Thursday, September 29, 2011

SSF: The Power of Recreating

Recreate{we heart it}

I'm a few days out from the end of the freeze, and I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what the whole "no spending" thing has taught me.  I think I'll take a good part of October to continue talking about my freeze lessons as well as talking more in detail about some of the things that have helped me survive.  From week one, the biggest thing that's helped me survive is taking a serious look at the things I love to do (and spend money on) and figuring out ways I can recreate a similar experience at home.

Eating out with friends has been one of the biggest sources of spending for Matt and I over the past year.  Chicago is really known for being a foodie city, so during our first year here, we seemed to justify every restaurant stop as part of "experiencing Chicago."  But then we found out we were staying in Chicago long-term and our spending should of changed.  But it didn't.  We continued to eat out with friends several times a week, some days just grabbing drinks and appetizers and other days splurging on hip hot spots.  But at the end of August, we took a good look at our American Express bill and realized just how much we were overindulging.

So the freeze started, and I was forced to give up eating out.  But I found myself trying to be creative about ways I could still get the "experience" without having to eat out and spend money.  I began asking myself what I enjoyed most about grabbing dinner and drinks with friends.  And surprisingly, it wasn't usually about the food.  It was about getting together, with people we love, and having a good time.  We started inviting people over more, cooking for friends on the weekend, having them bring a bottle of wine or a few favorite local beers.  When we craved patio dates with fun cocktails, we'd dust off our patio chairs, blast some fun tunes, and sit outside with the grill going.  When we craved wine nights, we'd hold off on the downtown wine bars and instead hit up Trader Joe's for a few of our favorite cheese and jams, spread them out on our cutting board and open a bottle of wine.  Same feel, same type of food, much different price.

So my advice is to think about the things that you love doing and how you can recreate them at home or on your own for a much cheaper price.  Maybe its a dinner party, maybe its a backyard barbeque for two.  Or maybe its as simple as buying a flavored creamer to create a home version of your favorite Starbucks drink.  Whatever it is, find a way to recreate it, and watch your wallet grow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NYC Wedding Weekend: Part 2

Last week I posted the first half of pictures from Matt's brother's NYC wedding.  Today I'm excited that I finally got my blogging act together to share the rest.

310239 10150321988852480 769142479 7983425 882000856 nPosing with my niece and mother-in-law before the ceremony.  The ceremony was in Madison Square Park which was the perfect space to see Josh and Anthony exchange their vows.  Small, intimate, yet totally fabulous.

DSCN5275Matt and I before the ceremony.  PS: I would like to point out that I resisted the urge the buy a new dress for the wedding and wore something I already had hanging in my closet. Hooray for the September Spending Freeze :)

293993 10150321990257480 769142479 7983438 2131105940 nBefore the guests arrived, the family was able to see the green space and do a quick walk through.  I should note that I did not plan on wearing this blazer with this dress, but NYC decided to experience a big time temperature drop the weekend we were there.  I didn't bring anything remotely appropriate to wear over my strapless dress, so a few hours before the ceremony, I snagged this blazer at Forever 21, hoping it would keep me warm without looking totally ridiculous.  A special thanks to Matt's parents who insisted on buying the blazer for me as they didn't want me to fudge on my spending freeze :)

DSCN5281Instead of having their parents walk them down the aisle, Josh and Anthony walked down the aisle together, hand in hand.  I won't lie, when they turned the corner of Madison Square Park and started walking towards their friends and family, I got pretty emotional.  It was incredibly unique and special to witness.  And how cute are their matching suits?

DSCN5286Though it was just friends and family standing in the immediate vicinity, onlookers gathered just outside the gated area.  There were tons of iPhones and flips recording the event, and it was cool to see so many New Yorkers in support of a stranger's special day.

DSCN5287I snapped this picture when the officiant asked Josh and Anthony to turn and face their friends and family.  She spoke about the love they have for one another and the support they have and will continue to receive from the people who love them.  It was definitely one of my favorite moments from the ceremony.  And ps: look at that crowd behind them!

DSCN5294"I now pronounce you husband and husband."  Beyond cool.  I should also note that when the officiant said the bit about "By the power vested in me by the state of New York..." people went crazy.  Glad to see so many New Yorkers loving the state's recent decision.  Now if the rest of the country would get on board...

DSCN5297After the ceremony, all the guests paraded a few blocks away to Hill Country, home of the reception and the world's best barbeque.  (And naturally, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pose with the greatest state flag around!)  You may remember me gushing about this place last summer when we were in New York, and I have to admit, I'm still smitten.  Any place that serves real Texas BBQ is a hit in my book, but to find it in the middle of New York City is even more delightful.

DSCN5309Posing with my sister-in-law Julie, part paparazzi, part glam squad for the evening :)

DSCN5299Between the fried chicken and cornbread bites, we could barely find time for photos.  But we managed to sneak out a few :)
PS: If any of you watch the ABC hidden camera show, What Would You Do, you might recognize the host of the show, John Quinones, just down the table from us.

DSCN5320Hahaha, I love this picture so much because I remember it so clearly.  My brilliant husband suggested tequila shots, and these two were split over the idea.  Josh won out, but Anthony was able to sneakily divert the shot with the old "fake take it and set it on the table" trick.  True love, it's a compromise :)

DSCN5321Cheers to the newlyweds!

DSCN5323Posing at the end of the night after a fabulous celebration.  We couldn't be happier for Josh and Anthony, and frankly, I'm thrilled to have another Texan trying to survive the craziness that is the Davis family with me :)

Another big congrats to Josh and Anthony, and of course, a big thank you my in-laws who treated Matt and I for most of the weekend.  Until next time NYC :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't Go All Rebecca Bloomwood on Me

With just a week and a half left in the freeze, I'm starting to feel the itch.  The itch to buy that one fall knit, that one new nail polish, or that one new pair of boots.  I'm working hard to convert these feelings, not just for this week, but for good.  I don't want to the freeze to be a fad financial diet where I restrict and then go crazy after a few weeks on the diet.  I want the freeze to be a lifestyle change.  And because I'm determined not to have October 1st look like this...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NYC Wedding Weekend: Part 1

We've been back from New York for a few days, and I'm desperately hoping that sometime this week, my body will attempt to recover from all the late nights, lack of sleep, and tons of fun we had.  The weekend was fabulous, and it was so incredible to be able to share in Josh and Anthony's big day.  Not surprisingly, I took a ton of pictures while we were there, so I thought it would be easiest to break the weekend up in a few parts.  First up...pre-wedding festivities!

319955 10150322030802480 769142479 7983763 297048049 nMatt and I arrived early Friday morning after a smooth flight out of Chicago.  (FYI: A 6:00 am departure time makes for a painfully early wake up call.)  The rest of Matt's family arrived the day before, so as soon as we landed, we dropped of our luggage and headed for brunch at Popover Cafe.  It was so yummy and the perfect start to the weekend!

DSCN5262After brunch, the guys headed off to move a few things for the wedding the following day, so the girls headed off to explore Central Park and The Met.  The weather was beautiful and perfect for exploring NYC on foot!

DSCN5261Leopard and Central Park...New York staples in my book :)
Top: Ann Taylor, Necklace: H&M

317849 10150322045397480 769142479 7983945 1430734790 nAfter an afternoon of exploring, we stopped by the famous NYC sweet spot, Dylan's Candy Bar.  Nothing like a little freshly spun cotton candy and pink rock candy to reenergize you :)

DSCN5263Chicago is my without a doubt my favorite city, but I can't deny that New York City has some fabulous views.

DSCN5266Friday night, Josh and Anthony hosted their closest friends and family for dinner and drinks at Rosa Mexicano, home of a delicious pink pomegranate margarita that got me into a little too much trouble :)

DSCN5267Snapping a quick pic with my sister-in-law Julie who is just as picture happy as me (hard to believe, I know).

DSCN5269Julie and I with our soon to be brother-in-law.  PS: As much as I wanted new outfits for all of our NYC events, I resisted (love you September Spending Freeze) and rewore the Tadashi Shojidress I wore to my best friend's rehearsal dinner in March.

DSCN5273After toasting to Josh and Anthony's love (and tearing up at Matt's mom's speech) a group of us headed for cocktails at The Mandarin Oriental.  Though we could probably never afford to stay at that hotel, the views from the 35th were unreal, and it was such a fun treat to experience!

I'll be back later this week with pictures from the ceremony and reception.  A big thanks to Josh and Anthony for hosting such an incredible weekend!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New York, New York

Newyork{via pinterest}

Hello from NYC!  Matt and I flew to New York early Friday morning to be a part of Matt's brother's wedding.  It was a fabulous time, and we were so thrilled to be able to share in Josh and Anthony's big day.  We're taking the last flight back to Chicago tonight, so we're spending most of the afternoon lounging around Josh and Anthony's upper west side apartment reliving wedding memories and hilarious moments.  I'm hoping to work through some of the 937 pictures I took this weekend, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some exciting news.  I made it to the next round of the Lucky Lifestyle Contributor Challenge!  Which means...I need your votes to get me through to the fourth round. I hate to keep posting about this, but its the chance of a lifetime, and I can't help but geek out about how fun it would be to win.  Voting for this round ends this Friday, so if you've got a quick second, follow the instructions, and vote.  If you voted last round, your log on info is the same, so just click on the link (it will probably recognize your computer) and click "vote".  It would mean the world to me!

Click HERE to view my entry on my "entertaining, my way."

Click on "vote."

If you have not already registered, you will be redirected to a login page.  If you are already a member of Lucky online, enter your information.  If not, look under the section titled "new user" and click "register."  Its super simple, and don't worry, you won't be hit with a bunch of spam.  Pinky promise :)

Be back tomorrow with NYC pics, ciao lovelies!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

SSF: Needs Vs. Wants

Want{via pinterest}

I started this spending freeze to give my bank account a chance to recuperate, and I hoped that maybe, along the way, I'd learn a thing or two about the way I spend.  I'm two weeks into the freeze, and I'm already starting to do some heavy reflecting.  I'm learning a lot about the who, what, when, where, and why of my spending.  This freeze has got my brain wheels turning, and regardless of how much I save this month, I'm grateful for the amount of time its forced me to reflect on my spending.  "Forced" may seem like a strong word, but it's true.  Not buying, not going out, not really does leave me with a lot of time to notice what's different.

One of the biggest thoughts that has been resurfacing in my mind the past week is about needs versus wants.  Needs are non-negotiables.  You can't live without them; you gotta spend for them.  Wants are obviously the extras, the icing on the cake, the things I should buy in small doses.  Needs and wants...they're very different, yet somewhere along the way, I've gotten them terribly confused.  And what's worse, is that even when I can identity something as a "want," I still find myself traipsing to the store to snag what I've been coveting.  Somewhere along the way, I got entilted, thinking, "If I want it, I should get it.  Even more shameful, somewhere along the way, I started thinking, "I deserve it, I'm gonna get it."

Even though I'm on this spending freeze, I still find myself creating an "I want" list.  A fuchsia blazer, a pair of mustard pants, and a pair of perfect black flats.  A rust colored chunky knit, an emerald silk blouse, and a hot pink statement necklace.  I think these things would be perfect additions to round out my fall closet.  But you know what?  I don't need them, I won't go naked without them, and I won't even be un-fashionable without them.  Do I want them?  Yes.  But since when did wanting something give me the go ahead to whip out my American Express and make it mine?  When did wanting something turn into buying something, no matter what my brain or my bank account told me?

I wish I could peg down where this blur between needs and wants happened.  I wish I could identify the spot where things went awry.  I have a few hypotheses, but none seem to stick quite as they should.  Before the freeze, I think I would have looked back and thought "Ehh I should probably do better about this."  But something about the freeze has magnified this issue in a major way for me.  I'm not just thinking back to my old ways, I'm thinking back and realizing how ashamed I am.  Ashamed that I wasn't more thoughtful and ashamed that I've watched Matt and I's money drain away because I wanted the perfect polka dot scarf or the perfect fitted blazer.  Those things weren't needs, those were wants.  And I let myself believe they had to be mine.

Though I'm embarrassed by my blurred spending, I'm also incredibly inspired.  Inspired because I see the error of my ways and realize just how backwards my thinking was.  Inspired because I know better now and can choose something different.  I'm inspired because I am choosing something different.

So for all you readers out there, how do you handle needs vs. wants?  What trips  you up?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

SSF: Triggers

Triggers{via pinterest}

I'm a week into the September Spending Freeze, and I have to be honest, its been surprisingly easier than I expected.  Don't get me wrong, it hasn't been easy, but easier than I expected.  So a week into it, I've noticed two very specific things.

1. Holding myself to no spending is much easier than holding myself to reduced spending.  I am apparently a five year old who can't grasp the concept of moderation.

2. Some things have been easy to give up, but others call my name at the grocery store, haunt me in my dreams, and plead to be purchased.  My Freeze kryponite, or what I now maturally refer to as my "spending triggers."

I've probably always been aware of these spending triggers, but the spending freeze has called them to center stage.  When the items used to call out to me, I'd try to resist, but after a few seconds, I'd quickly give in.  But now that I can't give in, I'm forced to endure a longer period of "But you need me!  I'm fabulous, flawless, and will make all your dreams come true!"  Triggers are the things that seem to trip me up the most often and the easiest.  So after a week on the Freeze, here are my top 5 spending triggers.

1. Nail polish.  I don't know what it is about those small glass bottles, but lately I've noticed my insane weakness for them.  I see all those candy colors and go weak in the knees.  I feel the need to own every single shade of pink and every hot color for the season.

2. Mid-afternoon coffee.  Its 2:00 pm and I've had back to back meetings and committments all day.  I was up late and got up early to Jazzercise.  I have four more hours of work, and I can't keep my eyes open.  And there's an Einstein's across the steet.  Temptation hell.

3. Black leggings.  I don't know what it is about these stretchy lovelies, but I buy them like they're going out of style.  This habit started when we moved to Chicago and has gotten a little out of control.  My legging radar is elegantly honed, and it pains me to hear it beep as a I walk away.

4. VS Pink tees.  To go with my black leggings of course.  While I try to avoid pants with words scrawled across my backside, I can't stay away from their tees.  They're the perfect sheerness, perfect length, perfect deep V, and perfect sleeve length.  (I loathe cap sleeves.)  After the big sorority shirt cleanout of 2009, I've been rebuilding my loungewear collection, and these tees are easy to buy in bulk.  I love them.

5. Its Friday, I just got home, there's nothing for dinner, and I'm starving.  Every bone is body is thinking, "Just go'll take too long to cook...wouldn't a dinner out be way more fun."  Enter the moment where I throw my keys across the room in an attempt to keep myself from hopping in my car and zooming to one of our favorite dinner spots.

"But why even talk about triggers?" you may ask.  My thought is that if we're to succeed, we need to be aware of what trips us up.  We've all heard the phrase "the first step is admitting you have a problem."  I've done that by taking this challenge.  I have a spending problem.  The second step for me is getting specific about where my sticky spots are and where I get tripped up the most often and the easiest.  Knowing my triggers.  Word.

I'm going to revisit these triggers, as well as other hurdles I'm experiencing over the next month and give some insight/helpful hints into how I'm dealing with them.  You didn't think I'd just list my problems and leave you fend for your own solutions did you? :)

So whether you're participating in the Freeze or not, I've got to ask, what are your spending triggers?

Monday, September 5, 2011

(Free) Weekend Happenings

Peach pie{we heart it}

Hey lovelies, I hope yall are winding down after a fabulous Labor Day!  The day off from work was much needed as things have been pretty intense since starting my new job.  And of course, the holiday was extra appreciated, because in addition to a day off, it gave me an extra day in Chicago with Matt, hooray!  We enjoyed a pretty restful, low-key weekend, and due to the recent start of The September Spending Freeze, we also enjoyed a free weekend.  Here's a peek into what kept us smiling (and not spending) this weekend...

Curling up with our Kindles and ignoring the pile of work related books on the kitchen counter...
Trying our hands at a homemade peach cobbler...
Cheering on my beloved Sooners in a fabulous first game of the season...
Meeting with the youth pastor at church to see how we can get involved with the high school students...
Overcoming an intense "lets go out to lunch" craving with two made-with-love grilled cheeses...
Sprucing up our patio with a little elbow grease and no money...
Snuggling up during a Saturday rainstorm with no plan or schedule in sight...
Hosting friends for an at home Labor Day BBQ...
Enjoying the insanely wonderful weather (hello 70 degrees!) with two afternoon walks...
Cranking out some serious dissertation work...
Scouting out future houses and talking about our want list like we're buying tomorrow.  (We're at least a year away, but its never too early to dream house hunt right?)...
Watching a few episodes of our beloved American Pickers...
Sitting out on our patio with friends, a bottle of wine, and a few cold beers...
Soaking up the end of summer with this yummy summer salad...

All in all the weekend was lovely and total proof that delightful weekends don't have to cost a thing!

PS: If you haven't had a chance to vote for me in Lucky's Lifestyle Contributor challenge, I would LOVE it if you would read this post and take a few seconds to vote for me.  Pretty please :)  Round 2 voting ends this week, and I'd love a few more votes to help me advance to the next round!

Have a wonderful short week!

Friday, September 2, 2011

This Is Happening Tomorrow

Chills, goosebumps, and insane excitement.  BOOMER SOONER!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

SSF: My Rules

Money{we heart it}

Happy September 1st yall!  Now I don't normally get so pumped up for the beginning of September, but today is different.  Today is the official kickoff for The September Spending Freeze, my attempt to get a grip on my insane spending problem.  I am pumped to get started and even more pumped because so many people have decided to join me.  So as we kickoff this exciting event, I thought I'd get it started by laying out my rules for this challenge.  I tried to get pretty specific, leaving myself as few loopholes as possible.  (Loopholes are my crazy attempts to justify things I shouldn't be doing. Loopholes are bad, bad, bad.)  So without further ado, here are my rules for The September Spending Freeze.

1. No clothes. At all.  No tops, no jeans, no skirts, no blazers.  No boots, no sandals, no tennies, no heels.  No workout clothes, no scarves, no headbands, no jewelry.  No new clothes; no exceptions.  (This is where I stuggle the most, so I've got to be firm with myself!)

2. No eating out. No Friday night out dinner dates, no impromptu lunches, no quick coffee runs.  No Starbucks, no Sonic cokes, no cocktails out with my coworkers.  If I'm gonna eat, I better be eating at home or bringing it from home.  And if I planned poorly and didn't bring food, I'll have to deal with whats shoved in the back of my desk.  (Um, hello peanut butter crackers.)

3. No new beauty products. During the month of September, I'm working with what I have.  No new nail colors, new perfumes, or new mascaras.  No Sephora ordering, no surfing.  Nothing new goes into my makeup bag, medicine cabinet or overflow beauty drawer.

4. No extra entertainment. For now, trips to the movies are on hold.  Weekends exploring Chicago sights are off (unless they're free!)  We're going to make do with what we have and entertain ourselves with the 3,000 DVDs in our cabinet, the stash of board games we've collected, or the free park outside our apartment.

5. No pampering. For the next month, its straight up DIY with my beauty routine.  At home mani/pedis, self-maintained brows, and dealing with split ends if they happen.

Exceptions: Now of course, there are a few exceptions to this list, but I'm pretty proud of myself, because there aren't many.  (Loopholes be gone!)

a. In two weekends, my friend Christie will be in Chicago for a night, before prancing off to Italy for a year.  We will most likely meet for dinner/drinks.  She has to see a lot people in one night, and I'm not going to be difficult by imposing my freeze on the group.

b. Matt's brother is getting married in NYC on September 17, meaning we'll have to spring for a few meals on trips.  Matt and I will eat light and share meals, but I'm not packing 9 pb&j sandwiches for the weekend.  I'd rather not spur a new TLC show idea...Travel PB&J Hoarders.

c. I am this close to setting a date for my dissertation defense.  (Praise Jesus!)  This means I'll have to book a trip back to Texas sometime this month.  Unavoidable and frankly thrilling.

And that my friends, is it!  1 big rule (no spending!), 5 areas of focus, 3 small exceptions.  (You guys have to give me props...those exceptions are legit.)  I will continue to buy groceries as normal and continue with my workout membership.  I don't believe in all of a sudden eating totally cheap and crappy food, then paying that money back later in gym fees and doctors bills.

So now that you've heard my freeze rules, I want to introduce the other 15 brave souls taking on this challenge.  Some folks have blogs, some don't, but I've linked to those who provided me with blog addresses.  For those without blogs, feel free to leave your rules in the comment section or on my FB page so we can check out your freeze plan.

Kenda at On My Mission 4 Fitness
Kindra at Keeping Up with Kindra
Kayla at Lala in the Land of Enchantment
Shelby at T and S Lovenest
Jamie at The News from LaFuze
Nikki at Me 2 We
Lydia at Boy Howdy Daily
Lindsay at Life as Lindsay
Heather (who has one exception for work clothes)
Deviled Megs
Makenna (whose FB page I will stalk for updates!)
Allie at More Moores
Kristin (who is allowing a fall boot cheat)
Lesley (one of the most fashionable girls I know!)

So with that...we're off!  We're officially frozen and on our way to having a better idea of where the heck our money goes each month.  I'll continue to post regular posts throughout this challenge, sprinkling in freeze stuff as the months goes along (and of course on Thursdays.)  Have a fabulous day, and to those of you who are braving this freeze, kudos to you!