Sunday, September 30, 2012

Budget Wedding: My Wedding Skimps & Splurges

I filmed a video earlier this weekend on tips for Bridal Beauty, but realized that some viewers might be curious about what I used myself for the big day.  So I decided to post this video and post first since it was easier to edit and I was more excited to share my scrumptious goodies.  I'm still very new to the editing world, so please excuse some of the abrupt transitions and blurry product showcases.  I'll get better in time I promise! :)    



1. VENA CAVA DRESS: I bought this short flirty dress at Lucky Shops NYC, a discounted designer goods shopping experience hosted by Lucky Magazine. Click here to find out about tickets.  It's usually hosted in October on a Saturday for those of you who are interested. They also have the same shopping experience in LA.  I hadn't gone to that one myself, but here's an article if you're interested in learning more about it. Click here. This dress was a runway piece from the previous season that retailed at over $1200. However, I snagged it for $100. Score! Watch my video to see how I championed that :)

I think it's awesome to look at garments that wouldn't automatically scream bridal and using them for your special occasion.  I actually used it twice (engagement shoot and wedding reception).  Here's a pic below of me during my reception.           


Photo Credit: Eileen Liu Photography

2. STEVE MADDEN SHOES: I also purchased these shoes at that same event but a previous year in the charity section of the show. Designers and generous individuals donated gently used or new items from their own closet to benefit a charity of choice. I believe that year it was the AIDS foundation. So, not only was I getting really high quality and fashionable pieces, but also support a good cause. I love it when separate patrons both benefit from the shopping experience. Oh and might I add that it was only $20. Yes! Steve Maddens for 20 bucks!!! 

Photo Credit: Crystal Jean Photography
Photo Credit: Crystal Jean Photography

3. METAL SWAVROSKI CRYSTAL HAIRPIECE: This simple barret retailed at $500, but I bought it for $20 at a Priscila of Boston Sample Sale.  So be sure to check out the accessories when you're browsing the sample sale. Most girls just focus on the dresses. 

4. BUMP-IT: This little item helped give my hair a much needed "bump" in volume.     

5. MAKE-UP FOREVER MAKE-UP: This was a major splurge for me, but I thought it was a worthwhile investment considering I could still use the products long after the wedding.  Click here for the foundation I used, here for the primer, and here for the translucent powder.   

My photographer told me that it's important to use foundation without SPF. I'll go over it in detail on why in my Budget Wedding:Bridal Beauty post. 
    
6. CORTEX 4-IN-1 CURLING IRON: I spoke about this wand in a previous post and thought that it awesome because it actually curled my hair and was an exceptional value (4 barrels, 1 wand!). If you're a naive hair curler, this wand is magical and will curl even my hair which is stick straight.  I bought mine from Groupon Goods, but this is readily available on Amazon as well.  

7. PINK SEQUIN BALLROOM OUTFIT:  I'm an entertainer so it only made sense for me to perform a dance piece for my wedding. I even got my bridesmaids on it too! Craziness  but it such a great entrance.  I'll try to post a video of the routine in the future.

What did or will you skimp and splurge on your wedding day?


Yours Truly,

Irene 



Friday, September 28, 2012

Budget Wedding: Bridesmaid Dress Tips

The average cost of a bridesmaid dress is $100-$150, but can cost upwards of $300-$500 for couture or designer pieces.  If you watch "Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaid's edition" you'll know what I'm taking about. It's insane how pricey a garment can cost! 

So, I decided to start a budget wedding series to help brides and brides-to-be think about ways to cut costs. I mean a wedding can be a huge financial burden! But with these tips I hope that I can help you cut the price down significantly, if not at least in half.



1. Shop in the Girls Junior Section
If your girls are petitie consider browsing the Girls Junior section. Not only will the garment fit a small frame, but save you money as children's apparel are virtually always cheaper than the adult version.

2. Shop after a major holiday/event (ie. Christmas or Prom)
You'd be surprised at how many special occasion or formal appareal is available after the parties are said and done.  And of course you'll be getting them on sale! :)  

3. Buy dresses in bulk:
When purchasing online you'll have the advantage to save on shipping costs and also be able to cross off another item on your "to do list." In stores, you can ask the store owner if you can get a discount since you're buying multiples. You never known unless you ask.

4. Attend a bridal sample sale: 
As a frequent sample sale shopper I've noticed two things. The first day has the best selection and last day has the best price.  Check out herecomestheguide.com and check out their trunk sale section for sample sales near your city.

Me and my lovely bridesmaids on my big day :) Photo Credit: Crystal Jean Photography

5. Shop at a retail store vs. a wedding boutique
Anything with the "wedding tag" attached to it will have a price increase of at least double.  Do yourself and your bridesmaids a favor and consider a dress outside of the wedding zone.  There are many appropriate garments that may not scream wedding, but may actually be reworn afterwards.  

6. Rent a dress
It's crazy what you can borrow these days and dresses are no exception. You can rent online at websites like renttherunway.com or type in a search engine "rent dresses" and multiple stores may pop up. I've noticed in the Asian communities that type of business is abundant.


What tips do you have on getting a bridesmaid's dress for a bargain? 


Yours Truly,


Irene 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Budget Series Announcement!

Marriage marks a huge milestone for any couple and to me it seems that as each day passes Facebook announces a new engagement on my feed! I'm also seeing more and more friends (engaged or not!) add new wedding inspirations pictures to their pintrest and instagram.  Now don't get me wrong I love weddings, even though I've been married for over a year and a half. I still love looking through the inspiration boards and photos!

And just to tease you a bite more, here's a picture of my hubby and me on our big day :)



But... with all good things comes a catch.  This joyous celebration in holy matrimony is likely one of the most expensive occasions you'll celebrate in your life-time. And depending on the size of your wedding it can easily beat the price of a new car and possibly a mortgage payment. :(

So, I decided to start a budget wedding series to help brides and brides-to-be think about ways to cut costs. I mean a wedding can be a huge financial burden! But with me, your savvy Bargain Rockstar, I hope that we can cut those wedding expenses significantly, if not at least in half.  So stay tuned on the upcoming series!


What's your best wedding tip for a newly engaged couple?



Yours Truly,

Irene

 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Garden Party Inspired OOTD

Most people dislike reptiles, but I think this little guy is a keeper. With all the rhinestones and a girly bow, what's not to love? I picked him up at a local Betsey Johnson outlet before it went out of business. FYI: Betsey Johnson is still available at all major department stores, so all is not lost!  Isn't it a great piece to bring together my garden party outfit?!  
 

 
I decided to pair this little guy with a camel skirt and seafoam green penny loafers (they are so incredibly comfortable and a bargain might I add!--4 bucks!). And to bring the garden theme all together I topped it off with a floral blouse with a knot tied at the front. The blouse is transparent so used a pink tank top as a foundation piece.       

 

Enzo Angiolini Seafoam Green Penny Loafers: $4 Portobello Road, Lakeforest, CA
Betsey Johnson Snake Charmer Necklace: $30-range, Betsey Johnson Outlet, Ontario, CA 
Floral Blouse: $8, Fashion Unlimited, Corona, CA
Camel Skirt: $8 Papaya, Orange, CA
Pink Tank: $4 Urban Outfitters, New York, NY


And what's a party without a delicious fruit platter?! Mmm.... beautiful and healthy. I was actually pleasantly surprised that this was a hit with all the kids!    



What kind of dish do you bring to an outdoor party?


Summary of Today's Tips
1. Pick out one item in your closest to inspire your outfit of the day.
2. Fresh fruit are always in style- and healthy too!


Yours Truly,

Irene

Saturday, September 22, 2012

$8 Print Dress: Day 2 Night OOTD

I bought this obnoxious electric crimson dress earlier this summer and had only worn it once since then. So, when I was invited to a party with a red dress code, I felt obligated to debut this ensemble in a fresh new way.  Though I did initially struggle with finding a way to make it work appropriate, I decided to make the dress a top and layered it with a soft camel trench. Appropriate for Fall and the bold print color gives the outfit a healthy dose of color!

But once the work day was done, I allowed the dress to take center stage and paired it with a black belt to extenuate my curves. I swapped out my heels for some black bootie wedges because I knew that I would be standing for an extended period of time and added black tights to not only elongate my legs but also to bring out the robust pattern on the dress. So... Ta-da! Here's my day-to-night ensemble.        


Day Look
Black and Red Dress: $8, Platos Closet, Costa Mesa, CA
Camel Forever 21 Trench: $12, Just Like New Consignment, Glastonbury,  CT
Rock n' Republic Dress Pants: $20, Designer Fashion Clearance, Las Vegas, NV
Ellen Tracy Heels: $29.99, TJ Maxx, Fountain Valley, CA
Large Leather F+C bag: $65, Lucky Shops, New York, NY 

Night Look
Black and Red Dress: $8, Platos Closet, Costa Mesa, CA
Waist Belt: $4, Miso Chic Boutique, Farmington CT
Black Convertible Tights: ??, Dance Catalog from years past 
Aerosole booty wedges: $34.99, TJ Maxx, Fountain Valley, CA

*All pieces were items I already owned prior to this challenge.

As a faithful yelper, I was invited to the most recent Elite gathering at Downtown Disney's UVA Bar where I bumped into old friends and made new ones as well.  We were privileged to sample a wide range of food including made-to-order guacamole and the bar was fully equipped (both staff and liquor). Read my full review here.  


It's awesome to be a part of a group that shares the same hobbies and interests, though I really can't imagine anyone not loving food!  And what's a better way to shop for an event than in your closet?!  I'm still challenging myself to not gravitate to the same 5 outfits day-in and day-out and have come up with some unique combinations. Comment below for more OOTD posts :)

How do you tame a garment with a wild pattern?

Summary of Today's Tips
1. Black is an almost full proof color to match any outfit.
2. Tame wild patterns with a soft neutral color.
3. Don't sacrifice function and style. Wear a wedge for added height and comfort for your feet.
4. Get out of your comfort zone and try new outfit combinations!

Yours Truly.

Irene

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beach Bum, Happy Hour, & Discounts Galore!

Summer is coming to an end, but when you live in California summer happens year-round. And there's no better place to appreciate it than at the beach.  To be honest, I don't regularly visit (which is a shame!) but an event was hosted here so I had no excuse. So I rubbed on my SPF 50 sunblock, grabbed by parasol, sunglasses, and flip flops and headed out! HB here I come!!

 
The activities offered here were wide and diverse, but I really just loved wigglin' my toes in the sand, breathing in the salty sea breeze, and watching the waves crash along the shore. It's so simple, but that's what makes the beach really a great destination. the air here is just so refreshing and clean and the warm sun feeding yoru skin with Vitamin D leaves you with that sun-kissed glow. What a great place to get away from the busy and chaotic city life!  But after a while I got hungry and decided to grab a bite to eat.
          

Some time ago I watched a clip from KLG and Hoda on the Today Show and was shocked to hear that some restaurants in New York were planning to charge more for food served during peak hours as opposed to food served in an earlier seating.  I was a bit turned off by this, but realized that if you flip flop the idea, many restaurants actually have put this practice in place-- it's called HAPPY HOUR!!!

I love food and combined with a discount, it's perfect! My little sis and I decided to check out Monkey House Cafe in Huntington Beach, CA and enjoyed a delicious sandwich (pictured above) with the happy hour promotion! Check out my review here. But for those of you who would like a more fomal and romantic option I highly recommend reserving a sunset dinner at the The Reef Restaurant in Long Beach, CA.  Not only does it provide a romantic scenary, but delicious food and at an affordable price. Click here for my review and more info.


What your favorite restaurant to enjoy an early dinner or happy hour?



And now for all the fun deals and steals!

Discount Alert
Free Musuem Day: Sept 29th (Across the Nation)
Check out the link below to see which musuems are participating in two free tickets! Must register online beforehand and first come first serve.
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/

Burger King: BOGO Free Whopper :)
http://www.bk.com/coupon/Burger%20King%20Participating%20Restaurants.pdf

Urban Decay Sale: Product highlighted-- lipstick (Retail $22, Sale $3)
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a promo code for shipping but $3 for a high end product is
http://www.urbandecay.com/lipstick/178,default,pd.html?cgid=2_510



Summary of Today's Tips
1. Enjoy the outdoors as a great weekend activitiy versus the mall. Not only will you be saving your pocket change, but enjoy free Vitamin D!
2. Consider eating earlier during the day so that you can take advantage of various early bird/ happy hour specials. You're getting the same great food for a fraction of the price. Sweet!


Yours Truly,

Irene

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Project Life: Best Things in Life are Free

I think we've all had those days when we just want to throw our hands up in the air and call it a quits. Nothing seems to be going well and we seem to face that oh... so stubborn brick wall.  And of course when one thing goes wrong, everything else seems to fall apart as well. The world is coming to an end!  But I digress... Life is filled with obstacles and challenges, but instead of dwelling in misery we really need to take charge of our lives and move forward.

I had the opportunity to met one of my favorite legendary fashion icons-- Betsey Johnson, and though I love her clothes, jewelry, shoes... I really admire her love and passion for life. Living each moment as if there was no tomorrow.


So in the spirit of crummy days everywhere, today's entry is going to be a little bit different.  I'll focus on all the small things that can help us through the storm. After all the best things in life are free :) 

1.  I think sometimes we get so caught up in what the latest trend is and worrying about how others perceive us that we get lost. Fashion should be fun and be an extension of personality. We all come in different shapes and sizes, so wear what makes you feel confident and strong.  Because if you feel great, you'll be prepared to do great things.  


2. Go outside and take deep breaths of fresh air. Vitamin D is free and you'll feel refreshed instantly.


3. Give and get hugs. I'm sure there's scientific studies that show that as social creatures we need contact with others, but I won't go there. I'll just say this... Hugs are AWESOME and you can never get too many of them

4. Do something fun! Paint your nails, take a walk in the park, watch the sunset, play with your dog.  Remind yourself of how awesome life really is.        

5.  Life is filled with bumps and roadblocks and if you're like me you attack that problem to death. Sometime it works, but most of the time it just fires back ten fold. So give yourself a break and find time to recharge.  Often times we're so exhausted from using the same tactic that we don't have any more energy. So give you mind and soul time to regain strength. And who knows you might come up with an even better plan of attack.


What do you do to help you get through a tough time?


Yours Truly,

Irene

Monday, September 10, 2012

Downtown Disney Party and OOTD

Wednesdays aren't usually the highlight of the week for me as it only marks half a week's worth of work down. But this past Wednesday I was invited to celebrate our new OC Community Manager's debut at the House of Blue's in Downtown Disney.  Blackmarket Bakery catered scrumptious desserts and Viral Photobooth gave guests a chance to strike a pose with their open aired photo booth.  Fun times!    

For a virgin yelp host, I think our Community Manager did a fabulous job. Read my full post here.   


Me and my little sis Mack in front of the House of Blues

Outfit of the Day
Blue Express Dress: Final Sale $19.99 Express, Costa Mesa, CA
Red Maxx New York Bag: $15 Lucky Shops, New York NY
Girly Blue Bow Head-band: $1 Orange County Marketplace, Santa Ana, CA  
Rampage Black Flats (not shown): $10 TJ Maxx, Fountain Valley, CA

We were requested to wear blue, as the party was at the House of Blues. However, like many of the attendees I came straight from work and didn't have time to go home and change into something more festive. So to add some girly spice to the outfit I swapped out my statement necklace that I wore to work for an ultra girly blue head-band. Blair Waldorf would be proud. To add a bit of color, I paired my outfit with a red ombre bag to balance the overall look.   

How do you change your outfits from day to night?

Summary of Today's Tips
1. You can play with a one color scheme but balance your outfit with a pop of color in your bags or shoes!
2. As tempting as buying a new outfit for a party may be, shop in your own closet. You're sure to find some fabulous items that can work in both day and night.
3. It's always great to join food communities! Not only will you meet like-minded people, but also sample some great food within spending a dime!


Yours Truly,

Irene

    

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Free Museum Admission + Discount Alerts!

I'm a life-long learner and though I've long graduated from school, I feel that there's always room to grow.  I have a huge fascination with jewels and gems, but also wildlife and space. Cultures and language strike an interest and who can forget the importance of food and entertainment?! My interests are diverse and one way I quench my thrust for knowledge is by visiting various exhibits to stimulate my mind.  And to top it off, free admission! Woohoo!          



Discovery Science Museum
The big cube next to the 5 Freeway offers free admission on the first Saturday to all Bank of America Credit Card holders. Check out my yelp review here on all the details. Since this exhibit was an outreach for wild life education, the Santa Ana Zoo provided free zoo admission too! which I used 2 days later :)



Bowers Museum
Free Admission on the first Sunday of every month.  It's a small museum, but the quality of the artifacts presented were outstanding.  For their special exhibit on my visit they featured a small collection of beautiful handcrafted jewelry for the Russians tsars. Ballin! Read my full post here.      




International Food Fair
After my pleasant air conditioned trip the Bowers Museum, I decided to trek up to Orange for their annual International Food Fair at the Orange Circle as it was only a 10 minute drive away.  But upon arrival, I wondered if I should have stayed at the museum instead.  I was dripping with sweat, but thankfully, as a seasoned outdoor visiter I came prepared with a bottle of water, Chinese umbrella, and flat shoes. There were a ton of girls there in heels, and I'm sure their feet were not happy by the end of the day.  I was complimented by several random strangers on my brilliant accessory (my umbrella), and highly recommend it as an alternative to sunglasses and a hat. There's just more coverage and it instantly cooled my entire body while the sun beat down innocent bystanders with it's flames of fury.

Overall, it's a fun atmosphere and the proceeds benefit a wide range of nonprofits and other outreach programs. For details on my food excursion and tips on parking, please check out my yelp review here. 


Santa Ana Zoo
Thanks to my recent visit to the Discover Science Museum, I was able to visit all the furry friends here. Read my review here.

I think this trip also served double duty as it provided an opportunity to wear items that seemed out of place on a day to day basis. My hubby and I purchased matching safari Mickey ears a few years ago at the Animal Kingdom in Orlando, FL and never reused it again. Well Ears, Monday was your lucky day! Not only was I happy to use it, but it definitely helped keep my face and neck cool :) Additionally, this silk and leather lizard print BCBG dress (thrifted btw from Buffalo Exchange in New York- $15 methinks?) hadn't seen daylight in ages. I think it's sad when we grab the same 5 outfits each day, so challenge yourself and share that same love with the garments that you wouldn't necessarily gravitate towards. It's not natural, but you'll be surprised at how diverse your closet really is!


Random Discounts Alert:
Jamba Juice: Buy 1 Get 1 Free (Good for CA, NY, and DC!)
http://www.jambajuice.com/summerbogo

NYX palette: (half off)
I'm no beauty expert, but for those of you who are interested in an affordable starter kit this one is pretty comprehensive. Complete with a good range of eye shadows, blush, bronzer, and lip gloss. The groupon deal is $12 (plus $3 shipping) and the NYX website is offering the same palette with a Buy 1, Get 1 Free promotion ($25 retail). So depending how many you need, this either is a great option.
http://www.groupon.com/deals/gg-nyx-haute-jersey-leopard-couture-palette?c=all&p=43
http://www.nyxcosmetics.com/whats-new/promotions/


Summary of Today's Tips
1. There are really great family oriented activities that are not only educational and fun, but affordable! Can't beat free! :)
2. Often times sponsors (ie. Bank of America, Target) will provide a generous grant to museums allowing free admission on a specified day. The beginning of the month seems to be popular in my area, but check your local museum's websites.
3. Shop in your closet. It may take a little bit longer to get ready, but utilizing your full closet will help you appreciate all the garments you own and save $$$.
4. Stay cool in the hot weather! Sunglasses, hats, umbrellas are all simple accessories that not only add flair to your outfit, but work to keep you from overheating!


Yours Truly,


Irene  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

$5 Kenneth Cole Dress: 4 Ways and Youtube Video!

Talk about getting the best bang for your buck! I'm always trying to stretch my dollar and though Labor Day weekend screamed sales galore, I felt like shopping in my own closet to sport some new looks. Even though this Kenneth Cole dress was a bargain in and of itself ($5 from Women Helping Women), I thought it'd be a great exercise to think of alternative methods to get the most mileage out of this piece.   All looks are around the $20ish dollar range (including the dress), so they don't break the bank!

Additionally, with my mom's help :) we filmed and edited our first collaboration. It's a bit blue, but I hope with more practice I'll be able to improve my camera work. Come check it out! And as always, I've listed all the prices and locations where I purchased each item below.  Let me know what you think!





Look 1:
Gold Leaf Shaped Earrings: $5, Bit Lots, Fountain Valley, CA
Strappy Wedges: $10, Buffalo Exchange, Boston, MA
Kenneth Cole Dress: $5, Women Helping Women, Santa Ana, CA
Total: $20



Look 2:
Ralph Lauren Cotton White Sweater: $4, Women Helping Women, Santa Ana, CA
Pearl Earrings: $5.50 Claires, Boston, MA
Strappy Wedges: $10, Buffalo Exchange, Boston, MA
Kenneth Cole Dress: $5, Women Helping Women, Santa Ana, CA
Total: $24


Look 3:
Pearl Earrings: $5.50 Claires, Boston, MA
100% Wool Skirt: $2.50 Goodwill, Lake Forest, CA
Red Belt: ??? Taipei, Taiwan
BCBG Nude Pointy Shoes: $8, Goodwill, Fountain Valley, CA
Total: $16 + Belt


Look 4:
Gold Vintage Earrings: $2, Irvine Assistance League, Irvine, CA
Black and Gold Belt: $2 Women Helping Women, Santa Ana, CA
100% Cashmere Sweater: $4 Women Helping Women, Santa Ana, CA
BCBG Nude Pointy Shoes: $8, Salvation Army, Fountain Valley, CA
Total: $16


Which look do you like best?  Would love to hear your thoughts. :)


Summary of Today's Tips
1. Shop in your own closest! We often only use 10% of what we own, so take some time to play dress-up. You'll combination possibilities are endless and you'll never know unless you try.
2. With a bold print, pair it with a solid color to add contrast.
3. You can score some amazing deals at thrift shops if you keep an open mind when shopping.  

Yours Truly,

Irene