The Beauty School Student’s Guide to Budgeting

If you’re enrolled in beauty school or thinking about it, you're likely running up against the age-old truth: Education costs money. However, smart budgeting as a student can take the sting out of unexpected expenses or cost overruns. Yes, living and going to school is expensive, but having a plan for your income and expenses can make all the difference in your level of confidence. This is true whether you're in school or in the beginning stages of your new beauty career.

In our guide, we offer great advice on how to budget for beauty school, including what expenses to include and how to calculate them.

Use our sample beauty student budget!

Benefits of Creating a Budget

While beauty school generally requires fewer training hours than a traditional college degree, it still costs money and can take time away from paid work. Creating a solid budget can tell you where your precious money should go and give you limits of different types of spending so that you avoid overspending. On the flip side, having a plan for your money can make you less stressed about spending in categories where you have already decided you can spend it.

Keeping a budget may not affect just you but the people you live with — like your partner, children, relatives, or roommates — so it may be vital to alter your spending habits while in school. Talk to these people about how your financial situation may change so everyone is on the same page.

When Beauty Students Should Create a Budget

The best time to consider your budget is before applying to schools (though if you're past that point now, don’t worry —it’s still a valuable exercise anytime). Seeing how much money you'll be bringing in and spending each month might impact your choices before even starting school. It probably should even help you narrow down which schools to select!

Particularly on the cost side, consider getting details from your school before enrolling. For example:

  • Using a school's Net Price Calculator (found on the school's website if it's a Title IV program) to find out the estimated total school cost, including tuition, miscellaneous student fees, and expected living expenses
  • Asking the financial aid representative what kind of financial aid or scholarship options are available, both from the school directly and other sources
  • Learning what startup and ongoing costs there are for students. For example, do students regularly spend their own money to supplement their student kits provided by the school? Do classroom reading materials cost extra? How much does parking cost every day?

How to Create a Budget for Beauty School: Step by Step

Creating a budget doesn’t have to be intimidating. At its most basic, you can even pull out a pen and a piece of paper to do this. However, if you want to get fancy, you can create a spreadsheet or use budgeting software to be able to edit or auto-calculate totals.

Step 1: Choose a Time Period for Your Budget and Method for Tracking

First, decide what period of time you want for your budget. Monthly budgets work well for most people because many people have expenses that are on a monthly cadence—rent or mortgage payments or credit card payments, for example. You may wish to make a monthly budget for the next 6 or even 12 months, especially if you expect inflows or outflows of money that aren't on an every-month cycle, or if these will fluctuate from month to month.

Again, you can always go the simple route when tracking your spending, using a notebook and pen or a spreadsheet. There are also plenty of personal budgeting apps and online tools. Some banks and credit cards allow you to categorize things directly on their apps or sites, and other apps can link to your accounts to keep track of your purchases and cash flow. Here are a few to think about:

Step 2: Write Down Your Expected Income

Estimate your earnings (money flowing in) from various sources, such as: your full-time or part-time job or side hustle while in school; financial aid, such as student loan, grants, and scholarships disbursements; stipend money from parents or other relatives; or a set amount of money you will be withdrawing from your savings.

When writing down the amounts, make sure to use the “net” amount, meaning the amount that is actually being deposited into your account after taxes and fees.

If you're reducing your paid work to accommodate school, don’t forget to lower your expected income to reflect your new working hours.

There are many categories of spending that you will need to account for. A comprehensive list will include expense categories for: school, basics for living, and discretionary costs for your life. Here are examples of specific types of costs in each of these categories:

Potential Beauty School and Licensing Costs

  • Tuition and student fees (application fee, enrollment fee, etc.)
  • Discretionary student costs (for example, if your school offers a special trip, such as to attend a fashion week)
  • Student loan interest payments that may become due while you're in school (depends on your loan’s terms)
  • Beauty supplies and maintenance, such as supplements or upgrades to your student kit or replacing supplies that you use up (such as mannequin heads, or sharpening shears)
  • Textbooks or other course material
  • Transport costs to get to school, such as car expenses (car payment, gas, auto insurance, expected maintenance), parking, or public transit
  • Additional childcare or pet care costs
  • Test and licensing costs (not recurring but should be budgeted for; some schools let you roll the cost of this into the program costs)

Potential Costs for Basic Necessities and Living

  • Rent or mortgage (if you own your residence, don’t forget to figure in costs that may not be monthly, such as property taxes, home insurance, home maintenance, or HOA dues)
  • Groceries
  • Clothing to replace wear and tear and adhere to your school or workplace’s dress code
  • Utilities (such as cell phone, internet, water, gas, electricity, garbage and recycling)
  • Other transportation costs beyond going to and from school
  • Childcare or pet care
  • Laundry
  • Medical insurance premium and expected doctor’s visits
  • Prescriptions for medications or other treatments
  • Personal hygiene products like shampoo, conditioner, soap, and toothpaste

Potential Discretionary Living Costs

  • Restaurants, take-out, food delivery; shopping or going out with friends; movies or live music shows
  • Gym/fitness memberships and wellness expenses such as spa or self-care treatments
  • Gifts
  • Those occasional coffees
  • Jewelry and accessories
  • Haircuts or hair styling; nails; makeup (though you can likely cut way down on the cost of these services by trading with your new beauty school classmates)
  • Home decor
  • Subscriptions such as streaming services or monthly product boxes
  • Going to the movies or seeing your favorite bands
  • Sports gear
  • Books
  • Electronics
  • Phone apps or games

The Budget Goal

Then, take all your income and add it up. Total all your expenses. If your expected income is higher than your expected expenses, great! You may be done. But even if you have money left over—are you happy with that as savings? Do you want to build a safety net?

However, for many, the main goal is to ensure that expenses are simply lower than income—with a tiny bit of wiggle room for the duration of their beauty programs.

If your income minus expenses doesn’t get you to your goal, you have work to do to adjust. Either you need to bring in more money with additional paid work or financial aid, or cut costs.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be—better to find out now on paper than to not budget at all and slide into debt.

Accurately Estimating Costs

You need to figure out where your money is going and where it needs to go. For a first pass at your budget, you can just estimate the amounts—but to build a real budget, you should look at your real spending data.

The more brutally honest you are with yourself about the money you spend, the more accurate your budget should be. However, even if you're a bit cash-strapped during school, that doesn't mean cutting out all non-essential spending. Just like with strict fad diets, being too strict might result in an eventual (unbudgeted) splurge, which might be worse than allowing yourself some fun spending along the way.

Check out your bank and credit card statements for your real historical expenses and categorize each item as a "must-have" or "nice-to-have." If you're using an app or online tool to track your expenses, categorizing expenses can be quite easy.

Making Realistic Budget Adjustments

Once you've calculated the totals, the hard work to decide what can and can't be cut out begins.

Types of Expenses to Consider Cutting

Consider your luxuries. You don't need to eliminate all fun things — just lower the costs. These tighter spending habits aren't forever—it might only be while you're in school!

Here are a few examples of adjustments you can make:

  • Thrift or purchase off-brand options for clothing
  • Get a reusable water bottle or filter instead of buying new water bottles
  • Buy store brand groceries
  • Use public transit, a bicycle, or your walking shoes
  • Get rid of or pause subscriptions. Instead of relying on streaming services, bookstores, or apps, you can use the library to rent DVDs, books, magazines, and newspapers
  • Un-save payment details from your devices, so you must manually enter details each time you purchase. This may help reduce impulse buys!
  • Find free alternatives for fun activities, like free outdoor movie nights, networking events, sliding-scale fitness classes, public parks and outdoor gyms, and hosting your friends at home rather than going for a night out
  • Beauty treatments may be done in school by your peers, so unless you have a medically necessary one, you could cut out those costs entirely.

However, there are other types of costs that you should be cautious in cutting down. These are costs that involve physical wellbeing or financial futures, such as:

  • Childcare
  • Medications or medical appointments
  • Car maintenance
  • Debt payments

Sample Beauty School Budget

We've created a sample monthly beauty school student budget on Google Sheets for you to use! Create a copy of this with a free Google account and adapt to your own situation. The numbers in this spreadsheet are representative only.

Okay, I'm Scared Now. How Do I Get Money for Beauty School?

Don't be freaked out! Many, many beauty students before you have overcome the money barrier to achieve their dream professions. There are many ways to subsidize your beauty education, such as financial aid, scholarships, and loans.

Find out if you qualify for financial aid by contacting the school's office. Ask if you can receive federal financial aid as a beauty student at the school. You can also search your program eligibility by searching for the school on the Department of Education's database lookup or by browsing the school's website.

State financial aid is another option, with some programs not requiring schools to have Title IV status. This may be a desirable route for beauty school students, given cosmetology schools often opt to not seek accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education or choose to gain accreditation elsewhere.

Instead of government assistance, you can apply for private loans. However, this typically affects your credit score pretty quickly, and borrowing privately sometimes has higher interest rates than the government.

Unlike loans, scholarships never have to be repaid, making this a great opportunity to save money! Scholarships can be based on academic merit, need, unique skills, background, or a combination of factors. They may be one-time payments, renewable, or paid out in installments. Beauty schools are a great place to find scholarships, as are corporations and businesses related to the industry. State education departments may also offer scholarships for residents studying in the state.

Instead of attending traditional beauty school, apprenticeships can be a great way to receive hands-on training while earning money. However, apprenticeships often take longer than beauty school programs. So, it would help if you determined what's best for you in the short and long term.

When paying for your education, remember most schools don't accept credit cards, and they aren't recommended to use when paying for classes because of fees. If possible, consider paying for the program in installments instead of as one lump sum.

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