Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wine and dine, on a dime

Boston's Winter Restaurant Week presents the perfect opportunity for a fine dine, on a dime. Week Two (out of two) began today and goes through Friday.

The wine at Bin 26 Enoteca (26 Charles St., Beacon Hill) certainly isn't $26/bottle-- as it is at Ivy Restaurant (49 Temple Place, Downtown Crossing)-- but during Boston's Winter Restaurant Week, a steal like such is easy to find at this enoteca (according to Bin 26's web site, "En-oh-TECK-a, a common term used mostly in Italy, refers to a place where one can find simple foods to accompany the wines served there").

3 courses, $33.09/person, for dinner at most of Boston's finest restaurants. This steal sure did swing at Bin 26. I started with a calamari salad (usually $13), the monkfish with almond butter (usually $26), and fresh handmade sorbet (usually $8). My $33 meal was not only a $47 value, but a delectable and satisfying high-quality meal with a close friend. The atmosphere was relaxing and intimate, and diners are surrounded with wine-corked walls and unique bottles; the bathroom's ceiling is decorated with upside down wine glasses, and the walls following there, paper-mached with bottle labels.

Choose your restaurants carefully, however. At some digs, such as KO Prime (90 Trement St., Beacon Hill) and Top of the Hub (Top of the Prudential Center, Back Bay), it's an obvious bargain; but for, let's say, sushi, or for tapas-- at Toro (1704 Washington St., South End) or example-- going with the usual menu may be a wiser (and more FRUGAL!) option.

TWEET!

Yes, that's right. Diva on a Dime is on Twitter.







Follow the Diva (thedivaonadime) and stay up-to-the-minute with breaking fashionista finds. Being saavy in the city just got a whole lot better. Get the Diva's tweets!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dime-worthy updates from the Pru

La Frugal Fashionista and the Value Vixen report on a Back Bay European chain store that's come and gone, Boston's ever-awaited Restaurant Week, and a crucial fashion find in the heart of Downtown Crossing.

Goodbye MNG, Hello Restaurant Week.

video

Boston Restaurant Week, Winter 2009


Nanette has come to town...

video

Disclaimer: Our technology was a lil' shaky on these posts, and the sound not truly Diva-worthy. These kinks will be worked out soon, my recessionistas!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Celebrate FRUGALITY on your birthday

You may not want to celebrate turning a year older, but celebrating the onset of some bargains and freebies is always a reason to parrr-tay.

I came across this Smart Money article-- written by a fellow college alum and Diva-- which tastefully sums up some of the best birthday-treats-for-your-buck. Below, a round-up of some of the best bargains.

And remember, Kelli Grant said,
When it comes to these programs, use common sense. Only sign up for programs with retailers that you know and like. And read the fine print carefully — if you don't want spam or other marketing materials to be sent to you, there should be a way to opt out.

Rewards Program. Birthday Bonus.

Borders Rewards. You'll get two coupons emailed to you on your birthday: one for 15% off the regular price of one item, and one for a free dessert at the store cafe.

Cold Stone Creamery Birthday Club.  Join the club online and get a free creation (the company's term for ice cream with mixed-in extras). You'll be emailed the coupon on your birthday.

DSW Reward Your Style. You'll get a coupon for $5 off your next purchase.

Hollywood Video. Get a coupon for a free rental on your birthday. No coupon? Just tell a store representative that you're celebrating.

Wine.com Club W. Get a coupon for $10 off your next order. The coupon will be emailed to you around your birthday.

In case you didn't notice, the Diva was on vacation...

But I'll be back later tonight... And after some fellow Divas came in town on a Dime (Bolt Bus, from Manhattan, starting at a buck) to help celebrate my birthday, I'm ashamed to admit we weren't too frugal.

That vacation from affordability is over... and I'm back in action, more frugal of a recessionista than ever!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maybe today's your lucky day...

A Diva on a Dime may not be able to afford to purchase one-- or all-- of these gift cards, but she certainly can afford to win one.

Check out Glamour's 70th Anniversary Giftcard Sweepstakes, and enter to win one of 16 giftcards and certificates, including JetBlue, Shopbop.com, and American Express (over $10,000 in prizes!).

Dust up a little and make room for Spring

We've moved the clocks forward; now it's time to move our some aspects of our lives forward. 

One thing I’ve always loved about living in the Northeast is the shared appreciation everyone has for beautiful weather. After growing up with Buffalo, NY, and doing college in Ithaca, NY— and being a Diva all along— Boston is, well, warm. No. It’s the tropics. But Bostonians and Buffalonians, and every Nor’easterner in between (and North and South and further West), exude this joy when it warms up a bit.

This weekend, it felt like spring had arrived (did I mention it’s now a wintry-mix of slush outside right now?), which had this Diva thinking about the spring cleaning she’d be taking on. 

And I don’t just mean about in the literal sense— because our apartment certainly needs love in that category, too— but in the figurative sense: How can I further simplify aspects of my life? What is going to make me more happy? How can I further stretch a dollar, better budget my funds, and improve my on-a-dime habits— while being fabulous, of course? And what am I going to do for the good of others?

Everything is new and fresh in spring; it’s a time that allows for a new beginning. So, take a few minutes out of your day to ponder over those questions, start thinking about your “New Season’s Resolutions.” While you work on your figurative spring cleaning, here’s a little help with the literal side of things:

1. Get rid of the clothes you never wear. Face it, if you didn't wear that three-year-old sweater all Winter, you're NEVER going to wear it. Try Second Time Around (176 Newbury St., Back Bay)-- they'll give you a cut of the profits. 

2. Can't resell it? Can you DONATE it? Especially in the state of our current economy, a lot of us Divas are a lot luckier than we realize. Before you trash anything-- canned food you're sick of staring at, a pair of jeans that-- let's face it-- will never fit again, and even gently-read magazines-- think if they could, instead be donated to a local charity, cause, or even Diva. Here are JUST A FEW ideas: Big Brother Big Sister Foundation (good for used clothes and other "clutter"), Some food donation options, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (for Divas with dollars, monetary donations), and an all-encompassing donation resource list for Boston-area

3. "Spring clean" your life and try something new. I'm giving Flamenco dancing a whirl (watching it, that is).  Every Sunday in March and April, at 7 pm and 9pm, Barlola (160 Commonwealth Ave., Back Bay) hosts Flamenco nights. Best part yet: The show is FREE. 

4. Get away. Doesn't matter where, when, or with who. A weekend in the country, your favorite city, or even a relative's couch always helps to clear the mind. 

The Bolt Bus can bolt you from South Station to NYC in a little more than 4 hours-- and in much more style than the ill-fated Fung-Wah. Wi-Fi, outlets (necessary not only for computers, but Blackberry chargers, too!), and an occasional hottie traveling (maybe NYU law student?)-- what more can a Diva ask for? Oh, yeah, seats starting at $1. 

5. And for the VERY literal: Some deals on cleaning supplies. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Definition: Recessionista

Noun. (plural recessionistas) 1. A person who is able to stick to a tight budget while still managing to dress stylishly. (Wiktionary)

Like a fabulous roommate and friend (and a fellow Diva herself), Asti came home on Friday with material for my blog.

"I've got a new word for you," she said. "RECESSIONISTA." I was hooked from the second the word rolled off her tongue-- and then, a little embarrassed that it hadn't yet been added to my vocabulary. It is now. And you Divas-- or recessionistas-- should give it a whirl, too. Above, Wiktionary's definition. Below, an example of its context.

From New York's Daily News, July 2008:
"Frugalness is the new black," said Kathryn Finney, author of "How to Be a Budget Fashionista." "People are looking at shopping and consumerism in completely different ways. I'm seeing people on Wall Street talking about getting their suits in Century 21. That would never have happened a few years ago. People are proud to be bargain hunters." (Frugal fashion: New Yorkers learn to look good for a lot less)
In the spirit of today's urban slang lesson, I took an article from London's Times Online, 50 ways to be a recessionista, and tiered it to la vie in Boston:

How to be a recessionista in Boston

THE WAY WE WERE. THE WAY WE ARE NOW.

Sunday brunch at the Aujourd'hui (200 Boylston St., Back Bay). DIY crepes, served on a tray with a napkin.
A day at Bella Sante (38 Newbury St., Back Bay). Perfect your pedicure technique on a mate.
The morning Starbucks run. A good ol' fashion brew from the kitchen. (Gives you a few minutes more of shut-eye each day!)
Afternoon tea at the Taj (15 Arlington St., Back Bay) A slug of rum in your Nestle's hot chocolate.
New shoes. New heels and soles for your old Jimmy Choos.
Redecorating your bedroom. Rearranging your bookshelves.
A romantic mini-break. A weekend’s worth of DVD box sets and takeaways.
A hot tub for the garden. An hour-long bath, while sipping a vodka tonic.
Buying into the military look. Changing the buttons on your winter coat.
A Friday blow-dry. A set of heated rollers stashed in your desk drawer.
Dressing up and eating out. Doing the housework in lingerie.
Vintage Dom Pérignon Sipping. $6.99 Prosecco from Trader Joes
(748 Memorial Dr., Cambridge; 1317 Beacon St., Brookline).
Paying for therapy. A bitch-session with your fellow Divas.
A weekly flower delivery from the florist. A trip to the 'burbs to pick your own.
Dry cleaning your statement blouse. Airing it in off the balcony.
The 7/8 trouser length. Chopping the bottoms off last season’s skinnies.
Upgrading to the new BlackBerry Bold. Going blackberry picking.
Shopping every weekend on Newbury Street. Swearing off shopping (unless, perhaps, there's a bargain to be found...).
Personal-training sessions at Sports Club/LA (4 Avery St., Chinatown). Letting rip on the dance floor at every opportunity.
New hairdo. New parting.
A weekly manicure. CVS’s long-lasting manicure.
eBay. craigslist free listings.
Having it all. Having to choose the one, utterly perfect thing you just have to have this month.
Investing in a new-season Gucci folk dress. Wearing a skinny jumper under a summer smock.
A new cashmere scarf. Joining a knitting group.
Big statement jewelry. Scouring a flea market for old costume jewelry.
Member’s clubs. Starting a book club.
Going away with friends. Having friends to stay.
Botox. Detox.

(Photo Credit: Recession illustration for the Style section of the New York Times.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

There's value in who you know

The business card was invented for a reason.

A Diva on a Dime is a workin' gal... She knows how to work a room, work a bargain, and just work hard. And collecting business cards, well, that's her specialty. 

We've all been hearing it for as long as we can remember, "It's all about networking," "Who does your Daddy know?," "Have your friend call his uncle whose step-brother works at ______, and tell them I need_____." You get my drift.  

This is all true, of course-- but now, more than ever, it's crucial. And I'm not even talking about the job-search-who-you-know (but for you jobless Divas, this can apply), I am talking about the every-day-who-do-I-know-and-how-can-I-save-a dime-and-still-be-posh contact.

I've somehow become an expert at the business card swap. I'm not sure how or when it happened, but it did, and it's fun... Not to mention savvy. I've left a conference with Choos, gotten a leather business-card-holding-accessory in the mail, slated an interview hours before deadline at a bar in DC, and gotten my share of complimentary cocktails.  

Confidence is what it takes-- and, maybe, a glass of vino to break the ice. 
The point to this post is that, last night, I made a valuable contact-- and you can too. 

I was wining and dining at Haru (800 Boylston St., Back Bay) with a few of my fashionistas (A DIVA ON A DIME NOTE: Mention the 10% off banner in the Prudential Center EACH and EVERY time you frequent Haru and reap the benefits). Later, when I was on my way to the loo, I stopped at the hostess stand to make reservations for next week. I small-talked a bit with those behind the stand, introduced myself, and then preceded on with the conversation. I not only left the hostess stand with my favorite drink (Prosecco) saved in the computer system-- so the waiter next week could give me a complimentary birthday drink-- but also with the business card of the general manager who oversees all of the restaurants (in NYC, Boston, and Philly). Next time I'm in Manhattan, he said, contact him and will make sure that me and my "date" are taken care of. 

Landing this contact was never my intention, but rather my willingness to meet someone new and spark a conversation. And there's no doubt, I will be in touch when I'm in Manhattan in a few weeks... and I may save a few dimes (I sure hope more...). 
 
Have no fear and go for it Divas... What is there to lose? And you never really know who you may meet next (or who may meet you next). 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Introducing the Value Vixen...

Each week, our Value Vixen (see left) will provide us with a round-up of some of the hottest places online to find coupons, deals, values, bargains, price comparisons-- you name it...

The March deals on these coupon web sites sure are coming in like a lion. 

RetailMeNot.com
Search over 20,000 retail stores, including Spiegel, Sephora, Neiman Marcus, and Apple for online coupon codes. Become a fan on facebook, sign up for the weekly newsletter, and add widgits to your mac. 

According to this site, the average CouponCabin shopper spends 88 seconds on this site and saves $16 per order. 

For the domesticated Vixen-- visit this site before hitting up the grocery store.

"Comparison Shopping Beyond Compare." Compare produce prices and reviews. Tech Vixens will sure find value here. 

A posh dinner... in your own apartment

$7. Not bad for a three-course meal from the ever-expensive Whole Foods. 

And how is this possible, you ask? Finding three more Divas, each with $7 to spare. 

With a little time, creativity, and $28, Asti, Caroline, Martha, and I enjoyed a stellar Sunday evening dinner last night. We even grabbed a free DVD rental on the way home. 

Although our dinner soiree was impromptu-- we met at the grocery store and decided our menu on the spot-- a Diva can be even more savvy with a planned menu. See what staples your local grocery spot has on sale this week and base the meal around that staple. Be creative-- see what ingredients you have laying around the house, what spices you'd like to work with, and what products in the kitchen may work well (if not better) as substitutes. 

Next Saturday night, instead of doing cocktails and dinner at a city hot spot-- and racking up your bill-- host a dinner party. If you feel less-than-Diva-like by asking friends for money as they walk through your door (after all, a Diva on a Dime is not cheap, just cost-conscious), then suggest each guest bring a bottle of vino (starting at $2.99 at Trader Joes, 748 Memorial Dr., Cambridge; 1317 Beacon St., Brookline) or some tapas to share. Or, make it more casual and invite them over to help cook (and break open the bubbly a little earlier).

Although our bank accounts may be struggling a bit, your social life doesn't have to come to a halt. Sometimes the most memorable times with fellow Divas are spent with a few bottles of wine, some warm nosh, and a cozy apartment.