How I can afford to have so darn much makeup

Makeup, as you’ve likely noticed, can be expensive.

Yes, I’ve written about my favorite gems at the drugstore, but in general you get what you pay for, and what I want to pay for is pricey. And I would like a lot of it, please.

What’s a girl to do?

Enter the beauty subscription box.

These parcels of beauty bounty arrive once a month, packed with samples of beauty, skin-care, and hair products. Prices can vary, of course, but for each of the three boxes to which I currently subscribe, I pay $10 a month.

That’s a lot of beauty bang for very little buck.

I subscribe to Birchbox, ipsy, and Sephora Play. Each promises a minimum of five products a month; ipsy and Sephora Play also come with cute little storage bags, for which I manage to find myriad uses.

This month, Birchbox sent me Number 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect leave-in conditioning mist (full size $32), Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Perla (full size $22), Glamglow Thirstymud Hydrating Treatment (full size $69), Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo (full size $44), and a mini Coastal Scents Blush & Bronzer Palette (full size $19.95).

From ipsy, I got a full-size Glamour Dolls Romantic Rose Blending Brush ($3.99), theBalm Voyage Vol. 2 Eyeshadow in Kuwakaribisha (available in full-size palette for $39.99), JUARA Skincare Rice Facial Cleanser (full size $29), Seraphine Botanicals Liquid Coal Waterproof Liquid (full size $22), and the Clarria Cosmetics Tinted Primer in Light (full size $75).

And from Sephora Play? A full-size Beauty Blender (available in a two-pack for $18), Clinique HIM Dual-Ended High Impact Mascara & Primer Duo (full size $18), Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick in Shell (full size $46), Korres Golden Krocus Ageless Saffron Elixir Serum (full size $98), Alterna Haircare Caviar Anti-Aging Miracle Multiplying Volume Mist (full size $30), and Burberry My Burberry Black perfume (full size $95).

All that for $30. This is how I afford so darn much makeup.

Sometimes I find a new favorite, and rush right out to buy a full size of the product.

Sometimes I find a new favorite and don’t buy it.

For example, in my June Sephora Play box, I received a sample of Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub With Sea Salt, which proved to be my dream hair product. It smells like heaven. It removes buildup and leaves my locks movie-star shiny. I’ve used it once a week since I received the (really fairly small) sample, and I’m still not out of it.

Will I buy a full-size version at $53 once I run out? Even though that is a stupid amount of money for what is essentially fancy shampoo, I really might.

Or I might get another new magic hair product to try in my next box.

Alison Smith, despite her many beauty subscriptions, still buys plenty of full-price products at Sephora and Ulta. Got a burning beauty question? Email