Proof: Halloween Costumes Don’t Need to be Expensive to be Awesome

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. Any excuse to dress up in something ridiculous and head out on the town is a-ok with me.

This year, given my current budget strife, I needed to produce a costume on a dime. For those of you attending parties tomorrow night, I highly recommend this one. especially if you have a friend you can rope into doing it with you.

50 Shades of Grey Fan Club

Nightgown – $19.99 (TJ Maxx)

Grey tie – $9.99 (TJ Maxx)

Reading Specs – $12.99 (split between 2 people)

Curlers, fancy earrings, and book – Free from my own collection

Riding Crop – Free from a friend (don’t ask)

Grand total: $36.00

Bonus – Not only was this costume HILARIOUS and easy to put together, but it was also the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn. I highly recommend it for those who are costumeless at this late hour.

Budget Fail – Part Deux

So my week of budget failure continues. I went to TJ Maxx today to purchase my Halloween costume, and managed to spend $67.80. Of COURSE, I picked up 2 unnecessary items including an adorable pair of sunglasses that were $7.99 (Naturalizer – who knew?!) and some lavender linen spray. Still, I shouldn’t have spent that much and to make matters worse – they double charged me for one of the items. Ugh! I didn’t notice until I got home, and there is very little hope that they will believe me when I try to reverse the charge. Grrr.

The good news is that I didn’t buy this.

In my former life, this Tory Burch coat would have been marched to the cash register as soon as I saw it. But now that I am the Discountess, I know better.

NOTE: This is still a pretty good deal for any interested Washingtonians out there, and it’s $449. Now, I realize that you can buy 6 coats for that price at LL Bean, but this is a good price for Tory.

Last one to get to the  TJ Maxx at Metro Center, is a rotten egg! Oh and there are other good Tory deals there too – definitely worth checking out!

Not-so budget vacation

Just returned from a fabulous long weekend visiting a good friend and her fiance in L.A. I was worried about maintaining my Discountess-ness while there, and it turns out I was right to stress. Here’s my current state of affairs:

1. Shopping budget – blown. Even with the money I saved from not heating or ACing my house this month, it’s all gone.

2. Food and Drink Budget – teetering on the brink. I have about $60 left, which anyone in DC will tell you is about 3 glasses of wine until the end of the month. Sad.

3. Transportation budget – blown. That included a $40 parking stint at Dulles airport, which was the cheapest option I might add!

The good news is that I had an awesome time. My friends and I cruised Manhattan Beach and saw all the surfers. I scored this awesome pair of earrings at a local boutique called BLVD. See below.

 

 

 

We also went to this adorable bookstore (like, the old-fashioned kind that has real books and is not hosted online). And, my life will be forever changed by the discount fish tacos at this place!

I’m deeming this a cultural/vacation success, but a budgetary failure. I have 6 more days in the month, but they include a visiting friend this weekend, a Halloween party (costume needed!), and two outings for drinks with friends. We’ll see if my bank account makes it.

 

Leather Love

I have been obsessing over leather recently. OBSESSING. But my shopping moratorium has limited my ability to buy anything, let alone leather.

I saw this Iris and Ink shirt a few weeks ago on Refinery 29. Gorgeous, and not too expensive at $230.  So, I decided to save for it.

As luck would have it it’s been pretty mild in D.C. for the last few weeks, so I haven’t needed AC or heat. Boom. Pepco money has been redirected to the shopping budget, and it just increased by 50%! Hallelujah!

BUT, my plans were foiled. The stupid top wasn’t available when I went to purchase it. GRR! I wasn’t going to let that deter me though. I’ve already planned out several new outfits with my new leather top. The horse is officially out of the barn, and I’m making this happen.

Next stop was ShopStyle.com, where I looked up other leather tops. Whaddaya know? There are TONS. I ended up buying this one from Lord & Taylor, and I’m in love.

It was originally $174, but reduced to $129.99. And a quick search of RetailMeNot.com revealed a coupon for 25% off any purchase from L&T, bringing my total to $97.49. BARGAIN.

In case you are interested, here are some other good (read SALE) options out there:

Faux Leather T – BCBG:

Brown Leather – SEE by Chloe:

Laser Cut Coral – Warehouse:

RennFest 2012

I am now entering week 3 of living in Georgetown, but not shopping in Georgetown. I’ve been trying to find other, cheaper activities to occupy my time, so I don’t succumb to the temptation. It turns out that finding inexpensive entertainment takes some real creativity, which is how I ended up going to the Maryland Renaissance Festival on Sunday.

The real entertainment of RennFest is the people watching. It is AH-MA-ZING. It’s like going to a medieval people zoo, except none of the specimens are locked up. Seriously, you can just go and walk around and stare and you’ll be entertained­—free of charge.

The real hard-core RennFesters come in costume and act the part the entire time they’re there. We’re talking corsets, kilts, flower head dresses…the works. See example here:

Also, the food is pretty good, and not necessarily so medieval. They had gyros, chimichangas, and funnel cake. And, consistent with most fairs and festivals these days, you can pretty much get anything you want on a stick. Of course, you can also get a full smoked turkey leg which is ridiculous – especially when you watch someone eat it. Since the entry fee is $22 (6 day passes are available if you really want them), most of the food and games are subsidized too, so you’re not looking at spending a ton of cash.

Here’s my total tally of expenses:

  • Adult entry ticket – $22
  • 2 Snake Bites (half cider/half beer – they are like the pumpkin spice latte of beer drinks YUM) – $8
  • 1 Italian Sausage – $4
  • 1 Funnel cake – $5
  • Joust – FREE

Grand total for all that ridiculous fun: $39. Even better – I still have $61 left over for the rest of the month. SUCCESS.

 

 

 

Apple of My Eye

Now that I’m back from Vegas (with $0 spent I might add!), I’m taking my weekend by storm. Today, I’m headed to a fabulous party hosted by my friend and fellow blogger of The Poe Log. The party – called Porktober™ – is the pork-themed event of the year (you can follow the party progress on Twitter @Real_Porktober). It includes a full roasted pig, bacon bar, and other pork products for all to consume.

Clearly, with such a bounty of food, I cannot show up empty-handed. In keeping with my money-saving theme, I wanted to find something that I could make that would be a) fabulous and b) free (well free-ish). So, I opted to make an apple cake. I recently got some apples after my other friend and fellow blogger of Cardigans and Couture who went apple picking and graciously shared some of her goods with me. I had all of the other ingredients on hand, so it seemed like a no-brainer. Plus, apples and pork go together like my MasterCard and Bloomingdale’s – a perfect match.

Here is the recipe courtesy of another friend and her fabulous mom. I hope it tastes as good as it looks!

Apple Cake

6-7 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

2 c. plus 6 tsp. sugar

3 tsp. cinnamon

1 c. oil (canola or vegetable)

4 eggs

½ c. orange juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 c. flour

3 ½ tsp. backing powder

Mixed sliced apples with 6 tsp. of sugar and 3 tsp. of cinnamon and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix remaining sugar, oil, juice, eggs, and vanilla. Sift flour and baking powder together and slowly add to the wet ingredients. Once combined, add in the apple slices reserving enough to layer on the top of the cake. Pour the cake into a greased and floured angel food cake pan and place it in a pre-heated 350° oven. Bake for 1 ½ hours or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Vegas Bound!

I’m in luck this week. I’m headed to Las Vegas for a work event through Friday. This trip is especially timely since, in an effort to stretch out my sad $200 budget, I haven’t been able to go to the grocery store for two weeks. Pros of my Vegas trip include the following:

1. Staying here.

2. Free Food (and wine for three days).

3. The weather.

Cons include being in close proximity to this, this, and this – not to mention the roulette table. We’ll see how I do…

Discount Dinner for Two

I had dinner with an old friend on Friday. Typically, when we meet up, we’ll go get sushi or have a few glasses of wine somewhere. However, I’m still in save mode, so I opted to cook a homemade meal­—pasta with onion and bacon and a green salad.  I have to say that this is actually one of my favorite dishes anyway, so it is even better that it’s so inexpensive to make.

Here’s the recipe:

½ c. pancetta or good bacon

1 onion, minced

1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, drained and crushed

1 tsp. crushed red pepper or more (optional)

1 lb. pasta (I prefer penne, but linguine is also good)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese

 

Boil salted water for the pasta.

Cook the bacon or pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until done. Remove the meat, and turn off the heat for a minute or two to let the oil cool down a bit. Turn the oil back on, add the onion, and cook it until it browns. Crush and add the tomatoes and the red pepper to the onion mixture (I think it’s easiest to crush them with my hands, but you can also use a fork). Turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture becomes saucy (about 10-15 minutes). Crush the bacon into bits and stir back into the sauce before serving.

Top pasta with sauce and Parmesan and viola! It makes 4 servings at about $2.50 per serving. Fast, cheap, and delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

Emails like this will be the death of my budget…

Seriously, I can’t take it. The evil marketing gods know how to push every one of my buttons. What – a sale? With lots of shoes? That may not be available at this bargain basement rate EVER again? I. MUST. SHOP.

Keep in mind that I have more than 70 pairs of shoes (my mother totally judged me when she heard that), and there is very little likelihood that I could get something at this sale that I absolutely needed. That is my brain talking, of course, but my credit card and my heart are singing a different tune. I managed to resist the sale so far, but I know I will eventually succumb to one of these because I get a about a million a day. I’m a real sucker for an extra 30% off final sale at J. Crew. It’s only a matter of time.

My October shopping budget is $200. Zero dollars spent so far. We’ll see how long I make it. It’s only the 6th after all…

The Grand Hair Experiment – Part 2

This was not for the faint of heart. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great things about the Aveda Institute, but it does require patience and an open mind.

I got there at 6, but they mixed me up with another client and by 6:30 I still wasn’t with a stylist. I asked at the desk, they realized their mistake, and presented me with my stylist. She was very friendly with funky Rihanna-style hair. Like this.

After about :30 seconds, it became apparent that she was a novice and an over-sharer. I learned that she’d been to styling school 3 times, but kept quitting before learning to cut. Red flag #1. She also told me that her funky hair was a result of a “relaxer incident”. Red flag #2. Apparently, her colleague over-relaxed her hair to the point that it all burned off. At this point, I started to get nervous.

After my hair was washed, we went to work. The stylist meticulously divided my hair and put it up by sections, a la Scary spice. Then, took two sections and started to cut. I could tell she was scared, and trust me, she wasn’t alone! She cut a tiny bit in the back, and then wanted to ask the supervisor a question. When the supervisor arrived, she basically took over. I was thrilled, especially when the supe told me that my stylist didn’t know how to cut bangs yet. Say what?!

The supe gave me a great cut, and told me I looked like Heidi Klum. A bit far-fetched, but I’ll take it. The best news was my cheap haircut was 20% off because I had to wait – leaving my grand total at $18.40 INCLUDING tip at 25%.

While somewhat alarming at times, it was all in all a good experience. I would definitely go back. If you decide to do this, here’s what you need to know:

1. You can request a 2nd year or “learning student” when you make your appointment. They are about to graduate and be released into the salon world. It’ll cost you a whopping $5 more, BUT they won’t put the fear of God into you. Bonus.

2. Only go if you have a simple hair cut in mind. If you want something drastic, I’d stick with someone more seasoned.

3.  Give yourself plenty of time for the cut, i.e. don’t make dinner reservations immediately after.

4. They have other services! Scared of a haircut? Try a mani-pedi or a facial, a little bit easier and less permanent.

In case you were curious, this was the final result. Not the best picture of me, but my hair looks good!