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Pre-Shaving Oil for Men or Women ~ Fast and Cheap Homemade Christmas Gift

Christmas is mere hours away, which means that the mad dash toward the end has begun.  Inspired by this video, I decided to give a few of my (hard-to-shop-for) male relatives some pre-shaving oil (like this, but much cheaper!), which helps soften hair prior to shaving, prepares the skin for shaving, protects it during the process, leaves it soft afterward, and prevents razor burn.  My husband swears by pre-shaving oil, but this is a great last-minute, inexpensive, handmade gift for women or men.

A little shaving oil goes a long way–most store-bought pre-shaving oils come in 2oz jars, so you don’t need much to create a nice gift.


The Ingredients

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2. Castor Oil

3. Jojoba Oil

4. Essential Oil (optional, but highly-recommended)

5. Measuring cup

6. Garnish (optional)

7. Storage Bottle/Container.  I found the bottles shown above at Michaels Craft Store for about $1, but in a pinch, you can use any jar/bottle you can find.  I almost used a tiny bottle of worchestire sauce (which I planned to empty into a larger container for our use) that had been cleaned and aired-out.

8. Tag with directions for use and ingredients (optional)

The Recipe

1.  If you don’t know how many ounces your storage container holds, fill it with water and pour into a measuring cup to find out (then dry it out).

2.  Pour roughly equal amounts of olive, jojoba, and castor oil into the jar.  I fudged a little on this and added less jojoba oil because I was running out, so this recipe is by no means strict.  To make it a bit cheaper, you can use more olive oil than other the oils. Hint: If you are making multiple bottles of this, figure out the total number of ounces of oil you will need, combine (equalish parts of) them all into a larger container, and pour from there.

3. Add your essential oil, cap the storage container, and shake.  While essential oils are usually optional, olive oil has a lingering odor that may not be pleasing to slather on your face or other body parts, so I highly suggest using a bit of it.  I chose cinnamon, and added about 10-15 drops per ounce.

4.  Add any garnish (like dried mint, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, etc), cap, and present!

The Result

I tested this bad boy out (because I had to know if it worked or not) and was extremely pleased to find that it made shaving much easier.  I slathered it on under conditioner (with which I shave) on one leg, and shaved normally on the other leg.  I had no razor burn on the oiled leg (which I cannot say was true for the other one), my skin was soft afterward, and very lightly scented with cinnamon.  I had such a great experience with it that I’m going to make myself a little Christmas present of it as well!



Homemade, All-Natural, Ultra-Moisturizing Lipstick: A Cheap, Quick, Last-Minute Christmas Gift

One of my family members can’t use store-bought lipstick for health reasons.  In an effort to find a suitable alternative, I came across a recipe that produces awesome lipstick in less than five minutes and for about $1 a pop here.  I tweaked the recipe to make it a bit softer and more moisturizing and these are the results.


The Ingredients


1. 1 to 1 1/2 Crayons, Red or Pink Shade (I know, weird!  But crayons are non-toxic wax that provide great pigmentation).  You can mix and match different sizes and colors to get a customized shade.

2. 1 heaping 1/2 tablespoon of Shea Butter

3. 1/2 teaspoon or so of Coconut Oil

4. 1 teaspoon Castor or Jojoba Oil

5. 10-15 drops of the Essential Oil of Your Choice (optional but highly recommended)

6. Tin/container for storing lipstick (mini Altoids tins work fantastically!), washed and ready to be filled

7. Something tiny to stir with (I used a disposable chopstick)

8. A small metal or heat-resistant bowl (I used a disposable tin-foil pan for ease)

9. A pan to in which to simmer water

The Recipe

1. Begin warming a pan about half an inch of water full.  Do not let it boil at all during this process.

2. Place everything except the essential oil into your small metal container.  Spread the ingredients out so they melt at about the same rate.


3. Once the water is simmering, put the container in the middle of the pan.  (The tinfoil container floats on top, slowing down the melting process and rendering a very smooth mixture.)  Make sure you constantly stir everything so that it is fully-blended (the crayons take the longest to melt).  I held the container with tongs and used my chopstick to stir and stir.


4. Once everything has melted, add your essential oils and blend carefully.  The ingredients should be one color and consistency.


5. Pour the mixture quickly into the waiting tin or container.  It will firm up very fast.  (Don’t worry, if something goes awry, you can always reheat and re-pour).


6.  Let cool for a few minutes, and wait to enjoy the final product!  (Hint: I use the remnant lipstick in the bottom of the melting container to test it out ~ I would suggest this too.)



Homemade Personal Care Gifts for Men

If you’re like I am, the men in your life are perhaps the hardest people to shop for.  My husband, fathers, brother, and other friends/relatives seem only to be interested in the latest (ridiculously expensive) gadgets.  Yet, don’t despair–this holiday season you can whip up heartfelt and useful (and frugal!) gifts for the opposite sex in a jiffy.


1. Cologne: Who doesn’t like to smell nice?  This recipe provides a simple way to craft a custom scent for your man that won’t break the bank.

2. Urban Survival Tin:  By stuffing an altoids tin with travel-size personal care necessities (like aspirin, breath freshener, mini/samples colone, individually-wrapped tush wipes, a pocket knife, tissues, etc), you can give peace of mind this holiday season (see a sample picture here).  The whole post is worth reading if you need non-personal care gift ideas.

3. Shaving Essentials: Homemade shaving soap and after shave treatments are fantastic, customizable gifts.  If you want to help him save time and money, complete his kit with a safety razor, bladesbrush, and shaving guide (which will cut his shaving bill by a hefty chunk–we’ve saved over $200 this year after my husband made the switch!).

4. Bay Rum Aftershave: I know, I know, I just mentioned aftershave.  But, this particular recipe has been lauded for both its efficacy and manly scent.  There’s really no aftershave (homemade or store-bought) that can compare quality-wise with this bad boy!

5. Muscle Salve:  Help sooth his aches and pains with a deliciously-scented and effective homemade salve.  If giving this concoction to your man, throw in a hand-written coupon for a massage and he will be on cloud nine.

6. Toner: Skincare is not just for women.  Help him achieve healthy skin by using this toner recipe.

7. Tooth Whitening Kit: I suggest putting each ingredient in a resealable container as well as including a cool toothbrush and mixing bowl to add the perfect touch to this economical idea.

8. Body Wash (err Manly Liquid Soap!): Give him a scentual, cleansing experience every time he steps into the shower with this masculine body wash recipe.

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Last-Minute, Low-Cost Homemade Christmas Gifts for under $5

This is the next installment of a continuing series of frugal, non-cheesy, DIY gifts (see here and here) you can make for the friends and family in your life who appreciate personal care items.  Feel free to add your own ideas!


With Christmas fast approaching, the time for last-minute gifts has arrived.  Instead of rushing to the nearest store in a frenzy (and spending loads of cash in the process), why not create a personalized gift for your loved one?  Cheap jars, bottles, and other decorative containers round out gifts that truly capture the spiring of the Holidays: caring for those you love.

I’ve given a very broad estimation of the cost of each gift listed below, but your results may vary.  The cost does not include containers in which to house the beauty product.

1. Facial Scrubs: These facial scrubs range from pennies (baking soda + water) to about $2.  It’s probably a better idea to give each of these items separately along with a recipe card instead of premixing the ingredients (can we all say days-old milk mixed with mashed  banana?)

2. Lip Balm: This gift requires some specific ingredients that you may not have on hand, but if you do (or can get them easily at a local store), you’ll end up with with an amazing, giftable (or keepable!) lip balm for about $1.15 per tin.

3. Tasty Lip Stain: The trickiest thing about this gift is finding a suitable container for it.  For  about $0.50 a pop (or less!), you can give your friend sweet, colorful lips for an incredible price.

4. Olive Oil Facial Cleanser: This fantastic recipe doubles as a makeup remover and cleanser in one.  A small batch (1-month supply) will cost you about $1-$2.

5. Hair Treatment:  Luxurious locks don’t happen overnight, unless you use this hair treatment.  It requires only one ingredient, Olive Oil, but adding essential oils or other natural oils (like coconut or argan) will improve this treatment’s scent and efficacy.  Cost?  $1-$3 (depending on size and other ingredients added)

6. Bath Fizzies: These delectable-looking bath treatments will provide your friend a luxuriant, stress-relieving treat.   Hint: substitue lemon Kool Aid for citric acid to save time and money!  These babies will cost you about $3-$5 a batch.

7. Bath Salts: Epsom salt is the main ingredient in this recipe, and it is exceedingly cheap.  You can make a sizable batch of this recipe for $2-$3.

8. Natural Body Moisturizer:  This recipe does call for an ingredient that may not be readily available, but if you can find beeswax, you’ll be able to make a heavenly moisturizer for about $2.

9. Lotion Bar: If, like the previous post, you can get your hands on some beeswax, creating lotion bars will provide a very unique and useful gift for about $2-$3.

10. Translucent Face Powder: Help your friend’s skin remain oil-free this year by making a batch of sheer powder.  This will cost about $1-$2.

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The Essentialness of Oils

Essential oils are nearly a necessity for achieving the balance between frugality and beauty.  They are powerful additions to many homemade beauty products (as I wrote about here and here).  Various scents have the power to affect mood and neutralize stress; they make great additions to baths, homemade candles, and other fragrances.  Essential oils are also used in a variety of recipes to replace or amplify home cleaning products you use (such as dishwasher detergent, window wash, and hand soap).

Perhaps the trickiest thing about these oils is their (relative) scarcity.  They’re not something you can normally find in a grocery store.  For that reason, when I’m shopping for essential oils, I usually hit an online retails and buy a set like this.  While plunking down $20 for a starter set may seem pricey, these oils will last you a very long time.  A little truly goes a long way in this case.  I still have the tiny bottle of lemongrass oil I bought last year!


Having essential oils on hand give you the flexibility of creating a slew of homemade gifts and household items to both give to others and use yourself, ultimately saving you money (and perhaps more importantly, time).


Five More Cheap & Easy Homemade Beauty Gifts

Besides being heart-felt and unique gifts, homemade beauty products allow for easy customization to suite your friend’s/family member’s particular needs and preferences.  I love the products listed below, both for their frugality and simplicity.

1. Facial Scrub/Mask: This simple, yet effective, recipe will give your friend glowing skin.  As the author notes, you can add in various ingredients to give your skin’s friend the extra punch it needs to be its best.  If you have a do-it-herself type of friend, you may consider giving her the ingredients separately (in inexpensive but decorative jars/bottles/containers) along with a hand-written recipe card so that she can enjoy making the mask herself.


2. Hand Care Set:  ‘Tis the season for dry, cracked hands.  Your friend will appreciate this brown sugar hand softener recipe paired with a moisturizing hand cream.  You can power the hand cream up by adding an essential oil for a delicate scent and jojoba oil for additional moisture.  Inexpensive jars with hand-printed labels round out a wonderful pair!


3. Scented Body Dusting Powder:  A unique (and cheap!) gift is scented body powder.  Use cornstarch and baking soda (in place of other, more expensive ingredients in this recipe) and herbal tea (which you have ground finely) to save even more.  If your friend enjoys sparkle, cosmetic glitter is a great finishing touch.


4. Lightly-Scented Body Spray: To continue our idea of sweet-smelling Christmas concoctions, consider making this super-easy recipe to keep your friend pleasantly fragranced throughout the new year.  If you know her favorite scent, you can use the same essential oil in the previous two posts as well.


5. Kool-Aid Lip Balm:  Give your friend the perfect pucker with this simple and cheap homemade lip balm recipe.  You can house this balm in a small jar or tube, but another cute alternative is to find funky contact lens holders and give two servings of different-colored balms.



Cheap & Easy Homemade Beauty Gifts

With Christmas around the corner, and wallets growing slimmer by the second, you may be running out of time and money.  The gifts highlighted below are quick, easy, and, most of all, frugal!

1. Sugar Scrub: Give the gift of soft skin without breaking the bank.  This recipe is cheap, easy-to-make, and has endless possibilities for customization.  Find a cute jar to put the scrub in, add an essential oil or two, put a ribbon on top, and the recipient will enjoy glowing skin.


2. Coconut Milk Shampoo: Home-brewed shampoo has been all the rage recently, and if your friend enjoys high-end shampoos, try your hand at making one for her.  HIt a thrift shop or antique store to find a vintage glass bottle to house your concoction.


3. Heat Therapy Pillow: There’s something soothing about having a warm, sweet-smelling pillow draped around your neck and shoulders.  Give you friend the gift of relaxation this holiday season by creating a heat therapy pillow.  If you’re not big into sewing (like me), buy a small tube pillow, take out the stuffing, and fill it with your herbal mixture.


4. Herbal Tea Bath: Let your friend soak her worries away in a luxuriant herbal tea bath.  Simply find an organza bag, and fill it with the ingredients mentioned in this post (to make finding herbs cheap and easy, head town the tea aisle in your local grocery store and pick out your friend’s favorite tea).  To spice things up a bit more (no pun intended!), give your bud a trio of different teas to enjoy in her bath. 


5. Super Smoothie Recipe Cards: When you’re healthy on the inside, it shows on the outside.  Write out a few of your favorite super-healthy smoothie recipes on nice notecards to share with your bestie.  Try them out yourself before passing them off so you’ll know if a recipe works (or not).  Spinach is quickly becoming my new best friend!


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Give the *Homemade* Gift of Better Skin

What woman doesn’t want better skin?  What woman wants to plunk down cold, hard cash for an expensive treatment?  The solution?  The aspirin mask!  Earlier this year, I chronicled how to make and customize an aspirin mask to suit your skin.  Why not share the love with your best bud(s) and give them the gift of healthy skin for as little as $2!

To truly get back to basics, all you really need to do is give your friend a bottle of aspirin and the instructions (see below) for making the mask.  If you know she is afflicted by a particular problem (acne, dullness, red marks, lines, etc.), including some custom ingredients (like honey, coffee, powdered milk, lemon juice, vitamin c powder, jojoba oil, lavender extract, and more) along with the aspirin is a sweet touch.

If you’d like to spend a few more dollars, include a facial mixing bowl and spoon, like this one, to allow for greater easy when making the mask.

To make it even easier, you can print up the note I created, customize the directions, and voila! a frugal, homemade gift anyone can appreciate.

the Aspirin Mask


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Homemade Aspirin Mask–Revisited

The amount of money I’ve spent over the years on facial masks is, to put it bluntly, horrific.  I’m a long-time sufferer of cystic acne, a skin problem that has plagued me for nearly a decade.  To fix this problem, I’ve tried everything imaginable (from pills, to cleansers, to moisturizers, to, of course, facial masks) and paid a hefty price to do so.  Yet, surprisingly, a cheap, homemade solution, the aspirin mask, has helped more than any other mask I’ve used.  The great thing about this mask is that you use ingredients you’d commonly find at home (or are very easy to get at the drugstore or grocery store).  I’ve modified the classic formula to include ingredients that are helpful for both acne and aging skin.  But, you can tailor this formula to address your specific concern.

Basic Mask

What you’ll need:

– two or three non-coated aspirin pills

– one or two spoonfuls of dry milk

– a spoonful or so of honey

– a tablespoon of regular brewed coffee (not decaf)–the stronger the better!


1) Put the aspirin pills in a small bowl and pour coffee over them.  Allow the pills to soak for a minute or two until they dissolve into a grainy mixture.

2) Add honey and stir until blended.

3) Stir in the powdered milk until the mask reaches the consistency you desire.  Using powdered milk results in a thicker mask that is easier to apply and that stays in place much better.

4) Using your fingers, gently apply the mask to your face and neck area, massaging gently in a circular motion.  Avoid your eye area!

5) Leave the mask on for 10 to 15 minutes, then gently remove with warm water.  Be careful not to scrub too hard!

Voila!  A frugal yet effective mask all in the comfort and ease of your own home!

Why this works

You might be as (pleasantly) surprised as I was to find that this mask actually does a fabulous job of exfoliating your skin and clearing out blemishes.  Why?  Well, for starters, aspirin is basically salicylic acid in pill-form.  Since you can generally find a big bottle for $1 or so, it’s a cheap way to incorporate this acne-fighting ingredient into your skincare regimen (last time I checked, even the generic brand salicylic acne creams were selling for $5!).  The texture of the pills, when dissolved, works well as an exfoliator and, in my opinion, does as good of job exfoliating as more expensive brands I’ve tried (like Philosophy’s Microdelivery Peel for $68 and Mary Kay’s Microdermabrasion Kit for $55–yes, I’ve tried and paid for both of these in the past!).    Salicylic acid is not just good for acne, though.  As a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), it’s fabulous for aging skin and helps with sloughing off dead skin cells.

Milk (even dried) contains lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), which is used in scores of anti-aging and anti-acne skincare products because of its exfoliating and skin-renewal properties.  This ingredient is especially good for cystic acne and other blemishes.

Honey contains antibiotic ingredients that can help kill the bacteria that causes acne.  It is also an anti-inflammatory product that can reduce the size of lifespan of pimples and cysts.  Added to that is the fact that it also allows the mask to cling to your skin better. Coffee contains a whopping dose of antioxidants, which help fight aging and damage caused by the sun.  The caffeine in coffee also contains anti-inflammatory ingredients, perfect for combating acne.

Variations for Specific Needs

The beauty of this recipe is that you can be creative and tailor it to match your needs.  Maybe you’re struggling with pimples and blackheads or you’re more interested in using the mask for anti-aging purposes.  Whatever your concern, the following ideas will help you customize the aspirin mask to fit your needs.

1) Acne-Busting

– If your primary concern is acne, add a few drops of tea-tree oil to the mask and be sure not to over-scrub your face.  If you have pets, be careful to keep them away from the tea-tree oil!  Witch Hazel, readily available at drugstores, helps to clarify and tone your skin as well.

2) Anti-Aging

– Perhaps you are more worried about anti-aging than acne.  If so, add some Vitamin C powder (or crushed Vitamin C tablets).  Vitamin C will help firm and tone your skin.  Vitamin E is another antioxidant that you can add to this mask to help firm up your skin.

3) Moisturizing

– If your skin is being hit as hard this winter as mine, you need moisturization!  This mask is easily modified to provide soothing and moisturizing relief from harsh winter conditions.  Simply add a bit more liquid to the original formula and more powdered milk.  A tablespoon of Jojoba oil would will also ramp up this mask’s moisturizing benefits.  You can even mix in a few squirts of your favorite moisturizer.

4) Other Additions

This mask is versatile enough to meet any skincare concern.  You can incorporate the following ingredients to customize this mask to address your particular problem:

– Green Tea Brew: Like coffee, Green Tea has antioxidants that help fight aging and promote renewal in your skin.  You can use green tea in place of coffee or along with coffee.

– Essential Oils/Extracts: Rosemary extract, Lavender oil, and other essential oils and extra make great additions to this mask.  You will often see these types of ingredients in high-end (expensive!) masks; by going to your local health food store or shopping online, you can usually find these ingredients for a great price.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless!

Total Cost

Clearly this mask is cheaper than anything you can buy at the store.  But, what is the final cost?  I’ll use the cost of enough ingredients to make this mask 15 times.  For coffee, I am assuming that you are using the cheapest stuff out there (you can even use instant, as long as it is caffeinated!).

– Aspirin $.90 for 50 ($0.06/mask)

– Coffee $2 ($0.14/mask)

– Honey $3 ($0.20/mask)

– Milk $3 ($0.20/mask)

Total: $0.60/mask

My estimates for the cost of ingredients are high–my own cost for each mask is under $0.50.  But, it’s clear that this is a budget-friendly beauty tool that does a fantastic job addressing several skincare concerns!


1) Wear sunscreen!!!  Though this mask will likely not burn or tingle as much as other masks or exfoliators you’ve tried, it still leaves your skin more susceptible to damage from the sun.  Make sure to wear sunscreen after using this mask (and, in general).

2) Don’t overdo it with the aspirin mask.  The first time I did this, I used 5 aspirins because I figured the more I used the better the results.  Wrong.  Little did I realize that the aspirin, even though it’s not being ingested, is still absorbed into your body through your skin.  So, I would highly recommend sticking to only two or three pills.  Also, don’t use the aspirin mask if you’ve taken a pain reliever earlier or use a medication that prohibits the ingestion of aspirin–they may interact!

3) Use this mask twice a week at most.  Your body can build up a tolerance to the aspirin that diminishes the effect of this mask. Using it once or twice a week at most will help ensure that you can use and enjoy this mask for years to come.