It is important to look the part at work

Looking Professional on a Budget

by Linda Shapero

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I was thinking today about how much I used to spend monthly on things like manicures, pedicures, haircuts and coloring, clothing, makeup, etc. I could easily spend a few hundred dollars over a weekend when I went out to shop, and that didn't include necessities such as gas for the car and food.

Of course, that was then and this is now. The job I had at that time allowed me a lot of overtime, so I didn't have to feel guilty if I spent extra. I was even able to pay off my car, a large hospital bill, and a credit card bill that was way too high.

Since that time, however, I moved to a different part of the country where salaries are lower, and my job doesn't offer overtime or pay as much as I'm used to making. Also, taking into account the present state of the economy, I realized changes had to be made. So, I finally wised up. I somehow got smart and decided to stop wasting money and put it where it belongs: in my future.

Being a professional, it's important to look the part. For a woman, that means having fingernails and toenails done every week or two, haircuts and coloring every four to six weeks, waxing (if you do that sort of thing), facials, and perhaps even a massage now and then. In addition, there are clothes for work and for special occasions, and as we all know, they are not cheap.

I started having my nails done years ago when I was in a sales job where I was constantly using my hands to point out things on paper. I did my own nails at the time, but they were short and just didn't have that professional look. I noticed eyes following my hands, and I felt self-conscious so I started going to a nail salon every two weeks at approximately $20 a pop for maintenance. About once a month, I would also treat myself to a spa pedicure at $35, not including the tip.

Now, I get my nails "filled" once a month and stretch it out by going back once more for a polish change only, which comes to about $9 with the tip. Rather than spending $40 on my fingernails alone, I am now spending $29, and they look good and hold up about the same. You may think that it's "only" $11, but that $11 adds up over the course of the year.

Related: Less Expensive Manicures

As far as the pedicure goes, I have learned to forego it completely and do my own, trimming my toenails each week and using a clear polish with a rosy reddish glow. They, too, look just as good, and who sees them most of the time anyway, except in the summer?

Now haircuts can be a little tricky. After trial and error, I finally found a hairdresser who does my hair the way I like it, but she's not cheap. However, because I am a loyal customer, she always gives me a break by trimming my hair and not charging me when I get color done, too, so I rarely pay for a full haircut. You may be able to work that out with your hairdresser, too. If not, there are plenty of inexpensive chain salons where you can walk in and get a cut for as cheap as $13. You may have to try a few until you find someone who meets with your approval, but it might be worth experimenting. You can also color your hair yourself or have a friend or family member do it for you and save a bundle.

Related: Stretching Your Hair Color Dollar

As for waxing and facials, they are both expensive and can easily be done at home. There are many great do-it-yourself products on the market now, and even though you won't feel as pampered doing it yourself, you will be happy to keep the money you save in your own pocket.

Clothes are important. As they say, "Clothes make the man (or woman)," and it's true. I know I always notice when someone is wearing a garment that is well made and flattering to them.

Expert Interview: Affordable Wardrobe Accessories for the Workplace

I have a friend who always looks very put-together, and she recently confided that most of her clothes come from Goodwill or other thrift stores! And, she told me she recycles them when she wants a change. She takes them to a consignment shop, and when they sell, she either gets a store credit or cash for them. Smart girl!

Of course, for a special occasion, you may want something special, and I wouldn't blame you. However, one of my sisters and my old roommate both rented wedding gowns that were gorgeous and have never regretted it. If men can rent tuxedos, why didn't we think of this years ago?

For a major event, you may even be able to borrow something from someone, rather than shell out your hard-earned bucks for an outfit that you may only wear once or twice. Think about it. It makes sense, doesn't it?

Related: 5 Ways to Save Money on Formal Clothing

With the cost of everything escalating so much with no end in sight, I think we all have to think of putting the brakes on somewhere, and if you can do this in the areas suggested and still look and feel great, why not?

With all the savings, you may still want to splurge on a massage on occasion. Go ahead. You deserve it for being so thrifty!

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