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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Frugal Laundry Detergent: A Quarter Teaspoon or Even None?

The intrepid Funny About Money rose to the challenge and undertook the detergent-free experiment. I didn't trust myself to do it. Since my housekeeping standards are very low, I don't expect anyone to agree with my conclusions. Funny, I'm sure, is more reliable.

So if it's true that you need--at most--a tiny bit of laundry detergent, that means that detergent is not a huge household expense. I myself buy--perhaps this should now be in the past tense--the cheapest generic stuff when it is Buy One-Get One. That brings it to about 3 cents/load. And, since, owing to my soft water, I always used half the recommended amount, that gets the per load cost down to 1.5 cents.

With this cost, even if I did one load of laundry a day, I would be spending about $5.00/year on detergent. Hence, though I was philosophically attracted to the idea of making my own detergent (which was ALL OVER the FRUGALITY internet sites last year), I didn't see much point in doing it.

The height of my laundry responsibilities came around 18 years ago, when I had TWO children in cloth diapers. During those halcyon days (I'm not kidding. I loved washing diapers), I used a few more bottles of detergent a year, along with a few containers of bleach.

But what if we all stopped using so much detergent? First of all, we would be doing the environment a big favor. Detergent is not good for our waterways.

Second, we would save money, which we could put toward ...well, whatever we wanted.

Third, we could stop clipping coupons for detergent.

Fourth, we could do our wash even if we had run out of detergent, saving time and gasoline, since we wouldn't have to run to the store.

The only bad thing I can think of would be the horrified looks of your relatives, co-workers, and friends; they might recoil in horror, assuming that you were germ-laden and probably contagious. Then again, maybe that's not a bad thing.

Has anyone else taken the no or low detergent pledge?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paula Begoun's Skincare Recommendations: "Anti-Aging" et al

I love this woman and I think she handles the potential conflict of interest (she has her own line) with integrity. Please subscribe via her website. I've only tried a few of her products; all have been excellent. I have passed on her sunscreen information to friends with skin cancer, whose doctors just said "Use high SPF," without info on the important ingredients. Not to mention the dermatologists who peddle their own super pricy lines, which have the same ingredients.

What Skin Needs
The best products any skin-care company can offer to fight wrinkles and aging include the following ingredients:

* Sunscreen is the superstar of all superstars in the anti-aging category; of course, it must be a broad-spectrum sunscreen product rated SPF 15 or greater. I know that sunscreen isn´t nearly as sexy or exciting as the latest antiwrinkle cream dressed up in slick packaging, but when applied correctly (meaning liberally, daily, and before your skin encounters any daylight, 365 days a year) it is your best defense against wrinkles, discolorations, loss of firmness, and dullness.
* Exfoliants can remove built-up layers of dead, rough, thickened, uneven surface skin cells that make skin look wrinkled and dry; for example, sun-damaged skin causes the outer layer of skin to become thick. Some exfoliants also have research showing they can increase collagen production and improve the structure of skin´s outer layer.
* Antioxidants reduce inflammation, repair DNA damage, restore the skin´s surface barrier, help defend against environmental stress, allow skin to build more collagen, and improve skin´s ability to heal. All antioxidants also effectively help fight sun damage. You still need sunscreen, but skin needs all the help it can get!
* Cell-communicating ingredients, at least in theory, can "tell" skin cells to behave in a normal (meaning younger and undamaged) manner, leading to healthier and more normal functioning skin cells.
* Skin-identical substances, substances that are the same as the natural components in skin that hold skin cells together and protect it, can replenish and restore the skin‘s external barrier, making it soft and supple, diminishing and potentially eliminating dryness with repeated use, building collagen, and helping skin defend itself from environmental factors.
* Novel ingredients, at least some of them, can protect a skin cell´s membrane to keep it from being damaged by internal and external factors.

Abundant research makes it crystal clear that all of these ingredients are as good as it gets in the world of skin care to fight wrinkling and skin aging. These state-of-the-art ingredients, especially when combined in a cocktail approach, mixing an assortment of these elements into one product, are without question, the types of ingredients you need, regardless of the name on the label or the product category: lotion, cream, gel, serum, moisturizer, anti-aging, or antiwrinkle. If the product doesn´t contain these ingredients, then why bother?

The sticker price won´t help you. There are lots of expensive products that cheat your skin and lots of inexpensive products that generously serve up what your skin needs, and vice versa.

You don´t need an eye cream and don´t buy jar packaging. There is no research showing that eye-area skin needs something different from skin on the rest of your face. And do not buy any "anti-aging" product in jar packaging because if it does contain state-of-the-art ingredients they won´t remain stable once you´ve opened the jar and exposed the contents to air.

There Isn´t a "Best" Ingredient…
…there are just lots of great ones. All of the ingredients listed above—antioxidants, skin-identical ingredients, and cell-communicating ingredients—are the leading elements that contribute to making a state-of-the-art moisturizer. And there are many brilliant formulations in stable packaging that include these substances. But, contrary to what cosmetics companies want you to believe about their products, there is no single miracle ingredient for skin. Month after month, new ingredients appear one after the other in the world of skin care, all claiming superiority over their predecessors. Even when there is research showing that the ingredient can be effective for skin, that doesn´t make it better or more essential than hundreds of other ingredients—it´s just another option, not a must have.

Think about it like your diet. Although broccoli or grapes may be incredibly healthy to eat, if you eat only those foods your health will suffer. Skin is a complex structural organ that requires many substances to function in a younger and healthier manner. And by that, I mean to function the way it did before it became damaged by the sun.

AHAs and BHA: Take Skin Beyond Smooth
What they do: For all skin types, it is extremely helpful to exfoliate the surface layers of skin. Sun-damaged skin causes the outer layer of skin to become abnormally thick. For those with blemish-prone skin, the outer layer of skin is genetically thicker. Whether you use a product with glycolic or lactic acids, these alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) or salicylic acid (BHA, which is exceptional for normal to oily/combination skin) remove the outer layer of built-up dead skin cells, allowing healthier cells to come to the surface and smoothing the surface, thus eliminating some wrinkling. There also is a good deal of research showing that using a well-formulated AHA product can increase collagen production. AHAs in skin-care products are effective in concentrations ranging from 5% to 15%; salicylic acid is effective in 1% to 2% concentrations.

Sources: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, April 2005, pages 1156-1162; Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology, May-June 1999, pages 111-119; Archives of Dermatologic Research, June 1997, pages 404-409; and Dermatologic Surgery, May 1998, pages 573-577; Dermatologic Surgery, January 2008, pages 45-50; Archives of Internal Medicine, July 2002, pages 1531-1532; Annals of Dermatology and Venereology, January 2002, pages 137-142; Archives of Dermatology, November 2000, pages 1390-1395; Dermatology, 1999, volume 199, number 1, pages 50-53; and Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, volume 175, issue 1, pages 76-82.)

Please see the list below for product recommendations with AHAs or BHA.

Retinol: Vitamin A for Anti-Aging
What it does: Retinol is the term used for the entire vitamin A molecule. Applied to skin, retinol is a beneficial cell-communicating ingredient and an antioxidant. Simply put, it helps skin cells create better, healthier skin cells and increases the amount of skin-support substances. Retinol has been shown to increase the skin´s collagen production and glycosaminoglycan content, resulting in firmer skin with an improved texture and enhanced barrier function. Although it is not the only ingredient to look for in an anti-aging product, it deserves strong consideration by anyone who wants to keep their skin in top shape through the years. In skin-care products, it is found in the form of retinol, retinyl palmitate, and retinylaldehyde. In prescription-only skin-care products, it is in the form of retinoic acid (also called tretinoin).

Sources: Archives of Dermatology, May 2007, pages 606-612; Cosmetic Dermatology, supplement, Revisiting Retinol, January 2005, pages 1-20; Dermatologic Surgery, July 2005, pages 799-804; Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, April 2005, pages 1156-1162; Mechanisms of Ageing Development, July 2004, pages 465-473; and Journal of Dermatology, November 2001, pages 595-598.

Please see the list below for product recommendations with retinol.

Vitamin C: "C" the Difference it Makes
What it does: One of the most well-researched and beneficial vitamins you can apply topically is vitamin C. It has been shown to increase collagen production (including dermal collagen, which is significant for wrinkle reduction), reduce the appearance of skin discolorations, strengthen skin´s barrier response, enhance skin´s repair process, reduce inflammation, and help skin better withstand exposure to sunlight, whether protected by sunscreen or not.

Vitamin C comes in many forms, with ascorbic acid being the most common. Other forms of vitamin C include magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, L-ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbyl glucosamine, and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate.

Sources: International Journal of Toxicology, volume 24, supplement 2, 2005, pages 51-111; Experimental Dermatology, September 2005, pages 684-691, and June 2003, pages 237-244; Dermatologic Surgery, July 2005, pages 814-817; Nutrition Reviews, March 2005, pages 81-90; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, November-December 2004, pages 298-303; BMC Dermatology, September 2004, page 13; International Journal of Dermatology, August 2004, pages 604-607; and Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, volume 5, issue 2m, March-April 2003, pages m145-m149.

Please see the list below for product recommendations with stabilized vitamin C.

Vitamin E: In a League of its Own
What it does: Vitamin E (technical name tocopherol) is considered an antioxidant superstar in its own right. This fat-soluble vitamin is available in various forms with eight biologically active components, such as alpha tocopherol and beta tocopherol, or combined in an ingredient called tocotrienols. Simply put, vitamin E in all of its forms works in several different ways to protect cell membranes from oxidative damage and to prevent collagen from being destroyed. It also works in powerful synergy with vitamin C. Vitamin E on an ingredient label can be tocopheryl acetate, tocopheryl linoleate, tocotrienols, alpha tocopherol, and tocopheryl succinate.

Sources: Dermatologic Therapy, September-October 2007, pages 314-321; International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, July-September 2005, pages 497-502; Experimental Dermatology, September 2005, pages 684-691; International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, July 2005, pages 116-119; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, January-February 2005, pages 20-26; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, February 2005, pages 304-307; Photochemistry and Photobiology, April 1993, pages 613-615; and Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, January 2005, page 4.

Please see the list below for product recommendations with various forms of vitamin E.

Niacinamide: Vitamin B at its Best
What it does: Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is the active component of vitamin B3. When applied topically, niacinamide has been shown to increase ceramide and free fatty acid levels in skin, prevent skin from losing water content, and stimulate microcirculation in the dermis. It also has a growing reputation for being able to address skin discolorations (often in tandem with other proven skin-lightening agents such as vitamin C and glucosamine) and to reduce acne. It definitely belongs on the A-list of great skin-care ingredients regardless of your skin-care concern.

Sources: British Journal of Dermatology, October 2003, page 681, and September 2000, pages 524-531; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, April 2004, page 88; Dermatologic Surgery, July 2005, pages 860-865; Experimental Dermatology, July 2005, pages 498-508; Journal of Radiation Research, December 2004, pages 491-495; and Journal of Dermatological Science, volume 31, 2003, pages 193-201.

Please see the list below for product recommendations with niacinamide.

Green and White Tea
What they do: Whether you drink green or white tea, both contain excellent antioxidants from the plant Camellia sinensis and both deserve your attention. There are four major antioxidant components of green and white tea, of which Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant and biologically active. Green tea is found more commonly in cosmetics than white tea, but both work quite well to reduce inflammation, build collagen, and reduce cell damage by impeding the harmful effects of sun exposure. EGCG also is found in cosmetics and is probably a more potent stable way to get the antioxidant benefit on skin.

Sources: Histology and Histopathology, April 2008, pages 487-496; Journal of Medicinal Food, June 2007, pages 337-344; Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine, February 2007, pages 48-56; Phytochemistry, September 2006, pages 1849-1855; and Journal of Dermatological Science, December 2005, pages 195-204.

Please see the list below for product recommendations with green and white tea.

What it does: Like any antioxidant, resveratrol has incredible protective benefit for skin. In nature it is found in foods such as grapes, nuts, fruits, and red wine. When applied topically, resveratrol protects against sun damage, improves collagen synthesis, and reduces cell damage. It is a stable, potent antioxidant worth finding in a skin-care product. In addition, studies have shown that resveratrol inhibits tumor development.
Sources: Anticancer Research, September-October 2004, pages 2783–2840; Medicinal Chemistry, November 2005, pages 629–633; Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, May 2005, pages 405–430; Antioxidant Redox Signal, December 2001, pages 1041–1064; and Mutation Research, Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, September 2001, pages 171–180).

Please see the list below for product recommendations with resveratrol.

Grape Seed
What it does: Grape seed has been shown to be a potent antioxidant that significantly reduces free-radical damage. Combining it with other antioxidants greatly enhances its efficacy. It also has wound-healing properties. Regardless of the type of grape, it has antioxidant potential. For fighting wrinkles, it is one of the superstars.

Sources: Phytotherapy Research, September 23, pages 1197-1204; Carcinogenesis, June 2009, pages 1008-1015; Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, June 2001, pages 187–200; and Toxicology, August 2000, pages 187–197; and Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, April 2000, pages 1076–1080).

Please see the list below for product recommendations with grape seed.

What they do: Curcuminoids are various compounds derived from the spice turmeric. Turmeric is the major ingredient in curry powder, a spice used to flavor many types of food. The curcuminoids are the major active constituents of turmeric. Curcumin is but one of these components, and is chemically known as diferuloylmethane). Curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory properties, both internally and externally (applied to skin). It also has activity against tumor formation. It is capable of causing cancerous cells to die while preserving healthy cells. The curcuminoids also have potent antioxidant ability and work to suppress excess melanin production in the presence of sunlight. Curcuminoids are considered safe for use on skin. They gain anti-aging superstar status due to their multiple benefits in addressing the underlying factors (chronic inflammation, irritation, sun damage) that cause skin to look older and become less able to repair itself.

Sources: Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, September 2009, pages 447–460; Cell Biology and Toxicology, March 2009, Epublication; Archives of Physiology and Biochemistry, April 2008, pages 127–149; Food Chemistry and Toxicology, August 2002, pages 1091–1097; Planta Medica, December 2001, pages 876–877;Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, April 1998, pages 361–370; and

Please see the list below for product recommendations with curcuminoids.

Soy Isoflavones/Extract (Genistein)
What they do: Soy and its components have an amazing amount of research showing them to be powerful antioxidants and beneficial for skin. Studies show that these derivatives inhibit environmental damage, reduce irritation, improve skin texture, build collagen, and fight sun damage. Genistein (a component of soy) benefits skin´s elasticity, strengthens the skin´s dermis, and prevents DNA damage. There is also research showing it improves the appearance of scars.

Sources: Journal of Medicinal Food, April 2009, pages 429-434; Burns, February 2009, pages 89-97; Carcinogenesis, August 2006, pages 1627-1635; Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, June 2005, pages 1049-1059; Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology, May-June 2002, pages 175-183; Cosmetics & Toiletries, June 2002, pages 45-50; Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, & Photomedicine, April 2003, page 56; and Journal of Cosmetic Science, September-October 2004, pages 473-479).

Please see the list below for product recommendations with various forms of soy.

What it does: Pomegranate and its extracts have antioxidant and anticancer properties that, while not conclusively demonstrated on human skin, show promise in animal and in vitro studies. Topical application of products containing pomegranate may improve the appearance of wrinkled skin by reducing inflammation and forestalling further damage. Research also shows that an extract from pomegranate peel has an inhibitory effect on the collagen-depleting substance MMP-1.

Sources: Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, June 2009, pages S5-S9; International Journal of Cancer, January 2005, pages 423-433; Journal of Medicinal Food, Fall 2003, 157-161; Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, January 2002, pages 81-86, and pages 166-171; International Journal of Oncology, May 2002, pages 983-986; and

Please see the list below for product recommendations with pomegranate.

What they do: Ceramides make up about 20% of the skin´s intercellular matrix, the "glue" that holds skin cells together, helping skin maintain its appearance and protecting it. When the skin´s "matrix," also known as the skin´s outer barrier, is impaired, whether from sun damage, a dry environment, or irritating skin-care product, ceramides decrease and leave the skin vulnerable. Replenishing the skin´s ceramide content is a powerful way to protect skin and help it act and look younger.

Sources: Journal of Lipid Research, September 2007; International Journal of Pharmaceutics, January 2006, pages 232-238; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, November 2001, pages 1126-1136; and Experimental Dermatology, October 2005, pages 719-726.

Please see the list below for product recommendations with various ceramides.

Linoleic / Linolenic Acids / Phospholipids
What they do: These fatty acids replenish the skin´s intercellular matrix, preserving its appearance. In addition, all of them function as cell-communicating ingredients, working to "tell" the appropriate skin cells how to function in a healthier manner. They also help reduce inflammation, believed to be a key factor in how the skin ages.

Sources: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2007, pages 1225-1231; Archives of Dermatological Research, July 1998, pages 375-381; Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, March 1998, pages 56-58; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, May 1996, pages 1096-1101, and July 2001, pages 44-51; Seminars in Dermatology, June 1992, pages 169-175; and

Please see the list below for product recommendations with linoleic/linolenic acids and/or phospholipids.

The A-List: Recommended Products
AHA and BHA (Topical Exfoliants)

* Paula´s Choice 8% Alpha Hydroxy Acid Gel, for All Skin Types ($18.95 for 4 ounces)
* Derma E AHA Alpha Hydroxy Acids Beauty Fluid ($16.95 for 2 ounces)
* DHC Renewing AHA Cream ($39 for 1.5 ounces)
* Dr. Perry Night Skin Active Skin Renewal ($69.95 for 1 ounce)
* Jason Natural New Cell Therapy 12½ Plus Moisturizing Oil Free Gel ($22.50 for 1 ounce)
* Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic Acid 10% Moisturizer ($45 for 2 ounces)
* Vivite Vibrance Therapy ($119 for 1 ounce)
* Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment ($7.99 for 2 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice 1% Beta Hydroxy Acid Gel ($18.95 for 4 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice 1% Beta Hydroxy Acid Lotion ($18.95 for 4 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice 2% Beta Hydroxy Acid Gel ($18.95 for 4 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice 2% Beta Hydroxy Acid Liquid ($18.95 for 4 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice CLEAR Targeted Acne Relief Toner $18.95 for 4 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice CLEAR Extra Strength Targeted Acne Relief Toner ($18.95 for 4 ounces)
* ProActiv Solution Clarifying Night Cream ($28.75 for 1 ounce)
* Cosmedicine Speedy Recovery Acne Treatment Daytime Blemish Lotion SPF 15 ($40 for 2 ounces)



* SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream with 0.5% Pure Retinol ($50 for 1 ounce)
* SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 Maximum Strength Refining Night Cream with 1.0% Pure Retinol ($56 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Mattifying Concentrate Serum ($24.95 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($24.95 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer ($22.95 for 1.7 ounces)
* Philosophy eye believe, deep wrinkle peptide gel ($30 for 0.5 ounce)
* Alpha Hydrox Retinol Night ResQ ($14.99 for 1.05 ounces)
* Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream, Night ($13.99 for 1.4 ounces)


Vitamin C

* MD Skincare by Dr. Dennis Gross Hydra-Pure Vitamin C Serum ($95 for 1 ounce)
* DDF C3 Plus Serum ($68 for 0.5 ounce)
* La Roche-Posay BioMedic Potent-C 10.5 Concentrate ($72.50 for 1 ounce)
* SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($138 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($24.95 for 1 ounce)
* Jan Marini Skin Research C-ESTA Serum ($79 for 1 ounce)
* Cellex-C Serum for Sensitive Skin ($90 for 1 ounce)


Vitamin E

* Jason Natural Ester-C Lotion Anti-Oxidant Regenerating Moisturizer ($16 for 4 ounces)
* NeoStrata Daytime Protection Cream SPF 15, PHA 10 ($36 for 1.75 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Recovery Toner ($15.95 for 6 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Recovery Moisturizer ($18.95 for 2 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Balancing Moisture Gel ($18.95 for 2 ounces)
* RevaleSkin Night Cream ($110 for 1.7 ounces)
* Dermalogica AGE Smart Multi-Vitamin Power Firm, for Eye and Lip Area ($48 for 0.5 ounce)
* Artistry by Amway Time Defiance Skin Refinishing Lotion ($48.50 for 1 ounce)
* DHC Wrinkle Filler ($27 for 0.52 ounce)



* Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Anti-Aging Moisturizer, Mature Skin Therapy ($19.38 for 1.7 ounces)
* Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum Fragrance-Free ($19.49 for 1.7 ounces)
* Olay Regenerist Advanced Anti-Aging DNA Superstructure UV Cream SPF 25 ($29.99 for 1.7 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Balancing Toner ($15.95 for 6 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Moisture Boost Hydrating Treatment Cream ($18.95 for 2 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Balancing Moisture Gel ($18.95 for 2 ounces)
* Mary Kay TimeWise Even Complexion Essence ($35 for 1 ounce)
* Nia24 Skin Strengthening Complex ($85 for 1.7 ounces)


Sunscreen Actives for Normal to Oily Skin

* SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense SPF 30 ($37 for 3 ounces)
* Avon Anew Advanced All-in-One Max SPF 15 Lotion ($16.50 for 1.7 ounces)
* Clinique Sun SPF 30 Face Cream ($17.50 for 1.7 ounces)
* Neutrogena Healthy Skin Visibly Even Daily SPF 15 Moisturizer ($13.09 for 1.7 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Balancing Daily Mattifying Lotion with SPF 15 and Antioxidants for Normal to Oily/Combination Skin ($20.95 for 2 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Essential Non-Greasy Sunscreen SPF 15 for Normal to Oily/Combination Skin($14.95 for 6 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Ultra-Light Weightless Finish SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray for All Skin Types($15.95 for 4 ounces)
* Estee Lauder DayWear Plus Multi Protection Anti-Oxidant Lotion SPF 15, for Oily Skin ($39.50 for 1.7 ounces)
* Olay Regenerist UV Defense Regenerating Lotion SPF 50 ($29.99 for 1.7 ounces)

Sunscreen Actives for Normal to Dry Skin

* BeautiControl Cell Block-C New Cell Protection SPF 20 ($30.50 for 1 ounce)
* Elizabeth Arden Extreme Conditioning Cream SPF 15 ($38.50 for 1.7 ounces)
* Good Skin All Bright Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 30 ($14 for 1.7 ounces)
* Mary Kay TimeWise Day Solution Sunscreen SPF 25 ($30 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Extra Care Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 30+, for Normal to Dry Skin ($14.95 for 6 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Recovery Daily Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 15 & Antioxidants for Normal to Dry Skin ($20.95 for 2 ounces)
* Jan Marini Skin Research Bioglycolic Facial Lotion SPF 15 ($52 for 2 ounces)
* SkinCeuticals Sports UV Defense SPF 45 ($37 for 3 ounces)
* Borghese Crema Straordinaria Da Giornio SPF 25 ($66 for 1.7 ounces)
* Clinique Sun SPF 30 Face Cream ($17.50 for 1.7 ounces)

Sunscreen Actives for Sensitive Skin

* Clinique City Block Sheer Oil-Free Daily Face Protector SPF 25 ($17.50 for 1.4 ounces)
* Dr. Perry Natural Block 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 ($19.95 for 4 ounces)
* Good Skin All Calm Gentle Sunscreen SPF 25 ($14 for 1.7 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Pure Mineral Sunscreen SPF 15 ($15.95 for 6 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Barely There Sheer Matte Tint SPF 20 ($14.95 for 1 ounce)
* Obagi Nu-Derm Physical UV Block SPF 32 ($40 for 2 ounces)
* Boscia Illuminating UVA/UVB SPF 30 ($30 for 1.7 ounces)
* BeautiControl Cell Block-C New Cell Protection SPF 20 ($30.50 for 1 ounce)


Green/White Tea

* Good Skin All Firm Rebuilding Serum ($26 for 1 ounce)
* Mary Kay SPF 30 Sunscreen ($14 for 4 ounces)
* Olay Complete Ageless Skin Renewing UV Lotion SPF 20 ($24.99 for 2.5 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice BHA products (various formulas ($18.95 for 4 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum($24.95 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Moisture Boost Hydrating Toner ($15.95 for 6 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Healthy Skin Refreshing Toner ($15.95 for 6 ounces)
* DERMAdoctor KP Duty Dermatologist Moisturizing Therapy for Dry Skin ($36 for 4 ounces)
* M.D. Formulations Critical Care Calming Gel ($39 for 1 ounce)
* SkinMedica Solar Care Environmental Defense Sunscreen SPF 30+ ($40 for 3 ounces)



* Cellex-C Advanced-C Serum ($127 for 1 ounce)
* Cosmedicine MegaDose Skin Fortifying Serum ($85 for 1 ounce)
* Isomers Carnosine + Antioxidant Complex ($39.99 for 1 ounce)
* Serious Skin Care DNA Eye Beauty Treatment Cream ($22.50 for 0.5 ounce)
* Aloette Multi-Active Prevention Plus ($49.95 for 0.5 ounce)


Grape Seed

* Dr. Denese New York Triple Strength Wrinkle Smoother ($54 for 2 ounces)
* MD Skincare by Dr. Dennis Gross Hydra-Pure Antioxidant Firming Serum ($95 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Moisture Boost Hydrating Toner for Normal to Dry Skin ($15.95 for 6 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice 2% Beta Hydroxy Acid Lotion (18.95 for 4 ounces)
* Revlon Age Defying Instant Firming Face Primer for Dry Skin ($13.99 for 1 ounce)
* Revlon Age Defying Instant Firming Face Primer for Normal/Combination Skin ($13.99 for 1 ounce)



* Avon Anew Advanced All-in-One Max SPF 15 Lotion ($16.50 for 1.7 ounces)
* BeautiControl Skinlogics Platinum Plus Brightening Day Crème ($26 for 3.5 ounces)
* Paula's Choice Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer ($22.95 for 1.7 ounces)
* Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($24.95 for 1 ounce)
* Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($24.95 for 1 ounce)


Soy Isoflavones/Extract

* DDF Silky C Serum ($78 for 1 ounce)
* MD Skincare by Dr. Dennis Gross Hydra-Pure Antioxidant Firming Serum ($95 for 1 ounce)
* MD Skincare by Dr. Dennis Gross Hydra-Pure Oil-Free Moisture ($78 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum($24.95 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Recovery Hydrating Treatment Mask ($14.95 for 4 ounces)
* Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Concentrate Recovery Boosting Treatment ($85 for 1 ounce)



* Borba Clarifying Complexion Shield SPF 15 ($25 for 3.4 ounces)
* Estee Lauder Nutritious Vita-Mineral Radiance Serum ($40 for 1 ounce)
* Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Concentrate Recovery Boosting Treatment ($85 for 1 ounce)
* Murad Energizing Pomegranate Moisturizer SPF 15 ($33 for 2 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer ($22.95 for 1.7 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice HydraLight Moisture-Infusing Lotion, for Normal to Oily/Combination Skin ($18.95 for 2 ounces)


* CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion ($12.99 for 12 ounces)
* CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($14.99 for 16 ounces)
* Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Gold Ultra Restorative Capsules ($68 for 0.95 ounce)
* Isomers Absolutes Anti Redness Serum ($29.99 for 1 ounce)
* MD Formulations Moisture Defense Antioxidant Lotion ($50 for 1 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Hydrating Treatment Cream ($18.95 for 2 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Skin Balancing Toner ($15.95 for 6 ounces)
* Osmotics Cream Extreme Barrier Repair ($75 for 1.7 ounces)
* SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream with 0.5% Pure Retinol ($42 for 1 ounce)


Linoleic/Linolenic Acids/Phospholipids

* Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Supplement ($65 for 1 ounce)
* Clinique Repairwear Deep Wrinkle Concentrate for Face and Eyes ($55 for 1 ounce)
* Dr. Denese New York HydroShield Eye Serum ($44 for 0.5 ounce)
* Estee Lauder DayWear Plus Multi Protection Anti-Oxidant Lotion SPF 15, for Oily Skin ($39.50 for 1.7 ounces)
* Good Skin Tri-Aktiline Instant Deep Wrinkle Filler ($39.50 for 1 ounce)
* Kiss My Face Face Factor Face + Neck SPF 30 ($12.95 for 2 ounces)
* M.D. Formulations Moisture Defense Antioxidant Lotion ($50 for 1 ounce)
* M.A.C. Prep + Prime Line Filler ($19.50 for 0.5 ounce)
* Paula´s Choice Moisture Boost Hydrating Treatment Cream, for Normal to Dry Skin ($18.95 for 2 ounces)
* Paula´s Choice Moisture Boost Hydrating Toner for Normal to Dry Skin ($15.95 for 6 ounces)


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Could It Be True? You Don't Even Need Laundry Detergent

Hot off the Wall Street Journal presses: Americans use way too much detergent, which makes their clothes dingy and causes problems for the machines.

The finale of this article is this shocker: Seventh Generation's co-founder, Jeffrey Hollender, wonders why more people haven't stumbled upon laundry's big, dirty secret: "You don't even need soap to wash most loads," he says. The agitation of washing machines often does the job on its own.

As with most of my household "routines," my laundry is done lackadaisically at best. I am definitely going to test out this new concept.

Anyone else daring enough?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cheap Chic at Big Lots: Asian Ceramic Garden Seats, I mean, Drums

I love Big Lots. It is responsible for most of my savings on groceries--to wit, big cans of organic Muir Glen tomatoes for $1.00; imported pasta from Italy that is made with bronze dies for about the same; cranberry sauce for a mere quarter--and the list goes on. It is also conveniently located less than a mile from my home in the Frugal Shopper's paradise: in a line up with Goodwill, Rouses (local grocery) and Dollar Tree.

Chic, however, is a strange concept. Big Lots has been the site of purely pragmatic shopping. Till yesterday.

While strolling though with my 20% off coupon (sent to my email, but also available all over the internet), I happened upon CERAMIC GARDEN STOOLS. If you read even the occasional decorating mag, or get any home catalogs, you have seen these. They serve as side tables, paired as coffee tables, and more. Some even serve as garden stools.

You can find beautiful painted antiques, but most commonly these are plain (or even metallic). They cost, at the least, about $100.00. But the prices go up and up, depending on the prestige of the venue.

At Big Lots, the price is a shocking $20.00. I got 2 in a burgundy color, which happens to be a color in my Grandma's old oriental rug. They are now sitting--chicly--next to the chairs in my living room.

These should continue to be available, since they are pictured in the "Outdoor Life" catalog now at your local Big Lots. They come in blue, white, and red (but more burgundy, if mine are standard).

Please, Big Lots, sage green would be nice.

P.S. Big Lots calls these "Ceramic Garden Drums," with a caveat "not weight tested." However, I sat on mine before I read the disclaimer, and it supported my weight just fine. Don't try this at home.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Scary Nightmare: A Glimpse into the Psyche of the Pathologically Frugal

I will resume my kitchen "series" (!!!) later. Now, for something different, I will recount my nightmare. A bonafide frugal dream. A glimpse into pathology.

Mr. FS and I were going to graduate school. (In real life, we met in college and re-met in grad school.) I had decided to go to U of Illinois (fictional), a public institution where I had a tuition waiver. Mr. FS had decided to go the U of Chicago,a private institution, with a half tuition waiver (also fictional; we went to a different school).

Frugal Scholar shrieking in dream: "But the tuition at Chicago is almost $50,000/year! You will have to take out loans for $25,000/year! For at least 4 years!"

Mr. FS: "I didn't realize that." (looks downcast)

FS: "We can both go to Illinois!"

Mr. FS: "I forgot to apply!"

FS: "I just want to be middle-class!"

Then, readers, I awoke.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kitchen Remodel on a Budget: Cabinets

This is a biggie. Most "rules of thumb" for kitchens declare that you will spend half your money on cabinets. Although I regard most rules of thumb with scorn, this proved to be the case for me. I had a lot of trouble with cabinets. I will present only my conclusions. If I went through all my learning and deliberations, this would go on for many pages. Trust me. Or not. Your choice.

1. Cabinets are overpriced for the quality. No matter what the price level. Really good ones are ridiculously expensive; medium ones are overpriced anyway, and really cheap ones are garbage. Out of everything in a kitchen, I believe that cabinets offer the least value for the money.

As with every rule, there is an exception. There is ONE good value cabinet: Ikea. Their cabinets are frameless and modular, in the European style. In Consumer Reports a few year ago, Ikea cabinets ranked third. The top two cost about 10 times as much and the lower ones were far more expensive.Part of the cost of Ikea cabinets comes in sweat equity since you have to install them. If I lived near an Ikea, I would have gotten their cabinets. No question. You will see them in the most upscale homes, including ones the architects design for themselves.

2. So, Ikea not an option, what next? Well, I went up and down the scale of quality. Not too high. I went from mid-price (Kraftmaid and others sold at Lowes and Home Depot and Wellborn sold at a lumber store) to low price (the already-put-together ones at Lowes.) I almost went for these. But the floor samples were falling apart, so I really couldn't see doing this. I eventually bought Wellborn.

3. Since cabinets are overpriced, the only way you can save is to use fewer of them. I have very few cabinets. The $4000.00 doesn't provide for many. I do have a pantry, however, which holds tons of stuff. AND I have an old cupboard on one long wall. My house came with the pantry, but even a little closet type construction will hold the stuff of many cabinets and set you back a fraction of the cost.

Conclusion: Use as few cabinets as you can. Pantries are good. Big case pieces are good, especially if you already have them.

4. All those neat pullouts and inserts can double the cost of your cabinets. These are so neat! But JUST SAY NO. Or at least ask how much extra each costs. You will faint. (It is hard to get a piece by piece breakdown on cabinets. Only Lowe's provided one.) You can buy some of these aftermarket and install them yourself. Lowes carries them.

Exception: Once again, Ikea. Those inserts cost almost nothing at Ikea. Not fair! It just kills me that the closest one is 6 hours away. Ikea cabinets also have Blum drawer glides as standard. These glides are an expensive upcharge on other brands.

Conclusion: As the young woman at the lumberyard said to the salesperson I was re-assigned to (long story): Gerry, she doesn't want you to pimp out her cabinets.

5. Beauty: All those pretty finishes carry a big upcharge. Paint (which I like), glazes, and so forth are pricey. Paint is expensive! If you want white cabinets (I did not), you can also pick thermofoil. Wood cabinets have a lot less wood than you want to know (even "all wood" have lots of particle board). Thermofoil has no wood and the foil can peel off when exposed to heat--uhhhhhh, there's a lot of heat in kitchens.

6. More beauty: There is a surprising difference in price among different styles. Sometimes the plainest are the most.

7. Stuff you don't know can be expensive. As I mention above, most price estimates for your design will not break down by individual cabinets. So it is hard to figure out where to save or what is worth it. I learned from the Lowe's estimate--which did have a breakdown--that the cabinet that encloses a refrigerator is very expensive. To me, this is useless, merely cosmetic. I call them (forgive me) condoms for refrigerators (not a good analogy, since condoms do serve a purpose). The cabinets over the fridge are also expensive. If you look at pics of European kitchens, you will see few of these. My contractor was impressed that I knew this. He said I had saved around $1000.00, plus installation.

8. More stuff you don't know. Even though Gerry vowed that he would not pimp out my cabinets, he urged me to trim with molding. We said OK (weak!) and got our estimate. We changed out minds and the estimate went down by--well, a lot! The molding that may cost around $5.00 a foot at the lumber store costs about $50.00 a foot from the cabinet company. When we paid the contractor, that bill was quite a bit lower than the estimate. We asked why (because we thought he had made a mistake). Josh said that the molding is very time-consuming to install. Hence expensive. This was a substantial savings, but accidental. Makes you wonder what else you don't know.

Overall conclusion: Ikea cabinets are good value. All other brands are overpriced for the quality. Your only recourse is to use as few cabinets as possible and to pimp them out as little as possible.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Budget Kitchen Renovation: Thoughts on Style

I went into a home right after Katrina where I saw the kitchen of my dreams. The homeowner was a friend of a friend. Mr. FS and I were taking a walk after the storm (since there was nothing else to do); also, the rumormill said that someone on that street had a working phone. En route to the phone, we saw Catherine, who had just returned to town. She said we could see if her phone worked. We went into the kitchen and discovered that the phone indeed worked. We called our families to tell them we were okay. Meanwhile, Catherine discovered that several trees had gone through the roof of her newly renovated house.

But the kitchen! Beautiful antique-looking (custom) cabinets that went up to her high ceilings. Glass front cupboards (custom) filled with beautiful dishes.A custom-made island that looked like something you'd see in a fantasy of Provence. An 8 burner Viking stove. I admired the kitchen. She said, Yes, I bought the house for the kitchen. The previous owner--a cigar chomping youngish guy who looked like the Master of the Universe--had done the renovation. No one ever saw Mrs. Master. Catherine said that the cabinetry had been in natural wood. She "couldn't live with that." So she had it painted white.

Catherine is from an old wealthy Louisiana family. So is her (now ex-) husband. That kind of kitchen could be mine--for about $100,000.00. Out of my league, I'm afraid.

The first time I went to a kitchen place, I witnessed this exchange. Customer: I want what's popular. Salesperson: Maple cabinets and granite. Customer: That's what I want. End of design process.

Salespeople assume they know what you want. I kept being told that I "needed" an island or peninsula. I pointed out that I would have to remove my table. To which the salesperson replied, You could eat on stools at the island! No, said I. Then you could eat Japanese=style on your living room rug! So much for the design process.

When I said I wasn't crazy about granite, I was looked at with pity.

So what do you do when you don't want the maple/granite kitchen of most middle-class dreams? What if you REALLY like Catherine's magazine-worthy kitchen but don't want to spend $100,000?

Well, you have to figure out how you can get something of the atmosphere you want (unassuming Creole cottage?) while staying within the boundaries of pathological frugality. In other words, you have to figure it out yourself. Even if it drives you crazy. And you over-research. And everyone laughs at you for not being able to make up your mind. What else is new?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Budget Kitchen Renovation: Budget Matters

The first thing you are asked at Lowes, Home Depot, or the gruesome Singer Kitchens, is What is Your Budget? This is a little like the car salesperson saying What monthly payment are you looking at? No one in the retail biz understands the frugal mindset.

Answer: I want a good value kitchen. How can I get the most for my dollars? But that answer is like speaking in Martian. The response is usually, Oh, you're poor.

That comment--not in so many words, but that is the gist--is designed to get you to a)feel ashamed, or b) prove to the salesperson that you are NOT poor (or cheap) by spending a lot. The assumption is that you will spend to your limit, or even a little past that. It's not in the interest of a salesperson to save you money. And, as the value-oriented frugal person knows, most people just don't understand what a value-orientation means.

The truth is that I have plenty of money in the bank. That's BECAUSE I am frugal. So I could have bought a Wolf ($5000.00) stove if I had wanted--or better, a Lacanche ($6000.00 and WAY up) from France. I could have had custom cabs or granite counter tops. In a way, it's easy when you have a budget. Then you know what you can spend. But I had a lot of leeway.

So, as is my habit, I set an arbitrary budget of $12,000, which was what my mother had spent on her kitchen.

It is so hard to go against peer pressure. Meanwhile, I was making my plans during the post-Katrina building boom here, which coincided with the housing boom everywhere else. No one was interested in a modest remodel. I waited for a few years.

Next topic: Style

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kitchen Remodel on a Budget: Beginnings

I've mentioned a few times that I redid my kitchen for only $8000.00. Here is my breakdown of costs:

Cabinets: $4000.00
Labor: $2000.00
Range: $700.00
Sink: $300.00
Dishwasher: $400.00
Other stuff (faucets, knobs): $600.00

I am blissfully happy with the kitchen. It is just what I wanted and just like my old house: somewhat unconventional. Bear in mind that most people wouldn't like my kitchen. When I showed my very conventional sister-in-law a picture of my kitchen, she asked where the "after" photo was.

As is my wont, I over-researched the possibilities to the extent that I told my contractor a thing or two or three. He was happy to learn some of my budget tips, since, like many contractors, he does his own house on the cheap. I got so confused that at one point I considered hiring a friend who is a designer to consult. Then I realized that designers are interested in "looks," not in a look on a budget. I also spoke to "designers" in Home Depot, Lowes, or, a truly horrible experience, a local chain called Singer Kitchens. These "designers" are, in truth, cabinet salespeople who work on commission: their interests and your interests are not the same.

If you know anything about kitchens and appliances, you can see that I went low-end on the appliances. You can also see that I did not list a counter top. That is because I re-used a funky wood countertop. i also did not list a back splash. That is because I hate them.

So I will post occasionally on aspect of the remodel of summer 2008. Maybe I'll even post pictures. Then all of you can ask, with my sister-in-law, Where's the after picture?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What's With Chico's? More Bad Customer Service

You may recall that in December, I complained mildly about Chico's customer service: enticed by free shipping and a 20% discount, I ordered something, got a confirmation, and then, nothing....So I called after more than a week, and, after a lengthy wait, the rep said that the supplier hadn't made enough of the item. I sent an email to customer service, suggesting that they officially cancel my order and MAYBE offer me free shipping on a future order. I got a response along the lines of "We're notifying the authorities of your concerns blahblahblah."

Well. My blog post got a response. Someone named Noelle told me to email her at Chico's and that she would make things right. So I did. And NO RESPONSE.

Could the email have been from an impostor? It was the Christmas season and very few people are named Noelle, after all.

And, guess what, my order still hasn't been cancelled!

Monday, January 18, 2010

My List of Desires circa 2008: Archeology

As always, I am overwhelmed by the bits of paper that accumulate in my life. Out with little notes from students, Doctor's excuses for students (note to students: this is college! STOP!); illegible notes to myself.

Then I found a list of all the stuff I wanted from 2008. I do these periodically. List-making quells desire, for some reason.

In descending order of estimated cost:
Kitchen remodel: $12,000
Sofa slipcovers: $500
Chair slipcovers: $500
Memory Foam Mattress Pad: $200
Blinds for Bedroom: $100
Velvet hangers: $70

Interesting to see what I ended up getting/spending.
Kitchen remodel: $8000 (one day, I'll write about how I accomplished this feat)
Sofa slipcovers: $500
Chair slipcovers: 0 (I got sofa slip to match the chairs)
Miss Em: Who knows, since I can't read the item. Seems to start with a "B"
Memory foam: $100 from Costco
Bedroom binds: $40 (Big Lots got honeycomb blinds for an amazing price.)
Velvet hangers: $70

I find that writing things down helps me plan and, important for frugality, WAIT. It took me a long time to figure out how to do my kitchen the way I wanted to--both aesthetically and financially. This seems to be the only area of my life where I am organized.

What's on all your little pieces of paper?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pantry Cooking for the Rest of the Week and Beyond

Tonight, we're going to the monthly free concert at the church down the street. These concerts are followed by food and wine. The concerts are great! But we've noticed that they are not the places to see and be seen by le tout as I call the high society folks of my little town. Most of the audience is comprised of residents of an upscale retirement community. Mr. FS and I are definitely on the youthful side of the demographic.

Usually we get enough at the reception to serve as a small dinner (but those retirees are very competitive eaters, I must say). Here are my pantry-busting meals for net week. I noticed that many of my favorite recipes are permutations of each other. That is why, I suppose, you can't really follow other people's cooking plans; you have to develop your own rhythm and repertoire.

I have cooked red beans (made extra), sausage,meatballs, shrimp,potatoes,cabbage, greens, and bacon. Plus odds and ends like carrots. Look at my choices.

1. Red beans and rice (beans, onions, sausage, peppers).
2. Portuguese soup (potatoes, kale,beans,tomatoes,broth--from The Victory Garden Cookbook).
3. Potatoes, sausage, and cabbage with mustard butter (from Desperation Dinners).
4. Meatballs on braised cabbage with tomatoes (from Marcella Hazan).
5. Cabbage, potato and leek winter soup (Deborah Madison).

That would be at least 10 dinners, since I cook extra.

Here's what I REALLY want to try: I found a recipe for bacon, shrimp, and mashed potato flautas. I am swooning just thinking about it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cooking from My Pantry: Progress and Plans

I want to make a dent in my food stockpile, so I set a rather arbitrary goal of spending $25.00 a week. No biggie if I don't stick to this.

Tuesday: Baked potatoes stuffed with cheese and sour cream with one of those fancy salad blends (on sale for 99 cents).

Wednesday: Winter squash soup (32 oz. Pacific boxed soup was 99 cents at Big Lots; I bought a bunch a while back) doctored with roasted peppers and extra onion browned with bacon. We ate another of the fancy salad blends mentioned above. I thought Frugal Son would love these, but he refused to eat them because they are "over-packaged." Ergh to the holier than thou 20 year old.

Thursday: Deborah Madison's lentil minestrone beloved by Mr. FS. With bread. This is a meal in a bowl. We used greens from the garden, which improved in the cold weather.

*****Went to the dreaded WM for bird food. Spent $13.00 on people food while we were there. The "budget buster": 2 bottles of rooster hot sauce for Mr. FS, who is an addict.

Friday: Made Italian wedding soup, which features meatballs (frozen, made by Son), stock (Thanksgiving!), kale (garden), beans and other odds and ends.

Saturday: leftovers of above-mentioned soups.

We walked to the little neighborhood grocery in the beautiful breezy weather. Mr. FS further busted the budget by buying his favorite cheap wine: Frontera Carmenere.

I only have $5.00 left. Mr. FS suggested that I employ creative accounting or deficit spending. Just like the big guys do.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Saving on Textbooks: I Should Just Give Up

So much terrible news in the world these days. The pictures from Haiti really bring home that my experience of Katrina Lite was indeed lite: within 3 days, the Red Cross was dishing up food downtown and, a few days after that, the streets were sufficiently cleared that you could drive to the Target parking lot where volunteers were handing out water, ice, and MREs (plus diapers and formula if you needed those things). The joke around here is that Louisiana is a third world country. But, of course, WE HAVE NO IDEA. And my cynical mind wonders if the CEOs of Goldman Sachs et al are relieved that news from Haiti knocked their smirking faces off the front pages.


It's easy enough to say: buy used or check out Amazon. What I did was check out Amazon, Powells, weigh the possibilities of rental on Chegg and other similar sites, and so forth. There is no easy answer. I did discover that the books my daughter had from first semester were basically worthless, but that the books she needed were expensive. WHY?

Books go into new editions with great rapidity. If your book is brand new, it has about 2 years of life. So, maybe, I would buy and then resell. If it is near the end of its lifespan, used might be cheap, but you will not be able to resell. Rental might be better. Example: the new edition of a book a friend needed will be coming out January 28. Just after the stock of the old ones will have been purchased.

For courses in history, literature, and so on that require regular books--not textbooks--you should check used bookstores and Powells. Or even the swap sites like My daughter needed The Stranger, Grendel, A Room of One's Own. I had all these, but all are available at paperbackswap. If you are not a swapper you can buy credits from the site or from members, who sell them in the Book Bazaar.

So what did I do? Well, I had some of the books. Then I suggested borrowing. She did borrow a math book. Then I bought her French book and some other trade books at Powells. I saved about $50.00 on the French book.

Or so I thought. A new development, at least to me. The French book requires an on-line code, which comes with the new book. If you buy used, you need to pay $50.00 for the code. Savings: 0. Time wasted: quite a bit.

Ditto for the borrowed math book. The code costs $99.00; the new book costs $109.00. See where this is going?

My biggest savings will come from the US tax code. For 2009 and 2010, the tax credit for education has been expanded from tuition only to include books. Since my kids have tuition scholarships, I have not taken any tax credits. Now I can get a credit for the full cost of their books. So my search for cheaper books was an educational adventure. What I learned: you can't beat the textbook companies. At least, not much.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to Save Money on Textbooks: Not So Easy

Textbook prices. This is a scary subject. I don't really know too much about the business end, but I think textbooks are extremely lucrative for publishers. They can charge what they want because you gotta have them. I got a glimpse of the business side recently when I heard that one of the publisher's reps, a very corporate type with power suits who had appeared on Jeopardy, was reassigned, after losing our order.

As my devoted readers know, my frugality extends beyond my immediate family, to the world at large. So I was always aware of the cost of the books I was ordering. But most teachers have no idea. At my current institution, frugality is built in. We have a textbook rental system, whereby students pay only $18.00 per course for up to two books! Given that language, math, and science books range now from $150.00-$200.00, with $50.00 or more for the flimsy workbooks that accompany them, you can see that this represents a huge savings. In fact, quite a few students say that the rental system--which the other state schools did not adopt--is what attracted them to the school in the first place.

In fact, the textbook industry reminds me of the drug industry; well-dressed reps who show up at your place of employ, sometimes with pizza (better lunches at doctor's offices). Customers who HAVE TO HAVE THE PRODUCT. And doctors/teachers who have no idea of the cost of what they just ordered.

I don't think we're allowed to get pizza anymore, incidentally. I have heard reports on NPR outlining how professors are offered trips for research or author credits and so forth. That's not the case at my school as far as I know.

My children are at colleges where they have to buy textbooks. Tomorrow: a report on my successes and failures in getting them textbooks at reasonable (i.e. "reasonable") prices.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yet Another Eating from the Pantry Report

It's so much fun to stock my pantry with wonderful food that I sometimes--okay, often--get overloaded. Why is it so much more fun to acquire than to eat? I do not have the answer.

I decided to do this after my children went back to school. Then I discovered that hundreds of bloggers are doing the same. So it seems to be some seasonal rhythm at work.

The only hitch in my plan is that I started today rather than yesterday. That's because our Sam's Club membership is expiring, so we went to Sam's on the way back from dropping Frugal Son off at the airport. We mostly stocked up on feta cheese, which is 1/3 the price of the grocery model. Somehow, we spent about $100.00 on food, which is why we don't really like warehouse clubs. We declined their offer of membership renewal for $10.00 off. I'm always disappointed by their prices--except on feta and parmesan cheese and smoked salmon.

So my goal is to spend around $25.00 a week on food for at least a month.

How's your pantry?

Last night's dinner: giant stuffed baked potatoes with a nice salad.

Boring to you probably, bliss to us.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spendthrift Scholar? What I Want to Do in 2010

My blogpal, Mr. Over the Cubicle Wall, suggested this retitling. That's because, in response to his confession of spending about $50.00 on new shoes for his first purchase of 2010, I mentioned that I had recently paid my property taxes, paid the dribs and drabs of college fees not covered by scholarships for my two children, bought a new computer owing to the demise of old one, paid for car insurance, and on and on.

Although I think the term is a bit harsh, I will continue with what I want to do or to get this year.

1. I want to go to Vienna with my mother. This is a trip that will be filled with emotional resonance; in fact, my hands get shaky as I type. I have never been to Vienna, where my mother was born, and from which she miraculously escaped in 1938 with my grandparents. As in many families, this is an area marked by silence and mystery. A Vienna trip was also the last my mother took with my father in spring of 2008. They left a bit early because my mother was (presciently) worried about his health. They planned to return. I'm hoping both my children can go too. Miss Em saw the form I helped my mother fill out over the holidays, which contained a rather bureaucratic apology for National Socialism, and asked for her existence to be notarized so they could send her $1000.00.

I figure this trip will be almost $10,000 if we all go.

2. And, on a lighter note, I want to do a bit of home reconfiguration. This may include a BATHROOM enlargement. Just a little bit. My house has the smallest bathrooms imaginable in a home of its size. Tiny closet size. Both of them.

No idea what that will cost. Maybe $20,000?

I know that various personal finance sites scoff at saving on the little things. They counsel saving on the big things. But I save on the little things so I can be a little--yes--spendthrift on the big things. I also usually overbudget on those big things, so I can be pleasantly surprised when they come out under the anticipated amount.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Catalog Disillusionment: Anthropologie Sweater Update

Miss Em went back to school on Saturday. Today, Mr. FS and I sat with Frugal Son at the airport for a bit before he boarded his flight for France.

I always like people-watching at airports. Today we saw a large group of LSU athletes walk by (swimmers?) in their hideous purple tracksuits (Sorry fans. GO TIGERS!)

Then, in a crowd of people was the very sweater from Anthropologie so coveted by Miss Em. AND IT DID NOT LOOK THAT GREAT. Mr. FS and Frugal Son agreed. In fact, the sweater looked so--well, not that special--that I had to look closely to make sure it was the same one. It was. The wearer was decked out in what looked like full Anthropologie boho-luxe regalia, with a coordinating knit floral skirt. Nonetheless, the sweater looked thin. The embroidery did not stand out.

This reminded me of my own first catalog disappointment, which may be why I seldom order from catalogs or on-line (unless there is free shipping and free--or local--returns). When I was about 8, long before the influx of fancy catalogs in mailboxes, I used to while away many an hour reading the Sears Catalog. I remember reading about chickens and chicken coops and other farm equipment, not exactly relevant to my life in suburbia.

I also remember falling in love with a dress that was styled in a farm theme, in fact. The model was sitting on a haystack and wearing a bandanna. The denouement is no doubt predictable. One Saturday, we took a family trip to Sears, probably so my father could buy a tool. My mother pointed to a hideous dress and said "Do you still want that?" Without the haystack and the bandanna, the dress was drab. I was so disillusioned, kind of a junior version of the end of James Joyce's Araby!

We reported the sweater sighting to Miss Em, but, of course, she has to take our assessment on faith.

Are you usually happy with on-line or catalog purchases or, like me, are you usually disappointed?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Frugality 101: Buy the Next One

I think this was my very first frugal practice. I started doing this when I was in graduate school, living on my $300.00 monthly stipend, of which rent took about half. Yes, this was a long time ago, but it was still miserable. My friend in chemistry got more than twice as much. Then, as now, the humanities were not valued very much.

You can do this no matter how poor you are. When you buy something, always buy the next one if it is a good price. In graduate school, I used to buy an extra pound of dried beans, thinking, at least I won't starve to death.

I was reminded of this the other day. I woke up first and went into the kitchen. I was delighted that Mr. FS had set up the coffee for me, putting coffee into our French press and filling the electric kettle. Then I noticed a big crack in the pot.

Never fear: I had a back up French press, picked up at the thrift store for $2.00. Now I will be on the lookout for another one.

Similarly, Hunts Tomato company seems to have overproduced 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes with basil. These are 2/$1.00 at two of my favorite haunts: Big Lots and Dollar Tree. I bought a bunch, and would have gotten more except that I am overstocked on canned tomatoes. Even if you are a starving student, you can buy an extra can or two of tomatoes. Then your next tomato sauce will be cheaper than otherwise and you can either sigh happily or spend the extra $0.50 on a few mushrooms from the bulk section.

If you persevere in this practice, you will have a full pantry, which will save time and money.

Other good candidates: socks for kids and birthday gifts.

What do you stock up on?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How the Children of the Pathologically Frugal Dress Plus Lemon tree

Yesterday, Miss Em ruminated on her inability to buy an $80.00 sweater. We wonder whether children develop pathological frugality through nature or nurture. We wanted to show you that some carefully selected frugal choices can look quite snazzy. Frugal children need not look like paupers.

Miss Em sports a
1. Terracotta mohair sweater: This was a karmic discovery. Miss Em was already stressing about Anthropologie sweaters when we were in Florida. We accompanied shopaholic grandmother to her hair salon. While she was being beautified, we perused the goods in the thrift shop next door. There we found this hand knit beauty. The elderly volunteers at the shop surrounded Miss Em, with her bloom of youth. They reduced the price of the sweater to from $25.00 to $10.00 on the spot. These were the stylish elderly women of my childhood memories. They were so short! Miss Em towered over them as they brought her things to try on.
2. Lands End Shoes: Ballet flats for $20.00 with free shipping is pretty good.
3. Garnet Hill tights: From their recent sale ($9.00 reduced from $26.00) and now sold out. These are very nice, made in Italy. Miss Em got all three styles.

Frugal Son wears a
1. Leather jacket: As my readers know, Frugal Son has been studying in France. Of course, French students do not wear stretched out tee shirts as US students do. They wear leather jackets and collared shirts. A few weeks ago, Frugal Son mentioned that he wanted a leather jacket. I said that I had just bought one at Goodwill for his perusal for only $6.00! He likes it even though it's a little big.
2. Maroon cashmere sweater. This is either Pringle or Lyle and Scott. I pick up men's cashmere from these esteemed labels when I see them. Mr. FS has owned this for many years; it was borrowed by Frugal Son a few years ago. I don't think he plans to give it back. It was under $3.00.
3. Collared shirt: This is from the new Lands' End Canvas line. It was around $22.00 with free shipping. It has a narrow, Euro cut. Frugal Son is very happy with his new clothes.

In the background is our lemon tree. A few days ago, I mentioned that the tree has been garbed in a blanket in hopes of protecting it from the Arctic weather that is upon us. So this is from those happy, pre-freeze days, when lemon trees wore nothing at all.

And finally, Frugal Son's haircut is courtesy of his talented sister. Someone told him he looked like Lou Reed.

Friday, January 8, 2010

When to Splurge: Anthropologie Sweater

A Mother-Daughter Rumination

Situation: Anthropologie has beautiful sweaters, many over $100. True statement pieces. Miss Em is swooning over a few. They go on sale seldom, if at all. Besides, this is not a good year for sales. Retailers, stung by overstock during the financial meltdown, do not have huge inventories. Next year will probably be a better year for sales.

Mother's View: Well, I am pathological. So my instinct is to say NO. Or rather, my instinct is to say WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR. Buying a pricey sweater now means that you won't be able to take advantage of later opportunities. Also, I know from experience that indulging just leads to more indulging. At least for most people. I also know from experience that ketchup and moths--or the worst, mustard--seek out your newest and most expensive items.

Complicating matters. Shopaholic Grandma offered to buy the sweater in lieu of a $100.00 cash gift. Also, Miss Em has several hundred dollars in her debit account, so she could buy it if she wanted to.

So, we turn the mic over to Miss Em. Miss Em, why have you not purchased the sweater???

Daughter's view:
Let me first point out: the sweater I want is not $100. It is $79.95, reduced from $148. That's a little better. I think.

Did you know brushing your teeth with your non-preferred hand can increase will power? Well, so can rejecting something you really really (REALLY!) want. It gets easier every time. Practice--putting down gorgeous and cheap Talbots merch. Practice--saying no to an Anthropologie sweater you've been lusting over for months that's finally gone on sale. Practice--not taking home a gorgeous $3 Banana Republic skirt at Goodwill because, let's face it, you already have a lot of skirts.

It's hard, especially when I know I can get the Anthro sweater. We save on so many other things!

But the fact remains that I buy a lot. That fact is always ready to confront me in the form of a little purple notebook in which I record of all my clothing purchases. I write down every. little. thing. By month, I tally number of items and total cost. The facts are there, and since starting this little journal, I feel much more able to make level-headed decisions (trust me, the beauty of this Anthro sweater is enough to make anyone woozy). I've only kept it about six months now. I'm hoping that the same way it's shown me how much I've bought over that time, it will show how little I buy over the next six months. Just in time to justify a spectacular Anthropologie sweater!
Bring it on.

Readers, how do you resolve these internal conflicts?

P.S. Here is a picture of the sweater. I didn't think it would EVER go on sale--it's too nice! The day it did, it sold out of almost every size within 24 hours. Sigh.

Is that the essence of beauty, or what?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Frugal Victory: Talbots at Marshalls

This afternoon, I accompanied Miss Em to the doctor so she could have an ear infection looked at. It turned out to be a frugal visit (tongue in cheek here) because, in addition to a killer ear infection, she had tonsillitus. Oh, and then she had two vaccination shots. Oh, and she had a wart burned off her hand. All for one copay. The doctor marveled at her stoicism.

Then, we went across the road to Target to have her prescription filled. While waiting the 20 minutes, we wandered into one of my least favorite stores, Marshalls. There we hit the motherlode of bargains: Talbots merch from last spring for about 80% off! We tried on a few things at ridiculously low prices. We even got on line with two items.

And then, Readers, we put it back. It wasn't the money. Our two items would have come to $24.00. BUT WE DIDN'T NEED IT.

Thank you, Duchesse, for your post this morning.

So, if you are a Talbots addict, you can go to Marshalls, if you dare. There was a ton of stuff. But Miss Em and I came home and drank some of the Mexican hot chocolate we bought (on sale!) at Target. And Miss Em is feeling much better, now that she's taking some medicine.

Any victories in the face of bargain-temptation to report?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Frugality 101: What I'm Wearing and What My Lemon Tree is Wearing

No pics, because I look ridiculous.

It's so cold. This might be expected in Minnesota, but seems totally unfair in the DEEP SOUTH. In truth, we often have cold, damp winters. When we moved into our old house, we heard that the previous owners had just spent a week in a motel because the house was so drafty. So Mr. FS insulated as best he could.

Still, it's a cold house, partly because of our 12 foot ceilings and many windows. Here is my outfit.
Feet: sheepskin-lined fitflops (Found NEW at Goodwill!!).
Bottom: Eileen Fisher long wool skirt. (Also from Goodwill. My daughter says I am NOT allowed to wear long skirts in public. This is working well in private.)
Top: The piece de resistance. Pieces would be more accurate. Regular old tee shirt topped with toasty wool sweater (Brooks Brothers, via Goodwill) topped with great Dale of Norway cardigan (I LOVE these sweaters and figure the Norwegians know about cold winters. Also from Goodwill)topped with a down vest (from Banana Republic, the actual store).

By the way, Frugality 101 involves anticipating your needs. So all the Goodwill items were purchased last summer. There is little competition for the warm and toasty then.

Oh yeah, the tree. The tree is decked out in a mover's blanket, with some kind of light bulb. We picked about a zillion lemons yesterday, which we will share with people when we return to school. Frugal Son made some lemon bars, which he will share with friends.

Another Frugality 101 tip: Be nice to people with lemon trees.

What do you wear when it's cold inside?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I Live in the Happiest State: Who Knew?

A few days after my semester ended (while I was in the midst of blog slackerdom), I was noodling around the internet. Somewhere or other was a story on the happiest states (to live in). Before I clicked for the answers, I just KNEW Louisiana would be in the top states. Why? Because people here are happy. As it turned out, Louisiana is NUMBER ONE!

This is so contrary to expectations. Louisiana is near the bottom in quality education (I'm TRYING, folks), income. It is near the top in political corruption and general sleaze (David Duke? Edwin Edwards? William Jefferson?). I think we are near the top in infant mortality and adult obesity. We have a regressive tax system.

When I look around my little town and those nearby, I see tiny public libraries. I see that Toys for Tots was taken over by the Marines this year, because the police department that ran it previously used the money donated to give a $900.00plus gift card to the mayor of the next town. Many of the good toys were taken by members of the police department, because, as the chief said, police officers are needy too. Said mayor recently resigned after various scandals, including driving through a barrier on the causeway. Then there's the beautifully renovated school board building, over budget but worth it, though the schools look like slums....

I once went through all this and more and my interlocutor said, "At least we know how to have a good time." Could that be it?

Writing while my son is peeling all the shrimp I bought yesterday. Is fresh (LARGE) shrimp for $2.98 per pound more conducive to happiness than quality schools? Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Do you live in a happy place?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Three Lessons of the First Day of 2010

I haven't posted for a while: the less I have to do, the less I post. Sad but true. The first day back seems as though it calls for a momentous post: on goal setting, the state of the economy, something big. But something big promotes writer's block, so I will start with something small: three things I learned on this day, January 1, 2010.

What I learned about shrimp: I went to the store to buy the de rigueur black-eyed peas, which people in the South MUST eat on New Year's Day for good luck. There I saw extra large shrimp for $2.98 a pound. There were some very expert looking shrimp buyers there. They told me to buy CURLED shrimp, not straight shrimp. Curled shrimp are alive when frozen. I was so excited to learn this, but Mr. FS told me "Everyone knows that."

What I learned about interpersonal relationships: Then, natch, I stopped at Goodwill, where one of the managers was shopping on her day off. She showed me the Chanel bag she bought. I said, "Is it fake?" She said, "No." Then she opened it up and proceeded to show me the label that said "Chanel Boutique." Last time I told someone a Chanel bag was fake, she started crying. So I just said "Wow. Great find." The lesson is to let people be happy.

What I learned about finances: I really am trying to clean up my life. However, I have been among the legions who avert their gaze when they receive their statements. I peeked at a statement from one of my mutual funds (a bad one that I should really get rid of) and discovered that they have been assessing a VERY LARGE (I am too embarrassed to say) low balance fee on my account. My account is low balance because--you guessed it--the stock market is still down around 30%. Lesson: pay attention and cash out of that fund! Not very frugal, Frugal Scholar.

Happy New Year to all.