How much is too much?

We’re talking paying for perfume today.

I love perfume. I know we all do. We wouldn’t be faffing around here if we didn’t.

But, in maybe the last year I’ve become a lot more aware of how some things that I used to think were perfectly accessible no longer are.

I continue to add to a want list, but that’s becoming less of ‘I know I will buy that’ and more of ‘I loved that on testing but I’ll have to still love it that much when I reach a point when I’m seriously thinking about forking about for a bottle of fragrance’. And threshold for ‘still love it’ is getting higher.

Yes, a number of houses now offer smaller sizes which tip the cost/benefit analysis (there you go, Tom) towards the benefit side. And yes there are houses where pricing still seems sane. But, to a large extent they are the exception, not the rule, at this point.

So, a bit of a rumination about ‘affordability’ within that cost/benefit analysis. Oh, and nota bene: I continue to buy samples, as I long have. But, now, I take my samples more seriously: ie, if something is love that sample is going to be used to the last drop and I might buy another before I even begin to contemplate a bottle (depending on price – a lot of the time now if it’s love but not that ‘oh my god, I’ve got to got to have that’ love, it’s going to be a decant).

Tom recently wrote about some Neil Morris fragrances that were under $100. If you’re in the US (maybe Canada too?) NM sounds like a serious playground.

The Teo Cabanel 30ml are under 100 euros. The Le Labo 15ml size is around £70. Frederic Malle’s 10ml size is around £60. I love Café Cabanel – when the time comes though, I’ll get the 30ml. I have two small LL and two Malles. I can easily see my way to these sorts of things.

About a week ago the news here held the surprise story that inflation has fallen significantly. We’re not feeling that drop yet. Who knows when we will. Things like milk, olive oil, etc, are all close to double what they were a couple of years ago. Clearly, I’m still buying milk and olive oil.

But inflation clearly affects perfume as well.

An example here for me is Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit. I bought a belle jar around 15 years ago which cost £110 and while I thought that was a lot of dosh I also thought the cost/benefit analysis definitely came down on the side of benefit. RdN is now £250 and when my bottle is empty I won’t be replacing it. Much as I love RdN that’s just feels like too much for that particular perfume. I’ve got a decant of one Lutens. I’ll probably do a decant of RnN – but I’ll keep that empty belle jar because it’s so freakin’ lovely.

Sometimes, though, something that seems like silly money also feels like it’s worth silly money. Not very often, mind, but it does happen.

At my last significant birthday (yes, I know all birthdays are significant), I bought 30ml of Guerlain Shalimar perfume. I dropped over £200 (you don’t even want to know) on that and reading that now makes me feel a bit stupid but I can’t help but feel it was worth it. This smells like nothing else – and it is so damn beautiful. Nothing else I own can touch it. Plus, a little goes a long long way. It is perfection in a bottle. And once I’ve reached the last drops I imagine I’ll buy it again without thinking too much (who knows how much it will cost by then).

This bottle equals three return train journeys from here to London; it equals getting my car checked for tax purposes when it needs a couple of small fixes; it’s three big grocery shops – you get the gist. I still feel it was a good purchase. And as noted above while I feel stupid about it I have absolutely no regrets.

On the other hand, I have a thing for Kilian Dark Lord. A bottle of this is £220 and however much I love it I would not lay down dosh for that 50ml of EdP. Instead, I got an 8ml decant and if I’m recalling correctly that cost £50 or slightly above (it was in dollars – so who knows with the exchange rate). When I’m done with it will I buy another? Don’t know yet but it’s within the realm of possibility.

Sitting top of my want list currently is Perfumer H Smoke. That company only offers 50 and 100ml sizes and the 50 for this is £170. I really enjoy this – particularly love the drydown. But, I don’t know… In truth, I don’t think so. I am hoping that one of the decant places here will have this fairly soon.

I clearly haven’t answered the title question in this post – not in a consistent and concrete way where I can say, right, I can’t see myself ever not buying X because it costs Y. As noted above, I am very likely to replace the Shalimar perfume whenever that is finished at whatever stupid price point it has landed at by that point.

I’ve noticed that when looking at something I like but don’t love if it’s above £110 I lose interest. I guess I start to get really twitchy looking at 50ml EdP bottles at above £150. I guess. I mean £170 isn’t that far from £150 but it’s sort of a psychological line in the sand?

Where do you fall in this? I know many commenters have posted about the cost of perfume vs the cost of house or car fix needs resulting in periods of no buys. But maybe I’m wondering more about that psychological line in the sand. Do you have one? What is it? Are there exceptions? Is this all irrelevant and if it’s love the card comes out?

Pics: pexels

  • Carla says:

    Love Guerlain but the new extracts are just too expensive for me…. Would prefer a smaller amount available for a smaller price.

    • cinnamon says:

      What size are you thinking? A 10ml — a sort of mini — like with Malle? I recall having a very small size of Mitsouko perfume years ago. But, I no longer see that anywhere. I still have the little bottle.

  • rosarita says:

    Such a great topic. I have always been a perfumista on a shoestring and now that we are retired, things are even tighter. In the US “they” are saying that inflation is so much better, but I sure don’t see it at the grocery store or gas station. Plus we have medical bills to pay, and both my husband and I need orthopedic surgeries soon and on and on. So perfume is low on my priority list. I have enough that I love and I still buy samples, which are often a perfect amount, and I participate in splits when I can. But I’ve lost a bunch of weight and need clothes and good shoes for my bad feet are $175+ and my husband needs new glasses that are usually $500+ and…..on and on.

    • cinnamon says:

      I hope the surgeries go well. Everything said here about inflation is a bit of a joke. it may theoretically be down but I doubt regular people are feeling that. fantastic on the weight loss. And indeed we need to appreciate the fragrances we have.

  • March says:

    They seem so much more expensive! And I’ve reached a point in my insanity where I don’t need to own everything, brought on at least partly by the obvious fact that I couldn’t use up everything I already have. I’m mostly content to try on and enjoy. I do find myself buying a few travel-size things — cheaper, smaller — and I’m grateful they’re on offer.

    • Musette says:

      What. March. Said.
      I find myself getting skritchy at the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ – and… I dunno. I don’t mind contributing to Tom’s or Killian’s first yacht… but I don’t feel like paying for the second – and the beach house in Antibes.
      My ‘line in the sand’ began with LV’s ‘On the Beach’ – and it’s stayed there

    • cinnamon says:

      I’m having more and more trouble justifying larger bottles. and I appreciate the houses that seem to get that. the LLs and Malles aren’t cheap but they are within reason, and buying those bottles doesn’t make me feel like I’m completely overindulging.

  • Dina C. says:

    I am right there with you Cinnamon and share your feelings. I remember when the smaller 2.5 oz size of Chanel Les Exclusifs were $75 per bottle — so affordable! I bought 3 of them. Heavy sigh. Now they’re $300 US dollars!!! Yes. It’s crazy. I just got one for my birthday Friday (31 Rue Cambon). What used to be an “everyday” purchase is now a “birthday only” purchase. But here’s another house to add to the GOOD list that makes travel sizes that are affordable: Veronique Garai, 10 ml travel decant in a leatherette pouch for $59. I browsed in Arielle Shoshana this weekend, and walked out with VG Souvenirs of Tunisie. Beautiful neroli + orange blossom thing.

    • cinnamon says:

      Sigh, the idea of neroli and orange blossom right now just sounds divine. We’re in an in-between period of no rain and I am ludicrously thankful but autumn just doesn’t smell as good to me as summer — even with woodsmoke. It is always good to hear of more affordable stuff. It gives one hope. And agree with you about those really pricey things being reserved for special purchases.

  • alityke says:

    I’m feeling overwhelmed with my 300+ bottles & the same of decants & samples so planning to go full Kondo!
    I’m making a start as I type.
    Having just received a £1600 quote for wear & tear roof repairs it’s going to be a sparse Christmas!
    So not buying but sell, sell, selling! Might have to part with some of my precious old formulas of Uncle Serge.
    My problem with travel sizes is that I’ve had two that won’t spray cos the spray mechanism tube has vacuumed itself to the bottom of the bottle. I’m looking at you M Malle!
    I saved for Papillon Hera for 7 months but as with your Shalimar, she’s worth it!

    • cinnamon says:

      Wow, 300+. That’s quite a collection. I wish the Papillons did great stuff on me but alas they don’t. Ah, roof work — I hope you are able to hang on to the Lutens. We’ve discussed it being a ‘quiet’ holiday this year too. Passed one of the Grand Design houses on the lane and it’s got Xmas lights up already. I cannot even imagine the electricity cost of doing that for a month and a half. It was supposed to be an eco house. So much for being ecological. Sigh.

      • alityke says:

        My son’s gf has put their decorations up already. I think he was bemused when she decorated so early the first time now he just shrugs.
        Having rarely had a Christmas without one of us working we never decorated until Christmas week. Decs came down on 12th night so it wasn’t a big thing

  • Tom says:

    My line in the sand is somewhat mutable, but $150 is where I start to get air sickness, Something has to get seriouly good for me to spand $200, especially when there are people out there (like Neil) who do pretty darned great for under $100 and will sell a very nice decant for $5.

    It is the inflation, certainly. I feel like I’ve won something if I can get out the local market with two bags of groceries for $20 (thank GAWD for the Beverly Hills Market..) and even Trader Joe’s is a little pricey if you dare to buy prepared. Gas in California is always about buck more than everywhere else and rent? Lets just say if I lost my place I’d be living in a Boise.

    There are still ones that I would drop the dime for- as long as they make MKK and it smells the same I will just have to live on mung beans and air for a while to make the purchase. As ridiculous as it would be, were I in NYC and JAR was at Bergdorfs and selling Fermez Tes Yeux even at $800 I would have to whip out the card and make low easy payments until the end of time. Luckily, I am not there, it’s not there (as far as I know) and FTY is discontinued. At least that’s what I tell myself. Also, you didn’t know this but there are no phone lines between West Los Angeles and 5th Avenue from Trump Tower to the Plaza. Don’t disabuse me.

    • cinnamon says:

      I would love to have a Trader Joe’s here. Yup, gas is pricey here and can vary markedly in different places even within a half hour’s drive. I never got to smell any of the JARs. I think I was put off by the hype which sounds like it was a big mistake. It did sound like a vanity project but a very very good one.

      • Tom says:

        It’s incredible the differences. There are das stations here that are within a mile of each other that are a good dollar dofference, and it’s not like one is Shell and one it’s “Snell” or “Hexxon.”

        The presentation of JAR was borderline silly (I wrote about it on PST) but the juice really was worth every dime.

        I have gotten into smaller bottles, but I naturaly graviate towards the larger ones since I get into the mindset of the cost per ML- the larger ones cost less so, really, your saving money by buying that rain barrel of JOOP, right? The fact that you’ll never use it? Pshaw..

  • SpringPansy says:

    Great topic for discussion. Like a couple of others here, I recently retired and although I was fairly careful even before, I’m a little extra careful about prices now. Doesn’t mean I won’t buy, but I definitely give it more thought. That said, I would love to be that passionate person who buys back-ups of back-ups of a fragrance that I love so much, but I never have done that. Or like buying that perfume that is relatively expensive but you love it so much that it’s worth it (like your Shalimar, Cinnamon. I love that you bought it and would buy it again.)

    Like Maggiecat, I now tend toward decants and travel sizes. However, I have a rant about all those decant bottles — they are just not pretty (not like original bottles, anyway) and they are difficult to store, always falling down, all looking the same so I can’t spot what I want right away, and then they evaporate too fast, etc. Interestingly, I find that samples don’t seem to evaporate like decants do. And samples are easier to store. And I can try more things, so I’ll never give up sampling. However, decants are still a wonderful way to have at least some of a fragrance that I can’t afford in the original bottle.

    • cinnamon says:

      Yeah, many of the decants bottles are not well thought out. I don’t get it. I expect providers offer decent presentations. Maybe they are just that bit more expensive. Of the things I currently own beyond I don’t have backups. I guess that’s not how I roll. Thinking about it now though I will probably buy a backup to Theo Fennell Scent while it is still moderately easily findable. I’ve got about a half a bottle left…

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    I mainly try and stick to Fragrancenet for Amouage and try to avoid paying full price for a lot of perfumes I want. Spending over $300 for a bell jar isn’t going to happen any time soon. Will I ever get a bottle of Roja Dove Diaghilev? Only if I win the lottery, otherwise Mitsouko will have to do. Most of the time, I can’t really justify spending more than $100 on a bottle of perfume.

    • cinnamon says:

      I wonder about returning to splits a lot more. Years ago, I did a MKK split with a friend in the US — ie, I bought the bottle here, decanted and sent along to her (she got the belle jar, as I already had one with RdN). You’re the second person to mention Diaghlev recently. Will have to try that next London visit.

  • Kathleen Smith says:

    I agree with your post. With inflation and making savings a priority, I am buying less perfume and spending more time enjoying the perfume I have rather than collecting more bottles. If I buy anything, I’ll choose decants unless it is an absolute love. My psychological line in the sand is the $150-200 US dollar range, again for an absolute love which thankfully I haven’t come across much lately.

    • cinnamon says:

      Yup, and ‘absolute love’ has changed for me: to fork out a lot of money now something has to be much much more than just beautiful.

  • Maggiecat says:

    I find myself buying travel sizes or decants almost exclusively now, even asking for smaller sizes as gifts. (The most recent exception was Sana Jardin’s Sandalwood Temple, which is both lovely and versatile.) I just have so much perfume that I love and want to use. And now that I’m retired, I not only have a fixed income to deal with, but fewer places to wear perfume (and less need for my “don’t f—- with me” scents!)

    • cinnamon says:

      Ah, my armour scent is Mitsouko and thankfully that’s available all over the place for decent whack. What I did find myself thinking recently about decants is unless those smaller bottles have a distinctive look (eg, the Malles) they get lost in my box and I have to work a lot harder to find what I want. Just a small whine…

  • Filomena says:

    I have close to a thousand bottles of perfumes and was still buying one here and there until I was forced to retire. It has now been almost a year since that life-time changing event (I had worked there for 37 years) and during this past year I haven’t bought some samples and not even one full bottle of perfume, even though I am coveting a few. I am wearing what I already have as my perfumes will most likely outlive me. However, I am hankering for a bottle of Essential Parfumes, which are the most sanely priced perfumes in the market right now, i.e. $82.00 a bottle, plus tax. Quite a few are really nice and all are made by very good perfumers. It is insane what most perfume houses are charging for a bottle of perfume, many are more than the cost of a mortgage payment. I think your method is a very good way to temper our perfume lust.

    • cinnamon says:

      You and Portia. That’s just a wow. I think even if I collected everything I’ve owned over time I wouldn’t reach 1,000 bottles. I do kick myself for passing along things I didn’t love at the time (I’m looking at you Une Rose) though.

    • Tom says:

      Wow- you have now given me license to buy more!

      I am not anywhere even in the same zip code as that and I am sure that The Collection might outlive me..

  • MMKinPA says:

    I have always had a bit of a $100 threshold for any personal purchase, after which I hem and haw for weeks deciding if I can “afford” it. At this point, I have so many other priorities that I can see spending more than that on a bottle (kitchen renovation, photography equipment)…

    • cinnamon says:

      Ah, priorities. Yes, I can see a kitchen renovation taking precedence over discretionary spend 🙂 I sometimes think my decant spend balances out one larger spend over a period. But, that period is now tending to be a year or more.

  • Maya says:

    OMG. You wrote this post perfectly! I agree totally with EVERYTHING you said. It’s exactly how I feel – even the $ amounts are close enough. There is one caveat though, if I beat Tom in winning the lottery, it’s no holds barred in buying! 🙂

    • cinnamon says:

      Ah, the lottery. Yes, if that came into play all bets are off. And I could buy from the US without thinking about the FedEx shipping.

  • Tara C says:

    I don’t have a fixed dollar amount per se, but given my age, the number of bottles I already own and my financial state, unless I really love something a lot it’s unlikely that I’d buy it. For example I recently sprung for a bee bottle of Mon Précieux Nectar, which I thought was discontinued and is one of my all time favorite perfumes. It was $$$ but completely worth it.

    • cinnamon says:

      Totally get you on the Guerlain purchase. I’m retiring at the end of December and my income will be pretty fixed. That will definitely have a big impact on how I think about discretionary spend.