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A couple weeks ago, I surveyed my Instagram friends, and a large majority were interested in a no-spend February, wherein we all commit to not spending any money on clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. No money spent on unnecessary wants; only on needs like food, utilities, gas, rent, etc. The idea is to be able to put any money you might have spent unnecessarily on clothes, etc, towards retirement, debt, and such. While initially I was quite gung-ho about the idea of not spending any money at all next month, questions starting pouring in about exceptions: What about Valentine’s Day? Birthdays? Can we use gift cards?? So I went back to my public health roots and thought about about the theories I learned about human behavior and what we think about when we consider new interventions: primarily, I thought about sustainability. WHAT IS THE GOAL HERE?

My person goal is to spend more consciously and stop spending money on food that will get thrown away because I didn’t meal plan; clothes and shoes I bought on a whim that I never wore; or makeup products I bought and didn’t like, and ended up cluttering my makeup bag until they expired; because, yes, they expire!! More to come on that.

Years ago, I read a post by Jeanette Johnson of J’s Everyday Fashion. It was the first time I’d read about setting a “clothing budget”. As you know, I was a grad student, then a post doc, and didn’t make a lot of money during either of those training periods. So budgeting was something I did out of necessity. When I became an assistant professor, I was making more money, but school loans have also kept me from over-spending. Still, one of the things I love to do is shop, and since embarking on my purging journey the past two years, I realized that some of that money might have been better spent. J’s clothing budget allows you to set aside 2-8% of your monthly salary on clothing. In general, I have followed that rule, but I could also benefit from spending less, accumulating less clutter, and buying more thoughtfully moving forward.

Okay, so if you’re still reading, you’re probably wondering: SOOOOO, are we shopping or not shopping??

Image result for so what's your point meme

In public health, when thinking about health interventions, we often think about ensuring that outcomes will be sustainable. So I asked myself, “Is it sustainable to not shop at all for the rest of my life??” Of course not. Is the point to do this for a month and what? Save $100? No. The goal, a sustainable one, is to learn how to budget and spend mindfully. So, I’m proposing a variation of J’s clothing budget, to 1) learn how to budget; 2) ensure more mindful spending; 3) redirect more money towards other long-term goals, debt, etc.:

$60 a month for the rest of the year. YIKES!


$60 a month. How did I arrive at that number? Well, when I polled my Instagram friends, the most popular response was that many were working with about a $3000 budget (the sliding scale and other questions pictured below). If we take the lower range of J’s shopping budget percentage, then we’re looking at 2% of $3000, which equals $60. $60 a month!!

Have you recovered from the shock yet?? I’ll tell ya, once you write down every single thing you spend money on, you will think $60 is too much to spend. $60 dollars is enough to visit the Dollar Spot a couple times a month, buy a Who What Wear top from Target, and pick up a pair of shoes on clearance from TJMaxx. Not to mention a pair of earrings from Forever 21. Hello, $5 J Lo hoops!


What are the rules??

  1. $60 to spend after groceries, bills, mortgage/rent, etc. $60 for clothes, shoes, accessories, the Dollar Spot, etc.
  2. Can you use gift cards to increase my clothing budget?? Absolutely!
  3. What if I make extra money? Can that be used to to increase my clothing budget? YES! The goal is simply to not take more from your take home income. If you’re comfortable meeting goals without allocating that extra income towards those goals, then spend away.
  4. What about credit card points. Again, YES. If many cases, you can’t turn these into cash, so might as well get yourself something nice if you have enough of them sitting around.

Have I piqued your interest?? If so, know that I will be keeping you updated with the purchases that I make myself these coming months, along with a summary of what I spent and on what. I do plan to be savvy and do extra things to try to pad my clothing budget. What kind of things you ask?? When I polled people on Instagram, the tips and tricks for making extra money when running low at the end of the month, were numerous.

  • Sell clothes on Poshmark
  • Pick up an extra day at work
  • Donate plasma
  • Sell things on eBay
  • Make extra money pet sitting
  • Consign clothes, shoes, accessories, etc
  • Teach (yoga, crafts etc)
  • Freelance (eg on Upwork)
  • Sell, sell, sell anything and everything that is extra in your home
  • Participate in research studies
  • Work overtime
  • Use credit card points
  • Offer to babysit for friends and neighbors
  • Photography
  • Sell/pawn used items
  • Uber, Instacart, and/or Shipt
  • Market research participation
  • Review textbooks
  • Sell kids clothes online (like eBay or ThredUp)
  • Tutoring
  • Sports leagues (coach a team and charge a fee for your time)
  • Sell things on Facebook
  • Bring on new clients (for those with a business)

Now, how do you start? Last month, I wrote down everything I had spent the past three months, and I categorized my spending into categories. Your categories will vary from mine depending on your household, personal, and professional needs. I, for example, no longer have to budget for daycare, but I do have to budget for after school care. So write it all down. Then, write down what you bring home each month. Deduct every single expense (down to the penny) that you will anticipate spending that month. Then decide how much to put away in your 1) emergency fund, 2) retirement account, etc. After that, take your $60 for clothing. If you do not have $60 left over to dedicate to clothing/etc, then use some of the ways above to try to make extra money, if shopping is how you want to spend that extra money.

I checked the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and in 2017, women made the following median salaries per month:

  • 16 to 19 years: $404 weekly/$21,008 annually
  • 20 to 24 years: $508 weekly/$26,416 annually
  • 25 to 34 years: $727 weekly/$37,804 annually
  • 35 to 44 years: $877 weekly/$45,604 annually
  • 45 to 54 years: $851 weekly/$44,252 annually
  • 55 to 64 years: $869 weekly/$45,188 annually
  • 65 years and older: $800 weekly/$41,600 annually

According to statistics provided by Instagram, people I interact with on instagram (followers and people I follow) are on average 25-34 years of age, with a smaller proportion in the 35-44 years of age. Based on the data above, if you divide $37,804 by 12 months, you arrive at $3150 per month, of which 2% equals $63. As it turns out, the data I collected on Instagram was not too far off from the median salary reported in the US.

Some tips I plan to keep in mind as I strive to keep to my $60 budget: 1) keep receipts! I might buy something that fits within my $60 monthly budget, but that I change my mind about later, so I’ll roll that money over to the following month; 2) shop thrift and consignment stores; 3) accept gifts!!; 4) have clothing swaps with friends; 5) sell, sell, sell!!

So what do you think? Are you in, or are you out?? If you’re in, I look forward to going on this money saving journey with you! Let me know in the comments section if you would like a post on creating a budget, although based on my data, most of you already know how to budget, so perhaps that isn’t as great a need as finding fellowship in spending less. Onward, and save!

yours truly, dr. b (1)





photo of two teal and pink leather crossbody bags

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Years ago I read an article in Elle Magazine written by the illustrious

“I had learned a lesson about Western culture: Women who wanted to be taken seriously were supposed to substantiate their seriousness with a studied indifference to appearance. For serious women writers in particular, it was better not to dress well at all, and if you did, then it was best to pretend that you had not put much thought into it. If you spoke of fashion, it had to be either with apology or with the slightest of sneers. The further your choices were from the mainstream, the better. The only circumstance under which caring about clothes was acceptable was when making a statement, creating an image of some sort to be edgy, eclectic, counterculture. It could not merely be about taking pleasure in clothes.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Women in academia, medicine, and other fields have similar experiences. They/we are judged for dressing too nicely, for wearing make up, or wearing heels that are “too high”. When I started Chic in Academia, I wanted this to be a place where professional women who did love fashion, makeup, accessories, and the like, had a place to readily access that information, provided by a peer academic/professional woman. I’m hopeful that CIA has done that to some extent over the years, but more importantly, that it continues to reinforce the fact that women can indeed be intelligent, productive, and serious, all while also loving fashion; the two, after all, are not mutually exclusive.

As a result, I too, over the years, have continued to foster that love for fashion and all things related. A few posts ago, I shared images found on Pinterest that I was hoping to use as guidance or inspiration for my own work outfits this week. Out of the outfits shared, I had my eye on one in particular; an outfit by Ahn of 9 to 5 Chic.

I love the simplicity of her outfits, something that I can use in my own wardrobe these days. My life has become increasingly busier: increased workload and responsibility at work; busier school and sports’ schedules for the boys; busier social calendar; and a number of other to-do’s that consume my days. There is something to be said for streamlining a wardrobe. While I agree with Chimamanda, and do still love prints and mixes, ultimately, I think I’m striving to achieve a wardrobe more like Ahn’s. This week, I had a good mix of both Anh-like and Chimanada-like outfits.

First, the Ahn copy-cat outfit. I found the dress on a Target clearance rack last week. Paid $11 for it. I also recently found the heels I’m wearing at a local TJMaxx. Lemme tell ya. They are AH-MAZING. Buttery leather, like gloves on my feet. They are Sam Edelman and also a full size smaller than I typically wear on my feet. Dancing, pregnancy, and genetics have all blessed me with widening feet over the years; feet that until now I’d dressed in size 7 heels, but comfortably fit into a 6W with this Sam Edelman pair. Y’all. All these years, and only now am I realizing that extended sizing had a purpose for me. It was a come to Jesus moment for sure. Goodness. God bless this hot mess express. Ooh wee! Anyway, how close did I get to recreating Ahn’s outfit??



Dress, Target recent clearance item (similar) / Coat, Tahari via TJMaxx (similar) / Shoes, Sam Edelman via TJMaxx and Amazon / Bag via Amazon

Second outfit inspiration came from Pinterest as well. Refer back to this post to see if you can figure out which of the outfits I shared inspired the following:


Sweater Marled via Marshalls (similar) / Skirt Halogen via Nordstrom Rack (one in size 4P via ebay) / Heels Forever 21 (similar)

I also came up with on my own (hello, I too got skillz!):


Coat Tahari via TJMaxx (similar) / Dress via Trilogy Threads (use code CHIC10 for 10% discount) / Boots via Zara

Finally, my Adichie-inspired outfit:


Coat via Forever 21 / Top via Zara / Bag via Amazon / Pants via Forever 21 (similar)

There are some who say that how you dress affects how you feel and how others respond to you. In fact, that is exactly how I feel. If I have a presentation to give, I gain confidence from wearing something that fits well and that feels “put together”. Looking less-than-put-together feeds my insecurity; especially in times when stress and insecurity may be at all all time high (e.g., before a big presentation, meeting, etc). Thus, an attempt to pull together an nice outfit, and give my confidence a boost, is not a bad thing to implement, in my opinion. My friend, and fellow girlboss, Michelle of Gold Dust & Sugar Lust agrees:

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Do clothes affect how you feel or how you feel people respond to you? I have to say that we all should feel free to wear what we like and what makes us feel comfortable, without fear of judgement, especially when our work should speak for itself. However, if you’re like me, and you love fashion, and it helps to add a little boost of confidence, know that you have a whole tribe of other girlbosses behind you – cheering you on and complimenting you on those bright colored lips and pattern-print clothes, or that monochromatic outfit that screams fabulosity. ❤

yours truly, dr. b (1)


food healthy vegetables potatoes

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School started back up last week and while mentally I was beyond prepared and ready to get back to a normal schedule, it turns out that realistically, I had slowed down significantly over the break and felt like I was hit by a MAC truck after the first day! One of the things I had failed to plan for was…food. I hadn’t planned out meals for the week, nor did I do enough grocery shopping to get us through dinners, school snacks, and lunches for work. I shared my struggle on social media and my social media tribe came to the rescue. Cue: Meal Planning.

While I have meal planned in the past, meal planning for me seems to work much like working out for most of the world’s population. You do it for a month, but eat out enough times during the month, and everything goes out the window. Well, this time, I’m determined. I managed to meal plan most of 2018, so I somewhat have the hang of it now, but have some new resources that I think make me a meal-planning ninja!

A dear friend of mine reached out and said, “Have you tried meal planning this way??” and sent me a printable, fillable PDF to play with. I was intrigued. She shared this post with me, and WHOA. Hello, epiphany! While I’ve heard of and practiced meal planning before (let’s all acknowledge my triumphs of 2018), I hadn’t really thought about it in the context of saving money. I mean, DUH! It only made complete sense once I read through the article, but now I’m consciously thinking about it and implementing meal-planning as a money-saving practice.

So, I took action. For months, perhaps YEARS (2 at most), I have had this menu planning board sitting at our coffee station.


It literally JUST.SAT.THERE. Doing absolutely nothing! I have commitment issues when it comes to altering things around the house, so I didn’t necessarily want to commit to chalk or chalboard markers on this board. Thus, I did the next best thing: I ran to Target and bought narrow Post-It notes, and went to town with a black Sharpie. Done.


Don’t worry about the blank wall space above the coffee-maker; a super cute coffee sign is en route from Etsy as we speak. I got this. 😉


Not bad! I grocery shop Saturdays or Sundays, so I haven’t yet figured out what’s happening meal-wise this weekend, but I’ll likely give it some thought Friday night or Saturday morning, until I get into a routine. This week’s menu was based on things we already had in the fridge and or things that I knew I could make based on what I had in the pantry. Shockingly, based on my inventory, and using the tips suggested by The Budget Mom, all I bought this weekend were 4 cans of pinto beans, 3 cans of black beans, a bottle of creamer (which btw has saved me a ton since I no longer go to Starbucks before work every morning), and a gallon of milk. THAT’S IT. For the whole week!! I’m SHOOK.

That efficiency and low-budget grocery shopping prompted me to organize my snack drawers and pantry pronto. It helped get rid of items that were expired or near expiration, and remind me of recipes that I’d planned to try that hadn’t gotten around to trying. Y’all, I am in it to win it.


I have a board on Pinterest for recipes, and in case you’re wondering, YES, I have a board on Pinterest for almost every facet of my life. I plan to draw inspiration from that board, but also work with the meals that I know my family loves. On Friday’s we love to have pizza. Little Caesar’s pizza is only $5, the kid’s love it, and it’s one of the “healthiest” pizza’s out there to eat. Winning on all fronts here, friends!

Ernieways, I’m super pumped about this. We’re trying to live more eco-friendly lives at home (more on that to come), but also be more mindful about our money and budget. Here’s to doing that and more in 2019!

yours truly, dr. b (1)