Direct cosmetic sales — through companies like Avon and Mary Kay — have been popular sources of revenue (for sales associates) and sources of new, innovative products (for customers) for years. Many of my friends and neighbors have tried this direct sales method either to supplement their current income or as a total replacement for a lost income after company downsizing or a personal move.

Now, as much as I want to support each entrepreneurial woman, I can't buy every product they sell, especially at each product's suggested retail price. But, when I combine sales and savings strategies, I can save a lot — and support a friend in the process. Here's how:

1. Host a party

If you know a representative and you are willing to invite others into your home or a central location (like a conference room rental at a hotel or public venue site), you can get rewarded with free products or a percentage off of your own sales total based on the dollar amount of the products ordered at the party. Some representatives also allow catalog sales parties where you take orders but don't host face-to-face. Rewards can be available here, as well!

2. Ask for samples

Mini lipsticks, eyeliner crayons, blush samples, and more can often be netted from the sales rep independently, or sometimes directly through the company. This is an excellent way for you to try a product to ensure it's something you'd like to buy full sized.

3. Use the company websites

Shopping online as opposed to shopping via a catalog allows for additional offers customers won't always get from a direct sales associate. This can mean free shipping, BOGO options, unique samples, contest opportunities and more. RetailMeNot for Avon and Mary Kay can keep customers apprised of such deals. Note: be sure to order directly through each site linked since some deals are offered only by certain associates.

4. Contact corporate

If something is wrong with a product, don't be afraid to ask the company to make it right. Last summer, I called Avon when I lost a French-wired earring my friend sold me just the week before. I suggested it be sold in the future with a plastic safety back . . . and for my suggestion and loss, they sent me a free replacement in the mail!  My friend still got her sale, and I had my set of earrings back!

5. Shop the outlets

Both Avon and Mary Kay offer outlet shopping on discontinued and seasonal merchandise. To see the Mary Kay outlet offerings, first find a local consultant in your area, then click on the "Last Chance" link under "Products" to see what items are available. Alternately, call a local rep and see if individual discounts are being offered on certain stocked or seasonal products. For example, my Mary Kay rep routinely offers no-longer-stocked products for $5 — some as much as 80 percent off their regular retail price!

6. Try the Mark site

Avon's Mark line of merchandise is a fun, funky approach to offering trendy fashions, makeup styles, and even a fair trade line that is more boutique style. Mark merchandise is also available via a direct outlet. Check this page often, though. Due to its popularity, Mark merchandise can disappear quickly.

7. Score a free gift

Avon often offers customers free gifts with purchases, like this current one for a free $25 facial peel, or this $2.99 brush (regularly $10) with a haircare purchase. Similarly, many Mary Kay associates offer a free gift with a $40 minimum purchase (usually a cosmetic bag or travel set of products), so be sure to ask about this when placing an order.

 

For many individuals, direct cosmetic sales are welcome outlets for generating income. So rather than feel bombarded when Avon catalogs appear on your doorstep or Mary Kay mailers arrive, know that you can offer support to these entrepreneurs in lots of ways, while also yielding savings for yourself in the process with these tips.

Are you an Avon or Mary Kay representative with an "insider" savings tip not covered above?  Post it in the "Comments" section below!