Archive for the ‘Chic Friends’ Category

Chic & Frugal – Week One

June 13th, 2017 Comments off

I’m going to start a new series tracking my expenses and income. I’ve been logging details into my moleskine journal for the past month but after reading Save Spend Splurge’s blog, I realized it would help to make it public. It would make me more accountable.
To make it easier, I’m not going to keep track of my automatic payments for monthly household expenses, such as mortgage, utilities, cell phones and so on. Instead, I will keep track of unexpected expenses and marketing costs. Last month’s tracking revealed I spend way too much money on last-minute trips to the market for food and buying coffee and drinks away from the home. If I can develop more discipline in this one area, I will save hundreds a month.

What follows is a week of expenditures and income

My goal is to save and plan for all these unforseen expenditures so that I’m only spending on Wednesdays instead of spontaneous trips or spending. This is going to be a huge challenge for me. *Edited. Now that the week is done, I’ve decided that unless I go over my $200 budget, I will not track grocery expenditures each week.

Wednesday (Market Day)
Each week I budget a maximum of $200 to spend on food. Many weeks I’ve been able to only spend $100 or $150 on market day. Unfortunately, this almost always coincides with the weeks I have to go back and buy more food to make it through the week.

Today, when I saw I had spent nearly the two hundred I had budgeted, I didn’t stress because I’ve realized for the most part I need to spend that to get through the week. For now. I’m working on lowering food costs.

Here I’ll break it down:


Aldi $59
Cub $42 (I bought nine loaves of a special bread my daughter with tree nut allergies can safely eat – because it was on sale – and put it in our deep freezer. It is the one thing I find I MUST buy at this big grocery chain and it’s a pain when we run out.)
Target $101 (This includes $5 for bug spray and $7 for a smores metal rack to put on our grill. Other than that, strictly food this time.)
FOOD: $202

In addition, I withdrew $20 cash at Target so I can give my kids ten bucks each to spend on field trips for their last day of school.
CASH: $20


Parking ticket $38.
When my husband’s band played last week in downtown St. Paul, he got there a few hours early to unload equipment, etc., and didn’t load the meter for long enough.
MISC: $38

Unplanned drink:

Invited out to a brewery by some other mom I ran into while attending kid’s middle school graduation .
$8 with tip

SPENT: $268


I spent the morning working on my novel at the coffee shop. I have a punch card for an Americano that I buy every other month, so technically the coffee today was free! I was starving at the cafe and wanted to eat lunch there so badly, but I refrained and walked home to have some brown rice, black beans and a hard boiled egg with some olive oil and vinegar and garlic salt. Very satisfying and free. (Oh, then I finished with a wedge of chili chocolate.)

But then my budget plans went off the rails.

A few years ago U2 came to town and since I’m ALWAYS strapped financially I told myself we couldn’t afford tickets. EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE IN THE SAME TOWN.

I’ve regretted that decision ever since.

Now that U2 is on tour again, I was anxious to see them and disappointed to see they weren’t coming to Minneapolis. The closest show was Chicago. A few months ago, I almost splurged spending nearly $1,000 to fly to Chicago and see U2. I knew it was too much so I didn’t pull the trigger on the tickets in my cart. So when I found out U2 had added additional shows and were coming here to Minneapolis I knew I wouldn’t miss them this time around. My friend who has a U2 membership said she could buy me pre-sale tickets today. But then when we spoke today she told me that she can’t buy four tickets since she already saw U2 in Portland last month.

So I went and bought the same membership so I can buy my tickets tomorrow early for pre-sales at $70 a pop. For two tickets that is probably $140 to $175. Even adding in the $50 membership fee I’m still coming out ahead of what I was planning on spending for my Chicago trip. Plus don’t have to worry about childcare for the kids, etc.

U2 membership: $50

Dinner out: $18

I’m starting to see where all my money goes. This dinner was last minute and unplanned. It was the last day of school for our kids and they had activities that kept them out past dinnertime so my husband and I went down to the most delicious authentic Mexican restaurant in town and split an Alhambre, which I don’t even know how to describe except to say it’s pork and grilled vegetables and pineapple on a platter of tortillas. Amazing! We also split an order of chips and guacamole My husband had a jarrito to drink and I had water so it was a pretty affordable dinner out.

SPENT: $68


This morning I had to drop my teenager off at the house where she is babysitting and we were early so we wandered into the nearby dollar store. While there, I bought Father’s Day cards and a box of candy for the teen.

Dollar Tree: $4

Push Lawn mower $30

So we have this HILL going up to our house and it’s a bitch to mow and my husband has a sore back so even though I’ve NEVER mowed a lawn in my life I bought this so I can do that damn hill! When I went to try out the lawn mower (someone had listed it on Craigslist) it was not a good buy so I passed. And was relieved to NOT spend that thirty bucks!

U2 tickets!

$192. With fees and whatnot, it was a bit more than I’d expected to spend since the floor tickets were listed at $70 a pop, but I’m thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to have these tickets. I can’t stop smiling about it!


Last minute trip to Target when I realized I was out of sugar and oil for the food I was cooking. Gah.


SPENT: $201


For the past two months, since the weather warmed, really, we’ve hosted small dinner parties on Saturdays and today was no exception. I realized that the one thing I hadn’t purchased was beer for my husband so I felt very virtuous walking to the store in 90 degree weather to buy his beer and a single beer for me (I was more interested in the wine my friend was bringing.)

Beer: $12

SPENT: $12



Ordered Blue Tooth wireless headphones for my husband for Father’s Day next week

Headphones: $25

I usually buy a small package of Wasabi almonds once a week when I work as a reporter at the Pioneer Press because I can’t eat nuts at home (My daughter has severe tree nut allergies) Today I also bought an RX bar to see what all the hype was. I wasn’t impressed.

Snacks at work: $5

SPENT: $30


Oh joy of joys, this is possibly going to be a no money spent day! Please.!

I resisted! So. Many. Things. I. Wanted.

Instead, I returned a pair of linen pants I hadn’t even taken out of the package yet.


Ugh. Have to edit this. I wanted a spend free day but then last night we rented Rogue One on Amazon. So there you go. Best laid plans.

SPENT: $5.



Contacts: $130 on contacts for the kid. For some reason this is an unforeseen expense because I mistakenly thought insurance would cover her contacts. Gah.

Thrift score: $8 PRISTINE, I mean PERFECT Egyptian cotton sheet set + hardcover copy of John LeCarr’es The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

SPENT: $138



I’m NOT so chic and frugal and something has to change!

I’ve decided that since groceries are a weekly fixed expense I won’t log them from here on out, so I’ve deducted $202 from my expenditures this week. Even so, I am absolutely shocked and mortified to see what I spent in one week.: $520 on UNFORESEEN expenses. Totally and completely absurd. Actually embarrassing to see this. Wow. I had no idea I could go through that much money in a week.

That is unacceptable. Next week is going to be a whole lot different. Now, I realize that I buy concert tickets once every ten years (truly) so that was an exception. I DO, however, buy contacts for the kid once a year so I need to plan for that next year. So if I deduct those two expenses: $130 and $192 for U2 tickets and the $50 for presale access, I feel a LITTLE bit better, but holy smokes. That’s still nearly $150 in a week.

This was an amazing exercise in budgeting and I’m going to do it next week, as well.




Chic Friends Spring Edition

May 27th, 2010 16 comments

 Here is the Chic Friends: Spring Edition. Thank you so much to everyone who participated. These chic friends posts are my favorite. I love seeing all the wonderful outfits and especially love all the terrific advice and insight. A special thanks to Euro Chic for helping me with the questions. You can find links to Euro Chic and Christine from The Red Geranium and Cherie from Renaissance Garden under the inspiration tab to the right.



In my photos the 1st one is of me on my roofdeck drinking coffee.  I was on my way to a lunch at a friend’s new house that afternoon. I wore a white ruffle neck shirt from J.Crew outlet, consignment shop jeans, realllllly old cork wedge sandals, Urban Outfitters sunglasses and a scarf.  My coffee mug is from Anthropologie.

The 2nd picture is of me in my kitchen wearing a consignment Banana Republic silk shirt, $12 Forever 21 skinny jeans and consignment Calvin Klein wedges that I stretched to perfection with shoe stretch spray.

What is your biggest fashion indulgence or dream item to own if money weren’t an issue?

A Chanel quilted purse and a Cartier “Love” bracelet.

 What is your biggest fashion challenge in getting dressed each day?

I definitely have too many clothes.  I think I need Clinton and Stacy from that TV show to come over, because I have not yet found the willpower to truly purge my closet.
What fashion trend(s), during your lifetime have you disliked the most (and did you follow that trend anyway just to fit in?)?

Harem pants, bleach splashed/torn jeans, sweatpants with words on your bum, visible thongs, trucker hats, Crocs, Ed Hardy shirts, and the list could go on for days!

Quick note about Crocs— I must admit I do have a pair of ballet-flat style Crocs that were a gift from my mom and I use them for working outdoors only! Right now they are at my parent’s house, however, since at the moment I live in an apartment in the city and no longer have anywhere to garden/work outside.  I do think they are acceptable for gardening outside (which I love), washing your car or doing other cleaning activities in your yard since they have grippy soles and can be rinsed easily.  The ballet flat style is MUCH cuter than the clog style, but I still would never wear them outside of my backyard.
Where do you find your fashion inspiration?

Magazines, blogs/websites, walking down the street…. everywhere really!
What is the one essential item you think belongs in every stylish woman’s closet?

A trenchcoat/really fabulous coat.  If you have to run out to the store you could be in pajamas underneath and nobody would know!  On the outside you would still look as chic as Audrey Hepburn!
What advice would you give others who are trying to determine their own style?

If you don’t feel comfortable wearing it—its not for you.



What is your biggest fashion indulgence or dream item to own if money weren’t an issue?

I would love to have real diamond stud earrings rather than the CZs I’ve worn for years.  I’m a classic and never get tired of that look.

 What is your biggest fashion challenge in getting dressed each day?

I live on a farm  where I spend a great deal of time alone and I find myself just reaching for the same tired outfits every day – jeans and a t-shirt.  I try to remind myself that I’m dressing for me and that I should not be afraid to wear something a little nicer and to throw on some accessories as well.

What fashion trend(s), during your lifetime have you disliked the most (and did you follow that trend anyway just to fit in?)?

The trend I tried and hated on myself was the preppy look of the 80s.  I’m a feminine classic and that look was too harsh and boyish for me.  Thankfully, I didn’t spend too much time or money on that trend.  I think the best think for someone to do is purchase one or two items from a trend just to see how it works for you, rather than completely investing in a trend that might not be appropriate.

Where do you find your fashion inspiration?

I’m a people watcher and love to go to upscale dining and shopping areas to see what’s being worn and to get ideas to try. 

What is the one essential item you think belongs in every stylish woman’s closet?

I think a good, winter dress coat is essential.  I’ve seen so many lovely ladies ruin their look by throwing a casual jacket over a dressy outfit.  A coat that is classic yet suits a woman’s personality will last for many, many years.  I also think a well-fitted bra should also be an essential, as I’ve seen a great outfit look bad without a proper foundation.

What advice would you give others who are trying to determine their own style?

Consider your lifestyle and your physical attributes.  And what makes you feel comfortable.


Euro Chic

Outfit selected: This is pretty standard for me in the Spring as a pencil skirt and tee are both cool and comfortable while still being feminine and work appropriate. 

What is your biggest fashion indulgence or dream item to own if money weren’t an issue?

A genuine Jean Schlumberger White Enamel Bangle (and if $27,000 is ever pocket change I’ll take a green one too!)

What is your biggest fashion challenge in getting dressed each day?

 This changes almost from year to year, but these days the biggest challenge for me is that I have moved from the Southern US to New England and am having to learn to dress for a different climate than the one I grew up in. There are many things that I don’t have that I could really use (a pair of wellies, please!) and while I’m slowly building a more practical wardrobe for my new lifestyle as I can afford to do so it can be rather challenging to come up with ways to make do with what I have available right now and be comfortable, appropriate and still look and feel pulled together.

What fashion trend(s), during your lifetime have you disliked the most (and did you follow that trend anyway just to fit in?)?

The entire 1980’s and early 90’s!  I hated grunge especially and never stooped to that level.  I also hated stirrup pants but wore them because my mother made me. I did do splatter paint, neon shoestring barrettes, tight rolled pants w/penny loafers and Arizona jackets all to fit in.

Where do you find your fashion inspiration? 

 Jackie Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, old movies, the streets of Boston and ads from favorite stores.  I actually have a file on my computer where I save images from store websites and will recreate similar outfits based on what I have in my closet.

What is the one essential item you think belongs in every stylish woman’s closet?

A perfect white tee.  To me, the white tee is even more versatile than the LBD.  You can wear it with pretty much anything, dress it up or down…take it to a religious ceremony with a black skirt, pumps and pearls, a Friday night dinner with jeans, boots, a black blazer and lots of chain necklaces, a casual Sunday BBQ w/capris, flats sandals and simple bangle, or a business meeting with your black skirt, blazer, heels and pearls…

What advice would you give others who are trying to determine their own style?

Pay attention…look at what other women are wearing and determine what you like/dislike, check out store websites, catalogues and fashion magazines and save/rip out things you like. It helps to have a style icon (or two) who’s clothes and overall impression speaks to you.  Also, don’t expect to always get it right or for a miraculous transformation to happen overnight.  Personal style takes time to develop and is evolutionary.   And most of all, follow your instinct…if something doesn’t make you feel good and confident then don’t wear it and never let what other people say about your style cause you to sway.  Always, always be true to yourself.



This is my crop trench coat that I picked up from H&M. I saw a pic online of a woman in Paris who had on one in camel and fell in love!  You can roll up the sleeves and the sleeves are 3/4. So I love it for Spring and cool summer nights.  In most of the pics the shirt I have on is from J.Crew. I saw it online when it was regular price $70 or more. I decided that I would wait a while to see if I really could not live without it and then to my surprise it went on sale and I purchased it for $24.99. I have on my beloved Chanel bag that was given to me by my grandmother.  She is the smallest size (east west). 

What is your biggest fashion indulgence or dream item to own if money weren’t an issue?

It would most likely be a Hermes Kelly bag in black.  I love the timeless style of the bag and feel that I would not need another bag again!

What is your biggest fashion challenge in getting dressed each day?

 I would say my biggest fashion challenge would be adding some spice to my everyday uniform.  I love to wear a black or white t-shirt and jeans. 

What fashion trend(s), during your lifetime have you disliked the most (and did you follow that trend anyway just to fit in?)?

I never got into the neon colors and I don’t really care for the new shoulder pad trend that is in. It looks great on some people but I don’t think it would suit me at all.

Where do you find your fashion inspiration?

I love Sophia Copolla, Nicole Ritchie, Miroslava Duma, Giovanna Battaglia, and Emmanuelle Alt.  I also love to read fashion blogs like Garance Dore, The Satorialist, and Fabulous Florida Mommy.

What is the one essential item you think belongs in every stylish woman’s closet?

a nice bag.  I think a nice purse or accessories can make a boring outfit pop!  It does not have to be a very expensive handbag but I love it when I see people wear a basic white tee and jeans with a fabulous bag! (As you can see I love handbags)

What advice would you give others who are trying to determine their own style?

My advice would be to find inspiration on the internet and magazines.  Blogs are an excellent resource as you can see people who have different body types and get ideas of how to put clothing pieces together.  I also think it is important to find out what works for your body and what makes you feel special and go with that! 


(Pink Pashmina photo):
My pink pashmina from Montmartre is soft, silky and dresses up my Springtime “uniform” of fitted t-shirt & skirt outfits.

(Brown polka dot dress photo):
Wrap dresses and knee boots are my perfect easy transitional weather pieces!

What is your biggest fashion indulgence or dream item to own if money weren’t an issue?

Biggest indulgence: handbags!
Dream Item: a Chanel suit
What is your biggest fashion challenge in getting dressed each day?

Trying to look professional but not staid!

What fashion trend(s), during your lifetime have you disliked the most (and did you follow that trend anyway just to fit in?)?

I would say the MC Hammer harem pants and jackets with heavy shoulder pads – but I only dislike them on me as my figure is hourglass-y. They can look quite avant garde on the right woman!

Where do you find your fashion inspiration?

On people I see on the street on their way to work – everyday I see a detail that is beautiful and interesting that enlivens their conservative dress, such as a bright orange bead bracelet, or lime green slingback shoes, or cherry red lipstick…
And of course, from chic bloggers such as the author of this one!

What is the one essential item you think belongs in every stylish woman’s closet?

Only one? Oh dear…I would say hot knee boots! Or a great investment bag.

What advice would you give others who are trying to determine their own style?

Stay true to your personality and tastes, and dress to flatter your own unique and beautiful figure – if you choose items that make you feel good, it will show!
(And my gorgeous Mum would add – always wear lipstick!)

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What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.