Category Archives: Money-Saving Tips

Fashion Money-Saving Tips

Shoe-Stretching Tutorial

Ok, this next post isn’t about food, but, staying focused on what’s important here, chances are that sooner or later you may have to wear shoes to get to some food. I always thought I was destined to a lifetime of painful modern-day foot-binding in the name of cute shoes, but no more! I tried this out on a pair of nubuck ballet flats last night and now have two more pairs in the freezer; I’m repeating on one more pair that I want stretched out some more.

So if you have shoes that are too tight in the toe box, give this a try, and enjoy your food and your cute shoes next time you’re out. Thanks, Michelle Phan!

Beauty Money-Saving Tips Shopping

Cleansing Oil

I’m currently on track to be the first octagenarian to still have breakouts. When I was younger, my skin was so oily that my brother suggested I offer myself to the U.S. government as an energy resource. I was experienced in all types of powders, blotting tissues and oil-decimating cleansers. I cried while watching the ProActiv infomercial. I was a blinding image in flash photos.

One of the benefits of getting older, for me at least, is that my oil production has slowed down. But what I should have done is applied some of what I learned in all those years of college chemistry courses and realized simply that using oils can be an effective way of loosening oils that are clogging pores — without stripping the skin. You see, I believed the media hype that feeling “clean” meant that your skin was as tight as a SoCal facelift.

Enter Nude Skincare Cleansing Facial Oil. I’ve waited 3 months to post about this  because I wanted to be sure. Yes, it’s great for dry and normal skin — but it also works miracles on oilier skins. My skin, while still prone to the occasional hormonal breakout, has never been clearer. And the cleanser has a nice, light jasmine scent too so you think less “french fries” and more “exotic essential oil”.

But then I thought, “If it’s just oil, can’t I make this myself?” The answer is yes. When I ran out of the Nude cleansing oil, I read this article and made my own. I actually put it right back into the Nude bottle that I got, so it retained a mild jasmine scent (I’m sure you could infuse your own oils with essential oils, but definitely test for allergies before you do that). So for a couple of bucks, I’ve got a great cleansing oil. I’ve tried both olive and safflower oil as bases and prefer safflower, and I go with 30% castor oil since I’m on the oilier side.

Happy cleansing!

Home Money-Saving Tips


A couple of weeks ago I walked into my friend Carol’s house — she has kids roughly the same age as mine — and was struck by how grown-up her house looked. It was spotless. Her sofas looked normal, as if no one had ever puked on / spilled milk on / mashed food into / used them as a trampoline. The overall effect of walking into a clean, puke-free house was magical…and serene. When I walked back into my own house, the saggy, stained sofas that sit in our family room made me glum.

Though I entertained fantasies of a new beige-colored microfiber sectional with leather trim, that was out of the question. I asked the kids if they would continue to jump on / step over, build forts with / color near / sneak food on said hypothetical sofa and they answered yes. So, I set out to refurbish! A cursory call to reupholsterers, who would re-stuff my formerly down-filled cushions, yielded a quote of roughly a thousand dollars for the sofa. That included a wait time of a couple of weeks while the special feathers were ordered, and a period of time during which I’d have no cushions upon which to sit. Not good enough for my need for immediate gratification.
So I ended up shoving old, flat pillows of yore into my cushions. See the picture above — the cushion closest to us has been restored using my free-but-effective pillow stuffing method (I stuffed them into the bottom-facing part of the cushion so the unusual lumps wouldn’t show as much); the depressed cushion further away is the “before” sample. I happened to have a lot of old flat pillows, which included a variety of out-of-commission-bed pillows and accent pillows, all shoved breast-implant-style into any space I could find in the cushions (which were zippered, making things a lot easier than they might have been). I then set about removing stains by using a spray bottle filled with water and blottting with a cloth; grease stains I was able to get out by sprinkling corn starch over stains and letting sit for a couple of hours before vacuuming up. The result? To the right. Puke-free puffy sofa! (Well, mostly. I wasn’t able to get out the residue from a particular incident involving pink silly putty. Silly putty is the enemy. Don’t let it into your house.)
This transformation inspired me to look for other low-cost ways to reduce the offensiveness of my family room. Here’s what the wall opposite my sofa used to look like — it was basically a mishmash of cheap furniture that somehow migrated down from the playroom.
A visit to IKEA and investment in Expedit bookshelves, filled in with baskets I’d gotten from Target for the play room a couple of years ago, plus a coffee table spruced up the room in a remarkably low-risk fashion. While I’d like to be able to say that my house looks like this all the time, and not just every other Tuesday when a certain cleaning crew rolls in to save the day, I can’t. But it does look less bad.

Fashion Money-Saving Tips

$700B Bailout Fashion

One thing a bad economy can do for you is to make you more industrious. When it comes to fashion, I like to think that I’m a survialist. That is, rather than revert completely to classics (I’m just not sure I understand classics. The idea behind classics is that they never go out of style, right? Which means that they’re either non-descript enough to go undetected, or you never have to buy new clothes — neither of which interest me.), I rise to the laid-off-spouse-induced challenge and force myself to innovate! So here are a couple of things that I did recently to make lemons into lemonade. Um, they didn’t all end up being lemonade; some turned out more like pee. But anyway, maybe it will trigger some ideas for you:

  • Restructured my jeans collection. I have about six pairs of jeans in rotation, two of which I wear pretty regularly. That doesn’t seem right; I should want to wear all of them. My analysis told me that the two pairs I wore were hemmed for wear with heels. Which means that half the time I’m forced to wear heels just because I want to wear those nice jeans. But I also want some pairs to wear with flats. My flats jeans were all faded and on their last threads. So I took a few of the other pairs that I wasn’t wearing, mostly because I didn’t like the fit or leg width quite as much, and brought them to the tailor to have them re-made into jeans for flats. Voila! Three new pairs of jeans at a fraction of the cost of new ones. My current favorites are Joe’s Jeans, so I made sure that I had one high heeled pair and one flats pair. And I just love dark washes — they make you look so skinny!
  • Lopped off my capris. I had several pairs of capris that I bought about three years ago that just didn’t look right anymore, and a pair of Burberry-print slacks that had just too wide a flare. One boring evening (out of many) I took a pair of scissors to the slacks and hand-hemmed them to be knee-length shorts. Suddenly my tired looking slacks became a set of cute shorts! Except for the questionable workmanship. So the capris are getting the same fate. Perfect for wearing with my cream-colored nubuck cowboy boots that I got on super sale at a boutique last month.
  • Belted it out. Being on spending moratorium wasn’t much fun, but in my book, spending money on belts doesn’t count! I acquired three new belts: 1) a patent leather wide belt in a royal purple, 2) an amazing and cheap reversible (!) studded leather belt from Steve Madden — black on one side and brown on the other, and 3) a thin, stamped python belt from Betsey Johnson. Sticking a belt on all my tops suddenly transformed my clothes — and I like belted tops over skirts. I’ve been wearing loose-fitting, billowy tops for the past year or two, both capitalizing on the trend and taking the opportunity to let my gut hang loose, so belting these tops was a nice change. As a bonus, I took the Steve Madden belt to my local cobbler, and he pounded a new buckle hole into it for me at no charge.
  • Accessorized. I’m a big fan of long necklaces — 32 inch and 34 inch ones — layered. I just think they look so great over the longer tops that are around now (and that I hope will stay around til I die. Fashion gods, please do not allow the cropped tops of the late ’90s to come back unless I get a personal trainer!). I have a few in my regular rotation that I got from Target, which has a surprisingly fresh and trendy accessories section — and J. Crew is currently having a final sale online where you can get pretty decent deals on gold plated jewelry for layering. I also bought a giant flower pin made of feathers that I am sure is going to look right any day now.

So good news: my husband got a job! It’s a 3-minute commute from our house and his office will have lavish facilities like windows, in-office closets, a beautiful gym and a really nice cafeteria. I am jealous. He starts in two weeks. Just in time to save me from the classics.

Money-Saving Tips

Now that I’ve been implementing my own economic stimulus plan through my crack addict purchases of Botkier handbags, I’ve joined Even though we offer this program through the company where I work, I was (and am) skeptical of anything with the word “free” in it. So let’s be clear: the program is not free. It can, however, be financially beneficial if you shop online.

Here’s how it works:

1) Membership is $6.99 / month, billed annually — so $83.88 a year. They currently have a 30 day free trial so I’d recommend doing that — why not. You can cancel the membership anytime. You can get up to $500 / year in shipping rebates, including return shipping.

2) When you shop, log in to and search on the merchant you plan to patronize. They have over a thousand merchants, big and small (I’d say they capture about 65% of my online purchases). Click on the merchant you are shopping, and you’ll be sent over to their website. Complete your transaction.

3) Go back to FreeShipping and make a claim. This does require printing out your receipt and mailing it in, and I suspect their business model relies on the laziness of people and their inability to mail something in even if they get money back for it, but it’s a great program for the miserly people who get profiled in the Famously Frugal section of Real Simple magazine. Or people like me, whose husband just got laid off, but who believes that by sending in these rebates I am actually earning money and therefore am entitled to another purse. $500 would buy me a mighty nice Botkier on eBay.

Look for more money-saving tips as I head toward financial ruin!