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.

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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.

Things I Did Not Buy: Benefit Mini Sets

Benefit has a couple of promotional deluxe-sample-set GWPs right now, one with Dandelion minis and the other with Hoola minis. Pick one with $65 purchase (DANDYSET or HOOLASET) or both with $105 purchase (CHEEKDUO).

The part I wanted to share was that you can actually buy the sets for $12 each, though they’re a bit hidden on the site – not openly listed or searchable as far as I can see, but with the direct links below you can add them to your cart. Free shipping with code DONTGO and you can pick two packet samples at checkout.

Dandelion Darlings!

 

dandelion brightening finishing powder fun size mini | 3.0 g Net wt. 0.1 oz. • dandelion dew liquid blush fun size mini | 5.0 mL / 0.16 US fl. oz. • dandelion shy beam liquid highlighter fun size mini | 2.5 mL / 0.08 US fl. oz.
dandelion brightening finishing powder fun size mini | 3.0 g Net wt. 0.1 oz. • dandelion dew liquid blush fun size mini | 5.0 mL / 0.16 US fl. oz. • dandelion shy beam liquid highlighter fun size mini | 2.5 mL / 0.08 US fl. oz.

Value breakdown:
Dandelion Brightening Finishing Powder: 3.0 g at $29/7.0 g (or $15/3.5 g) = $12.43 ($12.86)
Dandelion Dew Liquid Blush: 5.0 mL at $28/30 mL = $4.67
Dandelion Shy Beam Liquid Highlighter: 2.5 mL at $26/10 mL = $6.50
Total: $23.60 ($24.03)

Get Your Hoola On Sampling Kit

hoola matte bronzer fun size mini | 3.0 g Net wt. 0.1 oz. •dew the hoola liquid bronzer fun size mini | 5.0 mL / 0.16 US fl. oz. • hoola zero tanlines body bronzer fun size mini | 15.0 mL / 0.5 US fl. oz.
hoola matte bronzer fun size mini | 3.0 g Net wt. 0.1 oz. •dew the hoola liquid bronzer fun size mini | 5.0 mL / 0.16 US fl. oz. • hoola zero tanlines body bronzer fun size mini | 15.0 mL / 0.5 US fl. oz.

Value breakdown:
Hoola Matte Bronzer: 3.0 g at $29/8.0 g (or $15/4.0 g) = $10.88 ($11.25)
Dew the Hoola Liquid Bronzer: 5.0 mL at $28/30 mL = $4.67
Hoola Zero Tanlines Body Bronzer: 15.0 mL at $30/147 mL = $3.06
Total: $18.70 ($19.08)

 

Things I Did Not Buy: Kat von D x Formula X 50% off at Sephora

I love anything miniature, and I especially love makeup minis because I rarely use up full-sizes and I’d rather have a bunch of different products to sample than one that I won’t use up. I’ve never tried Kat von D lipsticks or Formula X polishes, and now that these KVD x Formula X sets are on sale, I’m having such a hard time not buying them…

Studded X: 3 Mini Lip + 3 Nail Polish Duo, originally $29.50, sale $14.75
Studded X: 3 Mini Lip + 3 Nail Polish Duo, originally $29.50, sale $14.75
Studded X: Mini Lip + Nail Polish Duo in Adora, originally $15, now $7.50

Continue reading Things I Did Not Buy: Kat von D x Formula X 50% off at Sephora

Water Washing, Week 5 and Conclusion

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

Spoiler: I’m back to conventional washing entirely.
Well, mostly.

I actually washed my hair with the First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser with Red Clay because I ran out of shampoo and figured my oily scalp could use a deep clean. Works pretty well!
I actually washed my hair with the First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser with Red Clay because I ran out of shampoo and figured my oily scalp could use a deep clean. Random TresemmĂ© conditioner, no other product. Hair is a mess of straight-ish/wavy/ringlets because I totally didn’t plan to take a photo and twisted it into a sloppy bun when it was still damp. 

Continue reading Water Washing, Week 5 and Conclusion

Value: Ulta Travel Sizes

Since it seems that people liked the Sephora travel-size value post, I made a cost-per-ounce comparison for Ulta too. This was way more of a pain than the Sephora one because Ulta somehow 1. doesn’t always list product sizes, 2. lists travel-size products separately (e.g. if something comes in four different sizes, the three larger sizes are all on one product page but the travel size is listed separate), and 3. sometimes lists travel-size products under slightly different names. I didn’t realize #3 until I was halfway done, so there are probably products I missed because there was no full-size product with the exact same name so I thought they only came in travel sizes.

Some of the travel-sized size info I based on what I found on other sites (e.g. looking at ebay postings to get the size of the It Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil); these entries are marked – this is just my ‘best guess’ for the travel-size product based on product sizes the company is known to produce.

Let me know if I missed/need to correct anything!

Continue reading Value: Ulta Travel Sizes