Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sensible Splurge

If there is one time I count on splurging a little, it's on my coveted sister visits. When I lived in Arizona, I was fortunate enough to get to visit my sister once a year. Sometimes it was by myself, sometimes it was with one or both kids. Whatever the company, or lack thereof, I always enjoyed getting together with the person who has known me the longest in this life, my sister.

Last year, I went to help my sister with her new baby while her husband was gone to a conference. As a first time mom, and a working mom at that, she was in need of someone to watch her daughter whom she knew and trusted. I am sure that her mother-in-law would have happily made the six hour drive for the weekend to baby sit her first granddaughter. I knew my mom would not have thought twice about coming up for the three days either. But the person my sister wanted to hang out with and leave her daughter with was me, her sister, who lived 3 day's drive from her; Phoenix to Chicago. Needless to say I flew instead of drove.

My husband was gracious enough to grant me my ultimate wish of wishes, to babysit my niece!!! I purchased the plane ticket and arranged for a babysitter for my own (older) children. A few weeks later, I was landing in O'Hare.

Since I knew that "Sister Visit" is synonymous with "Shopping" I asked Corey before I left if I could have a Fun Dollars budget for the weekend. I was given $100 to use wisely for any and all purchases. I knew I had to be smart about what I bought, so even though I bought some items for full price, I did so with discernment. I shopped with my existing wardrobe in mind and made a few new additions while staying within my budget.

During the time my sister was not at work, she and I drove to our favorite shopping spots; Woodfield Mall, Target, Khol's, Old Navy, DSW, and IKEA (not for clothes...). Just a couple of Sister Shoppers about town. Then during the time she was at work, I warmed bottles and changed diapers, loving every minute of it.

Of the items I chose to bring home from my sister visit, this outfit became one of my favorites. I wear the long-sleeved elephant-embroidered t-shirt on a regular basis. It's my signature shirt now. I wear it with the skirt pictured, or with jeans, or with a black skirt, or black dress pants. Sometimes I might even wear it with leggings if I feel daring enough to pull it off. The shirt came from Ragstock, ringing in at $13.00, full price.

The skirt I found on clearance at Target for $7.00. I wear it with the elephant shirt, or a white tank top. I also have a black tank top and a grey short-sleeved shirt I can rotate with the skirt. But when I wear the elephant shirt with the skirt, with the grey leggings (cropped out of the picture, and also from Target,) I am wearing an entirely "Sister Visit" outfit. I bought all of those items while shopping with one of my best friends, my sister.

Now that I live in Illinois, and only a 4 hour drive away, I look forward to many more sister visits (and babysitting opportunities!)

Happy Shopping.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Next to Nothing

This post is in honor of my late grandmother, Helen Elizabeth Robinson. With the news of her passing today, I feel it is only fitting that I share with you her influence on my Fun Dollars spending.

For as long as I can remember, at least part of my wardrobe has consisted of second-hand clothes. I used to go shopping with my mother at various consignment shops when I was in grade school. Some of my most memorable outfits as a child came from these stores. At first, I was self-conscious about wearing clothes that other people had worn. I thought that somehow other kids at school would know that my clothes weren't expensive and make fun of me. However, it was my grandmother's pride in bargain-hunting, thrift store shopping and rummage sale purchasing that dissipated my notions of inferiority.

My grandmother was never bashful about her bargain buys. To her it was a joy and a triumph that must be shared with all.  If someone complimented her on an outfit or a piece of jewelry, her response was never, "Thank you", it was, "I got this at 65% off at Carson's..." and ramble on about the sales person she talked to, what other purchases she made and how much she spent and saved all together. With Helen, it was always about the bottom line, her savings.

Her eagerness to share prices didn't stop at compliments, either. It spilled over into her gift giving as well. It didn't matter if she was giving you a birthday present, Christmas present, or a "just because" present, she would always leave the price tag on the gift. Then, upon opening the gift, there would be some recollection of where she bought it and how much she saved when she purchased it, oftentimes referencing the price tag that remained.  Grandma relished a good find when sale shopping and bargain hunting and was never ashamed to admit it.

My grandmother was a frugal indulger. She wouldn't think twice about going to a rummage sale and buying an outfit for $1.00. It didn't matter if she had 10 pairs of jeans at home, if she was at a rummage sale or thrift store and found a pair that fit, she would take them home with her.  Every time I saw her she wore something different. Her wardrobe seemed like a bottomless pit of clothes, none of which were ever purchased at full price.

I remember going to her house once upon a time and she had clothes hanging up on her shower curtain rod in her bathroom, just like they would be hanging up in a closet. At first I thought that maybe she had hung them there to dry. I came to find out she had run out of space in her closet and had nowhere to put them. Her shower rod was simply bonus storage space. And make no mistake, all of those clothes were second-hand or purchased at rock-bottom prices. They were all things she couldn't pass up because they were inexpensive.

I learned to take pride in my frugal spending. Maybe not sharing how much I spent with everyone who comments on my finds, but I never hesitate to share where I bought something. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. If someone likes something, sharing a bit of the history is part of the fun of the hunt. And, once in a while, when it's appropriate, I will share the wonderful bargain price or the amazing deal on whatever is complimented.

One of the reasons I enjoy shopping at Goodwill is to prove that looking fabulous doesn't have to cost a fortune. I also have no problem wearing inherited clothes from friends. My days of apprehension about wearing second-hand items are long gone.

So, today's outfit cost me next to nothing. At a grand total of $10.00, this outfit rocks the house. It's one of my new favorite. It is comfortable and looks sharp. The Jones New York shirt from Goodwill cost $5.00. The pants were inherited from my neighbor. The tank top was $2.00 at Forever 21. The Jennifer Lopez sandals were also from Goodwill, and half price for a whopping $3.00 (shirt and shoes were both a part of the $20.00 summer clothes budget, by the way.)

My grandmother would have been so proud; looking this good for only $10.00.

In Loving Memory of Helen Elizabeth Robinson.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


If I could share one piece of advice to newbies starting their closet curation process, it is this: Purchase items that will work with more than one thing you already own. The more versatile your clothes are, the more outfit options you have. You can turn three pieces into six outfits if you know how to shop. Since I am primarily budget-minded when I shop, I don't like to buy things that can only be worn one way. If I buy a shirt, I think back to the bottoms I have that might go with it. If I buy capris, I imagine my closet and the shirts hanging in it that will coordinate. Versatility gives you the option to be ready for any occasion. It allows you to dress for any weather. It gives you more choices when the laundry isn't caught up. And, above all, it saves you money.

This week's clothing theme is "Out of Africa". I have chosen my first five outfits to write about, and they all have some sort of nod to Africa. It's not something I particularly chose when shopping for these outfits, but as it happened, I have shown an affinity to bolder prints over the past few years.

After going through ALL of my clothes, I noticed I had several groupings of similarly-themed outfits. There is my "Out of Africa" collection, which I will be sharing this week. Next I will show off my "Pretty in Pink" collection. After that, I will move into "Stipes and Solids", finishing off with "Glitz and Glam". After sharing all my work clothes I will do a bonus week of my "Evening Out" clothes. These are like my "honorable mentions". They are clothes with stories, but not necessarily ones I would wear to work. 

To kick off my "Out of Africa" week, here is my first outfit. It consists of a cheetah print tiered skirt, leggings, and a black camisole. On Monday, when I wore this outfit, the temperature outside was 46. Needless to say, I was not going to waltz outside in a cami and sandals. However, the high was supposed to reach 76 in the afternoon. I knew I didn't want to be sweaty and gross after work while picking up the kids. So, I planned ahead. I wore a black sweater and a puffy vest in the morning with my sheepskin boots. After lunch, I went out to my car for a quick-change. I swapped boots for sandals, and a black cardigan for the sweater and vest. Lighter clothes to feel cooler in my day...planning for the versatility I knew I would need. 

At the core of my outfit is the cheetah print skirt. I bought this at one of my favorite stores when I lived in Sedona. Allie Ollie was my place to shop. I would meet my best friend there and we would play dress up. Most of the time we would leave with a shopping bag to attest to our store loyalty. The skirt started out one tier longer than what you see pictured. It was originally more versatile than just working for differing temperatures. It was made so that it could be worn as a skirt or a dress! I never did like it as a dress and for about two years, I would roll the waistband/bodice so that it would cover up the top tier and shorten the skirt. I wanted it to look as short as in the pictures I am showing you now. After wearing an incredibly tight waistband for two years, I thought to myself one day, "I will never ever wear this as a dress. Why do I torture myself by making the waist band so tight just to get the length I want? Why not just cut off the bottom layer?" By making the decision to shorten the skirt, I was giving myself the freedom to wear the skirt more often. I didn't like wearing it that much because it was either too long, or too uncomfortable. 

Now I wear it so much more often because it's the length I want and it's comfortable. I wear it in the summer time with a cami or tank top and no leggings. I wear it in the spring and fall with opaque leggings and a layer over the cami. On cooler days the layer is the black sweater; it's one of my lighter sweaters. On warmer days I layer the sheer, black cardigan. I change my shoes out according to the temperature too (boots or sandals). In the winter time, I wear my black, fleece-lined leggings and a heavier, creme colored sweater. It breaks up the darkness of the black when it's already so dark outside. 

One skirt I can wear year-round with three different tops. I never put this skirt away for the seasonal shift. It is a permanent fixture in my closet. Its construction and fiber content have allowed it to hold up in shape and color for so many years I have lost count. I think it might be a six or seven-year-old purchase? Fun Dollars very well spent. 

This skirt is the hallmark of versatility. Even though I can't wear it as a dress anymore, it is still incredibly versatile and works on many levels in my wardrobe. 

Take a look at what you have in your closet this week. Find the items you own that are the most versatile. Maybe they are items that can be dressed up and dressed down. Maybe they are things you have that can be worn with several other items. See what you have that can serve you in more than one season. Take note of these items. They are the backbone of  your closet. 

Until Next Time....Happy Closet Curating!  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Thrifty Threads

If there is one thing I take pride in, it's my closet. Over the past several years while blogging about Fun Dollars I have had the opportunity to carefully curate the threads I own. Whether I bought them at Goodwill, inherited them from my sister, took possession at a clothing swap or found them on sale, each item in my closet was given careful consideration before coming home with me. I have had four years of purging clothes that no longer work for me, collecting clothes to fill in the gaps, and "merchandising" my closet on a budget.

My motto for closets is this, "Let your closet be your favorite place to shop". Arrange your clothes like you would if it were a boutique. Put items together to create outfits. You can organize by color or by style. I like to use shopping bags to store smaller items like underwear, socks and delicates. Every time I put my hand into a Victoria's Secret bag and pull out a pair of undies, I feel like I am shopping in my own closet. Save bags from stores that look appealing to you and make your closet look like you just took a shopping trip with your best friend.

I want to start a new chapter of Fun Dollars with the focus being on my fabulously fun threads. I want to showcase what careful closet curation looks like. Since we are not really utilizing the Fun Dollars system right now, I miss writing about Fun Dollars. I feel like a part of me is missing. I also get the most interest from friends about my Fun Dollars blog. So, to satisfy my need to write about Fun Dollars, and to give people what they want, I proudly present My Thrifty Threads.

Now that the weather is starting to warm up, and spring is in full swing, I needed to go through the paces of switching out sleeves for T's. I did all my laundry to see what I actually had in stock. I also unpacked the rest of my boxes from the move just to be sure I had everything. I took a small bag of goods to a clothing swap, and brought home even less (which I consider to be a good thing.) Then I went through everything again to find the gaps in my wardrobe.

I also stared a new job last week, and had a new need to look my best. My days no longer consist of yoga pants and hoodies. I get to actually look presentable for other humans, not just hole up at home doing dishes with Lily. With that in mind, I took myself to Goodwill with a very lean budget: $20.

Yes, with a mere $20 I was determined to fill in the gaps of my warm-weather wardrobe. Whole most people feel the need to drop $50, $100, or $500 on a new wardrobe each season, I find no satisfaction or thrill in this practice. I like spending as little as possible for maximum impact.

I knew I needed some sandals and a non-black cardigan at the very least. Some dress pants wouldn't be bad to have, and possibly a white shirt to wear with my peach-pink linen shorts. (Peach-pink is the color my daughter made up for my shorts. I like it, so I use it.) With three "must-haves" on my list, that didn't leave a lot of extra for glory shopping, so whatever else I chose to bring home had to work on several levels for it to be a "careful curation" of my closet.

At Goodwill, there is a fun little trick I have learned. It's called, "Don't shop all at once" and "If you love it, buy it, because it could be gone tomorrow." I carefully weigh these two seemingly opposing mantras every time I enter a Goodwill store with a mission. When Goodwill receives donations, they use different colored tags for pricing. Then each store rotates the color of tag as their Half-Price Tag. Some days it's blue, other days it's yellow or green, but you never know what color it will be when you enter a store. When I shop at Goodwill, I always look for the Half-Price Tags first, keeping my mission in mind. My usual tactic is to load up on anything that suits my fancy with the Half-Price color on it. Chances are more than half of what I pick out to try on will not work. Sometimes the fit looks strange on me. Sometimes I discover a stain or rip that I didn't see when pulling it off the rack and giving it an initial inspection. So, even though I start out with 10 or 20 items in my cart, I might leave the dressing room with only three items that actually work.

After my first round of dressing room decisions, I go back and look through the items in a different size. Due to the fact that manufacturers have varying size ranges, it pays to go through another size category. A size 2 at Old Navy is a size 5 at American Eagle. Once again, I look first for the Half-Price Tags, and grab anything else that looks like it might work for my list.

After my second round of dressing room decisions, I look at everything I have in my cart that fit, and has no rips or stains. I break things down into two categories: the clothes that are Half-Price, and the clothes that are full-price. Out of the Half Price items, I pull out what I need to check off my list. If I can fill in my wardrobe gaps at a lower cost, I am being smart with my Fun Dollars. Then, based on what is left in the full-price pile, I see what is needed to finish filling in the gaps. When I have as much as I can checked off on my list of what I went in there to buy, I see what is left in my budget. Then I choose from either pile based on that number. Maybe there is a wonderful dress in the full-price pile and a pair of jeans in the Half-Price pile. I weigh what will work best with what I already have V.S. what I will wish I had purchased after I leave. There are times when I have left Goodwill thinking, "Man, I wish I had bought that blouse from Express. It was brand-new with the tags still on." So I think about what my regret might be (if any) and look at what's left in my budget.

After all that serious decision making, I go back through once again and see everything I have chosen. Sometimes I don't get everything on my list checked off. That's OK. It gives me a reason to go back on another day. There will be new items donated and tagged. There will be a new Half-Price color sticker, and a whole new shopping adventure to experience!

Now, this might sound like a lot of work just to pick out a few clothes. Truthfully, I relish the process. I have my mother's penchant for "hunting" for just the right item, and my grandmother's eye for a bargain. It's in my blood. There is nothing exciting to me about walking through a mall, stopping in at a store and having ten of exactly what I want right in front of me for full price. I love saving money, I love hunting for treasures and I love playing the balance game of "Wants V.S. Needs". It's a part of who I am, which is why I am sharing it with you.

So, after two separate trips to Goodwill in the past week, I spent $18.00 of my $20.00 budget. I came back with like-new Jennifer Lopez sandals, a Jones New York blouse, dress pants that fit (not only my waist but also my shorter legs), a chocolate cardigan, a white shirt (for the peach-pink shorts), and some footies to wear with my flats. After going back through my closet and pairing new outfits together, I discovered I have enough clothes for the summer to wear a different outfit everyday to work for and entire month!!!!

So, as I go through each outfit, I am going to post a selfie and explain where each item in my outfit came from. It's a way to celebrate and appreciate Fun Dollars I have already spent and to give some creative perspective to anyone with a closet conundrum. It will be part fashion blog, part Fun Dollars, and 100% Fun! Join me on the journey of My Thrifty Threads.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Multigenerational Living

We recently made a sizeable decision in our family. We opted out of the desert and chose to return to our roots. Some people might look at this as insane, but I look at it as a wise decision. Corey and I acknowledged the challenge of raising our children virtually alone, out of arm's reach from family. There were admittedly adjustments that could have been made to get more help so far from "home", but in the end, the people who love us most were just too far away.

Three and a half years ago, Corey's mother passed away. She suffered for several years with a steady decline in her health and mobility. She had what is called PSP, but suffice it to say it looked for all intents and purposes like ALS. Her body slowly shut down. As a result, her husband, my father-in-law had to be her primary caregiver, as well as take care of the house, his job and himself. It was quite a burden to carry, and he did it with true blue loyalty until the day she took her last breath.

Her passing began my own journey of questioning whether or not living so far away from family was worth it. Because we were so far out, taking my newborn daughter back to see her grandmother before her passing never happened. We just couldn't swing it with time or money. It was too much. Sadly, my daughter did not get to "visit back home" until my mother-in-law's memorial service...too late. It broke my heart, but that's how that chapter of life was written.

Three years later, last fall, my father had to undergo surgery. Instead of coming out to visit us in Arizona, like usual, he and mom had to stay home in preparation for his hospital stay, surgery and recovery. They didn't know that it was going to interfere with their planned visit, but it did. So instead of seeing my parents, they were "back home" dealing with dad's need for medical attention. Again, my heart was broken. How many more family visits were going to be lost to health, illness, death, lack of time or money?

A month after my father's surgery, the mother of a very dear friend of ours passed away. She meant everything to me as a grown woman, and even more to my husband, who knew her since childhood. Once again, time and money meant that only my husband could go back for the funeral. I was left with both children to grieve on my own in Arizona. I don't fault him for going. He knew the family much, much longer than I did, but it didn't diminish how much I respected and mourned this woman. It was the nail in the coffin for me...I had to move back home. My heart seemed to be breaking on a daily basis over the lack of community, support, and love. I felt depleted and alone. I felt like I could not possibly pull myself out of the hole I had dug myself into by allowing my family to be in Arizona for so long. The time had come to move back.

Over Christmas break, my husband felt the toll too. He had somewhat of a nervous breakdown. The stress of work, spending money on plane tickets for us all to go back, the grief of losing his best friend's mom, as well as the loss of another close and dear friend that year all came crashing down on him. The holidays just make all of that stress worse, and he really did loose his marbles on Christmas Day.

Fortunately, on Christmas Day, we were flying out to see my sister and her new baby (and husband). We were scheduled to celebrate Christmas at her house with my dad's side of the family. My sister had just had her kitchen and bathroom redone, and the house looked amazing! Even my grandmother was able to come, despite her own health issues. All three of my dad's brothers were there, and so were both of my parents. It really did my heart good to see everyone there after so much heartache.

While we were visiting back home, we also stayed with my father-in-law. He still lives in the house where my husband grew up, and where his wife passed away. There are so many memories in the walls. There is also so much "stuff" that has built up over the years too. From the days when his wife was alive, there seemed to be enough "things" to furnish several houses packed into those walls. As her caregiver, he was unable to attend to much of what needed doing in the house, nevermind taking care of all the "stuff" from when they had renters in the house. He has made many improvements over the past three years, but there is still much work that needed to be done. Most of it is sorting though his departed wife's belongings. When we talked with him over the break, he seemed like he genuinely needed and wanted help with sorting through and getting rid of all that was left after her passing. I heard my calling...

We also shared with him our need to have more help with the kids, more community, and to be closer to family. It was decided that we were welcome to move back and live with "grandpa" if we felt that this would help us solve these problems we were living with on a daily basis. And he genuinely was ready to accept help with what needed to be done around the house. It was a big step for all of us...

With an invitation to return home and live with Grandpa, we began the discussion of moving back to our roots. The planning begun as soon as we returned home from Christmas break. It wasn't a perfect move, but we made it happen. My husband still looks back and wonders if we could have somehow made it work out there in the desert. But the truth is, for me at least, family needs family. My kids need their grandparents, their Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. They need to see the people who love them more often than twice a year. They need people to look up to who aren't just mom and dad. They need people to correct them and show them manners (*ahem*).

They get all of that with each visit we now get to take to see the family we so dearly missed. My children get that on a daily basis, living with Grandpa. It's not just a fight about whether or not it's okay to put their feet on the table (Yes, that's an actual thing my kids used to do, despite our consequences and threats.) It's now a rule that grandpa enforces and they respect. It feels good to have someone backing us up. I no longer feel like we are trying to do it all alone.

They are learning responsibility by helping take care of grandpa's dog, yard and house. They are learning that helping out is something families do, not just something to argue about with mom and dad. And it's a two way street too. Grandpa enjoys us helping with the decluttering process. It's a very arduous task and he is grateful for the help. He also enjoys getting to spend time with his grandkids in the otherwise empty house.

My parents are happy that they get to see their grandkids too. Now they don't have to choose between taking care of their health and seeing their offspring. My niece gets to have her (only) cousins be a part of her growing up experience now. My kids get to enjoy seeing their little cousin grow up too. We were fortunate enough that our plans to move back coincided with my niece's first birthday and we were able to celebrate with her!

Taking the dog for an afternoon walk with Grandpa...Lily needed a piggy-back ride.
These are the moments that we can never get back. Now that we are sharing space with grandpa, we have a whole new life opened up for us. A life that includes our family AND us. We don't have to wave from a distance, wishing we could be a part of our families' lives anymore. We're here. We're back. And, yes, we are sharing space with grandpa, saving a few pennies for when we can land in our own space. But for now, we are all enjoying the benefits of multigerational living. Grandpa babysits for us so that we can get out once in a while. We help with cooking and dishes. Everybody wins. It's a little unorthodox, but it works. Thanks, for sharing your space, grandpa. It truly is a blessing.