Fragrance for the Frugal 2017


Now that my blog is four, I thought I’d better do some housekeeping. One of my most popular articles is “Perfume for Paupers”, written two years ago. It  was my guide to how you can smell good without blowing the budget. It was written from the heart (and from past experience ), since I believe that you don’t have to be rich to smell good.

Nope. No money in the money box.

However, as you know, the industry changes faces like a kaleidoscope in even a short space of time.  For example, many celeb scents that I reviewed  then, have been discontinued, and many new affordable options have appeared on the market in just two years.  However, much of what I wrote in my earlier article still stands: shop around, be selective, use eBay, look past the label.  I reckon it’s time for an update.  Here’s my guide on how to smell good without feeling bad.

Edith Evena as Lady Bracknell
Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell

Leave your snobbery at the door

I used to be in an exclusive long term relationship with Chanel Cristalle and would only rarely have flings with other scent on the side.  During a frugal period in my life, I decided to shop around, and my love affair with scent truly blossomed.  I hold and Home Bargains responsible for this. I bought the cheapest scent I could afford and ended up finding some firm favourites.   High price tags do not always mean high quality., and vice versa.  Don’t overlook celebrity fragrances either. They are all made by professional Noses and  are usually cheaper than other brands. Some of my favourite celeb scents are under £10. 

Recommended: Celine Dion Sensation,  Sarah Jessica Parker  Lovely,  JLo Glow, Madonna Truth or Dare.

avon retro3


Ok, I’m starting to sound obsessed with Avon now, but when you an find a decent perfume for under seven quid, well, then it’s very hard to stay away. In fact my SOTD is Avon Rare Platinum and those tuberose wafts are very pleasing to my nose today. Avon Perceive Oasis was my summer scent more than any other in 2016. I even bought a back up bottle.  I give Avon a further thumbs up for selling purse sprays at just £3 and for currently selling Scent Essence Lime Verbena for just £2.50 for 30ml.  All prices correct at time of posting.

Recommended:  Lime Verbena, Avon Little Black Dress Eau Fraiche, Avon Rare Platinum, Avon Perceive Oasis, Avon Tahitain Holiday, and for fans of La Vie est Belle, Avon Cherish.


Go for preloved

I have bought a lot of perfume from eBay and have never been let down. EBay is pretty strict on counterfeit and it’s not worth most people’s trouble to try and sell the odd fake. Having said that, there’s no guarantee it’ll never happen to you, but in seven years I’ve not been conned.  EBay is also great for perfume samples which helps avoid costly blind buys. I’ve also scored some blinders from a local car boot sale.  Never underestimate how much somebody else can dislike a perfectly good bottle of perfume and be desperate to get rid of it. That, my friends, is when you  circle and swoop.

Success stories:  100ml of Cabotine for £3.99 on eBay, bottle of LouLou and assorted samples for £7 on eBay, bottle of half used 100ml of Rive Gauche for £4 at car boot sale.  Full 50ml bottle of Chanel Coco EDP for £26 on eBay.


Go retro

Some of my favourite cheap and cheerfuls are the kind of scent young folk today might label as “Nan perfume”.  I prefer the term “classic. ” Nobody will put me off Coty L’Aimant or Chique and I could buy both bottles with ten quid and still have change for a Daim Bar.

Recommended: Coty L’Aimant, Yardley April Violets,  Chique.



Get good samples

If you’re saving for a bottle of the good stuff and in between bottles,, why not just buy a few samples and use your favourites on high days and holidays? It’s cheaper than a full bottle and you can always smell expensive without having a shelf full of posh bottles and no money in the bank.

Recommended: The Perfume Society for great, hard-to-find samples, and The Fragrance Shop for a quarterly box of new releases.

sam collection


You’d be amazed how many of your friends have been given perfume they don’t like and don’t wear. Nobody seems to throw it away though, so get asking. You might find they have one of your favourites and that dusty bottle you can’t get rid of might be just their cup of tea. I dare you to ask four friends if they have a bottle of perfume they don’t really wear.  It also works on forums such as Fragrantica, Mumsnet and Fragcomm.

I bet beautiful Ruby Rose wears whatever the hell she likes. Photo from Pride.

Go unisex

Many men’s fragrances are cheaper than women’s ( though not all). There’s no rule that says you can’t wear his stuff or that he can’t wear yours. Having said that, although I reguarly raid my husband’s scent collection (I chose most of it- ergo it’s mine.) I can’t see my husband borrowing my SJP Lovely to wear for work anytime soon. Shame. Florals can smell good on men.

grand-canyonHere’s what I mean by cheap and cheerful for chaps:  Old Spce (cheap as chips) doesn’t smell a million miles away from Yves Saint Laurent Opium. (Thanks for the tip Portia of APJ), and Avon men’s fragrances are truly excellent. I wore Wilderness for Men for the whole of August one year, with a pretty sun dress. I say Pah! to labels. If it smells good wear it.

Recommended: Avon Destination Grand Canyon ( reputed to smell like Terre D’Hermes), Lynx  Urban DailyTobacco and Amber, Jovan Musk For Men, Lidl XBolt (pleasant, apple-y top note.)

white musk

Al-Rehab, Al Aneeq and Crown perfumes

These mini rollerballs are available from Amazon and eBay. Containing no alcohol,  and usually in rollerball format, these are an unbeatably cheap way to layer notes or wear the scent alone.  The violetjasmine and the rose single note fragrances are pretty good too. They make good presents and a 10ml rollerball is perfect for even the smallest of handbags.

Recommended:  I particularly like Violet and  the White Musk. neither cost me more than 2.99. A friend of mine adores Choco Musk at only £1.99.

How About You?

What’s been your best frugal fragrance?  Do let me know.  I always love to hear from you.

photo by Alison Oddy
photo by Alison Oddy


17 thoughts on “Fragrance for the Frugal 2017”

  1. I do love a bargain. Madonna’s Truth or Dare & Naked for less than a tenner from Beauty Base and loads of great stuff from TK Maxx including Serge Lutens & L’Artesan Parfumeur at a fraction of their regular price. Always worth a charity shops – Krizia Teatro alla Scala for £4.99? I nearly fainted from the excitement!!!

    1. Oh yes, charity shops! I forgot about them! I scored a bottle of Givenchy once (I can’t remember the name, long since discontinued) and it’s also very good for discontinued Avon perfume. Thanks for the reminder Bee!

    1. Hello Prince Barry! Always a pleasure to hear from you. Thanks for the tip. I’m off to browse their site now…
      best wishes

      1. Always a pleasure to read your blog Sam 🙂 If you check out Anglia on the Basenotes Directory, it tells you which is the Crown Perfumery equivalent of the Anglia ones.

  2. I love your anti snobbery posts!!! The other day I sprayed on Yves Rocher Accord Chic and I swear, if this were priced with an additional zero after the initial number with a fancy niche marketing campaign it would pass muster. Also, it has a charming “Nan-factor” that probably will not make it a best seller.
    Another surprising discovery I made swapping on the net (in continental Europe) is “Club de Nuit Intense” by a brand called Armaf. A lovely dupe to Tom Ford Noir de Noir which I like better than the original.
    And then there is a brand called L’Erbolario, a kind of Crabtree and Evelyn but from Italy which is very worthwhile your attention. They have some soliflores but also some more complex stuff sich as Ibisco, a lovely ambery-vanillic scent in the vain of Shalimar (but ascepticized, so no tarry skank). Accordo Viola is a cushy violet blanker for snuffling om the sofa on winter afternoons. Méharees seems to be very popular but I have not tested it. They are not as cheap as Avon (no one can beat them) but very affordable (and will bring down the average cost of an Italian holiday… just sayin’….)
    And then there also is a brand called La Rive (Polish? German?) sold at drugstore/perfumery chain Müller (among others) which manufactures dupes for mainstream best-sellers such as Si or La vie est belle (not my cup of tea). I believe they manage to out-cheap Avon.
    Rituals has some test-worthy perfumes at decent prices and in small sizes, they are on my current “need to check that!” list.
    Another company with good value for money is “Le Couvent des Missions” with their Eau des Missions. It is supposed to be in the vain of Spiritueuse Double Vanille which I don’t know, so cannot confirm. However, it is no skinny citrusy eau but rather a full on oriental gourmand.
    That’s it from me for tonight!
    I will have an Avon Friday tomorrow based on your recommendations:)-

    1. Oh wow, Bella! That’s an incredible post. i am so grateful to you and glad you wrote it all down for me for future reference. I have alwasy wanted to come to Italy. i must make it happen. At the moment my Italian dream consists of lots of photos on Pinterest “Place I want to go.” We can but dream. I’m especially interested in that Viola one by the way…. warmest wishes and thanks for that epic and wonderful post! xxx

  3. I have skin that can kill some fragrances, and I hate reapplying throughout the day, so the cheapies listed below are ones that last most of the day on me. Many of these you’re already familiar with and have reviewed.

    Joop Femme – heady incense floriental that costs around $25 for 100mls of edt that wears like an edp in disguise(all prices in Australian dollars).

    Joop Homme – I think everyone knows just how potent this one is. Also under $25 for 100mls edt that wears like an edp in disguse.

    Jovan Musk for Men – normally available for under $10. This lingers gently for most of the day, although I would be happier if it was a little stronger.

    Jovan White Musk for Men – also under $10, a really lovely herbal and citrus tinged white musk that wears most of the day even though sillage could be better.

    Jovan Musk for Women and White Musk for Women – always around $10 each.

    Cabotine by Gres, edt formulation – normally available on EBAY for less than $25 and serious longevity and sillage.

    White Shoulders by Evyan – cologne strength less than $20 on EBAY, with serious longevity, even better when layered with a not so cheap Kouros.

    Splendor and Blue Grass both by Elizabeth Arden – regularly available at discount chemists for $13. Arden Beauty and True Love are both really good cheapies even though they’re not right for me. Red Door is a piss weak travesty since it was reformulated though. 5th Avenue is gorgeous but has no staying power on me. Nearly everything from Elizabeth Arden is available at discount chemists in Australia, with the most expensive being Red Door, still only $25 on sale.

    Diamonds and Emeralds by Elizabeth Taylor – often available for less than $20. White Diamonds used to be fantastic, but I’ve smelt testers at several stores recently and think it has been reformulated and watered down.

    Lace and Tweed, the Taylor of London formulations. I can get Lace in edp strength for around $15 and Tweed in concentrated cologne only (unfortunately) for the same price. Lace lasts most of the day. Tweed only around 4-5 hours though.

    Intimately Beckham for Women – discontinued but used to be available for around $15 fro 100mls edt. Worth picking up if you find it going cheap somewhere.

    Fancy Nights by Jessica Simpson – discontinued but still fairly widely available at around $20 for a gift set of 100ml edp, lotion and bath gel.

    Fairy Dust and Tease by Paris Hilton – both still widely available for under $10 even though officially discontinued. Fairy Dust lasts all day and Tease lasts a good 6 hours.

    Diane by Diane Von Furstenburg – totally wrong for me, but monster staying power and a really fantastic fragrance on the right person, around $20 for 50ml edp.

    Casmir by Chopard – in edt formula this one stays all day. Too gourmand for me, but if it works for you it’s fantastic value at around $20 for 50mls.

    Incredible Things by Taylor Swift – a really unique fragrance based mainly on grapefruit, suede and vetiver. My skin does not like grapefruit, so it didn’t really work for me, but it’s cheap with gift sets including body spray, edt and lotion going for around $15. It’s also interesting in that it seems to start off soft and get stronger as it warms up with your body. I really wish it worked for me.

    All of the Britney Spears fragrances – I don’t really like any of them except for The Naughty Remix, but they all have excellent longevity and are regularly available for under $15.

    Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene – you like mossy chypres? Get this for under $20 almost anywhere and wait 20 minutes for the drydown. Smooth, cool mossy violet that lasts all day in edt formulation.

    Tsar by Van Cleef and Arpels – cool, crisp green floral with lots of lily of the valley. A bit too heavy on the pine but what do I expect for a mans fragrance? EDT formula for under $20 lasts most of the day.

    Lomani Pour Homme – believe it or not I’ve never smelt Drakkar Noir so I don’t know if it smells anything like it. It’s the only Lomani fragrance available in Australia. An ex of this used to wear it as a casual every day fragrance and I inherited the dregs of his bottle. Yes too masculine for me, but really good longevity and a decent daily edt for a man. It never costs more than $15 in Australia for 100mls edt.

    Pino Silvestre – not right for me at all but a seriously respectable classic that lasts all day and costs less than $10 for 100mls of edt.

    Tea Rose by Perfumers Workshop – $15 for 100mls of something that can clear a room if you’re not careful. A sharp citrussy, musky rose.

    Charlie Red – around $7 for 100mls of edt that wears like edp. A touch generic but smells a bit like a more wearable version of White Diamonds on my skin. The worst thing about the Charlie perfumes is that they don’t keep well and so a fb never gets used up before it begins to turn.

    Charlie Gold – the poor persons alternative to Tresor. I don’t really like it that much but it smells good on a friend of mine and lasts all day on her. Also $7 for 100mls edt.

    Ciara by Revlon – also on EBAY for less than $15 for both the 80% and 100% concentrations. This is a definite all day fragrance on me.

    Under $10 cheapies that don’t last well on me.

    Vanderbilt by Gloria Vanderbilt, only lasts a few hours on me.

    Je Reviens by Worth – the pre 2004 reformulation edt is still available in australian discount chemists for $10. It’s absolutely gorgeous but once again only a few hours on me.

    Charlie Blue – 100mls edt for under $10, used to last all day but newer formulations don’t.

    Tabu – yes I know it’s supposed to be a heavy fragrance, but it is actually quite soft and short lived on my skin in its current incarnation. Small bottles less than $10 and 100ml bottles for around $15.

    Old Spice by Shulton – lasts pretty well if you layer it with the deo spray.

    Tabac by Maurer and Wirtz – alas a soft skin scent on my after an hour, but lovely for hot muggy weather.

    4711 by Maurer and Wirtz – what can you say about this, it’s not meant to last, but it’s a lovely fresh burst of fizzy fun while it does. I love to wear it to bed in hot weather, and use it to scent my bath.

    Playboy perfumes – all of them are really quite pretty and often available for less than $5 for 50mls edt with lasting power of 3-4 hours. Also often available in sets for seriously cheap prices.

    Imperial Leather Aftershave by Cussons – it’s the barbershop sort of old school mens fragrance similar in vibe to Old Spice and Tabac. I tend to decant it into a spray bottle, apply with abandon and use it as a layering agent. Always available for less than $10 at supermarkets.

    Honorable mention

    Its not quite a cheapie at $30 on EBAY for 100mls edt, but Rumba Passion by Ted Lapidus (flanker to the original Rumba) sinks into my skin and lasts through a shower. On my skin it’s mainly a dry patchouli and rose with a little bit of honey for sweetness.

  4. My dear Louise. if I am ever indisposed, I know who to hand my blog over to. That is a superb summary. I was nodding away, saying “Oh yes, and that one!” to myself like a mad old biddy.

    It took an episode of frugality to really open my eyes and debunk a lot of my previous misconceptions. In fact, don’t you find that some expensive scent isn’t as good as some of the cheap and cheerfuls? I hate to say this, but I sniffed a Kilian recently and thought it smelled exactly like Yardley Lavender! But don’t say I said so.

    Your lovely reply included many of my dear favourites, but also gave me some great new ideas. I am definitely going to seek out White Shoulders, and revisit Geffrey Beene. Also- I had no idea Imperial Leather did an aftershave, and yes, I totally agree that Jovan Musks are excellent ( and a bargain). I often steer my friends towards the cheap stuff, saying “trust me, I’d buy it myself!”.

    Expensive perfume is wonderful for special occasions, but sometimes the price tag isn’t what makes it great.

    Thank you again for your wonderful reply. I’m sure i’m not the only one taking tips from it!

    best wishes
    Sam xxxx

    1. What lovely compliments you pay.

      I agree with the cheap and cheerful being as good as many of the expensive ones, particularly since the 2012 IFFRA ban on so many ingredients leaving older fragrances mere shadows of their former selves. Just last week I tested a new bottle of Kouros as my bottle is getting low, and the new one had about one third the strength, was much heavier on the top notes (and therefore sweeter). It still has a moderate amount of leather, civet and musk, but very little oakmoss and much less patchouli and vetiver in my opinion. The amber and carnation are much more to the fore. I just wish that I could get stronger formulas of some of the cheapies. I really like Vanderbilt, but it’s gone in less than an hour, and I’d love to be able to get the Jovan Musks in edp or oil forms.

      Out of my original post, the ones with the longest staying power on my skin are Cabotine, White Shoulders, Diamonds and Emeralds, Diane Von Furstenburg (that just wouldn’t wash off!!!),Tea Rose, Ciara, Charlie Red, Casmir, Splendor and Fancy Nights.

      Another one that borders on the cheapie side is the 2012 release Ivoire by Balmain. In Australia it retails for around $20 for 30mls. 6 hours longevity, but very soft sillage. I tend to wear it to work because I share an office and don’t want to overpower others, but still want to be able to smell myself throughout the day. Absolutely nothing like the original Ivoire and I doubt it’s all that popular, which is why it’s going cheap in Oz.

      Regarding Grey Flannel, you do need to give it about 20 minutes to settle on the skin before judging it. When I first spray it on, all I smell is smokey oakmoss, however I don’t know how old my bottle is. New bottles may be different.

      1. Dear Louise, you are so on my wavelength! Sometimes the cheap ones need “bedding in time” and sometimes they do lack lasting power. However, since I like a big choice I like my gang of cheap and cheerfuls for when I’m in that mood you can’t quite name. I’m currently wearing a six quid Avon tuberose “Rare Platinum” and it’s just fab. I spary my cleavage and then it wafts out when the ehating goes on! I also think Jovan should make oils as the sprays are great but need topping up ( also good for layering). You really know your stuff. Do you have a blog and if not why not? xxxx

    1. I shall look out for you. If you ever want to do guest post you will be most welcome. Just say so if you get an idea. It will be fully credited to you, not me, of course!xxx

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