Apparently, my hair is my life. Believe me, I am as surprised by this fact of vanity as anyone. Had you checked with me about my philosophy of life a mere ten days prior, I can assure you that my hair would not have made the cut for my Top Ten Important Things.

Sure, I’ve had the typical number of issues with my hair over the years, but since I’ve always had plenty of it, I had options. That is until that day when I got a bad haircut.

I could go into long and agonizing detail, but suffice it to say I went in with a full head of hair and came out five pounds lighter. Let’s just say that Mr. Salon Owner (not exactly your Edward Scissorhands) thinned me out—a technique only fitness trainers should attempt.

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It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when it happened, but sometime over the past decade or so, the general population of this country formed a belief that bottled water is better than tap water—safer and healthier, too.

It’s possible that the trend started in 1976 when the chic French sparkling water, Perrier, was introduced to the world. There it was elegantly bottled in its emerald green glass in an era of glitz and excess. Who could resist? What could be more blatant than to package, sell and consume what most of us in the western world consider a basic human right easily supplied through the convenience of a home faucet?

It is pretty ingenious how the bottled water industry has convinced millions of people to pay between 240 and 10,000 times more to purchase water in a bottle than to get it from the supply we’re already paying for that comes out of the taps in our homes!

TAP WATER IS CHEAPER

These days a 16-ounce bottle of “spring” water goes for about a dollar, which works out to about $8.00 a gallon—twice the cost of milk, and about par with bottled soft drinks. Home delivery of water in those great big, heavy bottles is less per gallon but still around $40 a month, according to online averages.

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In the laundry room, most of us are prone to overkill. We want beautifully clean, brilliantly white, soft and fluffy laundry results. And we don’t measure.

We pour stuff out of jugs, straight into the washer, often adding a second big glug just to make sure.

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We use liquid fabric softener by the gallon and dryer sheets by the hundreds because there’s no such thing as too soft when it comes to towels and sheets. And when things come out looking gray and feeling stiff and crunchy, what do we do? More detergent, more softener—even more dryer sheets!

Grungy build-up

The problem is product build-up that never gets rinsed out. Every time you do the laundry, more and more product gets left behind. This build-up of detergent and softeners can make appliances stink, colors look dingy, whites gray and linens feel stiff and scratchy. But that’s not the worst.

Health and respiratory issues

The medical website, WebMD.com reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems—from itchiness to full-blown dermatitis. Fabric softeners are very allergenic and can cause eczema, which can appear as dry, flaky, chronically itchy skin.

Dryer sheets contain volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation. Fabric softener chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma. Acetone, also used in dryer sheets, can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness. Read more

Whether you want to look good or just to feel better, reaching your goal traditionally comes at a significant cost. But not if you’re a dedicated cheapskate. While medications and beauty products you use must be safe, there’s no reason that you have to pay exorbitant prices to ensure such qualify. Here are some fascinating and functional tips for saving time and stretching costs on everything from deodorant to skin care and more.

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VISIT THE MEN’S DEPARTMENT. Buy mens toiletries if you have a choice when it comes to unscented deodorant, shaving foam and hair colorings, for example. Products manufactured specifically for men are significantly cheaper ounce for ounce than those made for women. Go figure.

SHAMPOO. With great confidence you can confidently stop being a shampoo snob. In a Consumer Reports test of 132 name-brand shampoos, the lowly cheap brands from the supermarket rated just as highly as the pricey salon brands. Just make sure you know how to read the product’s list of ingredients.

SUNLESS TAN. Smooth baby oil on skin and allow it to penetrate before applying sunless tanning lotion to achieve a more even, lighter tanning effect, especially on elbows and feet. Read more

Recently I heard from the McBrides who live in Pennsylvania. “We’re a family of five living on a single income. Things are very tight for us. We have no dental insurance and find we cannot afford the luxury of dental care. Is there a dental plan that caters to low income families in our situation? Please answer soon before our teeth fall out.”

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Dental insurance is not the answer for the McBride Family’s particular situation and that’s probably a good thing. Paying for dental insurance is a very expensive way to achieve good dental health. The only affordable dental insurance plans out there are those that are part of an employer’s benefit package. These days, even that benefit is becoming as scarce as, well, hen’s teeth.

Dental insurance is designed to cover unexpected occurrences—not the routine preventive maintenance required by a family with young children.

Let me suggest several ways families not covered through employee provided dental insurance can begin to see dental care as absolutely essential and something they can fit into their already strained budgets. Read more

It had to be a typo, even though I know that national magazines have proofreaders so they don’t release issues that include typos. But that was the only thing  I could come up with to explain why a new skincare product costs $1,095 for a small 1.7 oz. jar.

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I did a quick search only to discover it was no typo at all. 111Skin Celestial Black Diamond Cream retails for $1,095. All I can say is at that price, it better contain a miracle. Seriously. It almost most makes Lancome’s Hydra Zen cream ($56) and Le Lift Firming Anti-Wrinkle Cream by Chanel ($105) look cheap!

Okay, back to reality: High-quality and effective skincare should not be considered a luxury available only to the wealthy. If you are diligent, you can find high quality, reasonably priced skin care products that are equal, if not superior to their department store cousins—right in your drugstore or discount department store.

Cetaphil makes is an excellent line of affordable skin care products. For example Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is less than $10 for 8 oz. and Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream is priced about the same. (See Cetaphil.com for more detailed information.) Tip: Walmart sells a generic version under their brand name Equate for about $6.50. I’ve had reports from several readers who insist it’s just like the real thing for a lot less.

Other cleansers that receive high marks with my dermatologist are Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser Moisturizing Deep Cleanser ($6.99, 6 oz.); Basis Sensitive Skin Bar ($3.99, 4 oz. bar); Lever 2000 ($.89 per 4 oz. bar) and Dove for Sensitive Skin ($.98, 4 oz. bar). Read more

Considering the huge reader response on a past post on how to know which cheap shampoos are actually good for your hair, it seemed only right to follow with a similar piece on conditioners.

Unfortunately, conditioners are not quite as simple as shampoos.

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First, we need to demystify the term “conditioner.” It is a vague term that refers to a wide range of hair products designed to make hair more manageable and also treat common hair problems.

Conditioners fall into general categories according to what they do and the problems they solve.

Using the wrong product for the specific condition of your hair will produce disappointing results. For example, if your hair is thin and fine you are not going to be happy with my industrial-strength conditioner for thick, coarse, frizzy, color-treated hair.

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What would you pay for a good night’s sleep? I just read about a soccer club in England that spent £150,000 on special mattresses and pillows for the 80 luxury bedrooms at the club’s £200 million soccer training base where players sleep the night before home matches.

The rooms even have wallpaper with a special sleep-inducing pattern. I think it’s pretty safe to say these people think good sleep is important!

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So how are your sleeping conditions? Getting a good night’s sleep, we’re learning, is not only a lovely thing, it’s mandatory for good health and a productive life.

Even if your mattress is lumpy, bumpy and in the fast lane to saggy, there are a few things you can do it get it back to comfy with a minimal investment. The best part? This could buy a few more years, giving you the time you need to save up for a new bed. Read more