Pretty Frugal

My cheap buy (plus tips) in Kuching

By Karen E. Chin
@karenevachin

 

It doesn’t matter if I have a high-paying job or surviving paycheck to paycheck; the thrill of cheap finds and frugal choices gives me an adrenaline rush. I scour through sales and less well-known shopping places to get the cheapest and the best stuff.

 

Here I share with you some of my personal finds (and tips) that help me to live cheap and still have a reasonably fabulous lifestyle in Kuching.

 

SHOES: Funky Kicks!

 

I was out grocery-shopping for necessities one day at Teck Kong (MJC Batu Kawa branch) when I pleasantly stumbled upon some treasures: pointed flats in a variety of styles and patterns (not all are pretty though, but I managed to pick the funkier ones) for RM16 each. I had to flip the price tag a few times to let the price sink in. At first, I was skeptical of the comfort and quality, but it has been months and they have proven themselves a rare combination: cheap and good!

 

Monochrome patterns; retro polka dots and cougar animal print!

Monochrome patterns; retro polka dots and cougar animal print!

 

ACCESSORIES: Give Me A Ring!

I managed to secure a few statement rings from a few places in Kuching, such as Cindy, Princess Club, Kenyalang Shopping Centre, Boulevard Shopping Mall, et cetera. Usually made in China, these are cheap costume jewelry, not long-lasting gold or silver, so have the right mindset about it.

I guess the key here is to try to make a funky or ironic fashion statement with these rings, not an expensive one.

 

I am a believer of never having too many statement rings.

I am a believer of never having too many statement rings.

 

MASCARA AND FAKE EYELASHES: Flutter Those Lashes!

 

I love mascaras. Every time a new product pops up in the market promising to amplify your lashes in length or boost it up in volume, I am tempted to try it. Expensive high-end brands aside, even drugstore brands will generally set you back between RM30-RM80 a stick.

 

Do not stick your noses up at local brands, Silky Girl has a range of Prism Mascaras (RM15.90) which works so well for my Asian lashes (read: barely any lashes). Recently, I got another type from Silky Girl called Eye Opener, it was only RM12.90 and it was perfect for a very natural look (the brush is amazing).

 

False lashes and mascara.

False lashes and mascara.

 

I have given up expecting the false eyelash effect from mascaras (use them just to enhance lashes for a casual makeup look), so if you want a more dramatic look, go for fake eyelashes.

 

Contrary to common complaints, they aren’t that difficult to apply if you have had enough practice. There are many ways you can learn and perfect your application, search online and you can find really awesome tutorials on YouTube as well.

 

I found a box of eyelashes (10 pairs inside) for RM9 at Miniature Shop at The Spring Shopping Mall. There is a beauty and ladies accessories shop in Kenyalang Shopping Mall that sells individual eyelashes for cheap too (less than RM5) if you only need a pair or two for special occasions.

 

HAIR COLOUR: Mane-tainance!

 

Most people will admit with remorse that they spent hundreds of ringgits in a salon to colour their hair. My advice is that if you just need to touch-up or colour your hair in a dark colour, do it yourself. Get a box from a drugstore (sometimes they have good discounts) and get to work, or enlist help from your family members or friends. The cheapest and best I have encountered is black henna, RM6.90 for a box of 6 packs (I only used two packs per colouring job) and it colours my hair black evenly and it lasts.

 

For lighter dye jobs, do see a professional. Anyway, I have had bad experiences with professional salons thinking that the more I spent, the better the dye job, but it is worse than a DIY I do myself. Only splurge if you can trust the hairdresser to do a dye job worth the price they are charging.

 

To guarantee looking good (and spending less), stick close to your natural colour and do it yourself.

 

PERFUME: Sniffing Out The Competition!

 

I went drug-store shopping for a perfume the other day because I started itching for a new scent but cannot afford a high-end brand perfume. Be careful when shopping cheap perfume brands though, you might smell more alcohol than scent and end up with a perfume that doesn’t last at all.

 

Here are some tips:

  1. Spritz some on your wrist and wait for 20 minutes. You can only decide if you like the scent by then.
  2. Do not mix scents, or sniff too many per session.
  3. Do not choose scents by how it smells from the bottle or on paper, or from another person’s skin. Perfume is chemical and it will change according to your skin’s chemistry.

 

I found a bottle that I settled for, as I was looking for a gourmand scent, I loved this one. Silky Girl is made in Malaysia, and this Sweet Temptation range promises to last six hours on your skin. The perfume is nice for daywear as it isn’t strong at all, and I don’t really have high expectations on the quality except that it smells nice.

 

Silky Girl Sweet Temptation in Charming… Nice bottling and nice scent for RM19.90 for 15ml (it was on sale so I got for even cheaper)

Silky Girl Sweet Temptation in Charming… Nice bottling and nice scent for RM19.90 for 15ml (it was on sale so I got for even cheaper)

 

On days I have extra to spend on branded perfumes, I will obsessively scan, stalk and watch on eBay. You may be surprised; the amount you spend on a 30ml bottle here can get you a 100ml bottle online. Be wary of knock-offs though, check the seller’s ratings and comments before settling for a purchase.

 

NAILS: Scratching Style!

 

When it comes to nail trends, it is tempting to try out unconventional colours that you aren’t completely sure you’d like, or sometimes I hate it when new collections come up with something just a tiny bit different and better from a previous one, but yet so similar that you can hardly tell the difference. That is why I love cheap nail polishes and finding dupes, a term derived from the word duplicates and used to call a similar colour.

 

They might look the same to you, but they are all different to me (I don’t feel bad because I did not burn a hole in my purse buying them).

They might look the same to you, but they are all different to me (I don’t feel bad because I did not burn a hole in my purse buying them).

 

However, the worry arises: how safe are cheap nail polishes? I invest in a good base coat and top coat. A good base coat helps to protect the nail from the strong chemicals in cheap nail polishes, and a good top coat make the manicure job look professional and ‘expensive’.

 

Before deciding on your cheap polish, check the brushes and texture of the particular cheap bottle. If the brush is uneven, you cannot achieve smooth application and if the polish has thickened, it is spoiled.

These are what I mean by one-off colours that can be trendy for 5 seconds.

These are what I mean by one-off colours that can be trendy for 5 seconds.

 

Learn to give yourself a nice manicure and pedicure. The obvious reason is to save yourself RM30 for a manicure and RM40 for a pedicure and three hours of a perfectly good day to do more productive things.

 

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Karen is a born-and-bred Kuching singer/songwriter who made her debut with her single ‘Cold’ in 2011. She is a trained occupational therapist, experienced makeup artist and has been a writer her whole life. She writes on a variety of topics and the tried-and-tested lifestyle as she sees it; direct, witty and down-to-earth.

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