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How to Save Money When You're Shopping for Beauty Products

Author: May

Mar. 08, 2024

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It's hard out there for a girl on a budget. That's especially true if you have a serious beauty habit, since some droolworthy beauty buys (looking at you, $200 face lotion) can cost crazy-high prices for very small amounts of actual product. But not all hope (or money) is lost! Even a bona fide beauty addict can find ways to score a great discount on beauty products. You might already be familiar with the smart ways to save on drugstore beauty and amazing rewards programs from brands like MAC. But in breaking news for your wallet, there's even more you can do to save cash money. Start by following these tips.

Poke Around for Discount Codes

Not too many beauty retailers will splash the word “SALE!!!” in all-caps on their websites; it's a little counterintuitive. But with a bit of digging, you can usually find special promo codes for travel-size products or, once in a blue moon, even full-size. Sephora offers them on a weekly basis, while both Bluemercury and Clarins have entire pages dedicated to special deals.

Be Strategic About Samples

Pro-tip: The department store counter is your friend. Companies usually have a generous policy about giving out samples to try at home—and speaking from personal experience, this is especially helpful if you have an obsession with a certain, fairly pricey foundation that starts “Armani” and ends with “Luminous Silk Foundation.” Also, Target has a Beauty Concierge in many of its stores now—a.k.a. someone dedicated to helping you out with your beauty questions. This Beauty Concierge is loaded up with samples, so you can try whatever you want at home and come back for the full-size version (...or more samples) if you love it. If you’re shopping online, SpaceNK encourages its customers to try samples. You can call the store’s customer service line, where, after a quick convo about your needs and what you’re looking for, the customer service team will mail out samples tailored to you.

Save Your Sprees for Big Sales

At this point, Nordstrom’s Annual Sale (happening in July) is like a holiday. SpaceNK too has a big sale every so often called its Explorer’s Promotion, where for all items (excluding sale items), you receive $20 off every $100 you spend—essentially a 20 percent discount, because it takes us three minutes to click $100 worth of beauty products into our virtual shopping bags. Mark your iCal, because the next one is happening from April 20 through May 1.

Shop for Discontinued Items

Many discount beauty sites are a hotbed for fakes. While eBay is awesome if you’re buying a used sewing machine, many of the suspiciously cheap beauty products there (and on other less regulated sites) are probably too good to be true. But discontinued products are a different story. BuyMeBeauty is dedicated to discontinued items, which come at a serious bargain. For example: Kiehl’s Water Based Lotion SPF 25, which cost $31 in the mid-2000s, is just $18 on the site. Certain brands too offer discontinued or limited-edition products right on their websites. Josie Maran has its Good Buys page, while Tarte puts tons of its must-have products on the Sale page.

Skin care, makeup, hair product – the art of being beautiful (or for most of us attempting to be beautiful) adds up. From discovering which products work for me to debating the age old dilemma of price vs. effectiveness, my budget always cries a little bit when I walk into a Sephora or ULTA or attend a party hosted by a friend.

Buying a product you’ve never used before always brings a risk of wasting money. How’s a consumer to know what’s the best fit for both their appearance and their wallet? These simple strategies might help you sort through the beauty and the cheap debate.

Sample, Sample, Sample

Nothing makes me more depressed than opening a cabinet or drawer and stumbling across a full sized bottle of something I haven’t used. Whether I didn’t like the fragrance or the product couldn’t tame my crazy curly hair, the hall closet next to the bathroom is where beauty supplies go to die in our house. Samples save lives of unused skin care, shampoo, and more. Stores like Sephora are more than happy to allow you to try out a specific product before you purchase. When you can, sample a product before making an investment.

As a side note, I found a skin care line I LOVE by buying a sampler pack of their product. Formula 10.0.6 is such an affordable brand and I’ve had amazing results with the products. I can find the best prices on the line at ULTA where there’s frequently B1G1 half off sales.

Don’t Make High Pressure Decisions

I have many sweet friends who have made good money over the years selling products they love. From makeup to bags to kitchenware, the business opportunities abound. In person parties have morphed into online gatherings in recent years. In wanting to support our friends and their excitement for their products, it can be easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the moment.

We order to help their burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit. Or, we order because of the persistent posts online. We feel the pressure to order because of a limited time offer. While it’s totally fine to purchase products you love, it’s not a good idea to simply buy something because you feel pressured. The same principle applies when you’re being helped by an associate at a beauty counter, too. Buy only what your budget can afford.

Take Advantage of Rewards Programs

ULTA, Sephora, and Beauty Brands all offer rewards programs giving you special coupons and discounts based on your purchases. So if you shop these stores, you need to be taking advantages of those offers and timing your purchases well. They also offer fantastic birthday freebies, too. But be warned my last two birthday freebies led to me to buy the full sized products because I loved the promotional item so much.

Coupons and Amazon

You’ll still find plenty of fantastic deals on skincare, makeup, and hair care in your favorite big retailer or drugstore. Pay close attention to unit price on tried and true products, opting for a larger size when it’s most economical. Be sure to make use of both digital and paper coupons in store, too. Most major brands run rotating deals that coincide with coupon offerings. You may even want to check Amazon from time to time for your favorite beauty supplies. In fact, Amazon has a number of free beauty box samples. You pay an upfront fee of $9.99 or $19.99 depending on the box and then are refunded the amount if you order a product from a set list. Check out these options:

Target has a similar program, too. Each month, they release a limited number of sample boxes, too.

Ask Around

If you notice a friend has beautiful skin or love someone’s shade of lipstick, ask. I’ve discovered some of the simplest and most affordable products merely by asking a question or two of my friends. Use social media to share your quest for the perfect mascara or mousse. Find out what brands others have had success with and which ones you should avoid, too.

Don’t Be a Brand Snob

Especially when you shop at a big box retailer, don’t be afraid to try the generic skin care line or shampoo. Products with the highest ticket price aren’t necessarily the best fit for you or even the better choice. When you can, buy the store brands instead of the name brands. Many have the same or a similar quality. This is especially handy at a store like Meijer that frequently runs BOGO half deals on their generic beauty products.

Go Homemade

Coconut oil, eggs, vinegar, baking soda . . . no, it’s not a recipe for a protein smoothie. All of these natural ingredients can be used in multiple ways to enhance your appearance. Do a simple YouTube search for frugal beauty ideas and you’ll find a plethora of videos showing how to make the most of your kitchen cabinets in the pursuit of better skin, teeth, and hair.

Cultivate Beauty from the Inside Out

We all know that true beauty comes from within. Your heart, your soul, your spirit, your humor define your beauty more than any lipstick ever could. Your personal habits can also feed or destroy your beauty. Staying well hydrated and eating well might do more good for your skin than any cleanser ever could. Make wise choices and let your loveliness shine right through.

There’s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward, but the pursuit of beauty rarely leads to true happiness. Realize there are no miracle products, solving every issue or problem area. And if someone’s trying to sell you a miracle elixir to remove all of your wrinkles be suspicious. Be smart about which products you buy and make the most of your chances to save. After all, a full wallet is a thing of beauty, too.

My book is now available: Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After. You can also check out The Debt Free Devotional on Kindle.  

This post contains an affiliate link. That means when you get a great deal, learn about a way to save, or maybe even something for free, I may end up making a small commission.

How to Save Money When You're Shopping for Beauty Products

Smart Strategies for Saving Money on Beauty Products

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