Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to Save Money while Dining Out

Dining out can be expensive. Some spend hundreds, if not thousands per year on meals alone! Here’s how to enjoy dining in Restaurants without going broke.

1. Look Before you Tip! Automatic gratuity is common at many restaurants, especially for larger groups or parties. Don’t shortchange yourself by double tipping! Always look to see if a tip has been added before adding it in.

2. Coupons are your Friend-Use them whenever possible. You can usually find them online saving up to 50% of your bill, or in other places like the Entertainment book, newspaper coupons etc. Some people feel silly pulling them out or even cheap, but in today’s economy I assure you nobody will look down on you for wanting to save a little money.

3. Go Family Style-Sharing dishes is not only a tradition in many countries, but with larger portions, it is the perfect way to share with friend(s) or family. This way you get to try a little bit of everything and discover your favorite dishes, without the price to match.

4. Share Dessert! Sometimes you want something a little sweet to cleanse the palate after your dinner but aren’t sure you want to drop $6 on one. Sharing a dessert amongst 2-4 people will not only save you money, but the extra calories too! It’s a great way to enjoy the finer things without feeling guilty afterwards.

5. Insist on a Separate Bill- Many people enjoy eating in large groups but when the bill comes a few people always wind up putting in a little more for those that didn’t put in enough, to ensure the bill is paid with a suitable tip. An easy way to avoid overpaying it to request your own bill. You can also control the tip based on your specific experience.

6. Avoid the Alcohol! There is no faster way to drive up the check than to order alcohol. Sure it’s social but why not have a drink before heading out of the house. Instead, drink water with lemon a refillable drink like iced tea or coffee. You will notice a dramatic reduction in your restaurant bills if you change this ONE thing!

7. Save Room for your Entrée-Skip appetizers when you can, or share one or two with another person/couple to try out different items. Most people’s eyes are bigger than their stomach, so to speak. They feel so hungry when they order that they order too much and often feel stuffed by the second bite of their entrée. However, if you order an entrée only and are still hungry afterwards, then order more food at that point. If you absolutely must, share an appetizer, is just as fulfilling.

8. Extra Sauce is Extra Cost! With the increase in grocery items these days, so too comes the increase for restaurants, and believe me, they WILL pass that cost onto you when it comes to the little extras. If you want extra sauce or dressing, many eateries are adding those costs onto your bill, the $2 and $3 here and there starts to add up.
9. Share your Celebration- Tell your server what you’re celebrating. Many servers will even ask you if you’re celebrating a special evening etc. Often, especially for birthdays, you might snag a free dessert, a discount etc. It’s worth it and it doesn’t cost you a thing.

10. Speak Up- Places like Starbucks are notorious for letting their customer switch up their drink if they don’t like it. Well, the same holds true for restaurants. Let your server know that you are dissatisfied and why. If they don’t offer it up, tell them you’d like to return it to the kitchen but would instead like to have the “x” dish. There is no sense paying for a meal that you don’t enjoy. If it’s just a matter of food being overly well done etc, they will in some cases comp it on your bill or at least provide a discount all while replacing it with a new meal.

11. Save money by always bringing your leftovers home. You may not want to think of another bite while you’re at the restaurant but leftovers can turn into a snack or tomorrow’s lunch. So, why not save on your grocery cost by bringing home whatever there is left over, no matter how small the portion may seem. After all, you did pay for it!

12. Happy Hour! Many restaurants offer happy hour, and we're not just talking greasy wings at the bar kind of happy hour. Many sushi and other restaurants offer certain times and weekdays (usually between 4-7pm) where a variety of meals are offered at discounted rates or even half price! Use this to your advantage and head to a restaurant after work to catch these great deals. Also note that lunch is always cheaper than dinner!

Monday, January 19, 2009

How to Dress Classy on a Budget

For some women, the concept of dressing classy without spending much money seems impossible. Many equate Designer clothing and accessories with the look of class. You can still achieve the wardrobe you see in magazines and on the runway without emptying your wallet. It is a great feeling to get a bargain when an item looks much richer than what the price tag indicates.

Here are some simple tips to achieve a classy look whether you're heading to the office, the gym, or for a night on the town.

1. Basics for Work. Keep good basics in your wardrobe that are truly timeless and will last the test of time and fashion trends. Key basics include black dress pants. Have about 3 good quality pairs. You will want at least one pair to have a pin stripe which will give your body some length and add variety, as well as one pair with a cuff on the bottom, and one without. All pairs should have a crease running down the leg for that dressy look. Avoid anything with pleats which is currently outdated and tends to make you appear larger in the frontal area anyhow. DO invest in good quality, but inexpensive tops such as short sleeved and ¾ length tops with Lycra (to keep their shape) in both v-neck and round neck styles. I recommend black, white and red, if you cannot wear red, perhaps gray. These are key for under blazers with pants and can also be worn with jeans on a casual Friday.

You will about 3 nice black skirts, a pencil skirt, or slight A-line, one with a tasteful print and one that is more airy, flowing and fun. Dress shirts for women are more popular than ever. You will want to have some variety here. I recommend buying shirts that fit your shoulders and arm length properly and have a bit of Lycra or stretch fabric so you can move freely. Make sure the buttos across the chest don't gape open. These can be bought anywhere such as Winners, Ross for Less or department stores. Keep winter and summer colors.

Important to any business wardrobe is the suit. You will need a black, navy and lighter color suit such as camel or a paler gray for summer. You can wear your blazer with your skirts too, no need to buy a skirt suit. When buying shoes keep the same in mind, find at least 3 comfortable pairs of shoes, perhaps a pair of flats, and 2 pairs of heels, one lower and the other a higher pump style. I don't believe in having all the colors of the rainbow on my shoe rack, especially when on a budget. Black and brown always work, throw in a pair of camel or red in for fun. The overall idea here is to have classic pieces that won't go out of style that last for years as to not constantly be buying clothes. I firmly believe in investing in these basic pieces so they'll last a long time. Look for sales, clearances and wander through thrift stores to find what you need to build your basic wardrobe. Be selective though-buy quality bargain pieces and have them taken in by a seamstress if they aren't a perfect fit vs. buying cheaper items that happen to fit you.

2. Make Accessories Work for You- Whether they are shoes, sunglasses, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, belts, scarves, or handbags find the ones that you love best and buy many at low cost shops. The key is to dress up a wardrobe many different ways without blowing your budget on pumps and expensive handbags. The best thing to do is buy all sorts of accessories for as little as you can. These keep your wardrobe interesting by adding color, texture, shape, and bling! A couple shops I love for this are Le Chateau, H&M and Aldo. I find the best inexpensive jewelry, trendy shoes and hair clips. Buy a purple or red handbag from Payless Shoe store for $20 and pump up your black suit for work, or jeans and a t-shirt. Hollywood stars use the same tricks just on a different budget.

The best tip is to wear a great outfit with one or two accessories maximum that pop! My mother used to dress extremely well because she picked out accessories and clothing that looked great but cost next to nothing. This is because she looked in stores like K-Mart as she couldn't afford designer or even mall store prices being a single mom for many years. Put on a Blazer. fitted tee and jeans with a pair of cute flats and have one significant piece like a great necklace to really make your neckline pop. When hair is done up, this is the best time to show off shoulders and your neckline, so draw attention with some great earrings and a necklace. Even a funky watch or belt can jazz up an otherwise low-key outfit.

3. Scarves are so Versatile- Scarves have so many uses that it is hard not to have any in your wardrobe. Scarves can act as a tie around your hair in a ponytail or used as a handband style, tied around your neck, used as a belt around your waist or simply tie to the shoulder strap of your handbag for a flirty look. It is good to have variety. Black and Red are my favorites however I have some softer colors such as pale pink, and patterns like houndstooth, polka-dots, and tasteful florals are very 'in' right now also. The scarf belt goes great with a sexy top and pair of jeans. When you are bored with the pattern or color, trade with your friends for variety.

4. Focus on your Face- Even if you don't feel like your wardrobe looks like a million bucks, put on a smile. It goes a long way and brightens your face! A little makeup really makes a difference. The 3 essentials I would recommend are Mascara, Lipstick (or a great gloss) and some blush. This will add color to your face and make your features pop. I have never bought into the notion that Designer or expensive makeup is best. I've used mainstream brands and organic/natural makeup my whole life and have always had compliments. These products are ¼ the price of department store and I can buy them anywhere. The key is to keep the makeup simple and light. Don't wear heavy foundation and loose powers with bright lipstick and heavy eyeliner. The idea is to look natural and elegant with the right shade and application of blush and lipstick and a black/brown or black shade of mascara. Spend less money on makeup but spend more time on mastering a natural look that enhances your natural beauty and allows you to look radiant.

5. Buy Quality Shoes that Last- Always buy quality shoes that can last you at least 2-3 years. Ensure that they are simple in color and style, are made of leather, but that they have a good sole and heel lifts. Shoes aren't made the way they used to be. I find myself having to replace my lifts on most of my shoes since they are plastic vs. high quality rubber or leather. They wear down quickly causing potential accidents as you glide across floors in those heels. The shoe repair shop will put great quality lifts on and it is inexpensive. Replace these every year or as needed with wear so that the heels of your shoes stay looking new. In addition, shine your shoes regularly and buy scuff removing solution. A great pair of shoes can look like trash when they have not been taken care of.

If you really do crave something trendy then let it be for a particular outfit, or dress say for a wedding, where the shoes will not be frequently worn, if ever again. Why not get the knock-off style at Payless Shoe store or another discount shoe store? Then you'll get the style and price you want and don't have to worry so much about the durability.

6. No Tattered Undergarments- Many women focus on their outer wardrobe and forget what is hiding underneath. It is important to frequently wash your bras as well as camisoles etc on delicate cycle. It is very unappealing to see a well dressed woman with a frayed, dirty bra strap peeking out of her top. Likewise, underwear and socks need to be replaced when stained, they start to look thin or have holes or elastic coming apart. This is not sexy for your partner or for yourself! You can typically buy a bunch of inexpensive clearance rack panties that look like designer knock-offs with all the lacy styles. You'll pay around $2-$5 per pair and they look great! If they get ruined in the washing machine or wear with time you can just toss them without thinking twice. While we are on the subject, ladies do buy bras that fit your cup and your body properly and are seamless. Bras aren't meant to cut into your skin and cause a ripple effect. There is nothing worse than a great top with seam lines, back fat or nipples showing!

7. Accessorize but don't overdo it- Classy women look classy because they don't overdo it. Wearing a great dress or outfit with a single ring, pair of small earrings and a small necklace is fine. Wearing a suit with a ring on every finger, watch, bracelet, heavy makeup, hair in an elaborate clip, a belt, a scarf around the neck and bright shoes is overkill. Nobody knows what to look at first! When you get ready to leave the house, look into a full length mirror with your entire outfit including a hat or handbag if included. You will often slowly start to strip a couple accessories away or tone down bold shoes and handbags. Remember, simple is best. Add one or two killer pieces that will have you feeling great and getting compliments along the way.

8. Don't be Afraid to Shop in Thrift Stores- I can't tell you how many things I've been able to snag there. The key is to go into an area that is more well-to-do or exclusive. Often people with a lot of money can discard things faster for new items such as great sweaters, blazers, handbags, you name it! My last purchase there was actually a set of hot rollers that retail at $70 that I picked up for $16! I bought an $80 pair of great brown boots that were never worn for $6!! I'll admit, you have to make some time to sift through a lot of duds till you find a few keepers, but it is well worth it. Buy items that have their original bold color, no fading! Make sure there are no holes, or stains. If there is a small area that is inconspicuous and the item is a steal, by all means grab the item if you can fix it. You can also find some fun handbags, belts and jewelry there too!

9. Wear clothes that Fit You Properly- There is nothing worse than seeing a beautiful woman in skin tight dress pants, breasts hanging out, and the visible appearance of flab around the waist or back due to tight clothing. Looking slimmer is not about wearing super fitted clothing, clothing with breathing room and comfort will not only make you look better but feel better too. Classy women don't let it all hang out! If something in your wardrobe is too small but you love it, keep it until it does fit (maybe use it as motivation, or donate it to someone who can use it now) and find something new to wear in the meantime.

10. You Don't Need Designer Labels to Dress Well- Today with so many great knock-offs and fun styles to choose from, there is no need to spend $450 on a pair of designer sunglasses. I have a $17 pair of Gucci knocks-offs that I bought in the airport, and have got more compliments on those than a real pair of Ralph Lauren shades that I spent over $100 on. Likewise, people see how well your outfit is put together moreso than they do what brand you are wearing. I see a lot of wealthy people wearing brand name overkill and they don't look classy at all, they just look tacky. Don't be a walking billboard for a brand name, just be an original and wear what fits you and what you feel good in.

This post was inspired by many women that I have worked with, spent time with, seen walking in the streets, and those that have told me that they simply don't have the money to dress well. You need an objective eye and patience to find what looks great on you. So, give your charge card a break and find out how fun it is to buy a couple items with a $20 bill! One of the most important things to remember to wear is your smile! Walk confidently and have a positive attitude, this is a makeover in and of itself!

Thanks for Reading!


Photo Credits: (1) , all others via google.

Monday, January 12, 2009

How to be Classy: 12 Things Every Lady Should Know

You don't need to wear designer clothes or possess a lot of money to look and be classy. Class is what comes from the inside. It is your actions, reactions, facial expressions, ability to take a compliment, decline an invitation and overall how you carry yourself throughout life. I've met many women who are brash, rough around the edges and often just downright rude and unladylike. On the other hand I've had the pleasure of meeting many women who are polite, kind, helpful, are respectful of others, have pleasant facial expressions and accept a compliment graciously. These rare breeds of women have simply made the decision to be elegant and ladylike, with or without money. Today I want to share 12 things that every lady should know so you can start implementing them in your daily life.

1. Smile More Often-The warmth and softness of a smile makes us more approachable and it instantly makes us more attractive to everyone we come in contact with. Smiling puts others at ease creating a more pleasant environment for those around us and keeps our own spirits up too, no matter what life is throwing at us each day! Our facial expressions are something that we need to be mindful of as it's easy to forget what our face is doing while we focus on a stressful task at hand. If you need to, set alarm reminders on your phone. This is a great time to take a moment to sit up straight for better posture and blood flow, meditate on a few things you're grateful for which will naturally cause you to smile (even if it's just to yourself). Don't be surprised if this practice makes you feel more joy!

2. Learn how to Receive a Compliment- Too many women shrug off another person's well meaning compliment about their professional or personal accomplishments, their outer beauty, their outfit that day, their well kept home and the list goes on. They do this with an "it's no big deal" OR "this old thing?" reply and attitude. You work hard every day and commit yourself just like Hollywood celebrities do but they accept their Oscars and Emmy Awards for all of their dedication and accomplishment, you should have the confidence to do the same. Smile, politely say thank you and just feel good about yourself in that moment and how the other person has just made you feel. When a compliment is not received well it's almost offensive to the person giving it.

3. Don't Become a Fishwife- If you haven't heard the expression, I'll fill you in. The fishwife is the woman who yells for her husband at dinner, nags him to get things done around the house, screams at her kids and rants until everyone and everything is in order. This is so unappealing and will repel those around you. Replace anger, yelling, frustration and rage with softness, kindness, patience and grace. Calmly ask your children, spouse or friends to do something for you in a polite tone. I'm not suggesting you fake who you are but simply move in a direction that exudes class and respect for those around you.

4. Answer the Phone in a Polite Manner- When you pick up the phone, answer it like you would if a celebrity hunk was calling. Be polite and simply say "Good afternoon, Jane Smith speaking". You have greeted the person on the other end and let them know who is speaking. Nobody enjoys hearing "Hello?!" in an exasperated tone or one that tells the caller "you called at a bad time, what do you want?" If it is truly a bad time, simply do not answer the phone. Let your voicemail catch it and call them back at a more suitable time. You might be liable to say something you wouldn't otherwise and will likely regret it later.

5. Profanity is a No-No. Classy women refrain from cursing and sounding like a drunken sailor, it just comes across as crass. It lacks tact and is such a turn off to everyone in your company, especially men. Instead, a lady prefers so use a creative vocabulary or remains quiet. For example: Someone cuts you off in a parking lot and nearly causes a huge accident. Don't stick your head out the window and say "What the *%$# were you thinking?!" and flip your middle finger, rather keep your anger to yourself. No matter how mad you are or how panicked you feel, don't lose your temper and cuss. Not only is this not lady-like (nor is it gentlemanly), if you happen to have your children in the car, they might be likely to emulate you and repeat it.

6. Don't Become Intoxicated- Celebrating among friends, family or colleagues with a champagne flute of bubbles isn't a sin, unless you cannot handle your alcohol. Getting drunk at a party proceeded by dancing on the table is not becoming of a lady. You won't like what people say about you or the photos and videos that may have been captured of you in the moment that could possibly end up been posted on social media. It isn't a good look and it's not worth the embarrassment. Classy women know their limits, drink within them and choose to sip on sparkling water thereafter so they can continue to mingle with the crowd without causing a scene or worse- an accident on the way home!

7. Ace your Appearance. No matter where you're headed, always make it a point to put your best foot forward maintaining a presentable appearance. You don't need to own expensive designer clothing to be a classy woman, it simply involves taking pride in what you already own. If your clothes have threads hanging, a stain you couldn't get out or a hem that has come loose on one pant leg, it is obvious that you lack the pride in your appearance that others take. Always wear clean clothes, freshly pressed if wrinkled, free from hanging threads, rips, stains, pilling or fading. Instead, neatly put together an outfit that you know looks good on your figure along with a pair of pearl earrings and a few natural-looking basics such as a coat of mascara, a neutral shade of lipstick (or gloss), and a bit of blush and/or bronzer to complete your ladylike look.

8. Speak Eloquently- There is no need to use slang unless you're goofing around with friends and not looking to be taken seriously. Learn the English language properly and try your best to use it and your most polished vocabulary daily. You are an educated woman, so let your words exude that. Form your words fully. Accent or no accent, people want to understand what you are saying, so always strive to speak as clearly as possible. There is a scene in the movie Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts is dining with Richard Gere and he asks to order for her and she replies "Yeah", then quickly corrects herself by replying "Yes, please do so". While ordering food or making a request, use: "May I please have" vs. "Can I get a ....", Thank You instead of thanks, it sounds more formal and sincere. Always strive for the most elegant way of speaking for it is pleasing for others to hear in both business and our personal life.

9. Learn the Art of Saying No- There are times in life where we are simply too tired, not interested or don't have the financial wherewithal to take part in an upcoming event or fulfill someone's request. Most women just say "okay, I'll do it" or "I'll be there",  because they don't want to be perceived as rude, difficult or selfish and often times it's because they don't know how to say 'no'. There is nothing wrong with taking time for yourself, just make sure you express it the right way. Example: Your grandmother asks you to take some items she has taken it upon herself to collect and keep for you (as she knows she is moving to a retirement home soon) and you just don't have the space and don't actually like them anyway. Simply say "Grandma, these are definitely some neat treasures. I would love to be able to help but I just can't." You can offer an alternative suggestion such as a donation pickup, gifting it to another family member or helping her sell the items if necessary. This does not leave room for discussion on how big your apartment is, if you have a storage locker or what your personal style is. If she asks again, repeat the same words: "I would love to, but I simply can't.

10. Walk with Confidence- Whether you are entering or leaving a room, grabbing a few groceries at the market or pumping gas, elevate your body. Hold your head up high, bring your shoulders back, lengthen your spine and tuck your tummy in for a strong core. Walk to your destination with long elegant strides, always with purpose and without fidgeting. Classy women always appear as though they've just landed from Paris and are only in town for two days to grace you with their presence. If you don't feel ultra comfortable walking confidently in heels, then I suggest reading this post I wrote titled How to Walk in High Heels. You have accomplished a lot to date, you should always carry yourself as strong, confident and proud. You'll be surprised at how much better you'll feel about yourself and how many heads will turn too!

11. Nail Your Nails- There is nothing worse than seeing someone with dirty fingernails. It says a lot about their overall health and personal hygiene along with how much they care about themselves and their appearance. Yellowing, chipped and ragged nails at any length are not ladylike. People see your face and hands first no matter how much of the rest of you is covered up. Keep your nails at a short to medium neatly-kept length depending on your profession and hobbies. Seeing the whites of the nails is important, so keep those! Invest in a pair of rounded nail clippers and keep nails trimmed regularly, especially if one breaks and the lengths are uneven-even if you have to sacrifice nail length, they should all be the same. Keep a file on hand in your purse should a nail break. Avoid getting yellowing nails by taking nail polish off your nails for periods of time, use baking soda and lemon juice and soak them if you have this problem. Once filed and given a basic buff, use a base coat to keep any color from seeping into your nails then apply two coats of neutral polish like a natural pale pink. Use a topcoat to prevent chipping and you're all set. If you choose to wear a darker shade of nail polish, beware of peeling, or chipping which becomes noticeable far faster than a neutral shade. The same holds true for toe nail polish and pedicures. Your toes will hold polish for 3-4x as long so you can leave this longer and do some spot touch ups at the tips when necessary, or an entire fresh new coat on all nails. For this reason I always bring my own nail polish when I travel or to the nail salon because I know I can touch it up later. If you want to maintain perfect nails for an upcoming trip or event, getting a professional gel polish manicure may be a wise investment to maintain a professional looking mani as it dries instantly and lasts 3x as long. This pale pink shade called Ballet Slippers by Essie is my all-time favorite beige-pink tone, I've worn it for about 8 years almost every single day as it hides minor chips and looks elegant with any outfit. It was the very color Megan Markle wore on her wedding day to Prince Harry. It has also been a top choice by Kate Middleton and has the Queen's stamp of approval, a color she has worn on many occasions.

12. Maintain Good Hygiene- There are too many women making time for Netflix, scrolling through social media, shopping, cleaning and everything under the sun but who do not properly care for themselves. Classy women are not dirty. They don't sleep with all their makeup on at night, they brush and floss regularly, and take care of their health. Firstly, showering daily is a must. Being clean is not just for everyone else who smells you but it is so that you feel clean and fresh and ready to give the day your best. Secondly, you should wash you hair bare minimum every other day with the exception of African American hair which as told to me by friends, benefit from leaving it unwashed for up to a week. For most hair, if you are leaving it longer than a couple days, it will start to get greasy and clumpy looking (usually at the back of your head where YOU don't look). I see it all the time in the workplace, a woman dressed well and her makeup looks pretty but her hair is dirty or she has flattened hair that appears to be bedhead at the back of her head, it ruins an otherwise polished look. We are human, we're not perfect and there are times where you cannot it as you overslept your alarm, could barely function after a sleepless night with baby, no worries, just wear your hair up in a clip and/or use dry shampoo for a quick fix so it is less conspicuous, but wash it the very next chance you get. Dry shampoo and body sprays work in emergency situations but should not be a replacement for showering, they are filled with chemicals that cover the skin, scalp and hair so use them sparingly.

I hope you've found these tips helpful as you strive to become more elegant and ladylike. You may not always do everything perfectly, the most important thing is that you make progress by getting out into the world to be your personal best!

Want more? Learn 'How to Dress Classy on a Budget', which is my most read post! You may also enjoy the '10 Benefits of Being Well Dressed' to discover how simply putting more effort into your look can improve your life. Wondering what outerwear is worth your investment? Read '10 Jackets that Every Classy Woman Should Own'. To see my personal outfits of the day and classy fashion inspiration, you can view and shop my exact looks here.

Wondering just how much a lady should share with others? Read '8 Things You Should Always Keep Private'.

Let's Socialize! 

Thank you for stopping by! I'd love to know, what things do YOU believe every lady should know?


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