High maintenance on a shoestring budget

The first thing we tend to notice about people when we meet them, is their physical appearance. And unfortunately, it works both ways! While true beauty shines from the inside, looking well groomed helps us to feel good about ourselves and therefore, make a great first impression.

But let’s face it – there can be times in life when discretionary spending is limited. Here are my five tips to help you look your best, for less. From when you shop for clothes, to what products and services you choose and where you buy them, you can keep up appearances, without the price-tag.

Tip one: Shop off-season

Don’t pay full price for clothes. Why? Because they are a high volume, depreciating commodity. Buy clothes at the end of the season, not at the beginning. With a little patience, there’s a good chance that dress or suit will reduce in price.

You may unearth that classic gem in places like Dress mart Onehunga or other ‘seconds’ outlets. Better still, stock up in January when retailers are shedding surplus stock and ask family for gift vouchers for Christmas.
By shopping off-season, you are working in the opposite direction of retailers, who push their new season stock early, making you think you need to ‘stock up’ before the need arises. Through buying your summer clothes at the end of summer, your winter clothes at the end of winter, you are planning your next year’s wardrobe in advance. At 30-50% off the original price, shopping off-season makes a-lot of sense.

Tip two: Bring back the basics

Clever marketing drives us to purchase a product to provide an immediate ‘fix’. But it seems people aren’t paid as much to promote the benefits of natural products. You only need to look at the internet, Facebook and other social media to see how Advertising tries to change our perception of what we need. How did she look 10 years’ younger in just 14 days and fool her husband into thinking he had a younger woman? The secret ingredient is retinol or the latest, vitamin c mixed with hyaluronic acid. You look across and see the ‘promoted’ flag on the article. But still you click, hooked into the result. And there it is, paragraph after paragraph of evidence about this miracle cream, eyes glossing over the small print: ‘Individual results may vary’. Right at the end there’s a free trial! But hold it, there’s a catch. Before you enter your delivery address, there’s a prompt for credit card details. YES, they will bill you after the 30-day trial! And if you cancel, they may still have your phone number stored, so can stalk you.

I wonder if massaging in an organic oil and slapping on a light sunscreen to the face every-day, combined with fresh water and exercise, would hydrate, protect and re-generate skin cells as much as the high-end varieties? Get the basics right – don’t buy into the hype!

Tip three: Choose budget beauty services

Ladies, we can easily spend $200 a month at an upmarket salon, but what we’re really paying more for are higher rents, fluffy towels and luxurious surroundings. Drop-in places such as in malls and places referred to as ‘beauty parlour’, can offer a trimmed down service. Guys, you are generally better at this: just head to your local barber.
No, you are unlikely to enjoy soft music and lighting, in fact the room may smell of disinfectant (if you’re lucky), the table may squeak with cheap plastic and be covered in a purple, fraying towel. The staff are unlikely to treat you like Victoria or David Beckham, but they get the job done. No one will be the wiser. So, choose budget beauty services – don’t hang around for extra love.

Tip four: Pick pre-loved

As we all know, a great perfume or aftershave gives the final finesse to any outfit and becomes part of our personal ‘uniform’ or identity. If you go to Smith and Caugheys looking for an eau de parfume or eau de colonge, chances are you’ll be set back at least $120. Trawl Trade Me and I wouldn’t mind betting that sooner or later, someone will be selling the same item, perhaps with a few sprays less but in otherwise perfect condition. It’s the product you’re buying, not the packaging!

Tip five: Supermarket savvy!

After discovering that the savings are around $20 per week compared with shopping at other supermarkets, I’ve become a Pak n Save regular, at least for the staples. If this doesn’t spin your wheels, the receipt includes a fuel voucher for 4c off per litre and discount coupons on the back. I’m not suggesting that braving Pak n Save can help your appearance, but slashing money off one of your biggest weekly expenses is worth smiling about. Relating this back to appearances, accessories are harder to skimp on. To redeem yourself for any social embarrassment from clamouring about with 10,000 others and lugging your washing basket out of the boot to pack your toiletries, you could siphon those savings into an account for a touch of Prada or Hugo Boss.

So, there you have it. By shopping off-season, sticking to basic beauty products, choosing budget beauty services, picking pre-loved items and being Supermarket savvy, you could afford to create that great first impression, for less.

Beauty is only skin deep, and once you’ve got that first impression out of the way, you – and the other person – can focus on the one thing that truly matters – the person you are on the inside!

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