What Price Beauty? The Menace of Impulse Buys

Organizing expert Julie Morgenstern on how to conquer the clutter of your medicine cabinet — and reap the rewards

Click here to read the whole article on the BEYOND TODAY blog

People have aspired to look younger and live longer since the beginning of time. Greek historian Herodotus first wrote about the Fountain of Youth in the fifth century B.C., and Ponce de Leon added to its lore two thousand years later on his quest through the swamps of modern-day Florida.

But today the quest manifests itself, especially for women, in the allure of beauty products. Creams, lotions, gels and soaps — all “worth it” — every one promising the ephemeral qualities of youth: energy, elasticity, and glow. Each seemingly innocent purchase is small enough to fit in your handbag, so you say, what’s the harm? Unfortunately, a shocking amount of cash out the door without your even noticing it.


  • Step 1: Gather all your beauty products on one surface — used and unopened, from the depths of your bathroom cabinets and linen closets.
  • Step 2: Take out a calculator and estimate the cost of what you own.
  • Step 3: Drink a glass of wine (if you like) to dull the shock.
  • Step 4: Bravely pitch (or give away) all but the absolute essentials, ditching every woulda/coulda/shoulda that just clutters up your space and never delivered on their promise.

Organize it: Re-load your medicine cabinet, toiletry kit, handbag, etc. with your go-to, all time favorite items. Group by category, and place backups on the shelf right behind the current ones, so you don’t forget about your ample supply. Too often we buy something new before we’ve finished what we already own. Make the commitment — Only buy replacements when your last tube of cream, lipstick, or bottle of shampoo — is six applications from gone. And don’t try anything on impulse — if you need a new lipstick — do your research, and then plan a mindful shopping trip.

Reap the Rewards: Relish the clean, clear spaces on your dresser top, bathroom counters and in your shower. Enjoy the speed with which you can get your hands on what you need in a flash. Dedicate the money you might have spent on a seventeenth mascara, to a savings or investment account that keeps that glow on your face naturally.

Getting a grip on your impulse spending feels good.  You could potentially preserve thousands of dollars, save time rummaging through cluttered cabinets and purses, and reduce your stress. What could be better for creating that youthful glow?


Wondering what beauty really costs?? Click here for cosmetic products pricelist on the BEYOND TODAY blog

New York Times bestselling author Julie Morgenstern is an organizing and time-management expert, business productivity consultant and speaker. Her company, Julie Morgenstern Enterprises, is dedicated to using her philosophies and methods to provide a wide range of practical solutions that transform the way people and companies function.

7 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Holly Gallagher says:

    I especially like “Step 3” in the article above!

  2. avatar lisakitty says:

    I agree with the advice totally.  Others from me:

    1.  I found out years ago that drugstore cleansers and moisturizers work best for me.  I’m a cetaphil girl, because my skin is so sensitive that any type of fragrance made me break out in a rash.  Even Clinique stuff isn’t as easy on my skin.  Use the cheap stuff and save major bread on something that literally goes down the drain.

    2.  Makeup:  I also found I was using less than 1 percent of my makeup.  I have literally hundreds of eye shadow colors I have never used because eye shadows tend to come in pairs or pallettes and I will use one of the colors and none of the others.  Buy single eye shadow colors for the ones you use every day.

    3.  Hair care:  This is the one area that I do spend money on, because I have found that drugstore shampoos don’t work on my hair.  Buy what works for your hair,  but you should never use more than 3 products on your hair(shampoo, conditioner and styler) if that.  I use one product (wen) and my hair has never looked better, whether or not I blow dry.

    4.  Soap/scents:  I never buy the scented soap version of my perfume, although if someone gives it to me as a present, I use it in my Saturday Spoil LisaKitty Bath as a bubble bath. I have received so many soap samples from friends, gift offers from cosmetic firms etc. that I just put them all in a basket by the bath and chose one when I want to spoil myself.  But for everyday soap, I use Ivory soap, followed by Cetaphil body lotion and non scented deodorant.  The mix of the different products on some people (soap/deodorant/perfume) is SO overwhelming and can cause headaches in people.  it’s also WAAAAY cheaper to use Ivory than my perfume scents body lotion and body wash.  And the perfume I apply afterwards is more than enough and doesn’t clash with the soap.

    5.  Regift ASAP any perfume or cosmetic that you will not use.  Teenage girls are a great dumping ground for cosmetics you don’t want, or perfumes you will never use.  Post something on Facebook if you have something you want to get rid of.  What does NOT work for you may work for one of your friends.  And maybe someday they will have your favorite perfume or cosmetic and you will get it back.    

    OK: enough from me on this.  I just spent WAAAAY  too much money on fancy cleansers in my youth (the $400 skin care program that sent me to a dermotologist comes to mind).  for the record, I have been told by people I look 15 years younger than I actually am.  Take care of that face!

    PS:  Try to limit the days that you wear any base on your face.  I don’t wear base at all anymore except for special occasions: just touch up blemishes using mineral foundation.    Just the act of putting it on, taking it off, every day is rough on your skin.  Limit the amount of time you spend “under the mask” of foundation and you will save money and also it’s better for your skin. 

    • Lisa-LOVE your advice…sounds like you’ve put a ton of thought into this, and have come up with some great rules of thumb.  I especially like you comment that you realized you were only using 1 percent of your makeup.  I wonder how many other women would agree.  I must say, that as a professional organizer, that number sounds pretty close to right from every client I’ve ever worked with…maybe 10% at most.  We should all be encouraged that your streamlined approach has resulted in youthful results!


      • avatar lisakitty says:

        Thank you so much for responding Julie!  I loved your article and am honored you read my response.

  3. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Cosmetics.  .  . and what better “project” to do today than sort . . . and then discard.  I believe I speak for many of us when we get into the “discard” realm.  The BIG things should go first.  Long ago I found that hair spray once opened for a bit becomes sticky (I mean, have you see what dried spray LOOKS like when it has collected along the rim, making me think twice about what I am spraying on my hair, for gosh sake!)  Get the basket out – a big one — and without second thought, discard those half filled cans now!) 

    But my biggest “problem” is first, the elation of getting that free gift along with Lancome — but then finding that that eye shadow or lip color is just not “me”.  I don’t know about the rest of us, but it is new and so I tend to store it because it is almost pristine.  My bathroom has expanded to become a cosmetics counter over time with these wonderful unusuable samples that lie among the “to kill for” ones that are wonderful.  I have recently learned what the word “discard” means — and during these cosmetic clean-up sessions, it often takes two hands to lift the basket and take it away. 

    But it feels so good to have SPACE again.  . and it is lift big time to not have that awful word “clutter”.  A good days work I always think.


    • Joan–I always love your perspective on things…so true about the temptation, and even responsibility we often feel to store things that are new, pristine, beautiful–even if they are not right for us.  Lisa’s idea to find a teen or two to regularly give those samples to is a good one.  They often don’t have the money to be buying things that come “FREE with Pruchase”, and of course, they are still in discovery mode of colors that work for them. 



  4. I loathe clutter and too-muchness in anything. Learned that from my uber-organized mother to simplify & be orderly everything….saves stress and time.