I don't covet purses or shoes, but I lust for anything related to makeup or skincare. This is my kryptonite. Like many women, I've gotten myself into trouble with too much beauty spending, only to get a very unpleasant surprise when the credit card bill comes or I feel like I'm swimming in unused and disappointing beauty products. Beauty spending tends to be an emotional exercise: We use it to perk ourselves up or to reward ourselves. To a limited degree, this can be perfectly fine. But in excess, it's a distraction and will harm us financially in time.
We also tend to lose control at the cosmetics counter, as many purchases tend to be impulse buys, rather than well-researched and planned spending. I recently asked a group of women if they keep track of their beauty purchases: All of them said no. A few said they'd like to, but the majority said they'd find it "depressing" and would rather not.
Like anything related to money, we need to take ownership of this type of spending. I don't mean this in a critical way, but rather as a constructive suggestion to give us a sense of control and empowerment over how we manage our money. The cost of cosmetics is only going up, and the economy is still shaky, so now is a good time to learn some skills for managing your spending.
Here are a few suggestions:
1.) If you're going to a store where you tend to lose spending control, keep your credit cards at home. Allocate a set amount of cash to buy a couple items. Without the credit card, you can't keep going.
2.) Track your monthly spending. Like a diet journal or anything else, this keeps you accountable and helps you see where you're going overboard. If you're not looking at these actual expenses, you can't see how much they're adding up to. You may be shocked, and that could be a good motivator to cut down.
3.) See cosmetics like a car (or any major purchase): When you purchase a car, you usually do some research on what you're buying ahead of time. You look at reviews. You ask around. Most of us also plan ahead and don't buy the car until we can afford it. Then we budget for it. See beauty spending the same way: It's usually an expensive purchase in sum. Research the products in advance by reading user reviews. Find out the return policy if a product is a disappointment. Then actually return that product if you are disappointed.
4.) Use the reward system, but to your advantage: There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with cosmetic purchases. We're all driven by different motivations, and if this is yours, make it work for you. Create a monthly budget (through Excel or any of the online budgeting tools) to figure out how much you can afford to spend on cosmetics after paying all other bills and contributing to your 401K and any other investments. Keep a tight reign on spending in the meantime, knowing you can indulge once you have the money and have paid everything else off. Think of it as the diet where you eat healthily five days a week and stay on track, knowing you can indulge a bit on the weekend.