Discount Gifts for Dudes

A friend of mine asked me for some advice on some Discountess-friendly Christmas gift ideas for her brother. I happen to have one of those, so I felt uniquely positioned to take on the task. In my case, my brother is extremely organized, so he put together a comprehensive (and I mean COMPREHENSIVE) list of suggestions. I’m using those to guide this post with a few extras, courtesy of yours truly.

Here are my two Discountess ground rules for holiday shopping success:

  1. When buying anything, ANYTHING online, I look for a coupon. My favorite site is RetailMeNot – they offer coupon codes and discounts for major and not-so-major retailers. At the very least, you usually can score free shipping, but lots of times they have codes for a certain percentage off your order. They aren’t the only site though – Coupons.com also has good deals for example – so it’s most thorough to Google the name of the store to find the best deal (e.g. Brooks Brothers Coupon).
  2. When looking for a specific item, I always search other sites. Yes, you can get that Calphalon 12” frying pan from Williams Sonoma, but Belk.com has is $10 cheaper (AND if you use the discount code 91441864, you can get 25% off that!).

Now, on to the ideas. Here are some of the things that I’d recommend, plus coupon codes where appropriate.

For the Meat-Eater

Nothing says man better than grilling with bacon. These bacon wrapped sirloin steaks are fabulous and thoughtful. If the guy can grill, then this is a great gift and only $49.99.

For the Traveling Man

A colleague told me about the Eagle Creek Pack It. He got one and uses it all the time for traveling. It’s one of those things you never knew you needed. Originally priced – $30.00 on EagleCreek.com, but I purchased one for my uncle from BackCountryEdge.com for 2/3 the price – $20.95 plus shipping.

For the Intellectual (and/or Car Enthusiasts)

Magazines! I personally love magazines. They are the gift that keeps on giving. My brother loves Washingtonian Magazine, so that’s always a solid Christmas bet for him. Living social has a deal right now for a year subscription for $14. I got one for my office holiday gift exchange – there is a $15 limit on our gift, so this works perfectly!

For the non-Washingtonians and for Washington style-makers, adventure-seekers, and car enthusiasts, Living Social has another deal for EsquirePopular MechanicsRoad & Track, or Car and Driver at $5 a subscription (oh and ladies, that $5 rate applies to a whole host of awesome magazines for us as well – Elle, Elle Décor, Glamour, Marie Claire, etc).

For the Athlete

Work out gear is always a good idea. In particular, my brother requested something like this long-sleeved tech shirt. According to RetailMeNot, you can get free shipping with the following code: AFPTTG.

(This one was a lob to my mom, who is in charge of stuffing my brothers stocking this year).

Any other Discountesses out there with good gift ideas for men? Please comment – I’m all ears!

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Boot Blunder

Ladies and gentleman, this week, I shopped my feelings. This is the kind of irresponsible behavior that has led to my meager savings over the past few years. As the newly crowned Discountess, I should have turned over a new leaf by now. I should have stayed away from Zappos.com. I should be looking down on all of you who shop your feelings with disgust. I should be on a high horse right now.

But, I’m not. I’m judging myself instead. I was having a bad day, and I decided that I really needed these.

How cute are these? I mean, they are practical for the upcoming winter season. Plus, they are listed in the “advanced comfort technology” section of Zappos, meaning they are orthopedic. They are basically medicine for your feet. AND, I did pay in cash, so I won’t be accruing any credit cards interest. That said, I’m going to have to find a way to use the canned salmon in the back of my pantry to stay alive until the next paycheck. Any suggestions for that?

Getting Crafty With Stamps

I’ve mentioned my love of stamps before. Stamps are a fabulous way to personalize invitations, gift cards, stationery – you name it! I actually started using stamps long before I was the Discountess. They can take a regular note and make them look 10 times better. Here are some ways I’ve used them:

Invitations

Each year, I throw a Christmas cocktail party. My apartment is small, so I don’t entertain as often as I would like to. This annual fete allows me to thank all of the people who’ve entertained me during the year. Clearly, since it’s a thank you, I want it to feel special, and nothing better says special to me than getting an invitation in the mail. BUT, they can be pretty expensive to produce. I use stamps make them look personal without adding to the cost.

I pick up regular stock cards and matching envelopes from Paper Source for $4.95 for a pack of 25 cards and $3.25 for pack of 10 envelopes. For 30 party invites, that comes to $19.65 total plus $13.50 in postage. I run them through my printer to add the party details, and finish with a stamp on top. And viola!

Apologies for the weird, white out line, but you get the idea. Cute, no?

Recipe Cards

I’m hosting a bridal shower over the Christmas holiday for my dear friend who’s getting married next spring. I ordered the invitations from TinyPrints (a very reasonable site for printed invitations, especially when you have a coupon like this one). As a part of the invitation, I included recipe cards, so the guests could share their favorite recipes as my friend builds her own collection.

You can always buy recipe cards, but they often look hokey to me. I opted to make the ones I sent out with – you guessed it – a stamp! I used the same paper source cards that I used for the Christmas party invitation, but opted for a different stamp and placement. The results are below.

Not bad for a days work. Next up, I’m trying my hand at gift tags. Stay tuned for that update.

Mastering CyberMonday

It was a black, Black Friday for me.  I spent most of the day on the train returning home from my thanksgiving in Connecticut, and OF COURSE, the internet was not working. My plans to shop online (for Christmas presents, that is) during the trip home were completely foiled. Thankfully CyberMonday is tomorrow, and there are plenty of deals still to be had.

Here are a few that I’ve discovered today during my preparations.

Kate Spade Cyber Sale
My aunt asked for the Kate Spade perfume for Christmas.  Whaddaya know – they had a gift set on super sale! Done and done. They also had some pretty cute purses and shoes, but I’m not supposed to be buying those so I stayed away.

JCrew Sale
I’m always a sucker for a good JCrew sale as well. You can get 25% off your entire online order, plus free shipping on orders over $150 using the code: COLOR25.

Lands End Canvas
They’ve really stepped it up a notch at Land’s End, especially with their Canvas line. I’d highly recommend you check it out.

GAP
30% off your total order on Gap.com using this code: CYBER

SPANX
Free shipping on Spanx.com using this code: FREESHIP12. Spanx are a holiday staple – less as gifts and more as a way to keep your clothes fitting until new years.

This is just a sampling of deals. You can find more at www.CyberMonday.com. They have a full roster of participating stores – everything from Horchow and Lillian Vernon (who knew that still existed!) to Sephora and Target.

May the discount force be with you. Happy shopping!

Baubles and Brunch – Post Mortem

Well, I did it. Baubles and Brunch was a big success without walloping my wallet. In fact, I had TOO much food — likely because my mom took me to Costco to prepare for the party, and I got excited. Something about buying in bulk is SO appealing. I feel like I’m getting away with murder (almost), when in fact, I’m only getting away with 4 lbs. of sausage. Thank God I don’t have a membership, or I’d really be in trouble.

Anyway, here’s the low down on the brunch. The menu was the following:

Sausage-Egg Muffins (via Pinterest)
Pear Cake (via ShockinglyDelicious.com)
Fruit Salad
Caprese Skewers
Mimosas
Coffee

Here’s the spread:

Lessons Learned:

  1. Girls don’t eat. I made enough food to give everyone seconds, which means I made too much food. I sent most people home with doggie bags for husbands, boyfriends, and roommates to enjoy.
  2. The ladies who brunch refrain from over-imbibing on Sundays. I bought 5 bottles of champagne and a gallon and a half of OJ. We only drank 2 bottles of the champagne, and half the OJ. People had coffee too, but not that many. I could definitely have dialed back the champagne purchase and saved cash.
  3. Sausage-egg muffins are my new go-to. These were so easy. Easy to make, easy to eat. I did learn that paper liners help make the experience seamless. The recipe says you can bake without them, but I think it would be hard to be successful.
  4. The pear cake looked like I bought it (which is a good thing). Everyone was so impressed that I made it! It looked beautiful. The recipe would also be good with apples. I think I’m going to try that this weekend.

Totals:

  • Cost of the food, booze, etc: Less than $100, even with the extra champagne
  • Total cost of the extra eggs I had to buy when I didn’t have enough: $8.39 (you’re on my list 7-11)
  • Guest count: 20
  • Total purchases made by guests: $1400+ (hello, S&D credit)!

Below is a picture of our youngest guest, Eleanor, in her adorable polka dot party dress. You can see she’s kind of nonplussed – this picture was taken just after she found out that the S&D pearl bib necklace I’m wearing is being retired. She was really annoyed.

Bonus, “Santa” (read: mom) came, and I’m happy to say that some of my favorites from my previous post will be waiting under the tree for me in December! Shameless plug: the online store for the party is still open – in case anyone wants to make a purchase.

Next stop, hosting my annual Christmas cocktail party without breaking the bank. Baubles and Brunch was my minor league debut – the Christmas party marks my entrance into the big leagues.

The Discountess Does Baubles and Brunch

This weekend, I agreed to host a Stella and Dot party for a good friend who is a S&D sales rep. This is my first party as the Discountess, so it’s quite the budgetary challenge. I thought hosting a brunch would allow me to put on a lovely party for my 20 attendees without blowing my budget entirely. Here’s my thinking:

1. Brunches are kid-friendly. Many of my friends have small children, so brunch fits more easily into the nap schedule. Most of the kiddies are portable too, so I invited them to come along. After all, in order to have a party you need to have guests!

2. Less Expensive Food. I want to have plenty of food for my friends, and luckily, brunch food is a bit cheaper than a regular cocktail party menu. I can have an egg dish, fruit salad, some hor d’oeuvres, and viola! Brunch is served.

3. Curbed Cocktail Consumption. Buying enough wine and champagne for a cocktail party is pretty pricey, but I’m guessing brunch shouldn’t be too bad. I’m definitely planning to serve fun, brunch-y cocktails – champagne and Mimosas (coffee and tea will be served as well for those who are off the sauce). I’m assuming that people will have errands to run, naps to get to etc on Sunday afternoon, so I won’t need to stock the bar as much for this party as I would for a cocktail party.  We’ll see if they drink me out of house and home.

In addition to proving that this Discountess can host a good party on a dime, the other MAJOR benefit of hosting an S&D party is that the hostess gets awarded a certain amount of S&D credit based on how much people buy. I’m hoping I can get enough credit to offset the cost of a few Christmas presents, and maybe a present or two for myself.

For anyone who wants to do some early Christmas shopping, here is a link to the online store for the party.

And in case you need recommendations, I’m currently coveting the following:

DC’s Hipster Haven

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This weekend I took my first trip to Union Market in DC for the Crafty Bastards art fair. The fair was packed with local artisans, vendors, and most of all, people. I have never seen so many DC hipsters in one place! See below.

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I went to the fair to do some Christmas shopping, but of course, I found nothing for anyone, but myself. I only spent $30 though, so I think I did pretty well.

I scored a cool leather cuff bracelet from a local company is called Fisticuffs (eeeek!), and all of their work is original and one-of-a-kind (and discountess-friendly!). I also got a stamp of a bicycle from another booth. I plan to use it to make homemade tags for Christmas presents. I love stamps – they are so versatile (there’s definitely a post on stamps coming later!).

Anywhoozer, I didn’t get to spend as much time perusing the aisles on Union Market as I wanted. There were so many people that it made it hard to get around. That said, I’d love to go back on a normal Saturday. From what I can tell, they have great food shops, fresh veggies, wine and more. It’s the perfect place to grab a coffee, a paper, and do some serious people watching on a sunny Saturday. Talk about inexpensive entertainment!

Graphic Design Goddess

What’s the point of having a blog without being able to shamelessly promote the work of your friends?

Meet Amanda Powers – graphic design guru and all-around fabulous individual. Amanda has been my go-to design freelancer for years. She has a background in print and web design and currently is the Senior Designer for a fabulous Charlottesville, VA – based magazine called Breathe. She also does a little somethin somethin on the side (in the design sense of course).

Amanda made me some custom invitations for a few parties that I hosted in years past. Copies of her invitations (that got FABULOUS reviews from my mom’s very flossy friends) are below. I’m sure you’ll agree she did an excellent job!

You can contact Amanda for any of your design needs at aburtonpowersdesigns@gmail.com. Her full portfolio is available here.

Dinner and the Theater on a Dime

Every year for my mom’s birthday, my brother and I try to do something special for her. In recent years, we’ve taken her to dinner and to the theater. She never gets to go otherwise, so it’s a pretty perfect gift for her. This year, we got tickets to see My Fair Lady at the Arena Stage. The show was fabulous. It’s always so cool to see a performance in that format, and they did an excellent job.

Dinner and the theater can be pretty pricey, but I co-opted my brother into helping me discount our evening. He got the tickets on Goldstar. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a great service that allows you to get discounts on area shows and events.

Instead of going out to a pricey restaurant, I hosted dinner for us at my house. My mom loves a pretty table, so I took extra time to make a lovely setting for her. I polished the silver (not my strong suit!), got out the nice linens, and bought flowers for a centerpiece.

Our menu was the following:

Hors d’oeuvre: Bucheron Sevre Belle (Goat Cheese), Onion Jam, and Crackers

Main CourseJeffrey’s Roast Chicken from the Barefoot Contessa – Highly recommend this. It’s easy, delicious, and inexpensive.
Cauliflower Puree
Green Salad with goat cheese, dried cranberries and sherry shallot vinaigrette

Dessert: Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream

Wine: Silver Oak (Note: I purchased this during my non-discountess days and was looking for a special occasion to drink it. At $75/bottle, it’s not a go-to discount wine, but it is delicious. It’s like wine-butter. Mmmmm.)

Total bill to serve mom a special dinner at home: $64.86 (split with my brother, it became $32.43 a piece).

Compared with a $100+ bill from a nice restaurant, I think that’s not too shabby! Plus, I think my mom enjoyed eating at home more. She gets a kick out of seeing us entertain. And because of her, we were able to learn from a master!

Discount Dressing for Success – Bridesmaid Style

My dearest friend from high school is getting married next spring, and I’m so excited to be a part of her day! She picked out a lovely color from the JCrew chiffon collection for the bridesmaids – dusty shale. We each get to pick our own dress, which is nice because I get to find a cut that is flattering for my figure. Of course, the style I want is FULL price at $250 – sort of steep for the Discountess.

Thank GOD for Ebay! I went on last night only to find my dress in my size on sale for $149.99. I immediately snapped it up. Some are worried about shopping on EBay, but after I checking out the seller, I felt good about the purchase. They had some pretty solid marks in their favor. Namely, these:

1. The seller was based in southwest Virginia. JCrew’s warehouses are based in SW VA, and if you ever get down there, they have a RIDICULOUS J Crew outlet in Lynchburg. I have been several times, and it’s awesome. This isn’t the outlet that you find in a Mills Mall, but a store that actually has current clothing from the catalog that has been overstocked in their warehouse. I’m pretty sure that’s where this person got the dress.

2. The dress was listed New With Tags (NWT). Never worn, not smelly. YES!

3. The seller was listed as top-rated. After selling 4317 items on EBay (most of them from JCrew), I figured they were good for the sale.

The dress is expected to arrive this week, so I’ll let you know how it goes.