Category Archives: Girl Talk

At 27, I Purchased My First “Anti-Wrinkle Cream”

“What are those… those… red creases in my forehead?,” I silently scream to myself as I study my aging face in the mirror, reflexively squeezing my forehead flesh in a worried expression making the thin lines even more pronounced. “Since when did I have wrinkles?” I’m 27 and my face shows it. I’m not sure how a 27 year old face is supposed to look, but I do know that my friends who are in their 30s look older in a way that makes them look like actual adults, and that suddenly people in their 40s don’t seem all that much older than people in their 30s to me. Meanwhile, my 27-year-old face is, well, it’s changing. It’s slowly but surely turning 30.

I remember about five years ago when I had caught my reflection in the bathroom at some random party after drinking one too many glasses of wine, and I didn’t recognize myself. I’ve spent far too many hours of my life looking in the mirror, either slathering my face with makeup or watching tears fall down my cheeks during a depressive outburst, so it was terrifying not to recognize my face. I look old, I thought. And then I was maybe 20 or 21…

There was a time when I thought it was silly to spend money on anything to keep yourself looking youthful, but I’m beginning to understand the trend. In a report by iData Research, a leading authority in pharmaceutical market research, the¬†market for Botox injections¬†is expected grow to an estimated $543 million by 2017. Clearly, those pharma companies know how to prick us in our sore spots.

While I’m not quite ready for botox, the other day I did find myself, for the first time in my life, staring at the aisle of overpriced wrinkle reduction creams and products designed to make you look youthful on my latest trip to the drugstore. Every skincare line offers some retinol product that promises “RESULTS.” After staring at the selection for a good half an hour, I went with a Neutrogena wrinkle cream product that set me back $23, more because I trust the brand (go marketing) than the label that said “100% of women noticed results in one week.”

From a personal finance perspective, this has me worried. Surely I can let my face age naturally, I can stay out of the sun from this point on (though the damage has, to a large extend, already been done) and just accept that I’m getting older… or, I can do what many other women do, and spend somewhere between too much and a ridiculous amount of money on attempting to look young forever.

My mother, who is in her late 50s, complains how she doesn’t have the money to spend on Botox… $600+ for a few small areas, twice a year, but she still spends (likely) nearly that much in various creams and sessions with her dermatologist, even without the overpriced muscle-freezing injections. Damn, it’s expensive being a woman. It seems the options are to either marry rich and look young forever, or just accept that one day you will look in the mirror, and you will have to look a lot deeper into your eyes to see any evidence the girl you once were.

I’m Taking the $4k Hair-Free Plunge: Why Laser Hair Removal is (Hopefully) Worth The Investment

So long $4k. $4.5k to be exact. I’m splurging on something that is (after a lot of pain) going to make me a much happier person. That thing is Laser Hair Removal. And it’s something that I’ve been wanting to fully invest in for a long time.

Let me preface this post by saying that I’ve already had some laser hair removal done. I’ve probably spend $2k already on 8 treatments for my face, 5 treatments for my underarm and one for my bikini area. For those of you who don’t know, laser hair removal requires multiple sessions because your hair grows in phases. Generally speaking people need 5-10 sessions per area to have most of the hair removed permanently.

Laser Hair Removal is extremely expensive, and it’s not a sure bet. My hormonal issues (PCOS) means that while LHR will kill hair currently growing, new hair might decide to pop up at any time. Still, I’ve found Laser Hair Removal a worthwhile investment so far, and I’m ready to invest in what it takes to go completely hair free. For some people who aren’t that hairy, it might not be worth it. But… TMI… I’m a hairy beast. And the truth is that my hair doesn’t just bother me, it hurts my relationship with others. As my hair grows back so quickly, it hurts intimacy with my boyfriend. He just doesn’t want to touch me at all if my legs are the least bit prickly. Meanwhile, having to shave all the dark hair frequently means a mess in the bathroom that takes a long time to clean up. And don’t get me started on Nair…

So I’ve done my research. I’ve made spreadsheets with the cost of getting each body part cleared of hair. Every time I added up the costs, even with the 40% off discounts that some of the local places run twice a year, it would still cost me $10k to get close to the amount of LHR I’d need. And then hair might still grow back, and it would be an unfinished job. I didn’t want a $10k unfinished job.

A year ago I found a place that’s about an hour drive away that offers Unlimited Laser Hair Removal. It seems almost too good to be true, but it’s also not all that cheap. I went to visit for a consultation (I actually met the nurse at another medspa in the city that was charging a lot more for the same equipment) and the place seemed clean, reputable, and has been around for a while. It uses an Alexandrite laser which is the right kind for my light skin and dark hair. So I’m game.

Still, it’s tough to plunk down $4k on anything. After all, I spent $7k on my car and that was, well, my CAR. I just figure if i’m going to invest in laser hair removal I might as well do it sooner than later — the value comes from being hair free for a long time, not waiting until I’m old enough to afford it. And, heck, I am old enough to afford it. I saved a lot of money last year, I deserve to “treat” myself.

And by treat myself, I mean TORTURE myself. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, laser hair removal is extremely painful. I had my bikini area done with it to test it out and… YIKES. Even with numbing cream it hurt. Well, the worst part was my inner thighs and around back. I cringe at the thought of all the pain I will endure, over and over again, to be hair free. But today I don’t feel the pain and my face is a lot smoother than it was a year ago (yea, yea, yea PCOS makes me have a beard, ugh.) I know I will be a much happier person when I go hair free. And that, my friends, is worth $4k.

Who wants to be Charlie Sheen?

With 2 million followers on Twitter since joining the site a few days ago, it’s unquestionable that Sheen’s celebrity power is worth enough money to fund his addictive, bipolar, goddess-filled lifestyle. America LOVES Charlie Sheen, in all his crazy glory. America LOVES to hate him as well, because he can get away with all the things the average person would be doomed by. His cocaine binges, his self-indulgent media whoring, his ability to become MORE famous for his crazy antics despite causing his show to shut down, makes him almost as invincible as he thinks he is.

I admittedly haven’t followed Sheen’s story closely, and have only caught glimpses of his interviews online, and have seen the stars glistening in my boyfriend’s eyes as he defines Sheen as “awesome,” half jokingly, half… well, half surely wanting to be Charlie Sheen. His 24-year-old blonde Goddesses clutching his side, watching his children, and undoubtedly providing a party in the bedroom, without asking him to grow up — after all, who needs to grow up when you have billions of dollars to blow through?

Our society both glamorizes this type of outrageous celebrity lifestyle, it’s easy to forget these people are human, not gods, and probably have as many downs as they do ups. Yet somehow — even with all the drug use and body-hurting behaviors — most live, and seem, well, happy. Especially Charlie Sheen — maybe he just fakes it well — but he sure seems to love being able to exploit his mania, and have the financial cushion to do whatever he wants in life.

Ok, so maybe YOU don’t want to be Charlie Sheen, but I might. Not to be HIM exactly, but to have enough fame and fortune to live a life of extremes and spontaneity. That may be unhealthy, but I’d agree to some extent that it IS winning. Then again, as someone who struggles with a more mild form of Bipolar, I lust for an even more extreme mania than the hypomania I occasionally experience with Bipolar II. I’ve never had a real manic episode, but — deep down my happiness seems tied to the ability to live manic. Why do I need a lot of money? I want to be able to, when in a manic-type of mood, go to a mall and spend thousands of dollars on clothes and other items. I want to be able to blow a few thousand dollars on a weekend trip to Hawaii, or London, or anywhere else in the world. And I want enough money to buy my friends, because then you don’t have to be the perfect friend, just the one who can afford to keep your selected company around.

I guess I do want to be Charlie Sheen, and with that being my goal in life, I don’t think my dreams are all too realistic. Especially since the female version of Sheen is Lindsay Lohan or something, and I wouldn’t want to be her.

Should I Have Children?

During my therapy session today, it occurred to me that this question alone is one that, of all the questions and confusions on life I have, is the one that freaks me out the most. I’m not going to have kids tomorrow or the next day, but at 26 I have to face reality that if I am going to have children (I’d like at least 2, at most 3) I should have kids within approximately the next 10 years. That’s a lot of time and not much time at all.

10 years ago, I was 16.5. I was a junior in high school, trying to figure out where to go to college, taking the PSATs, and really just starting on my journey of adulthood. It kind of feels like a long time ago. Will 30 or 35 feel that long from now? I hear time speeds up the older you get.
My therapist and I briefly discussed today whether or not I want kids. To be honest, I don’t know. She said that people don’t have to have children, and you have to really have a physical urge to have kids and a desire to appreciate the joy they’ll bring (along with all the sacrifice and stress.) Do I have that urge? Will I ever?
Surely, my life without children might feel a bit meaningless. It already feels meaningless. But it’s not good to put that much responsibility on my yet-to-be-conceived offspring — “bring my life meaning or else.” I can’t really see myself being a mother. Then again, there are plenty of other people in this world who should not be mothers who are, so why should I be so hard on myself? (Ie — see WhytheFuckDoYouHaveaKid.com) I’m not THAT bad, right?

I mean, I have my shit together. Sort of. I have $50k in savings/retirement, a job (that isn’t stable, but I at least have a career that can lead to more jobs), I’m probably doing a lot better than many people my age who already have children. Why do I feel like I need a million dollars in the bank before I can procreate?
Some days, I think reading all these personal finance blogs and listening to Ray Lucia and tracking my Net Worth hurts me a bit. It just makes me freak out about money. It’s important to be responsible with money, to save a certain percentage of your income, etc, etc, but I’m paralyzed by my fear of never having enough. This whole “should I have kids” question goes beyond just having the finances to afford them (heck, am I really the type of person who can be responsible for infants or deal when my teenagers talk back to me?) but the money is a big part of it.
The days I dream of grad school, I have to remind myself how much debt I’ll be in at 30, versus the non grad school route where I can possibly reach a networth of $100k or more by 30. If I end up having kids and wanting to stay home with them, why even bother with grad school?
Meanwhile, my boyfriend has barely any savings, no Roth IRA, no retirement accounts, and is planning to go to grad school — at least for his masters, probably for his PhD. So we’ll likely have his debts to deal with. Why bother adding mine? We can’t do that if we want to have children. I really need to have kids in my early 30s… I will have to go through in vitro and all that fun due to my PCOS, and having children will probably cost $20k+ a pop. I’m not just making these money concerns up.
What do you think? Do you have children? When did you have your kids? How much did you have in net worth when you had children? Do you think it’s silly for me to be this concerned about money before having kids?

Say Yes to the Dress — Why I’m Going to Try to Say No…

My reality TV obsession as of late is TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.” Now that I’m 26, I’m like (almost) every other girl in the world who (isn’t married yet) is thinking about being a bride and all that goes with it. Hey, I’ve been with my bf 3.5 years, so it’s not like marriage is so far off I shouldn’t be thinking about such things. (Right… right?)

Watching the show has me fiscally horrified, especially the episodes featuring women who have no budget and can buy a dress that costs $6k or more. As a kid, I would have been certain that my wedding dress would be on par with the dresses shown on SYTTD, and that I’d have money flowing from every possible bank account to fund my dream wedding. Nowadays, I’m a lot smarter than that. And thinking about the cost of my one-day wedding makes me almost violently ill.

When I was 12, my family threw a huge Bat Mitzvah party for me. It was ridiculous. I don’t know how much it cost but I think it was around $13k. For a Bat Mitzvah. It was the fault of my parents as much as it was mine. My party was probably on the higher end of what my peers spent in my temple, but certainly not the highest. I wanted to have the reception at one venue that my parents deemed too expensive. Where’d all the money go? The venue and food, the DJ / band (yes I had a DJ AND Band at my Bat Mitzvah), the professional photographer, professional videographer, the outfit (though my dress wasn’t really that expensive compared to anything else), the party favors (I needed three colors on the custom t-shirts so that cost extra), the party planner, and who knows what else. With such a big family on both sides, a lot of people were invited, and many came. I didn’t know half the people at my party, but it was a party, and I enjoyed it (as much as an atheist girl can when she is celebrating the end of years of religious study.) 

Looking forward to my wedding day (even though I’m not even engaged yet), I know that I want to be frugal when it comes to the big day. But I’m also the type of girl that believes in going all out or not going at all. And I’m tempted not to go. At least when I was a kid at my Bat Mitzvah I was so ignorant. While that was awful for my parent’s finances, at least I could ENJOY the celebration, for what that’s worth. Knowing how much my wedding costs will make it tough for me to enjoy any of it. I’d elope except my mom would shoot me, so it looks like I’ll be forced to have a wedding.

According to I Will Teach You to Be Rich and the Wall Street Journal, the average wedding cost is $28,000. That’s the AVERAGE, people. I’m not surprised knowing how much parties cost, but I can’t imagine how so many people spend this much, especially when the majority of them are in debt.

When I watch Say Yes to the Dress, I’m amazed by how the lower-end buyers are looking for dresses that cost around $3,000. First of all, if I ever spend $3,000 on a dress it will NOT be white because God knows a white dress won’t be able to be worn twice (and a bridal gown can’t be worn twice anyway, unless you manage to have the Project Runway contestants makeover your dress into a modern frock.)

How can anyone spend $3,000 or more on a dress to be worn one day? I dream of finding a used designer gown that’s still in perfect condition so at least I’ll get a decent price on a nice gown, but really, I know designer gowns still cost more than what I’d like to spend on a dress. The most I’ve ever spent on a garment is $460, which was my $600 leather jacket on sale. And I wear that basically every day.

I’ve been eying the designer Maggie Sottero who has some lovely dresses that I could see wearing on my wedding day. I’m short and pear-apple shaped, so finding a dress that is flattering will be beyond difficult (I can’t pull off strapless unless I go on a serious diet)… I wish I could pull off a dress like this but with my waist that would just not look good. From what I can tell, this designer’s gowns run more like $1k – $2k, which is still more than I’d like to spend. Honestly, do I even need a wedding gown? Can’t I just get a nice prom dress and call it a day?

How much did you spend (or expect to spend) on your wedding dress (or wife’s wedding dress)? Was it in your budget, or did you spend more (or less) than you wanted to? Did you get your dress on sale, or full price? Were you happy with your purchase?

Botox Bail Out

Every once in a while I find an article or study that makes me embarrassed to be human. At one point in our evolution we would have given an arm and a leg to be able to feed ourselves and our families for the day. These days, we equate wrinkles to starvation. Even with stocks down and job losses up, vanity beats out frugality.

According to a new study, nearly three out of four plastic surgeons reported that demand has increased or held steady for minimally invasive procedures, including the Botox antiwrinkle drug, dermal fillers used to plump up lips and smile lines, and skin-smoothing chemical peels, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, a professional group representing 6,700 surgeons.


Case in point:

“Maralyn Burr of Omaha, Neb., in June lost her job as a district sales manager for bookstore chain Borders Group Inc. Ms. Burr, who is $140,000 in debt from her 22-year-old daughter’s musical education, says she has slashed spending and all but stopped eating out. But she hasn’t given up her Restylane and Botox injections. “It’s like comfort food,” she says.” – Keeping Up Appearances in a Downturn, Wall Street Journal 

Doesn’t that make you just a little sad to be human?

Dating: Who Pays?

A few years back, I had just graduated from college and was a full-time intern (aka slave) with a decent amount of savings (savings=for grad school one day) and a boyfriend who had started his six-figure attorney job the same year (note: he graduated from law school with no student loans thanks to his mom and dad and some savings). At that point, we were together for over a year. I had spent hundreds of dollars on plane tickets flying around the country to see him, as we had met in one city, then spent a good chunk of our relationship long distance.

Given, I’m not the type of girl who expects men to pay for her, one of the reasons our relationship ended was that I could not stand his stinginess. I know I wasn’t broke, but it would have been nice for him to offer to pay for a movie ticket every once in a while. I felt like I was holding him back from the life he could have, since it wouldn’t kill his piggy bank to go wine tasting once a month, or enjoy a decadent meal every once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with avoiding pricier options, but at the time, well, every cent counted. Really.

Now I’m in the reverse situation. It’s kind of funny, actually. I’m dating a guy who is unemployed. He does have a savings (from my understanding of it, he has just about the amount I have in savings) and he lives at home (so no rent, whereas I pay $1050 a month in rent.) Supposedly his parents are footing the bill for grad school if he decides to go. (My parents are not, as far as I know, though my dad has mentioned that in 3 years when he can access his 401k, there will be some money available to help out if I can wait that long.)

(Anyway… the details are rather unimportant as a generic entry about who pays for things in a relationship, but as this is my personal finance blog, I’m writing details. Hope y’all don’t mind.)

So guy #2 loves to pay for me 75 percent of the time. We go out to dinner and he often offers. He let’s me pay occasionally. I don’t push him enough because in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, if he pays, that’s another $15 I can pocket for grad school… or a new shirt. It feels rather icky to be the stingy person in the relationship. Sometimes I feel like I should pay more frequently since I’m working and he’s not. Then again, it’s his personal choice to be unemployed (he has a degree from a top school, I doubt he’d have much trouble getting a job) and if he wants to pay for me than who am I to object? Plus he’s got his parent’s money for grad school and if I actually ever figure out what I want to do with my life for the long-term, I’ll need to foot most of my bill for all graduate school fees.

Obviously I’m not talking about the first couple of dates here. That’s the subject for a whole other entry because at that point there’s somewhat of a societal expectation for the man to offer, even if the woman ultimately is sane enough to grab the check and split the bill fairly. But for people in LTR’s, money is a whole other issue.

Sometimes, I admit, I dream of dating someone (*cough*gold digger*cough*) who takes me out to nice places and… takes me shopping. It’s ridiculous, as I’m NOT a gold digger. Really. I wouldn’t date someone just because they were rich. It’s just a nice thought, since life out here in Silicon Valley is so damn pricey and everyone else around here seems to be loaded.

To tell you the truth, I’d rather be the one making the big bucks. I doubt that will ever happen as a journalist, even though I’ve managed to do quite well for myself in the generally poor-paying profession. But I’m not going to kid myself into thinking I’d ever be looking at a six-figure salary. It might be possible if some day I make a name for myself and start my own website, but I’m not going to start dreaming about that now. Reality is I’m making an OK salary, but I’m living in one of the richest counties in the country…

[[The median income for a household in the county was $70,819, and the median income for a family was $80,737. Males had a median income of $51,342 versus $40,383 for females.]]

Ok, so in a few week’s I’ll be making more than the median income for females. That still means nothing (considering that my life involves interacting with venture capitalists and other well-to-do types)… and while I know money does not equal happiness, there’s always the underlying fear of taking out loans for grad school and having to deal with debt (the “good kind”) and then never being able to afford a house or any other form of stability in my life.

It’s all kind of hypocritical of me, since I’m terrible at saving, and I always end up spending too much each month. Why does it matter if I spend too much on a shirt versus a nice date with my boyfriend? It’s probably better to spend that $70 on a date.

Women Don’t Negotiate = Women Make Less Money.

I got a new job. I can’t go into details on here regarding what that job entails, as I don’t want to blow my thinly-veiled cover (to those who know me, it’s impossible for me to blog without giving away who I am.) Needless to say, the position is 99 percent of the way to dream job, and I’m really proud of myself for somehow falling into the opportunity.

The focus of this entry is not my new job, persay, but my terror of negotiating and my delight in figuring out that I can get what I want in a negotiation without feeling guilty.

The day of my meeting to negotiate terms of my new job, I spent all my free time scouring the Internet for advice on how to approach any likely scenerio. I took my current job with absolutely no negotiation, and while I don’t regret it (the job was worth more to me than a few thousand more dollars at the time, when my lack of full-time experience made it painfully difficult to get a job at all), it does suck being stuck at my entry-level salary a year later. Between the company struggling financially and my inability to be brilliant in their eyes, I lost the opportunity to be promoted five months into the gig. And since then, I haven’t even dared to ask. I’ve been working my ass off and I’m pretty sure I’ve been earning my keep, to say the least. It has just become increasingly clear to me that in order to be valued as I ought to be, I need to move elsewhere.

So I applied for dozens of positions and even got offers for a few, but ultimately turned them down. They all paid more than my current gig, but I decided while I’d like a fatter paycheck, salary isn’t the only thing that would get me to make the leap to a new position. I’m picky. And I really wanted to find a job where I knew I would feel like I’d be able to give just as much as I take, if not more.

Found that job, or so it seems. I had no idea what the salary would be. It’s one of those Web 2.0 jobs where there’s no pre-defined standard for base salary at any level. It’s a guessing game for all involved, to be determined based on either my former salary or my current and potential value.

The one strict rule in negotating, it seems, is that you’re not supposed to note your current salary at any point. Nor should you bring up a number first. In my situation, I was practically forced to put a number out there. I blurted out a range, which was higher than what I’m making now but not entirely ridiculous. The low point in the range was what I figured I should be making at my current job if I was in a company that actually paid attention to the growth of its employees and wanted to reward them for their hard work. The high of the range, $5k more, was what I’d like to be making, even though I didn’t think that was really possible.

Side story…

The other day I met up with a young woman who used to intern with me at a community newspaper. She graduated a year after me (I was interning the year after I graduated, while she was graduating that year with a degree in journalism.) Turns out, she hated the internship (and seemingly journalism as a whole, but maybe it was just the internship.) So the other day we re-connected on Linked In and it turned out she was working in a PR office a few towns over. So we decided to meet up for lunch.

We talked a lot about issues of age, salary, and feeling like being taken advantage of at work (mostly due to our age.) Turns out that her salary, surprisingly enough, was $3k less than what I’m currently making. She was frustrated with her job, mostly because of the pay – I’d imagine mind numbing PR work without a rewarding salary would get old fast. We’ve both been in our positions a year now, even though I’m officially two years out of school and she’s just marking her one year anniversary of graduation.

She took such a low salary without negotiating at first because she needed the experience as well, but likely she could have gotten her base pay up to that $35k figure that seems to be standard for entry-level corporate or agency work (unless you’re a software engineer or something). Now she’s stuck. She could ask for a raise, but the raise would bring her up to what she should have started at a year ago.

Back to the main story…

Negotiation is an amazing tool when used properly. It’s amazing what you can get just by asking. Women are taught to make other’s happy, to be people pleasers (at least most of us are) so negotiation seems like a painful experience. Aren’t they offering me what’s in my best interest? Not likely. It turns out that men often think of their own interests first, whereas women are the opposite. So a man will low-ball a salary and expect the other person to negotiate. If the other person is a man, chances are he would negotiate for a higher salary or at least better benefits. If the other person is a women, it’s questionable if she’ll say “Ok” or go with the great tactic… “hmmmmm…”

But I’m living proof that it can’t hurt to ask. At the start of the negotation process, I was given a salary quote, which was the lowest number I had noted in my range at my first interview. While I could have taken that and been happy with it, I felt like that was a little low considering my additional commute time for this new job and all the added responsibility. I was thinking of asking for $2k more, but I realized if I did that, then he might pick a number in between the two, and I’d end up with only $1k more. So instead I mustered up all my courage and pushed the number up $5k. It was quite a nervewracking moment. I was waiting for him to say no. He almost said no. Then he said, “done.”

Moral of the story – female or male, but especially female, make sure to ask for what you want when you’re negotiating. It might make sense to accept what’s offered to you for your first job out of college, but even then most people respect a little negotiation initative. Afterall, business – whether it’s working for a giant corporate company as a sales rep, or as a development associate at a non-profit, is ALL about negotation. And if you can’t ask for what you want when it comes to your livelihood, what’s to say you would be able to do it on a daily basis to help your company get ahead?