Hearts, Flex Spending, and Real Savings


The day of hearts and love is upon us. I don’t really care whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, I hope you still take a moment for some self-reflection and self-love sometime this month. This top adds the perfect amount of be-hearted spice to my wardrobe. I actually bought it last year in anticipation of V-day before I began my No New Things Challenge. Bonus, it’s now on sale!

I’ve linked the details below, along with some other fun heart-celebrating wardrobe items. Note: you never have to wait until February to break out these cute little love extras in your wardrobe! My update to my No New Things Challenge continues below.


Shirt, Jeans, Mules, Bag, Necklace

Sweatshirt, Shirt, Shoes, Sunglasses, Earrings, Striped Shirt

So I have some more exciting updates on my No New Things Challenge today. First up, the  Flexible Spending or Health Savings Account. I always have to smile at myself as I write these posts. I realize that for SO MANY of you this information is neither exciting or groundbreaking. Some of you have had FSA or HSA accounts for years!

That said, please note that I am really opening up these discussions for persons at every stage and every style of spending habit or money consciousness. I’m not even remotely an expert (nor do I intend to put myself out there as such). I am simply sharing some of my baby steps in my money journey as well as some of my experiences, emotions, struggles, and successes.

So this past week I checked in on my FSA. I had signed up at the beginning of last year, and I hadn’t even activated the card to my account. I was pleasantly surprised (read: enthusiastically stoked) to find that I had accrued a nice little nest egg in my account. In fact, I had great reason to celebrate this little savings because I was in dire need of new eye wear.

If you remember my post from two months back about Warby Parker’s eye glasses, I was seriously looking at some of their frames. Fast forward to this month, where I realized that I had some actual savings in my Flex Spending Account. The time was right, the savings was there, and I ordered a pair of Warby Parker glasses. I’ll show you the details of my frame choice next week.

I’ll say again that I realize these are not only baby-steps in money management, but they are steps that many have trod before me. One of the great things about a Flexible Spending Account is that your money is set aside pre-tax, so you have a little bit of savings on both ends of the spectrum— both the fact that you have set it aside, and the fact that it lowers the bottom line of your take-home pay. It also allows you to save for more expensive investments like braces (we haven’t crossed that bridge yet), or larger medical expenses that would otherwise really wreck your budget. I cannot tell you how happy I was to be able to purchase glasses, contact lenses, with enough left over as a cushion for unplanned for medical expenses.

What do you think of these combination posts? Should I have broken this one in half? One post about hearts and Valentine’s Day dressing and another post about the No New Things Challenge? I’m trying to get a feel for what you’d like to read! You can comment on this post, or leave your thoughts on Instagram or Facebook. I hope you have a fabulous Friday and a spectacular weekend!!

XX, Megan


Groovy Stripes: Outfit Repeats and a NNTC Update

Remix Spring 2018

This week was an absolute bear. Work was pressing. We had a sick little babe at our house. I have to give thanks and praise to my husband and my mom and dad for helping our sick kiddo to have time to heal and get back on his feet. We found out on Thursday night he had step throat, now with antibiotics he is finally getting better!

I still think that the lower light of winter is messing with my energy levels. I am chalking it up to a combination of all of these– a little seasonally affected, a little bit sick, a little bit stressed. I did get back on the bike commuting this week as temperatures cooperated, and that helped to smooth out some of the stressed edges.

I also had some personal triumphs on the No New Things Challenge front this week, and some funny lows which I’ll explain in a minute. This past week I opened a savings account. This might be small for some (read: you may be laughing at the simplicity, you’ve had a savings account since you were twelve, you have millions of dollars in the bank, or you are simply just very good at saving so it seems absurd that someone would not know how to do so). But for me it is a major win.

Remember when I talked about my perception of money as the tide— it comes and goes, it is generally needed for life, but the supply may wax and wane without really bothering me. This is why a savings account has always been so hard for me. If the savings was there, it was a nice cushion. If it wasn’t, I was never overly stressed. But there always seemed to be a slow leak between my savings account and my checking account. Let’s just say that this leak out the bottom method of savings doesn’t really work. Shocking, I know.

So with this new savings account there are some ground rules I’ve set for myself. I haven’t started HUGE but small. The one rule is that it doesn’t get to leak into my checking. This is the saving account that I plan to let sit and get fat. At some point I’d like to get fancy with things and invest. But for now, I’ll take the year and see where this savings leads. When I was with my sisters around Christmas, they shared some of their tips for savings and I am incorporating some of those into my own money mindfulness as well.

I also set up account tracking through Mint which has been a big win. I have long needed to set up a way to track what I am spending and look at what I am really spending it on. In The Art of Money, Bari encourages everyone, anyone regardless of income, prosperity level, or wealth to do this. I obviously have known and heard this advice before, but I really had never implemented it!

As I have been more conscious of my money spending habits, it has also brought me to some funny little internal junctures. I don’t know how to frame this other than to try and describe what I think happened, but I believe this was one of my first experiences feeling “cheap.” Let’s actually change that to “frugal.” Let me try to tell this story in three sentences. I called to order a gift basket from a Groupon I’d been gifted. I found out that the shipping would be half as much as the total gift card value. I was flabbergast at the shipping cost, and I was upset at the fact that I had to PAY to have my gift shipped. I was annoyed at their customer service person who didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. I ended up telling them I didn’t want to order and I hung up.

I went home (yes, I realize this is more than three sentences). I had a chance to examine some of my feelings regarding this exchange. Why was I so annoyed at the shipping price? I had the money, it wasn’t about that. Why didn’t I want to pay the cost? I realized that I was feeling overly frugal. This was new for me. I was annoyed at both the feeling, and at myself for feeling “cheap.”

I called my sister. I told her that I was experiencing something new in this money mindfulness journey. I was actually having a feeling when I went to spend money. It wasn’t guilt. It wasn’t sadness. It wasn’t excitement. It was begrudging. I didn’t want to spend the cash to have my package shipped. We laughed. Both of us. Together. Because it was actually an awesome new moment in my money spending experience. I cared. I cared about the money that was leaving my checking account.

I was aware. I was aware of this moment for ME. I got online, used my Groupon voucher, ordered my gift basket, talked my sister through the same process, and went on with my day feeling happy. I felt that I had turned over a very important piece of money mindfulness for myself that day. More to come on this money mindfulness front next week. But for now, I want to thank you for following along on my No New Things Challenge. Oh, and I wore this same outfit from two years ago this week and subbed out a different necklace. Still such a nice transitional combination in the mid-season!

There have been some wonderful moments for me this week, and there have been some lows, as I described. So I want to leave you with this little clip, and a reminder to “stay on your bike” as you move through life’s crazy twists, turns, log jumps, and loops. Yes, above all, “stay on your bike!” And, you know, if you are feeling it, don’t be afraid to do the WHIP! Here’s Danny Hart winning the UCI Downhill World Championship in 2011*. I wish you just as much success, luck, and seamlessly nailing of life’s rough course, as these announcers gave Danny Hart. I’m cheering you on!!

XX, Megan

*This clip may not be for little ears.

Bright Shoes Friday

No New Things Update

Woman and man jumping with shopping bags

First, let me say thank you for the words of support, encouragement, interest and excitement in my year of no shopping challenge. I will need all of the good karma out there to nail this. (Big wry smile on my face.) That said, I had some really wonderful breakthroughs this weekend in terms of my “No New Things” challenge.


My highly fashionable, but extremely socially conscious friend Kevin came to town this weekend. We attended the Sundance Film Festival, ate far too much delicious food, and generally had the chance to hang out and catch up. It was wonderful. Though shopping was not on our schedule, we actually had the chance to pop into some shops in Park City with my husband while Kevin was here.

I was worried that my inner shopper might kick in with Kevin around (no offense, Kev). Not because of Kevin, but because of ME! I have this vivid image, thirteen years ago, a tiny wood-paneled office in the middle of nowhere, scoping out a killer pair of Manolo Blahnik heels that I was drooling over for an upcoming wedding. On this particular day, in Skagway, Alaska, I would find a pair of shoes on my computer and then turn to Kevin for his review of the item online. We simply have always had that kind of exchange over style and fashion. I love it.

Fast forward to now, as we shopped around Park City I paid attention to how I felt looking at clothes, looking at goods. Maybe one of the small breakthroughs for me was that I didn’t feel that persistent need to buy something. It was as if I had released myself from the burden of purchase. I’m not saying that this is how it will feel every time, but it felt really, really good to simply look. To take in the stores, the displays, and even to try on items that are on my “wishlist” like an upgrade on my knee-length puffer jacket without feelings as though that sale was going to allow the “thing” to slip out of my grasp.

Research and Support

One of the other things that has helped me with the emotionality of this no shopping challenge (yes, I realize that I am not even a month in) has been The Art of Money, a book by Bari Tessler that I picked up at my school library. In all honesty I grabbed it because it was one of the books displayed on the top of the shelf, and Bari smiles from the cover with a gorgeous wine lip, the perfect over-sized jade ring, kind eyes, a generous smile, holding an inviting cup of tea. You can almost sense the warmth in it and in her.

There have been two important takeaways for me at this point. One is that I should take the time and space to examine my history with money. Bari talks a lot about how shameful many of us feel about our current relationship with money, but she also suggests that one of the reasons is that many of us don’t trace the roots of our relationship with money back very far.

We look at our present and judge our financial literacy based on where we are right now– “I was given my money through an inheritance, but I don’t deserve it because I didn’t work for it” or “Money is impossible to save, you just need to spend it when you can, as fast as you can” or “I don’t feel safe if I don’t have money so I am going to save as much as I can, I can have experiences later.” But why do we feel this way? Where do these feelings come from? Of course some of our present informs how we interact with money, but there are also many chapters in our history with money that we may not have looked at. I’m looking more at my money history now.

Second, I appreciate Bari’s emphasis on completing some aspect of our relationship with money. This year, along with no new things, I plan to FINALLY set up a way to track my money, get on top of a budget, and release myself from the burden my own perceived money ignorance. There is not better time to start than today! So I’m going to carpe my reality, load Mint onto my phone, track my expenses for a month, set up a savings account that I don’t touch, and generally reorder my finances this year.


The first rule of my year of no shopping is simple– I am not going to buy any clothes. But some questions have already been posed that have allowed me to further define this more general goal. What about consignment? What about replacement items? What about accessories? What about gifts? What about clothing items for my family?

First, I am only limiting my fast on shopping to clothing for myself. If I feel that I have the need to purchase a replacement item I will cross that bridge when I come to it. I honestly don’t think that this problem will arise. When thinking about this challenge, the only thing I could think of that I thought might need to be replaced was my white jeans. They are old, spotted, and sort of worn from my Clorox addiction. But I honestly don’t think they will need to be replaced and I’m not gunning for it.

Clothing for other family members is fair game, though just like replacing any worn out clothing in my own wardrobe, the idea here is not to go nuts shopping for items my boys do not need simply to have the feeling of new. I am limited in giving gifts to others, and I have made it clear to my husband and immediate family members that I can, let me say that again, the I CAN accept gifts.

As far as consignment shopping, thrift shopping, or online purchases of lightly worn clothing, I have removed this from the okay category. I joked with a couple of my friends that I didn’t want them to catch me every weekend at our local thrift store with my reusable grocery bag culling the racks for something, anything that I could BUY. No, thrifting is out for me on this go round. The idea is to use the clothing I have.


At this point, I hope to write weekly updates about my progress. These will be designed to be somewhat short and lively, and combined with other content material. I don’t want to overburden with every detail! In other words, I hope to keep you posted.

The item that really caught my eye this week was a dress from Madewell. It was a beautiful raw umber silk with perfectly placed peacock feathers, and just the right price (read: on sale). I looked at it all week. I put it in my shopping cart, I almost clicked purchase. Then I thought about some of the reasons that I was embarking on this challenge. I do not need to buy a dress simply because it is on sale.

Frankly, I don’t even need to buy the dress simply because it is beautiful. I can appreciate beauty and form in style and fashion, and still not have to be the purchaser. This was another big breakthrough for me. I hope you are finding joy in practicing better habits in 2018, and I hope you have a wonderful Friday and a fabulous weekend!

XX, Megan

Dickson Family 2017-119

The Last Sweater: My Year of No Shopping

Dickson Family 2017-111

Wherever you stand on resolutions (you love them, you pooh-pooh them, you think they may be an impetus for change, you don’t subscribe because you don’t see any value), I think that there is merit in examining your life periodically, and setting goals and intentions which move you forward as an individual.

This year I have one main goal I am focusing on. I am setting out on a year of not buying clothing. There are many who have trod this path before me: Colleen Bordeaux, Ann Patchett, James Clear, Cait Flanders, and more. Each one of these individuals had their own structure and set of rules for their shopping furlough. For me, this quest is one I’ve toyed with for a very long time. So why now?

I have enough clothes

I have pursued style and fashion for the better part of my life. While I don’t see anything inherently negative about this, I haven’t been as careful about cultivating my personal relationship with money as I have my wardrobe. In short, I have enough clothing. I want to take a year to evaluate my wardrobe.

Shopping mindlessly wastes time and money

I can’t tell you how much time and money I’ve spent shopping, but I can tell you that it has been a lot. One thing that Ann Patchett found during her year of no shopping was that she had time for other more important and even pressing activities. One of the reasons I initially began blogging was to spend more time writing. Yes, I did write more than I otherwise would have in the last two years if I did not run a blog, but I also used the fact that one of my intended focuses was “style” to shop– a lot.

I want to take a break from the online marketing circus. Constant shopping and buying in the realm of clothing drives the machine of wasteful fashion, one of the world’s largest polluters. The industry is all built on the backs of underpaid, often over-worked people in third world countries. I hope to take this year to evaluate my approach to buying, spending. I really need and want to learn to spend more thoughtfully and responsibly.

I want to realign my relationship with my money

In all honesty I have next to no understanding of money. I have jokingly explained my relationship as one where when the water is running (the money is flowing, there is cash in the bank) then I feel free to spend until the water runs dry. Dry would obviously mean that the money has been spent, the cash is gone. I have never used a budget, and I have certainly never examined how my money could be working for me, i.e. in investments, savings, and other forms of return.

I have to say that this is one of the hardest posts I have written. Not because I am not looking forward to the challenge of “no new things”, but because I am a person that does not like to set goals and then fail and I am a bit afraid of failing this challenge!

I’ll have more of my “rules” and some updates on this first month soon! Have a beautiful Thursday!



Dickson Family 2017-367

Holiday Party Wear: Your Vote!

Look 1 : Velvet Camisole, Black Denim, Gray Cardigan, Leopard Flats, Gold Drop Hoops

This may have been one of my most fun social media interactions to date. On Thursday I asked my friends and followers on Instagram and Facebook which outfit they would choose for an upcoming holiday party I was dressing for.

The first look is linked above, the second look is linked below. In the end, I wore a combination of your comments, suggestions, and votes. I can’t lie, crowd sourcing made dressing for this soiree so much more enjoyable! I didn’t have any qualms choosing my outfit. Do you crowd source your looks? Come on, please tell me that you have called your sister, your best friend, your mother, or even pinged your partner to find out what to wear.

Look 2: Sequin Top, Mid-Rise Jeans, Nude Sandals, Pearl Studs

The winner! This is what I wore to our holiday party– sequin top, dark rinse jeans, leopard heels, black topcoat, pearl earrings, and red cross-body purse. I had so much fun asking you all what I should wear, that I’ll probably do it again!

I posted these looks to share my holiday dressing inspiration– from me to you and you to me. Thank you for liking, sharing, commenting, voting, and following Refined + Rugged. What other content would you like to see in the coming year? I’d love to know, so feel free to comment below or post your thoughts to Instagram or Facebook. Have a wonderful Wednesday and a bright and beautiful holiday season!