Value: Ulta Beauty Break 11/16/16

Featuring Marc Jacobs Daisy. This week had a lower buy-in than usual at $40, with a corresponding lower value.

16-11-16

  • Daisy Eau de Toilette Mini, 0.13 oz @ $100/3.4 oz = $3.82 or @ $27/0.24 oz = $14.63
  • Daisy Eau So Fresh Mini, 0.13 oz @ $100/3.4 oz = $3.82 or @ $27/0.24 oz = $14.63
  • Daisy Eau de Toilette Mini Rollerball, 0.10 oz @ $100/3.4 oz = $2.94 or @ $27/0.24 oz = $11.25

Total value: $10.59 to $40.51

Marc Jacobs coffrets with four of the mini bottles retail for around $50; I don’t think I’ve seen the mini rollerballs sold anywhere but if you estimate the price based on $12.50/0.13 oz that would be $9.62 for a total value of $34.62. The value of this set really comes down to whether you care about the perfume itself, in which case this is a pretty lousy GWP for a $40 buy-in, or if you like the little bottles. Personally, I’m a sucker for perfume minis because I think they’re just so cute.

9/21/16 featuring Becca: minimum spend $50, value $45.40 to $46.84
9/28/16 featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $50, value $41.12 to $46.95
10/05/16 featuring Benefit: minimum spend $50, value $31.60 to $32.74 + cosmetic bag value
10/12/16 featuring Living Proof: minimum spend $50, value $20.47 to $39
10/19/16 featuring assorted brands; step-up featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $60, value $93.00 to $94.48; step-up minimum spend $75, additional value $11.28 to $15.60 + cosmetic bag value
10/26/16 featuring Julep: minimum spend $50, value $37.05
11/2/16 featuring Smashbox: minimum spend $50, value $49.32 to $52.07
11/9/16 featuring Urban Decay: minimum spend $50, value $30.92

There’s a free-with-any-purchase GWP for a travel-sized It’s a Ten Miracle Daily Conditioner, which retails for at $11.96 for 2 oz (or value @ $42.96/33.8 oz = $2.54). That brings the total value of today’s GWPs to $13.13 to $52.47, so if you hit the $40 minimum spend exactly and were willing to pay retail price per oz for all the GWPs, you’d be saving 25-57%, which on the low end is by far the worst deal I’ve seen so far for a Beauty Break, but on the higher end is actually a better-than-average deal.

Value: Ulta Beauty Break 11/9/16

Urban Decay, $50 buy-in. Low value.

16.11.09.jpeg

  • Naked Skin One Done Hybrid Complexion Perfector sample, 0.36 oz @ $34/1.3 oz = $9.42
  • Original Primer Potion sample, 0.06 oz @ $20/0.33 oz = $3.64
  • Revolution High Color Lipgloss in Savage sample, 0.05 oz @ $22/0.17 oz = $6.47
  • Eyeshadow Fireball Eyeshadow sample, 0.03 oz @ $19/0.05 = $11.40

Total value: $30.92

This is the lowest Wednesday Beauty Break value I’ve seen since I started tracking (the ones that pop up on random days are usually lower). The primer potion has been half off at Sephora for a while, which makes the value seem even lower.

9/21/16 featuring Becca: minimum spend $50, value $45.40 to $46.84
9/28/16 featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $50, value $41.12 to $46.95
10/05/16 featuring Benefit: minimum spend $50, value $31.60 to $32.74 + cosmetic bag value
10/12/16 featuring Living Proof: minimum spend $50, value $20.47 to $39
10/19/16 featuring assorted brands; step-up featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $60, value $93.00 to $94.48; step-up minimum spend $75, additional value $11.28 to $15.60 + cosmetic bag value
10/26/16 featuring Julep: minimum spend $50, value $37.05
11/2/16 featuring Smashbox: minimum spend $50, value $49.32 to $52.07

There aren’t any gift-with-any-purchase items that I’m aware of. If you hit the $50 minimum spend exactly and were willing to pay retail price per oz for all the GWPs, you’d be saving 38%, which is lower than most Beauty Break values.

I made a purchase today to take advantage of a reward points multiplier, but waffled over it longer than I would have if the Beauty Break had been more impressive. I’ll use all four of these eventually, so in that sense it’s better for me than the skincare sampler from 10/19 (when I made my last purchase). Now that I’m looking at the list, I’m realizing that I liked the first 4 weeks that I tracked, was kind of meh about 10/19, and have since been unimpressed – am curious to see how the beauty break values will play out as we approach the holidays.

Value: Ulta Beauty Break 11/02/16

Smashbox, $50 buy-in. Pretty unremarkable in my opinion.

16-11-02

  • Photo Finish Hydrating Under Eye Primer, 0.17 oz @ $29/0.33 oz = $14.94
  • Full Exposure Mascara in Jet Black, 0.14 oz @ $22/0.38 oz = $8.11
  • X-rated Mascara in Rich Black, 0.14 oz @ $22/0.30 oz = $10.27
  • Photo Finish Foundation Primer, 0.25 oz @ $16/0.50 oz = $8 or @ $36/1 oz = $9
  • Photo Finish Pore Minimizing Foundation Primer, 0.25 oz @ $16/0.50 oz = $8 or @$39/1 oz = $9.75

Total value: $49.32 to $52.07

The value seems pretty reasonable, I’m just not excited about this set. Smashbox gives out samples of the Photo Finish Primer all the time, which makes them feel less valuable.

9/21/16 featuring Becca: minimum spend $50, value $45.40 to $46.84
9/28/16 featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $50, value $41.12 to $46.95
10/05/16 featuring Benefit: minimum spend $50, value $31.60 to $32.74 + cosmetic bag value
10/12/16 featuring Living Proof: minimum spend $50, value $20.47 to $39
10/19/16 featuring assorted brands; step-up featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $60, value $93.00 to $94.48; step-up minimum spend $75, additional value $11.28 to $15.60 + cosmetic bag value
10/26/16 featuring Julep: minimum spend $50, value $37.05

The only current gift-with-every-purchase GWP I’m aware of is the Joico K-PAC Color Therapy Luster Lock, 1.7oz, $4.99 (now on sale for $3, cheaper per oz than the 4.7 oz size).

If you hit the $50 minimum spend exactly and were willing to pay retail price per oz for all the GWPs, you’d be saving 51-53%, which is in line with typical Beauty Break values.

Value: Ulta Beauty Break 10/26/16

This week’s Beauty Break featured Julep, with a $50 buy-in. Their description appears to have an error; the listed size of the “When Pencil Met Gel” is the full size. They recently released a set of mini When Pencil Met Gel that were 0.02oz each so I used that size for calculations.

16-10-26

  • Length Matters Buildable Lengthening Mascara, 0.2 oz @ $20/0.35 oz = $11.43
  • Take a Breather Oxygen Nail Treatment in Sheer Pink, 0.12 oz @ $18/0.27 oz = $8.00
  • When Pencil Met Gel Long Lasting Gel Eyeliner in Blackest Black, 0.02 oz @ $16/0.042 oz = $7.62
  • It’s Whipped Matte Lip Mousse in Bisou, 0.07 oz @ $20/0.14 oz = $10

Total value: $37.05

I’m not at all impressed by the value of this set, especially since Julep Mavens (technically free to join I think, as long as you skip all the monthly boxes) get 20% off everything, and Julep routinely offers various promotions that easily take 50% off of even Maven pricing.

9/21/16 featuring Becca: minimum spend $50, value $45.40 to $46.84
9/28/16 featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $50, value $41.12 to $46.95
10/05/16 featuring Benefit: minimum spend $50, value $31.60 to $32.74 + cosmetic bag value
10/12/16 featuring Living Proof: minimum spend $50, value $20.47 to $39
10/19/16 featuring assorted brands; step-up featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $60, value $93.00 to $94.48; step-up minimum spend $75, additional value $11.28 to $15.60 + cosmetic bag value

Ulta currently also has two free-with-any-purchase GWPs that I’m aware of:

  • Joico K-PAC Color Therapy Luster Lock, 1.7oz, $4.99 (now on sale for $3, cheaper per oz than the 4.7 oz size)
  • Lancome Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate – this is incorrectly listed as 0.5 oz online but I received my order from last week and it’s actually 0.27 oz, which retails for $20, or @ $175/3.4 oz = $13.90 value.

Total value: $16.90 to $24.99

If you hit the $50 minimum spend exactly and were willing to pay retail price per oz for all the GWPs, you’d be saving 52-55%, which on paper is pretty much in line with values from previous weeks, but the fact that Julep can easily be obtained at a discount makes this Beauty Break unimpressive to me.

Value: Ulta Beauty Break 10/19/16

This week the buy-in was $60 for a mixed-brand skincare set, with a step-up gift at $75 featuring Philosophy.

Edit 10/26/16: I received my order and some samples were not the listed sizes; corrections have been made below.

The $60 beauty break, claimed $125 value:

16-10-19-01

  • Clinque Even Better Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20, 0.24 oz @ $48.50/1.7 oz = $6.85
  • Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive, 0.25 oz @ $39/2 oz = $4.88
  • Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum, 0.25 oz @ $60/1 oz or $15/0.25 oz = $15
  • Clarins Multi-Active night Cream, 0.5 oz @ $56/1.7 oz = $16.47
  • Strivectin Tightening & Sculpting Face Cream, 0.25 oz @ $95/1.7 oz = $13.97
  • Nuxe Multi-Purpose Dry Oil, 0.33 oz @ $45/3.3 oz = $4.50, or @ $29/1.6 oz = $5.98
  • Exuviance Pigment Lifting Masque, 1 pc @ $65/6 pc = $10.83
  • Hey Honey good Morning Serum, 0.5 oz @ $41/1.0 oz = $20.50

Total value: $93.00 to $94.48
Pretty significantly short of the $125.

The $75 Philosophy step-up, claimed $18 value:

16-10-19-02

  • Purity Made Simple 3-In-1 Cleanser For Face And Eyes, 1.0 oz @ $36/16 oz = $2.25, or @ $11/3.0 oz = $3.67
  • The Microdelivery Exfoliating Facial Wash, 1.0 oz @ $42/16 oz = $2.63, or @ $15/4 oz = $3.75
  • Amazing Grace Firming Body Emulsion, 1.0 oz @ $55/32 oz = $1.72, or @ $37/16 oz = $2.31
  • Renewed Hope In A Jar Refreshing And Refining Moisturizer, 0.25 oz @ $75/4 oz = $4.69, or @ $47/2.0 oz = $5.88

Total value: $11.28 to $15.60
There’s a bag shown in the Philosophy photo but it’s not mentioned in the description. If that’s included, I think the claimed $18 value is reasonable; if not, it falls a bit short.

Ulta currently also has three free-with-any-purchase GWPs that I’m aware of:

  • It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream Transforming Moisturizing Super Cream, 0.014 oz @ $48/2 oz = $0.34, or @ $16/0.5 = $0.45; I think this is probably a typo in decimal placement (should be 0.14 oz), so total value $3.40 to $4.50 edit: sample is actually 0.237 fl oz, so @ $48/2 oz = $5.69 or @ $16/0.5 oz = $7.58
  • Lancome Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate, 0.5 oz @ $175/3.4 oz = $25.74, or @ $20/0.27 = $37.04 edit: sample is actually 0.27 oz which retails for $20, or @ 175/3.4 oz = $13.90
  • Tarte Deluxe Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara 0.13 oz, @ 21/0.24 oz = $11.38, or @ $10/0.1 oz = $13

Total: $37.45 to $50.49, or $40.47 to $54.52 if I’m right about the typo. edit: $30.97 to $40.58

Grand total: $141.72 to $164.60 edit: $135.25 to $150.66

If you hit the minimum spend ($75) exactly and were willing to pay retail price-per-oz for all the GWP items, you’d be saving 70-73% edit: 64-67% off. If you only went for the $60 set, you’d be saving 68-71% edit: 62-64%.

I actually did make a $75 purchase this week, not because of this beauty break in particular (not my favorite, to be honest) but because several things I usually use and have run out of were on sale. I’m overloaded on skincare and probably will try to swap or sell most of these.

It’s hard to compare this week’s beauty breaks to previous ones since the buy-in is different and it features a mix of brands rather than just one. The value of the GWP is higher than the buy-in price, which is unusual, but the mix of brands and products means it’s more likely you’ll encounter something you dislike (i.e. something which therefore has no value to you).

9/21/16 featuring Becca: minimum spend $50, value $45.40 to $46.84
9/28/16 featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $50, value $41.12 to $46.95
10/05/16 featuring Benefit: minimum spend $50, value $31.60 to $32.74 + cosmetic bag value
10/12/16 featuring Living Proof: minimum spend $50, value $20.47 to $39

Value: Ulta Beauty Break 10/12/16

Ulta did Beauty Breaks on the 7th (Friday) and 10th (Monday) which is atypical. I did calculate the values for those, but they were much lower than usual, so I’m choosing to exclude them from my Beauty Break roundups.

Today’s Beauty Break is also atypical. The buy-in is higher, at $75, and the setup is odd – they’re simultaneously introducing a new GWP set with the same buy-in that doesn’t appear to be tied to the Beauty Break (i.e. won’t expire when the Beauty Break does), but instead of adding the Beauty Break set to your cart like normal, you add the GWP set to your cart and pick the Beauty Break from a dropdown menu in your cart (as a a GWP to the GWP set). Yeah.

The actual Beauty Break for this week isn’t that impressive.

16-10-12-01
Living Proof Timeless Shampoo 2 oz, Timeless Conditioner 2 oz, and Timeless Plumping Mousse 1.9 oz
  • Living Proof Timeless Shampoo 2 oz @ $59/24 oz = $4.92, or @ $12/2 oz = $12
  • Living Proof Timeless Conditioner 2 oz @ $59/24 oz = $4.92, or @ $12/2 oz = $12
  • Living Proof Timeless Plumping Mousse 1.9 oz @$28/5 oz = $10.64, or @ $15/1.9 oz = $15

Total value: $20.47 to $39
In terms of the Beauty Break itself, this doesn’t hold up favorably compared to previous weeks. Ulta is advertising the value of the Living Proof Set + beauty bag as $179, so we’ll see if that’s true.

9/21/16 featuring Becca: minimum spend $50, value $45.40 to $46.84
9/28/16 featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $50, value $41.12 to $46.95
10/05/16 featuring Benefit: minimum spend $50, value $31.60 to $32.74 + cosmetic bag value

There are two options for the GWP set, the “Electric Blue Beauty Bag” or “Luminous Gold Beauty Bag.”

16.10.12 blue.jpeg
Electric Blue Beauty Bag
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Gloss in Fudge (0.07 oz)
  • Soap & Glory Hand Food Hydrating Hand Cream (1.69 oz)
  • Clarins Multi-Active Jour SPF 20 (0.5 oz)
  • Benefit Roller Lash Super-Curling Mascara (0.1 oz)
  • Urban Decay All Nighter Liquid Foundation in 5.0 (0.1 oz)
  • Sexy Hair Big Sexy Hair Powder Play (0.07 oz)
  • Tree Hut Bare Moisturizing Shave Oil (2.0 oz)
  • ULTA Butter Balm Lip Gloss in Luna (0.098 oz)
  • First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser (1.0 oz)
  • Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusion Concentrate (0.33 oz)
  • Kenra Platinum Revive Complex Leave In Fortifier (1.0 oz)
  • bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie Lipstick in Get Ready
  • Cargo Swimmables Eye Pencil in Pebble Brown (0.028 oz)
  • Narciso Rodriquez For Her Eau de Toilette (0.03 oz)
  • Philosophy Amazing Grace Eau de Toilette (0.05 oz)
  • Thierry Mugler Angel Eau de Parfum (0.04 oz)

Total value: $96.87 to $104.49, plus the value of the bag itself
Total value including Beauty Break: $117.34 to $143.49, plus value of bag

16.10.12 gold.jpeg
Luminous Gold Beauty Bag
  • Wella EIMI Root Shoot sample (1.5 oz)
  • Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizer sample (2.0 oz)
  • Unwash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner sample (2.5 oz)
  • Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum sample (0.25 oz)
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Gloss in Fudge sample (0.07 oz)
  • Ahava Deadsea Water Mineral Hand Cream sample (0.68 oz)
  • Benefit They’re Real! Beyond Mascara sample (0.1 oz)
  • Dermalogica Intensive Eye Repair sample (0.1 oz)
  • H2O Oasis Ultra Hydrating Cream sample (0.34 oz)
  • IT Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil in Universal Taupe sample
  • ULTA Eye Primer in Nude Matte sample (0.1 oz)
  • Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer sample (0.25 oz)
  • Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Liquid Lip in Gwyneth sample (0.02 oz)
  • Gucci Bamboo Eau de Parfum sample (0.05 oz)
  • Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy Eau de Parfum sample (0.05 oz)
  • Acqua di Gioia for Her sample (0.06 oz)

Total value: $104.08 to $114.74, plus the value of the bag itself
Total value including Beauty Break: $124.55 to $153.74

In any case, the value of the Living Proof Trio + beauty bag falls short of the stated $179, unless you generously value the gold bag as being worth >$25.

Right now there’s also a free-with-any-purchase deluxe size of Buxom Wildly Whipped Lightweight Liquid Lipstick, 0.06 oz at $21/0.16 oz = $7.88, bringing the total GWP value to $125.22 to $161.62. So if you hit the minimum spend ($75) exactly and were willing to pay retail price-per-oz for all the GWP items, you’d be saving 63-68% off, not including the value of the GWP bags (which look pretty nice, in my opinion). In terms of pure value, this is definitely a good deal.

Value: Ulta Beauty Break 10/5/16

Benefit likes to do cute novelty items for their GWPs, often cosmetic bags, which I personally really like. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good way to calculate value. Sometimes they’ll list the bags for sale on their main site, but right now at least I don’t see this one offered.

16-10-05
They’re Real! Beyond Mascara mini (0.1 oz), They’re Real! Tinted Lash Primer mini (0.1 oz), Ka-Brow in 03 Medium mini (0.03 oz), BROWVO Conditioning Primer Nutrient-Rich Eyebrow Primer (0.03 oz), Pink Emblem Case

The minimum spend for this Beauty Break was $50. For value calculations, as always, I used the smallest size and biggest size (i.e. the lowest buy-in and the best value) available at Ulta. Confusingly, the email and photo advertise a sample of the Total Moisture Facial Cream, but the item descriptionI already have more Benefit mascara samples than I can use (one of They’re Real and two Roller Lash) and the Ka-Brow isn’t my color.  instead includes a sample of Ka-Brow.

  • They’re Real! Beyond Mascara mini, 0.1 oz @ $24/0.3 oz = $8.00, or @ $12/0.14 oz = $8.57
  • They’re Real! Tinted Lash Primer mini, 0.1 oz @ $24/0.3 oz = $8.00, or @ $12/0.14 oz = $8.57
  • Ka-Brow in 03 Medium mini, 0.03 oz @ $24/0.1 oz = $7.20
  • BROWVO Conditioning Primer Nutrient-Rich Eyebrow Primer, 0.03 oz @ $28/0.1 oz = $8.40
  • Pink emblem case, unknown value

Total value: $31.60 to $32.74 plus value of case
Their stated value was simply “over $30” which is definitely true. If you value the case at $10-15, the value holds up pretty well compared to the last two weeks. 

9/21/16 featuring Becca: minimum spend $50, value $45.40 to $46.84
9/28/16 featuring Philosophy: minimum spend $50, value $41.12 to $46.95

I’m not aware of any free-with-any purchase GWPs this week. If you hit the minimum spend exactly, were willing to pay the retail price-per-oz for the GWPs, and value the case at $10, you’d be getting 45-46% off.

Personally, I already have more Benefit mascara samples than I can use (one of They’re Real and two Roller Lash) and the Ka-Brow isn’t my color. I’m interested in trying the lash and eyebrow primers, and I do have a soft spot for cosmetic bags that I really don’t need, but it’s not uncommon for Benefit to offer significant brand-specific GWPs that can be stacked with Beauty Breaks or other promos, so this isn’t particularly tempting.

Value: Ulta Beauty Break 9/28/16

The beauty break this week didn’t look as good to me as the Becca set from last week.

16-09-28
Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser sample (2 oz),  Amazing Grace Perfumed Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath sample (2 oz), Microdelivery Exfoliating Wash sample (2 oz), Uplifting Miracle Worker Cool-Lift & Firm Moisturizer for Face & Neck sample (0.17 oz), Uplifting Miracle Worker Eye Cool-Lift & Firm Eye Cream sample (0.17 oz)

The minimum spend for this Beauty Break was $50. For value calculations, I used the smallest size and biggest size (i.e. the lowest buy-in and the best value) available at Ulta.

  • Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser sample, 2 oz @ $11/3 oz = $7.33 or @ $36/16 oz = $4.50 (2 oz)
  • Amazing Grace Perfumed Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath, 2 oz @ $25/16 oz = $3.13 or @ $38/32 oz = $2.38
  • Microdelivery Exfoliating Wash sample, 2 oz @ $15/4 oz = $7.50 or @ $42/16 oz = $5.25
  • Uplifting Miracle Worker Cool-Lift & Firm Moisturizer for Face & Neck sample, 0.17 oz @ $65/2 oz = $5.53
  • Uplifting Miracle Worker Eye Cool-Lift & Firm Eye Cream sample (0.17 oz), 0.17 oz @ $69/0.5 oz = $23.46

Total value: $41.12 to $46.95
Notably, their stated value for this set was $35.

Right now there’s also a free-with-any-purchase deluxe size of Urban Decay Perversion Mascara (0.1 oz @ $22/0.4 oz = $5.50, or @ $10/0.13 oz = $7.69, but Ulta also has a value set @ $24/0.53 oz total product = $4.53), bringing the total GWP value to $45.64-$54.64, so if you hit the minimum spend ($50) exactly, and if you were willing to pay the retail price-per-oz for the GWPs, you’d be getting about 48-52% off. This is comparable to last week’s beauty break ($45.40 to $46.84 without the additional GWP, or $49.73-51.84 with) but the practical value definitely isn’t there for me.

Personally, I think the Philsophy GWPs in general tend to be underwhelming, probably because they tend to include low-unit-value fillers (shower gel, lotion, face wash, etc.) and overpriced skincare products with pretty meh ingredients. Also, they tend to feature the same products over and over again, which is nice if you particularly like their products and travel a lot, but is otherwise boring.

Value: Ulta Beauty Break 9/21/16

Back in July I had meant to start tracking the values of Ulta Beauty Breaks but somehow kept forgetting to do so. But the Beauty Break today looked good enough to be tempting.

16-09-21
Becca Backlight Priming Filter Base (0.2 oz), Under Eye Brightening Corrector (0.08 oz), Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal (0.34 oz), Shimmering Skin Perfector Poured in Opal (0.088 oz)

The minimum spend for this Beauty Break is $50. For value calculations, I used the smallest size and biggest size (i.e. the lowest buy-in and the best value) available at Ulta.

  • Backlight Priming Filter Base, 0.2 oz @ $38/1 oz = $7.60
  • Under Eye Brightening Corrector, 0.08 oz @ $30/0.2 oz = $12
  • Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal, 0.34 oz @ $41/1.7 oz = $8.20 or @ $19/0.67 oz = $9.64
  • Shimmering Skin Perfector Poured in Opal, 0.088 oz @ $38/0.19 = $17.60

Total value: $45.40 to $46.84

Right now there’s also a free-with-any-purchase travel size of the Living Proof Timeless Pre-Shampoo Treatment (1 oz @ $26/6 oz = $4.33, or @ $10/2 oz = $5), bringing the total GWP value to $49.73-51.84, so if you hit the minimum spend ($50) exactly, and if you were willing to pay the retail price-per-oz for the GWPs, you’d be getting about 50-51% off.

Becca products are popular and pricey, so this is a good deal, especially if stacked with one of the other current high-value GWP options. But I have to admit, I don’t use highlighters often enough to need two more – it’ll take me a long time to work through what I already have as it is.

Consumptionism

I have a shopping problem.

Not so much in terms of money spent, although that’s probably higher than it should be, but in terms of how much time and mental energy I devote to shopping and related topics. Even though I know logically that experiences bring more happiness than possessions, and that becoming the person I want to be is more fulfilling than accruing the things I want to own, on an emotional level, I’m struggling to let go of the mentality that things are what make me happy.

If I had to choose a starting point, it would be my senior year of college. I joke that I went through a ‘second puberty’ in the latter half of college – I cleaned up my diet and lost weight, my body fat distribution changed, my hair went from unmanagable frizz to well-behaved waves, and my skin started to clear up. Clothes shopping suddenly became much more enjoyable, and I started getting into makeup beyond “cover up acne as much as possible.” Even though I didn’t lose a huge amount of weight (I only went down 2 pant sizes) and many of the tops and dresses I had worn at my starting weight still fit, I kept buying clothes because the way I felt in them was different, and I suddenly felt like I had so many different options that I could explore.

At the beginning of college, if I thought I wanted a certain item of clothing, say a black wool coat, I would write down the maximum amount I was willing to pay for it, and if I saw something I liked that was below that maximum amount, I bought it. Pretty straightforward, and I didn’t spend a lot of time shopping. But when I was experimenting with different clothes in different sizes, minimizing the amount I spent on each individual purchase became more important. I spent increasing amounts of time browsing clothing sites and monitoring sales, playing a game of “what could I buy for $X”, justifying to myself that this was harmless because I wasn’t actually spending money most of the time.

During my senior year of college, I dated a guy who was the complete opposite of materialistic – the kind of person who can probably fit everything he owns in a single suitcase and has no problem backpacking through foreign countries. He sent me the Paul Graham essay “Stuff”, and I was discomfited; I liked the essay and the sentiment, and I wanted to be the kind of person who wasn’t tied down by things, but I was having a rough time personally/emotionally and I felt like clothes and clothes shopping made me happy.

Somewhat tangentially: my mom had always told me to avoid horizontal stripes because they would make me look wider, which made sense to me, so I dutifully followed her advice. Horizontal stripes are now my favorite pattern (I have right now approximately 7 tees, 3 sweaters, and 4 dresses with horizontal stripes). Anyway, the first time I put on a striped top and found that it did not, in fact, make me look fat, I felt like I had accomplished something. Having spent most of my life either mostly unaware of my appearance or completely unhappy with it, putting on something new and liking the way it looked felt like a pleasant novelty every time. Even if other things in my life were unpredictable or stressful, I knew I could count on that feeling. Retrospectively, this is the point at which shopping became tied to emotional dys/regulation for me.

I am constantly playing games with myself, because I’m the kind of person that needs constant feedback, and creating arbitrary checkpoints or goals for myself is one way to fulfill that need. Most of the games are silly and harmless. For example, when I was driving home from college and had the GPS up on the dashboard, I “won” if I looked up and the remaining number of miles was a two-digit multiple of 11. I “won” if I arrived to an event exactly on time. In the same manner, as I started shopping more, whenever I found a good deal or bought something that looked good on me, I felt like I “won.” Constant positive feedback.

With all this shopping, I was now piling up clothes that didn’t fit me either in size or in style. In the past, I just donated clothes I no longer wore, but the sheer number of these unwanted clothes was higher than any amount I’d ever donated at once, and they were all in good condition. So I started selling them.

Even though I had previously purchased clothes from thrift stores and eBay, my real entry into the world of buying/selling secondhand clothes was through the now-defunct Twice (which functioned like a consignment shop: you shipped them a box of clothes and they paid upfront based on what they thought they could get from reselling the clothes). I was an early customer, and in addition to the store credit I got from trading in clothes (they gave you a bonus if you took store credit instead of cashing out), I racked up a decent amount of credit by referring people (mostly through Reddit), which led to a feeling of, it’s okay, I can shop as much as I like, I’m not spending real money. I also liked the idea that my old clothes were going to another customer like me, not getting shipped en masse to some third-world country to undermine the local economy (I was at least vaguely aware of this concept then).

After Twice closed I switched to ThredUp, which like Twice allows you to ship them a lot of clothes at once; they pay upfront for some, do consignment-type listings for higher-ticket items (you set the sale price and get a percentage of that when it sells), and donate anything they decline to sell. ThredUp paid less than Twice had, despite the fact that their sale prices were higher, which I found disgruntling. I had used eBay before and found the listing process frustrating, and having to pay fees on listings that didn’t sell just made that worse, so I ended up on Poshmark instead. Again, I ended up buying as much as I sold, and even though this felt good at first – I’m trading things that don’t bring me joy for ones that do – I slowly started to feel guilty again, realizing that I wasn’t actually paring down my belongings, just replacing them.

Around this time, Marie Kondo’s eponymous ‘KonMari’ method was exploding in popularity, and I loved the idea of being someone who only owned things that “sparked joy” – but I found this harder to implement in practice. I did clear out a chunk of my closet, learned to fold clothes neatly, and used boxes I already had to organize my shelves and drawers, but I know I failed at the first step – to toss everything that didn’t bring me joy.

I’ve always had hoarder tendencies. I always think, ‘but I might have a use for this later’ and tend hold on to things not because I really love them, but because having them makes me feel more secure. It’s odd that I have this subconscious thought pattern, even though I have never had unsatisfied material wants (or really, needs). Neither of my parents (who both grew up poor, not even sure if they would have enough to eat or clothes to wear) think like this. Tangentially, this kind of thought pattern also extended to why I had to lose weight in the first place. I had to retrain my mind to realize that I would always have enough food, that I didn’t have to eat everything in front of me with the fear that it might disappear later. In that case, I was able to find a balance where I enjoy food in a healthy way – so why am I struggling to do so with respect to shopping?

I recently watched the documentary “The True Cost” (2015) on Netflix and was struck by one line in particular, paraphrased by Dr. Richard D. Wolff from the article “Consumptionism” by Earnest Elmo Calkins (originally published in the trade journal Printer’s Ink): “Consumptionism is all about getting people to treat the things they use as the things they use up.”

This is certainly part of my problem – that clothes have become a consumable good, something that I replace far more frequently than is strictly necessary. What percent of clothes do I actually end up tossing because they’re worn out? Five percent, maybe, or ten? Can’t be any more than that. On the flip side, however, I have also been treating makeup, something that you’re supposed to use up, as something to collect.

I reorganize my beauty products constantly, which I call “makeup Tetris” – there’s a game element in finding new ways to fit things together, and I “win” whenever I find a perfect setup for a group of items. Also, I find it reassuring to see things lined up in an orderly fashion, in part because I can see how much I own (and owning more things gives me a sense of security), and in part because when my life as a whole is not in order, it’s comforting to to know that I can at least control this tiny corner of the universe. I always told myself that this was a productive endeavor, but gradually I’ve come to realize that it’s just another part of the overarching consumptionism problem.

So this is where I am now. I’m using the app ClosetSpace (which I would recommend with reservations – it’s quite frustrating to set up and not entirely intuitive to use, but it’s free and works both on mobile and desktop) to track how often I wear different pieces, and eventually I plan on using that information to pare down my wardrobe to the pieces I find myself reaching for over and over. In concept, I like the idea of capsule wardrobes or even a uniform, but realistically, I don’t think I’m anywhere close to that. Baby steps.

I’m also making an effort to use up the beauty products I’ve accrued. I had catalogued them at least partially at one point, but kept forgetting to update, and since I buy/sell/give away/use up beauty products at a much faster rate than I do clothes, whenever I did remember to update the list I would get confused. Right now I’m just choosing a few products at a time and making a concerted effort to use them up. Someday soon I’ll re-catalogue everything and print a physical copy so I can track what I’m using/using up.

As Lily Allen sings, “I am a weapon of massive consumption/ but it’s not my fault, it’s how I’m programmed to function.” There’s no question that we as consumers are constantly being programmed through various forms of advertising to always want more, but “fault” isn’t the issue here. The issue is simply, does this make me happy? Do I want to continue living like this?

For a long time, my answer to those questions was an uneasy, “I guess?”
Now, that is changing.