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First In First Out: A Numbering System to Use Beauty Products Before They Expire

Deal shoppers love a nice GWP. We also tend to love ways to sample items for a decent price through subscription boxes, favorite setslimited edition boxes, and any kit that gives us more value than we pay for. Sometimes our collections grow to a point where you can no longer use everything in a timely manner. I’ve written about product expiration dates before and have mentioned that and can help you check some of them. The problem is those sites do not cover all brands or all products within a specific brand. Manufacturers usually try to help if you write into their customer service department for production date information on listed batch numbers, but I’ve had hits and misses that way.

There are 3 things I recommend for Deal shoppers with a massive collection. The first is number everything using a marker as it comes in. I assign a number to each month, because it is easier to write a number on the product than it is to write a date. Never write the number on the bottom of a product that can get wet. That leads to a huge mess, and wet marker is not an easy thing to clean from some surfaces. Try to find a place that avoids the directions and ingredients as well. Those are helpful fields on the bottle that you may need to refer to in the future.

The second tip is to log everything into a spreadsheet with a column for known expiration dates. Most products with SPF and some products with other sensitive ingredients come with expiration dates printed on them. If you know when the product expires with certainty, it is easier to plan when and how to use it. You could list the number representing the month for when the product arrived in the expiration column for products that do not have a date listed. This spreadsheet is extremely helpful in determining which product to use next. It also inventories everything, so you know which products you have in your collection. Ordering duplicates of something you already own but forgot about is a serious issue for deal shoppers. Looking at your spreadsheet (sorted in alphabetical order) before purchasing something you already own is a good idea.

The most important tip is decide what you want to use and what you can use in a timely manner. It is a lot better to gift or donate items you cannot get to or do not want before they expire. Waste is a huge issue for the deal shopper. I separate my products into bins of similar products. When I add new items into the respective bin, I make decisions on which items I am ready to give away and move them into a giveaway bag. That also makes it easier to find products to giveaway. Simply grab the giveaway bag and pick the items that suit the recipient best. If you are donating and do not know your recipient, give the bag away and you’re done. I donated in May and September, so my giveaway bag is empty. With Christmas coming, I will need gift boxes of goodies to hand out. When I pick up new bins to further separate my items, I will move giveaway items from a bag to their own bin.

The numbering system is not full-proof, because some companies give fresh samples and other companies give samples that have sat in a warehouse or store for a long time. There is no way to know with certainty unless, or a similar site lists the expiration date. It is completely possible that an item you received a year ago was produced after an item you just received. By dating things with a number that represents the month of October 2016, I know the product was produced before that. Thus, it is more of a system to tell me the latest possible production date. This system is still the best I can think of to manage everything. If you know of a better system, please let me know.

How you choose to store your products is up to you, but I suggest categorized buckets kept away from heat and light. As long as you store unopened products carefully, they should last a long time in their respective containers. If you open something that looks separated or smells bad, something inside broke down. Those products are too old at times, and other times it is just unstable ingredients, storage, or packaging that caused them to break down earlier than they should. Many of my buckets are overflowing, so I need to separate them further in the near future. I have 20 buckets, but I am going to get more.

You can see numbers on some of my products, because I did not adjust any products for the following pictures. This is the way the products are stored in the buckets, except the one that over spilled. All of these buckets are only filled with new items, except five. The system prevents me from mistaking a new product from a used one, so I never gift used items to anyone (unless the person specifically requests them used). Items in active rotation are kept out, so those items are not in these buckets. These buckets hold products from foils to full-size.

The first bucket is Beauty Tools and Cases. This includes any of these items I’m not actively using. Cases in here are not always new, but only new Beauty Tools are in here.


The second bucket is Body Lotions. This includes: body butters, foot creams, ointments, and more. Most body lotions are large, so this is only smaller items.


The third bucket is Body Wash. This includes: soaps, shower gels, exfoliants, cleansers, and more.


The fourth bucket is Dry Hair Products. This includes: dry shampoos, hairsprays, texturizing sprays, mousse, and more.


The fifth bucket is Eye Makeup. This includes: mascara, eyeliner, eye primer, eyelash serum, lash primer, and more.


The sixth bucket is Face and Eye Creams. There is nothing else in this bucket.


The seventh bucket is Face Cleansers and Masks. This includes: exfoliants, peels, and more.


The eighth bucket is face makeup and perfume. This includes: lip products, complexion products, primers, setting sprays, foundations, concealers, and more.


The ninth bucket is Hair Ties, Mirrors, and Sewing. This includes: hair clips, basic sewing stuff, and small compacts.


The tenth bucket is Hand Lotion. This includes: creams and balms. There are some body products in here from when the body bin was overflowing. I can move some of them back over now.


The eleventh bucket is In Shower Hair Treatments. This includes: shampoo, conditioner, masks, treatments, and more. I seem to get more samples from this category faster than others, so this needs a bigger bucket or further separation. Placing treatments and masks away from shampoo and conditioners may help.


The twelfth bucket is Makeup Remover, Sheet Masks, and Mists. This includes: micellar water, small wipes, essence, and more.


The thirteenth bucket is Nail Products. This includes: nail polish remover, files, treatments, and more. Most of the items in this bucket are new, and almost all the used items are inside that flower bag. I usually have at least one large nail polish remover open in the bucket, because I only use it once a week (and sometimes less), so I hate keeping it out. With all the other products in the bag, it does not fit.


The fourteenth bucket is open an inactive. Any products that are open but not regularly used go in here. I hate clutter, so leaving something out I only use once in a while is not happening. This is also a great bin for things that arrive leaking. They’re not technically used, but I want to use them before other things as they’re compromised. As soon as I toss their counterpart that I am using, I pull them out.


The fifteenth bucket is Oversized. This is anything and everything that does not fit in other bins. They’re almost always full-sized, but are large even when sample-sized.


This is the other side of that bucket. I took a picture from both sides, because it is really big.


The sixteenth bucket is Serums, Oils, and Lip Balms. This includes: skin treatments, acne products, and more.


The seventeenth bucket is Sun and Tanning. This includes: Sunblock, tanning mitts, tanning creams, after sun treatments, and more. I do not use a separate sunscreen everyday (as long as there is SPF in my day cream and I am not outdoors long), so I will put the ones (face and body) I am using back in here for storage. After washing my tanning mitts, I place them back in here. Definitely wash these, because I used to throw away after each use. That was such a waste, and they get really clean. I washed the one on top, and it looks great.


The eighteenth bucket is Teeth and Deodorant. This includes: floss picks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, teeth whiteners, and more.


The nineteenth bucket is Travel and Makeup Brush Cases. This includes: clothespins, cotton balls, cotton swabs, wrinkle releaser, and more. Everything in here is for travel. Clothespins are great for hanging wet clothes (after swimming to dry out). There are used items in this bucket.


The twentieth bucket is Wet Hair products. This includes: leave-in conditioners, sea salt sprays, humidity treatments, heat styling treatments, oils, frizz protectants, and more.


Now that you’ve seen how I store and keep track of my items, I’d love to read your methods. Storage really is key to getting a long shelf-life, before and after opening the product. Other than products that belong in the shower or hair products, I try not to leave too many open products in the bathroom. I keep a makeup bag for my face products. After applying them, I take the bag of products back into my bedroom. Makeup goes in my room in train cases. A shower caddy helps me transfer items from the cases to the bathroom for application. The items go back in the caddy after application and get removed from the bathroom.

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I'm Kimberly. Shopping is always more fun when I've found the best deal available, so I am always on the hunt. My father instilled that in me, and I love that I carry a piece of him. Sometimes, my husband and sons (12 and 7) let me shop for them, too. They do not use as many beauty products as I do. We can all benefit from nice products, even though their routine ends with moisturizer. That is when I can convince my 12-year-old to apply it.

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