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 21 quick top tips 'n' tricks to help bag your smellies for less, including our one-click MegaShopBot search tool.
Important! How safe are these sites?
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
Pay by credit card for something over £100 and Section 75 laws supercharge your consumer rights.
Unlike debit cards, cheques or cash, pay in full or part (even just £1) on a credit card and by law the lender's jointly liable with the retailer.
This means you have exactly the same rights with the card company as you do with the retailer. So if it goes bust you can simply take your complaints there instead and get money back if there's no delivery.
Yet it's important you ALWAYS REPAY IN FULL each month, so there's no interest cost. See the full Section 75 guide.
Protect purchases under £100
Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still an option which can help. It isn't a legal protection, just Visa and Mastercard's rules, but it's a good back up.
Spend on a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card or any debit or charge card and, if the goods don't appear, you can try to ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you complain within 120 days of realising there’s a problem. See the Chargeback guide for full details.
Check the site's legit
Bogus websites are often set up to cash in on popular products like perfume, so be wary if it's an unfamiliar site. Most folk know to look for a security padlock on the bottom right of a website, but that doesn't mean the site's legit, just that payment's secure.
To find out who registered the site and when, search the Whois database. Reputable firms should also appear on the Companies House site, the UK Government's official companies register. Be very wary of businesses with just a PO Box or email address.
Study the site's worldwide web ranking on Alexa. Anything in the top 100,000 means it's reasonably big and a good, though not foolproof indication of legitimacy. Do a quick Google search for other shoppers' experiences.
It's also 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.
Know your distance selling rights
Many people are surprised to learn you've MORE rights buying online (or by telephone/catalogue) due to the Distance Selling Regulations.
This gives a legal right to send most goods back within seven days for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault. You'll usually need to pay for the return delivery. Read Consumer Rights for a full guide.
However, of course, this is balanced by the fact that order online and that automatically means a time gap between ordering and delivering - when the company has your money. So if it goes bust during that time, the distance selling rights don't help.
Understand sometimes there's no protection.
Ultimately, there is always a risk that a company can go bust. If the above routes don't apply, then you have to make a decision about whether you're willing to take the risk of parting with your cash.
Don't be overly scared of this. Every day we all make transactions based on trust, and this is part of that, but do balance up the amount you're spending against the risk. Don't give large amounts of money to a company you're not sure of.
Don't let your anti-virus run out
Crucially, ensure your security's up-to-date - free software can be downloaded to your computer in about five minutes. Full details in the Free Anti-Virus Software guide.
Top prices for popular fragrances
Here's a round up of the cheapest prices we've found on some of the most popular fragrances:Women's:
- Jean Paul Gaultier Classique, eau de parfum, 50ml.
£34.20 at John Lewis*. Collect in-store for free or delivery's £3.
(Currently £56 in-store at Debenhams).
- Lady Gaga Fame, eau de parfum, 50ml.
£26.99 at Amazon*. Delivery's free.
(Currently £32 in-store at Debenhams).
- Jimmy Choo, eau de parfum, 40ml
£32 at Amazon*. Delivery's free.
(Currently £39 in-store at Debenhams).
- James Bond 007, eau de toilette, 50ml.
£19.99 at Fragrancedirect.co.uk.
Delivery's £1.99. (Currently £28 in-store at Debenhams).
- Paco Rabanne 1 Million, eau de toilette, 50ml.
£31.50 at Superdrug*. Delivery's free.
(Currently £40 in-store at Debenhams).
- Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male, eau de toilette 40ml.
£25.50 at Feel Unique*. Delivery's free.
(Currently £30 in-store at Boots).
Boots up to 50% off fragrances
Shop online at Boots* or in-store and you'll find up to 50% off a limited range of fragrances and gift sets while stocks last. You can collect your order in-store for £1.95 (free if your spend is £20+) or home delivery is £2.95.
We've found that even with these discounts, only a few of the fragrances work out cheaper than at other retailers. The ones that do include Lacoste Challenge eau de toilette 90ml* for £19.99 (was £42, currently £43 at Debenhams) and Tommy Girl eau De toilette 30ml* for £12.25 (was £24.50, currently £28 at Debenhams). Be sure to do some price comparisons before purchasing.
Superdrug up to 50% off fragrances sale
Shop online at Superdrug* or in-store and you'll find up to 50% off a limited range of fragrances while stocks last. Delivery's normally £3, but is free until Thu 14 Feb 2013.
The sale is limited as it doesn't contain many of the more popular brands. However, the discount makes Superdrug the cheapest for certain fragrances, such as Boss Orange eau de toilette 50ml* for £22 (was £37.50, currently £41 at House of Fraser) and CK Obsession Women eau de parfum 100ml* for £21 (was £42.99, currently £55 in Boots and House of Fraser).
The Fragrance Shop 15% off everything
Get the code from MyVoucherCodes* and enter it online at The Fragrance Shop by Thu 7 Feb. Delivery's £2.95.
The code can be used on items already discounted in the up to 60% off sale, so it should make some fragrances the cheapest around. Be sure to do some price comparisons before purchasing though.
Debenhams 10% off fragrances
Get the code from the Daily Mail website and enter it online at Debenhams* by Wed 6 Feb (delivery's free). Alternatively, a 10% off voucher to take to your nearest store will be in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday (55p weekdays, 90p Saturdays, £1.50 Sundays) every day until then. Full-price items only.
Although a good discount, we've found that the 10% off doesn't always make the fragrances cheaper than at other retailers, so be sure to do some price comparisons before purchasing.
Lloyds Pharmacy buy one get one free on some fragrances
Shop online at Lloyds Pharmacy* until Fri 8 Feb 2013 and you'll find over 50 fragrances and gift sets in its buy one get one free offer (click on the BOGOF banner on the homepage). The offer includes popular fragrances, such as Hugo Boss Selection eau de toilette 50ml* (£26.99) and YSL Elle Intense eau de parfum 30ml* (30.99). Delivery's free.
Although the original prices aren't the cheapest we've found, this offer will be great for anyone looking to buy more than one fragrance, especially as you can mix and match items in the offer.
Wilkinson up to 50% off fragrances
Shop online at Wilkinson* or at your nearest store and you'll find up to 50% off a limited range of fragrances until Thu 14 Feb 2013. Delivery's £3.50 or you can collect in-store for free.
Although it doesn't include the more popular fragrances, the sale does make Wilkinson the cheapest place to buy some items, such as Hugo Boss, Boss Number One eau de toilette 50ml* for £18 (was £36) and Giorgio Yellow Eau de Toilette 30ml* for £11 (was £22, currently £15 at Half Price Perfumes). Be sure to do some price comparisons before purchasing.
Bag smell-alike designer brands for less
Some clever forumites have sniffed out dirt-cheap dead ringers for posh perfumes. They say Next Just Pink smells just like Ralph Lauren Romance, and M&S True Red smells like Hugo Boss Deep Red.
Here are a few others forumites have nosed out, though always smell for yourself before you buy (see the full smell-alike forum discussion for more):
- Chanel Allure - M&S Sensuale
- Miss Dior - Avon Timeless
- L'eau D'Issey - M&S Isis
- Armani She - Next Define
- D&G Light Blue - M&S Azure Breeze
- Coco Mademoiselle - Lidl Suddenly Madam Glamour
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 shop fronts 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 exactly what you're buying.
Search all major retailers in one click
To quickly search and compare the biggest retailers we've built a special tool called the MegaShopBot. It includes specialist perfume comparisons like 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, at once, ensuring you can quickly find the very cheapest price.
For a full guide to slashing the cost of buying anything and everything online, see the full 40 Online Shopping Tricks guide.
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 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 info.
New 'is it really a bargain?' tracker
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, supermarket comparison site MySupermarket* now charts products' price histories to show if the item's 'was' price is realistic. It's handy for tracking high street perfume prices, as it now includes Boots and Superdrug as well as the five big stores.
How to do it
Simply sign up to MySupermarket for free, then search for an item. 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! Beyonce Pulse eau de parfum (50ml) is £13.99 at Superdrug at the time of writing - 44% below its average price of £24.88 over the year.
- Not! Police To Be eau de toilette (40ml) is on offer for £15 at Boots at the time of writing - 9% more expensive than its average price of £13.81.
Set up a price alert
You can get price alerts on your favourites – great if you've a regular fragrance you're after. Search for a product, click 'add price alert' and MySupermarket fires off an email as soon as the price drops in one or more stores.
Uncover 75%+ off hidden Amazon bargains
Amazon often offers 70% and better reductions, yet it directs people to other areas, sending them to higher profit margin products instead.Go to site*
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 one we've specially created for 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.
Unboxed perfumes are even cheaper
Some internet retailers, including Half Price Perfumes*, Fragrance Direct* and FragranceX.com 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...
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!)
Free alerts when your perfume's price drops
Amazon's fragrance store* has a huge number of perfumes on offer, plus delivery's often free (always double check though). Yet Amazon's prices tend to yo-yo up and down, and when they're cheap, they sell out quickly. So here's a nifty trick to help.
Website CamelCamelCamel lets you enter your desired price 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.
Alternatively, 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.
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."
Is it worth buying 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 PerfumeEmporium.com*. 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 PerfumeEmporium.com, NOT the UK-based Theperfumeemporium.co.uk, which went bust in 2010. They are unrelated sites and PerfumeEmporium.com 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.
Boots extra points promos can be cheaper
Boots has a hefty Fragrance Department* and often runs points promotions, where instead of the usual four points per pound, you get double, or even triple. This can sometimes undercut online retailers, especially for newer or more costly perfumes.
Sign up to the free weekly email to get a heads up when they're 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.
Slash scent costs with codes, vouchers and sales
Particularly in the run-up to Valentines Day, retailers use sales, money-off codes and vouchers to lure customers in. Where high street shops are often expensive, these deals mean they can sometimes beat online retailers.
So once you've done a comparison, check our Discount Vouchers, Top High Street Sales and Hot Bargains deals pages to see if you can shave any more off the price.