A couple of weeks ago I published my first post about the topic of money (one I’m excited to talk more about!) – and it was all about how I set myself up for financial health and changed my money mindset. Well, if there was ever a time to test my own willpower – it’s the fall fashion season. I blame it on the fact that as a kid the only real “shopping spree” I ever got to go on was for back to school, when my Mom would take my sister and I to pick out a new pair of jeans, new shoes and a few other new novelty items before the school year started – and it felt like SUCH a treat. Flash forward to being an adult, the onslaught of new arrivals, magazine’s September issues and the fact that I just truly love fall clothes.. and it can be really hard to stay on track. This year, I was determined to do things differently though. And so I came up with a strategy.

Rule One: Don’t buy anything in July. Or August for that matter. If you haven’t unpacked your sweaters from storage, it can be really easy to forget that you do in fact already own an oversized cream cardigan and before you know it, you’ve bought a second one. Last week, I dutifully flipped my closet and found myself excited about all of my favorites that I already own and get to wear again this season. While you’re doing this, think about which pieces you wore most last year. If it was crewneck sweaters, maybe you could use a new one to add to the rotation. If you remember feeling like you never had any cute blouses to wear to work, keep that in mind as you shop.

Rule Two: Make a good old fashioned moodboard. Or a Pinterest board. Or hit save on Instagram. Back in high school, I used to pour over magazines and whittle down the one or two key pieces that I could buy into (on a budget) – maybe it was one cool pair of boots or a particular handbag silhouette – and the rest I would try to find in my own closet. I started doing this again and SO many of the looks I was seeing in my inbox or on Instagram, I could nearly recreate with pieces I already owned. I just had to ignore the shiny new version. Below are looks from Veronica Beard, Sezane and Reiss that I loved.

Rule Three: Make a list. Write out the things you still really have your heart set on, and be specific. You’ll be able to see that three pairs of ankle boots are on the list.. and can clearly cut back. Or the fact that three fancy dresses are on there, but you end up in jeans and a t-shirt everyday and you work from home.. so maybe re-think that. Note the prices and estimate a rough cost per wear (a $40 trendy sweater you’ll wear 2 times has a $20cpw while a $140 camel cashmere sweater you’ll wear 40 times this fall has a $3.50cpw). While it’s nice to add a couple of fun things into the mix to refresh your existing wardrobe, be realistic about what you feel comfortable in and where you want to put your money.

Now the fun part – shop for the things left on your list. I mean, wait for sales.. but then, you know, go for it. Below – the things I’m spending on this season and why:

  1. Plaid Miniskirt – In the past ten years I’d say consistently the item I wear most in fall is a plaid miniskirt. To work with tights and a button down shirt, for a date night with over the knee boots or casually with sneakers and a crewneck sweater. It’s my signature style. I love this one with the hits of green and know I’ll get tons of wear out of it.
  2. Patent Leather Loafers – I had a pair of black patent ankle boots and black patent leather flats that I literally wore to shreds over the past three years and finally had to toss them both. This feels like a hybrid. I tried on in store to be sure they passed the ‘walk to work’ test too.
  3. Simple Cardigan – I eyed this fluffy cardigan ALL of last fall and winter and didn’t pull the trigger but this year I’m doing it. I love that you can wear it with the buttons in front or back, all buttoned up or off the shoulder for a cool, undone look. So simple, so chic.
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I was floored by the fact that so many of you responded with a resounding ‘yes!’ to my prompt about financial posts here on the blog. In general, I find the conversation among young women about money terribly lacking. Couple that with the fact that most of us were raised not to discuss money and never taught anything about the practical side of things like bills, student loan debt and retirement savings in school (why is this not a required class??) – and I think it deserves at least a blog post or two. 

To begin – I’m clearly not an expert on any of this. But I think that’s a good thing. It’s intimidating to read advice from financial experts – but from a woman who is working hard to pay off her credit cards and find more ways to save money plus plan for the future? That seems easier to swallow. I’ve made money mistakes too, so you’re not on your own.

I’ve got a lot of ideas for posts surrounding this topic – but to start, I wanted to share how I changed my money mindset at the beginning of the year. To make a long story short – I spent a lot of years pretty broke. A combination of student loan debt, high cost of living in New York and entry level wages. Then a cross-country move to LA.. then a cross-country move to get back home to New York. It all took its toll. And even years after I was not necessarily broke, I was kind of just getting by. There never felt like there was enough to substantially save let alone plan for my long-term future. And somewhere around January 1st of this year I kind of just snapped. I couldn’t take one more day/week/month/year of letting my finances control me. I wanted complete control. I wanted to feel the freedom of knowing I was financially secure.

That tipping point will likely be sparked by different things for different people. Maybe you just got a big raise and finally want to spend it smartly. Maybe you found out you’re pregnant and are freaking out about how you are going to afford it. Regardless, I think when you’re really truly ready to make a change to your money mindset – you’ll know it. From there, think long and hard about your goals. Do you want to retire early? Travel the world now? There’s no wrong answer, but you’ll want a clear set of goals in order for these changes to really stick.

To begin – you need to get a really firm grasp on every single dollar in your life. I made spreadsheets that laid out every dollar I earn, every dollar that goes to a fixed cost and every extra dollar. Then all of those got further broken down into categories. You’ll start to see patterns.. do you have 15 subscriptions you never use? There’s $150 a month out the window. Do you buy your lunch instead of planning ahead and packing. Boom, there’s $50+ a week back in your pocket. Decide what you feel like you can’t live without and what you can, cut the fat, wait a day and then look again. Repeat the process.

Once you see your money staring back at you it’s a lot easier to make decisions about it. There are great apps for this (Minted and Every Dollar are both good), but a simple google sheet will do the job too. When I started and needed the most radical help, I found apps a little bit passive – but when I actually had to type out that I paid $14 for a salad.. it held me more accountable and kept inspiring me to make changes in order to create a spreadsheet that I would feel proud to look at every week. And instead of vaguely thinking at the end of each month – I wish I could have saved more, I started considering my debt payments and the savings fixed costs. Like rent, they became non-negotiable.

Once I felt like I had a real handle on what was possible in a given month, I made a one year plan. Plus a five year, ten year and twenty year financial plan. Obviously there are things that could radically change over that period of time, but if I think in 10 years I want to own a getaway home outside the city or in 20 years I want to have a college savings fund for a couple of kids.. I need to be thinking about that now.

So the plans were set. Now how did I stick to it? I made it a habit. Habits are easier than self control. It doesn’t take a lot of will power to brush your teeth every morning (it’s a habit), so I wanted to get to the point where managing my money properly felt the same way.

And when I was tempted by a cute new pair of shoes or a dress on sale? I consulted the spreadsheet. Like literally would stand in a store and pull up the spreadsheet on my phone. Sometimes just that simple act was enough to remind me that I had bigger goals and I’d easily be able to walk out the door. But just in case – I unsubscribed from store emails too and started walking home a different way so I no longer passed by some of my favorite Fifth Avenue shops. And if I still wanted that dress? I wrote it down on a list of “wants”. Everything from a new couch to those cute shoes would go on the list and then as I looked at my weekly discretionary money I could consult the list and decide what I really wanted most and what I could stand waiting on.

In short, I made a lot of lists. 8 months later though? And I’ve never felt more free. Sometimes Adam and I just look at the number in our savings account and are dumbfounded at how we saved so much so far this year (listen it’s not like we’re running away to the South of France anytime soon – but it’s more than we’ve ever had in that account before). And it’s because I made it a habit for us. I drew a firm line in the sand and refused to step back over it. Every single day I think about my money for at least a few minutes. I check in, I remind myself why I started and I plan for tomorrow.

If it sounds overwhelming, I promise you the feeling of living paycheck to paycheck is more overwhelming. We devote time every day to our mental and physical health, surely we can give 5 minutes a day to financial health, no?

Next time I’m going to tackle my strategy for fall shopping (in keeping with my new money mindset) and I’ve got posts planned for how I deal with living in a veryyy expensive city, decorating a home on a budget and how I balance money in my relationship with Adam. Lots more to come! Happy saving my friends.

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