9 Skincare Favorites Under $15 + 1 Worth the Splurge

If you live in Buffalo and love beauty and fashion, you’ve probably seen Becca, the bubbly personality behind Little Budget Beauty, on Instagram or at Second Chic. I’m not a makeup person, but I could look at Becca’s Instagram feed, filled with product reviews, real-life shots and full-face looks, forever. And everything she uses is completely affordable.

So when I wanted to put the Target gift card burning a hole in my pocket to good use on some budget-friendly skincare, I knew Becca would know exactly what my face needed. Plus, who turns down a Target run? Not me. Not Becca.

I usually duck in and out of the makeup aisle on my way to the home goods section during my way-too-frequent trips to Target. I’ve never been super into makeup, but that means I do have to be kind to my skin, especially in the winter, when it gets so dry I look (and feel) like a walking desert.

With hydration and affordability in mind, we got to work. It’s been a few weeks since our trip, and I’m ready to report back on the results, as well as add in a few of my all-time “little budget” favorites.

1. Lush Aqua Marina Face and Body Cleanser

$12.95 for 3.5 oz
I use this calamine powder and aloe vera cleanser allll over during the winter. It’s super gentle and still leaves my face feeling clean. My only complaint is how much the seaweed it’s wrapped in clogs the drain. 😆

2. Neutrogena Moisturizing Hydro Boost Hydrating Face Mask

$2.57 for 1
Becca disappeared down the mask aisle and came back with every single one of these that Target had in stock. When she sees this mask in the store, she buys every single one – they’re that good. She was gracious enough to let me try one, and I don’t disagree with her. The mask made my skin soooo soft and it stayed uber hydrated for days.

3. Lush Mask of Magnaminty

$14.95 for 4.4 oz
For something a little bit more cleansing, I like this mask. It has the same gentle kaolin clay base as the Aqua Marina cleanser so it’s not drying, but it does leave my skin feeling super fresh, thanks to the peppermint oil.

Lush Mask of Magnaminty & Aqua Marina | Affordable Skincare Picks

Lush Mask of Magnaminty | Affordable Skincare Picks

4. Bioré Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore Strips

$7.99 for 6
These bad boys have been a staple since high school. There’s something so satisfying about ripping all those nasty blackheads straight out of my skin. Is this the healthiest thing for my skin? Nope. Is it necessary? Yep.

5. Thayers Witch Hazel Toner in Rose Petal

$6.99 for 12 oz
I’m really proud that I picked this one out without direct coaching from Becca. Although I did see my sister using it last time she came home… This toner is a serious game changer. It’s so refreshing and really calms my skin at the same time. I’ve been using it multiple times a day, sometimes instead of washing my face, which makes it a really nice option for the winter.

6. Garnier SkinActive Hydrating 3-in-1 Face Moisturizer with Aloe

$6.99 for 6.75 oz

Garnier SkinActive 3 in 1 Moisturizer | Affordable Skincare Picks

If I had $38 to spend on an ounce and a half of face moisturizer every few months, I would always use belif’s The True Cream Aqua Bomb. I don’t. So instead, I’m using the $7 alternative from Target. To be honest, it’s pretty darn good. I slather it on in the morning and at night, and it does a good job of keeping my face from getting raw, even during Buffalo winters.

7. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Concealer in Fair

$8.59 for .12 oz
While my skin is really dry, it’s also super sensitive, so I can’t just put goop over my zits and hope for the best. This concealer does a good job of adding hydration without being greasy or oily. My one complaint is that this product comes in four shades that are pretty much white, whiter and whitest.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Concealer | Affordable Skincare Picks

8. Maybelline Fit Me Loose Finishing Powder in Light

$4.39 for .7 oz
Try not to judge me, but before this shopping trip, I had been using the same mineral powder since high school. Not the same brand, or the same type. Literally the same container. I couldn’t tell you when it expired because all the packaging wore off. So anything would have been an upgrade.

Maybelline Fit Me Loose Finishing Powder | Affordable Skincare Picks

I really like this powder, which is buttery soft and does a good job of floating over my dry skin. I have not tried it without primer and probably won’t any time soon. However, this is likely a good candidate for being a stand-alone go-to during warmer months.

Becca liked this powder too (so you know it really is great) and included it in her roundup from our shopping trip as well!

9. Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Oil in Caramel Cloud

$4.95 for .04 oz
You can’t go wrong with Burt’s Bees. We tried to find something a little “sexier” for blog post purposes, but all the lipsticks that claimed to be moisturizing just felt sticky. This has a touch of color and stays on my lips for at least an hour or two. It’s nothing special, but it’s a definite upgrade from my usual ChapStick.

Bonus: FIRST AID BEAUTY Hello FAB Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer

$28.00 for 1.7 oz
Because Becca also encourages a good splurge every once in a while, I’m adding one to my list too. This primer is the perfect base for a light foundation. It’s actually tinted enough that I can get away with wearing it alone during the summer. Plus, it smells like an actual coconut smoothie.

Reflecting on a Week of #FuturisticFebruary

Since 2017, the couple behind Sustainable Duo has encouraged the Instagram universe to collect their trash for the month of February. The idea is that after 28 days of hoarding what would normally go straight into the garbage can and recycling bin without thought, you look at the small mountain you’ve collected. You multiply what’s in that pile by 12 in your mind. Only then do you have an idea of what you, one single person, are physically contributing to landfills every year.

My cousin invited me to join the challenge, which is called #FuturisticFebruary, this year. I took some serious liberties with the guidelines. Instead of a month, I opted for a week (I’ll just multiply by 52…). And rather than physically keeping the garbage I created, I wrote down each item I tossed in the trash or recycling. But even with my reduced commitment, I still feel like I learned a lot about my (lack of) sustainability habits.

My First Thoughts

I went in confident. I don’t drink out of single-use water bottles. I bring my lunch to work in glass containers. I make coffee with a reusable filter. During my week of #FuturisticFebruary, I even made some simple swaps to be more sustainable. I composted, which I hadn’t done in our apartment until now. I also brought a hand towel to work so I didn’t have to use paper towels to dry my hands. Easy stuff, but I still thought it would make a difference.

I was so, so wrong. Wow, do I use (and dispose of) a lot of stuff every day. I kept separate lists for garbage and recycling and I honestly thought my recycling list would be the longer of the two. Not so much.

Food Has Sooo Much Packaging

Eating local, packaging-free food is really hard in the middle of winter in Buffalo. Pretty much everything I bought during our weekly trip to the grocery store had a wrapper on it. Some of it was recyclable,  but a lot of it (like the pretzel bag and meat packaging) went straight into the garbage.

Thinking about how much energy and material went into containing each item I bought (let alone getting it here) has me very committed to shopping at the farmers’ market for as long as I can this summer and fall. And instead of heading to the store for a six pack, I’ll try to hit the brewery with a growler more often.

A Week Isn’t 100% Representative

In my defense, neither is a month. There are a lot of products I use every few weeks, every other month, or a couple of times a year. During my week of tracking, I did order a few things online, which meant a box, packing tape and bubble wrap were added to my lists. But I didn’t wrap any presents, go to the mall or get takeout, among other things.

Junk Mail is the Worst

Junk mail is the worst, and that’s before you consider what all those credit card offers and Tim Hortons coupons you never remember to use are doing to the environment. After realizing just how much of the stuff I throw out, I submitted these three forms, which will hopefully keep the mailings to a minimum.

The Moral of the Story

I’m never going to eat 100% local, or give up travel, or live without electricity. But I can be more thoughtful on a daily basis about how my food, clothes and beauty products affect our planet.

While “stuff” is a privilege many Americans feel lucky to have, it’s also a privilege to think about sustainability. It takes time, money and preplanning to attempt something even close to a “zero-waste” lifestyle.

As I work toward a life with less waste, I’m going to keep that in mind, as well as these wise words:

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We are Carly & Brenden, the Sustainable Duo🙌 We ARE NOT perfect, sustainable human beings. That’s almost impossible in the world we live in (and we are here to change that!!!) We do not strive for “perfection” in the zero-waste movement. We still fly planes occasionally, we share an electric hybrid car that still uses energy, we have electricity in our apartment, we eat fruit that isn’t always local… We have been called hypocrites for traveling to give zero-waste talks while using fossil fuels to get to one place to the next. But we are SO PASSIONATE about inspiring millions of people to make sustainable swaps that will change the 🌍 We have decided this is what needs to be done on our end, this is our calling. All of our actions are based on the bigger picture- to educate the world on zero-waste, veganism, and mindful living. We strive to be as morally consistent as possible & we do the absolute best we can for the situation we are currently in. Yes we want a zero-waste tiny home, yes we want to grow our own food and travel sparsely.. but that’s not our reality right now and we are doing our best and we truly know that. ♻️ Do the best YOU can and don’t let people discourage you by talking you down ✌️ For all of you getting into this vegan & and/or zero-waste movement- we are here for you and will never judge you. We are here to help and inspire you & assist with your growth. Keep making those sustainable swaps and evolving. This movement is about internal expansion and saving the planet ♻️🌍🙌✌️ Graphic via @ukonserve @zerowastechef

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6 Winter Self Care Rituals I Can’t Live Without

It’s that time of year when the air hurts your face and you can’t get through the pile of snow at the end of your driveway without stepping (pretty hard) on the gas. I would never trade a year without a winter for Buffalo’s summer and fall. However, making it through these chilly months (which usually lack any meaningful amount of sunshine) takes a lot of purposeful self care.

Everyone’s idea of taking care of their body and mind is different; as long as it works for you, just about anything can be called self care. And, as much as Instagram will tell you otherwise, it doesn’t have to happen on Sunday. Keep reading for my favorite ways to stay happy and healthy through Buffalo’s never-ending winter.

1. New Places

Our summers are usually filled with weekend trips to Rochester, Boston and the Finger Lakes. Our quick trips usually fizzle out sometime after our annual weekend in Allegany State Park in October. That doesn’t mean we’re not still exploring new places. Winter is a wonderful time to get to know your own city. Coffee shops, breweries and museums are all great places to spend a couple of hours. Honestly, even trading our weekly trip to Aldi for Wegmans or Whole Foods cheers me up.

Fresh coffee from Rowhouse in Buffalo, NY

2. Exercise

Getting up to go to the gym before work seems like an impossible task some mornings. Especially when it’s literally 0° outside. But a regular workout schedule makes me feel so much better, mentally and physically.

3. A Skincare Routine

Taking care of my body helps me survive the winter. This means eating healthy, working out and helping my skin survive the moistureless air. Lots of natural cleansers, masks and lotions are my best friend this time of year.

4. Reading

While I’m the first to talk about how great social media is, it also makes you sad. And impacts your self-esteem. And affects your physical health. So when you cut down your social media use, what do you do with all of your free time? Read!

Good books for wintertime reading

I have a Barnes & Noble gift card burning a hole in my purse that I’m saving for a late-winter Saturday when I’m so sick of being stuck inside I might just lose it. Last year I loved Bel Canto and Born a Crime. This year, I’m looking forward to picking up Becoming, Educated and a few cheesy romance novels.

5. Horseback Riding

Most girls outgrow the pony thing, but not me. There’s just something about brushing a horse (and giving it treats, kisses and ear rubs) that makes everything okay.

6. Setting Goals

My resolutions don’t usually last past February, but a few intentional, manageable goals help me stay positive in the winter. Staying on top of my to-do list, whether it’s keeping the house clean or publishing a blog post every week, motivates me to keep working toward the bigger stuff, even when it gets dark at 5 pm.

4 Accessories You Need for Your Next Beach Day

There is something so satisfying about escaping to warmer weather when it’s still below freezing in Buffalo. This week, we packed our bags and traveled to Anna Maria Island, Florida where we were greeted by sun and sand.

While I packed plenty of sundresses and even jeans for chilly nights, the most important beach accessories didn’t take up much room in my luggage. Last summer, I shared 9 beach day must haves. I still stand by those favorites 100%; I’m adding a few more from this week’s trip to the Gulf Coast.

Must Have Accessories for Beach Day | Anna Maria Island, Florida | A New Day Sunglasses | Floppy Sun Hat

1. A Hat

A hat is an essential beach day accessory that keeps your scalp from burning and shields your eyes from the sun. The weather and our plans for the day dictated what hat I wore. I love this floppy sun hat with a pretty bow for lounging on the sand on clear, calm days. For a morning out on the boat or windy weather, my favorite UT baseball hat was a better fit.

2. A New Day Clubmaster Sunglasses

A New Day is a recently launched Target-exclusive brand with lots of cute accessories. These were a complete impulse buy just days before we left for Anna Maria Island. I love that they’re a classic shape with just enough details that they’re not boring. They also fit my smaller face really well.

Must Have Accessories for Beach Day | Anna Maria Island, Florida | Pura Vida Bracelets Silver Wave Ring

3. Pura Vida Bracelets Silver Wave Ring

This dainty accessory adds just a touch of nautical sparkle to my beach day ensemble. The ring was a Christmas gift from Shannon, along with an Anna Maria Island sticker and coozie. This gift had me daydreaming of the beach for the past 3 months!

Must Have Accessories for Beach Day | Anna Maria Island, Florida | Cool Gear Tumbler

4. Cool Gear Tumbler

Keeping drinks cold is a very real beach day struggle. I love this tumbler because it has a wide mouth for ice cubes. The double walls keep it from sweating, so sand is way less likely to stick and end up in my bag or the cooler.

5 Reasons I Can’t Wait for Warmer Weather

Shoveling inches of heavy snow after this week’s late-winter storm, just days after the weather seemed to be turning towards spring for good, has me dreaming of warmer weather. Spring and summer in Buffalo make winter bearable. I can’t wait until we’re eating on patios, grilling and planting flowers.

There’s so much to look forward to as the weather gets warmer, including these 5 things I’m most excited for:

  • Choosing lawn furniture. Cody and I moved into our apartment just as the weather was cooling off last October. This spring and summer, we’re excited to create a little oasis in our backyard, which was one of the reasons we chose the apartment we did. Lawn furniture, Cody’s new grill and a colorful collection of planters are very much on my mind.
  • Riding outside. Barn time is my favorite stress reliever all year round, but it’s definitely more relaxing when you can feel your toes.
  • Open toe shoes. Sometime in August, I start craving booties, but by March I’m so ready for strappy sandals and boat shoes. I’m also a big fan of going entire days without wearing any shoes, which definitely isn’t an option with 6 inches of snow on the ground.
  • Weekly trips to Lake Effect. Because our closest Lake Effect Ice Cream location is now Hertel Ave. instead of Lockport, we don’t have wintertime access to our favorite flavors. Fingers crossed this comes sooner rather than later!
  • Road trips. We don’t have any specific vacation plans for the summer, but I’m guessing warmer weather will hold weekend trips to the Finger Lakes, Allegany and Salem.

What I’m Reading Right Now

I love a good book and my family knows it, so the months following Christmas are always filled with a very long reading list, which I’m sharing here. I’m slowly working my way through a few books right now; next month we’re headed to Florida, where hopefully I’ll fly through a few books while laying on the beach.

The Amateur Emigrant by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the only book on the list that I bought for myself. I found it in West Side Stories for a few dollars and haven’t had a chance to start it yet. This is a short (and lightweight) one that I’ll be sticking in my bag when we go on vacation.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

I’m about a quarter of the way through this novel and I’m really enjoying it so far. I’ve only put in a few pages at a time at the breakfast table. The characters and action are so easy to picture, which makes it nice to pick up when I have a couple of extra minutes to sip my coffee in the morning.

What I'm Reading Now | Succulents and Sunnies

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I added Born a Crime to my Christmas list after a few recommendations from friends. This is another one on the list that I have not started. I’m excited to crack it open, but I think it might be one that deserves undivided attention. I’m waiting for a low key long weekend to dive in.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Reading Catch 22 has been a years-long process. I started it again this fall after getting only a few chapters in when I first received it a few years ago. It’s very good, but doesn’t exactly leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside – not that all books should!

Culturematic by Grant McCracken

I always like having a book in my bag to read during lunch at the office. Culturematic, my last lunchtime book, was very interesting. I think I would have liked a college course based on the book, but I won’t be keeping it around now that I’ve finished it.

What I'm Reading Now | Succulents and Sunnies

The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines

Paige got me this for Christmas (along with Hearth & Hand goodies) and I’ll probably take it to Florida as well. I adore Chip & Joanna and will gladly invest my time learning a little bit more about how they created the farmstyle empire they run today.

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is not high end literature by any means, but gosh I love her stories of summer romance. This was not my favorite of her books, but it was a cute read that took just a couple of days.

Are you reading anything good right now? Let me know in the comments!

Starting 2018 with a Few Small Changes

Taking time at the beginning of the year to set goals helps me make changes I’ve been meaning to make throughout the previous months. Nothing major, but little changes that I feel make a difference. One year, I started making my bed in the morning. Another, I promised myself I would actually floss my teeth every day.

This year, January was a non-stop whirlwind of weekend trips, blogging about them, job interviews and holidays. Trying to set and maintain goals would not have been fair to myself. February promises to be a bit more relaxed with more time at home, perfect for a positive start to my resolutions for 2018.

1. Blog once a week

My current content calendar includes 1 new blog post a week, so this goal is definitely obtainable. My biggest change will be planning ahead when I know I won’t have time to write during a given week. Having content written and photos edited before I need them is a simple change that will hopefully make my life easier!

2. Edit a video

I never want to be a vlogger and I don’t particularly enjoy watching long vlogs, but I do like a good challenge and learning new skills. I took a bunch of video footage at Allegany State Park during a camping trip with friends last fall. We had warm, sunny weather and the raw video is really pretty. Compiling a short video of the trip is definitely on my long term to do list.

3. Post an Instagram story once a day

Sharing snippets of the everyday makes a difference in the number of followers I have. Other people have also noticed that regular behind the scenes updates help keep new followers around. I also don’t feel as pressured to post picture-perfect images to my feed on a regular basis when I’m active on Stories.

4. Take social media breaks

This is probably going to be the most difficult item on this list for me, but I want to take 1 day a month to completely ignore what’s happening on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Social media isn’t all bad, but it does affect my ability to focus and my outlook on any given day.

5. Eat well

I won’t be dieting anytime soon, but keeping a balanced diet is always a goal. My eating habits the last few months, between moving out of my parents’ house, the holidays and travel, are not impressive. More vegetables, less dessert.