Last year, I spent close to $1,000 getting my nails done professionally. While my nails were always on point, that cost took a toll on my financial freedom goal. This year I am determined to lower costs in every way possible to pay down my debt and have more money to invest.  In order to lower costs on my nail maintenance, I’ve been doing research on DIY nail options. There are many different alternatives but I went with the most cost effective and simple option for my lifestyle. I decided to do my own gel manicures. This option was the most appealing to because it didn’t involve applying acrylic powder to my nails, excessive filing or putting on tips. Also, gel manicures last for about 7-10 days unlike regular nail polish—which lasts about 1-2 days for me.

Let’s do the numbers. Typically my manicure costs between $35-$55 every 2-3 weeks. I bought this Sunvac Gel Lamp, the Gellen UV Nail Top and Base Coat, and the Gellen Nail Polish Kit (which comes with 5 nail polishes) for a total of $63.97 on Amazon. Therefore, my DIY gel nails would pay for themselves in roughly two manicures. Doing my own nails for the rest of the year will save me between $840-$1,320!

I am by NO means a nail expert. This post is based on my experience of watching professionals do my nails and doing my due diligence. But for my first time, I must say my nails came out good. With practice I know the process will get much easier.

The Process

1. Remove any previous nail polish. If you do not have any nail polish on, wipe down your nails with rubbing alcohol to remove any residue from soap or lotion.

2. Use a file to buff and shape nails to your liking.

3. Apply the base coat to one hand. I started off with my left hand since I am right handed.

***When applying the nail polish, make sure to do thin, neat coats. The first time I did it, it very thick and the nail polish came out bubbly. ***

4. After you’ve applied the base coat, put your hand under the gel lamp for 30-60 seconds. The lamp I bought has a timer so it makes it very easy to do! I opted for 60 seconds to make sure my nails were completely dry. Since you are putting your hand under a UV LED lamp, it’s up to your discretion to keep it in for as log as you want. To make it safer for your skin, you can apply sunscreen to your skin for added protection. Make sure to avoid your nails of course.

5. Apply a thin layer of your selected nail polish and let it dry for 30-60 seconds. Make sure to remove any nail polish that you accidentally get on to your skin. You DO NOT want to dry it under the lamp with it on your skin, as it makes it more difficult to take off afterwards.

6. Apply a second coat of polish and dry for 30-60 seconds.

7. Apply the topcoat and let it dry for 60-90 seconds, or until it feels fully dry.

8. Repeat this process on your other hand.

Then voilà you’ve officially completed your first gel manicure! The entire process should take no more than 30 minutes. However, when you’re a newbie like me and mess up a couple times, it will take longer. It took me a little over an hour to complete. My nails lasted a whole week before they started to chip.

My nails after a week

Removal Options

Here’s two ways I’ve removed gel nail polish in the past.

Option 1: Dip your nails in to a bowl of 100% acetone for as long as you need until the polish starts to come off.

Option 2: Dip cotton balls into the acetone and place the cotton balls on to your nails. Then wrap your nail beds with aluminum foil to keep the cotton ball in place. You’ll look like the wolverine but this is my favorite method of removal.

After the polish peels off, just use a nail file clean your nails completely. Give tour nails a break, or apply new polish.

Overall, I’m extremely elated with how simple my manicure is. I’ll probably go to a nail salon for a special occasion but outside of that I’ll be doing them myself and collecting new nail colors to keep my colors fresh until I hit my financial goals. Little adjustments like this may seem minimal but they will add up and make a world of a difference—trust me!