10 Ways to Simplify Your Beauty Routine and Save Money

Women's hands with a red manicure
You can easily give yourself a manicure. | iStock.com/iprogressman

Self-care is all the rage, but there can come a point when treating yourself right comes at the expense of caring for your bank account. Massages, gym memberships, haircuts, yoga classes, makeup, and other “essentials” add up. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself drowning in debt — and no miracle cream is going to fix the wrinkles that come with a major financial crisis.
Is it possible to balance your desire to look and feel good with your need to stay solvent? Definitely. The key is spending money on the stuff that matters and skipping all the things that don’t. It also means resisting the sometimes intense pressure to drop big bucks on beauty products and treatments, especially when they’re not necessarily right for you. If you’re searching for ways to cut your personal care budget, look no further. Here are 10 easy ways to simplify your beauty routine to save money.

1. DIY your manicure

A manicure can cost anywhere from $10 at a budget nail salon to $45 at a fancy spa, according to CostHelper, while pedicures run between $15 and $45. You could easily spend several hundred dollars a year if you’re getting your nails done once or twice a month.
To save money, consider scaling back your visits or only getting pedicures in the summer months, when people actually see your feet. Or, go the DIY route. Check out this guide to the at-home manicure to find out what you need to do to get salon-quality nails in the comfort of your own home.

2. Space out salon visits

Getting hair cut
Women get their hair cut at a salon. | Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for ELLE

No, we’re not going to suggest you start cutting your own hair (though that does work for some people). But if maintaining your locks has gotten too pricey, you do have options. One is to stretch the space between haircuts or coloring. If you’re in New York or San Francisco, where the average woman pays more than $70 for a haircut, according to Square, skipping two appointments per year could save you nearly $150 a year.
Another way to save? Take a chance on a stylist who’s still green. Less experienced stylists charge less. Or, if you’re feeling especially brave, get your hair cut by a student. Beauty schools offer cheap or even free hair cuts to willing volunteers. Don’t worry — students are supervised by experienced instructors.

3. Trim your own bangs

Hairdresser cutting woman bangs
A woman gets her bangs trimmed. | iStock.com/kzenon

Your fringe might look fabulous, but bangs require maintenance. Although many salons offer free bang trims for clients, some charge for the service. (A bang cleanup at an Ulta salon costs $13). And even if the trim is free, you might want to tip your stylist.
Hair care pros might squirm, but to save money, you can try cutting your own bangs at home. Cosmo has a step-by-step guide for how to wield the scissors, so you don’t end up with an uneven or too-short cut.

4. Cure your tanning addiction

Tanning bed at health club
Using tanning beds increases your skin cancer risk. | iStock.com/Ridofranz

Nearly 10 million Americans like to give their skin a glow by visiting indoor tanning salons, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. All those visits helped the tanning industry rake in $2.9 billion in 2010 alone. But even a single tanning session increases your risk of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology warns. Plus, it’s expensive. Tanning costs can vary from under $10 a session to $25 or more. And most people make multiple visits, so the price adds up fast. Plus, spray tans don’t damage your skin, but they’re still expensive. To save money, give up on the fake tans, and embrace the skin you’re in.

5. Pass on highly specific products

split-end repair product
A split-end repair product probably isn’t worth the cost. | Nicky J Sims/Getty Images

We’re going to let you in on a secret. You probably don’t need special primer for your eyelids, a scrub designed specifically for your feet, mascara for your bottom lashes only, a split-end sealer, or a cream that just goes on your neck. Those are among the beauty products the experts at Refinery29 say it’s OK to skip. Nothing bad will happen if you use your regular facial moisturizer on your neck, and you’ll save money (and room in your medicine cabinet) by striking it from your shopping list.

6. Embrace drug store makeup

yves saint laurent makeup
Skipping designer makeup for drugstore brands could save you a lot of money. | Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Some high-end makeup is worth it, but if you’re on a budget, don’t overlook the beauty aisle at Target. Your local drugstore is full of cheaper “dupes” of expensive products. Trade your Dior mascara for L’Oreal or your YSL liquid eyeliner for one made by Maybelline, and you can save $20 or more, according to Buzzfeed, which rounded up more than a dozen lookalike products.

7. Give up pore strips

woman hiding face under cover
Expensive pore strips can damage your skin. | iStock.com/megaflopp

There might be something grotesquely satisfying about using pore strips to yank blackheads from your nose, but you might want to eliminate them from your regular beauty routine. Using pore strips too often could damage your skin, according to Marie Claire, causing scarring and spider veins and exacerbating existing problems, such as rosacea. Plus, they don’t even work that well, removing gunk from the surface but not treating the underlying blackhead-causing problem. With a 14-count box of Biore strips selling for $7.52 on Amazon, you could save some scratch if you cut back on your strip use or eliminate them entirely from your beauty routine.

8. Stop buying expensive sunscreen

Young woman applying sunblock cream on legs
A woman applies sunscreen to her legs. | iStock.com/fizkes

You need to use sunscreen daily to protect against dangerous UVA and UVB rays, but the pricey stuff doesn’t necessarily do a better a job of keeping you safe. When Consumer Reports tested dozens of brands of sunscreen, a $36 bottle of lotion scored perfect marks, but so did a $6 spray from Trader Joe’s, Allure reported. Other sunscreens that earned high scores were Wal-Mart’s generic Equate brand and Coppertone Water Babies, which both cost less than $10.

9. Give up on cellulite creams

woman under beach umbrella
Cellulite creams won’t do much to get your body beach-ready. | iStock.com

You know the saying that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Well, that definitely applies to cellulite creams. You might be tempted to try one of these miracle products that promise to smooth and tighten your dimpled skin, so you look great for beach season. But any results you do see will be sadly temporary, according to Reader’s Digest. Some have ingredients that might briefly improve your skin’s appearance, a dermatologist told the magazine, but a better — and often cheaper — way to hide your skin’s flaws is to use your self-tanner on stubborn cellulite, which will make the uneven texture appear less visible.

10. Cancel beauty box subscriptions

Birchbox boxes
Beauty boxes often aren’t worth the cost. | Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Glamour

Getting a cute box full of sample-size products in the mail every month is fun, but a serious penchant for beauty subscriptions can get expensive. Birchbox costs $10 a month, or $120 a year, while Glossybox is $21 monthly. Even Target and Wal-Mart have budget-priced beauty boxes for under $10. While subscriptions can be a good way to try out new products, they’re not a good value if you’re mostly getting a bunch of moisturizers and tiny lipsticks you don’t use.
“[W]hen it comes to setting a budget, particularly for beauty expenses, I find that it’s a much financially wiser decision to use the trial-and-error method on full-size, fairly priced products until you find what satisfies you, and then stick with that product long-term,” Savanna Swain-Wilson wrote at The Financial Diet.