The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

Pretty Cheap: Tried & Tested Beauty for Any Budget

pretty cheap by carissa beauty

It’s odd that one of the very things I’m so passionate about is something that makes me cringe at the same time. Budget Beauty. As a longtime makeup artist and beauty editor, I know this phrase is usually followed by a piece written about several drugstore items that will give you the same professional result as their more expensive counterparts — yawn. Shoestring readers are smarter than that, so I’ve put a twist on the typical budget beauty advice column with these real, tried-and-tested products you’ll actually use, as well as tips for the best tools on the market and crafty alternatives to overpriced (and over-hyped) luxury cosmetics.

Never Judge a Compact by its Cover
They say we eat with our eyes, since we judge what we see way before deciding if it’s worth our time or our money. Lipsticks are probably the most frequently purchased and least frequently used of all beauty products. We select them from a beautifully organized presentation on a tower, surrounded by like shades, only to forget the beauty hidden under their plastic caps once we get them home. If we could see them that very same way each morning, they’d get much more use, and we’d get more bang for our bucks.

Do like us pros do and smash lipsticks into clear pill boxes (found at drugstores and pharmacies) and organize by tone; pinks, browns, reds, plums, and corals. When you can see the colors side by side, you can mix them together to create new color combinations while saving space in your already overflowing drawers at the same time.

Host a Beauty Swap
A black belt in beauty isn’t required to host a successful makeup swap, just an overcrowded bathroom filled with beauty products you bought or received and don’t use, and some girlfriends with the same problem. Get a group of friends together and have each girl bring all of her under-utilized or unused makeup and skincare products. (Preferably new, but gently used works, too.) Hand out Monopoly money for each “donated” product, creating currency to ‘buy’ something new, making it fair and giving the swap a fun, boutique-like vibe. You’ll be happy knowing your purchases didn’t go wasted, and you’ll have a few new things with zero dollars spent.

Best Brushes for Your Bucks
Natural, synthetic, short handle, and long- brushes are as confusing as they are expensive, but having the right ones can make a huge difference in saving time and getting better results. Find out which brushes you need and bring photos of them with you to a craft store. (The websites of many cosmetics brands will often recommend and show which brush they suggest with each product.)  Bringing photos along is a critical part, since everything will look the same once you’re there. My beauty kit is filled with painter’s brushes that are well crafted and sell for a third of what you’d find in a department store.

Fresh, New Looks: Free
Lastly, my best advice for finding a new, fresh look is to flip through magazines for new looks to try, shop your own bathroom for products you’ve set aside or completely forgotten about, and then check out how-to beauty videos online. Sometimes a little inspiration is more fulfilling than getting something new, anyhow.

Got a pressing beauty question for Carissa? Leave her a comment below or email her at carissa @ with Shoestring in the subject line.

Copyright 2009 Shoestring, LLC and Carissa Passerella

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