Life in the Capital, Real World DC, Special Events, The District, Thrifty District

Planning a DC Wedding: Venues

Photo courtesy of Karon
Random Find
courtesy of Karon
The Social Chair returns to tell us all about finding a DC venue for a DC wedding.

After narrowing down the date for our wedding, Fedward and I began the long process of finding the perfect location. Alas, not enough of you voted for us to win a wedding, so our dream venue of the National Building Museum was quickly out of the running. What could be more DC than one of the locations of the Inaugural Balls?

There are a ton of resources for finding a venue in DC. Our best resource? Friends. DC is filled with event venues. Ask around. Many businesses rent their spaces for private events. We joined forces with another recently engaged couple and shared Google docs with places we’d scouted.
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Thrifty District, We Love Arts

Theater Ticket Deals Aplenty

Photo courtesy of
‘Manhattan Day coupon or ticket’
courtesy of ‘The Field Museum Library’

Is there anything for sale anymore other than via coupon? If there is it’s not theater.

There’s a nice flex deal running right now for seats at Woolly Mammoth for the remainder of the season. 6 tickets to use in whatever combination you like – take 6 friends to see the Second City show or take your sweetie to the next 3 shows. At $150 it’s only a hair above $20 a seat which is a big cut off face value.

You can do that well via various day-of deals but this is a nice buy-and-be-done way to get seats. The only exclusions listed are pay what you can and opening nights or New Year’s Eve – any seat still for sale 24 hours or more out and you can use these. I’ve grabbed this deal and am going to take my visiting family to see Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies after xmas.

Studio also has a package deal – seats for all three upcoming shows. You can even be anti-social and only by for and take yourself. Hey, you’re not supposed to talk during anyway, right?

Alternately they’ve got plenty of deals for specific shows at other theaters. The touring Spamalot at the Warner. Or Hairspray at Signature in Shirlington. You, Nero at Arena – a deal you don’t have to wear a toga to get. Traveling show Elephant Room at Arena. Studio’s Golden Dragon, and a bunch more that have the misfortune to get excised because I’m tired of typing. Go look for yourself.

Business and Money, Special Events, Thrifty District

We Love Madness: The Running of the Brides Part B

Running of the Brides 2011 7
All photos by Don Feduardo

We now present the thrilling conclusion of the Social Chair’s first-hand gonzo journalistic effort in the trenches, er, basement.

After recharging briefly at home, I met up with three friends: my maid of honor, Darling Wedding Planner, and the self-proclaimed “Muscle” of our operation. We had a lovely, leisurely lunch and got to Filene’s Basement around 2:30. All the dresses were back on the racks, though not arranged by size. There are simply too many dresses to try to maintain any semblance of order.

Many of the employees I’d met earlier were still there, eagerly helping customers and quickly getting rejects back on the racks. Additionally, an industrious local alteration company had set up a table and could give you spur of the moment advice. I discarded some dresses after I found the alteration would cost more than the dress itself.

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Business and Money, Special Events, Thrifty District

We Love Madness: The Running of the Brides Part 1

Running of the Brides 2011 20
All photos by Don Feduardo

The following is a guest entry by the Social Chair, who is far more qualified than I am to discuss this particular subject matter.

At the end of February, Fedward asked me to marry him and become Social Chair For Life. Within five minutes of my saying yes, we agreed that we wanted “a short, non-religious ceremony with a really great party” and that it would be in DC (after all, we love DC) or metro accessible Maryland or Virginia. Our only other requirement? Great cocktails. Obviously.

Trying to plan a reasonably priced wedding in DC is much like trying to find a reasonably priced apartment: it’s not impossible, but it takes some work. I was chatting with Jenn about the most recent sticker shock I had seen: $25k for 100 people for a cocktail reception (I looked carefully and saw no mention of monkey butlers, which might have made the price palatable). She suggested an occasional post about planning a local wedding, and I knew the perfect way to start the series: by talking about April 29.

I bet you think I’m talking about that fancy shindig across the pond. Yes, I watched; I love me some pomp and circumstance. I cannot wait for my own procession to the ceremony with thousands of people waving at me (that happens for all brides, right?). However, Kate and Wills were merely the opening act for a much bigger event: Filene’s Basement’s Running of the Brides.

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The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: New Clothes from Old

"sewing window" by jGregor, on Flickr

"sewing window" by jGregor, on Flickr

Transitional weather can be a real drag on one’s style, especially when money’s tight. Faced with a chilly night and a quick wardrobe decision, I pulled out my trusty dressmaker shears and did a little operation on a long black dress. A few slashes and voila! A short black jersey dress complete with a scarf to drape around one’s neck. Add textured tights and problem solved. 

Luckily for you, dear reader, you need no sewing skills whatsoever to make new clothes from old. We’re seeing all sorts of “Depression Era” skills making a comeback (like canning), but to do really serious dressmaking you need a sewing machine and a dressform. Looking at that kind of financial commitment may be too much, not to mention classes for you absolute beginners! Though I highly recommend learning some basic skills like how to replace a button, fix a hem and mend a tear, I understand if you balk at even that level of commitment. 

So here you are, two easy ways to do a little fall wardrobe cleaning, and a third more complex for those of you vintage mavens like me. Continue reading

The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Shave Like a Man

Photo courtesy of
‘My Dovo Bismarck Straight Razor’
courtesy of ‘rpscott123′

Gents, let’s get into the economics of shaving. I consider my methods fairly normal, so I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve got a standard, three blade razor. I shave every day and a blade will last me for a little over a week.  Blades come in packs of 5, so every 7 weeks I need to buy a new pack. At $12 per pack, this costs around $90 per year in blades alone. Add the cost of shaving gel and aftershave and you’re looking at over $100 per year. When you multiply that by the number of years that the I’ll likely be shaving, it ends up being a few thousand dollars. That’s not insignificant.

This being Thrifty District, I have a cheaper solution, and a macho one to boot: wet shaving. Wet shaving is the way it used to be done, with a naked blade.  While this may seem kitsch and extravagant, shaving with a straight razor is extremely economical and the longer you do it, the cheaper it gets. As an immediate purchase, a straight razor is not thrifty. A decent blade (which you’ll definitely want) will run you $70-$150 at a minimum. Like I said, the price is steep, but think of it this way: it’s the only razor you’ll need for the rest of your life. Continue reading

The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Music

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

If you’re a music fiend like me, you find a way to fit music in your budget– but if you don’t keep an eye on your spending, it can easily get out of control. But is there any way around just buckling down and buying $200 concert tickets or $18 CDs?

Oh yeah. Especially in DC, you can definitely go see great live music and get your hands on CDs for less than you think.  Continue reading

The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Paint Your Own Nails

Photo courtesy of
‘Tube nails’
courtesy of ‘Phil Hawksworth’

Getting your nails done doesn’t seem like that big of an expense– what’s $20 here or there? But pampering like that is easy to cut out of your budget while still keeping your fingernails pretty and maintained at home.

Thrifty: First, you need some good supplies. At the minimum, you need nail clippers (I prefer Revlon, but you can get whatever you want), a good file, nail polish remover, cotton balls, and polish. Continue reading

The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Getting An Oil Change

Photo courtesy of
‘T.J.’s’
courtesy of ‘lorigoldberg’

One of the many merits of DC is that public transportation is expansive enough and the city walkable enough that having a car is generally an unnecessary luxury. In fact, if you don’t have a car, you should be thanking your lucky stars for a number of reasons, most of which have to do with the District DMV and the exorbitant cost of getting your plates switched over. Another delightful task comes up every 3000 miles, and if you live on Capitol Hill, getting your oil changed may cause you to want to tear your hair out. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Recession Bean Soup

"Spilling the Beans" by Roger Smith, on Flickr 

"Spilling the Beans" by Roger Smith, on Flickr

When it comes to budgeting, I bargain with myself. A lot. As in, “if you really want those shoes, buy them, but then you have to eat bean soup for a week.” 

UGH. Bean soup?

As a child I hated beans. But somewhere along the line I had a cracking good bean soup that changed my mind. Once I had to tighten the belt I decided to try to recreate it myself. So, for all of you budget bargainers out there (I know I am not the only one!) here it is, my Recession Bean Soup recipe.

First off, we all know legumes (somehow it sounds more classy to say legumes instead of beans… be sure to snootily – or sexily – elongate the ‘oo’ when you say it) are crazy good for you. Protein, fiber, and magic. But, there’s a certain squeamish factor about, um, their effect on your digestive system. But don’t worry. If you use dried beans, simply rinse and rinse and rinse until the water no longer foams, and you will not offend anyone in your presence after consuming.

Now, to the recipe.

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Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Salad Bar Shopping

Photo courtesy of Me

IMG_0374
courtesy of Me

When the Murky Coffee Kerfuffle erupted last year one of the funniest comments I saw was over on Metafilter and wasn’t so much about the conflict as it was terminology. The writer took issue with the term “ghetto latte,” where a customer buys a cheaper espresso-only drink and dumps in the no-charge milk at the condiment bar.  “‘Latte arbitrage’ is a much better description, since if their pricing was consistent this type of operation would not be profitable.” You’ve got to be a little bit of a finance geek to be amused by this use of the word arbitrage, but I’ve spent enough time listening to Marketplace to be tickled by the statement.

The salad bar at your local grocery is another place where you can practice some consumer arbitrage, though there’s also advantage to be had in not buying things that spoil before you use them all. There’s also some things there that are pure and simple sucker items which you shouldn’t be buying in any quantity if you own a can opener. Continue reading

Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Buying Eyeglasses Online

Photo courtesy of
‘salamin’
courtesy of ‘dcfdelacruz’

I hate buying eyeglasses. I broke a pair once when I didn’t have health insurance and had to pay full price… and whimpered. The next pair I bought cost more than $150 even with insurance, and I did NOT have it to spare, being a fabulous-but-underemployed twenty-something at the time.  

I’m no longer eating ramen to pay for a new pair of glasses, but as it became increasingly clear that I was past due for an updated prescription, I got irritated. I can always think of something I’d rather do with a few hundred dollars than drop it on two pairs of glasses (don’t forget the sunglasses).

I was endlessly procrastinating making an optometrist appointment when I read a Slate article about buying glasses online. Yes, picking out something like a pair of glasses without trying them on is a bit of a risk, but I’ve been buying my shoes online for years. Besides, for $35, getting a pair of glasses I wasn’t crazy about was an acceptable risk. Finally I had no excuse, and made my appointment. Continue reading

Adventures, Fun & Games, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Reduced-Price Relaxation

Photo courtesy of
‘you need time for you’
courtesy of ‘dMap Travel Guide’

You can go ahead an insert the obligatory comments about the horrible economy plus how stressful everyone’s jobs are at the moment, and therefore make the obvious case for the increased need for stress-reducing treatments. Duh. You know my intro already. But let’s be realistic in our cost benefit analysis – is $120 for a massage going to make you feel better or worse about your financial situation? Right, you’re rolling your eyes, that’s what I thought.

But just because you can’t afford it doesn’t mean you don’t still need it. So I’m here to help you, friend, find a cheaper ticket to stress-less-ville. I’ve got a few cost-saving tips if you want to go to a professional spa, and then a few quick ideas and links if you’re up for a do it yourself spa session. Continue reading

Downtown, The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Shoe Repair

"shoe repair in metro" by sacasterisk, on Flickr

"shoe repair in metro" by sacasterisk, on Flickr

“Thank you for keeping me in business.

They say one of the leading indicators of hard times economically is the rise of people getting their shoes repaired. It’s a pity, really, that in flush times people don’t appreciate as much the wonderful profession that used to be known by the old-fashioned term “cobbler.” Even after being sexed up when Daniel Day-Lewis went off to Italy to learn the craft, it still doesn’t get much attention or respect.

Well, besides learning how to fix your own hems, sew your own buttons on, and darn your socks (ok, even I draw the line at the last one) the best thing you can do is find a cobbler you like and bring in your shoes regularly for a shine and a spruce-up. I had three shoes that needed some help in varying degrees of complexity – here are two happy results, and one sad one.

I went to my local go-to guy downtown, the reliable 12th & G Cleaners & Shoe Repair. With a full shoe repair facility in the back, he was able to fix the first two with relative ease. 

Pair 1: ‘Dollhouse’ Three-Strap Mary Janes. Oh so demure, with a touch of dom around the ankle. They needed some touch-up where the leather was running raw at the toes, new heel taps, and a good polish. A relatively easy job nicely done. $18.

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DC Victory Gardens, The Daily Feed, Thrifty District, We Green DC

DIY: Garden Planters!

Photo courtesy of
‘Our Garbage Cans’
courtesy of ‘auntjojo’

I’m an unabashed free thing scavenger. If its on the curbside and in good condition, I will go out of my way to look at it. One of the best finds of late on this front, was a sizable terra cotta flower pot (thank you, 8th St. neighbor!). You know why this was super exciting? Because flower pots are expensive! And if you’re gardening with limited space/sunlight, container potting is one of the smarter ways to go. 

So, what to do? (Besides scavenge, that is.) Make your own! This is something my grandmother, a master gardener, advised me to do early on: make flower pots out of old coffee cans (either tin or plastic, doesn’t matter). Then, I saw this article in The Guardian.

All it takes is a quick pass through the recycling bin (your own, or.. if you’re adventurous, that of others) to find some really sweet-looking tin cans. Puncture holes in the bottoms and you’re ready to go. You just saved precious dollars that can be spent on more seeds!

Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Staying Cute in a Recession

Photo courtesy of
‘Necklaces’
courtesy of ‘lorigoldberg’

This Thrifty District is going to be kind of lady-focused. I apologize, male WLDC readers (and lady readers who are not so into accessorizing and hairstyles), but we’ll have some college basketball coverage this afternoon to balance it out, okay?

So, the economy is in the crapper. People are getting laid off all around you. Maybe you’ve been laid off yourself. You need to cut costs, but you also don’t want to look like a scrub while furiously networking and trying to secure job interviews. The best way to improve what’s already in your closet (especially if you’ve taken Jenn’s advice on cheap-but-chic clothing) is with a good haircut and accessories, but that can be expensive too, especially if you’re unemployed. Fortunately, there are ways around that. Continue reading

Food and Drink, Fun & Games, Night Life, The Features, The Great Outdoors, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Cheap Dates

Photo courtesy of
‘kisses’
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’

I love DC, but I really love dating in DC. Yes, dating can be expensive (especially if you’re a guy–sorry, but them’s the facts), but you really can find tons of fun, creative things to do on the cheap in and around DC.

Date idea #1: Go outside

Doing things outdoors is reliably one of my favorite ways to have a great time for very little money. You don’t have to be a star athlete to enjoy a good outdoor date, but it helps if your date is a little adventurous. There are a couple of weeks left to go ice skating in the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden, and then you can warm up with a hot chocolate in their pavilion cafe afterwards and still stay under $30 for the two of you. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Dessert On A Dime

photo courtesy of flickr user 3liz4

photo courtesy of flickr user 3liz4

This edition of Thrifty District targets being cost efficient and strategic with food items you already have in your kitchen.

For instance, what about that half loaf of bread that’s a little too dry for a sandwich. You thinking about tossing it out? Perhaps you’ll wait for it to age into crouton territory? Or maybe you can feed it to some birds? Here’s a better idea.  Transform it into an amazing wintry dessert on the cheap and in just a few minutes. Continue reading

Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Cold Weather Heating Bills, OH NO!

Photo courtesy of
‘Icy Sunshine on Photowalk’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Many DC residents saw spikes of hundreds of dollars in their utility bills last month that Pepco is basing on the unusually cold weather we’re having- even if you keep your heat low, your heater has to work harder to keep your home at a consistent temperature, so demand for power most likely spiked last month, too.

So… how do you stay snug and toasty when money might be tight? If you’re a single-family homeowner in the District, a good place to start would be with the DC Department of the Environment’s free home energy auditing service, available to all DC residents regardless of income.  This audit can point out a variety of ways to increase your home’s energy efficiency, including the really simple ones like “Put more insulation over there,” or “OH MY GOD how long has it been since you weatherstripped your back door?” Even if you’re a renter, the DOE’s energy audit information contains many suggestions for investigating where energy is being wasted.  (I kid you not, DC DOE has a Facebook Fan Page. Who do they think they are, us?)  You can also find lots of DIY home auditing information at EnergyStar.gov.   Continue reading

Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Furnishing Your Humble Abode

Photo courtesy of
‘Fausti Mobili – Lago Point XL a terni’
courtesy of ‘Design Conversation’

So, you need furniture. You don’t have a lot of money, but even so, you’d like something a little nicer than the disposable Swedish particleboard options of Ikea. That can mean only one thing: Consignment!!  You’ll probably have to travel a bit, though. But that’s okay, right? You’re going to need a truck anyway.  Consignment is also good for your carbon footprint; it reduces the need for additional furniture to be recycled, keeps what you buy out of the landfill, and items are generally consigned locally, so even transportation is minimal. It’s an environmental triple-win.

Tom and I needed a dining room table shortly after we got married.   Oh yes, we had hit Ikea, but due to the weird, narrow shape of our dining room, had pretty much struck out. Nothing that we liked would fit.  So we wandered around a bit at a consignment shop, and found what we non-hyperbolically refer to as The Perfect Table. Slightly narrow, with pull-out leaves that nearly double it in length, it fits exactly into our space with room to sit around it, and expands easily for our frequent dinner parties.  Why do I wax poetic with the details of a table that by definition, you can’t buy because we’ve already bought it?  Because it’s an example of the glories of consignment furniture- that table that someone else got rid of, probably because it was too small for their new dining room, was the absolute perfect thing for our needs, and it’s high quality, and probably better than we would have been able to afford brand-new. (We bought chairs to go with it an an open-air antiques market, but that’s another post.)

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