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Beauty on a Budget: What 7 Women Spend on Beauty Per Year

BY: Colleen Loggins Loster | Oct 31, 2018

woman holding a pile of cash

Recently, there was a reckoning at work. I decided it would be interesting to ask several female coworkers who all make a similar annual salary (between $50K and $70K) how much money they spend on beauty per year. I sent out a survey and asked them to tally up their costs for things like skincare, makeup, haircare, and the catch-all category known as "other." Things got scary.

Because even though we're all trying to do beauty on a budget—or for the beauty-obsessed among us, trying not to make it rain on the Sephora counter each visit—it's hard to look good without spending some dough. So what did each woman spend on beauty per year, and what were their biggest expenditures?

Carmen

Stats

  • Job Title: video editor
  • Age: 34
  • Number of kids you have to feed/clothe/generally throw money at: 0
  • Lives in: Chicago
  • Total spent on beauty per year: About $2,500

Budget Breakdown

SKINCARE

  • Products: about $400 per year
  • Services: about $400 per year
  • Primary Buys: Facials and microdermabrasion. Products from Source Vitál Apothecary, The Ordinary, and Peter Thomas Roth, as well as Tonymoly and other K-beauty brands

MAKEUP

  • Products: about $300 per year
  • Primary Buys: Colourpop, Tarte, NYX, and CoverFX products

HAIRCARE

  • Products: about $200 per year
  • Services: about $600 per year
  • Primary Buys: Haircuts and color. Deep conditioner and hair products from DevaCurl, Briogeo, and Trader Joe's.

OTHER

  • Mani once a month, pedi every two months: about $240 per year
  • Wax subscription at $30 a month: about $360 per year

Do you feel good about how much you spend on beauty per year? Would you change anything?

"I am definitely working on buying less skincare. I go overboard and buy every product I am excited about without waiting to get through the products I have," Carmen explains. "I also wish I was better at doing my own nails."

And she says that her haircare budget is the result of her somewhat tricky curls. "Having curly hair, I think the money I spend on haircare is well worth it as it's hard to do that on my own."

Kelly

Stats

  • Job Title: studio production manager
  • Age: 40
  • Number of kids you have to feed/clothe/generally throw money at: 2
  • Lives in: Oak Park, a Chicago suburb
  • Total spent on beauty per year: about $1,650

Budget Breakdown

SKINCARE

  • Products: about $200 per year
  • Services: about $150 per year
  • Primary Buys: creams, serums, and facials

MAKEUP

  • Products: about $300 per year
  • Primary Buys: powder, mascara, lipstick

HAIRCARE

  • Products: about $300 per year
  • Services: about $500 per year
  • Primary Buys: haircuts, color, salon shampoo, and salon conditioner

OTHER

  • Mani-pedis: Less than $200 per year

Do you feel good about how much you spend on beauty per year? Would you change anything?

"I do feel good. What is most important to me is that the quality works for my skin," Kelly explains, adding that, "anything I put on my face and hair, I prefer to be as clean as possible, and that may be pricier."

Kelly also leans toward a natural overall look, "so my cosmetic needs are low, and I'm fine with bi-annual updates." However, she did find a new hairstylist that she loves and now makes more frequent appointments for haircuts and color. "I wouldn't go as often when my stylist wasn't consistent."

makeup collection with lipstick and eye shadow

Aimee

Stats

  • Job Title: editor
  • Age: 44
  • Number of kids you have to feed/clothe/generally throw money at: 1
  • Lives in: Chicago
  • Total spent on beauty per year: About $1,200

Budget Breakdown

SKINCARE

  • Products: About $25 per year
  • Primary Buys: micellar water, lip balm, moisturizer (coconut oil)

MAKEUP

  • Products: About $75 per year
  • Primary Buys: eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow gel, powder foundation, blush, lipstick

HAIRCARE

  • Products: About $200 per year
  • Services: About $900 per year
  • Primary Buys: haircut and color every 6–8 weeks and a variety of hair products: purple shampoo to tone, color-safe shampoo and conditioner, and texturizers, including clay and texturizing spray

OTHER

  • Nothing

Do you feel good about how much you spend on beauty per year? Would you change anything?

"I do feel good about how much I spend," Aimee says. "My only really big expenditure is my hair, and that's only so expensive because I've been blonde for the past two years or so."

Sarah

Stats

  • Job Title: editor
  • Age: 31
  • Number of kids you have to feed/clothe/generally throw money at: 0
  • Lives in: Chicago
  • Total spent on beauty per year: About $995

Budget Breakdown

SKINCARE

  • Products: about $40 per year
  • Services: Nothing
  • Primary Buys: "Glossier's priming moisturizer and TonyMoly face masks are my only splurges. Otherwise, it's just Neutrogena face wash and generic brand apricot scrub."

MAKEUP

  • Products: about $250 per year
  • Primary Buys: "Tarte's BB cream and mattifying powder! My ride or die! Also, Glossier's Boy Brow. And I just started buying higher end lipsticks. Besame is a new fave."

HAIRCARE

  • Products: about $100 per year
  • Services: about $530 per year. "Oh god, I've never added up how much my haircuts cost before, I want to barf... this is literally mostly haircuts."
  • Primary Buys: Tresemme's heat protectant and Redken shampoo and conditioner

OTHER

  • Mostly waxing: about $75 per year

Do you feel good about how much you spend on beauty per year? Would you change anything?

"I don't feel great about what I spend on haircuts because I get them so frequently, but for everything else I actually do feel pretty good," Sarah says.

Gina

Stats

  • Job Title: editor
  • Age: 25
  • Number of kids you have to feed/clothe/generally throw money at: 0
  • Lives in: Chicago
  • Total spent on beauty per year: About $1,525

Budget Breakdown

SKINCARE

  • Products: about $350 per year
  • Services: Nothing
  • Primary Buys: Cleansers from Tarte, Glossier, Lush, and ELF. Moisturizers from Kiehl's, Estée Lauder, and Glossier. Witch hazel toner, Tarte eye cream, Supergoop sunscreen, and a variety of face masks. Tools include a Vanity Planet Cleansing System and a jade roller.

MAKEUP

  • Products: about $400 per year
  • Primary Buys: Primer and concealer from ELF. Foundation, mascara, blush, and lipstick from Tarte. Other mascara from Too Faced. Other lipsticks from Urban Decay, NYX, and Kat Von D. Eye shadow from Stila. Eyebrow gel and wand from Anastasia. Eyeliner from Urban Decay. Highlighter from the Balm.

HAIRCARE

  • Products: about $200 per year
  • Services: about $500 per year
  • Primary Buys: Shampoo and conditioner from ISO, Lush, and Kristen Ess. Treatments from It's a 10, Biosilk, Lush, and Kristen Ess.

OTHER

  • Pedicure: about $75 per year

Do you feel good about how much you spend on beauty per year? Would you change anything?

"I spend way less on beauty than I did when I was younger, but that's not very comforting when having to look at the numbers. I'm definitely smarter about it now, but that's partly because I've found my favorites after YEARS of trying everything and anything (I blame working at Ulta)," Gina explains.

"Plus, over the past year I've converted to only cruelty-free products for makeup and skincare, which makes me happy!" Gina says, adding that it also helps limit her choices and thus her spending. She does still use some Estée Lauder "because that's my mom's brand, and sometimes she buys me bougie face moisturizer that makes my skin so soft I simply cannot say no."

Gina also knows that her somewhat high-maintenance blonde hair does her no favors when it comes to saving money, but she's lucky enough to have a family member color her hair at a discount. She also "protests haircuts," which helps her on her quest to do better with beauty on a budget.

Lip brush dipping into a bullet lipstick

Dom

Stats

  • Job Title: Studio photographer
  • Age: 27
  • Number of kids you have to feed/clothe/generally throw money at: 0
  • Lives in: Chicago
  • Total spent on beauty per year: About $1,870

Budget Breakdown

SKINCARE

  • Products: about $400 per year
  • Services: Nothing
  • Primary Buys: Moisturizer, charcoal facial scrubs, butters/lotion, eczema products, and sensitive face wash

MAKEUP

  • Products: about $800 per year
  • Primary Buys: Foundation, setting and priming sprays, lip products, blush, bronzer, and highlighters

HAIRCARE

  • Products: about $100 per year
  • Services: about $100 per year
  • Primary Buys: TGIN products and Shea Moisture products. Trims and styling at Huetiful Salon.

OTHER

  • Wigs: about $300 per year
  • Mani-pedis: about $150 per year
  • Brows: about $20 per year

Do you feel good about how much you spend on beauty per year? Would you change anything?

"I feel good about it because I think that I use all of the products that I buy. If they were just sitting there, I think I would rethink my spending habits," Dom says. "Plus, I just love how I feel playing with makeup and trying out different colors on my face."

Dom is also serious about her hair. "Switching up my hair is something I love doing because I think certain hairstyles look good with certain outfits I wear. And I can keep my [natural] hair growing healthy because I don't do too much to it."

Me

Stats

  • Job Title: editor
  • Age: 31
  • Number of kids you have to feed/clothe/generally throw money at: 0
  • Lives in: Elmhurst, a suburb of Chicago
  • Total spent on beauty per year: About $2,070

Budget Breakdown

SKINCARE

  • Products: about $700 per year. At least once a month, I probably buy a new $30 skincare thing or three.
  • Services: about $50 at the dermatologist for acne appointments
  • Primary Buys: Prescription acne medication and retinoid. Biore Japanese sunscreen. Lots of K-beauty products from Soko Glam and Glow Recipe. Face masks from Herbivore and Ren. Nip/Fab glycolic acid. The Ordinary serums. Thayer's witch hazel toner. Random tools I suddenly need to have (jade roller).

MAKEUP

  • Products: about $200 per year
  • Primary Buys: Mascara, concealer, and lipsticks from Wet n Wild (it's good now!), eye shadows from ColourPop, Tarte foundation, NYX microbrow pencil, Glossier boy brow. A lot are cheap beauty products.

HAIRCARE

  • Products: about $100 per year
  • Services: about $800 per year
  • Primary Buys: Haircuts, but mostly balayage hair color or babylights. Drugstore shampoo and conditioner, Paul Mitchell or Joico if I'm feeling fancy. Clear elastic hair ties.

OTHER

  • Mani-pedis: about $100 per year
  • Nail polish and nail accoutrement, like stickers and press-ons: about $70 per year

Do I feel good about what I spend? Would I change anything?

As far as skincare goes, I constantly alternate between feeling like "what's $30?" and feeling like "I really have to stop saying 'what's $30?' three times a week." So I frequently feel guilty about the money I spend, but I also really, really love skincare. My solution is to try to use up all the products I have and to put myself on no-buy months, where I don't buy anything for the month unless I've run out of a favorite.

I feel pretty good about my makeup spending habits because I've realized that most of the makeup I buy is only $6 a pop. Cheap beauty gives me a rush!

And I don't love the amount of money I spend on my blonde hair color. Color has become so expensive, things that used to cost $80 or $90 are suddenly $150 or more, and it's the worst. However, I prefer professional color so I'm kind of stuck. Maybe one day I'll DIY my color. Right now, I do things like only get my hair colored every 3–4 months to help mitigate the cost.

Bottom line, I feel frequently guilty about the money I spend on beauty but not enough to make big changes. As one of the most underrated girl groups from the 1990s sang, "C'est la vie."

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