An unsponsored list of my favorite products

by Sandy L on August 22, 2013

I think I’m going to start posting random product observations on my blog as it seems to be increasingly difficult to find unbiased, un-sponsored product reviews for stuff.   As we’ve just bought another fixer and I’m doing a lot of online research on different products,  I feel like it’s getting  increasingly more difficult because most sites with product review info are just hocking some product for personal gain.

So, here are my observations in no particular order.

My Favorite Beauty Products

GLIDE Floss – It’s great for people that don’t have a lot of space between their teeth. It doesn’t shred like regular floss, but whatever you do, don’t buy the mint flavored glide. It is much more brittle than the unflavored glide and it breaks all the time. Unflavored Glide is the only way to go.

Bobby Brown Foundation Stick – This is the most expensive thing in my makeup bag, but it gives great coverage without me looking like a kabuki doll.  It also isn’t pasty or runny like other foundations. On Amazon it says it’s over $50, but I got mine at an Outlet mall in a beauty store for $22. It lasts forever, so I don’t feel guilty buying it. I definitely don’t follow the chuck your makeup after 3 months rule, so I don’t mind spending a little more on this item.

Cover Girl Pressed Powder – It’s cheap, it was the first thing I ever used as a teenager, and I still think it is the best shine control product out there that is also hypoallergenic.  I have super sensitive skin and this stuff doesn’t do a thing to it.

Dove Soap – Pretty much my whole family has sensitive skin.  Dove is one of the few soaps where it’s moisturizing, gentle enough for babies, but I also feel like it’s cleaning me too. Some of those other brands like caress feel like you’re just slathering yourself with lotion and not getting clean.

My Favorite Household Products

Just bought a bunch of these

Kitchen Stuff.  As a materials person, I love stainless. It’s one of the best raw materials to use for kitchen tools. I hate rusty things that don’t hold up in the dishwasher.  Spoons, pots, mixing bowls, yes, even appliances.  It’s easy to clean, easy to sanitize and does not impart odors onto food. I’m actually thinking the island on my next kitchen remodel may have one of those freestanding stainless steel work tables that restaurant kitchens have. Mason Jars are my second most favorite item.  Polycarbonate is still my plastic of choice for food grade storage. Despite all the BPA hysteria which is totally based on wonky science, this material has the best properties for food storage use. Polycarbonate can last decades and doesn’t have that plasticy smell. It doesn’t stain like Polyethylene and it’s completely transparent so you can see the stuff you are storing. I went a little nuts and bought a bunch of the Cambro containers to put all my food in. In a house that’s 200 years old, you can never be too careful to keep the pests out.  Kitchen supply stores still sell polycarbonate food storage containers, but you’re out of luck for small appliances. I had to resort to tag sales to find a food processor made with PC.  The alternatives crack and shrink in the dishwasher. They’re horrible and who’s to say that plastic is any safer?  I digress and I don’t want this to turn into a toxicology post, so off I go to the next item.

Product DetailsBar Keeper’s Friend – I am in love again. When my new stainless steel fridge was delivered, there were these annoying suction cup marks from the factory that I couldn’t get off my door.  When I called the manufacturer, one of the many suggestions they gave me was to make paste of bar keeper’s friend and water and gently rub the stainless to get the marks off.  It worked when stainless cleaner, baking soda paste, WD40 and a whole host of other things did not.

My I-Pad – My kids are always trying to get a turn using it, but I also use this device constantly for work. Although it’s not perfect, I use it Far Far more than I thought I would.  It’s a purchase I don’t regret.

Picture frame hooks – who invented these things? They are brilliant. You can hold 30 pounds on a tiny little triangle thing. It’s really a clever feet of engineering, despite the fact that you can buy a pack of 50 for $3.

Paint and Primer in one – I’ll admit, I was a skeptic, but it really does work.  There are multiple brands out there, but it is my paint of choice for indoor projects. I’m going to experiment and see if they have an outdoor version because my house is white and has some bare spots and sometimes it’s hard to find the primer section that you just painted when the rest of your house is already white.Product Details

Zout – It’s the best stain remover and I’ve tried them all. Shout, oxiclean, and the others don’t even come close. Be careful though because I put it on my dresser once and it ate the varnish off my furniture.  That made me mad and sad, but it still gets blood out and grass stains and almost anything. The only thing it doesn’t seem to remove is armpit stains.

My Favorite Clothes

The Gap Pullover Sweatshirt – If you catch a good sale, you can get them for $14 and they are warm, comfy and last through a million washings.  My kids live in these sweatshirts and won’t wear anything else.  I’ve been personally impressed that they haven’t faded by now and are such a bargain.  Although I prefer fleece, the young ones like cotton.

 CONCRETENylon Pants from REI – It’s been a while since anyone’s seen my pasty white legs, but when it’s hot in the summer, I can still keep them covered and cool at the same time.  Even if my legs looked like Giselle Bunchen’s, I still would wear these in the summer because the mosquitoes are so vicious.  It’s also easier and faster to keep covered than using sunscreen.  I use REI brand because they have the 34″ inseam option and fit me well. Although they aren’t that hip, I live in these things when I’m kicking around the house or out doing something active.  I also stock up on those thin fitted T-shirts from Target. They’re usually about $6-$8 each. They don’t last more than a season because they get all stretched out, but I like the fit and the weight of the target T’s and for $8, I don’t mind buying a few every season.

Land’s End Slender Suits – Well worth the money and very comfortable, although I was annoyed that when the I bought mine, the swimsuits were on sale, however the tall sizes were still full priced. They do stretch out if you swim a lot in chlorine, so I usually take my el cheapo bathing suit to the pool with the kids and save the nice one for the beach/lake.

LLBean Stuff – They are pricey but their stuff lasts forever and you can return things at any time for any reason. I love their supima flannel sheets. Their regular lower end flannel pilled. It didn’t used to but it does now so I returned them and upgraded for the higher end sheets and haven’t been disappointed.  My husband buys this jeans there and my kids love their PJ’s and slippers.  Their snowsuits are amazing. We received one as a gift and it lasted through 3 kids and still look brand new.  Unfortunately, nothing ever fits me right from this store and it makes me sad that  I can’t buy some of my clothing staples here, but they still made my list because the rest of my family uses their stuff.  We don’t buy everything from here as it’s too expensive to furnish you whole wardrobe from this store, but for those things you want to last a long time, it’s definitely a great place to shop.

Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a little thin on the clothes department. I’m still in search of the perfect shoe. If anyone has shoe suggestions, I want to know. I was using Clark’s but they are not lasting like they used to and the fit gets overly loose over time. Plus, they look like granny shoes.  I also hate traditional running shoes. My toes always seem to get numb wearing them.

What are some of your favorite products? I’m always wanting to know what people’s favorite items are. It’s really hard to find stuff you really love vs just a meh type of thing, so do share.

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So, we’ve been living in our house about a month now and I continue to get annoyed about the cheapness of the people we bought the house from.  We went into this purchase with eyes wide open knowing that the house is a gut job and needed LOTS of work.  We paid what we thought was fair market value for the house in that condition. It was not a bargain by any stretch of the imagination as we paid pretty close to the appraised value.   As a reminder, the home was an estate and was sitting empty for about 2 years. It was up for sale for about 5 years at an insane price, but when we bought it, they finally dropped the price closer to the appraised value which was about $300K less than what they wanted for it initially.  We were the only ones who put in an offer of any kind. They should have been thrilled and according to what their lawyer said, they were desperate to have the sale go through.  The closing went smoothly but the aftermath has been irritating as hell.

What’s annoying, is that they took things out of the house that were integral to the function of the house but I really don’t see what value these items could have had to the sellers who both lived in big cities and presumably much smaller homes. For all I know, the items went into a dumpster.   They did things like leave the curtain rod holders, but took all the rods. (They were an old style design, so I couldn’t just get new rods to match, so I have to unscrew all the old hardware, patch the holes, put on new hardware..super annoying and taking forever).  They also took the medicine cabinet off the wall in the main bathroom so that I have no storage in my bathroom. They took towel racks out of the bathrooms and drawers out of the refrigerator. There were cabinets and shelving missing out of the kitchen making it very difficult for things to function.  They didn’t leave a shred of toilet paper in any of the bathrooms.  They unscrewed the extra lightbulbs out of the bigger light fixtures. This was an as is sale, but they didn’t leave the house as is..they left it stripped to the bone (with the exception of the garbage in the basement and yard, that they had no problem leaving).  They did leave a housewarming gift. It was a book by the author who lived there and an old photo of the house, but I would have preferred it if they left the medicine cabinet.

Although none of this stuff cost a lot, it’s annoying as hell and now I have a bad taste in my mouth for the quality of the people I bought this house from.  One of the sellers is a reporter at Time magazine. If I were spiteful, I could write a truthful article about my selling experience with this public figure.  Is it worth risking your reputation over a medicine cabinet and a few rolls of toilet paper? (The medicine cabinet was the one thing in the house that wasn’t falling apart and kind of went with the period of the house that I probably would have kept but they couldn’t bear to leave it even though it was bolted to the wall and technically was supposed to stay.)

So, when I sold my house, I did the opposite even though my house sold for 1/2 of what the new one went for. I left full rolls of TP in the bathrooms. I left paper towels on the paper towel holder. I didn’t unscrew the towel holder from the wall and take it with me even though it was a really nice one and I could have used it in my new house.  I left the pot rack on the wall, the chairs that went with my island, the compost bins in the yard.   I labelled all the strange perennials in my garden. I weeded the yard on the day of my closing. The entire house including the basement and garage could pass a white glove test.  I left a jar of currant jelly and a gardening book as a housewarming present. I think the transaction went very smoothly and it was a much nicer experience for both parties. I didn’t tarnish my reputation during a very big transaction for this young couple. I do a lot in the community and come to find out, we have some mutual friends because of it. I could have played hardball (the appraisal came back lower than the offer after they already sent in their second deposit), but I didn’t. I made a concession to make sure they were okay with how it all went. I don’t regret not optimizing my profit at all costs as 2 of the 3 purchases I’ve made so far were bad experiences and I didn’t want to be “that” person to someone else.

I recently took some training on building your personal brand as part of a work thing. The way you treat people in a business transaction is part of your brand. Your personal reputation has value. Being cheap, mean or spiteful (not sure which it was in this case) lessens your image.  If people think you’re a jerk, they won’t do nice things for you.  I have not always been this way, and I was not always in the financial position to make these kinds of decisions, but I’m trying hard not to be cheap, cheap, cheap about every little thing.   For example, I actually found a letter one of the girls wrote to their mom on mother’s day behind the radiator. It was a few weeks before mother’s day. I thought it would have been a touching thing to send it back  to her and I had her address.  However, on the same day I found the roll out drawers missing from the inside of some of the kitchen cabinets. They were missing, just a hole in the cabinet, no shelving at all.   Who does that?  So now that time I could have used doing a nice thing was spent rebuilding shelving in my kitchen cabinets instead.

One last story to end the rant. Back when I was single and fresh out of college, there would be a group of us that would go out to dinner all the time. (We all worked for the same company and made roughly the same amount.) Anyway, there was always this one guy who would drink more than the rest of us and he always threw in WAY less money at the end than everyone else, like $10 when he spent about $40 or nothing if he could get away with it.  At first, people were nice and put in a extra to not cause a scene, but then after a while, I remember not being able to go out with this group for less than $40 (17 years ago, that was a lot of money for one person’s share). People got sick of subsidizing this guy’s drinking habit and after a while we were like:  “cough up the money dude, or get a separate check”.  Some people started deliberately arriving early or late so that they wouldn’t have to be on the same bill as him.  Everyone would talk about it the next day. It got to the point where I wouldn’t go out with the gang if I knew he was coming because I didn’t want to be policing him at the end of the night. He eventually complied after much bitching and I don’t think he’s like that anymore, but to this day, that’s the one thing I remember about him: that he was so cheap that he didn’t mind screwing over his friends in order to save a few bucks.  That’s the friend line you don’t cross when it comes to frugal living. It’s okay to be frugal about your own expenses, but it’s not okay to save money at someone else’s expense. The exception of course is if a friend offers to take you out or host you. That’s a totally different ball of wax.

Do you have any good cheapskate stories to share?

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