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!

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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?

 

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!

 

March Budget Breakdown – Better Late Than Never

As you can tell, I’ve been a delinquent Discountess. My end of March vacation to St. John and a series of spring weddings have rendered me without time to blog/keep my life and brain in order. After this weekend, I’ll be back in action. I have one more wedding, and then my schedule returns to normal. Well, more or less.

So at almost half way through the month of April, I give you the March budget breakdown. What I’ve learned this month is that vacations do not lend themselves to saving money. Not shocking. Still, the vacation (which I will give the full rundown on later) was fabulous and worth every over-budget penny spent! And, because I wasn’t in DC for a full week during the month, I was able to keep my grocery budget in check (of course my food and entertainment costs were off the hook, but I’m choosing the positive point of view). I also saved in the shopping category—a new feat for me. Aside from a few incidentals for the trip, I mainly stayed away from the stores last month.

Here is the full budget breakdown for March:

Cash/ATM – 14% over (I changed the starting number this month because the old one was too low, but this still isn’t good. I’m chalking it up to vacation needs and moving on)
Entertainment – 120% over
Food/Drink – 135.6% over
Personal Care – 5% over
Bills/Utilities (includes rent, cable, etc) – 56% over

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

Auto/Transportation – 71.5% used
Business/Office – 50.8% used
Groceries – 92.7% used (Astounding!)
Dry Cleaning – 18.8% used
Gifts – 65.4% used
Gym – 100% used
Shopping – 70.4% used (YES!)

Also in March, I managed to keep with my goal of taking the stairs at work more which has been a good change. Plus, with the new spring weather, I’ve been able to run outside as well!  The goal on the docket for April was supposed to be about my morning coffee purchase, i.e. I shouldn’t be purchasing it every day. I was doing well for the first week of the month, but this week I’ve hit the Brown Bag for my Swings coffee every day. Perhaps we should save that one for May? Anyway, since it is now springtime, my goal this month is to clean house on my spring/summer wardrobe. I plan to get it all out (it’s been in storage for the winter) and use a discerning eye about what I should actually keep and what I should get rid of. I’m hoping I can scrounge up a few good consignment options, so I can line my pockets for future wardrobe investments.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

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.

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.

 

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!

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??