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Friday, February 27, 2009

Professional manicures no longer fit your budget? Here’s how to pay less or to do-it-yourself like a pro.

Abandon acrylics: Foregoing fake nails is a real money saver, but removing acrylics is tricky, time consuming and best left to a pro.

Reduce your manicure budget: every other manicure, get a polish change instead.

Picking polish: Essie,($8) Opi,($8.50) and Creative Nail Design,($6) cost twice as much as Maybelline, but these brands brush on smoother and stay on longer than others, which is why professional manicurists use them.

Color cues: light shades are most forgiving and the finish looks better, longer. With fashionable dark colors, smudges, sloppy application and chips are obvious.

Do it yourself:
1. Shape: With an emery board, file nails across the tips, in one direction. Only file sides or corners to smooth nicks.
2. Condition: Massage cuticle conditioner into cuticles and nail beds. Next, gently nudge cuticles down using a cotton swab or an orangewood stick. Wash and dry hands. Best bets: Creative Nail Solar Oil,(½ oz, $5.50), prevents cuticles and nails from becoming brittle and promotes healthy nail growth. Cheapie petroleum jelly also works well.
3. Color: Apply a ridge-filling base coat, so color has a flawless surface to adhere to. Follow with two coats of color, then clear top coat. To do, apply enamel up the center--from cuticle to nail tip--and then up each side of the nail; let dry a few minutes between coats and thirty minutes after top coat has been applied.
4. Maintain: Every few days, apply a fresh layer of top coat so your manicure lasts longer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stretch Your Beauty Dollar

Money Saving Suggestions of the Day:
Avoid excessive application of beauty and grooming products. People tend to apply more than they need, so adhere to these beauty rules:
Apply a dime-sized dose of:
Facial moisturizer
Use a quarter sized dose of:
Use an amount the size of a golf ball of:
Body moisturizer
Full body sunscreen
Shaving Cream

Conditioner Trumps Shampoo, Moisturizer Trumps Cleanser, and so on

Skimp on shampoo, spend on conditioner: any shampoo will clean your hair, it's what you use after that affects your hair's condition. For instance, try pairing a classic like Flex Shampoo, (15 oz, $2.69 at drugstore.com), with the highly rated Aveda Shampure Conditioner (8.5 oz, $9.50 at Aveda.com.)

Cheap cleanser, quality moisturizer: Facial cleanser gets washed away, moisturizer works all day. Pair the dermatologist recommended Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (8 oz., $7.99 at Walgreens) with Allure Magazine's Best of Beauty Award winner: Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 45, (1.7 oz, $12.39 at Target).

Check back for more trumps, tomorrow.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spider Woman

The health fairy hasn't been kind to my cousin. 50 years old, she's been on oxygen and cortisone 24/7 for decades. She doesn't consider herself alluring, but what eyelashes! At a recent visit, I couldn't help noticing her lashes; they looked downright "spidery," they were so long and curly. "Awesome lashes," I told her, thinking she had on over-the-top false lashes, the kind worn by drag queens. "My doctor has me on eye drops for glaucoma," she explained. "Now my lashes are growing out of control; they squish into my eyeglasses." I asked if she'd heard that a side effect of glaucoma drops is lash growth. "My ophthalmologist never mentioned that, but knowing it now is a big relief," she said. I also told her how a few beauty companies had illegally used the drug in OTC lash growth products, until the FDA got wind of it. Tempted to ask if I could try her eye drops, instead I offered to trim her lashes for her; she refused to let me.

Although this seemingly miraculous lash growth is no longer attainable over-the- counter, Allergan (maker of Lumigan, the eye drops for glaucoma) just introduced Latisse, the first and only FDA approved prescription drug for growing longer, fuller lashes. In a clinical trial, lashes typically grew 25 percent longer, 106 percent thicker and 18 percent darker.

Parting ways with your lash curler and never fussing with mascara again is a convenient concept, but unless you already indulge in professional lash extensions or you wear mink eyelashes like Madonna does, the $120 price tag for a monthly dose of Latisse might seem extravagant. If so, plump your peepers the old fashioned way: In a recent review in Consumer Reports Shop Smart Magazine, Lancome Paris Definicils, $24, got the highest marks. The runner up: Max Factor Lash Perfection Volume Couture, $7. Honorable mentions include Maybelline Defin-A-Lash, $8 and L'Oreal Telescopic Clean Definition, $9.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's Crazy to Pay Retail These Days

One benefit to today's economy -- at least for consumers -- is big retail markdowns. These days it's crazy to pay full price for anything.
H & M is offering buy 3 items, get 50% off lowest price, with a coupon at www.hm.com/us.
Target has Isaac Mizrahi at 50% off, including cashmere sweaters starting at $12.49.
At Barney's annual warehouse sale, regular prices are cut 50-75% thru March 1. (255 West 17th Street, NY, NY)
Forever 21 features daily 21 specials -- 20% off 21 items -- in-store and on their website, forever21.com. Bigger bargains include a sleeveless satin top, $7.50.

Product Safety Savvy

Price doesn’t determine quality in beauty and personal care products. In fact, some pricey products are produced by tiny companies that lack the self-monitoring, quality control and product safety capabilities of big corporations. Turns out you may be better off with brands from giants like Revlon or P & G.

Truth is, with any cosmetic or personal care product, the FDA doesn't require cosmetic and personal care companies to test their own products for safety. "Under federal law, companies can put virtually anything into personal care products, and many of them do. Mercury, lead, and placenta extract —these and other hazardous materials are in products that millions of Americans, including children, use every day," says Jane Houlihan, Vice President of Research at EWG (Environmental Working Group).

EWG is petitioning Congress to turn this around and make personal care products safe. In the meantime, you can check products you use for safety at cosmeticsdatabase.com, a database with information on nearly 25,000 personal care products.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dry Skin Rx: Less expensive moisturizing products deliver.

Dry, chapped skin is nearly epidemic this time of year, induced by winter's chill and indoor heating. Fortunately the solutions for smoothing and softening needn’t cost a bundle. In fact, products dermatologists recommend most are inexpensive and available in your local supermarket or chain drug store.

Cleanser: Cetaphil is a non-irritating moisturizing cleanser, recommended by dermatologists for sensitive skin, acne, rosacea, dermatitis, eczema and other conditions. This lotion is so gentle it’s safe for use on a newborn baby! It's also probably the world's least expensive makeup remover. Unlike soap, Cetaphil is non-comedogenic, and fragrance free (16 oz, apx. $11.50). Compare to Clinique Rinse-Off Foaming Cleanser (5 oz. apx. $18.50).

Rough skin smoother: What makes AmLactin® 12% Moisturizing Lotion a cure for rough heels, cracked skin, callouses, elephant-hide elbows and other skin conditions is a high concentration of lactic acid, an exfoliant that helps seal moisture into the skin. One reason Amlactin is so effective is its pH balance. The natural pH of the skin ranges between 4.5 to 5.5. "Detergents and cold, dry weather strip away this protective barrier; once it's breached, the skin cells pull away from each other, allowing moisture to escape and the result is flaky, sensitive, itching skin," says dermatologist Audrey Kunin. "Before the skin is broken, apply an active moisturizer containing lactic acid," she advises. Amlactin, 7.9 oz. apx. $17. Get a $2 off coupon at amlactin.com/coupon.lasso. Compare this product to B. Kamins Lactic 8, 1 oz. apx. $38.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Clean Out Your Closet For A Profit

Who wouldn’t love to update a wardrobe without spending a dime and help save the planet by recycling? To do, make money by selling or trading clothes and accessories you’re tired of at the Buffalo Exchange. Clothing and accessories are bought, sold and traded directly with store customers and you can bring in your former favorites for trade or cash on the spot. The ever-changing inventory includes designer wear, vintage, jeans, leather, basics, one-of-a-kind and brand new items. Visit www.buffaloexchange.com for locations nationwide, with the newest store in the East Village in NYC at 332 E. 11th Street, (212) 260-9340.

At Buffalo Exchange, now through Earth Day you can recycle your real fur apparel, accessories and shearling (even if it’s in poor condition) by donating it to Coats for Cubs, at Buffalo Exchange locations. Used furs provide bedding and comfort to orphaned and injured wildlife. To claim a tax deduction, mail your fur directly to Coats for Cubs, The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Check Store Websites Before Shopping in Real Time

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one on the cashier line at Macy's who isn't holding a Savings Pass coupon (so I end up paying full price). Now you needn't rummage through the Sunday newspaper or hope a Savings Pass arrives in the mail, since many stores are offering printable Savings Passes on their websites. For example, for President's Week Sales, log onto macys.com to printout a Savings Pass for 10-15% off most purchases from 2/11 thru 2/16. Lordandtaylor.com's Savings Pass is even better: 20% off most purchases from 2/11 to 2/17.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Free Cultural Events, Free Workouts for Kids and Seniors

Now that the weather is warming up, consider free ways to get fit and cultured at cityparksfoundation.org in NYC ... or check your local parks department website to see what's free in your 'hood.

Free kids lessons: CityParks Golf offers free golf lessons to kids ages 6 to 17, in public parks and on citywide courses. Free use of equipment is available at all lessons.
Geezer workouts: City Parks Foundation CityParks Seniors Fitness offers free tennis lessons, yoga instruction, and fitness walking for people 60+ in nine parks across the city.
Cultural events: Last year City Parks Foundation offered 38 free concerts, 45 free dance performances, 24 nights of free theater, four weeks of free theater workshops for teens and five weekends of free dance master classes for communities across the city. Check their website for event listings for '09.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Best Beauty Appliance Buys

I've been writing for Consumer Reports Shop Smart, a magazine worth subscribing to if you are out to make the best buy on all your purchases.
Reason: Not only does it report on bargain buys (and items to avoid); products are tested/rated by consumers and the magazine uses the same experts and testing capabilities as Consumer Reports.
Blow dryers and flatirons are one beauty category you can spend a bundle on. In the January '09 issue, Shop Smart reports that despite difference in price and wattage, blow drying time doesn't vary much between the products they tested, and if speed is key, shelling out a lot doesn't pay.
Factoring in noise and other features, Revlon Ionic Ceramic Pro Stylist RV484, $20, is their pick as a bargain buy. If you want to make a smart spluge, consider the CHI Pro Dryer GF1505, $135.

Straightening Irons: Revlon Perfect Heat Ceramic RVST2001C, $30, is the best bargain buy. For a splurge, try Conair Infiniti Nano Silver SS9, $100.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Feel Rich When You’re Not ... You can still live it up: Half Price Drinks and/or Free Bar Food

If you won’t be dining at Ducasse (or anywhere else) anytime in the near future, you needn’t sit at home eating Chinese takeout. At the poshest places, happy hour is the new dinner. The holy grail of happy hours? Half price on drinks and bar food (and you needn’t patronize a dive/old man’s bar). Free hors d'oeuvres with your $14 martini is another wallet friendly option. Now, some upscale restaurants offer the best happy hours in town.

Chinatown Brasserie, in the East Village: this celebrity hot spot caters to the rich and famous, but their best-kept secret is half price dim sum and deep discounts on wine and specialty drinks, 5pm-7pm.

Alligator Lounge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: after 6pm, buy a drink and get a free brick oven pizza.

Rock ‘n Sake (locations in Chelsea and in Port Washington): 5:30pm-7:30pm, Mon-Fri, a decent glass of Chardonnay is under $4; a large sake is $4 in Port Washington, $5 in Manhattan. Happy hour bar menu includes crab shumai, shrimp tempura, sushi rolls and sesame chicken for $3-$4.

The Big Easy, on the Upper East Side: Wednesday’s endless happy hour runs from 5pm- 4am, including $2 mixed drinks and $6 pitchers of Bud Lite.

Common Ground in the East Village: appetizers are two-for-one, apple martinis and cosmos are $5 and a Yuengling is $2, from 4pm-8 p.m.

Black Bear Lodge in Gramercy Park: $3 margaritas everyday until 7pm.

Sweetwaters in Hauppauge, Long Island: half price drinks and complimentary hors d'oeuvres, Mon.-Fri, 3:34pm-6:45pm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

DIY Facial: Get Glowing

If having a pro massage, squeeze, peel and smooth your face for an hour is currently too pricey a luxury, flawless skin is a self-slough away. From Sephora to Stop & Shop, the market is saturated with at-home microdermabrasion products promising to beautify your complexion. Reasonably priced products like Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel System, $27, get high marks from both consumers and experts ... and they make sense financially. Although it can't replace a medical or spa esthetician wielding high tech instruments, a DIY facial is a good deal, considering that a professional treatment starts at about $150.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Many clothes labeled "dry clean" wash beautifully

Cutting back on dry cleaning saves you a bundle, and many items labeled "dry clean" can be washed and air dried. Clothing manufacturers will recommend "dry clean" on a label if it’s the best way to care for the garment, but it also means that you can probably wash the item carefully at home. According to the Federal Trade Commission, many items including cashmere sweaters are mislabeled Dry Clean Only when in fact they may be washable.

I've put this to the test: For decades, except for lined wool or silk suits, coats or blazers labeled "dry clean only" I dry clean my family's new garments labeled "dry clean" the first few times they need cleaning; after that I hand wash or toss them in the washing machine with great results. (I wouldn't risk this with big ticket Gucci, Chanel or Prada originals; I'm referring to more moderately priced pieces that cost under $200). Consider this: Once you have spent nearly as much dry cleaning a garment as you paid to buy it, do you continue to invest in professional cleaning or take a risk by hand washing or machine washing it? From my experience, the risk pays off; even wool lined pants from Express and silk shirts from Ann Taylor launder beautifully on a cool gentle cycle, and wool and cashmere sweaters from Lord & Taylor that I hand wash still look like new.

Dry cleaning at home: home dry cleaning kits let you launder your delicates in a clothes dryer, and this way you avoid perc, the potentially dangerous chemical solvent used by a majority of commercial dry cleaners . Using Clorox FreshCare or P&G Dryer, you can clean 16 garments for about what you'd pay for one garment to be professionally dry cleaned.

Exception: Tackling a stained garment is best left to a professional dry cleaner.


Christabelle's Closet - a web based designer resale boutique, offers savings up to 80% off retail store prices on designer duds, from Chanel to Dior, Pucci to Prada, and many more. Portion of profits goes to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. christabellescloset.com

Monday, February 2, 2009

Free Reads: Swap, Download, e-Reads

Buying new books isn't budget savvy if there's a chance you might be reading a pink slip soon, but bargains abound:
Second hand: Gently used bestsellers in great condition are three for $12 at Artists & Fleas in Williamsburg.
Barter: At paperbackswap.com, trade what you’ve read for what you'd like to read, for the price of the postage. Over 35,000 trades take place at the site, which functions like a book club, with member participation.
Download: You can download eBooks and audio books for free through the NY Public Library at ebooks.nypl.org. HarperCollins is offering free electronic editions of some of its books (browseinside.harpercollins.com).
Wireless: Get on line for the Kindle by Amazon.com (proclaimed one of Oprah's "favorite things," it's back-ordered for months). The sharp, high-resolution screen looks and reads like real paper, and after you shell out $359 to buy the device, New York Times® Best Sellers and New Releases are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. You can also download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy.