Beauty Bargain Hunting

I love makeup, it’s a given. But I’m a broke college kid, and makeup is pretty expensive. So here are some ways I save:

1. Buy bulk – Palettes and sets are a great way to buy multiple beauty products at once, especially on the high end. For instance, a $50 palette with ten shades means each shade is $5, much more economical than buying individual colors, and often have exclusive shades. Some palettes will contain duplicates if you buy from the same brand, especially on base colors and things like black or white, but they’re probably the colors you’ll use a lot of. Sets work the same way.

2. Trial or mini sizes. A lot of OPI seasonal collections have a set of minis, usually between four and ten, for reasonable costs. You don’t always get the whole collection, but it’s often a good selection of shades. Because, really, how often do you go through an entire bottle of nail polish before it dries up or you lose interest? Some sets also come with miniature versions of things, like eye or lip liner pencils.

3. Look for sales and freebies. A lot of high-end brands have free gifts where if you buy however much of a brand, usually around $30 or 35, you’ll get a goodie bag full of different things. I’ve mentioned Estee Lauder before – both my mom and grandmother use their lotions and perfume, and each time one is bought, it seems there’s a sale going on (and the family splits the gifts). Normally with that there’s a makeup bag, a couple small lotion samples, makeup remover, and a couple kinds of makeup. There will be eyeshadows, usually between one and four colors, mascara, lipstick or gloss, and sometimes a blush or bronzer. Check what each brand is offering- some may only have one or two gifts, and they don’t run all the time (they’ll advertise in advance, though, so sometimes it pays to put off buying something). These often are promotional things – come check out our newest lipstick line, or here’s a copy of our bestselling eyeliner that will hopefully convert you. The good news is, when you run out of the product, there will be another promotion.

You’re probably already familiar with sales.

4. Clearance items. Some of these are discontinued shades or products, others may simply be old or damaged. A lot of stores have clearance sections with good savings, usually about 50% off – grocery stores often have a couple makeup things in their clearance areas. And if they’re really old, they may end up in –

5. The dollar store. I don’t buy the dollar store brands – you’ll go in and find five million things from one or two brands, but if you look a little you may find something else. It’s always going to be drugstore brands, usually with weird packaging for some reason, but it’ll almost always be different and it’s so cheap that you can’t really go wrong. I’ve bought some eyeshadow singles that were half-decent, and several nail polishes. It’s cheaper than getting even the cheapest (and lowest quality) drugstore brands.

6. Paintbrushes. Makeup brushes are super expensive, and paintbrushes can be a good alternative. Lots of people have compared prices between brushes, and it’s often worth it. I only have a couple, as most of my actual makeup brushes are still in good condition. You can also find brushes that aren’t typical makeup brushes that you might find more useful for certain things.

7. Drugstore look-alikes. They’re similar colors and products, often at a fraction of the price. The quality or packaging might not be as great, but they’re often worth it in the long run.

8. Comparison shopping. Ulta often has a large group of drugstore brands on a Buy 1 Get 1 50% Off or something similar. But if you look at the prices compared to, say, Walmart or Target, they’re more expensive and unless you’re buying two from that brand (and often in the higher end of the brand’s price range), it pays to go somewhere else.

That said, know when to pick your battles. I’ve heard that it’s easiest to go into a store like Macy’s and have a makeup artist/salesperson find your foundation shade for you and pay for the $20 bottle that one time when you first buy some, instead of using trial-and-error after purchasing bottle after bottle after bottle.

Also, ask yourself – am I going to wear this, and how often? It’s not a deal if you’re spending money on something you won’t use. One of my friends went on a lipstick shopping spree a couple months ago, and bought several shades from a cheap brand. When her lips got super chapped (and the color looked blotchy from that), I had a complete told-you-so moment and then told her to use lip balm religiously, especially under her lipstick. I, meanwhile, had splurged on a couple lipstick sets from better brands that were so much better (one was vegan, and both used natural oils and things and had good coloration). I may have paid four times as much for the same number of lipsticks, but the high-quality brands included things that the cheap ones couldn’t, and even if she does still use the lipsticks for the same amount of time as I do, I have much less hassle, worry, and upkeep.

It’s also helpful to go into stores, rather than use online shopping. Not only is makeup all about color, which is easily distorted on the computer screen and less so in person, but there are often samples. I like shopping at Ulta because of this – they carry both high end and bargain brands, and have a more extensive selection of products in the bargain section than most other stores.

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