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16 Jan 2013

How I track my cosmetics (Filemaker Bento)

Bento

This one might seem like an odd post, but a question I'm frequently asked (along with "how do you store everything) is "how do you keep track of everything you have"?

Actually it's a good question.  With almost 3,000 individual pieces of makeup, it's too easy to buy something I already have.  A few years ago I got fed up of the purchasing-and-return cycle when I discovered the latest purchase was already "in stock" at home!  In Ireland this can be quite irritating as these duplicate items can not always be returned, from a hygiene perspective, many cosmetics counters are loath to take items back (which makes sense).

Bento (desktop) screenshot

So I use a (very) simple database called Filemaker Bento.  It's not 100% what I'd choose to use, but what I do like about it is that I can use it on all my i-devices;  my laptop (Macbook Air), iPhone and iPad.  It ships with a bunch of templates you can customise if you so wish.  It is very quick and simple to use and you don't need to be database-savvy to use it.  It comes with search functions so you don't need to write SQL yourself  (Structured Query Language or SQL, pronounced "sequel", is used for creating, organising, managing and querying databases).  Creating either fields (eg for Brand, Product Name, Product Type etc) or forms (to display results etc) is a simple matter of drag-and-drop.  You're restricted enough in terms of what types of fields you can display (eg there's no multi-selection drop-down list available for example, which would be extremely handy), but it's certainly usable.

Bento (iPhone) screenshot 

If you're database-savvy and/or have the time, there are far better options available, but you generally will need to be able to write SQL.  Bento is definitely not the best tool for the job, but I like the fact that I had a database knocked together in about an hour and it syncs with my iPad and iPhone seamlessly.  You can even choose to use a back-up function with the database (I have my own backups automated, so I don't bother - but after putting the time into creating this and recording all of your cosmetic items, it's a good idea to make sure you have a back up).

At $49 for iMac/laptop, $5 for iPhone and $10 for iPad, it's also not cheap, but you can download trial versions for free to see if you like it.  I have been using it for a couple of years now, and every time I purchase something new (or if I receive a gift of makeup, or use something up/throw it out/give it away) I log this in Bento on my laptop, then I immediately sync the changes with my iPhone and iPad.  That way I have an up-to-date list of everything in my personal stash, in my kit bag, and in my class kit always with me, so I'll never purchase a duplicate again, and so I'll know if I need to replace anything.  Handy!

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