Thursday, February 28, 2013

More sponsor love

So remember my post about eShakti dresses that I was thinking about ordering for an on-blog review? Well, I was a bit slow on that, so two of the three were out of stock. Womp womp. But that means I got to do a little more faux-shopping, and here are the two I came up with to replace the out of stock items:

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Can't wait to see which one I get! The plain retro-style navy one from the last post was still in stock...and if I don't get it as the sample, I will most definitely be buying it myself with my March budget! And don't worry, you budgeting February budget post is coming up, just as soon as I make deadline on my freelance story.

So anyway, if you like any of these dresses, or anything else in eShakti's spring line, now's the time to make the purchase yourself. Cause Verbal Mélange readers get a special discount code! Details in the graphic below...just don't judge me for its poor quality. I had literally about two minutes to make it :)


Monday, February 25, 2013

Let's get fresh

So a lot of the style blogs I read on the reg are written by Canadian women. (Okay, 1 2 3 of them, but they're also three of my faves and biggest influences.) Anyway, one thing they all have in common, besides being classy and stylish and just all-around awesome, is that I've noticed the brand Joe Fresh on each of these gals' blogs. I've always thought those pieces were pretty cool, be they sweaters or accessories or what have you. I even have a shirt that Sydney sent me in a bloggy exchange that I love. But I've never really been able to shop the store itself, as I'm not a fan of online shopping (nothing fits!) or driving to NYC/New Jersey/Canada just to shop one store. So. No Joe for me.

Until now. (Cue evil laughter.)

Yup, Joe Fresh is coming to JCPenney, adding just one more reason to the ever-growing list of reasons I need to start shopping there again. Seriously, why am I not shopping at JCP?

Ok, that sounded a bit commercial-y. And I promise I was not sponsored by Joe Fresh or JCP to write this post...I just did a little pretend-shopping today and picked out some items and got really excited about sharing them. Because this is a style blog, so it's normal. Ish.

Source: via Emma on Pinterest
Finally, a floral that doesn't make me wanna cringe. Dare I say it, but...floral is growing on me. What??

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Source: via Emma on Pinterest
Don't worry stripes, floral will never replace you. Layering, the same goes for you.

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Source: via Emma on Pinterest
Because holy schniekie I've been looking for a great pleated skirt for ages.

Source: via Emma on Pinterest
The big question here is, if I buy these, will I actually be brave enough to wear them?

What about you guys? Anything on the JCP/Joe Fresh site piquing your interest?

In other news, I might be a tid bit absent this week. I'm working on a freelance story with a tight deadline, but that's okay because THIS ONE IS ABOUT FASHION, Y'ALL! That's right. Someone is paying me. To write. About clothes. Am I in heaven? It's quite possible. Don't worry, I'll be sure to link up when the story's live :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Using credit wisely

So recently, I got a few balance transfer checks from the crazy-high interest rate card I stopped using back when I transferred its balance to a low-interest personal loan (more on that here). I thought about transferring part of the balance from the loan back to the credit card, because the checks came with a 14-month 0% interest rate. So I thought hey, I could pay no interest on part of this debt as I pay it off instead of 4%. It seemed like such a great idea!

But then I calculated the balance transfer fee. There is ALWAYS a transfer fee. In my case, it was $5 or a certain percentage (3%, I think?), whichever was greater. I did the math, and the transfer fee was actually GREATER than the amount of interest I'll be paying on this loan before I get it paid off. So no transfer for me.

I did make a different smart credit move this week, though. See, my Kindle died unexpectedly and I was toying with the idea of buying a replacement. And I saw this add on Amazon, touting the Amazon rewards credit card. Signing up got you a $50 gift card, and the card has reward points for purchases too. Signing up for the card meant I'd only pay $20 for a new Kindle! So I did it. And I got approved for a few thousand dollars, which really just blew my freaking mind. But as it turns out, that's actually pretty good for my credit in the long run.

See, my credit card utilization rate automatically went down, because I now have a higher amount of credit to potentially use. But I'm using so little of that credit, and I pay off my cards each month anyway, so that gives my credit score a boost. And the points are a great thing too; I get 3 points for every dollar I spend on Amazon, 2 points for every dollar at gas stations/restaurants/drug stores, and 1 point for every other dollar. Every 100 points = 1 dollar to be spent on Amazon. I've been looking for a points reward card for a while, so the timing on this couldn't have been better.

My plan is to transfer all or most of our utilities bills to the credit card, and to probably make other regular purchases, like groceries and gas, on the card as well. Then, at the end of the month, just pay off the entire card (because I'll have all that money sitting around anyway, because those are all regularly budgeted items). So I'd be making my credit card work for me, and getting Amazon dollars back for just paying my regular bills! Now, to figure out which utilities don't charge an extra fee for paying with a credit card...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another fashion first (for me, anyway)



shirt, tights: H&M
cardigan, flats, belt: Target
skirt: New York & Company
necklace: VeryJane

Last week I talked about my evolving sense of personal style, and how I find myself wearing things that I normally never would wear. Like purple skirts and lots of tights in various colors (not to mention colored pants), trendy colors like mint, and of course, different animal prints. Now, it's kind of funny to think that I once shied away from all those things. Especially animal print, which is one of my new favorite ways to accessorize.

So that ramble-tastic paragraph is really just my awkward introduction to my new leopard print shoes! I mentioned that my old flats died a noble death as a result of too much love, and I bought these at Target to replace them. Two years ago--hell, one year ago--I would have immediately dismissed these shoes because of the studs. Now? I think the studs are my favorite part about these guys. Prepare to see more studded items around here, as I find them.


So here's the link to the shoe on Target. You can't buy it online right now, but you might still be able to find it in stores. While I really love these guys (yes, apparently my flats are male), I do have a warning: The back of the heel is a bit high, so they take a while to break in. I had to wear bandaids on my heels for a few days, but it's totally worth it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An ode to long weekends



blouse: thrifted
skirt, tights, heels: Target
necklace: VeryJane

I know I say this every time a three-day weekend rolls around, but America really needs to align itself to a four-day workweek. (Not really, I know how disastrous that would be for business/government, but let me dream.) I had Presidents' Day off yesterday, which was pretty rad for my weekend in general.

Saturday was spent doing some cleaning and whatnot, then that evening Matt and I celebrated Valentine's with a delicious homemade dinner and a movie. If you follow me on Instagram (@elfrankart) you might have noticed pics of the & turf with filets, crab legs, balsamic brown butter asparagus, a delicious salad that our friend makes all the time, and a great bottle of wine. Plus, chocolate coffee meringues for dessert. (I'll post the recipe for the meringues after I perfect it...I kinda made them too big, so they were a little underdone in the middle.) We saw Warm Bodies, which was a pretty good movie, and then met up with Matt's sister and her husband and friends, who were all in town to see a local band play at this great little bar by our house.

Sunday, I did absolutely nothing except watch several hours of Cougar Town. I randomly decided to start watching the show, so natch I had to watch all the old episodes to catch up. That shiz is hilarious.

To make up for such a lazy Sunday, I went to the gym and ran a bunch of errands on Monday. And I finally got a rug to cover the splintery hardwood in our bedroom. My feet are thanking me already.

So, conclusion. Three-day weekends are the absolute best because I can be productive, then super lazy, then productive again. Win, win, win.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Spring is...well, on its way, at least

Ok, I'm officially over winter. I mean, let's be honest, I was officially over winter about five minutes after it started, but I'm going into full-on cabin fever mode. I want pretty skirts and dresses without tights, and sandals, and bright colors and fun patterns. So when I was invited to sample an item from eShakti's spring line, my winter-weary heart skipped a little beat. I was instructed to pick my top three dresses, and they'd send me one of them to review here on the blog. How fun is that? Nothing like a great springtime surprise, right?

For those of you who aren't familiar with this great online shop, it specializes in custom clothes. So in addition to carrying sizes 0-36W, you can also send in your own personal measurements and they'll make the clothes specifically to fit you. Fo' free, y'all. You can also make other customizations, like changing the sleeves, hem lengths, and adding or removing embroidery, pockets and other embellishments. It's like designing your own clothes! And I'm picky and awkwardly sized, so of course I love it.

Anyway, here are the three items (all dresses, of course) that I'm going to send in as possible samples:

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

The cute black-and-white floral is my top choice and offers soooo much in the way of remixing possibilities, don't you think? And the navy one would fill a major hole in my fact, it'll probably be part of my March clothing budget if I don't wind up getting it as a sample. And the shirtdress is just fun!

You can check out eShakti's spring line here. Which items are you jonesing for?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Developing my style (an ongoing process)



button-down: New York and Company
skirt, necklace: The Limited
flats: Target
earrings, belt: H&M

One of the reasons I started blogging (almost two years ago, wow) was to kind of push myself out of my style comfort zone. To explore new trends and really expand the range of outfits I wear to work and outside of work. To develop my own personal sense of style.

If you had told me then that I'd be wearing a Crayola-purple skirt and a leopard print shoes/belt combo, I would have laughed right in your face. That wasn't "me" back then. But this is hands-down one of my favorite outfits featuring this skirt. And it definitely is "me" now.

Also, I'd like to take a moment to honor these poor ol' shoes. They finally bit the dust after being worn two to five times a week for more than a year. I've since replaced them with pointy-toe leopard print flats (with studs, another "I never would have guessed I'd be wearing this" accessory) stay tuned, I guess, if you're interested in that kind of minutiae. If you really like gold studs, or leopard print, or Target flats, you might want to get excited. I know I was when I got them!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Achievement unlocked!

Warning: Slightly boring update on my debt situation ahead. Feel free to skip this post if you're not interested; it's really for my own documentation as much as (if not more than) it is for anything else. So. Last weekend I made my final payment on my "school loan" that I owed to my dad! I still have a really long way to go — as in, several thousand dollars long — but this was a particularly rewarding milestone because I got to see the look on my dad's face when I handed him that final check. And it was made even sweeter because my final "debt snowball" payment was supposed to be next month, but I made a double payment this month as a surprise birthday gift to him. So in total, I paid that debt off about a year and a half earlier than I was originally supposed to!

2-8 achievement unlocked final

Now all I have left to tackle are my car loan and the personal loan I took out to transfer my credit card balances. And with the way the debt snowball works, my payments will get bigger and bigger each time I pay off a debt and start to focus on the next one. So my payments on the next lowest debt (my personal loan) are about to quadruple (or maybe even increase even more than that).

Also, I noticed that I've mentioned the Dave Ramsay debt snowball plan here on the blog before, but I don't think I've really properly explained it. Basically, here's how it works. Say I have four major debts to pay: $500 on Credit Card A, $1,000 on Credit Card B, a $2,000 Personal Loan and a $5,000 Car Loan. For the sake of simplicity, let's say my minimum payment for all four debts is $25 a month and all four have a 0% interest rate.

The debt snowball dictates that you focus on paying down the debts one at a time, in order from lowest to highest. So in this case, Credit Card A (CCA) is my main concern. I make payments as large as possible on it every month, while making minimum payments on all the others. So say I pay $100 a month on CCA, while making the $25 minimum payments on the other three. In five months, my debt is reduced to: CCA - $0, CCB - $875, PL - $1,875 and CL - $4,875. One debt down!

The next month, I take the amount I was putting toward CCA ($100/month) and add it to the minimum payment for the next lowest loan, CCB. So I'm now paying $125 on CCB, and the minimum on the other two. In seven months, CCB will be completely paid off. And at that time, my debt will stand as: PL - $1,700 and CL - $4,700. I then take the amount I was paying on CCB ($125) and add it to the minimum on PL, making my new payments $150. And by the time PL is paid off, CL's balance is down to $4,400, and I'm ready to start making payments of $175 on it until it's paid down.

Now, where the snowball really takes off is when you start adding your "extra" money to the "snowball" payments. Plus, in real life, interest is a factor that extends the length of payments, but minimum payments are usually higher. So instead of having a "snowball" of $175 at the end, I'm looking at payments in the $700+ range. If all goes well, I expect to be debt-free before the end of this year, and maybe even before Halloween! Let me tell you how I feel about that.

| via |

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I'm basically hibernating.

Well, this pretty much sums it up.


That goes for just about everything else in my life, too. It's just too damn cold/dreary to do ANYTHING.

It's starting to get a little warmer here...I even wore a dress this week. I'm just as shocked as you are. But the fact that I've seen the sun exactly once this week (that is not an exaggeration) has me being extremely lo-mo lately. Is it spring yet?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The awkwards



shirt, cardi: H&M
jeans, flats, hat: Target
necklace: VeryJane

That last photo there? That's kind of how I feel whenever I talk about my blog IRL. Whether it's with extended family at the holidays or a friend of a friend as we sit and chat over lunch, the second someone brings up my blog, I break out in a major case of the awkwards. It's not that I am embarrassed of VM by any means. It's just...well, it's kind of a weird thing to talk about. "Oh hi! Let me tell you all about the pictures I take of myself and how I talk about my clothes all the time on the internet." All I can ever think is how conceited I must seem, like I'm constantly preening and showing off.

But then I remember that that isn't why I blog. Yes, I have an inherent need to mindlessly spew whatever is currently on my brain. But that's not it, either. It's about the community you get in the blogosphere. I've made amazing connections with so many interesting people over the last 22 months. And it's about personal growth. When I started this blog, I had no idea what I liked. I had no sense of personal style...not in the clothes I wore, or the way I attempted to decorate my apartment, or in the food I was making. I also had a completely screwed-up sense of personal finance. Through blogging, I've grown in all those areas. Both through self-discovery, but also through discovering what works (and doesn't) for others, too.

I know this sounds like a wrap-up, "it's been fun but I'm done" kind of post. And I promise, it's not. I've just been thinking a lot about why I blog, and I wanted to share with y'all that you're part of the reason. And, you know, say thanks for that :)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fiscal Fridays: January clothes budget

So I decided to jump on Franziska's Budgeting Bloggers bandwagon, and post monthly recaps of how I spend my clothes "allowance" each month. I love the idea of holding yourself accountable by telling the world how you're doing (if you hadn't guessed, based on my previous Fiscal Friday posts). So from now on, I'll do a little recap on the last Friday of every month.

But Emma, I hear you say, this is the FIRST Friday of February! Stop confusing us! I hear ya. I would've posted this last Friday, but I didn't decide to start linking up to this shebang until two days ago. And I figure, February 1st is really just kind of the same as January 32nd. And that's why I'm reliant on my phone's calendar.

Anyway. Here's the breakdown. I give myself $50 from each paycheck to spend on clothes. So most months, I get $100. (Except some months I get $150. WOOHOO!) January was a unique beast for another reason, however. I got a freelance paycheck. And since I don't factor those into my monthly budget, they're free money to do with as I see fit. Sometimes I save them, sometimes I put them toward debt payments. This one I spent on fun times with Emily and Stephanie, and some much-needed retail therapy. So technically, I'm over my $100 budget, but not really, because I had extra money to play with :)

january budget

I provided links where I could, but a lot of this stuff was clearance/not available online. As for the whole blogger movement of providing links to similar items...uhh, sorry. To quote Sweet Brown, ain't nobody got time for that.

1. Snake print heels - $15, Target - Because who doesn't need snakes on their feet? ||exact||
2. Black flats - $25, Target - To replace my old black flats, which died :( ||exact||
3. Black skinnies - $28, Target - Again, replacements. My other skinnies mysteriously shrunk (along with half of my other pants, of course). ||exact||
4. Black knit hat - $5?, Target - Clearance item!
5. Gray textured skirt -$12, Target - More clearance! I tried to show a close-up detail of the pattern on it, but in the collage it just looks kind of weird.
6. Berry cardi - $15, Target - I'm not sure what color to call this. Tag said "berry," but it's kind of like a magenta or fuchsia, maybe?
7. Moto jacket - $25, thrifted - That's right! This find made my day. Ask Kellyn, she saw all the giddy.
8. Polka dot blouse - $4, thrifted - Polka dots might be my new addiction (see also: stripes)
9. Leopard print belt - $6, H&M - To match my shoes! ||exact||
10. Pearl and chain necklace - $11, VeryJane - Very cool site. It does daily/weekly deals like a Groupon or LivingSocial, but for jewelry, accessories, décor items, etc.
11. Knit tights - $17, H&M - I miss wearing skirts. These might be thick enough to keep me warm!
12. Striped shirt - $8, H&M - Yet another replacement. I stained the last one during a very enthusiastic game of Pictionary with dry erase markers.
13. Flower earrings - $7, H&M - I have been looking for these ever since I saw them on my sister at Christmas.

Total: $180. So really, not all that much overbudget, even. A good month, really...I managed to score a loooooong-term "shopping list" item and plug a few other holes, too. Woop woop!