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Different Shade of Blue – Ion Brights Sky Blue to be Exact!

For anyone following along with my hair saga, my last update was early this month.  I had switched from Manic Panic Ultra Violet Semi-Permanent to N’rage Cobalt Blue Demi-Permanent on September 1st.  Manic Panic had lasted strong for 3-4 days, and lasted in total for exactly 2 weeks and 3 main washes.

Crystal Loved Her Purple Hair

Love at first sight. :-)

N’rage – Less Than 2 Weeks

N’rage lasted from September 1st through September 11th pretty well, and it wasn’t completely gone.  But then I got my hair cut/updated on September 10th to look spiffy at FinCon14, so that definitely stripped a lot out.  It was stronger than Manic Panic, but it wouldn’t have lasted much more than 5-6 regular washes with me.  Keep in mind, I hadn’t been using sulfate-free shampoo or anything special.

Crystal with N'rage Cobalt Blue Hair

This only lasted 11 days with me…

Ion Color Brilliance Brights Semi-Permanent – Sky Blue

I’ve moved back to the semi-permanent arena, lol.  I’m now using Ion Brights Semi-Permanent in Sky Blue.  I am loving this shade of blue!  I also splurged on $6 sulfate-free shampoo and have washed my hair once so far without it looking nearly as faded as the other two did in one wash.  So yay for maintenance shampoo, lol!  Without further ado, here is how my hair will hopefully look for at least the next week:

Ion Brights Sky Blue

Can’t decide whether I like this one even more than the purple or not! No worries though…I have other colors to try too!

Since the Ion Brights variety is cheaper than Manic Panic and N’rage ($5 versus $9-$13), and they were having a buy-two-get-$1-off sale, I decided to take a chance and bought four colors at once.  This is Sky Blue.  I will also be trying Aquamarine, Magenta, and Fuschia.  Thanks to my super short hair, it only takes one tube to cover it all.  If you have more hair than me at all though, I would suggest buying two tubes for Ion or two containers of Manic Panic.  Or, just streak your hair instead of covering it all.

I’ve had loud-colored hair for about a month now, and I can honestly say that I’m loving it.  My pillow case may never be the same again, but it’s a small price to pay for the fun factor of this experiment so far.  Financially, I’ve spent about $40 in the last month on dyes, my new shampoo, and 12 shower caps.  But I still have three of those dyes left to try, so this should take me on for at least another month or two.  In my world, that’s 3 continuous months of entertainment for $40…what a steal!  Hahaha!

And, an extra benefit, I should be very easy to locate at FinCon this year!  :-D

Did I leave anything out?  What do you think of my colors so far?

 

I’m a Cruise Addict and Other Financial Oddities

I saw this question left in my newsletter post this month from Alexis (thank you for subscribing and commenting!):

What financial things do you do that makes you think you are a little overboard? Is there anything you do to save money that makes you think “OMG, I’ve really lost it now”?

Cruise Addiction

I have gotten better at judging myself for my financial oddities, lol.  I also understand that Alexis was asking about my savings habits BUT my main financial oddity is at the other end of the spectrum.  I am addicted to cruising.  I love cruise ships, dining rooms where I’m spoiled, ports of call, and just showing up to scheduled activities all day.  If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d be booked for several cruises in a row that would start next week after #FinCon14.  ;-)

In case you haven’t been reading for the entire last year, my addiction is fed regularly.  We took a 5 day cruise in early September 2013, a 7 day one in January 2014, and another 7 day one in August 2014.  In my defense, I did at least find great deals.  All three of those cruises plus taxes, tips, excursions, and extras came to less than $4600 total for the two of us.

I am now attempting to talk my hubby into wanting to go again in either November-December 2014 or February-March of 2015.  I’d prefer both but do want to save for another rental property as well and I know it’ll make it harder if I keep spending $1200-$2000 every few months on what should probably not be happening more than every year or so, hahaha.

Other Money Oddities

Funny Piggy Bank

On the savings side:

  • I haven’t bought any retail clothing in more than a year other than my bride’s maid dress.  I make the exception for undergarments, but all of my shirts, pants, shoes, and dresses have been bought from second hand shops and Goodwill since early 2013.
  • I gave up most drinks at restaurants more than 10 years ago to save that $2-$4 per visit.  I just order water.  I will splurge a few times a year on lemonade or iced tea, but that’s about it.  This isn’t that weird but it came to mind.
  • We have more than 10 accounts at CapitalOne 360 because I manage money better when it is pre-assigned to specific expenses and goals.
  • I save more by using credit cards than cash.  Honestly.  When I have cash, I spend it without remembering what I spent it on.  It’s like drinking water.  But when I use a credit card, I see the charges every time I log in – they stare me in the face and force me to spend less especially towards the end of the month.  I’ve had a credit card since I turned 18, and I have never carried a balance or accrued interest charges in any way.
  • I re-use junk mail envelopes to leave money for our lawn guy.  I think it’s funny as hell that I don’t mind paying $35 to have my lawn mowed, edged, and weeded, BUT heaven forbid I use a fresh envelope for the cash…
  • I haven’t had an ATM usage fee since college in 2001.  I despise getting charged to withdraw and spend money.  So I used to go out of my way to find my own bank ATM’s just to avoid that $1.50-$2.50 charge.  Now I keep a small-medium cash pile at home so I don’t need to use ATM’s at all.

What are your financial oddities?  Please share!!!

Hair Dye Update – Goodbye Manic Panic and Hello N’rage!

Two weeks ago, I dyed my hair Manic Panic Ultra Violet. You may remember this picture:

Crystal Loved Her Purple Hair

Love at first sight. :-)

Manic Panic Ultra Violet Review

I loved my purple hair, but Manic Panic is truly a temporary dye.  My friends slathered my hair up, used a hot blow dryer on it, covered my head with a plastic bag for 30 minutes, and then I rinsed it out until the water ran nearly clear.  Then they did it again because they noticed some missed spots.  In the end, it took 2.5 hours to get me purple-headed.

I loved the color but Manic Panic fades fast like it was designed to do.  I have a blessed scalp and usually only need to wash my hair every 3 days.  But I wanted to hold on to the color longer, so I waited nearly 6 full days before putting the shower cap aside and washing it like normal.  It had already faded quite a bit in that 6 days.  After the first wash, it was sporadically faded purple, and after the second wash it was nearly gone.  The third wash exactly 2 weeks later pretty much finished the job.  I was back to nearly my natural hair color, just slightly darker in the blonde areas.

So, Manic Panic is an awesome temporary dye.  If you just want a color to last a couple of weeks or less, that is the dye for you.  I may play around with it again…

Now Trying Nrage Cobalt Blue

But, I wasn’t in the mood for being a red-head again quite yet.  My friends volunteered to help me out once again, and this time we selected a demi-permanent instead of a semi-permanent…that means it is supposed to last 2-3 times longer.  Welcome to N’rage Cobalt Blue.  :-)

My friends followed nearly the same routine as last time except for using a comb and leaving it to set for a full hour.  They slathered me up, combed it through, blew heat on it, put a shower cap on me for a little more than an hour (we watched a new episode of Doctor Who), and then I rinsed it out until the water ran nearly clear once again.  Here is my new look!

Crystal with N'rage Cobalt Blue Hair

I will admit that I didn’t adore it as much as purple immediately. But now that I’ve had it for a day, I am LOVING it too!!!

I am hoping that this color holds on longer than the last. Specifically, I need it to stay strong for at least 3 weeks. the Financial Blogger Conference is about 2 weeks from now and I want it to last through that whole week of fun too. If it’s faded at all before I leave, we may hit it again or even streak it with something else like teal or hot pink…we’ll see…

What do you think?  Did you prefer the purple or the blue so far?

Supporting Local Businesses – Doing My Part This Week…

I’ve always been fond of the idea of supporting local businesses, but I’ve never gone out of my way to specifically do it.  For the last week, I think I decided to catch up.

Funding Food

I’ve been pet sitting even more than normal.  This generally means waking up earlier than normal and working online later than normal to make up for time lost.

Luckily, one of my regular routes kept taking me by a tasty-looking taco stand.  When I finally stopped and ordered something last weekend, I found the largest, yummiest breakfast burrito ever for just $4.50!  And the green sauce was oh-so-good.  I ordered the medium instead of the large, which was a good idea since the medium ended up being so stuffed with eggs, potatoes, bacon, and cheese that I ate half and was too stuffed to eat the second half.  My husband decided to save the day and ate it for me after I called it quits (and put it away for later).  I’m not a push-over…I like to eat.  So take my word that this breakfast burrito was huge, and it was only about 60% of the size of his $6.50 monster.  I may take that on later this week…

On the way back home that same day, I also saw a sign for “Fresh Peaches” and pulled over again.  The peaches sold themselves.  The guy handed me one, I bit into it, and I bought two cartons worth for $10 while I finished scarfing down the free one.  I ate another one nearly immediately.  It was about $2 a pound, which is nearly twice the price of grocery store peaches in my area right this second.  BUT, his peaches were ripe and juicy and delicious!  The grocery store peaches are hard or tasteless or both.  It was a no brainer.

Baskets of Peaches

These weren’t the actual peaches, but he was selling them out of similar containers. It ended up being about 2.8 pounds for $5.

Justified

Yep, I bought a breakfast burrito and two cartons of peaches.  I also went back two days later and bought another breakfast burrito along with a $5 carton of nectarines.  Altogether, I spent about $25 in less than 2 days on food that I didn’t technically need.  But it has been delicious.  And not so bad for my current Weight Watchers diet either.  :-)

The burrito ends up being 8 Weight Watcher points per meal for the halves I eat, and the peaches are no points at all.  They are the perfect snack between dog walking and catching up online.  Overall, I have no guilt for the “wasted” money since the food has been delectable and the money went directly into the pockets of two local guys just trying to get along like the rest of us.  Money well spent indeed.

Do you ever spend money on things you don’t technically need?  How about on local businesses?  Does it make a difference to you either way?  It seems way easier to do for me…

Yep, My Hair is Purple – Specifically, Manic Panic Ultra Violet

I finally did it.  Well, technically my friends, Dee and Mandy, did it.  My hair is now OMG purple.  I LOVE IT!!!

The Dye Job

For anybody that hadn’t ever dyed their hair before, it’s an icky process best done with hard apple cider and your best friends.  Dee had some extra Manic Panic in Ultra Violet temporary dye left, and I had some light-colored hair available for experimentation, so we decided to have a dye-job party last night!

Crystal Before Manic Panic Ultra Violet

Before Purple…

The Manic Panic Ultra Violet is a gooey substance and feels absolutely WEIRD when it’s being put into your hair.  It then feels super slimy as you wash out the remainder after the 30 minute baking period, lol.  Overall, EWWW, but I was having the time of my life bonding with my girls.  Mandy and Dee tackled it with gusto and I did my job by turning when I was told and washing it out as well as humanly possible after it set for 30 minutes.

As we started...

This was when they first started adding the dye to my dry hair…

Rub it in, rub it in

It probably took them about 20 minutes each time to fully cover my hair and they ended up needing to do it twice.

Purple People Eater

So much purple!

Make Shift Shower Cap

Yep, I forgot to buy a shower cap. But a grocery bag is super useful for lots of things including this!

The Result

I LOVE My PURPLE Hair!!!

I think I was a natural violet-head stuck in a red-head’s body. ;-)

I ADORE the end result.  I feel like I was always meant to have some crazy color of hair.  This is a temporary dye, so I’ll be lucky if it lasts 2 weeks.  BUT, then we’re going to try Aquamarine.  WOOT!!!

Have you ever dyed your hair a wild color?!  What did you think about it?

No Amazing Deals Lately in Cruise Ports

Thanks to amazing timing, a now empty vacation account, and friends and family who were available to journey along side us, Mr. BFS and I have been on 3 cruises in the last 12 months.  This will probably never happen again, but we just found great deals late last August, this past January, and again last week.  Altogether we spent about $4600 total for the both of us and have had 3 fantastic vacations.  I’ll never regret the expense, which is a blessing for any of you who know how I am, LOL.

Deals No More

All of that said, what has happened to the haggling overseas?  When we cruised a few years ago, I was able to haggle out lovely deals for souvenirs and art when we were in the ports.  But these past cruises have all taken us to the same places, but haggling has died.  The shop keepers won’t even consider it.  I sort of expected it in Grand Cayman, Belize, and Roatan, but it’s happening more often in Cozumel and Jamaica too.  :-(

It’s not about an international money transfer or currency issues.  They all accept American cash very easily and we always make sure to bring at least a couple of hundred just in case.  But they hold strong on their prices now about 99% of the time.

On this past cruise, I tried talking down the price of a $5 teak shot glass to $4 – hit a proverbial wall.  On the cruise in 2013, I tried working out a bulk deal for $13 of small figurines for $10 instead – shot down cold.  And that happened at the same place that I talked down a chess board from $75 to $45 just 2-3 years ago.

And the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has also started collecting taxes for all alcohol brought back.  Not even 1 free bottle per person anymore.  Oh, and that’s not just for Texas residents now – they have decided that anybody disembarking in Galveston has to pay the same duties too.  They ruined duty-free shopping for fun drinks…

No Alcohol

Okay, Maybe Some Deals

Don’t get me wrong, my favorite liqueur (Amarulla) is still $4 cheaper on cruises than at home, even with the tax.  The tax just pushes me to finish the bottle the night before disembarking.  ;-)  You can also find Tanzanite for about half of what it costs here.  Apparently, the fine watches are way cheaper out at sea too.  But I’m all about little knick knacks and whatnots, and none of that seems to be on perma-sale anymore.

Have you noticed less haggling happening on things like cruises?  How about around your city?

 

Keeping Our Electricity Costs Low AND Enjoying My A/C

I hate heat.  Rising temperatures generally lead to my rising temper.  Overall, I am a summer heat wuss that uses her air conditioner as a weapon against the world outside.  Given that, our current Houston, TX electricity costs are definitely not as low as they could be.  BUT, I don’t think you have to suffer to save money.  I shop around.

Electricity

The Long Game

At the end of every contract that I have with an electricity company, I look around to make sure that I am still getting the best deal for our situation.  Two of our friends live with us in a pretty large house, so we have four adults that all appreciate keeping our home pretty cool.  During the day, we generally want our thermostat between 75-76 degrees.  At night, we all like it at 72 degrees so we can hibernate appropriately.  I know how lucky I am that all of us agree on temperature – I don’t take that for granted.  :-)

In fact, even though I am known as the cheapskate of our little family, I don’t complain about our larger summer electricity costs usually.  I know we could cut back, but I also know that I shop around for the best rates for us so we don’t have to change our comfort levels.

Since I live in Texas, I generally use the Power to Choose site along with regular search engines to find the cheapest per kilowatt hour rates for us and then I lock us in for about a year.  If I lived in Australia, I’d use this energy conversion calculator to compare what I know (kilowatt hours) with what they may use (like joules).

Overall, by comparison shopping, I can keep our price per kilowatt hour to less than 9 cents, which is pretty dang awesome according to friends, family, and acquaintances that I end up chatting about this stuff with randomly…

Our Habits and Bills

Although our home stays between 72-77 degrees no matter what, we do conserve electricity in other ways:

  • We have programmable thermostats and stay on the program 90% of the time.  Our only main exception is for our potlucks since the house heats up quickly with 15-20 people hanging around plus the heat from the kitchen items cooking the food.
  • We are all well-trained to turn off lights and fans when we leave a room.
  • I double-check doors to make sure they are fully closed.
  • I unplug chargers and other unused things that were plugged in.
  • The house itself was built in 2012, so it is already energy efficient.

We also are bad in other ways:

  • My husband and I work from home and one of our roommates/friends is a student still, so there are always at least two or three computers being used at any time.
  • We all enjoy tv as background noise, so there is usually 1-2 TV’s on too (although it is actually silent right now, lol).
  • There are 4 of us, so there are usually 2-3 rooms with lights on since we’re in them.
  • I am the only one that unplugs unused chargers, so it is a constant battle.

All of that said, our winter electricity bills are around $70-$90.  Our summer electricity bills are around $150-$200.

What do your electricity bills look like?  If you live where it’s cold, how do your heating bills look in the winter?