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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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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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!


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New Nikes For Less Than $20

I have been extremely overdue for new sneakers, and last weekend, Brendan helped me figure out how I could combine a bunch of deals to get brand new Nikes for less than $20. I’ll explain how in a second, but first you just have to see them!
New Nikes for Less Than $20
After checking out a few pairs at the mall, I settled on the Nike Flex Run 2013 in teal. We ordered online from FootLocker.com because they didn’t have the teal in my size, and they just arrived yesterday. I broke them in on a brisk walk this morning, and I could not be more pleased.

My old workout shoes were sturdy but stiff, and they had been known to make my toes tingle if worn for too long. These new shoes are super-light, flexible, breathable, AND comfortable, and with them I feel like I have a fresh take on fitness again. That being said, I am committed to hitting the gym at least 3 times this week!

So the shoes are awesome, and I was sorely in need of them at any price, but the most exciting part of all of this is that the final charge for these $80 Nikes after discounts and deals was a whopping $17.59!!

Viggle Reward HistoryProbably about a year and half ago, I discovered the Viggle app on my iPhone. Since then, Brendan and I have racked up more than 500,000 Viggle points by watching television (or, at least, “checking in” to tons of TV shows with the app). I know I sort of threw him under the bus in my last post, but he is really a master of less-than living, especially when it comes to earning points for free stuff. So every bit of this sneaker success story should really be credited to him. He has done about 95% of the “Viggling” in our relationship, and yet somehow I seem to be reaping the rewards.

Anyway, Viggle allows you to redeem the points you’ve earned with the app for various products and/or gift cards from national retailers like JC Penney, Best Buy, and (you guessed it) Foot Locker. It cost us 100,000 points to claim $50 in Foot Locker gift cards, which sounds like a lot, but we really have so many points and I needed to make a sneaker purchase sooner rather than later.

On top of the Viggle rewards, our Entertainment Book had a Foot Locker coupon for $15 off a purchase of $75 or more, bringing the cost of the shoes down to $65 to get us started. If the shoes had been available in the size and color I wanted in the store, we really could have paid the rest off with Viggle gift cards, but for some reason the Foot Locker website only allows you to redeem five gift cards in one transaction. So we knocked off another $50 with our Viggle rewards, and were left to pay just $15 plus tax. Pretty sweet deal, right?

Are you using Viggle yet? If so, I’m curious to know if you’re saving up for a big ticket item or redeeming your points for smaller rewards as you go. If not, I definitely suggest you give it a try. My feet sure are happy that we did!  🙂


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All-American Meal for ALMOST Less Than $5

I was thisclose to getting all the fixings for our Independence Day dinner for less than $5, but our total grocery bill came to $5.02. Still, at a savings of more than 58%, I was pretty darn pleased.

Shoprite Haul 7/4/2013

Granted, this wasn’t the healthiest or most well-balanced meal I’ve ever had, but it sure was tasty and perfect for the Fourth of July. I was only planning on making hot dogs and corn on the cob, but Brendan threw the Doritos in our basket on impulse. And he’s the only one who used mustard, so it’s really his fault that we didn’t achieve a less than $5 dinner. Seeing, however, as I ate the majority of the Doritos and he actually paid for the food, I won’t hold any of this against him.

Anyway…here’s how we did it:
(all deals from Shoprite, good thru today)

  • Fresh yellow corn on the cob: $0.19 each w/ Price Plus card (x3)
  • Oscar Mayer classic wieners: $1.79 w/ Price Plus card (half price)
  • Shoprite brand hot dog rolls: $1.69, reduced to $0.39 after sale plus coupon from 6/30 ad
  • French’s 8 oz. mustard: $1.59, reduced to $0.39 after sale plus coupon from 6/30 ad
  • Cool Ranch Doritos: $1.88 w/ Price Plus card (half price)

TOTAL SPENT = $5.02; TOTAL SAVINGS = $7.07

One little confession: you were supposed to spend $15 or more to redeem the $0.39 coupons (which I completely missed in the fine print) but the very kind cashier at Shoprite overrode the system and let us use them anyway. So extra points for Shoprite in my favorite grocery store rankings this week.

Did you take advantage of any great deals this week? Be sure to share!