The Budget Smart Girl's Guide to Make Up

by Susan Palmquist

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Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but for most of us, make up comes in at a pretty close second. My fascination with make up began when I was seven years old and saw the pretend make up set in one of our local stores. Everything was plastic, even the lipstick, but I saved up my pocket money for weeks on end to buy it.

And what girl of any age doesn't love the real stuff? It's a fascination and sometimes guilty pleasure that stays with us all our lives. I don't know about you, but just like the American Express commercial says, "I never leave home without it." But sometimes buying make up can take its toll on the budget smart girl's checking account. And let's not mention those impulse buys that didn't really work out as planned. There's the bathroom cabinet brimming with colors that looked perfect on the model in Style magazine, but doesn't look so great on you. Or the blush that was ideal in the store, but now you're keeping it strictly for Halloween. Sound familiar? Well, help is on its way. Check out the following companies, they sell great make up that won't drain your savings account.

Visit e.l.f.

No, it's not a magical figure that's going to conjure up make up for free, but it's pretty close. e.l.f. stands for eyes, lips and face, and prices start at just $1. It's not a typo, and for you cynics out there, I have to say I was really skeptical at first. I was channel surfing one evening and just happened to see the end of a segment about e.l.f. on the Style Network. Thinking I'd been asleep and dreaming of an imaginary world where make-up could cost a dollar, this bargain-hunting girl rushed to her computer and typed Wow, I hadn't been dreaming, everything really was a dollar. There in front of me was their whole range of products that could be ordered with just a click of the mouse. Even if I hated it, or as usual with my sensitive Celtic skin, the products would turn me into one big red blotch, for a dollar, I had nothing to lose. I ordered mascara, lip-gloss, make up base, and I even decided to try their nail polish. Yes, they sell that for a dollar too. My order arrived in a couple of days, and while the sizes are smaller than other brands, the products are first class. And at those prices you can order a couple of each item, keep one at home and one at the office or in your purse.

I had no blotches and the colors were true to those displayed on my computer. I'd found make up Nirvana. On my next order, I even ordered an eyelash curler and a make up case with a whole set of brushes that only cost $11. Plus, I ordered some nail polish to give as stocking stuffers at Christmas.

I recently spoke to e.l.f. CEO Joey Shamah who told me he and his business partner came up with the idea to sell low cost make up to the dollar stores, but when that didn't pan out, they decided to set up a website and sell everything from there. Shamah says that because of the combination of the website and the help of the media getting the word out to the public, the idea has really taken off.


Here's another bargain make up line I recently stumbled upon when I was dashing through my local Costco store a month ago. They've teamed up with Borghese Cosmetics to sell a line called Kirkland Signature skin care and make up. The line up includes 17+ products that retail for about 64-85% below department store prices. If you can't make it to the store, they do sell some items online at

Jane and Rimmel

Other companies that sell make up that fits into the budget category are Jane Cosmetics,, and Rimmel,, both are available at Walgreen's. I remember my mother buying Rimmel products when I was a child and she said their slogan was "beauty on a budget." Also, while you're at Walgreen's, be sure to check out their Easysaver Catalog. You can get refunds on many items and not just make up, so it's a good way to save a few dollars. And you might want to visit They sell make up at discount prices as well as a whole range of health and beauty items.

The Budget Smart Girl's Tip for Make up

Do you often get frustrated that the tube of concealer or make up base still has some liquid left in it, but you can reach it? Try cutting it in half and using a cotton swab to get more out of the tube. Exposing the contents to the air does cause it to dry out, so if there's enough for a couple of applications make sure you wrap it in a little aluminum foil or cling wrap. Also a cotton swab works great for digging down into leftover lipstick that's stuck in the container's grooves and notches.

Updated September 6, 2016

Susan Palmquist is a freelance writer who specializes in food, health and money saving topics. She writes a monthly column called Budget Smart and is a food editor for an online publication.

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