bargain shopping

Hello, Cato! + Giveaway

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Disclaimer: I partnered with Cato Fashions for this post, but all opinions are my own. 

First of all, let me say hello to all of you! Since my last post, I have given birth to baby number three–a healthy baby boy, Avery, who arrived about four weeks early! I’ll share the birth story in a future post if you’d like! But for now, let’s talk about getting ready for the holidays with the help of Cato.

Before this post, I honestly could not tell you the last time I stepped foot inside a Cato. And I can’t give you a good reason why. I guess, as my shopping options and experiences have expanded, along with not having one within five miles of my home, I kind of forgot about it. But I recently moved and there is now a Cato within five minutes from me! And a new location also opened up in my area last month–in Midfield’s West Hills Plaza. So, it’s safe to say I’ll be saying “hello” to Cato once again! 

I went in recently and was reminded why it should not be counted out when shopping for any occasion, including the holidays! So, if you need to be re-introduced to the retailer, let me do the honors. I tried on a few options that could be worn for three different holiday gatherings.

1. An office party. You cannot go wrong wearing winter white! It’s so chic and luxe, especially with a little fur or gold accessories! I paired Cato’s off-white wide leg trousers with a gold, pleated tank, ivory scarf and a statement pendant necklace. 

2. A get together with friends: The holidays present the perfect opportunity to wear textures you may not feel comfortable wearing every day. Cue the sequins and faux leather leggings! And while we’re at it, throw in my faves–over the knee boots!! Please note, the boots are on sale for $19.99!! The black ones are sold out online, but they may still be in your local store! 

3. The party scene. My favorite occasion! As a new mom of three, the opportunities to get dressed up are few and far between. So I try not to pass on chances when they arise! For this look, I went with a sequin mini dress with a slight scoop back and brought back the OTKs. Let’s face it, wearing pantyhose or tights don’t always make for warm nights when you’re trying to look cute. So try pairing OTKs with your party look for a slightly edgier feel that will add some much-needed warmth and texture!

Cato also has a TON of on trend accessories to amp up any look. From shoes to clutches, it’s seriously a one-stop shop! Here are some of my faves: 

One other thing I LOVE about this store: the prices!! Nothing you have seen featured is over $40!! I went home with the boots (above), the fur collar (above), a yellow dress from the clearance rack and a faux fur vest (below) for $63 before tax! That is my kind of shopping!

I also saw a ton of other things at fabulous price points that I can’t possibly fit in this post! I highly encourage you to say “hello” to Cato if you are like me and hadn’t been in a while! If you need a little incentive, how about a little giveaway?! 

To enter for a chance at a $25 Cato gift card, leave a comment below! I’ll also be opening it to followers on Instagram! You can enter both ways and each time will be counted as a separate entry! Contest ends Wednesday, December 14th at 5pm CST. Open to U.S. residents only. 

Good luck and as always thanks for reading!! 

Sleeveless Dress Struggles 

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I can be a lazy dresser. That’s why I gravitate toward dresses a lot! It’s one and done…for the most part. But now that it’s colder, it’s tougher to find cute, affordable, and most importantly, WARM dresses for winter! For some reason, retailers keep cranking out sleeveless winter dresses. What’s up with that?!

I came across the struggle recently, while doing some winter sale shopping. I found a great deal on a Banana Republic dress in a winter material for only $12 (sold out)! But alas, no sleeves! So, what’s a girl to do? Layer! And I get to share the end result with you in my first blogger photo shoot! Thanks to Tosha Gaines for the great shots!


My first layering attempt included a white button-down, but I looked too much like a schoolgirl. And at the ripe old age of 36, it wasn’t hitting me baby, one more time! Ya know what I’m saying?! Britney Spears knows what I’m saying.

So, I decided to regroup and adopt the KISS methodology:  keep it simple, stupid. A long sleeve black t-shirt ended up working nicely and is much more comfy than a stuffy old button down.


The layering continued with a red coat I got from Banana Republic Factory about 10 years ago! I added tights and trusty old knee boots and voila! A quick and easy way to avoid freezing in a sleeveless frock!


I happened to be wearing the ensemble during another trip to my second home (Banana Republic) and the associate even complimented how I styled it! That’s always a “win” in my book! What are your favorite ways to look cute and work appropriate at the same time? I’d love to get your feedback!

One more shout out to Tosha Gaines photography for such a fun mini-photo session! If you’re looking for lifestyle or family pictures, be sure to check her out!

Thanks for reading!

Shopping Spree for Free

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I mentioned in a recent blog post, I had $50 in Banana Republic rewards that were set to expire on July 31st–just one day before my “6 month no shopping challenge” ends. I did not let them go to waste! And let me tell you. I even surprised myself at the amazing deals I got! I am really bursting with excitement for two reasons.

1. I knocked off a couple of coveted items from my wish list (that I will soon be posting).

2. I blew my own mind with the deals I got!!

Let me cut to the chase. I got nearly $400 in merchandise for….wait for it… wait for it…. ok, no more waiting… FREE!! Yes. I’ll repeat: nearly $400 in merchandise for FREE! Full disclosure here, it was really $388 in merchandise, but $400 sounds so much better…and what’s $12, right?!

Here’s how: Clearance items + coupon code + $90 Banana Republic rewards=$0 balance. (I still have $30 in unused rewards, mind you. But they don’t expire until later this year, so I’m going to exercise patience and use them post-challenge.)

Now, let me share what I bought.

I have been wanting some kind of animal print shoe for some time now. I was just perusing, trying to see what might catch my eye…. And I saw them. Schutz Irma animal print, ankle-strap pumps. I am flipping. They retail for $200. They were marked down to $69.99 And I found a 25% coupon code online.


I’ve also wanted more statement jewelry. While I did some jewelry stocking before my challenge, I still didn’t have a nice, blingy piece. So, I saw this statement Egyptian collar by Sabine on clearance and had to have it! Retail $98. Marked down to $29.97. And the additional 25%.

Sabine - Egyptian collar

And, why not throw in some tan gladiators for good measure. Only because I needed to use up my full $90 in rewards, so I was just searching items that would help me maximize my “dollar.” I also realized I don’t own any brown flat sandals, so all the more reason to add them to my shopping list. These Report gladiator sandals retail for $90. Marked down to $14.97!! and then the additional 25%.

Report - Luckie

And there’s good news for you!! A 30% discount is now available until July 9, 2:59 ET with discount code EXTRASALE. And if you’re making a purchase after that time, you can still save 20% by using the code SUMMER20, which is good until July 13th!
Also, I have to throw this in as a bonus: J.Crew has additional 40% sale online and in store with code SHOPMORE.
Hope you’re able to score some great deals as well! Happy bargain shopping!!


Muffin Tops and Hanger Boobs

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January 1st has come and gone. And while many people have their resolutions set, I’m just now getting mine in order! I’ve never been a stickler for resolutions, I’m always procrastinating and this year seems to be no different. Every year I make the obligatory plan to try and work out more, spend less, save more. blah blah….

I want to do things differently this year now that I’ve had ample time to think about what I want to accomplish in the New Year (although, I really hate that the universe uses the “new year” as an excuse for a fresh start, goal-setting, etc. All this can be done ANY DAY of the year).

I need to give myself specifics. I need plan details. I need accountability–thank you, blogging!

First things first: Work out more. So far, so good. I worked out three days in the first full week of the month and plan to continue with 3-4 workouts a week. I’m pretty much forced to resume a regular running schedule anyway because I have to run the 8-mile leg in a relay of the Mercedes Marathon in February. Can’t disappoint my teammates! It’s  so twisted the only way I can force myself to run/work out regularly is to put my feet to the fire! But hey, whatever it takes to get ‘er done (I live in the south, I can say that).

How is that fashion related? Fitting into my clothes!! I started the winter season buttoning all of my pants relatively easily. So I figured I’m right doing ok and slacked off on the gym. And by slacking, I mean I quit going. Now, I’m dreading getting dressed for work. My first thoughts: Are these the loosest pants I own? Can I button these without my skin folding into itself? Maybe I should opt for leggings and a big, baggy sweater today.

So, my SPECIFIC fitness/weight goal is to proudly get back into a two piece by summer!

country club bikini

I didn’t wear a two piece at all last summer. In 2012 I wore a bikini, but kept my tank top on even while wading in the baby pool with the kiddies.  The proof is in the picture.

I have learned that I really do like a one-piece and find them to be rather sophisticated and appropriate as a mom of 2. But hey, if I can be a mom of 2 and rock a bikini, more power to me!

Second things second: something we all know I’ve tried to tackle–budget issues. It’s safe to say I crashed and burned in December. After my latest budget post, I did even more shopping during post-Christmas sales. A lot. I can’t even remember everything I bought, but I can safely say I probably went over by about $100.

It was fitting that one of my Christmas presents this year, was a book given to me by my older sister: Suze Orman’s The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke. By the way, sis: thank you for considering me worthy of a book that considers me YOUNG and FABULOUS! Flipping through it, I’ve already learned I’m broke by choice! Ugh! So, I’m considering a new shopping/budget/fashion challenge in 2014.

I am going to try and go 6 months without shopping and without wearing the same outfit twice. I’m inspired by @missjt123 on Instagram–a teacher who  made it her personal mission to go the entire school year without repeating an outfit. I can repeat items, just not entire outfits! Yikes!

This will help me get rid of clothes with “hanger boobs,” a term a former co-worker used to describe the pokey indentions hangers leave in your sleeves/shoulders when they’ve been hanging for a while!

I will start my challenge in February because, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, January is the prime time for hot sales and I’m already getting my fill! I can’t wait to share my haul with you!

(here’s a sneak peek:

Now, a lot of financially savvy experts do not recommend giving up shopping altogether for fear it will end in some big binge. And that may very well be the case, but I am strategically planning on ending this challenge in July when more end of season sales will be kicking in! So, I’ll still be getting a lot of bang for my buck! Wish me luck…I’m going to need it!

I hope your New Year is going smoothly! And here’s a belated New Year’s toast to getting rid of muffin tops and hanger boobs!!

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 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?

Is It 2014 Yet???

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Seriously. I couldn’t have picked a harder time to do this budget thing. What was I thinking? November=Black Friday!

Once again, by mid-month, my $100 budget had run dry.  So, needless to say, that means I will not be partaking in the hustle and bustle of Black Friday shopping–which, in reality, seems to be starting on Thanksgiving Day in many stores. While we’re on the subject… I used to WISH stores/the mall were open on Thanksgiving after all of the family fun and face stuffing had wound down. But now, as a mom with a family of my own, I am so perturbed at the fact many stores are opening on the actual holiday. The retail race is out of control! Let families relax, spend time together. Or just let your employee enjoy a holiday off to do nothing! For the companies that only operate holiday hours on volunteer staff, I guess I’m okay with that. But otherwise, the only way to stop it is to NOT SHOP on the holiday. That’s my stance.

Now…let me step off my soapbox and get back to budget talk. I really had to put some of my wants aside this time. Most of it went toward clothes for the children. Most of it. Not all.

After a recent doctor visit, I realized my 7 year old is trapped in a 10 year old’s body. So, needless to say, all of his pants from the spring looked like cropped pants (which I’m actually a fan of on adult men). We had a wedding to go to, so there was no procrastinating on making a purchase for him.

At The Children’s Place, we bought khaki pants and some boat shoes that I hoped would be dressy enough for the wedding. I sign up for their emails (like I encourage all of you good, budget conscious shoppers to do) and saved 20% or 25% on my purchase. I couldn’t remember. I also had to make another trip to get jeans. They ended up being only $10 with a coupon. So I ended up getting the pants, shoes and jeans for $35! Not bad!!

The Children’s Place chino//The Children’s Place boat shoe//The Children’s Place boot fit jeans

I also got tights for my daughter at The Children’s Place for $5 since winter feels like it’s already upon us on some days. Do I really need to post a picture? Thank you.

I got some other cute goodies for my daughter at Old Navy. I could not pass up this tres chic sweatshirt dress. And I got her a little silver, peplum striped top. There went $15 ($10/dress, $5/shirt).

I was on the go and in desperate need of black leggings/pants, so I made a quick pit stop to Toys ‘R Us. I got lucky and found some on promotion for $5. And they had cute little bow details on the leg opening! I only found a picture of denim leggings in this style, so just pretend they’re black. 

Old navy sweatshirt dress-sold out//Old Navy Silver striped Peplum Top//Babies ‘R Us leggings – only in black

Then, I could focus on myself. I got an email (yes, email!) from J.Crew saying they had 30% off markdowns. I figured I’d check it out. When I got to the store, markdowns were actually 40% off, so I got a cute tassel necklace for about $23.

J. Crew tassel necklace

And, Marshalls just opened up in the area, so I HAD to be there for the grand opening. I tried out the track pant/harem pant trend…really, I’m not sure how to categorize these things. But the pants were $25. To see how I styled them with my leather top, check me out on Instagram. My older sister questioned this purchase because it was a quarter of my budget. I have an extremely difficult time finding pants long enough. Sometimes tall lengths are not even long enough. So, for these pants to have fit me, that played a huge role in my purchase. Usually trendy pants are made for the average height woman. And, these pants had the original tag on with a retail price of $128! So, it was a no brainer for me!

So, if you do the math, it doesn’t take a genius to see I went a little over budget.

I could have gone so much more over budget. The new Isabel Marant collection for H&M came out. I could’ve done a lot more damage at the Marshall’s grand opening. Also, Piperlime was having 30% off their markdowns! And of course, there’s always Black Friday damage. I have practiced self-control beyond my known capabilities this month.

On the bright side…my Banana Republic bill was only $17.58. I am in sticker shock in the best way possible. It’s usually 15x that much. So, maybe this budget thing isn’t so bad after all.

But rest assured, when January 2014 rolls around, I will be hard-pressed to practice this budget restraint. Expect big sales at the end of the month (it’s the end of the fiscal year!). I may have to reinstate the budget challenge in February!

September Splurging and Saving

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Because I can only spend $100 this month, I’m going to relish in what I bought last month! While I spent more than I usually do, I also feel I got some GREAT value. Bear with me… it’s quite a list, but it’s a list i’m quite proud of! Plus, at the end, you’ll see my spending to savings comparison!

**Francesca’s got me first. I saw a deal for belts for $12.99 and they had a belt I had been searching for, for months! They didn’t have it in store, so I ordered online–where they offered free shipping if you spent $50 or more. Of course, I had to reach $50. More bang for your buck, right?! Plus, they were offering 30% off markdowns that particular day (i get really lucky stumbling on sales sometimes)!

  1. Gold plate-front belt: I paid $12.99 (can’t remember retail, probably around $18-20)
  2. Steve Madden gold/black heels: Retail: $90. I paid about $27 (they were 30% off sale price)

(I also ordered a dress to reach my free shipping minimum, but they later informed me the dress was sold out, so they refunded my money for that–and I got the free shipping anyway! Score!)

**Then, on to Banana Republic/Gap, Inc…where those dadblasted 40% Wednesday coupons were my Achilles heel! Not because I feel like getting 40% off one full priced item is necessarily a great deal. But it is when that full-priced item is in-demand leather! I knew I had to snatch up these pieces while I could because they were selling quickly!

  1. The Banana Motorcycle-inspired leather jacket–Retail: $298. I paid $161 (there were only two left in the southeast at the time, I had to order mine from an Atlanta store, but I got free shipping with my Banana Luxe Card) I had a 40% coupon and got an additional 10% off for using my Banana Card–no, that does not equal 50%. You take the 40% off, then take another 10% off that total..sorry, having worked in retail, this was a concept a lot of shoppers just did not understand!
  2. The Banana leather shirt–Retail: $198. I paid $107 (same discount applied)
  3. Michael Kors booties–Retail: $198. I paid $40 (I got 20% off for promotion for Banana cardholders and redeemed about $120 in rewards)
  4. Old Navy polka dot dress–Retail: $29.99. I paid $14.99 (I got an email for 50% off one item)
  5. Old Navy skinny white jeans–Retail: $34.99. I paid $7.99 (they were just on clearance)

**Then my friend, Chic In Academia, told me about a great sale at Ann Taylor.

  1. Graphic print skirt: Retail: $88. I paid $7 (what?! yes!)

**Phillip Lim released his collection at Target, so I snatched some mini satchels (I shamefully sold four on Ebay and kept one for myself).

  1. Mini satchel in yellow: I paid retail: $34.99

**Then, I saw a local boutique, Soca Clothing, was having additional 50% off their markdowns! Now, THAT is my kind of sale. This is what I got there (sorry, it was harder to find these items online, so I just used personal pics).

  1. Off-the shoulder dress–Retail: $88. I paid $25
  2. Line and Dot tribal inspired silk tank–Retail: $99. I paid $25 (I don’t usually pay $25 for a tank, but the brand is a nicer one…and it’s silk…and it’s unique!)
  3. Sequin bottom romper–Retail: $88. I paid $12.50
  4. Theory angora reversible cardigan–Retail: $200. I paid $15 (fist pump!)

Whew!! Are you still with me?? I did a LOT of shopping in September. Now you can see why I’m pulling in the reins for the rest of the year.

All in all, I got about $1,465 worth of clothing for just under $500–way more than my usual shopping budget! I have learned buying on sale for sale’s sake is not wise. So, even though most of my items were “sale,” I made sure they would still be items that would work well with other pieces in my wardrobe.

To see how I will be styling these items, check me out on Instagram!

Thanks for reading!

By Vanessa Culpepper