Category Archives: La Bella Figura book

Chic & Frugal – Week One

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.




Ravvivare! (And reissue of La Bella Figura book)

Big kisses and huge thank you to Fiona Ferris of How To Be Chic for inspiring, encouraging and motivating me to re-issue my book and to come visit this little blog again. She has an amazing series of books that are incredibly motivational. You can buy them here.

I’ve kept in touch with Fiona over the years and took her advice to heart when she mentioned putting out my book again and reviving this blog a bit.

I’m crazy busy with my mystery writing career, but also really miss the time I used to spend keeping my life simple so this is a chance to look at that again.

Here is the revived book.
Below the cover you can read what some people, including Ferris, have said about it.
You can buy it here.


By Fiona Ferris
Why do I love this book and the way author Kristi approaches life so much? I’ve been thinking about it, and I think it is because she is genuine and authentic. She expresses her point of view well, which is that she chooses to live a Italian-style life, on a trim budget, in the US. I have learned many great tips from this book and loved peeking into Kristi’s life. She comes across measured and sensible, but her ideas always produce a frisson of excitement inside me, because they are fun and easy. I always think ‘I could do that!’ and then ‘I think I’ll do it now!’ Kristi’s message of living La Bella Figura on a budget is so important now when many of us are looking for ways to live well without spending a lot of money. Thank you Kristi for sharing your wisdom and passion with us.

I absolutely loved this book
By stephanie h.
I absolutely loved this book! It inspires me to elevate my everyday life into an art form and cultivate a chic, simple and European lifestyle right here at home. Most importantly, the author explains how to do this without spending more, but instead spending less, owning less and as a result, having less stress. I really enjoyed topics like presenting your best in all areas and slowing down to enjoy life while appreciating simple pleasures. This book is an inspiring read!

And here are what some people said about the original book when it was published in 2010

I’ve had my copy of La Bella Figura a week, and it’s already dog-eared and thoroughly highlighted. Primarily a volume on obtaining the elusive chic European women are known for, this book is so much more. La Bella Figura is a primer for women seeking more quality over quantity in all areas of their life. Author Kristi Belle offers priceless tips on ensuring everything – from your style to how your time and money are spent – contributes to the life you truly desire.


I loved this book! Since I adore almost everything about Italy so much, I have come to desire a European-inspired lifestyle for years now. The author defines creating la bella figura by not only putting one’s best foot forward in every situation, but also consciously choosing to live a personal value-driven life. I love this expanded definition; it makes sense to me. She also illustrates it so well with personal experiences, book recommendations, even her own recipes. All of that make this little book an absolute pleasure to read. I have read shelves full of travel narratives based in Italy, and books about the Italians as well, and I have tried to emulate the author’s lifestyle or adopt… More >lessons into my own life. But I still have found tips in Kristi’s book I have yet to come across, it definitely offers something new. I can hardly wait to try some of them out! Right now, I am particularly interested in cultivating a wardrobe primarily consisting of classic, timeless staples, which I can still make my very own. Her tips will certainly help me in my style evolution.

I am drawn to this book as well as her blog because the author is so herself and is not afraid to let everyone know who she is. While reading the book, I almost felt like I was having a face-to-face conversation with a kindred spirit. I found myself repeatedly thinking “I’ve read that book!” or simply “I know, right?!” She inspires me.


I loved this book! It is a great resource for all things chic. What I really found inspiring is the focus that it does not take a lot of money to achieve this lifestyle. The message of simplifying and enjoying your life makes you feel more rich than any latest and greatest must have trendy item at the mall. I highly recommend this book. It’s one I will always keep in my library.


Just finished reading La Bella Figura! Lots of great ideas I plan to start incorporating into my daily life immediately. I have three closets full of clothes in my house. I guess it’s time to downsize and only keep what I really love! I’ve found that having such a large collection of clothing is more of a burden than a joy. Can’t wait to use Kristi’s method to de-clutter my closets and my life! A great book!


Fantastic Book! Even if you read Kristi’s blog regularly, there are still more gems in this book. Her writing style is very accessible and conversational. With what’s been happening with our nation’s economy…this book should be required reading!! Learn to live better with less, and start by reading this wonderful book. I hope there will be many more to follow.


If you are new to the idea of living an Italian and French Inspired lifestyle La Bella Figura is stocked full of ideas on how to get started from cleaning your closets to restocking the kitchen. But even if you are not new to the idea this book is a fresh inspiration on refining and simplifying your lifestyle. Thanks to La Bella Figura, after holding onto it for several years and hating to use it I finally tossed my garlic press!! Kristi’s writing style is down to earth and honest. When reading this book your feel as though you are not so much being instructed by the author but instead are on the journey with her. Unlike many self-improvement books she does not tout her methods as being the only “right” way to live simply and beautifully and in fact doesn’t hesitate to discuss aspects where she herself is still experimenting and growing.


I read this book cover to cover before bed last night and all I can say is I am completely and totally inspired – I’ve already done 3 things to simplify my life – all in the last 12 hours!

1. I shut off my alarm clock after I finished the book (at midnight). I originally had it set for 5:00 am to get up and get to a spinning class this AM – knowing I already had a swim class later in the evening. Why do I need to sacrifice sleep to get in 2 workouts today? I don’t! I took the extra 2 hours sleep instead.
2. Getting dressed this AM I grabbed a pair of pants that I wore earlier this week. I never would have done that before. But they fit me well and they are a classic black that go with… More >lack that go with everything. I LOVE them.
3. I am taking a vacation day tomorrow. I just had some work done at my house, it’s a mess, and I am having a baby shower for a dear friend on Saturday that I need to get ready for. I have tons of vacation time so I’m going to use it to clean, grocery shop and be ready for it instead of also working a full day and stressing myself out late into the evening on Friday – and sacrificing sleep in order to get stuff done.

Thank you Kristi Belle!


I loved this book. I am a big fan of Anne Barone’s Chic & Slim series and La Bella Figura struck me as a younger, Italian version. As a regular reader of Kristi’s La Bella Figura blog this book has a lot of new information and she has expanded on ideas she has touched on in her blog. I felt very inspired just browsing the index – I really should have started from the beginning but I dipped into chapters just to get a taste first (couldn’t help myself).

This book has many great ideas on living ‘la bella figura’ and they are all attainable on a small budget and in small chunks of time. Kristi has such a conversational style of writing that I felt inspired to try out some of her… More >her ideas straight away.

An example of this is in her closet/wardrobe chapter. I jumped up from reading this chapter straight away and instinctively knew what was getting weeded out of my main wardrobe. I know in my heart that I have too many clothes and want to find that perfect and mythical wardrobe of a small number of pieces in which everything goes together to make many outfits.

Kristi suggested paring down the wardrobe and not getting rid of the overflow straight away. That way you can cast items out more freely without having to worry about where they were going to go. I removed everything I didn’t like, was ambivalent about or even just didn’t enjoy wearing (too scratchy, funny shape etc) into another wardrobe.

That way I could have a taste test of the European style wardrobe straight away without fully committing to giving away half of my clothing. And like everyone else, I love instant gratification (not very European of me, but still). What a pleasure it was to get dressed the next day. I still haven’t put any of the weeded out clothes back but they are still there if I want them. In six months or so I plan to donate what I haven’t gone looking for.

Another favourite part of this book is Kristi’s food/kitchen chapter and recipes. Her menus always look so appetising on her blog and I love that I can make some of the same dishes which taste so authentic because they come from someone of Italian descent!

Actually, I loved the whole book. I am so impressed that Kristi has distilled everything she has learned on the art of living well into this enticing book. All of the chapters are topics I am interested in very much and I know I will refer to La Bella Figura over and over again. This book is such a worthwhile investment of your money and time.