Friday, January 28, 2011

No Limits

Have a great weekend! Do something daring!

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Sight for Sore Eye (Shadow)

Over the weekend, I managed to drop my favorite eye shadow compact. The eye shadow still works (obviously), but the little chunks and eye shadow dust are annoying. Good thing I read a handy little tip in the February 2011 issue of Every Day with Racheal Ray. All I needed was some rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol to restore my eye shadow to its former self. A 32 oz. bottle from Walgreen's was $2.

Trickle enough rubbing alcohol onto the broken makeup to form a paste. Drag the back of a spoon (or a clean finger) over it to reshape.

Leave the compact overnight to dry. The alcohol will evaporate, returning the makeup to its original form.

All better!
PS - My eye shadow of choice is Clinique Colour Surge Eye Shadow Super Shimmer in Lucky Penny. Here it is at Sephora.

What's your favorite eye shadow?
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Makeunder My Finances: Step 4

Welcome to the final installment of "Makeunder My Finances." Missed the first three steps? You can find one, two, and three here. And to give credit where it's due, I didn't come up with the makeunder steps. That's all Jess of Makeunder My Life. If you're looking to simplify your life and home, check out the makeunder steps in their original glory. I simply gave them the Fiscally Chic treatment.

Step 4: Reflect and evolve

This should be the "easiest" step of a financial makeunder. The real work goes into creating a vision, exfoliating stuff, and identifying intentions. Once your budget, savings plan, and automatic deposits are in place, it's a matter of evaluating your progress. Are you being too strict in some areas or too lax in others? Does your budget need a little tweaking? Can you sock away some extra money to meet your goal early?

How often should you be evaluating? Part of that depends on your timeframe and if you've made dramatic changes. I would also take a closer look at things in the beginning to set a good foundation. Remember, you're setting yourself up for success. Don't set unrealistic expectations. In general, a weekly update and monthly review should suffice.

It's also a good idea to check in on your vision and intentions. As you grow and mature, you might realize that your vision and intentions have also evolved. As Jess says, "The more regularly you reflect on the vision the less you will need to create major changes going forward." For example, when I married John, I felt a shift in priorities. Our finances also merged, so my decisions didn't just affect me anymore. And as you achieve one financial goal, you'll have the confidence to save for something else.

Tote from dearcolleen on Etsy

Real Life
John and I started to think more seriously about down payments back in the summer of 2010. We had already saved a good chunk of change, but really wanted to buckle down if we're going to take advantage of low interest rates and high levels of inventory. I signed up for Mint in August 2010 and created the goal shortly thereafter. It's January 2011 and we're still making changes to our budget. In the beginning it was a matter of watching the money. Now that we have a better grasp of our spending habits, we've implemented some changes (i.e. bringing lunches to work and making coffee at home). After a month or so of the changes, I can then adjust the budget further.

Good luck with your own financial makeunders. Small changes here and there can really add up. And send me an email at if you have any questions.

Have a great week!
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Makeunder My Finances: Step 3

Thanks for waiting patiently for the next step in "Makeunder My Finances." I began training for my next half marathon this week and decided I should get a good night sleep instead of editing a blog post. And to be honest, this post has been a little difficult to finish. This step is what Jess's Makeunder My Life is all about. Her middle name is pretty much "intention." So hopefully I'm doing her steps justice.

So with this extra time, have you created a vision? Have you taken a closer look at how you're spending your money? Have you identified spending strengths and weaknesses? I hope so because this week is all about setting specific goals and intentions.

Step 3: Identify Intentions

As a refresher, John and I are saving money for a down payment on a house. Our budgetary weakness is food and eating out. On the positive side, we don't spend much on shopping or entertainment. We value living simply and spending time with family and friends. Our intention is the whole premise of Fiscally Chic. Saving money with style and living life to the fullest.

Print from MursBlanc Etsy shop ($20)

With these items in mind, as inspired by Lauren, and with the help of Mint, we've implemented a SMART savings plan. Our plan is:

■S = Specific
■M = Measurable
■A = Attainable
■R = Realistic
■T = Timely

How much do you need to save? And don't just say "I need to save more." What is "more?" If you don't have a specific amount in mind, how will you know when you get there? You probably have a good idea of the price tag based on your vision.

Dollars are pretty easy to measure, but what happens when your "vision" dollars start to mingle with your "needs" or "wants" dollars? In order to properly measure your savings, it’s best to create a separate savings account. I like to use ING Direct. It’s an online bank, so it has a higher interest rate (the good kind). I can automatically transfer money from checking to savings on my schedule and withdrawals take a couple days. That means I’m less likely to pull from our savings on a whim. And with automatic transfers, I don’t even miss the money if it’s not available to be spent. You can find other savings accounts and interest rates at

Your monthly savings goal should be reasonable. Set yourself up for success. No need to drive yourself into the poor house trying to save for something enjoyable (i.e. European vacation). To stay motivated, set aside an amount that’s not too far out of reach. We’ve cut out a few extra frills by dining out less frequently.

At the same time, your goal should be a little bit of a reach so that you’re willing to work towards it. That makes accomplishing the goal even more worthwhile. So set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!

Set a timeframe and mark the date on your calendar. Again, be specific, not just "in the next 5 years." And be realistic. Unless one of us wins the lottery, we probably won’t have a 20% down payment in 3 months. Automatic transfers are another way to stay timely. Schedule transfers for once or twice a month so you won't forget to stash the cash.

Purchase print from Ork Posters for $18

John and I use Mint's goal tool to track the progress of our down payment. It’s as easy as entering our goal, setting a date, and linking a savings account. I then know how much we need to save each month, which is factored into our budget. Mint emails me our progress every month and offers savings advice and information about the home buying process.

You can obviously track everything in an Excel spreadsheet or on a piece of paper, but I like the convenience of having everything online. That way I can access the information on the go and make changes as necessary.

Don’t be afraid to take ownership of your finances! The best way to become financially independent is to learn about the different resources and tools. And ask questions!

(Disclaimer: I haven't been compensated by Mint, ING, or for this post. These are simply my opinions.)

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Monday, January 17, 2011

A Blog Makeover

Happy Monday! I know the past two Mondays have been dedicated to "Makeunder My Finances." Step 3 (Identify Intentions) still needs a little polishing, so I thought I would share a little makeover with you.

My blog! Here's a snapshot of what you're missing if you've only been following along in Google Reader. The makeover started last week when I slowly added tabs and additional pages:

Over the weekend I decided to play around with a new header. I think it's only appropriate to include my favorite board game, Monopoly :)

What do you think? And yes, "Makeunder My Finances" will still be up this week.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Night Lite

Before I get into today's post I HAVE to share some exciting news with you! Remember Wednesday's post about Berry Good Cupcakes??? Well....somehow the folks at IZZE caught wind and shared the link to my recipe on their Facebook page! I had all sorts of extra traffic to Fiscally Chic due to the digital love. Isn't social media cool?!?!

Anyways, back to the original post:

In the spirit of sharing money saving tips, here's how last Friday night went down at Fiscally Chic. See also: How to have fun on a Friday for $15.

Cathy: I don’t think I can go to Goose Island for dinner. I had a burger for lunch. So I’d like something other than bar food. [We were going to use a certificate]
John: No worries about Goose Island. I was kind of thinking about seeing a movie tonight anyway. Should we make dinner at home?
Cathy: What movie are you thinking? I’m in the mood for something light for dinner. Haven’t decided what that is yet. Thoughts?
John: Not sure what movie to watch tonight. We could always rent "Inception" if that video store has it. How about tacos?
Cathy: "Inception" sounds good. How about fish tacos?
John: Sure. This recipe looks pretty good.

Two hours later...

Cathy (via text): Getting a free cupcake at Crumbs!!!
John (via text): Picking up "Inception" at the Redbox

At home, we made a less-complicated version of Bobby Flay's fish tacos (see below for recipe), enjoyed two beers (one homebrew, one microbrew), a free cupcake, and "Inception." While I'm sure the special effects would have been even better at the movie theater, it was nice to be able to pause the movie to talk about confusing parts or take a bathroom break.

Tasty, but it didn't fare well on the L.
As for the free cupcake, Crumbs Bake Shop is a bakery out of New York City and just opened a shop in Chicago. They were giving away free cupcakes last Friday as a promotion. While the s'mores cupcake was pretty good, it wasn't the best in Chicago. My favorite Chicago cupcakes are from Sugar Bliss and Molly's. My all time favorite is still The Cup in St. Louis.

So how did our dinner and a movie night in compare to a night out? I think $43+ in savings is pretty Fiscally Chic!

I hope you have a fantastic weekend! Any date night ideas to share?

Simplified Fish Tacos
Based on Bobby Flay's recipe

•1 pound white flaky fish, such as mahi mahi or tilapia. We also made this with shrimp later in the weekend.
•1 tablespoon chili powder, more if you like. You could also use jerk seasoning for a little more zing.
•8 flour tortillas

•Shredded white cabbage (we used bagged cole slaw mix)
•Chopped cilantro leaves
•Tomato Salsa, recipe follows (or use your favorite jar 'o salsa)

Pour a little EVOO in a pan and preheat to medium-high heat. Spray the fish with EVOO. Sprinkle with chili powder. Let marinate for 5 minutes.

Cook fish in the medium-high pan for 4 minutes on the first side and then flip for 30 seconds and remove. Let rest for 5 minutes then flake the fish with a fork.

Heat the tortillas in a dry pan over medium-high heat for 20 seconds. Remove the tortillas to a plate and cover with a clean towel until you're ready to eat.

Divide the fish among the tortillas and garnish with any or all of the garnishes.

Tomato Salsa:
•1/4 red onion, coarsely chopped
•2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
•1 14.5oz can of diced/chopped tomatoes with jalapenos, drained
•Juice of one lime, maybe more
•1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
•Salt and pepper

Add all ingredients to a bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Berry Good Cupcakes

As you might have gathered from my New Year's post, I had a little cupcake photoshoot on New Year's Eve. These little gals are rockstars. The sparkles are complements of my NYE Loft clutch. 

We were invited to a party and of course I wanted to bring cupcakes. I had everything to bake Raspberry Champagne Cupcakes...except for the champagne. Oops. There was plenty of time to buy some and the excess would have been put to good use. I just didn't feel like going to the liquor store. So I searched my kitchen for a substitute. IZZE sparkling blueberry juice sounded like a close match. Bubbles...check. Berry...check. Sweetness...check.

I'm happy to report that the IZZE juice made for a "berry" good cupcake and frosting. The mini cupcakes were light and airy. And the frosting still tasted like raspberry frozen yogurt. I also baked some regular sized cupcakes, but they were a little dense. This might have had something to do with botching the measurement of one ingredient and then having to scale up the recipe near the end. I'll give you the recipe for a "normal" batch.

Or maybe it's because they sat around the kitchen a little longer than usual. Darn those New Year's resolutions.

[Update: Some commenters from "Gimme Some Oven" also found the cupcake to be dense. One person suggested using 1/2 cake flour and 1/2 all-purpose flour. Don't have cake flour? Add two tablespoons of corn starch to each cup of regular flour and sift this mixture together twice. Measure your cups of flour from this mixture. Per Smitten Kitchen. Or just use boxed cake mix and use 3/4 c of sparkling juice instead of water.]

Berry Good Cupcakes
As inspired by Gimme Some Oven

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup IZZE sparkling blueberry juice (any sparkling juice or wine would be fine)
6 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a cupcake pan with liners.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into creamed mixture alternately with IZZE.

In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. About 12 minutes for mini cupcakes.

(I made 1/3 extra of the recipe which yielded about 42 mini and 17 normal cupcakes.)

Sparkle Berry Buttercream
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons IZZE sparkling juice, at room temperature
A few tablespoons of raspberry preserves (with or without seeds, I love Smucker's)

With an electric mixer on low, beat the butter until it starts to get fluffier. Then start adding the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Taste it every time. That way you can make it as sweet as you want and probably won't use as much sugar. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes. Add vanilla and IZZE, beating on medium for another minute. Add a couple of spoonfuls (to taste) of raspberry preserves.

The additional raspberry preserves may make the frosting a little thinner, so add a little more powdered sugar to thicken things up. If this frosting is too thick, add a little more IZZE.
(I made one batch of frosting and had extra. Though I used a "flatter" frosting style.)

You can buy the cupcake liners from Bake it Pretty
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Makeunder My Finances: Step 2

It looks like a few more people are joining us at Fiscally Chic. So a big welcome to my new readers! We're in the middle of my "Makeunder My Finances" series. This week is Step 2. If you missed Step 1 (Create a Vision) you can find it here. And of course I have to give props to the mastermind behind these steps: Jess of Makeunder My Life. Here are her classic makeunder steps. On with the show!

Print from Etsy seller bluebicicletta

Step 2: Exfoliate Stuff

According to Jess, "this is the step where you dump the stuff that isn’t needed for the life you want to live. Just like our skin, there is a lot of dead ‘skin cells’ in our homes that are clouding the healthiest, best life we want to live. And by sloughing off that unnecessary layer of crap, we emerge brighter and more purposeful." Guess what? There might be some dead skin cells lurking around your budget as well. But first, you need to take a look in the mirror see what and where they are.

This makeunder step may be the most daunting since it involves accumulating the information that makes up your past and current financial situation. Through the magic of the Internet and computer software, it doesn't have to be that difficult. I use to compile all of our financial data. It's a fantastic free (and secure!) site that offers personal finance and budget software, online money management, and budget planning. Mint brings all your financial accounts together online so you can see the big picture in a single click. We have our checking and savings accounts, credit cards, and 401(k) and investment accounts all feeding into our Mint account.

Mint screenshot
 So what do you do with all of that information? Mint categorizes your transactions (with some of your assistance) so you can see how much you're spending on rent, food, entertainment, shopping, etc. It also monitors income, loans, and investment transactions. It was pretty eye-opening even that first month of using Mint. I had no idea how much I was spending on lunches or coffee during the work week. (John is really good about bringing his lunch to work) I thought that the couple dollars here and there wouldn't make a difference until I saw the grand total at the end of the month. $130 even though we bought lunch food at the grocery store? Yikes! On the flip side, we didn't spend much money shopping.

After you've had a chance to dive into the nitty gritty, it's time to develop a budget! There are as many budgeting methods as there are diets. You never know what's going to work for you until you give it a whirl. And like a diet, if you're going to be saving money it's all about input vs. output. You can spend less, earn more, or a combination of the two.

Mint screenshot
I rely on Mint's built-in budgeting software to set our monthly targets for each major spending area. Mint also allows you to adjust your budget. For example, Mint first thought a good amount for Movies and DVD's was $20. We rarely go to the movie theater, choosing to rent from Redbox instead. I bumped that monthly budget down to $10.

Some other methods include:
  • 50% Needs, 20% Savings, and 30% Wants (see Daily Worth)
  • Save to spend budget: 60% Monthly Expenses, 10% Retirement, 10% Long-Term Needs, 10% Short-Term Savings, 10% Fun (see Daily Worth)
  • 35% Housing, 25% Living Expenses, 15% Debt, 15% Transportation, 10% Savings (from Jean Chatzky
  • Dollars per day for play (see Pete Mockaitis)
One of the other benefits of Mint is that it sends me alerts when I go over budget. They also email me weekly updates. It's like my personal accountability partner. Speaking of accountability, share your goals with a significant other or trusted friend. You will be more likely to succeed when someone is cheering you on and helping you over hurdles. 

Print available at MadebyGirl

John and I have been more open about how we spend our money over the years so that we can work towards a common goal of home ownership. I don't have to ask his "permission" about purchases, but if I'm wavering, I check in to see if buying something is "worth" more than saving for our goal. Plus, there will be fewer surprises or busted budgets.

Next week is step 3: identify intentions. This will be your specific targets regarding savings and spending.

What are your secret ways to cut costs or earn a little extra? Would it be helpful if I shared some ideas?

(Disclaimer: I haven't been compensated by Mint for this post. These are simply my opinions. But if you're out there, Mint, I wouldn't mind writing for you!)

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Ode to Running

Today I'm sharing my Ode to Running over at Health on the Run. Swing by to find out why my relationship with running is like the plotline of a romantic comedy. As a treat, there's an awkward picture of me from grade school.

Check out Lauren's blog for more reads about running, fitness, public health, and nutrition.

What are you waiting for? Go now!
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Monday, January 3, 2011

Makeunder My Finances: Step 1

Hello again! Welcome to a bright and shiny New Year! I don't know about you, but I think 2011 is going to be a big year. I've written down some goals and have renewed energy to tackle them. What about you? Do you have any big plans for 2011?

Two of the most popular resolutions revolve around improving your finances and improving your health. Hopefully I can help you start achieving these this January. First up is improving your finances. And to give credit where it's due, I didn't come up with the makeunder steps. That's all Jess of Makeunder My Life. If you're looking to simplify your life and home, check out the makeunder steps in their original glory. I simply gave them the Fiscally Chic treatment.

Step 1: Create a vision

A Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oak Park, IL (I can dream, right?)

Before overhauling your finances, think about your overall goal. Your goal could be saving money to buy a home, for retirement, to go on vacation, to have a cushion to start a business, or for your child's college fund. You might also want to payoff debt: student loans, mortgage, or credit card. Maybe it's for a new car. Your vision could be for your personal financial situation or for a business.

Creating a vision will set the focus for the next three steps. So get as specific as you'd like. John and I have several financial goals, including saving money for a house. This will be the example I'll use throughout the "makeunder" series. Our vision includes the neighborhood, cost, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and when we'd like to start the home buying process. Some of these items may change over time, but the overall vision of a home is the foundation. Feel free to put together an inspiration board that you can see everyday. Or write down your vision and post it on the refrigerator door. Maybe you'll write your goal and reminders on the calendar.


I hope you enjoy this series. As Jess puts it, a financial makeunder "takes the stress out of it in a way and doesn't make everything good or bad, but intentional or not intentional." The goal of this series is to help you examine why you spend money and your priorities instead of just "do this" and "don't do that." I want to help you put together a plan that works for your unique situation instead of just following a formula.

Next week, step 2: exfoliate stuff
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy 2011! Cheers to a sparkly new year!

At this time last year, I was just getting settled into my new life in Chicago. I made a few goals, so I'd like to share my progress with you:

Run the St. Louis half marathon  - Check! Did this on April 11, 2010! Finish time of 2:02:58. Also ran the Chicago Rock n' Roll half marathon in August 2010. Finish time of 2:03:55

Yes, will run for cupcakes :)
Do PT for my knees every day that I don’t run - Nope. Didn't do much PT, but I did try out some different classes at the gym. Spinning and Bodyworks plus Abs are excellent cross-training activities.

Run a marathon - Ran the Chicago marathon on 10/10/10! Finished in 4:45:42. See my recap here.

Make new friends in Chicago - Check! I should also say "hello" to all of the new friends I've made through blogging.

Update wardrobe (get rid of things I don't like or don't fit) - Still a work in process. I've also learned how to remix what I have with a few new pieces or accessories.

Organize! And try to keep things in order. Kill the clutter. File paperwork ASAP. Attempt to get rid of one thing as a I bring a new thing in. - Definitely still working on this. Our apartment is a little smaller than the one in St. Louis, so this is forcing me to deal with clutter much sooner. This is definitely a 2011 goal.

Bake a wedding cake - This was a "just for fun" goal. It didn't have to be a wedding cake, just a bigger more fancy cake. I didn't do it, but I have been experimenting more in the kitchen (spaghetti squash for the first time) and made some pretty great cupcakes during the year. One of my most popular posts is my Raspberry Champagne Cupcakes recipe. And I'll post a recipe for the cupcake pictured above soon.

I need to think more about my goals for 2011. Maybe I'll share some of them with you in the next few weeks.
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