Pop quiz: how much does it cost to look like you? Take a quick inventory of your hair, beauty and clothing expenditure. When did personal maintenance start costing so much money? There was a time when I knew nothing of beauticians, deep conditioning treatments, jogging or anti-aging eye creams. That was a happier time. Even men, who historically have spent far less money than women on their appearance, are passing over a quick wash with a bar of soap and investing in products, labels and personal trainers.
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
But beauty doesn't have to break the bank. Here are our top tips on how to save money on new clothes, keeping fit and personal maintenance - without anyone knowing that you're scrimping! (For more, see 5 Money-Saving Shopping Tips.)
Get Clothes for Free
The latest trend in fashion is ethical, eco-fabulous, social and fun. Why not join the global phenomenon and throw a swap party?
Sometimes, when times are tight and you need new clothes, you have to get creative. Thus, the idea for the swap was born.
Called a swish party in the U.K., if you love new clothes, but not the unfortunate side effects on the Visa, this might be a great way to cut some dead weight from your wardrobe while adding in some new pieces. Swapping is shopping without the guilty-spend hangover.
Running a swap party is simple, if you just follow these rules.
1) Everyone must bring at least one item of quality clothing.
2) You will have half an hour to browse before the swap opens.
3) No item may be claimed before the swap opens.
4) As soon as the swap is declared open, everyone may take what they want.
Free, eco-friendly and fun, plus your bank manager will be delighted. Call your friends today! (For related reading, see 5 Painless Ways To Save More Money.)
Cut Maintenance Costs
Haircuts, root tints, waxing, massages, the costs soon mount up. If you cannot live without your treatments, why not contact your local fashion or beauty college and see if you can get cheap or free treatments? Facials, manicures, pedicures, massages, body wraps and other treatments are very often available at a fraction of the normal price if you're willing to be treated by a trainee. Don't worry though - they're always supervised!
Men would do well to remember that branded male toiletries are generally a lot pricier than their female equivalents, and chaps can save a lot of money if they dare to buy products aimed at women. Lots of women's products are fragrance-free - so men don't need to worry about smelling "girly!"
If you spend a lot on lotions and potions, then take the time to check the ingredient list to see if the more expensive product is really worth the extra money. It may be exactly the same product as a cheaper alternative - but with fancier packaging and advertising. However, even though I know in my heart that many products are the same, I won't be using foot cream on my face - just in case. (For related reading, see 10 Money-Saving Year-End Tax Tips.)
Cut Down on Fitness Costs
The gym, personal trainers, home exercise equipment - it's a billion dollar industry. Many of us believe we'll lose weight simply by paying our gym membership fees, but unfortunately, it's just not true.
Exercise could well be overrated. In the history of civilization, exercise is a rather late arrival. Until around 1910 people exercised all the time, but did not think of it as this - it was just life itself. And then, along came cars. Cars are the reason people now have to go the gym and walk on a stationary conveyor-belt. The good news is that I don't own a car. Maybe I can stop exercising?
If you do want to be a member of a gym, don't throw in the (sweaty) towel of money saving just yet! There are easy ways to cut the costs of membership.
Firstly consider the time of year that you are joining. Thanks to New Year's resolutions and renewed resolve, the first few months of the year are the busiest and thus the worst time to get a good deal. Similarly, the colder months are also busier than warmer months because people can't exercise outside. Membership slides during the summer and toward the end of the year, so that is the best time to try and get a good discount.
Most gyms and fitness centers will have membership goals for each month. They want to gain new members and retain the ones they have. Consider visiting at the end of the month, when most gyms are willing to make a deal with you so they can hit their targets. (For related reading, see Get The Best Deals On Gym Memberships.)
A few simple cuts can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. Keeping up appearances need not blow the budget. This year, it's all about credit-crunch-chic! (For related readings, see Go Green, Save Money.)