A Weekend Experiment in Hybrid Living

I have always driven old, foreign cars. I’ve gone from a gas guzzling Volvo to a glorified Honda wind-up toy. I’m currently driving a 15 year-old BMW that I bought for its automatic windows last year. Clearly, the idea of having a new car is somewhat…well…foreign to me.

So, when Ford recently reached out to offer me a new car for the week, I decided to see what a new, American car had to offer. Being the Discountess, I requested a hybrid to see what all the hubbub was about. Plus, I wanted to make that free tank of gas last all week (and last it did!)

Now, when someone offers you a spanking new (and bright blue, I might add) C-Max for the week, it’s only natural to take a road trip. So last weekend, some friends and I tested out the open roads in my new car. Meet the “boo berry,” our sweet ride.

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The purchasing budget for the weekend was $200. Our destination – the new and improved J. Crew outlet. The new location is twice the size, and therefore has twice the deals. Yes, please! We used the Sirius satellite radio to pump ourselves up for the savings.

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The new store was even bigger and better than I had imagined.

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Yet, we each managed to stick to our respective budgets (total miracle). Here’s all of our loot.

 

 

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I got a dress, two skirts, a bracelet, a silk blouse, and a pair of pants for $148.36, approximately $52 under budget. Wahoo! I decided to use that $52 of savings to buy my groceries for the week on the way home. There is a Wegman’s right before you get on to 66, so we pulled in to check it out.

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Wegman’s is like an amusement park for people who love the grocery store (and I LOVE the grocery store). You could get lost in there, seriously. Somehow, I managed to keep it in check, and I walked out with $47 worth of groceries for the week.

Weekend expenditures:
Clothes: $148.36
Groceries: $47.00
Gas: $0 (!!)

Total: $195.36. Not bad if I do say so myself.

And, the best part is that I arrived home, after putting 400+ miles on the car, with just over a quarter tank of gas. That’s some pretty awesome gas mileage. I’m not in the market for a new car now, but I will say that driving this car made a pretty convincing argument for buying a hybrid when it’s time.

Sadly, I had to say goodbye to the boo berry last week, but we’ll always have our road trip memories together…

 

Happy Birthday, iTunes!

I tend to be a sporadic iTunes checker these days. I got really excited when I brought home my first iPad and downloaded all kinds of crazy stuff only to realize I had no idea what I owned. Needless to say, I dialed back the purchases.
But, last night a friend tipped me off that iTunes was celebrating its 5th birthday this week. Apple is offering free apps to the masses to commemorate the occasion. My friend said it was mainly games, but I decided to check it out anyway and I’m glad I did. They are offering some gold mines in there! My favorite score: the iPad version of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It’s normally a $10 app (and $20 if you want the book version from Amazon), but for me, it was FREE.
For those of you who don’t know, I have a healthy obsession with Mark Bittman. He’s the lead food columnist for the New York Times. He’s a great cook (and dare I say, a great American!). I’m currently trying to live a VB6 lifestyle which he details in his latest book. I also love his Kitchen Express (a great purchase for people who have a fridge full of food and no idea what they are going to do with it). I have been meaning to pick up HTCE for a while, but I have no space for it in my tiny apartment (and no dollars to buy it either). Clearly, the cooking Gods smiled on me today!
In addition to my great find, iTunes is also offering a DJ app, which I downloaded to see of I can up my cool factor, and a map app with details on all the countries around the world. Oh, and there are games too. Lots and lots of games. It’s definitely work checking out.
Happy birthday, iTunes! I’ll be sure to bake you a cake from my new cook book.

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!

Destination: Frederick, Maryland

Last weekend, I went with my friend Mary to pick up some furniture she bought in Frederick, Maryland. Aside from a wedding shower a million years ago, I have never really been to Frederick, and frankly never thought I wanted to. I didn’t really know what to expect, but what we found was a cute little town filled with antiques shops and boutiques.

Our first stop when getting to town was Emporium Antiques on East Patrick Street.

This place was amazing. Ah-MA-zing. It’s the kind of place where you can pick up a dining room table, vintage fascinator, a tea-pot, and dress form all at once. There was one table that was filled to brim with silver plate forks and spoons. No joke.

I could have spent HOURS in there.  Basically, it’s heaven. I did manage to make one small purchase. I have been looking for a small foot stool for my living room for a while, so when I came across this bad boy I knew it had to come home with me.

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I’m going to have it recovered eventually, but I’m going to have to wait for the next paycheck for that one. Recovering furniture is not Discountess-friendly.

Anyway, after Mary dragged me out of Emporium Antiques, we went down the street to this cute shop called Silk and Burlap. She had some adorable lemon yellow garden chairs there waiting for her, and this was waiting for me (sadly, it’s still waiting there cause I had no business spending $350 on a dress – boo). I would have been better served to pick up a more wallet friendly option at the neighboring, Chic to Chic, consignment shop, but we didn’t have time to go. That is definitely on the list for next time!

If you’re looking for a some additional info on what to see and do in Frederick, Washingtonian did a good write up last year. We had to cut our visit short since duty was calling back in DC, but I’m definitely planning another trip out this summer. Hopefully, one that will end with a meal here. (I love me some Top Chef!)

Any other stops that I should make when I head out there? Send them my way!

 

Dressing the Part

I AM actually making an effort to get over my gratuitous March spending, but April is turning out to have a lot of stumbling blocks. Something about springtime makes me want to have dinner and drinks out every night! Ugh.

While I’ve managed to keep it mostly in check, my biggest challenge is coming up in 2 weeks. I’ve been invited to be a guest at the White House Correspondents dinner. Woo hoo! I was actually lucky enough to go last year, and it was a blast. The best people watching ever – there were movie stars literally everywhere. It was totally cool and very intimidating.

To give you a sense, here’s my favorite picture from last year. It’s just me, my table mate (who was very nice), and our good buddy Reese Witherspoon. NBD. Reese was super pregnant in this picture BTW, and you can’t even tell. Totally sickening.

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Anyway, I can’t just show up to this thing in some old frock when there are people running around looking as awesome as (pregnant) Reese. But, then again, I don’t really need to be spending a zillion dollars on a new ensemble either. Hence the dilemma.

Last year, I bought a new dress, earrings, and lipstick (Note: Due to my new years resolutions, I haven’t bought a new lipstick since January. It’s KILLING me.). I also had my hair done (we all know that Reese didn’t do that herself!), and hopped an Uber to and from the event. Obviously, I ran up quite a tally.

This year, I’m attempting to do it for a fraction of the price. My goal is to get it all – new dress, hair, everything – for $150 or less. For dress, I’m looking at Rent the Runway, eBay, and other consignment stores (Current and Ella-Rue are my favorites), but haven’t found anything yet. The hair is also a challenge. Despite all of my googling, yelping, and other general research, I cannot seem to find an updo in DC for less than $80 plus tip. $80 to stick my hair in a bun. No thank you.

Obviously, I have my work cut out for me in the next two weeks. I’m not afraid to do things by myself – I just don’t want to look like I did it myself. Make sense?

What do you think – can I do it? If you have any suggestions to help my cause, please send them my way! I can use all the help I can get.

P.S. If I had unlimited funding (Read: $1,990), I would wear this. Sooo awesome.

The Great Oatmeal Challenge – Complete!

Well, I did it. Yesterday, I completed my Great Oatmeal Challenge. It took me over 6 weeks and approximately 32 oatmeal breakfasts to finish. Talk about a feat!

Thanks to all of you who sent recipes and ideas to keep me from getting bored! Since I make my breakfast at work, it was a little hard to try all of them. I did manage to try a few, but mainly I stuck to oatmeal, flax-seed, cinnamon, and either berries or half a banana. You should see the cabinet where I keep all this stuff in my office. It looks like I knocked over the Harris Teeter.

The fruit was a great addition, and it helped the oatmeal be a more filling. I really need a stick to your ribs breakfast. Otherwise, I become ravenous in the afternoon, and I’m entirely inconsolable until I eat a bag of swedish fish. It’s a bad, bad situation.

My challenge did help me stay off the fish (mostly), and it also allowed me to save a BUNCH of money. By my calculations, each bowl of oatmeal cost a whopping $0.08. Not too shabby! The fruit cost extra, but even adding in the cost of fruit, the meal is still well under $1. Compare that to a $3 oatmeal from Starbucks, and I think you’ll see who the clear winner is…

ME.

Can It Be? Another J. Crew Warehouse Sale Is In Our Midst!

Are my eyes deceiving me? Is this too good to be true? J. Crew is opening their warehouse for shoppers yet again. Mark your calendars for next weekend!

Clearly, I didn’t buy enough in January, so they had to host another sale. It’s the only plausible explanation. I will probably take a breather from this one, but I won’t stand in any of your ways! Here are the details.

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If you go, remember my tips from last time, and let me know what you get!

California Bound!

I head out to California today for a bachelorette showdown for my bestie from high school. I’m flying into L.A., and then we’re driving to Montecito for the weekend for a little wine tasting (also known as my reprieve from “no booze” month).

I’m hoping that I can keep up my good saving behavior while I’m there. So far, I’m on the right track. Bought my ticket with miles, got snacks for the plane, have the kindle loaded up with good books (so as not to buy anything at the bookstore when I get there), etc. I think I’m all set.

My one potential stumbling block – the bachelorette has made a special request to stop at the outlets on the way to Montecito. I mean, it is HER weekend after all. It would be selfish to stand in her way, right?

I will do my best to behave myself while there, but if you took a look at the list, you know as well as I do that it’s going to be hard. The good news is that I WAY overpacked, so I have nowhere to put a ton of new clothes. A blessing in disguise? Perhaps.

Wish me luck!

 

Splurge vs. Save – Workout Gear

After I made my decision to quit the WSC in favor of Barre 3, I realized that I needed to update my workout wardrobe a bit, Discountess-style.

I have long been curious about Lululemon workout gear (the virtual uniform of the ladies of Barre3). And while I’ve been into the store several times, I have never been able to pull the trigger on buying anything. Something about the idea of paying $82 for pants that you sweat profusely in doesn’t make sense to me. For me, if I’m spending $82 on pants, I’d rather not sweat in them at all. Am I weird?

Anyway, as I thought about my wardrobe update, something occurred to me. People might notice when you’re wearing a Lululemon outfit, but nobody really thinks about it when you’re not. No one has ever looked at someone else at the gym and thought – man, she would be a lot better at this workout if she was wearing Lululemon pants. Am I right or am I right?

So this past weekend, instead of paying a mint for a pair of pants at Lululemon, I went to Old Navy for some cute, Discountess-appropriate workout gear. If you haven’t checked out their selection, I highly recommend it. They even have those kind of pants that are part workout tights and part girdle (if you don’t know about these, then you are missing out. They are super comfy, and they improve the look of your assets ten-fold. No. Joke.)

Here’s what I got.

 

(Note: I got a similar one to this that was on sale, but I can’t find it on the site.)

 

 

All of this for $10 less than what it would have cost to buy these.

 

And, there is still money leftover in the shopping budget for some fun stuff too! A win-win if you ask me.

Any one else have suggestions for cute and inexpensive workout gear? Let me know!