Drugstore or Department Store? Budget or Luxury?

When does it make sense to spend more money on your cosmetics and when is it unnecessary? woman with money picture

In today’s economy in particular, we need to be very careful about where we spend our money.  With more and more drugstore brand companies making ‘higher-tech’ cosmetics, it is difficult to decide whether it is worth it to spend extra money on the latest high-fashion makeup.  Here are a few guidelines to follow before you take out your credit card:

  1. Can you afford it? Seems like a no-brainer question, but for those of us who are makeup junkies, treating yourself to a fancy lipstick is a way of cheering up when times are tough. If you don’t have the spare cash, save up or look at all the new lipsticks at the drugstore.
  2. Is the color right for you? If you just can’t find the right color in the drugstore brands, you may have to resort to the more expensive ones.  There’s nothing worse than looking like you’re wearing a mask because you have on the wrong color foundation.
  3. Is the formula right for you? While there is a wider range of budget products out there than ever before, it still can’t compare to the huge diversity of special brand-name cosmetics.  Try the budget one first, if it looks right.  If it doesn’t work for you, return it and try something else.  Just keep your receipts!

Which items are best to splurge on and where can you budget?  The splurge items I list below are ones that are available in so many more colors and formulas in department and specialty stores that it’s easier to find one that’s a good fit for you.  Budget items are ones that have adequate colors and formulas for most people right in your drugstore.


  • Foundation
  • Concealer
  • Eyeliners that you use every day
  • Blushes that you use every day
  • Bronzers, which are difficult to get in just the right shade


  • Mascara
  • Colors that are the latest trend
  • Lipsticks and glosses
  • Translucent powder

While I listed concealer under splurges, I have to say that one of my favorite concealers is L’Oreal‘s True Match.  It isn’t the only concealer I use, since I use different ones for different areas of my face, but it is one of the most versatile.

Since Maybelline is still rated as one of the best mascaras, it is definitely worth trying that before splurging on the myriad of different mascaras out there.  Personally, I use one from Neutrogena as a light, quick daily one.  Then I have one from Tarte (Lights, Camera, Lashes) for dressier occasions, as well as one from Christian Dior.  I find that mascaras are the toughest item to choose next to foundation and concealer.

For products in the latest, trendy colors, it is rarely worth it to spend too much money.  These are colors that may be hot this year and gone the next.  You may use them only a few times and then the fad has passed.  Unless there is something that you just have to own, save your money.  The latest unnecessary splurge in our household was Urban Decay‘s Alice in Wonderland eye shadow palette.  As big fans of Alice (and Urban Decay cosmetics), my daughter and I felt it was definitely on the ‘expensive, but worth every penny’ list.  Now, if I could just get her to let me use it too!

If you get lucky enough to find the right products at your local drugstore, go for it and save your money for the occasional specialty brand treat.  Otherwise, try out a product first wherever possible.  You can often have a cosmetics salesperson apply it for you. Then walk around and do the rest of your shopping while you see how the makeup lasts or changes as it settles on your face.  In either case, if you use it for a few days and find that it isn’t right for you, just bring it back and try something else.  If you decide to splurge, it should be on something worthwhile that you love.

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