Coming Clean…

So you might have noticed that I’ve been absent for a few weeks. I have to admit I fell off the wagon. HARD. I tossed my New Years resolutions out the window, and I’ve been secretly sneaking around Washington shopping to my hearts content and not telling you. When the going gets tough (or overly busy or bored), I shop my feelings. Not cool.

My real weakness has been buying expensive lipsticks. I bought this one for everyday, this one for weekends, and this one for kicks. I can’t stop! My collection has ballooned to an inordinate amount, and the worst part is that half the time, I forget to put it on! Whoops.

I’m hoping that admitting this is the first step to setting myself on a path to financial righteousness. Thankfully, most of my other resolutions are still intact, but it was touch and go for a while.

Anyway, I hope to launch back into full-form blogging and budgeting starting today. Stay tuned!

This Week from Around the Web

Greetings from cold and rainy Washington! I’ve been slacking lately, but only in posting, not reading. So, I thought  would share my favorite Discountess-friendly posts from around the web this week.

This is my inspiration for retiring early. Talk about extreme savings! This is definitely what I’m striving for…but it doesn’t seem to be working this well.

I’ve been dying for an Hermes bangle for AGES. I have an orange and gold one all picked out, but sadly, I’m out of the many hundreds of dollars I need to buy one. This might help satiate my needs for a little bit longer.

 

This story makes me want to track down my long-lost Aunt Mildred to see if she has been holding out on the family. Oh and in this version, she’s french.

Check out this blog on the worst rooms for rent in New York. I might not own a house yet, but I’m so glad I don’t have to live in one of these places while I wait.

Hope everyone enjoys this trip around the world wide web. Happy Sunday everyone!

 

Weekend Activity: Georgetown French Market

A little plug to attend one of my favorite neighborhood events this weekend, the Georgetown French Market.  It’s an outdoor sidewalk sale on Wisconsin Avenue that includes some of my favorite uber-preppy stores like, Sassanova, Urban Chic, and Sherman Pickey. You can go here to see a full list of participants.

The market is will run Friday and Saturday, from 10am to 5pm, and it’s free to attend. It is really fun, even if you can’t afford to buy anything (though the flyer touts that many items will be up to 75% off!).

Oh, and I should mention, it’s supposed to be 64 degrees and sunny on Saturday.  All in all, this is not a bad way to spend a beautiful day!

Reconnecting with an Old Friend – The D.C. Public Library

Courtesy of the original Discountess (i.e. my mom), I am the proud owner of a new Kindle Paperwhite.  I got it for Christmas, but had to finish out my regular paper books before I could really embrace it. Thankfully, my recent flight to California took care of my last actual book, so I could really start enjoying my Kindle.

Mom gave me a book on the kindle to get me started which I have been mowing through on my daily bus ride. Naturally, I was concerned about what to do when I finish. Much to my horror, the cost to buy a book on kindle is about the same as buying an actual book. WHAT? There are no printing costs! Clearly, the Discountess can not throw away all her shopping money fleshing out her e-library. Someone told me that the library will actually let you borrow e-books for your Kindle, so I decided that was the best course of action and went about figuring out how to do it this week.

This is the Georgetown library. It’s where I went when I was 4 or 5 to get my very first library card. I thought I’d have to go in to get a card, but a little online research revealed that I could sign up for my card online.  I haven’t had a library card since I was a kid! I was slightly worried about the sign up process because I checked out a book for a middle school science paper, lost it in my house, and then found it when I moved home after college. I returned it , of course, but was worried that the system had me flagged and I would have to pay $1,000 worth of late fees. Lucky for me, the process went off without a hitch – no late fee payment required. Phew!

They sent me an email immediately with a customer login and pin code, so I could start searching right away. The book download process was pretty convoluted, so it took a good old-fashioned phone call to the branch librarian to figure out how to do it.

He told me that they get 30% of the best seller titles in an e-version. Not the best selection, but better than buying all those books from Amazon. He also said that if I don’t finish my book in the 3 weeks I’m allotted, I can renew it online. Pretty cool! I downloaded the Tiger’s Wife, which I’ve heard good things about, and saved myself the $11.99 that it would have cost me to purchase it from the Kindle store. I feel like a literary champion.

Now all I need is some new book recommendations. Any ideas?

Pillow Talk

I’ve had the same black and white bedding for absolute ages (absolute ages = about 10 years), and I’ve been hankering for a change. That said, it’s not something I have really needed, so I haven’t really done anything about it. That was until this past weekend when I decided to dust off my (very old) sewing machine and give my bedding a facelift.

To start, I decided to change my pillows. My friend, who happens to be a very talented seamstress, agreed to give me a tutorial on pillow making. I dispatched myself to G Street Fabrics and JoAnn to get the necessary materials to recover 2 big pillows from my bed (and in the process picked up an extra pillow and fabric – I just can never leave well enough alone). Between the two stores, I managed to find two great fabrics, a deep pinkish orange and a complementary print for my bed.

My tutor and I set up shop at her house. We had dueling sewing machines for the better part of 3 hours as she helped me learn how to make perfect pillow coverings. Of course, she had the pattern all in her head, but for those of you who don’t have a teacher around, this is a comparable one.

Here are some helpful hints that I learned in this process.

1. Check the remnant section of the fabric store for good deals. I found my orange fabric in the remnant section at G Street Fabrics. For those that are unfamiliar with the lingo, remnants are leftovers from the large bolts of fabric they sell. The stores want to get rid of every inch of fabric, so they offer the remnants at a cheaper price to get the most out of their original investment. Remnants are prefect for smaller projects, like pillows, and when the fabric is less expensive, it does take some of the pressure off about screwing up.

2. Never be too cool for instructions. My sewing machine is (much) older than I am. I have no idea how these instructions have stayed with it for 40 years, but I am oh-so glad they did. Each machine is a little different, so getting it set up and remembering everything took a good 45 minutes. Without the instructions I would have been totally lost.  If you have an oldie (but a goodie) like me and don’t have the instructions, check YouTube for an instructional video. You wouldn’t believe how many are out there!

**Incidentally, after reading this handy little book more closely, I realized that my machine has super powers (and by super powers I mean the power to automatically sew buttons on, monogram etc)!
Sewinstructions

3. Always, always iron. Of course, we know I hate to iron, but when it came to getting the seams right, it was invaluable. Check out those seams (and the antique sewing machine) below.

MSSewing

4. Don’t be afraid to screw up. Take this advice with a grain of salt because a) I was scared of screwing up and b) I had my very patient teacher checking my work at every step. BUT, the moral of the story is that you have to try, and if you screw up, you can start over. This pattern is VERY forgiving, so you have some wiggle room.  If your seams are ugly, stick them on the inside where no one will see them!
Cost Breakdown
Orange Fabric ($2.97/yard): $5.94
Printed Fabric ($9.99/yard): $9.99
Matching Thread: $4.29
Extra Pillow: $9.99
Total cost of my bedroom facelift: $30.21 plus tax
Here is the finished product. What do you think?
Finished pillows
I’m super excited! It’s a great new pop of color in my formerly black and white bed. Next project, is creating a new duvet cover. I’ll let you know how it goes!

The Great Gym Debate

vs.       

So I need some advice here. I have been a long time member of the Washington Sports Clubs, but recently I’ve developed an affinity for Barre3 classes.  I used to think that if you were spending money on exercise – be it for memberships or races or classes – it was worth it because it was good for you. However, the Discountess in me started to do the math.

My monthly membership at WSC is $73.95, which is a far cry from the $225.00 that an unlimited Barre3 membership would cost. Money aside, I find that I’m going to, and enjoying, the Barre3 classes more. I probably went to the gym twice last month, which nets out to just shy of $40 a spin class. However, I bought a one-time, two-week unlimited pass that for Barre3 last week, and I’ve gone six times and hit the little gym in my office building once. That’s a lot more bang for my body, but is it enough bang for my buck?

I will say that part of me really wants to hate WSC, so this is tainting my decision. They WAY overcharge for what you get. The good, small group classes always cost extra. At one point, I was going to a Total Body Conditioning class that was so popular I had to wake up at 6am, two days in advance of the class just to get in. And the towels, don’t EVEN get me started on the towels. You spend an hour at the gym, working like a trojan, and finally you’re done and can hit the showers. Yet, when you get there, you find that the towels are so tiny that you need about 7 of them to cover yourself up enough to keep from mooning everyone. Strippers have more coverage!  Do you think that WSC has any idea how demoralizing it is to work so hard on your body and only to feel like you’ve not accomplished anything when you get to the locker room? It is the WORST feeling. Period.

So here’s the big question. Do I quit the Washington Sports Clubs, spend the extra money on Barre3, and hit the office gym when I need it? Or do I quit the Barre3, even though I like it more, and stick with WSC to save the extra $100+ per month? I’m torn. What is the Discountess to do??

Bargain Culture at the Phillips After 5

I’ve been trying to get to the Phillips after 5 for years now, but the timing has never worked. However, I vowed in my New Years resolutions to be better at trying some of the fun free (and/or discount) activities that Washington has to offer, so this seemed like a good first stop. The current exhibition is by Per Kirkeby – a Danish artist with a keen interest in geology that is reflected throughout his paintings.

I co-opted a good friend, who spent time in Copenhagen completing her Masters in Design from the Corcoran, to come with me. She and I rolled in to the gallery around 5:30 last Thursday, and it was already packed! I had no idea it was that popular. As a side note, you should check out her fabulous fabric collection. I’m particularly partial to this one that will be coming to a chair my living room in the near future.

We toured the gallery first, participated in the Lego challenge that was being run by the staff  (see my creation below), and then headed to the cocktail party.

lego

All-in-all I had a great time. If you are interested in attending in the future, here are all the things that you need to know about attending Phillips After 5.

1. Tickets should be purchased in advance. Tickets were $12, and available for purchase online. Apparently, the event often sells out, so definitely buy tickets in advance. Plus, it makes it easier to check in when you get there.

2. Drinks are not included. This was a bummer since I’d just shelled out 12 bucks to get into the place BUT since I am now a benevolent supporter of the arts, I got over it. Drink tickets were $5 for wine and beer. You could also get soft drinks for $2.50, but where’s the fun in that?

3. Dudes go. I was thinking that the ratio of women to men would be closer to 95:5, but I was totally wrong. For you single ladies, there were pretty good odds there. In fact, I ran into an old friend from high school who as there with a bunch of co-workers (all male), and apparently they go all the time. Very promising.

4. Good people watching. It was quite an eclectic conglomeration of people. Lots of first dates as well. I must admit those were pretty amusing to watch, especially the really weird matches. There was definitely a mom fix-up or two floating around.

5. Oh yeah, and there’s art. In addition to the exhibition, which I must admit was more lively and colorful than I was expecting, the Phillips has a lovely collection of modern art. The price of entry gets you into the general collection, so you are free to tour the other works they have. On Phillips after 5 days, they also have additional lectures and gallery talks, and even the occasional beer tasting!

Price of entry: $12.00

Wine: $5.00

Metro ride to the exhibit: $1.60

Ride home: Free (thanks to my fabulous aforementioned designer friend).

Total cost for a lovely, cultured evening out: $18.60

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!

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.