I can't stress how important it is to use quality brushes to apply your makeup. It makes a huge difference! I agree that times are tough and sometimes we don't want to spend 20-50 dollars on MAC brushes.
I was shopping at CVS recently and I came across a brush line called "Essence of Beauty". To my suprise they had a brush that looked just like MAC's 168 brush which is used for contouring and applying blush. I already own this brush but decided to purchase it since it was only about $13 for a kit of 3 brushes.
Guys!! This brush is so SOFT and applies my blush well. I do want you guys to know that the MAC brush hair is more dense(really helpful to blend/buff color). The down side to the essence of beauty brush is that the hair is thinner. But hello, it's less than 13 dollars it can't be perfect.
I give this brush 9 out of 10. If you don't want to spend $32+ for the 168 brush at mac, do your face a favor and buy this brush!