Love the look of gel manicures but can’t commit to the cost? We feel you, girl. Good news: You can get that salon look at home for just a fraction of what you’d pay the pros. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting a gel mani yet, the reason they’re so fab is the special formula that makes the look chip-, bite- and dent-proof for a whopping two weeks.

The gel is painted on like normal polish, then cured (heated) with a fancy UV or LED light. After, your nails are immediately dry. And not just “I-think-I-can-open-my-car-door” dry. Dry-dry. We know you’re touching up your own DIY manicure, so why not give yourself one sure to last through many a wedding updo and kitchen cleanup? We swear, gel manicures are nothing more than painting your own nails, with a few extra steps thrown in. Convinced? Let’s do this!

1. Shop Around: If you’re going all out, you’ll need an at-home gel kit. The starter systems can be expensive, but there are several in different price points. For example, the SensatioNail kit will run you about $60 while the OPI Gel Shine kit is closer to $150. We know that sounds like a lot, but depending on how many polishes or manis you currently splurge on, $150 could be an investment cheaper than a year’s worth of salon manis. (via Lulu + Sweet Pea)

2. Nail Prep: Before you begin, you’ll have to prep your nail beds like they do for you in the salon. It’s really important for the gel to properly adhere to your nails so don’t cut corners. To do this right, make sure your cuticles are pushed back and nails are (gently!) buffed. (via Nailene, image via ehow)

3. Aquaphor ($6): If you don’t have the steadiest hand, apply some Aquaphor to the cuticle and skin around the nail. That way, if you color a little outside the lines, you can wipe it right up.

4. Skip the Light: If you’re skeptical of the UV or LED lights, you can use Gelous as a final top coat. The $6 special formula eliminates the need for a curing lamp and just makes your traditional polish extra tough. Your mani will last through all four of your August weddings. (via Hairspray + High Heels)

5. Don’t Hit The Cuticle: Once you begin application, stop your polish or gel brush just short of your cuticle. By leaving a little space, you’ll prevent lifting or bubbles once the nail starts to grow out a little. (via PopSugar, image via Pretty Pretty Pretty)

6. Lay it on Thin: Make sure each layer of polish or gel is very thin — a lot of thin coats is better than fewer thick coats because thick coats take far longer to dry. (via The Novice Chef, image via, You Beauty)

7. Seal The Ends: With each finger, seal the ends of your nails to prevent chipping, and to give your nails a clean, finished look. Don’t worry about getting some on your skin — remember, that’s where Aquaphor comes in! (via A Beautiful Mess)

8. Cure Thumbs Separately: If you do decide to use a UV or LED lamp, instead of sticking your whole hand in at once, do the four fingers on each hand first, then cure your thumbs together. This way, you won’t get polish globbed on one side of your nail. (via Lulu + Sweet Pea, image via Blushing Ambition)

9. Hit the Alcohol: After you paint and gel your nails, there is a tacky layer that needs to be taken off with alcohol and a lint pad. Remember those alcohol pads that come in your first aid kit? They are the perfect tacky layer remover once you’re done curing. It skips the step of actually pouring alcohol onto lint pads and gets you out into the world that much faster. Buy a whole box of them for $2 here. (via Warfield Family)

10. Removal: And finally, once you’re ready to move on to your next gel color, don’t go to the salon and definitely, don’t peel them off. Instead, you can remove them yourself the Beyoncé way, with some cotton balls, tinfoil (or a fancy removal set for $7), and at least one episode of OITNB. (via Gal Time)

11. Lacquer Remover ($13): Instead of acetone, try specially formulated remover that nourishes skin. Double win for nails!

Have any DIY gel-mani tricks up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments!