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April 2015

Beauty, Home

April 2015 Sephora Haul – Product Reviews

Sephora had its first sale of the year in April with VIB Rouge and VIB members receiving a 15% discount and Beauty Insiders receiving a 10% discount. This is a much-anticipated event for many! I have been debating and reading reviews on various products for a few months and finally settled on these six items.

I always love reading blogs and watching YouTube videos on shopping hauls. In a way, I am shopping vicariously through the reviewers while keeping a mental note of any interesting products I should purchase. If you are considering any of the items below, I hope you will find my mini reviews helpful!

1. April Haul

Origins Original Skin Renewal Serum with Willowherb 

I recently purchased the GinZing Energy-Boosting Moisturizer from Birchbox so I wanted to purchase this serum to try out skincare from Origins.

Origin claims this serum helps the skin look fresher, brighter and smoother while minimizing the appearance of imperfection. The ingredients include Canadian willowherb and Persian silk tree (Willowherb has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties).

After a week of use, I haven’t seen a fresher and brighter skin but I do notice my skin feels smoother after application. The scent is citrusy, much like the energy-boosting moisturizer. In my opinion, this light serum will be great for all skin types during the summer but is likely too light for combination to dry skin types in the winter. Overall, I like the serum but will probably not repurchase because I want to try other skincare lines and products. 2. Origins Original Skin Renewal Serum with Willowherb

Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer  #7 

Ohhh I have been mulling over this baby for at least 6 months. Before Sephora started carrying this item, I never pulled the trigger to pay the full price ($62) for this item regardless of how many raving reviews I have read. I also questioned how natural it would be on my skin since the product was quite glittery on my hands. However, once I saw the product on Sephora and knew I can get it at a small discount, this became the first item in my cart.

The Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer is described to be multitasking illuminator and complexion perfector. You can use it as a primer before your foundation or mix it with your foundation to achieve a luminous skin. You can also use it as a liquid highlighter or use alone after moisturizer to achieve a glowing skin.

So far, my favorite is to use this product as a highlighter; it gives the most natural highlight to the cheekbones. Compared to the Benefit High Beam, the fluid sheer gives a more subtle and natural highlight due to the product’s fine shimmer. I have also mixed it with my foundation but I haven’t noticed any luminous effect. I would repurchase this, the product look so natural and I hope after a few more uses I will be able to see the subtle luminous effect with the foundation!

3. Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer #7

3a. Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer #7

Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder – Medium 

Contouring has been the key promotional product of the beauty industry this spring. When you walk into a Sephora store, you are hit immediately with various contouring palettes. Last year I bought my first nice primer and foundation set, which started my purchase of tangent products, including my first contour powder to add more dimension to my face!

I debated over the Smashbox, Urban Decay and NARS contouring palettes for days. The reviews on these products were very positive but I did read some commentary on the difficulty of blending these products. I was seeking a non-shimmery, natural and blendable contouring powder and took a leap of faith with Kevyn Aucoin’s sculpting powder.

I am very satisfied with this sculpting powder. It is a non-glittery and shadowy shade that looks very natural (although it looks like a bruise on my arm) and the powder is extremely fine. Although the price tag is quite high, I am very happy I didn’t buy a product that works moderately well and eventually I have to buy another one.

7. Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder (Medium)

7a. Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder (Medium)

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Home, Others

Spring 2015 Gift Ideas

It is often difficult to find the perfect gift for your friends and family. Especially when the recipient is the opposite gender!

Handmade gifts are always more meaningful. Also, sometimes simply spending time together is the best gift on earth! However, if you are still planning on getting a special gift, please take a look at the suggestions below!

Please note: I have either received, purchased, gifted or will be gifting the items suggested below.

Gift Ideas_Gender Neutral

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Fashion, Home

Ferragamo Miss Vara Clutch Wallet Review

I love multi-functional bags. To me, a versatile bag with multiple uses / looks make the cost of the bag more justifiable. I have wanted a wallet on a chain for a while and narrowed it down to Ferragamo Miss Vara Clutch wallet and the Prada wallet on a chain. Since my brother was in Florence for a school trip, had to take advantage of the great US to Euro exchange rate and the VAT returns!

My brother sent me various pictures of the color options and we decided on the black, gold trimmed clutch wallet. (Note: T-Mobile users, text and data are free in Italy!) Unfortunately once I saw the wallet, the gold trimming was too “much”. I ended up exchanging for the standard clutch wallet in a Ferragamo store in the US. This is more of an everyday, casual bag that is classic and I can see myself using when I am 50 years old (although I hope that day takes its sweet time to come).

1. Miss Vara Clutch Wallet_All Black vs. Gold

Okay enough of the background story, hopefully this review / discussion will be helpful if you are looking for a clutch wallet or considering this bag!

Details on the Bag:

  • 7 card slots
  • Two bill compartments
  • One large compartment secured with a buckle
  • One internal back pocket
  • One detachable gold chain

2. Miss Vara Clutch Wallet_Front

4. Miss Vara Clutch Wallet_Interior

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Home, Personal Finance

Student Loans – Simple Ways to Save on Interest Expense

Ohhh student loans…a much-discussed topic and omnipresent responsibility in the lives of many, including myself. Today, I want to share a few simple methods to minimize interest expenses on student loans.

My student loans are currently serviced by Nelnet. The four others large loan servicing companies include Direct Loan, FedLoan, Great Lakes Education Loan Services and Sallie Mae.

To start off, it’s useful to understand how interest expenses are calculated. Daily interest expense is calculated as the current principal balance times the annual interest rate divided by the number of days in a year. For example if you have $30K outstanding in loans and have a weighted average 5% interest rate, your daily interest expense would be $4 and your annual interest expense would be $1.5K.

1. Interest Expense Calc 

Method 1 – Signing up for Auto Pay

In Nelnet, there is a service call KwikPay, which is an auto-debt that directly withdraws the monthly payment from a checking or savings account. Nelnet offers a 0.25% interest rate reduction on all loans for qualifying accounts when you sign up for KwikPay. Nelnet does not clearly state the criteria for qualification, but you can easily find out by calling them or using the chat tool. If you have another loan servicer, look for the auto pay option and check for rate discounts.

As illustrated in the example below, if you have $30K loans outstanding with a weighted average interest expense of 5.00% and make a monthly payment of $250, you will pay $1,452 in interest expense during the year (Table 1). However, if you elect to sign up for auto pay and receive a 0.25% discount, your interest rate will be reduced to 4.75% and you will pay $1,380 in interest expense for the year (Table 2). This yields an annual saving of $73, not bad for a few minutes of work!

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