Manicures and Pedicures At Home

I can’t believe how much money some people spend on their nails — between getting tips (artificial nails wrapped in silk or hardened with acrylic or gel), regular fill-ins, manicures and pedicures, the nails business is booming. In my town, there’s a nail salon on every corner — only to be outnumbered by the number of pizzerias, of course.

A new set of gel tips can set you back almost $100 in my area. That’s insanity. A pedicure by itself is about $17-$18, and a manicure runs about $10-$12, but many places have 2-for-1 deals where you get both for $20. But still, if you go twice a month, that’s $40. Some women go every week, for a total of $80 (before tips!). Plus, that’s before adding in how much it costs to have silk wraps or acrylic nails put on.

I don’t get tips put on because I find them unwieldy. But I’ve found I can do just as good of a job at home on my natural nails. All I need are a few relatively inexpensive tools.

Manicure & Pedicure Tools of the Trade

— Nail polish remover and cotton balls, to remove old color before you start.

— A good nail file. Get a two-sided one that has a fine grit on one side and a medium grit on the other.

— Nail and toe clippers. You can get away with just the toe clipper if you’re precise enough with your cuts.

A cuticle pusher. Push back your overgrown cuticles and smooth out the “walls” around your nail with this tool.

Lotion. I like to use a heavy-duty moisturizing lotion like Lubraderm or Eucerin, but you can use whatever you’d like.

— A large plastic basin to soak your feet in. Or, just fill your bathroom tub with enough water to cover your feet. I just add a bit of olive oil to the water as a softener/conditioner rather than use any particular foot soak product.

Base coat/top coat. You can find polish that are two-in-one, so you don’t have to buy both.

Nail polish in the colors of your choice. I seem to be drawn to the ones on clearance!


Cuticle oil, to soften the cuticles for shaping/cutting

Cuticle scissors or cuticle clippers

Foam toe separators

— Foot buffer or pumice stone


I follow the same general procedure for both hands and feet.

First, take off all old polish with the cotton balls and the remover.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a basin and soak hands or feet for 5 minutes a few minutes. Remove hands/feet from water and dry with a clean towel.

Gently use the cuticle pusher to push back overgrowth toward the nail walls. If desired, cut stray cuticle pieces with the clipper, but be careful not to nick your skin.

You can also use a pumice stone or buffer on your feet to get rid of any rough spots, such as callouses and corns.

Use a nail clipper or a file to cut and shape nails to your liking (I prefer rounded nails over squared). Then wash your hands/feet with warm, soapy water. Apply lotion liberally, and follow up with a paper towel to wipe any extra lotion off your nails.

Now, it’s time to apply the polish! Start with a clear base coat. Once dry, apply a first coat of your selected nail polish color. Wait a few minutes and reapply for a total of two color coats. About 10ย  minutes later, add a clear top coat to “seal” the color. Now, if you’re me, you’ll need to constantly remind yourself not to touch anything for another 15 minutes to allow the coats to start fully drying. I’d also advise waiting a full half-hour before resuming your activities so you don’t mess up your polish.

I won’t lie — I do this about once a month, and most of the time I don’t even bother putting color on my fingernails (I stick with a clear coat). But it still beats spending the $20 — plus tip.

13 comments to Manicures and Pedicures At Home

  • I like a french manicure. I agree that they are just an extension of what your natural nails look like so I don’t understand the appeal of going to a salon to get them done. The tools you need to do a perfect french are all avaiable at a Wallgreens or CVS or Duane Rede or whatever drug store is in your neighborhood. I refuse to get my nails done for money now unless I have a very very special occasion. It just seems like a giant waste of time and money. Just throw on the TV or a movie or a radio program and get them done.

  • You think $30 a week for a mani/pedi is bad? I knew people who used to visit the tanning beds 2 to 3 times a week. At $70 a pop! Now that is just wasteful. I can see how putting the effort to do your own nails can be difficult. But really is it that hard to sit out in the sun????

    • Nicole

      @Lindsay: $70 a pop for tanning? Wow. I know it can be $20-$30 in our area, depending on the type (tanning bed or standup thingy). But $70 is crazy.

  • how can anyone afford a mani and pedi every week? i like a professional pedi and mani at least once a month. i have tried to do my own for years. i have zero talent and sadly not even a jersey gal pal who will assist.

  • I will be doing my own mani and pedi’s again to save some money. But I pay the $30 every 3 weeks for the jet spa experience {pedi & eyebrow wax}. And because its a pain to paint at an odd angle {as my toes have no fun color on them, right now}. This is a good article for anyone looking to do this at home.

    Now, do you think I can pluck my eyebrows straight? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Nicole

      @Christine: Eyebrows are an entirely different situation — I learned how to do it the hard way when I overplucked in high school and had to fill them back in for a while with an eyebrow pencil!

      • LOL. I’ve done that, too. Actually, I trimmed them by shaving them {yes, you heard right}, but hit one too high. Pencil save!

      • Nicole

        @MoneyFunk: Oh yeah, I did the “shaving” bit once, too. Luckily they came out relatively unscathed.

  • Red

    Pedicures are nice and relaxing, but they’re $30 for a french, which is what my mom gets. I would go with her every month, but then – about the same time I found minimalism – I figured out that I like the natural look of my nails, fingers and toes! It’s nice to look down and not immediately think, “Oh, man! I forgot to touch up my polish!” I donated all of my nail polish and stopped going to the salon. My mom recently gave me a pumice stone that I use daily. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for these tips!

    • Nicole

      @Red: I feel like a French manicure is just an exaggeration of the natural look of your nails anyway. I will admit I go once in a while, but I keep it to a minimum, maybe once a month during the summer for the $20 mani/pedi special.

  • Patti

    A woman after my own heart. I SPLURGED big time last month with a very expensive mani/pedi where I got to take home my own files/buffer so that I can bring back next time. I will instead use them to continue doing them myself and come back to the splurge place (with files and buffers in tow) the next time that I can afford it. But yes, it may not be all that fun, but it’s definitely a cost saving that I totally DIY. Thanks for the post!

    • Nicole

      @Patti: I think part of my problem is that I don’t like people touching me all that much, even if it’s supposed to be a relaxing experience. I don’t find it to be relaxing at all, most of the time, unless I’m uncommonly unstressed that day (rare).

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