Beauty on a Budget: 7 Timeless Tips to Save Money on Makeup

by Jamie Simmerman · 11 comments

cheap makeup

(Sorry guys, this post isn’t likely to be directly useful to you, but you can share these tips with the girls in your life and look really knowledgeable and respectful about girlie things.)

Makeup is one of those items that I have a love/hate relationship with. I love trying new colors, dolling up my best friend’s teenage daughter for prom, and goofing around with the girls for a spa night at home.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I can go weeks without wearing makeup and be perfectly happy; it’s not essential to my life. But it’s fun to be creative and play with color combinations and application techniques.

Makeup also holds great potential for a shopping addiction. Before I had kids (when I had considerably more spending money), I used to shop for makeup on a regular basis. I stopped shopping at the drugstore and began venturing into the department store’s line of more pricey products. The products were nice, but the price tag was outrageous. When my kids came along, I simply couldn’t afford to keep up. I learned how to make what I had last longer and how to spend significantly less on my makeup.

Here are eight of my top tips for saving money on makeup:

beauty on a budget1. Start with skin care.

No amount of quality cosmetics will make up for basic skin issues. Dry skin, blemishes, enlarged pores, etc must be treated in order for your make up to wear well and look good. If the canvas is a poor quality, the makeup doesn’t matter. If you’re going to spend more on anything, splurge on a quality skin care kit and use it regularly.

2. Buy your pressed or loose powder a shade darker than usual and mix in a little talcum powder.

This makes your powder last much longer and doesn’t affect the overall look of your makeup.

3. Mix in a little quality moisturizer with your liquid foundation to make application smoother.

This also stretches how long your foundation will last since you’re essentially using less each day. This technique allows me to purchase a single bottle of high-quality foundation and make it last for 10-12 months.

4. Always apply cosmetics with a brush, not your fingers.

Applying foundation with your fingers means you’re wasting makeup on your hands that will be washed down the drain. Using a brush allows you to precisely apply the product exactly where you want it.

5. Shop for your favorite makeup regularly.

Popular drugstores like Rite Aid often have half-off sales to help clear out older inventory and make room for new products. You can stock up on the essentials at a fraction of the price during these sales. Sometimes you can even find a too-bright shade on clearance and mix it with a lighter shade you already own to make it useable.

6. Visit your local department store’s cosmetics counter for a complimentary make over.

Most companies don’t charge for this service (knowing you’re likely to buy something before you leave) and this a great way to get a fresh look for special occasions without investing in new cosmetics.

7. Experiment with color.

Many items, such as nail polish, blush, and eye shadow can be mixed to create new colors. This can result in a new favorite shade or a new look without spending a dime on additional colors.

8. Always use a setting product to hold your look in place.

Topcoat for your nails, lipstick treatments, and loose powder are wise investments since they prevent the need for touchups.

Even if you’re addicted to a pricey name brand cosmetics line, you can still save money by adding a few steps to your daily routine and being on the lookout for a good bargain.

What money-saving makeup tips have you found to be useful?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • ujikol says:


  • Jennifer says:

    I sold Mary Kay for several years. It was a job that depended entirely on sales. Many times I booked an appointment, spent several hours teaching guests how to apply makeup, gave a hostess gift, used my supplies, bought gas for the car, took time from my family and guess what!!!! The hostess took the gift, bought nothing and her guests didn’t either. After all it is complimentary. Wake up people. We expect you to buy something. This is how we feed our family.

  • Robert says:

    Some great money saving ideas, thanks for sharing these Jamie. Half-off sales at Rite Aid sound like a great option, I will look for them.

  • SD says:

    Thanks a lot…will share this with my wife as this will be an expensive month because of festival season in India and women tend to spend a lot on makeup…this post will be a savior….

  • Marbella says:

    Hi Jamie,
    Take your favorite expensive mascara, lipstick, etc. and read where it is made, the factory and go into the factory’s website and you can often find your expensive product and see under what other names they are selling the exact same product at a much lower price in a supermarket store or similarly.
    (I’ve worked in cosmetic and clothing industry for over 15 years)

  • Jean says:

    Great post, Jamie. I am surely going to recommend a co-worker to read your article. She is obsessed with her make-up and takes hours to get ready to go anywhere and at times, makes the rest of our group wait on her, haha.


  • Lorena says:

    Well, like Patty, I’m a little annoyed by this article, as I’d thought there’d be more useful information here. Also, keeping some makeup that long, like the 12 months she lists for her foundation, can affect its wearability and texture. And there’s always the issue of germs, especially in eye makeup products, as well as efficacy of certain ingredients, like SPF. Anyway, here are my tips:

    Join a rewards club — there are now rewards clubs for make-up, whether it’s at Sephora or Rite Aid. So, joining may be helpful in saving a buck or two here and there, and you can get free samples of products you might be interested in trying (at Sephora anyway).

    Look for products that do double-duty — for example, I used to use drugstore moisturizer with SPF, foundation and powder. Then, I found a great quality (read: big-name cosmetic brand) tinted moisturizer with SPF that’s cheaper than the combined price of the three products I used to buy (and lasts just as long as the others do, both in wear time and amount of daily use). So, not only am I saving money, but I’m saving application time, too (great since I’m a first-time mom).

    Do your research — research products before purchasing by reading Paula Begoun’s cosmetics reviews, either online at (see “Learn” then click on “Reviews of other brands”) or in her book “Don’t go to the cosmetics counter without me” (often available at the library). While she has her own line of products now (which you can feel free to ignore), she used to be a non-biased reviewer who not only told you which products do what they advertise, but also shared which types of makeup to splurge on. She also has great advice for skin care and debunking many of the myths that make people think they need to buy expensive lotions, serums and creams. Alternately, look at the “must buy” or “best of” product listings that women’s magazines do annually. They can help steer you towards (or away from) a product you may be interested in.

  • Jamie Simmerman says:

    Hi Patty,

    I too, was trained in makeup application and sold cosmetics, and I agree, purchasing a product only to return it after using it for a special occasion is not fair to the salesperson. I do purchase my regular-use products from the same salesperson that does my makeup for special occasions- I just don’t purchase new products strictly for a special occasion event (like a family wedding). Perhaps I should have made that clearer.

    The information in this article is by far not news to someone with your expertise, but was intended to help those not in the cosmetics industry save a little on makeup.

    Thanks for the tips about L’Oreal and Avon. I’m a big Jane Iredale fan. Have you tried anything in that line of products?

  • Patty says:

    Okay, the people in department stores are partly on commission, and have sales targets/quotas to meet. I have personally seen women go to the class buy the products and then return them to another store just so they can have the education but not really pay for it because they returned the items. (Snarky) Yes the person selling the products has this commission taken from them because you returned the item.

    If you are not going to buy from them, or bring products back, really, don’t waste their time or yours. Buy a magazine and look at the images, (go to the library and get out a makeup book) ask a friend or even your teenage daughter.

    In some cases there really is a fee of some kind for this service. You are paying for an expertise here, That cosmetic company has trained that person to work with their products (not to get into the women’s work is less valuable than a man’s work here). Ripping off a fellow woman who is trying to make ends meet is no real way to save money. Can you tell I worked behind that beauty counter!

    This article would have been far more useful if what a good skin care regime costs, where you can save money ($135 anti-aging cream verses drugstore brand). How better is Clinique verse Neutrogena? Do dermatologist recommend anything specific? What is the lower cost drugstore brand to the department store> Like did you know that L’orel is the cheaper version of Lancome for color? Avon I *think* is part of Estee Lauder?

    Really, you will get hits for content, but in truth I call this a phantom hit in that you start a topic, but there is little new information that you are putting out there. You can and usually do better.

    • Beatrice says:

      Estee Lauder owns everyone. Its just a big corporation that bought out lots of smaller companies – so they own: Clinique, Bare Escentuals, Mac, Shiseido and Origins. I didn’t know about Avon, but they probably own them too. Very little in the Cosmetics world is still independent these days !

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