Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Update your wardrobe on a budget!

Every so often we find ourselves looking at our closet and feeling bored. The same tops, the same bottoms, the same heels and the same accessories. From time to time it becomes necessary to spruce up your wardrobe and add a little life to it. It’s typically thought that in order to bring life into your wardrobe you have to spend a lot of money and splurge. The trick is to make small adjustments to your own collection of clothes and accessories and when you do have to purchase something, do it intelligently. So, how can you bring some life back into your wardrobe?

1. Start by identifying whether you have some important key pieces that all wardrobes should have. Pieces like a little black dress, a cardigan, black dress pants, a pair of skinny jeans, a blazer, dressy flats and comfy heels are a good foundation to have in your collection. By knowing what you have, you will know what you have to work with.

2. Research! Read fashion blogs, magazines and browse your favourite stores’ online catalogue. Once you have identified the trends you like and what you think will work with your figure, they will be easier to spot when you go shopping. Some of my personal favorite magazines are People Style Watch and LouLou.

3. Shop vintage! Hit up your local thrift/vintage store to find timeless pieces that will always work with your wardrobe. Blouses, blazers, dress pants and skirts are easy finds at these stores. I’ve found a few amazing blazers from the 80’s that work well with today’s styles. Be creative and open your imagination! I’ve also found a few vintage clutches and bags that blend great with the current trends. Vintage pieces add a timeless flair to any wardrobe.

4. Stock up on basics. I usually go to Old Navy to get my basic plain t-shirts, jeans and blouses. If you have a wide assortment of basics to start with, you can easily mix them up with different wardrobe pieces. Basics tend to be less expensive especially if you stock up during a sale.

5. Accessorize! Accessories are a fantastic way to change up any pieces in your wardrobe. Mix up trendy necklaces, chunky bracelets and cocktail rings to add flair to any outfit. Adding a belt to your outfit also changes it up and makes it look like something completely different. Try going to vintage stores to find unique pieces at an inexpensive price.

Updating your wardrobe takes creativity and patience. It is best that you take advantage of end-of-season clearance sales as some pieces can transfer to the next season. Also, try visiting outlet stores to get trendy pieces at good price. The key is to know your wardrobe and know what you are looking for. Otherwise, you may have the tendency to spend money on something you don’t really need or want.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Inexpensive Beauty Tips

I'll be the first to admit that I am a very frugal person. I never go to the salon to get a cut and colour, I won't go to the spa to get a manicure and I refuse to spend money on facials and massages. Living on a restricted budget in college forces one to cut out the non-necessities and over analyze every purchase made. I decided that being on a strict budget would not stop me from doing the things that make me feel fabulous.

For example, I used to get my nails done bi-weekly at a salon. I soon realized that I refused to spend over $20 every other week just to maintain my manicure. I took it upon myself to visit my local beauty supply store and find a do-it-yourself acrylic nail kit. I was successful, and for over two years I have been doing my own acrylic manicures at home. It took some practice, but after a few tries, I became a pro.

I've only had my hair dyed professionally, once. After seeing the hefty price tag associated with that, I took it into my own hands to find the perfect at-home hair dye kit. I figured it wouldn't be that hard. Some people are shocked to find that I colour my own hair, but believe me - I have made several hair-dye faux paux over the past few years in my search for the perfect brand. While some brands work better for others, I find that Nice N Easy has been my go-to colour kit for quite a few years. It offers rich colours with tones and highlights and I find doesn't fade as quickly as other brands.

Alongside my own personal at-home beauty tactics, I took on the tedious task of searching through the countless pages on the Internet to find some of the best inexpensive beauty tricks and secrets out there. Here's what I found...

1. Store your nail polish in the refrigerator.
Polish stored in the fridge will not separate and become thick, gummy or hardened. If your polish does become harder to apply, place the bottle into boiling water. Your polish will be like brand new!

2. Use a bag of frozen peas under the eyes to reduce puffiness.

3. Dye your hair one day after washing.
Hair that is dyed on one-day-old hair actually will make the colour application more successful. The natural oils in your hair give the colour something to hold on to as it is not dry.

4. Place raw potatoes under your eyes to help fight dark undereye spots.
Raw potatoes contain potassium, which helps to fade dark spots.

5. Make an at-home conditioning treatment.
Mix one cup of water with half a cup of fabric softener. Works like a charm!

6. Eat parsley to combat bad breath.
It is rich in chlorophyll and is a major ingredient in breath fresheners.

7. Have a Pepto-Bismal facial.
Rubbing this pink liquid on your skin is actually a better facial then peel off masks.

8. Rub Visene on a pimple.
Helps to remove redness and swelling.

9. Combat dandruff with aspirin.
Add 30 plain aspirin to a full bottle of your regular shampoo, rinse and repeat!

10. Use blue eyeliner to make your eyes look brighter.
Helps to make the white portion of the eyes look brighter.

I found these tips HERE. Visit the page to learn more tricks and tips!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Top 4 Faves

Over the years I have managed to find some real product “gems” – cosmetics and apparel that are great quality and come at a fantastic price. I am a firm believer that everybody should have access to good products that don’t come at a premium price. So what have I done? I’ve put together a list of my favorite budget-friendly products that I believe are terrific quality.

1. Joe Fresh Nail Polish
After experiencing success in their apparel line, the masterminds behind the amazing Joe Fresh brand have expanded their empire to provide cosmetics. In the cosmetics line, Joe Fresh offers a wide range of eye shadows, lipsticks, blushes, pressed powders and much, much more. But what really stood out to me in this line were their nail polishes. The line currently offers a classic collection of polishes (with over 40 different shades) and a fall collection (16 different shades). Note: some shades are only available in certain stores. What is available in your nearest store varies.

What I love about these polishes is that they are very colour pigmented. I can typically get away with only one coat (but I like a very intense colour, so I opt for two). I also find that they dry fast and do not stay tacky for hours after you have applied them. From my experience to this point, I have not had any issues with fading or chipping (mind you, I use a top coat).

WHERE TO BUY: Loblaws or online
PRICE: $4 each, or 3 for $10

2. Revlon ColorStay Liquid Foundation (with SoftFlex)
I initially heard of this product on a makeup review site. I love using MAC foundation but still to this day cannot bring myself to spend the money on it. I figured that after trying almost every foundation under the sun, it was worth it to give ColorStay a try. I have been using it ever since! It’s lightweight and offers phenomenal coverage for up to 16 hours. The product currently comes in two different formulas: one for normal/dry skin and one for combination/oily skin. Both formulas are available in 12 different shades and have SPF 15 protection.

The reason I love this product is because of the coverage it offers for the price. I have a lot of redness on my face and I found that this foundation covers better than quite a few of the more expensive brands available. It isn't cakey and is easy to work with on your skin. It may not be the best foundation on the market, but for those of us who want a great foundation on a tight budget, ColorStay is a great product.

WHERE TO BUY: Any store that sells cosmetics (Wal-Mart, Shopper's, Rexall, Loblaw, Zeller's)
PRICE: $10-$18 (depending where you buy it)

3. Old Navy "The Rockstar" Skinny Jeggings
If you are like me, you hate traditional denim. They do look good, but they can be very uncomfortable. "The Rockstar" skinny jeggings are absoltely amazing. They wear like a traditional jean but are extremely stretchy to give comfort. Unlike other skinny jeans, they seem to be the perfect length and are true to the skinny jean fashion - there is no excess fabric around the ankle. The jegging style makes them fit like a glove, but are still stretchy enough to move around in.

The jeggings are made of 2% spandex, 21% polyester and 77% cotton. Currently, they come in seven colours including black, grey, red, bright blue, dark-wash and medium wash. They come in a higher waisted version of the pant and are offered in tall and petite. They run from size 0 to 20.

The only issue I have with these pants is that eventually, if you dry them after every wash and wear, the elastic in the pants begins to pull and become stretched out. I find that I need to buy them a size smaller and hang dry them to make them last longer. But overall, these jeggings are one of the lower prices on the market, as most jeggings can cost as much as $100 dollars (depending what retailer you go to).

WHERE TO BUY: Old Navy (in stores and online), eBay
PRICE: $44.50

4. EcoTools Makeup Brushes
Makeup brushes can definitely be expensive. Usually when I find a good brush I stick to it until I literally wear it out. I first purchased EcoTools when I was on vacation in Florida. My cousin had suggested I buy them instead of the super expensive MAC brushes I was going to buy, as she had read good reviews on them. Almost 3 years later, I am still using the same brushes! Their quality and durability speaks for itself.

The brushes are constructed using bamboo (for the handles,) recycled aluminum (to attach the handle to the bristles) and synthetic taklon (bristles). Furthermore, the packaging that the brushes are sold in are eco-conscious, using re-usable pouches, post-consumer recycled plastic and recyclable packaging. All of their products are 100% cruelty-free. EcoTools donates 1% of annual revenue to environmental causes like EarthShare and Wildlife Alliance.

The collection of brushes includes a variety of face brushes, like bronzer brush, kabuki brush, powder brush, blush brush, foundation brush and concealer brush. They also include eye tools, like an eyeliner brush, lash & brow groomer and eyeshadow brush.

WHERE TO BUY: Most stores that sell cosmetics (Wal-Mart, Zeller's, Shopper's, Rexall, Loblaw)
PRICE: $5 - $15 (depending where you buy them)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Loyalty Programs

Open your wallet – how many cards do you have in there? No, I’m not talking about your debit cards or credit cards. Look at those other cards. Those, my friends, are loyalty cards!
So, what is a loyalty card? A loyalty card is a part of a loyalty program that allows customers to either receive a discount on a current purchase or accumulate points that can be used on a later purchase.

In order to receive these cards, consumers will provide some personal information (usually name, phone number, address, e-mail, etc.) and sometimes will be required to pay a card holders fee. These programs (and cards) are great ways for retailers to get consumers to shop in their store – as they provide either an immediate or future discount. They also are great marketing tools as they collect information about their customers and then use that information to market certain information to them through different channels (phone, mail, e-mail, etc.)

You can safely bet that most of your favorite stores have some sort of loyalty or rewards program. Looking in my wallet, I can spot over five cards that I am signed up for. Some of these cards I use frequently, and others I have used only once. I have worked in retail for almost 10 years and have seen customers come into the store with Ziploc baggies full of loyalty cards (even more so over the past two or three years.) It begins to become a nuisance - having to file all of these cards away in our wallets, especially when we rarely use them. In order to decrease the weight of your wallet, it’s time to decode how we keep the good ones (and get rid of the bad ones!)

Pointers to help you determine whether a loyalty program is good for you –

1. Does it give you an immediate discount?
Some cards will allow you to a 10% or 15% discount year round. Some will offer you $5 or $10 dollars off of your purchase. Some cards will allow you to use this discount in conjunction with other in store promotions or sales. If the card offers an immediate discount, it can definitely be worth your while. Even if you are saving a dollar, it is still a dollar. It adds up over time!

2. Is there a cost to sign up?
Before you say “no” to the store associate pitching the program to you, make sure you understand the benefits thoroughly. Some of the best cards have an initial fee, but pay for themselves quickly. However, if you don’t shop at the store often, the fee may not be worth it. If you are not sure, don’t sign up. Ask the associate for a brochure or pamphlet about the program. You can often find the information about the program on the company website, as well. This will give you the opportunity to research before you shop.

3. How often do you shop in the store?
Ask yourself – how many times out of the year do you visit the store? How often do you use the products? Getting into a loyalty program on your first visit to a store may not be a good idea.

4. Does it provide a discount or benefit over time?
Some programs may allow you to build up points or dollars on your card for every certain amount that you spend. For example, for every $20 dollars you spend, you get five points on your card. Once you get to 25 points, you have $25 dollars to spend. If you shop in the store often, you can probably hit these thresholds fairly quick. However, some programs can set high targets. Again, evaluate how much you are shopping in the store and determine whether building points or dollars can be profitable and worth-while to you.

5. How easy is it to build up points/rewards/dollars?
Do you need to spend a lot to get a point/dollar? Are the buying requirements reasonable for you to achieve?

6. Does it have any other special “perks” to being a member?
Being enrolled in some programs will allow its members to take part in exclusive events or give exclusive offers. For example, a lot of retailers are having “shopping parties” where members can shop the entire day/weekend/week and receive a member’s only discount. This discount is only available for those who have a card or who decide to sign up for a card at the time of purchase. Other retailers give their members coupons to spend in store or in another store.
Using these techniques, I have narrowed my search down to a few favorite loyalty programs.

1. “Love Your Body” – The Body Shop
The Love Your Body program is probably one of my favorite loyalty programs I’ve stumbled across. Not only does it allow you to receive 10% off year round, it also allows you to apply that discount to any other promotions they have in store. For example, they had a promotion where if you bought a bag for $5, anything you could put in the bag was 50% off. After they took the 50% off, you then save an additional 10%.

For every $25 dollars (pre-tax, post discount) you spend in the store, you receive a point. Once you get to four points, you get $15 dollars of free product. Once you get to eight points, you get $25 dollars of free product. You also get a $10 dollar gift of free product during the month of your birthday. But I’m not done yet – if you reach your eight points, the card automatically renews for the next year, free of charge.The card initially costs $10 dollars to sign up, but with those kinds of perks? Absolutely worth the money. The month of your birthday alone pays for the card! They also send me exclusive e-mails and invites to “Love Your Body” events where I can double my discount and receive 20% off all the products in store.

Rating: 5/5
For more information –

2. “Scene” – Cineplex Entertainment
I’ll start by saying this card is FREE and TOTALLY worth it. You sign up online (I’ll provide the link at the bottom) and they mail you the card. This program runs on a points system – for every adult movie ticket you purchase, you earn 100 Scene points. For every child movie ticket you purchase, you earn 50 Scene points.

It doesn’t stop there, though! Cineplex now offers 75 to 100 Scene points when you purchase a concession combo at participating Cineplex Theatres. Plus, you get 10% of concessions and 250 Scene points just for signing up. Once you get to 1000 points and plus, you can redeem your points for free movies, concession combos, and “Night Out” packages. You can also redeem your points for music downloads, restaurant gift cards and free DVDs or Blu-Rays.

Cineplex has made collecting points even easier by introducing a Scene debit card and a Scene Visa card, where you can accumulate points for all the money you spend! The card does not expire. From my personal use, I have had dozens of free movies since I initially got the card a few years ago. If you go and see a movie with 3 friends, that is 400 points already! With this card, I have definitely seen the benefit. And come on – who doesn’t like free movies?

Rating: 5/5
For more information –

There are plenty more terrific loyalty programs you can join and receive benefits. Remember, loyalty programs are only beneficial if you make them beneficial. What are some of your favorite loyalty programs?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Let’s face it – times are tough. Gas prices are through the roof, prices at the grocery store are higher than ever, and minimum wage is basically a joke. In the economic climate that we live in, most of us don’t have a whole lot to spend on things like clothes, accessories, cosmetics and other fabulous non-essentials. But wait a minute – who said looking fabulous has to cost tons of money? Believe me fashion-istas, it doesn’t! In fact, I’ve spent years as a student figuring out tricks to save money and it isn’t as hard as you would think. It takes a little extra effort, but with a few quick tips, you can be on your way to saving cash today.

So how do you do it, you ask? Surprisingly, retailers are making it easier for us to save money than they ever have before. They know the economy is not in good shape and they know that people aren’t spending their disposable income on their products anymore. This means that their marketing geniuses are hard at work creating new ways that can help their businesses prosper. Their solution – “To get people to spend, we have to let them save.” So let's get started.

1. Subscribe to your favourite stores' e-mail list.
Before you scroll down and completely ignore this step, take a breath. I know that some retailers are notorious for sending tons of e-mails (some send two or three a day), but this is actually a GOOD thing! Retailers want you in their store, bottom line. E-mail is a terrific way for them to let you know what promotions are happening in their stores each week. Most stores are offering terrific promos because they are hurting for sales. This is your chance to cash in! The e-mails may become annoying, but they let you know when your favorite products are on sale. The biggest bonus of subscribing to e-mails is that a lot of retailers are now sending printable coupons for you to use in their stores. Some retailers give good coupons. I cannot stress that enough!

Some examples of coupons I've received include:
- 30% off my entire purchase (on top of in-store promos)
- 50%, 40% or 30% off one item
- buy $40 worth of merchandise, get $20 dollars off (like 50% off)

So how do you start getting e-mails? Some stores will ask you to subscribe to their e-mail list when you are in store, but you can go online to their website and they usually have a link somewhere that will allow you to subscribe. So what are your favorite stores? Head in-store or online and sign up to start saving!

2. Join in-store loyalty and rewards programs.
Almost every store has one now – a card that allows you access to some sort of dollar accumulating, percentage saving reward program. Mind you, some are not as good as others. But joining the loyalty program at your favorite store does pay off in the long run. Some programs offer you access to save a certain percentage off your purchase year round. For some, the more you spend, the more points or dollars you accumulate - which you can put toward a future purchase. Some also invite you to member only exclusive sales. If your favorite store has a card, I highly suggest getting involved with it. Although it may seem like there is no immediate value, eventually you can spend those accumulated dollars and it feels fabulous!

3. Shop on the other side of the border (if you can!)
I know I shouldn’t necessarily be encouraging that you go to the U.S. to shop, but quite frankly, things are expensive (as we’ve covered), and if going over the border means saving a couple dollars, I am all for it!A lot of items that you can purchase in Canada are often less expensive in the States. Also, the sales tax is half of what ours is. But buyer beware – do your research! Some stuff is actually more expensive in the States then it is here. But if you are smart about it, you can end up saving quite a bit more with a quick trip to our neighbors south of the border!

4. Shop on eBay!
eBay can be a saver’s paradise if used properly. I’ve purchased high end makeup items at 50% off on numerous occasions. Some sellers allow you to make bids or “Buy it now”. I usually try to find the most inexpensive “Buy it now” and commit to buy that. However, if you are competitive, you may enjoy competing with others to get your favorite product dirt cheap by bidding on it. I’ve seen some products sell for a dollar! Yes, a single dollar. eBay is also a great place to find a pair of designer shoes you have been eyeing. Some sellers will auction designer items that are lightly used, giving you the chance to bid and get it at a highly discounted price. If you are savvy and smart when you bid or buy on eBay, you can save tons of money!

5. Find a “dupe”
A “dupe” is a term used to describe an inexpensive alternative to an otherwise expensive product. For me, I hunt high and low for makeup dupes. Some of my favourite products happen to have prices that aren't so favourable. For most high end makeup products, you can find inexpensive alternatives. This means that instead of spending $32 dollars on a blush from Sephora, you can usually go to the drug store and get something pretty similar for $10.

There are tons of different ways that you can save money. These are just some of the ways that I have been able to save for myself. In this blog I will continue to share new and fun ways to save money. I will also share some of beauty and shopping secrets I have learned over the years and introduce you to my favourite products. So read along, and enjoy!