Too Thrifty Chicks

Think.Thrift.Create


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I Turned 30 in Big Sur!

This year, I decided to do something different: I spent my birthday alone. Initially, some of my wonderful friends IMG_1039were planning a birthday weekend for me, but so many mishaps were happening, I took that as a sign to do a solo trip. I am so glad I did! Last year Nikisha from Urban Bush Babes shared these photos from her wedding. I fell in love with the natural beauty, and when I thought of somewhere relatively affordable to visit, Big Sur was an immediate thought.

I flew into San Francisco and drove down the coast. Y’all. Highway 1 is as beautiful as everyone says it is. Totally worth the drive. I rented a cute apartment on Airbnb, spent two days hiking, treated myself to a yummy seafood dinner, and generally relaxed. After 3.5 days in the Big Sur area, I spent 3 days with old friends and new friends in San Francisco.

It was a beautiful trip. Sometimes, you just have to do something solo to remind yourself that you are worth celebrating; that the effort you put into celebrating yourself is worth it. Anyway, here are some of my favorite photos from Big Sur. It was really hard to narrow them down!

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Thrifty Travels: Traveling Light

The last two years of my life have been a whirlwind of travel that has taken me from the stark terrain of Afghanistan to the tall buildings and lights of Toronto. And the one thing that unifies those trips and all the places I’ve traveled in between those two trips is packing. IMG_7513

Packing is not my favorite past time, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that my friend Andria G. asked me, during our recent trip to Las Vegas, how I managed to get everything into the small tote that I brought. She asked me this while gazing at luggage that was hardly carry-on size.

There are a few simple rules that I live by and they haven’t failed me yet, even when I showed up for a business trip in Florida woefully underprepared for cold weather and had to make a few mad dashes to local Goodwills and a Walmart to get warmer clothes.

Rule #1: Checking bags is not an option. Real talk, airlines stay trippin’ with these bag fees. Some of them are now going so far as to charge for carry-on bags over a certain size. (I’m looking at you Spirit Airlines.)

Rule #2: Take only what you need. If you’re driving, this doesn’t matter as much, but I really hate over packing. Do you really need five pairs of shoes, or will two work? Why take up valuable real estate in your bag, or worse risk having to check a bag, because you think you’ll wear those shoes. Don’t do it. I’ve been known to overpack my make up supplies thinking I’m going to want to do a special face for a night out, I’ve learned this is a trap and have seriously streamlined the make-up I take.

Rule #3: Travel size everything. That clear, quart sandwich bag can hold a lot if you have nothing but travel size IMG_7535products. Even if you use fancy face and hair products, higher-end retailers like Sephora and Ulta typically sell what you need. Taxicab confession: I almost always take the travel size bath products that hotels provide and bring them home to stock my travel size products drawer. My dentist also always gives travel size toothpaste, so I’ve been stockpiling that for years.

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Rule #4: Mix and match. When it comes to packing I usually lay out outfits that go together and then I make sure that if I’m in the mood, I can mix every thing up and create entirely different outfits. Jeans can go from day to night by changing the top. A dress can be dressed up or down as long as it has a flattering shape and doesn’t require ironing. Jazz up an outfit with accessories, which you can bring a lot of without taking up too much space.

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Rule #5: Bring a cardigan or jacket. Airports and planes are notorious for being chilly. Bring a jacket. And if you don’t actually need to wear it, it makes a good travel pillow.IMG_7449

Bonus Tip: Get through security quick. I usually wear a jersey dress or leggings and a tank top to the airport because you usually have to get nearly naked to go through security these days.  Take off your jacket or cardigan before going through the scanner. Don’t wear any kind of metal jewelry or a belt because this is an automatic repeat trip through the scanner. Keep your plastic baggy full of travel size goodies in your hand so you don’t waste time taking them out of your bag.  And if you’re bringing your laptop go ahead and slip it out of its case too. I prefer slip-on shoes and toe socks because I want to take my shoes off quickly and I don’t really care for my bare feet touching the floor. Eww.

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Last but not least: Pack strategically. For me, packing is like playing Tetris. Every piece has its place and the more things fit together, the less likely you are to end up with footprints from shoes, or worse, hair product and toothpaste on your clothes. I prefer shoes in first, soles down or touching other shoes. Layer with make up bag, accessories bag, and night clothes. Layer everyday, walking around clothes and then follow with going out wear on top of the makeup/accessory bag layer, and just like that you’re packed and ready to go!

Hope this helps you lighten your load on your next trip!

— Ricks


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Too Thrifty Chicks Travel: The NYC Edition

NYC

After diligently devoting ourselves to scrimping, saving, paying off debt and not spending on wants, we treated ourselves to a trip to the Big Apple. And we had a blast! No, literally it was a cold blast of winter. Brr!

For months, we’d planned to take a super cheap bus up to New York and stay with a friend during our seriously low cost adventure. After all, we are the Too Thrifty Chicks — no first class flights and four stars for us unless someone else is paying!

When the time finally rolled around for our trip we were pumped. We had visions of traipsing around the city under clear skies and skyscrapers, taking pictures, hitting up thrift stores, partying and people watching in balmy, but still chilly air.

Our visions and realities never even got in waving distance of one another, but we didn’t let a nasty bout of overcast skies, rain and eventually snow destroy this long anticipated trip. With our umbrellas in hand and our motto, “Just go with it,” guiding us we had a ton of fun.

Walking 9-to-5

Because of the icky weather we definitely didn’t explore as much of the city as we would have liked, but we certainly got to know Harlem and Brooklyn a little better. Our first night, fresh off the bus, weNYC Night 1 hustled hard to have dinner with our friend at the most fabulously, awesome Amy Ruth’s for the chicken and waffles that we had been thinking about the entire ride up. The waffles are so light, the fried chicken so crispy and the staff so nice, all we can say is this was the perfect start to our adventure.

The next day at about 9, we hopped on the subway and stopped first in Times Square were the bright lights and the smell of new stuff drew us in for a little look. That’s probably about where the plans for a frugal NYC adventure went off the rails a little bit.

Budget? What budget?

So Reese and I had this grand plan. We were going to try to do NYC on the smallest of budgets we could imagine: $250 to $300. Because we’re on this Operation Do Better train, we know that what we value most is experience, not stuff, so we convinced ourselves that we were only going to spend money on food, drink and access to the things that we wanted to experience. And we weren’t planning to spend a ton on eating out because a) we had access to a kitchen at our friend’s apartment and b) we are not opposed to eating pizza or from food trucks, which would keep our expenses low. Boy were we naive!

Reality Check

NYC1While we did in fact save money on food because we mostly ate at local spots in Harlem, but we soon realized that shopping in NYC is part of experiencing the city. And on that first day, we definitely indulged in some  retail therapy at Sephora, Forever 21 and Uniqlo. Before we could do anymore damage we hopped a train to Chinatown for a deliciously inexpensive lunch of dumplings and noodles. We also stopped and promptly fell in love with our first taste of bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea.

With our bodies revived, we braved the weather once again and took the train to Brooklyn so that we could head into the Williamsburg neighborhood to check out the thrifty shops its known for. The whipping wind blew us into a little boutique called Rabbits and eventually to a thrift store called Junk, where we pulled out our wallets one more time, then called it a day. We had dinner at a Latin American restaurant called Ecuatoriana, that served gigantic portions of their seafood soup, shrimp and garlic with rice and plantains.

NYC2Day 2 brought more cold and rain, but at 9 a.m. we were ready to hit the streets and headed over to The Studio Museum in Harlem. Our main purpose for scheduling our trip for the time that we did was so that we could catch the Gordon Parks exhibit before it ended. Reese is a freelance photographer and I’m a budding amateur and we love Mr. Parks’ work. We really enjoyed the exhibit, but were pretty bummed that the museum has a strict, no photos allowed policy, that we think they should consider changing. On our way to the museum, we dashed into a GAP outlet store and the MAC store, but left empty handed — though it wasn’t for a lack of trying. By this time, our stomachs were staging a revolt, so we hoofed it over to an amazing crêperie called Crepes on Columbus were we chowed down on savory crêpes and a sweet one with Nutella and strawberries. We kept it light for dinner with pizza slices and lentil soup at a local spot close to our home away from home. Yum!

Our third and final day, we braved the snow to go back to Amy Ruth’s for more chicken and waffles (judge away) and then to the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture to see the Africans in India and the Visualizing Emancipation exhibits. After seeing the Gordon Parks exhibit, the Visualizing Emancipation exhibit, which was largely based on old photos that date back to slavery, was like watching a story told in reverse.

We also dropped into the Schomburg Center’s book store for a book and some postcards that will become part of an art project really soon. I still had two things that I wanted before I left NYC: a charm for my bracelet and a replacement of my favorite MAC lipstick and liner. So we headed back to Times Square where we were able to pick up my “if you don’t get them here, you can’t go buy them when we get home” -most wanted items. We then headed back to Chinatown for more bubble tea and then back to the apartment to collect our stuff just in time to have more pizza slices and wait, and wait for megabus to take us home.

Whew! It was a great trip and we can’t wait to return in the warmer months!

— R&R


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Too Thrifty Chicks Take on Philly!

So we took our Thanksgiving show on the road to the City of Brotherly Love and we had a blast.  Prior to heading out for a Black Friday of scurrying around the city trying to find thrift stores, we stopped at a most amazing créperie and espresso bar called Rue 52.

We loved everything about this place. Really. What’s not to love?

Not only are the coffee and tea selections at Rue 52 beautifully blended, the food is incredibly well done. Reese arrived ahead of me. She had the caramel swirl latte and the massive, savory broad street run crépe which usually comes filled to the brim with turkey, spinach, tomatoes and ranch.

Reese subbed out the ranch for chipotle spread and it was delicious! The reason I know it was so tasty is because I ended up eating Reese’s leftovers in addition to my own yummy breakfast panini of mixed fruit jam and cream cheese. I had a chai tea latte that I will swear until I’m dead is the best I’ve ever had. PERIOD.

A diamond in the rough

But enough about all that. What really grabbed our attention was the art, decor and well thought out design of this spot. It is an oasis in a block that has seen brighter days.

Someone put a lot of thought into every detail of this place from where customers sit, to the dishes and cutlery to the art — the beautiful, glorious, local art that is for sale! We loved everything about this place and look forward to many happy returns, particularly since it is practically across the street from my aunt’s house.

We found one other coffee spot in the midst of our Black Friday adventures purely by accident. One of our thrifting rules is that you must hydrate. We often find ourselves parched after hours (yes, hours!) of thrifting. Reese apparently followed that rule a little too well and we found ourselves in need of a restroom — bad!

Since I was driving, Reese was on the lookout for a place to hop out and go to the bathroom. Just before she thought she would pop, she spotted a cafe called Black N Brew. Since you have to make a purchase to use the loo, we both got lattes — chai for Reese and toffee for me — and split a vegan oatmeal cookie. All we can say is that if Rue 52 and Black N Brew are what the city is working with when it comes to java and tea, Philly has officially ruined generic coffeehouse caffeine for us.

Now on to the thrifting….

We had a full day of thrifting planned but only managed to make it to our first destination, the Goodwill on Bustleton Ave.,  because it was the only place that we could find with our lack of knowledge of the city. But no worries. We had a blast as you can see.

It’s not the biggest thrift store we’ve ever been in, but there is a lot going on at the Goodwill on Bustleton Ave. and a lot to love. We left more than a little bit of what we loved behind but we will be back.

I went for furniture and Christmas toys for some of the little people in my life. Reese found a treasure trove of new, never worn shoes and cute jackets. A thing  that we are fast learning about Goodwill is that they have preferred customer and customer appreciation programs. Some are store-to-store, others are regional. Whatever you do sign up and save!

Until next time…keep it thrifty.

— R&R