Back when I was a high-powered member of the media elite fulltime hack for my town’s daily newspaper, I had no qualms about squandering my paycheck on things such as $75 necklaces and $150 pair of shoes. And, actually, I still do that but I definitely have qualms … that my husband will find out. And, actually again, when I was a single mom of two daughters and eyeing every penny, I didn’t shop anywhere more expensive than the T.J. Maxx clearance rack. But when I got married six years ago and my household income practically tripled, I discovered the joys of shopping Just For Fun. However, now that my dear husband agreed I could leave the newsroom and be a poor struggling work-from-home freelance writer and we’re back to a one-regular-paycheck-family, I’m back to being conscious of what goes out versus what comes in. And all that is a long way around to say that when Younger Daughter and I found these adorable necklaces at Rue 21 in the mall, I scooped them up — and did a happy dance at checkout when I discovered they were all half-price, meaning that my delight at an estimated total of about $30 for all three was proportionally heightened when it turned out I only had to pay less than $15. I immediately put on the long one with the dragonfly and got three compliments on it before I’d even reached my car. They are big and colorful and cheerfully clanky and are just perfect for brightening up my usual T-shirt and jeans. Rue 21 is one of those youth-centric mall stores filled with throwaway fashion-of-the-moment — or so I thought until I went in and really paid attention. I believe I spied a sweater there that I’d seen on one of my most stylish grownup friends, so between that and my jewelry find, I’m adding Rue 21 to my rotation of stores-to-check-because-you-never-know-what-you-might-find. You’re welcome.

Saving Money

I admit it: I’m a spender. I’m much rather spend money than save it. I love shopping. I love going places and doing things. I love buying and having.  The problem? Hmm — let’s just say that income and outgo don’t always match! And whether you’re bring in $25,000 a year or $250,000, not managing your money efficiently sure can put a crimp in your style. The solution? Lately I’ve been doing my best to reduce UNNECESSARY expenditures in order to get the most bang for our buck when we do spend. I thought I’d share some of those efforts and see what y’all think.

1) Cut out my four-a-day sweetened bottled water habit and switched to plain water in a reusable container — sometimes adding a mix such as Crystal Light or Lipton Iced Tea. And even though we recycled the plastic bottles, I just feel a little greener not buying so many in the first place.

2) Visit a walk-in hair place at the mall for in-between trims and cuts, reserving my fancy high-priced stylist for coloring and occasional styling. This works especially because I notoriously am a bad hair person and no matter how the stylist fixes my hair, it’s back to the same-ol’ same-ol’ after a couple days. Why pay $75+ for that every month?

3) Teach myself to do my own pedicures. I did not think this would work but I really was proud of the results. And I never have done manicures since I can’t walk out of the salon/spa without cracking/chipping the polish.

4) Shopping in my own closet. Although I’m all for supporting local businesses, I’m also for having enough funds to go on vacation. When I dug around, I found things I hadn’t worn for months that I loved. I usually buy sort of classic non-trendy things anyway, so reviving these oldies-but-goodies doesn’t look dated. I hope not, anyway! If you can look at something you bought in the past couple years or so and imagine it hanging in your favorite boutique right now, it’s a keeper.

5) Using what you’ve got. This is another variation of “shopping in your closet.” I’m determined to use what I have before buying more. This includes makeup, lotion, skin care and such — my weakness. I mean, who can resist a lovely bar of handmade peppermint soap? Not me. As a bonus, this also requires organization so you know you already have three bottles of Warm Vanilla Sugar Shower Gel and do not — repeat, do not — need to buy anymore.

6) Enjoying what you’ve got. Another version of the same theory. I’ve got books and DVDs and magazines and CDs sitting around that I’ve never even picked up since I brought them home. Use ’em or lose ’em!

What do you think? How am I doing?


Discount ShoppingOkay, we’re playing the Name-That-Discount-Store again today. And because you all are too good and had no trouble with yesterday’s clues, today is going to be much harder. Both of these photos are from the same store. I took them this past December but you still can get a feeling of the diverse inventory at this national chain that specializes in closeouts. Every time I wander in one of these, I wonder why I don’t shop there more often. With a little digging, you can find fantastic buys on everything from wrapping paper to furniture to weird exotic packaged food that you’ve never heard of. Discount ShoppingWhat do you think? Any guesses?


Discount shoppingOkay, here’s a shopping quiz to see how well you know your discount stores. Those who feel as if they have to get dressed up to go shopping shouldn’t even try this. Here are two photos each taken inside two different nationally known discount chain-stores. Both are known for their variety of inventory, designer finds and discounted prices. Can anybody name the stores? I don’t have any prizes for the winning guesses — you’ll just have to be content with the satisfaction of knowing where to find the good deals. And really, isn’t that prize enough?????Discount shopping

12 Days of Christmas Countdown

 christmas-and-new-years-2006-07-018In honor of the one holiday song I cannot get out of my head,  let’s celebrate 12 Days Before Christmas. For each of the 12 days leading up to Dec. 25, I’m going to post a link, a suggestion or something Christmasy that’s caught my attention and hopefully will interest you, too. To start with Day No. 12 (one day late, but who’s counting?) , here’s a link to a great story in Sunday’s Parade magazine about budget-friendly family Christmases — I especially like the suggestion to spread the love throughout the whole month instead of piling it all on Dec. 25. I mean, making one day perfect is a lot of pressure. Resist the urge and make every day a mini-celebration, focusing on “doing” rather than “buying.” That’s great advice all year ’round, too — and not just years in which we’re afraid to check our retirement accounts. (“Just don’t look,” my husband says. “Just don’t look.”) Come back for Christmas Countdown Day No. 11 — something mindlessly entertaining just for mom.


My sinus-infection fighting tools: Abundant Kleenex (never generic -- get the real thing), soothing hot tea, plenty of water, quick and easy comfort food and vitamin-C-loaded juice. The fact that this photo also includes bottles of rum and Bailey's is purely coincidental.

And the reason my 12 days of Christmas actually starts on day No. 11 is because I was down and out all weekend with a stupid, stupid sinus infection. Warning, warning! When your sniffles and sneezes and coughs turn into something that hurts — a lot — when you blink your eyes, it’s time to stop saying pitifully, “I just have a little cold” and start saying, with confidence, “I think I have the worst sinus infection ever. Ever.”  Of course, it was Saturday morning when I finally decided this, so it meant a trip to the doc-in-the-box since our regular doctor quite understandably closes on weekends. Thankfully, my college-senior daughter is home on Christmas break and she sweetly volunteered to go with me, citing all the times I’d done the same for her — a karmic parental pay-it-forward I was happy to take advantage of.  It’s  nice to have company in these situations. For instance,  she’s the one who noticed that the guy in the waiting room seated a couple seats down from me moved a couple more seats further away at one point — I know I looked bad, but was I really that bad? She said that when I got up once to call my husband, the guy leaned over, said “She’s really sick, isn’t she?” and then had moved down by the time I got back. (Hey! Sinus infections are not contagious, buddy! What happened to good old human compassion???) Anyway, when I finally got to see the doctor, he totally agreed with my self-diagnosis, although I was thrown by the series of questions he asked that started with “Do you drink?” I answered, “Yes, moderately.” He next asked, “Do you smoke?” And here I can answer definitely, “No.” His next question — “Dip?” — momentarily confused me. “Dip?” I asked myself frantically. “Dip? Like french onion dip? White cheese dip? Why is he asking me this?” Surely I didn’t say any of that out loud but maybe I did, because the doctor repeated patiently, “Dip. You know. Snuff. Tobacco. Do you dip?”  Uh, that would be a no. And then I wondered what about me made him think that maybe I did. I mean, again, I know I looked  bad, but still. Apparently I passed all the other sinus-infection tests so I got a shot and an indecipherable piece of paper that I only hoped said “Give this woman some of those wonderful miraculous antibiotics.” Luckily, it did. So with modern medicine and my daughter’s excellent nursing, I rejoined the world after losing only two and a-half three days (plus four Christmas parties, dang it), although the four pounds I’d lost from not eating all weekend nastily reappeared immediately after my husband and I had our weekly Sunday-night beer and nachos at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Worth it, though.