7 Ways to Save Money on Beauty and Still Look Fantastic

save money beauty budget

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Lately I've been considering how Western standards of beauty impact women's finances and their ability to invest. 

We know, for instance, that women do not invest at nearly the same rate as men.

And not only do women tend to live longer than men and thus need more savings, women also tend to be the primary caregivers for children, grandchildren, and their own aging parents.

This can certainly decrease our ability to work and our need for more cash over the long run. 

Which brings me back to beauty...

It's no secret that women both face pressure to look more polished than men, but also that many of us enjoy the process.

I am one of those women. I like wearing makeup. I feel good when my nails are painted and my brows look sharp. 

While many women admirably choose to forgo traditional beauty routines in order to save money (and time!), that's just not me. And I'm guessing for many of you, that doesn't sound like your cup of tea either. 

Both of these means of achieving beauty in our lives are wonderful and personal. I certainly won't say that one is better than the other.

This post, however, is for all you girls who want to keep your traditional beauty routines while saving a pile of money.

The average woman spends $313 per month or $225,000 over her lifetime on beauty. That's a pretty steep price tag to spend on  just one area of our lives, and yet for many of us it is incredibly important.

But here's a thought...

Investing just half of that amount at 7% from the age of 18 to 65 would yield $659,449!

And that would still leave you with a budget of $156 per month to spend on beauty.

Like every area of our lives, finding small ways to spend less, invest more, and still get satisfaction from our decisions is key. 

So how do you reduce your beauty budget while still looking fabulous?

save money on beauty

1. Choose Your Beauty Services Wisely

I'm not going to tell you to cut out every beauty service you're currently paying to receive. While that is certainly one way to save money, for many of us it is neither fun nor reasonable.

As a stay-at-home mom, I am fortunate enough to have the time to do all of my own beauty routines. I rarely go to salons or spas, simply because I can do all of it myself. 

Of course, things are a lot different if you are a full-time working woman who doesn't have time to do 837 beauty tasks each week on top of your full time job. 

And if you are working a job where a certain level of beauty and grooming is necessary to advance in your career, the DIY method may not always cut it!

how to save money on beauty

Step one for cutting your beauty budget is to choose one or two beauty services that truly bring you joy, and keep them. Marie Kondo that ish! If it doesn't bring you joy, stop paying for it.

For me, I have never enjoyed getting my haircut. I know lots of women do, but I've always found it boring and more of a chore than anything.

And because my hair is wavy, I can rarely tell the difference after I've had a professional haircut.

So you know what? I've started cutting it myself. And surprise surprise, no one has noticed. 

Cutting it at home takes me less than 15 minutes, and easily puts several hundred dollars per year back in my pocket.

2. Marie Kondo Your Beauty Products

The second step to reducing your beauty budget is to Marie Kondo the beauty products you are using.

Check out any woman's makeup bag, and you will see that there are typically 3-5 products she uses every single day, and about 22 that never get touched. 

Yep, I'm the same way. If I find a beauty product I absolutely love and it looks great on me, you can bet that I will be wearing it for the next 3 years.

So dump out your purse, throw away all that old makeup that's collecting dust, and buy only the products that bring you joy. 

how to save on beauty makeup-min

3. Know Your Makeup Dupes

Short for duplicates, makeup dupes are generic versions of high-end products that look or work exactly the same as the higher end version. 

If you are curious, you can check out NY magazines best beauty dupes here.

In my years of beautifying, I've come across some really clever makeup dupes, and I want to share them with you here!

Deep Conditioner Dupes

While this doesn't apply to every brand, if you look at many drugstore brands that offer both a conditioner and deep conditioner, there is rarely a difference.

Often these companies will put the exact same conditioner in a smaller bottle, label it "deep conditioner", and charge twice as much for it.

Sneaky, right?

The best way to find out if there is a difference between conditioners is to check the ingredient labels side by side. 

Makeup Primer Dupe

Oh makeup primer! It makes your skin look flawless and your makeup adhere for all day perfection. The stuff is pretty much magic in a bottle.

But is it magic that should cost $36 per ounce? No freakin' way!

While most makeup brands offer an expensive version of both face primer and eyelid primer, there a few secrets you should know. 

First, there's rarely a difference between the face primer and eyelid primer, so any primer will work.

And second, anti-chafe gel is the same thing.


For real, primer and anti-chafe gel are both primarily made from dimethicone, which smooths out the skin and makes it more slippery.

The big difference here?

Smashbox Photo Finish primer costs $36 per ounce, while Monistat Anti-Chafe Gel costs $4.24 per ounce.

Check out the ingredients of the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel below: 

save money on beauty makeup-min
save money on beauty makeup-min

Both of these products are made from the same ingredients: Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Silica, Trisoloxane, and Tocopheryl acetate.

Sure, the Smashbox version includes a few seed extracts to help moisturize your skin, but I hardly feel like that warrants the price tag.

Makeup Removing Wipes Dupe

I'm still mad at myself that I didn't figure this out 10 years earlier.

It took me until I had a baby to realize that unscented baby wipes work exactly the same as makeup removing wipes, and yet they are literally a quarter of the cost.

Seriously, makeup removing wipes are a total scam (in my humble opinion). Most packages start at $9 or more, and hold 100 wipes or less.

A package of unscented baby wipes? 500 wipes for $2-$3.

You're welcome.

DIY Teeth Whitening 

I don't know about you, but I certainly cringe when I see a $50 price tag on a package of teeth whitening strips at my local grocery store. 

It's highway robbery!

As it turns out, hydrogen peroxide is usually the number one ingredient in these fancy teeth whitening strips. and you know what is one of the cheapest things you can buy at the drugstore?

Hydrogen peroxide.

Sure, the hydrogen peroxide you buy at the drugstore is usually a 3% solution, whereas the teeth whitening strips usually have 5% to 10% solutions.

Either way, this means you'll simply need to do the DIY version a little more often to see the same results.

So how do you whiten your teeth for pennies?

Easy. Put one teaspoon baking soda and 1 tbsp hydrogen peroxide in your mouth and brush your teeth for 1 to 2 minutes. Rinse well.

You won't notice a huge difference the first time you do this, but after a few times you'll notice your teeth brightening up nicely.

Plus, with this method you'll be sure to whiten all of your teeth, not just the front ones that the strip touches. Double win!

4. Use As Few Products As Possible to Get The Look You Want

The beauty industry has developed an ingenius marketing scheme of convincing us that we need to have enough makeup and beauty products to fill an entire bathroom cabinet if we want to look great at all times.

I called BS.

Beauty is one of those things where the 80/20 rule really applies.

Which means...

80% of your results will come from just 20% of the products available to you. 

Hell, I'd be willing to bet it's closer to 90/10. 

For me, my essential products are sunscreen, mascara, lipstick, and an eyebrow pencil. Everything else is just fluff.

Sure, I may be able to look marginally better if I have my concealer, foundation, and a contouring kit. But in reality, most people aren't going to be able to tell the difference.

These four go-to staples are really all I need to look put together on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, your 80/20 products will likely be different than mine!

The point is that most of your results are going to come from just a couple of products and routines, and the rest is mostly a waste of money.

(If you're wondering why on Earth I added sunscreen to this list- Hello, it's invisible!- check out my post on My Top Secret Master Plan for Saving Thousands on Beauty here.)

5. Always Use Ebates and Honey for Online Beauty Purchases

If you've read much of my blog at this point, you're probably totally tired of hearing me talk about Ebates and Honey. I mention them constantly. 

But! It's for a good reason.

Ebates and Honey save me so much when I shop online, I'd feel like a jerk if I didn't mention them here!

Okay, so what the heck are they?

Ebates (now called Rakuten) is a cash back site that partners with thousands of companies to give customers cash back on their purchases.

how to use ebates rakuten

At the time of this writing, they currently give 4% cash back for both Ulta and Sephora purchases.

It's free to sign up, and they don't mess around with points or credits or anything lame like that. They actually give you cash back in the form of PayPal or a mailed check.

You can sign up for an Ebates/Rakuten account and get $10 cash in your account when you do by using this referral link.

Related post- My Brutally Honest Review of Ebates {2019}

And now for Honey…

Honey is a gem of a site that scours the internet for discount codes and automatically applies the highest one to your cart at checkout. All you have to do is download their free extension, and they take care of the rest.

save money honey

I often get between 10% and 30% off discounts applied at check out when I purchase just about anything online. It's honestly saved me so much over the course of a year, and better yet, you can use them both at the same time.

Yep. You heard that right. You can use both Ebates and Honey for the same transaction.

Wanna know how?

Lets say you go to Macys.com and start shopping. 

The Ebates extension reminder appears and asks you if you'd like to activate your cash back. You activate your cash back, and you're instantly set to receive cash back on anything you buy.

Then you shop around and end up purchasing a couple of beauty items for a total of $95.50. You get to check out, and the Honey sign appears and asks you if you'd like to apply coupons. (Of course you do.)

honey discount coupons

It thinks for a moment or two (see above) and... Bam! You've just saved $20.25 on your $95.50 purchase, for a total of $75.25.

And as if this wasn't already impressive enough, this wonderful little money saving hack doesn't just apply to beauty items.

You can use this system for almost anything you buy online. Ebates has partnered with over 2,000 stores, so there's a pretty good chance the store you are shopping at will be on their list.

save money honey discount extension

6. Use Groupon to Try Out New Beauty Services

Groupon is such a great way to save money on beauty and massage services, it's a wonder they are still in business!

Their entire business model revolves around pricing services at 30% to 50% off, so you know you are getting a good deal.

This is a great way to get affordable services like nail care, haircuts, waxing, and more. While I still recommend doing as much of it yourself as is reasonable for your lifestyle, some of us still need to get a few services done.

Whether it saves you time or sanity, using Groupon is well worth trying out a new place for a good deal. Just remember to tip well!

7. Look For Local Beauty Schools in Your Area

When I was a young broke teenager, I started looking for ways to get beauty services done at a fraction of the cost as you'll usually pay at a salon. And low and behold, I found beauty schools!

Beauty schools are seriously my best kept secret for beauty on a budget when you can't DIY it. 

Back then I was able to get a manicure for $5, a professional hair glaze for $12, and pedicures for $7.

It will certainly depend on the area you live, but the truth is that beauty schools are dirt cheap because they are there to give their students practice.

beauty school discount services-min

Beau Monde- My favorite beauty school from my hometown Portland, OR

These students aren't going to be quite as knowledgeable as the local esthetician at your favorite salon, but they aren't bad either!

I always had great experiences when I visited the beauty school back in Portland, although my sister did have one very unfortunate haircut experience.

I'd recommend avoiding those if you are looking for something more complicated than just a trim.


There's no doubt in my mind that beauty can be expensive for women over the long term. However, if it's something that is important to you, you can do it on a budget and still get the same results! 

Let's recap my favorite ways to save money on beauty:

  1. Keep the beauty services that bring you joy, and ditch the rest.
  2. Marie Kondo your makeup bag and don't buy more than you need.
  3. Know the best makeup dupes so you don't pay top dollar for the same product.
  4. Use as few products as possible to get the look you want.
  5. Always use Ebates and Honey when shopping online (not just for beauty supplies!)
  6. Use Groupon to try out really affordable beauty and wellness services.
  7. Try out a beauty school or two for cheap manis, pedis, and facials.

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