My affordable vanilla fragrance collection

Not to sound bougie, but perfumes quickly became a hobby of mine in quarantine, and they soon rivaled my love for plants. It didn’t start as an aromatherapy thing — the frenzy kicked off when I listened to the line in Taylor Swift’s “illicit affairs” that goes “Leave the perfume on the shelf,” which made me want to invest in a signature scent. It’s romantic to think that a smell can evoke memories, you know? 

I’ve also always been self-conscious about smelling good, but the extent to which I addressed this concern was with a Vanilla Grapefruit rollerball from Lavanila and a fruity cranberry mist from The Body Shop. And so, the fragrance madness kicked off with a few curated scents from Sephora. The irony isn’t lost upon me that no one can sniff me in the age of the coronavirus! That won’t stop me from smelling good, though. 

Anyway, I’ve accumulated quite a few vanilla fragrances — what can I say,  I want to smell like a walking and talking Anderson’s Bakery! I love to ball on a budget, so most of these eau de parfums/toilettes are affordable finds from eBay, Ross, Nordstrom Rack, and T.J. Maxx. Since fall and autumn are coming, I thought it’d be the perfect time to share cozy gourmand scents. So without further ado, here are the budget-friendly vanilla scents from my collection!

Jessica Simpson Fancy

Jessica Simpson’s Fancy: Hands down, this is one of my favorite vanilla scents, ever. I like to spritz it on before bedtime. It’s such an easy, pretty fragrance, like a blast of lemon pound cake that  dries down to a lovely caramel, amber, and vanilla skin scent. The sillage and lasting power could be better, but for $10, I’m not mad. It makes me think of sitting by a fireplace with your significant other and snuggling up in a cozy ruched blanket. Fancy bottle as well!

Rihanna Nude

Rihanna Nude: Rihanna’s Nude was one of my first perfume purchases during COVID. The initial blast can be a little strong — you get that floral vanilla orchid with a hint of fruity guava. Still, it dries down to such a classy scent, kind of a your-skin-but-better woody, musky, sweet smell. The lasting power is decent — Nude gives me around six hours with good sillage. 

Katy Perry Meow

Katy Perry’s Meow: I had doubts when I impulsively bought Katy Perry’s Meow. Katy Perry’s line definitely doesn’t get as much love as Britney Spears’ or Ariana Grande’s. And it’s true, the lasting power in Meow isn’t great — it quickly dissipates after two or three hours. But I love the smell. It’s such a doable sweet, a subtly creamy vanilla that’s grounded by a pear note. Like melted vanilla ice cream, if you’re looking for a succinct description. The purple cat bottle is cute, too, though it won’t be your thing if you’re partial to sleek Chanel designs.

Ariana Grande Sweet Like Candy

Ariana Grande Sweet Like Candy: Ariana Grande fragrances can be a hit or miss. Cloud is one of my all-time favorites. Sweet Like Candy is…an acquired taste. It gives me that dose of tart berry vanilla sweetness when I want it, though it can be cloying when oversprayed. (Like most Ari perfumes, it lasts loooong.) I don’t think it’s safe to buy this scent before you smell it!

Bare Vanilla and Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere

Victoria’s Secret Bare Vanilla / Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere: Bare Vanilla is a body mist, so it won’t last long, but as it comes in a huge bottle for $10, I don’t mind topping it off. It’s a cozy buttercream frosting on a sheet cake scent. It can get cloying and has a synthetic vibe, so you have to love sweet fragrances to get on board with it. To my nose, it’s a dupe of Philosophy’s Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere — the first scent I picked up during my perfume misadventures. It’s lighter than Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere, so I think it’s even more wearable. Plus, it’s half the price for 10 times more volume! VS does free shipping / 40% off flash sales often, so you’ll be able to get this for even cheaper than $10! 

Victoria's Secret Heavely

Victoria’s Secret Heavenly: Fine, this is technically a mist — the Heavenly perfume runs much more expensive, but the mist is a watered down version of it with so-so staying power and great sillage. This is one of my mom’s signature scents, so I actually feel weird wearing it. It’s still great, though! It reminds me of Rihanna Nude with its woody and musky notes, but it’s less fruity and more powdery. It’s a flirty and inoffensive smell — a safe blind buy in mist form.

Lavanila Vanilla Grapefruit

Lavanila Vanilla Grapefruit: This was a random $5 ($3?) T.J. Maxx buy that ended up being my signature scent for over a year. Rollerballs aren’t great for projection, but I wanted a nice skin scent. It’s a linear smell that’s exactly what it sounds like — basic citrusy and gourmand goodness. It brings back memories of sitting on the train to visit my boyfriend. 

Zara Femme

Zara Femme: Here’s a perfume for when you really want to ball on a budget. The 30 ml bottle costs $9.90, and you’ll usually be able to find Femme for cheaper in a bundle or in rollerball form! It’s a cozy, linear scent with peony, vanilla, and musk. The peony and musk are strong, and it reminds me of the Asian green oil my parents use for body aches. 

 Honorable Mentions:

  • Armani Si: Armani Si was a love at first sniff for me. People say that it smells like vanilla in the drydown, and indeed it has vanilla in its base notes. To my nose, it’s more of a clean floral and black currant smell. You can pick it up online and at Costco for around $40 to $50 even though it retails for much more money.  
  • Minajesty: Minajesty is a great fruity scent that’s not sickly sweet, though it leans on the youthful side. The bright pink hair on the bottle is so extra, but hey, it’s Nicki Minaj! The juice is more subdued than its kitschy vessel might suggest. I get Viva La Juicy Rose vibes — it’s a citrusy, floral scent that’s grounded by musk and vanilla in the base notes. 

That’s the extent of my budget-friendly vanilla fragrances…for now. I hope that anyone who wants to smell like a baked good discovers good finds here. Let me know in the comments what your favorite vanilla/gourmand scents are!

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