Buying Makeup on a Budget

Looking to expand your makeup collection without breaking the bank? Here’s my favorite tricks to build and buy without destroying my wallet every single month. 

When it comes to my spending habits, I know I have to keep them under control. I still want to enjoy my hobby and find new great things for all of you to try, but I’ve had to find smarter and more affordable ways to do it. Here’s a few ways that I have found work really well for me, or that others have tried and found success with.

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Store Programs: 

Store programs usually offer discounts, monthly email alerts for sales and coupons and other perks for singing up. The most popular beauty programs are Sephora Beauty Insider and Ultamate Rewards. For some people, monthly email alerts might do more harm then good for sticking to budgets and making sure you don’t splurge regularly. If that’s you, I would opt out of the monthly emails and stick to browsing these websites only when necessary.

Sephora Beauty Insider

Sephora’s reward program is one of the most well known in the beauty industry. Starting as a Beauty Insider for signing up, members automatically start earning points for purchases. To level up and earn more rewards at the VIB level, you’ll need to spend at least $350 that year on makeup or skincare products. Rouge is the most coveted of the status levels likely because they get free shipping on all orders, have access to exclusive brand launches and events and your own private hotline for any questions you may have. It’s a steep climb to get there though. You have to spend at least $1000 per calendar year to maintain this luxury status level.

The most appealing level to me is VIB, which allows you to still recieve birthday gifts and free beauty classes but it also gives you access to some sweet free monthly gifts, too. Sephora has great redeemable rewards too at every level, right now for $100 points you can redeem for a sample of the Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Cream, a STILA Huge Extreme Lash Mascara, a CLINIQUE Take The Day Off Makeup Remover For Lids, Lashes & Lips and some other high-end goodies to try. For most, this is the best part of being a Beauty Insider, VIB or Rouge member. The sample sizes are easy to test before committing to full size splurges and also offer an opportunity to try new things they may not have thought of before.

Ultamate Rewards

My personal favorite beauty brand rewards program is the one offered from Ulta. Instead of earning points to get to higher levels of rewards and more sample options, Ulta has you spend to earn money back on future purchases. Based on the dollar value spent annually, you get a credit of points back to get large purchases significantly discounted. The best part about the Ultamate program is that they also offer regular sales on beauty and skincare products as well frequent promotions where you can earn 2x, 3x, and even 5x points on specific purchases. They also have different levels of rewards you can earn too. First time members are just titled, um.. members. There’s also Platinum, and Diamond levels. Platinum can be achieved after spending $450 in a calendar year and at this status, your points don’t expire and you also get a $10 coupon every birthday, as well as a birthday gift. Diamond status can be achieved after spending $1000 per calendar year, where you also get exclusive free shipping on all orders over $25 and an annual $25 gift card to be used toward one of their beauty services.

Here’s how the points stack to get you your money back:

100 points = $3 off

500 points = $17.50 off

750 points = $30 off

1000 points = $50 off

2000 points = $125 off

Clearly, at 2000 points, the value starts to be very worthwhile. I honestly think it’s easier to spend a higher amount at Ulta rather than Sephora because they carry both high end and drugstore products. Let me tell you, it’s so much easier to rack up spending when you’re already getting your regular beauty product backups or replacements and then decide to let yourself have one nicer, or more expensive product every now and again. I do it a little too often sometimes. 🙂 With this in mind, you can easily lock in your points at the Platinum level, aka $450 spent annually so you can continue to stack your points until you’re ready to use them.


Discount Retail Stores (TJ MAXX, MARSHALLS)

If you haven’t checked your local TJ Maxx or Marshalls for Beauty or Skincare items yet, you need to. Usually only a small aisle or two, those white, dusty shelves are filled with incredible products most would overlook. Often found in the makeup section are brands like Anastasia Beverly Hills, BITE Beauty, Kat Von D, Burberry, Too Faced Cosmetics and even more incredible brands can be found throughout. Some of my favorite beauty and skincare products were purchased from TJ Maxx or Marshalls, and at a discount! Recently, I picked up the ABH Cream Contour palette in Light/Medium, La Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreen SPF 15 Moisturizer and even a neat little oil diffuser that I’m using instead of candles to reduce spending costs. I freaking love these stores. Most of the products are discounted by at least  20 – 30% but some people are lucky enough to find products for up to 50% off. There’s definitely a better time to go though, these stores usually receive shipment on or around Tuesday’s. So check back then to see if your local stores might have something you’ve been looking for!


Monthly Subscriptions 

If you’d like to gradually and affordable build your collection but you don’t know where to start, a beauty box subscription is likely a great option. Shipping monthly or even seasonally, many subscription services offer a variety of sample, deluxe and full size products to see what works and what doesn’t work for you. Most are very affordable, and easy to cancel if you need to. Ipsy and Birchbox are only around $10/mo and claim to even be customizable, where you can build your own beauty and skin profile and choose some spoiler options for your own box/bag. My personal favorite is Boxycharm. Boxycharm sends 4-5 full size beauty and skincare products, and there’s usually at least 1 high end product in every single box. At $21/m it’s a little more expensive han boxes that strictly do samples like Birchbox and Ipsy. The quality is worth it to me though, and most boxes are valued at over $100. If you’d like to take a look at more great subscription boxes, I’d check out http://www.mysubscriptionaddiction.com where they constantly review and post information about all kinds of subscription boxes.


Reddit: aka r/MakeupExchange 

Reddit has been a great tool and resource for me. I use it for everything; research, affordable makeup buying options and incredible advice from a thriving community. One of my favorite subs is r/makeupexchange. This subreddit is dedicated to selling and buying lightly used or new makeup online. Even if you’re just browsing, you’ll be surprised at the quality of the makeup you can purchase through this sub. You’ll see incredible posts selling hundreds of high end products with low to no shipping costs at all, just be careful to watch for spam and always remember to follow the community rules!

No need to buy at all either! If you’re looking to sell some of your collection before adding anything additional back in this is the perfect place to do it!


Gift Sets

Even before blogging, strict budgets and adult responsibilities gift sets have always been my favorite way to try products and save money. For most, you spend 30-50% less on all of the products you’re buying.  Most are usually store themed or brand based so you can really discover more from a brand or other products you might not even try if you hadn’t purchased the set. Gift sets can offer new combinations of products you might really dislike too, try reading reviews and commenting questions on forums before investing in larger sets.

Sephora is one of my favorite places to shop for gift sets. They have a huge variety of different sets, including skincare, hair care and even body care ones. I love giving these as gifts, using them for reviews or even just for everyday makeup fun!


Do you have any specific tricks or habits you’ve implemented to stick to your beauty budget? I’d love to hear what works for you, or even what didn’t. Let’s chat about it in the comments below! 

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