Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekend fun (in DC) on a budget

I love Fridays, and the anticipation of the weekend that stretches ahead of me. It will be even nicer if the weather decides to cooperate and we don't experience heavy rain fall which has been frequent in the Mid-Atlantic region lately. I want to do some fun things this weekend, but I want to spend minimal money. Here are a few ideas I have:
  • Go to Artomatic. Artomatic is a month-long art festival that starts this weekend in Washington, DC. It looks like it might be fun and there is no entrance fee.
  • Wander around one of my favorite Smithsonian museums. I love to visit the museums, and want to pop in to visit a few before the really hot, steamy weather sets in.
  • Head to the library and check out some free books, music or movies. My local library has a decent selection of movies and books, so I don't usually leave the library empty-handed when I visit.
  • Go out for appetizers instead of a full dinner. It would be fun to go out to eat, but a full dinner could be pricey, ordering just appetizer's would be cheaper.
  • Bake something. I have a taste for some cupcakes, so instead of buying them, I could try to make them myself. This won't be a free activity, but it shouldn't cost that much.
  • Head to the gym and take a class. Since I already have a membership, I should use it right? It also just dawned on me that swim suit weather is just about here...
What fun things do you like to do in your area that cost little?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why I ignore trends when I go clothing shopping

I don't think you have to completely abando your style to meet financial goals, but I tend to ignore trends when I actually buy clothing for myself and here are the reasons why:

  • I don’t have the budget to keep up. I love fashion and style, but I’m a girl on a budget. I believe it’s possible to look stylish whatever your price-point, so my shopping excursions are normally relegated to stores like H&M, Zara, Target, and occasional trips to vintage stores for statement pieces. While I think certain trends looke fantastic on other people, I wouldn't necessarily purchase them myself. I mainly look at magazines for inspiration, and not with the idea that I will actually buy the triple strap ‘Iman’ Gucci sandals I’ve seen in several magazines this spring. Or the Prada clutch or Marc by Marc Jacobs skirt I admired on one of my favorite fashion blogs (I read an equal number of PF blogs and Fashion/Style blogs). Magazines in many ways give you an unattainable standard to live up to. Even celebrities wouldn’t actually buy all of the clothing they wear and promote; they get a lot of freebies. I’m learning to embrace quality over quantity though I have a long way to go to the classy minimalism that bloggers like Fabulously Broke in the City embrace.
  • Many trends don’t work on my body type and height. I am short, curvy and have a petite frame, therefore, MANY trends I see on fashion models that are several inches taller than me and have body proportions very different from my own simply won’t work. In fact, they’d probably look down right silly. You won’t catch me with any ‘harem pants’ on or leggings worn as pants (unless I’m around the house or running quick weekend errands). ‘Boyfriend’ jeans, and longish blazers are also items you can guarantee I won’t be purchasing. I am learning what works on my body and plan to stick to it when buying items. My favorite clothing items are dresses and skirts; mainly because they normally require very little alteration. This is a big factor for me because paying for clothing to be tailored can add up. For this reason learning how to sew is a definite goal for the near-future for me.
  • I don’t always want to look like everyone else. My growing love for vintage and thrift stores stems from being tired of looking like everyone else. There is definitely a place for “fast fashion” in my wardrobe (i.e. H&M) but if I take the time to hunt down a unique find in a thrift store or vintage store, I will be guaranteed that the girl sitting near me at a restaurant or bar won’t be wearing what I have on. My vintage items or ‘hand-me-downs’ often get me more complements than the latest item I bought from H&M anyway.

    Do you ignore trends or embrace them when you shop for yourself?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cut my cable? Maybe or maybe not...

For the record, I love television. I have somewhat quirky taste and enjoy everything from Project Runway to Star Trek, to almost every show on HGTV, to Gossip Girl. I also have a penchant for classic films. But for a few weeks I've been considering, if I could really live without cable. TV is a time-waster anyway and I normally do have other things I could be doing with my time. It's easy on a Sunday afternoon to sit down to watch one little episode of Millionaire Matchmaker on Bravo (another fav) and end up watching a mini marathon. Let's not even get started on addictive dramas like Law & Order that are always seemingly on in all of their iterations.

But I really feel like I can force my self to readjust to life without cable. I did after all grown up in a household with no cable. The television station I grew up on was the Philadelphia Public Television affiliate, WHYY. For years, with the exception of The Cosby Show and later the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, I had to ask permission to watch another channel other than WHYY. So life without cable isn't new to me.

But how much money could I possibly save if I cut the cable? I currently pay about $60 per month to my cable company. So my approximate yearly savings would be $720. Minus the fees that I will probably get charged to disconnect the cable, it's still not a bad amount of money. That money would be a nice addition to my Emergency savings or my Travel fund (I am determined to go on an International trip in 2010...). Or I could throw it at my debt.

Here are some reasons why I might go ahead and pull the plug:
  1. One less monthly bill and more money in my pocket.
  2. I miss many of the cable shows I enjoy anyway because I'm not home when they come on and refuse to pay for TiVo.
  3. My local library has a decent selection of films and TV shows though they are sometimes a year or two behind.
  4. I can fill the gap of shows I miss with Netflix (which is only about $10 with my subscription).
  5. I've already cut HBO (my only premium station) and so I already don't see series I like such as The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Here are some reasons why I might just let it be:

  1. People sometimes expect to be able to watch cable when they visit.
  2. I'd miss the news channels like CNN and MSNBC.
  3. The fee my cable company would charge me to disconnect my service.
  4. I'd miss special programming and series that aren't available on Netflix or some other source.
  5. I'd miss the Food Network and HGTV.
The reasons why I should just cut the cable seem to outweigh the reasons to leave it on. But I'll try a 2-week experiment starting June 1. If I can go a two-week period watching only what is available on network television (no cable stations), I will just pull the plug. Otherwise, I'll look at other items to save money in my monthly spending.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lessons learned recently

I have been quite neglectful of my blog with the exception of sporadic posting these days, but I haven’t forgotten about Small Budget ,Big Style. I finally feel like I can breath easier now that my spring semester has ended and my summer classes have not started yet. Here are some updates/recent lessons learned:

  • Some technology upgrades do make my life easier. I recently decided to bite the bullet and purchase an iPhone. My cell phone bill is not that much higher than it was with my previous cell phone and plan. I also cut my landline to allow for more room in my budget. I plan to start using Skype or iChat when necessary, but see since my cell phone service works better in my apartment with my new phone, I can do without the landline. I like Apple technology and wanted a PDA phone that could help me manage my schedule, email and also had other features that would interest me. After about two weeks, I love being able to manage my email (work and personal) and respond back immediately to people. I am also an innately curious person, so I love being able to Google any idea or person I’m curious about immediately. I also like the fact that since I have a Macbook, I can synch my cell phone calendar and the calendar on my computer. I see how you can become a little too dependent on technology, but if used in moderation, it can really make life easier.

  • I need to work on managing my time better. Some things on my things to-do list have gone by the wayside recently like staying on top of all of my email accounts, posting regularly on this blog and exercising regularly. I believe I do have time to do all of the things I’m interested in, I just need to manage my time better. I need to train myself to wake up earlier because I really am more productive in the mornings and either read/do homework, exercise, work on blog posts for an hour each morning before I get in my day because I normally don’t feel like doing any of those things at the end of the day.

  • You really do learn to live on what’s left over when you increase savings. I opened a Roth IRA and now have money automatically taken out each month as I also do with my Emergency savings fund and I realize I should have done it sooner, because I don’t miss the money and I really can manage on less if forced to. Next year I will set the goal of maxing out my IRA, but for now, I want to continue with other savings goals.

  • I thought Twitter was a little silly at first, but now I actually like it! I jumped on the bandwagon with Twitter and you are welcome to follow me/tweet: @SBChick. I actually Tweet much more now that I can access Twitter on my phone. It’s a great way to connect with people I love getting news updates, or chatting with people, seeing what interesting links people are ‘tweeting’ about.

  • I need to try baby steps for my next shopping moratorium. My shopping moratorium for the first six months of the year was a failure. I was good until my birthday month of March with no shopping and then just could not sustain no shopping after that. I do plan to try it again in the future, but not for such a long stretch. I plan to do a shopping moratorium again but for 30 day increments and eventually work my way up to six months. It’s a good check to do from time-to-time to test if you really need the items you want to purchase. I want to focus on quality not quantity for clothing and other non-essential purchases for the future. I am by no means anti-shopping, but I want to learn to shop smarter in general and not just buy things on a whim, which I have caught myself doing before. I am amazed by bloggers I read regularly that are so disciplined at cutting non-essential spending saving large amounts of their income and want to do so also.

Have you learned any lessons/insights about yourself recently?

Monday, May 4, 2009

May Goals

I won't be doing an April recap, because I didn't take the time to make goals for the month of April. I think my more productive months are when I set goals, and hold myself accountable for accomplishing them. So here are my May goals:
  1. Purchase textbooks for two summer courses. My classes start the week of May 26th, so I'll email my professors to verifiy what textbooks they want us to have because sometimes the bookstore at my school gets them confused. Then I'll try to find them as cheap as possible online.
  2. Start paying for summer graduate courses. I didn't factor in taking two summer courses when I applied for financial aid last year, so I have to pay off my balance. I originally planned to take one class at a time, but realize I need to step this up to ensure I graduate next year. I was contemplating taking three but just can't swing that financially and also don't want to be overwhelmed with school work on top of my full-time job, which will have several projects in progress over the summer also.
  3. Exercise 3 times a week (and visit the gym a minimum of three times this month). I have been embassassingly inactive over the past few weeks. I do walk everywhere I go since public transportation is my only means of getting around, but I need to do something aerobic.
  4. Complete/mail passport application. I should have done this ages ago. I don't plan on traveling internationally until 2010, but I need to get this out of the way before I really need it.
  5. Formally ask one person to be my mentor. This has been put on and taken off of my goal list before, but I am going to do this for real this time. I really want to grow in my professional skills this year, and having a mentor is one way I'd like to do this.
  6. Schedule vacation days for the summer. I know I have at least one family trip and I need to look at the calendar and plot all of the days I will need off this summer.

There aren't any monetary goals this month, but I hope to have some concrete monetary goals for the month of June.