Packing a Punch at Cocktails

Last night, a friend invited me to the coolest party. The hosts have had a standing friday night cocktail hour for years. Stop by, anytime after 6:30 for cocktails and nibbles to shake off the work week. I was amazed to see people coming and going for the better part of four hours, and they were still going when I left!

Each party has a theme, and last night’s was belated summer solstice. Our host and hostess served up this refreshing (and delicious) tarragon gin lemonade for the group.

It was a beautiful drink, served it in a large punch bowl in the center of the table. Of course, I was too busy enjoying my drink to remember to take a picture, so my description will have to do. The punch bowl was a simple glass bowl like this one from Crate and Barrel.

The punch looked lovely, and the best part was that it had a HUGE ball of ice in the middle that they made with a water balloon (!). Say what? When they told me how they made it, I just had to share! All you do is fill the balloon with water, freeze it, and cut off the balloon when it’s done. Easy and very cool. You can even had food coloring to the balloon to create a colored version. My brain is going crazy with ideas! Multicolored ice for kids parties, black or purple ice for Halloween, and, it has to be said, blue balls for a bachelorette party. Ha! So fun.

The long and the short of it is that it created a fabulous centerpiece that was super creative and inexpensive. They had small sphere ice cubes for each glass too (nice touch!). You could probably make those with water balloons as well or just order these from Amazon.

This is definitely something to line up for your next outdoor barbecue or house party. Trust me, your guests will be impressed!

 

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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?

 

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.

stool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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?!

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!

 

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!

 

Dry Cleaning That Won’t Clean You Out

ZIPS copy

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.