Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Frugal Files: Saving More at Grocery Stores

Hey frugalicious ones!!

It's the end of the month, so wrap up this month's budget sheet and prepare your new one for March!! It seems like so much occurred in February, including getting freebies all month, awesome savings at the grocery stores and making the best use of my couponing knowledge. If you're missing out on the freebies, be sure to catch up with me daily on Facebook: Frugalicious Diva

Speaking of grocery stores, that's our topic for this week!! We're going to chat about how to shop and get the best savings at there. Of all the coupon classes I've taken, the advice that's been consistent is to choose 1-2 stores and get familiar with them. Choose your favorites or ones closest to you. My picks are Kroger and Walmart because I have four Kroger stores within 5 miles of me and two Walmart stores. They are accessible and I love their coupon policies. So let's get started.

1) Sign up for Card Rewards Savings - Most grocery stores have some sort of reward system in place to give you perks and savings at their store. Kroger has a Plus Card good for both groceries and gas, Meijer has mPerks and Rite Aid has +UP Rewards/Wellness card. All cards provide added savings, allowing you to take advantage of in store sales and discounts. Remember though, just like coupon policies, you have to know HOW to use your card, so you actually get savings on things you are already purchasing.

2) Use Coupons - While we're on the subject, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my new favorite pastime. Couponing is how we truly save at the grocery store, especially ones like Kroger and Giant Eagle. If it weren't for the coupons matched with their deals, I would never shop there. They are too expensive for full price shopping. Thanks to the plentiful extreme couponing blogs, I get the benefit of the deals on the backs of those who've already done the work. All I need to do is collect and clip my coupons, wait for the deals and stock up. Wouldn't you rather shop for food and toiletries right in your own home? Well, let's get those stock piles together!!

3) Shop Clearance - Couponing is my favorite pastime, but the grocery clearance is my new obsession!! A couple of weeks ago I discovered grocers have clearance tables/shelves and I have been in heaven. This is a couponer's dream because you're getting discounts on top of discounts. Merchandise may be thrown in clearance for several reasons: open box returns, discontinued items, damaged packaging, shelf life expiration is nearing, etc. Whatever the reason, it means savings for you and I, and I plan to take advantage. Don't be afraid of those dented cans Belles!!
For every clearance bin I visited, I had a coupon for something there. If I regularly used it and the savings was worth it to me, I purchased it. If not, I left the coupons for someone else to use. I was able to stock my linen closet, so we're set for about 6 months. I was also able to try new products for pennies, thanks to Kroger and their policy to double coupons.

4) Learn the Store Layout - We are always looking for ways to save and I don't know about you, but that includes my time. So to cut back on grocery shopping time, we need to know where everything is. Since we're picking our favorite stores, learn about them. Understand that perishables like deli, produce, meats and the bakery will be on the outskirts of the store and the items with longer shelf lives are in the aisles. Learn which items are close to each other, so you will write your list in that order.

5) Prepare at Home - This is the last step I'm mentioning, but it's the first step to do, tying all the above together. Get your sales fliers and begin to match it up to the coupons that you have. Need some coupons, go to Coupon Divas and check out the printables. Get what you need, learn the coupon policies and get ready to shop. Once you've learned the store, arrange your coupons (and shopping list) according to the store layout. Then save, save, save!!

Be sure to not only save, but share your saving stories!! Post it to my facebook page or tweet #frugalicious on Twitter!! Chat with you next week!!

Frugalicious Diva

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Want To Be Like Her When I Grow Up, Part 2

Last week, I paid homage to some amazing Black women in history who have inspired me to be a better woman and are living proof that anything is possible if you want to achieve it badly enough. I wanted to close the month by continuing that tribute further - it's hard to pick and choose since there are so many great Black women in history but I am hoping that after reading this, you will be inspired to go out there and learn more about them and about other phenomenal women of color.

"It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees." ~ Wangari Maathai

From a very young age, I wanted to change the world, somehow, some way. Quite a big dream for a young child but I think many of us have had these grand ideas about doing our part to make the world a better place. While in college, I went through a phrase where I was an activist, protesting tuition hikes as well as trying to educate the public on environmental issues and doing their part in helping the environment. During this time, I took a women's history course and had the most eclectic, odd but wonderful professor who had dreadlocks and wore Birkenstock sandals and just a sweater in the dead of winter. Here's the kicker... he was a man AND he was white. Of course, I gave him the side eye when I first sat down. Then he wrote on the blackboard: Who is Wangari Maathai?

I shamefully admit that at the time, I did not know who she was. And I was not alone. He proceeded to talk about this great woman from Kenya who was determined to make the world a more peaceful, healthier, and better place. This was a woman who was so determined to change the world that she created her own movement called the Green Belt Movement in 1977. With the Green Belt Movement, she worked with women to better their lives by helping them obtain better access to resources like firewood for cooking and clean water and became an advocate for women's rights.

Wangari Maathai went on to become the first African-American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. I went to college in the 90's and kept up with Dr. Maathai after attending college via the media. Her constant achievements and gifts she gave to the world through her service and tireless work always gave me inspiration. They instilled my motivation to keep going and never give up. I remember sitting at my desk at work on that day in 2004 when I read online that she had received the Nobel Peace Prize and just putting my fist up in air and saying out loud, "YEAH!". Sadly, she died of complications from ovarian cancer last year but her legacy lives on through the Green Belt Movement and all her other successes that will never be forgotten.

"The world is a severe schoolmaster, for its frowns are less dangerous than its smiles and flatteries, and it is a difficult task to keep in the path of wisdom." ~Phillis Wheatley

I remember the first time I read about Phillis Wheatley while at the library. I was 9 and was so moved by her story, to the point where I sat in my favorite private corner in the back of the library and cried. It really affected me because of how her life started and ended. She became the first African American writer to be published during a time where most slaves were forbidden to learn how to read and write. She was taken from West Africa and brought to America to be enslaved when she was around 8 years old. She was bought by a prominent Boston family (the Wheatleys) and was fortunate enough to be bought by a family that treated her as if she were part of that family. She actually was not forced into any kind of hard labor. Instead, she was taught how to read and write English by one of the Wheatley daughters. After almost a year and a half of being taught, Phillis was able to read difficult passages in the Bible. By the time she was 12, she was learning how to read Latin and became well-versed in history, geography, English and religion.

When Phillis was 20, she was sent to accompany Nathaniel Wheatley on his trip to London. While there, she became popular with British society and a collection of her poetry was published during this visit. As a result of that London trip, Phillis went on to have more poetry published. For someone so talented and brilliant, her life was short and did not end on a good note. At the age of 31, her husband was imprisoned, leaving her to fend for herself with a sick infant son. She was forced to ironically work as a maid to support herself and her son, the very labor that she unintentionally avoided while being a slave. She and her son died shortly thereafter her husband's imprisonment and her grave stands unmarked at Granary Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts.

It makes me sad to even think about Ms. Wheatley and how in the end, she ended up with an unmarked grave. This is why it is so important to know our history and celebrate those who paved the way for us. Even if you are not a poet, this is a Black woman who broke barriers and accomplished things during a time when it was unheard of for a slave to even read and write! Ms. Wheatley believed that the power of poetry is immeasurable and every Black poet that has come after her is an example of that. Thank you, Phillis Wheatley for the legacy you have left behind.

“I am glad to see that men are getting their rights, but I want women to get theirs, and while the water is stirring, I will step into the pool.” ~ Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth is someone that when I think of her, I get pumped up and my determination knows no boundaries. When I say "anything is possible if you want it badly enough", Sojourner Truth is the epitome of that statement. She is one of the most famous nineteenth-century Black American women. If you don't know why...she was a former slave who was uneducated but she never let her lack of education stop her from speaking out against slavery, which she actively opposed. She never learned how to read or write. However, Sojourner Truth became a major speaker against slavery and for women's rights. When she was 29, she fled with her infant daughter to be free and that was not all. She went back to get her son and found out he was sold to another family. So she went to court to get him back and became the first Black women to win in court against a white man. Okay now! Sorry, I am getting pumped up just by writing this.

She was a woman who not only expressed her opinion but put action behind her words. She was not afraid to speak up for what she believed in and worked tirelessly to make a difference as best as she could. Her most famous speech titled "Ain't I a Woman" was delivered at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in 1851. What set Sojourner Truth from other abolitionists was that she spoke about reason and religious understanding as resolutions for ending slavery. She was not about violent protests or uprisings. She felt it was her mission to preach the Word of God.

When she spoke, she spoke from the heart. She would speak about her own experiences as a slave and her down-to-earth style of speaking helped her in calming hostile crowds. What led her to become an outspoken advocate for women's rights was when she learned that while women can act as abolitionists, they could neither vote nor hold public office. She continued to lecture and speak as well as fighting for the rights of Blacks and women until she became ill. She was then forced to retire to her home, where she passed away November 26, 1883.

These women and so many others have paved the way for us to be inspired and add our own footprints to history. With the end of Black History month almost upon us, I cannot stress enough that despite the month ending, learning about our history should not end on February 29. Knowledge is power and that knowledge is within our fingertips. I promise you that once you start reading and researching history, you too will be as inspired and pumped as I am when writing or talking about Sojourner Truth and all these other brilliant women I paid tribute to for the last 2 weeks. For me, they were heroes that gave me hope that my life would be just as important in the world. They are proof that anyone can be a hero, if they want to make a change in the world, just by getting out there and trying to make that change happen.

The Frugal Files: Extreme Coupon Organization

Hey Frugal Folks!!

I had the pleasure of attending two coupon classes this weekend, which was a perfect birthday weekend treat!! I’ll work backward telling you about the classes, as I’ll save the best for last. Class 2 was free and I'm glad because I wasn't impressed overall. I know I can be an over achiever at times, but even with my limited knowledge, I could have taught the class...but I digress...

First, it wasn't friendly, which made sharing what we knew uncomfortable. I’m thinking if we’re saving, folks should be happy!! The topic was stock piling and organization methods. I was disappointed because the "experts” were only giving half information or appeared not to know the area store information. However, I was impressed by the details of one speaker, who gave her personal "Stockpile Tips and Tricks".

Her ideas included using a dry erase marker to keep track of items in the deep freezer (if you have one). She writes the item quantities right on the appliance. When she uses something, it’s easy to thumb off the old number and write in a new one. She also figured out, for her family size, how many of each item was needed in order to have a 3, 6 and 12 month supply. She arranged her pantries (yes, plural) according to their expiration dates and placed the new items behind the old ones. I was delighted to know that she donated items that were within two months of expiration, so the food would not be wasted.

They passed out store sales match ups for three major supermarkets. That's where you list the current sales and match them up with the current circulating coupons, so you get the best deal. For an Extreme Couponer, it’s the ONLY way to shop. This is where my struggle lies…I have to remind myself that I will sometimes pay SOMETHING and my great deals aren't always going to be free. Don’t worry, I’m working through it; just stick with me. I’ll continue to attend, to see if it gets better; if not for anything else, but a coupon swap.

On the other hand, Class 1 was wonderful!! There was a nominal fee and donation required for this one. I was glad because no matter where we are financially, we can all afford to help someone else. Remember what I said in the past, if you have money to waste, then you have money to save, invest and donate!! These items were being presented to a local organization that assists teenage mothers. Class was very inviting, brought a wealth of knowledge and my favorite: FREEBIES!! Shout out to Tasha of I LUV 2 COUPON!! Great job Diva!!

It was organized and this Extreme Couponer was knowledgeable and friendly. She let us know the stores that stacked coupons, meaning the allowed customers to use both store and manufacturer’s coupons, that you get from the newspaper, on top of each other for the same product. If you have a Meijer, Rite Aid, Target, Family Dollar and Dollar General in your area, gather all your coupons, along with the store's sales ad, for added savings!!

She reminded us couponing is a privilege and that minding our manners with cashiers will yield us better results. Speaking of cashiers, her advice was to always profile them. Look for the friendly face behind the register; ones you don't suspect will give you issues. Sometimes store associates will see you with your coupon binder and immediately sigh, but you will find in many cases that they are couponers too. Learn their names and share your coupons with them. It's a great way to meet a new friend and an ally in this Extreme Couponing business. We're all on a mission to SAVE!!
Tasha's list of ways to organize the binder were plentiful: 

  • Baseball card style, transparent pages with tab dividers
  • Expandable check file with dividers and tabs
  • Envelopes for each category
  • Box with dividers, similar to a large recipe book

In addition, she provided the local store policies for us to copy. Here’s a tip, keep them in a sheet protector and keep in your binder while shopping. Most stores associates know the policies (or will take your word for it), but just in case they “forget”, have yours handy.

Lastly, there were raffles and guessing games, lots of laughs and plenty of coupon swapping. My birthday present...I won the cleverly crafty PMS basket, complete with premenstrual essentials and CHOCOLATE!!
What a great birthday weekend it was for me and I'm glad to share it with you!! Until next time!!

Frugalicious Diva

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekly Motivation 02.19.12

"I didn't plan on either children or writing. Once I realized that writing satisfied me in some enormous way, I had to make adjustments. The writing was always marginal in terms of time when the children were small. But it was major in terms of my head. I always thought that women could do a lot of things. All the women I knew did nine or ten things at one time. I always understood that women worked, they went to church, they managed their houses, they managed somebody else's houses, they raised their children, they raised somebody else's children, they taught. I wouldn't say it's not hard, but why wouldn't it be?
All important things are hard."
Essence magazine, Feb. 1998

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Want To Be Like Her When I Grow Up, Pt 1

Today, I saw a link posted on Facebook from the U.S. Air Force website with the following title: "AF first female maintenance officer leads way as first African-American female general". When I clicked over, I read about Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris, a phenomenal woman who, as the article states, broke so many racial and gender barriers during a great Air Force career to become the first female African-American general in 1991. WOW! When I read things like this, it just makes me feel so empowered and so inspired. It truly says "Nothing is impossible."

February is Black History Month and I could not let this month go by without paying homage to some of the great, amazing Black women, like Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris, who have paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps. They have made it possible for us to believe that we can do anything we set our minds to and thus, changing history. Not only did they have to endure racism because of the color of their skin but they also had to endure sexism because let's keep it real here....we live in a man's world.

It is getting better but it is only getting better because more of us women are stepping up and showing the world that we can accomplish just as much as a man can. We can do the jobs that many think only men can do. We show the world that we are fearless, we are bold and we are determined. These amazing Black women are the women who I wanted to be like when I grew up...still do. They keep me inspired and grounded with my eye on the prize. I hope you can be inspired by them as I am on a daily basis.

I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. ~ Rosa Parks

Ms. Rosa Parks...I remember when I first studied the civil rights movement in elementary school. Many of my fellow students were more interested in Martin Luther King Jr. and Booker T. Washington, whereas I was fascinated by Ms. Rosa Parks. Here was a woman who was just trying to get home after a long, hard day of work and in one moment on her way home on a public bus, she ended up being one of the most revered civil rights activists in African-American history, nationally known as "the mother of the modern day civil rights movement". She refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. She was tired and honestly, didn't feel like getting up. Why should she? She stood up for what she believed in. As she said in her quote above, once your mind is made up, your fear is gone. She wasn't the first person to not want to give up her seat on the bus. However, her act of "disobedience" is what triggered the Montgomery Bus boycott.

I love this excerpt from an 1992 interview that Ms Parks did with National Public Radio's Lynn Neary where she explains how she felt in that moment and why she decided to not give up her seat: "I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time... there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn't hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became." Rosa Parks taught me you should always stand up for yourself and what you believe in. Thank you, Ms. Parks for that valuable lesson.

“Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt” ~ Shirley Chisholm

Because of Shirley Chisholm, I got so interested in the law growing up and at one point, wanted to be a judge. These were big dreams for a Puerto-rican girl growing up in the projects in Queens, New York but Ms Chisholm made me feel like if she can do it, I can do it! I was intrigued and in awe of this woman, who became the first Black woman elected to Congress, the first black presidential candidate for a major party and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. Ms. Chisholm epitomized the women's movement for me - she was strong, vocal and fearless in her crusade for equal rights for women and just change overall.

As you can see from her quote above, she did not mince words. This was a woman who said what was on her mind eloquently and then put action behind her words. In 1993, she was inducted in the National Women's Hall of Fame. I love this quote from Ms Chisholm from the documentary film Shirley Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed: "When I die, I want to be remembered as a woman who lived in the twentieth century and who dared to be a catalyst for change. I don't want be remembered as the first black woman who went to Congress, and I don't even want to be remembered as the first woman who happen to be black to make a bid for the presidency. I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for change in the twentieth century. That's what I want." Amen, Ms Chisholm! Your legacy definitely lives on and you will never be forgotten.

"Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live." ~ Mae Jemison

I have a picture of Mae Jemison on my positivity wall, right next to my vision board. It's that serious. She is one of my heroes. She is that person who is at the top of my list of people I want to meet in my lifetime. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with space and science fiction. Still am to this day. Back in the 60's, when Mae was a kid, she knew she wanted to be a scientist. Mae makes it cool to be a book nerd. When she was a kid, she loved to go to the library and read about science and loved stories that featured women scientists and female heroines. That empowered her and made her feel like she could be that scientist she longed to be. She also loved the arts and studied dance from the age of 9 and on. When it came time to make a decision on what to study in college, the arts or medicine, she chose the latter. She went on to medical school and became a medical doctor.

She joined NASA's astronaut program in 1987 and in 1992, Mae became the first African American woman to orbit the Earth on the Space Shuttle Endeavor. This is a woman who has done it all. Besides being a doctor, a dancer and an astronaut, she was in the Peace Corps for 2 years as a medical officer, holds 9 honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities and now runs her own company researching how technology can be applied to daily life. She also continues to be an advocate for getting minority students more interested in science. What young girl would NOT want to be like Mae or follow in her footsteps?

These three women each have had such an impact on history and on many women's lives. I know they have inspired me to be a better person and like I said before, they are really a testament to the belief that nothing is impossible if you have your mind set on it. Whether you're standing up for yourself and making your voice heard like Rosa Parks, determined to make a change in this world like Shirley Chisholm or have the desire to fulfill your dreams (no matter how big) like Mae Jemison, we are honoring their legacy by being the best women we can be in this world. Next week, I will showcase a few more phenomenal women to close out this special month. Until then, be inspired, be bold, be fearless.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day! Yes, We're Talking To You!

Happy Valentine's Day!
If no one else says it to you today, we love all that is Big, Beautiful, and You!
Take time out today to show some love to the most important person in your life--

You deserve it!


The Frugal Files: Forget V-Day, Celebrate Tomorrow

Imagine this...

Soft rose petals, sultry music and candlelight
He comes over to you with a delectable chocolate kiss
and a glass of your favorite wine. The bubbles tickle your nose.
He's prepared your favorite meal and asks you to sit down.
He wants to exchange your gifts before you eat, so he 
reaches for a tiny bag and as you reach for it...

...the alarm clock abruptly wakes you
and you gasp,

"It's Valentine's Day!!"

Ladies, how could you let it sneak up on you AGAIN this year? You are always reminding him how much you want him to be romantic and you don't even think to return the favor? Uh oh, so what do you do?

I say, simply wait. There's plenty of good reasons to delay V-Day. Let's investigate my Top 5 reasons to give Valentine's Day ON Valentine's Day, the kiss off!!

5. It's so cliche...every year this holiday creeps up on us. Even though it comes on the same day every year, people always forget or wait until the last minute. As a result, you get gifts that have no real meaning; just the drug store candy in a heart-shaped box and a Hallmark. You don't want to go to work tomorrow and be able to say to your co-worker,

Roses are red, Violets are blue
Did you get a dozen roses and a box of chocolate too?'

Enough said. Try something else. Save the money and the drama. Pick your favorite book of poems from the library and spend the evening reading each other the juiciest words of love you can find. Then make up your own and hit the sheets...

4. It's mundane. Unless you're at a milestone in your relationship or your boo is REALLY into holidays, this holiday is the epitome of "same ol', same ol' behavior. You get the same ol' kiss/greeting, same ol' candy and card, same ol' dinner and a movie and the same ol' sigh of relief when it's over. Where is the excitement in that? Opt instead to do an extreme activity you and your honey has never done, like white water rafting on the weekend or even indoor rock climbing. It's fun, unpredictable and will bring the two of you closer, having shared this experience. Create exciting memories!!

3. It's lonely. This is for my single sisters. How many times have you "noticed" the guys seem to show no love on this day for lovers. It seems sometimes, men just disappear. This is a reality for some and unfortunately, some people base their worth on whether or not they have a "valentine". Not this year!! If you MUST celebrate, then enjoy a homemade candlelight dinner for one, pick up a bouquet of your favorite flowers and enjoy your scrumptious white chocolate ganache truffles. Love yourself honey!!

2. It's stressful. Men feel the pressure of getting something extravagant that will keep him out of the dog house. Attached women worry if he'll get her something she likes, basing how romantic he is on the gift he gets on this particular day. Single women are under pressure to either get a valentine or appear to be okay with the fact that she didn't have a valentine or get anything. No ONE day should have that much power. Take the stress off and dare to skip it this year!! Vow to show love to each other and yourself daily, so that this one day doesn't take a toll on you. Better yet, make this day about your children. Take pink and red cupcakes to their class and enjoy their smiling faces.

1. It's expensive. I saw on the news that a local chocolatier was dealing with price increases in their supplies. Because they get the most business during holidays like this, that means that as the consumer, YOU'RE paying for that increase.

If you choose instead to celebrate tomorrow or later in the week, you can get your specialty chocolate fix for half price!! Let the suckers pay astronomically for their suckers, while you save money at the business' expense. After today is over, they need to get rid of the stuff!!

Are you convinced to do a new thing this year? It's okay if you like celebrating holidays on holidays, but just remember you can (and should) express love for your family, friends and honey on every day of the year. This is a nice day to highlight love, but not the measure for how much you love or adore someone. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy yourself, smile and be the beautiful Belle you were created to be.

Happy Valentine's Day
Frugalicious Diva

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekly Motivation 02.12.12

"Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do.
Where there is Love and inspiration,
I don’t think you can go wrong

In Memoriam: Whitney Houston

(August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012)

Model. Singer. Actress. Daughter. Wife. Mother. Legend.

Rest in peace, Ms. Houston. Thank you for sharing your God given gift with us.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Show Yourself Some Love

I don't need a man to rectify my existence. The most profound relationship we'll ever have is the one with ourselves." ~ Shirley MacLaine

I hate Valentine's Day. There I said it. I hate when I walk into a store and see everything with hearts on it and pictures of Cupid all over the place. I'm sure it has something to do with me being single. Being single on Valentine's Day sucks. It doesn't help that Valentine's Day is such a commercialized holiday - it's a billion dollar business. So I cannot escape all the flowers and candy around me. This time last year, I will admit, I was miserable. All of my friends were either married or in a relationship this time last year so I was the odd man out. I suffered the 24 hours by buying myself a bag of chocolate and watching horror movies. Romance in any form was not allowed. And I survived.

But as this day crept up again this year, I started to think...something's gotta give. I don't want to be miserable. When you get down to it, it's a day. A freaking day! Love is something that should be celebrated everyday and not just on February 14. Why am I choosing to look at Valentine's Day as a negative thing? The day is about celebrating love and showing that love to someone, right? So why can't I celebrate the love I have for myself? As I have said many times before, life is what you make it. It is a choice. And this year, I decided to choose to celebrate me and show myself some love. I'm going to be my own best valentine.

Last week, over lunch with a friend who we will call B, I proudly announced my self-love intentions on Valentine's Day. She looked at me as if she had seen a ghost standing behind me, to which I was confused. She has been in a happy relationship for years so in my eyes, she's lucky. She's got a great man and she's guaranteed at least some flowers and premium chocolate on February 14 that she does not have to pay for. Which is awesome. Or so I thought. As the saying goes, "Things are rarely the way they seem."

She proceeded to tell me how she is in awe of me and how I always manage to maintain a positive outlook throughout it all: losing my dad last year, being single at the age of 41 (**gasps**), getting laid off three years ago, and just basically life's ups and downs. She then says "I don't know how you can be so confident. I would NEVER let a man see me naked or have sex with the lights on!"

Now my friend is probably a size 4, not an ounce of fat on her. She has a nice body shape and I have seen her in a bikini so I know this. I was shocked but then I had to remind myself that sometimes people don't see what others see. You see what you allow yourself to see about yourself. That is why loving yourself and accepting yourself as you are now is so important. If you don't, that affects everything especially your confidence.

This prompted a conversation on romance, the bedroom and sex. When I told her that when in a serious relationship, I have no problem letting the guy see me naked or having sex with the lights on, she looked like she was going to have a seizure. I can understand that since I am sitting there, a size 26/28. But the difference between she and I is that I love myself. And I told her that obviously the man is attracted to me and into me because it's not as if once I remove my clothes, I suddenly become a size 4. He knows what he's getting once the clothes come off. And I own my body...I exude confidence. Truth is, men love a woman who has confidence. When you have confidence and own your body, that makes you even more attractive.

So I told her "You really need to show yourself some love. You have to channel that inner sexiness that I know is in there. Girl, you really need to look in the mirror and see what's really there and not what you THINK is there." I then dragged her to Victoria's Secret and where I spent the afternoon, making her try on lingerie. She seemed a little uncomfortable at first but then she came out wearing this beautiful black and pink nightie that was classy, tasteful but sexy...and it was totally her. This guy passing by, with who I think was his girlfriend, nearly tripped because he was breaking his neck to look at B. I just gave B this look that read "See, Girl!"

Now I am sure that B will not fully conquer her self-loathing in a day but that day was pivotal on her path to self-love. She called me this morning to thank me. She bought that nightie and is going to "try" to surprise her man on Valentine's Day. I hope she is able to go through with it. Because self-loathing takes so much energy and she has wasted so many years not fully enjoying intimacy with her man because of her lack of self-confidence.

So I say to all of you out there: Whatever your status is on Valentine's Day, embrace that. If you're single, don't sit around, dwelling on what you don't have. Treat yourself either by buying yourself flowers and candy or doing something for yourself like going to the spa or getting your nails done. Like I told B, show yourself some love. If you're in a relationship, enjoy not just Valentine's Day but everyday. Tell that person you love them every chance you get. You're lucky to have someone in your life that loves you in that way so appreciate that. Enjoy the little moments and never lose sight of YOU. Love starts within each of us. If we don't love ourselves and show ourselves some love, how are we supposed to love others and show love to others? And in honor of B, Ladies, keep those lights on and own it! Your man will be very happy that you did.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Frugal Files: The Extreme Coupon Beginner

Hey frugalicious ones!!

I'm so anxious to share my weekend adventures to you!! If you're connected with me on Facebook, then you know about the buzz!! If not, join me for daily tips, articles, blogs, and freebies!! Frugalicious Diva

My newest pleasure: COUPONING!! It's my goal to master it this year. My parents used coupons when I was a child (and still do), but somehow the practice was lost upon me. In the last five years, I've used them occasionally, no real savings. The game has changed folks!! It's VERY serious now, especially since the reality show Extreme Couponing has aired.

I'll admit, I was skeptical and I didn't want to take time to do it. I've watched the show and while I marvel at the tremendous savings, I couldn't help but think those folks needed to go down the hall and sign up for Hoarders. Really, who needs three lifetime supplies of Q-tips? Why would you add on to your home to house an enormous stockpile when you live alone? I just didn't understand. There were sometimes those people who donated their items, which is good, but I still wasn't convinced.

Then, for some reason, I got the unction to explore this; after all, I am the Frugalicious Diva. How could I pass up the opportunity to save money? So, it became my mission for 2012 to delve into the life of an Extreme Couponer. I searched for coupon classes and found three; two for a cost and donation and a free one. It was a bonus the first class I found was being taught by Extreme Couponing All Star Joni Meyer-Crothers. She has been featured on the popular show four times and has a fifth show coming up!!

I attended her class this weekend and my life is forever changed. Her simple advice to anyone getting started was to 1) get a coupon binder, 2) start gathering coupons and 3) find a coupon blog to follow. Her blog is Free Tastes Good for your reference. The beauty of following is the blogger does all of the work. They find the sales, the deals and most of all; the free stuff!! I can tell you first hand, my coupon binder overwhelms me, but thanks to a new friend I also found in my search, it's organized and ready to use. Check out I LUV 2 COUPON for great ways to save!!

Coupons are not just in the Sunday paper either. You can print them online, get them via email and if you're really serious, you can purchase them online. Online clipping services and e-bay are good good ways to get coupons you might be missing for a small processing fee; usually shipping costs. I'm not there yet, so for now, I'll just ask friends and family for theirs. Another goal is build a pantry stockpile for my church. They feed people monthly, but the supply is low; a perfect way to give back. That's why I adore Joni. Her coupon ministry, Saving and Sharing for Christ's motto is "Pass the Blessing On"!! I agree, how can you not?

She taught us the world of store policies, which was an eyeopener. If you have a Kroger or a Giant Eagle in your area, understand they double coupons, sometimes up to 0.99. This means if you have a 0.75 off coupon, you get $1.50 off. That's frugalicious!! Walmart is a couponer's dream!! Not only can you use an unlimited amount of coupons, they also PAY any overage. So if your coupon amount exceeds the cost of the item, they will give you back the difference and NOT on a gift card, in CASH!!

Oh my, we've run out of time, but there's plenty to share. Next week we'll chat about last minute Valentine's Day plans, but we'll continue the following week!! Before you go, I wanted to share what I got FREE this weekend, with coupons. Check out My Frugalicious Weekend!! Kroger paid me 0.10 to walk out with 10 cans of diced tomatoes: great for my stockpile to make chili, spaghetti, soup and salsa. From Family Dollar, I was given three CoverGirl items: tweezers, travel tweezers and wide nail brush. Can we say frugalicious beauty? Lastly, Walmart gifted me with a pack of assorted BIC pens, plus my overage which was applied to the discounted Colgate toothpaste I purchased.

See, this is fun and more importantly FREE or very cheap. If you want to save money and keep your budget in check, be sure to check back with me!! Would love to hear your coupon stories on Facebook too!! Until then, enjoy your week!!

Frugalicious Diva

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekly Motivation 02.05.12

L-R: Dr. Betty Shabazz, Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers-Williams
"Coretta, Betty and I had a very special relationship.
We were known as 'the widows of.' And we often talked among ourselves about
how difficult it was to be 'the widows' - the public expectations of us,
our expectations of ourselves and, first and foremost,
how to be the best parents to our children without their fathers."
~ Myrlie Evers-Williams

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Color Your World Red

Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick. ~ Gwyneth Paltrow

It's just something about the color red. I think it's a color that looks great on anyone, no matter what your skin tone or hair color. I say that because there are so many shades of red to compliment anyone. All I know is that when I wear the color red, it puts an extra pep in my step and I just feel like I own the room just by wearing red. I love when I color my hair red; it gives me a fiery, bold type of attitude. And of course, as Ms Paltrow said above, a kick-ass red lipstick can take you from drab to fab with the quickness.

The color red allows us to add a little color in our world when we need that pep. It allows us to be bold and daring because that is what red represents. Red means strength and power. Red is such a color that if you are brave enough to rock it, it tells the world that you are unstoppable. Colors, in general, especially a nice jewel tone like red, can not only make you look good on the outside but boost your spirit on the inside too.

Red also equates sexy. I have heard plenty of men talk of how they love to see a woman in a red dress or wearing red pumps. I personally think it's because not only does it represent passion but it also represents confidence. And we all know men love a confident woman who can own a room. Confidence is definitely a trait that makes a woman or man more attractive. If you step into a room wearing red, you're getting noticed.

In Chinese culture, red represents good luck, happiness and joy. Brides wear a red wedding gown - it's considered the classic wedding dress in China. Everyone attending the wedding is actually encouraged to wear red because the color red is regarded as energy, a symbol of the fire element in Chinese metaphysics. It helps the couple to chase out bad luck on their wedding day. (source)

To me, red is such a powerful color. While it gives me a reason to be bold and daring, red also represents love. What a better way to honor your love for yourself and your strength by rocking a cute red dress and just feeling fierce. And if I can get some good luck thrown in there by wearing red, then that's an added bonus.

If you don't want to wear a red dress, there are other ways to add red to your wardrobe. Leopard print, which is a trend that never goes out of style, now comes in different colors. A red leopard print is nice...it's bold and modern. I have seen red leopard print leggings, clutch, shoes, even a tee. Sometimes a hint of red or a red print can make a bold statement on its own. At the end of the day, what matters is how you feel from the inside and out. Find what red pieces work for you and make you feel good. As Tim Gunn (my best friend in my mind, lol) always says, "Make it work!".

And don't let it stop at your clothing. According to Feng Shui, a front door of a house painted red means "welcome". And I think a red door is fabulous. Since the door is the entryway into your home aka "your safe haven", the red door keeps all the unwanted bad energy out. A red door would instead create welcoming positive energy. Some even believe a red door protects its occupants from evil. Yes, a red door can be that deep. I also love when I see a red painted wall or room in someone's house. I believe it's a mood booster. Not to mention, it looks fabulous when coupled with a pretty design that has a black and white secondary color scheme.

National Wear Red Day is Friday, February 3rd and what a great reason to wear red! You are not only adding some color to your world but you are helping in raising awareness on heart disease, which kills more women than all cancers combined. (source) So rock your red and not only raise awareness of heart disease but channel your inner boldness. Be fierce, be daring, be fearless! As the great Bill Blass once said....

Preach, Mr. Blass! Because once you are rocking that red, whether it's a nice red top or shoes or even a nice kick-ass red lipstick, there will be no doubt as to how fabulous and beautiful you are. Werk!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Keep It Moving: Keep Your Heart Healthy!

Happy "Go Red For Women™ Month!"

What's "Go Red For Women" Month?

In 2004, the American Heart Association (AHA) faced a challenge. Cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year, yet women were not paying attention. In fact, many even dismissed it as an “older man’s disease.” To dispel the myths and raise awareness of heart disease as the number one killer of women, the American Heart Association created Go Red For Women – a passionate, emotional, social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health. - From the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women website

Did you know...

African-American women are 35% more likely to die of heart disease than Caucasian women, while Hispanic women face heart disease nearly 10 years earlier than Caucasian women. Pacific Islander women, long considered at low risk, count heart disease as their second leading cause of death.


All throughout the month of February, Belle-Noir.com will be featuring heart healthy tips and recipes in support of the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women campaign! In the meantime, you can download your copy of the American Heart Association's Living Guidelines for Women here.

And be sure to wear your red on Friday, February 3, 2012 in support of Go Red For Women Day and post your pics to the Belle-Noir Magazine Facebook Page!