I love Fiona Ferris.
Everything she writes is so inspirational.
If you haven’t already, I recommend you check out her latest book, THIRTY SLIM DAYS
I love Fiona Ferris.
Everything she writes is so inspirational.
If you haven’t already, I recommend you check out her latest book, THIRTY SLIM DAYS
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:
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.)
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.
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.
Invited out to a brewery by some other mom I ran into while attending kid’s middle school graduation .
$8 with tip
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.
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
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!
$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.
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.)
Ordered Blue Tooth wireless headphones for my husband for Father’s Day next week
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
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.
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
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.
I realized this week that I went a little overboard in splurging on items recently. It’s time to tighten the belt. And then some.
The good news is I have no regrets on what I’ve purchased.
Besides what is shown in the pictures, I also splurged on a cute white and blue striped button-up top from Target and a fancy haircut.
I bought Maria Semple’s latest book because I loved Where are you Bernadette so much that I wanted to treat myself with this book for my upcoming vacation. Nothing makes me happier than hopping on a plane with a new book.
It is a splurge because I rarely buy new books unless the author is my friend. I just can’t afford to buy new when I read so much. It would break the bank for sure.
However, I did also buy a great book on author marketing:
Some of my other worthwhile purchases:
The Nutribullet has rocked my world. I always thought smoothies were sort of lame and for super health conscious workout folks, not wine-guzzling book nerds like me. I am reformed. I love my Nutribullet smoothies with a deep abiding passion. So easy. So good. So good for you.
My standard smoothie has:
After reading about this pepper grinder and going through a million cheap ones, I was out to lunch with my husband at an Italian restaurant and when the server asked if we wanted pepper I said, “Is that a Mr. Dudley?”
She looked at me like I was cray-cray until I told her to look on the bottom. Sure enough it was a Mr. Dudley. She looked impressed (at least in my own mind) and said, “Um, that’s the first time anyone has ever asked me THAT!”
So Mr. Dudley it is! Sold. I went home and ordered one online despite the server’s offer to slip me the one she had for $20 (she was kidding. sort of)
Anyone who knows me or who has been to my home knows I’m a total freak about religious art and Mexican art so I found my spirit animal at a scrumptious St. Paul restaurant called Burrito Mercado.
This place has everything I’ve ever wanted in Mexican religious art. I’m lucky I got out of there with only this one piece. (So far.)
A reader asked me what I keep in my bag and what bag I use.
Here is my bag and its contents, minus my set of keys.*
LONCHAMP LE PLIAGE
A few years ago I splurged on a gorgeous Michael Kors bag that was made of heavy, thick leather and had lots and lots of bad-a$$ looking chains. I loved that bag. But it did not love me. I began developing headaches and back and shoulder problems. I ditched it and turned to my “summer” bag, the Longchamp. At the end of summer, I did not switch back to a leather bag. I realized I loved my Longchamp and it suited my purposes in a way no other bag could. It was lightweight, had a low-profile, fit all my belongings and even my laptop when I worked away from home. It is my go-to bag. My plan at this point in my life is to use it until it falls apart and then buy another one exactly like it to replace it.
KATE SPADE PENCIL POUCH
I could not adore this more. It was spendy, but it makes me happy every time I see it or use it. And as a writer, and reporter, I needed something in my bag to organize my pens and pencils.
CHANEL VELVET MAKEUP BAG
I found this at the thrift store and adore it. Here is one I found on eBay:
I couldn’t find my exact gloves. I bought them in the men’s department at a local department store, but these are nearly identical:
OVERSIZE CASHMERE WRAP – Navy
I don’t think Banana Republic makes these anymore and I couldn’t find anything similar in thickness and quality to recommend for that price (It was about $100). This thing is huge – like a blanket.
Unfortunately, the only thing I could find that came close was this one from White & Warren. That’s why even though my scarf has a hole in it, I will be using it forever rather than trying to replace it.
I always have one of these in my bag. I go through 1-2 each year. They contain all my thoughts, book ideas, lists of things to do, inspiration. I count my journals as my most treasured objects.
EYEGLASS POUCH. Embroidered from France. I picked this up years ago at this sweet little boutique in Minneapolis called C’est Chic. At the time, when it first opened, the owner told me she travels to France a few times a year. When she finds an outfit to sell back in Minneapolis she only buys three sizes: small, medium, and large and brings it back here. The boutique no longer sells them, but they said the tapestry company that makes them used to make tapestry for the royal family in England. How cool is that? So I went down the rabbit hole of Internet research and found them! Here they are: Royal Tapisserie. And here is an American store that carries some of their products on its website: And a cute little shoulder bag by them:
I’m super picky about my pens. These are the ones I love the most:
*Although it is probably obvious, it is worth noting that a few of these links are affiliate links. xx
I honestly don’t know if a single soul still reads this blog. At one point, I had so many lovely readers, a few of whom I have been lucky enough to meet in person (I’m talking to you, Phyllis) and count as real friends. Lately, my thoughts have been turning to style again so I thought I would end this blog with a final post.
You see, I recently realized that I have a style. I like it. I am satisfied with it.
I realized this when I recently brainstormed on how to raise some money needed for my writing. I realized that I am so utterly completely satisfied with my style that I don’t even think about it anymore. I just reach into my closet and pull out something and it all matches and it all makes me FEEL great.
I have finally realized it is how I FEEL in something that matters. As I mentioned, this big realization came when I started looking at selling some of the more (ridiculously) expensive items in my wardrobe to raise money for my writing project.
I realized that I outgrew the designer items, which I had coveted, saved and scrimped for, and now had. Specifically, my Givenchy Nightingale handbag, which is absurdly expensive in my book. I had an ephiphany: while I loved the way others looked carrying the bag, I didn’t like myself carrying it. It didn’t suit me. At all. Up for sale. Even though I am endlessly complimented on this bag, it just doesn’t SUIT ME. It will be terrific for someone else.
Then, I took a hard look at my Fiorentini + Baker eternity boots. Again, numerous compliments on these silly expensive boots. They make me feel like an action figure when I wear them, like I could kick ass any second. However, they are not that flattering to my style or my figure. In fact, for some reason when I have a choice of what boots to wear I inevitably pull on my much cheaper, but awesome Frye boots. Those SUIT me. Eternity boots – up for sale!
See, what I came to realize is that I LOVED the IDEA of those two items. They are exquisitely crafted, gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, as art items. Not suited for my style. The handbag is the softest most gorgeous leather ever. Fine craftmanship. A work of art. Same with the boots. I could sit and look at them all day long. They are gorgeous. But they don’t suit me.
Gone. Both of them.
Instead, I feel like I have found a new, effortless chic style. One that screams nonchalance. One that always feels JUST right. One that feels complete even though it only hangs on 23 hangers.
Finally. I’ve achieved that feeling of effortless chic I’ve sought for so long. I finally am comfortable in my skin, as the French say (in French, however the heck you say that — I’m not going to bother looking it up right now.) This feeling has completely stripped me of the desire to shop or buy anything new. It is such a feeling of freedom. So, that’s where I am at and why I stopped blogging here. I think I will end this blog with these thoughts and some photos that have inspired me and my style, which summed up is all about jeans, straight leg or skinny, deep-cut tees, blazers, boots and large scarves. I also am crazy about bracelets and cuffs, long, messy hair and smudgy black eye makeup.
A very Italian and la bella figura philosophy is to care for your belongings. Taking care of what you own shows respect for yourself, respect for your belongings and respect for the planet.
The classic example is the Italian man or woman who drives the older vehicle and spends weekends polishing it and caring for it so it always looks like new.
It is also about keeping those old shoes polished and your clothes ironed and your house spotless (I have a problem with this last one, especially with two small kids).
It is about meticulously cleaning your appliances, such as your blender, after each use.
It is taking care of everything you own so it will serve you well and last for years.
It isn’t about tossing something that is broken or needs to be repaired unless it is a hopeless case. It is about trying not to buy anything that is “disposable” that is meant to have a short life and then meant to be tossed.
Instead of discarding what you own so readily, try to figure out if you can fix something that is broken or find a new use for an item before you pass it on. I am trying to do this.
There is a fine balance between decluttering and using what you have until it no longer gives you use. I think the differences is that if you own an item, such as a toaster that works and serves your purposes but maybe isn’t the exact model or color you like — use it as long as you can before you replace it.
The idea is to not replace useful items so readily … use what you can as long as you can.
For instance, I am not overly thrilled with my winter coat, but by taking off the belt and the belt loops, I am much happier with the way it fits. With the waist belted, it looked sloppy, bulky and not chic in the least bit. When one of the loops for the belt broke off, I decide to tug on the other one and become belt free. the only problem is I ended up with two big rips in the sides of my wool coat. Then a button came off.
Because it is wool and an expensive clothing item, my immediate thought was to take it to the tailor for repairs. I kept waiting to have enough extra money to do this. Didn’t happen. So I sat down with a needle and thread and repaired it myself. It was actually easier than I thought. The stitches aren’t great, but my repair work does not show.
Then I took my beloved trench coat and reinforced the beautiful wooden flower buttons on it. I was upset last spring when I lost one of the buttons on it. I found it crushed by a tire on the street. Luckily, I could pull off an unseen button under the collar and use that. But that was the only button left that doesn’t show, so I need to make sure I don’t lose any more.
This photograph by Pamela Hanson http://www.pamelahanson.com/fashion has always captured my fantasty of living in a European city in my small apartment overlooking a bustling boulevard.
For some reason I imagine this is a very small apartment, maybe even a studio apartment where this woman lives. It just appeals to my love of small homes, small apartments, few possessions, but ones that are meaningful.
One thing I have always loved about Europeans (at least the ones I have known personally) is that they were all so nonmaterialistic.
It wasn’t about buying, buying, buying. It was about living.
For them, life wasn’t about having things. Life was about having experiences.
I have tried to embrace this in my own life.
I remember reading in Entre Nous, how French women “make do” with their clothing, their belongings, even their husbands — not trying to change them to meet their expectations.
I like to remember this philosophy of making do when I cook — using up the ingredients I already have in my cupboards and refrigerator; when I “shop” my closet — working with the clothes I have instead of believing I need more of them; with my belongings — for instance, I will place one pot ontop of another for a voila! instant double boiler instead of thinking I need to go buy a new kitchen accoutrement.
I am trying to live my life this way and hopefully get out of debt and then only spend my money on things like books, movies, language classes, cashmere sweaters, wine, good food, piano lessons for my kids, etc.
It began when I was not even 20 and I was in a very unhealthy, scary relationship that was complicated and difficult to get out of. I looked around at an apartment full of stuff that was owned by both of us. I felt trapped. That is an understatement. I felt underwater, overwhelmed and helpless.
So I began packing boxes — for him.
I threw everything in that apartment into his boxes and walked out of there with my clothes and a boxspring.
I was free. I was free of him. I was free of all the “stuff’ and belongings that trapped me.
Good for me. Except what I brought with me was a neurosis about owning things. If I began to accumulate too many belongings, I started to feel trapped again.
One of the best experiences in my life was when I backpacked through Europe for two months. I carried everything I needed to live for 2 months on my back. I didn’t buy souveneirs — I took pictures. It was a wonderful time in my life. I was free as a bird, so to speak.
But that was not real life. In real life I had more than what fit on my back. I would move from one college apartment to another with what would fit in my small hatchback. I had discarded the boxspring early on and had a small, twin roll up futon mattress that rolled up in the back of my car.
I think I lived like this for another 15 years as I moved from apartment to apartment in L.A., then Seattle, then Monterey, then Oakland.
Then I got pregnant. For some reason this allowed me to relax a little. I didn’t feel like I had to be ready to run at any second. I didn’t feel trapped by my belongings anymore. Well, maybe a little.
Now, what I do, is I declutter. I only keep what I love and find useful. But I still know deep inside me there is the desire to own nothing and to be able to leave in a heartbeat.
I love those exercises where you look at your belongings and have to decide what to take if you have 20 minutes to pack before a fire consumes your house. Because there is always a mental list in my head.
So yes I am a minimalist in the good sense where I would rather be on my deathbed and remember all the “experiences” I had instead of the things I owned, but I also am a minimalist in the bad sense, where I fight within myself to be able to live a life where “stuff” doesn’t own me, I own it and it doesn’t take up space in my thoughts — it just is.
In my lifelong quest at achieving la bella figura ( the Italian concept that you must always look and act your best in every situation), I have accumulated some tips from different sources that I will share with you today. I have broken them down in a few different categories for simplicity.
— Only eat while seated
— Put utensils down between bites
— Take small bites. Chew thoroughly
— Stop before fully satisfied
— Eat mindfully, savoring each bite
— Only eat delicious food (I think someone once said “Eat well or not at all”)
— No snacking.
— No guilt about food. Eat exactly what you please!
— Maintain a slim armoire (see Anne Barone’s Chic and Slim books for more on this)
— Only wear what you LOVE. Only buy clothes that scream “YES” when you try them on.
— Stick to a limited palette, based on perennial fashion colors and maybe one or two signature colors you love
— Buy less. Pay more.
— Once you become of a certain age, put your money into “investment” pieces that will last several seasons and not go out of style
— Don’t swear. (After years and years working in an newsroom, this was actually a habit I had to break!)
— Have impeccable posture.
— Maintain your mystique. Keep secrets. Maintain your privacy. Don’t elaborate when you respond with a “thank you” to a compliment.
— Think before you speak and act.
— Express your passion.
— Speak less about yourself, but always have interesting tidbits to add to a conversation by keeping abreast of current issues (this may be from the fabulous book Entre Nous). Share information about books, films, recipes, school, national and community issues more than you share about yourself. (It’s so boring to talk about yourself anyway!) There is a quote my mother once told me: Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.
Living frugally and chicly
— Eliminate debt
— Only spend what you can afford
— Spend money on experiences not things
— Save for what you want
— Think long and hard before bringing something new into your house
— Study art, architecture, cuisine, clothing, literature, music, chess, film, photography, languages.
— Take time. Don’t rush or multitask
— Read voraciously
“Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful.”
— Sophia Loren
I knew a girl once who was stunning, just gorgeous, but did not know it. And even though her features were worthy of a magazine cover, her poor posture, her sloppy clothes and her slacker attitude detracted from her beauty, so that after awhile of being around her, you didn’t really think she was beautiful anymore. I used to say, if she thought she was half as beautiful as she is, she would be twice as beautiful as she is.
Confidence is alluring.
In my lifelong pursuit of la bella figura, I am inspired by words of wisdom from others. Here’s a few tidbits, taken from Nina Garcia’s book “The Little Black Book of Style.”:
“. . . But when a confident woman walks into a room, it is entrancing. I’ll watch as she moves with poise and self-possession. She is not usually the one in the plain black dress. She is the one in the interesting shirt and the vintage skirt, and I immediately want to know where she got them. And she may not be the most stunningly gorgeous woman I’ve ever seen, but she has a way about her that can make her one of the most intriguing. Confidence is captivating, it is powerful, and it does not fade — and that is endlessly more interesting than beauty.”
Intelligence is alluring.
“I’ve always found that the women with amazing personal style are powerful, intriguing, and yes, even intelligent. Very intelligent. They know who they are and what they want to project upon the world. These women undertand that what they put on in the morning is the first thing people notice about them. It tells the world a bit of their story. And, more important, their clothes affect how they feel about themselves throughout the day.”
Uniqueness is alluring.
“A stylish woman makes me want to walk up to her and say “Where did you get that?” It is not in any magazine or on any runway I have seen, and I just have to find out where it is from. A flea market, her grandmother’s closet, wherever. I just know that I have not seen it before, which is the most intriguing thing in the world. All of the great style icons achieved this aura of intrigue.”
Garcia says that a style icon knows:
And that is style.