Ways to save money this Christmas season

It's still October and already schedules are filling up with things to do to prepare for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Hanukkah and more.

On top of the normal things that need done -- changing your oil, sending out cards, finding time to work out -- you still need to shop for gifts, which is no small matter.

Have a Plan: Fools rush in, and only fools rush into holiday shopping without some kind of plan. Right now is the time to sit down and figure out your plan of attack for holiday shopping. 

First off, be realistic in your planning. There's no sense in setting a budget that's too high or too low to live with. Hunt also cautions that, "Many times we forget the expenses of the holidays are more than just gifts. There's entertainment and there's shipping and there's gift wrapping and there's cards, and there's office functions and all of that. Now, before the crush of the holidays comes too heavily, is a good time to sit down and think what am I going to do for the holidays?"

Use the Internet: Hunt calls the Internet "a wonderful tool for shopping online," giving the average consumer the power to narrow, decide and ultimately purchase the best bargain. 

One thing to keep in mind when venturing out onto the World Wide Web for research is that there is too much of a good thing. Personally I can research an item for hours, even days, before a purchase to make sure it's the right gadget for me but, as Hunt pointed out, that may not be the best use of my time. Hunt's favorite place to start her online research is Bing, "because it offers reviews, price comparisons and helps find free shipping."

Look for Cashback: Originally something that started with credit cards, cashback is now a popular way to save with online shopping by using Bing Cashback. Shoppers who start their purchase through a Bing search can get cash back from hundreds of popular retailers including eBay. But -- you should be sure to pay attention when using Bing Cashback -- while you can combine cashback with the low deals of participating stores, using a coupon will invalidate your cashback. 

So long as you use it wisely, Bing's Cashback is an easy way to save up to 40% on a gift; I saved well over $100 last year on one purchase alone.

Shop Alone: "The most under-rated way to shop," Hunt said, "especially for new mothers, is alone." That's right mom and dad, leave your little one with a sitter for most of the holiday shopping. According to Hunt, "Shopping alone makes you a better shopper, letting you devote all of your mental facilities to the job at hand." That doesn't mean you can't take your tike to the toy store though, just make that a special trip with a purpose of having fun, rather than shopping for gifts.

Keep Receipts: With more retailers tightening up their return policies, like Target, keeping receipts will be more important than ever this year. Hunt recommends keeping a special folder or box for all of your receipts and always asking for a gift receipt. I've taken to scanning all my gift receipts into a special folder on my computer, using NeatReceipts, for easy access in the event of a warranty claim or other issue.

Use One E-mail Account: Another way to keep your receipts in one place is to use a dedicated e-mail address for all of your online shopping. This is also Hunt's way of keeping the e-mail ads that retailers send out oh so frequently from clogging up her daily inbox and is similar to my solution of creating an e-mail filter to deal with restaurant offers.

Credit Card Tips: Just like a single inbox can make online shopping easier, using a single credit card to make holiday purchases can give you an easy way to track holiday spending. This single card method is also handy in the event that your credit card number is compromised, since you only need to cancel one card and don't have to worry about any automated payments that might be linked to it. 

Hunt was very adamant that you, "never shop online with a debit card!" While you may like the convenience of money coming straight out of your checking account debit cards don't offer the same protection against theft, offer chargebacks or extend your warranties. 

Shop Early: The final tip from Hunt, "Shop early!" Not only are stores stocking less this season, which means less selection and fewer deep discounts in late December; but it also means you can keep your mind clear and enjoy the holidays with your family and friends.

Put these tips into practice as you shop this year and not only will you save some money, but also your sanity.

How to wear Tail hem dresses

Shirttail hem, tapered hem, cutaway hem... whatever you wish to label it, the basic fact remains: skirts and dresses cut longer at the back are continuing to make their way into our trend bibles, and thus features as a major 2011 fashion trend. These hems fill the void between mini and midi; or between midi and maxi. They cover, yet they expose. And they're a simple way to freshen up your spring 2011 wardrobe with a new type of cut.
Read on to find out more about the style, what to look for, and how to wear it.
topshop unique SS11
Tail hem at Topshop Unique SS11

The tail hem: what is it?

A shirttail hem is traditionally cut shorter on the sides, with a longer 'tail' at the back. In 2011 the trend is more than just a shirttail hem, however: it's any manner of dresses, skirts or tops that have a hem that's shorter in front, longer in back.
uneven hem line
Dress with tapered hem at Dennis Basso SS11

Why a tail hem?

The appeal of a dipping hem is that it's playful. One side coveys the elegance of length, while the other hints at something more revealing. It can also have the appeal of looking completely effortless; especially if cut to resemble an untucked shirt, or an oversized tee.
mid length hem
Shirttail hem on the runway at Etro SS11

Types of hem

There are numerous ways of creating a unique hemline with a 'tail' effect. Here are a few examples:
  • A simple hem cut at an angle.
  • A more traditional petal hem (where the fabric overlaps in front like petals of a flower)
  • A hem that's cut from very short to very long - i.e mini to maxi.
  • A hem that falls into large drapes or pleats at the back.
Any of these work in 2011 - remember that it's all about adding a little point of difference.
white mini dress long hem
Skirt pleats at No. 21 SS11
Images: style.com


As beauty writers, we're always trying to bring you the best beauty tips, hairstyle trends, makeup how-tos and the like. That means interviewing boatloads of beauty experts. These fine men and women are celebrity hairstylists, makeup artists, skin care aficionados and doctors that lend their industry know-how to our stories by sharing beauty secrets -- the tips and tricks they have learned on the job and have found to be the most useful. 

To be honest though, we hear so many beauty tips through our constant interviewing and testing of tools and products, that some fall by the wayside or never make it into a story. That’s fine for the lackluster tips (i.e. wash your face twice a day), but it is not fine for the really smart tips. The beauty tips that are so great, they deserve to be mined out and brought to their proper light -- those diamond-in-the-rough type beauty tips. 

Some of these tips are classic and have been imparted upon us from generations of women past, friends, and even through the celebrity grapevine. Though many are from the glorious beauty experts mentioned above, and some are even tried and true things we have learned ourselves over the many years of primping and prodding our way through our own beauty careers (some spanning more than 10 years). They come from being on the front lines of it all (well, of the runway and red carpet, that is). They are the ah-ha tricks we swear by. 

Hairstyling tip

Who heard it: Susan Yara, Associate Editor 
From: Chris Megia, a hairstylist at the Serge Normant at John Frieda Salon in Los Angeles

"After applying dry shampoo to day old (or for me, three-day old) hair, blow dry the roots using a round brush. The mix of the dry shampoo and the natural oil will have the same benefits as a volumizer so you'll get an extra day out of your blow-out and have major volume. I now do this every week!"

Anti-aging skin care tip

Who heard it: Kristen Giordani, Executive Editor
From: Various derms including Dr. Heidi Waldorf, Dr. Ariel Kauvar and Dr. Amy Wechsler

"The best way to fight aging and prevent pimples is to use a prescription retinoid. You've likely heard this, but have you tried it? It is honestly the one thing that will make a huge difference in the appearance of your skin. I constantly get compliments on how smooth my skin is and I completely attribute that to my religious use of a retinoid. It helps smooth wrinkles, prevent blemishes, keep pore size small and fight sun damage. Just be sure to also use SPF religiously with it -- another tried and true tip."

Makeup tip

Who heard it: Sarah Carrillo, Senior Associate Editor 
From: Celebrity makeup artist Taylor Chang-Babaian

"Sometimes volumizing mascara formulas can be heavy and weigh down your lashes and take out the curl. She told me her best formula for the best lashes: 'Use a waterproof, lengthening formula first, it will hold the curl up. Then add a coat of volumizing mascara on top.'"

Skin care tip

Who heard it: Susan Yara, Associate Editor
From: A Clinique saleswoman 
"When I was in college, the sales woman at the counter told me never to rub moisturizer into my face, pat it on. Rubbing actually takes it off your skin and disperses it in different places. Patting it on helps the skin soak it up."

Dark circle tip

Who heard it: Sarah Carrillo, Senior Associate Editor
From: Brow expert Kristie Streicher

"You can use your eyebrows to make dark under eye circles less noticeable. Just tweeze your brows so they're more straight-across than arched. When they're arched you get a complete circle effect (your brows and the dark circles below) and that exaggerates the dark circles, but if your brows are straight across, it breaks up that shape and de-emphasizes the circles


Joran Van der Sloot Charged with Murder

Joran Van Der Sloot Charged With MURDER

Peruvian prosecutors have reportedly come to a formal decision concerning the slaying of a college student in Lima last year.
According to the Associated Press, prime suspect Joran van der Sloot is facing a possible 30-year jail sentence after being charged with first-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Stephany Flores.
Flores was killed on May 30, 2010 after meeting Van der Sloot in a Lima casino.

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