Two months in to this whole “low buy year” thing, and I’m still having trouble adjusting.
This was the month where I really tested some of my original rules, made a new one that might feel a little bit like cheating (even to me!), and actually made an effort to follow through on diverting some of my beauty budget to indie brands.
So let’s start with my new rule, as this is the one that makes me feel a little bit like I might be cheating on the intent of my low buy…but it also highlights one of the holes in my low buy planning. I had a blind spot when I was planning out my rules, and that blind spot was drugstore brands.
I love trying out new drugstore and affordably priced makeup products, and that love is part of what fueled the overcrowding in my makeup collection. But while some of these purchases were just impulse buys meant to sate some emotional need with a little retail therapy, some were actually really good. There are a few drugstore products that have actually become staples in my makeup routine: BH Cosmetic’s Naturally Flawless Foundation (which is as good or better at $9.50 as my $40 Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation!) or Coty’s Airspun powder in Translucent Extra Coverage (a perfect setting and baking powder for my drag looks, and you get a huge tub of it for like 7 bucks!) are both amazing drugstore finds that are always in my makeup kit.
With my restrictive rules, I realized that I was probably not going to be doing any experimenting with drugstore brands. I was only allowing myself 5 major item slots in a month (and that reduces to 3 slots by the last third of the year), and my “freebie” shopping only applies to gift cards that I receive as gifts or that I purchase using my hotel loyalty program points. Those gift cards are usually for Sephora, and even if I pick up an Ulta gift card I’m much less likely to shop the drugstore brands online – I need to see it in the store to decide if I need it in my life. With a limited number of item slots, there wasn’t much chance that I was going to be wasting one on a bargain concealer or a new foundation that may or may not work out.
To address that, and to ensure that I can still do a little shopping on the lower side of the cost spectrum, I decided that if I had any “unexpected income” in a month, I could spend up to half of the income on drugstore or “mass market” brands. There isn’t a real hard and fast definition for what those brands are, but I think if it’s a lower cost brand that can generally be found in CVS, Walgreens, or Walmart, then it probably counts. I’m also including the brands found in the mass market section of Ulta with one exception – Morphe. I’m not sure why that one doesn’t “feel” right to me; the prices aren’t that different than NYX, and I definitely include that in my drugstore list. But they’re my rules, and I reserve the right to be as inconsistent and incoherent as I want to! Plus, one of my items slots this month got taken by a Morphe product, and I don’t want to feel like I wasted it. Let me live.
So, what does “unexpected income” mean? It’s basically income that I wasn’t planning on based on my usual activities. So the shows that I do in Grand Forks and Bismarck are not unexpected income because even though the scheduling is somewhat random, I plan for a certain number of those each year. But additional shows, like the CAMP show in Fargo at the end of the month, are not part of my typical schedule, so any money earned at that show, either show pay or tips, would be unexpected income. This would also cover any money made when I sell my jewelry, or if I take on a sponsored post for this site. This will allow me to still play around with some lower priced brands and hopefully find some treasures…and maybe even encourage me to up my side hustle, so that I have even more of that unexpected income!
Having said all that, I did end up cheating on this one a little and spent more than half of the amount I brought in on my recent jewelry sale. What can I say? It was near Valentines Day and I was emotionally vulnerable and there were a ton of fun new products from Hard Candy at the two Walmarts I visited trying to track down my hair dye. Here’s what I picked up in the drugstore category this month:
The first purchase, where I was still within the rules, was at my local CVS in Grand Forks and I picked up 6 items: Essence Lash Princess mascara, 2 Milani blushes, a Milani and an LA Girl foundation, and an LA Girl color-correcting primer. CVS always has coupons for their loyalty program and they had some store sales, so those 6 items only cost about $45 total.
Once I arrived in Arizona, I purchased two Milani lipsticks, Matte Darling, a light, rose pink and Matte Confident, a deep red.
Where things went off the rails is when I had to find hair dye in Arizona, and ended up taking a “tour of Walmarts.” I can’t stop in a Walmart and not look in the cosmetics aisle. I can’t. I love Hard Candy, and the only place to get it, besides the brand website, is in your local Walmart. Well, I found a bunch of new products and ended up adding significantly to my Hard Candy collection with two eyeshadow palettes, a bronzer/highlight face palette, a liquid lipstick and lip liner duo, and a lip gloss. Not only was it Hard Candy, but there were beautiful green shades! It was over before it even started!
I love this brand, and I love that they had some fun, colorful options. One trend that I’ve noticed in my shopping adventures across the country, in various drugstores and Walmarts in the cities where I’ve travelled, is that if you are looking for the newest products from a brand and also a wider selection of colors, check out the stores that are in more ethnically diverse areas of town. I’m not sure why this is – isn’t the excuse/argument against inclusive shade ranges from brands that POC don’t buy as much makeup?! – but in neighborhoods that have more diversity, I find a wider variety and shades of products. That’s not just for complexion products, but also for eyeshadow palettes, blushes and other color cosmetics.
You may have noticed in this post that I’ve talked about a LOT of makeup…and I still haven’t gotten to my February item slots! That’s why I feel a little bit like I’m cheating, and that’s why the Low Buy will probably continue to evolve throughout the course of the year. I don’t want to feel too restricted, but I do want to have rules that force me to make better choices and reduce some of the excess spending. I’m working on it, with updates to come!
For my first two item slots of the month, I decided to make good on my promise to spend some money on indie brands; I also decided to get a little creative with how I interpret my rules! One of my rules is that if a brand was offering a bundle deal on multiple items from their line at a discount, I could buy the bundle but I had to count it as two. Well, an indie brand that I discovered recently thanks to Nerdy Girl Makeup on YouTube, OMFG Cosmetics, decided to jump on the trend of offering Mystery Boxes: a random collection of products at a discount off the retail price. Theirs came in two sizes: $100 worth of products for $40 or $200 worth of product for $75, and each of the boxes was also said to have exclusive items (one-offs and experiments that have not and will not be available for sale), 1-2 or 3-4 depending on the size of box you ordered.
I’d been feeling a little bit of withdrawal since I’ve cancelled all of my subscription boxes, and I love a good surprise – and I love OMFG Makeup’s quality overall – so I decided to order the larger box. But how do I count this? Technically it’s a large collection of products, but it’s not what I had in mind when I made my rule about bundles. I think of a bundle as something where you can order a whole collection at a discount; I wanted to have the option to do that if I was legitimately interested in most or all of the shades, but that I wouldn’t spend the extra to get all the shades if there are only one or two I was legitimately interested in (yes, I have done that before!). But this isn’t the same: the assortment is random, so it’s not like you have the option to pick pieces over the box if you wanted, plus the exclusive items are only available in the box. I decided that the “box” would only count as one item, but that I wasn’t allowed to order more than one at a time (trust me – I almost knocked out my first two item slots with two big ol’ boxes!). If I received it and was genuinely happy with the products and overall selection, then I could choose to go back and pick up another one if available.
In addition to the Mystery Box, I also picked up the Kush eyeshadow palette (what’s the deal with the sudden surge in weed-themed cosmetics products lately?!) and a bottle of liquid highlighter, an adorable yellow shade called Rubber Ducky. The highlighter was on sale for only $5, and it pushed me into the bracket to get free shipping, so it doesn’t count as an item slot, but I’ll still be talking about it below. Anyway, here are my thoughts on what I got from OMFG Cosmetics:
Mystery Box – Contents:
So I was really impressed with the Mystery Box contents! Some people get pissy about Mystery boxes because they aren’t a bunch of neutrals or just a greatest hits of all the best-selling products. But it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out that companies do this to try to clear out stock and make back some of their investment to put back into new products. Best-selling products sell themselves, so Mystery Boxes like this help them do that. They will usually throw in a few more mainstream items to help keep the selection from being too wild, but you’re going to get the stuff that isn’t necessarily at the top of the average makeup consumers’ “must have” lists. Luckily, I tend to live in the colorful miscellany at the bottom of those lists. This box had 18 different products that, even considering OMFG’s reasonable price points, represents a great value at $75.
I was a little bummed that I didn’t get one of the pressed highlighters (I have two of them from a previous order, and I love them!) but I did get two bottles of liquid highlighter, a pastel blue called Bubbles and a candlelight pale gold called Pure Gold, and a loose powder highlight, also in pastel blue, called Icy Blue. I also got three lip products to try: a bright pinkish red liquid lipstick called Break The Rules, and two tube lipsticks, a bright cool red called Quirky and a medium peachy nude called Peach Kiss. I also got two jars of loose pigment shadow in a cool blue-toned green called Pay Me and a bright yellow gold called Golden Girl.
For a gorgeous red-themed eye look, I also got a 12-pan eyeshadow palette called Valentine with a variety of pinks, red, and purples. I had read a comment on a post somewhere that said this was actually a promo item that was included with orders in February leading up to Valentine’s Day, but the receipt didn’t say anything so I’m including it as part of the Mystery Box. It was either part of the box or it was a freebie, so it didn’t add anything to the cost. The Valentine palette is a pretty on trend collection with lots of purples and pinks, a color story in the vein of the Jeffree Star Blood Sugar palette and, in a smaller way, the ABH Norvina palette. I also got a red glitter liquid liner in the shade Cherry on Top.
In addition to the color cosmetics, I also got some pretty solid face products and tools. I got a bottle of face primer, two pairs of lashes (one wild pair of red lashes and one fairly thin pair that will work well as bottom lashes or to layer. I also got a tool for applying lashes; I’ve seen these before and they look a little terrifying, but I’ve always wanted to try one so I guess this is my chance. There is also a silicone foundation applicator in the shape of a gem, a mermaid tail fan brushes, and a 5-piece brush collection in a silver glitter brush holder. The final piece is a small fluffy kabuki brush.
Look for reviews on some of these products to come to the site soon, but overall I’m pretty impressed with the quality of this box. The colors are bright, but there was a lot of coordination (a nice surprise). With the Valentine palette and the lipsticks, I could do a complete face look that’s red/pink, down to vivid red lashes.
Kush Eyeshadow Palette
The Kush eyeshadow palette is a beautiful and unique color story. It’s got that grungy, 90s-inspired sort of thing that people have been into lately, but in a more cool-toned option. So if you like the colors in the ABH Subculture palette or the Gring palette from NYX’s Steamworks collection but you prefer more greens and cooler tones, this is a great option for you. Definitely expect this palette to get its own review!
Rubber Ducky Highlighter
I’m not a huge fan of liquid highlighters, but I am a fan of yellow makeup – not mustard yellow, or yellow gold, or whatever. I mean true yellow, and especially a pastel true yellow. I’m willing to mess with a liquid formula to have this color in my collection.
The third slot on my list utilized another one of my “special” rules, meant to keep my thrifty shopper voice in check. One time for each quarter of the year, I can count two products as one item slot if they are both able to be purchased in the same transaction, and both are at least 30% off or more. I’m almost out of my Urban Decay Naked Skin concealers (I used a combo of Fair Neutral and Light Warm for most of my show looks) and the Sephora Weekly Wow had the UD All Nighter Concealers on sale for half off, so I purchased the same colors in that formula.
Urban Decay All Nighter Concealer – Fair Neutral and Light Warm
For the fourth item on my list, I decided to break down and pick up the James Charles collab palette from Morphe. I had been eyeing this since before Christmas, so it fits my desire to let things sit and percolate for a while before buying (and I made it a month or so longer with this one than I did the Too Faced Pretty Rich palette!); both of the Ultas that I was in before Christmas were sold out, and the display palette was a trainwreck, so I filed it away until I was able to find a display palette that wasn’t all dirty, cross-contaminated, and filled with hard pan. When I returned to Arizona at the beginning of the month, the Ulta at Chandler Festival had a brand new tester and a fresh stock of palettes, and after a little light swatching I decided that I was ready to pull the trigger.
Morphe x James Charles Eyeshadow Palette
I love a good rainbow palette, and even though I’m not really a James Charles fan, this is a great collection of shades. It’s a really great introduction to color for newbies, and more experienced people can make some interesting combinations with these shades. I feel like the row in the middle is a bit of a waste, but will keep those Bitter Bettys who need their neutral fix in check. I can separate the product from the personality, and I generally like what this product is offering. As for the quality…well, you’ll have to wait for the review.
For the final item…well, this is the final piece that makes me feel a little bit like a cheater. Even with all of the products that I purchased and my fidgeting with the rules, I only used four out of five of my main item slots. I know, right?
As of now, I’m going with it and I’m rolling that item slot over into March. I’m going to see if I get crazy with the whole drugstore thing and maybe shape that rule a little differently if I feel I need to, and if I have another month like this one it might mean sacrificing that extra item, but for now, I feel like there are quite a few bigger, higher end items that I was heavily tempted by that I didn’t buy…and isn’t that part of this whole project? To get me to be more thoughtful (and even a little bit frugal) in how I consume cosmetics?
I don’t know how I feel about this project as a whole: some things have felt like a real struggle, and I feel like I’m making a lot of loopholes for myself. But I also feel like in small ways I’m already looking at buying decisions differently and there have been a few things that I decided that I didn’t like enough to waste a slot on, so I guess that’s progress. We’ll see what the future holds as the Low Buy year continues…