Frugal Fragrance, Scents on a Shoestring, Perfume for Paupers: phrase it how you will. The truth is that these days the cost of living is high and luxuries are the first to go. Choosing my perfume for the day is a few minutes I treasure. I certainly have plenty of choice but only around four bottles on my dressing table cost more than thirty quid (and were mostly gifts).
I am often asked how I can afford to sample a new perfume every day and I always answer almost apologetically: I have very few expensive full bottles and sometimes a review is prompted by a few free squirts at my local beauty counter. The rest are inexpensive bottles, samples or purse sprays. If I had had to spend a lot of money to do this it wouldn’t have been possible.
Granted, I have two advantages: a very generous friend without whom this blog would be shorter and harder to write. I know how lucky I am. The second advantage is that as a blogger, I often get sent free sample sizes to trial. However, apart from that, I truly believe that it is possible to smell good without breaking the bank.
On the High Street
There are several ways in which to enjoy perfume on the cheap. Firstly, I no longer dismiss cheap perfume the way I used to long ago. Rummage long enough in the High Street fare, and you will find gems that cost well under a tenner, and even a few for under a fiver. In my local Bodycare shop, I have bought 100ml of Cabochard for £8.99 and a bottle of Jovan White Musk for Women for £6.19. Then there is the bargain Queen of them all: Coty’s L’Aimant– and I am neither the first nor the last to find similarities between L’Aimant and Chanel No 5. Created in 1927, L’Aimant has a retro feel that reminds my esteemed fellow blogger The Perfumed Dandy, of an Agatha Christie heroine. A small bottle can cost just over a fiver and is widely available.
Back in the 70s, drugstore classics were everywhere and everyone wore them. They have lost popularity now but are worth revisiting. Their lack of popularity means they are cheap too, so it’s a win-win situation if you like bargain chypres and aldehydes. I have purchased Panache for just £4.99 on Fragrance Direct- and the longevity is around 12 hours, making this classic aldehyde excellent value. I have also managed to purloin (I love that word) a bottle of retro favourite Tweed from my local chemist for £4.99. Recently a little bottle of Chique arrived in the post for just £3.99 and it is full of Citrus and Oakmoss. (see my rave review).
In Praise of Purse Sprays
Then there are the purse sprays. I have a bouquet of these on my dressing table, none costing over a fiver. Marks and Spencer does an excellent range of perfume and almost all of them are available in 10ml and 25ml sizes, starting at £4, making these affordable treats. I also find that very often there is a sales brochure in my Avon catalogue and I have in the past bought a purse spray of Little Red Dress for just £3.99. Avon are doing these more regularly now and you can get them for just £3. I recently picked up a 10ml bottle of Next Just Pink for just £2 in my local Next Clearance store, and it’s become a firm favourite.
Go Niche and Bijoux
If you have a lot of perfumes and samples, a small amount can last nearly a year if you rotate it with other scents. It is possible to have sample sizes of great niche scents for special occasions that would normally be prohibitive when bought in full size bottles. However, there’s no reason why anyone should be left out, regardless of budget.
Samples of niche scent enable you to smell unique and fabulous without breaking the bank. In the UK I recommend Pell Wall, 4160 Tuesdays, The Perfume Society Discovery Boxes, Les Senteurs or eBay. In the USA, try The Perfumed Court or Surrender to Chance. Which leads me to my next heading…
Determined and lengthy browsing on Amazon has helped me find Coty Chanson D’Eau– a citrussy hesperide at only £6.99 for 50ml including a shower gel. Even I was sceptical at that price, but pleasantly surprised at this lovely green cologne on receipt of it. Another recent Coty find was Coty Aspen for Men at £8.29 a delightful Lavender/Pine combo that smells like Creed Green Irish Tweed . Don’t rule out Old Spice either- it was originally meant for women and smells like a lighter version of Dana Tabu).
Yves Rocher is a minefield of bargains, but sadly my nearest branch is in France. Their online service for the UK is excellent however. I just bought 2 bottles for the price of one: Clea and Yria. They were blind buys, but I looked them up on Fragrantica, liked the reviews and went ahead. I was not disappointed and now own two bottles for the total price of £15. They usually let you choose three free samples and a free gift too.
One of my favourite sites is Allbeauty.com, formerly CheapSmells.com. They have a huge variety of genuine big names, but can sell cheap since they are without the High Street overheads. Prices are very low and there is a vast selection of perfume under £10. Postage is free when you spend over £15 but it does take about week. They don’t pay me to say how great they are, but their delivery guy could find my house without sat nav.
Being a blogger I have the advantage of having been sent some free samples from very generous companies, and I am lucky to have a good friend in my chum Lisa, whose generosity in letting me loose on two big boxes of phials, knows no bounds.
Samples are getting harder to cadge over the counter: believe, me I’ve turned on the charm! But there are other methods.
The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box (see photo) is a good way to bolster my sample collection. At only £5 a quarter, I receive a box of mixed samples and vouchers for money off full sized bottles. My absolute favourite Discovery Box comes from The Perfume Society, which provides around ten samples, smelling notes, sniffing strips, and a couple of scented goodies that vary from facial serum, to hand cream or shower gel.
Look Beneath the Glitz
Don’t rule out tacky looking celeb scents either: Who cares what it says on the label? If you like it, go ahead. Two of my favourites are Jessica Simpson Fancy Nights (very Vegas!), bought for £8.95 which smells of Papyrus and Patchouli ( and very similar to Prada EDP), and JLo Deseo, which looks like wet jewel and smells eau so fraiche!
Ebay is an excellent source of cheap fragrance trawling, especially after big events such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day when people sell their disappointments. Some buyers are afraid of being sold a dud, but I can honestly say everything I have bought has been authentic and eBay are pretty strict about fake stuff, so it’s a good place to shop around.
Swaps, Decants and Splits
If you get stuck into the talk boards on Basenotes, Fragrantica, Facebook Fragrance Groups or even Mumsnet Style and Beauty threads, you can not only find friendly like minded fellows, but can usually swap decants, full bottles, or even go in on an expensive niche bottle by just buying, say a quarter if a full bottle with some fellow fragheads. Perfume lovers are generous souls and genuinely want to spread the joy.
How about you?
What’s the best bargain you’ve ever scooped? Have you found a hidden gem? Do share so we can share your joy, follow in your footsteps or just sit here being all jealous. Perfume is such a treat, I truly wish it for everyone.