Looking For Cheap Makeup? These Drugstore Options Are Awesome

My frugal philosophy is pretty simple: Scrimp on things that don’t matter to have the money for things that do. Makeup is important to me. I’ll forego other things that aren’t that important to afford quality makeup (that means avoiding cheap makeup) at all costs!

For years, my makeup of choice was M.A.C., sold online; at cosmetics counters in high-end department stores and in exclusive M.A.C. stores, worldwide. No cheap makeup for me.

It’s been some time since M.A.C. and I parted company and for one reason only—the ever-increasing cost of the M.A.C. line of cosmetics is enough to give me a heart attack.

It took a while, but with considerable research and many trials (and errors), I have replaced each of my M.A.C. items with one of these best drugstore makeup products. My criterion was that the replacement had to be cheaper, but of an equal or better quality.  

While my new choices are available in drug and discount stores like Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Ulta, and Walmart, I order online. I can get everything on this list at Amazon, in a single order. I routinely check and continue to find that Amazon’s prices are very competitive, and routinely cheaper.

Purchasing my best inexpensive makeup online works for me because not every drug or discount store carries the full line of every brand. 

Best Drugstore Makeup Brands, Products



1. Primer

I got hooked on M.A.C. Prep+Prime Skin ($33) primer because it improves the application of foundation and powder. I’ve learned that starting with a good primer makes everything that follows that go on so much better.

     WALMART $5.98


2. Foundation

For many years I used M.A.C. Studio Fix Fluid ($33) in color C3.5. Good news—I’ve found an alternative I like even better.  

     WALMART $9.99


3. Pressed Powder

I replaced M.A.C. Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation in color C3 ($33) with this drugstore alternative. 


4. Eye Shadow

I’ve replaced the tiny single color containers of M.A.C. Eye Shadow in Slate ($18 each—ouch!) with …

5. Eyeliner

I’ve replaced M.A.C. eyeliner pencil ($19) with Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner, color Expresso

     WALMART $11.33

NOTE: The color Expresso can be difficult to find, but seems to be always available to purchase in all the other colors as well, directly from Prestige, $8. 


6. Mascara

M.A.C. Extended Play Perfect Lash Mascara is excellent but at $24, not THAT excellent!

     WALMART $6.00

7. Lipstick

For years I’d worn M.A.C. lipstick in the color Sequin ($23) and flinched at even the idea of making a switch. 

     WALMART $13.94

8. Blush

My current M.A.C. Powder Blush ($25) replacement is Flower Beauty Flower Pots Powder Blush (Sweet Pea.)

     WALMART $13.40

9. Eyebrows

This is the first eyebrow product I have ever used, so I cannot compare it to anything at M.A.C.

     WALMART $6.99


*I really love this Duo Eyebrow Brush, which I found at Amazon (you may find something similar in your drugstore). It’s the perfect angle and has the round brush on the opposite end, which is super useful as well.


Overall, I figure that I’ve cut the cost of makeup by more than 60%—without sacrifice—by switching to what I consider the best drugstore makeup brands, products. And in almost every case, I’ve enjoyed a big improvement. I could not be happier.


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9 replies
  1. Sara Bumgarner says:

    Thanks so much! I just spent quite a bit of money on lipsticks that look terrible on me that cost a fortune. I’m trying two of these lipsticks and the primer and the mascara! I know my husband will be super grateful as we are retired now and need to make some changes. Also, we bought the Stick Vacuum you recommended in another article. I’m so glad I found you again too.

  2. Teresa Billings says:

    I was a customer of the Cheapskate Monthly letter in approximately 1996. I had lost contact with your company in the last few years. Because of following your advice and getting completely out of debt I was able to retire on time in 2017. I will forever be grateful for your advice. I am still very frugal and follow so many of the things I learned from you through the years. I hope you are enjoying living in Colorado. It is great to find you again.

  3. Patricia says:

    Thanks for the info. I have been struggling to find an eyeliner and mascara I like that is waterproof and doesn’t flake or smear. Even expensive ones flake. I checked Amazon for the Prestige. It seems they only had espresso at $30 each, so not the best deal. Some of my make-up I might I might switch, but some I might not.

  4. Nancy says:

    Wow, thanks for this!!! I am finding ordering perishable stuff from Amazon kind of sketchy, some things have arrived watery or smelling weird. seems better better right now.

  5. crabbyoldlady says:

    Over the years of being a makeup junkie too, I have become allergic to almost everything in it. Vegan makeup can be very expensive! However, I have discovered, all E.L.F. makeup is vegan. There aren’t a lot of color choices in the stores, so I went right to their website, where I was able to find mascara that wasn’t black, liner that was taupe, and eyebrow makeup in taupe. It’s hard to find lighter colors in the stores if one is very fair.


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