5 Affordable Alternatives To Perfume

Smelling good without spritzing is as easy as opening your kitchen cabinet.
Publish date:
February 20, 2015
essential oils, baby oil, solid perfume, fragrance alternatives, talc powder

I love everything about perfume. I love arranging the pretty bottles on a thrifted silver plate on my dresser. I love picking which one to wear in the morning, based on my mood, the weather, and where my nose is at that day. I love the ritual of spritzing my wrists, dabbing my neck, and doing the spray, delay, and walk away dance through a fragrant mist.

But sometimes (most times) I do not love the price. Fortunately, I’ve found and enjoyed five alternatives to traditional bottled perfume that are both budget-friendly and easy to tailor to your specific scent preferences:

Pure Vanilla Extract

Go into your pantry. Locate your baking supplies. See the vanilla extract? Dab a conservative amount on. It sounds crazy, but the real stuff has excellent staying power and makes you smell like a cookie. Plus, it costs next to nothing and you probably already have it chilling next to your flour and sugar.

Feel free to experiment with other extracts. I imagine sweet almond, strawberry, and lavender would also work nicely. And hey, if you don’t love it on you, just bake something with it instead!

Talc Or Powdered Perfume

I used to associate talc powder with old lady beauty. Then I got old myself and realized powdered perfume is a thing, and an interesting fragrance option at that. This past summer I enjoyed Clean Body Veil, their euphemism for talc powder. This may not be the most travel-friendly option (I’d be afraid of it exploding all over my bag in transit), but it’s a good choice if you want a subtle fragrance or live in a warm climate and want to avoid strong perfumes.

Solid Perfume

My first foray into the world of solid perfumes was in 2010, when I was shopping for a fragrance for my upcoming wedding day. I wanted to find a new perfume for the day so that I would look back and always associate that scent with this happy and transitional time. I also wanted something travel-friendly, since I would be on cross-country flights for both the ceremony and the subsequent honeymoon. I ended up buying L’Occitane Solid Perfume in Green Tea. It was relatively inexpensive, easy to throw into my bag, and fragrant without being cloying. The best part? Years later, it still hasn't run out, nor has the smell permuted into something different.

Baby Oil

I just had a baby 10 weeks ago and am discovering all kinds of baby products that I’m happy to use myself. Among them is Erbaviva’s Baby Oil, which smells of lavender, mandarin, and chamomile but is super gentle on your skin. A little bit goes a long way; you only need a dime-sized amount.

Essential Oils

Here’s a DIY opportunity for those of you who like having creative control over your fragrances. Take any essential oil or combine a few to be the base, middle, and top notes, and mix with sweet almond oil in a roll-on bottle. There are some great tutorials out there if you want to get fancy, but I’m pretty happy with single-note hits of lavender, vanilla, mint, or lemon. This is a good option if you find you react to the chemicals in bottled perfume, since you are controlling the ingredients.


I won’t ever abandon my bottled perfumes, but I do regularly turn to alternative forms of fragrance when traveling, fighting the heat, or respecting other people’s sensitivities to scent.

  • Do you use any of these perfume alternative?
  • Any DIY tips for solid or spray scents?