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Spend or Splurge: A Guide to Being a Beauty on a Budget

Spend or Splurge: A Guide to Being a Beauty on a Budget

I honestly love looking for and trying new beauty products. It’s not so much about trying to find something to cover an imperfection as it is finding something that frames my features. I get asked often why I like makeup and how did I learn so many tips and tricks, and the truth is it comes from having a mindset of finding things that enhance my own features.

Of course finding high quality products often comes at a steep price, which isn’t easy when it comes to budgeting and putting money towards other things in my life. However, I accept the challenge of finding where to spend and where to splurge in order to really create the looks I want.

My main rule of thumb when it comes to makeup is that once it’s on the face, no one knows what packaging it came from. I get compliments on lip colors and eyeshadows that I bought from inexpensive brands all the time. Whether you’re a long time makeup collector or just trying makeup for the first time, you don’t need to drop hundreds of dollars on products.

In my experience, not all expensive cosmetics are good, and not all affordable products are low quality. It’s about finding a balance between the two.

These of course are my beauty tips for beauties looking to stretch their dollars a little farther. Sometimes, our budgets just don’t allow for us to indulge in high end cosmetics and we have to cut corners even though we want Instagram worthy looks. In no way am I cautioning against expensive products.

I too would love to be able to throw caution to the wind and splurge on a palette the day it’s released. However, there’s usually always a dupe for everything, and if your beauty budget is a little tighter I’ll show you where you can cut corners and still pull of flawless looks.

In this guide, I’ll be breaking down which products to splurge on and which ones to save on, all for the sake of looking good and keeping a little cash in your wallet. This is a general guide, where for the most part I’ll be speaking in terms of high end or more affordable products.



I generally use a moisturizer or BB Cream as a primer. I usually kind of skip this step because as a person with problem skin, too many layers of products on my skin cause breakouts or oily skin. The primers I do have in my makeup bag are considered to be dupes for some higher end products. I’d say if you’re looking to try a primer, definitely shoot lower at first to see if you like the way it works with your foundation or BB Cream.

BB Cream:

The first BB Cream I tried was the Maybelline Fresh BB Cream. It works well for me, and gives a light coverage with SPF, so I really had no desire to move on from it. Many drugstore brands offer BB Creams, and I think as long as the tone matches your skin and it has SPF, you really can’t go wrong. The other benefit I get from my BB Cream is that my foundation does not have SPF, so it serves as a tinted SPF. SAVE


This is one type of product that I’ve tried many brands across the board. There was a period of time where nothing was working for me, and every time I finished a bottle, jar, tube, whatever, I moved onto another brand and another product. I’ve tried all kinds, looking for heavy coverage for acne and performance makeup, I’ve tried lighter ones that allow the skin to breath.

My conclusion: invest in your skin. Foundation is a product that is going to sit on your skin all day long, and if you have sensitive skin like I do, this is less than ideal. However, since you are wearing it all day, you don’t want something that either doesn’t last, or sits on the skin in a way that it gets deep into your pores and causes breakouts. I’ve used a mid to higher end foundation for many years now, and I’ll tell you that if you’re going to splurge on just one thing, you should make it foundation or the products you put directly on the skin. SPLURGE


I personally don’t use concealers all that much. I generally will just build up a little extra foundation in the area to cover something. In my experience, concealers stick out on my skin and really make it look like they’re concealing something (which is the opposite of what they’re supposed to do, right?). I do have a concealer I found at the drugstore for times I have a noticeable spot that foundation can’t cover. I think this one depends on what you are trying to conceal. For me, it’s not much a little drugstore concealer can’t handle. From what I’ve seen and heard from friends, many of the drug store brands have stepped up their game in making concealers tat compete with beauty counter cosmetics. Don’t be afraid to give a try to something in the lower price range. SAVE


I’ve pretty much always used an inexpensive bronzer. I’ve used several from E.L.F., I’ve used one from Maybelline, Physician’s Formula, and NYX. For a little color for the cheeks, I think any of these brands work well. My main goal is to make sure that the bronzer doesn’t come out orange on my skin, which in the ones I’ve tried I’ve never had an issue. Also, I personally don’t use a lot of powder in one application, so I don’t want to splurge on something I’m eventually going to toss because it’s gotten too old. SAVE


I used to use blush all the time in performance makeup, but haven’t been using it as much in the last few years. When I do, it’s usually in the cooler months. It may be a weird thing, but since it’s so hot where I live, I really don’t need to add color to my cheeks. I don’t use blush that much in my beauty routine, so unless you’re using it every day I would say save on this one.

Never, even in my performance career, have I used a blush all the way down to the pan. There are plenty of blushes from E.L.F. and NYX that cover a range of shades. If you’re only looking to use it on certain occasions I’d say save. (also blush is an odd product that seems to often come in sample kits. I’ve gotten some of my favorites this way because a little can go a long way!) SAVE


I think this one really depends on what look you’re going for. I prefer a natural glow and I don’t always use highlighter. Right now I’m using one out of an eye and cheek palette and it does just fine. I will say, even though it’s trendy a highlighter is non-essential in a makeup routine. It just draws out cheek bones. If you’re not used to doing a “full face” everyday, you might not even need highlighter. To me, highlighter is not essential *gasp* to your makeup bag. I’ve seen product reviews where lower priced brands have more pigment than expensive ones. If you’re looking where to save money, it’s here. SAVE



This one depends on how often you wear shadow. I wear shadow pretty much every day, and have had better luck with higher end shadows. I have used all types of shadows in my days, and I lean toward higher quality ones because they seem to have better pigmentation.

HOWEVER, I will say if you’re going to splurge on an expensive palette, pick one that has versatile looks. I spent a long time with only the Urban Decay Naked 3 palette. I got many looks for special occasions and every day looks out of it. The only reason I decided to purchase another palette was because I was starting to lose my every day shades on the Naked palette. However if you don’t have the money to splurge, I’ve always had really good pigmentation from NYX shadows. Shadows really depend on if you’re looking for how smooth they apply and blend. I’ve had luck with both high and low end products. SPLURGE

Eyeshadow Primer:

I would first dub this item a “non-essential” in your makeup bag. In my opinion, you can still apply eyeshadow without it. You can even use methods we all used before primers became popular, such as using a little non flavored chapstick to stick it on. However if you are looking for a primer without breaking the bank, you can read more on the post where I tested Urban Decay’s Primer Potion and NYX’s HD Eyeshadow Base. SAVE


Although many beauty gurus would rave about expensive liners from Kat Von D and other high end cosmetic lines, black liner is black liner. There are a variety of options from pencils to gel to liquid liner, affordable cosmetic companies should have something to suit your taste. I’ve been using the same Maybelline liner for 5 years, and haven’t had any issues or intentions to stray from it. At the end of the day, it is just a liner and it does the job. SAVE


Much like eyeliner, mascara is another item I don’t tend to splurge on. Really what you’re buying is the applicator wand and the packaging. Many brands, like Covergirl, Revlon, Maybelline and Loreal carry a wide variety of mascaras in their own line. I’ve tried mascara from Benefit, and didn’t really see any difference over my Maybelline liner. It depends on how you want your lashes to look, but if you’re looking to spend, save it for another item. SAVE

False Lashes:

False lashes are another item I don’t use often, and therefore don’t spend loads of money on them. They’re pretty non-essential, even if they do add extra flair to your eyes. I’m lucky enough that my natural lashes are fairly thick and long so I only really wear lashes on special occasions. You can buy lashes from E.L.F. for $2, and they look pretty natural. Even if you don’t like how much lash they are, you can cut them the way you like. Also you shouldn’t reuse lashes too many times, so they’re pretty disposable. SAVE


This is one item that has become popular in the last couple years. Even thought I fill my brows every day, I only use products from affordable companies. I’ve never really had an issue with the products I use, so I’ve never splurged on a product for them. SAVE



Chapsticks and moisturizers generally aren’t too expensive. I like eos lip balms because I’ve never had a problem with them. Some chapsticks I’ve felt have dried my lips out, but eos has never felt that way to me. SAVE

Lip Liner:

I usually use a natural lip liner unless I’m using a bold color. You’ll definitely want one that matches your bold color for long lasting color. I go inexpensive for these, because it can seem like you need quite a few. SAVE


Because I seem to have a habit of collecting lipsticks, and then temporarily losing them in purses or my school bag, I don’t like to spend much money on them. The few expensive ones I have are ones I’ve gotten as small samples from Sephora VIB, or some equivalent. Lip colors also seem to go through more trends than other cosmetic items, meaning a dark violet may be in one winter and out the next. It also doesn’t make me too upset if I accidentally lose one. SAVE

Liquid Lip Color:

This I know is debatable because it comes down to the formula and how it dries down. I know Kylie lip kits are very popular items, but they’re also on the pricey side. The truth with these lip kits is you’re buying the name along with it. Any Kylie (or any other high end lip color) you can find a dupe for in a lower price range.

If you just want to try out a vampy lip, you don’t need a Kylie lip kit to do it. These products also fall under the trend I mentioned with lipsticks where it might be in one season and out the next. I know some cheaper matte lip colors are more drying, so it comes to what you can tolerate. Almost every affordable brand has a line, and surely you can find something that looks just as good. SAVE

Lip Gloss:

Here in which I mean a glossy lip color. These are tricky because if you go too low, it often means they’re sticky and tacky and your hair will get stuck in them in 0.02 seconds after application. I personally don’t really use glosses for that reason, but again with our common theme in lip color, if it’s a color you don’t plan on wearing too often, shoot for the lower price range. SAVE

Here is my complete guide for spending and splurging on beauty products with tips compiled from years of testing beauty products! This guide only includes the products used to create a complete look. I plan to create a series from this to include more products and beauty tools.

Share your thoughts or your own tips for spending and splurging down below! Thanks for reading and as always for more behind the scenes of my blog posts follow me on Instagram and Twitter @simplyleahg.


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