Budgeting Tips, Fashion

12 Secrets to Scoring a Preppy Wardrobe on a Tight Budget

What if I told you that you can dress the way you want to without breaking the bank?  Building an amazing wardrobe on a budget will take time, but I have some secrets and tips that will help you make the most of your money in the process.  I have rarely paid full price for any item of clothing, and with this list, you won’t either.

  1. Follow your favorite designers and brands on social media and join their email lists. If you want to know about the best sales, this is crucial.  Many preppy designers/brands have amazing sales if you know the right time to shop.  As an added bonus, most websites will give you a percentage off your first online purchase once you sign up!  Start a little “fun money” or “clothing” fund and save it for when the big sales come around.
  • Lilly Pulitzer – Lilly gives 2 chances to shop the “After Party Sale” every year: One in August and one in January, and they both include free shipping.  This sale gets crazy, so if you plan to shop the next one, create an account on the site and enter your credit card info ahead of time.  The site will be locked down the day of and you will be put into a virtual line to shop.  You will want to log in early (on multiple devices if you have them), grab a cup of coffee, and wait for your turn.  This sale truly is major event and you will want to be prepared to make the most of it, so check out additional tips and tricks from Annie Wears It here.
  • Kate Spade – Kate Spade will have “Surprise Sales” from time to time.  This is a great way to score purses and jewelry!  You can expect deals up to 75% off retail!  The Surprise Sales are the best way to save big on Kate Spade, although there are also Friends and Family sales in April and October.  Raging Rouge has more Kate Spade sale info here.
  • Tory Burch – Tory Burch has Private Sales throughout the year, in addition to a Friends and Family sale and a Friends and Fans sale.  Pay close attention to your emails in March, August, and October!  The most recent sale just ended and had items up to 72% off!
  • Lauren James – Lauren James has a big birthday sale every year on January 28th, but there are also other sales throughout the year, such as the Extra Love Sale that took place in February this year where shoppers could score an additional 40% off of sale items!
  1. Know when to shop. Certain days of the year are just better days to shop in general.  Black Friday.  Cyber Monday.  Day after Christmas.  July 4th and 5th.  Even if a designer is not having an online or in-store sale, you may score big at a department store or boutique during these big sale days.

 

  1. Take note of brand/designer secrets and tricks. There are some secret hacks for scoring a deal on certain brands.
  • Hunter Boots – If you wear a size 7 1/2 like me (or if your shoe size is smaller), you are in luck!  You can fit into Hunter Boots kids sizes and purchase a pair for about half the price!  Find out even more Hunter Boots tricks here from Kelly in the City.
  • Kendra Scott – On the month of your birthday, Kendra Scott will give you 50% off of your purchase of one item!  You will need a valid ID.
  1. Shop discount sites. There are several discount sites that sell items that may be on sale or from last season.  This is especially helpful for designers that do not have an online sale page.  My favorites are Rue La La and 6pm.  For a complete list of sites, check out this post.
  1. Hit up the sales rack first. Back in the day, I didn’t like to shop the sales rack because I felt like those clothes were older and not as good.  Then I began working at a retail store in college and realized that some items we received would go straight to the sale rack without ever even hitting the sales floor.  It may be a little more work to look through the sales rack, but you can find some incredible deals! For instance, I once found a cute Banana Republic sweater for $5!

 

  1. Check out the outlets. Many designers and brands have outlets now.  You can find discounted Kate Spade, Vineyard Vines, Polo Ralph Lauren, etc.  The catch is that most outlet stores are not online, however, some are!  For instance, Mudpie has an online outlet store now that has some great deals!

 

  1. Pair designer pieces with cheap ones. Your entire outfit doesn’t have to be expensive.  A Walmart, Target, or Old Navy top will look just as cute with Lilly shorts and will be a lot less expensive.  If you are on a budget, don’t blow $40 on a pink top when you can get one for $3.  No one will know the difference, but they will notice how cute your one-of-a-kind shorts are and compliment you on your Kate Spade purse!

 

  1. Stick to neutral shades for accessories. If you can’t afford to get three different pairs of designer shoes or multiple purses, stick to a color that will go with everything.  For instance, I have two pairs of Tory Burch flats, a black pair and a tan one.  My Lilly Pulitzer sandals are gold.  Neutrals are your friend.

 

  1. Research which items hold their resale value well. Some designers and brands hold their value much better than others.  Lilly Pulitzer, Tory Burch, Tieks, Louis Vitton, Frye, Lulu Lemon, Michael Kors, Burberry, etc.  If you take care of your clothing and accessories, you can sell them when you are tired of them.  Where can you get the biggest bang for your buck?  The old standby is Ebay, but you can also sell locally on neighborhood Facebook groups.  Another option is to join brand/designer specific Facebook groups if you are willing to ship.  You should always use PayPal (not friends and family) when buying and selling online.  Live Laugh Motherhood has some great tips for successful buying, selling and shipping online using PayPal!

 

  1. Buying used clothing. Join the online Facebook groups for the best deals.  You can also stop by consignment stores and head to women’s consignment sales too!  You can sometimes find awesome deals at stores like Goodwill or at yard sales, but those amazing scores are few and far between, and you can waste a lot of time there.  However, if you are careful with your purchases and buy items that hold their resale value well, you can often get back as much as you paid for the item in the first place!  How is that for cheap!?

 

  1. Let gift givers know when your favorite pieces are on sale. When you see an item that you want for a great price, tell those who buy gifts for you, especially if it is near your birthday or Christmas.  Most people will appreciate the heads up!  Just a couple of weeks ago, my kids gave me a hard to find NWT (New With Tags) Lilly dress that I found at a consignment store as a birthday gift!  That never would have happened if I hadn’t given my mom the heads up of the fantastic deal!  Every Christmas, I get a few Lilly gifts that were purchased during the August After Party Sale because we all know that is the best time to buy brand new Lilly!

 

  1. Make friends with people who love the same brands you do! When I lived in Charleston, I started a Facebook group called Lilly Lovers of Charleston (It is still active if you love Lilly and you live in the Charleston, SC area!).  Through it, I was able to connect with others who loved Lilly like I did.  We would shop together and alert each other of great deals!  Plus, when you have friends who love the same clothing as you, they give you first dibs when they are tired of the items they want to sell!

So, there you have it…some of the best secrets and tips for dressing preppy on a budget!  I hope they help you fill your closet with lots of beautiful items that you never thought you could afford!

Speaking of filling your closet, when I lived in Charleston, I began a consignment sale for Lilly Pulitzer clothing.  We then expanded the sale to include some accessories (such as Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Louis Vuitton, etc!)  I am no longer running the sale since I have moved, but some of my closest Lilly friends are keeping it going and it’s this Saturday, March 10th!  If you love Lilly, it is the best way to score some great deals (and it is where I got a pair of Tory Burch flats and a gorgeous hot pink Kate Spade purse!)  I’ll be volunteering and taking home some new finds!  Email chslillylovers@gmail.com for more info!

Do you have any shopping secrets to share?  Let us know in the comments below!

Budgeting Tips, Healthy Eating, Healthy Lifestyle

7 Tips for Cooking on a Budget PLUS 2 Black Bean Recipes

I love food.

Like, I really love food.  Probably as much or more than anyone you know.  There is nothing better than eating a fantastic meal.

But, I have a bit of a confession: I didn’t really learn to cook until I was separated at 30 years old.

When I was married, we went out to eat A LOT.  Every night, the question wasn’t “What’s for dinner?”, it was where.  And I had some great reasons for wanting to go out. Not only did I enjoy the delicious food that seemed intimidating to make, we could also eat different meals at the same time, so everyone was happy. We were also forced to sit at a table together for at least an hour and have family time.  (Now I make sure we eat a family meal every night around our own kitchen table).

It wasn’t until I was alone with two young kids that I realized 2 things: 1) Eating out is expensive.  I can’t even imagine how much money we blew on those amazing dinners, and 2) Going out to eat with a 6 and 2 year old by yourself is just not fun at all.  It was time to learn the skill of cooking on a budget.

So, armed with the motivation to cook for pretty much the first time in my entire life, I began searching for recipes in an attempt to bring the delicious food I was used to eating in restaurants home to our kitchen table.

It wasn’t long before I realized that the soup I was paying $5.00 a cup for was the easiest thing in the world to make at home for way less.  Then I tried the chicken enchilada casserole from 100 Days of Real Food and it was amazing (I added green peppers to mine and used whole grain tortillas), which encouraged me to try even more new recipes! I even learned to cook bacon and grits instead of going out to brunch on the weekends!  (Seriously, that is how much I did NOT cook before).  My girls became more adventurous eaters since they had to eat what I cooked (and there were no chicken tenders or cheeseburgers on the menu).  I began to discover what spices went into which types of dishes, and cooking became kind of fun!

I also realized how little a meal could cost.  Since I am not a huge meat eater, we started to eat mostly vegetarian foods.  I started to pay attention to what was on sale and stock up for future meals.  Cutting out meat may not be for you, but for this little fam of all girls, it has worked well!  (And we still eat meat occasionally).

I’m still learning how to make healthy, kid friendly meals on a tight budget, but these are the tips I have learned so far!

  1. Stock Up on Sale Items. But only items you need.  I purchase healthy snacks for my kids and the ingredients to make meals.  That is it.  And I buy the same items over and over.
  2. Use Coupons if you have them. But only clip the coupons if the are for items you need.  It does not save you money to spend $2.00 on a junk food item that you would never have purchased if you hadn’t see the $.50 off coupon.  I also save the coupon for when the item goes on sale again.
  3. Buy Frozen and Canned foods when possible. Frozen veggies are better for you than canned, so I always buy those, along with frozen fruits if I plan to cook with them.  I do buy canned tomatoes and black beans (and other beans, but black beans are a major staple at my house). I do not buy fresh anything if I can avoid it, because I want every item to have the longest shelf-life possible.  Any food item that is thrown out is a waste of money.
  4. Rotate out Fresh Fruits/Veggies. Of course, there are some items you have to purchase fresh, such as fruits and veggies that you plan to eat raw (especially for snacking)! I used to go wild buying several different types of veggies and fruits at once, and no matter how much we snacked on them, I would usually end up tossing something.  I have learned if I get a couple types of veggies and fruits each, we are more likely to finish them and less is wasted.  Then I can get something new the next week and everyone is excited to eat it.
  5. Limit Your Meat Intake. Meat can easily become the most expensive part of a meal. When I first started cooking, I would make a meat and a couple of sides, and I occasionally still do this.  However, I have learned that my kids eat more vegetables when they are incorporated in the meal in some way (soups, pasta, etc), so I started putting meat on the backburner instead of making it the star of the meal.  When I do cook with meat, I will get a package of something such as chicken breasts, cook them, and use a little bit in multiple meals.  IE: I’ll make a chicken pot pie one day, and chicken noodle soup the next.
  6. Soups are your BFF. I love soups. You can put any vegetable in a soup and it instantly become easier to eat.  My kids won’t touch onions or cooked bell peppers until I put them in our favorite chili!  Plus, as an added bonus, we generally have enough soup left over for at least one meal afterwards, and sometimes for me to take to work too!
  7. Have Flip Flop Day. Eat breakfast for dinner. Eggs and Grits are sooo cheap.  Add bacon for a little more.  Pancakes and waffles are quick and easy on a busy weeknight, or you can whip up omelets for a healthier option.

The two recipes below take all of the rules above in consideration, and they are go-to meals for me!

 

Easy Peasy Black Bean Chili

This chili is ALWAYS a hit at my house and I keep enough ingredients on hand to make it any time I’m not sure what to make for dinner.  At home, we eat the meatless version, but I usually add chicken if I’m making it for others!

Ingredients:

2 cans of black beans

1 can diced tomatoes with chilis

1 can diced tomatoes

1/3 bag frozen corn (save rest for next time!)

1/3 bag frozen sliced peppers and onions (save rest for next time!)

1 container chicken broth

1 1/2 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp minced garlic

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground pepper

Diced cooked chicken (optional)

Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

Sour cream, for serving

Jalapenos, for serving

Cilantro, for serving

Directions:

  1. If you have time, saute the pepper and onions in a pan with a little olive oil and minced garlic. If you’re in a hurry, skip to step 2.
  2. Put black beans, diced tomatoes, and diced tomatoes with chilis in a pot. If you would like your chili to be thicker, drain juice first.  If you want a soupier chili, do not drain.  Add frozen (or fresh) peppers and onions.  Add corn.  Add chicken broth and chicken (optional).  Bring mixture to a boil.
  3. Turn setting down and let the chili simmer. Add seasonings.  I estimated the amounts because I usually taste as I go.  I start with less and add more until I reach the desired flavor.  DO NOT leave out the cinnamon.  It makes a big difference in the recipe!  You can add red pepper flakes for an added kick.
  4. It will be ready to eat in around 30 mins, but the longer it cooks, the better, and it is even better reheated the next day!
  5. Serve with sour cream, cheese, jalapenos, cilantro, etc.

 

Vegetarian Farmers Hash with Gouda Grits

This recipe is my version of my favorite meal at Charleston’s Café, my #1 place to brunch when I’m in Mt Pleasant.  They always add meat in their version (chorizo seems to be a fav), but when I make it at home, I go meatless.  They also usually use potatoes instead of grits, but I prefer keeping grits in my pantry since they have a longer shelf life (and because they’re grits, and I’m a southern girl).

Directions for Vegetarian Farmers Hash:

  1. Saute the pepper and onions in a pan with butter and minced garlic. Add a sprinkle or two of cumin.
  2. Once the onions have caramelized, add drained black beans. Continue to cook mixture until it thickens. (If you want to add cooked meat, you can do so at this time as well).
  3. In the meantime, fry two eggs in a separate pan.
  4. When black bean and pepper mixture is finished cooking, move it to plate. Add shredded gouda cheese on top.  When eggs are done cooking, place them on top of cheese.
  5. Serve with gouda grits and enjoy!

Directions for Gouda Grits:

  1. Cook grits according to package instructions (roughly ¼ cup grits for every 1 cup of water).
  2. Once grits are cooked, add salt and pepper to taste, a pat of butter, and shredded gouda cheese. Add a few splashes of milk and stir.
  3. Serve with Vegetarian Farmers Hash

Don’t forget to shop the sales to get the best price on the ingredients!

What are your favorite healthy meals that are easy on the budget? Any additional tips on how to save?  Tell us in the comments below!