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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CHEEEEEP Shampoo and Conditioner

I love Paula Begoun: she does her research and loves inexpensive products. She just put together a list of the best inexpensive shampoos and conditioners--among them a Suave product! Think of what you can do with all the money you save.

The 5 Best Inexpensive Shampoos
The products listed below are presented alphabetically by brand. After analyzing dozens of competing products, we selected them based on price, great performance, and intriguing formulas (well, as intriguing as hair-care formulas can be given their widely repetitive nature). All of the listed products are readily available at drugstores and mass-market retailers such as Target and Wal Mart. We're betting that some of these prices will shock you, but once you use these products, you probably won't go back to the expensive ones because of how well these work!

1. Aveeno Nourish + Shine or Nourish + Moisturize or Nourish + Volumize Shampoo ($6.49 for 10.5 oz.). Regardless of which one you choose, these all work great for all hair types without causing considerable buildup—the formulas are nearly identical.

2. Dove Volume Boost Shampoo Weightless Formula ($3.49 for 12 oz.). A great all-purpose shampoo for the whole family that's also a wise choice for normal to fine or thin hair. Most stores sell a larger size, too.

3. John Frieda Smooth Start Repairing Shampoo ($5.39 for 10 oz.). A brilliant conditioning shampoo for dry to very dry hair that's normal to coarse, curly, or thick. Note that many of Frieda's shampoos contain drying detergent cleansing agents, but this one (packaged in a tube) doesn't.

4. Suave Naturals Daily Clarifying Shampoo ($1.74 for 22.5 oz.). An exceptional bargain for a shampoo that works beautifully to remove product buildup and restore a healthy bounce and shine to hair, especially if you routinely use heavier styling products (pomades, waxes, or silicone serums). This is also a great shampoo to remove chlorine and hard water deposits from hair.

5. VO5 2-in-1 Moisturizing Shampoo + Conditioner, Normal Hair ($1.49 for 15 oz.). Although those with dry or color-treated hair will want to follow this with a good conditioner, this 2-in-1 formula is suitable for its intended hair type. This is a much better option than the other VO5 shampoos because those contain the drying cleansing agent sodium lauryl sulfate (not to be confused with sodium LAURETH sulfate, which is gentle).
The 5 Best Inexpensive Conditioners

1. Clairol Herbal Essences Hydralicious Reconditioning Conditioner for Dry/Damaged Hair ($2.99 for 10.1 oz.). This is great for daily use on dry hair, whether it's chemically treated or not. This can be too heavy for those with fine or thin hair.

2. Garnier Fructis Color Shield Fortifying Cream Conditioner for Color-Treated Hair ($3.09 for 13 oz.). Among the many Garnier conditioners, this is a good option to smooth, soften, and add shine to color-treated hair. It doesn't have any advantage for helping color last longer, so you can ignore that claim.

3. Neutrogena Triple Moisture Daily Deep Conditioner ($5.74 for 8.5 oz.). A must-try for dry, damaged hair that's normal to coarse or thick, this rich smoothing formula makes hair beautifully soft and helps combat frizzies.

4. Pantene Nature Fusion Moisture Balance or Smooth Vitality Conditioner ($5.89 for 25.4 oz.). Most of Pantene's conditioners are good, but their Nature Fusion options capitalize on the silicone technology for which Pantene is known, and also adds intriguing conditioning ingredients that have research showing they help strengthen hair and protect against heat damage, at least to the extent possible (no product can completely protect hair from heat damage). The Moisture Balance and Smooth Vitality formulas are nearly identical, so it doesn't matter which one you choose—both are good for normal to dry hair of any thickness.

5. TRESemme Moisture Rich Conditioner for Dry, Damaged Hair or Smooth & Silky Conditioner for Dry or Damaged Hair ($2.89 for 15 oz.). The formulas of these products are nearly identical and with each you get an outstanding daily conditioner that's best for normal to dry hair that's normal to slightly thick, curly, or coarse. These can be used on fine or thin hair, but only if applied to the ends and rinsed thoroughly.

It truly is possible to have beautiful, manageable hair without spending a lot of money.

Check out Beautypedia for other recommendations.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Benefits (?) of the Economic Downturn: Health Club

For many years, we belonged to the area Y: we had a killer family rate ($300/yr) and used it for various things: Mr FS used the pool, Miss Em took ballet, Frugal Son did this and that, and even I--when I could rouse myself from my comfy chair--walked on the treadmill. Then they moved to a very bad facility with no pool. We stuck it out, even though we seldom traveled to the distant facility because the manager said we could keep our special membership rate. They built a big new Y and--after years of holding on to our cheap membership so we could use the new facility--the director said the "computer wouldn't take our membership." Right. The new facility is very far away and the new cost about quadruple, so good-bye.

Last spring we bought a Groupon for two months at a facility (no pool) about a 15 minute walk from our house. We didn't plan to renew after the 2 months. When the facility opened about 4 years ago, we inquired and discovered that there was a MASSIVE joining fee, plus a monthly fee of $120 for the two of us, to be paid upfront for the year.

We finally activated the Groupon yesterday. Out of politeness, I asked what the fees were. NO JOINING FEE! Monthly fees: the owner said "Where do you work?" When it finally emerged that we were teachers, she said "We love our teachers! You get the public servant rate for $60.00/month for the two of you!" I said that we went away in the summer, "No problem! You can suspend your membership." Then I asked if you had to pay for a year in advance. "No, not in the current economic climate."

I can't think of another way that the economic downturn has benefited me or most people. I guess bankruptcy lawyers and the like are doing fine.

But I think we may join the health club at the end of our trial. So happy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chic Surroundings: Frugal Style

My first exposure to frugal decor was in a magazine my mother got, perhaps Ladies Home Journal. My father worked at an ad agency at the time (Kenyon and Eckhart, mentioned on Madmen) and the magazine was a freebie that my mother--not much of a reader--never opened, as far as I can remember. Anyway, I remember a feature on furnishing a room where most of your budget went to a single high-ticket item: one was a piano, one was a rug, and I can't remember the others. Perhaps that article was the origin of my belief that you can always cut your spending to afford what you want. Like my trip to Europe!

I've been trying to improve my home for a while. It is a slow process, exacerbated by my frugal mindset. It would be easy enough to go to any of the elegant shops around town--even my little town--and pull out the credit card.

The internet is a great source of inspiration. It turns out zillions of clever people post their budget ideas and projects on-line.

Have you ever seen Copy Cat Chic?

Or--for the DIYer--a burlap ottoman slipcover. The handy Miss Em swears she can make this.

Any other good resources?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Advice and Opinions Wanted: from Francophiles and Others

Soooo, we asked Frugal Son to keep a look-out for rentals in France, since our freebie of last year was probably a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event. Lo and behold: another Assistant would like to sublet her apartment in the old part of Le Mans for 500 euros a month.

Le Mans does not seem as chock full of stuff to do as Nantes, which was our nearest city last summer. Still, Le Mans is closer to Paris and the price seems quite good to us.

What do you think, dear Readers? Should we make arrangements or keep on looking?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Art, Debt, Sharecropping

What does it say about me that I wrote about a consignment shop in Alabama before I wrote about the Kentuck art festival, which was why we visited Miss Em to begin with. I guess I am shallow.

The festival was wonderful, but there was so much to look at. It was quite overwhelming. Since I suffer from decision-making anxiety, I didn't get anything. Miss Em bought a pretty ring; she is very sure of her decisions.

One of the booths had a huge line. The artist--who, according to Miss Em is very well-known--produces letter press posters. These had pithy sayings, many having to do with coffee. Some shaded to the too-cute-for-me. One celebrated Samuel Mockbee, the great Alabama architect who, before a too-early death, focused on housing for the poor. Miss Em's friends hadn't heard of him, but I told them to look him up.

One of Miss Em's friends said, Miss Em: you should buy this one! It was a poster saying A penny saved is a penny earned. I guess Miss Em is frugal like her mom and dad.

Then I saw another one. Sadly, I cannot remember the exact saying. It was along the lines of Don't be a sharecropper to your credit card company. Unlike the Franklin saying, this one took a bit of time to figure out. Like the Franklin saying, this one is full of wisdom. Truly, if you have credit card debt, which often involves ridiculously high interest rates which make it ever harder to extricate yourself from debt, you are working for the credit card company. The company gets a piece of what you earn, perhaps forever.

Have you seen any pithy sayings of late?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thrifting in Tuscaloosa: Financial Lessons

Mr FS and I had sooooo much fun visiting Miss Em. As per our tradition, we went to Twice as Nice, an excellent consignment store. I can't believe how nice the stuff is, ranging from pretty nice up to a Vera Wang wedding gown that originally sold for $22,000. (Note to Miss Em: please do not buy such an expensive dress for a one-day event.) There are also very posh homegoods and even furniture there: the shop is pretty much the only game in town.

As is my wont, I had a chat with the owner. She told me that she has 12.000 consignors, though I don't suppose all are active. I told her about the book The Millionaire Next Door, which suggests that auctioneers are often secret millionaires, because they see how much value consumer goods lose. The owner agreed. She said, People think we're like Sanford and Son, but they should see what I have in my house. Interestingly, hers was a soft sell. I was swooning over some candle sconces (my latest desire). She said, Oh, I'll get more in sooner or later. I always do.

So not only does the owner have access to all sorts of great stuff (and she pays only 1/2 of the already low price), but she knows there's no need to rush: something just as nice or nicer will always show up.

Miss Em and I were rather like girls gone wild and we bought way too much. So, as penance, and to get the closets back in shape, I am filling boxes with my no-longer-desired clothing. Miss Em will consign them after she comes for a visit next week. I'm hoping we'll make enough money to pay for what we bought PLUS the sconces.

I'm getting the feng shui whoooosh of energy that comes with de-cluttering.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Crabby Post: What Do You Think of Tom's Shoes?

Luckily, I live a virtual life here, so I can't get in toooo much trouble for crabbing out about Tom's Shoes. I see these shoes--usually slip=ons made of cotton canvas-- everywhere. On all sorts of feet. They are extremely chic. The company is classed as an example of social entrepeneurship, but it is--in my opinion--not in the league of the various micro-lenders and companies like Newman's Own mentioned in the wikipedia article.

Yes, the company gives a pair of shoes away to a needy child for each pair sold. But, honestly, I've seen the shoes, which sell for around $50.00. Frugal Me thinks these are awfully expensive, the donation notwithstanding. Now if Tom's gave away FOUR pairs for each one sold, that would be something. I bet they would still make a tidy profit.

Am I too crabby? too unfair?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thai Peanut Sauce plus Customer Service Rant UPS and USPS

OK. I was going to start with the rant, but you don't really care. On my other blog, I wrote about a dinner party I'm planning for my daughter and her college friends. Part of the menu: Thai peanut sauce, which we will serve on tofu and whatever else we can think of (vegetables?).

There are many complex recipes for the sauce, but, owing to my lazy and frugal ways, I searched for the easiest. It is soooo easy. Just made it. It's good.

4 TBS peanut butter
4 TBS vegetable oil (NOT olive)
4 TBS soy sauce
4 TBS sugar
4 TBS vinegar
1 tsp Asian sesame oil (if you don't have this, leave it out. That's what a Thai grandma would do)
a little hot pepper, if you so desire

Now when you crave Thai food, you can pick up a rotisserie chicken and make this sauce. That will save you about $20.00 right there.

OK. I HATE UPS CUSTOMER SERVICE. Of course, hating UPS is like hating the sky: through 3 levels of customer service, I received ye olde "There's nothing I can do about that. I'm sorry you feel that way."

While I'm at it, I also hate the postal service. My p.o. has managed to hold my mail ONCE out of FOUR requests. Oh, and the passport person doesn't feel like processing passports. So no matter what day you go in, you are told, we do that only on ANOTHER DAY. They say this even though the sign says M-Th. Actually, the USPS has much better customer service, because something was done when we complained.

But isn't that peanut sauce good? Check out collegecookingcrashcourse for the rest of the menu.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Big Lots Coupon! Plastic Storage Bins! Happiness!

The great thing about being frugal is that it doesn't take much to make me happy. That is because I have many make-do "systems" in my house that I have been making do with for many, many years. Add to that the fact that both Mr FS and I are terrible at decluttering AND at organizing: any little improvement makes a big difference.

So the confluence of two forces.

First, I read an organizing book that recommended plastic storage tubs so that you could see the contents. I guess most normal people know this.

Second, Big Lots has one of their 20% off coupons today! I missed the last two since I was out of town. The sale started early, so I bought two 66 quart bins ($8.00 each after the discount) and-WHOA-they are great. Big Lots is about 1/2 mile from my house, so it's no problem to return and get a few more today.

They look so good. They hold so much. And they replace cardboard boxes of various sizes with legends like Sentimental Sweaters (knit by deceased family members--no we are not getting rid of them). The we have the labels written by Mr. FS. He is better than I am at most things--and a good cleaner to boot--but his labels are terrible. To wit: medium good misc Fall 2008.

See, with the plastic containers, you can SEE the contents.

I also buy food at Big Lots. They have tons of Bob's Red Mill at the moment. It's not much cheaper than on Amazon, but with the coupon, it's a little cheaper.

Have any little things made you happy lately?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Retirement and Riches!

I've been slogging through almost 200 pieces of student work over the last few days. Hence this post is part of my PROCRASTINATION PROJECT. This is a project that I don't need to explain: we all have expertise in this area, except for a few very focused souls.

Anyway, reading the prose of more than 90 students is not conducive to writing. So I will instead send you over to Duchesse of PassagedesPerles, who used to write about jewelry and style (still does), but also meditates on retirement. She outlines some creative responses to this dilemma: how can I travel?

Next, let's check out Funny About Money. Like many of us, she is often in a panic about money. Well, today, she posted quite a cheery piece about her new sources of income and the snazzy St John suit, rich lady attire par excellence, she snagged at a consignment shop.

Somewhere in the depths of history, I wrote about getting a St John jacket (still unworn by me) at a thrift store. I was inspired by this WSJ article. In a comment to Funny, I mentioned that Nancy Pelosi and other Washington bigwigs wear St John. According to the article, wearing St John garners you R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Back to grading. My outfit: a pair of Eileen Fisher pants that are too big but very comfy, topped by a Hanna Andersson pajama top. Both from thrift stores!

When I'm done grading (I have a few more days), I will resume commenting on my comments. Thanks, Readers!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Keeping Money in the Family: Family Capital

I've read here and there on the blogosphere thoughts on social capital, which seems to be a fancy way of saying do unto your community, so your community will do unto you. There's not as much of this around as in days of yore: we each seem to be living in our households, every kid with a full library of identical toys and Disney tapes.

Recently, I've been thinking of family capital. This probably means trust funds for those who have them! I'm thinking of my own more humble family version.

Miss Em, for instance, has been cutting my hair for several years. After witnessing my misery with professional cuts, she said, "I can do better." Even aside from the psychological benefits, I save, perhaps, $150/year. I can't remember when she started, but I suppose she has at least $600.00 in her family bank account. She cuts Frugal Son's hair too.

Meanwhile, I'm cooking up some freezer meals to bring her.

i suppose I'm the one who benefits, since when she saves money, I save money, and Miss Em remains under parental support at the moment. Still, we had the money to fund her course in Italy last summer.

I don't know how to transform the virtual family savings account into something "real." Mr. FS says that it is good to promote the idea that we are all in this together: that what benefits one family member, benefits all.

That is why Mr. FS and I fantasize about babysitting for our (at present imaginary) grandchildren. We could be adding at least $10/hour to our children's virtual bank accounts. Tax free for both worker and employer!

Does your family engage in similar money-saving activities?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What is Your Image of Retirement Anyway?

Shelley wondered in a comment yesterday if I would take my mother in. In fact, I would. In fact, my mother is horrified at the very thought. It would be very low on her list of desired retirement options. She has said that, if she can no longer stay in her Florida condo, she wants to move to assisted living so she can be with friends. Not necessarily the friends she has now, but friends nonetheless.

As for me and Mr FS. We are unlikely to do what my parents did: move AWAY from the area where they had lived for many years (and where one child still lived...and lives) to move into a condo/golf community with constant social activities. Mr. FS and I hope we can move TO wherever at least one child settles. We're hoping that would be OK with our children.

My parents and Mr. FS's parents had no interest in babysitting for grandchildren. My parents took a few weekends when Mr FS and I had professional obligations. Mr FS and I, by contrast, hope that our children don't wait so long to have kids, because we would love to do a lot of childcare.

I guess that in days of yore, people didn't have so many choices.

Do you know what you want to do?