This is part of an ongoing series about how to trim the budget of the average American. As this series focuses on such broad-based tips, some will work for you and some will not. You’re invited to mention in the comments the tips that you found to be the most useful for inclusion in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of this series.
Personal Care – $588
Personal care is an area where you don’t “win” by cutting things out. Keep yourself clean. Brush your teeth. Basic hygiene keeps you clean and keeps you presentable, too.
Yet, even here, there are ways to trim a little bit of spending without affecting your cleanliness or appearance. Here are a few tactics worth considering.
Don’t buy grooming products at your local salon/barber shop. Even if they have the “perfect” product for you, don’t buy it there. The mark-up is often out of this world. Instead, jot down the product name (if that’s the one you must have) or the type of product, go home, and do your own research. Even if you decide you do need it, you can find the product cheaper elsewhere – and you’re still supporting a local business by using their services.
Don’t be afraid to try the lower-cost brands. I used to believe my hair needed certain products to look good. Now I usually use Pert Plus or, sometimes, whatever happens to be on sale. It looks fine – and I would have never known this if I hadn’t tried it to begin with. Give the low-cost brands a try – you might be surprised to find that your hair is just fine. Of course, this isn’t always true – if that’s the case, don’t hestitate to immediately switch back to what works.
Yes, it’s true here, too – bulk buying and coupons work. Once you’ve identified products that work for you, buy them in large quantities, ideally with the aid of a coupon. I always buy three-packs of deodorant, three packs of toothpaste, enormous jugs of shampoo, and the like. It’s significantly cheaper per use.
Cut down (or cut out entirely) the perfume and/or cologne. Sure, it’s fine for a date, but for day-to-day use, it’s not worth it. It often sends the wrong social signal and some people don’t appreciate the smell at all – or even have allergies. Use deodorant and keep yourself clean and you’re fine for day to day purposes.
Cut down on the cosmetics, too. The only reason someone should wear cosmetics is if it improves their self-confidence. If you’re not getting that, don’t invest the time or the money in cosmetics for daily use. Most of the time, people look great without it.
Read the directions. You need surprisingly little shampoo or conditioner to clean your hair. You need surprisingly little toothpaste to clean your teeth. If you have a habit of using more than just a dab of any product, read the directions and make sure you’re not over-using. If you’re using three times as much as you should, you’re buying three bottles for every one you actually need to buy.
Get the last little bit out. When the toothpaste tube seems empty, put the cap back on and cut off the bottom – you can still squeeze out a surprising amount. When the shampoo or conditioner run low, turn them upside down and leave them that way for a day – you’ll get another couple of washes. Don’t just throw away perfectly good stuff – that’s the same as throwing cash out the door.
Make your own – when it works. One great example is hand sanitizer – just mix one cup of aloe vera (it’s not too expensive, even if you have to buy it – even better if it’s free because you have access to a plant), one half cup of isopropyl alcohol, and a drop or two of an essential oil you like. Mix well, put it in a squirt bottle, and you have a much cheaper alternative to Purell that’s basically the exact same thing. You can make your own versions of many such things, like toothpaste (seriously, just mix half a cup of baking soda, a tiny dash of salt, 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide, one drop of peppermint oil if you like it minty, and just a bit of stevia to make it sweet – stevia can be found at most health food stores – and just mix it into a paste) or skin care products (just use lemon juice).
I want your help! In the comments, please let me know which of the tips you find most useful for trimming these costs. I’ll include the top choices in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of the series.