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Chic & Frugal – Week One

June 13th, 2017 No comments

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:

Marketing

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

Miscellaneous

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

Thursday

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

Friday

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!

Target:

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

$5

SPENT: $201

Saturday

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

 

Sunday

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

Monday

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.

SPENT: $0

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.

 

Tuesday

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

 

IN CONCLUSION:

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.

 

 

 

A few of my favorite things

January 10th, 2017 Comments off

 

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.

 

MOLESKINE JOURNAL

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:

 

 

PILOT PEN

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

On My Nightstand

July 18th, 2010 3 comments

 

I’m just going to apologize right off the bat for this post. My book situation is out of control. Pure chaos. Overflowing with library books, books I’ve bought and books I’ve borrowed. For some bizarre reason, all of the books on my waiting lists at the library all decided to come in at once. Several are in the exact same genre of the novel I am writing: girl crime reporter, so they are really considered research.

I have included pictures of them all (see the second to last picture for an idea of the chaos), but I will briefly give a summary of those that I have already read. I  read and loved Foreign Tongue by Vanina Marsot. I recommend it to all Francophiles.

Am currently reading Villa Mirabella from one of my favorite authors in the Italian-American fiction genre, Peter Pezzelli. For some reason, possibly that the main character is a man in his 30s, I keep losing interest in this one.

The one that has me completely caught up in the character’s world is Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. One of my bookclubs chose this and I borrowed it, so I am making it priority one so I can return it and let someone else in bookclub borrow it. (My second bookclub meets this week and I will have a new book from them, as well, just to add to the madness!)

I also finished “Which Brings Me to You” By Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott. I must say the whole concept of a book based entirely on correspondence was intially a complete turnoff, but the writing is so wonderful I ended up completely engrossed and loved the book. I can’t wait to read more by Baggott.

I also read Becoming A Writer (Dorothea Brande) and On Becoming a Novelist (John Gardner). Both were so-so, I guess. I also read Mark Bittman’s Quick & Easy Recipes and copied down a few of them. Behind that book in the picture you can see some photocopies I made of recipes from the French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. I think I copied about 5 of them for future reference before turning the book back into the library.

The other books on my nightstand (Cheri and The Things They Carried and the New Yorker anthology) are all books I bought, so I may not get to them for quite some time since I have to read the library books which have due dates first!

Categories: Literature, Living La Dolce Vita, Style Tags:

It looks like not only French men appreciate older women

January 24th, 2010 6 comments

Let me preface this by saying I was searching for the Top 10 books of the decade and got sucked into AskMen.com’s top 10 lists and believe me they have a lot of them and they are fun to read.

You don’t have to be of a certain age to learn from these examples. For instance, there are many women much younger than me who embody a lot of these qualities. It is something we can also appreciate about ourselves as we age. And their idea of an older woman — between 29 and 45 still is a bit younger than what we would call “of a certain age” but still worth reading.

Top 10: Things We Love About Older Women

This year’s Top 99 Women prove that we find maturity hot, and here’s why.

By Andrew Moore, Entertainment Correspondent

Page 1:

One truth that emerges from our list of the Top 99 Most Desirable Women of 2010 is that men love older women. This is not to say we have some weird thing for the elderly, but rather that, on average, our taste in women skews a little older than most people might expect.

While pop culture often idealizes the 19-year-old sexpot and the barely legal college coed, men at this moment in history are more attracted to somewhat older women. The average age of the Top 99 winners is 29. And while the youngest age of one of our most desirable women is 19, the oldest is 45. The stats indicate that we’re attracted to women with a little more maturity, and it’s not hard to see why.

Check out this list of the top 10 things we love about older women.

Page 2: Older women are independent

One of the top 10 things we love about older women is their independence. Older women are typically more comfortable being alone. They’ve spent time in and out of relationships and consequently they know how to get along fine without us by their sides every single moment. They know that they don’t need a boyfriend attached to their hip to be happy. This means that older women are less likely to be clingy or needy, which makes them much easier to get along with.

Page 3: Older women are assertive

Older women often have a clearer sense of who they are and what they want. Consequently, they’re less timid when it comes to men and they’re also less inclined to play games. While a woman in her early 20s might waste your time playing hard to get, or trying to make you jealous, a woman even five or 10 years older is more likely to cut to the chase and be upfront about her feelings or lack thereof.

That kind of forthrightness is refreshing; it can even be a turn-on. And it’s another one of the top 10 things we love about older women.

Page 4: Older women offer good conversation

There’s nothing like going out on a date and having a 45-minute conversation about Spiedi, followed by a scintillating story about how your date was going to buy this one purse, but instead she didn’t and got this other purse instead.

A good conversation is one of those things we tend to take for granted until we haven’t had one in a while. Great conversation skills are something that younger women often lack, not so much because they’re women, but mostly because they’re young. Quite simply, older women have lived longer. They’ve seen things, done things and been places.

They have more interesting stories and more experience, and that makes them better conversationalists. Don’t underestimate the importance of talking; it will keep a relationship interesting long after the spark of the initial attraction has faded.

Page 5: Older women have more money

OK, so perhaps this entry on our list is a bit mercenary. However, we prefer to think of it as “pragmatic.” The truth is, older women do tend to have more money than younger women. We’re not saying that’s the most important thing to consider when dating someone. It’s just a comfort for guys to know they aren’t going to have to pay for every single date over the course of a relationship. Nor are they going to have to pay her cell phone bill when her burgeoning modeling career “temporarily” stalls.

Page 6: Older women have more mature friendships

Younger women are often deeply entangled in cliques. Through texts, phone calls and daily e-mails they’re constantly checking in with their gal pals. In order to become her boyfriend, you have to have the approval of her friends. Before you make plans, she’s got to check with Mitsy and Bitsy. It can be exhausting.

Older women are often less invested in seeking the approval of their female friends. They don’t need to consult their friends before making even the most minor decisions. Older women are more confident and self-reliant; their friendships are more mature. They’ve had time to sift through the fair-weather friends, the hangers-on and the airheads, and they’ve streamlined their social networks.

Page 7: Older women make better dates

The thing that makes older women better dates is that they have more sophisticated tastes. Plain and simple, older women do grown-up things and that’s another one of the top 10 things we love about them.

They’re not interested in getting stupid drunk and passing out in a public washroom. They’re not interested in grinding on a dance floor to obnoxiously loud techno music. Older women are past their rebellious phase and over their need to be the center of attention.

Page 8: Older women are less drama-prone

Maybe it’s because younger women experience a lot of firsts that they seem unprepared to navigate life’s twists and turns. First loves, first broken hearts, first betrayals: we suppose it can all seem like too much sometimes. Younger women just always seem to have more drama in their lives than their more experienced counterparts do. Due to their immaturity, younger women tend to magnify the importance of every little thing. When you’re dating a really young woman, there always seems to be a new catastrophe or crisis. It’s really impossible to avoid getting sucked into the drama, pointless as it may seem.

Most older women are cooler under pressure; they know how to deal with disasters, and they can often handle them on their own.

Page 9: Older women have more sexual experience

Perhaps the most common reason men cite for wanting to date older women is superior sex. Older women are better in bed. Period. They’ve gotten over all the little insecurities and anxieties that can negatively impact your sex life. Older women are comfortable in their own skin. Moreover, they know how to make the bedroom exciting and interesting. They’ve graduated beyond the bedroom basics and their experience often makes them more willing to try new things.

Page 10: Older women have more relationship experience

Older women know how to handle the trials and tribulations associated with relationships because they’ve been through just about all of it before. She’s going to have more realistic expectations. She’s less likely to have a princess complex. Older women are typically more measured and well-mannered in their response to relationship crises, which makes the chances of a long-term relationship with her much better.

Page 11: Older women value your time together

Equipped with a clear sense of what’s really important in life, older women are more appreciative of the time you spend together and they aren’t likely to be reckless with your emotions. That’s the thing we love most about older women.

While younger women often don’t take men, relationships or life in general very seriously, an older woman understands the value of a good man. She’s seen what’s out there, she knows what’s at stake and she’s not likely to take you for granted.

Categories: Living La Dolce Vita Tags:

Sedona

November 17th, 2009 8 comments

I’m busy catching up with work but here are some photos of where I went for the wedding last weekend:

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Categories: Living La Dolce Vita Tags:

Another “Money Diet” Guest Post, this time by Marsi!

September 25th, 2009 12 comments

Here is a guest post by Marsi, a fabulous writer and editor many of us have begged to start her own blog, but she is probably too busy, so we’ll have to be satisfied with this wonderful guest post. Thank you Marsi!

marsi-pic1 

The Money Diet Does Laundry

 

“After enlightenment, then laundry.” (Zen proverb)

 

          Although the U.S. is showing signs of emerging from the serious recession of the last two years, many of us still feel its effects in our own personal economies and are looking for ways to save money where we can. When you consider that major appliances (such as washers and dryers) consume approximately 9 percent of the average household’s energy, the laundry room is as good a place as any to make small changes that can save you money. Today, I share with you some of my tips that might help you realize some savings and, I hope, make the drudgery of laundry a little more pleasant.

 

Wash in cold water. Would you believe that 95 percent of the energy expended in using your washer comes from heating water? According to the Saving Electricity website (http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/laundry.html), a warm/warm wash-and-rinse cycle costs 39 cents per load, whereas a cold/cold cycle costs a mere 3 cents per load — for an average annual savings of $143. In my experience, washing in cold water gets my laundry just as clean as warm water, while better preserving its colors and sizing.

 

Consider buying a front-loading washer. Because front-loaders use significantly less water and energy to operate, the long-term savings of replacing a top-loader with a front-loader add up over time. If you need to replace your washer, it’s best to do so with a front-loader. Although it may cost an extra $200 up front, it will pay for itself in long-term energy savings. Also, a front-loader is much gentler on your laundry because it doesn’t use an agitator, which can pull and damage clothing, so your clothes last longer — a hidden savings itself.

 

Drip-drip dry your laundry. Kick it old-school by installing a clothesline in your backyard. My rowhouse has a huge balcony in lieu of a backyard, which is perfect for a multiple-line retractable clothesline. I use it three seasons a year, from spring to autumn. Indoors, I also use a folding laundry rack for smaller items (such as socks and underwear) and delicates. I have found that not putting my shirts in the dryer keeps their color and texture intact for much longer, which saves me money as well.

 

Make your own laundry detergent and fabric softener. I came across great recipes for homemade detergent and softener two years ago on Modern Cottage (http://modcottage.com/?p=117) and have used them ever since. Modern Cottage estimates that each batch (which yields approximately 35 loads) costs a mere $2 to make, versus nearly the $10 for the equivalent in Tide. My family and I have detected no difference in the cleanliness and freshness of our laundry; if anything, our clothes seem fresher and less dingy because they don’t have build-up from fabric softeners. The cleansers are so mild that they’re perfect for baby clothing, and if you have sensitive skin or allergies yourself, you’ll be pleased with the results as well.

 

As you can see in the photo, I store my laundry detergent in a cute tin from Cost Plus World Market and have decanted my fabric softener into a decorative bottle. They add a nice touch to my laundry room and are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than big plastic jugs of detergent. Although young Wolfgang doesn’t contribute much in terms of labor to my laundry efforts, he — along with everything else in my Laundry Room Still Life — certainly improves the view while I go about my task. 

 

Laundry Detergent (adapted from Modern Cottage)

 

2 bars Ivory soap, grated (comes out to about 2 cups)
1 cup borax (available in the laundry aisle of grocery stores and Target)
1 cup washing soda (in the laundry aisle of larger grocery stores, also may be available in some hardware stores)

 

Blend it all together into a bumpy, granular mix. Add drops of essential oil (lavender is my favorite) to scent your detergent, if you wish. Use 1 tablespoon of detergent for a light load, and 2 tablespoons for a large or dirty load.

 

Note: I urge you not to destroy your food processor by using it to grate bars of soap. Please trust me on this. If you have a standing mixer (such as a KitchenAid) that comes with a metal grating attachment, you’ll make quick work of this task. If not, please do it by hand with a cheese grater and enjoy the firmer biceps that undoubtedly will be yours after this exercise. Do not use any appliance that has plastic moving parts because grating soap overworks the motor, causing the plastic parts to break or melt. Please, use only an appliance that has metal moving parts to grate soap.

 

 

Fabric Softener (adapted from Modern Cottage)

 

1 gallon distilled white vinegar

25-30 drops essential oil

 

Use 1/4 cup per load to eliminate static, soften laundry, and rinse away soap residue.

 

 

My First Guest Post!: The Money Diet

September 19th, 2009 7 comments

I am thrilled to have Stephanie from Bonjour Madame, someone I admire enormously, write my first guest post.  Thank you so much Stephanie! You are always an inspiration to me. I won’t waste time with my words, but rather defer to hers. Enjoy:

The Money Diet

Kristi graciously asked me to guest post on the topic of money. Specifically “The Money Diet.” I would like to state that The Money Diet or Regime Fric is something I read on the French Chic (Yahoo) boards years ago and it was originally written by a talented writer and board member, Marline. It inspired me so much to change the way I treated money and that change stuck with me and changed my financial life for the better. I’d like to share why it inspired me so much.

Marline approached this strategy in such a way that made the project fun. She related the money diet to strategies outlined in Mireille Guiliano’s “French Women Don’t Get Fat” book.  As women, we can probably all relate to an actual diet.

Step one …”round up the usual suspects”. What are you buying repeatedly? Especially those things that you already have enough. If you don’t know what these are, keep all of your receipts for three weeks. Review all of your receipts and start writing down the trends. Take note of not only what you are buying, but how often and how much. For me, it’s lipstick, skin care, books, magazines,tea from the coffee shop, and clothes. Write it down.

Step two … where are you spending? Is it online, the mall, extra items in the grocery store, bookstores or coffee shops? Write it down and devise a plan to avoid these temptations. These are your offenders and while you are paying off debt, should probably be avoided. Stop going to the mall. I’m being sarcastic, but it’s amazing how well this works! Just avoid that particular place that you overspend. Realize mindless shopping is an attempt to fill a void in your life.

Step three … have patience and develop rituals. While you are not spending on needless items, put that money toward paying off debt until it’s gone. Embrace organization and cleanliness. If you take care of what you own now, you will appreciate it more and realize you have everything you need already. Organize your bills. Make bill paying a pleasant experience. It can be done! Fix a cup of tea, put on relaxing music, place your bills on your clean table, use a nice pen, and relax a little.

Step four … picture yourself where you want to be financially and have a goal. It’s important to have a dream for your future both involving sound finances and a splurge. What do you want to do? Take a trip to Paris or Rome? Buy a fabulous pair of shoes? It can be big or small but it must motivate you. Mine is another trip to Paris. I think about strolling along the Seine, sitting at a cafe, shopping for something special in Paris (and paying cash) and it always stops me in my tracks with whatever I’m about to buy.

Consider writing down on paper your new story. How do you want to be financially in the future? Write down how you will treat money, organize your finances, live stress and debt free, and have extra money to do the things you’ve always dreamed about. Make it fun and be specific. Use your imagination!

Finally, these are a few of my tips that I’ve learned throughout the years from experience. Always live below your means. It’s the only way to have extra cash to save for your future goals. If you are constantly spending everything you make, it will never happen. Resist the urge to continue trading up your house and know that it is possible to pay off your mortgage in much less time than your original loan. Aim high!

Learn that it’s OK to be different. Even when your friends think your decisions are strange, learn to be at peace with it and know that what you are doing is the right thing for you. Make a list of free and inexpensive things you can do that enhance your life and do them regularly. Create a savings account for your specific short term goals. I’ve got one titled “Paris” and it’s an absolute joy to make deposits into this account. It’s separate from other investments and savings accounts.

One of the things my husband and I do too often is eat out. I actually prefer to eat at home because it’s healthier and more relaxing. I can control the ingredients and practice becoming a better cook.

If you like a more technical approach, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover”. It will explain how to get out of debt and approach it with great intensity. It’s a great book. I tape his show on the Fox Business Network every day and watch them when I have free time to continue to stay motivated, even though I am debt free. I need constant motivation to continue to save for what is important and staying focused on a more frugal lifestyle helps.

I also recommend that you visit the FC boards and search for these older posts by Marline. They are treasures and I hope that she knows how much of an impression they made on me years ago.

Stephanie
http://bonjourmadamestephanie.blogspot.com/

Discipline is the key to everything/June 29

June 29th, 2009 9 comments

I have neglected some of my best habits and it is starting to show. My clothes are tighter and don’t look as well as I’d like them to. The two biggest habits I’ve let slide are: walking daily and not snacking between meals.

Both result from a lack of discipline in my life. I can blame the not walking on the strange spring and summer season (it is either raining or in the 90s). I can blame the snacking on — well, I guess I can’t blame that on anything. But the fact is, I have not been as disciplined in my habits as I’d like to be.

Discipline is the key to everything in my life.

* How and when I spend money

*What I put into my body (food, alcohol)

* What comes out of my mouth! (This is key in all my relationships, with friends, with family. What I choose to say, what I choose to leave unsaid. HOW I say things.)

*What and who I allow into my life and home (purchases, people, new clothes)

* How I maintain my household (from creating set routines for my children — to cleaning and organization — to making sure the dinner hour is sacred every night and a strong family tradition every Sunday — big family dinner!)

It seems whenever my life seems slightly out of whack, it all comes back down to discipline.

How does discipline affect your life?

Monday, June 22nd/The Price of Happiness

June 22nd, 2009 5 comments

 

The Price of Happiness

I came across this article in the July 2009 Good Housekeeping magazine that summed up a lot of my philosophy and views toward money.

The article basically says that you can find joy, happiness and contentment no matter what your budget is.

But you have to think carefully about how you spend your money to make this happen.

“The golden rule: Devote your dollars to things that further your goals and beliefs,” said one researcher. “It’s now very clear that nurturing the things that YOU value — whether that’s becoming more cultured or redesigning your garden — is what makes people happier.”

Buying material goods usually only provides temporary happiness and when you set your sights on acquisition, you often only gain the feeling of wanting more. “Purchases that support your own values, however, are more satisfying because they help to boost your feelings of self-worth.”

To “get the most bliss for your buck” you have to think long and hard before you spend your money.

* “One of the best ways to invest in happiness is to focus on DOING rather than OWNING … 57 percent (of people asked) said they got more happiness from things they had done — taking a vacation, riding a bike, strolling through a museum, eating a pretzel with a friend — than from stuff they had bought.”

It’s not only that these activities are fun while we are doing them, it is that we are creating longlasting memories.

One mother of two interviewed in the article said she has “set her financial priorities to create happy memories.

“She isn’t interested in replacing the television she bought in 1988. Instead, she saves her money so she can buy airplane tickets and travel to new places. The jaunts, she says, are exciting stress relievers — even well after they’re over and she’s back at work: ‘I recently spent five days in Paris with my husband, walking down old streets steeped in history. Thinking back on that during an otherwise difficult day relaxes me.”

These memories will bring her happiness for years to come.

“Material things, on the other hand, quickly lose their luster. You may spend hours fantasizing about buying a silk scarf, several days shopping for it and perhaps even some time enjoying it, but not much. Your brain quickly adjusts to the fact that the scarf is folded in your drawer, and before long, you’re so used to its being there, you can barely remember when it wasn’t.

“Once the object of your obsession, now the scarf blends into the background and becomes as normal to you as hot water, Internet access or automatic-drip coffee.”

* Splurge on mini treats. “It may sound counterintuitive, but researchers have found that over time that small, inexpensive indulgences have virtually the same emotional impact as big, pricey ones — making the little things a much better buy.”

Another study examined the purchase of big items versus small ones and the happiness quotient.

“It was the frequent treats of chocolate bars or bottles of wines with takeout dinners that made both groups happy — not the pricier purchase of artwork, designer luggage or CD players.”

So, I’m off to buy my bottle of wine.

Salut.

La Dolce Vita Authors I love

May 16th, 2009 1 comment

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If you want ideas on living the sweet life, please check out one of my favorite Italian American authors,  Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, author of Living La Dolce Vita.

You can also find inspiration on her blog: http://www.raeleenmautner.blogspot.com/

 Also, check out her musings on her other website:

http://dolcevitaseminars.com/_wsn/page7.html

Another Italian-American author I absolutely adore is Adriana Trigiani. Her website is http://www.adrianatrigiani.com/

I love everything she’s ever written. When she heard I was reading her latest book at my bookclub she asked if she could call in to chat with us. It was great talking to her. When I answered the phone that night, she said, “Hey baby, how’s it going?”

What’s not to love?

They are filming a movie this summer based on her first book, Big Stone Gap, and she invited us to be extras. Not sure if we’ll make the road trip, but the offer was sweet.

Have a great weekend.

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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.