Vanity on a Budget? Things you didn’t know about shopping designer on a budget.

I have a weakness. I am obsessed with high-end cosmetics and skincare. That’s not say that I limit myself to the mantra that the more something costs, the better it is. Rather, I have my preferences and want to share the method in which I am able to satisfy my penchant for luxe brands (without crashing my credit score).

My justifications for spending more money on make-up began with the discovery of an allergy that doesn’t allow me to use just any brand. As a result, I am forced to source brands that are not only high quality but cater to those with sensitive skin.  My weakness for designer things began in a little place called Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. I went up to the Chanel counter and I said “give me your best color of lipstick”. I’m not summarizing; that’s my speech verbatim. You have to get to the point sometimes! The woman, bless her commissioned heart, showed me what I now consider my signature colour: Rouge Coco Shine in no. 69 ‘Flirt’. I was in absolutely Chanel love as I looked at all the little black and gold containers. As the lady sat me in a fancy chair, according to her  a “full-face consultation” was a must. I knew in this moment, as she showed me what Chanel had to offer, this would one indulgence I could not live without.  With my new lipstick purchase along with a handful of samples I stepped out onto the streets of New York with a new found confidence.

It’s All About the Customer


Since my jaunt in the Big Apple, I’ve tried different approaches and tactics and have discovered the best way to get free products or services. Legally, I mean (obviously).

Go when there’s a new product. The sales people are always going to explain their new products and want people to try it. The best way is with an in-store demonstration or a sample to take home. When a new product or line is launched the level to which salespeople try to make you want this product is exponentially higher.

Avoid prime shopping hours. Don’t go when people are on their lunch or after normal work/school hours; designer cosmetic and skincare sales representatives are never going to rush you like a haggard mall employee—but you’re less likely to get the extras if there’s other people waiting to be helped.

Don’t buy a lot at once. Coming in and shopping more frequently will get you more than just buying more at once. I cannot stress enough how valued the “returning consumer” is premier to designer sales; a returning customer is of better value than a one time, large sale. It’s the returning customers, no matter how little they spend each time, that have priority for free facials, makeovers, consultations, gifts etc. Take note sales peeps!

Just ask. “Can I try that?” “How does this work?” “What’s the difference between these?” Even something as blunt as “Can you show me?” will get you a whole makeover. I’ve had a few long nights in University that left me with barely enough time to swipe my lashes with mascara before running for the train, but a quick stop to the Giorgio Armani kiosk in a department store had me all set up in no time. For example, one time I told the salesperson I was looking for a new foundation, which got me a demonstration complete with complimenting blush and concealer, then a mini mascara to take home and try.

Try to seem the tiniest bit unsure, because that’s when they’ll give it to you to try at home (samples). The whole concept of samples is mainly to make you love the product and to get you to return and buy it, and there’s always samples of their popular and new products for them to give out to those they believe will, at some point, spend money.

Show that you’re interested. They’re not going to invite you to client appreciation events or give samples of products to those they don’t believe are going to return. So ask about the product, seem interested, and really build that client and sales relationship.

Speaking of client appreciation…

Get on Those E-mail Lists. You probably don’t need to hear this, or likely don’t even want to, but get on those e-mail lists. Many stores, websites, and brands even offer a bonus for joining their e-mail lists- I’ve gotten 25% off my first purchase, a free tea/coffee, a free emery board with a pretty palm tree on it, etc. and more importantly, notifications and details about promotions and events. It’s during said events/promotions where the consumer (or potential consumer) can save a good amount of money and take home more to add to your make-up bag (or full-fledged vanity table if you’re anything like me).

Why Are These Promotions So Awesome?

“Free Gift with Purchase” (FYI, the only time to buy a new fragrance is during these promotions)

“Pick Your Samples”

“Spend Over $50 and Get 20% Back”

Hands down my favorite store events/promotions? The Holt Renfrew’s seasonal beauty bags.  This is something that costs money, but it includes so many different products and a designer (!) makeup bag or tote for less than the cost of a full size version of one of the samples, ergo, it is so worth it.

The best things in life are free. Like a complete Chanel facial. Or a makeover from one of  Chanel’s top cosmetic artists from the New York office. Both of which I have been invited to enjoy (more than once) as appreciation for my loyalty, even though I’ve never made large purchases (I am poor like nobody’s business), but I’ve established a relationship with the brand and salespeople.

Keep in mind that with premier designer purchases, you’re always dealing with a commission based salesperson that not only represents the brand and the specific store they sell from. And so, you need to show respect for what they do and what they sell. Typically after these client appreciation makeovers and facials, they expect you to purchase some of the products they’ve demonstrated on your face. Don’t feel intimidated to do so, but in my opinion this is proper etiquette.

Photo Courtesy of: The Things I Wish I Knew

Author Description

Laura Sanders

I write during my daily commute, before I fall asleep, random afternoons and whenever I get an idea that needs sorting via pen & paper. I spend all my money on train tickets and high-priced cosmetics; thus becoming an expert at both city transit and Chanel. When my brain needs to regress I watch cartoons or shark documentaries.

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