Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Personal Care Parsimony

Whenever I check out a new blog on frugality, I find I get lost quickly.  I want all the good tips up front, but they're (understandably) mixed in and buried throughout the blog.  With the imminent wind-down of Ye Olde Miser Mom blog, I figured it might be a good idea to round up some of my favorite -- and also some of my not-so favorite -- personal care practices in one place.

Here goes.  From top-to-bottom (er, or perhaps it would be better to say, from head to toe), here are some ways to save -- or not -- on personal care.

Hair Cutting:  I'm buzzed about this. (free for me; clippers for the men-folk run us $40, plus $10 for new blades every 10 years).
  • Electric clippers let me cut my husband's hair quickly and easily, both faster and cheaper than going to a barber.  (At 10 Watts, a set of clippers costs essentially the same as using scissors, but they're much easier to use).
  • Electric clippers and a bit of a razor also let me experiment (with permission) on my sons' heads.  I get to be a hair artist!
  • For many years, my daughter and I cut each other's hair.  With really long hair, you don't need to be super talented to do a good job.
  • Now that my daughter is grown and gone, my running partner cuts my hair.  Free + Fun = Freaking Win!
Shampoo:  Could use some bounce. (~$30/year)
  • When I got my mom's old shampoo dispenser, I'd thought about trying home-made versions of hair care.  It turns out, though, that my mom's dispensers dole out shampoo and conditioner in helpfully tiny amounts -- so my existing stash of bargain-brand shampoo/conditioner has lasted several months, and so I haven't tried to convert to home-made.  This is complicated by the fact that . . .
  • Every few years, my scalp starts molting, and this has been one of those years.  My dermatologist suggested I go for an expensive dandruff shampoo.  I resisted for a while, but finally gave in.  I'd love to find a cheaper (and less plastic-y) alternative, though.
Hair elastics: Got this all tied up.  ($0/year)
  • Store-bought hair elastics are expensive.  But walking around a college campus, I see them on the ground all the time.  Pick them up, wash them, and wear them!
Make-up:  Holding pattern. ($4/year)
  • I use bargain-brand mascara, purchased from yard-sales.  (For those of you who aren't frequent yard-sale goers and who are worried about contaminated products, you should know that some people sell stashes of never-opened Avon or other products at much lower-than-store prices.)   When I don't wear mascara, people ask me if I'm tired, and I hate explaining that it's the lack of make-up, not the lack of sleep, that makes me look dead.  Hence, I use eye mascara at a cost of about $2/year.
  • Occasionally, when I'm going to be photographed, I'll used a bit of foundation, mostly because I have rosacea and so if I don't put on foundation I look like a lush. Cost:  $2/year. 
Rosacea meds: meh.  ($40/year)
  • So, my dermatologist prescribed Metrogel for my really red nose.  I looked up the bad side-effects of this dread disease, and the main problem (aside from red skin) seems to be "low self-esteem", a complication I fortunately seem to have escaped, but I use the ointment anyway. I am open to alternatives; I just haven't found them.
Toothpaste:  No news is good news. ($0/year)
  • The toothbrush is my friend.  So is floss. I don't use toothpaste, and my teeth are doing just fine.  I swear.
  • But if you do use toothpaste, here's how to get the last of it out of a tube.
  • I visit my dentist twice a year, and she raves about my teeth.  She gives me a toothbrush and floss every time I visit her, and that basically takes care of my home care.  So I suppose I could also say I spend $140 on toothbrushes, but get two dental visits for free.  Woo-hoo!
Perfume: Smelling sweet.  (gift)
  • I love the cheap brands of perfume (Charlie!  Windsong!  Maja!)  This is a kindness to the sweet people who gift me with this perfume.  And my actually liking perfume is somewhat of a gift to my gift-givers (seriously, what would you buy for a miserly woman who seems to want almost nothing?).
Edible deodorant:  Stunning success. (less than $6/year)
  • Here's an idea I totally stole from Dogs Or Dollars (she listed this as an experiment that turned into a success) and that I have just loved for over a year.  Get a jar of coconut oil (drug stores and health food stores sell this).  Most of the year, coconut oil has about the consistency of soft lip balm; it's not runny like regular oils until summer heats things up.  I also made myself a little jar of baking soda.  In the morning, I use my fingers to dab on a bit of coconut oil, and then baking soda.  This works great; plus it's low trash and it's low cost.  I figure at the rate I'm going, the outlay of about $12 for supplies will last me 2 or 3 years.  
  • (I just re-read the D-o-D posts.  She mixes these ingredients together in one jar; I don't.  I figure, either way is a score).
  • Even if you use store-bought deodorant, you can melt and re-use the last little bits in a container fairly easily. 
Soap: feeling bubbly.  (?20?/year?)
  • Bar soap is unfairly neglected in the modern world, so it's fairly easy to stumble upon a cheap stash at yard sales.  
  • At hotels, I don't do the grabby "take as much as I can" dance.  I use at most one bar of soap per hotel, but once I open that bar up, I make sure to bring it home with me so it gets used.
  • I gather up slivers of soap in a stocking, and hang that up in my shower.  
  • For liquid soap, I buy large containers in bulk and use those containers to refill smaller dispensers.  This is less expensive and creates less trash than buying many smaller containers.
  • Sometimes "soap alternatives" (such as bubble bath) are cheaper than bulk liquid soap itself.  
  • Washing our hands correctly is one of the most frugal ways we avoid expensive/painful illnesses.  Soap and water is cheap. The flu is a pain in the . . . well, in the whole body.
Shaving:  Obnoxiously happy. ($13 this year; in the future less than $3/year??)
  • I just switched over to using a metal razor.  On this subject, I'm like a reformed smoker who is completely delighted with the lower cost and reduced amount of toxins/plastic.  Razor companies, I've got your corporate number!  I'm not playing your multi-blade, multi-dollar game any more!!  Hah!  Perhaps I am too giddy to be trusted on how well this is actually working. (But as far as I'm concerned:  score!)
Sunscreen: Do not do as I do. (less than $10/year)
  • I use sunscreen on my face during the summer, but I don't mind if it's several years old, and I probably don't put on as much as other people would recommend.  (See, for example, my rosacea above).  My sisters berate me for how lackadaisical I am. They are almost certainly correct.  There it is.
Nail clippers
  • For some reason I don't understand, my kids lose theirs over and over.  So I bought each kid one set of nail clippers.  On each, I threaded a small ribbon through the hole at the end, and then I used an embroidery needle to thread the small ribbon through the paw of one of the kids' stuffed animals.  The bigger the stuffed animal, the harder it is to lose the nail clippers.
Lotions and gels: a slippery subject ($ = not sure.)
  • Mostly, I do bulk buys of lotion for my sons' very chalky skin.  When I get out the lotion, the boys yell and run away, and then I chase them all over the house until I pin them down and lather them up.  Not particularly effective skin care, but definitely worth every penny for the family entertainment value.
  • Also, we use petroleum jelly instead of antibiotic cream.
Paper products.  (???)
  • I'm not sure how much our family spends on toilet paper.
  • I'm also not sure how much our family spends on tissues.  
  • But I'll counter that lack of knowledge with this:  rags.  You can blow your nose into a square of cloth made from a t-shirt even more comfortably than into a tissue.  You could launder the square of fabric, or if you're totally grossed out, you could just throw it away!  (After all, you were just going to toss that stained t-shirt in the first place, right?)  We have attractive looking rag-baskets in several strategic locations in our home.  I even have rags instead of tissues in my car now.
  • Cloth rags are also helpful in bandaging wounds.
Feminine hygiene.  The Keeper is a keeper!  ($3 - $37/year, depending on the dog).
  • I have two words: menstrual cups. Love 'em.  Unfortunately, so does my dog, so store them away carefully.

Showers: the phantom frugality menace (less than $50/year per person)
  • We don't see stores boasting 2-for-1 sales on hot water, and we don't clip coupons for 25¢ off our next shower.  But hot water can be an even bigger expense than shampoo and soap, so it's worth thinking about how to use less water or not-so-hot water.  The simplest way to save money is to lower the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, if you haven't already.
  • Next easiest:  plug the drain to keep the warm water in the tub while you shower. Toasty toes and a warmer bathroom result!
  • Moderately advanced:  install a low-flow shower-head.  Bonus points if you get one with one of those little cut-off valves so you can turn off the water while you soap up or shave.
  • More adventurous: install a water heater timer, so you heater stays on only while you're home.
  • Summer fun:  buy a black hose, and shower al fresco.  Solar energy is free!
And finally  . . .

Foot massages. Good for the heart and sole.  ($0/year)
  • To which I can only say, "Ahhhhh.   Thanks, guy!"


  1. We love Bag Balm (yes, for cow's udders) for our skin care and for our lips. It's especially for the darker members of our family whose skin seems to dry up quickly. (I'm enjoying your blog very much which I just found.) Liz

    1. Welcome! My husband loves bag balm for his feet, which get dry and cracked in the winter. We haven't used this on our boys' chalky skins, because they prefer slightly more aromatic (= "manly") scents. But I really love the metal tins that bag balm comes in!