Cheap Perfume

19 tips to slash costs and sniff out bargains

cheap perfume

Whether for Christmas, birthdays, Valentine's or anniversaries, fragrances are often an easy gift. Provided it's legit, Dior's still Dior whether bought in Harrods or Asda - it's only the price that changes - so here's our guide to ensuring the best deal.

We've 19 quick tips 'n' tricks to help you bag smellies for less, but ALWAYS double-check prices before buying, as they change frequently and new sales come up all the time.

19 cheap perfume tips, including...

  1. 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 something over £100 and Section 75 laws supercharge your consumer rights.

      Unlike debit cards, cheques or cash, pay in full orpart (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.

    • 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 chargeback 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.

    • 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.

    • Many people are surprised to learn you've MORE rights buying online (or by telephone/catalogue) due to the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

      This gives a legal right to send most goods back within 14 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 consumer contracts rights don't help.

    • 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.

    • Crucially, ensure your security's up-to-date - free software can be downloaded in about five minutes. More info in the Free Antivirus Software guide.

  2. Slash scent costs with codes and vouchers

    The Perfume Shop

    Use our MSE Blagged code XMASMSE10 or print/show this voucher to get 10% off at The Perfume Shop online and in stores until Fri 21 Dec. The discount's valid on almost everything, but do see our full write-up for full details.

    Standard delivery's free, but you must order by 4pm on Wed 19 Dec for delivery before Christmas, or you can collect in store for free up until Sat 22 Dec. Next-day delivery's 99p until Sun 23 Dec, but you need to order by 4pm on Fri 21 Dec for Christmas delivery.

    The Fragrance Shop

    Go to VoucherCodes* to get a 15% off code for The Fragrance Shop, valid in stores and online until Sun 23 Dec. Check out the T&Cs as exclusions apply. You can only use the code once, and on a maximum of five products.

    You can collect in store for 99p or standard delivery's £2.99, but the cut-off for standard delivery in time for Christmas has passed - so you'll now need to upgrade to next-day delivery, for which the cut-off is 12pm on Sun 23 Dec.

    Fragrance Direct

    You can get a code for 5% off orders at Fragrance Direct if you go via VoucherCodes* until Mon 31 Dec, or 10% off a £50+ spend (check the T&Cs as exclusions might apply) until Fri 21 Dec. You can also get 10% off via UniDays* if you're a student. Delivery's £1.99 or free if you spend £20 or more by using the code FREEDEL20 at the checkout.

  3. Top deals for fragrance gifts

  4. Top 12 smell-alike perfumes

    Smell-alikes are the own-brand fragrances you can find in many high street stores and supermarkets. While not direct copies, they do tend to smell similar to the big designer brands - often they a similar name and even similar packaging too - but, crucially, they normally cost a fraction of the price.

    Of course, some people may sniff at receiving smell-alikes as a gift - often the posh brand is part of the present - so this could be more suitable if you’re buying for yourself, where the 'snob' value is less of an issue. It's also worth noting, some say the smell-alikes are weaker than the posh smellies, so you may need to squirt 'em more often.

    Though considering how much cheaper they are, we reckon they're worth a try.

    The MSE Perfume Smell-alike Test 2018

    In December 2018, for a bit of fun we carried out our own (non-scientific) blind smell test with 20 members of the MSE team getting involved. We pitted 12 expensive perfumes against each of their much cheaper alternatives, and amazingly, in nine cases, our testers actually preferred the smell of the lower-cost option.

    We've listed the results from each comparison below, in descending order starting with the most convincing smell-alike and ending with the least. Our percentage score's based on how many testers either couldn't tell a difference or said they preferred the cheaper alternative. Prices were correct on Tue 18 Dec.

    1. Primark 'Pomegranate & Black Tea' vs Jo Malone 'Pomegranate Noir'. SCORE: 80%

    Primark 'Pomegranate & Black Tea' EDP, 100ml, £8 (or 20ml, £3) at Primark in stores only

    Jo Malone 'Pomegranate Noir' cologne, 100ml, £94 at John Lewis

    Our blind smell test found that 16 out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only four preferred Jo Malone.

    2. M&S 'New York'* vs Chanel 'Allure'. SCORE: 75%

    M&S 'New York' EDT, 100ml, £18 (or 25ml, £8.50) at M&S

    Chanel 'Allure' EDP, 100ml, £110 at The Perfume Shop

    Our blind smell test found that 15 out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only five preferred Chanel.

    3. Zara 'Black Amber' vs D&G 'The One'. SCORE: 65%

    Zara 'Black Amber' EDT, 100ml, £9.99 at Zara

    D&G 'The One' EDP, 100ml, £78.95 at Fragrance Direct

    Our blind smell test found that 13 out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only seven preferred Dolce & Gabbana.

    4. M&S 'Azure Breeze'* vs D&G 'Light Blue'. SCORE: 65%

    M&S 'Azure Breeze' EDT, 100ml, £16 (or 25ml, £8.50) at M&S

    D&G 'Light Blue' EDT, 100ml, £59.45 at Feel Unique

    Our blind smell test found that 13 out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only seven preferred Dolce & Gabbana.

    5. Next 'Just Pink'* vs Ralph Lauren 'Romance'. SCORE: 60% 

    Next 'Just Pink' EDP, 100ml, £14 (or 10ml, £4) at Next

    Ralph Lauren 'Romance' EDP, 100ml, £42.75 at Debenhams

    Our blind smell test found that 12 out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only eight preferred Ralph Lauren.

    6. Next 'Flowers'* vs Marc Jacobs 'Daisy'. SCORE: 60%

    Next 'Flowers' EDP, 100ml, £16 (10ml, £4) at Next

    Marc Jacobs 'Daisy' EDT, 100ml, £62.25 at Feel Unique 

    Our blind smell test found that 12 out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only eight preferred Marc Jacobs.

    7. Superdrug 'Exotic'* vs YSL 'Black Opium'. SCORE: 60%

    Superdrug 'Exotic' body mist, 100ml, £3.49 at Superdrug

    YSL 'Black Opium' EDP, 90ml, £76.80 at Feel Unique

    Our blind smell test found that 12 out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only eight preferred Yves Saint Laurent.

    8. Zara 'Black Peony' vs Viktor & Rolf 'Flowerbomb'. SCORE: 60%

    Zara 'Black Peony' EDT, 100ml £9.99, (or 10ml, £3.99), at Zara

    Viktor & Rolf 'Flowerbomb' EDP, 100ml, £88.75 at Feel Unique

    Our blind smell test found that 12 out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only eight preferred Viktor & Rolf.

    9. Zara 'Rose' vs Dior 'J'adore'. SCORE: 55%

    Zara 'Rose' EDT, 100ml, £12.99 (or 10ml, £3.99) at Zara

    Dior 'J'adore' EDP, 100ml, £110 at The Perfume Shop

    Our blind smell test found that 11 out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only nine preferred Dior.

    10. Zara 'Gold' vs Paco Rabanne 'Lady Million'. SCORE: 45%

    Zara 'Gold' EDP, 100ml, £12.99 at Zara in stores only

    Paco Rabanne 'Lady Million' EDP, 80ml, £67.95 at Fragrance Direct

    Our blind smell test found that nine out of 20 people either couldn't tell a difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Interestingly in this case, 11 of our testers actually did prefer the smell of the more expensive Paco Rabanne.

    11. Primark 'Mandarin & Basil' vs Jo Malone 'Lime Basil & Mandarin'. SCORE: 45%

    Primark 'Mandarin & Basil' EDP, 100ml, £8 (or 20ml, £3) in stores only

    Jo Malone 'Lime Basil & Mandarin' cologne, 100ml, £94 at John Lewis

    Our blind smell test found that nine out of 20 people either couldn't tell a difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume.So again, in this case 11 of our testers actually did prefer the smell of the much more expensive Jo Malone.

    12. Lidl 'Suddenly Madame Glamour' vs Chanel 'Coco Mademoiselle'. SCORE: 35%

    Lidl 'Suddenly Madame Glamour' EDP, 50ml, £3.99 in stores only

    Chanel 'Coco Mademoiselle' EDP, 50ml, £58.50 at Feel Unique

    Our blind smell test found that only seven out of 20 people either couldn't tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. So in this case, 13 preferred the smell of the far more expensive Chanel perfume.

    See the Smell-alikes & high-end make-up alternatives discussions for even more.

    We must say a quick thank you to The Perfume Shop for sending us some samples, which meant we didn't have to go out and buy all these for our test!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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).

  8. 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.

  9. Get 10% off at The Perfume Shop

    Use our MSE Blagged code XMASMSE10 or print/show this voucher to get 10% off at The Perfume Shop online and in stores until Fri 21 Dec. The discount's valid on almost everything, but do see our full write-up for full details.

    Standard delivery's free, but you must order by 4pm on Wed 19 Dec for delivery before Christmas, or you can collect in store for free up until Sat 22 Dec. Next-day delivery's 99p until Sun 23 Dec, but you need to order by 4pm on Fri 21 Dec for Christmas delivery.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

    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.

  14. Unboxed perfumes are even cheaper

    Some internet retailers, including eBay*, sell testers and unboxed perfume or aftershave at an even cheaper price. You could also find unwanted perfume that may only have been sprayed a few times. 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!)

  15. 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.

  16. 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 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.)

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

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