I am sorry to hear about the loss of your mother, my heart goes out to you and your family.
I totally understand where you're coming from regarding the financial aspect in terms of being able to purchase the products that you would prefer to use as I am not always in a position to do so either as there is mortgage, utilities, tuition and other bills that must be paid as well However, a lot of the other cosmetics (you listed) are also good and serve the same purpose; many times we just get caught up in the "name brand" of it all. You will see differences in areas such as the variety of colors, the ingredients (100%Vegan, etc.), but I believe if the product is a cheaper brand but allows you to achieve the same goals, why not utilize it?
I use an array of products like Almay, Revlon, L'Oreal, Maybelline, Avon, Mark,NYX (glosses), E.L.F. and recently I just purchased quite a bit of stuff (mostly palettes) from BH Cosmetics, and a couple of MAC products. Typically, my purchases are from retail drug store chains, Ebay and from the products' corresponding websites. Yes, I do use palettes as I like the variety of colors they provide. Through Avon, I have quite a few quads & duos with some gorgeous combinations.
I am getting my list together of other items that I want to utilize in my kit like OCC (lip tars), other NYX items, etc. As far as discounts, I did not receive any from the recent BH Cosmetics purch. (everything I purchased was part of a limited time deal, so pretty cheap), I purchase quite a bit from E.L.F. when they do their specials as well. Many times you can find good deals on stuff on Ebay and Amazon.com. I have requested student discounts from a couple of suppliers and I some more requests that I am working on as well.
Keep in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can swap ideas, helpful hints, info., etc.
I got a bunch of pallettes and brushes from BH Cosmetics.The reviews are amazing so are the prices and they are pretty pigmented. I don't use a primer on my eyelids and it stay on all day even if I sweat. Did I mention they have great customer service as well? I signed up for their newsletters,so I get the specials right in my inbox. Sometimes it's hard to resist not to buy. For foundation I use Nyxx.