Being a Diva on a Budget

August 14, 2014

For me personally, my number one rule of blogging is to be open and honest. This next confession is no different. When I was growing up, I was spoiled. Money and food were used as rewards, medication, and everything in between. I never went without anything I needed or wanted. However, when I was 17 all of this took a dramatic turn, and the lifestyle I was accustom too my entire life changed. My mom finally separated from my former step father, we moved out of his house and into a new one, and she had only been diagnosed with MS for a year and was having a very difficult time keeping it under control and working.

Though I started working the day I turned 16 (literally, I went to the DMV, got my license, then started my first day of work), my parents always gave me money as well. My work paychecks were mine to play with, and my parents gave me money for gas and any type of needs like clothes. When life changed for me, holy hell, it was hard. I was 17 and in the midst of being a bad, bad teenager and I was as selfish as anyone could be. I did not adjust to well to this change, but I had no choice. Over time, my mom, brother, and I worked as a team, developed a balance, and made it work. We were a happy family.

Now that I am 25 and have lived on my own for 5 years, 3 hours away from my family, I am thankful that life changed for me when it did. That gave me time to adjust, learn, and grow, so when I did move out on my own, I would not have to learn those hard lessons about life-- I was already somewhat prepared. I cannot lie when I say it hasn't been easy, but I have always made it work.

Sometimes when I am online, I see some of my girlfriends post pictures of their new designer bags that are easily $300+ each, shirts that are $75 a piece, jewelry that is over $100 each, and the list could go on. I would feel bad about this because there is no way I can spend that kind of money on things like that. I live alone and pay every single bill by myself plus I use NO credit cards at all. However, I did notice that a lot of my friends who do afford materials like that are living with someone, have that financial help and partnership, are quite a bit older than me, or truth be told, are just at higher place career wise. Additionally, you never know what goes on behind closed doors; maybe someone inherited a big lump sum of money or in extremely bad debt. Nonetheless, it is none of my business how one affords luxuries like that, so I forced myself to stop comparing my situation to anyone else's, and just be proud that I do have a comfortable lifestyle at my age. I enjoy saving money and finding good deals whenever I can. It has grown to be like a game to me!

Now I find myself becoming excited when I find a good deal, make something myself, and save money. Over the past couple of years, I have called that "Being a Diva on a Budget". Because labels do not make a person. Someone is not better than you because their item is more expensive. Anyone can be a diva-- that is a state of mind and a sense of inner confidence-- and that my friends, is something that no amount of money could buy.

Today I wanted to share ways I try to save money so I can still live the good life -- my good life.

First and foremost, I believe this is the most important aspect to be a diva. If you do not pay all of your bills first, before you go get your glam and fun on, then something is wrong. Creating a budget may sound intimating and hard, but isn't. Gather and total up your monthly income, list all of your bills and an approximation of the amount that needs to be paid, and disperse the funds appropriately. This allows you to physically see and record how much money you have, where it needs to go, and what you have available to be a diva with. I briefly listed here how I do it here. Doing this makes a big difference on how one looks at their money. When it comes to finances, ignorance is not bliss. 

Thank goodness for Living Social, Groupon, and Amazon Local. The deals on these websites are truly awesome. I purchase these regularly and almost always double my value. I know they are not available in all areas, but if you live in a big city, or have one semi-near you, they are so worth it. By purchasing these I have done multiple wine tours and tastings, a ghost tour, painting and cooking classes, and the list could go on. What I love so much about this is the variety. It has allowed me to try new things that I may have normally not done. Another perk is they actually sell goods for a fraction of the price. I made my mother a personalized photo-book and purchased her a sterling silver monogrammed necklace as gifts for so much less money than retail. I regularly see deals for shoes, jewelry, and clothing as well.

This is perhaps something I take advantage of most. I have a few stores that I am very loyal too and because of that, I save a lot of money. If you have a particular store you shop at a lot, and they have a rewards program and/or card available, make sure you take advantage of it. The rewards combined with coupons save a ton of money.

A few examples: 

Ulta: if you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know I love cosmetics. Ulta is the only place I shop for them. I get tons of points using my reward card; which adds up to a LOT of money off of my purchases. They regularly have specials where you can double and triple your points per purchase. Additionally, they offer a lot of buy 2 get 1 free sales on products, and always have coupons available. Also, if you obtain enough points to become platinum you get free gifts periodically. There are tons of ways to stretch your dollar at this place!

Rack Room: this shoe store is my favorite. They have such a wonderful variety of shoes ranging from high heels to hiking shoes. Their shoes are ALWAYS buy 1 get 1 half off. Then if you sign up for their reward program, you get $15 dollars every 200 points. That can be used on top of the "bogo" as well. Furthermore, you can sign up for email and text alerts and periodically they will send percent off coupons. You can use those coupons on top of the "bogo" and reward points! So if you're smart and plan wisely, you can get your shoes buy 1 get 1 half off, a $15 deduction in reward points, AND an additional 10-15% off with the coupon. That. is. awesome.

GNC: this place can look expensive and overpriced on the outside. However, you just need to be smart about it. They offer great discounts for their Gold Card memberships. Normally the Gold Card is $15 a year, but I have never had to pay for one. They offer great sales that will sometimes provide a free Gold Card with purchase, and  I have seen coupons that simply state "present this coupon to receive a free one-year Gold Card membership". Back in April, I got my Gold Card renewed for free because I showed a valid gym membership. On top of the great Gold Card sales, they email a LOT of coupons. Every month I am emailed a coupon for $10 off of my purchase of $20 or more. This helps me so, so much. You guys know how much I love Quest Bars and eat them every single week, so this coupon ON TOP of their permanent special of buy 3 get 1 free, saves me so much money. I usually get 12 Quest Bars for $15, making them only a little over a dollar each.

Before I make a purchase online or in a store, I always search for coupons. It literally does not matter what the store is, I always, ALWAYS Google for coupons. There are also apps you can download on your phone; I enjoy "Retail Me Not". If I am in a shopping center or driving to a store to purchase something, in the parking lot, I will pull up the application, and see if there are any valid coupons I can use for the day. I would have to say 80% of the time there are. 

A couple of examples:

Last weekend I was out running errands. I had been out for a few hours, it was super hot, and I was hungry and thirsty. There was a Smoothie King in the shopping center I was in. I rarely go there because it is too expensive for my tastes, plus some of the smoothies have way too much sugar. However, I noticed that they had new vegetable smoothies that were available so I was curious to try one. When I was standing in line, I checked on Retail Me Not for a coupon; there were none available. Then I Googled "Smoothie King Coupons", and sure enough I found one; receive a medium smoothie of your choice for $2.99. 

I never buy anything from New York and Company at retail cost-- ever. That is my favorite place to purchase clothes and they constantly have sales and coupons. A few months ago, I really wanted a new dress. I searched through my email inbox and did not have any valid coupons. I checked my phone and did not have any text coupons. I took to Google and sure enough I found a coupon code and saved 20% off of purchase. 
Ipsy is a subscription package I receive for $10 a month. What you receive are cosmetic related items. They range from makeup, hair and skin care products, nail polish, and other items similarly related. I  read a lot on different subscription companies before I made a choice, and easily felt like Ipsy was the best fit for me. I receive 4-5 products every month and a lot of times they are full sized and great brands. Even if I receive something I don't need right away, I put it up for when I do need it. The items always get used so I can definitely say it is worth every single penny. I have not bought lipstick and eye shadow in I don't know how long because of what I have received from Ipsy. That alone makes it worth while; single eye shadows and lipsticks easily cost $10 each!

Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Home Goods are wonderful stores to shop at for your home and/or anything decor related. Since I am on a budget and need to make every penny count, it has benefited me immensely to get creative and be self-sufficient. It is actually quite fun, too. I decorated my entire apartment on items from those stores at literally a fraction of the cost. I am not very good at crafts and DIY, but I am learning and having a LOT of fun in the process. 

An example: I REALLY want a princess headboard. However, those bad boys are super duper expensive ($500+). So, I am making my own and it is only going to cost between $60-80. I will share the experience, of course!

Now that I have listed my ways to save money, do you have anything to add? I feel as though you can never share too many money saving tips!


  1. What great tips! Marshalls and Home Goods are my favorite places to shop and I love love love Groupon!

  2. The budget thing is so key!!! If we don't know where our money is going--it just keeps going out the door! I also love to shop at Marshalls--especially for my boys who are now all about the Nike/Reebok, etc name brands!! Girls can get away with inexpensive cute clothes from Target and what not--but boys in middle school are now defined by the name brands--it sucks! So Marshall's saves me--and my wallet! I also love a good coupon! Can't wait to see your new headboard! I would love to learn to make one for our bed--not princess, but just a headboard!!

  3. Amen Sister! Amen!

    I'm very big into budgeting everything. Not frivolously spending... And I think I'd be the same way if I wasn't the mama and the spouse...

    We are comfortable without being dirt poor or highly wealthy.. but to maintain that comfort a budget needs to be in place!

    I find that most of my clothes come from Yard Sales or Thrift Stores or even hand me downs. It's amazing what some people just GIVE away. After I lost all the weight, my friend basically gave me half of her closet, because it was too big on her.... and I got all Dress Barn and Brand name things. Coupons and Groupons are great too!

    I love this. You got to ROCK what you GOT!

  4. marshalls & tj maxx are my fave! aint nobody got the money to spend more on clothes haha. i love thrift stores, and ebay as well. i dont buy anything online without a coupon ;)

  5. Girl, I feel you on being a diva on a budget! While I do have a few designer hand bags, I am pretty grounded with everything else and am always looking for a good deal! I love TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Nordstrom Rack and I basically shop the sales racks at places like Loft and Anthropologie. I am blessed to have an outlet mall 20 minutes from my house as well, so I hit that place up monthly!

    My favorite ways to save are the Target Red debit card (NOT credit card) to save 5% on EVERYTHING from Target. I grocery shop there and we buy some bigger items there so for example, last year I saved over $300 there! They also have Cartwheel and Mobile Coupon app so I use that along with the 5%.

    I am constantly looking for coupons and such too! You gotta make that dolla go far girl!

  6. LOVE THIS!!! I was watching extreme couponing and I would love to coupon but I am not sure I understand it enough to do it correctly..

  7. I love Groupon & those things. We eat out on those a LOT! :)

  8. YES so agree with this! I always google "coupon codes" for whatever store i'm about to buy something from! great tips!

  9. These are GREAT tips! I was much like you - had everything pretty much handed to me. When I turned 16, I immediately got a job to have fun money. When I turned 17, all of that went out the window and I had to learn how to survive. I'm always trying to share tips and tricks with people younger than me on how to be smart about money. Thanks again for sharing!

  10. This is all so true! I use reawrd points and ipsy also!


  11. Great tips!! All so true! My parents made me buy my own car, pay for insurance, gas, and cell phone, and social activities once I was 16 and it really instilled great values about the true value of a dollar!! Independence like you have and being able to pay every bill, not use credit cards, and not rely on other income is awesome! You rock girlfriend!

  12. I think everyone has stuff they are willing to spend on. For me, as I've gotten older, it's been bags - I invest in them more up front and keep them forever now. Shoes though? Give me the $15 flats. I love 6pm.com for colored flats.

    Target is awesome for stacking coupons (their mobile with their printable with manufacturer with the cartwheel app) and then I use my red card for an additional 5% off.

    I shop online through Ebates so I'm earning $$ back on purchases, and I always look for coupons on retailmenot!

    Great list Liz!

  13. I love this; I think it is important to learn how to be independent at an early age. I am gonna try that on my phone, I never thought about that! When buying online, you can usually find coupon codes.

  14. These are great tips! One of my best tips is using Amazon to buy apartment things, rather than even Marshalls and TJ Maxx (don't get me wrong, I love those stores though!!). I recently moved and bought my coffee table, bookshelf, and misc organizational things (under bed shoe organizer, over bed shoe organizer, belt-hanger, scarf hangers, etc.) for wayyyy cheaper on Amazon than I saw anywhere else. My Prime membership means shipping is free, and I got the bookshelf and coffee table for only about $60 each! Just make sure to read the reviews so you can ensure you're getting a quality product :)

    Target's Cartwheel app is great too!

  15. I need to be on the lookout for the free gold card! Also I'm super jealous your GNC offers buy 3 get 1 free quest bars :(

  16. These are some great tips!! Finances are something I don't talk about because everyone is different with them.

    I always go to my local Safeway because they ALWAYS have tons of great deals and weekly coupons of things that I will most likely use because of my shopping history. I buy In't Delight coffee once a week so I get about 7-8 cups of coffee for maybe $4-$5 a carton.

    My favorite is avoiding using my card as much as possible. I use cash and then put the change in a coin jar...it's amazing how much can add up!

    Fortunately, I'm not one for designer labels or fashion so I can easily go to Kohl's and Target for clothes. I don't go to the salon so my "diva expense" is the gym!

  17. I was raised very frugally (although I don't know that I really wanted for anything). I only worked summers during high school, instead putting all my efforts toward my grades and I was able to obtain academic scholarships and graduate from college debt free. I didn't get a car until the day before I got married (it cost $2000).

    I have to be a little cautions with the Living Social and Groupon, a I have purchased some, then not used them before the expiration dates. I know you still get the value you paid, but then only if you buy things at full price, and some of the ones I purchased I would have only used at the "deal" price.

    I shop at our local Kroger(Smiths) were purchases build up fuel savings. It really adds up, especially if you have a car with a big tank and you can take advantage of getting as many gallons as you can when you've earned $1 or so off. I'll buy Amazon gift cards at Smiths to make sure I get the fuel points (they will often offer 4x on gift card purchases, and I'm always shopping Amazon as they often have the best prices, but it does still pay to check around).

    One thing I've been enjoying lately is Fitstudio ... a fitness rewards program by Sears/Kmart. Just enter your workouts (or connect your device, they sync to my Fitbit) and earn ShopYourWayReward credit. I always earn the $5 a week (for 14 miles) and now I make a weekly trip in there and have gotten some great deals!

  18. Great post! I will admit I recently gifted myself with my first ever designer label bag. However, I have always been frugal. Always. I won't even let us rent On Demand movies because Red Box is so much cheaper! Anyways, love a girl with their head on straight. When I finally treated myself, at 31, it felt awesome. And I had saved up and we were in a good position for this one splurge. Everyone has their reason to spend their money how they wish, mine is typically poured back into my home or my dogs. When I was 25 I totally agree, I just didn't have the funds to do a lot of fun things without a strict budget, but strategic career moves helped ease that stress a tad. You are a smart career focused lady, work hard in your twenties to reep the benefits in your thirties. Totally worth it.

  19. Great tips girl, I love it "Diva on a budget" :) I follow most all of the same things as you. I grew up pretty poor, and even got myself into some credit issues right when I moved out. I worked very hard to fix it all on my own and after I got married we worked hard to become debt free. I love a good deal and I definitely shop mostly at the bargain stores, they're definitely my fave! I meal plan and coupon every single week. Target is my fave, double coupons, cartwheel and 5% off with the Target debit card is where it's at! Who doesn't love a good deal right?! I also splurge here and there, we both work hard and I enjoy the finer things every once in a while too for sure.

  20. we definitely live on a budget. my husband's favorite word in fact is budget. mine is sale :) the tips above are great. I love retailmenot for coupon codes. I used to google the store name and the word coupon or promo code but I just joined Ebates through a friend. I wasn't sure if it was a crock or not but its not...already got my first check back. all you do is join and start your shopping trip on their website plus there are links to coupons and deals. its easy peasy, just have to remember to start there first.

  21. These are great tips! Love the big box stores like Marshalls, TJMaxx, Ross, and Burlington. Store rewards are the best and I use ebates too!

  22. I love these tips Liz, thanks for posting!

  23. Surely no one wants that, so please protect your health. If too sick stay home to sleep for a while and then get power to continue the fun.


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