When Budget Beauty Starts to Hurt

by Marcella Yakalis

I learned everything I know from the internet. At least, when it comes to applying makeup.

I have a lot of memories of my sister and cousins slapping makeup on me as a kid, but everything I know today, I taught myself how to do. I also taught myself how to spend money, a habit that has followed me since I opened my first checking account. When I was a kid and I couldn’t have something, I didn’t understand that telling my mom to write a check didn’t equal me getting what I wanted. You had to have money in the account? Beyond my seven year old comprehension level.

At the beginning of November, after taking a serious look at my Mint.com pie charts and bank statements, I decided that I was going to cut down my spending habits when it comes to makeup and, subsequently, clothing.

While I’ve never worn makeup on a daily basis, I have always coveted it. Aesthetiques are something that fascinate me. Eyeshadow, lipstick, nail polish, contouring (thanks, Kim). With budget beauty a hot topic in most magazines, both print and online, I can’t help but take it in. There are so many things to BUY. And so many BARGAINS!

I’ve never been one to spend a lot of money at once on makeup, but I will spend a little, several times over. Do I drool over the Urban Decay palettes every time I go into Sephora? Darn tootin’. But I’m not going to drop $54 at once on one item. This might appear smarter to some, but for some reason, as a girl who grew up in the most Northern part of New York State with little cash to spare for such things, I can’t get over the idea of a sale, a steal, a deal, or a good cheap lipstick.

The recent popularity of “budget beauty” has done the worst to my spending habits. Writers like the amazing Tamara at xoVain have given me so many options and looks to choose from! E.L.F. (Eyes Lips Face) has long been a favorite of mine (nothing over $10!) and since I’ve moved to New York City, I now have access to their studio store. But there’s also Jordana, Milani, Revlon, NYC (New York Color) Wet N’ Wild. The list went on and on, and so did my spending.

This is my Mint.com pie chart from the last year. Guess where a lot of those “other” transactions are from? Most are Duane Reade, pharmacies, Sephoras. Next to my rent and groceries, plain old shopping has been one of my worst habits in the past year. Delve deeper into the groceries section of the pie chart and you’ll find my awful coffee habit, but that’s another story.

So why not quit everything, every unnecessary expense EVER? Because we all know that’s impossible. I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country, and I’m trying to put myself through graduate school at an insanely expensive private university. I have four jobs. I’m a tutor, a secretary, a rapporteur (a sort of secretary) and editorial assistant. None of those jobs pay me well enough to support an emotionally fueled makeup addiction. Because that’s what it is.

Makeup makes me feel good. It doesn’t just make me feel finished, or pretty, or prepared; it makes me feel like I’m worth something when I can go to a store, buy a pretty lipstick or eyeshadow, purchase it, and come home and put it on. Doesn’t it make us all feel worthy, when we can go to a store and purchase something? Isn’t that the idea behind wealth? That we have that privilege? I’m far from wealthy, but I have about six different red lipsticks in my makeup bag that have barely been used, all drugstore duplicates for Mac’s “Ruby Woo.” I buy new products before I’m even halfway done with the old ones, which often results in makeup that goes to waste because of expiration dates or general disinterest.

So here is my challenge to myself, for the next six months: No new purchases until April, unless I run out of something essential. Essential meaning pretty much skincare — moisturizer — and maybe concealer. I also have a subscription to Birchbox that I’ve decided not to give up. I told myself that I wasn’t going to cancel the subscription, because my reason for getting it in the first place was to cut down on my other makeup expenses. Birchbox, a monthly subscription service that sends you samples catered to your personal profile, comes in at $10. This is what I could spend in coffee in an average day, and far less than I spend in an average month on makeup.

I know that my case isn’t the worst the world has ever seen. I know people are addicted to many things, and more so than I am; for my current living situation and circumstances, though, this is something I have to let go of. I will always love makeup, and putting on a face, but do I love it for what it is, or do I love the emotional attachment to buying a product? The next few months will help me find out. After telling my boyfriend about this personal challenge, the first thing I did was go out and buy two nail polishes. They only cost $3! Everyone needs a last go around, right?

Marcella Yakalis is an MFA candidate attending Columbia University’s School of The Arts. When she’s not pining over makeup, she’s writing about Walmart. She can be reached at marcellajoleen@gmail.com and on Twitter.

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