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Cheap Perfume

20 tips to slash costs and sniff out bargains

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Rhiannon | Edited by Gary

Updated 1 Mar 2016

Whether for Christmas, birthdays, Valentine's or anniversaries, perfume or aftershave is often an easy gift. Provided it's legit, Dior is Dior whether bought in Harrods, Asda or online - it's cost that counts.

We've 20 quick top tips 'n' tricks to help bag your smellies for less. However, ALWAYS double-check prices before buying, as they change hourly at Amazon and new sales come up all the time.

Important! Make sure you shop safely

Whatever you're buying, including perfume, there are always two main risks: either it's a dodgy company, or it's a legit company that has financial problems and goes bust.

Follow these quick tips to help you minimise the risks...

Pay by credit card for goods over £100

Protect purchases under £100 via chargeback

Check the site's legit

Know your cancellation rights

Understand there's sometimes no protection

Don't let your anti-virus run out

Slash scent costs with codes and vouchers

The Fragrance Shop

Go to VoucherCodes* to get a 15% off code for The Fragrance Shop in store and online until Fri 4 Mar. Check out the T&Cs as exclusions apply.

Decent prices we found include: Roberto Cavalli EDP* 75ml (plus free bag) £29.19 delivered with code, next cheapest we found - £29.95 delivered at Fragrance Direct.

Fragrance Direct

Go to VoucherCodes* to get a code for £5 off £50+ spend at Fragrance Direct until Sun 13 Mar. Or enter the code FREEDEL40 online at Fragrance Direct* to get free standard delivery (norm £1.99, can't be used with other codes) if you spend £40 or more. Using the £5 off code, Gucci Bamboo EDP 50ml* is £53.98 delivered, next cheapest we found - £63 at The Fragrance Shop.

If you're not spending £50+, Emporio Armani She EDT 50ml* is £42.50 delivered without a code, next cheapest we found - £49 from Boots.

Top prices for Mother's Day gifts

Top five smell-alike perfumes

Smell-alike perfumes are supermarket and store-bought own-brand perfumes that have similar smells to the big designer perfume brands - but different names, packaging and, most importantly, different prices.

These are not copies. Yet we’ve noted a remarkable similarity in the smell of the perfumes, as well as the bottles and boxes in some cases.

While many people sniff at these cheap perfumes, it’s important to note that much of the cost of the big-name versions goes on pricey marketing and advertising. After all, those flashy billboard adverts don’t pay for themselves.

Some people may be snobby about smell-alikes as gifts, so this could be more suitable if you’re buying perfume for yourself. Some of the smell-alike perfumes are also weaker than the posh smellies, so you may need to apply more often. Considering how much cheaper they are though, they're still generally worth it.

The 2014 MSE Smell-alike Test (updated Feb 2016)

At the end of November, we carried out our own (non-scientific!) blind smell test with 30 members of the MSE team taking part.

The results of individual comparisons are listed below, with the best-matched at the top. The score for each is the total percentage of testers who couldn't tell the difference or preferred the cheaper one. Prices have been updated Nov 2015.

1. Next Just Pink*. SCORE 80%

Next Just Pink Eau De Parfam 100ml, £12 at Next
Ralph Lauren Romance, 50ml, £39.99 at Boots

Our blind smell test found that out of 30 people, 11 couldn't tell any difference - and of the 19 who could, a staggering 13 preferred the CHEAPER perfume.

2. Lidl Suddenly Madame Glamour (in store only). SCORE 63%

Lidl Suddenly Madame Glamour, 50ml, £3.99

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, 50ml, £61.20 at Debenhams

Our blind smell test found that out of 30 people, three couldn't tell any difference - and of the 27 who could, 16 preferred the CHEAPER perfume.

3. Lidl Suddenly Woman 1 (in store only, limited stock) . SCORE 60%

Lidl Suddenly Woman 1, 50ml, £3.99 at Lidl
Chanel No.5, 50ml, £68 at Debenhams

Our blind smell test found that out of 30 people, seven couldn't tell any difference - and of the 23 who could, 11 preferred the CHEAPER perfume.

Lidl says this perfume is subject to availability, so get in quick.

4. Zara Woman Gold. SCORE 57%

Zara Woman Gold, 30ml, £5.99 at Zara
Paco Rabanne Lady Million, 30ml, £33.50 at Fragrance Direct

Our blind smell test found that out of 30 people, 10 couldn't tell any difference - and of the 20 who could, seven preferred the CHEAPER perfume.

5. M&S Isis*. SCORE 53%

M&S Isis, 100ml, £16 at Marks & Spencer (£12.80 with discount)
Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey, 100ml, £63.95 at Fragrance Direct

Our blind smell test found that out of 30 people, seven couldn't tell any difference - and of the 23 who could nine preferred the CHEAPER perfume.

See the smell-alike forum & alternatives to high-end make-up discussions for more.

Buying online's often cheapest

The internet's usually the cheapest option when purchasing aftershave, perfume, eau de cologne and eau de toilette. Rather than keeping pricey shopfronts with fancy displays to draw you in and make you spend, they simply pile it high in warehouses and sell it cheap.

So don't be sucked in by smooth sales patter and gleaming window displays when you're on the high street. When comparing prices online and in store, don't forget to note down the size of the bottle, and what you're buying, eg, eau de toilette/parfum.

Get up to 50% off fragrances at Boots

Go to Boots* in store and online and you'll find up to 50% off a limited range of fragrances. If you order online, you can collect in store for free or delivery's £3.50 (free if you spend £45 or more).

We've found that even with this discount though, prices are often similar to those on Amazon, so always do some price comparisons before buying.

Get up to 50% off fragrances at Superdrug

Go to Superdrug perfumes* or Superdrug aftershave* online or go in store and you'll find up to 50% off selected fragrances. You can collect in store for free, get free delivery if you're a Health & Beautycard member, or delivery's £3 (free if you spend £10 or more).

Get up to 50% off at Debenhams

Debenhams* might not be your first thought for cheapest place to buy fragrances, but it does currently have gift sets with up to 50% off.

Delivery's £3.99 or free if you spend £30 or more. If you prefer, you can collect in store for free.

Do remember though, these offers don't always beat other retailers, so be sure to do some price comparisons before purchasing.

Get 15% off at The Fragrance Shop

Go to VoucherCodes* to get 15% off at The Fragrance Shop both in store and online until Fri 12 Feb. Exclusions apply, see our full write-up for more info.

You can collect in store for free or standard delivery's £2.99 (or free if you spend over £40).

Discounts online at Wilko

Shop online at Wilko* or at your nearest store to see what's on offer - in the past it's had some cracking offers.

Delivery's from £4 or you can collect in store for free. As ever, be sure to do some price comparisons before purchasing.

Uncover 60%+ off hidden Amazon bargains

Amazon often offers 60% and better reductions, yet it directs people to other areas, sending them to higher profit margin products instead.

There's a geeky way to manipulate Amazon's web links to display all heavily-reduced bargains. All you need to do is fiddle with Amazon web addresses (URLs) to bring up lists of knock-down prices. Here's a couple we've specially created for 60%+ off fragrances* and 75%+ off fragrances*.

We've built the Amazon Discount Finder tool to quickly reveal hidden Amazon mega-bargains across a huge range of departments. Have a play to see what you can uncover.

Search all the major retailers with just one click

To quickly search and compare the biggest retailers, we've built a special tool called the MegaShopBot. It includes specialist perfume comparison sites such as FragrancesCompared* and Cheap Perfume Expert, as well as all the other mainstream shopping comparison sites.

Just pop in the name of the perfume you're after, click 'compare', and it'll automatically scan the three big perfume comparisons, plus a selection of the other retailers, ensuring you can quickly find the very cheapest price immediately.

Then for belt and braces, check the price of perfumes at all the major supermarkets - plus Superdrug and Boots - using the MySupermarket site.

For a full guide to slashing the cost of buying anything and everything online, see the full 40 Online Shopping Tricks guide.

Instantly selects & searches THE BEST shopping comparisons

Know your perfume from your eau de cologne

The perfume industry's big business, so there are lots of types to choose from. Yet don't confuse perfume with the weaker eau de toilette or eau de cologne, as you may find it's a false economy.

As a rough guide, the main tiers of fragrance type are below, ranging from weakest (generally cheapest) to strongest (priciest):

  • Splash and aftershave
    Low perfume essence at about 1-7%.

  • Eau de cologne
    Again, lowish perfume essence, at about 2-6%.

  • Eau de toilette
    Also sometimes known as cologne, contains slightly more perfume essence at about 5-15% (typically about 10%).

  • Eau de parfum and perfume
    Also called perfume extract, these are top of the range at roughly 10-20% essence (typically about 15%).

The higher the concentration of perfume essence, the longer the perfume's scent will last and the less you'll need - but the more expensive it's likely to be. The fragrance style and ingredients used also affect how long the scent will last, so it's worth experimenting with different types before shelling out on a big bottle.

Thanks to the International Fragrance Association and British Society of Perfumers for the info above.

Check if a perfume's really a bargain using online price trackers

Most of us know just because a retailer lists a perfume as "on offer", it doesn't mean it's cheap. Yet the trouble has been sorting awesome offers from pants promos.

To help, there are sites that chart products' price histories to show if the item's 'was' price is realistic. You can also set up alerts that will land in your inbox when your favourite items drop in price.

  1. MySupermarket is handy for tracking high street perfume prices, as it now includes Boots and Superdrug as well as the six big stores. Just search for an item, then on its page, scroll down and you'll often see a chart of the stores' average prices for that item over the last year. Results can be fascinating. When we searched...

    • Hot!

      Paul Smith Men (30ml) eau de toilette is £13 at Superdrug at the time of writing - 26% less than its average price.

    • Not!

      DKNY Be Delicious Fresh Blossom (30ml) eau de parfum is £37 at Superdrug at the time of writing - 48% more expensive than its average price.

    To use the MySupermarket price alert service, search for a product, click 'add price alert' and it'll fire off an email as soon as the price drops in one or more stores.

  2. CamelCamelCamel lets you enter your desired price for items on Amazon (where prices tend to yo-yo) and fires off an email when Amazon hits it. Simply pop an item's URL into it, and enter the maximum price you want to cough up. You'll then get an email when the price falls to that amount or lower.

  3. Zeezaw works in a similar way. Just sign up, create a list with the max price you want to pay for Amazon items, and you receive emails when the price drops.

Unboxed perfumes are even cheaper

Some internet retailers, including Half Price Perfumes, sell testers and unboxed perfume or aftershave at an even cheaper price. While at first this may not seem like a good idea for a prezzie, it's easy to turn around...

Perfume bottle with a tassle

Tie a ribbon around it!

Buy an unboxed scent, then simply buy a nice-looking gift box for a pound or two and pack it in that - or even just tie a nice ribbon around it.

The money saved on buying the perfume should more than cover it. It'll look as if you've made an extra-special effort (rather than an extra cheap effort!)

Don't forget your local pound store

Discount stores and pound shops are also worth a look if you don't mind experimenting. One forumite reports finding a cache of 99p bargains in their local:

Granted some aren't to my taste but I have four that are looovely. They're actually eau de parfum rather than toilette which is a bonus! The boxes look quite cheap but my local store always has one out to try.

It can be worth ordering from the US

A couple of large-scale US sites deliver to the UK and can be competitive, though don't forget to factor any extra delivery fees and charges into the price as these can add a chunk. Big ones to try include Strawberrynet and Read How safe are these sites? above before buying.

It's worth noting that if you're ordering items from overseas, you may have to pay extra tax so always check this first - find more info on the HMRC website.

(Please note: We're talking about the US-based, NOT the UK-based, which went bust in 2010. They are unrelated sites and is still running.)

Check if you can grab cashback on top

Once you've found the cheapest retailer for your scent, you may be able to get additional cashback by purchasing it via a cashback site. See the Top Cashback Sites guide for full info on how the system works, plus full safety help.

Take advantage of points promos running at Boots

Boots* has a hefty fragrance department and often runs points promotions. These can sometimes help undercut online retailers, especially for newer or more costly perfumes.

Boots also sometimes runs triple Advantage Card points events - sign up to the free weekly email to get a heads-up when these events are on. For more info on making the most of your Boots' Advantage Card, see the Loyalty Points Boosting guide, and see the Boots Deals page for the latest discounts.

Scout out extra gifts before you buy

Particularly around Christmas and New Year, shops may offer extra gifts with the perfume, so make sure you check for any 'free gift' deals before buying.

Plus it may also be cheaper to buy a gift set rather than the fragrance on its own, so factor this in.

Some stores like Superdrug even offer search tools to help you sniff out 'free' gift offers* and gift sets* within your budget.