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December 2, 2019

When You Need That Hit But You Can’t Afford a Haul: What to Do Instead

Is your *add to cart* trigger finger a little too active? Are you itching to hit “check out” while your wallet is crying? Yes, we beauty addicts love a haul, but sometimes we need to exercise a little restraint. Here, some ideas that just might scratch that itch when you can’t afford a haul.


You know how we joke about being skincare addicts? How we talk about shopping and unboxing like they’re our fix?



Well, speaking as a person who knows addiction intimately, I’m not sure it’s always a joke. The pleasure I get from actually taking care of my skin is undeniable, and of course that’s ultimately why I do this. But one dark side of K-beauty, for me, is the thrill I get from just buying things.


(SERIOUS NOTE: Even if skincare addiction is real, being addicted to skincare is better than being addicted to a lot of other things. Including some things I’ve been addicted to. I believe it is totally fine to switch harmful drugs for less harmful ones, trading up repeatedly over time until you’re off the sauce and onto something like infrequent frivolous K-beauty purchases. This is not about shame. It’s about pleasure.)


Recently I found myself planning skincare purchases with the delight of a junkie. I wasn’t thinking about how much money I had available to me. I wasn’t thinking about what my routine had gaps for, which products I would actually use. I was just pursuing that rabbit-hole joy of reading reviews and adding to cart — and the truth was, I wasn’t in a position to make a haul.


So I decided to do an experiment to answer the question: Is it possible to get that skincare addict hit in a different way?


afford a haul


First, the list


I made a list of things I could do that might give me pleasure with the skincare products I already own. Here’s what I came up with:


* Updating the spreadsheet that contains my whole skincare wardrobe, including samples


* Adding product opening and expiration dates to my spreadsheet


* Taking out all the products from my drawer, photographing them, handling them


* Listing the products in my wardrobe by routine step so I can clearly see where I actually have gaps


* Reorganizing my sheet masks in order of expiration date


* Reorganizing my samples in order of step in my routine


If you don’t already have a skincare spreadsheet, creating one may be the easiest place to start. I’ve noticed I get a thrill from working with my spreadsheet — because I am a nerd — but maybe you will, too! I use an Excel file, and I have sheets (tabs at the bottom) for routine; wardrobe, including samples; sheet masks; try schedule; wants; and empties, as well as various pages for notes. I use the same column headings on most pages so I can cut and paste across sheets without reformatting.


afford a haul


I only have so much in the tank every day. If I spend an hour entering data into this sheet, or moving products from wardrobe to empties, that’s an hour less I have available to pine after other people’s miracle products.


Unfortunately for the experiment, I already have a spreadsheet. I spent a little time updating my notes (and noticing how many of my repurchase decisions are based on smell!), and then I needed something else to do.


It was time to pull out all my skincare stuff.


Take out all your products


I think K-beauty people will understand, but it’s still embarrassing: I have an entire drawer of products I’m not currently using. A lot of them haven’t even been opened. Sometimes I find myself window shopping online, lusting after some cream or toner, wishing I could buy it, resenting the entire capitalist system that hasn’t made me rich, and then I realize I already own that product. See, once skincare stuff makes it into my home, I make decisions like a reasonable adult human. I open what I’m ready for, and I store the rest for later. But while they are online or still in boxes, they are as Laura was to Petrarch. I could write sonnets to them.


So I pulled everything out of the drawer. And out of the shower. And off the shelf.


afford a haul
My photography needs work, but you get the point.


Y’all, I had the best time. I did not expect this to scratch the purchasing itch, but it totally did.


Then, start organizing by step


First, I set out the products in my current super-gentle tret-adjustment morning and night routines. The simplest one has six steps. When did I become this person?


Then I grouped products by step in my routine. This was fascinating. I learned all kinds of things. I discovered I was going to run out of my first-step cleansers before anything else, for example. That hadn’t been on my radar.


afford a haul
OK, my photography needs a LOT of work.


I also really came to terms with the fact that I have too many hydrators. Like it will be a year before I’m ready to even try any product I don’t currently own whose purpose is to hydrate the skin on my face.


All the hydrators.


I have dehydrated skin, so it’s appropriate-ish. I mean, if I’m going to have too many of something, it should be hydrating products. But now that I’ve seen how many are already in my drawer, it’s clear I can step slowly away from the toners section of all my favorite websites for a bit.


I have a lot of creams, too. I guess I don’t need to jump on the latest miracle cream bandwagon for a while. Also … why do I own three eye creams? I do not use them. Ever.


In addition to the things of which I have extras, there are some things I don’t have as much of as I thought. Sunscreen. Oil cleansers. And my beloved peeling gel, which is about to run out. Just to be sure — and also just for fun — I made a new notes sheet, grouping products by step and color-coding for “nearly empty” and “full enough.”



The experiment worked, y’all. By the time I finished making this page of notes, I was spent. When I went back to my cart, I started deleting, and it didn’t make me feel sad or angry. It felt like a relief.


Research question answered: Yes. For me, on this occasion, it was possible to get that skincare addict hit without making a haul.




This is a highly individualized experiment. One person’s fix is another person’s chore, and I don’t know what it is about skincare that has hooked you. But I do suspect that if anything I’m saying rings a bell — if anything about your relationship with K-beauty feels addictive — you might be able to design your own experiment. I’ve got a list of ideas at the top of this article. I didn’t have to use them all, but maybe they can be your starting place. And hey, if you’re like me, you just might learn something useful in the process.


I’m still going to make a K-beauty purchase soon. And I’ll still have fun with it. I’m not going to deny myself the pleasure of researching cleansing oils, or packing my cart with products I might want and then winnowing it down, or feeling thrilled when I open my samples. But I’m going to prioritize sunscreen and the type of cleanser I’m about to run out of. And I’m not going to get so hype on some review that I throw in something I won’t use.


What do you think? Has the K-beauty addiction bug bitten you? Is your pleasure guilty or guilt-free? And what do you do when you can’t afford a haul?



Jane takes a relaxed approach to beauty. Snail slime? Yes. Horse oil? Sure. Honey, flowers, and herbs? Bring ‘em on — but one artificial smell and she is OUT. She loves her wrinkles and the sun but has finally conceded that sunscreen’s a good idea. If you ever can’t find her, start your search at the coziest place you can think of. She’s probably there under a blanket with a book.




This is a great idea for getting organized! I didn't do a spreadsheet, but I did purge my makeup stash after moving apartments to decide what I really used and what needed to be sold (if not expired) on apps and what needed to be tossed. This helped me realize that I tended to buy too many lip products (glosses, lipsticks, etc.) and I began to ask myself realistically what I would use often.


Yay! I love that. I've never sold anything on an app ... could probably make a bundle!


All the Black Friday deals were hard to resist, but after browsing *a lot* I was actually kind of bored with it especially just to browse. That made it easier to skip out on most deals. I did splurge on some good deals on some more higher priced products I wanted to try.

I've found making wish lists on sites helps curb the bug. I can go visit my wishlist and usually just leave things unbought. Things that have interested me don't have to be bought right away before i forget about them, and some things get removed as I... Read more


I got bored this year, too ... not sure why! Maybe because I had just inventoried everything in my stash, so I felt "full"??? I resisted the urge to *buy now* the last couple months and made a wish list, and it turns out, I bought like 1/4 of the things on my wish list, not just beauty but all sorts of things that no longer interested me. I also feel like there weren't as many sales this year. And yet I still had a twinge of FOMO on Cyber Monday, like ... out of habit???


Full is definitely a good way to describe the way I felt too!

They always make a big deal out of sales like it's your only chance at this deal! Makes it feel urgent, like if you miss it, you miss it forever. I think they definitely are trying to create FOMO, I guess it is their goal to get you to buy stuff.


Feeling full, yes. That's exactly it.


Same, same, same. I love when I go back to a website I haven't looked at for a while and review my cart or wishlist or whatever ... most of the time I can delete most of the products without regret.