My first one that I really loved was MAC cosmetics' cream compact Studio Tech. It gave a nice, build-able coverage that looked great in pictures and lasted throughout the day. However, at $30.00, it was just a little out of my personal budget for consistent use. In the scheme of department store makeup, $30.00 foundation is certainly not that bad, but I need a little more than the average person to cover up my redness so it doesn't last me very long. I continued to use it and replace it for awhile, but I was searching for a comparable product in quality, at a lower cost.
Finally, I found it! Ulta's Fabulous Face Compact Foundation is just amazing! It doesn't come in the same eye appealing packaging as MAC's, but the quality of the actual product is well worth looking past that. The compact has a clear lid so you can see the color and the amount left without opening it and in my opinion, this compact closes better and keeps the actual foundation more fresh and prevents drying better than the MAC packaging. The part holding the foundation lifts up to reveal a mirror on the other side and a round sponge applicator underneath. The sponge is of surprisingly high quality and doesn't flake or fall apart after continued use. I generally prefer foundation brushes (as my readers know well), but sometimes the sponge is necessary, like in the car or for quick touch-ups.
The actual foundation is a great formula with build-able coverage. It has a decently liquid formula, but isn't runny and doesn't "melt off" your face. It provides great coverage and lasts all day when worn under a finishing powder. The only real downside I've found, is that this foundation only comes in 6 shades, which of course can make the MAC foundation a little more appealing to those with very light or very dark complexions. However, the colors are rather forgiving and the makeup is very blend-able so the average person will be able to find one that works.
Also, another great bonus to this foundation is that it's Ulta's brand. It is often lately on sales like 2 for $10 or 2 for $12, like the recent sales Ulta has been having, which is a phenomenal deal considering the compact is $12 when full priced. When I purchased mine, I got two for the price of one. Ulta also offers coupons like $3.50 off $10 or 20% off one item, so if you time your purchase right, you can really get a great deal. Even at full price, it's still a great deal.
The choice is up to you. I know many MAC makeup wearers are very loyal and especially wouldn't consider an "off brand" product and that many people can afford the $30.00 foundation, but if finances are an issue and you don't mind trying a new brand, give it a go! It's certainly not a huge investment, and you may just be surprised!