One of my most important rules for buying nail polish and make up is to try very hard to never ever ever pay retail. It's really pretty easy, depending on what you are trying to buy. It doesn't work with everything - there's no way (that I know of, anyway) to avoid paying full retail on Chanel, for instance, without a gift card or stealing (haha...don't steal). Some things just don't go on sale.
Then there are the sales that are hardly worth having. Some brands will make a sale announcement and it winds up being for 10% off or, worse, something like $15 off a purchase of $100 or more. Sorry but that doesn't cut it for me. We can start talking turkey at around 20% off. And free shipping! Tell me a way to get free shipping, and don't make it for something assy like orders of $100 or more, CHANEL. (It would be pretty easy to spend $100 at Chanel.com, though I have never done it.)
To the untrained eye it may seem as though I am constantly splashing out on nail polish and makeup, but in reality there is a good deal of plotting that goes into most purchases. I try to spend as little as possible, which I realize is something that everyone thinks they are doing, but with a little research and a high threshold for things like annoying email updates, you can save a lot more.
Here are some things you can do to get great deals on cosmetics.
1. Sign up for email updates.
Yes, this is annoying, but you can always create another email address for stuff like this, or set up a filter on your email client. If I wasn't on the Urban Decay email list, I wouldn't know that it's their friends and family sale right now, which is pretty good (25% off). Sephora also does a F&F sale, and you need to be on their email list for that.
2. Engage with brands on social media.
Also annoying. You will have to decide which brands are worth the annoyance. Zoya does a lot of promos through Facebook and Twitter, and I've noticed several brands doing flash sales and spreading the word through Twitter. Some will just not be worth the effort, but it's easy enough to unfollow or unlike a page.
3. Join an online community.
Granted, this is not the most efficient way to find out about sales, but it is interactive. With the right forum, you can rest assured there will always be someone somewhere in the world talking about blush or nail polish or conditioner or whatever it is that you love and obsess about. This is how I discovered the 40% Aveyou flash sale and the 70% off ELF sale, though that one almost make me go crazy as I waited for the entire 70 minute duration for my order to process. However, for 70% off my preferred makeup brush? WORTH IT.
4. Join customer loyalty or bonus bucks programs.
I am speaking specifically about CVS in this case. Walgreens in this area does not have their rewards program yet, and I don't have anything all that great to say about the Rite Aid Wellness Plus program. I am totally crazy for CVS ExtraBucks however.
This is where your planning and strategic buying will come into play. I know it seems like a lot of trouble to save a couple of bucks, but this afternoon I am going to CVS with a $4 off $20 coupon, $10 in EB and a coupon for a free candy bar. (The candy bar is kind of irrelevant, but hey...free candy.) If I buy $20 worth of products, I'll only pay $6 for them. And if the products I buy earn me ExtraBucks...it just keeps things rolling along.
There are a few things you can do to maximize your ExtraBucks savings. One is to combine CVS sales or rewards with manufacturer's coupons - so buy the Sunday paper or, again, rely on joining email lists. The other is to buy coupons, which sounds counterintuitive, but it works very well if you plan well. I buy $4 off $20 CVS coupons on eBay. They are very cheap and more than pay for themselves in savings.
Another type of customer loyalty program is like what you might find at Sephora or Ulta. I personally don't find Ulta's rewards program all that rewarding - it's depressing to see that you've spent something like $150 and that it entitles you to ... one free Ulta-brand nail polish or something. (Ulta does have good sales and coupons, however.) Sephora's rewards program is a bit different, and can pay off nicely. At a minimum you'll get a $15 "gift card" around the holidays and the opportunity to save 15% or 20% during F&F sales.
5. Sign up for a service like CouponMom.
These things can be a bit cryptic, but I just pay attention to the stores where I like to shop and go from there. These sites will help you match up coupon savings to sales and rewards programs to maximize your spending.
6. Shop clearance.
This seems obvious, I'm sure. Drugstores have great clearance sales but you will need to do a little picking in order to find the clearance stuff sometimes. I try to stick to products I know I like and will use - otherwise it's really not a savings - but I've bought just loads of $2 mascara over the past year or so. If you combine clearance pricing with coupons and rewards bucks, you'll actually find yourself paying pennies for cosmetics that usually cost $6, $8, $10.
By deploying these tactics carefully, you can save a lot - not just on makeup and fun stuff but on things you need around the house, cleaning products, etc. Of course, the thriftiest thing is to not buy in the first place, but if you're going to buy, don't pay retail!