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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sausage and Grapes: Cheap, Easy, WOW

Has everyone tried this already? It's been on my "to try" list for years, but I always seem to eat my grapes and never have any left for the dish. I first saw a recipe in this book, though I am sure Italians have been making it for years.

Yesterday, in a moment of harmonic convergence, I realized that some grapes were getting a bit long in the tooth. Plus I had some sausage in the freezer. I looked on line, because I couldn't find the cookbook (Yes--too many, but I did eventually find it). Of course, the first thing that popped up was Ina Garten's riff on the recipe: she adds a bit of balsamic vinegar and wine.

I didn't want to mess with my oven (plus the stovetop to oven to stovetop technique annoys me), so I used this recipe by Lidia Bastianich, which has the virtue of being the simplest.

Sausages in the Skillet with Grapes
Salsicca all'Uva
serves: 6 servings

The Umbrian town of Norcia is, among other distinctions, so famous for the skill of its pork butchers and the quality of their products that the term norcineria throughout Italy designates a shop that purveys pork and pork specialties of the highest quality-and nothing else. This is one of the memorable pork dishes that I discovered in Umbria recently. And though there are no sausages better than those made by an Umbrian Norcino in his hometown, this will be wonderful with any good-quality sweet sausage available in yours. The name-Sausages in the Skillet with Grapes-describes the ingredients and cooking method perfectly. Just keep in mind that the cooking here is slow and gentle, not high-temperature grilling as one usually does with sausages.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
2½ pounds sweet Italian sausages, preferably without fennel seeds
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
1¼ pounds seedles green grapes, picked from the stem and washed, (about 3 cups)


Pour the olive oil into a large skillet, toss in the garlic cloves, and set it over low heat. When the garlic is sizzling, lay in all the sausages in one layer, and cover the pan. Cook the sausages slowly, turning and moving them around the skillet occasionally; after 10 minutes or so, sprinkle the peperoncino in between the sausages. Continue low and slow cooking for 25 to 30 minutes in all, until the sausages are cooked through and nicely browned all over. Remove the pan from the burner, tilt it, and carefully spoon out excess fat.

Set the skillet back over low heat, and scatter in the grapes. Stir and tumble them in the pan bottom, moistening them with meat juices. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes or so, until the grapes begin to soften, wrinkle, and release their own juices. Remove the cover, turn the heat to high, and boil the pan juices to concentrate them to a syrupy consistency, stirring and turning the sausages and grapes frequently to glaze them.

To serve family-style: arrange the sausages on a warm platter, topped with the grapes and pan juices. Or serve them right from the pan (cut in half, if large), spooning grapes and thickened juices over each portion.

Cucina Simpatica recommends mashed potatoes on the side. So I obeyed. We also had some bitter greens from our garden.

Have you had this? Or anything similar?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Teaching Thrift"

The Wall Street Journal has a brief essay on Teaching Thrift to kids. the essay itself is kinda blah, but check out the comments.

Seldom have I seen so many frugal soulmates gathered together! I spent a blissful 20 minutes or so reading through the comments. 121 at last count.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How to Upgrade: Decluttering Books

As usual, I am trying to get control of my books. Since many books come my way--owing to the biz I am in, not to mention my love of thrift stores--this is an ongoing process.

Adding to the problem: my recently self-diagnosed ADHD. I keep reading the books as I declutter! To wit: Nora Ephron's erstwhile best seller on her neck-hatred. I was planning to donate this, but I started reading and decided to keep it. (I know: BAD). In addition to an amusing essay on the cookbooks in her life, I loved a piece on books called "On Rapture." She says the most rapture-inducing book of her adult life is The Woman in White. Which I've been meaning to read for a zillion years. Which I knew I had somewhere. But WHERE?

I resumed my book clearing. As I looked at the decluttered shelves, I realized--yet once more--that the best way to UPGRADE is not by buying more stuff, but by getting rid of the lower-level stuff. My shelves were now filled with books I am likely to read.

It's not that the books in my DONATION/USED BOOKSTORE bags are bad: they are just in genres I tend not to read. So no, I will probably never read a tome called Life in Egypt under Roman Rule.

I'm sure you can see this coming. Guess what??? I found The Woman in White.

So, I now have 5 grocery bags of books-to-go, plus the book I wanted to read (thanks, Nora, for the recommendation), which, of course, saves me the time of getting it from the library, not that I would remember anyway.

Here's the problem. I discovered (via that Amazon link) that the Egypt book is a veritable CLASSIC. Reader, I retrieved it. And put it back on the shelf. I swear it's the only one.

Anyway, I am happy to report that my books are indeed upgraded. Getting rid of the lower-end stuff (whether because it is lower end or because you don't need it) does have the magical effect of leaving you with an upgraded collection.

Are you decluttering/upgrading? How's it going?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Paula's Sunscreen 60% Off (through Friday)

Just in time. Paula Begoun's wonderful sunscreens are 60% off. Miss Em and I are stocking up, you can be sure.

Check them out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hovering? or Helping? and the Frugal Family

So much has been written on the helicopter parents who oversee every aspect of their children's lives: from sports, to college applications, to the college experience. Being lazy and rebellious, I was pretty nonchalant in my parenting and so assumed I was not a helicopter, hovering over my children.

Every now and then, though, I wonder. For instance, I read a blog post (could not find it again, so if you know what the source is, let me know, so I can link) a little while ago by a mom who works at Drew university. Her daughter, a student at the same school, emailed or texted something along the lines of "I need tampax and shampoo!" To which Mom replied "I do too!" This exchange was lauded as a NON-HELICOPTER moment, since Mom did not rush out and buy daughter said items.

Am I a helicopter mom? I wonder this as a prepare to visit Miss Em this weekend. Last time, I brought her some toothpaste and oat groats. I did not make a special trip. I pick up items as I see them on sale. I got the toothpaste for under a dollar. If Miss Em had to rush out to get the stuff, it would take her a good bit of time, not to mention at least a few dollars. I'd rather she save her money where she can so she can use it where she wants.

On this visit, we will probably bring things back, as she approaches the end of the semester. Still, we plan to bring her a treat in freezer bags: some red beans and rice. Is that hovering?

Sometimes I think I am out of step with American culture because I subscribe to a more Asian (so says Frugal Son) idea of family. As I write I am wearing a new-to-me Eileen Fisher linen and cotton sweater. This was picked up by Miss Em on a thrifting jaunt. It was a sacrifice because Miss Em likes the sweater. She gave it to me because she knows I love Eileen Fisher and only buy a piece or two a year: even on sale, the prices are high.

Thanks Miss Em, my helicopter daughter. In the same spirit, instead of mom and daughter going off to buy their own toiletries--requiring two trips to the drugstore--I would like to see one say, "I'll pick up some for you." Maybe next time, the other one will do the same.

So, am I fooling myself? How much do you do for your kids. And how much do they do for you?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rummage Sale! What to Do with Linen Panels?

Since I go to thrift stores all too much (though only on my regular errand route...usually), I have sworn off rummage and yard sales. The only exception is the Episcopal Church a few minutes away (on foot) whose members are the wealthy of my little town.

When there I see our children's pediatrician, who seems to be a frugal fellow and devotes a lot of time to medical missionary work. Lucky for me, because I bought 2 table lamps (they were on my "list") and 4 curtain panels that were too big to carry.

Mr FS and I got there about 5 minutes after opening and all the good stuff seemed gone. Mr FS bought a few CDs and left. I then spotted the lamps and panels. The panels (somewhat dirty and marked at 50 cents) were nice quality, I thought. When I got home, I discovered that I was right: they are Libeco linen from Restoration Hardware, 50 X 84.

The kind doctor dropped me at home. We gave him some greens from our garden (he doesn't seem too familiar with greens). We also arranged to buy some eggs from the chickens his children raise in their small backyard.

What do you think I should do? Have them cleaned and wait for the right set of windows? Or should I cut off the linen and use for something else? If I did that, could I wash them?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Do You Get What You Pay For? AND Alligator Belt Karma

Sort of a double post. Really, one post with two topics.

FIRST: The hackneyed sentence You get what you pay for! Many--even in the frugality corner of the blogosphere--believe in the truth of the statement. Sadly, I generally do not. If it were as simple as that, it would be easy to make purchasing decisions.

Recent Case in Point: a Colehaan Alligator belt. The night before Frugal Son went off for his year in France, he announced that he didn't have a belt. Ergh. He is so disorganized (inherited from me). Luckily, I have a small assortment of belts for such emergencies, so we didn't have to run to Walmart or worse in the middle of the night. There to buy a low quality belt.

No, I had not one but two Colehaan alligator belts that I had acquired for very cheap, as is my wont. They were in Mr FS's closet. Of course, they had never been worn (either by the first owner, or by Mr FS, who likes to age his clothing).

Naturally, Frugal Son picked an alligator over some plainer belts. He does have an eye for luxury. His favorite sweaters are cashmere.

A few weeks ago, he emailed and mentioned that the belt was falling apart! I don't know if CH makes these anymore, but alligator belts cost upwards of $200. Was the belt worth $200--no.

Second part of the tale: how I got the belts at Goodwill. A LONG time ago, Funny About Money pined for a Brighton belt in her blog. I spied one from afar at GW and rushed over. I thought it would be so neat if I could send a fave blogger a present. Alas, though it was a Brighton belt, it was in very poor shape.

But picking it up to inspect its condition uncovered the two unused alligator belts. Mr FS and Frugal Son are always having belt emergencies, so I acquire extras where I can.

Thanks, Funny for the beautiful belts!

So, have you experienced any karma lately?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Emergency Fund Decimation: At Least I Have(Had?) One

So, since January 1, we had to buy a set of tires. Since we were visiting my mother in another state, we did not have time to comparison shop. $500.00. And the people messed up--took our spare (which we retrieved) and did not attach hubcap (which we lost). Will seek out another mechanic in Florida.

Then, that car--our beloved 1998 Camry--needed an additional $1200 of work.

Then, my teeth problems continue apace. The oral surgeon took pity on me and recommended another dentist. So far, my poor mouth has taken around another $1200. Some time in the future, I will need an implant ($3000).

I was picking up a prescription when I got a call from Mr FS: "The refrigerator isn't working!" We looked up the expected lifespan of a fridge and discovered ours is right at the edge of not worth fixing: it's a 2004 of no great distinction (not a SubZero).

Anyway, Mr. FS found the manual (in the secret files that I do not know how to access) and solved the problem. AHHHHHHHHHH.

Think of all the fun things I could do with the almost $3000 we have spent so far.

As always, I try to look on the bright side and thank the universe for my frugal skills, which have given us our depleted emergency fund.

Have you had any emergencies of late?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

FAFSA Update

Sooooo, I and 10 zillion other people received this correction. I sent a query to the FAFSA people--I assume I was not the only one pointing out that the income tax filing date is more than a month away and that the email was incomprehensible.

We recently sent an e-mail advising you to update your tax data on the FAFSA once you have filed your tax return. Please note that the e-mail stated in error that the federal tax filing deadline has passed. You should disregard that sentence. The federal tax deadline this year is April 17. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. You should still update the tax information on your FAFSA after you file your federal taxes, and we strongly encourage you to do that by importing your 2011 income tax information from the IRS into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

U.S. Department of Education

It seems that the real message is that you can import 2011 tax info from the IRS website. That would have been a one-sentence email.

I could be wrong....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

College Aid: The FAFSA Yet Once More

Ugh. For some reason, I hate filing the FAFSA (Federal Financial Aid form or whatever). My children did not receive Federal Aid, but the form is still the gateway to other aid, of the sort they got. So, I filled out what I thought would be my last one (for Miss Em). Since it was not crucial that all my numbers be accurate (because those numbers are used for Federal Aid such as Pell Grants and subsidized loans), I completed the form before I completed my taxes, as I had in the past.

Here's the email I got yesterday. Hold on to your hats.

Recently your information was provided in the parental section of your student's 2012-2013 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information you provided indicated that you were going to file your taxes and were providing estimated 2011 tax information. Now that the federal tax filing deadline has passed and you have probably filed your 2011 tax returns, it is time for you to update your student's FAFSA.

Updated information can be provided once your student accesses their FAFSA at You should change your answer on the FAFSA (question 79) to reflect that you have "already completed" your tax return. Once you've made this change, you will need to update the information you initially reported on the FAFSA to reflect the actual information from the 2011 tax return you filed. If you filed a federal tax return with the IRS, when you update the information online, you may be eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which is the best and easiest way to provide accurate tax information. With just a few simple steps, you can view information from your IRS tax return and transfer that information directly into your student's FAFSA.

If you are unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you are still required to update the income information so that it reflects the information on the 2011 tax return you filed. The tax-related questions you should review on your student's FAFSA include adjusted gross income, income tax paid, number of exemptions, and income earned from work. You should also ensure that your FAFSA correctly identifies the type of tax return that was filed (IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, foreign tax return, etc.) and that you have entered the correct amounts for Additional Financial Information (questions 91a-f) and Other Untaxed Income (questions 92a-i).

It is important that you make the necessary changes to the tax information so that your student's FAFSA includes the same information that was included on your tax return. However, when making corrections based on your completed federal tax returns, do not update other information that was correct at the time you filed your FAFSA. For example, do not change your answer for household size (question 72) or for number in college (question 73); unless your answer was incorrect as of the date you originally signed the FAFSA.

Keep in mind that if the FAFSA also contains estimated tax information for your student, that information should also be updated to reflect the actual information from the 2011 tax return your student filed. If your student filed a federal tax return with the IRS, they may also be eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when they access the FAFSA online. If you or your student has not completed the 2011 federal tax returns at this time, you must be sure to update your FAFSA information once the returns have been completed. Your student's ability to receive federal student aid can be impacted if you do not make the necessary updates or corrections.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. If you have additional questions regarding the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, online help is available. Visit and click the "Browse Help" feature on the FAFSA home page for information on the tool and the FAFSA process.

U.S. Department of Education

This is nearly incomprehensible, even to me, with my excellent reading skills. My favorite part is the statement that since the federal tax filing date has passed, I should update my form. UMMMMM. APRIL 15, anyone?

Oh, how I loathe these emails. Surely, the bureaucrats can find someone in need of a job....WHO CAN WRITE CLEARLY. And know what the federal filing date is.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Diderot Effect et moi: Decluttering. Spending, Consuming and all the rest

Oh Denis Diderot: where have you been in my life? The last time I thought about you was in Humanities 210, when I read Rameau's Nephew. About which I remember nothing. The next year, a friend wrote his senior thesis on Diderot, entitled Le Philosophe Dans les Ruelles (why do I remember that? must have had a crush on the guy).

While procrastinating on my own decluttering, I chanced upon a blog post by Philip Brewer. Here is an excerpt from his post:

The Diderot Effect is named after the French writer Denis Diderot, who wrote a famous essay on how the gift of one very nice item had made his other things look shabby. In an amusing fashion, the essay traces out the series of steps by which he ended up having to upgrade everything he owned.

A whole lot of marketing is aimed at getting you to buy one nice thing — because the marketers know that having one nice thing will put you on the path to replacing many other items as well — things that are perfectly good, but that aren't as nice as your new thing.

It's an easy trap to fall into, and a terrible one.

Fortunately, the Diderot Effect is its own cure. While one nice thing makes your other stuff look shabby, when your stuff is all about the same, it produces a pleasant inertia that makes it easy to resist upgrades.

I wonder if the writer read and remembered Diderot? The term was coined by an academic/guru of culture and commerce, Grant McCracken. The Wikipedia entry describes McCracken's thesis thus:

In McCracken's usage the Diderot Effect is the result of the interaction between objects within "product complements", or "Diderot unities", and consumers. A Diderot unity is a group of objects that are considered to be culturally complementary in relation to one another. For example, items of clothing, furniture, vehicles, etc. McCracken describes that a consumer is less likely to veer from a preferred Diderot unity in order to strive towards unity in appearance and representation of one's social role. However, it can also mean that if an object that is somehow deviant from the preferred Diderot unity is acquired, it may have the effect of causing the consumer to start subscribing to a completely different Diderot unity.

The term was popularized (again, thank you Wikipedia) in Judith Schor's The Overspent American.

If you want to read Diderot's essay, here is a translation (on a Marxist site! how appropriate!)

Anyway, for me, this has been food for thought. Should I subscribe to Brewer's idea: keep everything at the same level? Is it possible to upgrade one thing without having to upgrade everything?

Have you ever succumbed to the Diderot Effect?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Freezer and Pantry Spring Cleaning Recipe: Rao's Sausage, Cabbage, Tomato Sauce for Pasta

Notes from a crazed stockpiler of food: You don't save money by stockpiling food on sale UNLESS and UNTIL you use it. That message is directed to me, by the way.

I've never quite succeeded in a total clean out, but once again I am embarking on the journey. I have a bunch of sausage that was $1/lb. I also found a sad looking cabbage in my fridge (but cabbage lasts pretty much forever). I typed the two keywords and perused the offerings. This is what I made. It is from the Rao's Cookbook. Needless to say, I used my own olive oil, pasta, and a big can of tomatoes.

1 lb. Rao’s Penne Pasta
1 jar of Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce
1/4 cup of Rao’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 pound Italian sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound savoy cabbage, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

Heat Rao’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil and garlic in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add sausage, and sauté until meat is cooked.

Add cabbage, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes. Stir in 3 cups of Rao’s Marinara Sauce, and cook for 3-5 minutes, until flavors have blended.

Meanwhile, cook Rao’s Penne pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain pasta and return to the pot with ½ cup of sauce. Stir for one minute over high heat. Place on a serving platter and pour remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese, if desired.

Rao's is a famous restaurant, frequented by celebrities and gangsters (according to lore). It is impossible to get a table. Not that I've tried.

Even though I discovered the recipe on-line, I have the cookbook. It is full of Italian-American home-style dishes. I grew up around a lot of people who ate this kind of food. I made the full amount, which supposedly serves 4 as a main dish. Mr. FS and I, big eaters, ate this twice and still have a ton left over.

I should have remembered: like Jewish cooking, Italian cooking is known for HUGE portions.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Percentages vs Dollars

I was always good at figuring percentages back in grade school. Perhaps that is why I enjoy thinking in terms of percentages saved on this and that. I was encouraged in this habit by Andrew Tobias, author of the first personal finance book I ever read. Yes, the great Andrew Tobias who advised his readers to participate in the futures market by buying cases of tuna when it was 50% off. He noted--correctly--that that was a larger return than you could earn safely in an investment.

Today Big Lots had one of its sporadic 20% off everything sales. So exciting! I love Big Lots, where I find all sorts of organic foods and staples. I managed to miss the last two by being out of town on the special day.

So, I girded up my loins and went. I came back with all sorts of things even though I am on a no-stockpiling diet: Tazo chai tea, canned pumpkin, canned tomatoes, imported pasta, etc. I even bought a large box of Wheat Thins (an occasional treat for Mr. FS, who scarfs them down without any sort of control). The Wheat Thins were to distract Mr. FS from the fact that I had broken the no-stockpiling rule. It worked, too.

I noticed that my receipt added up to...DRUMROLL...around $20, which meant that I had saved....DRUMROLL...$5. 20% sounds so exciting. $5 not so much.

I feel somewhat deflated. All those little savings add up over the course of a year, but I now see that I need to think in terms of dollars as well as in terms of percentages.

Oh, here's the masterpiece by Andrew Tobias.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Can You Return Anything to Walmart? Kettle and Chicken!

I hardly set foot in the dreaded WM as we call it chez nous. That is because I suffer a nervous collapse after each visit and have to lie down for an hour. But last year we bought Frugal Son an electric kettle there for his final year of college. He wanted the WM version because it was made by GE, of which he is a partial owner (i.e. he owns a few shares of stock).

Imagine our annoyance when the appliance stopped working! Less than two years old. One of my former colleagues used to say "You can return anything to Walmart." So, since we were passing by, we put it to the test.

Even though we had no receipt, we were able to exchange for a new one lickety-split. WOW.

Meanwhile, an older fellow at the adjacent register was returning a giant package of partially frozen chicken breasts. From the looks of things, he had forgotten to freeze the meat in time and it was rotten. Seemed to me like he may have been negligent in the chicken department. Nevetheless, they gave him his money back (and he did have a receipt).

So I suppose I must add Walmart to my list of stores with good customer service.

Would you return chicken?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Paula's Drugstore Doubles: Frugal Makeup choices

I'm a sucker for this kind of thing and I've always found Paula's reviews accurate. So--if you're not on her email list--see her latest list of cheap drugstore goodies.

If you can get past the misconception that "expensive equals better," we promise you'll feel just as beautiful and spend hundreds of dollars less on skin-care and makeup products that work!

Here are some examples of surprising Drugstore Doubles you can find on Beautypedia:

• Sonia Kashuk's Brightening Powder ($10) is nearly identical to Laura Mercier's Secret Brightening Powder ($22). In fact, we actually prefer Kashuk's compact design—far less messy!

• Rimmel Match Perfection Foundation SPF 15 ($6) and Hourglass Veil Fluid Makeup SPF 15 ($60) are both fragrance-free liquid foundations that perform nearly identically and offer the same broad-spectrum sun protection, but Rimmel's version is 1/10 the price of the Hourglass product! Of course, we also love Paula's Choice Best Face Forward SPF 15 ($14.95), as well as many of the more affordable options on our Best Foundations with Sunscreen list.

• Revlon's Just Bitten Lip Stain + Balm ($9) includes a clear balm rather than the tinted balm that comes with Smashbox's Limitless Lip Stain & Color Seal Balm ($23). Other than that small difference, these two products are virtually interchangeable, although the Revlon version performs slightly better!

• Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser ($6.59) is every bit as fresh, foamy, and gentle as Laura Mercier's Foaming One-Step Cleanser ($35). Admittedly, neither is quite as fabulous as Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Cleanser ($15.95), but our list of Best Cleansers can always help you find the right cleanser at the right price.

• Cover Girl Lip Perfection Lipstick ($7) is a brilliant and beautiful lipstick that outperforms cream lipsticks from Dior and Chanel! Even better: The shade Hot is a drugstore double for M.A.C's Russian Red ($14.50). For beautiful lip color plus sun protection, check out Paula's Choice Sheer Cream Lipstick SPF 15 ($10.95).

• Were you a fan of Peter Thomas Roth's Un-wrinkle Day SPF 20 ($90), now discontinued? No worries! You can save big money by using to Olay's Complete Ageless Skin Renewing UV Lotion SPF 20 ($14.99) instead! If you want to be truly impressed by a brilliant moisturizer with sunscreen, you must try Paula's Choice Moisture Boost Daily Restoring Complex with SPF 30 ($20.95).

• The creamy pink end of NYX's dual-ended Push Up Bra for Your Eyebrow ($10) is interchangeable with Benefit's High Brow ($20)—plus you get a bonus brown pencil that's perfect for touch-ups on the go. Another tip: For a brilliant alternative to a traditional brow pencil, try Paula's Choice Browlistic Long-Wearing Precision Brow Color.

• M.A.C. Eyeshadow ($15) comes in a legendary assortment of textures and shades, but have you checked out NYX's Eyeshadow? For $5.50 you can enjoy the same velvety smooth texture, rich pigmentation, and vivid colors as M.A.C.'s—at 1/3 the price! You'll find the NYX brand at most Ulta stores.

• If you like Dior's Skinflash Primer ($42), check out Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Correcting Primer SPF 15 ($10.95). The performance and packaging are identical, but the Physicians Formula product offers broad-spectrum sun protection, too! Want to prime oily skin and keep it perfectly matte and protected from sun damage? Then Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Daily Mattifying Lotion SPF 15 ($20.95) is our first choice!

• We just couldn't resist telling you about this one…Paula's Choice RESIST Barrier Repair Moisturizer ($22.95) is just as loaded with antioxidants as Clinique's Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Moisturizer ($42.50), but the Paula's Choice option is half the price (and contains retinol)!

Now what are you going to do with all the money you save?