NO BUY 2019: Success in May!

Drumroll, please!

I made it through the entire month of May without purchasing any beauty products. None! Whatsoever!

May went entirely the opposite of how April went, and unfortunately I can’t contribute my no buy success to my willpower alone. I came down with pneumonia in the first half of the month and had quite the time with it. It took about a week until I was diagnosed and prescribed antibiotics, and throughout the entire illness I was still having to work partial days at work because of short staffing issues. I was so exhausted from being sick and feeling like crap from working while so sick, that by the time I came home I just slept and had no time to even contemplate online shopping. On the few days that I was able to take off to recover, I still was so wiped out that I did not buy anything. As well, there was also the pressure of missing out on so much pay from taking time off work, making it easier to stick to my budget and prioritize paying for the bare essentials.

Here’s what I used up and purchased in May:

May purchases: None!

Total dollar value of products purchased as replacements or otherwise: $0.

May empties:

  1. Essence Instant Matte Setting Spray ($6)
  2. Glo Skin Beauty Daily Power C ($126)
  3. Drunk Elephant Protini Peptide Deluxe Sample
  4. Laroche Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluide ($34)
  5. Nude by Nature Flawless Foundation Powder ($32)
  6. Laroche Posay Effaclar Purifying Cleansing Gel ($25)
  7. NuFace Gel Primer ($17)


Total dollar value of products used up: $240

Definitely my best month yet! As for replacements for cleansers and Vitamin C, I have a number of samples and trial sizes that I plan on using up and clearing out first, and then have some very low cost options I plan on purchasing eventually. We’re heading into summer, so I’ve been transitioning into my summer shades for powder and foundation, and have plenty to use up from last summer. For setting spray, I have plenty of facial mists to use up and a number of setting powders to substitute as well. I’m really hoping I can keep this frugal momentum going as we head into June!

NO BUY 2019: April empties and purchases, falling off the no buy bandwagon

Remember how I wanted to spend absolutely nothing on beauty for April? Yeah, me too. Embarrassingly, I accomplished the exact opposite of that goal.

I had heard that the Sephora VIB sale was going to be later in the spring, so I assumed it would be mid-May or later. I had some things I’d be planning to replace during the sale, but I hadn’t planned on going all out.

The start of April was a busy and tough time. There were lots of birthdays, lots of stress in my work and personal life, and I was sick for about a week and a half straight, missing four days of work and two weekends of plans. It’s fair to say that I was feeling sorry for myself and threw a huge pity party for myself. I decided, unwisely, to treat myself to a birthday order from Sephora.

Now this order in particular is not the hugest part of the problem. While I did purchase a very expensive item in this order, all of the items I purchased are things that I entirely love, have used non-stop since purchasing a few weeks ago, and see myself either using up entirely or using as much as possible. The order included the Pat McGrath Mothership V Bronze Seduction palette, which I have been drooling over since it was first released. I have watched more reviews and tutorials online for this palette than probably any other palette ever, and I have used it nearly every day in different ways since it arrived. The other items were the Fenty Beauty Lil Bronze Duo that comes with a mini Matchstix cream bronzer/contour and a mini version of the new Sun Stalk’r powder bronzer. Both are really excellent products that can be used on the daily, and because they are minis that I can travel with and keep in my purse, I do foresee myself panning them in the future.

This is where things fly off the rails. This beautiful little treat-myself purchase, that in itself wasn’t entirely awful, though it does violate my rules, burst the no buy dam. This is exactly what happened to me last year when I attempted a no buy, and I should have known better! I got that little rush of buying something new, trying something new, talking about my new purchase on my Instagram and with my makeup-loving friends and coworkers, and I just kept buying. I purchased a lot of the Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter line, and then made a huge purchase during the Sephora VIB Sale, that surprise, actually did start in April. Some of the items in my Sephora sale purchase were replacements, but I probably could have purchased for those replacement categories from the drugstore.

All-in-all, I did pretty horrible with my goal this month and I am really ashamed to throw these purchase totals up on the screen here. I cave horribly to these shopping cravings when I’m sick, depressed, or even just a little bit down, and it’s something that I need to be more active in addressing. I’ve decided that it’s in my best interest to block and delete anything Sephora-related from my devices and social media for the time being. However, unlike last year, I’m not going to completely give up on my no buy/low buy after this setback. I’m going to keep on going for the rest of the year with my no buy rules, and think about revising them to cut out any loopholes within the next week or so. In addition to deleting and blocking Sephora, I’m going to brainstorm other ways I can act to prevent this backslide from happening again.

The only good news in this otherwise bleak update, is that I managed to pay off some debt! I owed some money to some loved ones who had helped me out when I was laid off last August, and when my vehicle needed a number of expensive repairs this winter. I have entirely paid off both of those debts, and I am relieved to have them off my chest! I only have one outlet of debt left to tackle.

Anyways, after that long ramble, here are my totals for April:

Products purchased (some replacements, most, unfortunately, not replacements) for the month of April:

*Note: though a number of these products were purchased during the Sephora VIB Sale at 20% off, I’ve posted their regular prices. My calculations for the entire year won’t be entirely consistent, but I am fine with this, as this was my fault for not making clear protocol about my calculations when I started this no-buy year. I’d rather keep track of the total value of the products purchased for the year than the specific, miniscule sales savings. The 20% saved during the sales barely covers what the tax would have costed, anyways!

  1. Pat McGrath Mothership V Bronze Seduction Palette ($170)
  2. Fenty Beauty Bronzer Duo ($30)
  3. Physicians Formula Lip Creams in Brazillian Nut and Brazilian Sunset ($22 altogether)
  4. Physicians Formula Butter Eyeshadow in Sultry Nights ($20)
  5. Physicians Formula Matcha Melting Cleansing Balm ($20, this is an actual replacement)
  6. Joe Fresh Brow and Lash Brush ($10, this is also an actual replacement)
  7. NuFace Gel Primer ($17)
  8. Amika Soulfood Nourishing Hair Mask ($36)
  9. Amika Blockade Heat Defense Serum for Hair ($33)
  10. Tatcha Violet C Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA ($110, replacement product for my Glo Skin Beauty Vitamin C Serum)
  11. Patrick Ta Major Glow Body Oil ($65)
  12. Drunk Elephant Protini Peptide Moisturizer ($84)
  13. Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Detox Hydragel Eye Patches ($60)

Total retail value of products purchased in April 2019: $677**

**keeping in mind that a number of these items were on sale, so that actual dollar amount spent is a little bit lower than this, by about $81.00

Products I’ve finished in April:

  1. Essence Make Me Brow ($4)
  2. Essence Superlast Brow Pomade Pencil ($4)
  3. Covergirl Outlast All Day Primer ($13)

Total retail value of products I’ve used up in April 2019: $21

There’s not much left to say other than I made some huge mistakes, and May is going to be a month of figuring out how to stop myself from making those mistakes again year after year.

Casa Loma Toronto

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to Casa Loma this past March. I had had everyone from friends to patients at the clinic I work at recommending it, but for some reason in my mind I was terrified that it was going to be a super hokey tourist attraction, essentially just a large house decorated and marketed as a castle. I went in totally blind, having no familiarity with the history of Casa Loma or its first owner, Sir Henry Pellatt.


Fortunately, I was wrong and I was not disappointed by the experience! Though the castle is not technically finished (portions of the basement including the pool were never quite completed), it still is indeed a castle, a smaller but still regal version of the castles I saw while touring Europe as a teenager. The original owner and creative mind behind Casa Loma was Sir Henry Pellatt, a man with a number of skills and talents. Heavily involved in the military and local commerce, Pellatt was also a one-mile race record-breaking star and millionaire.

In 1911 Sir Pellatt hired architect E.J. Lennox to help him design his Hill House, his Casa Loma, in Toronto, Ontario. It took roughly three years and $3.5 million dollars to build this grand 64,700 square foot house. According to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator, that would be about $78.5 million dollars today!


Unfortunately Sir Pellatt and his beloved Lady Pellatt only had the privilege of residing in Casa Loma for a decade or so. Soon enough they experienced great financial distress from the war and from the incredible expense of simply building, heating, staffing, and maintaining such a lavish property, and had to leave Casa Loma in 1924. After this, the property was briefly turned into the snazzy Casa Loma Hotel during the years of 1926-1929. This too was short-lived, and during the Great Depression possession of Casa Loma ended up in the hands of the City of Toronto, and is still owned by the city to this day. The Kiwanis Club of West Toronto took over the site and turned it into a tourist attraction open to the public, and continued to run the attraction until 2011 when the Casa Loma Corporation was formed. While the story of Sir Pellatt and Lady Pellatt is quite tragic, I do find it wonderful that such a lovely building and piece of history is accessible now to thousands of people, rather than kept private as a home for only 2-3 people.



It is incredibly hard to pick a favourite room or aspect of this expansive property, but the conservatory is definitely in my top three. The beautiful stain glass windows, the natural light, and shining tile made me feel as if I was in a church, but less stuffy. It’s easy to daydream about high tea or sprawling out for a few hours with a good book in this warm, bright lit space. Also, if you’re into fancy bathrooms, the bathrooms just outside the conservatory down a side hallway are absolutely gorgeous. Each stall has its own sink and hand dryer, and there are two massive floor to ceiling mirrors that are perfect for a quick selfie or makeup touchup before you continue on with your tour.


As you exit the conservatory and make your way into the library space with dining room and concert alcoves, it is so easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the space. The square footage of the library alone is probably 10 times the size of my house! The deep wooden shelving and rich, warm flooring is contrasted marvellously by the intricate cream ceiling. I imagine there would have been more furniture in this space when it was lived in, but nowadays your voice will carry all the way across and echo, easily.


Forgive the poor quality of my camera phone photos, they don’t do the space justice! Sir Pellatt’s study was a dream as it had a hidden secret staircase leading downstairs to his vault. Apparently there are three hidden passageways in Casa Loma, with one yet to be found. Whether or not that is true, is hard to say. I can only speculate that after all of these years if there is one that has yet to be found, it’s either been sealed off and plastered up well, or else has become so damaged that no one has found it. If I worked there it would take all of my willpower not to scour the castle, tapping on walls, in an attempt to find it.

In the basement you have access to a tunnel that takes you quite aways underground to the garage, stables, and plant nursery. Definitely drafty in the winter though, so dress accordingly! I was kind of wandering aimlessly for most of my visit, but if you’ve got a bit of a time crunch or want to see Casa Loma in a more methodical way, I recommend starting from the bottom up. In the basement is the cafe, the gift shop, the movie screening room (the unfinished pool), and washrooms. If you’d like the audio tour recording for your visit, pop by the gift shop first to pick up a headset. I preferred just to read the signs that interested me and wander at my own whimsy, but it was nice to watch the quick 30 minute history video in the unfinished pool first. Since I knew nothing before my visit, it gave me the historical backdrop and helped me figure out the areas I knew I’d want to spend more time in. Had I skipped the video, I probably wouldn’t have figured out that there was a tunnel and would have missed the nursery, which was one of my favourite parts of the experience.


The second floor of the castle hosts all of the bedroom suites, each one more lavish and over-the-top than the last. I’m talking bathrooms bigger than most public school classrooms. Sir Pellatt and Lady Pellatt each had their own respective suites, with Lady Pellatt’s being the largest. There was also a suite specifically designed for the royal family should they have ever chosen to visit, as well as another guest suite. Throughout these of course were hidden servant stair wells to take Casa Loma staff amongst the levels and to their own, much humbler, sleeping quarters.

Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes and have scheduled a solid 2-4 hours out of your day if you want to thoroughly see everything! I know it may seem tempting to wear some cute heeled shoes, especially if you are set on taking some nice touristy photos of yourself and your travelling partners, but it is not worth it. If you do the tunnel and go through each floor and each room, you’ll have walked at least a few kilometres by the end of your visit. Comfortable footwear is handy as well if you’d like to hike up the number of staircases to the two open towers at Casa Loma.

I went on a Monday afternoon early in March, so I was lucky in that the castle overall wasn’t very busy. However, during busier times I could see there being a bit of a wait to see the towers as the staircases are only large enough for one person to go up or down at a time, and even then it’s tight. If you’re patient though, it is worth the wait. It was still a bit chilly in early March so I didn’t linger at the top of the towers, but it was great to pop my head out and see the skyline view of Toronto from atop the hill.

My only regret about visiting during the winter is that the gardens were covered in snow! I imagine they would be quite lovely to see during the summer. Even without the gardens though, I would say that this attraction was well worth the $30 CAD entrance fee. I think that there’s a little bit for everyone, whether you’re interested in antique cars, architecture, antique organs, interior design, or Canadian history overall. If you’re a film buff you may recognize Casa Loma as the setting for a number of famous movies. They’ve also added in a number of different Casa Loma escape rooms that you can experience after hours, which I think would be spooky and thrilling, particularly the escape room located in one of the towers. If you’re in Toronto and have never been, it’s definitely something I would recommend. I’ve been to Toronto annually for the past 4 years and have done the majority of the recommended downtown tourist attractions, but this is my favourite so far!


NO BUY 2019: Thoughts on inevitably losing VIB Rouge Status

This is something I’ve been thinking about since I decided to do a “no buy” year back in December 2018, and then thinking about why losing VIB Rouge status is even important to me. Serein Wu recently posted a video touching on this and I share many of the same feelings.

Presently as I write this on April 8, 2019, a little more than 4 months into my 13-month no buy year, I would need to spend $940 at Sephora before taxes by the end of 2019 to reach VIB Rouge Status for 2020. I’ve only spent $60 at Sephora since December 2018, averaging out to about $15 per month. If I continue along similarly with this spending average, there is no way I will reach VIB Rouge Status again by 2020. Even if I were to quit buying replacement products from the clinic I work at or the drugstore, I would still have to spend a little over $100 a month at Sephora to reach status again.

I think I first entered a Sephora about 4 years ago or so, back when I was but an infant mystified by the world of makeup and skincare. My friends were super into Sephora, but we didn’t have one in my university city yet. However, one opened up not too much later, and I gradually began shopping there more and more. At first I had zero disposable income during my first year of university, but gradually I picked up part-time work while in school, which fuelled the shopping.

At one such part-time job at a spa in my hometown, I worked with a number of reception staff who were trained as makeup artists and collected makeup, and this rubbed off on me. At this point in time I thought it was wild and unfathomable that I somehow made VIB status, and couldn’t believe that these ladies regularly made VIB Rouge status. I was a little envious not only of their makeup skills, but their luxury makeup collections as well.

As I found myself working more, school getting more difficult, and my mental health declining, I spent more and more. I became a little obsessed with the cycle of new releases, and was the person who would stay up late just to get a new palette as soon as it launched on Sephora. At this point, I had definitely more than made VIB Rouge status, and maintained this status for 3 years.

Sephora has done this really great job of marketing their rewards program and making it seem far more luxurious and important than it actually is. Even the language they choose to use amplifies the want to reach each tier of the program. Rather than using “VIB level” or “VIB tier”, they use “VIB status”, alluding to high social standing. They stagger their “perks”, saving benefits like free standard shipping and VIB Rouge event access for Rouges only.

All of these perks make a person feel special and privileged at first, but when it comes down to it these perks are not really a worthy award for the amount of money you are spending, and their only use is to aid in the shopping process. The tiny sample sizes are often too small to even be considered a proper travel-size, and only wet your lips to encourage you to buy other high-end products. The savings you receive are minimal, and the events are entirely shopping and sale based. Why did it make sense to spend $1000 on makeup, before taxes, in a year just to receive free shipping and tiny samples? I very rarely place a makeup order under $50, so by default I’m getting free shipping regardless of my Rouge status. While I love samples and travel sizes as much as the next person and find them to be quite handy at times, they often just end up sitting in my bathroom drawer unused until they expire.

After mulling over these points and Serein’s video, I realized that being sad about losing a fake status was something I didn’t need to waste my time with. In fact, losing VIB Rouge status or VIB status would actually be an accomplishment; it would mean that I’m making wiser financial choices and refining and minimizing my beauty collection.

EMPTIES: Essence brow products


I recently finished the @essencemakeup Superlast 24 H Eyebrow Pomade Pencil (Waterproof) and their Make Me Brow Gel Mascara in Soft Browny Brows.

I loved both products, and think that overall as a brand Essence gives you fairly good quality for your dollar. The Pomade Pencil was like a thin, waxy crayon that could be blended out but also helped hold brow hairs in place and withheld excessive sweating for the most part. The gel mascara was a tad too light for me, and I do have it in the darker shade that is a bit more appropriate for my colouring, but still excellent. Holds brows in place while giving a bit of a tint to make them appear a bit darker and fuller.

If you’re looking for an affordable brow duo, this is my favourite! And apparently everyone else’s favourite, too–I usually have to go to multiple Shoppers or Superstores to find them in stock.