How to save money on makeup

How to save money on makeup

Nikki ParkinsonBeauty 38 Comments

The Lipstick Index was a phrase coined by Estee Lauder’s Leonard Lauder in the early 2000s.

The phrase was based on a perhaps surprising economic indicator – surprising to men and economists maybe. In a nutshell, when times were and are tough, cosmetic sales were said to increase.

The theory was that when budgets are tights, women swap out more expensive purchases like shoes, bags and clothes for a quick style fix in the form of a new lipstick.

That theory was quashed in subsequent periods of economic downturn – and also in upturns when women still bought and loved a lippy – but it’s one that I kind of still subscribe to without any statistical backing whatsoever.

A fun makeup purchase such as a lipstick or gloss is something we can carry and use every day. It does have the ability to make us feel good in a flash.


There’s always a but, isn’t there?

Lots of smaller feel-good makeup purchases do add up, don’t they?

Most people work to a budget for this type of discretionary spending so I thought it might be helpful to share some ways to save money on makeup purchases.

So you can have your lippy and pay the bills too.

How to save money on makeup9 money-saving makeup tips

1. Create purchasing priorities.  This is all about deciding where the lion-share of your makeup budget should be spent. It’s quite an individual thing. For me I would spend most on a foundation that matched my skin colour and enhanced my complexion. I also have a thing for illuminators, products that give me a glow when I don’t have one. And I also like to have some high-end lipsticks that shamelessly look good in a clutch bag for going out. Shallow, I am. You may be a mascara girl and won’t compromise on paying top dollar for your favourite. The key here is to recognise your makeup priorities and work them to your advantage in an overall budget.

2. Buy eye colours individually. This might seem a more expensive way to do things but it won’t be long term. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of an eye colour palette. It helps to create an eye look that tones in beautifully together – and I absolutely go the palette when travelling to cut down on what’s in my travel makeup bag – but I always run out of the lightest shade first because that’s the one I use most of. Another way around this is to just buy the base shade as a separate and then still work with a palette.

3. Use makeup brushes. I remember the first time my face was introduced to a foundation makeup brush. It was almost 10 years ago and I’d booked in a session at a MAC makeup counter in Brisbane to get colour matched for a foundation ahead of my wedding to Mr SY. They used a makeup brush then and sold me on the spot. I may be the world’s easiest marketing target but it made so much sense and continues to do so today. Using brushes – for not just foundation – does save you money in the long run as you use less product. This applies most to foundation, so if you’re prioritising your makeup budget towards foundation then then your makeup dollar is stretched even further. The end result on your face is also superior as a brush helps distribute product evenly to create a more flawless finish.

4. Sign up to your favourite stores. Last week Priceline had two of its semi-regular 40% off days. If you’re a card holder you’d have known about it and probably shopped up a storm. Don’t want to sign up to an email notification? Why not use Facebook or Instagram as a way of keeping on top of what offers are happening at your favourite stores, salons or brand counters? Follow your favourites and you’ll never miss out on a bargain.

5. Check supermarkets for weekly specials. I do most of my grocery shopping online – an order every three weeks or so suffices as I just buy my fresh stuff as I need it in between. There are supermarket beauty and makeup products that I buy semi-regularly so when I check through past purchases it shows up if they’re on sale. If they are I stock up. I also get emails alerting me to any specials in between online shops so I can act on those and buy in store if I need to.

6. Ask for samples. If you’re considering a makeup purchase in a salon or at a beauty counter or store then don’t be afraid to ask for a sample to take home. I think this is a really good idea with foundation as the lighting in store is not always ideal for checking if the shade is right for you. Natural light is always key. A small sample can mean the difference between wasting dollars on a product or not. Take it home, try it and then come back to buy the next day in confidence.

7. Try in store first. This is tied in with the above tip but, where you can, extend this is to book in for a makeup application at your favourite counter. The cost of this is usually redeemable with a purchase. So if you’re ready to buy a new foundation or give your current makeup look a shake-up, this is a great way to do it. Time the professional makeup so that your fresh face can be taken out to lunch or dinner afterwards. That’s a double makeup win in my books.

8. Embrace a gift with purchase. If you’re receiving notifications from your favourite makeup brands and they’re ones that regularly do a gift with purchase then use these times to stock up on your makeup supplies. Book in for a makeup application at the same time and you’ve just got yourself an extra makeup purchase bonus.

9. Check out special gift packs at Christmas or around Mother’s Day. These two times of year are typically when you’ll see gift packs on sale at makeup stores and counters as well as in salons. They are usually better value for money than buying the items included separately.

If you’re wondering why one of my tips is to just buy online from the US or UK, I have purposely left it out.

Yes, it makes me cranky that we generally pay a whole lot more here for makeup than we do overseas – for the same product. And yes, when I am overseas I do shop up a storm. Sephora just has to whisper my name.


And there’s always a but around here.

By buying locally I do hope that I’m supporting jobs for Australian people – from counter and salon staff to staff working in the Australian corporate offices of these brands.

I do congratulate those brands that have moved to make prices more on a par with overseas – I’m looking at you Molton Brown, Shu Uemura, La Prairie, Weleda, Dermalogica, Illamasqua and Mecca Cosmetica which has been working to reduce prices across all its brands. I would sincerely love for others to follow suit.

So tell me, how do you save money on makeup purchases? What’s your makeup purchasing priority?

Comments 38

  1. I learned to use make-up brushes in my former life as a beauty therapist so I can’t imagine not using them now. It also drilled into me the importance of a base. I do love the huge range of bb’s, cc’s and illuminating powders available today. Great post Nikki and really good advice.

  2. Great Post Nikki. I update my make up yearly by going to Revlon at my local Malouf Pharmacy and for every 200 points I accrue, I get a $10 voucher and I think you get a free Revlon product when you buy 5 products in one transaction. For me, it’s the cost and convenience with little kids. I only usually wear make-up on the weekends and going out, and during the week, I wear a BB cream which you got me onto from your previous posts. i also use the Napolean primer as suggested and i see a difference in the way my makeup stays on. I also look after my brushes by shampooing them every 6 months and letting them dry.

  3. I spend more money on sensitive areas like my eyes. I’ve found that cheap eye shadows and mascaras can make my eyes puffy and weepy. I LOVE Kevin Aucoin mascara and find it lasts a lot lonoger than other cheaper ones I’ve purchased. Also, if I find a great colour that really suits I will make a repeat purchase and make do with other items I have already in other areas to save a few $$ – I’m thinking of you, NARS Orgasm blush!

  4. I agree with you, Nikki: I spend up on my base (primer and foundation) as that’s (literally) the foundation for my entire makeup look. I’m happy with cheapie-ish mascaras such as Maybelline and Max Factor as I tend to layer them anyway. My lipsticks range from Sportsgirl to MAC, cos I just buy them if I love the shade. Funnily enough, I’m very particular when it comes to blush. I love a flush of colour on my cheeks but I like to be able to control the build, so at the moment I’m sticking with my old favourite, MAC Sheertone Shimmer in ‘Springsheen’.

  5. Great post – with DaddyDayCare not working (in the money earning sense 😉 ) we are definitely feeling the pinch of being a one income family and I’ve really had to look at my make-up and prioritise essentials versus indulgences. So I’ve been shopping my stash and amazed at how much stuff I’ve found that is awesome that I cast aside previously. So its a good reminder to revisit the stash from time to time – there may be some hidden treasures!

      1. Wow, thank you, so affordable too! Is it a matte or dewy type finish? I’ve been through countless foundations and yer to find the right texture and perfect colour. Will visit Myer and give this one a go x

  6. I love this! I’m a big budget make-up gal but I like an a good BB cream and fancy concealer. I also recently got given a fancy mascara and I love it! Might be hard to go back to Great Lash when it runs out.

  7. I agree with you on so many points here Nikki I purchased Mac brushes quite a few years ago and they have paid for themselves about 3 times over and I want to try the one perfecting brush by Becca.
    My dollars go first on the primer ,foundation and then the brows Benefit gimme Brows is great as is smash box brow powder,I have fine brows and as I get older they get lighter even though I have them tinted?! Illuminator and highlighter is smash box or NP,I really don’t care which brand of blush I use and I love maybelline lipsticks.Mascara is one thing I am having a problem with ATM my eyes have become super sensitive and water every time I put on mascara,very annoying and I really have no idea why I have never had trouble with this before,if you know of any for super sensitive eyes please Lmk.
    I am the sample queen as I can’t use a lot of products I go to Myer and also Priceline will give you samples of products if you ask,I also love their 40% off sales.great post Nikki!

  8. I found a skincare routine that works well for me and I would spend a bit more on foundation. I’ve discovered make up from Kmart. It’s low price but colours are lovely and the staying power is very good.

  9. As i get older I prefer to spend money on lovely eye pencils, but cannot tell the difference between a $15 mascara and ones that cost far more. The trickle down effect seems to work as even the cheapest mascaras have the high tech brushes that seem to make a difference.

    I have a question on a related note, Nikki. Do you always throw and replace out your older makeup when it reaches age that it’s recommended to do so, even when there’s plenty left AND it looks and smells fine? It seems quite wasteful and can make a huge difference to how much you need to spend on cosmetics.

    1. The short generalised answer is no I don’t Johanne. I probably should but I use my gut feeling. My foundation would run its natural course and runs out before it would expire; my eye colours I don’t throw out. The products I turn over the most are mascaras, mainly because of the nature of how they’re applied and because close to the eye. Would do the same with liquid eyeliners but not pencils as you are sharpening them. With lipsticks, I go on how they look/smell. Something that spends a lot of time in my handbag might have a shorter life than those in my drawers in a cool space.

      1. Thanks for posting this Nikki 🙂
        I do something similar, if it smells out it goes!
        I stocked up on my favourite foundation last year as they are no longer making it & I’ve just opened one of the bottles & the contents are find, but like you it lives in a drawer in a cool place.

  10. Nikki, I like the shameless high-end lipstick line in this post, a lot. Going to the other end of the spectrum entirely, I’ve recently had some great wins with super cheap lipsticks from Priceline. If I can get a great colour and feel for $5, that’s winning to me. And I agree that the supermarket or Kmart et al can be a great place to scoop up a sale item. Viva la bargain!

  11. morning nikki, can’t resist the lippy honey!
    if nothing else, always the lippy … it transports me to another level anytime, anywhere, I feel dressed when I have the lippy on!
    my sister is the same and our mother taught us well! … she was a very attractive, stylish, dapper little woman, still in heels and scarves and flare in her seventies and always the lippy! she was economical and kept her old lippies when they were nearly finished and scraped the dregs out with the lippy brush and I do too as there are always the faves! happy Thursday to all! lol m:)X

  12. I tend to buy the makeup gift packs at Christmas (last year Estée Lauder and Elizabeth Arden ) and that means I don’t need to buy eye shadows all year. I also buy the Clarins Beauty Flash Balm gift packs then, as you get extra products for the normal price of one tube. Woolworths and Big W had Cover Girl all half price this week and just love Priceline 40% off days !!

  13. Agree with all of these! I would also add to invest in the items you use every day, including your skin care (no matter how good your makeup is, it’ll look better with lovely skin) and buy cheaper brands in items you will rarely use. I will spend on eyeliner, mascara, bb cream and a base eyeshadow. Lipstick is rarely worn so I don’t spend much on it.

    And, for the reason you’ve mentioned, I love being born a few days before Mother’s Day. I get all the sales!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.