Freshly polished nails have always been one of my big beauty weaknesses…or strengths, depending on how you choose to view it. I can be wearing sweats, hair unwashed and cleaning out the bird cage, but as long as I look down and see chip-free, fabulously fresh painted nails, I still feel pretty. The trouble is, all that nail color isn't cheap! Furthermore, since I like layering colors and shimmer coats, doing my self-manicure can cost twice as much. Here’s what I've learned over the years about keeping my manicure looking salon-fresh without straining my wallet to do it—I hope these tips help you too!

Cost comparison: pro vs. home manicure

Just by watching KCL and taking advantage of customer cards and sales at your local drugstore, you can cobble together everything you need for a professional-looking home manicure on the cheap!

  • Average cost of professional salon manicure: $15-$25 (per mani, not including tip)
  • Average cost of home manicure (using items listed below): $9.15—and you can use every item for multiple manicures

What you’ll need (prices from Internet search of a national-chain drugstore):

  • Pure acetone – $2.89
  • Base coat – $0.99
  • Color coat – $1.49
  • Glitter top coat – $1.89
  • Nail file/Buffer – $1.89
  • Cuticle oil – you can use any oil, but Vitamin E capsules are perfect and you probably already have a bottle in your medicine cabinet. You can also use coconut oil—yes, the same oil you use for cooking.
  • Moisturizer – use anything you already have that you like

1. Prep those nails like a manicure champion

According to Elle Canada magazine, the longest lasting nail color starts with removing everything that can interfere with your nail's ability to hold the polish. Luckily it’s easy and very cheap to do this. Simply wipe each nail bed with pure acetone (less than $3 for a whole bottle at your local drugstore). Professional manicurists do this for each manicure customer as a matter of course—because they know that other elements in regular nail removers, lotions, residue from old polish and natural skin oils can create a barrier that will cause polish to chip prematurely.

Note: Don't soak as part of your prep. If you’re in the habit of pre-soaking your hands to prep for your manicure, be aware that many professional manicurists now steer clear of this. Prolonged exposure to water causes nail beds to expand. As the water evaporates, the nail beds will naturally contract…putting your manicure at risk for fissures and eventually chips and cracks.

2. Try out shorter nails

Style trends of late have been featuring shorter nails, so you’ll be right in step with your favorite fashion models by trimming your own nails back a bit. Plus, this will ensure your nail beds are as strong as they possibly can be—free from weak end spots, chips, hairline cracks and other manicure-destroying imperfections.

3. Use a base coat

Typically, the base coat is the least expensive polish in your manicure (you can get a perfectly good base coat at your local drugstore for around $1). But the base coat is what helps your nails hold on to that sassy color you’re looking forward to sporting. The color coat bonds to the base coat, which bonds to your clean, prepped nails—all of which helps your manicure last extra long!

4. Brush on color in thin coats

If you find you’re in a rush, save the color for later rather than brush on the color coat too thick. This actually requires extra dry time, and can cause bubbles and other imperfections that will quickly lead to fissures and chips. If you get frustrated when your polish begins to peel off, thinner color coats will fix this too—and because thinner color coats dry more quickly, you can do two coats in the same time it takes one thicker color coat to dry.

5. Overlay and seal your color with a glitter coat

This is one of my favorite manicure-extension techniques! Glitter tends to be one of the cheapest polish options you can find (you can find bottles for less than $2 at your local drugstore), plus it hides a multitude of imperfections in the base and (more expensive) color coats and creates an illusion of many colors in one, which makes nails look more festive and eye-catching. You can also use some of the new inexpensive "crackle" polish to get the same effect as glitter. The key here is to overlay that unforgiving, plain color coat with something to give your polish some "pop"—and with a glitter coat, you’re basically adding a clear top coat that seals your basic color to your nail and makes your manicure last longer.

6. Protect your manicure!

This step is perhaps the key to making your manicure last twice as long. There are several things you can do to protect your manicure…each of which will add to its wearable life.

  • Stop using hand sanitizer: Hand sanitizer contains alcohol, which is a drying agent. The drier your polish becomes, the more chip-prone it will be.
  • Wear gloves for chores and dish washing: In the same way that alcohol dries polish, water causes polish to expand and leads to cracks and peeling.
  • Fix individual dings rather than redoing your whole manicure: Dings, scratches and chips don't have to be deal-breakers…especially if you favor glitter or nail art. Dab a tiny bit of remover on the area near the imperfection, then smooth on a very thin coat of color, allow it to dry, then add a bit of glitter or crackle (if you like). Presto—fixed!
  • Moisturize your nails and hands: Moisturizer and cuticle oil can help your polish last and keep your hands and nails looking young and fabulous.

Note: All these tips work equally well for pedicures!

Enjoy Long-Lasting Manicures with These 6 Cheap & Easy Tips