How I Save on Beauty Products

Reigning in my Beauty Spending

I’m acknowledging that I’m fortunate to be in a place where I can spend money on what many would deem a completely frivolous hobby.

Actually Use the Damn Samples

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a drawer or bin full of sample products that went neglected for ages! So many retailers do free samples with purchase, not to mention Gift With Purchase (GWP) promotions. I’d toss them in a centralized location with the intention of using them when the occasion arose (traveling, feeling adventurous, etc) – but even the products I already knew I liked went unused. Stupid! I had accumulated 10 sample tubes of mascara at one point, then found myself replenishing my (favorite) drugstore one. Why?! I had at least six months (realistically more) of product there, even assuming I disliked half of them!

Granted, not all samples are going to be appropriate for you. Foil packs of foundation, for instance – I have what feels like a thousand and none are right for me. But the ones you will use? Use them!

  • Pre-pack a travel beauty bag. One less thing to check off the travel to-do list.
  • If you have a desk or locker at work, stash some samples there. Future you (or a teammate!) will thank you.

Frequent Buyer? Two Words: Loyalty Programs

If you’re shopping Sephora or Ulta and aren’t a member of their Beauty Insider and Ultamate Rewards programs … change that! Like not contributing to an employer-sponsored 401k with company match, not doing so is leaving money (product) on the table!

Both programs are free to join. Both give you an annual, “gift,” during your birthday month regardless of dollars spent. You’re getting free stuff for existing!

If you make it to their higher reward tiers (VIB/VIBR or Ulta Platinum)

Plan your Purchases

This is true for most things, not just this frivolous stuff. I’m a planner by nature and profession – but even though that comes naturally to me, that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the impulse bug.

Drugstore products often have manufacturer’s coupons and are frequently subject to retailer sales. Beyond drugstore, however, sales are few and far between. I like to wait to take advantage of the biannual BI (VIB in my case) Sale or Platinum Perk promotions that happen a few times a year. Sometimes, Ulta does random flash sales on an item that I’ve been wanting – and I’ll occasionally go that route too if it is something I already planned to purchase

The benefits of waiting are twofold:

  • First, if my desire to buy is fueled by hype waiting gives me the chance to drain the hype kool-aid from my skull. It means reducing impulse purchases – which means less spending in general.
  • Then, if I have waited and have decided that am making a rational purchase decision, I wait a little more and can get at least 15-20% off the products I planned to buy anyway.

These days it is rare to find me buying prestige product without one of those occasions.

Consider Wholesale

I’ve written about beauty products at Costco plenty of times, most recently last month. I imagine Sam’s Club, BJs, and other wholesale clubs carry beauty and personal care products at a better value.

Give Drugstore a Shot

We live in a strange timeline; instead of beauty magazine editors controlling the popular dialog about products, independent influencers and content creators do. Although I’d argue most beauty content creators do not exclude drugstore, the majority of features are prestige or luxury brands. It isn’t showy or without reason; people want to hear about and see a $30-50 blush before they buy it.

Makes sense, right? An unintended side effect of this, however, is that drugstore products that are pretty decent are commonly left out of the conversation because Trendy Brand X’s newest thing is the best thing since avocado toast.

(I’ve never had avocado toast, nor do I plan to.)

Drugstore brands are better than ever due to the way brand’s parent companies work. Think about it – L’Oreal owns Urban Decay. Do you think they aren’t going to apply some of that sweet UD research and technology to their L’Oreal Paris line? No, the products won’t be the same. But often they’re good enough – especially if you’re a just a regular person and not an Instagram model. Seriously, some of my favorite stuff is drugstore. Here’s a list:

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