I don’t wear makeup often and I need to buy some to get me through my internship. I need some direction on where to save and where to splurge, as you say.
Much like your wardrobe, you should splurge on the foundation and save on the accessories. Spend your money on a good foundation, concealer and powder. Save on blush, eye makeup, lipstick and mascara.
If you’re starting mostly from scratch, I recommend the Laura Mercier Flawless Face Kit ($60) from Sephora. She also makes a Flawless Face Book ($59) that you can keep in your purse for touch ups. I also like Clinique’s foundations (I’ve used Superbalanced and their BB Cream), and Benefit makes a great concealer (this book should get you started).
As for saving on the rest of your makeup wardrobe, the NYX brand makes some fantastic products that won’t break the bank. This palette has some lovely eyeshadows and lip colors (very similar to the Urban Decay Naked and Naked 2 palettes). I’ve been using their liquid liner, and I kind of love it.
Hopefully, other readers can post about their favorite saves and splurges to help you get started.