Last year I wrote a brief essay on what it feels like when “budget beauty” starts to actually hurt your bank account. In short, I explored why I thought it was no longer fruitful for me to have seven of the same lipsticks in varying shades of red that were all dupes for a higher priced lipstick when for the total of all seven, I probably could have bought the higher priced thing by now.
A lot of my opinions in that essay still ring true. I do believe that investing in yourself is worth the time and waiting if you can’t afford it at this very moment, but as a person who grew up in the far reaches of the Adirondacks with little money, I can’t say that I will ever necessarily feel good about spending money on anything, especially myself, or my beauty products.
When I look at my makeup collection, the highest priced item on it at the moment is my Clinique Even Better Makeup. I purchased it on the recommendation of a Sephora employee, and I do love it as far as liquid makeup goes. I was looking for something that wouldn’t clog my pores, and that would cover up my acne and redness. At $27, it’s not that expensive compared to some items I’ve seen, but it’s more than I had been used to spending.
When my skin began revolting due to adult acne, I started rethinking my skincare routine. I knew that I would have to spend more money on creams, ointments, and moisturizers because my skin demanded quality and care. But this was the only area on which I relented. I still tried to find the best deals, the cheapest brands for the best quality (which, don’t we all, at times?)
Currently, my skincare prices look something like this:
- Aczone Gel Prescription: Around $45
- Tretinoin Prescription: Around $5
- Retin-A Prescription: Around $10
- Moisturizer: $9
- Cleanser $7
Total: $76 (Give or take a few dollars.)
Not bad, considering my prescriptions last me almost 6 months, and the giant bottle of Neutrogena Cleanser I bought a few months ago is still going strong. These are prices I can deal with, because I feel that investing in my skincare is almost a part of my health. I’m very cautious when it comes to sun care and putting on SPF. As a super pale girl, I slather on as much as I can, even when it’s cloudy out.
What gets me, however, are the items that I don’t have to spend money on, and the pressures that I’m bombarded with daily when I even think about buying any kind of beauty item. That’s why I was sucked into the dupes for so long. Why buy the quality when you can find a cheaper version? (And that’s not to say some drugstore brands aren’t becoming better quality.) But as someone who grew up with a strict budget and started buying most things for herself very early, learning how to budget for things I needed versus things I wanted was one of the lousiest lessons to learn, because it makes you feel awful.
About two weeks ago, when I had enough of my hair and decided it was time for a trim (my first since summer), I headed to Union Square in NYC to attempt to get a walk-in appointment at one of the better chain salons, Dramatics NYC. They were, unfortunately, booked up. I took to Yelp and tried for the first place that was open later and wasn’t appointment only. I walked in, was quoted a price, and since my boyfriend was paying for a chunk of it as a gift, I was alright with it. But then the person working at the reception desk asked me the question that made my frugal sensibilities tingle.
”Would you like a glass of wine?”
I’d been offered water or coffee at salons before, but never wine.
And let me be clear that when I buy wine, it’s usually Barefoot or Yellowtail. I like a bottle that can last me a week if need be. Being offered that glass of wine made me want to turn tail and flee out the door, because I knew this haircut/color was going to cost more than the paycheck I’d made that week temping.
And it did. $325 later, and I still under-tipped because I didn’t have enough cash on me. I panicked and ran, ashamed that I hadn’t done the proper research on the salon I had chosen. I was horrified that I had not understood just how much money my service would be, and that I had failed to recognize just how snazzy a place I was going into. While I was pleased I had invested in myself, I couldn’t enjoy it. I went into a Duane Reade and almost cried because not only had I put almost $200 on my credit card, but I had spent the rest of the the $200 from my boyfriend on the remaining balance and my paltry tips. How could I have wasted that much money when I had been working so hard to get my credit card balance down? How could I have spent that much of my boyfriend’s money? How did my hair feel and look so amazing?
Because that’s the cost of things. Being aware that I will spend an exorbitant amount, especially in New York, for amazing hair, and investing in yourself is not always a bad thing. This was my lesson. Amazing quality and care for yourself don’t come cheap (kind of like that old saying about tattoos), and this moment of calm after my storm of panic may have only lasted a few minutes, but it let me appreciate the kindness I had done for myself. I had taken a full day for myself, spent time with me, genuinely enjoyed my own company while I got myself pampered. These moments are few and far between, and although I’m still embarrassed about my money miscalculations, I’m learning to appreciate these self care moments and not throw them under the bus because of the price tag.