Makeup is an item that can be bought inexpensively by waiting for sales and using coupons. But on-the-cheap makeup sometimes performs according to that old adage “you get what you pay for.”

On my "maturing" post-30 face and with my sensitive skin, I need "adult" makeup—quality products that will make me feel and look good. So though I'll use coupons to buy a non-staple cosmetic like a fun lip gloss, I don't mind paying more for strong-performing products like those from Clinique. But before you write this brand off as being too expensive, consider these savings strategies and shopping perks, which makes this high-quality makeup much less high cost.

1. Request a sample at the counter

Free samples, free mini makeovers and free advice are available via walk-up Clinique counters in department stores. So if you don't know what shades look good on you or what product you may need, ask a technician. Not only will you get personalized recommendations, but you can walk away with some high-value samples. For example, in deciding on a new liquid foundation shade, I was given two three-week samples of different colors to try at home. Another time, I scored a free lavender-colored eyeliner (which looks amazing!).

2. Get a free gift

Several times per year, Clinique offers an impressively-sized free gift with a minimum purchase, usually of $22.50 to $30. The free gift includes a makeup bag, tin, or tote with several full-sized and trial-sized products. It always includes a great lipstick in a neutral shade (which, by itself, would cost you $15) along with some of their best-selling products. Here's an idea of what you can expect. Keep these free gifts for yourself, or use them for babysitter, neighbor or girlfriend gifts.

3. Get free shipping—and free treats!

It's fun to buy makeup in a department store, but if you already know what product you need, you can save time and money by shopping online. Clinique offers free shipping, along with the bundling of a free treat for any order placed online. Choose from generous offers of a high-impact mini mascara, 7-Day Scrub Cream or 1.0 ounce of Moisture Surge Face Spray. These complimentary mini options change periodically, and Clinique also runs promotions for double or triple choice minis per order (I got three last December with a low-cost one-product purchase).

4. Check the online daily offer

I'm so glad Clinique, like many retailers, has started a daily offer only available online. Click here to see what freebies, discounts or special gifts you can get when you place an online order. Right now, score two free mini serums on top of already free shipping with any purchase. If you're like me and want to try their pricey creams and serums, this can be a great way to do so for free!

5. Buy more

If you're a fan of a certain product, committing to a purchase in a larger size will save you more money per ounce on the product. For instance, I love, love, love the Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. Here are my options for purchasing it:

  • 1.7 oz. tube: $14.50
  • 4.2 oz. jar with pump: $26.00
  • 4.2 oz. jar with screw top: $26.00

Buying a 4.2 ounce container equates to my spending of $6.19 an ounce as opposed to $8.53 an ounce if I bought the smaller container. Also, I choose the screw top so that I can get every bid of product; the jar with pump is invariably going to cause me to waste some product that just gets stuck in the pump. So if you know you like a product, check available sizes, bonus packs, and product bundles to see where you can save.

6. Ask about a travel size

That annoying (but understandable) 3-ounce maximum carry-on size for airplane travel had me searching high and low for quality products in a small size I could take with me for my mandatory work travel—until one day when I was airing this frustration at the Clinique counter. My Clinique counter technician happily provided me with free plastic travel pots (cute branded containers with an easy twist-on lid) into which she put my go-to liquid foundation. She left two others empty so that I could choose serums/lotions from home to add. I love the convenience of these travel pots and the savings it affords over my having to buy dedicated travel-sized products of another brand.

7. Sign up for extra savings

Sign up here to receive special in-store event reminders, upcoming offers, and product discounts. And while you're signing up at Clinique, remember to sign up for Ebates to get an automatic 4 percent off your purchase. Remember, too, that new customers can get a free $5 just for signing up.

While buying Clinique products may seem expensive at first glance, when you consider these perks, their additional services, and all the ways there are to save, your dollars can go far with this brand.