Less Than Challenge

Living life with less than…


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Makeup in Less Than a Minute

If you’re a regular visitor to the Less Than Challenge, you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting with my usual frequency this week. I have been working long hours in preparation for a highly anticipated, 12-day vacation I’m starting on Friday, so I’ve been crunched for time. But a simple summer change to my morning makeup routine is making it much easier for me to get out of the house every day, and I figured this was definitely worth sharing.

BB Cream & Baby Lips

BB Cream and Baby Lips…
simple as can be.

From what I’ve seen and heard, BB creams are the hot trend in makeup right now (though CC and DD creams are right on their heels, I guess). I’m already sort of a minimalist when it comes to makeup, especially during the summertime, so I was very intrigued by the prospect of a product that would provide coverage, moisture, and SPF protection all in one. I read bunches of reviews (like this one from The Budget Babe) and I talked it over with a friend who has much more cosmetic expertise than I do, and in the end, I decided to buy Rimmel’s 9-in-1 BB Cream in Medium.

Let me just say, I’ve been thrilled with it! I’ve been wearing it everyday and absolutely loving the simplicity it brings to my morning rituals. No more separate applications of moisturizer, concealer, foundation, etc. I now get it all in a single step. On the weekends, it’s the perfect amount of makeup for the light, casual look I’m going for.  And on work days, I’ve been dabbing a little powder over top, adding a quick bit of mascara and lip gloss, and…voila!  My face is ready for the day in less than a minute (maybe two if I’m being extra careful about the mascara).

Weekend Face: Nothing but BB Cream (and Baby Lips)

Weekend Face: Nothing but BB Cream (and Baby Lips)

If you’re interested in trying out this trend, but you want to check out some serious reviews first, I’d recommend looking here, here, or here.  I have been very happy with the Rimmel, which I picked up at Target for less than $7. Based on my limited knowledge, I’d say it’s a great option for a drugstore brand.  I liked that there were light, medium, and dark varieties and it’s got an SPF of 25. But there are certainly plenty of options on the market, so do your research and take your pick.  Whatever your preference, I’d love to hear some of your time-saving makeup tricks, too.

On an unrelated note…I’ll be sharing the highlights of an awesome day of garage sale-ing soon, so stay tuned!  Trust me, if you like awesome deals and huge “less than” successes, you won’t want to miss this one.


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Summer Salad Ingredients for Less Than $15

I had lunch last week with a couple of co-workers at the new Druthers Brewing Company in Saratoga, and coincidentally every one of us ordered some variation of their spinach salad. Check it out on their lunch menu and I think you’ll see why there was such an attraction.

I absolutely loved mine, and I was inspired to pick up some similar ingredients to make my own variation at home. Now that I’ve revisited the menu, I see there were some things I forgot about, and I also seem to have confused a few items with the Bruegger’s Blue Apple Salad I had last week as well.  Oops.

Strawberry Summer SaladIn any case, I decided on the following salad ingredients and got them all for less than $15:

  • Baby spinach – $2.99
  • Strawberries – $2.99
  • Crumbled goat cheese – $3.00
  • Chopped pecans – $2.49 (much cheaper than candied walnuts)
  • Light champagne vinaigrette – $2.79 (a mix up, but oh well)

Grand Total – $14.26

That gave me enough to make at least 4 or 5 salads, as opposed to spending $8 for one at a restaurant. So in terms of less than living, I call that a win.

Now that I’ve revisited the Druther’s menu, however, I realize that my homemade salad would be more authentic, and probably a lot better, with crispy onions and a white balsamic dressing. Maybe next time I’ll even splurge on the candied walnuts.

So tell me…would you try this salad, or do you have a favorite summer salad recipe of your own? I’m on a salad binge right now, so please share!


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What I’d Rent: Day-to-Night Designer Style for Less Than $80

About a week ago, I got an email from Rent the Runway offering me $50 off an order of $100 or more for my upcoming birthday. For those of you not familiar with Rent the Runway, it’s basically an online service that allows you to borrow pricey designer dresses and accessories for 4-8 days at a fraction of retail prices. I originally created my account when searching for a dress to wear to a fundraising gala, but to date, I’ve never actually rented anything.

It’s not looking like this is the moment to experiment with fashion rentals for the first time, since I don’t have a big celebration planned for this year’s birthday.  But just for fun, I’ve picked out three dresses (and coordinating accessories) that I would totally consider renting under different circumstances.  With all shipping, taxes, and insurance fees added in, and my $50 taken off, each one of these looks would cost less than $80 to rent for four days, compared to retail costs that reach upwards of $600!

OPTION 1: Bold & Bright

Option 1 Bold & Bright

Felana Dress by Tina Turk | Rental $50; Retail $248
Crystallized Salmon Drop Earrings by Kenneth Jay Lane | Rental: $15; Retail: $125
Keep  Your Cool Clutch by Rebecca Minkoff | Rental: $35; Retail: $325
Total Rental Cost: $76.63 | Total Retail Cost: $698

OPTION 2: Color Blocks

Option 2 Color Blocks

Rhombus Shift Dress by Trina Turk | Rental: $50; Retail: $298
Gold Bangle Stack by AV Max | Rental: $15; Retail: $110
Clean Break Necklace by Kate Spade New York | Rental: $35; Retail: $228
Total Rental Cost: $76.63 | Total Retail Cost: $636

OPTION 3: Perfect Print
(my personal fave)

Option 3 Perfect Print

Derek Dress by Slate & Willow | Rental $50; Retail $298
Keep  Your Cool Clutch by Rebecca Minkoff | Rental: $35; Retail: $325
Gwen Blue Agate Earrings by Kendra Scott | Rental: $15; Retail: $100
Total Rental Cost: $76.63 | Total Retail Cost: $723

I really love the dress in option 3, and I think Rent the Runway offers a cool concept that I’d love to try someday. But I don’t feel like my birthday is the right occasion to spend over $75 on an borrowed outfit – even if I were planning a huge soiree.

When the next gala on my schedule rolls around, or if I just can’t find a suitable wedding shower/bachelorette party/rehearsal dinner dress…well, that will be a different story.  🙂


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Weekend Recommendations

With all the heat we’ve been experiencing in Upstate New York over the last week, I’ve spent very little time at home (in my sweltering hot, attic level apartment) and thus I’ve had very little time to blog. But before this weekend comes to an end, I wanted to take a moment to share a few of my favorite things of late. If you’re looking for something to watch, read, or listen to, these are my current recommendations.

(Readers beware, the songs and videos included below are not so family-friendly.)

WATCH: Orange is the New Black (brand new on Netflix)

If you take only one recommendation from this post, let it be this one. In the last week, I’ve watched all 13 episodes of this new Netflix show, and I have been completely captivated. It’s funny and sad and entertaining and surprising and thought-provoking all at the same time. Season 2 cannot come soon enough. I’m no TV critic so I’ll let a few reviews do the rest of the talking, but please, give this show a try.

The Great Orange Is the New Black Is Suddenly the Best Netflix Series Yet (Grantland)
Obsessed Report Card: Orange Is the New Black (Glamour)

LISTEN: Magna Carta Holy Grail – Jay-Z (listen for free on Spotify)
Not gonna lie…my interest was definitely piqued when Samsung and Jay-Z announced this new album during the NBA Finals. I had the good fortune to get my hands on a copy right after it came out, and while I can’t say I love every song, there are a few I’ve been playing over and over again on repeat. I’d recommend listening to it all at least once, but if you’d like to start with my favorite songs, try these:


Lean In

READ: Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg (get it at your local library, or on Amazon)

I know I’m a little behind the times on this one, but I am about a quarter of the way into this “feminist manifesto” by the COO of Facebook, and so far I’m very intrigued. While I don’t necessarily find myself agreeing with every point that Sandberg makes, a lot of what she says is very interesting. I do find myself thinking more deeply (if not any differently) about women and work as I read.  And with a book like this, isn’t that kind of the whole point?

Now that I’ve finished Orange is the New Black, I’m going to need some new things to keep me entertained until season 2 debuts. If you’ve got recommendations to share, be sure to leave them below!


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TKEES Knock-Offs from Forever 21

After developing a total obsession with TKEES last month, but not having the will to spend $50 on flip-flops, I was thrilled to discover super cheap knock-offs at Forever 21 thanks to Knock Me Off!

Forever 21 vs. TKEES

Apparently I missed the boat on getting a pair in black, but $6.80 seems like the right price for trendy knock-offs in crazy colors anyway. I particularly love Forever 21’s teal option (a choice the real TKEES don’t yet offer), so of course I had to order a pair. They arrived on my doorstep last night, and I am quite pleased with this new addition to my shoe collection!

20130716-191033.jpg20130716-191046.jpgThe soles are significantly more cushioned and comfortable than I expected, and the reviews online were spot-on in suggesting a sandal one size bigger than my actual shoe size. I normally wear a 7 but I went with an 8 in these they seem to fit just right.

Until I take the plunge and buy those authentic black TKEES I’m still longing for, I won’t be able to compare the knock-off to the real deal, but for now I’m quite pleased with new, designer-inspired flip flops for less than $7!


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Less Than Perfect

Last weekend, I had big plans to write a post about the amazing American cake I was baking for Fourth of July weekend. Other than the staples like eggs and oil that were already available at the house, I got all the ingredients for less than $10 and I set everything up so nicely to share with you guys:20130714-145534.jpg

Things started off well…
IMG_1025    IMG_1027    IMG_1029
…but then, disaster struck.

20130714-145917.jpgAs you may have seen on Twitter and/or Facebook last Saturday, when I tried to extract the cake from the pan to frost it…total catastrophe! I made a brief attempt to salvage the thing by frosting it anyway, but that was clearly no help .

At first, I was really disappointed and pretty embarrassed by my baking inabilities. But then, I decided to try all over again, minus the step of removing the cake from the pan. It was a total success, everyone seemed to like it a lot, and we had a very good laugh over the first attempt’s tragic end.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the little failures we inevitably face while living on less. Forgetting to use really great coupons before they expire (did that twice this week), going out to lunch when you are too lazy to make a sandwich with what you have at home (did that at least twice this week too), and having to re-buy all the ingredients for what was supposed to be a “less-than” cake after things go horribly wrong. Even though it’s no fun to fail, it’s all these little shortcomings that make it feel so good when we do score an awesome deal or knock a recipe out of the park.

So enjoy it when things turn out a little less than perfect. At least you know you’re trying, and sooner or later, you’ll get it just right.

20130714-150313.jpg     IMG_1050


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Five Fun Bikinis for Less Than $40

With summer well underway, I’ve been wanting to share a few of my favorite swimsuits of the season. After an extensive online search and much deliberation, I give you my top five bikinis of the moment, all available for less than $40.

Less Than Challenge Bikinis
1. H&M Green Patterned Bikini Top and Bottoms ($30.90 for both pieces)
2. Kohl’s Derek Lam Midkini (originally $44.00 per piece; now $30.80 for both pieces)
3. Target Xhiliration Multicolor Print Top and Bottoms (on sale in stores only; $28.00 for both pieces)
4. Aerie Fringed Print Bandeau Top and Bottoms (both pieces on sale now; $34.98 for both pieces)
5. Forever 21 Multi-Wear Bandeau Bikini ($26.60 for both pieces)

I’m very intrigued by the Kohl’s midkini, the fringe on the Aerie suit is super fun, and I think the multi-wear top from Forever 21 could be great. Plus I’m liking all of the patterns, so I think I could be happy with any one of these suits. I have my heart set on getting one before my summer vacation at the start of August, so please weigh in on your favorite looks and help me decide!