Bright on a Budget: April 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bright [Vacation] on a Budget : Avoiding Booking Blunders

I always look forward to vacation!  What I don't look forward to is the stress or decision-making. Vacation is supposed to be a time when to relax, but sometimes I feel like I stress out for 4 weeks just to get to relax for 1 week--does anyone else feel like that?!  

After several months of going back and forth, Chauncey and I recently decided on a vacation location. While I was leaning towards the Dominican Republic (we love the Caribbean), we finally decided on Charleston, SC.  It's our 5 year anniversary this year, and we wanted something romantic, but we didn't want to be too far from Kane.  More importantly, we also wanted something affordable.  There's no point in point in financial grief over vacation--set a budget you feel comfortable spending, and stick to it!  Stressing over how to pay for vacation, or taking a vacation you can't afford, negates what vacation is all about!

Sandals Grande Rivera, 2009
Our Honeymoon
Now you all know me-- I tried to price the best deals location-wise to help us make our decision, and then once we narrowed it down to a location, I really dug into the travel booking websites to make sure I was getting the best deal before I booked.  While I wish I could give you the magic formula for saving money when booking vacations, I can't, but I can give you some tips to follow to help you save!

1.  Set a vacation budget and stick to it!  This is the #1 rule and it dictates all of the other rules.  Don't skip it.  Don't forget.  When setting your budget, set 2 numbers-- the first number should be your absolute highest number you're willing to spend on EVERYTHING, and the second number should be what you would like to keep your spending to.  

2. Make sure your numbers are realistic--this means include the cost of the hotel room, travel, food, souvenirs, internet (yes, some places make you pay!), parking, excursions, etc.  If you're flying, include what you're going to spend on crap you don't need at the airport (those shops suck me in every time).  If you're driving, use a fuel cost estimator like AAA's to determine how much you'll be spending in gas money. Even with an all-inclusive like Sandals, you will still be out extra money for souvenirs, excursions, spa packages, and/or professional photos. 

3. Watch what brand of device you're booking your travel on.  A couple of summers ago, I read several articles (like this one from the WSJ) that said that Orbitz may be steering Mac users towards more expensive booking options.  While I was unable to find a follow-up article on this after a quick search, it doesn't hurt to compare booking options on a Windows computer to a Mac and see where you come out better.

4. Be flexible on travel dates.  When I book a trip, especially when flying, I check several different date options to see what gives me better deals (on airline websites, select the option for flexible dates so you can see when it will be cheapest to fly).  Of course, if you're going to the beach, you will usually save less if you're going during the off-season as opposed to peak season.  But you can also save based on the time of week you book your trip. Typically, you pay less for hotel rooms on weeknights than on weekends.  So if you're staying 4 nights somewhere, arrange your trip for Monday through Friday or Tuesday through Saturday, so that you're not paying the weekend rate for the majority of your stay.

5. Look for coupon codes.  Google the name of your hotel, rental car website, etc. with "promo code" to see if you can find a coupon!  Sometimes you can hit upon a 10% or 15% off coupon.  Also, sign up for the hotel's newsletter--many times they will email you with savings!

Sandals Grande Antigua, 2011
6. Check to see if your profession/professional organization gets discounts!  Many hotels offer corporate rates, or discounts if you're a member of the military or a government employee.  If you don't ask, you won't know.

7. AAA- Sometimes you can save more with AAA, and sometimes not.  Sometimes the hotel may actually offer a rate better than their AAA, so always check out all of the options.  AAA membership usually runs somewhere around $60 for their base package, and the savings extend beyond trips.  

8. Don't believe everything you read review-wise.  I used to obsess over travel reviews.  Now I don't  People are going to have really bad experiences and really good experiences, and sometimes those experiences happen at the same place. If you do read reviews, take the middle of the road approach, because I've found those to usually be the most accurate.  Don't talk yourself into spending more money on accommodations just because you think more money will equal a better experience--it doesn't always!

9.  Check travel insurance and refund policies.  I always get travel insurance because I would hate to lose out on all of that money I saved for vacation!  Before purchasing travel insurance, however, check to see if you get it automatically through one of your credit cards, and if so, check to make sure those limits will cover your trip. I recently found out that one of my credit cards has excellent trip insurance, so I don't have to pay out several hundred dollars extra in travel insurance.  Also, if you don't purchase travel insurance, it's sometimes better to pay a slightly higher rate on a hotel room for one that's refundable if you end up not being able to travel.

10.  Don't book in haste, and avoid booking last minute if possible!  Take time to search around and make sure you're getting the best deal.  This is especially true when booking flights--a recent study showed that your airfare price can be impacted by how far in advance you book your ticket and even what day of the week!

I hope these tips help you to book a BRIGHT vacation on a budget!  Chauncey and I have chosen to drive to Charleston, and we're staying at an affordable beach hotel near the city.  I'll update you on our experience after we take our trip.




Monday, April 28, 2014

Bright [Wardrobe] on a Budget : Cheap Spring Updates

We have had such beautiful weather lately, if you disregard the nasty weather today (feel free to ignore it--I currently am).  Every time the seasons start to change, it makes me what to buy a whole new wardrobe. . . but this blog isn't called BRIGHT on a budget for nothing!  I can't resist buying some new pieces, though, so I ventured out shopping this weekend.  


I have built up a pretty good collection of shorts and crop pants that I've found on sale, and I try to buy stuff that will carry through for a couple of years fashion-wise.  If you don't have some bright colored shorts or crop pants, try to pick up a pair in your favorite color to be on-trend this spring and summer.  Because of this, I tried to pick up a couple of shirts and some accessories to mix into my current wardrobe that would give me some BRIGHTness without spending a lot of money.  When picking cheap updates to your spring/summer wardrobe, don't buy something you already have-- focus on pieces that are different and BRIGHT that you can add into your rotation.  If you can just wear a piece with one specific outfit, don't buy it!

I made 2 quick stops in New York & Company and Rue 21.  Rue 21 is not a store that's regularly in my rotation, but my friend Della has a shirt from there that I like so I decided to stop in and see what I could find.



The shoes and necklace would also look great with a plain t-shirt or a dress!
Shirt: NY&C, $15.
Necklace: Rue 21, $5.99 (similar).
Shoe: Rue 21, $6.99.

Rue 21 has a BOGO 50% off one their sandals, so the pairs of sandals picture were only $13,49 for both pairs!  Plus, they had a one-day coupon for $5 off any $20 purchase, so I picked up the necklace and another cheap pair of sandals for my mom.

New York & Company was having an okay sale, so I picked up the shirt above and a couple of other items.  They were also having double City Cash, so for every $30 you spent, you got 2 $15 off $30 coupons.  I have a love/hate relationship with this store.  Sometimes, I think their items aren't very well made.  Also, you really have to keep an eye on their sales to make sure you're getting a good deal.  They always have good coupons, but their coupons don't apply to a lot of stuff already on sale:(

You can mix this hoodie and these shoes in with a lot of outfits.  
BRIGHtip: you can wear almost any color of top with these two and still look
pulled together because the hoodie and shoes are the same color! Think a white, black,
pink,  bright orange, or lime green top underneath!
Hoodie: Old Navy, on sale for $17.94 before add'l discount this weekend.
I would not pay $22.94 for this, which is it's current price.
Shoe: Rue 21, $6.99.
My hubby and I also ran into Old Navy to spend out Super Cash there.  Super Cash requires that you spend a certain amount, and basically gives you 40% off your a portion of your purchase ($10 off 25, or $20 off $50, or $30 off $75).  I earned this Super Cash when I did some spring shopping a couple of weeks ago.  This hoodie is lightweight and super comfy.  I think it will be perfect to take along for cool nights at the beach this summer!  Speaking of which, I will be doing a post later this week about  BRIGHT VACATIONS on a budget!

As you can see, I really tried to pick some pieces that were interchangeable and added a pop of color.  Versatility is the key to any wardrobe on a budget, bright or otherwise :)  I hope this gives you some ideas about how to work color into your spring wardrobe!  

Friday, April 25, 2014

High Five for Friday

One of my favorite bloggers, Lauren from Lauren Elizabeth, hosts a linkup every Friday on her blog called High Five for Friday, or H54F for short.  I've decided to join in on her fabulous Friday posts and share some of the moments I've enjoyed throughout the week:)  I hope that these posts will help you to get to know me better!

This week has flown by!!! Seriously--where did Tuesday through Thursday go?!

1. We went back home to eastern Kentucky to celebrate Easter.  While I had a little bit of a fiasco with my Easter dress, a crisis was averted and I really enjoyed spending the weekend with family!  This was Kane's 1st Easter, and he's to the age where he can play and get into everything.  Needless to say, it was FUN!

Is this "basket" too big?lol
2.  I love sweets!  I ran out to the mall this week and decided I needed to have some fro-yo on the way home.  I swung by Fro-Jo's drive-thru (if you live in Lexington, you've got to check out this place!) and ordered birthday cake fro-yo with cookie dough and marshmallow toppings!

So yummy!
3. Bath & Body Works is having several good deals right now.  Let's be honest--they always have deals, but some of their deals are better than others!  I had a $10 off $30 survey coupon, so I picked up some Wallflowers that were on sale for $3/each (great deal on the Wallflowers--usually runs $4/each) and a room spray.   I like to spray the Tiki Beach scent in the bathroom right before I take a bubble bath.  It makes me feel like I'm at the beach--vacation in a bottle!  Right now, with this coupon, you can pick up a free item of your choice (up to $14.50) with any purchase + get shipping for $1!  Plus, in addition to the Wallflower deal, their Signature Collection body care is buy 3, get 3 free.  WIN!


My 2 favorite scents right now are Tiki Beach and Watermelon Lemonade!
4. My Birchbox this month included a nail polish from Color Club!  Those are always my favorite Birchboxes!  What is Birchbox? For $10/month, you get a cute box in the mail that has 4-5 awesome samples that are customized to your personalized beauty profile.  I'll be doing a more in-depth post on Birchbox in the future, but head over here to check it out if you can't wait!

I always look forward to finding this in the mailbox!

5. I went shopping at Hobby Lobby and while scoping out some things for my friend Ashley's wedding (she's 1 of my best friends from law school), I went ahead and picked up these gorgeous flowers for a post I'll be doing in the near future.  I'll be showing you how to make your own wedding bouquet for less than $20!  Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

P.S.--I'll be giving away the bouquet I make!

DON'T FORGET-- Once Bright on a Budget hits 1,000 likes on Facebook, I'm giving away a Coach wristlet here on the blog!  Share away and encourage your friends to like so someone can win!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bright [Wardrobe] on a Budget : Almost Easter Dress

For those of you who don't know me well [yet], I am a hot mess sometimes-- forgetful, sometimes fashionably late, and always a little over-booked.  Every now and then, I accomplish all three feats at once.  #WelcometoMommyhood.  

Kane's 1st Easter.
We always go home to eastern Kentucky to spend Easter with our families.  Knowing it was a holiday weekend, I had mine and Kane's outfits all planned out (Chauncey gets fussy when I try to dress him).  I even made a list of everything we needed-- bowtie, dress shirt, khakis, and hat for Kane, Easter dress, shoes, and jewelry for me.  I checked everything off my list as I packed and off we went to EKY. 

Then Easter morning, when I got up to get Kane and I ready for church, my Easter dress was nowhere to be found!  UGH!  HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN?! LIST, WHY MUST YOU FAIL ME?! I scrambled and found something to wear that I had left at my mother-in-law's house.  While I was disappointed not to get to wear my awesome find from J. Crew Factory, I realized that wasn't the meaning of the day anyways:)

Easter outfit wasn't a total disaster.lol

So even though I couldn't wear my new favorite dress for Easter, I can share it with you now!  I scored this Factory Optic Dot Dress from J. Crew Factory when it was a new item.  It had an original price tag of $108, and was cut down to $64.40.  I was able to use an extra 20% off coupon + free shipping to get it for $51.60.  They currently have it on Final Sale for $52.99, with 2 sizes left as of tonight.  Here are some ways I would accessorize this dress.

The Easter outfit that wasn't.
Earrings and Necklace: info here
Asymmetrical wristlet w/ tassels in Cockatoo (available in 9 colors), Maurices, $15.*
*Watch for sales on Maurices.com.  Can usually get a 20% off or Buy 1 Get 1 50% off.
Ivory and black + a pop of color is one of my favorite combos!
Large bubble necklace, less than $10 (similar).
I plan on matching my shoes to my jewelry to pull the outfit together for a "finished" look.  Even if you don't have this dress or a similar one, it never hurts to dress in a neutral palette and add in bright accessories!  It's a great way to wear the current neon trend.  Can't wait to wear this dress sometime soon!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bright [Beauty] on a Budget : Makeup Brushes


I firmly believe that good makeup brushes are a game-changing when it comes to applying makeup. And I know that makeup brushes can last a long time, but I flat out refuse to pay $20+ for 1 makeup brush.  Call me crazy, but I got better things to spend that much money on (like actual makeup, or bills).

At the same time, I hate cheap makeup brushes.  Those cheap eye makeup applicators are the 1st thing that goes in the trash if they come with eye shadow.  I would cull a decent brush here and there from a nice makeup set, like Bare Minerals or Bobbi Brown, and then I would buy some cheaper ones, like Eco Tools from Ulta (I wasn't impressed).

So I set out to find a good in-between makeup brush set--quality without the name brand price.  That's when I found Sonia Kashuk brushes at Target.  They're perfect for makeup artist on a budget:)  I started out with the Sonia Kashuk Essential Eye Kit (similar to this one, but in white) for $10 or $11 and loved all of the brushes!  When I got in my Target Beauty Box (sold out), it had a $3 coupon off any $15 beauty purchase.  I thought about what to use it on, and decided to expand my makeup brushes collection.

Left to Right: Powder/blush brush, eye shadow brush (for all-over color),
crease brush, synthetic concealer brush, and angled eye liner brush.

This is the Sonia Kashuk Proudly Pink 5 Piece Brush Set for $15.99 + tax.  After my $3 off coupon, I only paid $12.99 for this brush set, which is awesome.  For those of you who didn't luck into the Target Beauty Box, keep a check on the coupons portion of their website or their Cartwheel app to catch similar savings.  (Please note: this set is pictured in slightly different colors online.  I just purchased this set in-store last week.)

Left to right: Powder/blush brush, synthetic concealer brush, eye shadow
brush, crease brush, and angled eye liner brush.
I think that to have a comprehensive brush set, you should have: 2 good eye shadow brushes--1 for all-over color and 1 for your crease, a good blush brush for blush, highlighter, and bronzer, and a good kabuki brush to apply powder foundation with (not pictured).  This set has the 3 most important ones: (1) powder/blush brush, (2) eyeshadow brush, and (3) crease brush.

Plus it comes with this cute clutch!
Overall, I really like Sonia Kashuk brushes, but I especially like this set!  It's definitely a bright deal for your budget!  The brushes are good quality, and from my prior experience, they hold up well.  I used this when I did my makeup today, and they felt so soft against my face!

If this set is still a little more then you'd like to spend out of your budget, then below are some more affordable options that I think would probably work just as well from Target's Up & Up line.

Left to right:
1. Complexion brush set- blush/foundation/concealer/finishing, $11.39 (on sale) at Target.
2. Mineral brush set- powder/concealer/shadow/blush, $9.99 at Target.
3. Eye brush set- shadow/smudging/crease/shading, $5.99 at Target (similar).
Having great brushes can really take your makeup to the next level as they do a better job of blending and shading, and make application smoother overall!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why I Use Ebates (and You Should Too)

This post contains my referral links to Ebates, for which I will earn a referral fee if you sign-up.  But don't worry--Ebates gives you something too, just for signing up!!!

Moms always know best (someone be sure to tell Kane that when he's older).  So when my mom first told me about Ebates, an online cash back shopping/rebates website, I should have listened to her. But I didn't.  I was skeptical, and put off joining.  Worst mistake ever.  As soon as she got her 1st "Big Fat Payment" rebate check in the mail, I immediately went and signed up.  Since then, I've received cash-back rebates for $330.46!  Let's walk through how why you should use Ebates and how to get started.

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back
Click here to go ahead and get started if you're too excited to wait!

I love online shopping.  I find it to be the easiest way to comparison shop and make sure I'm not only getting a good deal, but that I'm getting the best deal.  By using Ebates, you're maximizing your savings by racking up their rebates, which are in addition to any deals you score on an online retailer's site.   Ebates offers cash-back rebates for over 1700 stores, and while their website says that they offer rebates of up to 25%, I have found offers for as much as 40% cash-back (see the Magazines.com offer below)! Below are the current cash-back offers at some of my favorite stores:


It's super easy to get started and immediately begin saving money.  To sign up for Ebates, click here. When signing up, you will get to choose one of five sign-up bonuses: a $10 giftcard from Macy's, Walmart, Target, or Sears, or $5 cash-back on Ebates.  Once you've signed up and logged into your account, there are two ways to get cash-back while shopping.

Option 1: Click through from Ebates website
1.  Go to Ebates website and search for the name of the online retailer you want to shop at.  Once the name pops up, it will tell you how much money you can save.  Click on the name.


2. When you click the name of the online retailer, it will take you to their page on Ebates.  Click the orange "Shop Now" button.


3.  Once you click the "Shop Now" button, you're on your way to saving!  This will open a new window in which your online retailer website will load like normally--it just tracks your purchases.  Make sure to shop from that window ONLY to make sure your cash back applies.


4. In a couple of days, you'll receive a confirmation email telling you how much of a rebate you earned!  Ebates distributes their cash-back rebates every 3 months, so while you won't get the rebate the day you purchase, it's a nice way to "save" funds and put them towards a bigger purchase.

Option 2: Ebates Cash Back Button
I am a very forgetful person.   Sometimes I'd forget to follow the steps in Option 1 so I would miss out on my cash back.  Recently, however, Ebates came out with the cash back button (top right-hand arrow below).  When you install this on your internet browser, it will alert you when you're on a website that has cash back.  Just click the cash back button (the yellow "E") in the top right-hand corner, or click the red "Activate Cash Back" button on the left-hand side of the page.  You will get a notification that "Cash Back Is Active" and the square around the cash back button will change to green.  The actual cash-back process is the same as Option 1.

The Cash Back Button is available for Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.

Furthermore, you can refer friends via their "Tell-A-Friend" feature and earn money for everyone who signs up and makes a purchase!  Happy shopping and saving!

Please note that if you click through to Ebates from my site, I will get a referral bonus, but all opinions are my own.  You can take comfort that I won't recommend you all anything I don't use myself :)  And if I find a product or service to be terrible, you'll probably here about that too.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bright [or Neutral Nail Polish] on a Budget + a Giveaway

This weekend, we talked about how to get a great salon-like manicure at home (how's that for saving money in your budget?!).  I promised two things in that blog: 1.) that I would tell you how to save money on nail polish and 2.)  a giveaway!  Well, I'm delivering on both of those promises and throwing in some suggestions for cute nail polish colors in-between.  Don't forget to enter the BRIGHT Giveaway at the end of the post !

BRIGHBudgeting: How to Save on Nail Polish

A lot of my advice for how to save money on nail polish is brand-specific.  Some of my favorite brands are Essie, OPI, Zoya, Avon, Sally Hansen, and Color Club.

SPECIFIC BRANDS:
1. Essie.  I always buy Essie from Ulta because I can combine Ulta's weekly store coupon (usually $3.50 off $10) with any promotions they are running, such as buy 2, get 1 free on Essie.  Essie sells for $8.50/bottle at Ulta, so with a buy 2, get 1 free + coupon scenario at Ulta, you would only pay $13.50 for 3 bottles of Essie polish (normally $25.50, for $12 in savings).  Or, if it's a new release of shades and a buy 2, get 1 free promo isn't running, I tend to purchase the 4-piece mini cube.  These are $17, but if you use the coupon, you can get a mini cube for $13.50.  If you're just looking for 1 bottle of polish, buy a pack of q-tips, cotton balls, nail files, etc. to get you to the $10 mark so you can still use the $3.50 coupon!

Left to Right
1. Essie Who's She Read (sold on Amazon)
2. Essie Cute as a Button
3. Zoya Lola
4. Avon MegaWatt in Electric, discontinued, but similar to
AvonNailwear Pro+ in Orchid Splash, part of the giveaway below!

2. OPI.  I also purchase OPI from Ulta, using the same strategies I do for Essie nail polish.  OPI is $9/bottle, so please take that into account when doing cost calculations.  OPI's 4-pack mini kits are only $12.95 though, so you can get those for $9.45 after coupon!  The mini kits really are a great option for new colors that you love but will never wear enough to use the full bottle.

3.  Zoya.  Ulta sells Zoya, so you can use the same strategies that are listed above for Essie and OPI to score some Zoya.  Zoya's website, however, runs some amazing deals from time-to-time.  I highly recommend liking their Facebook page to stay up-to-date on their promotions!  They run some deals just for their Facebook friends.  I've ordered several times when you got nail polish for free and you had to just pay shipping.

Left to Right, 2 of my favorite neutrals!
1. Essie Chinchilly
2. Essie Allure (sold on Amazon), only $5.15!

4. Avon.  Avon always runs different specials on their nail polish, so sometimes it's hard to know if you're getting the best price.  While I keep an eye on their prices myself to get a feel for when to buy or when to wait for a better deal, it also helps to have a knowledgable Avon representative who will let you know when you're getting a good deal.  My friend Amy is an Avon Independent Representative, and she's always great to shoot me a message when their polish (and other stuff I like) hits a good price-point.  She is actually sponsoring the giveaway below, so be sure to check out her Facebook page!

5. Sally Hansen and other drugstore/discount store brands.  Always check your Sunday paper, Coupons.com, and SmartSource for coupons that you can apply to these brands.  Ulta sells these brands, and often runs AMAZING promotions on them, so you can always combine those promotions with the $3.50 off $10 coupon, plus any manufacturer coupons to get great deals!  If you don't live near an Ulta, keep your eyes on Rite Aid or another drugstore's ads to catch them on sale, and try to combine that deal with a manufacturer's coupon.

1. Essie Naughty Nautical
2. Essie Turquoise and Caicos
3. Essie Lapis of Luxury
4. OPI Planks a Lot (sold on Amazon)

OVERALL (ANY BRAND):
5. Dupes- Dupes in this sense are nail polish colors from other brands that are very similar. Say you really like Essie's Turquoise and Caicos shade, but you don't want to pay that much for a nail polish.  You just google the brand and shade, plus the word "dupe" (for example: "Essie Turquoise and Caicos dupe").  This will bring up some cheaper options for you that are very similar in color!

6. Amazon & eBay- If you're looking for a single color, especially a discontinued one like Essie Allure (above), always check Amazon and eBay.  The deals might just surprise you!

BRIGHGiveaway!

My friend Amy is an Avon Independent Representative, and she's sponsoring the giveaway below.  I'm not going to lie, she's pretty awesome.  She's the one who hooked me up with the awesome nail polish featured here.  While that polish is sold out, Amy has found a similar one to give away, along with some other goodies.   (NOTE: Radiant Orchid is Pantone's Color of the Year, and this nails it!) You don't have to like and share a post on Facebook to win- just follow the instructions below!  It's pretty simple.  Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How to Get a Salon-Like Manicure at Home

Nothing makes me feel more "put together" than having nice, pretty nails.  There's just something about looking down at my hands and seeing my nails done that makes me smile.  Do you know what doesn't make me smile, though? Paying $$$ at the nail salon to get them looking great.  

This was our 1st pic as a family.  I did my own nails, because when you have
a new baby, there's other things to budget for:)
I used to become frustrated with myself when I would try to paint my nails... I had all of these amazing shades of nail polish, but they just didn't look as amazing on my cuticles as it did in the bottle (anybody else have this problem???).  And I'm impatient.  I would try so hard to keep my hands still until I thought my nails were dry.  Guess what--they never truly dried!  I would think they were dry and then go to bed, only to wake up with weird marks on my nails in the morning. UGH!  I tried all the tricks in the book-- running cold water over my nails, using the hair dryer, using the spray stuff that the salon uses... nothing worked.  

But ladies, after MUCH trial and error, I have found a winning combination for those of you who want salon nails without the salon price.  First things first: shell out the money for a good base coat and top coat!  I cannot stress this enough.  One of the things I love most about salon nails is that they don't chip the 1st day you have them done.  Or the 2nd.  Having a good base coat and top coat, regardless of what brand of nail polish you use for your actual color, will make all the difference in staying power!  Go cheap on the actual nail color to save money!  I usually get 5+ days out of a mani by sticking to this.  While a good top coat and base coat will cost you more than the discount store brand, you're saving money and time by not having to repaint your nails every single day!  

Pouch:Mini Zipper Pouch, Thirty-One Gifts, $12 (pattern discontinued)
Nail Polish (L to R): Butter London Nail Foundation Base Coat;
Avon MegaWatt Nail Enamel in Electic (no longer available), similar (can also find at Rite Aid for $1.99);
Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat, Sally Beauty, $5.99.

BRIGHTUTORIAL: At-Home Salon Manicure

1. Prep your nails.  Shape your nails and push back your cuticles.  If you use a cuticle cream/oil, or hand moisturizer, be sure to swipe your nails with nail polish remover so that you have a clean base on which to apply polish.

To give your nails that neat, professionally-done look that you get at the salon,
keep your nails short and rounded.
 
2. Apply a base coat.  This is an important step that you should not skip!  Applying a base coat not only helps your polish to adhere to your nails better and therefore stay on longer, but it also keeps bright colors from staining your nails.  And remember, don't go cheap on your base coat!  I really like Butter London Nail Foundation Flawless Base CoatDreams Nail Lacquer 2-in-1 Base and Top Coat (BRIGHT deal) or OPI Nail Envy for soft or thin nails.


3.  Apply your first coat of color.  Always do thin coats of polish, as this helps the nail polish to dry quicker/more thoroughly.  Nobody likes goopy nails!  Here's the trick for getting that salon mani look: DO NOT apply the color all the way down to the cuticle--you're just asking for messy nails if you do that.  Stop short of the cuticle when applying the color, as shown below, and you'll "nail" the salon look!

Start applying the color in the middle of the nail, slightly above the cuticle, as shown here,  
4.  Apply your second coat of color.  Please note that a third coat may be needed if your polish is more sheer, but it's better to apply 3 thin coats than 2 thick coats.  Once again, make sure to leave space inbetween the polish and the cuticle!

If you mess up and get the nail color down too far on your nail (close to
the cuticle), use your thumbnail to push the color back up.
5. Apply your top coat, making sure to flick it over the tips of your nails to seal the color.  Remember, don't go cheap on your top coat either!  My favorite top coat for shiny nails is Essie's 3-Way Glaze, but I like to use a quick-dry top coat because I can't sit still long enough to let my nails dry.  I've found these quick-dry top coats to be really good-- Dreams Nail Laquer 2-in-1 Base and Top Coat, Essie's Good to Go, and Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat (BRIGHdeal) .  

This stuff has a cult following for a reason: it dries SUPER quick and shiny.
No joke- I picked Kane up about 3 minutes after applying and it did NOT smudge!
And you're done!  You have some fabulous looking nails without sinking $35+ at the nail salon.  Let's calculate your savings:  If you get your nails done at the salon every 2 weeks for $35, then you'll save $910/year by doing your own nails!  That's enough to take a small vacation, pay towards a bill, etc.  Even if you stretch it to 3 weeks inbetween salon visits, you'll save around $607 per year!


Next week, we'll discuss how to get nice brands of nail polish for cheap, and if you like my nail color in this tutorial, I'll be hosting a giveaway from my friend Amy that includes a bottle of it! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bright [Spring Jewelry] on a Budget

Let's be honest (if you can't be honest with your readers, who can you be honest with?).  I am relatively cheap, and I just can't bring myself to pay a lot of money for costume/fashion jewelry.  For example, why would I pay $80+ for a costume jewelry necklace when I can purchase something in sterling silver from Tiffany's for that price?!  Plus, most costume jewelry only stays in style for a little while.  Here's some of my recent finds and tips on how to be brighon a budget when it comes to fashion jewelry shopping!

Vibrant Floral Bib Necklace in Teal.  Forever 21, $11.80.
Bright Budget Pointers for Buying Costume/Fashion Jewelry 

  • Always pick a maximum price point and stick to it.  My price points are: $18 for a necklace, $10 for earrings, and $10 for a bracelet.

All from Versona Accessories (in store).
1. Aqua mint bracelet.  $7.99.
2. Yellow earrings and mint earrings.  $5.99 each.
3. Pale yellow and periwinkle bangles.  $1.99 each clearance.
4. Pink and silver earrings.  $7.99
  • Be judicious about what jewelry you buy--it's not budgeting if you buy everything in sight, no matter how cheap!  Clearance does NOT equal automatic buy!  My favorite stores to snag awesome deals on costume/fashion jewelry are Versona Accessories (in-store only), Charming Charlie, and Forever 21.
1. Necklace & earrings set.  Versona Accessories (in store), $5.99 clearance.
Round ivory earrings, $2.
2. Factory Neon Petal Drop Earrings.  J. Crew Factory, snagged for $7.60 on sale last week,
currently $17.00.  Keep a watch for this item to go lower in price again!
3. Pink dot drop earrings.  Charming Charlie (in store), $2.99  clearance.
4. Mini bubble necklace.  Walmart (in store), $5.00.

  • Statement jewelry is in big right now.  It can really brighten-up a neutral outfit or revitalize an old one!  Look for statement jewelry pieces that can go with a multitude of outfits, and you'll get more bright bang for your buck!  For example, the jewelry below could be worn with a simple crew-neck t-shirt or with a super nice dress--the possibilities are endless!
1. Multi-color earrings.  Versona Accessories (in store), $7.99.
2. Statement necklace in pink and orange.  Versona Accessories (in store), $14.99.

Costume/fashion jewelry is one of the easiest, cheapest ways to brighten up your outfit and re-energize your wardrobe for spring.  If you only had $25 to spend on a wardrobe refresh for spring, I would spend it on several pieces of costume/fashion jewelry that you could swap between outfits!

If you're looking to add some awesome (but cheap) clothes to your spring line-up, check out my post here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bright [Spring Clothes] on a Budget

I'm so over winter at this point.  It is April 3, for crying out loud.  I'm ready for sunshine, flip flops, and BRIGHT colors!  Don't get me wrong--I LOVE my yoga leggings, but it's time they take a hiatus until fall.

Today's weather was rainy and depressing.  I have a huge window in my office, which means there's no escaping the rain.  I needed a pick me up, so I was excited when I got an email in my inbox for an additional 20% off my entire purchase at Old Navy (use code SAVE20 at oldnavy.com, or mention to the sales associate in store that you have the coupon; cardmembers can save an additional 10%).  The quick trip was just what I needed--Old Navy had tons of cute clothes in great spring colors!  The best part: I only spent $74.53 total, plus I earned $30 in Old Navy Super Cash to spend later!

2 tanks, 1 popover (half-button-up),  1 pair of khakis, 1 scarf, and 1 pair of shorts

Let's walk through what I purchased and talk prices:

1. Women's Linen Blend Pullover in North Beach Neon- reg. $26.94, $21.55 after discount
2. Women's Printed Gauze Scarves in Navy- reg. $14.94, on sale for $11.95, $9.56 after discount

These 2 would be cute worn together with some khaki shorts and navy flip flops!
(Yes, I was on a pink kick.  Judgment-free zone, here, people!)
3.  Women's Perfect Pop-Color Tanks in Mint Stripe and Purple Stripe- reg. $8.50 each, on sale 2 or more for $7.00 each in store, $6.00 each with discount. 

Perfect with shorts and skirts, or even with dress pants and a cardi for work.
4.  Women's Twill Shorts (3 1/2") in Pink Dynamite- reg. $19.94, on sale for $15.00 in store, $12.00 after discount.  These tie as my favorite shorts of all time with the 3" shorts from J. Crew Factory!
5. Women's Boyfriend Skinny Khakis (24 1/2") in Pink Pirouette- reg. $29.94, on sale for $19.00 in store, $15.20 after discount.  

Either of these would look great with a simple white tee or tank and the
gauze scarf above.
In the next couple of weeks, I'll be snapping pics of ways to wear these new buys over on Instagram.  You don't have to have a complete new wardrobe for Spring--grab a couple of bright new pieces and work them in with what you already have in your closet!  If you hit up the Old Navy sale, I hope you find some good buys!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bright Tutorial--Easy D.I.Y. Coupon Organizer Pouch

When I decided to start simple (NOT extreme) couponing, I knew I would need some way to keep my coupons organized if I was going to actually use them.  I immediately hopped on Etsy to see if I could find a cute coupon organizer (of course I did).  I was absolutely shocked--some were over $20.00!  Now to me, spending that much money defeated the purpose of trying to SAVE money.  There's nothing bright on a budget about a coupon organizer costing that much!

So, after looking at some of the options on Etsy, I decided to make my own coupon pouch for FREE (my favorite 4-letter word)!  I have all kinds of cosmetic bags/pouches laying around, especially the flat ones, which I thought would be perfect for what I had in mind.  Below, I walk through how to make your own coupon organizer pouch with things you can find around your house!

Avon, c/o Amy Smith, Avon Representative
My friend Amy gave me this as part of a gift--too cute!

BRIGHT TUTORIAL: DIY COUPON ORGANIZING POUCH

Supplies needed:
  • 1 pouch large enough to fit coupons in (mine's approx. 8 in. x 6 in.)
  • Cardstock or manila file folders (enough to make your dividers)
  • Sharpie
Steps:
  1. Determine how many dividers you will need--I have ones for Snacks (yes, snacks are important enough for their own category), Food/Groceries, Personal, Home, and Baby.  
  2. Use the Sharpie to trace the outline of your pouch on a piece of cardstock/file folder.                      

    Your tracing doesn't need to be perfect.

  3. Cut out the shape, making sure to cut INSIDE the lines so that your divider will fit in your pouch.  This means you should cut about 1/2 to 3/4 in. inside the line all the way around.  You can also cut a "tab" at the top to label your dividers.  This will be your template for making your dividers. Your dividers will be inside your pouch, so they don't have to be perfectly cut to get the job done.                                                                                                                                           
    You can see how I cut INSIDE the lines, and added a
    "tab" at the top.

  4. Use your template to cut out however many dividers you need.  Make sure to alternate where you place the tabs at so that you can see all of them at once when they're in your pouch.                           
    I used blue manila file folders for my dividers.

  5. Label your dividers and stick them in your pouch!  All done!  You now have your very own coupon pouch!                                                                                           

DIY Coupon Organizer Pouch

I have found it so much easier to not only coupon, but to actually use my coupons, by utilizing this pouch.  I hope you find it to be just as helpful as I have!