Cheap Thrills At Sephora: They Exist, And They're Plentiful

On a tight budget? You can still enjoy the excitement of bringing home one of those glossy black shopping bags.

I'm always on a tight budget. When you're a struggling college grad in your early twenties, it's just a sad fact of life. As of late, though, I am on a really tight budget. No more frivolous spending--it's time to get serious about saving money.

You'd think this would mean no more fun trips to Sephora, but you'd be wrong. I love going to Sephora. Even if I don't buy anything, I can still happily spend an hour rubbing germ-infested makeup testers on my face and giving myself a headache by trying 10 different perfumes. Also, they're very generous with free samples--just ask about something you want to try and the salesperson will be happy to send you home with a sample of it, and often several other recommendations as well.

Sometimes, however, I feel guilty about using up all of their testers and then leaving with my hands full of free samples without having purchased anything. It's also hard to deny my compulsive shopaholic nature, if I'm being really honest.

Luckily, there's actually a ton of awesome beauty products at Sephora that you can treat yourself to without blowing your budget.

SKIN TOOLS

For skincare, I cannot recommend that little pink thing in the picture above enough. It's the Sephora Precision Pore Cleansing Pad, and it's $6. You can find it in the Sephora Collection section.

I use it every time I wash my face. I apply my cleanser and then use the pad to gently rub the cleanser around my face in circles. It gets my face completely clean without irritating my sensitive skin.

PRIMER

For makeup, you guys already know how I feel about the mini Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primers, but here's a visual reminder.

These can usually be found by the checkout line, and you can select one based on your skin's needs.

My favorite is the blue hydrating one. (The white ones are "light," for oily skin.) The best part is that they're only $10, unlike their much pricier full size counterparts.

BODY CARE

I always head straight to the Soap & Glory display to stock up on some of my favorite bath products. Luckily for me, my two favorites come in smaller $5 tubs: Flake Away Body Polish and The Righteous Butter Body Moisturizer.

I use the Flake Away Body Polish in the shower before shaving, to exfoliate and reduce ingrown hairs. Then I towel off a bit and rub in the Righteous Butter Body Moisturizer while my skin is still damp. The combination of these two has really helped my dry legs this winter. They make my skin soft, and they make me smell amazing.

HAIR PRODUCTS

Everyone keeps raving about Bumble & Bumble but I've been hesitant to splurge because I'm picky about hair products. Luckily, they have a lot of smaller travel sizes of their products at Sephora for under $20, and I figure this is a good way to test-drive it without spending too much money.

I decided to try their Surf Spray first. It's worth the $15 if you want to try it out or just don't see yourself using it often enough to justify the full size.

EYELINER

I'm a big fan of Sephora's Long Lasting High Precision Eyeliners. I have the glitter black, which gives just the right amount of subtle shimmer from up close, and the glitter green because my sister convinced me it would go well with my eyes. (It does! Always listen to your sister, even if she's younger than you.)

They go on very smoothly and easily, and last for hours without fading or smudging. The black was $12, but I found the green one for $5 along with a bunch of other colors like brown and plum. Score!

LIP STAIN

A lot of the products I'm mentioning are from the Sephora Collection because their stuff is inexpensive and good quality. Their Cream Lip Stain is no exception. I just bought my second tube of Endless Red. It's a gorgeous true red that I always reach for when I want perfect matte red lips. It's easy to apply and doesn't budge.

The best part is that it isn't extremely tacky or patchy like some of the drugstore lip stains I've tried. Cough up a few extra dollars and get one of these instead, trust me. They're completely worth the $12.

NAIL POLISH

If you only have $10 to spend at Sephora and you're a nail polish junkie, I would like to direct you towards Formula X.

They have a huge selection of colors and the polish lasts for ages. The hardest part is picking just one.

I bet you didn't expect to find an affordable fragrance at Sephora, did you? I'm a huge fan of TokyoMilk and was thrilled to find that Sephora often carries limited-edition gift sets in addition to their regular-size TokyoMilk Dark fragrances. My favorite is probably Tainted Love, which is a heady combination of vanilla and sandalwood, and right now there is a limited edition Tainted Love Travel Set for $16.

It's the most expensive product in this list but it's actually three products. It comes with a hand cream, shower gel, and a .16 ounce rollerball of the fragrance--all in a pretty package. This would make a great gift but you probably want to keep it for yourself.

And there you have it: how to do a Sephora shopping trip on a budget. It doesn't work if you buy all of these things at once though; sorry.

I know I probably missed a bunch, so what are your favorite budget buys at Sephora?