That Time I KonMari’d My Closet

23 Apr

This past weekend, while many of you were being social or enjoying the outdoors, I was holed up in my bedroom, organizing. Specifically, I was applying the KonMari Method, a strategy created by Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo, to my clothes. You see, I’m increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff I own, and I’m turning to self-help literature to get it under control.

After reading the first few chapters of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve been giddy with excitement to get started. I literally kept myself awake at night last week pondering the process, looking forward to the moment I could remove everything from my closets and get started.

On Saturday morning, the fun began. I emptied everything from my drawers and closets and organized them by category on my bed and bedroom floor (stopping half-way through to vacuum so my clothes wouldn’t get overtaken by dog hair and rawhide shrapnel). After everything I owned was in its rightful pile, I counted each garment and placed a notecard with the total on each section.

In total, I had 142 items of clothing to my name.

Honestly, I’m surprised by this number not because it’s big, but because it’s smaller than I thought it would be. In fact, I actually hoped it would be closer to 300 so I could purge 75% of it and feel really good out myself. But, 142 pieces is nothing to sneeze at and I was ready for the next step.

Deciding what to keep and what to donate proved harder than anticipated. I started with the tee shirts and immediately hit a road block. I’ve received several new tees over the last few months, but honestly most of them do not “spark joy” as advised by the KonMari Method. They were comfortable and functional to be sure, but did I feel a sense of pleasure when I recalled the last time I wore them? No, but the idea of parting with them led to guilt, which completely undermined my process. Instead of getting defeated, I moved onto another category in hopes of having more success.

Altogether, some categories were easier to purge than others. I struggled most with tees, cascade sweaters and long-sleeved button-up blouses. In fact, after I made my initial selections and had my rejects sitting in bags, I dug through them to retrieve a recently-purchased chambray button-up and v-neck tee. I also paraded around in a mint cascade sweater before wadding it up and throwing it back in the bag.

This is what's left of two closets full of clothes.

This is what’s left of two closets full of clothes.

In total, I filled two garbage bags with clothing rejects, and my husband joined the fun and discarded a full bag himself (though he didn’t take my meticulous approach). In addition to my bedroom closet, I cleaned out my guest room closet which once stored off-season clothing. I also got rid of outerwear from the entrance closet, as did my husband.

Now, the drawer that once contained a mess of wadded up casual clothing is a dream of KonMari-style folded sweaters and loungewear. The guest room closet is free of clothing and the entrance closet has never looked tidier. And my bedroom closet is so empty that I’ve requested a custom shoe, scarf and bag storage system from my husband, the design for which he whipped up in AutoCAD on Sunday.

My biggest regret? Not photographing the process for this blogpost. I was so excited that I powered through the task, partly out of excitement and partly out of fear that I would lose steam if I stopped to snap photos. However, my journey has only just begun and there will be more opportunity to better document my progress. Clothing was the easy part — next up is home decor, books, gadgets, and all the miscellany currently cluttering up my junk drawers and decorative baskets. Wish me luck!

Disclaimer: Ms. Marie Kondo did not pay me or compensate me in any way for this post. I’d love to meet her someday – I think we’d get along swimmingly.

Your Money: March Best/Worst Buys

3 Mar

I barely escaped a snowstorm driving back from this segment today, making the topic all the more ironic. Even though Northern Colorado’s weather doesn’t want to admit it, spring is just around the corner, and that means a new season for deals! I talk best and worst buys in March with Good Day Colorado’s Brooke Wagner.

eBay: Better Late Than Never

20 Feb

You're welcome for this awkward angle.

You’re welcome for this awkward angle.

I’ve finally discovered eBay.

I know I’m a couple decades behind, but I’m lazy. And skeptical. I’m afraid of getting scammed so I’ve tended to avoid eBay entirely. That is until necessity and desperation forced me to discover the wondrous world of online auctions.

This past Christmas was an epic fail from a gift-buying standpoint. I put everything off until the last minute and found myself in a pickle on Christmas Eve, when the e-gift card function on TOMS Shoes’ website was malfunctioning. I tried to place an order several times over a three-day period, and then found the company eliminated the e-gift card option all together. Lame.

Before sending my sister-in-law cash for Christmas, I checked Gift Card Granny for any available discounted gift cards to TOMS. They had one, and it was listed on eBay. It happened to be for the exact amount I wanted to spend, so I decided to go for it. I was in a bidding war with someone else but ended up winning the auction for $2 less than face value.

And just like that, Christmas was saved — albeit a week late.

Fast forward to winter clearance time and I find myself in Banana Republic, falling head-over-heels for a hacking jacket that’s way overpriced. Even in the bargain section it’s priced over 50% higher than I’m willing to pay. As I’m ruminating over my options, the saleswomen are hounding me with credit card offers and new arrivals since they know everything I carried to the dressing room was from the clearance section. Come now, ladies — do I look like I pay full price?

I left Banana Republic empty-handed — actually, I ran to escape the clutches of the overly aggressive saleswomen — and turned to eBay out of curiosity. Sure enough, the exact blazer I tried on was available for $80 on eBay. Still more than I wanted to spend, but I started “watching” a few listings just to keep them in my radar.

After a few days, a gray/blue version of the jacket became available for $32. It’s not NWT and the seller describes it as “some wear,” but it looked decent in the photos and the seller also offered free shipping. I got an email earlier this week telling me the jacket was being offered for 15% less, totaling a little over $28. SOLD!

The jacket arrived in my mailbox last night and it is PURR-FECTION. I’m wearing it as a I type this, feeling super chic and way too proud of myself for finally getting on board with something frugal shoppers have been doing for years. Better late than never, right?

How to Cut V-Day Spending in Half

4 Feb

Photo by me.

Photo by me.


So…what the heck happened to January?

The first month of the year evaporated for me despite being totally relaxed compared to the hectic holiday season. It’s already February and I’m busy outlining travel plans for the year and stuffing my face with heart-shaped confections. Does anyone else get excited about holidays purely for the candy?

I was reading the spending estimates for Valentine’s Day the other day and am totally floored by the amount people dish out for Feb. 14 festivities. According to the National Retail Federation, guys will spend an average of $190 on flowers, candy, jewelry and dinner out. Women, on the other hand, will spend about $95. Overall, total spending is expected to exceed $18 billion.

I thought it would be fun to calculate how much typical Valentine’s Day gifts cost and offer ways to cut that cost in half. What do you think? Is this about right or am I totally off base?

One dozen red roses in a clear vase runs about $55 on 1-800-Flowers. Get it delivered on Valentine’s Day and you’ll add another $17.99. Factor in tax and your total is close to $80.

Cut it in half: Opt for a bouquet of 50 Peruvian Lilies and deliver them on Feb. 12. This way, you avoid the Valentine’s Day delivery fee and provide public adoration for your sweetheart. Use a coupon code for 20-percent off and pay a little over $40 total.

A 1-pound heart-shaped box of See’s Candy will run you $30. Add a Hallmark card and supermarket bouquet of flowers and you can increase that to about $45.

Cut it in half: Buy an 8-ounce heart-shaped box for $12.50 instead, which contains plenty of sweet treats and doesn’t sabotage your sweetie’s New Year’s resolutions. Add a dollar-store card for $0.50 to that supermarket bouquet and you’ll spend about $23 total.

I’ll assume you’re not going to pop the question on Valentine’s Day and opt for something less significant, albeit thoughtful. A trendy bar necklace in white 14K gold, for example, runs about $350 from Jared.

Cut it in half: At Macy’s, a similar style bar necklace in sterling silver is currently priced at $120. Using a coupon code, you can reduce that by 15 percent to just over $100. Meanwhile, Nordstrom offers a similar style for $68, and Etsy offers several hand-made styles for less than $30.

The Cupid’s Combo package at The Melting Pot in my area features a four-course dinner with a bottle of either Chardonnay, Merlot or Cabernet, plus a “Touch of Romance candle and petal package dressing the table.” Cost: $125 per couple, or $150 when you factor in 18-percent gratuity.

Cut it in half: My husband and I could share an appetizer, two premium sushi rolls and two local craft brews at our favorite sushi restaurant for $50 (including the 18-percent gratuity). We could then head to The Melting Pot for dessert fondue, which costs about $10 per person. Total damage: $72.

How much do you plan to spend this Valentine’s Day?

Your Money: Costs Rising in 2015

27 Jan

Happy New Year!

I know, I’m about a month late with that sentiment. What can I say, recovery from the holiday season takes time.

This year, I’m transitioning from blogger at Hassle-Free Savings to Savings Expert with Coupon Sherpa. That doesn’t mean I’m abandoning this blog — I still plan to make monthly updates and posts — but it does mean I’ll be spending a bit more time promoting the “Himalayan Haggling He-Man of Bargains” in upcoming media spots.

My latest segment on Good Day Colorado is a fascinating one, at least from a research standpoint. In addition to the products and services featured in this clip, prices on bourbon are also going up. Why? Hipsters. Egg prices are on the rise due to California’s requirement that hens get more space in their pens, and if you do nothing else with this topic today, read this incredible story about “blood” avocados in Mexico.

Conquer Fear in Customer Service

23 Dec

A not-so-scandalous experience.

A not-so-scandalous experience.

I had a great customer service experience recently and have been meaning to share it with you all. The holiday season had other plans. I’ve been go-go-go since October it seems, and I’m still scrambling to get ahead. I’ll be one of those poor schmucks shopping on Christmas Eve, desperately looking for that perfect gift for the remaining people on my list. Wish me luck!

My positive retail experience occurred after a Black Friday purchase of a truly extravagant self-gift — wine glasses. Specifically, Crate & Barrel wine glasses often featured on the show Scandal. Judge me if you will, but my husband and I both drooled after those glasses the first time Olivia took a sip while ruminating on the crisis de jour. With free shipping and a coupon code, I ordered both red and white wine glasses (though I’m really just a red girl).

I received the glasses and was happy to find the red ones as stunning in real life as they are on screen. The white glasses? Not so much. They seemed oddly small and disproportionate. The foot of the glass was the same diameter as the bowl, which for some reason made them appear poorly designed. Understanding the red wine glasses have a whopping capacity of 23 oz., I compared the white wine glass to the ones I have in my cupboard. Even compared to an average white wine glass, these glasses looked comically undersized.

Long story short, I wasn’t satisfied. And this left me in a pickle since I’m 60 miles from the nearest Crate & Barrel store, and my whole purpose in ordering during Black Friday was to dodge the $18 shipping fee. Return shipping fees would no doubt eat into my refund, and after complaining about it my money-savvy friend, she suggested I contact customer service and ask them to waive the return shipping fees.

My initial reaction was “yeah, right.” Why would they? After all, I’m not a regular Crate & Barrel shopper. This is the second item I’ve ever purchased from them, and I did so at a discount. I was afraid of having my plea rejected and feeling even more foolish. Despite my reservations, I placed the call and figured it would be a good example in future stories and segments if it worked out in my favor.

The first person I spoke to seem genuinely concerned that I didn’t like the white wine glasses. She immediately transferred me to customer service where another rep listened to my story and responded with a version of this:

“Tell you what. Because I’m feeling good today and because you’re likely a fan of Scandal, I’m going to send you a prepaid FedEx mailing label for you to return the white wine glasses.”

We then talked about the show and its ability to make us crave red wine and popcorn at inappropriate moments during the day. Apparently Crate & Barrel could barely keep these glasses in stock last year all thanks to their near-constant cameos on Scandal.

By conquering my fear of rejection, I was able to avoid exorbitant return shipping fees and have my faith restored in customer service. This experience is definitely a bright spot in an otherwise hectic holiday season.

You & Me This Morning Segment

11 Dec

I had the pleasure of visiting the Windy City earlier this week and offered some money-saving tips for the holidays during WCIU-TV’s You & Me This Morning. I also had the opportunity to meet Joe Minoso, who plays Joe Cruz on NBC’s Chicago Fire. Bonus!

Your Money: Shopping Secrets for Target Fans

19 Nov

In my latest segment on Good Day Colorado, I talk shopping secrets for Target shoppers with Kirk Yuhnke. I kind of blew his mind. And I must say: best. screenshot. ever.

Paradise Has a Price: The Fun

14 Nov

I know, I know: it’s about time. Part three to my “Paradise Has a Price” series has been a long-time coming. If you’re just tuning in, check out Part 1 and Part 2 for the full experience.

Boats at sunrise. Photo by me.

Boats at sunrise. Photo by me.


Everywhere you turn, there are booths and tents and storefronts dedicated to selling you tourist packages. Activities range from ziplining to helicopter tours to deep-sea fishing excursions. Each come with a price, of course, as well as persuasive messaging reminding you that your time in paradise is short-lived. If YOLO were an island in the Pacific, it would look like Kauai.

My practical husband and I weren’t swayed by all the opportunities to experience this island via tour guide. We left Kauai feeling fairly accomplished, having seen and experienced most of what we intended, and even a few things we didn’t. Here’s my not-so-quick guide to saving money and still having fun on Kauai:

Prepare to drive. When we first started planning our trip, we contemplated not getting a rental car. I’m so glad we decided to get one, because otherwise it would have been difficult to explore the island on our own terms. Kauai is relatively small, but each side has its own charm and it’s fun to explore each area. Hanalei Bay offers lush jungle and insane ocean views, while Princeville gives you a glimpse of the high-end perks enjoyed by those with more money than you. Poipu is populated with resorts, rocky shores and tourist shops, while the area surrounding Waimea Canyon is far more open and agricultural than the rest of the island. Getting a vehicle with good gas mileage is key!

Instead of hiring a chopper tour, walk the trail. Helicopter tours offer an unparalleled vantage point from which to see the Napali Coast and other picturesque areas of the island. If it’s in your budget and something you want to do, by all means, go for it! At $250 to $350 per person, it was most certainly not in our budget. So, we opted to hike the Napali Coast instead and experience the scenery from our own two (four?) feet. Aerial views of the water and mountains are great, but you can’t take a dip in the cool-water streams or smell the ever-present guava and passion fruit littering the trails from the confines of a chopper cabin. Just saying.

Napali Coast Overlook. Photo by me.

Napali Coast Overlook. Photo by me.


DIY. We passed countless tour buses as we explored the area in Scooter McGoo, and sometimes I wondered how they navigated the narrow roads and tight corners. While you miss out on the history and other educational opportunities associated with tour buses and guides, you are tethered to a schedule. A bus tour for Waimea Canyon, for example, would run about $100 each and last 11 hours. While you’re sure to see all the highlights of the area, this tour does not include food and, in my opinion, lasts far too long. Again, if that’s you scene, no judging, but for us, we like to go when we want, stay for as long (or as briefly) as we like, and leave when we’re ready for something different.

Wing it. We discovered Queen Anne’s bath, the perfect early-morning destination to watch the turtles get batted around by powerful waves and look on as brave tourists and fearless locals splash about in the choppy waters. We also found a tasty taco stand in a local shopping area in Kilauea; a quiet beach area visited by locals (and not overrun by tourists); and a few homes for sale. Looking at the selling price and layout of homes on Kauai was oddly entertaining. One place was composed of 10 acres of macadamia nut trees and featured three properties: a mansion with panoramic views of the ocean and cliffs; a cottage on the opposite side of the property for visitors; and a workshop/studio space. For the bargain price of $12 million, it could be ours.

Queen Anne's Bath. Photo by me.

Queen Anne’s Bath. Photo by me.


Splurge selectively. One excursion I wish we would have done was a kayaking trip to the base of a waterfall. Our friends did it and paid $80 (not including tip) for both of them. They set out early in the morning before other tours started crowding the river, and they were the first ones to the final destination. Our friends said the tour guide was very informative and laid back, and they got a good workout in before splashing about in the water to cool down.

Balance relaxation with exploration. Overplanning during a vacation can make you feel exhausted by the time you get on the plane. Putting off plan-making until the last few days of your trip can also cause you to do way too much (and spend too much) toward the end of your trip, having languished a few days in the beginning. Strike a balance between the two: your first day should be spent lounging at the beach and getting your bearings. The next day can allow for more formal exploration, making notes of sites you want to visit and learning about the excursions you should take.

Enjoy free pool time. A week into our trip, a couple from our party got engaged and then married on the island. They booked a room at the Grand Hyatt in Poipu and invited us all to join them in the afternoon for cocktails and pool time. There was some concern that we’d be kicked out of the lagoon-style pool because we weren’t staying with the hotel, but we learned later the pool is open to the public. While the cocktails weren’t cheap ($14 for a specialty mai tai – ouch), the pool and ambience offered a wonderful alternative to ocean swimming.

Waimea Canyon. Photo by me.

Waimea Canyon. Photo by me.


Think outside the tourist box. My friend and I were excited for oceanside yoga, via Kauai Yoga on the Beach. Sadly, my blistered feet forced me to cancel, plus the impromptu wedding required the attendance of my friend. At $20 a pop, this experience isn’t exactly frugal, especially since I likely could have led myself through a yoga practice for absolutely free. However, I’m a big fan of the studio scene, and the investment seemed worth it to me since it would allow me to be led through a series of delicious asanas while enjoying a sunrise view. Sun salutation indeed!

Enjoy the in-between. This lesson from yoga definitely rings true on a destination-oriented vacation. Sometimes we’re so caught up in our final destination that we fail to recognize the beauty of the journey and transition. For example, the tree canopy along a short stretch of road between Lihue and Poipu was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and caught us completely by surprise. The rich green mountains and cinnamon-hued soil never ceased to impress us, and the ocean, well, it’s pretty spectacular.

And so ends my epic three-part series surrounding our big adventure on Kauai!

Happy Halloween!

31 Oct

Happy Halloween, dear readers! As I mentioned in my previous post, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and to be honest, I went a little nuts this year on the costume and decor front. Luckily, I didn’t spend much and had a lot of fun in the process. Here’s a glimpse of my efforts:


Chalkboard Art
I found this design on Pinterest and instantly fell in love. I actually did a whole Macbeth theme with the bottles I used for my props during this segment about saving money on Halloween, so this sign fit perfectly!

Halloween Entrance
Again, Pinterest inspired my entrance composed of floating witch hats. I found two at Michaels for 70-percent off, paying less than $1 for each. I found the remaining three at Target for $2 each, which isn’t as much of a bargain but at this point during the shopping trip, I was willing to overlook it. We had visited Party City where I nearly purchased a $4 hat, so the Target find is a win in my book! The enormous pumpkins were grown by my husband and were the hit of the evening with kids and parents alike.

Treat Table
These TV props make for the perfect accompaniment to my candy bowl display. I also used my trust black cat candle that I’ve had since junior high school and a couple pumpkins my husband grew in our garden. I also received the fabulous green heirloom pumpkin from my friend who harvested thousands of them for sale this year.

I’ve been wanting to try Dia de Los Meurtos for a few years now and finally cultivated the gusto this year. I’ve never worked with face paint before so I was a little nervous the morning of, and used Pinterest as my inspiration for the design. Half way through the HOUR it took me to do this, I realized winging it was better than trying to follow a specific design. I purchased the face paint kit from the grocery store of all places, since it was available for 50-percent off ($3). The wig was gifted to me by my cousin, and the floral crown is made from a headband and silk flowers I already own. Big thank you to my mom for crafting the headpiece! She still makes the best costumes.


Dining Table Decor
Using another free heirloom pumpkin from my friend (called a Long Island Cheese Pumpkin – yes, please!), I re-used stems and pinecones I’ve had for years and added small pumpkins and gourds that I purchased from Walmart ($10). I also purchased half-price styrofoam gourds and a few autumn berry sprigs from JoAnn Fabrics (>$10). It took some arranging and rearranging, but I’m quite content with the finished product.

Whew! All that for one night. Oh well – I had a blast leading up to the event and didn’t spend much at all, especially considering I plan to reuse much of what I purchased this year.

How did you stay frugal this Halloween?