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The Debt-Free Beauty Budget

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

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*Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. I'm just a woman trying to get out of debt and sharing what has worked for me hoping to spark conversation and community with like-minded individuals.


How can you afford to try the best products? better clothes?

I get this question a lot, but the truth is, for a long time... I couldn't!

After grad school, I was drowning in student debt and even though I managed to pay off Sallie Mae in 2019 that was only the tip of the debt iceberg.

I knew the #debtfreejourney wasn't going to be a quick and easy one but I completely underestimated how much it would change my way of life.

Before long, I was completely emotionally exhausted. Having to tell myself "NO" whenever I wanted to buy something was easy at first, but it very quickly turned overwhelming.

As much as I wanted to be debt-free, I also wanted to look put-together or at least halfway decent. The debt-free journey was working but I couldn't keep it up anymore.


For the sake of my sanity, I decided to follow a toned-down version of the path to financial freedom. A path that allowed me to save but also treat myself to help me stay on track.

With this approach, I've been able to maintain my good money habits, not go crazy, and most importantly NOT GIVE UP on a debt-free life.

The approach is simple: I established budgets and stuck to them.


Check out how I managed my expenses below:


01. Analyzed my Spending Habits

Figuring out where my money was going was an eye-opening experience. If you use your credit card for almost everything, a quick survey of your statements will reveal where most of your money goes. It's important to see the numbers and analyze your spending habits to really make changes that impact your budget.

So I put everything on paper and started to tackle my spending habits by category.

First up: Personal Expenses.

I spent over $10k a year on personal expenses. This included beauty tools, manis, pedis, hair, skincare, services, teeth whitening strips, eyelash serums, masks, hair vitamins, eyebrows, clothing, accessories, personal care items, and makeup.

beauty expenses
*Estimated Expenses 2017-2018

I couldn't really see this clearly because $65 for acrylic manicures and regular pedicures every 2 weeks didn't feel like all that much but when I put it to paper, my mani/pedi expenses added up to $1,690 a year.

I almost had to pinch myself with my perfectly manicured hand. I never thought of myself as high-maintenance until I saw how much money actually went into my personal maintenance.

This was my weak spot and I realized I had to curb my personal spending but where to start?


02. I chose a Category I could still Splurge on

I chose HAIR.

If you haven't read my hair profile yet, you should know I have dry, coarse, frizzy, thick hair and I have A LOT of it. Hair is something that can easily take me 90 minutes to do myself.

So I made this my splurge-category because I still want to get my Keratin treatment every 10-12 weeks and I MUST have my Drunk Elephant Marula Cream Cocomino Conditioner.


03. I Set my Goal

I spent close to $11k in past years on Personal Expenses. In order to stay on track but also be able to indulge myself, I set my goal at $5k a year.


04. Eliminated Expenses

I canceled subscriptions and started eliminating the services that I pay for but that I could do MYSELF. I put in the time and the energy to learning how to properly do at-home:

  • Manicures and Pedicures

  • Eyebrows

  • Hair Removal

  • Facials

It's the era of information, there is a blog post about absolutely everything. You can learn a new skill from the comfort of your own home, free, so I did.

Just by eliminating a few categories, my expenses dropped below $7k. Was it hard at first to not have perfectly manicured long-lasting nails? YES. But I have since gotten much better at doing them myself.


05. I went Sustainable

Ok, going sustainable requires an initial investment but it is WORTH the savings, it produces less waste and clears up precious bathroom real-estate. Learn how I took my "disposables" category down to $0 a year here.


06. I Consolidated my Beauty, Hair and Skincare purchases

My advice is to try and stick to ONE store for your beauty and self-care purchases that has a rewards program. I chose to consolidate ALL of my beauty expenses at Sephora:


When you belong to 6 rewards programs and shop at 6 different stores you end up collecting 100 points here another 100 points at another store and they don't really add up to anything substantial.

But in this #debtfreejourney, every reward and every penny counts!

So I consolidated my purchases to Sephora and not only did I manage to get better free products (eliminating the need to buy them) but I also managed to get free shipping on ALL of my orders.

Sephora is also one of the websites you can almost always find on Rakuten, so you can almost* always get cashback for your purchases.

Since consolidating to Sephora I haven't had to buy moisturizer, lipsticks, or mascara in over a year. Why?

There is either always a code for a free trial size sample, a free sample to add to cart, or one of these in the Beauty Bazaar that I can redeem with points.

And just like that... My Projected Personal Expenses went to 4.6K <3


07. I was faithful to that Budget

Once I made the changes I discussed above, I stuck to the budget as listed. Now, this of course, are JUST the changes I made to my Personal Expenses.

I also created budgets for:

  • Home Expenses

  • Food Expenses

  • Entertainment Expenses

  • Partner's Personal Expenses

The combination of all of these cutbacks is what helped me get Sallie Mae off my back forever!

If you'd like to see the cutbacks I made on the home, food, and entertainment front you can message me here.



Want to know what other little swaps I made in my self-care routine to help me save space and money?

I wrote a whole post on them here.


Are you a part of the #debtfreecommunity? Do you have any more tips for me?

Do you want to start your own journey?

Contact me here or leave a comment,



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