Makeup: When to Splurge and When to Save

MAKEUP: When To Splurge & When To Save

Pin this image to share with yo Pinterest Peeps!

As everyone knows, us college folk are broke AF. We don’t have the money to buy all of our makeup products from Sephora. Most of the time we either work on the side for minimum wage while trying to balance about a million other commitments, or we don’t work at all.

What sucks for us is that a lot of the jobs we do while in school are unpaid. We either work unpaid internships, participate in clubs or focus our time on classes – none of which offer any form of compensation other than “experience.”

Side note: Don’t you just love when internship descriptions say, “Unpaid, but you will gain valuable experience!” Great!…Too bad “experience” won’t help pay off my student loan debt. I could write a whole post about this, but I’ll leave it for now.

Anyway, my point is that we don’t have a lot of money to spare. BUT, that doesn’t mean we don’t care about looking good when we go out.

I love makeup. I have spent way too much money in Sephora in the past, and I’ve learned a thing or two about what products are worth spending the money on, and what products I should just get at the local drugstore. Here are my tips!

When to splurge and when to save on makeup

Splurge on these:

  • Foundation. Drugstore foundations tend to look really orange/cakey on my face. Yuck. Especially since foundation is one of the biggest parts of my makeup up routine and definitely has the potential to make or break the look, I like to invest a bit of extra cash into my liquid foundation. It’s also way harder to tell what color is right for you with drugstore foundations, and the color has a much larger likelihood of oxidizing on your face (which makes it look orange). My FAV of all time is this one from Make Up For Ever. I have repurchased like over five times. It’s just amazing.
  • Eyeshadow. Drugstore eyeshadows are so chalky and don’t have very much pigment. I would suggest finding a high-quality eye palette with colors that you would wear everyday and start with that. Urban Decay makes beautiful eyeshadow and I own every Naked palette they have come out with so far.
  • liquid lipstick. I have tried so many drugstore liquid lipsticks. Let me tell you, they don’t work. They dry up your lips, crack and just look plain gross. Plus the color never looks the same as it does in the package. If you want a liquid lipstick that will actually work, just go to Sephora. I love these ones by Stila.
  • brushes. Why are brushes so expensive?? Seriously, it’s ridiculous. But, I do think its worth it to invest in a quality brush kit. It might set you back a pretty penny at first, but you can consider it an investment because they will last you years. Quality brushes will make your makeup go on smoother and look better, and they just feel nicer on your skin. Plus, cheap brushes always shed and it’s kind of gross.
  • bronzer. I’m sure some people have been able to find a great bronzer in the drugstore, but I am just not one of them. Cheap bronzers always make my face look muddy, and I can never find one that looks right on my skin tone. My favorite is of course, the Hoola bronzer from Benefit. It’s a classic and it’s just great. It works for my skintone, blends in perfectly and stays in place. Worth every penny!
  • eyeliner. I don’t really use eyeliner that much, but I do know that cheap ones don’t work. If you’re using a pencil liner, the cheap ones won’t stay on your waterline at all. If you’re using a liquid liner for your top lid, cheap products won’t go on smoothly and will smudge off right away. I use Kat Von D’s tattoo liner and it goes on super smooth and stays put all day. I don’t have a good pencil liner to recommend because I never use them, but let me know if you have one you love!
  • primer. This is annoying to me, lol. I hate spending money on something that no one is really going to see. But, a good primer is worth the investment. Otherwise, especially if you have oily skin like me, your makeup is going to slide right off (that sounds gross lol). A good primer will hold your face in place all day, but a cheap one won’t do anything at all. I use this one from Bare Minerals and it’s awesome. I’ve also used the Smashbox photo finish primer in the past, and that one works great as well.
  • setting spray. This is along the same lines as the reason why you should spend the extra money on a good primer. Drugstore setting sprays aren’t really a thing, and the few that have been created aren’t good quality. You’re basically spraying water on your face. I love the Urban Decay one because it does a great job of holding my makeup in place.

Related Post: Four Products Every Bottle Blonde Needs in Her Shower

When to splurge and when to save on makeup

Save on these:

  • lip gloss. Who spends a bunch of money on lip gloss? I mean really, they’re all the same. You can get great drugstore lip gloss and great high end lip gloss, you just need to find one in a shade you like. Maybe drugstore lipgloss doesn’t last quite as long or doesn’t have as large of a variety of colors, but I personally don’t think those minor differences are worth the huge price difference. Especially when I don’t have the extra money to spend.
  • lipstick. There are some really great high-end lipsticks, and I’ve bought a few. If you can afford to spend the money, I say go for it. But, while we’re in college and have to live on a really fixed income, I wouldn’t waste your money. You can find great lipsticks at the drugstore – just stay away from super bright colors, like red or dark pink. Those might look cheap. But any nudes or more muted tones will look great, no matter where you buy it.
  • Eyebrow products. I LOVE my Anastasia dip brow. But, it also $18. I don’t think I will be repurchasing this because I can just use a drugstore product or even a light brown eyeshadow to get the same results. Obviously I think the dip brow works better if you have the money to spend, but if you don’t, I wouldn’t suggest spending your money on this instead of a foundation or primer.
  • blush. Blush is blush, yo. I don’t have much to say about this other than the fact that drugstore blushes work just fine. They aren’t amazing quality, but they can definitely get the job done while we’re in school and poor, lol.
  • setting powder. If I have liquid foundation on, I don’t really see a need to use a fancy setting powder. All it’s doing is setting your makeup; it’s not like a drugstore product is going to ruin the look. A cheap powder to dust over your face works just fine. I use one from Rimmel that is literally $4 and it works great.
  • highlighter. I debated on this one. I definitely think if you want that Jaclyn Hill glow, you should head to Sephora. But, if you’re not looking for anything fancy, the drugstore will do just fine. Plus it’s such a small part of my routine, so I don’t want to spend a million dollars on it.
  • mascara. I am sad about this. I LOVE the better than sex mascara by Too Faced, but it’s so expensive! It’s over $20 when you can get one at Target for $5. Drugstore mascara works pretty well and can definitely work as a place holder until you’re able to afford the good stuff.
  • makeup remover wipes. Seriously, who buys makeup remover wipes from Sephora? Whoever you are, I want to be friends with you, because you have to be doing something right to be able to afford that. I just get cheap ones from Target, and I when I can’t even afford those, I use my cleanser to wash off my makeup as well as clean my face. Honestly, who cares. Lol.

Woo! I hope that helped any of you who are trying to figure out how to spend your money carefully while in school. I really liked writing this, so I might do another one about skincare or shower products. Let me know if that’s something you’d like to see!


  • When it comes to liquid lipstick, I splurge on them at Sephora. My friends and I are huge fans of the Kat Von D ones. I’ve tried a couple of drugstore liquid lipsticks and there’s always something that makes me go back to my splurged ones.

    -Kim 🙂

    • I totally agree, drugstore ones just crease and look weird! Plus there aren’t as many colors to choose from. Thanks for reading, I love your blog!