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!! 




Looking Grand for Less

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“Who says you have to spend a fortune to look like a million bucks? It definitely wasn’t Vanessa Culpepper.” You got that right! That’s what Tracy James wrote about me in the latest Look Grand for Less ad for The Outlet Shops of Grand River in B-Metro Magazine (June).

I am grateful to have been chosen as a recent shopper for the monthly challenge. I got to see what I could get for $250. How exciting, right?! Some people may take the opportunity of getting “free” shopping money to splurge on something they may not normally buy. Not me. I like to stretch my dollars even if they aren’t coming from my bank account!

Everything I bought is featured in this one-page spread. I also added a list of the items with their prices (rounded to next dollar, taxes not included).

  • yellow dress, Forever 21: $17
  • striped midi skirt, Forever 21: $17.50
  • kimono, Forever 21: $5
  • tan purse, Nine West: $25
  • white purse, Banana Factory: $32
  • burgundy moto jacket, Banana Factory: $27
  • gladiator sandals, Charlotte Russe: $41 (promo- buy one get one $10)
  • fringe heels, Charlotte Russe: $10 (promo- buy one get one $10)
  • yellow sweater, Gap: $9

Considering I had previously committed to not shopping until I wore everything in my closet, it didn’t take long for me to wear my new digs! Here’s a look at how I’ve styled the items in my day-to-day life:

I still had some money left over, as you can probably tell, so I plan on getting some new tennis shoes! Not too exciting, but mine are so tired looking, I think it will definitely help put a pep in my step at the gym!

I know I’m a little late posting this, but to get a closer look at the ad and all of the other fabulous spreads in B-Metro Magazine, be sure to pick up the June issue! Time is running out!

As always, thanks for reading!!

Going B-a-n-a-n-a-s 

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Sorry, Gap, Inc. Every time I think about going shopping or updating my wardrobe, I think to myself “I need to venture away from my usual closet staples of Banana, Gap and Old Navy.” They’re my crutch! But unlike Gwen Stefani, I guess I am a “holla back girl.” Because I seem to keep holla-ing back every time I get those daily emails! Usually, it’s notices of a great sale or chic ways to wear new arrivals. It’s a mix of both that has me craving some Banana right now!

I’m OBSESSED with gauchos/culottes. I own three pairs plus a gaucho jumpsuit and I canNOT get enough of the trend. So, my heart fluttered when I saw three new styles from Banana.

This gorgeous burgundy pair ($89.50):    

They would look amazing with neutrals, of course. But with summer still lingering around, I think they’d be gorgeous with mustard or blush!

Then I saw this cool relaxed pair ($89.50):  

I love how the website pairs them with heels to keep the look polished! But try some flat sandals for a hip, Euro feel.

And the piece de resistance…this super chic faux leather pair ($98):  

You know leather ain’t going anywhere. So, it’s only natural the hottest new pants of the season are made in the hippest texture around. These would be perfect for a night out!!

As I perused through other new arrivals, these items also caught my eye!


All I have to say is, All I have to say is, “Bravo, Marissa Webb!” Since she has become creative director for Banana, I have fallen in love with one of my fave brands all over again!

And a bonus: right now, until 8/17, there is 40% off at Banana, Gap and Old Navy online with the code TREAT! So it’s the perfect time to give something new a try!

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!  

“Saving” is the Name of My Game

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I love spreading the word about great deals I come across. It’s part of the reason I started blogging.

For example, I recently posted on Facebook and Instagram these great deals:

–at Banana Republic, I used a store coupon (not credit card-related) and also got an additional 40% off markdowns to get two sweaters and two semi-precious stone necklaces for $46! The necklaces retail for $98.50 each and the sweaters retail at $69.50. $336 value for…that’s about 86% off! Pat on the back, please!


–online at Forever 21. I utilized a promotion for free shipping and 50% off markdowns to score these two necklaces and two bracelets for $13! I know it’s not Tiffany & Co. but come on, I’m on a budget!


And now, there’s an amazing deal going on in the Birmingham-area to keep those savings coming! A local organization, the Junior League of Birmingham, is selling a Shop Save & Share coupon. The $40 price tag allows coupon holders to save 20% at hundreds of participating establishments until November 2nd. They offered to let me give the coupon a “test run.” It took me less than 24 hours to put it to use.

I scored these pieces at one of my fave new boutiques, fab’rik in Homewood.


Those fierce, red caged sandals were marked down to $24. I got the tank as well because they were having a Buy One, Get One Free promo on sale items! So, with the Shop Save & Share coupon, both purchases were under $24!

I’ve also used the coupon at Old Navy for children’s clothes and for gifts. Yes, it can be used at major chains locally, like Old Navy, Gap and Belk.

It can also be used at luxury retailers that recently opened up at the Summit shopping center in the Birmingham area: Kate Spade, Calypso St. Barth, Kendra Scott and Lilly Pulitzer ! They were featured at a special kick-off event for the Shop Save & Share coupon. The 20% off could add up really quickly at these stores! Here are a few highlights from that event I attended on behalf of B-Metro Magazine!

beautiful event!
beautiful event!
I wore my dress from Calypso St. Barth and jewelry from Kendra Scott
I wore my dress from Calypso St. Barth and jewelry from Kendra Scott
beautiful cuff at Kendra Scott!
beautiful cuff at Kendra Scott!
a customer tries to decide which of these hot new ring sets to buy at Kendra Scott!
a customer tries to decide which of these hot new ring sets to buy at Kendra Scott!


dress I fell in love with at Calypso St. Barth!
dress I fell in love with at Calypso St. Barth!
trying on faux fur for fun at Calypso St. Barth
trying on faux fur for fun at Calypso St. Barth
how fun is this chicken cardigan from Calypso St. Barth?! I love it!!
how fun is this chicken cardigan from Calypso St. Barth?! I love it!!
Not everything at Lilly Pulitzer is pink, floral and preppy! I loved this chic shirtdress!
Not everything at Lilly Pulitzer is pink, floral and preppy! I loved this chic shirtdress!
sparkle tank at Lilly Pulitzer is perfect for the upcoming holidays!
sparkle tank at Lilly Pulitzer is perfect for the upcoming holidays!
Lilly Pulitzer jewelry
Lilly Pulitzer jewelry
classic bags from Kate Spade!
classic bags from Kate Spade!
bows are everywhere! always a big hit for Kate Spade
bows are everywhere! always a big hit for Kate Spade

Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to make a small investment to get a big return! If you’re in the Birmingham area, there is still time to get a Shop Save & Share coupon and take advantage! It expires November 2nd. A bonus, the proceeds from the coupon go toward projects that benefit women and children in the community. You can shop with a good conscious, knowing you’re helping others in need!

Loophole Love and Giveaway!

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Most of you probably know I’m a huge fan of Banana Republic. Well, I just became an even bigger fan because they have given me the BEST LOOPHOLE EVER (details on how you can also enjoy it below)!! For budding fashionista newbies, the loophole is for my current shop-free challenge. I’m not shopping for 6 months (i.e. not spending money on clothes/accessories) and not repeating entire outfits.

Banana Republic is apparently doing a trial run on “$25 off entire purchase” coupons for every Wednesday in April (their typical Wednesday coupon is 40% off one full-priced item). I received an email with the special coupon and also got another coupon in the store! If I could do a back flip, I would! So, if you’re looking for me on Wednesdays for the remainder of the month, it will not require U.S. Marshals to track me down.

Here’s what I got the first two Wednesdays of April. Remember, I had a paper coupon and emailed coupon! Quick math for you: there are 5 Wednesdays in April, so that means $250 worth of free duds!! Because I can’t spend a penny, my purchases cannot exceed $25. No biggie! I’m ok with getting a $20 top or $25 bracelet. OR ANYTHING for that matter. Just give me that guilt-free loophole!!

Week One:

A black, lace shell with coral piping details. I plan on pairing this several ways: with white pants, with coral pants, with jeans and a white blazer, with a white pencil skirt. It was only $15.99, so I also had enough left over to get a pair of socks that I’ll be giving away to my Instagram followers.

I also took home a tweed-front top with white/yellow detail and black back. Expect to see me wearing this with white pants, white pencil skirt, maybe even some red pants! It was $19.97, so I also had enough left over to get another pair of socks!

Week Two: I really scored, big time! Markdowns were an additional 30% off and it was combine-able with the coupon! Heaven on Earth for any bargainista, lemme tell ya!

I got this floral blazer. Retail $140. Marked down to $29.97 and then 30% off. Total price: $21! so… Free to me! *insert cabbage patch dance here* I’ve already paired it with a white shell, red pants and black heels with a gold cap-toe. But it will be on heavy rotation this summer. I’ll also pair it with, what else? white pants/skirt (of course), layered over dresses and maybe even my coral jeans. I’m digging this model’s look as well, so I could easily re-create it with a striped khaki sweater!

With my second coupon, I scored this graphic black/white 3/4 sleeve sweater. Black and white sweater. Need I say more? Will go with just about anything! It was $24.97 and 30% off!

You can get in on the $25 off action, too! I’m going to give away at least one (maybe two of them, if I can pry it from my own hands) coupon! If you’re interested in getting one of the coupons, just comment below and you will be included in a random drawing for one (or two) winner(s)! Be sure to follow me/comment on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter for an upcoming post with additional chances to win!

Thanks for reading and good 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& 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??