Too Thrifty Chicks

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When Less Is More: Goodbye Splurge September. Hello, OktoberFast!

In May, I wrote down a goal that I want very badly to achieve. I want to be Free By 40. Debt free that is. And since that time I have been plugging away at that goal. From May to August, I’d like to say I was pretty frugal. I also felt like I was clear in my commitment to the concept of minimalism (and you can read about that here, here and here), as it had organically developed in my life.

I had implemented a spending fast. No clothes, no shoes, no make up and nail polish, no hair products, no new books, no coffee out and absolutely no credit card use. (And if you know me even a little, this spending fast looks like no fun. I’m a thrifty chick, but this probably was even a little too rigid for too long.)

At first it was easy. I had splurged a little at a couple of thrift stores at the beginning of the summer so I didn’t need any new summer clothes. I’d given up on growing out my hair so I had no real need for hair products. It was summer time and far too hot to wear much makeup and ride my bike. And we have coffee in the office so no need to go out. I also had cut up one credit card and took the other out of my wallet. Out of sight = out of mind, was the way I saw it.

I had even started back cooking more, though eating out and not going to the grocery store enough was/is still one of my biggest vices.

But then came September — my birthday month — and things got a little ridiculous very quickly. To be honest, I went into my 36th birthday a bit melancholy. I don’t feel any kind of way about getting older, but I did feel down.

After working so hard to wrap up everything at work, and to save money so I could pay cash for my trip with Reese to Abu Dhabi and Dubai — a trip that we’d been planning since the end of last year — I was feeling a little flat.

So I started spending to get things I “needed” for the trip. We didn’t do a lot of shopping during our trip, but there was always something to pay for because when you’re on vacation you’ve got to eat, you’ve got to get to places and you’ve got ish to see. I got very comfortable spending money, very quickly.

While I thoroughly enjoyed our trip, that nagging sadness I was feeling before we left was waiting on me when I got back. I came back to a house that had almost no food in it, and since going to the grocery store is not my ministry, I cooked what little food I had (kale, y’all. All I had was kale), and ate out the rest of the time.

Eating out a lot seems to always result in low energy for me, and while I finally dragged myself to the grocery store and cooked some things that made me feel better, I was still feeling down. The alarms started to go off faintly. I was in a rut, a funk. I had to do something. But what?

Instead of spending a lot of time journaling through what I was feeling, I took a different, certainly less helpful approach. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and spent a bunch of money that I hadn’t intended to spend.

Splurge September, as I am now officially calling it, didn’t put me in the poor house, nor did it actually amass me a bunch of stuff that I can’t consume. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t helpful to my goal of being in the “free” house. Hence OktoberFast 2015. No it’s not me giving up beer in October. That would be just plain cruel.

For the 31 days of October I’m going to refocus my energies on my being Free By 40. I’m going back on my spending fast (yes, the one I previously said was too rigid), but this time I want to intentionally focus on what I can do instead of focusing on what I can’t do.

Ricks’s OktoberFast  Challenge Can Dos:

  • Journal my feelings instead of soothing them with “retail therapy.” Shopping isn’t therapy. It’s succor. Therapy is therapy and there is no substitute for that.
  • Save at least $300 by the end of the month. My savings game is off — way off. It’s time to get back on track.
  • Go to the one grocery store I like, Trader Joe’s, twice a month. I like to eat. I even like to cook. But going to the grocery store? Nope. I know I could get groceries delivered, but I actually like shopping at TJ’s. Though it’s in another city, I’m willing to make the extra effort to go there because I actually will eat what I buy.
  • Meal prep food I actually like to eat on Sundays. I usually go to the grocery store on a Sunday so it makes sense that when I get back I should cook while I’m still on my Trader Joe’s high.
  • If I “must” eat out, eat a vegetarian meal at a sit-down restaurant. I like to eat out, but far too often I’m grabbing something quick, made from questionable ingredients. My thinking here is that I will be forced to consider whether I a) have the time, and b) really have a hankering for eating something that I could make myself.
  • Use my library card. I like libraries. I want to get back to being more intentional about using them this month.
  • Replenish my personal hygiene products as needed. There is no need to stockpile. Period.

Reese is in on the OktoberFast Challenge, so look for a post from her about her recent move to Atlanta and how she’s holding down expenses for the next 31 days.

And that’s it.

Well no that’s not exactly it. There are the usual round of spending “no’s” mentioned above, plus no YouTube “haul” videos, but I will evaluate if the “do nots” are too restrictive at the end of the month.

It would be easy to give up on this Free By 40 goal, but I know the keys needed for getting into the free house. Discipline and persistence. I might not always win on the discipline side, but persistence is my ministry. I’m trusting all of you to hold me accountable, so I will be posting an update at least once a week.

Watch me work.

— Ricks

Below are three people I’m watching (instead of haul videos) that are helping me “fall” back in love with my finances. (See what I did there?)

Lydia Senn: I started watching Lydia over the summer. I should have been watching her in September instead of all those haul videos. While I was getting all splurgy in September, she and her family were on a No Spend September challenge. Check out her blog Frugal, Debt Free Life.

Focused Spender: This channel popped up in my feed one day when I was sad and binge watching YouTube videos. This video about the net worth of black women made me want to get back on the Operation Do Better train.

Cait Flanders: Check out her blog Blonde On A Budget because…life goals. She paid of $30,000 in debt, and then decided there was still more to do.


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Destination Brooklyn: A Too Thrifty Day Trip

Me waiting for the bus to Union Station, New Haven.

Waiting for the bus to Union Station. IPhone has dope filters.

One of the clear advantages of living in New England is how accessible NYC is. Y’all already know that Reese and I love the Big Apple. (Read about that here and here.) But I had never taken a solo trip.

Truth be told if it weren’t for Google maps, I don’t know that I would have had the brass to go it alone. I mean, come on son. The NYC subway is mad confusing (at least to me). And compared to taking the Metro in the DMV? Fuhgettaboutit.

But I was getting crazy cabin fever in New Haven after the coldest, longest winter of my life and I promised myself a solo day trip just as soon as there was a beautiful weekend.

I wanted to accomplish two, maybe three, things: I wanted to have lunch at Smorgasburg; I had to get to the Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum; and I had to find the place where I bought these earrings that I so loved (and thought I had lost) from some random flea market-type shop that Reese and I had visited on one of our last trips to the city.

So on the last weekend of the exhibit, I hopped a Metro-North train and headed into the city.

Rocking one of my favorite pair of pants.

Rocking one of my favorite pair of pants.

The universe must have approved of my decision because I could not have asked for more excellent weather.

Pro-tip: It’s easier to get to NYC from New Haven than it is to get from New Haven to Hartford. Yes. As in Hartford, Connecticut which is in the same state and only about 40 minutes away. (Read about my transportation woes here.) Metro-North will get you to NYC in about two and a half hours. Round trip will cost you about $34. And the trains run incredibly regularly, so even if you get on the train a little later than you intended like I did, there is probably another one leaving in 15 or 30 minutes.

NYC bound on Metro North.

NYC bound on Metro North.

I arrived at Grand Central Station at just after noon, which is perfect because the absolute first thing I wanted to do was get my eat on. My friend Google maps let me know what trains I needed to take, and I headed straight to Brooklyn. I glanced in Brooklyn Flea, but gorgeous weather = ridiculous crowds, so I kept it movin’ because delicious food was on the agenda.

Pro-tip: Yo, Smorgasburg draws massive crowds. Bring cash, or do what I did and stand in a seriously long line at the ATM. No Bueno.

After I got my cash, I headed inside of what, to someone like me, is food paradise. Y’all should know this, but I really love food. And my favorite way to explore a place is through my tastebuds and stomach.

I wouldn't say the food was orgasmic, but it was tasty.

I wouldn’t say the food was orgasmic, but it was tasty.

There were so many options. And trust and believe, you will stop random strangers and ask, “Hey, where did you get that?” People were walking by with delicious looking barbecue, but the line was so ridiculous that I kept walking.

But then like a beacon: Buttermilk (Channel) Fried Chicken, or BFC, was my new BAE. Yasss! Not better than my g-ma’s fried chicken, but still tasty. (I mean really, can anybody cook chicken better than your g-ma?) I needed something with which to wash all this hot, delicious, crunchiness down. Agua fresca de sandia you say? Sold. Mexican corn, you say? Sí, por favor. I ate all this yummy deliciousness. Yes I did.

BK7And with this view? I was happy as a pig in mud. And my stomach was full.

So, I really did wander around Brooklyn thinking I could find this little shop, that I’m pretty sure was set up in a temporary space the last time I was in Brooklyn. Reese and I had come up to see the Kara Walker installation at the former Domino Sugar factory. I probably wandered for a good hour and a half before I gave up, and decided I had to get to the museum before it closed.

BK8As was the case at Smorgasburg, the lines at the museum were crazy. I was incredibly close to buying a membership to the museum, just so I would never have to stand in that line again. I still might. For $60 you get free admission for a year, and all these other bennies! Considering that the suggested donation is about $17, the membership pays for itself in about three and a half visits. I’m pretty sure I would use it. I’ve already got my heart set on attending The Rise of Sneaker Culture exhibit that will be there through Oct. 4.

So once I was tagged and released into the wild of the museum, I found the wait to be worth my while.

BK10Kehinde Wiley is renown for his portraiture, but when I tell you his sculpture is everything. I mean EVERYTHING. I loved how, in his hands, the every day became regal and extraordinary.

BK11A bonus treat: The notebooks of Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat are part of an exhibit that has been on display since April. It’s called Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks. I was aware of Basquiat, but truth be told I didn’t know much about his work. His notebooks were fascinating in part because of their lack of pretension.

All of his notebooks were those old school black and white composition notebooks. Check it out and share your thoughts about it on social media using: #basquiatnotebooks. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and stayed in the museum until just after closing.

My contacts were so dry in this photo, but I was looking fierce.

My contacts were so dry in this photo, but I was looking fierce.

I took the train back to somewhere near Brooklyn Flea. The sun was getting low in the sky by this point, and of course, I was starting to get hungry again. After schlepping around the neighborhood, trying to make my mind remember some of the landmarks that were near the place I had purchased my earrings — the old factory site, the juice bar that was next door to the shop, etc. — I gave up and went into a little mini-mall that was one of the first places we did stop the last time we were in Brooklyn.

Though they didn’t have the beloved pair that I thought I had lost (and eventually found behind my dresser), I did find two other pairs that I liked and that was good enough for me! It was time to eat.

Real talk, there are so many sit down food options in Brooklyn it can be hard to choose. The only thing I knew for certain was that I didn’t want any fried chicken (Duh!) and I didn’t want pizza. New Haven has my pizza heart and I seriously don’t think I can ever eat pizza anywhere else again. Seriously. Pizza in New Haven is legendary and delicious. Period.

But I love Korean food and when I spotted a place that was doing a contemporary take on Korean food, and had their windows flung open to the street, I was like, in my best Usher-voice, “Yeah!”

This is the only picture I had in my phone because when the food came, I didn't look up until it was gone!

This is the only picture I had in my phone because when the food came, I didn’t look up until it was gone!

The place: Suoj Korean Gastropub. The time: Super Happy Hour at around 6 p.m. The Food: Yummy.

I had these amazing little steamed buns (that would have been more amazing if the waitress had written down my order and brought me the right ones, grr); my first Korean beer (not bad at all); and the Soju fries, which were poutine-esque with delicious braised short rib and melted cheese. (Yasss! Get in my belly).

With the sun going down and the chill picking up, I hopped a train and headed back to Grand Central Station, so I could make the trek home. I stopped at an outpost of Junior’s Most Fabulous Cheesecakes and Desserts for a coffee (now pronounced: caw-fee) and saw that they had red velvet cupcakes. You already know. I got one for the road.

#nomnomnom!

#nomnomnom!

The perfect end to a near perfect day. I probably spent about $150, and could have spent much less if I had skipped the jewelry and the Uber home from the train station, but I don’t mess around when it comes to Union Station at night.

And I only got on the wrong train in NYC twice the whole day. I’d call that a win.

– Ricks


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Hello, World. Are You (Still) There?

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Selfie Nation, Stand UP!

I’m not going to lie, I’m afraid to write this post.

I’m afraid that I might be posting at a time when I am super enthusiastic about a lot of things — my job, my newly adopted city, life changes, re-connecting with old friends.

But I am also afraid that I will start and then stop. Afraid that I will lose steam, lose momentum. Give false hope. Let people (myself) down in some way.

I am afraid that I might be writing to escape. I don’t think I am, but I’m not prepared to say that I am not. Even less prepared to say that things will be like they were before. Today, I make no promises.

Saying goodbye to Reese and DCA.

Saying goodbye to Reese and DCA.

I might be back. I might not. Reese might be back. She might not.

Whew.

Now that I have sufficiently lowered your expectations and shared my current truth, did you miss me/we/us? I/we (maybe) (actually) missed you.

Returning to regular blogging is something we talk about, often, but haven’t quite acted on together.

Reese is deep in dissertation land. (Body roll for seeing the light at the end of the dissertation tunnel.)

I will leave it to her to tell you what she wants to tell you about her life, now. When she gets ready, in her own time, if ever at all.

Me? Last month, I wrote two whole blog posts that I haven’t posted yet. Why? Because I was feeling a bit shy. Truth be told I felt/feel rusty.

My "this weather sucks" face.

My “this weather sucks” face.

My voice doesn’t sound the same in my head when I’m writing. It’s my voice, but different. My voice, but wiser? More cautious? It’s complicated, I guess.

But the thoughts, the ideas — they keep arriving in my head when I least expect them. Uninvited. OK, occasionally invited.

The things I want to blog about keep flooding my brain. Case-in-point: It is 1:30 in the morning and I have an assignment at city hall in about eight and a half hours.

I. can’t. sleep. because. I. want. to. BLOG! Wanting to blog feels great. Wanting to blog feels terrible. (I’m sleepy, and I SHOULD) go to bed.

Instead, I write. And I wrote this post for you, and you and definitely you. But also for me. And for Reese.

Definitely for me.

I’m not back.

But I am (we are) still here.

– Ricks


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Just FABBulous: ALDO A-List Event Recap

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The Too Thrifty Chicks got it in gear on a rainy Sunday afternoon to hang out with the wonderful fashion and beauty bloggers of the FABB Girls Club.  ALDO Accessories at the Fashion Centre, Pentagon City, kept their doors open long after closing time to give ladies a chance to meet, greet, play dress up, win amazing accessories, and most of all, SHOP.

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We’re regular readers of blogger and FABB Girls Club member Brea Ellis who blogs about her adventures in fashion over at What I Wore: Tip to Toe. We saw her promotion of the event bounce into the inbox and knew it would be a nice way to spend a Sunday evening and we weren’t disappointed. What’s not to love when handbags were 30 percent off and accessories were buy three, get 20 percent off? Yes, please. Thank you. Thirst quenching beverages and snacks also were on deck, which was a nice touch for those of us who can shop until our blood sugar is low. Can we get an amen? Amen.

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The Too Thrifty Chicks and the super sweet blogger/fashionista Brea Ellis!

In addition to getting our shop on, we also got to meet FABB Girls Club creator Lauren Scott, who is putting down the hauteness over at Haute off the Press. Special shout out to her for taking this lovely picture of  the two of us, since we’re rarely in pictures together!

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ALDO Accessories is one of Ricks’ favorite places for fun, affordable and funky accessories that give a thrifted ensemble just the right amount of wow factor for any occasion. We both left with some goodies for the Too Thrifty Chicks accessory stash, and you’ll be seeing those pieces served up in a thrifty post coming to you soon.  Check out some more of these candids from the event.

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