Spotlight on: Trader Joe’s Bath and Body

Recently, my friends Regan and Katie from Cardigans and Couture, posted about their go-to Trader Joe’s food recommendations. As a frequent TJ’s shopper, I couldn’t agree more with their recommendations (though I might add this and these to the list), but it also got me thinking about all of the bath products that I use from Trader Joe’s. Here’s what I’d add to their list from the TJ’s “beauty department.”

I keep this hand soap in my kitchen at all times. It’s smells great, and it lasts forever. Don’t believe me? Here’s a great review from the I’m A Trader Joe’s Fan blog.

Speaking of lavender, this all-natural scrub is great for the shower. I use it after shaving to get really smooth, soft skin. Joluxe blog happens to agree with me.

Since we’re talking about shaving, I highly recommend the honey mango shave cream from TJ’s. It’s gentle on skin, smells great, and you don’t have to deal with a rusty can of shaving cream crudding up your tub! Check out what the gloss has to say on the subject.

This is my most recent TJ’s discovery, and I’m totally in love! It gives your scalp a tingly feeling when you’re using it, and doesn’t cause unnecessary buildup. At $3.99 a pop, it’s well worth the price. Urban Bush Babes put together a great review. Oh, and there’s conditioner too!

What about you? Have any items to add to this list?

Looking for a Wine Down

Last week, a friend and I were catching up over drinks. We were in search of a D.C. restaurant that offers half-price wine night. And on a Wednesday night, that’s a tough ask! I decided that I would start a handy list of half-price wine nights for all of you who want to drink in style, on the cheap.

I feel that it’s important to stipulate the two criteria I used to craft this list, so you understand how I determined what should and shouldn’t be included.

  1. It has to be an ALL night wine night. Half-price wine until 7 is happy hour, and in my book, it doesn’t count.
  2. Also, it has to be *somewhat* fancy. I’m not talking Citronelle (may she rest in peace), but it does have to have some ambiance. After all, if you want to go to BlackFinn, you should just drink beer. Period.

So here’s what I’ve found so far.

Sunday (for the “I don’t want my weekend to end” type person)

Clydes in Georgetown has half price wine all day.

BlackJack on 14th street has happy hour all day – food and drink specials to boot!

Monday

Veritas in Dupont Circle (they do it on Sunday as well).

Dino in Cleveland park has “wine madness” on Sundays and Mondays – 33% off all wines 50 or more.  

Chef Geoff’s  has half price all night on Mondays in both their downtown and Wesley Heights locations.

I’m making an exception to the rules to include Circa in Dupont because I love that place. They have half price wine until 9pm, so it’s a little better than your ordinary happy hour.

Peacock Cafe in Georgetown has half price all bottles all day. They continue the special with select bottles on Tuesdays as well.

Tuesday

A personal favorite – St. Arnold’s Mussel Bar – has half price wine and appetizers all night. Cleveland Park location only.

Town Hall in Glover Park is another Tuesday night option.

Wednesday

Paolo’s in Georgetown. Half price off their whole list, all night.

Cleveland Park Bar and Grill does the same thing. Check out their wine list to strategize your purchase.

Policy on 14th street has half price wine all night.

Friday and Saturday 

Bobby Van’s on New York Avenue has half price bottles on Friday and Saturday nights. SAY WHAT? No one EVER has drink specials on the weekend. This is a great find!

I could not for the life of me find anything on Thursday night. That’s not entirely surprising, but now that I found out that I can drink on the cheap at Bobby Van’s on Friday and Saturday nights, I’m thinking all bets are off!

As far as I’m concerned, this is a running list. Are there any of your favorites that I’ve missed? Let me know!

Getting in the Auto Zone…Again

Had more adventures with my car this week. I recently discovered that my hazard lights no longer work. Just after that, the car lock remote stopped working and the internal locking system followed suit.

It should be noted that until last year, I the car I drove was a glorified wind up toy. So when I was told that I needed to find the electrical panel to see of a fuse was blown, clearly I was confounded. Luckily, I made a swift recovery, and figured out where it was with the help of my friend Sara.

Of course, we had no idea how to tell which fuses worked and which didn’t, and I wasn’t about to try. I headed to the AutoZone in Alexandria on Sunday afternoon to see if they could help. That’s when I met St. Lemus of the automobiles. See below.

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Well, actually, his name was just Lemus, but he was a saint to me. He came out and helped me figure out which fuses (2) were busted and then helped me replace them.

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It turns out fuses are pretty cheap! I got a value pack for $7.99 plus tax, and it even included a fuse tester (that’s the yellow thing). We used a handy-dandy little guide from the box in my car to get the right fuses in their place. In 30 minutes, I was out the door with a working car remote.

Unfortunately, the hazards still aren’t working, so I’m going to need to tackle that this week. I think it might be a wiring problem. Not sure that I can figure this one out on the cheap, but I’m going to try! Any ideas on where to start??

The Miracle of the Price Adjustment

I took a few days off last around last weekend as a birthday present to myself. After my 10:30 Barre3 class on friday, my friend Christina and I headed to Anthropologie to buy myself a birthday outfit (s). I got some money for my birthday, so don’t worry, it was in budget!

Anyway, I got a bunch of cute stuff, including this, this (in grey), this and these (in gold). All on sale too. But, no sooner than I walked out of the store, the annual summer tag sale started. Christina sent me a text telling me to check if any of my clothes went on sale further, so I went in with my Anthro card in hand and did just that.

Now for those of you who don’t know about this handy little money-saving tactic, I will explain. The price adjustment allows the customer to come back in the store if an item that they buy on sale goes down in price within a reasonable time period, usually 7 – 14 days. Anthropologie’s policy is 14 days.

I was well within the time frame, and Christina was right, EVERYTHING I bought was further on sale. Score! I got $80 back on my card (which I promptly spent on this and this). BUT, the important thing is that I got more value for my money. I literally walked out of the store like I was walking on air. It was all I could do to not stop people in the street to tell them of my good fortune. It felt that good.

If you are looking to replicate this kind of experience for yourself (and I highly encourage it), here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Be patient. This process takes a little time. Every store has a different policy, and since people don’t do price adjustments very often, you have a 50/50 chance of the sales associate not knowing what they are doing. Don’t fret! That’s what managers are for, and in the end it’s totally worth it.

2. Find ways to look busy at the counter. During the process of the sales associate re-learning the price adjustment system,  you might find yourself with some extra time. I used this time to organize my purse and check my messages, but there are many other things you can do. This technique is always helpful when long line is forming because your transaction is taking so long. You can avoid all of those evil glares from waiting patrons by simply playing a move on Words with Friends. Highly useful.

3. Learn your favorite stores pricing policies and hold onto your receipts for the allotted time. If you take a moment to figure out the policies of your favorite stores, you will be ahead of the game. Just set a calendar reminder to check the company website a few days before the time period is over. Or you can download a free app, like Slice, that will track your purchases for you and send you a reminder when one of your items gets further reduced.

Nordstrom, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, Macy’s, Piperlime, Nike, Levis, Cole Haan, Abercrombie, and The Limited all provide price adjustments within 14 days.

J. Crew, Ann Taylor, and Ann Taylor Loft provide adjustments within 7 days.

Now, go forth, and adjust!

The Clarisonic Verdict

Who knew that there were so many Clarisonic devotees out there?! I was overwhelmed with comments on my last post, and let me say ladies, you made a convincing case! Literally, there wasn’t a single person with a bad thing to say. Not one! I just placed my order.

Big thanks go to my friend Meredith, who reminded me of Capitol Hill Style’s recent post on the Clarisonic. In her post, she recommended buying from Skinstore, which had a 20% off promo code on the purchase. Holla!

You know I love a discount, so I was all over that. The Mia in graphite grey is headed my way next week. I get all of this and for only $95 (plus free shipping and free samples)!

Thanks for all of the advice, everyone. I’m excited to get started!

Considering the Clarisonic

I’ve always had issues with my skin. It’s super sensitive, fair, and prone to acne. Everyone has that one thing about themselves that they will spend any amount of money on to make better. If you’re Kim Kardashian, it’s body waxing. For my friend Liz, it’s hair products. For me, it’s skin care. After a life of crazy combination skin and breakouts, I am willing to do almost anything to keep my face looking fresh.

All that said, I don’t have a super fancy face regimen. It’s Cetaphil in the morning followed by some Oil of Olay, and at night, I take my make up off with good old Costco-brand face wipes.

But a recent birthday, and the threat of grey hair and wrinkles, has caused me to think that I might need to up the ante in the skin department to ensure a somewhat wrinkle-free existence. I am lucky that I don’t really have wrinkles yet (or perhaps I just can’t see them), but I’ve heard you should start defying your age before you start showing it.

I’ve had friends say great things about the Clarisonic. You know the magical spinning wand brush that is supposed to make you look 10 years younger each morning. At $150 (or so) a pop, it would certainly be an investment, but if I can freeze time, then won’t it be worth it? I don’t know….so I’m hoping you can tell me.

Here are my big questions:

  1. Do I need to age defy or am I being silly?
  2. Will this thing make me look awesome or like I’ve been washing my face with a brillo pad each morning?
  3. How often am I supposed use it?
  4. Do I have to use the Clarisonic product line to really make it worth it or can I load it up with Cetaphil and go on my merry way?
  5. And I guess, overall, is it worth the investment?

Calling all devotees or disbelievers – help me figure out what to do! This is your moment to dictate my spending. Do I reallocate my CVS money toward skin care greatness or save my $150 for a rainy day?

 

May Budget Breakdown

Well, it was a poor showing for me this month, which is to be expected. Writing this post was as painful as going on a weekend-long eating and drinking bender, and then getting on the scale on Monday morning. Ugh.

Here is the full budget breakdown for May:

Auto/Transportation – 4% over
Cash/ATM – 130% over
Food/Drink – 108.1% over
Personal Care – 154.43% over (remember my pre-Discountess addiction to CVS, well it’s baaaccck…)
Bills/Utilities (includes rent, cable, etc) –69.17% over (though I will say that due to my cycle of paychecks, I paid 2 rounds of bills this month)
Groceries – 35% over
Shopping – 45.65% over

I was even or I only used part of the budget (i.e. I saved) in the following categories:

Business/Office – 0% used
Entertainment – 0% used
Dry Cleaning – 12.16% used – Thank you, ZIPS!
Gifts – 63.33% used
Gym – 100% used

You’ll notice that there are more items in the over-spending category than the savings category (eek!), so this month, my goal is to remedy that. I guess it’s time to stop eating out and start having people over! Of course, that’s easy to say when it’s pouring down rain outside, but it becomes harder when I walk out of work on a beautiful night and the wind whispers the word “mojito” in my ear.

Thankfully, D.C. has a ton of fun, free activities during the summertime, so I’m going to try to take advantage of those so I can get my finances back in order. Wish me luck!

 

Dry Cleaning That Won’t Clean You Out

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This weekend, Zips changed my budgeting life. No. Joke.

I realize I wrote about my dry cleaner ripping me off quite a while ago, but due to various factors (primarily laziness), I didn’t try a different option. Until now.

I headed to Zips on a recommendation from a friend. MAN, what a difference! The aforementioned laziness had also contributed to a huge stockpile of dry cleaning, so by the time I managed to make it over there I had 16 items. Eek. In the old days, that would have meant that I would be bracing myself for a bill that was well over $100. But, not at Zips! My 16 items included 13 full service dry cleaning items and 4 shirts that needed a wash and iron. For all that, my grand total bill was $31.84 (paid in cash, up front). Ah-ma-zing.

To give you a frame of reference, I went and picked up the last of my dry cleaning from my old place right after I left Zips. I had three items –  1 dress, 1 sweater, and 1 pair of pants – that cost me a total of $24.31.

Say what??? For an extra, $7.53 at Zips, I got 13 more items done.

Consider me a changed woman.

Correspondents Dinner Rundown

This weekend’s dinner was a huge success! There is nothing like spending a Saturday night hobnobbing with celebrities (and by hobnobbing, I mean standing next to and staring at celebrities).

First things first, the outfit. After much hemming and hawing, I opted to wear a dress I already owned. I tried to get this dress from Rent the Runway, but I couldn’t get it in time for the dinner.  I looked at other options, but the ones the I liked were all well over $200 to rent. As we know, I had a $150 budget for the dinner so that wasn’t going to work. I decided to spend my budget on primping instead. I got a mani pedi at my favorite nail place, Vicky’s, and then hit VSL for my up do (thanks to my fairy godmother). Here is the final result (photos courtesy of my fabulous and patient neighbor). You might recognize the earrings from an eBay oops earlier this year.

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The hair was ok. I  always have high hopes that it will look different when I get it done, but it always ends up looking the same. In the back was a simple bun – no photo needed. I wanted to do something easy since I was going to a cheaper place. I will say that she did a nice job, and I was happy with my $58 spent. I think next time I need to put more thought into what I want and maybe I’ll get that spectacular look I was hoping for.

The party, on the other hand, did not disappoint. I get sheepish about approaching celebrities for pictures, so I don’t have a ton of those. I did manage a spectacular photo bomb in my friend Kyle’s picture with Ty Burrell at the ABC party. When I realized what was happening, I knew I had 2 choices – duck or embrace the moment. Clearly, I embraced.

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Amazing right? Something about movies stars turns me into a total nut. Sigh. At one point during a mid-dinner ladies room run, I found myself sharing the bathroom with Amy Poehler, Olivia Wilde, and Morena Baccarin from Homeland. I couldn’t bring myself to ask for a picture in the ladies room, so I just I washed my hands for a very long time and then left when I was on the verge of being a real creep.

All in all, it was a pretty amazing evening. I was happy with my outfit, and I didn’t spend a million dollars either. Total budget breakdown below:

Dress and jewelry: FREE
Hair: $58 plus tip (courtesy of the hair fairy)
Nails: $42 plus tip (sponsored by my Aunt who took one look at my toes on friday and said “I hope you’re going to do something about those”)
Uber ride to the party (to arrive in style): $22
Taxi home: $8

Total expenditure: $148
Minus subsidies (Thank you Aunt T and my fairy godmother!!): -$118
GRAND TOTAL SPENT: $30

Not too shabby for a star-studded evening if I do say so myself! What do you think?

 

An Ode to the Hair Fairy

I have a new godmother. A FAIRY godmother to be exact. I have had regular godmothers since I was born – three of them to be exact – but this is my first fairy godmother. And man, did she show up at the right time.

My mom called me yesterday to tell me that someone dropped an envelope for me at her house, and curiously the return address was from “the hair fairy”.  We both were stumped (and still are, to be honest) about who it could be. Anyway, I finally got to pick it up this weekend, and lo and behold my hair fairy has given me a “sponsorship” for my White House Correspondents dinner up-do. Woo hoo!

I’m headed to VSL Hair Design in Dupont Circle tomorrow where there up dos start at $58. My grandmother always focused on the front of the “do” versus the back. She said that no one should be spending any time looking back there. So with that in mind, I’m looking to do something simple in the back and looser in the front. Perhaps something like this, courtesy of Dianna Agron.

T-minus 12 hours till dinner time. Do we think this will work?