Budget Shopping101: Building a Sensible and Cost-Efficient Nail Polish Collection

by - 10:50 AM

I just thought I'll share some tips to keep in mind while buying nail polishes and building a collection when you're on a budget. I have always loved nail colors, painting my nails, and all these tips come from lots of experience, trials, and errors I've made over the years.

When trying to build a collection you can get carried away sometimes and end up in a mess looking like you have a serious shopping problem. A collection cannot be built in a day, it definitely takes time so no rush, be patient and try to build one slowly; one which you can be proud of. Here are some tips that can help you do just that.

Take Inventory: What use is buying 10 bottles of a taupe colored nail polish again and again from different brands just because you like the color. I know its a great shade and it looks great on you and you get compliments when you wear it, but how many bottles of the same shade do you need at a time? So make sure you take an inventory of your nail polish stash before you hit those counters/stores.

Check Reviews Online: Online reviews not only give you swatches (which are useless anyways coz a shot of a certain shade taken with a certain camera and in a certain lighting is never going to be true to its original color in real life) which might give you an idea of what the shade looks like, but also talk about the formula/opacity, the finish (creme, gloss, iridescent, pearl, frost, shimmer, glitter etc), the staying power, the brush, application, sales/deals, dupes etc., and this way you can be sure if you really need to buy a certain shade and whether its worth your pennies.

Wait for a Deal: If there's one thing that drugstores do then it is a sale, there are always certain products on sale, so wait for it and grab that polish when it is on sale instead of paying full price. More saving means more splurging :).

Clip/Print out those Coupons: Check out your Sunday papers for useful coupons and Google for websites where you can print out some coupons before you go shopping.

Check for Damages, and Expiry: Check carefully to see if the bottle is in good shape with no cracks, scratches, and that its not dirty. Also make sure it hasn't expired or dried out. How do we know if its expired you ask? well when you see an oily residue floating on top or a watery layer with polish streaks on the sides you know that something is wrong with it. Sometimes its just the polish sitting there for a long time but sometimes, even when you shake it, it does not look normal. Do not buy it, go for a similar color in something that's in better shape, and that has not expired or looks weird, or just wait for the store to come in with a new supply.

Swatch Them: I wish drugstores would put out testers for all their shades coz its really difficult to judge whether a color would be flattering on us unless we are actually wearing it. But since drugstores (unlike department stores, but I don't like spending $30 on a nail polish so I prefer not to talk about them) don't do that, they leave us with no choice but to swatch the sale items at store. By swatching you will be doing a lot of good by investing in something that you will actually use coz trust me, when you buy a color just because it looks pretty and then without testing it you buy it, and later find out that it isn't as flattering as you thought it would be, you're gonna throw it out or give it away anyways. So save yourself some money and heartache and test it before you buy it.

And to think I almost bought that matte blue shade on my middle finger, and that ugly green shade on my ring finger. Thank God! I swatched them and decided not to.

Compare & Choose: Like a particular shade? Just look around and check it in different brands. Its just that sometimes the same color just looks and applies better in one particular brand compared to the other. I had this experience with a similar shade in Wet n Wild's Spoiled and Sinful Colors. They both looked same when I swatched them but I just liked the brush and application of one better than the other.

Compare Prices: Some drugstores are costlier than others and so are some discount stores so make sure you're getting a fair deal.

Learn from your Mistakes: No matter what online reviews say, if you have had a bad experience with a certain brand of nail polish, stay away from it no matter how alluring the color range might be. I don't think the Confetti polishes are that great as far as I've seen but still I went and bought three. Granted they are only $1.99 a piece but for $6 I could have bought a better quality nail polish. I'm not saying these totally suck, they are pretty good for that price range but still I don't need three not-so-great polishes from the same line.

Hold onto that Receipt: In spite of taking all measures if you still end up with the wrong nail polish then you can go back and return it, so just hold onto that receipt. Also check the return policies first hand.

Better In-Store than Online: I'm never very comfortable with online shopping, especially not nail polishes, and I had this experience with ELF, and I'm never buying nail polish online. The colors are just not true and you'll never know how they'll look on you unless after you buy it and then the hassle of returning it is just too much especially if you spend so little as $2 you'll just keep it thinking there's nothing much to loose. But a $ is nonetheless a $ and I could have gotten a better shade for the same.

Don't be Greedy: Just coz something is on sale don't go ahead and buy 100 nail polishes coz you'll never be able to use all of them before they get expired and you'll definitely end up throwing them away and that's just an unnecessary waste of money. There will always be sales and deals. Just buy 2-3 shades and use them first.

Do not go by Hype/Trends: Do not just believe an overly hyped product and if you find even a single review that says the product is bad then think about it carefully before buying it. Sometimes it could just be that the color was not flattering on the person who reviewed it but sometimes the product itself could not be worth buying. All I'm saying is, its easy to get carried away by someone raving about a particular brand and shade of nail polish but when you go and buy it, you might find that you do not like it that much and regret buying it. So beware! Also you might think that buying trendy things is chic or cool but what good is buying 10 orange nail polishes from different brands when orange does not even suit you and make your hands look dirty/ashy? So don't even think about what's trending. Also, remember that trends keep changing, and what's trendy today may not be so trendy tomorrow.

Never buy on Impulse: Just because someone raved, or just because you had a bad day and need some retail therapy don't go out and buy nail polish which you do not need and will never use. There is no "Oh My Gosh I totally need that" coz you don't really need too many nail polishes or any makeup for that matter, its just fashion, or style and its not an essential.

Think about what YOU like: Give more weight to what you like rather than what others are talking/raving about. A blogger/youtuber you like may rave about a duo chrome nail polish but you might not necessarily like it on you. So don't buy it, you don't have to. Also you might like a brand that others might not, stick to it.

Invest on Nail Care: More than nail polish, taking care of your nails is important and essential. Buy good base/top coats, nail cutters, cuticle clippers/pushers, good thinners/removers, Q-tips, toe separators, cuticle oils, and hand lotions to keep those nails, and cuticles happy.

Check out those Clearance Racks: Many beauty supply, and discount stores/drugstores have clearance racks where they sell high end or pricey nail polishes for a very very reduced price, check those out before you pay full price for the same. I once found a China Glaze crackle nail polish from a limited collection at Sally's Beauty Supply for 99cents. And recently I found Essie's Angora Cardi for $3.99 at TJMaxx.

Experiment with Less: Like a new trend? Found something you'd like to try out but not sure of? or wanna try out a new brand? Buy one nail polish first and test it out before you go for more. I was curious about the orange nail polish trend, so I went and bought a Confetti nail polish ($1.99) in outrageous orange coz even if I didn't like it, it wouldn't set me back by much. And I'm so glad I did that coz I did not like the orange shade on me at all, it just made my hands look darker/dirtier than they are. Then there was the bright color trend for summer which I was not sure about so I went and bought one, which was the Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear in Pacific Blue, and though I hated the formula, I loved the color. Now I'll never buy another nail polish from the Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear line but I'm more confident about wearing bright colors so I went and tested some other colors at store and bought the bright yellow color from Sinful Colors. See, that wasn't so hard. I was also curious about the matte nail polish trend but I was not sure how they'd look so I bought a mattifying top coat from NYC and while I do like the matte nails look it is not something that is very flattery on everyone and only some shades look good when they're matte. So I'm glad I just got this one bottle to experiment with and now I can turn whatever shade I like to a matte.

Shop for Unique Colors: If you like the color purple, don't go about picking every purple variation of nail polish, like blue purple, black purple, dark, light, shimmery, duochrome etc., instead venture into something new and get a green nail polish or yellow maybe, then you'll have more unique colors in your collection and it doesn't seem monochrome and boring. I recently picked up 2 purple colors, one from ELF and one from Wet n Wild which is lighter than the elf one but when I apply the nail polish there's not much noticeable difference to someone else who isn't as crazy about the purple nail polishes as me. So it almost looks like I have a dupe. Granted the wet n wild (which I bought after the elf one) only cost me $1.50 but I could have gotten another shade and added a new color to my collection.

Buy Mini Bottles Instead: A lot of polishes come in mini or baby sizes like Sallys Girl, Ulta, OPI, even Essie. They just cost a buck or two, or at least half the price of the regular size so you can get them instead of the regular larger bottles. And they are so darn cute! :)

I hope these tips will help you out when you're out shopping for some nail colors to rock your hands and feet and to build a sensible collection that makes you proud as a makeup collector.

Do you have any more tips to share? Please do, I'd love to get as many tips to save money as I can.

Keep Smiling :)

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  1. Very well written! I'm always hitting up clearance bins for nail polish. Seriously, nobody can tell if it's last season.

    1. Thanks Kayla :) Yep! true, also if a color suits your hand and looks good on you, who cares whether its last season or current.


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