2012: The Year of the Economic Academic

It’s five days into the New Year and I’m sure most of us are still recovering from our New Year’s festivities. And most of us, like me, have already reneged on our New Year’s resolutions (damn you Merlot). But that’s okay. That is what the New Year is all about right, fresh starts? Last time I checked, there is no law on the books that dictates fresh starts can only be made on the first of January while you are in an alcohol and food-induced stupor (at least not in the state of Pennsylvania anyway). No, fresh starts can be made anytime, anywhere. This year I’m still making it a priority to continue living frugally (but fabulously), but I also want to become an expert in personal finance. As my graduation date creeps closer and closer, it is important that I know as much as possible before I get into the real world. So, here are the Economic Academic’s 2012 Resolutions

Resolutions:

-Do my own taxes

-Land a job :]

-Start saving for an apartment

-Find creative ways to make money

-Get organized in all aspects of my life

-Only eat out once a week

-Find new ways to save

-Save at least half of my paycheck each month

I know these are pretty dull resolutions, but let’s be honest, there a lot more realistic than my last few (you don’t even want to ask). What are some of your financial resolutions for 2012?

 

 

Work It: A College Girl’s Guide to the Work Wardrobe

I know I mentioned  this a few posts back, but it is ABSOLUTELY necessary to have a work wardrobe in college. Interviews, career fairs, networking lunches and internships opportunities have an uncanny way of appearing seemingly out of the blue so it is best to be prepared for any situation. So what exactly is a work wardrobe?

Let's hope Samantha is bidding on a new work outfit...

Well, this is where is gets tough. Over the past few years, I’ve had internships that have required me to wear everything from workout gear and sneakers, to trendy-casual, to semi-formal business attire and everything in between. However, during my experiences, I’ve learned that there are a few essential items that every working gal needs in her closet. I’m not going to lie, good-quality business attire can be astoundingly expensive, and that is bad news bears for someone on a budget. Luckily, here are a few, affordable staples that will make you look like a million bucks without actually spending that much.

1. The Suit

AGB Jacket Two Button $39.98 and skirt $29.98

I actually own this blazer in black. Macy’s AGB line is perfect for a college budget. Affordable, well-made, and figure-flattering (sizes range from 4-16 US) AGB’s suits should be in every gal’s closet. Each separate is an exact color match, and they also make work pants as well. Also, from my experience, the jacket is seemingly wrinkle-proof!

2. Black or Nude Heels

Target's Mossimo Black Pump $29.99

It also comes in nude

When shopping for a work heel, make sure you feel absolutely comfortable in them in the store. I know heels and comfort go together as well as Kim Kardashian and marriages (sorry I had to), but there is nothing worse than spending eight hours in uncomfortable footwear. Can’t wear heels? Don’t worry! There are a ton of affordable, fashionable flats out there that look just as professional. Also, make sure your new kicks aren’t too high, 3 in at most.

3. Work blouse

A shell like this one from Banana Republic is a great top to layer under a blazer

Button-ups and I do not get along. In fact, we hate each other. The puckering, the ill-fitting waist, the collars that simply won’t stay creased, I’m officially over the button-up. Which is fine because there are so many cute blouse options available. Ann Taylor LOFT and Banana Republic are two great stores that have super-cute shells and blouses to go under blazers and cardigans. Although BR and AT are a bit pricier than what your budget allows, they often have great sale items and last year after Christmas Ann Taylor LOFT offered a 50% your entire purchase no exclusions! Just make sure when shopping for a shell, that it is not see-through and is appropriate for the office. Another tip: sign up for email lists to receive exclusive offers and sale notifications, just be warned they send a TON of emails.

4. The Cardigan

Who says cardigans are just for librarians?

Offices are freezing year round. So you better stock up on a few cute cardigans to keep you warm. Add a little personality to your outfit by going with an embellished or embroidered cardi or pair it with a bold colored shell or statement necklace. This cardigan from Target is not only cute but super affordable at $24.99.

5. Structured Bag

My dream bag from Etsy. Okay so its $199.00...how many days until Christmas?

I currently work at a radio station which requires me to go out and collect sound with a recorder and mic. I also need a notepad to jot notes and often receive a ton of press releases during the day, so I need a purse that is not only cute, but functional with pockets galore and enough space to hold everything I need.  Etsy is a great resource for unique, affordable, well-made bags. And another plus? You are supporting small business entrepreneurs in the process!

Have any other wardrobe staple suggestions? Share them below!

Guest Post: Friday Night Dilemma? SOLVED!

Friday nights and I have a very tumultuous relationship. On one hand, I desperately want to go out, paint the town and celebrate the end of the work week. On the other hand, my bank account desperately wants me to stay in, watch basic cable (yay Fordham Cablevision), and keep the spending to a minimum. Friday nights in the city are a blast, but are much more expensive than going out almost every other night of the week (except Saturday). Luckily, my classmate (and fellow blogger) Shaina has found a wonderfully entertaining and economical solution to the Friday Night Dilemma. Here is what she had to say about it!

Every student needs a night off to just relax and have a great time. But, sometimes the difference between having a fabulous night and just having another night on campus is money. I found a solution to that problem: burgers and karaoke! Don’t worry, this night will only cost you about $25.

The Burgers: Mark

What: A place where the burgers are heaven and the ambiance is perfection.

Where: 33 Saint Marks Place btw 2nd and 3rd Aves

Price: $21.75 total!

Marks Burgers: Where the caloric content is the only number you need to worry about

I first stumbled upon this place when my boyfriend and I were down in the village just hanging out and walking around. We were looking for something fun to do but we didn’t want to spend a bunch of money. So we went in and out of different restaurants on Saint Marks Place and most of them were over what we wanted to spend. We finally got to Mark and the place was pretty small but it looked expensive too. But, when we looked at the price of the burgers, we were pleased. We each had two burgers and French fries and our bill came up to $21.75.

Karaoke is a great and affordable entertainment solution for the college student

Karaoke: U2 Karaoke

What: A place where the music is loud and the fun is abundant.

Where: 6 Saint Marks Place btw 2nd and 3rd Aves

Price: $8/hour per person

There must be a law that requires all Karaoke bars to have LED lighting...now if we could only get a mandatory smoke machine law on the books

Experience: Since my boyfriend and I had extra money left over for dinner, we decided that we should do something else. I always loved karaoke and when we were walking around to find a restaurant, we passed a place called U2. I had never been there before. We decided to go and it turns out, that it was only $8 per person. That was another great bargain for the night. We had so much fun. They have private rooms and performance lighting. It was the finish to a great AND affordable night!

**A BIG thanks to Shaina for the great post and recommendations!

Dorm Room Decorating

Whoever lives here has great taste

Use bright colors to cheer up a gloomy room

My workspace

Decorating a dorm room is tricky. You can’t paint the walls, everyone has the same bland furniture, lack of space, and a small budget are interior design nightmares. Everyday I dream of the time when I can get my own apartment and decorate to my heart’s delight. Unfortunately, that may be a while and so in the mean time I’m making due by getting a bit creative. Having a beautiful dorm room is doable, and having a beautiful dorm room that cost you next to nothing to decorate is even more attainable. Here are a few ideas from my own humble abode to snazz up your space:

Treasure Hunt in your own Home! Before you go out and grab some knickknacks or a trendy comforter, search your basement, linen closet and attic for decorations. While I was snooping I found an amazing antique comforter that was perfect for my color scheme right in my own linen closet. I also brought an old desk lamp that I found in the basement, and repurposed an old flower vase as a pencil holder.

Found it in my closet!

I rescued this baby from my basement. Also, a big thanks to my friend Joanna for the gorgeous flowers!

Swapped out the flowers for pens

 

Incorporate throw pillows! Pillows are a great way to add some color to your room. Look for cheap throw pillows at places like Homegoods, or if you have a sewing machine like me, you can make your own!

DIY pillows

Follow design blogs! I was inspired by a blog post about clothespins (I wish I remembered the blog’s name because I would obviously give them credit for such a genius idea) when I came up with this postcard and quote tags idea. Sites like Apartment Therapy, Made By Girl, A Punch of Color, and Delight by Design are great sources for designspiration.

Inspired by a blog post

Found this old stamp at a book store for 25 cents

Stationary stores have amazing post cards

Hit flea markets, garage sales and street vendors! Many of my knickknacks were found while rifling through a box filled with junk. But like they say one man’s junk is another girl’s desk accessory.

TR is actually an old Avon cologne bottle. His head is the cap! haha

I found this box at an antique store in Lancaster, PA. Because the wood is cracked I only paid $2

Now I use it as a jewelry box!

Have any other decorating ideas? How did you decorate your dorm room? Please share I’d love to hear!

Thrifty Thursdays Fridays

I’ve got a riddle for you: What do the following objects in the pictures have in common?

Any guesses?

Still stumped?

What if I told you that not only did I get everything here at thrift stores, but every item was less than $15? Would you believe me? Well you should. As a college student, thrift stores are great for finding unique, well-made clothing and accessories for super cheap if you know where and how to look. Luckily, I’m here to help. I’ve been thrifting for about eight years, and any thrifter can tell you there is not better thrill than nabbing a great item for a few bucks (or in some cases a few cents). I’m going to be honest here, thrifting does take time and patience. It is not the most fun to sift through the land of misfit clothing. However, the rewards do pay off. Here a few of my favorite finds.

Dooney & Bourke Purse from Goodwill: $10

Vintage scarf from random PA thrift store: $8

That blue blazer in picture one? Thirty dollars cents. I would give you a close up shot, but it has a date with the dry cleaners later today.

If you have never been thrifting before, or, like many, gave up after setting eyes on the umpteenth 5K t-shirt, I’ve come up with a few rules/suggestions that will make you a pro thrifter in no time.

Thrifting Commandments:

1. Thou shalt not buy if thou does not absolutely love it. Just because the price is right, doesn’t mean the look is.

2. Thou shalt not be label-conscious. A big mistake for first timers. That $30 Burberry shirt? No one’s going to care if you got a huge deal on it. They’ll be too busy trying not to laugh at your hideous shirt.

3. Thou shalt not buy stained/hole-y/pill-y clothing. This should go without saying. I usually avoid buying sweaters as many are not in the best shape. But, if you’re looking for the perfect pair of worn jeans or a soft leather jacket? I’d say a thrift store should be your first stop.

4. Thou shalt try and try again. Like I said, thrifting takes time. You may not find what you are looking for the first, second or third time, but believe me you’ll strike gold soon enough.

5. Thou salt seek out unexpected areas/stores. Want to know a secret? Some my best finds came from small-town thrift stores. Many times stores in the city know how much they should charge, but a lot of the mom-and-pop joints sometimes pass over a diamond in the rough. My $0.30 blazer? I got in a $3 fill-you-bag sale in upstate New York.

6. Thou shalt haggle. I don’t know why more people don’t do this. Yes, it may seem annoying, but you can score some major deals this way. Because thrift stores set their own prices, they are more willing to make a deal. Buying a few items? Offer the lot for $20. Also, look for non-profit thrift stores. I’ve found they have offered me deals on purchases without me even asking!

7. Thou shalt do your research. This rule is mostly when purchasing a designer bag. Youtube, Ebay and Spotfakehandbags.com have great articles on how to spot a fraud.

Here are a few of my favorite thrift stores:

-The Goodwill: I have found that they offer a greater selection on designer bags and accessories. Also, their auction-based website has some great discount designer duds.

-The Salvation Army: Great for furniture and household goods. Also, my neighborhood salvation army always has half-off sales and a great selection of coats and leather belts.

-Non-Profit Thrift Stores: If you are looking for a well-tailored suit or brand-names, non-profits are usually the way to go.

Do you thrift? What was your favorite find? Let me know!

Never pay full price for a meal again. Ever. I mean it.

Alright, I’ve been keeping a secret from you. But before I tell you what it is, I want to say that I will never suggest a product or tip unless I  have tried it myself. A few months ago a friend suggested I try restaurant.com for discounted meals throughout the US.  I signed up for their mailing list and began receiving emails about 70, 80 and 90% off sales on gift certificates. One day I decided to just go ahead and buy a few. Since restaurant.com was having one of their 80% off sales, I wound up getting five $25 certificates for less than ten bucks. For months they just sat in my account, as I soon forgot about my purchase. However, the other day I decided to revisit the site and remembered my certificates! One of them was to Ann & Tony’s Restaurant right down the block from Fordham on Arthur Avenue.  My boyfriend and I were in the need of a fresh date-night spot, so we decided to use my certificate, and let me tell you was it worth it! When I bought the coupons, I was afraid that perhaps I might see some backlash from the restaurants for my bargain hunting ways. However, our waiter was great, professional, and even explained the discount on the check when it came! Although the coupon did have some stipulations: $50 minimum purchase, does not include alcohol, cash only (which is always a good idea anyway), we ended up saving $25 on what would have been a $70 dinner. Here’s what we got for $45.00

Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted Red Peppers

Fried Calamari

Cahill's Carbonara

My Penne Alla Vodka

I also had a glass of wine and Cahill decided on an Amstel Light. We were too full to even consider desert, although their red velvet cake did look tempting. Although not my favorite on Arthur Ave, Ann & Tony’s knows how to make a meal, and with our coupon, it was the perfect place for an affordable night out.

Here are a few tips when using Restaurant.com

-Join their mailing list. They every week or so they will notify you of upcoming sales. Their sales are usually between 50-80% off, although they just had a 90% off sale.

-Use Yelp or Urbanspoon to help you decide when buying your restaurant certificates. Some of the restaurants on Restaurant.com are not the best, so do your homework. It is better to spend more money on a restaurant you enjoy than save a few bucks and hate your meal.

-Read the fine print. I know I stressed this in my last post, but it is important to read the stipulations. Some restaurants require a party of four or more, and others, like Ann & Tony’s include an 18% automatic gratuity calculated before the discount.

-Always tip your server based on the full price of the meal without the discount. Frugal and cheap are two completely different things. Servers usually make most of their money in gratuities, so be sure to give them a fair tip.

***I know lately my posts have been food-oriented, but watch out for tomorrows post on thrifting! And coming soon, my experience at the Aveda Institute and my wardrobe challenge!

Beauty and the Budget

Frenchie may have blown it in beauty school, but there are many talented students too

Beauty may be pain but it shouldn’t be costly. Many nice salons can charge $70+ for haircuts, not including color, $90 for facials and $30 for a simple manicure. So what is a college girl to do?

Well thankfully my equally frugal cousin Danielle gave me a great tip: beauty schools. Beauty schools around the country offer discounted rates on everything from manicures to highlights to facials in order for their students to practice on live models. And let me clarify, Frenchie is not going to be doing your hair. Many schools only allow their most experienced students on the floor. Additionally, their teachers are on the floor for any questions and corrections, and review their work upon completion.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ever walk into a hair or nail salon and expect the Health Department to burst through the door any second? When you seek out cheap cuts and mani/pedis you run the risk of finding a place that may compromise your health.  I don’t know about you but I’m not willing to run the risk of getting staph and having to pay for a hospital visit because of a botched pedicure. Talk about unforeseen costs. In beauty schools, they take cleanliness very seriously.

If you are nervous about going to beauty schools for a big change like a new hair color or drastic cut, go in for a trim or a few highlights. If you don’t like the cut or color it will not be as noticeable, and oftentimes the instructor will be more than willing to fix it for you.  Or, if you’re like me and simply cannot bear the thought of cheating on your stylist, come in for a cheap manicure, makeup application or a massage.

In October I’ll be checking out the Aveda Institute in Manhattan.  I’m setting aside a bit of my budget for their thirty-minute twenty dollar facial . Keep a look out for my review in the next few weeks.

Tips:
-Do some research before you chose your beauty school. Yelp and other review websites often review beauty schools as well.  Be warned, you may get an array of different reviews because remember, the stylists are students and some are more talented than others.
-When booking an appointment, ask about the school’s policy. If you are unhappy with the results can you get a refund or will someone fix it? Do you take credit card or just cash? How long have the stylists been in school? Would you recommend anyone?
-Give yourself more time than usual for a service. The stylists are still students and may need advice from the instructor.
-If you get there and do not feel comfortable with the stylist, tell someone. Try to get another stylist if available. If changes can not be made consider leaving. It is better to spend more money and time on a great stylist and haircut than waste money on a haircut/color that you’ll have to get fixed anyway.
-Many times the instructor will ask you about your experience. Make sure to be honest. If you loved it be sure to point out why your stylist was so great. If you hated it, tell them in a calm way. Even if your stylist is within earshot, it is better for them to hear constructive criticism and learn from it now, than develop bad habits that will be hard to break in the future.
-If you love your stylists’ work, get her number! Many students and recent grads work out of their home for some extra cash. Their prices are regularly far cheaper than a salon so it’s a win-win for both of you!

Have you ever been to a beauty school for a service? Let me know!