6 Ways to Get your Toiletries for Cheap or Even Free!


With my budget straining at the increase in the cost of milk, I can’t always justify buying my favorite shampoo, the best razor, or that luxurious body wash I crave.  I have found ways to ease the pain, and while not always predictable, they work!  If you don’t mind getting a bit creative with your methods, you can pay much less (even nothing) for your bath and body treats, too!

Guest Services.  When I was a girl, my Aunt came home from a convention in Vegas and dumped a gallon Ziploc bag of designer mini-soaps and tiny shampoo bottles in my lap.  At the time, I thought she was loony.  Who would use these hotel spiffs for everyday grooming?  Years later, my husband began working a “road-warrior” job that left us with too many of the tiny treats.  We continued to save them in a small plastic bucket in our bathroom closet.  They came in handy when guests or relatives visited, and when the budget got a bit tight, we would hold off on buying full-size products until the bucket had been emptied.  We could go weeks on what he had acquired in a year.  (And before you complain that it’s greedy to take the hotel soaps, many places throw them out if you don’t use them for hygiene’s sake…)

Free Samples.  Joke all you want about those of us who sign up for every free sample you can get online.  With the ample supply of one-time use samples I’ve received, I have been able to enjoy some of my favorite brands at times when access to them would be scarce.  (When each of my children were born, I would pack the samples into my “baby bag” for my first shower at the hospital.  After 3-4 days of hospital care, having the tiny packets of my favorite body wash in my institutionalized beauty routine seemed like heaven.)  Other fun uses for them?  Send them with kids going to summer camp, tuck them into a car kit for unexpected road trips, or add them to that “hotel mini” basket mentioned above.  Some websites that offer regular samples of brand name products include Walmart.com and Start Sampling.  You can set up Technorati tags to scout out anything labeled “freebies” for even more good leads. (To cut down on waste, I would personally avoid signing up for items I would be certain not to use.  It’s clutter and  it costs money to mail.  Let’s be responsible here.)

Shop ‘Til You Drop.  This tip takes much more work, but can net you some great deals on your top brands.  Our own Carrie Kirby has already shared how she scores free and almost-free stuff regularly at CVS retail stores.  I have been successful at scouting out Target Clearance Deals in the health and beauty aisles and pairing them with high-value manufacturer’s coupons.  Many websites track the best deals on items, including my favorite website, Refundcents (which also allows shoppers to chat about their deals and trade coupons.)  Just be sure you are buying things you will use, and don’t hog items for the thrill of it.  Overconsumption is NOT the goal.

Free After Rebate.  Some folks despise the “effort” involved with purchasing a product on the premise that it will be free after a mail-in rebate.  Several outlets make this an easy choice for shoppers, including Walgreens.  Their monthly Easy Savers Rebate catalog features 3-6 brand-name items for nothing after rebate.  Rebates are easy to obtain, thanks to their dependable tracking system and online submission forms (which don’t require even the cost of a postage stamp.)  Late rebate requests are usually no problem, as long  as you call and explain the situation.  With a 10% extra incentive for rebates that are placed on Walgreens gift cards, it’s possible to buy your favorite items for completely free, including the price you paid in tax.  (Although, I prefer to get mine back as cash.)  If you are getting items that won’t rot in the back of your closet, you can add $10-20 to your health and beauty budget.  With items ranging from hair dye to cold medicine, I have found it to be an EXCELLENT deal. 

Bulk Buy with a Buddy.  I’m no sucker for those giant bottles of mouthwash packaged together at Costco.  They are a great deal if priced separately, but how long would it take me to use all of it?  I’ve found the best way to save money at bulk co-op outlets and warehouse stores is to go halves with my Mom.  She buys pretty much the same stuff I do, and by splitting both the cost of the warehouse club fee and divvying up the goods, we make out like bandits on items that rarely go on sale or don’t offer much in the way of manufacturer’s coupons.  (Carpooling saves us gas money and makes for a fun afternoon!)

Dispense with Care.  Many of the products we use every day are packaged poorly.  They are designed to allow a large amount of product to come out at a time, increasing your usage and forcing you to buy more often.  If you only need a “dime-sized” helping of shampoo, why does a “half-dollar” come oozing out?  One way to save money is by changing your usage habits.  We do this at home in several ways.  My favorite is to buy some inexpensive foaming hand pumps for products like face wash.  A nifty toothpaste tube flattener helps us use every bit of paste, and keeps the kids from trashing the sink.  Storing bottles upside down in the shower lets us get two or three more days from most items.

Saving money doesn’t have to be a hardship.  I’ve never been one to ask families to make their own beauty products for the sake of frugality (although it can be a fun hobby!)  I also despise generic beauty products and don’t believe in watering down the goods.  It is possible to stick to your favorites and save at the same time! 

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Guest's picture
Aunt Jenny

I use to volunteer at a local food pantry and we used to get the mini bottles of shampoo/conditioner and bars of soap. Our clients seemed to really like receiving them, we'd put a big handful in a zip lock along with their usual bar of soap and Suave shampoo.

Guest's picture
Todd A.

I never knew about the "samples" industry before ! Thanks for educating me on something my family can use.

Guest's picture

I haven't bought toothpaste since I started requesting the samples listed on the freebies for moms blog

Guest's picture

I have gotten nice shampoo and hair products like mousse/makeup/soap/body wash and lotions like eyecream at the 99Cent Store! I have also gotten good deals on sale at places like Ross and T.J. Maxx. There are also discount deals on the internet. Whenever I see a good deal, I buy in bulk to the extent I can at the moment. I am still working on a stash of colored shampoo/conditioner from a dollar store a few years ago!

We have also gotten items on clearance/sale at both the grocery and drug stores. The 99 Cent Store has even had some nice small colognes...Again, I am still working on a cache of cologne I got a few years ago. You can even find toiletries at yard sales and thrift shops(new, unused stuff, too). Just pick up deals when & where you find them!

And remember that there are lower-priced "teen" lines of makeup like Wet N Wild that have nice inexpensive lipstick and other makeup. Especially good deals when they are on sale (not too much over a dollar!). I stock up on the colors I like then. And you could check out the E.L.F. makeup collection on the net - quite inexpensive!

There are even deals on Avon products! Check those out, too!

Guest's picture

I just recently heard about the Walgreens free-after-rebate deals, and I'm going to start incorporating those into our shopping routine soon. I have a road warrior husband too, and we've completely given up buying shampoo, bath soap, or conditioner. We just use whatever he brings home. He's now well trained to snap up every bar and bottle available to him. I even make our laundry detergent with the free bars of soap he brings home.

I do water down the liquid hand soap we buy in bulk. I started doing this because I noticed that very often a pumpfull of the full strength soap would slip right off my wet hands and into the sink. Diluting it slightly fixed this problem. Besides, a single pump of full strength soap was more than I usually needed to clean my hands.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Thanks for that tip.  We have done it in the past for the kids.  They use WAY too much hand soap, and this makes sure they don't abuse the privilege.


Guest's picture

On diluting hand soap. We use Method brand and it is really concentrated. I diluted each dispenser 50-50 with distilled water. I have had no issues of anything growing in the containers and the soap actually works better. As mentioned, it doesn't slide off your hand into the sink and it goes further. So that big refill of Method I bought technically cost about $1.75 since I can double the product by diluting it.

I am thinking about doing the same thing to my hair products. They are extremely thick and it makes getting them distributed difficult. I was also thinking of getting some better squeeze bottles like the small tipped condiment bottles to waste less.

My frustration with samples is most of them are the big brands and have strong perfumes and harsher chemicals in them. The companies that make more natural products don't seem to give out free samples. I did get some great samples at a Hyatt, I wish I would have grabbed more out of the room.

Guest's picture

Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo is cheap, not heavily perfumed, clear in color, and costs about $2 a bottle even not on sale.

Guest's picture

Hi, all. Just a caution against using some of these samples and especially against purchasing lots of beauty products at the dollar store. Many of those products contain harsh chemicals and scary things -- many lipsticks, for instance, contain lead. The cheaper versions tend to have more of the bad stuff in them (just like the cheaper versions of pet food do -- remember last year's melamine scare?). I'm not saying everyone should run out and buy Dior cosmetics or anything. But please, please read the labels and try to find the most natural products possible. A dollar deal isn't so great when that makeup does stuff to your skin or insides. :(

Guest's picture

I routinely cut open tubes and plastic bottles that seem "empty" and get another week's worth of product out. I just put whatever it is in small jars.

Guest's picture

We have bought nothing but Ultrabrite since Consumer Reports listed it as the best toothpaste on the market a few years back. Honestly, I went to the dentist yesterday with a clean report so it must be good. Plus a big tube is like $0.89 at Walmart* and only like $1 at the grocery store! That's a third of the price of Colgate/Crest and it's made by Colgate.

I think it's Colgate's strategy to downplay their cheap brand because it works so well and with zero marketing they can sell it for so much less.

Guest's picture

I live in a small isolated town where everything costs more due to the costs of things being shipped here. Over the last few years I found that my expenses were getting higher and higher. That being said, I have to say that one of the best things for me has been a local dollar store. There's nothing over a dollar, and I've gotten some great deals.

While of course as a dollar store they have a lot of the unheard of brands of toiletries which I personally refuse to buy, quite often they manage to bring in a decent selection of name brand products, usually items that are being discontinued or packaging has changed so the store is able to get them at a discounted price. When that happens I stock up big time! I've found Biore facial cleansers, Dr. Scholls foot care products, Sunsilk conditioner, Degree and Dove deodorants, and recently I stocked up big time on Dove hairspray and John Frieda shampoo and conditioner. I also happen to know it's all authentic brands because I happen to know the manager and she only gets that kind of stuff from reputable sources.

I highly recommend checking out dollar stores. Ours has saved me a ton of money!