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  • Writer's pictureJoy Blenman

How to shop for beauty online like a pro and save money

Updated: May 24, 2020

So let's say you have some extra cash leftover, and you're desperately seeking serotonin via online shopping. I feel you, me too - I troll Amazon and Sephora almost daily right now.

Here's the thing though: It is vital to be a smart shopper during the pandemic because we are not trying to waste money in this messy economy.

I am not saying don't shop online. Rather, let's shop smart to ensure our purchases spark joy, rather than regret.

In this article, I break down how to save money and shop for the best beauty merch like a pro.

Five tips for shopping online during the quarantine

1. Research Third-party Video Reviews

So obviously you should read the product reviews on sites like Ulta and Sephora, but don't stop there. Before you hit buy, go onto YouTube to watch how these products work in real life, and examine what they look like up close. Especially when it comes to beauty, you want to see what the product looks like on someone who has your skin tone and/or skin type. For example, if I were trying to decide which shade Fenty blush to buy, I would Google "Fenty Summertime Wine blush + dark skin."

(By the way, the Fenty blushes are gorgeous. You can see how I use them on my cheeks and lips on my Instagram).

Similarly, when looking for a new concealer from NARS, I Googled "NARS concealer swatches + Dark Skin." Sephora has a brilliant review filter that enables you to filter things according to your Beauty Profile (eye colour, hair colour, skin tone, etc.). However, I still like to go on YouTube to see the product in action because sometimes reviews are sponsored, and videos give you the real tea.

Tip: Research how the product works for people with both your skin tone and type. For example, I am oily, so a foundation that works for someone with brown, but dry skin won't necessarily work for me. So I search for review by people who have oily, deep coloured skin.

2. Use E-coupons/ Discount Code Apps

I added the Honey Chrome extension to my browser about a year ago, and now I do not shop without it. Honey automatically scans the web for discount codes. It works most of the time for me, and when there aren't discount codes, you can use Honey to get free samples or points towards their cashback program.

The Honey app can help you score discounts on everything from makeup at Sephora to groceries.

Another great tool is the app, Flipp. Flipp lets you compare digital flyers for your favourite stores - I find it helpful to price match makeup at drugstores and department stores (E.g.Shoppers, Rexall, the Bay). I also use Flipp at the grocery store - you can save $20-30 off your bill easily if you shop somewhere that does price matching.

3. Try it On Virtually

Sephora, NYX, Loreal, MAC, and several other major beauty brands now offer virtual try-on technology for their most popular products. Virtual makeup tech has come a long way in the last few years. It used to be very unrealistic, and the computer would often place the makeup on the wrong part of your face. Let's be honest, nothing beats real-life makeup samples (I miss getting free Sephora samples so much); however, the virtual try-on tech isn't terrible. The best way to use this tech is to upload a photo of you with no or minimal makeup. Keep in mind that the renderings won't be exact, and the colours tend to be oversaturated. However virtual try-on tech can give you a preview of what the product will look like - if something looks awful or ashy when you try it on virtually, then maybe don't risk buying it.

Sephora lets you try on a variety of products. The app also offers tutorials.

Tip: This trick applies to shopping for clothes too. Many clothing retailers have size prediction tech and try-on tech as well. Dress sizes really vary from brand-to-brand, so don't assume that your dress size will be the same at every store. Instead, take your measurements and weigh yourself, so that the AI try on tech can give you a more holistic prediction of your dress size.

4. Sleep On It Before You Buy It

Put things in your cart, but before you buy it try to sleep on it for at least a day. If you're still dreaming about it, then proceed to click that PayPal button. I find that this technique is helpful because it gives me time to think about what I really want to buy (sometimes impulse shopping happens just because I am bored). However, if you sleep on it you may find that you don't need to buy another succulent or highlighter or bag of espresso beans (or maybe you do, that's your business). Either way, this technique can save you money. It also gives you time to do research before buying something new.

5. Monitor Your Shopping Budget Using an App

Set a shopping budget, manually, or automatically and try to stick to it. Currently, I use TD MySpend to track my budget because TD is my primary bank. The TD MySpend app tells me when I am spending above target in specific categories like shopping or dining out. I kind of like that it shames me. Like a good friend, my budget app lets me know when its time to chill. Before I was tracking my spending, I spent substantially more. See how much I saved when I started monitoring my spending below.

TD recently told me I spent $1000 less than usual during April. The money I've spent by staying home makes me reflect on how truly indulgent some of my pre-quarantine life choices were. For the record, I don't regret the money spent on brunch though, but I digress.

The Bottom Line

Treat yourself, but don't wreck yourself by spending recklessly. It's not really self-care if your purchase gives you a debt hangover. I hope the above-mentioned tips were helpful. What great stuff have you purchased in the pandemic? Let me know via DM or in the comments below, and feel free to share your favourite online shopping tips as well!


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