The Discountess Has Left the Building

Apologies for not posting. I’ve been busy hanging out here.

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In short, St. John is amazing. Details to come when I return next week.

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California Dreaming (Cause I’m Back in Cold DC)

My California vacation was fabulous! Things that are great about California include the sun, the beach, the people watching, and the occasional movie star sighting (sadly, had no sightings this trip, but I did see Courteney Cox at this restaurant last time).

I flew into L.A. on Friday, and my friend and I took advantage of a mean happy hour at her neighborhood British gastropub so we could catch up. We left for  Santa Barbara on Saturday morning, by way of the outlets (obvi). I have to say, despite trying desperately to find an excuse to spend money on clothes, I didn’t really get anything. I did get something (this is ME after all), but my spending was modest, meager even!

Santa Barbara was absolutely gorgeous. GORGEOUS. The weather was perfect – not too hot, but not too cold. We hit up some town favorites during our stay. We had a fabulous old-timey drink here and an awesome Mexican meal here.  But I have to say, the best part of the trip was the wine tasting. Sure everyone talks about Napa and Sonoma (both on the bucket list), but Santa Barbara put up some solid competition. The vineyards were quaint, but lovely. See below for a view!

winery

Oh, and wine was delish! We visited here, here, and here. The last one was my favorite. I don’t know if it was the fact that we made two other stops or if I just loved the wine. I certainly hope it’s the latter since I bought a case of Sauvignon Blanc. Whoops! In my defense, I saved a ton of money by not spending any cash at the outlets and the case was on sale.

See how much fun I was having?

WineMargaret

Needless to say, I was sad to come back. I’m definitely planning another trip to Santa Barbara as soon as I can! Have any of you been there? If so, comment below with any Discountess-friendly recommendations that I should keep in mind.

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!

 

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!

Success at the J. Crew Warehouse Sale

My friend Sara and I headed to the J. Crew warehouse sale in Lynchburg, VA this past weekend to see what deals I could not live without. And, oh did we find some deals!

We left D.C. around 9:30am on Saturday morning and rolled into Lynchburg at 1pm. This is what we walked into.

warehouse

Hoards of crazy deal searchers wading through boxes that looked like this.

 

 

boxes

 

Clearly, this was not a sale for amateurs. We were greeted by staff at the door who handed us a trash bag and a price list. Everything was on sale, and I mean everything. If it wasn’t nailed down, you could buy it. There was no rhyme or reason to they way that things were organized, so finding items was based on sheer luck.

 

 

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We started with the shoes and accessories, and then moved on to the clothes. We collected everything that we wanted and then found a quiet corner at the end to sort through our goodies (they didn’t want you to do this but we did it anyway to get organized). Once we finalized what we wanted to buy, we headed to check out. It only took 3.5 hours from start to finish. Obviously, you have to really want some deals to make this work for you, but I scored some great things for a fraction of the price. Consider me, one happy Discountess!

If you’re planning a trip to a warehouse sale soon, here are some things that helped us in our shopping quest. (You can also check out this helpful post or this one that I read before heading to the sale)

1. Dress appropriately. There are no dressing rooms, so wear layers and flats to make trying things on easier. Leave your coat in the car, and be sure to put on a cross body bag. It frees up your hands to find the best deals.

2. Inspect all your items. Look for holes, tears, and spots. No one has looked at these clothes in a while, so it’s up to you to make sure that you’re not getting a raw deal.

3. Ask yourself, do I really need it? I put back a gorgeous pair of flat, black suede boots that were on sale for $70. I would have loved them, but I already have a pair of black boots so I didn’t really need them. Taking inventory at the end helped me think things through and realize that I wanted to spend that $70 in another way.

4. Go with a friend. Sara and I navigated separately for the most part, but it was nice to have a sounding board to go through our items at the end. We also looked through the boxes with each other in mind. I found her a cute black dress, and she found me an awesome pair of gold studded flats. Now that’s team work!

This is what I got:

1 pair of pajamas

1 pair leather gloves

1 pair earrings

1 bracelet

2 pairs of shoes

1 gingham work shirt

1 blue button down shirt

2 belts

1 cashmere sweater

1 pair black cafe capri pants

2 skirts – one black and one grey metallic

1 green cotton shirt

1 cosmetic bag

1 leather pouch (for all my coupons, obvi!)

Check it out. Total spent: $213. Not bad, right??

loot2

 

 

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.)

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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…

Boot Blunder

Ladies and gentleman, this week, I shopped my feelings. This is the kind of irresponsible behavior that has led to my meager savings over the past few years. As the newly crowned Discountess, I should have turned over a new leaf by now. I should have stayed away from Zappos.com. I should be looking down on all of you who shop your feelings with disgust. I should be on a high horse right now.

But, I’m not. I’m judging myself instead. I was having a bad day, and I decided that I really needed these.

How cute are these? I mean, they are practical for the upcoming winter season. Plus, they are listed in the “advanced comfort technology” section of Zappos, meaning they are orthopedic. They are basically medicine for your feet. AND, I did pay in cash, so I won’t be accruing any credit cards interest. That said, I’m going to have to find a way to use the canned salmon in the back of my pantry to stay alive until the next paycheck. Any suggestions for that?

Dinner and the Theater on a Dime

Every year for my mom’s birthday, my brother and I try to do something special for her. In recent years, we’ve taken her to dinner and to the theater. She never gets to go otherwise, so it’s a pretty perfect gift for her. This year, we got tickets to see My Fair Lady at the Arena Stage. The show was fabulous. It’s always so cool to see a performance in that format, and they did an excellent job.

Dinner and the theater can be pretty pricey, but I co-opted my brother into helping me discount our evening. He got the tickets on Goldstar. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a great service that allows you to get discounts on area shows and events.

Instead of going out to a pricey restaurant, I hosted dinner for us at my house. My mom loves a pretty table, so I took extra time to make a lovely setting for her. I polished the silver (not my strong suit!), got out the nice linens, and bought flowers for a centerpiece.

Our menu was the following:

Hors d’oeuvre: Bucheron Sevre Belle (Goat Cheese), Onion Jam, and Crackers

Main CourseJeffrey’s Roast Chicken from the Barefoot Contessa – Highly recommend this. It’s easy, delicious, and inexpensive.
Cauliflower Puree
Green Salad with goat cheese, dried cranberries and sherry shallot vinaigrette

Dessert: Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream

Wine: Silver Oak (Note: I purchased this during my non-discountess days and was looking for a special occasion to drink it. At $75/bottle, it’s not a go-to discount wine, but it is delicious. It’s like wine-butter. Mmmmm.)

Total bill to serve mom a special dinner at home: $64.86 (split with my brother, it became $32.43 a piece).

Compared with a $100+ bill from a nice restaurant, I think that’s not too shabby! Plus, I think my mom enjoyed eating at home more. She gets a kick out of seeing us entertain. And because of her, we were able to learn from a master!

The Grand Hair Experiment – Part 1

I need to get my hair cut. Most women know that this means dropping upwards of $75 for the cut and an extra $5 – $10 (depending on how stingy you are) on the tip! At one point several years ago, I was paying $90 plus tip for a blunt cut bob that anyone could do. Unreal!

Given my new-found frugality, that is not going to work anymore. I’ve always heard about the Aveda Institute – the cosmetology school that trains up and coming stylists and estheticians. They offer services (supervised by the teachers) at a far discounted rate.  Their haircuts range from $18 to $23, and they offer a full suite of spa services including nails, waxing, and facials.

I have my first appointment for a haircut and blow dry tonight. I’m thinking of something like this.

It’s not too far off from what I have now, so I’m hoping that it will be pretty easy to do. Wish me luck!

I’ll spill the details on the results tomorrow.

Saavy Save The Dates

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I just got a save the date for my best friend from high school’s wedding in California next spring. She and her fabulous fiancée are trying to put together a great wedding on a small budget without scrimping on the details, which is why I loved her save the date idea. 

She sent out personalized postcards from the scenic town where they are getting married with a hand written note to each recipient. I loved the personal touch. Granted it probably took forever to write them all, but what a fun and inexpensive idea for a save the date or party invite.

You could make your own invitations with postcards from your favorite places, like this one I picked up at this adorable restaurant Jack’s Wife Freda the last time I was in NYC. 

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Or you could create your own using a site like Zazzle or Snapfish for $.95 a piece. Not bad!