Thriftstyle Living: Two great websites to save you cash!

FASHION

Rent The Runway: I have mentioned this website once before, but let me mention it again. With Rent the Runway, you are able to rent designer dresses and accessories for a period of 4 or 8 days (depending on your needs) for MUCH less than the retail price. For instance, for the Joffrey’s Couture & Cocktails event in Fall of 2011, I rented this awesome Catherine Maladrino dress:

This dress retails for $595 but I was able to rent it for only $75. Which is not only a LOT less than its original retail price, but also a lot less than I would have spent on purchasing another dress that would have been appropriate for this event. Remember, there are a lot of rich donors walking around and you want to look like you belong there.

 

Here are some friends and I enjoying the event! The dress fit well, it was comfortable, it looked great (I got a ton of compliments) and I didn’t have to fret over having spent a ton of money on it. Worry-free evening! And Rent the Runway is super easy to use. They send you the dress in whatever size you want PLUS a backup dress in another size for FREE so you have options for fit. They also send a big return envelope so after wearing the dress, all you have to do is stick the dresses in the envelope, stick the envelope in a mailbox, and go about the rest of your day.

I purchased dresses for my first Couture & Cocktail and Spring Gala events at the Joffrey and while I have worn both of those dresses again for other occasions, I am definitely using Rent the Runway in the future. This way I don’t have to clutter my closet with dresses I may or may not wear again, I don’t have to force myself to wear dresses again to make purchases “worth it,” and, perhaps best of all, I can afford to have a new smoking hot dress for each special occasion. I know this might sound wasteful to some people (and you should try to have a few solid dresses or fancier separates that you can wear again and again), it makes me happy and, in the long run, isn’t costing me much. Plus there are certain occasions, such as black-tie Joffrey events and fancier weddings, where you have to have a more expensive looking dress in order to not look like a complete idiot. For example, my friend is getting married at a VERY fancy castle in NY in October and, without a floor-length, classic dress, I would wind up looking like I shouldn’t be there. So I went on Rent the Runway and rented this little number:

 

This Nicole Miller dress retails for $750 and I rented it for $100 (well, $80 with my $20-off birthday code!). So now I’ll look appropriate while not spending an arm and a leg and also not purchasing a floor-length dress I will literally never wear again.

So, ladies, use Rent the Runway for your next special occasion!

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TRAVEL

Speaking of my friend’s wedding in October: I will need to travel to NY to be there and that means finding a place to stay. Instead of paying a ridiculous amount to rent a room at a Holiday Inn Express (barf), I am using Airbnb, a website I’ve used a couple times before to find a place to stay. On Airbnb, people rent out their entire apartment/house, or a room or bed inside it. I’ve used it twice now to find a place to stay in LA and was able to stay in the trendy West Hollywood area in absolutely GORGEOUS apartments (both were owned by interior designers) for a lot less money than I have spent previously on hotel rooms. And its usually a better experience than renting a hotel room: you get access (most of the time) to kitchens and other amenities like pools, yards, etc., you get the added benefit of information on where to go and what to check out from the person you’re renting from (if they’re nice, which both of mine were) and you get to stay in areas you normally wouldn’t with hotels. I will be looking to rent a room in Brooklyn for my upcoming trip to NY.

And you can also use Airbnb to rent out your own place to make some extra cash. This is especially great if you are going to be out of town for a while or you can try to stay with a significant other or friends/family so you can be in town and still make some money on the side. Check it out!

So take advantage of these two great websites, Thriftstylers!

Thriftstyle FREE: Get some Birthday meals!

My birthday is next week (Yay!) and, as expected, the free birthday meals have started rolling in!

“Free birthday meals?” you ask.

Yes. Free birthday meals.

As you might have noticed, I have mentioned several times already that its important to join the email lists of the places you frequent most. Sometimes they send a little too much (in which case you should think about getting a “junk email” just for marketing emails or change how often they email you in your settings). Sometimes they entice you to do things you shouldn’t (see my advice a couple posts ago about getting OFF the lists of clothing stores so you’re not tempted to buy clothes you don’t need). But most of the time they offer you some deals, important updates, and, most importantly, some free birthday meals.

So far I’ve already received:

  • A free meal from America’s Dog (hot dog, sandwich, salad, or wrap with fries and a drink)
  • A free dinner (up to $40 value) from Trattoria No. 10
  • A free entree with purchase of an entree or equal or great value at Qdoba
  • A free sandwich from Which Wich

Which means I won’t have to pack as many lunches next week, can get out of the office for a bit, and entice some friends to get celebratory lunches with me!

Its not much, but these free meals always put a smile on my face and make the week of my birthday feel a little more special – and hopefully more are on the way as my actual birthday isn’t until Wednesday!

Possible thrift store adventures tomorrow.

Have a great weekend, thrifystylers!

Thriftstyle Living: Why this is important!

The more and more I think about how awesome Thriftstyle Living is for ME, the more I realize the importance of Thriftstyle Living beyond my bank account and need to look good.

Since I am feeling so very inspired today (thanks in part to a post from my friend a while back when I started this blog), I am going to present you with…

Reasons Why Thriftstyle Living is Important

  1. Helps you save money: This has already been mentioned repeatedly. I don’t think I need to go into greater depth. Although I will say that saving money is satisfying on several levels (from the lasting gratification of “getting an awesome deal” to the accomplishment of putting money towards debt or a savings account to having some extra cash on hand to spend more quality time out with friends or finally take that vacation).
  2. Helps the environment: Check out this article from Living Green Magazine about the growing popularity of thrift store shopping. I don’t know if you ever think about it, but most of our clothing (about 98%, according to the article) is produced abroad and shipped in, using up tons of energy and leading to coal and natural gas pollution. On top of that, think about all the packaging associated with buying new things: tags, plastic coverings, tissue, boxes, displays in stores…I never realized how much garbage is produced just by shopping at the mall. Shopping at thrift stores not only eliminates the waste associated with producing new things, but it also avoids those things themselves ending up in landfills after their original owners are done with them. Which brings me to an important point: as important as it is to shop at thrift stores, its just as important to donate to them when you’re done with things. Think about what our landfills would look like if everything in thrift stores was just thrown away. So reduce the amount of new things you buy, reuse the things you already have in different ways (or repurpose things you find at thrift stores), and recycle by both buying at and donating to thrift stores.
  3. Helps support low-income communities: Sure, I leave the thrift store happy that I found a pair of almost-new  BCBGirls shoes for a few bucks. But the truth is, before I started my quest for thriftstyle living, I could have continued to buy new clothing and other things from regular stores and survive just fine. The people who are really benefiting from thrift stores are the low-income families who can afford to clothe their children (and give them extras like sports equipment, toys, and more) at much lower costs. I saw a mother buying a Barbie for her daughter whose eyes immediately lit up. So supporting thrift stores helps them to continue to keep costs low so that families like that have an alternative place to shop.
  4. Helps charities: While all thrift stores are already doing their part to help the world by offering people products at much lower costs than regular department stores and being environmentally friendly for all the reasons above, a lot of thrift stores go above and beyond by working with charitable organizations. Stores such as Goodwill, Village Discount Outlet, Unique and Salvation Army are either directly charitable organizations themselves or else work with charity vendors. Goodwill, for example, is a not-for-profit that provides job training, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have a disability, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges. Village Discount Outlet works with the AMVETS and hires veterans. Unique buys used merchandise from local and national not-for-profit organizations that fundraise through item donation programs (Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation and Vietnam Veterans of America). I know the Salvation Army is a bit controversial, but it is a fact that they do use some of the money they receive from donations and thrift stores to help care for the poor.

So those are some of the important reasons you should start your thrifstyle living today!

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Repurposing things is fun!

To help you begin your repurposing journey, here is a great DIY rug project I found on Fine Diving, a great blog about repurposing items that others toss out. I can’t wait to move into my new house so I can make all of my DIY dreams a reality!

 

Thriftstyle Dollars: When the Dollar Store makes sense

I’ve talked a lot about buying things at Dollar Stores already, but haven’t really gone in depth on them yet. So here’s your chance to read everything you need to know about these seemingly magical stores.

The other night I was laying awake in bed when a thought came into my mind: if Dollar Stores are so wonderful and cheap, how do they make money? I did a little googling and came across this article from The New York Times. Its an interesting read, although it explains more about the business side of Dollar Stores than how to use them to your advantage in saving some money. But that is what I am here for, lovely thriftstylers.

So…how do you know when shopping at a Dollar Store makes sense?

Well, there are a few things to think about.

Convenience

Sure, Dollar Stores are cheap, but if you’re running all over the city to get to one, the savings might be outweighed by the cost of gas and/or time spent traveling. This is one of the reasons I don’t always go to Trader Joe’s (because Jewel is right around the corner). One of my ex’s moms used to drive all over her town to get the “best deal” on all the groceries and other things she had to buy. For her, this might make sense (because she didn’t have much else to do with her time and legitimately enjoyed this process), but I don’t have the time or the desire for this kind of thing. I hate shopping, for the most part. Its tedious and time-consuming. I’m a “get in, get what I need, get the hell out” kind of girl. There happens to be a Dollar Store walking-distance to my current (and also my soon-to-be) home, so for me its convenient to shop there. But if its not directly convenient for you, it either might not be the best option, or you might want to make it part of another activity that happens to bring you closer to it (for instance I have to drive out to my parents’ house sometimes or out to the suburbs to perform – at those times I’ll remember to go to the stores nearby that I don’t often go to).

Per-item or Per-serving Cost

“Everything costs a dollar!” might sound like a steal, but you have to do a little digging beneath the surface to determine the true value. For things that are packaged together, the dollar price might not be better than other stores when the amount of items you get – or the serving size, in the case of food – are taken into account. Think about it this way: if you get 15 plates for $1 at the Dollar Store but 30 plates for $1.50 elsewhere (these prices and amounts are obviously made up for this example) it would be more cost-effective to purchase the plates elsewhere, depending on how many you need. With some food and candy, you’ll get a better price elsewhere – don’t let the $1 price fool you! Do a little price analysis before you buy.

Don’t be a sucker!

I’ve said it a bunch already and I’ll likely say it a bunch more: MAKE A LIST!! It doesn’t have to be super specific, but writing down a general list of categories (cleaning supplies, decorations, DIY supplies, etc.) will help you stick to a certain path and prevent you from wandering away from that path to check out the “hot deal of the day.” Most of the crap at the Dollar Store is exactly that: crap. Crap you don’t need. Crap you’ll be wasting money on. Its not beneficial to shop at the Dollar Store if you spend a ton of money on this crap and then not use it for anything other than cluttering up your home. So make yourself a list and stick to what you know you need and will use.

Quality – what are you really buying?

If you read the NY Times article, you’ll see that Dollar Stores sometimes cut a lot of corners so they can still make a profit while keeping prices low. Some Dollar Stores cut corners by renting cheaper locations. Some do it by buying cheaper merchandise. A lot of the stuff they buy (and then sell to you) is reject merchandise from other stores, stuff nearing its expiration or items that might sacrifice a few important ingredients to keep the cost of production low. If you’re looking for something specific, it helps to turn the products around and read the ingredients list, making sure that the one you’re looking for is listed. If its not, you obviously shouldn’t buy it. Also check the expiration date and the general look of the packaging: if its close to or past its expiration date or the package looks beat up, its probably not a good buy. Some people are more adventurous than others, but I would likely stay away from most food products (excluding candy and packaged snack items like chips, cookies, fruit snacks, etc.), medications and vitamins.

Also be wary of safety concerns for some items. Dollar Store toys might be cheaply made, use poor quality materials, or have small parts so watch out. And I would stay away from more electrical items like batteries, extension cords, and Christmas lights. Its better to be safe than sorry, folks.

Finally, while the ingredients you need might be listed, the quality of some things is always going to be better at a higher price. For instance, its easy to say “soap is just soap no matter where you buy or how much it costs.” But the truth of the matter is my more expensive TIGI Catwalk Curlesque shampoo and conditioner make my hair look and feel 100 times better than the cheaper TRESemmé products I used to buy. Trust me guys, its okay to not buy Dollar Store shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, etc. if you know its going to make your skin and hair freak out and, in turn, make you miserable. Saving money doesn’t always have to be a sacrifice.

In my oh-so-humble opinion…

Here are the things that are actually deals at Dollar Stores:

  • Small on-the-go hand lotion to stick in your purse
  • Nail polish, especially if you like to change the color often (expensive nail polish chips just as much as the cheap stuff, in my experience)
  • Shampoo, body wash, lotion, etc. - IF it all really is “just soap” to you (some people don’t care and I applaud them for it) then go ahead and buy to your heart’s content!
  • Kitchen items (ziploc bags, tinfoil, glasses, plates, spoons, spatulas, ice cream scoops, dish towels, oven mitts, and on and on) – There is so much stuff to take advantage of in the kitchen department. You don’t need a $10 designer spatula. So get smart and get to the Dollar Store.
  • Party supplies (invitations, decorations, party favors, goody bags, balloons, serving ware – everything!) – I HATE buying expensive, goofy items at regular party stores (talk about a waste of money) so make sure to check out the Dollar Store for your next get-together.
  • Greeting Cards, wrapping paper, etc. – Along with buying expensive party supplies, I HATE the cost of wrapping paper, bags, tissue paper, and greeting cards. If its the thought that counts, why am I spending $5 on Mother’s and Father’s Day cards? Go ahead and stock up on cards for all the major holidays at MUCH lower costs at the good ol’ Dollar Store.
  • Cleaning supplies (wipes, paper towels, sponges, rubber gloves, soaps, etc.) – If you don’t care about buying name-brand or being uber green, Dollar Stores are the way to go. These cleaners work just as well as the ones you’d buy elsewhere at a MUCH cheaper price.
  • Seasonal/Holiday items – I am not big on buying a lot of this kind of crap but some people are (::cough:: my mom ::cough::). But if you love certain holidays and want to be cute at work or with friends or decorate your home from top-to-bottom, buy your decorations, toys, cards, etc. at the Dollar Store.
  • Some food, candy, beverages – Again check out the per-serving costs, the expiration dates and the wear-and-tear of the packaging. But if you’re hosting a party, you will definitely get a deal in the snack department (chips, cookies, nuts, candy, soda, etc.).

So that’s my advice. Obviously you should check things out for yourselves as your needs/wants are different than mine – and the situation is different at every Dollar Store. But its definitely worth checking out, especially if you live/work near one.

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Domino’s Pizza: Cheap pizza alternative for low-key get togethers

I know, I know. Domino’s is gross. But its really not anymore. Those commercials don’t lie, the taste has gotten a lot better. Trust me, I would know after being fed nothing but Domino’s at Wash U – St. Louis has a SERIOUS decent pizza shortage – and one of my jobs during grad school. As a Chicagoan, I’m a pretty discerning pizza-lover, but I also don’t need to eat crazy expensive pizza all the time. If you’re having a game night or other casual, low-key get together I recommend ordering some Domino’s. We did it after the Pride Parade. We did it last night while playing Risk. A few pizzas winds up being a couple bucks per person and everyone winds up full. Think about it.

Thriftstyle Savings: Half-price sale at Village Discount Outlets!

I. Love. Half. Price.

What a bag of loot I came home with this weekend, thriftstylers! I think from now on I am adding a rule to my thrift store shopping: Unless its something I urgently need, I am only shopping Unique and Village Discount Outlets on half-price days. Its insanity not to.

On Saturday I went to two VDO locations: Irving/Kedzie and Armitage/Milwaukee. I attempted to go to Roscoe/Damen but there was some kind of weird, retro cars streetfest going on and I couldn’t be bothered.

At the Irving/Kedzie location I walked away with 6 lovely, amber-colored, vintage wine glasses, a pair of close-to-new looking BCBGirls striped black and white heels (this brand sells for about $50-100 online), and two books (which I will be using for DIY decoupage projects).

At the Armitage/Milwaukee location I bought a pair of heels, 2 pairs of flats, 2 pairs of boots, a skirt, 2 shirts, 2 dresses, and 2 salad plates (to match the rest of my kitchenware).

This is what $40 looks like when you shop on half-price sale days:

I got a ton of “new” clothing for fall, a ridiculous amount of “new” shoes, I rounded out my kitchenware, AND got some unique and pretty wine glasses, all for a lot less than I would normally spend on these things. Hell, for a lot less than I even planned on spending at this sale. If you count the number of things I bought (22 individual items) and divide it by $40, that’s a total of $1.81 per item, which is an absolute STEAL! Its pretty great. Pretty great indeed.

And I am already getting compliments on the clothes I purchased. Again, shopping at thrift stores has allowed me to more fully express my sense of style as I can put together more complete outfits for a lot less money. And there’s just something about walking in and finding that PERFECT piece! I even made friends with a couple ladies who joined me for a fitting session at one of the large mirrors at the Armitage/Milwaukee location. (A note about dressing for thrift store shopping: I made the mistake of wearing jeans, a belt and an Oxford shirt which made trying on clothes a little more difficult. In the future I will be sure to wear a tank, leggings, and a sweater or shirt that can be easily removed so I can get a better fit for clothing. No fitting rooms is just part of the thrift store adventure!)

Its amazing to me what a difference shopping at thrift stores has made in my life. I mostly felt anxious and overwhelmed at regular stores. I feel more fulfilled, smarter, and more fashion-savvy when I shop at thrift stores. I feel like I have fewer limitations and more room to be creative. Its a great feeling.

I fully endorse half-price sale days. Especially if you can wait to buy things. It teaches you patience instead of instant gratification. I’ll be happy about the $40 I spent this past weekend a LOT longer than I used to be about random purchases at Forever21, H&M or Target. Half-price days can get a little crazy: parents with little kids running around, old ladies with shopping carts, and hipsters with their stupid hipster faces. But all things considered, if you have a general idea of what you’re looking for but you don’t have uber specific expectations (so you’re not buying everything in sight, but you’re also not disappointed if they don’t have a specific piece you saw on your favorite fashion blog) and you don’t mind a little digging, you’ll really enjoy your experience.

UPCOMING SALES:

First, let me remind you that Unique thrift stores are half-price every single Monday. I’ll be checking out some Unique stores I haven’t been to yet on 8/20. (I’ll be looking specifically for jewelry, nude heels, a trench coat, funky lamps, table cloths, and Dr. Seuss books — making lists, kids. It seriously, seriously helps.)

And it looks like both Unique and Village Discount Outlets will be having Labor Day sales, so keep a look out for those, folks. 

I’ll be moving that weekend, but I’m definitely going to take some time to go shopping, especially since I definitely need some “new” things for the “new” house.

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Take an item, Leave an item…

The flip side to gaining a bunch of awesome “new” stuff is, of course, getting rid of a bunch of useless old stuff. I typically try to go through my wardrobe every time I purchase something new. I get rid of anything I know I haven’t worn in the last 6 months to a year and/or likely will not wear in the next 6 months to a year. Its freeing for me because it creates more space for the new things I want to wear immediately. I finally got rid of my prom dress (why that thing was still floating around I have no idea) and also got rid of a bunch of shoes I no longer wear, a purse, and some other pieces of clothing. My sister will happily inherit most of that. The perks of having a fashionable older sister.

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Breakfast at Rockwell’s Grill!

Since I spent so little on my half-price sale purchases, I decided I could afford to eat breakfast out on Saturday morning. One of my future roommates and I went to a great restaurant in our soon-to-be new neighborhood: Rockwell’s Grill. I had been there previously for dinner but neither of us had been for breakfast. And we both somehow forgot that our other future roommate works there (as well as another mutual friend) so there were plenty of warm and fuzzy feelings for all! The food and service are outstanding and the price is fantastic. I usually like to share things with people since I don’t eat a whole lot but love lots of different flavors during a meal. So we split an order of french toast and the chorizo hash skillet. Both of which were delicious. And our bill was only $19 total! Great value. Highly recommend it.

Here’s hoping everyone has a fantastic, thriftstyle-filled week!

Thriftstyle clothing: Stop spending on what you really don’t need

Rethinking Money.

First, let me make a quick announcement about a book I discovered yesterday and have already been racing through. I think its going to be very beneficial for me in writing this blog and also re-organizing my life and finances. And I think it could be very beneficial for all of you as well.

Its called Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez.

This book applies to everyone. Rich, poor, and average alike. Its not about making more money or landing that new job or investing the right way. Its about rethinking your entire life and the way money fits into it. Its about redefining what “success” and “happiness” mean in non-monetary ways (counter to the way most Americans are taught to think) so you can find true contentment instead of working your whole life to achieve the things that “should” make you happy and likely won’t (cars, houses, clothing, etc.). Its about “making a living” not “making a dying.” Read it. Or at least check out the website to get a better sense.

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Things you just don’t need…

By now, we all know the motto of Thriftstyle Living: Sacrifice for the greater good!

This means getting all the things you really don’t need out of your life (unnecessary spending, useless crap, wasted time) so you have more money and time to spend on the things that matter (your health and the activities and people you enjoy most).

Yesterday I wrote about YOU sitting down and deciding for yourselves what you really don’t need in your life. The big things. Like bad (unhealthy) habits, things you spend money on daily (lunches out, morning coffee) that you maybe don’t need, etc. Those are things you have to decide for yourselves that you don’t need. I can’t tell you to get rid of those things. You need to make those decisions on your own.

BUT, today I AM going to tell you about some things you might need, but definitely don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on:

  • Workout clothes: There is nothing funnier to me than a bunch of ladies at the gym, sitting around, NOT working out – all while wearing head-to-toe gear from Lululemon. If you don’t know Lululemon, its a crazy-expensive store filled with “trendy” workout clothes. And. Its. Stupid. C’mon people. Do you REALLY need a $58 shirt to work out? Rhetorical question: No. You don’t need a $58 shirt to work out. You know what you need? All those t-shirts you got for FREE in college, a couple pairs of crappy shorts or sweatpants/leggings (you can get for a few bucks at Target, thrift stores, etc.), and, if you’re a lady, maybe one or two decent sports bras so you aren’t in pain while moving around. (I won’t go into shoes because I honestly don’t know anything about shoes. Mostly because I do things like pilates and yoga, neither of which require shoes.) If you feel you really need that $58 shirt to work out, you should probably have a larger conversation with yourself about why that is. Likely, its that you’re not focused on the “working out” portion of working out. I’m obviously not talking about sportswear if you’re a runner, biker, triathelete, etc. – I know certain activities require certain types of clothes that have certain functions. I’m more talking about women who buy expensive workout clothes so they look good while working out. Which is stupid. If all you do is lift a few weights or use the elliptical machine for 30 mins or do a couple core/pilates/yoga classes, you don’t need expensive sportswear.
  • Pajamas: You don’t need pajamas. I don’t care what Victoria’s Secret catalogs tell you. You know what you need? See above about t-shirts that you got for free in college. No one sees you while you’re asleep. A $50 pair of pajamas isn’t more comfortable than a free t-shirt, or a tank and underwear, or being completely naked. You don’t NEED hello kitty pajama pants (unless you’re one of the rich Jewish girls I went to college with and you’re on your way to Organic Chemistry). And if your argument for buying fancy sleeping clothes is that you’re going to impress some person you’re sleeping with or dating: you’re wrong. That person will be way more impressed by your lack of pajamas (or any clothing at all). So stop spending unnecessary amounts of money on pajamas. Seriously.
  • Underwear: I am all about comfort and buying what works. Ladies: you need decent bras. Gentlemen: you need underwear that doesn’t feel like sandpaper (looking at you, Hanes boxer-briefs). These things are obvious and necessary. That being said, I find that the cheaper bras at Target tend to be better and last longer than the fancy, expensive crap you get at Victoria’s secret that falls apart after one wash. Ditto for most ladies underwear. Now, ladies, don’t get me wrong, I am all about having some fancier pieces on hand for the nights you want to dress-to-impress. Lingerie is important for feeling sexy sometimes, and I encourage you to buy what makes you feel sexy when you have an occasion to wear it. But for everyday wear, there is plenty of cute stuff at Target for much cheaper. Men, same thing. And both ladies and men can find cheap underwear on Amazon too. Never underestimate the power of Amazon, people.
  • Socks/Tights/Leggings/Other leg and foot crap: Go to thrift stores/Target/H&M/Forever21/Amazon. Nothing else to say. Hardly anyone will see your socks. The places I just mentioned have cute, cheap socks, tights and leggings for the ladies and durable, comfortable socks for the men. There is no reason to spend more than $5-10 on any of this stuff. Just no reason. (only exception: if you buy one pair of expensive tights/leggings that you plan on wearing all the time. It makes sense to spend the money on something that will last forever. My argument is that the more expensive stuff doesn’t always last longer – and the cheaper stuff can last a really long time if you take care of it).
  • Fancy clothing for fancy events: How often do you honestly need to wear fancy clothes? Do you REALLY need a new outfit for every time you go clubbing on the weekend (also, stop going clubbing on the weekend)? Do you REALLY need a new outfit for every birthday and holiday season? I don’t think you do. I know I don’t. And with my job I attend at least three black-tie (or close to it) events per year. Men have the luxury of wearing pretty much the same suit and maybe mixing up the shirt and tie (or this is what they should be doing). Ladies, you can wear the same dress more than once by mixing up something else: jewelry, shoes, add a belt, try new makeup or a new hairstyle. Most people won’t remember what dress you wore a year or two ago, trust me. So recycle old dresses back in every few years. OR, if you REALLY think you need to wear something different each time (lest you feel the wrath of the gods of fashion) try a great site I have used a couple times called Rent the Runway. You can rent designer dresses and accessories for a few days for under $100. That’s WAY less than you would normally spend on such dresses and you also get the perk of not cluttering your closet with dresses you’ll never wear again.
  • Email lists for clothing stores: I’m encouraging all of you to shop at thrift stores, but I know some of you won’t be able to stop shopping at your favorite clothing stores. And that’s fine. But get off their email lists. You can go to their site to find when they’re having that mega-crazy-semi-annual sale you love. Being on the email lists of stores WILL tempt you want to buy more (and unnecessarily) just to take advantage of the “crazy awesome” deals they send you. You aren’t saving money that way. You are actually spending more money than you would have otherwise on crap you’ll likely never wear. Trust me. I did this for years before realizing my mistakes (way too late). Do what I told you to do a couple posts ago and make a list of things you NEED for your wardrobe. And then only buy these things. Even if something else is insanely reduced in price. You don’t need it. You won’t wear it. I don’t care how cheap it was or how expensive it used to be.

So those are my suggestions of things to stop spending on immediately. Trust me, you’ll be much happier sharing a few cocktails and dessert with the person you’re dating  than sharing your new Victoria’s Secret pajama set.

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Date Night!

By the way, if you want to share cocktails and food on the cheap, check out Troquet at the corner of Montrose and Wolcott. On Wednesdays you can get a charcuterie plate and 1 glass of wine for $12 and on Thursdays you can get 1 dessert and 1 cocktail for $10. Date night, done.

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Half-price sale approaching – get excited!

P.S. I am TOO excited for the half-price sale going on at Village Discount Outlets this Saturday and Sunday. I plan on spending a few hours thrifting on Saturday. You will likely find me at the stores at Kedzie/Irving and Roscoe/Damen. I will be on the search for:

  • Wine glasses
  • Nude-colored shoes
  • Flats for fall
  • Vintage dictionaries/encyclopedias (for DIY furniture make-overs)
  • Vintage kids books (especially Dr. Seuss – also for DIY furniture make-overs)
  • Jewelry
  • Fall clothing
  • Old rugs for DIY over-dying projects
  • And perhaps some table-cloths

Wish me luck!

Thriftstyle picnics: Ravinia satisfaction for four on the cheap!

Last night three friends and I hit up Ravinia in Highland Park, IL for a little Dvořák and Brahms played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was a lovely evening, everyone had a good time, and we spent just about $100 total for transportation, food, and tickets for FOUR people (which is cheaper than most dinner outings with wine). Helpful information for a group of friends or a family who is looking for things to do during summer for not a lot of money.

Tickets: FREE

As mentioned in a previous post, lawn seats for CSO concerts at Ravinia are only $10 (or FREE with a student ID – I am never, ever throwing that thing away). But because I took the time to enter their free lawn ticket giveaway at the beginning of the season (and entered twice from two different email addresses) I was able to score four free lawn tickets. A few minutes out of my day a couple months ago resulted in a stress-free, relaxing evening with friends. Sometimes its worth it to take the time to do things.

Transportation: $28 on Metra (or $7/person)

Round trip tickets to the Ravinia from the Metra stop by my apartment (Lawrence and Damen) are only $7/person. A quick note: technically, its cheaper to drive (well, it might not be considering gas, but I am not getting that in depth in my calculations, sorry) as parking is only $10 at the Ravinia lot ($20 for pop and jazz concerts) or FREE from the Park ‘N’ Ride lots (where you park further away and take a shuttle to the actual park). But, driving is stressful, especially in traffic (and with weekday rush hour traffic on the highway, the ride to Ravinia can be 40-50 minutes versus the under 30 minute Metra ride). So, to me, its worth the $7 round trip for a quick and stress-free ride where you can converse with friends without having to pay attention to SUV-driving suburbanites who apparently never took a Driver’s Ed class. Also, you can drink on the Metra. So double-score. (And, occasionally, when its a popular concert and the trains are packed, they don’t even come around for tickets so you COULD be riding free – but don’t count on this.)

Food (and wine!): $75 (0r $18.75/person)

To save on food and wine for summer picnic-ing, its all about knowing where to go and taking the time to get there. I went to three different stores because I knew I was going to save on certain things at each store (or find exactly what I wanted, whether or not I was saving – hey, if I’m going to spend the time and money I might as well have what I want).

  • Jewel ($37): I bought a bag of cherries, two cartons of strawberries, two bags of carrots, a cantaloupe (to go with the prosciutto I bought elsewhere), a block of gouda cheese, a small bag of pita chips, a container of hummus, a brick of bottled water (because it was actually cheaper than buying individual bottles) and a bag of Cheetos puffs (mostly as an inside joke, but they wound up being a hit). I buy all my produce at Jewel. The one on Lincoln just north of Irving tends to have great produce at a great price. And I don’t tend to care about organic (mostly because it doesn’t really matter).
  • Trader Joe’s ($27): I bought a package of sliced hard salami, a package of sliced prosciutto, a package of Laughing Cow creamy swiss (the BEST cheese ever), a package of spiced goat cheese, two bottles of Green Fin (the best $4 wine in the world, seriously), a baguette, and three bars of chocolate (one dark chocolate and two dark chocolate with sea salt caramel). There are things that make sense to buy here and things that don’t. The produce isn’t actually as cheap as everyone thinks, especially compared to Jewel (and I know because I compared prices after going to Jewel). But their fancy meats and cheese are a better value than just about anywhere. And the wine. THE WINE! Amazing.
  • Whole Foods ($8): I bought a container of mixed olives from their olive bar. Because they are 100% the best olives I’ve ever had. I know I could probably find them cheaper, but I like these olives and sometimes you just have to pay for what you know will be awesome.
  • The Dollar Store ($3): I bought a roll of paper towels, a package of small paper plates, and a package of Sour Patch watermelon candy (totally (un)necessary).

Everyone was fully satiated. The meal was relatively healthy. And I have plenty of delicious leftovers that I can use for my gathering tonight and as snacks and lunchtime food for the rest of the week/weekend.

I’m sure there are ways I could even find everything I purchased cheaper. Or cut out some of my purchases (the Sour Patch candy, olives, or Cheetos, for instance). But all in all, $100 for an enjoyable evening outside with great people and beautiful music isn’t bad. You’d spend that amount just for a half-way decent meal with appetizers and wine. And this way we got a picnic, a concert, some new and hilarious bits of funny, and an easy ride there and back. Ravinia concerts are the best, guys. The absolute best.

Thriftstyle Decisions: Just a comment about things you do and don’t need.

This post is ENTIRELY my own opinion. Take from it what you will. But its something that needs to be said, especially when people are trying to live a lower-cost lifestyle.

My main point in this post is:

THERE ARE THINGS YOU JUST DON’T NEED.

These things are different for everyone. I’m not saying in any way that the things I don’t need are the things you should be getting rid of. Some women NEED to buy and wear expensive makeup. Some dudes NEED to buy and play video games. Some people NEED their morning Starbucks grande bla bla bla fancy crap bla bla bla latte (I know close to nothing about coffee that isn’t just straight up coffee that shows up free and hot in the kitchen at work).

I know there are things you “need.” And that’s fine. Happiness and comfort in life are important and I’m not telling you to give  up everything. But you should be able to really take a close look at your life and decide what you absolutely, positively CANNOT live without…and what you could probably stop buying or using and hardly even notice its gone.

First things first: All that heroin. You definitely don’t need that.

But seriously.

This post isn’t about ME telling you what you do and don’t need. You probably already know. You just haven’t been honest with yourself about it. I’ve had to get honest with myself a lot.

I don’t really need a bunch of clothes. But I do need to start wearing what I already own (or give it away).

I don’t need to buy fancy coffee every morning.

I don’t really need to go out to lunch every afternoon.

I don’t need makeup or fancy hair products. (And guess what, ladies: you probably don’t either.)

I don’t need a ton of furniture. And I don’t need a ton of decorative crap in my living space.

I don’t need to buy books when I live in a city with a great library system (and have lots of friends who like to share).

And believe me, this isn’t just about cutting costs. Its about simplifying your morning routine so you can sleep more. Its about downsizing the amount of crap you own so you’re not constantly wading through clutter and finding a small army of people to help when you move. Its about donating the things you’re not using so they’re not taking up space. Its about using your car less so you can walk more and spend less money – and time – on parking. Its about finally quitting that bad habit so you’re not wasting time and money on it (and possibly risking your health). Its about maximizing happiness and minimizing work and stress.

Trust me, you’ll feel better after downsizing your life (and making it cost less in the process).

Still think you need all your “stuff”? Get some inspiration from this great article from my favorite site LearnVest about a woman who downsized her life completely.

My favorite parts of that article – and the message I try to live my life by: “But then we started defining our values and reprioritizing. I started reading a lot about living simply. We realized that the life we had fallen into wasn’t what we really wanted. I asked myself: Why was I spending time stuck in traffic to earn the money for our rent when I could be building my relationships or volunteering, for the things that were most important to me?” and ” When it comes down to it, Logan and I aren’t really about austerity, but we want to spend on experiences rather than things. We save a lot, but are also able to spend extra income on going out to eat, biking, camping and traveling. I’m much more aware of my community and my environment–I notice the seasons change and participate in my community more. Not to mention with biking, walking and eating right, I feel so much healthier.”

So set aside an hour or two in the coming week to sit down in front of a pad of paper and really think about all the things you do and don’t need. Think about how getting rid of the things you don’t need will simplify your life (and your finances) and possibly make you happier than you think you are with them. Its a worthwhile exercise.

Thriftstyle Work Outs: Keeping your wallet and waistline in check

So I mentioned in my first post that my gym membership is paid for (so so fortunately for me) by a partnership the Joffrey has with the Chicago Athletic Clubs. It is an awesome perk and one I hope we continue to have for the rest of the time I work here.

BUT…

There are ways to workout without having to pay insane membership fees. You don’t need to work out at schmancy-pants places like David Barton. (Why is there a random bed with frilly pillows in the middle of the weight room? No seriously, I want to know why.) You also (in my very, very humble and completely-not-getting-it-no-please-don’t-explain-it-again opinion) don’t have to crossfit. I don’t get it. Its a lot of money for very little, as far as I can see. (Also, why is there a pregnant chick doing it? And why is she doing better than me?) Unless you want to get insanely, almost sickly buff, crossfit seems like a silly choice.

Here are some great options for working out on the cheap:

  • Walk, run, jog, bike, take the stairs: There are awesome parks and trails in Chicago. Great places to workout outside. And I find that doing extra things – like walking instead of taking the bus or train one or two stops, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, walking on your lunch break, etc. – really do make a difference. And these are all free! Although tough to keep up in extreme cold and heat…You can also workout at home by looking up exercise videos online, buying DVDs (I hear P90X is worthwhile) or buying equipment for your home. If you google “Ways to workout for free” you’ll come up with a plethora of options. And you can easily buy workout equipment (weights, machines, etc.) at thrift stores and through Craigslist.
  • XSport Fitness: Before we got our lovely free CAC memberships, I worked out at XSport. Its worth it, if you actually go workout. I had a trainer for a few months (just one session a week) so I could learn the basics of the machines and good moves to do, but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone – its pricey for what you can actually get out of it; and you need to make sure your trainer is a good one or else you’re just paying to hear a 22-yr-old idiot talk about all the girls he tried to sleep with that weekend. You can find workouts online. And I mostly just go to classes now anyway. XSports has a lot of locations in the city and all of them have great schedules so you can find classes to fit any lifestyle. The key to getting a cheap membership at XSport is signing up when they have a promotion running (and they usually do) and signing up with a friend. My old roommate and I went and they gave us a “family” rate of $42/month, which isn’t bad compared to a lot of gyms.
  • Chicago Park District Fitness Centers: The CPD offers a lot more than I always think they do. Apparently they have 71 new/improved fitness centers all across the city. Membership rates range from $30-$60 every three months and centers feature state-of-the-art equipment and many parks also offer a variety of classes (including circuit training, conditioning, kickboxing, pilates, yoga and aerobics).
  • YMCA: I have a few friends who belong to the Y and they seem to like it a lot. Plus these exist all over the country so if you’re on vacation your membership applies anywhere. I know they offer “scholarships” for low-income individuals/families and rates based on age.  Plus,  membershisp includes: state-of-the-art equipment and exercise classes, free training and nutrition classes, and discounted babysitting if you need that. Worth looking into at the very least.
  • Groupon/LivingSocial/Whatever the other ones are called: All those group discount sites offer workout packages on the cheap. For instance, the Groupon in Chicago today is for CorePower Yoga – you get one month of unlimited yoga classes for just $59. And since they offer so many deals, you could probably just jump from one deal to the next without ever having a gym membership. You have to take schedule into account though: for me the deals that offer a set number of classes at a set rate, taken whenever they fit into your schedule work out better than “one month of unlimited classes.” I might be too busy in one month to hit as many classes as I can, and then the money I’ve spent is wasted. They also have discounts on dance classes which is a fun way to workout, socialize, and learn something new. Keep a lookout – I’ve definitely bought deals like this and they are awesome.
  • A few places (like Lululemon ) offer free classes. Google it up. Also, if you sign up for FitSugar emails, they sometimes send info on free workout classes in the area, free workout videos online, and much more.
  • Whole Foods in Lincoln Park: This location of the popular “organic” food store just opened a Wellness Club. The membership is only $49/month which isn’t awful compared to some gyms, and offers:
  1. 10% Discount on certain foods available in the store
  2. Discounts on Supper Clubs, Lunch and Learns, hands-on and private cooking classes
  3. Unlimited Access to nutrition, yoga, fitness, cooking and practical techniques classes
  4. Additional benefits provided by the store’s partners in the community
You can try out classes before actually joining, and they offer nutrition and fitness classes to non-members at rates that aren’t horrible. Check out all the information online.
So that’s my advice for working out on the cheap. If you have any other suggestions, let me know! Keep healthy, Thriftstylers!