Category Archives: Shopping

Lessons in Adulting: How Much Should Living Room Furniture Cost?

When we moved in together two years ago, my Craigslist-purchased couch with ripped cushions and protruding feathers, along with my once-glued together, now peeling-apart IKEA coffee table and self-desctructive Tar-gey bookshelves which are not safe to be around a small child, seemed perfectly fine for a trancient space. With barren white walls and a few half-filled and altogether empty frames scattered about the floor, this now-married couple is trying to figure out how to create a place that feels like “home” without overdoing it (you know, like we (…ahem… I) overdid our wedding.)

Right now, we really can’t have guests over because the place is embarrassing, even on its good days when I’ve cleaned up the piles of mess. Our lease is up in May, but it is doubtful we will move next year or anytime soon (the only real reasons for us to move is 1 – rents going up an unreasonable amount, 2 – we have a child and said child turns 2, or 3, one of us gets a job super far away, like, in another state, and we need to move.) Otherwise, it looks like we’re hunkered down for a few more years in our 800-square foot, overpriced-due-to-Silicon-Valley-rental-costs abode.

This furniture has got to go. Continue reading

The Percentage Budget: How much should the single working woman spend on clothes?

There should be some criminal penalty for allowing me to enter a Nordstrom. The lighting, the quality-made clothing, the hip fashions that should be in my closet — not on the store rack — are too enticing. Luckily, I’m terrified of buying designer items that cost a small fortune, so I only buy items that cost a miniature fortune. Still, they add up, and I feel guilty for buying just about any item.

I wonder how these stores stay in business selling $300 shirts and $400 shoes, where a decent outfit complete with shoes and accessories costs $1000-$2000. While it doesn’t make sense for someone in a lower income bracket to shop at Nordstrom, I have to assume that this type of store and pricepoint would be targeted towards a mid-career professional earning over six figures. Not that I have to actually follow through with their marketing persona, but why can’t I enjoy the fruits of my labor in the form of a Joie blouse or Ted Baker suit? Continue reading

Splurge of the Month: Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central Multi-Cooker

Instead of buying lots of little crappy items I don’t need, I want to focus on buying one nice item that I do need (or that would make my life seriously better.) I’m going to try to hold off until later in most months to make this purchase, but I couldn’t resist buying more cooking tools on 2013: the year I get domestic.

Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central Multi-Cooker: Slow Cooker, Brown/Saute, Steamer

SPLURGE OF THE MONTH: $149 (org. $299) Cuisinart Slow Cooker / Steamer / Brown/Sauter.

Continue reading

Fighting Shopping Addiction

It used to be I could avoid shopping malls and manage to refrain from overspending, but with my Internet-connected lifestyle, it’s hard to avoid constant temptation. I’ve made a commitment to only purchase items this year that support my goal to get healthy (or reward me for dropping a few dress sizes), but that doesn’t equate to frugality.

While it seems silly, I get a major rush from shopping. It started when I was young. Since there was little emotional connection in my family beyond constant fights, the one time where I felt I could bond with my mother was when we went shopping. Going to the mall was our thing. And we spent way too much money on my clothes. Spending $1000 at Nordstrom was a common occurrence. I never bought designer clothing but the amount of clothing purchase added up. If I liked a shirt in blue and it came in six other colors, my mother would convince me I needed every color. Being able to purchase all of this made me feel in control, like I was on top of the world. Continue reading

The Executive Makeover (Part 1 of Many)

At a web startup, t-shirts and jeans is often the norm. It’s accepted you work around the clock so if you want to wear pajamas if no clients are coming into the office, then that might be ok on rare occasions. But as your company grows, so does the expectation of professionalism, starting with how you dress.

As others are hired at later stages in the company, this becomes further clear. T-shirts are replaced with button downs. Jeans have transformed into slacks. And, if you’re still wearing what you wore at the beginning of the company, you no longer fit in.

A 2001 study conducted by consumer research firm Yankelovich Partners, Inc., titled “Work Your Image: The Importance of Appearance on the Job” reported that 76% of respondents believe that a woman’s appearance affects whether she is taken seriously, asked to participate in meetings with upper management or is well regarded by colleagues and supervisors. Sixty four percent believe that her appearance will lead to consideration for raises or promotion. Continue reading

Confessions of a Deranged Shopaholic – HECC Edition

My Broken Coin — a fellow personal finance blogger — wrote a post on how she spent $8600 on shopping in 2012. That led me to checking out my own stats to see how much I spent on shopping last year.

$17,617!!!
$9164.78 on clothing(!)
$4,456.99 on “shopping general” (mostly Amazon.com, yikes)
$1,272.98 on “sporting goods” (camping stuff for my vacation)
$858.67 on makeup
$811.76 on hobbies
$187.81 on electronics

That’s ridiculous as it doesn’t even include my food costs. Now, I choose to live in a place where rent is $650 / month with roommates so I can afford the overrages of my shopping addiction, but I’m not sure that even adds up anymore. A 1br apartment that’s comparatively nice to my current shared 3br would cost me $1800 a month minimum, and in this location probably more like $2200. So I could spend $18600 more in rent, or, well, clearly I can spend that all on clothes, makeup and household items. Or I can just force myself not to shop for anything other than necessities for a year. Continue reading

How to Get the Most Out of Black Friday

As a serial sale rack shopper, I often chuckle at the deals that stores offer on Black Friday. It’s not that there isn’t a few steals in the bunch, but most of the time stores discount in ways that market to the least common denominator, the common person who believes discounts on Black Friday must be better than every other day of the year.

Certainly for a few key electronics purchases stores may offer big discounts to lure shoppers in. But then, you get stores like Banana Republic offering “35%” off their entire store merchandise. That sounds like a good deal, unless you were in the store last week when they were offering “40% off all full-priced tops.” Meanwhile, on Express (where I often pick up a few Black Friday Deals) the online store offers everything at 40% off. I’ve been at the mall too much in the last month for some reason, and every time I’ve gone into Express, they had one of their “buy one get one 50% sales” for shirts or jackets or other items.

The reason I like Black Friday at Express is that you can buy their suiting (which doesn’t seem to go on sale otherwise) at 40% off, which is a good deal. That’s until 12pm, they offer their suit jackets and pants and the rest of their store at 40% off online… if there’s anything left by the time you click around.

Other stores like NewEgg.com have pretty good electronics deals. You might get a good discount on a hot item, so it’s worth shopping around — but it often doesn’t require going into the store and getting trampled on by a stampede of  crazy shoppers — you can get many of the same deals online.

One of the biggest tricks I see is how some items are significantly discounted while others, which I’ve seen on sale racks in stores, are now online for the same or even a higher price marked “40% off their regular retail price.” So it’s best to buy items that you know the value of, and ones that don’t go on sale, and are available season after season.

So stay indoors, get up early (if you haven’t already) and search your favorite sites for the best deals. Stock up on items you’d buy anyway that never go on sale and are at a solid discount, like the suiting at Express.

What was your best Black Friday deal this year?

 

 

A Post About Life, Death, and “Stuff”

My father worked his entire life taking a train into the city and home, five days a week, with an hour-and-some-odd-long commute and long hours. He earned good money, enough to support an upper middle class life for myself, my sister, and my stay-at-home mom.

He retired early because he was overweight and couldn’t take the commute anymore. A few years later, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The recession hit and his 401k, once nearing $2 Million, was down to below $1M — still a respectable amount for retirement, but not necessarily enough to support his lifestyle, illness treatment, and my mom’s high-maintenance lifestyle.

Three years ago, my father was told he has two years to live. I’m glad he’s outlived that doctor prediction, but the reality is that it’s unlikely he’s going to live for many more years. He doesn’t want to think about that, or believe that, understandably, so while he complains about his slowly depleting bank account, he’s been spending the last year obsessively purchasing stuff to put in our NJ home. It’s actually really sad, as he’s spending lots of money to fast redecorate the entire home, and completely refurnish rooms, because to him, stuff is important, or at the very least a distraction from reality.

He purchased a $3,000 rug for the dining room, he’s bought paintings for thousands of dollars that have questionable value, but he liked them. He wants the house to look like a museum, now that he has time to shop for art. He complains that building on to the family room cost too much money, yet continues to spend. It’s not my place to say anything about his purchases, but the other reality is I’m going to be the one left to deal with my mother when she runs out of money later in life. And I’ll deal with it when the time comes, but all I want to do is teach my parents how to be responsible with money. It’s not a conversation I can have with my father — he’s worked his whole life while barely living and if acquiring “art,” movies and books makes him happy, then he should be able to do this… even if it means my mother is going to have to learn how to live on less or, more likely, run out of money when she’s 80.

I really hope I can live a life where I never get to the end and feel like I need to rush to spend my money buying stuff to fill the emptiness that extends beyond a few white walls. For now, I’ll continue to be surprised by the latest addition to my family “museum” every trip I take home.

 

I’ve Been a Bad, Bad Girl

This is why it is a bad idea to live next door to a mall:

9am: Wake up, realize I have no clean clothes to wear to a work event in the afternoon.
10am: Ponder doing laundry, but fail to find clothes (that aren’t dry-clean only) that would be appropriate for said event.
11:20am: set off to the mall to find one outfit ($100 max) to purchase for work.
12:30pm: return home with $370 in clothing purchases including: 2 pairs of pants, 1 t-shirt, 1 jacket, 1 nice button down shirt, 1 cute random $70 bright blue shirt that would be good for, uh, clubbing (do I ever go clubbing?), and 1 sweater.
12:40pm: Put on jacket, t-shirt, and pants, and head out to work event.

Anyway… I’m now trying to figure out if I should return anything. Obviously I can’t return what I wore yesterday. I really like the sweater from Express… and it wasn’t too expensive so I’m going to keep it. Really the only items I could return are the $40 bright blue button down, short-sleeve shirt and the gray dress pants, also from Express. But I always manage to not have any pants to wear. I should return the shirt. I don’t even know if I’ll ever wear it. I’m still upset with myself for buying a dress –on sale–at Macy’s a year ago and then never wearing it and managing to not attempt to return it until it was too late to make the return. That’s $53 down the drain.

In any case, I shouldn’t have spent $370 on clothes! That’s ridiculous and I know it. But clothes make me happy. I’m an addict. And I’ve decided that buying things on sale is a waste… because then I always buy things (like that dress) and never wear them. Well, the jacket I bought yesterday WAS on sale (for $60, compared to its $173 original price tag) but… my new rule is to buy clothing that I am in love with at the store, because i know i’ll get a lot of use out of it. For instance, the $70 purple shirt and $160 jeans I bought last month have already been worn… a lot. I try to buy machine wash and dry clothes now, since my dry-cleaning bin is filled up and I’m too stubborn to spend $100+ getting it all washed. Of course that would be cheaper that going out and buying new clothes.

Hmm. So I think I have a shopping addiction. And it’s pretty bad. I’m depleting my savings, even while making $50k a year. How is that even possible?

shop-a-holic / a rant re: dry cleaning.

I’m totally blowing my first month’s salary (for my new job that i haven’t even started yet) by taking a few (supposedly harmless) trips to my local mall.

Remember how I bought a pair of $156 jeans the other day (i’m still madly in love with them, though terrified of washing the pair. i think it’s ridiculous to dry clean jeans, but i also don’t want to destroy a pair of $156 pants in the washer/dryer) — anyway, yesterday I bought another pair. And this one needs a good hemming in order not to cover an extra 5 inches of imaginary calf.

[[[addition… i found the same part of jeans sold on Revolve Clothing for $231, so I feel rather good about buying the same pair for $153 on sale.]]]

Nordstrom is dangerous for me. Given, I’ve learned to control myself when it comes to buying clothes that I know I’ll only wear once. Still, my basket full of dry cleaning is awaiting my dragging it to the cleaners and spending $150 or so to get it all cleaned. I hate wearing clothes more than once in between washes, but I’m learning to get over that as well… especially my dry cleaned items. Dry cleaning is so damn expensive. Why must all of the nice clothes be dry clean only? I hate that.

At least men’s dry cleaning is fairly cheap. I love the places that advertise $1.00 per shirt, then I bring in my shirt and they say – ‘oh, that’s the men’s price. your shirt costs $3.50’ or whatever the marked up price is. In one of my sociology classes in college we watched a investigative piece about women getting overcharged for things, and in one part of it a guy brought a woman’s shirt to a dry cleaner and he was charged the lower fee, then a woman brought in the same shirt and she was charged more. WTF?

Anyway, I really have no right to complain about that when I just spent $153 on another pair of jeans. And I really shouldn’t have. Well, they just looked so great with that $66 shirt that actually made me look attractive.

Now, those $153 were actually on sale. I wasn’t familiar with the brand, but I was browsing the Saavy department of Nordstrom (where I have constant clothiorgasms, similar to the ones i have in the “Impulse” section at Macy’s)… the goal of the trip was to find a pair of True Religion jeans to try on (someone mentioned the brand on this blog so I figured I’d check them out and see if they happened to fit better than Joe’s brand). Well, I found one pair of True Religion jeans but they were this fugly dark wash that wasn’t my style. Then I found myself browsing the other jeans and noticed one brand way in the back of the too-cool-for-school section of the store. I’m not sure how denim designers think they can get away with charging $230 for a pair of jeans, but for this one brand that price tag seemed standard.

I wasn’t going to bother trying on that brand (I was afraid I’d fall madly in love with them and splurge $230 for the pair) but then I was browsing the sale rack (sale in the expensive department just seems like the wrong word to use) and found a pair in my size by the same brand… on “sale” for $153.

That brand, William Rast, is apparently Justin Timberlake’s denim line. Justin Timberlake has a denim line? See how much I know about fashion. Anyway, I tried on the jeans and lo-and-behold they fit quite nicely. But I think it was the way they looked with the purple shirt I tried on that sold me on the pair. After all, my goal was to buy one more pair of jeans… light wash… to balance out my wardrobe. These jeans were NOT light wash. They’re almost the same tone as my Joe’s pair, except the hue leans slightly towards a grey-blue, whereas my Joe’s jeans are true blue. So when paired with a color, they are less distracting and I feel like they match better.

I still feel silly about wearing jeans by Justin Timberlake. I tend to avoid all of the rock star designers… J Lo, P Diddy, etc. They can mark up their prices to ridiculous amounts for no reason other than their celebrity.

Still, the jeans fit, and as far as I know I’ll be able to wear jeans most everyday to my new job. If that’s true, it makes sense to own a few pairs of quality jeans. Right?

Ok. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m really bad with money. I was such a spoiled little kid. Of course, I never bought $200 jeans when I was younger. But it was common to spend upwards of $1500 a season buying new clothes. I’d buy A LOT of clothes for that price (whereas now I could see spending that much and getting maybe three outfits). If I found one shirt I liked, my mom would basically force me to buy it in every color they sold it in, even if I hated all the other colors. I was always aware of things being pricey, and would rather spend $30 on a shirt (and buy 10 shirts) than buy one $130 top.

Bad spending habits are hard to break. I’ve told my boyfriend that as soon as I start my new job, I’m going to make and stick to a strict budget. I think it will be fun to start saving and splitting that savings up so I can put, say, $50 a month into a shopping fund and then when a new season rolls around, I can limit my spending to the money I saved for shopping. If I don’t want any new clothes that season, I can keep saving. It’d be fun to go shopping with $1000 to spend once a year. And then I wouldn’t feel guilty for buying a $66 shirt that I’m madly in love with.

I just need to keep myself away from the mall. I went there yesterday to go shopping with my boyfriend. I was supposed to be looking for shirts for him. But then I ran into Nordstrom just to check out those True Religion jeans and, well, the rest of the story is history.

I’ll try those jeans on again tonight and see if I really like them, then i’ll take them to get hemmed at some point. It’s about time I visit the dry cleaners anyway.