How to Create a Beautiful Life on a Budget

There’s nothing better than feeling resourceful and empowered about how you’re taking care of yourself.

When I was married, I decided even though I was miserable, I would still try to be beautiful. I no longer felt loved within my relationship, and the occasional compliment from someone else who thought I was pretty kept me going. I know this is a little messed up, but it’s how I felt about myself at the time.

As a result, I got addicted to getting regular facials once a month. I loved lying down on a cushioned spa table and letting someone expertly take care of my face, especially during those last few months when my then-husband and I barely spent any time together. Feeling scrubs and oils massaged gently onto my forehead, my nose, my cheeks … it was like the physical version of empathy. And my skin looked great.

Fast forward to me a few years later, post-divorce, paying off lawyer fees and living in a much more expensive city. I no longer believe that looking good is the key to happiness, and I can’t afford to do high-end luxury facials every month like I used to. But I still love figuring out ways to look and feel better.

I think of it as a declaration of independence in self care: me contentedly reading a novel while my face mask dries on a Saturday morning, before my weekend adventures begin.

And as I pay down debts and pursue new financial goals, I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about how to pamper myself while saving money, an endless experiment involving CVS coupons, Amazon reviews and Groupon.

Here are some my best tips, tricks and products. Take note that some of the suggestions below are more like long-term investments than cost-saving items, but trust me, they are worth every penny.

Budget buys I love

Burt’s Bees Peach & Willowbark Deep Pore Scrub

Exfoliating your skin helps it absorb moisturizers, and this little tube of goodness is one of my favorite ways of doing that. I keep it in my shower, rub it on my face and rinse it off before washing my hair. I also use it to prep my skin for one of those inexpensive moisturizing face masks you can buy at the drugstore. I could write poetry about how much I like this stuff.

Sephora’s eyeliners are my favorite. Here I am wearing one of their brighter green ones.

Sephora eyeliners

I loved taking art classes as a kid; just looking at all those different colors made me so excited to create something. Sephora eyeliners are the same way: they come in lots of colors, aren’t that expensive and work well. They’re really fun for when you want to try something new but don’t want to spend too much money on something trendy. I have blueish-green eyes, and use their waterproof contour eye pencils in these shades: Tiramisu, 5th Avenue and Go for a ride.

Lavender oil

Lavender is used in aromatherapy to reduce stress — always a good thing when you’re going through a major life change — and has so many uses! I like to add a few drops of lavender oil to my bath, light some candles and soak for a while. I even add it to fragrance-free laundry detergent when I’m washing my sheets, to help me sleep. I’ve also put it in those scent dispensers you can find at T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s. Just smelling it all around my apartment instantly transports me to any spa I’ve ever visited. Lavender oil is also a wonderful thing to have around if someone wants to give you a massage! Wink wink.

Lavanila The Healthy Fragrance Roller Ball-Pure Vanilla

If I had a dollar for every time someone compliments me on my perfume when I wear this, I wouldn’t have to write articles about how to save money! This perfume, which in roller ball form is less than $20, smells sooo good and is a convenient addition to whatever you carry in your bag to freshen up throughout the day. I am not a big fan of heavy floral scents and prefer something more sensual, and Lavanila is just the best!

Things in your kitchen that double as beauty products

Coconut oil as eye makeup remover

My stylist told me about this one! I ran out of eye makeup remover one week and didn’t have time to go to the drugstore or order any online, and remembered she mentioned coconut oil is great for removing makeup. Luckily I had a jar of Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil in my kitchen, and turns out it’s an awesome eye makeup remover: moisturizing, free of chemicals! Bonus: it’s $4.99 for a 16 oz. jar. That’s quite a bargain!


Drinking water is great for your skin and overall health and well-being. There is nothing better than having a huge glass of cold water infused with lemon slices! I keep a few water bottles in my fridge filled with them, so I can always grab one on my way out the door or when I get home. I sometimes use the same bottles with lemon slices two or three times before washing them out; it’s an easy way to get some flavor while also saving time. I also use lemon juice in homemade face masks. Which brings me to …


Avocados are a delicious addition in many healthy recipes like salads ands smoothies. Did you also know they can be a key ingredient in whipping up a homemade face mask? I try to use organic avocadoes.

Pricey things that pay off in the long term


My Mom and sisters bought me a Vitamix when I first moved to Washington, D.C., to congratulate me on staring over. Yes, it’s expensive. But when it comes to taking care of your skin and eating well, the Vitamix is hands down one of the best appliances out there. I use mine to make Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie on Sundays, and divide the smoothies up into Mason jars that I drink in the morning as part of my breakfast. The smoothie recipe only keeps for a few days, so I’ll usually freeze a few servings for later in the week. You have to buy a lot of vegetables and fruits to make this smoothie, but trust me, it works wonders. When I consistently drink these, people alway ask me about my skin and what I’m doing to take such good care of it. It really does leave you glowing.

Vitamin C shower filters

When I first moved to D.C., I noticed my hair started to look awful: dry, frizzier than usual. That’s when I did a little research and realized they pump so much chlorine into our water here and it was really taking a toll on my hair and skin. Yuck! Luckily, I found out about adding Vitamin C filters to your showerhead! They not only filter out the gross stuff from my water but they also have moisturizing benefits. They’re not cheap, but my hair and skin feel so much better.

Nice sheets

I’ve extolled the importance of having nice sheets on Bride in Reverse before, and I can’t say this enough: you need sleep to look and feel your best, especially when you’re going through a million different emotions about the state of your life. Go on or search the shelves of your local Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx and get something with a good thread count. Your bed should be your sanctuary from the world.

How are you creating a more beautiful life that isn’t breaking the bank? I’d love to hear from you about what’s working, what’s not working, and what you thought of this post! Leave a comment below, and if you’re inspired, thanks for sharing this piece with someone who might be interested, as well!