Perfume Buying Rules: What Are Yours?

Hey there Perfume Posse, Recently we had a post here on the Posse about How Much Fragrance Is Enough? and I had a very interesting reply from one of our regular readers, Amateur Dilettante (Hey Buddy, Thank You), that I thought should be a topic all by itself. I’ve edited in those replies to make a cohesive unit and given my own theory but what I really want to read is your view? What are YOUR Perfume Buying Rules, please comment below so we can all have a chatter. Feel free to answer on anyone elses comments too. I love it when we all connect on fragrance and our joys and hardships of owning it.

Perfume Buying Rules: What Are Yours?PDI

Perfume Buying Rules: What Are Yours?

Amateur Dilettante’s Perfume Buying Rules

When I was new to perfume, I went sniffing by myself and had too many scents on. I know this because I bought a bottle of something, thinking it was the one thing on my arm that I liked. Sadly it was not. So I had to make Perfume Buying Rules. So far I’ve been able to adhere to them.

1) no blind bottle buys, no matter how good the notes sound
2) If you haven’t used a 5 ml decant, you don’t need a full bottle of it
3) no buying random stuff thinking you can split it all off if you dont like it, no matter how good a deal it is

Admittedly, It doesnt leave a whole lot of room for adventure.
Also, think of all the stories everyone has – I made one $100 mistake and went running for the hills, to live off samples and decants. I might be smart but I KNOW I’m timid. I havent even tried to sell the damn bottle yet. Swapping and splitting maybe isn’t the greatest way to keep to a budget but it’s a great way to make friends. The best part about perfume isn’t necessarily MOAR Perfume, it’s the relationships – your scent twin you can tell about new things you like that they might like, your scent evil twin you can trade with, friends who actually like taking a trip just to smell perfume, and see how many scents you all can try on at once, and make fun of the bad ones, or buy something great that you would normally put back down.
I’m not sure I can keep my Perfume Buying Rules if I become braver and take some chances. I’m also not sure I should. One probably needs iron-clad discipline or or a good dose of fear to abide by them. I only possess one of those, (hint, not discipline) and it’s no fun. And if I lose that, I may well end up with a room full of perfume, but I bet I would meet some great people too.

Portia’s Perfume Buying Rules

Well, I try to adhere to these but you all know how much fragrance is in this house. Ridiculous. So you also know that my Perfume Buying Rules are so often broken that it’s laughable. What my Perfume Buying Rules do do though is make me at least stop and think before I shop.

  1. No Blind Buying
  2. Spritz lavishly then walk around the department store, or go have a coffee, for at least 15 minutes before making your purchase.
  3. Do NOT trawl the fragrant internet sites after midnight or a sugar hit.
  4. If you can’t spritz it in your town buy a sample/split/decant.
  5. Set dollar limits before you walk into a fragrance store, or start trolling the net.
  6. Smell everything in your sample set before ordering a new one.

So, what are your Perfume Buying Rules? How do you set your limits?
Portia xx


If you have enjoyed this then please pop over to Australian Perfume Junkies and continue the scented conversation.
We love visitors, say HI while you’re there.

  • Erry Kananga says:

    1. No blind buying. I did it about 2-3 times, resulted in bottles that I didn’t hate but didn’t love enough.
    2. Buy samples and decants. If you didn’t empty a sample or a decant, you don’t love it enough, or you love it but it doesn’t really suit you. In other words, only buy a fb if you empty your sample.
    3. Beware of sampling a vintage or hard to get perfume. The risk to get your heart break is big. Example: vintage apres l’ondee in pure parfum and shiseido white rose.
    4. Set a budget, otherwise you’ll break your bank account in no time.

    Do I follow it religiously? No. *sigh

  • Kate says:

    No blind buys.

    No buying ANYTHING unless I’ve worn a sample for a minimum of an hour. But I rot many aromachemicals with my weird acid skin, and have allergic reactions to others. (I still regret that $120 bottle I got at the last minute in NYC – loved at first spray, turns to sour horror on me shortly after.)

    That’s pretty much it. I mean, there’s also “don’t even bother ordering the sample if it’s described as musky, aldehydic, or amber no matter how tempting the rest of the description sounds” but those are smaller outlays at least.

  • Ann says:

    Nice post, dear! Love your rules (and Amateur Dilettante’s as well), but with one difference: I rarely buy. I get lots of samples/decants from STC but no real full bottles for me (unless someone sent them to me, were a gift etc.) Even so, like you and many of our readers, I have more fragrance than I can use in two lifetimes. So I’m just trying to enjoy what I’ve got and then share the wealth with other perfume lovin’ folks.

    • Portia says:

      Thanks ann,
      You are so clever. I can’t help myself. The thrill of holding the bottle is part of the ownership excitement.
      I also do the apples and decants too, so I see where you’re coming from.
      Portia xx

  • Ingeborg says:

    I have no strict rules, but I don’t buy unsniffed and try to limit myself to 2 or 3 bottles per year, plus smaller decants and bought samples. But I really prefer the proper bottles, so love Atelier Cologne and de NicoIaï for their smaller bottles. I save up for the bottles, at least partly, before I buy them. Also, I have decided not to look into vintage perfume, I would be spending too much time and money if I started seriously looking into that.

    I have limited storage space for my perfume, so that sort of helps keeping buying at a low level.Still, there’s samples everywhere and I wish I found a tidy way to store them.

    • Portia says:

      Hey there Ingeborg,
      If you go to your nearest hardware store you’ll find excellent plastic, compartmentalised boxes. They are perfect for sample and decant storage.
      Portia xx

      • HeidiC says:

        Craft stores often have terrific storage boxes that people who are into beading or scrapbooking use.

      • Ingeborg says:

        I know, but I still struggle to find a good system. I have been told I should get ammo boxes since they would ensure samples can be stored standing up. So far the samples are in different small boxes, partly sorted based on notes.

  • HeidiC says:

    Samples and decants, mostly. I only buy a FB if I’ve gone through at least a 5ml sample pretty quickly. And I tend to pick my favorite of a particular type — for instance, only my favorite galbanum or BWF — though I’ll still get smaller decants of others in the same genre for variety. All rules are off for vintage finds, discontinued/reformulation, and for some reason, leathers. I have several nieces, both blood and honorary, so it makes both me and them super happy to pass along anything I don’t love or that’s not really me — that helps keep the clutter down.

  • spring_pansy says:

    Hi Portia – Here are mine:
    Ask these questions before buying:
    1) So, what’s a smart consumer? I understand smart consumption to mean that I put thought into purchases I make:
    Where will this object live in my home? How often will I use it? What will I donate to charity or recycle in its place? How will this object help me live the remarkable life I want to lead? Is this the exact object I want? Is this the best use of my money? How long will I treasure this object? Can I fully consume it before it goes bad? (From Real Simple – Defining an Uncluttered Existence)

    2) Keep in mind: For many scents, even 1 or 2 mls is enough. Instead of thinking of samples and decants as clutter, and wishing they were FBs, I’ll work on making them appear more like vials of precious liquids, where even a small amount is something to treasure.

    • Portia says:

      HEY Spring-Pansy,
      WOW! Great ways to help you choose.
      I love that you make the samples as “vials of precious liquids” as that’s the way I think of them too.
      Portia xx

  • hajusuuri says:

    Hey Portia, my only rule for perfume buying is whatever I spend I must donate to charity an equal or greater amount.

  • Sherri M. says:

    1. Do whatever you want–blind buys (I still like the thrill of the unknown once in a while), ebay, samples–as long as you stay within said monthly budget (sometimes robbing Peter to pay Paul, I admit it! 🙂
    2. Remember you have to dust/organize/store whatever you buy.
    3. Rule I wish I followed: Get rid of those samples/decants/bottles that don’t work for you but may be just glorious for someone else!
    4. Bottom line: Get what you like, but like what you get.

  • rosarita313 says:

    I have always been a perfume lover on a shoestring and acquired tons of samples, decants and bottles back in the heady days when swapping was the best part of Makeupalley. Now that’s discontinued but there’s still the Posse fairy godmother posts & swapmeets occasionally on NST to trade for stuff especially samples which is important for my main rule of not buying unsniffed. I used to be really into decants but unfortunately I’ve had some dry up or go bad over the years so I’m even picky about buying those. I have a couple rules based on my personal circumstances that wouldn’t apply to everyone but: I have a definite limit as to how much I will spend on any bottle and I don’t sample something that can’t be obtained below my price point. I also don’t buy from companies that don’t offer samples. A pet peeve of mine are new perfume lines that debut six high price bottles and no samples available, or perfumes that aren’t easily accessible like the LL city exclusives. The smaller niche folks are a lot more likely to get my money than mainstream perfume; I live in a small rural area and have few chances to sniff in person. Lastly, I read blogs and enter contests. Patty has a sample giveaway almost every week here, generally of something brand new. CaFleurebon is very informative and has a giveaway almost daily; I’ve won several bottles and many samples there that have introduced me to lots of perfumes and perfumers that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise and that’s influenced my buying habits.

    • Portia says:

      Heya Rosarita313,
      It must be quite a trick being a perfumista on a shoestring in the rural areas of the world. Congratulations on finding ways to still live your dream.
      Portia xx

  • Tiffanie says:

    Perfume rules! Much food for thought in the comments here.

    I try to

    — put off buying anything new if I have untested samples or decants to play with
    — only buy samples/decants two or three times a year
    — wait for things on my wishlist to go on sale, or buy with a discount when possible
    — limit purchases of full bottles to special occasions (birthday, holiday, travel)

    I am more content with my perfume habit when I put aside any sample, decant, or full bottle that doesn’t work for me with a clear conscience. I always find a happy new home for things I won’t use. Perfume is meant to spread joy, not collect dust. 🙂

    • Portia says:

      Hey Tiffanie,
      WOW “Perfume is meant to spread joy, not collect dust.” What a sentence. Resonated right through me.
      Thank you.
      Portia xx

  • thegoddessrena says:

    Sample on skin, no blind buys, money goes to rent first, try not to spend more in a quarter than 1 month’s rent. Enjoy

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    1. Know how much you can spend on any kind of perfume.
    2. There is no shame in saving up for an expensive perfume.
    3. Refine your to buy list. The first to buy, the ones that can wait a couple months, and the no hurry list.
    4. Make every effort to avoid blind buys.
    5. That $30 perfume can smell just as good as that $300 perfume. So expensive is not always better.
    6. Decants, decants, decants. The best way to try new perfumes.

    • Portia says:

      Hi Eldarwen22,
      Totally. I save for the big ticket items too OR I put them on the card and pay them off.
      Sometimes the $30 smells BETTER!
      Portia xx

  • Tatiana says:

    “Smell everything in your sample set before ordering a new one.” That’s a good rule, that I should adopt because I am drowning in sample sets, more so than full bottles.
    1. No blind buys.
    2. Wear a fragrance at least three times before deciding. If it means I need to by a decant or go back to the store two more times or beg for a sample, so be it.
    3. Set a budget when shopping locally. Set a bottle limit when on holiday. (Going to Paris in December and I know the temptation will be there to stuff my suitcase with bottles to bring home).
    4. Always shop with pen or pencil, a notebook and small zip top plastic bags so that you can write down what the scent is on the test strip and where I’ve spritzed it on my arm.
    5. No matter how beautiful the scent, if it doesn’t last longer than 30 minutes on my skin, don’t buy it

    • Portia says:

      Hey Tatiana,
      Great to see you.
      If you’re going to Paris it’s going to be HARD to keep your bottle count down. SO MUCH CHOICE!! Good luck. Have a great time.
      Love your pen & paper idea.
      Portia x

  • MikasMinion says:

    You’ve forgotten an important one: all bets are off if something is being discontinued or reformulated (assuming the price hasn’t skyrocketed). Does that make me sound like a hoarder? I do eventually pass things on if I don’t wear them.

  • cassieflower says:

    My personal rule is that there are no rules. Sometimes you just gotta jump in and take a chance, and I have done this many, many times. About ninety percent of my blind buys have been a success; the others I won’t lose sleep over. This isn’t to say that I have absolutely no
    self-discipline, but if I read good reviews and the notes are my thing, then I will consider it. I don’t shell out a lot of money for blind buys, mind you – I’m not that daft, well, not really!

    • Portia says:

      Hey CassieFlower,
      Early on I bought blind. It resulted in a collection of unworn likes that I moved on. Everyone has different success levels with it but for me it was a no.
      Yes, sometimes you do just have to jump in, I get it.
      Portia xx

  • jenbat says:

    I read this somewhere but now I can’t remember where – to live with a perfume (by sampling) for two months before you buy it. I’ve been doing that, and it’s smart because sometimes love at first scent doesn’t stand the test of time. If I can trek to a store somewhere in my vicinity to smell a perfume, I’m not allowed to buy a sample online. I think rules like this actually make the journey of perfume discovery more fun; otherwise we’d all just have a department store in our closets and the good’uns would get lost in the mix.

    • Portia says:

      Hey JenBat,
      Great idea that if it’s in your area you need to make the trek. Love it.
      If I was in NYC or London that would be easier than Sydney.
      Portia xx

  • Connie says:

    My rules are actually pretty much identical to Amateur Dilettante’s!
    No blind buying ever. I’ll start with a sample and if I like it and finish it and miss it I’ll buy a decant. I don’t usually do full bottles if I can avoid it.

    So do I stick to these rules out of fear or discipline?
    I’m actually pretty well known for having a bit too much self discipline, and I do wish I could be a bit more spontaneous and open both perfume-wise and in life.

  • Tijana says:

    Definitely no blind buys.

    As I have too many bottles as it is, I must use up 3 ml of my existing fragrance for every 1 ml of the new one I want to buy (for example, if I want 30 ml of something new, I need to use up roughly 90 mls of what I already have – samples don’t count). This one, I find is very hard, but aside from helping me use up what I already have, it also forces me to think in smaller quantities if i want to buy another fragrance quickly. I used to obsess over buying the largest bottle, but these days I rarely use up 100 ml of anything, and rarely go back to the same fragrance twice to buy (with the exception of my top 5-7 favorites).

    I must obsess by the fragrance in question: as in tried at least 10 times and can’t stop thinking about it. I learned this from my husband, who is SA’s nightmare customer: goes into store and spritzes at least 10-15 times over a course of 1-2 months, before he makes the plunge. As a result, no regrets on his fragrance shelf!

    And yes, budget limitations, too. The more expensive the fragrance I want, the fewer I get to buy that year… I also have a cutoff price per ml that I am willing to spend.

    • Portia says:

      Hi Tijana,
      Great ideas for rules. I love the ml cut off price but I know if I instituted that rule it would get broken regularly.
      Portia xx

  • Vernona says:

    I’m glad there’s more of us on a No blind buys rule as many perfumistas seem to blind buy a lot. I’ve had a few blind buy disasters so I guess they either have very broad taste so it’s harder to make a mistake or they’re just plain lucky.
    Anyway, I’ve had less strickt rules when I first started to build my wardrobe because everything was new to me and I was much easier to please. Now, with this many bottles I’m much more careful as to what I add.
    Always sample first. Sometimes instant love happens but I always make sure to sample it once more or use up my sample. I buy only stuff that I absolutely love or are so unique that I don’t have anything similar. I’ve learned with time that I can’t own every bottle I like and I stick to that. So even if I like it a lot I won’t buy it if I allready have 2-3 bottles of the same genre. To add another one like that, I must really love it or it must add a new twist to what I allready own.. I revisit samples. I’ve found quite a few loves this way. The weather or mood can affect how I feel about a scent so it is very useful to revisit those you were on the fence with. To make sure not to miss out on some real gems… Oh my…it is really hard to have useful perfume buying rules. 🙂

    • Portia says:

      Hi Verona,
      Yes, I think the fact that my frag wardrobe is now unweildy makes it easier to say no to things I like a lot rather than adore.
      Also revisiting samples is an excellent idea in different weather conditions.
      Portia xx

      • Tena says:

        I went through my samples last time I went on a no-buy, and found 3 scents that I fell hard for. Eventually ended up buying FB of them all. Shop your stock with care 🙂

  • bevfred says:

    I must love it, be haunted by it. I must try it out a number of times to ascertain it suits all of my body’s fluctuations. It must be some form of beautiful to me and express an aspect of me. All the other rules apply of course!

  • The Perfume Baby says:

    1. You may roam on the internet as much as you want.
    2. Samples and decants rule, even when you’re buying something historic like Shalimar.
    3. Do your full homework on vintage reformulation. All the information is out there.
    4. It’s okay to fill your shopping cart in the wee morning hours, but you can’t place an order for at least 12 hours. Unless it’s a favorite you wear at an incredible price.