Shopping Tip: Scoring Free Samples

When it comes to most things in life, I’m committment-phobic.  I’ve dyed my hair about a dozen times, but never with permanent color.  I love tattoos on other people but will never get one.  Having to sign up for a new cell phone contract (two years!??!) sends me into a state of borderline panic.  My committment-phobia extends to spending money on beauty products.  If I can’t try it first, I’m not likely to buy it.  Here’s how you can get free samples so you can “try before you buy”…

Order from Your Favorite Stores Online:  If you’re going to buy something at Ulta or Sephora, you’re going to pay sales tax regardless of whether you buy online or in-store.  You’d might as well order online (as long as you can get free shipping) and get the 3 free samples.  Both stores generally have good selections of sample products. If you sign up for Sephora’s e-mails, sometimes you can get a “bonus sized” sample at certain times. (Check www.retailmenot.com for bonus sample codes)  Both stores often have promotions where you get a free “sample bag” with miscellaneous samples if you spend $25 or something.  I absolutely LOVE these things because it allows me to try things I might never even hear about.

Even Better:  Don’t order from your favorite stores.  If you can get it at www.beauty.com, you won’t have to pay sales tax.  Sign up for e-mails, and you can often get great “free with purchase” items, coupons (like $10 off $50) and free shipping deals.  They also offer free samples, although their supplies are more limited and sometimes you might get “Sorry, we’re out of free samples”.   www.bloom.com also has free samples with purchase, but their selection of items is kind of limited and they don’t seem to ever have anything on sale.

Order from Other Stores Online:  Brand-specific online stores, like Philosophy, Bliss, etc. often offer free samples, but they’re only going to be samples of their other products (of course).

Freebie Websites:  There are tons of freebie websites where you can fill out forms and get free stuff.  One of my favorites is Thunderfap.  http://www.thunderfap.com/cat/beauty/  (You can sign up to get weekly summaries of what’s new.)  Here’s another I like: http://hunt4freebies.com/  Unfortunately, many alleged freebie websites are just ways of trying to get you to sign up for other stuff, so be careful.

Facebook:  I’m kind of weird about “liking” a company’s page.  A lot of free samples that are out there to be had only if you “like” their Facebook page first. If I’ve never heard of them, I don’t want to advertise for them on my wall (“Bridgett Likes Company X!”) but I will “like” companies I’m already fond of – especially if they offer me free stuff.

In Stores:  Sephora store associates are good about making up sample-sized containers of things for you to take home and try.  Origins stores are as well.  If you’re lucky enough to be in Ulta when one of the brand representatives is stocking the shelves, you should wander in their direction and show some interest in their stuff.  If they don’t offer a sample right away, tell them you have sensitive skin and you want to try it out before you buy it.  I was recently lucky enough to be in Ulta when a bunch of samples came in and the store associate decided to just start putting them in people’s bags as they checked out.  I got a lot of great stuff, but I’m afraid she might have gotten in trouble, because some of that stuff was for the next week’s “Free Gift with Purchase” promotions.

Sephora-Inside-JCPenney Specific:  For some reason, the Sephora stores located inside JCPenney always seem to have a sample offer.  Sometimes you have to get one of their (free) ‘Express Services” to get the free sample, though.  So, if you’re not in the mood to have a stranger put makeup on you, maybe you don’t want the free sample.  Check back regularly at this site to find out what they’re offering: http://printable-coupons.blogspot.com/2006/08/sephora-coupons.html

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