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How Not To: Spend a Fortune at Sephora

Thursday, February 25, 2016
This might be one of the realest posts I've ever written. And I'll start it with a cold, hard truth:

In the past two years, I've spent close to $2,000 at Sephora. 


Let me level-set. I am not a baller, a Kardashian/Jenner or Oprah.  I am employed doing work I enjoy, but I live in New York City, aka Expensive AF Central. I am the sole fiscal contributor in my life and I have responsibilities to handle each month, in addition to setting aside funds with each paycheck. 

But instead of saving more funds, or stacking cash for something like travel, it seems my "fun" money tends to get thrown toward securing my next year of VIB Rouge membership. Coming to this realization, I feel bad. But Sephora is like a treat to me. Some people splurge on shoes or electronics, and I suppose Sephora is my "thing." It's also so easy to spend money there, considering the retailer stocks more than 100 brands. I mean...

If you're anything like me, beauty isn't just about a bunch of makeup. It's something that inspires you. It's fun. It's a passion that flows through color cosmetics, skin care, hair care, fragrance and gadgets. Your Instagram feed might be populated with a mix of beauty brands and beauty influencers, showing off the latest trends, tutorials or debuting a new "must-have" product.

In reflecting on the amount of money I spend in-store and online (thanks to free 2-day shipping...), I decided I wanted to have a smart strategy for approaching future purchases. While the beauty world is, indeed, a lot of fun, habitual Sephora hauls can very easily and quickly dip into money better spent elsewhere.

(Caveat: Sephora has a pretty great return policy - but the goal is to form better shopping habits and save money.)

Heed my advice, and if I may quote Kanye: "You won't always agree with me but I'm gon' always be me."

"New" is Actually "Old."

Personally, the first step and the hardest part is coming to grips with is the fact that new products are being launched seemingly every day. In the past week alone, Tarte launched their Rainforest of the Sea collection, ColourPop debuted 16 Ultra Satin Lip shades and MAC unveiled a Zac Posen palette. (Side note, ever heard of TRENDMOOD? It's enough to drive any beauty fiend into developing a straight up calendar for when to purchase new items.)

It is near impossible to keep up with new brands, new collections within brands you already love and new superstar products. Not to mention, it's exhausting.

Think about the fact that as soon as you find one new product you love, another will launch. Think about the space all of these products will take up in your vanity/bathroom/bedroom. And, think about all of the sheer money you're spending to try and keep up with it all.

You can still enjoy beauty and the magical new products the industry produces every 10 seconds. But you don't need to buy all of them. Make choices and decide what is most worth it to you.

Review, Through and Through.

There is an insane amount of information available at our fingertips. Want to know a stranger's perspective on a specific pillow? Google it. Looking for advice for obtaining the greatest blender on Earth? Google it.

When it comes to beauty, reviews can prove to be just as valuable. 

However, traditional celebrities and new-age celebrities (read: YouTube creators and bloggers) are paid, sometimes a lot of money, to endorse products. Seeing a product pop up on your social feed in a beautifully-crafted lifestyle shot or hearing it raved about on Snapchat sometimes is enough for you to say, "SOLD. Buying 10." Is it valid to say, "But! These influencers wouldn't endorse something if they don't truly love it!"? Yes, it is valid. However, with so many brands shelling out so much money to get these influencers on their side, the lines become a little fuzzy. So, if something sounds appealing, read, read, read. Don't just read reviews, expand to other review websites, like or the brand's website. And, of course, ask friends. Knowledge is power, and can save you a bit of cash.

Try Before You Buy.

Reviews may only get you to a certain point. Make it a goal to experiment with products before purchasing. With skin/hair color, type and overall preferences varying per person, look into trial. Consider visiting your local Sephora to test the products before you purchase, even if you have your mind made up that you think you want it beforehand.

Did you know 15-minute mini makeovers in-store are free? If you are a VIB, you can receive one free makeover per year, which is a great way to try new products and potentially discover if you like or loathe something. VIB Rouge members receive unlimited makeovers per year, and well, that is just asking for trouble (although awesome). Regardless of your membership level, you can play with the products in-store and have a one-on-one conversation with a sales associate. Learn more about these offers here.

One of my favorite tips for buying fragrance, which tends to be super pricey: Get it on Amazon. My signature scent is Marc Jacobs Daisy, which retails $96 for a 3.4 oz bottle at Sephora. I've been buying it on Amazon for the past couple of years, and saved anywhere between $20-40 per bottle. Same fragrance, just discounted. If you're looking to try a new scent, visit your local Sephora to do a sniff test. But when it comes time to purchase, check alternative vendors for the same product at a lower price.

Don't Go HAM.

A brand you love just launched a new lip collection and you really think you need it: Buy one, don't buy three. I learned this the hard way when I purchased a few shades of a new product that will remain nameless assuming I'd love it, and, inevitably, was disappointed with the formula. 

After purchasing, spend enough time with the product to determine if it's really something you'd like multiples of and if you actually need them all. This is particularly true for skincare. Give the products time to work. Build a regimen and keep it consistent to decide if it's a fit.

Inventory Check.

Commit to a check-in every so often (every 6 months is a good marker) and evaluate your collection. Any products not working for you? Keep them in mind and do not re-purchase. Things you have in surplus? If you realize you have 25 concealers, it might be smart to steer clear of those, at least for awhile.

This will also help you determine the products you really love and have been using in heavy rotation. It's also the best way to determine gaps. Expired mascara? Okay, a Sephora run might just be in order. 

Sleep on It.

If you are convinced you absolutely must have a certain product, or products, wait a minute.

It's so easy to go trot into Sephora on a whim and leave with that item... plus five other things. Make sure you have put thought into the purpose of why you are shopping and stay focused on what you are aiming to buy. The products near the registers are deadly.*

*Like the sheet masks. Are you kidding me. I buy at least 2 every time I shop.


The most commonsensical thing to do? Set aside a budget. It sounds obvious (or maybe crazy), but it works. Determine what you feel you can afford to spend on Sephora monthly, bi-monthly or whichever time frame works for you. Stick to it. It can be hard, especially when there are so many pretty, shiny things waiting for you to buy and bring them home. But you will be glad you did when you can afford a new pair outfit on top of your Sephora buys.

What are your favorite Sephora shopping tips?

1 comment on "How Not To: Spend a Fortune at Sephora"
  1. Many people spend a lot of money at the Sephora and are not good at getting the good stuff. This article is really for those people so that they can save some money.