I bought a house!

…and by house, I mean condo. After months of searching and several failed attempts at other offers, I was finally successful. I closed over the weekend, and I am now officially a homeowner!

It’s not much to look at now, so no pictures yet. But here are the vital stats:

  • One bedroom in the heart of Dupont Circle
  • 24 hour door person. No more packages being sent to the mailroom at work.
  • A block from the metro and a 15 minute walk to work (oh, and basically a 15 minute walk to everywhere else!)
  • Older kitchen, but it has brand new appliances, including a gas stove. I have been waiting years for a gas stove again!
  • Five, yes that’s right, FIVE closets.

Oh, and did I mention, there’s a pool on the roof?? See for yourself…

I’m in heaven!

I’m starting minor renovations this week to get the place in tip-top shape before I move in. More to come on that in the next few weeks.

Get ready for the Discountess to kick it into high gear this fall. Homeownership and renovations aren’t cheap! Still, I’m very excited, so I’m going to focus on that for the time being. Wahoo!

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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??

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.

Ecstatic for eBay – My First Sale!

This week, I made my very first eBay sale (of course, I have bought plenty before, but that’s another matter). I realize that I’m about a century late to this party, but I’ve just never done it. I consign my clothes at a local store, I sell on Craigslist, but I have never have managed to sell anything on eBay…until now.

Last week, I decided to part with my most recent bridesmaid dress acquisition. I had a great time in it, but I knew I was never going to wear it again. Thankfully, the bride chose a J. Crew dress for the wedding. If you have ever been in a wedding before, you’ve probably worn something from the J. Crew wedding collection. In fact, my dress is on the homepage right now! Anyway, I assumed there was a good chance that someone else would need it, and I was right.

No sooner than I posted it, some lucky lady in Illinois snatched it up! Easy as pie. I had already had it dry cleaned, so I easily sent it off in the 2-day window that eBay requested. Badda bing, badda boom–she got a great dress, and I have $100 burning a hole in my pocket.

This is dangerous new territory for me. I am currently considering selling anything in my apartment that isn’t nailed down. If you want to join my ranks as a late-blooming eBay sales goddess, I recommend checking out their suggested tips for selling listed on the site.  I just winged it, but I could have probably made more money if I had used some of these. Ah well, live and learn.

What about you? What has been your best eBay score or sale? I have a friend who has used it to buy furniture before. Who knew?!

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?

 

I’ll Have the Mussels

Just yesterday, I was reminded how I’ve changed my ways since becoming the Discountess. I had dinner with friends at Bistrot Le Zinc, a cute little neighborhood spot in Cleveland Park. Despite being a local spot, their prices are a little on the high side. My friend had a Living Social deal though, so the dinner promised to be less expensive.

As the waiter came over to take our order, he talked about a bouillabaisse special. For those of you who don’t know what bouillabaisse is, it’s basically a french fish stew (and I love it). Their special had fresh shrimp and scallops in it, and it sounded delicious! I was all set to get it, when I remembered to inquire about the price. And thank GOD I did. Turns out, my yummy stew was going to cost me $34. Say what?! The conversation with the waiter went something like this:

Me: I think I’m going to get the bouillabaisse. What is the price on that?
Waiter: It’s $34.
Me: I’m sorry, did you say $24?
Waiter: No no, it’s $34.
Me: Thanks, I’ll have the mussels.

At $18, the mussels were far more reasonably priced, and still quite delicious. They serve them in individual Le Creuset pots, which is a nice touch.

In my old days, I would have gone with my gut (literally), ordered the stew, and gotten the sticker shock when the bill came. But now, I was at least aware enough to ask for the price before ordering. It might seem like a small thing, but it was a win for my bank account and my new-found frugality.

Now, I have an extra $16 burning a whole in my pocket. I think it’s safe to call that a victory.

 

Snow Day!

Today is our first snow day in over two years. I was so excited at the prospect that I not only dreamt about it, but I woke up in the 5, 6 and 7 o’clock hours to double-check that it was actually happening. And, it was! I practically skipped to my local Marvelous Market to get my morning cup of coffee.  Here’s a picture of my morning jaunt.

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Not quite the winter wonderland I was hoping for, but I’ll take it. Anyway, I have to say I’m less excited about the snow as I am about the new-found time to get things done. It’s my time to start tackling some of the items on that sneaky, ever-growing list of projects that never seem to get accomplished.

Today, in addition to the actual work I have to do, I’m tackling my taxes. Ick! Not awesome, but very necessary. I’m also going to make some soup that I’ve been planning to do all week, but haven’t gotten around to. I need to do some major closet cleaning as well, but we’ll see if that actually happens. It seems to me that spring cleaning should happen in spring, no?

I hope everyone enjoys the snow! What are you doing to make this a productive snow day?

February Budget Breakdown

Forgive the lack of posting in the last few days, I’ve been crunching numbers (among other things). All I have to say is thank GOD February is over. What a miserable month. I managed to have some fun (see the shopping and entertainment line items), but I am officially itching for spring.

Again, shopping and the grocery store seem to be the biggest culprits of my budgetary failure this month. Also, my gym budget hit me hard because I had to pay out my last month of membership at WSC and my first month at Barre3. Man, that was a wallop. And let’s not forget my VERY fun California trip, which also helped push the shopping budget over the edge (and we all know that it teeters on the brink during normal months).

Here is the full budget breakdown for February:

Cash/ATM – 10% over (Worse than last month – I think I need to change this budget number.)
Gifts – 45% over (I counted a some of my California trip here, since it was a bachelorette weekend.)
Gym – 325% over (EEK! My WSC membership ends on March 10th, so it won’t be an issue again. Phew.)
Personal Care  – 8% over (A big improvement over last month, but still over.)
Shopping – 207% over (Ugh.)
Groceries – 41% over

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

Auto/Transportation – 41.6% used
Bills/Utilities (includes rent, cable, etc) – 67% used
Business/Office – 0% used
Entertainment – 87% used
Food/Drink – 99.5% used
Dry Cleaning – 15% used

In terms of meeting my “no booze” goal during February, I passed with flying colors. I even went to a work dinner and just drank water. Talk about iron will!

Now that we’re in March, my goal is to take the stairs at work. Of course, this isn’t a financial goal, but I still think it’s a worthy one. Now that I’ve quit the gym, I also seem to have quit cardio. I’ve been going to Barre3 a lot, but I still need something to get the heart rate up. And since it’s still FREEZING cold outside, my runs aren’t happening as often as I would like.  And so, I will walk up the stairs at work. I already live in a walk up apartment, so that won’t be an issue.

Is that goal lame? I was going to make March “no shopping for clothes month,” but I’m not sure I’m strong enough for that yet. Plus, I’m headed to St. John with the family mid-month, and I’m in need of a new bathing suit. Priorities!

Checking In On the Great Oatmeal Challenge

I’m about halfway through my tub of Oatmeal, which means I’m about a month in to my challenge. I’m not bored with my combos yet, but it’s dangerously close. I’ve mainly been doing one of two things to take my breakfast up a notch  – adding berries OR adding half a banana and a dash of nutmeg. The latter version tastes a bit like banana bread. Delish!

I did give the pumpkin “pie” oatmeal that my friend Kate recommended in my last post, but I have to say that it wasn’t my favorite. I could never get the sweetness to vegetable ratio right, so it just tasted starchy. Plus, it made my breakfast an unsettling neon orange color.

Any other thoughts for me as I start month 2?  I’m desperate for a new option!