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Who says you have to spend a fortune on pricey organic beauty products to reap the benefits of nature's best ingredients? Some of the finest all-natural beauty remedies can be whipped up at home using basic items you probably already have in your kitchen. To give you some ideas, we got beauty experts to share their favorite "recipes" for curing common skin and hair gripes using equally common pantry staples. So go whip open the cabinet doors, tally up what you've got in there and get cookin'—in a matter of minutes, you'll look good enough to eat.

Potatoes

French fries may not be great for your thighs, but raw potatoes make for an excellent skin-brightening scrub, says Shobha Tummala, owner of the Shobha salons in New York City. Her trick is to mix equal parts grated raw potato and loose tea (cut open a tea bag, if need be) with 1/3 as much olive oil and slowly massage onto your face with your fingertips, using light circular motions. Then rinse with warm water. "Potatoes contain lanolin, which is moisturizing, and the dried tea leaves work as a natural medium to exfoliate the skin's top layers," Tummala says. "Your skin will be left with a natural glow."

  1. Bananas

"Bananas are very soothing and moisturizing to the skin, so they make a great homemade mask," says New York City makeup artist Kimara Ahnert. Just mash up a nice ripe one and spread it all over your face. Leave on for a few minutes, then rinse with warm water. For added oomph, Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, MD, likes to mix half a banana with 2 Tbsp full-fat sour cream and 1 Tbsp honey and leave the blend on for 15 minutes before rinsing and applying moisturizer. Bananas also work magic on parched hair; mash one together with half an avocado and leave on damp hair for at least 30 minutes as a deep treatment, suggests hairstylist Ryan Nickulas of New York City's Ryan Darius Salon: "Wind your hair into a bun, throw on some sunglasses and lip gloss, and you can wear this out as a chic beach look while hydrating your hair at the same time—without anyone knowing it."

  1. Brown Sugar

Even though he sells his own line of skincare products, Hollywood spa owner Ole Henriksen still loves how brown sugar's fine granules leave skin feeling warm, soothed and soft. Try his favorite make-at-home shower scrub: Mix about 2 ounces brown sugar and 2 ounces oil (he uses sesame, but olive would work too). To add aromatherapy benefits, buy an essential oil in a relaxing scent, like lavender, and add 15 drops to your scrub. Slowly massage the scrub into your body, starting at your toes and working all the way up.

  1. Tea Bags

Got puffy bags under your eyes? Grab a different sort of bag as a quick cure—a tea bag (just not the decaffeinated kind). "Brew some tea using two bags, then let them cool and place them under your lids," says New York dermatologist Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, MD, PhD. "The natural caffeine helps shrink blood vessels to visibly diminish puffiness." Chilling the bags in the fridge for a bit will intensify the effects, since the cold also helps reduce swelling.

5.Kosher Salt

To give hair that great textured look it has after a day at the beach—even if you live nowhere near the shore—try this trick from Nickulas: Fill a spray bottle with about 3 ounces water and add 3 teaspoons kosher or sea salt and a couple squirts of any hair gel, then shake it up. "Spray it onto hair and scrunch to get that tousled beach look," he says. The coarse salt clings to your strands and gives it sexy texture and volume.

Downsizing like a lot of boomers? Cut the clutter first

Here’s something that ought to get your attention: “Your Household Clutter Is Costing You a Bundle.” That comes from award-winning journalist Nancy Fitzgerald, who wrote a very helpful piece for our friends at NextAvenue.org in which she offers six ways to get organized and, she says, put cash in your pocket.

1. Pile, don’t file. Can’t find your bills? It happens to everybody, Breininger says— even the rich and famous have had their utilities disconnected simply because statements went missing.

The solution: Use a piling system instead of a filing system, she advises.

Clear out a bookcase and use the shelves to pile your paperwork into categories. The most important one: your To Be Paid pile. Add piles for other categories, too, like medical information and bank statements. “It doesn’t have to be pretty,” Breininger says, “it just has to be predictable. Never misplace your bills again.”

2. Round up receipts. Ever bought a sweater without trying it on, only to realize later it didn’t fit? But if you couldn’t find the receipt, that sweater — along with the one you bought to replace it — is still in your closet. “In one home,” says Breininger, “I found a new mattress in the garage, still in plastic wrapping. The owners didn’t like it, but since they couldn’t find the receipt to return it, they just bought another one. That cost them $1,000 and kept them from parking their car in the garage.”

The solution: Grab a shoebox and stash receipts inside after every shopping trip. Or, go high-tech and snap a picture of sales slips with your cellphone. Then, create an electronic file.

3. Deposit your documents. Every single misplaced document can cost you money and stress. Need to renew your passport but your birth certificate’s gone AWOL? It’ll cost you up to $30 and put you in a panic that you’ll miss your trip.

Your roof’s damaged in a storm but you can’t find your insurance policy? That’s money down the drain. “It happens all the time,” says Breininger. “Not only do people misplace the policy, but they can’t remember who they’re insured with. Company names — and agent reps — change so often and those details are either clogged in their email inbox or in a pile of unopened envelopes. And by the time they figure it all out, it’s often too late.”

The solution: Create a binder — or a file on your computer — and insert every important document, from birth and marriage certificates to tax records and insurance policies.

4. Lock up your savings. One of the top stressors is losing your keys. That’s expensive: the average cost of hiring a locksmith to rekey your house is $181.

“I’ve had clients whose car sat in the driveway for months because the keys were missing,” says Breininger. “The battery drained and the tires needed to be replaced.” Cha-ching.

 


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3 Creative Ways to Boost Your Retirement Savings

Saving 15% of your income for retirement is a worthy financial goal, but it’s not easy to accomplish. The demands of day-to-day life can sometimes make saving any amount of money a challenge. Here are some ideas for making room in your budget to save enough without living like a monk.

Cut out fees

It’s amazing how many low-fee or even no-fee options exist for a variety of products. Add up all the fees that you pay on a monthly or annual basis, then look at each one and ask yourself if there’s a cheaper alternative. Don’t forget things like fees on investment accounts and mutual funds; these charges usually come right out of your investment balances, so you may never realize how much you’re paying.

You’ll likely have to dig into your fund’s prospectus to find out how much it’s really charging in fees, but the effort is worth the potential savings. For example, if you have $10,000 invested in a mutual fund that’s charging 3% in fees, you’ll be paying $300 a year for the privilege of owning those shares. If the fund produces an average 7% return per year, then after 10 years you’ll have paid $4,435 in base fees plus the lost returns on that money.

If you pay an annual fee on one of your credit cards, consider replacing it with a card that has no fee. If you really love your annual-fee credit card, call the customer service department and ask if they can waive your fee for the year. You’d be surprised how often credit card companies will be willing to do this, especially if you’re a longtime customer.

If you manage to cut your various fees by just $200 per year and add that money to your retirement savings for the next 30 years, at a 7% rate of return, you’ll end up with an extra $14,601.

Negotiate discounts

Most people are used to negotiating on vehicle purchases, but they never think to try negotiating on other big-ticket items. But you really have nothing to lose by asking for a better price — and you could gain quite a lot. So the next time you’re in the market for a new appliance or a major repair, first find out how much this expense would cost on average (hint: Google is your friend), then use that number as a baseline. As a rule of thumb, aim for as much as a 20% discount on manufactured goods, a 30% discount on household items (including furniture and appliances), and a 40% discount on services. You may not always get that much of a discount, but these are excellent goals to keep in mind when negotiating.

To be a good negotiator, try the following tips. Always try to get the seller to name a price first — that gives you a place to start. Your own first offer should be much lower than you actually intend to pay, to leave room for the salesperson to haggle your price up significantly. If the seller protests the price you offer or says he can’t go any lower, look thoughtful and don’t say anything. Most people find periods of silence uncomfortable, and the seller may be driven to say more than he should. Finally, and most importantly, always be ready to walk away from a negotiation. Worst-case scenario, you can always come back the next day and try again.

If you make one big-ticket purchase per year and save $700 on it by negotiating, after 30 years at a 7% rate of return you’ll have an extra $51,103 in your retirement savings.

Make one-time payments on annual expenses

Big annual expenses, such as insurance premiums, can usually be paid either all at once or over several months. Most companies will give you a significant discount if you make the payment all at once. To make this easier on your budget, break out the payment into monthly amounts and save that much money each month in a special savings account. That way, you’ll be sure to have enough to pay the whole sum.

For example, if your car insurance premium is $900 per year, you’d set aside $75 per month in a separate savings account. An account at an internet bank is a great option, because you’ll earn a substantially higher rate of interest than you would in a standard bank savings account. When it’s time to renew your insurance, you just transfer the $900 into your checking account to pay the bill, and you can take any extra money from the interest you earned and stuff it in your regular savings account to use for other expenses — or save it toward the next year’s bill.

Many insurance companies will offer a 10% (or more) discount for paying all at once, and some will throw in a small additional discount if you set up autopay with them. If you manage to save $250 per year using this approach, then after 30 years at that 7% rate of return you’ll have an extra $18,251 in your retirement savings.


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5 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Spending time with a dog or cat—or even a goldfish!—can make you happier and healthier.

Mood

Just half an hour with a pooch can trigger your noggin to release brain chemicals linked to happiness. (Bonus: The pup gets the same feel-good lift!)

Pet therapy with cats can also help ease the blues. Kitty owners can be less lonely and have higher morale than those who don’t have a cat—likely because cuddling with an animal can unleash oxytocin, the body’s “love” hormone.

Stress

Being with a dog for five minutes can lower your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. The effect is so pronounced that, in one study, frazzled people said they felt it was more relaxing to be around their pets than their spouses.

It even works at the office: Research found that people who brought their dogs to work had lower stress levels throughout the day (meanwhile, levels rose among their canine-less colleagues).

Pain Relief

Research suggests that spending time with animal pals may help ease your pain.

Fitness Level

Active mutts need, well, activity. So it’s no surprise that dog owners are more likely to be in shape. They’re also more likely to get the vigorous workouts the body needs.

There’s more: Walking with a dog—versus cruising alone—has been linked to more social interactions, such as conversations with strangers (like, say, that cute guy at the park).

Heart

Petting an animal—or watching fish swim around in a tank—can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

Pet aficionados may also have lower levels of heart-hurting cholesterol and fatty triglycerides.

The really great news? If you live with a Fifi or Fido, you may need fewer overall visits to the doctor and have a healthier ticker. One study found cat owners were less likely to die from heart disease than those who live sans felines. Another found that dog owners were nine times more likely to be alive one year after a heart attack than those without dogs.


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10 Signs you’ve found the perfect place to retire

When you no longer need to live near your job, a world of possibilities opens up.

Relocating can sometimes save you money if you can  find more affordable housing and lower your tax bill.

Residing near friends and your children and grandchildren can also play a role in your retirement happiness. And you are finally free to move to  a place with better weather and the amenities that suit you best.

Here are some characteristics of a great place to retire.

1. Housing built for aging

You will be able to maintain your independence longer if you select a home with age-friendly features. A few simple upgrades to your home, such as handles or a seat in the shower, can help to prevent injuries, but in some cases a larger move is necessary. “If you have a bedroom, bathing and toilet facilities, a kitchen and laundry on one level, that would be ideal,” says Becky Yust, a professor of housing studies at the University of Minnesota. “That one level also needs a no-step entry.”

2. Good public transportation

There may be a time when you need to give up driving. At that point public transportation becomes essential to maintaining your independence. A few cities have reliable train and bus services for people of all ages. Some communities also provide low-cost taxi or van services just for older people. “You should also look for places where there is access to alternative forms of transportation like Uber or Lyft, in the event that driving is difficult,” says Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, a senior research scholar and managing director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.

3. Nearby health care

You’re likely to use more health care services as you age. Living in close proximity to a doctor, pharmacy and major hospital can make it easier to receive medical care and comply with a treatment plan. “You’re going to want to be in a community that has decent health services, doctors for starters, and access to a hospital,” says Mildred Warner, a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell University. “You need to think about the distance you are going to have to travel to get to primary care, and then the distance you are going to have to travel to get to more advanced care.”

4. A good economy

A part-time job is increasingly becoming standard in the retirement years. If continuing to work is part of your retirement plan, make sure any place you are considering has a strong economy and job opportunities in your field.

5. Your nest egg stretches further

You don’t want to spend your retirement years worrying about your next house payment and stretching to make ends meet. Aim to retire in a place where you can comfortably cover your bills and have a little bit left over for fun. It helps if the local community has a library and senior center or sponsors free activities like concerts and movie nights.

6. Year-round weather you can tolerate

Many people dream of an escape from cold, snowy winters. But before you head south, make sure you can tolerate the often sweltering summers. “Go and visit a place, spend a few months there, and get a feel for what it’s like before you make a move,” Warner says.

7. Opportunities to socialize

Without a job to go to every day, you may lack opportunities to leave the house and socialize. “Some communities have places to go to meet up with other people that provides the social interaction that makes us engaged with others,” Yust says. “It could be a coffee shop or a recreation center or other place that’s welcoming and convenient.”

8. Help with chores and maintenance

Maintaining your home gets more difficult as you age. Cutting grass and shoveling snow can be labor intensive, and even changing light bulbs gets more dangerous. It’s important to have someone who can help you with these tasks, whether it’s a friendly neighbor or paid help. “If you downsize from a house to an apartment, then someone else takes care of the maintenance,” Warner says. “But if you move to an apartment where no one else is there during the day, that is pretty isolating.”

9. Children and grandchildren

Most older people want to live near their children and grandchildren. “One item ranks consistently at the top of retirees’ lists: proximity to one or more family members if possible,” says Larry Rosenthal, executive director of the Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy. “Sometimes that means relocating, sometimes not.” Residing in the same city as your relatives can add meaning to your retirement years and be a source of help with errands you would otherwise have to pay for.

10. Amenities for seniors

Whether it’s a golf course or mountain views, a great retirement spot should have the things you are interested in doing. This might mean a museum where you can volunteer as a docent or a scenic walking trail along the river. “Go ahead and have some fun while you have your health,” says David Stull, a certified financial planner for Storehouse Financial in Fort Worth, Texas. “The older people get, the less things matter and the more experiences matter.”


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3 Easy Smoothies That Will Give You Healthy, Glowing Skin

Everything you eat and drink contributes to the way you look, and the best news is that eating your way to a youthful glow has never been easier or more delicious! Start by nourishing your body with anti-aging superstars like berries, cucumber, watermelon, and tomatoes, and you’ll quickly look and feel healthy, happy, and more vibrant—from the inside out.

COOL AS A CUCUMBER SMOOTHIE
MAKES 1 SERVING

You could try to balance slippery cucumber slices on your eyes or you could mix up this delicious, hydrating smoothie that fights signs of aging! In addition to fiber-rich cucumber, this smoothie blends in cantaloupe–loaded with vitamins A and C, which promote skin cell turnover and contribute to collagen formation, giving skin elasticity and youthful plumpness. Cucumber and cantaloupe are also high in potassium, which is critical for hydration, as is the coconut water, which adds a tropical kick.

Ingredients:

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped*

1 cup coconut water

1/2 cup chopped cantaloupe

1/2 cup chopped papaya

1 small lemon, peeled, quartered, and seeded

Several ice cubes

Directions: 

In a blender, combine the cucumber, coconut water, cantaloupe, papaya, lemon, and ice cubes. Blend until the desired consistency is reached. Serve ice cold.

*For best results, chill all ingredients before preparing.

Per serving: 143 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 35 g carbohydrates, 26 g sugar, 69 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 4 g protein

THE BRAZILIAN FACE-LIFT

MAKES 1 SERVING

This powerful skin booster combines kale and blueberries, which are both loaded with antioxidants that help prevent free radical damage and increase collagen production. The secret ingredient here is Brazil nuts–they contain the superstar ingredient selenium (which improves skin’s elasticity), plus omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E (which help to maintain skin’s moisture) and copper (which helps melanin production). We’ll drink to that!

Ingredients:

1 cup coconut water

1 cup chopped kale

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 orange, peeled

2 Brazil nuts

Directions:

In a blender, combine the coconut water, kale, blueberries, orange, and Brazil nuts. Blend until the desired consistency is reached. Drink up!

Per serving: 291 calories, 7 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 57 g carbohydrates, 37 g sugar, 72 mg sodium, 9 g fiber, 7 g protein

ISLAND TIME SHIFTER

MAKES 1 SERVING

This incredibly delicious smoothie is like a tropical Rx for your skin. The mango and strawberries are loaded with vitamins A, C, and E, and avocado is a healthy fat that absorbs vitamins A and E, keeping skin soft and wrinkle free. Almonds add extra fiber and a little crunch for a totally satisfying sip. Frozen fruit is a great way to enjoy out-of-season produce all year long! Bonus: It makes smoothies thick and ice cold (read: extra refreshing and filling).

Ingredients: 

1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries

1 cup fresh or frozen chopped mango

1 avocado

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut, divided

10 almonds

Directions: 

1. In a blender, combine the strawberries, mango, avocado, coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of the coconut, and the almonds. Blend until the desired consistency is reached.

2. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon shredded coconut on top of the smoothie and enjoy!

Per serving: 487 calories, 27 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 65 g carbohydrates, 40 g sugar, 21 mg sodium, 18 g fiber, 8 g protein


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