The Frugal Fashionista


Ladies, I’ve been doing some extra research today that I thought I’d share with you.  As we move this site into a more fashionista friendly zone with an eye on building your fantasy wardrobe, I also want to start wrapping your minds around becoming a fashionista with a sizeable bank account and a sizeable net worth.

You know that you love fashion.  It could probably break your bank account if you could actually buy everything you saw the Kardashians wearing or what is in the latest Vogue.  Trust me, I fell in love with Victoria Beckham’s line today…and then saw that she normally charges about $13,000 for some of her stuff.  Talk about a woman really tapping into her name and her love for fashion to generate major dollars in her own bank account.

Why can’t we do that, too? 

Let’s get started one step at a time.  Remember that first lesson from the “Top 10 Ways To Build Your Fantasy Wardrobe?” It all lies in your financial outlook.  Don’t go into debt for fashion was the number one lesson there.  I really do mean…don’t go into debt for fashion whatsoever.

1.  Want to be rich?  It all starts with doing your research.  One of the greatest lessons about money I’ve ever learned came from David Bach.  If you want to make your money grow, you always have to stay on top of the financial world.  That doesn’t mean you have to be the next Wall Street trader to understand money.  You just always have to do your research on how you can be better with your money.  That means reading books on personal finance like those from David Bach and Suze Orman.  They want to help you balance your accounts and have sizeable nest eggs so much that they actually give away this information for free.

Whether it’s reading their column, following them on Twitter, or just going to their websites…they usually offer their latest book for free to download.  Not too many financial gurus do that.  So the whole backlash these financial writers get from people…”yeah…I made you rich by buying your book”…they’re now proving a different mantra (which Russell Simmons aka Uncle Rush talks about on his Twitter all of the time).  When you help others make money, wanting nothing in return for this deed, the universe will grow your money in a different way.

It’s called karma…and they’ve tapped into that karma of putting forth good so that their own good fortunes (even if it is not monetary) will also increase.  Good fortunes could mean good health, good familial relations, good fortune in their ventures, amazing opportunities…i.e. living the dream.

 They made their mistakes, just like the rest of us do, but they learned from them, did their research and passed their knowledge along to others so that they too can grow.  It pays to do your research. 

What one person’s way to help you achieve financial freedom, may work for you…or maybe another person’s way will help you.  Read up on a few of the methods out there and decide which one works best for you and your goals.

For me, I do the 50/30/20 method developed by Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi in their book, All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.  Their way to manage money made sense to me…50% for expenses, 30% on whatever I want and 20% to savings.  This method actually helps me gauge my overall financial situation.  Rent, loans, and all of my bills fall way under the 50%.  I was lucky that it did, but not all of them did at the start.

At first, internet and cell phone payments went under my 30% column because it was not a necessity to have those things.  But as I re-did my loans, utility bills, etc., eventually the internet and cell phone bills could go in the 50% expenses column, along with the monthly donations I make to charities.  The bills I paid monthly actually went down over time.  As each continues to go down and bills get paid off, I can apply more of the leftover money in the 50% expenses column to another bill.

Saving money (the 20%) is actually a beneficial tool for people that seek to be rich.  Every multi-billionaire talks about how when they first started off, they made that 20% savings MANDATORY.  Those who want to be SUPER RICH, do 30%. 

For me, I dabble in the 20%+.  I don’t count my Roth IRA or my Traditional IRA or 401(k) to that 20%.  20% is just the money I put into my savings accounts or money market fund.  Investing wisely in stocks…I got a 340% return during one of the worst recessions in America’s history.  That, of course, paid for my luxurious Moroccan vacation…a dream I’ve had for most of my life.  The rest of the return…went back into stocks.

For the shopper in me, that 30% has been a godsend.  I like knowing that I have money that is completely GUILT FREE to spend on whatever I want to spend.  Vacations usually come out of this budget, as well as a lot of the clothes, books, and home stuff I buy.  It also pays for the grocery bills and going out with friends.  I can spend this money however I choose.

It’s knowing I have that guilt free money that makes the 50/30/20 principle work for me.  All of my bills are paid.  I have money put away for savings…and I have money that I can live with and have fun with.

The reason why this method is perfect for most people?  It forces you to move your life within your financial means so that you can enjoy life, not stress about the bills, and save for tomorrow.  If you fall outside of the 50% category (some people had 80% going to their mortgage and bills…scrimping away and unhappy with the 20% they had left), you need to get your expenses and bills down to 50% of your take home income.  If you’re more than 50%, you’re living outside of your means.  You want to be below that 50%. 

I will admit that when I travel and the cell bill goes up to $400…I don’t like those months that I have to dip into my 30% to pay for it. It’s not fun at all. 

You’ll find that as you research how to manage your money, there are methods that will work for you and others that won’t.  Warren’s methods were perfect for me.  I’ve been using it for some time now.  But I also always read David Bach and Suze Orman.  The economic market is always changing.  They’re learning new things from the tricks of the trade.  It’s always wise to stay abreast on how that’s changing.

It may be boring to you, but just as much as I don’t like dipping into my play money to pay a cell phone bill, it sure won’t make you happy when you realize that all of your play money and savings have to go to paying bills all of the time.  You have to know how to manage your BASIC personal finances before you can completely create your fantasy wardrobe.

2. After You Get The Basics Down…start putting your next plan into action.  Start creating goals.  Keep a little notebook on what your goals are.  It could be anything from owning a pair of Manolo Blahniks to a vacation in Italy to making your first million…whatever the goal…write it down and make it happen.

I’ve always found that writing down your goal actually helps you achieve those goals.  But one thing I’d like to add…as your life changes, so to do your goals change.  During my rock and roll years, I had a lot of dreams I wrote down from recording certain songs, to owning a record label…the list goes on.  But in 2004, all of that changed and I went down a different path and became a writer.

Those goals are goals that don’t make sense in keeping anymore because I’m not passionate about that world anymore.  The more passion you have in doing something…the more it is meant to be yours…but keep in mind…it takes a lot of hard work to achieve goals.  They don’t just float to you on a silver platter.

Like all dreams, you also have to have patience.  Things just don’t happen magically overnight. 

The first time I ever fell in love with Valentino was in 2008.  I dreamed of owning a Valentino.  I mean…I was really in love with Valentino.  It took some time before I would own my first Valentino (a pair of sunglasses).  Now, I actually have various pieces from Valentino.  It took a lot of waiting, but it’s that desire to have it…it was finally made possible without going broke.  It just took a lot of patience and waiting for the pieces to come into my collection.

These days, my dreams of owning this and that for my wardrobe are starting to come to a close.  My goals are starting to come in the form of business ventures and making money.  I get inspiration from people like Kathy Ireland and Martha Stewart…women who took their passions in life and made their names into household names…turned into multi-million dollar franchises.  Kathy Ireland’s products alone have sold over $2 billion, while Martha Stewart has sold $900 million worth.  Who knew, right?  

It’s about passion for doing what you love and sharing it with the world.  That’s how you make profitable enterprises.  It’s all about enjoying what you’re doing.  Life is too short to be stuck in a miserable job.  Work where you are happy.  Do what makes you happy.  If you get paid to live your dream…then you are blessed…but remember, it takes a lot of hard work to make dreams into a reality.

3.  Be frugal.  Most of the wealthiest people on the planet got that way because they are super frugal.  I mean…SUPER FRUGAL.  It may seem like punishment for the fashionista to go the frugal route, so I’ll share what I’ve been doing over the years.

a) Drink the office coffee.  Latte factor NO MORE.  I used to put Starbucks in my budget.  Now, Bauble Bar has the Starbucks budget.  My latte habit was a good $12 a day.  Then I decided that Starbucks was getting too expensive and was too much of a luxury, so I switched to the free coffee at the office…and rarely go to Starbucks unless I’m traveling.  Why pay for something you can get for free? [That’s my #1 rule in life.]

b) You can afford to go the cheap route on the basics.  Most of my t-shirts, pants, tanks and underwear come from the clearance bin at the Gap or Banana Republic.  They last FOREVER.  If I was basing my cost per wear according to how many times I’ve worn each of these items to what I paid…Gap and Banana Republic would be owing me money for wearing their merch. 

You don’t always have to buy a $100 t-shirt to be fashionable.  Sometimes an $8 one from the Gap will last forever…I still have yet to throw out t-shirts I’ve had for the last 7 years.  Same goes for the pants I’ve picked up from their clearance sales. 

Always buy basics where you can save a few dollars.

c) Go thrift. Besides donating the things you don’t need, take advantage of the big sales at the Goodwill, Salvation Army and other similar thrift shops.  My favorite in NYC is Housing Works.  Most of these places have special sales that you should always be on the lookout for.  Housing Works opens their Warehouse up on the weekends.  For $25, you buy a brown bag and stuff whatever you find into it.  The downside is you have to dig through crates filled with merchandise for a great find.  My biggest find…EVER…was a Burberry coat.  It was the first thing I picked up on my first ever Buy the Bag.  What was even more shocking…it was in my size.  It was the best thrift find I’ve ever had.

Thanks to a lot of thrift stores, I’ve gained a lot of designer duds including Prada heels (2 pairs), Hermes and Tiffany & Co., as well as many other big designer names.  Looking at Housing Works site right now, I see a pair of Louboutin wedges in an auction for $100.  Not a bad price considering they’re worth way more than that.

d) Target, anyone?  I love when big designers collaborate with Target…especially when those designers hit the clearance rack (which can happen).  You can wind up wearing designer duds at Target prices.  It’s a great way to start adding big names to your wardrobe.  My favorite so far has been a Thakoon dress.  I’ll be hitting up the Jason Wu next week.

e) Hit the clearance racks…when they go an extra 50%+ off.  I’ve bought so much Calvin Klein and BCBG thanks to those clearance racks.  I once took home a head to toe Calvin Klein outfit…for $13.

f) Hit up the discount retailers.  When I first started building my fantasy wardrobe, Filene’s Basement, Daffy’s, Marshalls and TJ Maxx really helped. 

*Note: I’m not sold on outlet malls.  I don’t think their pricing is conducive to qualitative products.  A lot of times those products are misshapen, castoffs, etc. and not worthy of the actual store it came from…so they wind up in outlet land.  I know I can also get a better deal online or perusing clearance racks with the same article of clothing in perfect health.  I don’t recommend buying your stuff at the outlet malls…especially since (Neiman Marcus’ outlet) and Nordstrom Rack are both online.  They can’t sell messed up clothing to you online because the rate of returns would be very high…while at the mall itself, you pay for what you get.*

4. Clip Coupons. Don’t become an extreme couponer.  But do clip coupons to save some dough.  I clip coupons, but I also earn rewards from every place I can get more money back…like Ebates, RecycleBank (where you earn points for taking surveys and learning about going green to use towards coupons and free stuff), and even the manufacturer websites themselves.  

When you have a pretty strict diet like mine, you have to save where you can.  I even shop at the Dollar Tree, Dollar Store and Jack’s 99 cent stores.  I like finding things that I can use or donate to the local Food Pantry.  Jack’s, I’m a huge fan of.  I once bought a set of Pottery Barn stemware for $12.  That’s $1 per stem.  No one knows that’s what I paid (well, you do now)…what matters is that they’re still Pottery Barn glasses. 

When I do eat, I am a bit of a foodie, especially when I cook.  I pick up a lot of international and foodie type ingredients at my local Jack’s for less than what I would pay at other stores.  That’s a huge help.

Always look for ways to save on things you buy.  There are always ways to get a better deal…you just have to do your research…and be on the lookout (even your friends will spread the news).

5. Circle of Life.  Want to know why my portfolio was up 340%?  Because I believe in the circle of life when it comes to money.  I buy stock in companies I actually do business with…like Whole Foods.  As much as we complain about the price, in NYC…their organic foods are cheaper than Food Emporium.  So since I’m buying my food at Whole Foods…why not buy stock in that company, too?  Not only that…but why not promote them too?

Believe it or not, buying stock in Whole Foods was my Forbes stock tip of the day.  I went through pre-clearance with my job then bought the stock after the approval.  Forbes picked this stock as being one of five stocks that they expected to have growth.  Forbes is my ONLY SOURCE on what stocks to buy.  They have never done me wrong.  I’ve profited nicely thanks to every stock tip they’ve ever given to me.  Granted, with the stocks they highlight…I let my intuition be my guide as far as which of the 100s they’ve chosen will be the one that I buy.

Buying Whole Foods stock just seemed logical to me since I made a life change, and Forbes was mentioning the stock. Now that I’m buying more veggies and fruit for my new juicing diet, I thought it would be better to invest in the store where I’m buying my food.  I’ll get my money back by way of dividends.

When you invest in the places where you shop, do regular business, etc. you are putting the bang for your buck even further.  It takes a lot of research to figure out what’s best for your life…if you like McDonald’s hamburgers…then buy stock in McDonald’s.  You love the Gap?  Buy stock in it.  Diversify your portfolio, just as diversified as you are in life.  Buy stock in the companies that has your cellular phone contracts, provides your energy, your cable contracts…anything and everything that has to do with every walk of your existence.  Invest in gold or silver, because that’s what your ring is made out of.  Invest in Honda, because you drive an Accord.

See where I’m going here?  If you’ve invested in buying these things and doing business with these companies (some places you feel forced to do business with), why not get your money’s worth and invest in those same companies.  You’re not the only one banking with these people…you’re just going to be the smarter one about it.


Get your financial houses in order FIRST before proceeding any further.  Check the websites out.  Read up on personal finance news at Yahoo! Finance, Forbes, etc.  Check the financial books out of the library. Learn, learn, learn. 

In this day and age, it pays to be smart about your finances, but you have to start from scratch and know what you’re doing…take baby steps and move forward.  It took me six months to put each financial action into play.  Once I got used to what was going on (the changes in my paycheck, the rebalancing of my accounts, etc.), it became clockwork…making the basic management of money easy. After I was able to accomplish all of those things…I moved on to the next venture in growing my own net worth.  For me, that next step is launching my own business.  It took a long time to get there…a lot of dreaming and planning…but it’s time.  Why?  Because I have bigger dreams that require bigger money…and I’m not counting on anyone but myself to make those dreams happen, because they’re my dreams that I have to make come true.

All of you know what I’m talking about…achieving dreams is not really rocket science…it’s just a lot of hard work, passion and determination.  Start getting your life in gear and you’re on your way to that fantasy wardrobe.

About Michelle Kenneth

Michelle Kenneth is the voice behind