Splurge vs. Save – Blowouts

With New Years Eve almost upon us, I have been thinking about what I’m going to wear. Due to my reckless spending during December, I need to shop in my closet for my outfit (which makes me feel totally lame). BUT, everyone wants to look good on New Years, so I decided to treat myself to a blow out before my night on the town.

My darling brother gave me a gift certificate to DryBar for Christmas – the new blow out salon in DC. I visited the DryBar in New York during my last visit, and it was quite the experience. For $40, you got bottomless champagne, a shampoo, and a blow out. I paid $10 extra dollars to my stylist to rub my head for 10 minutes. I HIGHLY recommend this. In fact, I would wash my own hair and show up there just to have them massage my scalp. It was awesome.

Unfortunately, all of their appointments are booked for new years (and at $40 a pop, my pre-gift certificate self was not in a hurry to make an appointment). So I’ve been looking for a low-cost alternative.

Enter Bubbles Salon.

It’s about a 4 block walk from my office, and according to their website, they will do a shampoo and blow dry for $25. They say that cost depends on how long and thick your hair is, but my shoulder length blond locks shouldn’t put me in a higher price bracket. Of course, there is no champagne and no head rub, but I’m hoping that I will still get a fuss-free blow out that will make my old outfit on New Years look like new.

I have an appointment tomorrow after work. Best case scenario, I get a great look for my New Year’s party. Worst case it goes up in a bun for the evening. I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

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Total Christmas Present Domination

Despite the fact that I wasn’t tracking my overall spending this past month, I did track how much I spent on Christmas gifts. I LOVE gift giving. Love it. It’s the ultimate rush to be the best Santa on the block. However, when faced with the prospect of gift giving on a budget, one can often feel like this.

I didn’t want my Discountessness to get in the way of being Santa numero uno this year, so I had to get creative. Mainly, I had to figure out how to buy the same amount of stuff without spending as much money. A tall order, but somehow I managed to do it! Here is how I achieved total Christmas domination.

1. Buy early, buy often. In past years, I have been a late-term present buyer. This usually means an 11th hour trip to Target and TJ Maxx for nonsensical items to stuff stockings and up to the last-minute online shopping with enormous rush shipping charges. This year, I made an effort to space out my purchases by starting to shop in November. The extra time allowed me to shop around and get the best prices.

2. Investigate alternatives. Our family sends gift suggestions each year to help facilitate the purchasing process. (In fact, we are supposed to stop buying gifts for ourselves in October to help bolster the list, but this is harder for me than it is for the rest of the bunch.  I did try harder this year, but, mind you, I set a very low bar for myself.)  Often, the suggested gifts are from the higher-end (read: pricier) stores, but with a little research you can find the same items at a better price at other places. For example, my mother’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook was $15 cheaper at Costco than it was in the store.  Price comparison sites like ShopStyle and Google Shopping are very helpful for this!

3. When all else fails, look for a coupon online. I have sung the praises of RetailMeNot.com before, and I will sing them again (along with Coupons.com and others). Even if you have to shop at that high-end store to get that ah-ma-zing gift, you can often find a coupon code for a certain percentage off. If you can’t get any money off, there is usually a way to get free shipping. It’s definitely worth a quick internet search.

So after trying all of that, I was able to complete my Christmas shopping on time and with some extra dollars in the bank. In fact, after a side-by-side original price vs. Discountess price comparison, I was able to save 29% off of the original Christmas price tally just by being careful, researching, and starting early. It definitely took more work, but in the end, having a few extra Andrew Jackson’s in my pocket was 100% worth it.

 

Back to Reality…

So the Discountess took a brief hiatus from reality over the Christmas holiday. Not only did I flake on tracking my cash, I also couldn’t seem to find the time to post. Let’s just say I was on vacation. (Man I wish it was here.)

Image

 

Too bad vacations like that one aren’t very Discountess-friendly. Foiled again.

This week, it’s back to reality. Lucky for me, I did try to stay on budget over the holidays – especially with all the gift giving – so I’m not so bad off financially. More to come on that front later…

Mechanical Mastermind – Car Repair 101

You would not BELIEVE what the Discountess did today. Earlier week, when I was driving to a holiday party, one of my headlights went out. Cars are always wonderful until they saddle you with an unexpected expense. Thankfully, a headlight change is rather minor, but it’s still money that I’d rather spend on something else.

I started thinking that I could go to an auto parts store to buy the light and that would help cut out the cost. When I was doing my research, I came across all of these blogs where people explained how to changed the bulb themselves. Every single one said that all you had to do was pop out the bulb to replace it. Well, I can pop out a bulb. I mean, ANYONE can pop out a bulb. So arming myself with my owner’s manual, I headed to Advance Auto Parts in Arlington where I met Christian, store manager by day and mechanical hero by night. He helped me find my bulb and some gloves (apparently you can’t handle a halogen bulb with bare hands – who knew?), and then he graciously agreed to supervise me while I replaced the bulb in my car.

While I’m currently considering myself a car genius, I must admit I would not have been able to figure this out with out Super Christian. I couldn’t even figure out how to pop the hood of the car. BAD. Once we got the hood open, we located the bulb that was out. See that little grey thing below, that’s what I had to open up to replace it.

Insidecar

Then, I unscrewed the grey thing, popped the old bulb out (see, I knew I could do it), and screwed the new one back in. This is the bulb.

bulb

It was a lot smaller than I imagined. I was thinking that I’d have to take out the full light, blinker and all, but not the case!

Of course, I’m making this sound easier than it was. There was something weird about the way to screw it back in, so that took a while, but eventually I got it. Christian was with me the whole way (thank God!).

Summary details:

Time spent: 20 minutes (plus 15 to drive to VA)
Total cost: $16.88, including the bulb and the gloves. Woo hoo!
Total cost if I did it the lazy man’s way:  $ 39.95 plus tax*
*According to the Exxon near my house that would have changed the bulb in my pre-Discountess days

Total Savings (Estimating 5.95% tax in DC): $25.45

Watch out world, I am now a fiscal and mechanical genius (well still working on the fiscal genius part, but this is progress!).

Splurge vs. Save – Hair Care

 vs. 

I just ran out of my Moroccan oil. A friend of mine turned me onto using it about a year ago. I love the effect. It makes my hair shiny, smooth, and really, really soft. BUT, it costs $35+ a bottle. Granted it takes several months to get through a bottle, but that’s still pricey.

So I went in search of an alternative and found Organix Penetrating Moroccan Argan Oil (Light) for $7.99 on my favorite website, drugstore.com. I always, always check the reviews. If it’s cheaper, but doesn’t do the right job then you are still out $8. Luckily, this stuff has a 5 star rating on the site and very good feedback. I decided to give it a whirl.

I’ve now been using it for 5 days. My hair looks and feels the same as it did with the more expensive stuff.  It doesn’t really have a strong smell, which I like. Sometimes the cheaper versions of products are downright stinky, but this is nice and light.

I’m definitely the kind of person who is a sucker for advertising. If you tell me that using gold-plated shampoo will help me look like Gisele Bundchen, then I’ll try it.  But this little experiment has taught me 2 things:

  1. Absolutely no one can tell what kind of shampoo or hair products you use. Whether they cost $50 or $5, it is entirely undetectable.
  2. I’ve been wasting my money on expensive hair stuff for years, and I still don’t look like Gisele. DAMN.

Time to give up that ghost…

Off the Beaten Path Birthday Dinner

So my brother’s birthday was this weekend, and as far as birthday’s go, it was a semi-big one so I felt a get-together was in order. Keeping an eye on my coins was important, but I also wanted it to be fun for him and our friends. Enter the best idea ever…

I got a reservation for 17 of our nearest and dearest at Thai X-ing, a local Thai supper club in Ledroit Park. Kudos to my mom for sending me the link! It turned out to be the perfect place. A dinner for 17 can be difficult to figure out – and this one was not without some logistics – but we managed to make it work.

Thai X-ing is actually a regular D.C. row house that has been converted into a restaurant. It has fabulous nooks and crannies for little tables. We were actually in an upstairs room at a big feast table. There was one other party in the room with us when we sat down. Sadly, they were no match for us, and they quickly left us to ourselves. It was probably for the best because at one point we commandeered the iPod speakers to play Top 40 hits and sing at the top of our lungs. This party was not for sissies.

If you’re thinking of hosting a group birthday dinner, I’d highly recommend this place. Here’s why.

1. The food was amazing. They were also very accommodating to one person in our party who had a food allergy. Granted to really enjoy it, you have to be adventurous and willing to try everything, but it was all so delicious I can’t imagine not wanting to taste everything!

2. No menus, one price. The meal itself was $50 a person plus tip. Our friends were gracious enough to contribute a bit extra to pay for my brother’s meal, so the per person grand total was $65 for everything. Not bad for a full 5 course, homemade Thai meal! Everyone brought cash, so we were able to count and pay quickly without having to deal with splitting the check over multiple cards.

3. BYOB. This was actually perfect, especially for the Discountess. As his birthday present, I provided the alcohol for everyone. I checked out my trusty Rodman’s circular. For those who’ve never been to Rodman’s, you’re missing out. It’s a great place to get wine, beer, specialty groceries, etc for good prices. Anyway, they had Beck’s 16 oz. can cases on sale for $20 – I picked up 3 cases and a magnum of delicious french red wine for $13.99 (no seriously, it was really good!). Mom contributed 6 bottles of white wine from her stash, and we were good to go! The beers were especially key, by the way. Much easier to carry into the restaurant and far better to deal with when cleaning up! They let us roll right in with a cooler. It was awesome.

In short, this was a perfect place to have a fun dinner with friends. Everyone had a great time, especially my brother.  Sunday was a slower day for some, but it was a small sacrifice to make to the party Gods.

P.S. I know I owe you a November budget rundown. I’m working on it. It’s ugly, and I’m having a hard time facing it, especially in print…

Resisting Neiman Marcus For Target

Today is a very big day! The much-hyped Neiman Marcus for Target collection is FINALLY out and available online. In my former life, this would have been a morning where I got up, made a cup of coffee, and got to work spending several hundred dollars to purchase a ton of stuff I don’t really need. But now, since I’ve turned over a new leaf and all, I followed the morning routine until the spending part.

I did look at the collection, and it is pretty cool. Some of the stuff is weird. For example, why would anyone want to spend $500 on an Alice and Olivia bike? It’s foofy looking (that is a technical term), and it probably doesn’t go very fast. It’s items like the bike that indicate that Target (whom I love/deeply adore) is looking for suckers with this sale. For. Sure. Still, there are some items that I had to resist purchasing. These are they:

For the home

Altuzarra Old-Fashioned Glasses
We used to have Old-Fashioneds every Thanksgiving at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. They hosted a separate thanksgiving dinner, so we’d have ours and they’d have theirs and we’d meet after for a late afternoon Old-Fashioned session. I have very fond memories of those parties, and these brought them back.

https://i2.wp.com/img2.targetimg2.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/18/14182089_120919103000.jpg

Altuzarra Gold Tray

If anyone has seen my house, they will know that I’m a big fan of black. Not that my whole house is shrouded in it, but I do have a lot of bold black and white patterns with gold, red, and yellow accents. Clearly, this would fit in.

https://i0.wp.com/img2.targetimg2.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/18/14189816_120919103000.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Bod

Lela Rose Top
So cute. Perfect to wear to my aforementioned annual Christmas fete.

https://i1.wp.com/img3.targetimg3.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/20/14206601_120919103000.jpg

Prabal Gurung Cape

It is cold in wintertime, after all.

https://i0.wp.com/img3.targetimg3.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/21/14210333_120919103000.jpg

Robert Rodriguez Top
I love the idea of this one, but I’m pretty sure it would make me look fat. Money saved!

https://i1.wp.com/img2.targetimg2.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/21/14210957_121014043000.jpg

Misc.

Marc Jacobs Gold Pouch
I always find little bags like this useful. It would be perfect as a little clutch or to use for makeup inside a larger tote.

https://i0.wp.com/img1.targetimg1.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/21/14210325_120921183000.jpg

So now the big question – did I make a mistake? Should I go back in and snap one of these puppies up before it’s too late? Please advise.