Like a lot of women out there, I'm pretty much obsessed with all things beauty: skincare, makeup, fragrance... yes, please! But let's face it, ladies, our addiction is seriously expensive. That's why we have to shop slick, and I'm sharing how I managed to save $473.98 (!) at ULTA Beauty by taking full advantage of the store's most recent promotions.
My Ulta Shopping Strategy
On any given day, you can find some impressive deals at ULTA just by browsing the store's website or taking a stroll down its many aisles. But in order to get the biggest bang for your buck, you have to plan your attack and wait for the right opportunity. Here's my method:
- Only shop at ULTA with a 20% off coupon.* Ultamate Rewards members receive a 20% off coupon three or four times a year, while Platinum members get five. Unlike other coupons, these special discounts can be used on the store's "prestige" (or high-end) beauty brands.
- Look for stackable discounts. The store regularly offers BOGO deals and free gifts with certain purchases. These promotions are automatically applied to your order when you shop online or inside an ULTA store, so they also stack with any storewide discounts you may have.
- Shop for value sets. Sometimes, that mascara that you plan on buying is included in a set for the same price as the mascara itself. Always double-check the store's gift collections before you make your purchase (especially during the holidays).
- Browse the sale section. ULTA's sale section is a must-shop, because it includes savings on drugstore products, as well as luxury brands. Sometimes, these clearance items are even included in BOGO offers or free gift promotions (which makes the price twice as nice).
- Wait for special promotions. You'll want to shop when there's a sitewide discount of some kind (like a one-day-only price break or a late-night sample bag giveaway). If you're especially curious, stalk ULTA's Twitter replies. They're known to give disgruntled shoppers hints that something good is on the horizon to make up for sold-out promotions.
- Cash in rewards. ULTA shoppers love the store's Ultamate Rewards program, because it kind of puts Sephora's Rewards Bazaar to shame. Enroll in this free program to earn points whenever you buy something at ULTA, and then redeem those points for money off your next purchase. While Sephora's rewards points are tallied the same, they can only be redeemed for a limited number of deluxe samples.
*I've read on numerous beauty blogs that many shoppers successfully re-use their single-use 20% off ULTA coupons twice for double the savings. Supposedly, you can enter your online code first and then use the printable coupon inside the store for another 20% off. I gave this technique a go, but the cashiers at my local ULTA told me my coupon was invalid. Try it for yourself at your own risk.
Step One: The Online Order
When you get one of those magical 20% off coupons, it's super tempting to immediately shop 'til you drop. But at ULTA, patience is definitely a virtue. Luckily, the store offers plenty of surprise sales, free sample bags and price drops on select products, so you won't have to wait very long. Just make sure you're subscribed to their emails to stay up-to-date.
I held off until the store held a one-day-only sale with 30% to 50% off select products from prestige brands (my personal favorite). This promotion included the following 24-hour deals, which I added to my cart:
- 50% off Bare Minerals concealers
- 50% off Tarte Spice Up Your Stare Deluxe Tarteist Eyeliner Set
- 50% off Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes Precision Longwear Liquid Eyeliner
- 30% off MAC Instant Artistry Kits (ULTA sells MAC online and in limited stores nationwide)
- 50% off Butter London Glazen Eye Gloss
- 50% off Lancome Color Design Lip Kit
I then loaded my cart with the following free gifts:
- FREE luxury robe with any $40 fragrance purchase
- FREE full-size Thickening and Texturizing Mouse with any $25 Keranique purchase
- FREE Best Selling Bi-facial Double Action Eye Makeup Remover with any Lancome purchase
- Buy three Benefit Minis, get one FREE
- FREE holiday stocking with any $35 Benefit Minis purchase
- FREE deluxe They're Real! Double the Lip Lipstick with any $35 Benefit purchase
Finally, I included a few other "essentials" -- just because.
This is obviously a huge haul that happened to include a few holiday gifts (I'm not keeping everything), so I wanted to maximize my savings potential. I knew that ULTA had its own Ultamate Rewards MasterCard and was offering shoppers 20% off their first purchase when they applied.
I'm a regular ULTA customer anyway, so I decided to take the plunge and open the card. This 20% off promotional discount stacked with my 20% off coupon for double the savings. I then redeemed $11 in Ultamate Rewards to reduce the grand total even further:
Using this method allowed me to take $180.68 (or 43%) off my order's subtotal -- and that's not even counting the money I saved on the discounted items and freebies. When you factor in those promotions, I saved an additional $146.30 and scored $117 in free gifts. That puts my total savings at $443.98.
Here's the breakdown:
- Retail price of all 24 items: $687.50
- Ulta's sale price: $424.20 plus $117 worth of free gifts
- Subtotal with coupons and rewards: $243.52
If you're like me, you do the majority of your shopping online. But sometimes, you get the biggest bang for your buck by shopping in-stores instead. At ULTA, this really hinges on what you're buying.
Here are a few perks of shopping inside the store:
- Potential double-dipping: If you're lucky enough to get your 20% off ULTA coupon to work online and in-store, then you'll obviously want to follow up your online order with a little brick-and-mortar retail therapy. (Plus, you'll have rewards to cash in when you shop the second time around.)
- Stackable coupons: If you love drugstore makeup and skincare products, then you'll want to make a trip to your local ULTA to maximize your savings. The store lets you use one storewide discount plus any manufacturer's coupons on top of its current promotions. Let's say you have a $2 off Covergirl coupon and a $5 off $15 ULTA coupon, and the store is running a BOGO sale on Covergirl cosmetics. You can use all three promotions in a single transaction.
- No complicated math: At ULTA, cashiers take off the storewide coupon first. That means you don't have to worry about hitting the $15 threshold after your manufacturer's coupons are applied.
- Maximum discounts: Online and in-store shoppers are both limited to one storewide coupon per transaction, so you can't stack your 20% off discount with say, a $3.50 off $15 coupon. Because of this, I recommend using them back-to-back if you're buying both prestige and drugstore products.
- Smarter rewards: You can redeem your Ultamate Rewards online and in-store, but you're usually looking at pretty small discounts (like $3, $11 or $30). Take the rewards points that you earn from your 20% off online purchase, and apply them to a follow-up purchase in-store using one of their regular $3.50 off $15 coupons. You'll avoid shipping fees altogether, and you'll maybe even get some products free of charge.
I definitely didn't need anything else after my ridiculously huge beauty haul, but I just can't let a good coupon go to waste. I went back to ULTA to buy some drugstore goodies with my Ultamate Rewards points and a $5 coupon. The store was running a "buy two, get two free" deal on its own brand, so I stocked up. I snagged 12 bath fizzes (reg. $30) for free with my coupon and rewards.
Altogether, that means I saved $473.98 on my collective ULTA purchases!
Are you an ULTA fanatic like I am? If so, how do you stretch your beauty dollars? Keep the conversation going in the comments!
Images courtesy of ULTA Beauty.
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