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My 401k funds stink. What should I invest in?

When I started investing in my first 401k I was so excited.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had the opportunity to invest.  I was young 21 years old and I couldn’t believe it.   I knew that a 401k was a big deal and I knew that investing is …scary!  My parents didn’t know about investing and I wasn’t taught in high school or college.  Personal finance was not taught.  That first 401k had very few options and to this day I’m not sure which ones I picked I think I did Large Cap, Small Cap and even the company stock?!  Oops!  Bad idea!   I want to teach others the lessons I learned.

The first steps to remind everyone about saving:

  1. Pay yourself first! This is key.
  2. Automatically invest.  Make it easy.
  3. The sooner your are in the market the better.
  4. Even if the funds are managed and have high fees, it is pre-tax.
  5. At least, get the matching from your employer.   The goal is the MAX so you lower your taxes.
  6. Asset allocation.  Do you need to be a mix of stocks and bonds?  I highly recommend index funds.
  7. Bucket allocation – Look at your total portfolio and put what you can in your 401k and then put the rest in an IRA, or taxable account that has index funds and lower fees.  Here is a post about which Retirement account to invest in first.

What if you don’t have low cost index funds like I have mentioned in other posts?

  1.  Look at each fund and list out the fees.
  2. Compare each fund and see if any are index funds.
  3. Look at the index funds and see what indexes they are matching.  Most experts will suggest the S&P 500 or Total Stock Index.  Look at institutional funds since a lot of them have the lowest fees.
  4. Then set up a plan to compare those to your total portfolio.
  5. If you don’t have any index funds or all the funds are very high in fees, then look at target date funds since they tend to have a good balance and in some cases may have a lower fee.

Later in my career, I was in a 401k plan that had 5 options so I understand limitations.  Looking back I should I have focused on the S&P 500 index fund.

What if you have 5 options and no S&P 500 index fund?

  1. I suggest in this case look at the large cap, mid cap,  small cap funds with some bonds.  I highly suggest looking at the lazy porfolios in the Bogleheads forum.  They go over this in detail and present mostly index funds which I agree.  Another great source is  JL Collins.  He mentions this in his article  – Stocks — Part XVII: What if you can’t buy VTSAX? Or even Vanguard?

If you do want to duplicate the total stock market index as held in VTSAX, here’s the formula…

  • ~81% Large cap (an S&P 500 fund)
  • ~6% Mid cap
  • ~13% Small cap

2. Using Personal Capital will help you see your asset allocation across the board.  You will see your total mix of cash, stocks, bonds, international, and alternatives.  Plus my favorite feature of seeing the fees that cost you.

3. Each year look at your plan and see if you need to make adjustments.  Some plans do change over time.  My company did that twice.  All of my holdings were moved between two different providers so the funds changed.  From what I understand since I left that company,  their 401k plan changed again to even better options.

4. I suggest, if your 401k plan stinks, when you do leave the company, roll it over (in-kind transfer) to a Traditional IRA at Vanguard.

5. Talk to your HR and company about the fees and the cost.  Make sure they are aware of it and make a suggestion.  You never know!

What about high fees?  Is it even worth it to invest in 401k?

This is a great question!  I would almost always say its worth it.  A great article that I came across about this very subject is JL Collins – Stock Series -Stocks — Part VIII-b: Should you avoid your company’s 401k?

A highlight on this article:

  1. Does your company offer a match and if it does, how much?  If it does at least get the match.  If it doesn’t provide a match go to step 2.
  2. Think about your tax bracket.   If you are in a high tax bracket it will benefit you to MAX the 401k.
  3. Does maximizing your 401k get your income down low enough to qualify for the EIC? (Earned Income Credit). This lowers your taxes.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

For more details I highly recommend reading:

The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins – Stock Series

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns (Little Books. Big Profits) Hardcover by John C. Bogle

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning by Taylor Larimore,‎ Mel Lindauer,‎ Richard A. Ferri,‎ Laura F. Dogu

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore,‎ Mel Lindauer,‎ and Michael LeBoeuf

Keep Saving!


Disclaimer: This is my opinion.  I’m not a financial advisor or tax advisor so please ask your advisor.  Take this advice at your own risk.

Some of the links are affiliate links.

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You don’t need $10,000 to invest at Vanguard

VTSAX – What is that?

VTSAX is a common term heard around the Financial Independence community. It is an index fund called the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Admiral Shares and many believe it is the best index fund to own. I have to agree.

Per Vanguard’s site “since 1992, Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund is designed to provide investors with exposure to the entire U.S. equity market, including small-, mid-, and large-cap growth and value stocks.” It holds over 3,000 stocks.   Yes, you read that right it has over 3,000 stocks.  It is one of the most diversified index funds out there.

What are index funds? Why index funds?

In short, an index fund per Vanguard’s website:  “Instead of hiring fund managers to actively select which stocks or bonds the fund will hold, an index fund buys all (or a representative sample) of the securities in a specific index, like the S&P 500 Index.

The goal of an index fund is to track the performance of a specific market benchmark as closely as possible. That’s why you may hear it referred to as a “passively managed” fund.”

Why index funds? This is a great question and it all comes down to cost and being diverse.   Here is a simple explanation from Vanguard’s site.

“Why do costs matter?

Investment costs might not seem like a big deal, but they add up, compounding along with your investment returns. In other words, you don’t just lose the tiny amount of fees you pay—you also lose all the growth that money might have had for years into the future.”

This can become another post entirely and so many bloggers and authors have gone over this topic.

How do I invest into VTSAX?

I just want to make the point that you don’t need $10,000 to start. You will hear or read that you need $10,000 to start investing in VTSAX because it is what is called  “admiral funds”.

Wait… What?!  I don’t have $10,000!

So, you want to start investing at Vanguard but don’t have $10,000? Don’t fret!  You can still invest at Vanguard for less.

Here are your options:

1. VTI is the equivalent of VTSAX as an ETF or Exchange Traded Fund.  You just have to purchase the whole share which is $145 per share, as I write this post.  You can’t purchase partial shares.  When you reach $3000 sell them and switch to VTSMX or when you reach $10,000 sell them and switch to VTSAX or leave them in VTI.  The choice is up to you.

2. VTSMX is the equivalent of VTSAX in the basic share.  You need a min of $3,000 to invest in this fund.  As soon as your account reaches $10,000 Vanguard gives you the option to convert right to VTSAX.  No cost to you.  It is a click on a link to switch.  So easy!

What does this cost?

The cost to start investing is free.  Vanguard does not charge you for opening an account or for purchasing or even selling Vanguard funds.  The cost is in the funds and that is why I like low cost funds.  Per their website “We’ll waive the $20 annual account service fee if you register for online access and sign up for electronic delivery of account documents.” Easy!

Get started today

Note: I’m not an affiliate.   I just like the company.

Wait?!   What about other companies? Why Vanguard?

You can still invest in Fidelity and Schwab.  I have no biased against them.  In fact, I like both of them too since they both are very good competitors to Vanguard.  Do they have an index fund and ETFs like Vanguard?   Yes, they do.   In fact, Schwab Total stock index fund cost less then Vanguard which is something to look at.

I like Vanguard the most at this point in time and my reasons are:

1.  WE the investors are the owners of Vanguard.

2. I’m fond of the founding principals of Vanguard and how it started.

3. They have done low cost fees for years and I truly believe they will continue.   

Invest Today!

I hope this post helps you to go out and invest.  Don’t be scared and just do it!  I know I was scared to jump in and I have made some mistakes over the years and the biggest mistake is not doing it.   In my opinion, this is the best method and has worked really well for us.

For more details I highly recommend reading:

The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins – Stock Series

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns (Little Books. Big Profits) Hardcover by John C. Bogle

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning by Taylor Larimore,‎ Mel Lindauer,‎ Richard A. Ferri,‎ Laura F. Dogu

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore,‎ Mel Lindauer,‎ and Michael LeBoeuf

Keep saving!


Disclaimer: This is my opinion.  I’m not a financial advisor or tax advisor so please ask your advisor.  Take this advice at your own risk.

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Financial Independence – Step by Step Guide on Contributing to Retirement Accounts

Welcome!  So, you want to gain financial independence but don’t know where to start investing your money.

A question you might have includes:

Which retirement account should I contribute to first?

What should I do with this money that I have saved up?  Roth vs. Traditional vs. Taxable?

The amount of information out there can be daunting so I thought I would put together a simple introduction.

(Standard disclaimer: This is my opinion. Consult a financial advisor to discuss your specific scenario.)

Look closely at your budget and decide how much you can cut back to fund your investments. Common wisdom is to pay yourself first. This means put money into savings or investments before it sits in your checking account and you spend it on something. Live on your reduced budget for a month or two and see if you can cut back even more. You might surprise yourself with how much you can save.  The easiest way to do this and that worked very well for us is to have the amount pulled in pre-tax accounts.

Figure out what your tax rate is.  Here is the 2018 Withholding Tables now available from the IRS

Once you know how much you can invest, plan how to do it. Some investments can be made with a payroll deduction, and some are made using the money in your accounts.


Step 1: Pre-Tax Paycheck deduction –  HSA – Self-only $3,450 or Family $6,900

If you have a High Deductible health care plan with a Health Savings Account available to you, you should work on contributing to this account first.  I suggest putting in some money and then continue to Step 2.  The goal is to MAX out the HSA.   This will lower your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI).

Thanks to Madfientist research he calls this the Ultimate Retirement Account.  The reason is, it doesn’t take FICA taxes out.  It is truly tax free.   Most employers also contribute to this account.    The max in 2018 is Self-only: $3,450 Family: $6,900.   This amount includes what your employer contributes too.  You can use this account for health related costs at anytime even years from now so keep your receipts.

How to do it?  This is taken out of your pay check automatically.  Talk to your employer to set it up.

Step 2: Pre-Tax Paycheck deduction – Contribute up to company’s match – 401k, 401(a), 403(b), 457(b), TSP

Fund 401k, 401(a), 403(b), 457(b), TSP, or other pre-tax account up to your company’s match.  Find out what the matched amount is and do that.    This is free money because your employer is automatically contributing when they match what you put in.    The goal here is to MAX this account.  Again, it will lower your MAGI.

How to do it? This is taken out of your paycheck automatically so talk to your employer to set it up.

If you are NOT covered by a pre-tax account like a 401k-type account at work, go to Step 5, then you can contribute to a Traditional deductible IRA.

Step 3:  ROTH IRA – Personal account (after-tax money) $5,500 – Skip if your income is to high 

Fund a Roth IRA next, if you are below the standard deduction. Here is a calculator to help you. 

Roth IRA is an after tax retirement account that allows you to contribute up to $5,500, in 2018.  It will grow tax free and will never be taxed because you already paid taxes on it. (Unless the law changes.)  It is a huge advantage if you are already in a lower income tax bracket because you aren’t paying many taxes so it is best to save up in a ROTH while your taxes are low.  There are no penalties on withdrawals of Roth IRA contributions. There’s a 10% federal penalty tax on withdrawals of earnings.

When you are in the higher income tax bracket it makes sense to do Step 4 next because the pre-tax account lowers your MAGI.

The ROTH does have an income limit based on your MAGI.

How to do it?  You will have to create an account to start a Roth IRA.  I highly recommend create one at Vanguard.

Step 4: MAX Pre-Tax Accounts – Up to $18,500 and HSA see Step 1

Finish funding the 401k-type plan to the max.  This is helpful because it lowers your income (MAGI).  For those with higher incomes, this can be funded instead of the Roth IRA.   This is taken out of your pay check automatically.  The max you can contribute in 2018 is $18,500 for 401k and 403b.  If you are married, and both have pre-tax accounts with an employer you can both contribute up to $18,500 each.  If you haven’t already Max out the HSA account in Step 1.

Step 5:  Traditional Deductible IRA – Personal account (after-tax money that you can deduct on your taxes) – Skip if you did Step 3  – $5,500 Max 

After you MAX out your 401k-type account fund a Traditional (deductible) IRA , you can also do a traditional deductible IRA, if your MAGI qualifies see the chart at the IRS.

If you are NOT covered by a pre-tax account like a 401k-type account at work, then you can contribute to a Traditional deductible IRA.  See the chart at the IRS.

Note: You can contribute to both a Roth and Traditional IRA but combined you can only contribute MAX $5,500 in 2018. More information about IRAs can be found here at the IRS.

How to do it?  You will have to create a Traditional IRA.  I recommend create a Traditional IRA at Vanguard.

Step 6:  Traditional Deductible IRA – If your Spouse doesn’t work or doesn’t have a Pre-Tax Retirement account – $5,500 MAX

If your spouse doesn’t work you can contribute $5,500 to their traditional IRA this is called a spousal IRA.  I recommend create a Traditional IRA at Vanguard.   This isn’t a joint account or a special IRA it is just a Traditional IRA in the spouse’s name.   More information at Vanguard about spousal IRA.  This is something a lot of families miss out on so don’t miss out.

How to do it?  You will have to create a Traditional IRA in your spouse’s name.  I recommend create a Traditional IRA at Vanguard.


Step 7: Personal Taxable Investment Account – after tax money 

I suggest funding a taxable account with any money left.  This money you can use at anytime and can be what you live off immediately when you are considering Financial Independence.   Most bloggers in the Financial Independence community will agree you will need at least 5 years of living expenses while waiting to do Traditional IRA to Roth conversions the waiting period is 5 years after you convert from a Traditional IRA to the Roth.  Investing is the best way to make that money grow faster.

How to do it?  You will have to create a taxable brokerage account and I recommend creating it at Vanguard.

Additional Information and answers to questions I had:

I make more then the low tax bracket for the Roth that you mentioned but make more then the Traditional (deductible) IRA, what should I do?   Should I contribute to a Roth since I still qualify?

As long as you have MAXed out ALL of your pre-tax accounts then you have 3 options:

1. Yes, you can contribute to a Roth.   It is a great way to save.   Note:  It is already taxed money and will be tax free when you retire.    You can take out the contributions of a Roth out at anytime.  A lot of bloggers talk about this.

2.  Contribute to a taxable account Step 7.  I highly recommend doing this option.   As a lot of bloggers point out the taxable account needs to be looked at because there is no limit how much you can contribute or how much is taken out.  You will get taxed on dividends and when you sell.  Most of the time, you will let it sit and grow.  The big point is you will need at least 5 years of expenses to live on while you are doing Roth conversions (see below) and having a taxable account is the best place to keep it.

3.  Do both 1 and 2!   The more you save the sooner you will be financially independent.

What is the amount of income that you can receive that is so low that you will pay little or no taxes?

It does depend on your deductions.  In 2018, the standard deduction has increased so most people will not itemize but you still will have “above the line” deductions and credits.   There is a very good tax calculator that can help you figure this out.   The more you put in the 401k pre tax account, the lower your adjusted income and thus the lower your taxes will be.

What are Roth Conversions?

Roth Conversions is simply converting money from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.   You will pay income tax on the amount you convert.  More information about Roth Conversions can be found here at Vanguard.   Check out Madfientist  article – How to Access Retirement Funds Early.

For more details I highly recommend reading:

The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins – Stock Series

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns (Little Books. Big Profits) Hardcover by John C. Bogle

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning by Taylor Larimore,‎ Mel Lindauer,‎ Richard A. Ferri,‎ Laura F. Dogu

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore,‎ Mel Lindauer,‎ and Michael LeBoeuf

Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA – Madfientist

Note: These are my opinions. I’m not a tax professional or financial advisor.  Do this at your own risk.

I hope this answers some of your questions just like the ones I had.

Happy Savings!   Holly

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Lidl has come to Northern Virginia

I’m a huge fan of Aldi, the german discount supermarket.  I have been going to my local one for over 11 years and most friends that know me, know that it is my favorite grocery store in the area.  It is one of the closest stores to my house and it has 98% of what I need.  I have written a couple posts about Aldi in the past.  I plan to write some more.  I adore Aldi and I know you will too.

If you already know Aldi then you might have heard that Lidi – Aldi’s competitor is now in the US.  Lidl is a German global discount supermarket chain, based in Neckarsulm, Germany.  It now has arrived in the United States and in 2017 will establish over 20 stores – in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.  It’s US headquarters are located in Arlington, Virginia.   I just went to the new location the first in the DC area in Manassas, Virginia over the weekend.  The next one will be located in Lake Ridge, Virginia coming in 2018.

Wow, was I impressed!

Things to know about Lidl

1. You don’t need a quarter like you do at Aldi.  They do have workers helping with the carts to return them up to the store and have cart returns in the parking lot.

2.  Like Aldi, they do accept credit cards, debt cards and cash.

3.  They have an app that gives you access to extra coupons and the weekly ads.

4.  They regularly put things on sale for the week.  Their weekly ads starts on Thursday and end on Wednesday.

5. You do bag your groceries yourself and either need to buy bags or bring your own.  As you can see in my pick, I bring my IKEA blue bags.  They are the best grocery bags!   I highly recommend them.

Lidl in my opinion is about twice as big as Aldi.  I love the layout.  They seem to make it very easy to find items.

  1. When walking in the first thing is the bakery, fruits and vegetables.  Yes, there is an actual bakery in the store!    They even sell more veggies and most is by the lb.  I’m sure the selection rotates regularly per what is in season.  I was able to find Ginger for under $1 lb.  Amazing!
  2. Then the perimeter of the whole store is refrigeration (see below) and freezers.  I like this concept because it has a very nice quick meal items right when you walk down the first aisle. Then cheese, cold cuts and dairy.   On the left, are the different meats including a freezer of seafood.    Then the rest of the perimeter turns into a freezer and you will find ice cream, and frozen meals.
  3. Then the rest of the aisles are sorted nicely with condiments, baking supplies and then the middle aisle with snacks, candy and seasonal items that rotate all year.  The seasonal items currently are Christmas gifts including tools, clothing and so much more.


4.  The last aisles include toiletries, paper products and cleaning products.    I even found dishwasher tablets for less then $.12 a tablet.

Then my favorite, the fantastic assortment of wine, beer, and water.  Their version of cheap wine compared to Aldi’s $2.89 is $2.59 a bottle!  Amazing!

I’m so impressed!   I can’t stop smiling.  I was able to find lots of organic, gluten-free and even grass-fed beef.  The prices were so much better then the grocery stores near me and in some cases cheaper then my local Aldi.   Now, this store is farther for me so prices at the nearest Aldi and other stores might be similar so that would be the best comparison.  

What do you think?  Will you head to Lidl?    I’m looking forward to the one closer to me opening and will be sure to go to it probably on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.  Aldi will still be my main store just because I know it and it works so well for me and my family.  If Lidl was closer I would be there all of the time.


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Holly’s Challah Bread – Easier then you can imagine!


I’ve been making this Bread as a tradition in our family since 2004. Yes! 10 years! I’m feeling old typing that. It was shortly after I got “my” bread machine. This recipe came from my bread machine cookbook and I have adjusted it so it works for me. I’m happy to share this with everyone! This is the best bread!

I like to make a large loaf as you can see from the picture above.

2 Eggs, room temperature plus enough Water 80 degrees to equal 1 1/2 cups
Oil 1/4 cup (I’ve used all types of vegetable oil and it all works great.)
Sugar 2 TBL
Salt 2 tsp
Bread Flour or All purpose Flour 4 1/2 cups
Active Dry Yeast 2 tsp
Bread Machine Yeast 1 1/4 tsp
(Note: A package of yeast is about 2 1/4 tsp. You can use all of the package too for convince.)

  • When I’m about to make this bread I will take my ingredients out about an hour or so before I start. That way everything is at room temperature. I freeze my yeast and “wake” it up by leaving it on the counter.  This works for me and my family since my little ones are always around I have to do something with them so I like to get it out and then do something else before we get started on the bread.

The best part is you can make this with all-purpose flour. Bread flour has more protein so it can create more gluten but per a lot of cooks and bakers all-purpose flour is just as good. I prefer unbleached.

  • Start with the wet ingredients. Most bread machines suggest wet and then dry. Some say the opposite. After making this with 2 different bread machines I’m convinced it is best to do wet and then dry.
  • Then add the dry ingredients just as listed above. Create a “well” for the yeast and place it in the “well”.
  • Follow your bread machine instructions for program DOUGH or White bread manual. You don’t want to bake this in the machine, because it is too large. Press START and walk away….

After it is done which can take about 2 to 3 hours depending on the machine. I’ve found it is ok if you forget about it. This happens in my household. So if it rises again in the machine that is ok! It will be better bread!

When you come back to it then do the following:

  • Place on a lightly floured surface. Divide into fourths. Use a pastry cutter with some flour dusted on it.  I prefer this style of braid but you can divide in as many braids as you want.  Then roll out the braid strands and braid it as usual then tuck the end under.
  •  Place the bread on a cookie sheet, and place a clean kitchen cloth  on top and place it in a warm location in the kitchen so it will rise a second time.  The bread should be double in size.  You can heat up your oven and then turn the oven off so that the warm oven can speed up the process.

Egg Wash
1 Egg
1 tsp water

  • After it has risen the second time, brush on the Egg Wash.
  • Place in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes until the crust is a light brown and glossy.

I like to let it rest after I take it out of the oven so that moisture can escape before storing it.  If you need to do that.   Or if you are making this for Thanksgiving just cut into it after a minute and you will have the best bread.  I promise it will be gone!   If not, it will make great turkey sandwiches.

This year I will take pictures of the step by step process I do.

Enjoy!  – Holly

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My ELF Order and Mystery Box Spring 2014


On occasion ELF will have a Mystery box special.  After you put $20 worth in your cart you can qualify for a FREE Mystery box using the coupon code.   My total was $26.95.    I placed my order and the next day they shipped it out via Fedex Smartpost.  It took a couple days.   I was shock at how big the box was!

Don’t forget to use Ebates!  You do get a percentage back even from ELF.   Win win!


Just the bag of what I purchased was big!



This is what I purchased:

  • Pencil Sharpener $1
  • Crease Brush $1
  • Large Stipple Brush $3
  • Concealer Palette Light $3
  • Concealer Palette Medium $3
  • Mineral Eyeshadow Primer $3
  • Makeup Remover Cloths $3
  • Eye Brow Kit Medium $3

Total = $20 + shipping and handling:  $6.95

The Good!

I really like the crease brush since it does exactly that.  I do wish there was a brush available that was bigger like a tapered blending brush.   I plan to get some of Wayne Goss brushes next.

I was impressed with the Makeup Remover Cloths.  They really do work well.   I have been having a problem with taking off all of my mascara and eyeliner.   After washing my face with my cleanser is not enough and these cloths do a pretty good job.  I would give them 4 stars because it isn’t perfect.   I would probably buy these again.

I’m in LOVE with the Stipple brush!  This is my favorite brush.  I learned about the stipple brush from Wayne Goss and from MAC.  MAC sells one that is $50-$30!   I found this one for $3 and it is amazing.  It works great on putting primer as well as foundation and blending to a flawless finish.

My favorite surprise in my selection was the Eyebrow kit in Medium.  I had thought I would get this but I wasn’t sure if this would be a great color.  The powder is too red/light brown for me but the gel is a great dark color.   I plan on using the gel more and mixing it with some of my darker shades like the Maybelline single Taupe or Paula’s Choice Matte palette dark colors.

The Bad

I wasn’t as impressed with the concealers as I hoped.  I really wanted them so badly!  I got both sets just in case and they are just so dark for me.  I’m have very fair skin.   I plan on working with them some more but I doubt I will ever by them again.   They are very creamy and tend to fall into any wrinkle that I have.   Bummer!


This is my Mystery Bag!   Again, I was so impressed with the size of the bag.



This is what I received:

  • Geometric Eyeshadow 36 colors Addition II $12 currently on sale $6
  • Crystal Blush brush in Pink $5
  • Crystal eyeliner brush in Pink $5
  • All Over Color Stick in Toasted $1
  • Shimmer Lipgloss $2
  • Waterproof Eyeliner Crayon $3

Total Value = $28-$22 (depending on the sale item)

The Good

I really enjoy the Geometric eyeshadow set.  I don’t like the size of the triangle shapes because it is hard to fit my brush in some of the colors.  I probably won’t buy a set like this because of this but it is a great set to try and the colors are amazing.

I’m impressed with the Shimmer Lipgloss since I’m not a big fan of lip glosses like this.

I also liked the all over color stick.  I will definately try this in other colors like the pink.

I still need to try the waterproof eyeliner crayon.

The Bad

I wasn’t impressed with the Crystal Blush or eyeliner brush so I gave those to my daughter.  She loves them to play with.


I would definitely do this again!   Even if they aren’t my favorite I can give these to other people to try too.   

I hope you like this post about my deal at ELF Mystery bag Spring 2014.

I do have some referral links in this post so thank you for supporting Redberrydeals!

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How we are dealing with Mosquitoes this year!


Homemade Mosquito Repellent

Thanks to a friend last year introduced me to this awesome recipe for a Homemade Mosquito Repellent.   I can spray this on my clothes or on my skin and I won’t be bit.    It is amazing stuff.


  • 15 drops lavender oil
  • 3 Tbsp of vanilla extract
  • 10 drops of citronella oil or lemon-eucalyptus oil
  • 1/4 Cup lemon juice
  • Spray bottle


Combine above ingredients in spray bottle. Fill remainder of bottle with water, water/vodka or water/witch hazel mixture.

I used water and vodka and it worked great.   I purchased this Essential set from Amazon it is perfect for this application.

If you would prefer to purchase a good insect repellent I strongly suggest this AVON skin so Soft with picaridin   This has worked very well for me.

Prepare your yard

Fairfax County has information about mosquitoes and how to prevent them in your yard.

I suggest installing bat houses around the yard.  Bats eat a lot of mosquitoes each night.    We have 2 but our bats haven’t used them 100% of the time so we will be adding more this year.

We use a handful of Tiki Torches in the yard and use a citronella oil  that we find does help get the mosquitoes confused and we get less bites.


Teaching kids how to prevent mosquitoes.  Fairfax County has created the Fight the Bite campaign

If you get bitten

If you have a lot of bites and get a strong reaction talk to your doctor about taking Benadryl or other anti-histime.  It will help decrease the reaction immediately.   In addition, if the bites are very swollen they may not be mosquito but chiggers and they too are painful.   Talk to your doctor if you don’t know what the bites are.   I’ve had to do this myself.   You may need a strong cortizone cream.

Don’t scratch!  This is so much easier said then done.  To prevent scratching I strongly suggest using a Lidocaine cream or antithetic so that it will be numb.  There are so many on the market.   I’ve used lidocaine for waxing, and even tooth gel works great.

Per my dermatologist I have to put bandages on them.  It is essential to prevent yourself from scratching and I do scratch even when I don’t realize it.  Oops!   I like the Dollar Tree bandages the best since they are a little less sticky so they will stay as long as I want and then come off when I need them too.

I hope this helps you!   Have a great summer!

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Biglot: Cheap Makeup Finds



Thanks to G from Nouveaucheap!    I love G’s blog because she has some great tips and tricks on drugstore makeup.   She found out that Big Lots has some Loreal lip gloss, Wet N Wild eyeshadow and Revlon Lip Butters for a half the price or less than at the drugstore.    I also found the new Covergirl makeup for $4.   That isn’t a bad price.  I don’t think I could get it for that price with sales and coupons at CVS.

Most of these items are seasonal, which means it was in the drugstore for a couple months then returned to the manufacture who sold it to Big Lots  or sold from the retailer to Big Lots.

What impresses me is I can do my makeup now and spend what it would have cost to buy 1 eyeshadow pot from MAC.   Crazy!   I love good deals!

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ReStore – Habitat for Humanity – DIY Home projects

One of my favorite places to buy cheap discounted house materials is the ReStore – Habitat for Humanity.  If you haven’t been to one of the local locations in NOVA, I strongly suggest you do. They have a location in Alexandria, and Chantilly.

ReStore – Habitat for Humanity has donated materials that come from home owners and builders.   Materials including tile, cabinets even paint that was used once.  You can donate just about anything to them too.  Light fixtures, ovens, and dishwashers are available.   We’ve found electrical material that my hubby was looking for and couldn’t find at any other store.

Click HERE if you are interested in donating items to the ReStore.   You can even schedule a pickup.

For our current house we bought some beautiful Bruce (named brand) hardwood flooring at the ReStore several years ago that we used in our upstairs hallway.  Wow! We got it for about $1 a square foot which is a lot less than anywhere else.  I don’t recommend this project for a beginner because it is a challenge but it is an example of getting good quality materials for a fraction of the price.  It turned out great!