Monday, June 1, 2009

Budget Girl has moved!!

Having a blog here on Blogger (or Wordpress or any other blog hosting site) is a little like living with your parents; it's really convenient, and you're grateful to do so, but we all long to move out on our own.

And that day has come for Budget Girl.

As of now, we have moved out and found a place with a little more room, and a little more flexibility. All the old posts are there, so you'll find the same content, with much more to come.

So come on over, don't mind the moving boxes as we make a few changes here and there, and we'll throw a big housewarming party.

The new address is See you there!

Another cheap-chic boutique:

Here's another one to bookmark and check in on regularly: offers some of the most up-to-the-minute designs, but at Budget Girl prices.
Their dress designs, especially, make my heart go pitter-pat. Seriously: surf over, click on "dresses," hit "view all," and then I triple-dog-dare you not to find multiple selections over which to swoon. And the best part? Most are in the $39-$59 range.
I'm particularly enamored of the sweetly romantic Daisy Fay dress for $39, and the fabulously trendy dip-dye/tie-dye Willow Tie sundress in berry, for a very reasonable $43.
They have an enormous selection, and in an equally enormous range of styles. Whether you're a country girl, a preppy, or a die-hard urbanite, you're going to find something you like. This is one of those where-have-you-been-all-my-life stores.
And it's not just clothes. They have (as of today, anyway) 195 different styles of shoes, every kind of accessory you can possibly imagine, and--and--a great selection of costume jewelry. All orders over $75 get free shipping, too.
Not that it could possibly get any better than that, but be aware that they also have contests where you can win anything from a LuLus shopping spree to concert tickets. So go, browse, sign up, and enjoy.

Soap & Glory--glory, hallelujah!

You may recall my fondness for the fabulous Bliss Spa house brand line of bath and body products, especially the extra-extra-wonderful Hot Body Scrub.

Now, you know how much I love it when a high-end line of apparel, accessories or body care products launches a masstige line of products, an egalitarian shout-out to those of us on a budget.
You may even have seen the candy-pink packaging and quirky product names such as Sexy Mother Pucker lip gloss or the Catch a Wrinkle in Time day moisturizer.
But did you know the fun and fabulous Soap & Glory line of products (carried by fave budget retailer Target) was created by wondergrrl and Bliss Spa founder Marcia Kilgore? Yeah, you just know it's gotta be good!
Most of the products fall within an $8-$15 range, and you'll find everything from body scrubs to moisturizers to anti-aging skincare products. The real star of the line, in my opinion, is The Righteous Butter, an ultra-moisturizing body butter loaded with aloe and shea butter, and going for $14.99 for a 10.1 oz. jar.
You'll also find several gift and travel sets of the Soap & Glory products, so you can grab a basketful of try-me sizes to decide which ones you really love before going all-in for the full-size products.

Friday, May 29, 2009

How much does a weekend away cost?

Not as much as the editors at Real Simple magazine think. Hey, it's one of my favorite magazines, but this is another case where I think they miss (big) when talking about travel on a budget.

In the current issue, they've done a cost comparison of 24 hours in different U.S. cities (click on my pic here to see a bigger, readable version). They choose top-rated hotels and restaurants, but judging by the amounts listed, it appears that they're showing full fares, and no discounts. And that, as you can see for yourself, is a bit pricey.

Does that mean you have to stay in a fleabag motel on the edge of town to enjoy those cities in order to avoid dipping into whatever's left of your 401k? Absolutely not.

The first thing you need to do is acquaint yourself with a couple of websites, if you don't frequent them already: and Both offer deeply--and I do mean deeply--discounted rates to hotels all over the world. The prices on Hotwire will sometimes be a little better than, but the catch is that you have to pay up front for the hotel, and you also have to choose (mostly) blindly. It'll give you plenty of generic info about a hotel--whether it's a four-star, where in the city it's located, what the amenities are--but you won't be completely sure which hotel you're booking until you actually purchase the stay. If you study both sites closely after you've entered your search parameters, you can make a fairly educated guess which hotel (or three) you're getting, but if you don't care to live on the edge, then stick with so you know exactly what you're getting.

So, how big is the difference in rates? Try this on for size: for the Washington, DC outing, Real Simple shows a hotel rate of $479 per night at the Marriott at Metro Center. The same room bought through is just $228 per night--and that's the weekend rate; expect it to go down even more if you make the trip during the week. And if you browse through the offerings for our fine Capitol city, you'll find equally highly rated hotels for even less.

You get the idea. Never, ever pay what's called "rack rate" for a hotel room. A few minutes of internet searching will always turn up a better rate for you.

Okay, so we've got a sweet hotel room to crash in after a day of sight-seeing, but what about food? Oh, the options are almost endless--and don't think you have to drop $100 and up for a great meal. As long as you're online anyway doing your trip planning, check out the two best websites for restaurant recommendations and REALLY in-depth reviews: and Yelp is great for been-there-ate-that reviews; Chowhound is a hardcore foodie site, and will put you in touch with a community of people who know their restaurants. Try searching by city first, narrow it down by type of cuisine if you want, and if you don't find exactly the information you're looking for, post a thread with specific questions. Legions of foodies will come to your aid, and you'll have more insider restaurant info than you'll know what to do with.

Some general tips to keep in mind to keep costs down while dining out (and dining well):
  • Check around to find out which restaurants offer a prix fixe menu--that's a fixed-price menu, usually three or more courses, where you'll have your pick of a range of appetizers, entrees and desserts, and it's usually a bargain compared to ordering a la carte.
  • Don't be afraid to go the appetizers-in-lieu-of-entrees route; unless you're completely famished, you can probably fill up quite nicely on appetizers and a bread basket, and save a fortune on your tab.
  • If you want wine with dinner, call ahead to find out if the restaurant will allow you to bring your own wine, and if so, stop by a wine shop before heading to the restaurant and choose something nice (and within your budget). Wines at restaurants are generally marked up 100 percent (and sometimes more) over retail, per bottle, so you'll almost certainly save by buying your own bottle and then paying the corkage fee at the restaurant (usually $15-20).
And finally, don't feel that you have to have a white tablecloth under your plate to have a great meal. Use Chowhound to scout out the great ethnic restaurants wherever you're going. If that happens to be DC, you'll find just about anything your palate desires--neighborhoods in the Virginia suburbs known for their incredible Vietnamese cuisine, Chinatown, Ethiopian restaurants near Georgetown--and almost all of them are less expensive (sometimes greatly so) than the trendy, high-priced joints.

If you've scraped together even a tiny travel fund for the summer, you can still eat and sleep in style--just do a little homework first, and make sure you're getting the most for those precious travel dollars.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Let's play get the look for (a LOT) less again--this time, the preppy look

Let's play around again with InStyle magazine's Shop It! feature for summer, this time taking a look at their weekend-out lineup for a preppy look.

The pieces are all fun, casual and feature soft peach and aqua colors. But the price tag for everything on the page? Hope you're sitting down: it'll cost you $2,337.

Can we do better than that? Without bringing back too many election flashbacks--Yes, we can!

First stop, Target. Let's replace the $475 gold designer tote with another gold designer tote--try this one from Felix Rey for Target, on sale for $31.48. You'll find an almost identical coral-colored polo by Mossimo, on sale for $6.99 (it'll go back to $9.99 when the sale ends). The v-neck sweater? Mossimo/Black has one for $17.99 in more than 10 colors (including pink, like the one in the magazine feature).

Target recently began carrying an expanded selection of scarves, which are a super-hot accessory right now--try this floral scarf for $13.49, or find another one you like better, all within a $12-15 range.

So what about that sweet white eyelet dress? Strapless, with an oh-so-flattering empire waist--think that's a one-of-a-kind that you'll never find for less? Oh, ye of little faith. Alloy has one that's almost identical--white eyelet, strapless, empire waist--for $42.50.

In place of the pricy designer jean, Newport News has a colored jean in a range of colors, in a very slimming classic cut and just a touch of Lycra, for $19.00. They also have a shirred bikini similar to the InStyle choice; it's from their figure-flattering ShapeFX line, and on sale for $49.00. If you want to cut down even more on that price and go with a slightly different style, both Newport News and Target have their mix-and-match swim separates on sale right now, so you can build your own bikini for even less than the budget choice I've linked to.

And finally, the jewelry. Let's head back to my new favorite source for accessories, Sam Moon. You'll find a very similar gold chain and beaded necklace there for $9.95--oh, and it comes with matching earrings, too, included in the price. They also have a sculpted gold bangle that's almost indistinguishable from the designer offering, just $3.50 each.

That covers everything, so let's add it all up. If you were to buy the budget versions of everything in the preppy lineup, including three each of the sculpted gold bangles, the total comes to $200.90--and just like our last time around, that comes in at less than 10 percent of what the designer pieces would cost.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Plan on doing any entertaining this summer? Check out Pier 1's sale.

Pier 1 Imports is having a big 50 percent off sale right now, and includes a lot of seasonal and outdoor items such as votive lanterns and chandeliers, glazed ceramic pots, and stone garden decor.

In addition to the big clearance sale, they have great specials on all their outdoor entertaining supplies, as seen in this promotional flyer, and you'll find everything from melamine serveware in bright summer patterns to poolside supplies and patio decor.

If you're opting for a "stay-cation" this year to save funds, you can still brighten up your yard or patio and engage in a little budget-minded party time. You can check in at Target, IKEA and Cost Plus World Market for inexpensive summertime gear, too--and, as I suggested a few days ago, don't forget your local 99 Cent store, because they're also a good place to find inexpensive seasonal entertaining goodies such as colorful plastic plates and glasses.

Great freebie at

If you get tired of dragging all your makeup around on trips (or just get tired of sorting out the essentials into your travel bag), you'll definitely want to check this out.

With a $15 minimum purchase, you can get's mini makeup kit, a $15 value, free. I happen to have this little gem, and it's a great all-in-one, grab-and-go kit perfect for travel.
It folds up to a tiny 4 inches square (and one inch deep), but when you open it up and fold out the little trays, this is what you'll find:
  • 9 eyeshadow shades
  • 1 cream eyeshadow shade
  • 1 blush
  • 1 bronzer
  • 10 lip gloss shades
  • 1 brow powder
  • 1 eye liner pencil
  • 1 dual ended eyeshadow applicator and brush
  • 1 face brush
  • 1 lip brush
  • 1 mirror
Pretty nifty, huh? Toss in a tube of mascara, and you're all set. Just use the coupon code FREEMINI at checkout, and remember--if your purchase is $20 or more, you'll also get a free magazine subscription; the current offer is for Health magazine.