Tuesday, January 05, 2010

How to get the best deal - Drugstore and online shopping tips

A few days ago a girl asked how can I get Maybelline mascara for 50 cents. While I did provide a response to that question I reckon that I rarely spend more than 4 dollars on a single drugstore cosmetics (they are 1-3 dollars and most of the time it's closer to the 1 dollar range) just so that I have a lame excuse for the ever increasing clutter (at least they are cheap!) in my room.

Anyway, I am that kind of person who spend pennies on dirt cheap crap but end up a butt load of those( I am trying to change that). I have accumulate some techniques when it comes to saving money on things that are already cheap thus here is my essay response to the same question. Ready on, for Citrine's guide to cheap out- Cutting corners for more crap.
"Weeee, lip gloss for a dollar!"

Drugstore Shopping

Bottom Line
Never buy any drugstore brand full priced (unless it's a really pretty limited edition item) as they would always go on sale in drugstore(Never pay full price when you can get it cheaper unless it's necessity, like pad on a leaky day...). Places like Wal-mart usually have a lower price point to start with so they rarely slash the price on promotion.

Drugstore weekly promotion
There are always 2-3 cosmetic brands going on in each drugstore (Search for Weekly ad in google you will find out what's kind of sale is going one or you can just wait for your local drugstore to mail you those weekly fliers) . Look closely at the detail and see if the sale is worth it. Buy one get one is usually good enough of a deal. If you see buy one get one 50% off, it means that if you buy two equally priced items, (if the price is not equal, the bigger the difference, the worse the overall deal) the total is 75% off, and if you only want one item, the other filler is pretty much an unnecessary expenditure. In that case (most of the time I don't want 2 items from a brand anyway) which is actually not very good deal since Target and Wal-mart usually offer price 80% and you only spend the money on the one item you want.

Brands that usually go one this kind of buy one get one 50% faux sale are Physician's Formula, Covergirl, Sally Hansen Nail Color and Milani (it's the only kind of sale that went on though) in CVS. It's better just go for those 40% off sale going on in Walgreen when it comes to brands like those.

Manufacturers Coupon-These are the coupon provided by the manufacturer to encourage people to try out some of the newer and more expensive items. You can usually find them on stuff like expensive mascara or foundation. You have to peel it off and open it up before letting the cashier scan it. Look at the coupon, sometime it's made for specific products while many other times, it applies to any products from the brand. Of course, a 3 dollars coupon give you better deal when you spend it on a 5 dollar lipstick than a 10 dollars foundation. You can even get a better deal when you combine the coupon along with buy one get one free sale.

Beside being stick on foundation bottle, some coupons are put next to the limited edition paper display and printed as a tiny booklet. You can take 2-3 (take more they will expire anyway) and wait for a BOGO sale so you can pile the discount. Walgreen sometime have those coupon booklet taken away by their salespeople to prevent abuse (if they have excess human power) but they have a sign " Cosmetician has coupons" up so that you can ask them for those. You can ask for 2-3 then tell them you want to stroll around to see other products.

Retailer's Coupon- ULTA always have that kind of 3.5 dollars off 10 dollars purchase mail to you. (You can also find it online) that applies to drugstore and salon products (anything beside high end cosmetics/skincare and haircare). Of course, it's best to just spend 10 dollars on that one products you love and it's usually pretty good deal when used in conjunction with store promotion as well as manufacturer's coupon.

CVS print out coupons at the receipts and Walgreen usually have a little coupon book for the month somewhere in the store. Sunday paper is a good place to find coupons of all kinds.

Clearance Basket- This is almost like a gem box to me as you can find many items like the few leftover from limited edition display, items that are being phased out in certain drugstore (like those prestige eyeliner or Jane blush), unique stock (like Freeze 24 is available in branch A of CVS but 2 bottles just somehow get in CVS branch B so there is nowhere to put them beside clearance basket.) Try your luck as you never know what kind of dirt cheap goodies you would get.

There is a golden time to dig the clearance basket: May/June/July and December/January since drugstore need to make space for new stocks. Target has a decent amount of stuff in their clearance basket all year round since the stores are bigger, just be sure to look for those red sticker as you can get eyeshadow, mascara and lip gloss around 80% off. (Around 20-30% of products/junk I have are from clearance basket.)

Big Lot/Dollar Tree- Sometime they carry discontinued drugstore items for clearance basket price, but the stock is pretty limited and what you get depends a lot on luck.

High End
Those are all I can think of when it comes to drugstore cosmetics. Now here comes the high end shopping tips. High end rarely/ are not supposed to go on sale in order to keep that kind of prestigious profile (when a high end brand have huge supply to some discount site and/or always go on sale, the image started to get degraded into a cheap brand...) Since they don't go on sale at all/as often, I just deal with the price and make sure than I do enough research/testing before chipping in to avoid regret. But of course there are some way to save on those.

Free Shipping Code- Isn't that much of a great deal when it's used alone. It's great when you saw something on sale online but don't want to pay 6-8 dollars so the sale became pointless. Search retailmenot for codes (of all kind, not just free shipping code) before shopping you will find something.

Anyway, my favorite type is to use a sale code on a free shipping period (no code needed) , use free shipping code along with sale code for regular priced item (if you can use 2 at a time) or use the free shipping code to buy sales item.

Vintage session- Sephora, Stila and Too faced usually have some really tempting sale going on there, these are excellent things to buy when you have a free shipping code handy. There are more stock available at the end of each season.

Look for sets - On sale or not, makeup set is usually a lot cheaper than single items. If your favorite brands have some set available, the sets would be nice to look into. Just don't buy something just because it's a set and it's worth it. If you hate NARS orgasm blush and nail polish. buying a set with bronzer-blush duo and nail color for 35 dollars isn't necessary a money saver when you can just buy the bronzer itself for 25 dollars.

Sale Code- 20% off isn't actually that big of a deal if you only want one item from the site but it gets valuable when you are buying in bulk( that meet the minimum free shipping threshold). If you are placing a totally 200 dollars order from Sephora. It's better to place 4 separate ones since smaller packages with products from the same brand are easier to fetch in the warehouse and would arrive quicker than big one. Another good thing about smaller packages is that you can get more samples!

Match the offer-Nordstrom usually match the Sephora offer (in store) when there is a 20% off sale going on. Just ask for it at the counter. It's great if you want to see the product in person, want to get things right away, near closed to a Nordy and have only one or two things you want.

Twitter - Many cosmetics brand give out codes and have some giveaways over twitter. Follow them you will be the first group to hear the sale. Lancome blog offer giveaways on a weekly basis (it seems that's the only interesting thing they blog about) so try religiously you will win sometime according the law of probability.

Blog Sale- There are very few bloggers who sell their stuff in a usable condition (I consider usable condition to be barely touched lol.) for a reasonable/good price while many other hold blog sale to "earn money" (I have seen used discounted Stila from beauty crunch being sold as if they are brand new from Sephora , half tube of lip gloss for 50% of the original retail *pukes* ). Of course, there is one or two blogger who simply want to find a new home for their unloved cosmetics...I am not going to tell you who they are since I also want to buy from them and don't want to miss the good deal next time *Mua ha ha*

This paragraph is saying nothing...

Private Sale Site - Heard of them, never tried any of them.

E-Mail-That's another way cosmetics company used to inform user with sales. Sign up the e-mail subscription with a separate e-mail address in case the spam get on your nerve (it did so I have put all of those into spam folders)

eBay- There is an essay that's dedicate to the evil bay. You simply don't need this much (bad) writing from me in a single day.


  1. thanks for this! i am one of those deal hunters too and this gave me a lot of new tips to try :)

  2. oh wow how embarrassing :D thank you for the correction!

    :3 i am going to delete that blog very soon alas. pandaphilia will still be up though.

    thank you girl!

  3. Yay! Been waiting for a Citrine's guide to bargain hunting! :P
    Should have read this earlier...I've been throwing out coupon books since their cover usually shows 50 cents off spaghettios -___-

  4. Great guide! thanks for the tips.

    A private sale site I use is Hautelook.com. Dunno if you're familiar with it. The site had some good makeup deals in Nov and Dec. They had shu uemura stuff for cheap (well...as cheap as shu can get I guess) in November and then ran some sales on Stila, Becca, Popbeauty, err...there was quite a lot over the holidays. And of course, each time, I had no spending money. So...back to square one...lol

  5. Angie:
    It's actually not that big of a problem (or not a problem at all for Americans.lol)

    I think those pasta coupon are kind of useful as well...You gotta eat somehow...

    I have heard of haute look but it seems that I could get those brands like Stila, popbeauty dirt cheap at other places as well...I guess shu uemura is nice but I am not that interested in the brand unless it's cute limited editions.The last thing, they only seem to carry stocks when I am blowing my money elsewhere.lol

    Thanks for the info though, I am sure other people would find it helpful.

  6. Great tips! The little guy made me LOL (and spit coffee on the screen. Oops.)

  7. Yoetke:
    Everybody loves little squirrels...My ultimate goal is actually do a face-to-lens shot with an albino one, people say that spoting an abino squirrel will give you A on exam...


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