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I am Jennifer Aniston.

Well, I can relate to the character she played in Friends With Money. In the 2006 dramedy, acutely written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, Jen's character, Olivia, is a down-and-out broke girl living in West L.A., surrounded by loved ones who have enough disposable income to fund a small private school for several years. I included the film in a list I compiled three years ago called "10 Great L.A. Movies" (you can catch it here). I also considered it one of the ten best movies I had seen that year.

Olivia hoards small sample jars of designer facial creams and soaps she acquires from various department stores throughout the city because, obviously, she can't afford the full-sized, full-priced bottles. In one particular scene we see her line up dozens of mini-bottles in her bathroom cabinet while she partakes in her nighttime facial ritual. Sometimes she'll even enlist her well-off friends to grab a sample for her; twice the moisturizer for the price of one trip to the mall.

Like Olivia, I have managed to develop my own system involving my local Sephoras and any department store that sells Lab Series For Men's Multi-Action Face Wash. One 3.4-ounce tube of the stuff that "cleanses, exfoliates and conditions the skin" goes for $18. And with the way my bank account seems to get depleted of funds on a monthly basis, there is no way in hell I'll shell out one Hamilton, an Abe Lincoln, and three Washingtons to make my face feel minty fresh every night before I go to bed.

Therefore I will drive myself to the nearest mall and walk into Sephora, ready to be faced with the inevitable "Welcome to Sephora. Can I help you find anything?" To which I'll reply, "Why yes. I was wondering if I could try a sample of that facial soap from Lab Series for Men." Sometimes I'll purposely flub up the name in order to look like a clueless male who's too intimidated to enter an overly bright room filled with lipsticks, powders, eye creams, and enough fragrances to elicit a contact high. Other times I'll just make my way over to the Men's section and pick up a box, pretending to study its contents, and wait for a sales associate to walk over and check in to see if I need any assistance. And occasionally I'll even pull out the My-Friend-Swears-By-This-Stuff-And-Tells-Me-I-Need-To-Try-It card ("Does it really work?"). Once I was approached by a petite Asian girl who showered me with extra samples of shaving cream and SPF lotions after asking her if she could "help a brother out with some exfoliating hookups."

I should also point out that one little sample jar of the Multi-Action Face Wash can last up to seven washes. The tiniest of dollops can foam up like crazy, so four jars could last an entire month. That's four Sephoras I could hit up over the span of one weekend. And it's the perfect size for traveling - no need to worry about those darn FAA carry-on regulations!

Please understand: in no way do I consider this a scam of any sort. I'm not shoplifting chotskies from Pier 1 or T-shirts from Target (although the latter has the potential to become a giant, um, target for similar schemes). I am merely being resourceful during my time of financial need, finding ways to thriftily take care of myself and provide the best hygiene no money can buy.

If that's a crime, then lock me up in a cellblock room. At least I won't have to worry about making rent. Or buying groceries.



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