Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gearing Down, part 7 -- Personal Care

Personal care expenditures are one of those things where it may be easy or difficult to reduce when confronted with a sudden financial reverse. Obviously, if you are one of those people who routinely spends hundreds of dollars on hair styling, manicures, pedicures, facials, high-end makeup and the like, it may be painful to give them up, but it is possible to realize substantial savings by making the sacrifice. However, if you're already in the habit of using off-brand soap and shampoo from the dollar store and trim your own hair when it starts showing too many split ends, it's going to be difficult to squeeze much savings out of this area, for the simple reason that you don't want to fall into the trap of false economy.

Personal hygiene is an important part of physical health, and especially when you're in bad financial straits, you really don't want to become ill with preventable problems. So essentials such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste, things that enable you to maintain basic cleanliness, need to stay on the shopping list somehow.

It may be possible to make things last longer by changing your habits of use. For instance, do you usually run a bead of toothpaste the entire length of your toothbrush? Although advertisements usually show toothpaste being applied in this way, since it is more aesthetically pleasing (and helps sell more toothpaste), you generally can get an effective cleaning and decay protection with a lump about the size of a pea or kidney bean.

Also, it may be possible to get free samples here and there that will help you stretch your own supply. For instance, our dentist generally gives out free toothpaste, toothpaste and dental floss with every visit. If a family member regularly travels on business and stays in hotels, they may be able to bring you spare bars of hotel soap and bottles of hotel shampoo. (One trick if you're staying multiple nights at the same hotel is to hide the used soap and shampoo before leaving in the morning. The maids won't throw it away, so you can use the rest for your second or third stay, and will put out fresh soap and shampoo, which you can save and take with you at the end of your stay).

If things get really desperate, some food pantries and other charitable organizations also give away personal hygiene items. So there is never any reason that you should have to go without the fundamental basics of personal hygiene, even if you have to give up some of the creature comforts of personal care that you've been accustomed to. It may mean needing to know where and how to ask and require the humility to be willing to ask, but there is always a way to make sure that you are clean and presentable.

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