Rocking a Champagne Life on a Beer Budget

by Ashley on February 13, 2012

My month ahead features Mardi Gras & opening the first play of the semester– so you’re going to see lots of fab guest posts in February! This post comes to us from the savvy and sexy Sarah Von of Yes and Yes fame.  This gal’s blog has been a daily read for as long as I can remember, and her post is perfect for the Fashion + Finance series. I hope you love this post as much as I do!

Image by James Meakin

Dear Sarah Von,
So this is a pretty awkward question, but I do hope you’ll answer it. I know that you are a teacher at a non-profit and you’ve made a few references to you salary of “two dollars.” But you are always dressed so well! And you travel all the time and it sounds like you live in a really nice neighborhood! How do you do it? You don’t have a trust fund do you? ;D

You’re right! That is an awkward question! But, in an effort to hook up some other ladies who are trying to squeeze liquid gold from the proverbial stone, I’ll share with you my secrets of financial skulduggery.

Clothes

Guys, it is not an exaggeration that 75% of my wardrobe is thrifted. And a lot of it is swankity swank brands pilfered from deep in the racks of my local Goodwill. Not only does thrifting save me heaps of money, I feel endlessly clever and lucky when I score an Anne Klein cocktail dress for $20. Anybody can walk into Anthropologie and put together a cute outfit for $500. It takes an artiste to create an ensemble out of the $2 bin. Here are my trusted thrifting tips.

Food

Honestly, I don’t eat out much, partially because being a vegetarian often limits me to soup/salad or pasta. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay $12 for a plate of noodles I could have made at home for 75 cents. When I do go out, I usually frequent lil hole-in-the-wall ethnic places because they are a) delicious b) cheap.  Mango in St. Paul even lets you bring in your own wine without a corkage fee!

But grocery shopping is my shoe shopping – I’m all a’salivating over the caramelized onion chutney and the imported cheeses and the out of season fruit. And you know what? I buy every last thing that takes my fancy. Because I’m pretty sure I perform better when fueled by buffalo mozzarella and fresh pineapple.

If I don’t want to spend too much money, I frequent my local Asian grocery store (red peppers for $2 A POUND!) and the Hmong farmer’s market. So cheap!

Transport

I have the lamest car you could ever imagine. Seriously. Does it get any less awesome than a 1994 Ford Tempo? But it’s (mostly) rust free, only has 60,000 miles on it and isn’t going to get stolen when I go to work in the ghetto. And I bought it with a personal check. No big monthly payments for me!

Home

I do, in fact, live in a nice, slightly swanky neighborhood. I’m a total design and home whore, so living in a boxy, seventies-style apartment in the suburbs was simply not an option. I squeezed my way into this pricey real estate market by sheer luck and by taking an apartment in need of a really good cleaning and a new paint job. I’ve gussied it up (photos to come!) using these tricks.

Entertainment

I am huge fan of the thriftyhipster and generally trawling the internetz for free or cheap fun. Honestly, you can usually find me doing ridiculous things to entertain myself (see “visit Scientology church” 30 new things goal) but I’m not opposed to dropping change on an event I really want to see.

Travel

Of course, travel can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be! I religiously follow my own advice for traveling on the cheap. And honestly? I just make travel a priority. I’m always planning and saving for my next trip (Next time? Mt. Everest base camp and the Trans-Siberian!) Some girls save up for Jimmy Choos, I save up for Jakarta.

Money Tricks

I only really have two bits of financial wizardry, but I’m happy to share them.

I created a basic budget for myself, just using an excell spreadsheet and cataloging my monthly income and bills. From there I figured out how much money I should be putting away each month for retirement, future travel, etc and then a gave myself a weekly allotment of fun money. I go to the ATM once a week, withdraw that amount in cash and once that money is gone, I’m stuck eating at home and watching library dvds till Sunday comes round again. I realize that putting yourself on an allowance seems pretty dire and deeply unsexy, but it has actually made shopping more fun and made me appreciate my purchases a lot more.

The other trick I employ is the money vs. time mind game. I think about how much time I’d have to spend at work to equal the cost of the thing I’m about to buy. It’s crazy to think that I could take two days off for the cost of a purse! And given the option, wouldn’t you rather have two days to do what you want rather than a different thing to carry your phone around in?

So how to do you guys fake the good life?

{ 21 comments }

Lisa February 13, 2012 at 9:57 am

Such a great post. It’s so easy to get caught up in consumption. I have had times in my life that I have had more disposable income and times that I haven’t. I actually feel so much better when I have to be more conscious about my spending. It feels so much better when you know you are getting a great value and buying only the things you really love. Great tips about living stylishly on a budget!!

Ashe February 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Lisa, yes! I know that the Beau & I have had to be very conscious of our spending these past few months… and it’s surprisingly freeing! We appreciate more when we get to buy something, plan more to buy what we love, and are more excited when we DO eat out.

Rachel February 13, 2012 at 11:11 am

Your Money Tricks are really hitting home; I’ve recently been thinking about doing exactly what you describe, allowing myself only X dollars per week in cash, but thought it might be too unrealistic/inconvenient/I wouldn’t stick to it/etc. Seeing that it works for you makes me think it’ll work for me… starting now!

Ashe February 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm

When I was living alone, I got paid 1x a month. So I had to go the cash route, just to make sure I’d have enough cash to make it through the month! The Beau & I now only get paid 1x a month, but our income is bigger so it’s not as necessary. But we still stash part of our money so we don’t have it until the end of the month and when our money would be running out… it definitely helps and is achievable!

Cameron February 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I would love to see photos of your Tempo, plus any fun stories involving the car! And, should the time come to put it to rest, the 24 Hours of LeMons would be a fitting send-off!

rings90 February 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Great Post & I really admire the way you live your life to the fullest while not going into debt.

I admire people that can thrift & find the quality brands when doing it.

But there is another side to thrifting – those of us who live farther away from the bigger cities tend to encounter the following issues:

It’s harder for people like me when there really are not fun & different stores like Anthropologie, J Crew, Land’s End, Benetton, or really any quality department stores in the area. Thrifting in my town consists of finding brands sold at Penney’s, Kohls, Wal-mart, K-mart, Shopko, and Target and if you are lucky possibly Gap. I have a hard time paying $4.00 their brands, when I can get it brand new for $8.00 if I wait for it to be marked down. and if you do find a Brand that is not common around here the stores have it marked quite high, because they can get away with it.

Honestly I am a bit Jealous of people who live in big cities & can create an unique & great wardrobe for a fraction of it’s actual retail cost.

I will admit I have found a few shops that sometimes get some gems & are priced fairly.

But this really does answer the question that when you are in most of the midwest most everyone is wearing the same color schemes & the same styles day after day… ..

I guess I will have to try to move closer to a more diverse city to create the wardrobe of my dreams on a budge.

Rachel W. February 20, 2012 at 3:14 am

Oh man, rings90, do I sympathize with you. My terminally unhip hometown thrift store (singular) was stocked solely with brands you could buy at Walmart, Penney’s, and Payless. Even now living in a groovier, larger college town, most of the thrift store clothes I see are from Target or F21. Most of my wardrobe is thrifted, and yet I too succumb to thrifting jealousy!

Because my local thrifting is a lot of dross for little gold, whenever I have to travel, I’ll try to research the towns I’m passing through and take a thrift-store-pitstop there. Towns with more diverse shopping or wealthier donators– not necessarily hip towns, mind!– can turn up some nice surprises!

Ashe February 24, 2012 at 8:13 pm

That’s a great, great idea about doing some research before traveling!

Ashe February 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I sympathize, too! But from another angle–which is being in a small transient town, and having thrifting being such a trendy thing it becomes impossible to actually do!

Miss Tallulah Porkchop February 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm

The first bit about clothes – it sounds like I wrote it. I whole-heartedly agree. I have a kind of excellent thirft tourettes where I randomly yell at people (whom I actaully know) “Two bucks!” while enthusiastically pointing at my skirt.

Apart from that I am a financial disgrace, cheap, but still a disgrace. I stick my head in the sand and hope my credit card pays itself off.

Ashe February 24, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Girl, I could write SO MANY POSTS about the trials & tribulations of trying to pay off credit cards.

Broke & Beautiful February 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Awesome post, Sarah! I (obviously?) love your approach to life, this post was perfect!

Casee Marie February 13, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Ahh, love this! I’m a total champagne-life-on-a-beer-budget sort of girl, so needless to say so much on this list resonates. I’m an utterly inexperienced thrifter, though, and it’s something I keep wanting to get into a bit more. The few consignment stores I’ve been to have offered amazing finds, so here’s hopping it wasn’t just beginners’ luck.

Awesome post, Sarah!

For Those About To Shop February 16, 2012 at 8:24 am

I love the thrift shopping too for so many reasons. It’s a ton of fun, saves money, allows creativity, and is environmentally friendly. No lose situation!

Heather February 17, 2012 at 1:18 am

I love this post! I can relate to many of your tips for living the lush life on a budget. The hubs and I run on cash. We don’t use credit cards anymore. We get our cash for the week and when it’s gone. It’s gone. We live very frugal from day to day. That is not to say that we don’t spend, because we do on occasion. And when we do we pay cash. I LOVE thrift shopping. There are so many treasures out there waiting to be re-worn. I get excited when I find a coveted brand that fits perfectly.

Ashe February 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I used to operate on the cash system when I lived alone (because I get paid monthly, and it made sure I had money to get through the whole month). I can’t imagine how the Beau & I would do it now! But we do both typically shop for the month, and what is left is to replenish perishables, like milk, bread, veggies… so while it’s not cash, it ends up very frugal.

Jyoti (Style-Delights) February 18, 2012 at 12:25 am

Loved the post and the tips!! Eating/drinking out regularly is one of the most common mistake people make while mismanaging finances! (daily visit to starbucks and $7 martinis add up so quick!) Also, I think paying full price for any piece is just illegal!
-Jyoti

Ashe February 24, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I used to have a shopping philosophy that was, “If you’re not willing to pay full price for it, you really don’t love it.” I think the essence of it is good (about our relationship to loving it & being willing to work/save for it), but nowadays that won’t stop me from hunting for a coupon code first– even if it’s just for free shipping!

Corinne February 25, 2012 at 11:11 am

Such great advice!! Love your tricks :)

Corinne xo

Sara February 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Great tips, so glad I am following your blog.

J. March 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Wonderful post, and I love the tips!

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