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The Ultimate Guide to Beauty on a Budget

When it comes to beauty, there are so many things that we think we need to improve. We want our lashes lifted, our nails manicured, and our legs lasered! And it’s not easy on our budgets.

I recently saw a study commissioned by Groupon on beauty spending habits. According to the survey, women who invest in their appearance spend an average of $3,756 every year on beauty.1 You guys, that adds up to the cost of a house over a lifetime!

When I was a kid, Suave made a commercial where two gorgeous women with long, flowing hair are laughing and walking arm in arm. One of them uses Suave, and the other—gasp!—pays full price for the salon brand. But which one? Enter the famous line: “If you can’t tell, why should we?”

The commercial was cheesy, but it was right. You can look like a million bucks on a tight budget, and no one will know the difference. Here are 10 beauty secrets that will keep your budget happy.

1. Haircuts and Manicures

Women know a good haircut can cost upwards of $50. Add some color, and suddenly you’re into the hundreds!

But here’s the secret to getting a great cut for significantly less: Book an appointment at your local cosmetology school. These students are up on the latest hair trends, but they also need practice. If you’re nervous about a first-day student butchering your locks, ask for a more experienced stylist—and make sure he or she is being supervised.

While you’re at it, check out their prices on manicures, pedicures and eyebrow shaping. Or buy a gel set and do it yourself at home.

2. Shampoos and Conditioners 

There are two main ways to save money on quality shampoo and conditioner. The first is to shop at off-price stores like Ross, T.J.Maxx and Marshalls. The only downside is that the selection constantly changes. So, buy what you can when you see your favorite products, because they might not be there the next time—just don’t blow your budget on impulse. For example, if you go ahead and buy it when you see it in the store, just be sure to adjust your budget so you can keep hitting your financial goals.

The second way is to buy store-brand or generic versions of the designer product. For example, I have it on very good authority that Kirkland Signature Professional Salon Formula Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner at Costco are made by Pureology. Switching to Costco’s version will put $50 per bottle back in your budget.


3. Hairspray and Texture Spray

Don’t assume that just because it’s at the drugstore or grocery store means it’s no good. In fact, many times, my local Kroger surprises me with the high-end brands they carry. But if you’re getting out of debt or building an emergency fund, beauty on a budget means trying less expensive brands.

And don’t forget to check Amazon when you’re comparing prices. My favorite hair product of all time is L’Oréal Paris Advanced Boost It Spray (I use it on my roots), and it’s less than $4 on Amazon. Check out the video below for all of my favorite hair styling products under $10 and how I use them in my daily routine:


4. Fashionable Eyewear

As someone who kept tiny, round, out-of-style eyeglasses for decades, I understand how hard it is to bite the bullet and spend money on new glasses. But these days, it’s so easy to update your look with online companies like Warby Parker or Zenni.


Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!

With Warby Parker, all you have to do is choose five different frames to try from their website. They’ll ship your choices right to your door so you can try them on in the comfort of your own home. Once you know which ones you want, you return the frames, submit your prescription, and get a cute new pair of glasses for cheap!

The best part is that these companies believe eyewear should be affordable. Getting your glasses through one of them will keep your bill under $100. (Praise hands emoji!)

5. Statement Earrings

Everyone loves the big, bold statement earrings these days—including me. They can make any outfit more fun!

Which leads me to one of my favorite fashion hacks of the last decade. Are you ready? Get your statement earrings on Amazon. They come in every color and style imaginable, and they’re so dang cheap—like this 20-pack for $22. Yes, for real. I wear these on The Rachel Cruze Show all the time, and I love them!  I have the money tendency of quantity over quality, so this makes my heart sing.

6. Skin Care 

Regardless of what some infomercial or your dermatologist sold you on years ago, you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on a good skin care routine. A 2019 investigation researched the real differences between high-end moisturizers and the ones you can buy at a drugstore.2 They found that both expensive and affordable moisturizers use the same ingredients.

Dr. Rachel Nazarian reported, “Hyaluronic acid is hyaluronic acid. A brand like Neutrogena will make a phenomenal one that, to me, is just as good as these fancy ones that you’ll pay $100, $200 for.”

If you’re spending hundreds on skin care, this is a great area to put money back in your budget. Personally, I swear by CeraVe facial moisturizer. It’s cheap, it has SPF coverage, and you can get it at any drugstore.


7. Massages and Facials 

You don’t have to wait for Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day to hit the spa. If you have a massage school in town, you can snag a quick shiatsu for $20–30. Or check with your local cosmetology school for deals on a professional-quality facial.

One of my favorite skin care techniques is called dermaplaning. It involves scraping the top layer of dead skin off of your face with a small razor. It sounds crazy, but it will leave your skin feeling the smoothest it’s ever been! Watch a couple tutorials on YouTube, order the tool from Amazon for cheap, and you’re good to go. Trust me, if I can do it at home, you can too!

8. Makeup Brushes

When it comes to beauty items that bust the budget, I know people love high-quality makeup brushes. I have a really nice one for applying foundation. But for the basics like eye shadow and blush, the affordable drugstore brushes work just as well, and they last forever. And you can wash the brush every so often with soap and warm water.

9. Workout Plans

Peloton and Beachbody don’t own the market on working out from home. There are literally hundreds of millions of FREE workout videos on YouTube, with thousands of instructors coaching you through the workout style of your choice: yoga, Pilates, HIIT, weight training, you name it.

If you need the motivation of going to an actual gym, there are several chains like Workout Anytime that start around $10/month. Your local YMCA will also have a sliding scale where your monthly fee is based on your income.

10. Frequency

One of the best ways to maintain beauty on a budget is to simply cut back. If you want to make your money go further, you’ll need to reconsider weekly manicures or monthly false eyelashes. If you wash your hair every other day instead of daily, your shampoo and conditioner will last twice as long. And what if you went minimalist with your makeup? How much time and money would that save you?

Picture yourself 20 or 30 years from now, living in retirement. Will touching up your highlights twice a year instead of once every six weeks have a major impact on what you’re doing? It might, if you invested that money instead.

What if you could save $3,000 on beauty this year? How much faster would you be out of debt? How much sooner would you finish up your emergency fund?

When you’re in control over your money, you feel confident in yourself. You’re living out your values and creating a life you love. How beautiful is that?

If you’re on this journey to get out of debt and build wealth, I want to walk alongside you. My new book, Know Yourself, Know Your Money, will show you why you spend money the way you do and what to do about it.

You can also join my official Facebook community, where people are sharing their tips and experiences saving money every single day.

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Rachel Cruze

About the author

Rachel Cruze

Rachel Cruze is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, financial expert, host of The Rachel Cruze Show, and co-host of Smart Money Happy Hour. Rachel writes and speaks on personal finance, budgeting, investing and money trends. As a co-host of The Ramsey Show, America’s second-largest talk radio show, Rachel reaches millions of weekly listeners with her personal finance advice. She’s appeared on Good Morning America and Fox News and been featured in TIME, REAL SIMPLE and Women’s Health, among others. Through her shows, books, syndicated columns and speaking events, Rachel shares fun, practical ways to take control of your money and create a life you love. Learn More.

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