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24 Tips to Save Money on Cosmetics, Makeup & Toiletries

By Casey Slide

woman makeup smilingIf you need to tighten up your spending and saving efforts, consider taking your beauty allocation out of your monthly budget to free up some extra cash.

You don’t need to give up makeup and toiletries when tightening up your budget. You just need to practice smart shopping techniques.

Here are some great tips to help you save money on makeup and toiletries:

How to Save on Makeup and Toiletries

1. Use What You Already Have
Many of us abandon our makeup or toiletries before we even finish using them because we decide we don’t like something about them. For example, you might throw away toothpaste that tastes just a little too much like baking soda. You may also have toiletries in the cabinets or the linen closet that you forgot about buying.

Search your home and find usable makeup products and toiletries, and use them completely before buying more products.

2. Downgrade to Less Expensive Brands
This may seem obvious, but many people think they must buy salon-quality shampoo or department store makeup. If you have always used pricey name brand products, you may not realize that many good, inexpensive brands exist. Challenge yourself to downgrade one product, to see if the cheaper product is an acceptable substitute.

3. Buy in Bulk or Family Size
Typically, buying in bulk or buying the largest size available saves you some money. If you do this for all your toiletries, you can see how the savings quickly accumulate.

Make sure to check the price per unit when purchasing the largest size available. Sometimes stores purposely charge more for the largest sizes, knowing that shoppers automatically think they can get the best deal on the family size.

4. Combine Coupons with Sales
I save money on makeup and toiletries by finding coupons for items during sales. In fact, I don’t use many items, like toothpaste, unless I can get them for free.

When you see a great bargain by combining discount grocery coupons with sales, stock up so that you have enough for several months until the next opportunity. Sign up for email updates for your favorite brands to receive updates about sales, and scour weekly store circulars online to find out when your favorite products go on sale.

5. Collect Samples
I always have a stockpile of samples sitting under my counter. I make sure to bring home the toiletries from hotels, get free product samples whenever I go to festivals or other public events with vendors, and ask for samples from makeup counters. Even drugstore makeup counters have samples available upon request. You can stockpile free makeup and toiletries by collecting samples and you can also try products before buying.

6. Use Less
Have you ever seen an advertisement for toothpaste where the glob of toothpaste completely covers the toothbrush? Advertisers use this image on purpose. The more toothpaste you use each time you brush, the more you have to buy. You can get your teeth just as clean by using a quarter of what the manufacturers recommend.

In addition, you don’t have to lather, rinse, and repeat your shampoo in order to get your hair clean. Try to use less toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent, and even toilet paper.

7. One Bottle for the Entire Household
It seems that every person in the family has their own favorite brand or product. If you have a household with five people, and everyone uses a different brand of shampoo, you have to buy five different shampoos. You then have to make room to store them and take the chance that family members won’t use every bottle. Try to coordinate with your family members on a preferred brand, or take turns picking the product.

8. Make Your Own
You can save money by making your own toiletries. Simple recipes have inexpensive ingredients and you can find the ingredients at most grocery stores and drug stores. I make my own laundry detergent, and I have also made my own shampoo.

9. Use Alternatives
If you have ever had to buy an ultra-powered dandruff shampoo, you probably cringed at the price. Instead of buying dandruff shampoo, I use malt vinegar or apple cider vinegar as a rinse after shampooing my hair. This cleared up my dandruff and left only a hint of a vinegar smell. You can also try using baking soda instead of shampoo and toothpaste.

10. Be Flexible
If you want to get the absolute best deal possible, you need to be flexible about what products you buy. For example, my husband and I prefer to use bar soap, but whenever I am able to get body wash shower gel for free, we use that instead.

11. Shop in Unconventional Locations
Although I prefer to buy makeup and toiletries at drugstores, you can also find great prices on makeup and toiletries by shopping in some unconventional locations. Dollar stores have a wide selection of toiletries, and some of these stores also offer makeup. You can also search for cheap makeup and toiletries at festivals, craft fairs, flea markets, and online.

makeup toiletries counter

More Ways to Save Money on Makeup

Women spend a lot of money on makeup; the cosmetics industry generates billions of dollars in sales every year. You might find it difficult to cut corners when it comes to buying your favorite products, but you can save money on cosmetics.

Here are some more tips to help you save money on makeup:

12. Consider Why You Buy Makeup
Do you buy makeup to look pretty for a date or to make you look more professional at work? Do you buy makeup out of habit, or buy it whenever you feel down, as a pick-me-up?

Make sure that you have a valid reason for purchasing cosmetics. If you have the false impression that makeup will make you feel better, you must try to break this shopping habit.

13. Try It Before You Buy It
Not too long ago, I ran out of blush so I went up to the store to buy more. I picked out a shade that I thought looked similar to the one I had purchased before. Wrong! The bright shade made me look like a clown. Had I tried this item before I made the purchase, I would have saved myself $25. I also could have prevented another trip back to the store to buy more.

Some stores and brands offer refunds if the product doesn’t meet expectations. Learn more about stores and brands’ policies, to see if you can return items you don’t like.

14. Only Buy the Most Important Products
I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but I do like to wear blush. It makes me look more vibrant and alive, and so I don’t mind spending a little more money on blush. Similarly, I have a friend who only wears mascara, so all of her makeup budget goes towards mascara. Choose the important products and treat them as a splurge, or the only makeup you purchase at all.

15. Buy Quality Makeup Brushes
Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what product you use as long as it is applied properly. Applying eye shadow with a Q-tip is not going to look as good as an eye shadow brush no matter what brand you choose.

Good brushes can be very expensive so you need to make sure that you take proper care of them. If you spend more money on brushes, you’ll be able to get away with buying cheaper makeup.

Makeup brushes, sponges and applicators last longer, when you wash them in soap and water every three to four months. Carefully rinse the brushes and applicators, squeezing away any excess water, then leave them to air-dry on a clean towel.

16. Consider Expiration Dates
Different types of makeup products have different expiration dates. For instance, you should only keep eye makeup, such as mascara, for three months. On the other end of the spectrum, dry makeup, such as blush, lasts for two years. If you buy makeup, make sure you can use it before the expiration date. If you can’t use it all, you should consider buying cheaper brands.

17. Shop During Bonus Time
Several of the major cosmetic companies occasionally offer bonus gifts when a customer makes a minimum purchase. For example, Estée Lauder may offer a free eye makeup remover, some brushes, and a lipstick to anyone who spends over $50.

If you plan on purchasing over $50 from Estée Lauder, try to time your purchase so you can get the free gift. If you don’t need to spend $50, however, don’t spend your money just to get the gift.

18. Ask for a Gift
Consider asking for money towards makeup as a gift for your birthday or for Christmas or on other holidays. Some brands, like MAC, even offer gift cards for their stores.

19. Go to a Beauty School
If you want to wear makeup to a special event, but you don’t want to have to purchase it, go to a beauty school and let one of the students do your makeup. This works well for students going to prom or for a bride’s wedding makeup. This benefits both parties because you receive a free or inexpensive makeover, and the beauty student gets some practice.

20. Fix Broken Makeup
If you break an eye shadow kit, or crack the lid of a compact, you don’t have to throw the product away. Instead, scrape the remains of the product into a tiny jar or box with a lid, and continue to reuse the product.

21. Buy Makeup that Does Double Duty
Buy products that you can use for more than one purpose. For example, you can use some gel blushes as lipstick. You can use some powder eye shadow kits for blush. Indian Earth makeup can replace blush, bronzer, eye liner, eye shadow, lip liner, lipstick, and nail polish.

Since makeup has expiration dates, finding products that you can use for more than one purpose can save money, because you have less to throw away.

22. Shop Duty-Free Stores
If you travel internationally, stop in at the duty-free stores to find deals on your favorite department store brands. Duty-free stores offer great deals on products you use every day, and they sometimes have special offers.

23. Less Is More
Don’t overdo it when you apply makeup. You only need one coat of mascara and one coat of blush to last the entire day. Using a damp makeup sponge to apply foundation cuts down on the amount of foundation you use. Don’t wear makeup every day; save your products for when you have special plans, instead. When you use less makeup, you save money because your makeup lasts a lot longer.

24. Use Employee Discounts
If you need a larger discount on makeup, consider taking a part-time job working as a makeup consultant or working for a store that sells makeup. In addition to coupons and sales, you receive an employee discount, which drastically reduces the cost of your products.

Final Word

You can save money on makeup and toiletries, especially if you’re into extreme couponing. But even if you don’t clip coupons, you can still snatch great deals by experimenting with less expensive brands, and shopping for makeup and toiletries at a variety of different outlets. Watch for deals and keep an open mind about trying new products, and you can save money every time you shop.

What are some of strategies you use to save money on makeup and toiletries?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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  • Karmella

    For drugstore brands (L’Oreal is pretty much equivalent to Lancome, and Revlon is great and cruelty free), Target usually has better prices than actual drugstores (unless you watch the drug store sales and combine coupons/rewards). I have seen at Dollar Tree L’Oreal branded items but in different packaging – I suspect they are made especially for off-price stores? But I really don’t mind spending a dollar on a color I wouldn’t normally try, and it helps me *not* go buy any MAC (which is never just one eyeshadow!).

  • Sally Aquire

    That’s a great tip, Karmella!

  • http://www.bucksomeboomer.com Bucksome

    I would add to buy the toiletries on sale with a coupon for more savings.

    • Sally Aquire

      Coupons are a great way to save!

  • Simple Living

    In addition, I’d add price comparison sites as another way to get true value and best price on Cosmetics and Toiletries. Sites like Yahoo Shopping and Onewayshopping.com are great for these kind of deals.

    • Sally Aquire

      It’s staggering how much you can save on the same product just by swapping to a different shop so that’s another good tip.

  • Hannah

    I have become a real convert to Mirenesse.com – they have excellent specials – two for one offers etc and their foundation and mineral make up are the best I’ve tried – I switched from Lancome and saved a fortune.

    • Sally Aquire

      Hi Hannah,

      They’re a new name to me but they sound fantastic. Thanks for sharing!

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  • http://condo-blues.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-to-frame-tin-ceiling-tile.html Condo Blues

    I found a cheap and free to me pampering pick me up in my linen closet. I found that I had way more free sample and travel size bottles of shampoo, liquid soap, and conditioner than I could possibly use for travel. I pulled out a few of the nice ones and put them in the bathroom for a little pampering pick me up.

  • Happi Shopr

    Here are a few more tips:
    1) shop Walgreen’s buy one – get one and use coupons.
    2) give e.l.f. a try – most of their products start at just $1 and what I have tried so far is good quality. www.eyeslipsface.com
    3) go to the higher priced stores (Sephora, Ulta, etc.) and ask for samples. I only wear makeup on the weekends being a domestic engineer but I do have major issues with getting any brand eyeshadow to last very long. I went to Sephora to turn in a freebie coupon and casually asked (while checking out) what primer she would recommend. I walked at with a sample of Too Faced Primer that will last me months. Yay!
    4) sign up for your favorite brand(s) emails for coupons and freebies.

    • Sally Aquire

      Great tips. I like to blag samples too and it’s surprising what you can get if you only ask! e.l.f. sound great – I’ll have to check them out.

  • Elizabeth I

    If you join Sephora’s insiders club, two weeks before and two weeks after your birthday, they will give you a free lip gloss trio or eye liner and mascara deluxe sample.

    Since I am a March baby, I am lovin’ my new lip gloss trio.

    • http://www.sallyaquire.co.uk Sally Aquire

      That sounds great! Unfortunately my birthday has already been and gone for this year but I’ll be sure to sign up for next time! What kind of shades are the lip gloss trio?

  • Elizabeth I

    I would also suggest taking advantage of the new Sephora Colorbox. For $24 it has 32 eye colors, 16 lip glosses, and 4 blushes. It will give plenty of color options for this season.

  • Elizabeth I

    One last thought, Ebates offers cash back for Sephora, Bobbi Brown, Smashbox, The Body Shop, etc….

  • http://www.savings.com/blog/blog.html Amy Saves

    ohh.. the Clinique bonus gifts always get me! they have the cutest stuff.

    dollar stores are good for stuff like nail polish and such, but not for skin care or eye makeup.

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  • http://stylesprinter.com/ Style Sprinter

    I believe that Downgrade to Less Expensive Brands is the best piece of advice in this article. There are so many great beauty products that you can find in the drugstore that it just doesn’t make sense to overpay for them. Here is my list of the best drugstore beauty products that are no worse than designer ones: http://stylesprinter.com/midweek-beauty-top-10-beauty-products-to-save-on/

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