As befits my role here as a beauty blogger, I love trying as many new beauty products as I can get my hands on. But while I do get sent lots of lovely things for free (perfume from Grasse has arrived in the mailbox this morning), I too am of limited means and so am always on the hunt for bargainous products. So how can you get the best deal? Here are my tips:
- Shop in the country of origin. As I noted recently in my post about Dr Hauschka's Rejuvenating Mask, importation costs inevitably add to the retail price of a product. Dr Hauschka's products, for instance, cost around €20 more in the UK than in their country of origin (Germany). So if you can, get your products directly from the host country: shop when you go there, or give money to a friend who's going and get them to purchase for you.
- Wait a while after a product has been launched. Occasionally, products will have promotional launch prices. However, most of the time they will be more expensive at their launch and then prices will calm down later. Often, it's worth waiting.
- Look out for special deals. Some pharmacy chains are particularly good at offering deals - when you buy your preferred product, you may get something for free with it (I bought an Estée Lauder foundation last year and got the matching full-size concealer gratis), or the pharmacy may offer discounts on bulk purchases (such as buying 2 or 3 of the same product at once). Boots is pretty good at this, but so are French pharmacies, which can be particularly handy if you are following the advice detailed under point 1.
- Hunt for lookalike products. Sometimes when you're really strapped for cash you just can't afford the latest brand-name product that you've got your eye on. However, plenty of people are in the same situation and can report back on products that do the same job for less money. One of my fave finds is Sephora's Colorful Duo vs. Nars eyeshadows - but you can find lots of other tips on discussion fora online, such as MoneySavingExpert.com's "Cheap Smellalikes" thread, which offers alternatives to expensive perfumes.
- Use Google Shopping for the best prices. Google Shopping is basically my best friend. Type in the product you want, and they'll find just about all the retailers selling it, which you can rank by price (with or without postage costs). Google also for reviews of the retailers if you are unsure about their reputation - this will also alert you to any retailers that may be selling fakes.
- Wait for the January sales. This applies to online and in-store sales; you can often get brilliant bargains. This January, I got the Benefit Cabana Glama palette for a mere €18,50 (£16) at Sephora, as opposed to its usual retail price of €37 (£31.99).
- Search for discount vouchers. More commonly available in relation to online transactions, discount voucher websites can get you codes for all kinds of things from free postage and extra freebies to money off your order. Reliable websites include Voucher DiscountCode, VoucherCodes, and MyVoucherCodes.
- Buy "secondhand". This one is a bit more fraught with risk: we're all familiar with the world of product expiry dates and the potential risk of infection from using products that have already been used by others. However, I've had so few problems (and even then only very minor issues) that I've been happy to "buy secondhand" before now and would do it again. Quite often on websites like Ebay, you will find products being sold that have only been used once or twice. Because of this, you can have the product you want at a heavily discounted price when it's essentially as good as new. Some products will also be ex-display and will be sold at a reduced rate for this reason.
- Use group buying sites and gift sites for beauty treatments. Spa breaks can often seem so out of reach - but thanks to group buying sites and gift websites, which have been able to negotiate special deals on your behalf, there's a chance that you'll be able to pamper yourself for only a few pounds.
- Grab free samples whenever and wherever you can. Sign up to free sample newsletters, check brand websites, 'like' your favourite brands on Facebook and Twitter, and shop for your favourite products in department stores or on websites where you know they give samples with purchases. That way, you'll always be aware of competitions or special giveaway events, and if you've had the chance to try a product before you buy the full size you'll know if you like it or not - and if you don't, then that's a massive saving.