Beauty On A Budget: Cheap Makeup Alternatives

Beauty On A Budget: Cheap Makeup Alternatives

I recently read a blog post about a woman who realized how much money she spends on makeup.

Buying designer cosmetic brands, she estimated that her collection of foundations and primers was worth $525, her eyeshadows and liners were worth $700, and her lip and cheek products were worth $675. In total, her high-end makeup collection was worth an approximate $2,745.

While this may seem like a ridiculous amount to spend on makeup, this woman is certainly not alone. People everywhere spend oodles of dollars, francs, pounds, euros, yen on beauty products.

And, of course, Canada is no different. A report from the NDP Group (a market research group) found that Canadians spent $1.4 billion on high-end cosmetics in 2014.

So how can we continue our passion for cosmetics without spending the equivalent of a mortgage payment buying quality products?

Makeup dupes. That’s how.

Related: How Your Money Personality Builds (And Destroys!) Your Wealth

Get a full face of makeup for a fraction of the price

Let’s see how much you can save if you swap high-end cosmetics with some drugstore troopers.


A lot of people love the silky smooth finish of some high-end primers, like Smashbox’s Photo Finish ($44)...

...But according to this blog post, you have more than one option to get that feeling. Take, for example, Maybelline’s Baby Skin Primer, which sells for around $10.

Swapping out Smashbox for Maybelline will net you a $34 savings.


Once your face is prim and primed, you’ll usually want to apply some foundation to give your makeup an even canvas.

Narcity states that L’Oreal’s Infallible Pro-Matte foundation ($13.76) can challenge NARS’ All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation ($60) any day.

Changing this up will get you another $46 in savings.


If you still have some problem areas you’d like to smooth away, you have a couple of options to cut down your budget.

According to BeautyBroadcast, a popular Youtube beauty guru, you can either shell out $35 on Urban Decay’s Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (what a mouthful)...

...or you can go with L’Oreal’s Infallible Pro Glow Concealer for $12.96, giving you a healthy savings of $22.

Alternatively, you can also ditch Urban Decay for LA Girl’s Pro Conceal at $22.99...for a pack of 3. That’s $7.66 each for a total savings of $27.


Whether you want to add a bit of glow or full-out contour your face, bronzing is an increasingly popular step in the makeup world.

You can either spend 40 bucks on MAC’s Mineralized Skinfinish bronzer or save a ton of cash by opting for Makeup Revolution’s Vivid Baked Bronzer for $8. According to beauty vlogger Shaanxo, this dupe will give you the same effect, but with $32 in savings to boot.


Once you have the lowlights set where you want them, you’ll want to bring back some colour to your cheeks with a healthy patch of blush.

One of the most popular shades of blush out there right now is NARS Orgasm...but dropping $39 on a single shade of blush isn’t exactly in everyone’s budget.

Luckily there are plenty of dupe options for this shade, one of the most mentioned being Milani Baked Blush in Dolce Pink ($12).

You’ll save $27 with this swap-out. That’s nothing to blush over!

Related: A Complete Guide To Price Matching In Canada


Now that you’ve got your lowlights accented and you’re blushing like a schoolgirl, it’s time to add some shine with a nice highlighter.

If you’re eyeing Laura Geller’s Gilded Honey Highlighter and its $35 price tag, maybe you want to take a look at Maybelline’s Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter in Molten Gold…for a much more attainable price of $10.

Both your face and eyes will shine at this $25 in savings.

Next up, brows!

Next, you’ll want to fill in and shape your brows so they can act as a frame for your eyeshadow.

Brows have been hitting the market big in the past years, and I mean BIG. People often aim for the dark and thick brows à la Cara Delavigne.

To achieve this look (tone it down as you please), you’ll need some eyebrow pencils to fill in your brows.

One of the most popular ways to do this is the Anastasia Brow Wiz pencil for $27.

But there are plenty of dupes out there, the best of which is the NYX Micro Brow Pencil for $12 (according to this post).

Getting NYX instead of Anastasia will save you $15 this shopping trip.


Now the type of eyeshadow you want will totally depend on what look you’re going for.

A popular palette is Modern Renaissance from Anastasia Beverly Hills. It features some neutral colours mixed in with deep berry shades. This retails for $55 at Sephora.

If you dig these kinds of shades, you may want to consider getting the E.L.F Mad For Matte 2 Summer Breeze. This retails at Shoppers for $12.

Swapping these out will give you a cool $43 in savings.


Lining your eyes is an important step, and you’ll want to get something that lasts, no matter what the day throws at you.

Luckily, you can opt for the Revlon’s ColorStay eyeliner at $10.50 a pop.

This little trooper even outlasts Tom Ford’s eyeliners, the ones that retail for more than $54, according to this Huffington Post article.

You’ll save 43 bucks.

Related: Declutter Your Closet And Build A Capsule Wardrobe You and Your Wallet Will Love


Once your eyes are all prettied up with shadow and liner, you’ll want to give your lashes some love too.

If you don’t want to go the fake lash route, you’ll want to apply some mascara to accent your lashes.

You have plenty of options for some fantastic drugstore dupes when it comes to mascara, so take your pick:

  • Shaanxo says that Maybelline’s Lash Sensational ($10) will give you the same effect as Benefit’s Roller Lash Curling and Lifting Mascara at $32.
  • Huffington Post also recommends choosing L’Oreal’s Voluminous mascara ($6.99) over the Yves Saint Laurent equivalent, which can go for $40 or more.
  • Another option is Maybelline New York’s Great Lash Mascara which you can get for $6 at Shoppers. This will treat you just as well as Dior’s Diorshadow Mascara, which retails for $36.

Choosing one of these alternatives will get you up to $33 in savings.


You’re almost done at this point, but you’ll want to give your lips some colour so the bottom of your face doesn’t get lost under the spotlight of your killer highlights and smokey eye.

According to Women’s Health, NYX’s Matte Lipstick ($10) is a great alternative to NARS’s Pure Matte Lipstick at $35.

If you prefer a liquid lip, check out Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor for $11.50. This can be a good replacement for Kat Von D’s Everlasting Lipstick which goes for double that price.

You’ll save $12 to $25 with this swap. Kiss your money hello.

Related: The Opportunity Cost Of Mindless Shopping

Finally, the setting spray

If you want all your hard work to last until you wash it off at night, you might want to consider investing in a good setting spray.

But that doesn’t have to be expensive. People have a lot of love to give for Urban Decay’s All-Nighter spray...but not a lot of funds to give towards that $40 price tag.

No fear, you have some options to save you money even on the finishing touches of your look.

L'Oreal Infallible Pro-Spray & Set Makeup Extender can get the job done for a fraction of the price. It retails for $17.50 at Shoppers.

You’ll save more than half your money on this purchase, coming in at $23 in savings.

In case you haven’t been keeping track...

That’s at least $360 saved in total

That’s a lot of money saved. And it’s not even taking into account any sales you may find.

And the best part? You’ll look great doing it.

You haven’t compromised your look. You’ve just been smarter about it.

So go out there and be a real stunner...without stunning yourself once you get your credit card bill.

Ethical priorities

But I know saving money isn’t everything.

You should always make sure that these drugstore brands aren’t saving money by opting for unethical business practices like inhumane labour conditions and animal testing.

You want to capitalize on not paying for the brand name, while still justly paying for all the hard work that went into getting your makeup to you.

Cruelty-free brands

Unfortunately for the makeup industry, a lot of them don’t get the Leaping Bunny certification because they sell in China, which has laws that any foreign makeup product must first be tested on animals before being sold.

This affects brands like Maybelline and its parent company L’Oreal.

Outside of China, the brands do not test on animals. So take that as you will.

The only brand on our list that is Leaping Bunny certified is Milani. Though they don’t show up on the list, E.L.F. promises that they are always cruelty-free.

Other ethical issues

But treating our furry friends fairly isn’t the only thing we have to be worried about. There are also things like environmental issues and fair wages to name two.

Unfortunately, the entire scope of business ethics is too big and broad to adequately get into here.

But as the age of social media has repeatedly shown us, consumers will not take lying about their ethics. As long as they can read and type, they will boycott brands that go after profit over principles.

So pay attention to the fine print on their websites, and you’ll be able to see for yourself if your money is going in the right place.

The bottom (lash)line

Simply stated: don’t waste so much money on cosmetics that claim to be superior.

Even though it may only be $30, $40, or $50 at a time, the same principles apply to buying makeup as they do to buying a house, car, or any other large purchase: research, research, research. Do this and you’ll get the best bang for your buck.

So what about you? Have you been guilty of falling for the high-end brands? Or are you adamant that they are better, no matter what beauty gurus say?

Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear it.

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

Editorial Disclaimer: The content here reflects the author's opinion alone, and is not endorsed or sponsored by a bank, credit card issuer, rewards program or other entity.

Hot Credit Card Deals This Month:

  • COMING SOON: No foreign transaction fees + up to 5X reward multipliers
    • Coming August 1 to all cardholders:
    • 0% foreign transaction fees – a 2.5% savings.
    • 5X points on groceries, dining, and entertainment.
    • 3X points on gas, daily transit, and select streaming services.
    • Apply today to qualify for the lower $99 annual fee this year.
  • Pay Your Balance Faster with 0% Interest for 10 Months
    • Best introductory balance transfer offer in Canada right now.
    • Pay off pre-existing credit card debt with a 0% promotional balance transfer rate.
    • No annual fee and no minimum income requirements.
    • Offer not available to residents of Quebec.
  • Best credit card in Canada for 2 years in a row
    • Our top rated credit card in Canada in 2018 and 2019.
    • Earn up to 30,000 points as a welcome bonus in the first year.
    • 5 points per $1 spent on groceries and dining.
    • 2 points per $1 spent on travel, transit and gas purchases.
    • Monthly fee of $10 instead of an annual fee.
  • Rate Your Wallet in 3 minutes or less. Take the quiz


Linda's picture

I've been using ELF products for some time now and love them...they don't test on animals and they get the job done. Having skin problems on my face I use their PRIMER as a moisture's great@!

December 01, 2018 @ 2:22 am
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hi Linda,

I'm glad you're getting some good use out of ELF! I've only heard good things about them and the fact that they don't test on animals is important for me too.

Thanks for writing :)

December 03, 2018 @ 9:49 am

Post new comment