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Sweat the small (and big) stuff

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But many places charge $40 or more for these same exact services, and it's doubtful that the quality is any better. My friend Sylvia used a gift certificate that she received at a posh spa where the haircuts cost $75. For that amount of money, you expect to walk out looking like a masterpiece. But she was not happy with the haircut at all, and said as much to the hair artist, who took revenge with his scissors. No, he didn't murder her, but she liked the revised haircut even less.

You don't get what you pay for with haircuts. I have great respect for people with a knack for cutting hair, but the best ones don't necessarily work at swanky salons. It's easy enough to find a good hairdresser at an inexpensive joint and stick with him or her.

The payoff: Let's say you get 10 haircuts a year at $24 including tip versus $48 at a salon. Savings: $240 a year. Invest that amount in a tax-deferred retirement account earning 8 percent annually and in 30 years you will have $27,188.

If you use nail clippers and a file to manicure your nails, instead of going to the nail salon every two weeks at $17 a pop, you could have over $50,000 saved up in 30 years.

2. Major appliances
The choices: I watched the "Babel" DVD recently and was struck by the austere living conditions of the people who reside in a village near Tazarine, Morocco. Major appliances are not a part of their lifestyle.

Here in America we don't have to launder clothing by hand or thrash them against rocks. We have myriad options. The latest flyer from Sears displays standard washers and dryers ranging from $600 to $900 a pair.

Alternatively, you could buy a burgundy Kenmore Elite king size front load washer on sale for $1,425 plus matching burgundy dryer for an additional $1,092. The sale price for a Pacific blue Elite Oasis Canyon washer is $1,140; add another $1,045 for the matching dryer.

Now, remember, the goal is to get your clothes clean. But if you want to project your status by purchasing colorful, trendy appliances, you're taking yourself to the cleaners, as they say. I'm not sure that visitors will be impressed if you parade them through your laundry room.

Next: " ... we work hard and deserve to be rewarded."
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