20 To the Max

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Here we are again! Another budget/style challenge! I was looking through old blog posts and realized last year, my goal was to not shop until I wore everything in my closet at least once. Well, I got pregnant soon after that and the challenge ended faster than you can say “baby number 3.”

So, now that the baby is here and we’ve (kind of) settled into a new house, I figure I need to keep my shopping budget on a REALLY tight leash! Enter the “20 to the Max” challenge.

It’s pretty self explanatory: a personal clothes/shoes shopping budget of $20 a month. There are no rollover dollars. If you don’t spend it, you lose it. You CAN use existing gift cards, store credits or store rewards.

In the past, I have found shopping challenges allow me to really stretch the way I style what’s already in my closet, so I’m hoping the same creative juices start flowing.

The month of April is already over, but I plan to continue for three months total! So, if you want to join along, feel free! Use the hashtag #20tothemax on social media to show how you’ve spent your money. 

For the month of April, I bought a $7.56 tank and $7.56 sunglasses–both from Old Navy. 

I actually bought the tank earlier in the month for $12 but was uncertain about keeping it. Then a couple of weeks later, the same top was discounted even more, plus I got to use Super Cash, which brought it down to the $7 price range. (I’ll be returning the one I purchased for $12)

The sunnies were on promotion for $10 and my Super Cash also brought the price down. 

The only thing I regret about the 20 To The Max challenge this month: not spending my full $20!! Old Navy even had $2 tanks the day I was there and I wanted to go back and get a couple, but my kids were with me and they are the world’s best shopping prevention, lemme tell ya! 

As for the month of May, who knows what I’ll get! I’m going to try to do a post featuring items I wish I could buy right now! 

Until then, thanks for reading!! 




Budget Breakdown – January 2015

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One of my goals for 2015 was to get my shopping budget back on track. I read a great article on Who What Wear that covered how much of your income you should allot for shopping. It is a FANTASTIC overview on what you really should be able to afford. Essentially, the financial expert in the article advises spending 5% of your take-home income on shopping. Of course, bills and other expenses could bring that number down. You know best! Deep down, as much as you may want to spend 5% or 7%…you know if you can afford it!

Before having read that article, I decided to set my budget at $150. It’s actually less than the 5% recommendation in the article, but it is a realistic number for me.

I’ve kind of been dreading writing this post because I know I went over in January. Surprise, surprise, right?! I spent about $200. Of course, I stretched my dollar to the max and am happy with all of my purchases! Here’s a breakdown!

From Old Navy (30% off sale prices):

striped pencil skirt – $8 // plaid top – $10 // men’s plaid top – $10 // sleeveless LBD- $7 sold out, similar here // (not pictured: Shirt dress w/ tiny heart pattern – $11)

From Banana Republic (60% off sale prices):

Mixed Media Tank- $8 // (not pictured, Lace shell-$10 in store/sold out, similar here.)

From local boutique Soca Clothing (who was having 60% off sale prices!):

Rebecca Minkoff envelope clutch – $38, similar here// BB Dakota Mayer Sweater – $38 (but currently $30 here) // (not pictured, two shift dresses in black and burgundy $12 each)

From Forever 21:

Forever 21 Cape $20

From Marshalls (not pictured):

Black Culottes – $10…can’t wait to wear these now that it’s warmer!

I will say, I gave up shopping for Lent, so my February budget is definitely UNDER! YAY! I haven’t been able to wear everything I’ve purchased so far because it’s just now starting to warm up, but to see how I’ve styled some of these items, be sure to follow me on Facebook (Budding Fashionista) and Instagram (@buddingfashionista).

Thanks for following along!

The Budget Is Back!

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So, remember that whole “6 months no shopping” challenge I gave myself last year? I got a lot of positive feedback from it and learned a lot about my will power and my ability to appreciate things I have. All great things! But I have a dirty confession. I am now a statistic. I did what many financial gurus predicted. I binged! Oh, how I binged.

My no shopping challenge ended right before I went to San Francisco for the first time. So, when I got there, I shopped, of course. And I shopped when I returned home. And I shopped online. I hate to admit I was out of control! Where was that will power I had for 6 months prior?! It went on vacation, too I guess–somewhere far, far away from me!

So, what’s the point of all this??

To get my financial frenzy back on track, I’ve decided to do a “12-month no shopping challenge.” HA! I kid, I kid!!

Seriously, though. If you read the title of this post, you probably figured it out–I’m bringing back my monthly budget! My husband and I recently met with some money pros and we got realistic about our spending/budgeting. I decided to put myself back on my $150/month budget. It worked really well for me last year. And for some reason, I am better about saying “no” to a sale if I know I can use my budget as an excuse to cool off my debit card. For instance, “Hey, Vanessa! Did you see the amazing sale going on at XYZ?!” I would reply, “Yes! It’s so awesome, but I’ve already maxed out my budget for the month.” It’s easier for me that way. I know. I’m twisted. But it’s the only thing that seems to work for me.

How am I doing now? Before mid-January, I’d already spent about $110. While that doesn’t give me a ton of wiggle room, I do take comfort in knowing I have made some great purchases so far (y’all know I love to stretch my dollars!). And I still have $40 available to spend before the end of the month! I’ll definitely be posting my monthly purchase/budget results. It helps hold me accountable. Because, you know, holding myself accountable privately is just crazy talk.

Now, I know this is not some flashy post with a lot of pics, so I’ll leave you with a preview of two of my favorite purchases so far!

I got this dress from Old Navy (online) for $7.50! It’s now sold out, but the sale is still going on through January 10th and there was a lot of cute stuff I would’ve considered buying had I not been keeping my budget in mind ;). (See, it’s already working!) Use code: SAVENOW to save 25% off clearance prices through midnight EST January 10th. Normally, I am looking for additional 50%, but with these low Old Navy prices, the deals are already dirt cheap.

Old Navy
Old Navy

I also made my first Rebecca Minkoff purchase! It may be my first designer handbag purchase come to think of it. The Leo envelope clutch was $38 during a sale of 50% off markdowns at a local boutique called Soca. I LOVE it SO much! It has beautiful lining which makes me love it even more!

Rebecca Minkoff-Leo envelope clutch
Rebecca Minkoff-Leo envelope clutch

I can’t wait to share my other purchases with you…and I can’t wait to spend the remaining $40 of my budget! haha! Thanks for following me on this journey!

If you’re still with me, I have a little treat to share with you! I’ve teamed up with several other fashion lovers for an awesome giveaway on Instagram! We are giving away 3 $200 pre-paid Visa Gift Cards. Head on over to my Instagram for more details!  

The 10 Truths of “6 Months No Shopping”

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Forgive my absence. Instead of rushing to recap my no-shopping challenge, I went on a little vacation to San Francisco (sans kids/avec shopping!) and kind of put the post on the back burner! But, I’m all in now!

My loyal followers know I didn’t technically “not shop.” I need to clarify since someone (who will remain nameless, but I may or may not be married to him) accuses me of being shady for accumulating a few things for free during the 6 month challenge. But as I mentioned when this challenge started, my goal was to not spend money on clothes and not repeat any outfits. I achieved both. Yes, I was able to accept gifts and shop with coupons and gift cards, but I did not spend any money! And yes, I repeated clothing items, but I did not repeat any entire looks!

So, this “no shopping challenge” I loonily gave myself was quite the eye-opening experience. It was strictly self serving–a mission to curb my spending after going on a bit of a shopping binge in December and January. But things evolved from it that I never expected…some good, some bad.

1. I didn’t save money like I hoped. So, you’d think I’d be rolling in the dough with all of that “no spending” I was doing, right? Wrong. (insert sad face emoji here) It’s pretty shameful to admit, but I didn’t really save money by not shopping. I did, however, spend more money on other things. I took the kids out to eat a LOT more than we usually do and that adds up REALLY quickly.  I’m not in denial that I’m more of a “spender” than a “saver.” So, I need to figure out a way to reign that in and be more responsible. If you have faced a similar struggle and have rehabilitated yourself, please feel free to share!!

That pretty much sums up the bad! While it’s only one thing, it’s a doozy. I should probably do a “6 months no restaurants challenge,” but honestly, I know I’d fail miserably at that!

2. I was an inspiration, apparently. I hate to type that out because it sounds like I’m Oprah-tizing myself, but it is one thing that came out of these six months that I did NOT expect. But people on Instagram and other bloggers were extremely uplifting and gave me so much positive feedback! Some said I even inspired them to go on their own “no shopping” challenge! I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the support and encouragement along the way! I particularly want to recognize my IG friend, Tess (IG: @thague611)! She joined in for the last three months and she did AMAZING! Thanks for joining!

3. I learned how to be even more resourceful! I utilized coupons, rewards, gift cards and holidays (Mother’s Day) to get some swag. I thought for sure I’d go through all of my gift cards and Banana Republic rewards in no time. But, I actually left several gift cards untouched during the six months. Everything I got, without reaching into my own bank account, is pictured below.

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4. My closet is deeper than I thought. I had several people tell me they’d never be able to go 6 months without repeating an outfit, so I started to become a bit concerned that I’d be able to pull it off. I don’t have closets full of clothes. Just one 😉 And I never did a full tally of items in my closet. I just dove in, hoped for the best and monitored what I wore on Facebook and Instagram.

I did have a close call for a couple of potential outfit repeats, though.


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5. The Goodwill pile got attractive. I guess it’s like how some girls dump a guy out of boredom, so they toss the guy to the side, but continue to string him along in case nothing better comes along (not that I’ve ever done that!)! Then you realize he’s not so bad after all and you bring him back in! Poor guy. That poor guy was my trusty Goodwill pile. I realized there were some things lingering in there that were worth a comeback, at least for now: the sheer “snakeskin” print top on the left and the black bolero/shrug. I also resurrected a couple of other tops that I wore after the challenge ended: the green top and the off-the-shoulder top.

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6. The Goodwill pile needs to expand.  Believe it or not, there were still some things in my closet that never got touched! So, if I can go six months without wearing them (on top of not repeating outfits), I probably need to cut those strings and let those pieces go. The items I didn’t wear are either too tight, totally dated or they are just simply too boring. We all have those things we just can’t seem to let go of for some reason, and it’s time for this girl to get a reality check! It’s time to Let go and Let Goodwill.

7. I have a decent stockpile of classics. By classics I don’t even mean black pants, black pencil skirt, black pumps and white blouse. I realized I don’t even own a simple, black pencil skirt or a classic, well-fitting white blouse! I barely even wore my black pants. I’m talking about more classic silhouettes with more of a “wow” factor because of their not-so-basic color or pattern. Take my yellow pencil skirt, for example. The style was versatile and classic enough to pair with a myriad of other different tops, but the color was interesting enough to keep the look from being boring. Same goes for my red, wide leg trousers and white blazer (that I actually wore more than my black blazer!). I would get Instagram comments on how my looks still seemed fresh despite repeating several items and I attribute that to the “unique” factor of timeless silhouettes. I did a post a while back on “non-essential essentials” that I feel expand a closet exponentially.


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8. Layering was my best fashion friend. There is no better way to maximize your closet than to layer! Obviously, you can throw on a blazer, cardigan or scarf to a sleeveless dress and freshen up the look, but there are other ways to layer, too! That sleeveless dress can take on a whole new look if you pair a top over it, so you are now wearing it as a new skirt! I did this a few times.

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9. Pattern Mixing was my second best fashion friend. Another way to maximize the closet–combine items you may not have combined before. I felt like I was on a fashion adventure whenever I mixed patterns. These are some of my favorite combinations: floral/stripes, dots/dots, stripes/dots, stripes/dots/animal, plaid/stripes. I’ve read different “rules of pattern mixing” but I’ve also seen the rules be broken. I try to be mindful of proportions and colors, but ultimately, it’s all about experimentation and what just flat-out seems to be most cohesive to your own eye. Go with your gut.


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 10. The Aftermath On August 1, 2014 I was able to shop again. I already told you how it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to fill my shopping cart and actually pay for the contents. That was unexpected! Another thing I didn’t expect to feel was uncertainty and maybe even a bit of anxiety! This challenge had defined my wardrobe for 181 days and I almost felt like I was having a bit of an identity crisis on day 182. For six months, I had woken up (or gone to bed) thinking about how I was going to change things up for the next outfit. At the end of the challenge, I didn’t feel the pressure to be as creative with my wardrobe.  I had no closet obligations. At first, I felt like a zoo animal who is suddenly back in the wild and doesn’t know what to do in the world! That may be a bit dramatic, but hopefully you get what I’m saying. It definitely took me a few days to get acclimated to the shopping world again. But, I’m happy to say I’m experiencing a Celine Dion moment of sorts… because it’s all coming back, it’s all coming back to me now! 😉

Thanks for following me on this journey! I can’t wait to show you some of my first purchases and great deals I’ve already racked up!

Countdown to Shopping

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The countdown is on, brothers (if any guys read this) and sisters! I’m so pumped for this  no-shopping challenge to be over, I started a “countdown to shopping” on the side of my blog (it should be over there to the right)! Even though I’m beyond ready to shop, things have been going pretty well! It didn’t hurt that I was able to utilize some amazing Banana Republic coupons in the month of April (free money! yes, it actually exists every now and then!). I mentioned what I purchased with the first $25 off coupons I received. Now, here’s what else I managed to score for the remaining weeks of April without spending a dime! P.S. If the tweed-front top looks familiar, it’s because I got the same top in yellow the first week I got the coupons! I had a hard time finding any other tops I liked that were under $25! So, I figured, why not? It’s free!

I did also get a few new goodies in May since that was the month of Mother’s Day and my husband was gracious enough to spoil me a bit. Maybe he just felt pity on me. Whatever the reason, I accepted. I kind of felt like that was cheating, but that was his gift to me! What’s a girl to do?! Here’s my Mother’s Day loot breakdown: The maxi skirt from Lotus Boutique and floral cami from New York & Company are exact. The hat shown is from ASOS and similar to one I got from Francesca’s. The sequin tank shown is from Patricia Field and is similar to one I got from Lotus, only mine is white):


June is halfway over and I did opt to use part of a gift card at Target. There was about $8 on the card leftover from Christmas and I used a whopping $1 to get some cheapo sunglasses. I needed some eye protection since I left my only pair of sunglasses at my parents’ house during a recent visit home. I figure, if I get some supplemental sunnies, I’ll at least make sure they’re as close to free as possible.

And, I’m going to go ahead and put it out there: I have $110 in rewards from my Banana Republic card, $50 of which expire July 31st. I can’t very well let those expire! So, I’ll definitely be redeeming at least $50 in July.

To recap the past month or so, I’ve been on the verge of misery! I feel like I’m down to slim pickings in my closet and seem to be reverting back to some of my fall items, trying to summer-ize them! So that’s the struggle right now–approaching my closet with fresh eyes…again! I guess at the beginning of the season, I wore a lot of my “cuter” spring/summer outfits because I was so excited about the change in seasons. It was also Birmingham Fashion Week time, so maybe I was feeling a little more inspired? Here were my April Faves:


Whenever I get in a fashion funk like I’ve been experiencing lately, I just walk in my closet, set my sights on a couple of tops or bottoms that I’m not completely turned off by and ask myself, What else can I pair this with? What is something I haven’t worn this with? Are there any unique patterns or color combos I need to try?  Hopefully this approach will get me through this next month and a half! Wish me luck!


The Spree before Shop-Free

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If you follow me on Facebook, you have seen my no-shop challenge in effect. Starting February first, I’ve vowed to go 6 months without shopping and without repeating an outfit. The purpose is two-fold: keep my budget in check as my husband and I prepare to buy a real house (townhome living is too cramped with two kids) and to make up for the Spree of January ’14.

Now, if you’ve read my post about not paying retail and great times to shop, you know why January is one of the best, if not THE best, times to clothing shop all year. Boy, did I take advantage. While my husband was not thrilled at how much I “saved,” I was ecstatic! Let’s get to the breakdown, shall we?

This is what I purchased through Piperlime. They were having 50% off clearance and eventually 60% off clearance! Couldn’t pass that up!

Piperlime: black top w/ gold trim, $15 // plaid shorts, $12 // Aldo d’Orsay flats, $15 // shift dress, $10 // faux leather dress, $25

My damage from Banana Republic and Gap while visiting my local stores. Again, additional percentage off markdowns is the way to go!

I love Gap, Inc. brands and continued the great deals at Old Navy.

I also had a TON of fun shopping at H&M.com where there were a TON of markdowns at super low price points:

Here are some other lovelies I purchased from the runway department of T.J. Maxx, Forever 21 andFrancesca’s!

I was also able to get some great deals on shoes from DSW! I couldn’t find all images online, so I had to get organic!

I always find great deals on shoes at Ross Dress for Less!

All of this totals to about $520! That’s about $15 for each item on average. One thing I didn’t do was add up the retail price since I got so much stuff and didn’t keep track of it before I started wearing things! But considering the Rebecca Monkoff dress was originally $368 and the black boots were about $200 originally, I’d say my savings would be astronomical!! Did you get that, hubby? ASTRONOMICAL!! 😉

I also earned a whopping $50 reward from Banana Republic and I still have a few gift cards left over from Christmas. I figure I can spend those if I feel like I am going to break! That’s not really cheating is it??

Confessions of a Budget Buster

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This month, I prove I’m only human. A shopping-loving human. And I’m confessiong my shopping sins. Right here, right now.

Even though my November budget was long gone, I couldn’t resist Black Friday. I thought I could just forget about the sales. I thought the sales wouldn’t be that great and I could resist them. I thought wrong. I couldn’t even wait until Black Friday!!

The week BEFORE Thanksgiving, I was in Target and spotted a blazer that happened to look AWESOME (in my opinion) with the outfit I had on at the time. In a moment of weakness, I bought it. For $25 (sold out online). Here it is:

Now, there could be one caveat. I haven’t worn it and still have the receipt. So, if it gets marked down soon, I will purchase the cheaper one and return my current one. I’m scandalous, I know! But I said, I’m sharing confessions here.

Then, I spent another $22 on a floral print blouse I had been eyeing at the J.crew Factory store ever since I saw J’s Everyday Fashion sport it.

I considered getting it with my Grand Haul funds, but still couldn’t bring myself to spending $50 on it…even if it wasn’t $50 of my own money! So, I snatched it up the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when their Black Friday sale was ALREADY STARTING! I’m telling you. It’s going to be called Black Week before we know it.

Then, anyone who’s anyone knew Old Navy was having 50% off the entire store Black Friday. I couldn’t resist.

My son needed another pair of jeans. My daughter needed a new non-dressy jacket. And because I am a sucker for “50% off,” I got a few more things, but I plan on returning them, because in hindsight, I think I can get better deals elsewhere.

Now, I do need to confess something else: belated birthday money. I asked my level-headed, practical, and financially sensible older sister if it would be cheating to use my birthday money for clothes. She said, “no.” All I needed to hear. No need for a second opinion when the first opinion is exactly what you wanted to hear, right? But I still felt a little guilty, although I think I can work past the guilty because….drum roll, please….I made Christmas wish #1 come true! I bought a feather skirt!!

Piperlime had a Black Friday sale of 25% off. Plus I found out I get another 15% for using my Banana Republic Luxe card. So, I got it for $65 (currently sold out)! Now, my level-headed, practical, and financially sensible older sister did not think this was a wise purchase. It’s not something I’ll get a lot of wear out of. But my justification: I haven’t seen a skirt like this under $100 and it is something I’ve been wanting for over a year now, so I couldn’t pass it up. Not to mention, I can style it different ways, so even if I wear it to different functions, I can still make it seem new for years to come.

I spent the rest of my birthday money at Forever 21 where they had 50% off markdowns starting the Wednesday before Black Friday! This is what I got:

1. Some probably too-cool-for-me open-toe booties ($14). 2. Plaid leggings ($4-sold out) that I will be devoting a whole other post to because they are way more versatile than I ever thought they could be. 3. A high-low sleeveless top ($6-sold out) to pair with the leggings so my booty isn’t all “out there.” 4. A red blazer ($12-sold out) I had been wanting to add to my wardrobe–let’s just ignore the fact that it is technically peplum and call this a fit and flare blazer (I have been trying to avoid jumping on this peplum bandwagon).

Now, back to my basic budget expenses. I had to have the right accessories for the feather skirt, so I bought a belt at a local shop for $14. And I had to get some new bling! I scored a necklace on Lulus.com for $6 (they had 40% off on Cyber Monday, if memory serves me)! You’ll have to wait on pics for these!!

Most of these purchases were made at the end of November, so I just decided I will deduct them all from December’s budget…which kind of makes my purchases honest, right?? That leaves me with $7 dollars to spend the rest of the month!

How can I possibly manage when Christmas outfits must be planned? And what about all those post-Christmas sales?

I am predicting further weakness in my future, so I plan to do some further compensating in the New Year that involves something relatively new to me: thrift/consignment shopping. That’s coming in February!

Let me know what you think. Is it cheating to use Christmas money to shop in December?