Updated on 09.10.14

Trimming the Average Budget: Personal Care and Hygiene

Trent Hamm

Personal Care – $588/year

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.

Cutting Down Your Personal Hygiene Budget

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.

Buy in bulk and use coupons

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.

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  1. anna says:

    Suggestions for those people who use cosmetics, Sign up to sell the product yourself. I “sell” Mary-Kay products because I get a 50% off discount on everything, I pass the discount along to family members who order from me twice a year to help me meet my $400 min. order and I get great products that I love for dirt cheap.

  2. Kacie says:

    Don’t forget you can get many toiletries FOR FREE by working the “drugstore deals” — combining coupons with sales and rebates, etc. See moneysavingmom.com for details.

  3. Dale says:

    Concerning hair: really, it doesn’t need to washed all that often either. Unless you’ve got something in it from doing something dirty (like that one guy at the car shop who forgot to drain the oil before taking off the filter…he was covered head to toe), just give it a quick rinse and let you’re hairs natural oils do their work at keeping it soft. I’ve been only washing my hair once, maybe twice a week, for almost a year now, and if anything, I like my hair better now than before.

  4. marie says:

    I agree with Dale, you don’t need to wash your hair every day. I wash my long hair every second day. Washing it more often than that would make it too dry. That way I save on shampoo and conditioner.

    I also agree on forgoing cologne. After an hour, the smell will be gone anyways. I’m actually a bit grossed out by people who seem to wear a LOT of cologne in order to cover up other smells.

    And I don’t know if cosmetics fall into this, but I think it is important to reconsider if you really need to use them or not. Or at least if you need them on a daily basis. I can see the need when you have a date, interview or special event, but for going to class, who cares.

  5. Holly says:

    I had been buying the “family” size bottles of shampoo and conditioner for a while now because it’s so much cheaper. But, I realized that I used twice as much of the uber-cheap brand than the more expensive brands. Working out the math, I switched to a better cost per wash than cost per ounce.

  6. triLcat says:

    i disagree about cosmetics. When I worked in an office, I noticed that women who wore a little bit of lipstick or gloss and some eyeliner and (for those with less smooth skin) foundation tended to be taken more seriously and treated better. It’s like part of the business attire. (not saying it’s right or wrong, just saying what I observed)

    When it comes to toothpaste, making your own is not all it’s cracked up to be – there’s no fluoride in the above recipe. Instead buy based on what’s on sale and what you can get a good price on.

    Toothbrushes also take a bite out of the budget if you change them regularly, so we try to buy a bunch whenever we see a good price. I consulted a dentist and really, cheap toothbrushes don’t give results that are as good.

  7. Steven says:

    Ditto on the toothpaste lacking fluoride. Not ABSOLUTELY necessary, but a bonus to keeping teeth healthy.

    And your hand sanitizer recipe doesn’t do anything. There isn’t enough alcohol in there.

  8. Noadi says:

    Sorry Trent, your male-ness is coming through a bit much here. While it would be wonderful if women weren’t expected to wear makeup at work but fact is we are. We will be judged as being less serious or lazy if we don’t. However you can save money on makeup by being more subtle with it, a little foundation, blush, lip gloss and mascara and you’re good to go for the office. You don’t need the high end makeup brands generally, I’ve found that the foundation for my skin is plain old covergirl. Same goes for moisturizer, most anti-aging claims are a crock, so do you really need to spend much to keep your skin from getting dry?

    DO NOT make your own toothpaste if you don’t have fluoridated water. It’s no good saving money on toothpaste if you end up with higher dentist bills.

  9. Kyle says:

    You can actually make a lot of personal hygiene items yourself. Matt over at Debt Free Adventure een posted an article on homemade toothpaste. The most important thing is controllingthe amount of product you use. You don’t need a handfull of shampoo to wash your hair. Like you pointed out people need to read the directions and products will last longer.

  10. Rosa Rugosa says:

    I used to use only L’Occitane hand cream at $25. or more a tube. I guess I like the name, the packaging and the smell. One winter day, I made a fist, and my knuckles started to bleed, prompting me to wonder why I was spending so much money on something that clearly wasn’t very effective. Surely I could get bleeding knuckles for less money?? I switched to Aveeno, which is 1/3 of the cost and actually seems to be more effective.
    I’ve also made a “dribs and drabs” pledge to myself. I have quite a few partially filled containers of personal care or home cleaning products where I’ve found a brand I like better, but there is really nothing wrong with the products I had been using before. So I’m going to use up the rest of the Softscrub for example, and never buy it again. This will save me some money and also reduce clutter in my little house.

  11. Debbie M says:

    Actually, I do need a handful of shampoo to wash my hair; I have long hair and small hands. (Just kidding, but I couldn’t resist.)

    I would have to recommend getting sunscreen. If you’re putting lotion on, pay extra to get the kind with sunscreen. If not, and you hate putting on sunscreen, pay extra to get a spray-on kind that’s easy to apply.

    I agree about the make-up–it’s definitely part of the uniform in some work environments and even some urban environments. Fortunately, I live in a very casual city and, although wearing make-up at work would help my image a bit, I’m not all that out of line not wearing it.

    My favorite ways to save on personal care and hygiene:
    * cut my own hair (I wear it long with no bangs, and it’s wavy, so even if it isn’t totally perfectly even, it doesn’t matter)
    * wear pearl earrings and necklace instead of make-up
    * trim my own fingernails
    * wear sunscreen (it’s cheaper than anti-wrinkle cream)
    * stay away from disposables

  12. Jennifer says:

    I also don’t wash my hair every day. It looks better the 2nd day after washing and means savings on shampoo, conditioner & water (I can shower in about 3 minutes when I’m not washing my hair). We pay more in fees than we do for the actual water we use. I also tried tinted moisturizer, so I don’t need a separate foundation & sunscreen/moisturizer.

  13. Megan says:

    I have all sorts of little tricks, but the one no one seems to have touched on yet is the DOLLAR STORE! I buy my qtips (cotton swabs), my husband’s shaving cream, and my family’s toothbrushes there. I get 4-5 toothbrushes in a single pack–that’s 20-25 cents each–and they also package kid’s toothbrushes this way. Best deal ever. (Oh, and little secret: if you use medium bristle toothbrushes and brush your gums as well as your teeth, you don’t have to floss. My dental hygienist and my dentist have no idea that I don’t floss–they always tell me how pink and healthy my gums look, and I’m not about to enlighten them. Just don’t scrub at your teeth too hard with the medium bristles–you could eventually wear down the enamel.)

  14. Megan says:

    @Rosa (#10): Neutrogena Hand Cream. Costs a couple of dollars. So worth it.

  15. Sara says:

    I agree with Kacie about combining sales and coupons. If you live near a CVS store, iheartcvs.com is awesome — you can get stuff for free or nearly free almost every week.

    I also agree with cutting down on the cosmetics. I realize some women are pressured to wear makeup to look “professional,” but even so, you don’t need to buy expensive brands or the latest products in the trendiest colors.

  16. Gretchen says:

    Make your own skin care products by using lemon juice?

    I’m obviously reading something wrong here.

  17. Maureen says:

    I agree that your hand sanitizer recipe is pretty useless. if I recall correctly it should contain at least 65% alcohol to be effective. You would be better off buying Purell or using plain old soap and water.

    Sunscreen is vital to protect yourself from UV damage that can lead to cancer as well as cause wrinkles. Don’t skimp on it.

  18. Ashley says:

    Flossing IS important. Built-up plaque between teeth absorbs into the arteries and plays a role in heart disease. There is no substitute for flossing. It will not only save your teeth…it could save your life. I encourage all readers of SD to Google this.

    We always use a tad of toothpaste (Colgate or Crest) and a dusting of baking soda. We rinse (gargle…don’t swallow) with a solution of hydrogen peroxide. Very cheap, and much, much better than straight toothpaste or totally homemade concoctions.

    For women readers…explore using natural sea sponges in lieu of tampons. Also explore a cotton ball dabbed in extra-virgin olive oil in lieu of expensive moisturizers.

  19. anna says:

    I’ve gone shampoo-less, to an extent, after considering that shampoo and conditioner are full of chemicals and preservatives that I can’t even pronounce the names of. Who really knows how safe these are? Baking soda and a vinegar rinse get the job done, much cheaper too. I feel better not supporting the industries that produce chemical products that pollute our environment.

    As for reading directions – I know from my old marketing job that directions on packaging often encourage overuse of the product. Use more, run out sooner, buy more often, that is what manufacturers want. Sometimes I use half or less of whatever is recommended, with good results.

  20. Debbie M says:

    Oh, I forgot one: if you’re replacing your toothbrush just because it’s old and therefore maybe covered in germs, you can boil it for a minute instead to take care of the problem. If you’re replacing it because the bristles are starting to curl up, then go for it.

  21. Michele says:

    All I can say is, GROCERY OUTLET. Top quality personal hygiene items-example, Suave 2 in 1 professional 18 ounces, $1– body and hand lotion-example, Aveeno positively radiant 10.3 ounces $1, face moisturizer-example, Garnier Nutritioniste skin renew 2.5 ounces $2.99 and makeup for incredibly cheap prices. Oh and I usually get 6 toothbrushes for $1 there- and they are good ones!! They also carry generic OTC medicines- for example, I just bought ‘naproxyn’ or however you spell it, that is also Aleve, for $1.99 for 50 pills. They are on Twitter, too :)

  22. KC says:

    Yes, please leave off the cologne/perfume – it isn’t necessary at all if you are clean.

    As for toothpaste UltraBright (or maybe UltraBrite?) gets very high ratings and is dirt cheap. A tube is usually less than $1. I never spend more than $1 on toothpaste. A lot of these “whitening” and tarter control toothpastes strip the enamel off your teeth. I have very sensitive teeth and when I use anything with whitening or tarter control I can tell they get more sensitive. I just use a regular gel or paste.

    I disagree that salon products are more expensive than what you can find elsewhere. There is one Aveda product I use that I can’t find a non-name brand substitute for. It’s $19 a jar and lasts about a year. I’ve looked online and can’t find it for less than $18 and shipping. So I just buy it from my hair salon. I’ve looked at the other products they sell, too, for comparison’s sake, and my salon’s prices are pretty much the same as the best I can find online – if you are into buying those products.

  23. Courtney says:

    I just looked at my bottle of hand sanitizer and it says it’s 62% alcohol…I wonder if you didn’t mean 1 cup isopropyl alcohol and 1/2 cup aloe vera instead of vice versa?

  24. Bill says:

    It just seems like common sense if your a man you would not give women advice on topics like makeup, you simply do not have their life experience.

    As expressed above, DO NOT GIVE ADVICE ABOUT CHEMISTRY unless you know what your doing, your alcohol ratio is way to low and is not safe.

  25. almost there says:

    Woah, 1/2 a cup baking soda! That would be enough to brush the teeth in the mouth of an elephant. My dad used to use just a shake of baking soda with a little salt in his lift hand and he would dip into it and brush his teeth. Once you add hydorgen peroxide to the baking soda it can’t be used later and I don’t think one can use up a half cup of baking soda during one teeth brushing session.

  26. almost there says:

    …”left” hand…

  27. Bill says:

    I’m trying to process your post, the first occurrence of the word “left” is your post. The word “hand” does not appear in Trent’s post.

    After spending a lot of time, the closes I can come is a reference to post @25 where they said “in his lift hand”, that could be mistaken for ‘left hand’ but in context with the next phrase of ‘dip into’ I think the original poster was with in the rules of the English language. You do need to lift before you dip.h

  28. Margaret says:

    I use perfume, but it’s the one thing I never need to buy because so many people have given it to me as a gift. I like foaming hand soap and I discovered that you can buy a giant bottle of store brand disinfecting soap for cheap, take 3 tablespoons of that and mix it with water in an empty foaming (not the normal pump) hand cleanser bottle and it will foam up just like the real stuff. If you get unscented liquid soap, you can add a few drops of rose oil or lavender oil or any scent that you want. You can skip the expensive anti-aging creams and go right to a vitamin C&E cream, those are the best for anti-aging. Swansons vitamins sells them and most of the pharmacies have their own brands. I buy store brands of nearly everything except feminine hygiene products, citrucel and toilet paper because I have very specific products that I like and none of the knock offs measure up. The best deals on shampoo are usually Suave or Treseme.

    For makeup, I wear the minimum but I try to double up on some products. My foundation is more expensive but it contains a sunscreen and has a matte finish that requires no powder. I use Physoderm soap and I don’t need to use a makeup remover as well.

  29. Jesse says:

    We don’t use hand sanitizer unless we don’t have soap and water available, and it’s for one reason and one reason alone – in high school, for a biology class, we did an experiment with some germs and hand sanitizer vs. soap and hot water, soap and cold water, alcohol, and hot and cold water (each of those last separately). What we EACH found (independently) was that the alcohol and soap with hot water seemed to work about the same, and MUCH better than the hand sanitizer (I believe we used Purell), though the hand sanitizer worked better than the other methods. So it would work, but not as well as soap and hot water or alcohol. It was interesting. So, like I said, we don’t use it unless one of those other two options are not available. Something to think about…
    Other tips sounded great though!

  30. Amy says:

    It’s worth it to me to pay what I have to for products not tested on animals. Fortunately Whole Foods (and many other health food-type stores) has a store brand with plenty of choices for cheap, and no animals suffered. It’s ridiculous that shampoo is rubbed in some bunny’s eye, but that’s what happens to every brand that doesn’t say ‘not tested on animals’ right on the bottle.

    I have been pleased to find fragrance-free versions of body wash and other products in the Whole Foods house brand as well; many fragranced products give me a rash!

  31. Meghan says:

    Hand sanitizer in general doesn’t work, at least not the way most people think. Isopropyl alcohol is bacteriostatic, meaning that it stops the growth of bacteria – it doesn’t kill them. If you want to kill the bacteria, wash your hands. Your best defense is frequent hand washing and keeping your hands away from mucous membranes – eyes, nose, mouth, etc.

    Also those Clorox wipes grocery stores put out for the carts…try reading the directions. You have to keep the surface wet with the product for 10 minutes in order to kill the bacteria.

  32. triLcat says:

    If you use liquid soap, buy a loofah (the cheap, synthetic plastic kind is fine and you can probably get 3/$1 at the dollar store). You’ll quickly see that you need less than the size of a marble to get enough lather for your whole body if you use a loofah.

    As far as reusable tampons, I think a menstrual cup is less distasteful than having to squeeze blood out of a sea sponge, but it still takes some getting used to, and is a real hassle to use in public restrooms. I’d be more likely to watch the sales and the coupons for those things.

    And please, no medium bristles. SOFT bristles only. And I wouldn’t boil the toothbrush. it could melt. Soak it in listerine for a minute instead.

  33. Alice says:

    I’d second triLcat’s recommendation of menstrual cups (brands I’m aware of are the Diva Cup and the Keeper). I’ve gone through two in about 6 years, so instead of spending $5 on tampons every month, adding up to $360 over 6 years, I’ve spent ~$50 total (2 x $25). It’s been a huge savings, as well as something better for the environment since I’m not wasting paper every month. I haven’t actually had a problem with changing it in public restrooms. My solution is to wipe it out with toilet paper and just put it back in, rather than rinsing. Not a single UTI or other infection in 6 years.

  34. deRuiter says:

    Hand santizer has to be more than 60% alcohol to work. Get the generic brands in the big bottles and refil the small bottles which you carry. It’s a lot better than nothing.

  35. Marlene says:

    If you are going to try making your own toothpaste, don’t use stevia to sweeten it, instead use xylitol. It has proven cavity fighting properties, so it doesn’t matter that you don’t have flouride. It is also available at health food store.

  36. sam says:

    Floride is a joke & it’s bad for you – it a brain toxin that be absorbed by the skin.
    Years ago, during a lay off, I started to use straight baking soda and have never gone back to conventional. My teeth feel cleaner & are doing better. My dentist is instistant I do more then I do but I don’t. The sugary drink stain s on my teeth disappeared within a year – and the enamel isn’t getting damaged anymore (concerns my dentist had).
    The taste took a bit to ignore but I don’t even mind it now & the $1.50 a year on “toothpaste” is good for the pocket book.

  37. Denise says:

    I have thick hair and I only shampoo every 4 days-I “wash” it with just conditioner in between. I use dollar store lotion to shave with and try to used generic brands for the other items. I have had good luck with Good Housekeeping Magazine’s rating of beauty products, especially makeup. They do a really good job rating beauty products and I have switched over to many of their cheaper recommended products. I also brush with baking soda but only in the morning and use on-sale flouride toothpaste at night.

  38. Jules says:

    I think you’re forgetting how much women will spend on little tubs of creams that make their wrinkles disappear and what-all. My mother is one of those women who buys super-expensive creams…personally, I never could understand the point. And makeup…I never did understand the point of that, either. You put it on in the morning and then spend the entire day fretting about whether it’s smearing or smudging, and then it gives you zits if you don’t take it off well enough at night.

  39. spaces says:

    I like my fancy face cream. But I don’t like retail price. So I get it in large sizes, for a fraction of retail, on ebay.

  40. Joan says:

    BE SURE THAT you read where your toothpaste is manufactured. There was a recall some time ago for toothpaste made in another country. Making your own toothpaste is a good deal; most every city in the states has floride in their water. Very good post and I really enjoyed the comments altho, I only got through about half of the comments for now. I will finish reading the rest of the comments later. I just don’t understand how any family can spend $588 dollars a year on personal care unless they buy only the highest priced items on the market.

  41. Becky says:

    How important makeup is for women varies widely by region and occupation.

    I grew up in the South, and not wearing makeup in most Southern cities is interpreted as a lack of self-esteem, laziness, or inconsiderateness toward others. I don’t really like to wear makeup, but you bet I did when I lived there, in order not to handicap myself socially.

    Once I moved to the Northeast where excesive makeup is considered rather tawdry, I put my makeup in my travel bag, and wear it on special occasions and when I vist family down South.

    That said, *very* few women don’t look nicer for a light swipe of mascara and a little lip stuff. A few tubes of each per year won’t break the bank.

  42. Claudia says:

    I’d like to second the don’t use perfume or cologne. Not to be frugal, but to be considerate of others. Some, I can tolerate, but some affect my asthma so bad, that I can not breathe- literally, not an exageration. Generally, the severe reactions are to the people who reek as if they’ve poured 1/2 the bottle over their head. I’ve had to leave stores because of the pain associated with trying to breathe while my airways are constricting. So, if you insist upon using it in public, have some consideration for others and keep it to a few dabs or small sprays. It really doesn’t cover up body odor, you just have body odor with a perfume scent.

  43. Des says:

    @Bill #27

    Notice the poster of comment #25 and #26 is the same. “almost there” was correcting himself, not Trent’s post. He meant to say “…salt in his LEFT hand…” rather than “…salt in his LIFT hand…”

  44. Des says:

    I’m also with Amy that it is important to buy from cruelty-free companies. I know testing cosmetics doesn’t sound bad, but they do more to the animals than dress them up in pretty make-up.

    It doesn’t necessarily have to cost more, either. It just takes being aware of which companies to buy from. Caring Consumer has a list, and it just takes looking them up. I found a lot of the companies I already buy from were on the “good” list, and others were an easy switch and were the same price.

  45. Heather says:

    I’m in love with baking soda and vinegar. Vinegar for cleaning, baking soda for shampoo. I’ve been using baking soda on my hair for a month now, and after a 3-week adjustment period, my hair is doing fine. I can’t stand the taste of it, or I’d probably be using it as toothpaste too.

  46. Ann says:

    I just found that major cosmetic sites like LORAC have a discount section – so the eyeshadow I loved is now 75% off – even with paying shipping, it’s a good deal on good quality. Some friends went in on an order with me, too – so we could get enough for free shipping without buying more than we needed.

  47. Ann says:

    Makeup is one thing I can’t do without and keep working. But I’ve learned to not buy cheap stuff: throwing out a couple of tubes of funny-color lipstick kills the savings!

    I just found that major cosmetic sites like LORAC have a discount section – so the eyeshadow I loved is now 75% off – even with paying shipping, it’s a good deal on good quality. Some friends went in on an order with me, too – so we could get enough for free shipping without buying more than we needed.

  48. Nancy says:

    For those of you that use baking soda for shampoo–how much do you use? Do you mix it up with water to form a paste? I think I’ll try that idea.

    As a couple of others have mentioned, cutting down on the numerous chemicals you put on your skin is such a good idea. Wearing less make-up would be one way to do this–and if more women would wear less make-up, it would become more acceptible.

    For those of you who are going to use the standard cosmetics and hair care products, you might want to pick up a copy of Paula Begoun’s books, “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me” and “Don’t Buy Haircare Products Without Me.” She rates cosmetics & haircare products on their effectiveness and a lot of the products she recommends are the less expensive ones (White Rain shampoo & conditioner, for example).

  49. Henry says:

    @ #17

    If sanitizer needs to contain ‘65%’ alcohol, why is Purell only 62%?

    Alcohol concentration must be above 60% for alcohol rubs to be effective in killing microbes. Researchers at East Tennessee State University found that products with alcohol concentrations as low as 40% are available in American stores.

  50. Amanda says:

    I save by using other products differently. For example: For astringent I use witches hazel. Just a few dabs on a cotton swap and it’s great for oily skin. I also use a quarter size amount of honey (just poured out onto my hand) and then cover it with sea salt (just straight from the baking isle) and you got yourself a great body exfoliation. I use it one or twice a week in the shower. It’s so much cheaper then buying similar items from the beauty sections in any store.

  51. littlepitcher says:

    I cut the cheapest and lowest-alcohol mouthwash 50% with hydrogen peroxide, and add a tiny dab of antibacterial detergent. Works well.

    Because I work in nasty environments, I use half antibacterial dish detergent and half shampoo, and full dish detergent for shower body wash.

    Flea markets have great deals on cosmetics and toiletries. I generally use a scented hand lotion or cream in lieu of perfume, and cut it by half with either unscented hand cream, or petroleum jelly, whichever is cheapest. Half peroxide and half methylated (green) alcohol makes an excellent astringent.

    Women who don’t wear cosmetics do get treated with disrespect, and I was once asked if I was “too cheap or too poor” to wear them. I use a colored lip pencil and an eye pencil for brows and liner, nothing else, to keep the b***’s off my back.

  52. Vicky says:


    I’m pretty well respected in my current job, and I’ve never worn makeup a day in my life. Not even for my wedding.

  53. Sunshine says:

    @ Nancy and others looking into using baking soda for shampoo, check out “no ‘poo” online. You will find a plethora of information about it. Just know that there may be an adjustment period that can be gross if you hate really oily hair. I tried it for a while (longer than the adjustment period) and didn’t care for it, but I did it long enough that I reduced the amount of oil in my hair. Now, I only wash my hair with a real shampoo about 1x per week.

  54. R says:

    Menstrual cups and sea sponges? Disgusting! Washing your hair twice a week? That would make my hair an oily mess! I think I can find other ways to save money. Some of these suggestions go too far.

  55. Kristen says:

    Some low-cost shampoos and soaps come in containers with HUGE openings (e.g. V05). I always put them in another container (usually leftover from something else) so that I don’t accidentally pour a huge amount into my hand.

    I vote for not shaving my legs when it is not necessary in order to reduce costs. Wear pants more and shave less.

    As for makeup… I suppose I should wear it, but I just cannot wrap my mind around why it is so blooming important to put pastes and chemicals on your face every day and clean it off every night in order to be respected at work. All of my coworkers, husband, and future employers are just going to have to DEAL WITH IT.

  56. Laura in Seattle says:

    Re: #51 – if anyone asks you if you are “too cheap or too poor’ to wear makeup, tell them you are too pretty. :-)

  57. chacha1 says:

    $588/yr = $49/mo. This includes, I presume, dental tools and products, body & hair cleaning products, any cosmetics or styling products, grooming tools, perhaps vitamins, feminine hygiene, Rogaine, Retin-A … the list is so potentially long! I easily spend $30/mo just on hair color, top-quality deodorant, and “girl stuff.” And I shop at CVS.

    Frankly, I wear cosmetics because I like the way I look better WITH them than WITHOUT them. A few dollars a month for fresh eye makeup versus multiple thousands in plastic surgery or therapy = saving money! :-)

    Likewise for coloring my hair. Ten dollars a month for home color versus over $100 at a salon = saving money.

    Using sunscreen and good pure moisturizers versus microdermabrasion = saving money.

    Home mani/pedi, shaving instead of getting waxed or lasered, staying out of the tanning salon, cutting my own hair = saving money.

    I think the tips for “do without or make your own” are a little on the frugal edge. Looking/feeling one’s (economically achievable) best is such a huge psychological advantage – in work, relationships, whatever – that $50/mo in the budget is pretty reasonable.

    Now, given all that, if someone is spending a lot MORE than this on grooming, then all of the above tips might apply!

  58. notmensa says:

    Years ago I heard an interview with a dermatologist on our local public radio – transcript here – that cautioned against using shampoo and soap. I took the advice, and yes it took about 2 months for my skin and hair to settle, but it was really effective. After reading an older edition of ‘Don’t go to the cosmetics counter without me’ by Paula Begoun, I replaced sorbolene creme with Cetaphil cleanser, and all daytime moisturisers with a supermarket brand SPF 30 sunscreen. My skin & hair are happy, my budget is happy, and my travel 3-1-1 bag is easy to pack. :-)

  59. Adrian says:

    for the Ladies, makeupwise, go to eyeslipsface.com most of the makeup there is $1 each so, you can save money that way. My wife cut my hair herself after reading online how to do it. I like the suggestions about toothpaste etc, but tend to use my waterpik instead of the floss. On the cologne side, I think you can make your own, but don’t drown yourself, I think the phrase is “spray a mist and then walk into it”.

  60. SwingCheese says:

    I have to agree with several of the other women on here: make-up is generally an expectation. That having been said, I wear minimal make-up to work and do not suffer for it. I have several female colleagues who don’t wear any, and as teachers, they have not suffered for it, either.

    As far as shampoo/conditioner/etc, I simply budget to spend more on Aveda products. They are better for the environment, have a minimal odor, and are my preferred products. To each their own :)

  61. Sonia says:

    I feel the need to reiterate what many women have posted here: for many of us makeup is not optional in our environment. While I lament the situation, appearances are very important in many industries. A waitress could lose her cost savings from forgoing cosmetics with a night of lousy tips from shallow customers. I started my job years ago with the naive attitude that my looks shouldn’t matter, but an attractive face is much easier to have than an unkempt one.

    Trent, many men have said that they prefer a natural look on women and don’t realize that conservatively applied makeup creates that “natural” appearance. Usually people who say they don’t like makeup have Tammy Faye in mind. Light makeup evens the complexion, enhances color, and defines features. It does not make one look like a peacock.

    I would also appreciate it if those who do not wear makeup daily or frequently refrain from helping the “ladies” out with helpful tips for buying it on the cheap. Cheap mascara and eye makeup is a good way to end up in the doctor’s office with a painful sty. I’d rather spend $20 on a tube of higher end mascara than pay $80 at the doctor’s and pharmacist’s (missing work while I’m treating the problem) for a complication stemming from poor quality cosmetics.

  62. kim says:

    I realize that I’m a little late with this comment, but I wanted to add how we cut costs with beauty-aids, etc.
    I am by no means a hair stylist, but I do cut my husband’s hair (and I think I do a rather good job). I have very curly hair, and can cut my own – but I know that a lot of people can’t so I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re scared of a bad cut. I am a medical professional and rarely wear make-up. I have never felt like I have been taken less seriously for not wearing make-up, or for wearing my hair up in a pony tail. We do not shower daily, unless we’ve been sweaty/hot/whatever. In the winter time, it just really dries out your skin and we as humans don’t NEED to shower daily. I buy generic toiletries at discount stores. We buy bulk toilette paper. We have so much freakin’ bar soap from hotels that I don’t think we will ever run out. Now, as a woman I do love my scented body washes and lotions. However, I refuse to pay the prices that boutiques want. So, every year for Christmas, I tell friends and family that all I want are smelly soaps and lotions. I have a paper grocery bag full in my linen closet!
    Hope this helps!

  63. Laura says:

    I have a “natural” look and it’s the face I wake up with every day. I have never felt the need to change the way I look with cosmetics and I’m not about to buy into any notions that I cannot be successful without it.

    I also do not use products for my skin that have been tested on animals. I save lots of money by not wearing make-up and by using a bar of sandalwood soap to wash my hair and body. I used soap to wash my hair as a last resort on vacation several years ago and found that it gave my hair a lot more body than I’d had in 20 years of using traditional shampoos and conditioners. I spend $4 a month on soap.

    Instead of buying overpriced shaving cream marketed towards women, I use hair conditioner. Also born out of necessity, I buy a giant tub of hair conditioner (Tresemme is about $5 for 32 oz) and it makes my legs far silkier than they ever were when I used shaving cream. It goes a really long way too. I found Gillette Shave Gel for women for $2.69 for 7 oz. So Tresemme as shaving solution is $.15 per ounce and Shave Gel is sold at $.38 per ounce and feels less wonderful.

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