Monthly Archives: November 2012

Bargains? What Bargains?! Deconstructing the Shopping Day…

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Last Friday, otherwise known as Black Friday, was a bit ho-hum for me.  The news just announced that 3.8% more people hit the stores, but that sales were down by 1.8%.  I’m not surprised.  I thought the stuff on offer mostly sucked.  Before I left to see what was to be had, I searched the sales papers like everyone else.  I marked a few things down and then headed out not at the ungodly crack of dawn, but at a more reasonable mid-morning start.

This is the first Black Friday where I went looking for mostly deals on things for the home as well as a hopefully good Christmas present or two.  But truthfully, I haven’t shopped Black Friday purely for Christmas presents in a long, long time.  Why?  There just doesn’t seem to be much value in it for a budget glam girl.  I guess to me, it seems as though you either need to roll in cash to take advantage of the electronics on sale, or aim for a much more modest list of possible deals for the home and *maybe* you’ll find something nice for someone in the process.  I went in search of sheet sets at a good price, and I didn’t really find any that fit my bill.  Maybe I’m too picky.  I did come away with a wonderful red quilt at a steep discount, given that one of my quilts is in tatters at this point.  A couple of clothing items, dog doodads and beauty supplies later, and I was done.  Just like that.  There are a few reasons for my shopping malaise.

First, I make a list pretty early about what I am buying for other people.  I may not put “Betsydoodle Art Kit” down for little Susie, but I will put “art supplies” or some category like that and then I look for deals.  I try to figure out what I can make (like fudge!) to help pad the Christmas giving each year.  So, when I go to the mall or other stores, I’m looking for some very specific categories.  I will browse the rest of the store, but I get overwhelmed pretty easily.  Having a list for family members helps keep me from just grabbing a sweater here, a piece of jewelry there and calling it done.  I try to put some thought into my giving and I find it helps my budget.  This year, very few things in any of my categories were on sale.

Also again, just like decluttering helped with my closet, decluttering the home helped me know what I really needed.  Do I want one more fluffy and comforting throw?  YES.  Do I  need them?  No.  But I do need a quilt and after 7 years, I can give myself permission to buy one!  So my home categories were pretty slim.  I needed a coffee maker, a quilt and a sheet set as well as a good, safe space heater for downstairs.  I *wanted* a fire pit for the yard.  My sister asked to get me the coffee pot (getting stuff for me has been trickier since I decluttered and do a lot more with fewer things), I did find my quilt, but the sheet sets were disappointing.  I got the heater and it’s wonderful, and the fire pit was 50% off, so I’m picking that up today.  Getting things for other people is trickier.  If most other people’s homes are any indication, they don’t really need one more set of dishes or towels or fluffy throws.  They especially don’t need (in most situations, at least) any stupid coffee machines or other devices that lock them into buying *other* products just to use them.  So finding stuff for others in the home area was difficult.

I don’t think there were as many things on sale this time around as in years past.  This is all anecdotal, of course, but many of my friends were commenting that they, too, were unmoved by the sales papers.  Couple this with the fact that I find many things made today to be either unflattering, cheaply made or otherwise a piece of junk, and you have a recipe for Black Friday let down.  I find many of the clothes to be too bizarre, made out of poor fabrics and poorly sewn, though the prices have climbed higher and higher.  The trends are a bit bizarre for my tastes and the color schemes I find a bit garish.  Maybe I just need to get my eyes checked…

It could be too, though, that some stores are just saving it for later.  The aforementioned art kits I noticed are suddenly on sale this week at a screaming deal (some as low as $5).  So, maybe there is more to come!  Maybe I just have no idea how to find a bargain.

Resoling Boots & Budget Glam Fashion!

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Doesn’t it seem like everything happens to the budget at once?  If it’s not a car insurance payment and a car repair bill, it’s death by a thousand nickle-ings and dime-ings.  I am in such a budgeting conundrum when it comes to clothes.  Slowly but surely, though, I plan to solve these issues without going into the hole and not sacrificing quality (I hope!).

First, I have tried to develop a good sense of what I actually wear by decluttering the closet regularly.  Every single season I look at what I’m putting in the closet or what I’m trying to store away.  If I haven’t worn it and likely won’t, it goes.  Decluttering has the odd outcome of creating a list of things you actually need to buy.  But it’s what you actually need, not just what looks good to you at the time.  This is how I know that I need, among a few other things, a trench coat, boots, some new jeans and a pair of red cargo pants, lol.  I don’t need new suits no matter how pretty they are.  There isn’t anything wrong with the suits I have.  But until I went through my closet thoroughly, I had no idea what I actually owned or how nice some of it really was.

After getting a real list of things I need, the next thing to do is figure out how much I can afford.  The real answer is, not much.  But I’ve also learned that if you’re not careful, paying $20 when you should’ve probably paid $100 only guarantees you’ll end up buying something that comes apart in the wash.  It’s not a bargain if it falls apart, is sewn improperly, etc.  Unless you simply cannot afford anything else, I’ve learned that it’s best to wait, save that money up for the one good thing, and then get it.  OR, you can shop consignment!  I had turned away from consignment for many years, the result of my mother having dragged us through so many “nearly new” stores it would make your head spin.  The items were usually very out of date or very worn.  I’ve realized later that this was probably because of what a depressed area we were in.  Here, though, I’ve managed to find a lovely leather swing skirt jacket with a real fur collar for about $15.  There is also a store that offers designer or upscale brand items for a great price.  Jeans normally priced $100 – 150 are in the store for about $20.  Still, it pays to carefully try things on and really study it.  Sometimes people give what looks like a good item away because it fits funny.  Been there, wasted money on that!

But by far the smartest thing I’ve done for the budget and my wardrobe this fall has been resoling two pairs of boots.  In our throwaway society, I don’t think many people in my generation or certainly younger think to resole boots.  But really, that’s usually where the most damage is done.  I paid about $150 apiece for each pair of boots.  To me, that’s a lot of money.  Even with Black Friday “savings” on many shoes coming up, I stalked the stores for weeks and couldn’t find things that were comparable to what I already had.  I really liked those boots!  While whining about not being able to find comparable things, a friend suggested I get them resoled.  But good luck, she said, in finding someone to do it.  It is a dying trade, apparently, as people just chuck their shoes in favor of getting something new.  And while I did find a few people had gone out of business, I found a shop right on main street that dealt in leather goods and were capable of resoling shoes.  Resoling them cost about $30 – 40 per pair of boots.  So between the two pairs, I paid less than I probably would’ve had to for one new pair, and I’ve breathed new life into them!  They came back to me all shined up and I swear they looked like new.  The soles are actually better, I think, than the original ones.  I bought those boots at least three years ago, I’m thinking more like four or five years ago.  These new soles have bought me at least another 2 years, I’m thinking!

What a great deal and a great way to support local artisans!

Marking the Cost of Going Gray

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All 50 shades of it…. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

As I get older, the question of hair color becomes more relevant than I ever thought it would.  I used to play with hair coloring all the time as a teen and in my early twenties.  Blonde, purple, red, you name it, it was a form of accessory.  It was something I did because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to.  I expected gray hair to present itself when it did for my grandmother and mother.  My grandmother was white headed by 35 years old, nearly completely.  My mother headed for salt and pepper by then and started coloring her hair in earnest a few years later.  As she likes to say, “We don’t go gray; we go blonde.”  LOL.  Except I sort of hate that color on me.  So, I’m a little surprised that at 35 years old I’m not in the same situation.  I don’t know why, except that maybe genetics doesn’t have anything to do with it.  Who knows?

When it came to the question of having to, I was mostly against the idea.  I felt like there were not enough role models for young women about how to age with grace and power.  We’re taught to fight aging as though it were public enemy #1 (and possible in the first place).  From all the ads fighting wrinkles and “signs of aging” and everything else, I really hated the notion of treating a normal part of life as though it were a combat zone.

Of course that was before I was really starting to drift into that combat zone.

Now my hair stylist says I’m about 20% gray.  And I have a decision to make.

I’ve realized that the “vanity” option is really more than just that.  It’s not that I want to look “old.”  I just don’t want to look like I’m so much older than I feel (or am).  I don’t want to be treated differently because people perceive I’m older than I am (for example for job hiring purposes).  This is ironic, because for years people thought I was much younger than I really was.  Even still people make comments, which I’ve learned to accept graciously and just fork over my i.d. so they’ll shut up and move on.  Maybe in the dim lights they can’t see the gray.

I think that for two reasons I’m not going to start coloring my hair and just see what sort of silverback gorilla I become.

First, getting your hair colored is expensive.  My hair falls to the bottom of my shoulder blades and I have a lot of it.  To hide those gray roots, you’re looking at upkeep of every 6 – 8 weeks.  Sure, you could do it out of a kit yourself at home.  But I’ve never been a fan of many of those looks on older women.  It looks so obviously fake in many cases (and I find this to be just as true of many professional coloring jobs).  If I didn’t like it, that’s a heck of a lot of hair to grow out for a while and probably a very weird color scheme to deal with in the meantime as it grows out.  It’s not very budget friendly.

Second, there is more of a “cost,” in my opinion, associated with buying into the notion that we must all be fearful of gray hair and run from it at first sight.  It costs more in personal worry and fear than if you just accept this is a normal part of life and figure out how to rock your gray hair.  And, if I may be a bit preachy, it costs society when we as women promote that fear of looking our real age.  Now this is not to come down at ALL on women who choose to color their hair.  I’m a big fan of personal choice, and I would want no one to tell me what color my hair should or shouldn’t be any more than as a grown woman I want someone to tell me what I can and cannot wear.  I do wish, though, more women would talk about coloring their hair with a sense of pride as a fashion statement.  My mother, for example, and a close friend of mine discuss coloring their roots as though it’s a desperate secret they must maintain.  Newsflash, we all know that your hair isn’t naturally that color.

Maybe if younger women saw more models of women with beautiful hair in various shades of gray, they would get over the thought that they had to “fight” aging and turn around and fight something else that was far more important.  Like stagnant wages, or hunger and homelessness or something.

 

Small Victories: Mortgage Shenanigans

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Today I paid my mortgage payment with the start of my new mortgage payment book.  Yes, I know I can do it online.  I get a certain charge out of ripping the payment out of a book and mailing it in.  Anyway, I noticed that my payment was now about $20 cheaper per month than last year.  I think this is the result of two things, and I think it’s a small money victory!

First, my escrow was set too high.  I got a small check back for that last month.  Second, I always pay a tad bit extra on the mortgage payment.  Now, it’s only a tiny bit at this point because I cannot afford to do more, what with my other bills and savings goals.  But it’s something.  And between the two things, I suddenly find myself with an extra $20 in the mortgage to put towards it.  Whoo hoo!

I passed on a program to have my mortgage put into bimonthly payments, even though that meant it shaved about 5 years off the mortgage.  I discovered that I could essentially do the same thing by paying an extra mortgage payment each year and avoid the “one time” fee they charge to get it set up and the “small” monthly fee to debit it out of my account automatically.  When other debt is gone, I can easily ramp up this payment and meet my goal eventually of paying off the mortgage for my 50th birthday.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my small victory where money just “happened” and continue to try to apply that measly $20 toward the mortgage instead of trusting myself to move it into some other account for debt.  For one thing, I’m used to the payment.  It’s a good payment, much cheaper than my first one (even more with an extra $20 thrown on top of it lol).  For another, I’m not sure I’d remember to add an extra $20 every four weeks or so.  I’m kind of money-daft.  Better for me to let the money compound on the payment, even if it’s a little bit at a time.

But hey, even if that $20 is like throwing a little snowball in the face of debt, it’s one extra snowball I have to lob!  I’ll drink my cup of tea to that!