Category Archives: Shopping

14 Weeks Pregnant, 2 Weeks Until I Tell My Parents!

Today I have officially entered the second trimester. I’m fortunate that my first trimester was actually not that bad–no major morning sickness outside of mild nausea if I didn’t eat anything in the morning. The side effect of NOT having morning sickness is that I did gain weight — too much weight — during the first 13 weeks of this pregnancy. I had plateaued for a while at 11 lbs gain and then shot up to a total of 16! Yikes.

Outside of my rapid weight gain, though, what I’m really concerned about is this 6 weeks maternity leave situation. The more I think about it, the more upset I feel that my work does not allow me to use any vacation time (since we have “unlimited vacation” they do not have to approve any and it’s not possible to accrue PTO) so I have no choice other than to head back to work at 6 weeks post birth or quit. Since I have no plans of quitting (and it would be rather devastating financially for many reasons) I’ll be headed back to work fairly soon after I meet my first child.

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How to Save Money on Maternity Clothes

Really? A $200 pair of jeans that will fit for about 3 months of your life? $100, on sale, for a basic dress designed to fit your growing “bump” — that will be unusable as soon as you give birth?

Forgive me, but even this shop-a-holic is cringing at how much maternity clothes cost these days. Yes, you can buy maternity clothes at Old Navy and Target, and they certainly aren’t $200 a pop. But given you need a reasonable wardrobe to wear to work, ideally without doing laundry every night while you get more tired further into your pregnancy, even $30 here and there adds up. Continue reading

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.

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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.

$9164.78 on clothing(!)
$4,456.99 on “shopping general” (mostly, 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 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.