best for me to make it to the top of my list.

3. I created categorized lists for the products.
For me, these categories were Hair, Skincare, Makeup, and Body. Once listed in their categories, I wrote the cost of each item and the amount of times per year I would need to repurchase it if used regularly.

4. I made final adjustments after looking at the numbers.
In order to keep the dollar amount I would be spending per year as low as possible, I searched through my nearly-finalized list for places where I could swap products for cheaper and similarly effective ones, or things I could cut out in favor of more expensive things that I wasn’t willing to give up. For example, my favorite face moisturizer is a cool $40, which stresses me beyond belief because it is pretty much my skin’s only saving grace. In order to find some wiggle room in the budget to make the moisturizer feel more affordable, I swapped out a pricey brow pencil for a cheap drugstore one that is just as good. Win-win.


After going through products and narrowing it down to the ones I was satisfied enough to keep using without searching for further replacements, my finalized list came out to look something like this:


Hask Shampoo $6 3x/year

Hask Macadamia Oil Moisturizing Conditioner, 12 Ounce $6 3x/year

Batiste Dry Shampoo $6 3x/year

 Hair Total: $54/year


Lush Herbalism Cleanser $15 3x/year

Lush Aqua Marina Cleanser $12 3x/year

Lush Vanishing Cream Moisturizer $45 2x/year

Neutrogena Sunscreen $10 2x/year

Skincare Total: $191/year


Maybelline Fit Me Concealer $6 2x/year

Rimmel Stay Matte Powder $5 2x/year

NYX Micro Brow Pencil $10 3x/year

CoverGirl Waterproof Mascara $8 1x/year

Blistex Medicated $4 1x/year

e.l.f Studio Blush $3 2x/year

Makeup Total: $70/year 


Dove Body Wash $6 4x/year

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter $6 3x/year

Coppertone Sunscreen $8 3x/year

Dove Deodorant $6 3x/year

12 Pack of Disposable Razors $9 1x/year

Body Total: $69/year

Total Beauty Budget/Year: $411

I started doing this last year, in April of 2015, and have only slightly revised my budget once or twice in small ways when I realized things weren’t working for me, or found a more convenient alternative at the store when I couldn’t find the exact one on my list. I also have some “extra” makeup things, (like eyeshadows/liners) that were purchased in the past or given to me as gifts, but I’m not one to wear them often, nor would I repurchase any if they run out. (I think I’ve had the same Sephora eyeshadow palette since I was in middle school. Is that even safe?) If ever there is some sort of additional product I want for some reason, I budget for it in a completely separate category: my beauty budget does not get disturbed.

The point of this practice was really to stop myself from being constantly on the prowl for another better beauty find, when I could just refer back to a list of super-affordable or absolutely-worth-the-money favorites to make it all a little easier.

This probably isn’t something that would work for someone who loves beauty products in the profound and passionate way that some love clothes or books or restaurant meals – everyone has their thing that they value spending money on, and they should enjoy that thing as much as their wallet allows. But for me, this helped take the guesswork out of my beauty routine, and made me better able to financially support my ~look~ and maintain the health of my skin and hair by using only products I truly love and trust.

Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at

Image via Unsplash

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