Slick marketing campaigns will have you believe that you need to spend a small fortune on the latest designer fragrance to smell fabulous. We disagree and that’s why we’ve compiled this list of best cheap and budget fragrances that your wallet will thank you for.
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We’ve included a mix of classic and current cheapies, which you can find affordably priced but will still elevate your style. While everyone’s idea of inexpensive varies, most of these are $20-$30 and all are under $100.
You might be wondering, are these perfumes worth it? Why are some perfumes hundreds and others
Best Perfumes Under $100
Perfumer: Wilhelm Muelhens
From the delightful citrus opening that includes fresh notes of bergamot, lemon and orange oil, you can’t go wrong with this classic cologne from Maurer & Wirtz. It’s based on an 18th-century recipe that’s apparently still a secret.
Think of it as the budget alternative to the way more upmarket Tom Ford Neroli Portofino EDP.
Sure, it fades pretty quickly, but at the price, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a scent that will give you such instant pleasure.
Also lookout for the recent floral additions to the 4711 range. These include variations such as jasmine, lilac, and rose.
Perfumer: Emilir Coppermann
Fruity-floral fragrances have been popular for several years and Karl Lagerfeld Fleur de Mûrier is a good addition to the genre.
From the brand’s Les Parfums Matières collection, it opens in fruity territory with notes that include red currant and raspberry leaves. The floral aspect comes through in the form of mulberry flower, lily-of-the-valley and violet leaves. It settles on a warm and comfy base of sandalwood and musk.
It’s a straightforward composition that avoids the excessive sweetness that pervades the category, thanks to a hint of sourness.
Perfumer: Serge Majoulier
Nuxe is a French beauty brand and is revered for its Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil. Apart from its superb moisturizing properties, it also smells delicious. This EDP takes its cue from that cult product’s fragrance.
The intro is all about citrus notes that complement fresh and not-too-sweet orange blossom. Magnolia and gardenia add to the effect, with a hint of rose in the background.
Le Parfum really comes into its own in the dry down where notes of vanilla, coconut milk and pebbles work together to create the equivalent of a sunny day at the beach in a bottle.
Perfumer: Rodrigo Flores-Roux
Elizabeth Taylor is the grande dame of celebrity fragrances. Launched in 1991, Elizabeth White Diamonds is a classic in the genre and took its place in the Fragrance Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
Although this new release is not as distinctive as the original, it’s still worth sniffing out. Inspired by the legendary British actor’s signature red lips, it’s suitably glamorous.
Opening notes of pink pepper and raspberries set the tone. They are followed by a sweet floral display of rose, jasmine and orange blossom.
Vanilla and amber prolong the sweetness in the dry down, while vetiver and patchouli bring woody balance.
Best Perfumes Under $50
Perfumer: Rodrigo Flores-Roux
The highly recommended Elizabeth Arden Green Tea was originally launched in 1999 and has generated a number of worthwhile flankers since then. Green Tea Pomegranate is the latest variation on the theme.
The opening is gorgeously fruity with notes that include passionfruit, bergamot, and California tangelo. The pomegranate note is prominent and gives the scent a hint of juicy bitter-sweetness.
An Earl Grey tea accord and violet leaf note follow, while the fruitiness and tea effect continues through to the base with a raspberry bloom accord and mate note.
It’s fresh and invigorating stuff.
Perfumers: Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Guillaume Flavigny & Caroline Sabas
Elizabeth Arden gets two mentions on this list because the American beauty brand has so many top budget fragrances.
Launched in 2017, this EDT takes its inspiration from the simple pleasure of sipping a cup of tea. And what a joy it is to wear!
An evocative sea breeze accord opens the fragrance, with fresh Japanese white fern and sparkling Italian mandarin in support.
The heart of the fragrance is unmistakably tea-like with white tea extract and mate absolute taking the leading role. White iris adds an element of powdery sweetness.
The feeling of comfort carries through to the base, featuring notes of madras wood, tonka bean, and musks.
This year two new additions were added to the White Tea line: Vanilla Orchid EDT and Wild Rose EDT. They are also worth adding to your collection.
Avon is a treasure trove for bargain-hunters and many people don’t know that top perfumers create fragrances for the American beauty company. While its fragrances are often straightforward compositions, this classic from 1994 is a fairly elaborate floriental.
Notes of coconut, peach, and ylang-ylang set the exotic scene. The heart is all florals and features notes of freesia, jasmine, gardenia, and osmanthus. Vanilla and amber notes in the base keep it on the sweet side of things.
It’s a cozy and comforting scent with surprising potency, so go easy when spraying it.
Best Perfumes Under $20
Perfumers: Ml Quince Francis Camail & Harry Cuttle
Not to be confused with the Italian luxury fashion brand, the Hollywood boutique launched its debut fragrance in 1981. Potent in a way that was typical of the decade, legend has it that it was banned from many restaurants due to its overpowering effect. But don’t let that put you off this retro budget beauty.
A fruity and citrus intro gives way to a big bouquet of floral notes that includes gardenia, ylang-ylang, and orchid. Tuberose stands out in this display.
The woody base includes notes such as oakmoss, sandalwood, and patchouli, with musk in support.
It’s an uplifting and unapologetically bold scent.
Perfumer: Jean Carles
Launched in 1931, Tabu was created by the legendary Jean Carles, the perfumer behind all-time classic fragrances such as Carven Ma Griffe, Christian Dior Miss Dior, and Schiaparelli Shocking.
This scent has quite a reputation. Apparently, Carles was briefed to create a fragrance for a prostitute and Tabu was the result.
Although the current formulation is not as heavy as vintage versions, Tabu still has a lot to offer the budget-conscious perfume-lover.
The first thing you will notice about this fragrance is its spiciness, including a large dose of cloves, which blends well with notes of Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang and jasmine absolute.
The base is woody, with patchouli, sandalwood, and benzoin adding to the oriental vibe.
Perfumer: Sophia Grojsman
This is one of those beauties that smells way more expensive than its price suggests. Launched in 1981, it’s the debut fragrance from the renowned American artist and fashion designer, who died this year.
Fans of aldehydes will love its opening. They are followed by a bouquet of floral notes that includes tuberose, ylang-ylang and orris root. But it’s the carnation note with its spicy profile that stands out here.
The fragrance reveals its complexity in the dry down with its woody and spicy facets, courtesy of notes of sandalwood and cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla.
There’s a pleasing and sophisticated sweetness to this fragrance.
Perfumer: Clement Gavarry
Guess has been in the fragrance game since the 1990s, but went through a mediocre patch for several years. Recent releases will tell you that’s a thing of the past.
The Guess 1981 range was launched in 2017 and Los Angeles Women is the latest addition. It’s a very pretty and sweet-ish fruity floral that opens with red currant, pear, and mandarin orange notes.
The heart of the fragrance is fresh and features a trio of floral notes (peony, jasmine, orange blossom). Orange enhances that effect.
The base is musky and sweetened with vanilla and praline notes.
Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.