Sign up below to receive the latest news from The Steele Maiden:

TIPS FOR A MONTH OF NO SHOPPING

For those of you joining me in Frugal February – we’re over halfway through! I thought I’d share a few of the tips and tricks I use to get me through a month of no shopping – or really any time when I want to tighten up the purse strings for a bit.

  • Set Parameters: To begin, I set some ‘rules’ for myself so that I know precisely how I want to approach the month. For me – I can spend money on groceries and pharmacy necessities (meaning toothpaste is fine but not nail polish). I also throw in a chai tea about once a week and take-out maybe twice in the month. Otherwise things feel a little too strict. But set your own guidelines here.
  • Find a buddy: Even if they’re not actually doing the challenge with you – I find it’s helpful to tell someone and then you’ve made yourself more accountable. For instance – I’ve told all of you!
  • Calculate Your Savings: Look at your budget and see exactly how much you have in discretionary spending each month – and then you’ll know how much you’ll save. This is such a strong motivator and if it helps, you could divide that number by the number of days in the month and do an automatic transfer to your savings account every day. Each day you’ll see your efforts stacking up!
  • Plan for Future Purchases: For the last couple of years I’ve used these shopping free months as a chance to clear through my closet and identify things that were missing. Then when I was ready to shop, it wasn’t an impulse buy but a calculated purchase I knew I wouldn’t regret. Window shop and save website links that you’ll want to come back to when you’re shopping again.
  • Clear the Clutter: Clean out your kitchen and bathroom drawers. Organize your closets. Donate what you don’t use. It’s a great practice in reminding yourself that you really don’t need so much ‘stuff’ and will make what you feel grateful for everything you already have.
  • Hide from Temptations: Unsubscribe from newsletters, mute accounts on social media, drive home a different route so you don’t pass the shops that tempt you. Tell your friends your plans and that you’ll catch up with them next month. Whatever it takes to not pull focus from your goals.
  • Find Free Treats: When you feel like you need a hit of something “new” – try swapping clothes with a friend, taking out a book from the library or cooking a new recipe at home.
  • Think Big Picture: Whenever I feel like I’m faltering during a no shopping month, I remind myself of the big picture. The amazing vacation we’ll someday take and how this month of savings will cover X amount of it. Or that if you invest what you’ve saved – it will have grown to X amount by the time you retire. It’s easy to feel like you want a new sweater in the moment, but remind yourself of the bigger payoff down the line.

Sweatshirt + Joggers c/o NYDJ

1 Comment

MY WARDROBE STAPLES

I realized that for all my talk about focusing on building up my ‘wardrobe staples’ over this past year or so, I hadn’t taken the time to share exactly what those were. From a flattering black mini dress that can be layered or worn alone to the softest bra I’ve ever worn – below, all the pieces that I own, love and wear constantly. Some of these pieces I’ve been wearing for years and others are more recent finds that I find particularly rave worthy.

  1. Converse Sneakers – White sneaker trends tend to come and go (don’t even get me started on the $500 Golden Goose sneakers that look ‘scuffed up’ on purpose…) – but to me, Converse will always be in style. I buy one new pair every year or so depending on how unkind New York streets have been to mine and because I prefer a worn in but not totally tattered look.
  2. High Rise Ankle Length Jeans – At 5’4″ these skim my ankle bone and have a flattering slim cut and nice high rise. Plus a medium rinse that pretty much goes with everything. They’re kind of the Goldilocks of jeans.
  3. Wireless Nude Bra – Possibly made of actual butter. This gives the shape of wearing a real bra but feels better than a sports bra. How is this possible? I’ll never know.
  4. Lace Balconette Bra – If I’m not wearing the aforementioned butter bra, I’m in one of these unlined lace balconette styles.
  5. Black Mini Dress – I’d been looking for some form of this dress for ages and this one is just perfect. I can layer a collared shirt underneath or a sweater over. Looks great with heels, flat or boots. It’s perfect. Runs small though so I sized up.
  6. Black Ballet Flats – Audrey Hepburn in a shoe. These are Italian leather and continue to mold to your feet. They are on sale right now and I’m almost certain I am going to nab the nude color.
  7. Neoprene Backpack – Thoughtfully designed, comfortable to wear and very durable. I’ve had mine for several years now and it’s the perfect size to tote to the gym or as your personal item for travel.
  8. White T-Shirt – These are drapey but not clingy. Lightweight but not see through. Basically perfect. I size down to an XS as they run pretty big.
  9. White Button Down Shirt – I like my white shirts to be slightly lived in looking – so you can wear them under a blazer or throw them over a bathing suit. I take a size 4 in these so that there’s plenty of room to breathe. Nothing worse than button gaps on a button down.
  10. Cashmere Crewneck Sweater – I now own this sweater in 3 different colors (size small) and have had the oldest one for 3+ years I think. They hold up very well in a delicate wash and hang dry and are now at a crazy good sale price. I will likely grab the black color to round out my collection.
  11. Reversible Leather Belt – I buy a size small and then poke a couple of extra holes so that I can wear it on my hips or up high on my waist. Great quality, I probably won’t have to replace this for decades.
  12. Black Crossbody Bag – I prefer a small bag and this one is the perfect size for essentials and then some. I got this one maybe 6 years ago and I’ve basically put it through the ringer since then. Caught in rain, traveled with it, carelessly tossed it around. It’s worn in beautifully.
  13. Double Breasted Blazer – Deep navy wool with gold double breasted buttons and a boxy, but not oversized fit. This is my dream blazer. And if the brand was good enough for Abraham Lincoln.. it’s certainly good enough for me.
  14. Striped Breton Tee – A French maritime brand from the 30’s, I bought mine in Paris but I found the same brand available and offering sleeve monogramming here which would be a nice touch. I now have 3 of their tops and they hold up so well.
  15. Straight Leg Jeans – These are the most recently purchased item on this list but I’m a big fan already. A true 90s fit – high waist, straight leg, no stretch. I find them super comfortable and surprisingly flattering. I took my usual waist size but as they loosen up I actually probably could have sized down.
  16. Leather Satchel – This is kind of the ultimate ‘work’ bag. Big enough to fit a laptop and your packed lunch, but not so huge that you feel like you’re carrying a suitcase on the subway. I like that this is really minimal in terms of hardware too. Clean and classic. Another item I know I’ll have for decades.

SHOP MY WARDROBE STAPLES:

0 comment

STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

The days sort of blend together lately, don’t they? Cold weather, waiting for the vaccine, long days… I know a lot of people who feel like they’re sort of hitting a wall after nearly a full year of this all. Reading, as always, allows me to get lost in something new and continues to be such a comfort. With more snow on the horizon, I thought some of you might be looking for your own form of escape – so I’m sharing the 8 books I’ve read so far in 2021.

SHOP MY LATEST READS:

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid – This book was a best-seller last year but for some strange reason I had kept my expectations kind of low. Which meant I was all the more pleasantly surprised when I finally read and loved this modern day story set in Philadelphia about a young mother and her nanny. Nuanced in its portrayal of racism, female friendships, motherhood and more. Don’t wait as long as I did to read this one. (5 stars)

Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl – Okay, first things first – I would have largely preferred for Jo to end up completely on her own in Little Women. But that being said, my heart will never not break when she doesn’t end up with Laurie. This book is essentially fan fiction – but I thought it was done really well. It took you right back to that extremely comforting world of the March sisters and had a believable enough story line to change the ending. If you’re a purist than perhaps changing Alcott’s ending will feel sacrilegious to you, but frankly it just felt very heartwarming to me. (4 stars)

The Harpy by Megan Hunter – Sheesh, I’m not sure what to say here. This quick read book is a fever dream inside of a nightmare marriage. A dark and twisted fairytale. A woman seeks revenge on her cheating husband as she also essentially goes mad. Read at your own risk. (2.5 stars)

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – A modern day story about a man in his 40s, grappling with a divorce, raising his children, reconnecting with old friends and balancing it all alongside career and dating. There were times that I really loved this book and others when I felt very frustrated by every single character. I’ve heard some people rave about it though so I think to each there own here. (3.5 stars)

The Mystery of Mrs Christie by Marie Benedict – This was my virtual book club’s read this month and for the most part the whole group solidly liked it. I knew next to nothing about Agatha Christie and this book made me want to go back and read some of her classic mystery novels. Told between two storylines I really loved the ones with Agatha and felt pretty meh about the ones with her husband. Overall good but extra credit for the fact that it made me want to explore some old classics (goes back to my reading goal!). (3.5 stars)

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis – I’ve been hearing about Fiona Davis’ lovable historical fiction for ages – and have had this book checked out from the library for longer than I care to admit – so I’m really glad to have finally gotten to it. 1950s New York theater world, set at the Chelsea Hotel – I did solidly like this but I’m not sure I loved it. I think because I kept comparing it to City of Girls or The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo both of which I really loved. That being said I want to read her latest book The Lions of Fifth Avenue now and I’ll report back. (3.5 stars)

What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer – One of my goals for the year was to continue to expand my reading – explore new genres, read backlist titles by authors I love, etc. – and so this popular new book of poetry fit the bill. Tackling motherhood, marriage and more in accessible prose there were many of these poems that I really loved even if I didn’t closely relate to. It would probably make a great gift for a new mother. (4 stars)

The Comeback by Ella Berman – After what felt like a bit of a reading lull mid-month I started this book a few days ago and it was an instant page turner for me. A ‘Me Too’ story about a young Hollywood actress grappling with the sexual assault she faced at the hands of the prolific director that was responsible for her entire career. She’s self centered and a mess but also so broken and trying. I couldn’t put it down. (4.5 stars)

1 Comment

LET’S CATCH UP 1.31.21

I haven’t done one of these posts since last October! To be honest the time since then has been a whirlwind of my old company closing, then starting my new job, then the holidays. I just now really feel like I’m coming up for air. So as I sit with a chai tea latte in hand, waiting for the snowstorm to arrive this evening, I thought I’d finally catch up with you all:

ON MY MIND:

  • For the past 2 years I’ve picked 3 months throughout each year that would be “no shopping” months. I can buy essentials like food and pharmacy items, but otherwise no new clothes, accessories, books, etc. I’ve found it to be such a great way to reset the constant pressure for new items and gives me time to focus on carefully selected purchases that I’ll perhaps want to get in the following months. My goal for 2021 is at least two no shopping months and I’m kicking it off with what I’ve dubbed ‘Frugal February’. Anyone else want to join? If you’re interested, I wrote post earlier this month on how to prioritize your finances this year.
  • This post – asking women to name something they like about themselves – from Cup of Jo – is so simple, yet so uplifting. We all need to do more of this. Don’t miss the comment section too!
  • I can’t stop watching the Chanel SS21 Couture presentation. It’s just hauntingly beautiful. Volume up.
  • The other night my two best friends from college and I had a Zoom catch-up and crafted homemade Valentine’s Day cards for each other while we chatted. I have the fondest memory of us doing this one year when we were all single in our early 20s in my old studio apartment on the Upper East Side. They’ve both long since left New York and are married with babies, but it’s a good reminder that no matter what stage of life – take a minute to tell the people you love that you love them. Even better if done in a hand-crafted card!

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • Adam got me a signed copy of the new David Sedaris anthology, The Best of Me and I just cracked it open this weekend. It’s a selection of his fiction and non-fiction over his decades long career and despite being a devoted fan I’m finding that there are many in the book so far that I’ve never read.
  • My NYC book club is reading Outlawed this month (which also happens to be a Reese’s Book Club pick) – described as True Grit meets The Crucible. And my virtual club is reading The Comeback, which is a ‘Me Too’ era story of a young actress who finally comes back to right the wrongs done to her earlier in her career. I’m really looking forward to both!
  • The perpetual upside to freezing cold weather and a pandemic making us housebound is that I continue to devour books. I read 6 1/2 in January and have plenty of great ones stacked up for February including this new release that’s meant to be a prequel to The Great Gatsby.
  • Aside from the book that I’ve been slowly working on for the past year (and I do mean slowly) – I’ve started a new side project based on letters that a family friend has trusted to me. They were written by her parents back and forth to one another and involved a clandestine meeting in NYC in the 1940s. I’m sure they never expected a woman in NYC in the year 2021 to be reading these precious love notes but I’m honored to have the chance.

IN MY SHOPPING CART:

  • Before I go all ‘Frugal February’ I’m going to try to grab a new pair of jeans to try today. I’ve recently bought and returned two pairs and asked for brands you all love on Instagram. Everlane was one that was mentioned and so I’m thinking of trying these – which have great reviews.
  • I’m not usually a Valentine’s Day themed outfit person, but these new socks really spark joy for me.
  • My friends at NYDJ sent me this tie dye sweatsuit and this chic navy sweatsuit and I’m living my best pandemic-life in them. One of my goals has been to refresh my basics and at the end of last year when I cleaned out my pajama and activewear drawer I realized I didn’t really have much good quality loungewear. This solved that problem with flying colors.
  • I have chronically static-y hair in the winter. This touch-up creme is the only thing that saves me from looking like I was electrocuted. I throw it one my ends and flyaways before Zoom calls.
  • Another goal for this year is to update our sad, old kitchen items. Over holiday break we cleaned out every cabinet and decided what to toss and what we’d like to replace. This weekend we made huge headway by finding all new pans, baking sheets and muffin tins. We got ours at Marshalls (the 6th Ave location had a great selection if you’re in the city!) but I found the same ones online here.
0 comment

COLLAPSIBLE TREADMILL REVIEW

I don’t know that I’ve ever written such a specific product review on the blog before, but after I shared my excitement over my new collapsible treadmill a couple of weeks ago on Instagram, SO many of you reached out with questions and have followed up looking for the link since then – that I thought it would be easier if they lived in one permanent place.

As a short backstory – I love walking/running but truly hate the cold. On top of that, the concrete can often be hard on my knees and in recent years have found that running on a treadmill at the gym is far more forgiving. Enter – the pandemic. My gym was closed for 6+ months, but since it was spring/summer/fall weather I continued my strength training exercises at home and would take long walks or short runs outside. Although my gym has since reopened, I find running inside with a face mask pretty difficult and the risk of being there just generally doesn’t feel like it’s worth the reward.

As we faced the winter ahead I was feeling really anxious about losing the joy that walking/running brings me. Not in a million years did I think I’d be able to squeeze a treadmill into our NYC apartment – but when I started seeing these collapsible options on the internet I was super game to try them.

SHOP THE POST:

This one in particular has thousands of reviews and a 4 star rating. I’ve had it for about 2 weeks now and probably used it 7-8 times and I’d personally give it 5 stars – with a couple of caveats. First of all, you’re not buying a $3,000 treadmill you’d find at the gym so it’s not going to have all of the same bells and whistles. That being said, for less than $500 and the fact that I can run inside my apartment, I couldn’t be happier.

PROS:

  • Compact – I can’t get over the fact that this fits under our apartment sized couch. We checked measurements beforehand, but like magic it disappears once you’ve collapsed it. Besides fitting in our living room comfortably, you could also use this with a standing desk to walk while you work!
  • Price – For less than $500 this will pay for itself easily over time with how often I use it. And while there certainly aren’t any “frills” to it, I wasn’t looking for those. Despite being reasonably affordable, it feels plenty sturdy when I’m on it and has a really solid weight to it.
  • Ease of use – There’s a lever on the side that collapses that top arm and this thing goes from under the couch to me running in probably 2 minutes flat. Assembly took less than half an hour.
  • Quiet – When I’m walking, it’s super quiet – maybe comparable to the hum of the dishwasher. When I’m running, you can definitely hear a louder hum to it and of course – the sound of my steps. But no louder in the hall than when someone has a radio or the TV turned up with bass. That being said, we don’t have neighbors in the apartment below us right now, so if someone moves in I’ll definitely be conscious of not using it super early in the morning or very late at night.

CONS:

  • No incline and limited metrics – Again, there are no frills here. Just a simple little remote that you can increase or decrease speed. I’d recommend using a Fitbit or Apple watch to track distance and time. The speed is actually in km/hr and I think the max speed translates to around 8MPH. Again, I wanted this for walking and light jogging so that’s just fine for me. If you’re looking for sprints and measuring your heart rate.. this might not be for you.
  • Compact – For me this is a major perk, but it took a couple of days to get used to the fact that the belt is more narrow and shorter than what you’d find on a gym-sized treadmill. I’m 5’4″ and have no trouble with not having room for a full running stride, however if you’re very tall you might find it awkward.
  • Device stand only fits phone – The small device stand at the top is only built to hold an iphone, but Adam took out a couple of the screws and now my iPad can sit up there too. Otherwise you could simply face the treadmill towards a computer or TV. I usually just listen to music when I walk or run so it doesn’t bother me.
  • Weight – this is partially a pro, because it feels really nice and sturdy. But be forewarned, it’s about 70 pounds total. We live in a 4th floor walk-up and managed to carry the box upstairs, but if you can get help from a delivery person or have an elevator.. all the better. Now that it’s assembled, the front is on wheels so I only have to lift the back end and then sort of pivot and roll it to get it under the couch but it’s hefty. Most mornings I just have Adam get it out for me as it’s easier for him to left.

Voila! Tucked away and completely out of sight under our couch until the next time I want to use it. Shop the treadmill here and happy walking/running!

0 comment

1 2 3 265

The Steele Maiden © 2012

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.