Makeup, as you've likely noticed, can be expensive.

Yes, I've written about my favorite gems at the drugstore, but in general you get what you pay for, and what I want to pay for is pricey. And I would like a lot of it, please.

What's a girl to do?

Enter the beauty subscription box.

These parcels of beauty bounty arrive once a month, packed with samples of beauty, skin-care, and hair products. Prices can vary, of course, but for each of the three boxes to which I currently subscribe, I pay $10 a month.

That's a lot of beauty bang for very little buck.

I subscribe to Birchbox, ipsy, and Sephora Play. Each promises a minimum of five products a month; ipsy and Sephora Play also come with cute little storage bags, for which I manage to find myriad uses.

This month, Birchbox sent me Number 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect leave-in conditioning mist (full size $32), Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Perla (full size $22), Glamglow Thirstymud Hydrating Treatment (full size $69), Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo (full size $44), and a mini Coastal Scents Blush & Bronzer Palette (full size $19.95).

From ipsy, I got a full-size Glamour Dolls Romantic Rose Blending Brush ($3.99), theBalm Voyage Vol. 2 Eyeshadow in Kuwakaribisha (available in full-size palette for $39.99), JUARA Skincare Rice Facial Cleanser (full size $29), Seraphine Botanicals Liquid Coal Waterproof Liquid (full size $22), and the Clarria Cosmetics Tinted Primer in Light (full size $75).

And from Sephora Play? A full-size Beauty Blender (available in a two-pack for $18), Clinique HIM Dual-Ended High Impact Mascara & Primer Duo (full size $18), Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick in Shell (full size $46), Korres Golden Krocus Ageless Saffron Elixir Serum (full size $98), Alterna Haircare Caviar Anti-Aging Miracle Multiplying Volume Mist (full size $30), and Burberry My Burberry Black perfume (full size $95).

All that for $30. This is how I afford so darn much makeup.

Sometimes I find a new favorite, and rush right out to buy a full size of the product.

Sometimes I find a new favorite and don't buy it.

For example, in my June Sephora Play box, I received a sample of Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub With Sea Salt, which proved to be my dream hair product. It smells like heaven. It removes buildup and leaves my locks movie-star shiny. I've used it once a week since I received the (really fairly small) sample, and I'm still not out of it.

Will I buy a full-size version at $53 once I run out? Even though that is a stupid amount of money for what is essentially fancy shampoo, I really might.

Or I might get another new magic hair product to try in my next box.

Alison Smith, despite her many beauty subscriptions, still buys plenty of full-price products at Sephora and Ulta. Got a burning beauty question? Email