Archive for February, 2009

My room style could be called “updated vintage” – imagine Anthropologie-like romantic features without excessive girlyness. If I gave up my Roth IRA contribution, I could get my whole room from Anthropologie, and maybe add a dash or two of West Elm for balance.


(Pictured above is a bed that I can’t afford that would look absolutely lovely in an apartment with 10-feet ceilings that I don’t have.)

Back to reality… spending loads of money on furniture and decor really isn’t in the cards right now. Still, I want to create a comfortable, enjoyable, and dare I say, stylish space (which, I think I have. With varying levels of success depending on the varying levels of messiness in my room).

So here’s what I did:

1. Compile a “style file” to find out what kind of colors, pictures, and styles I like.

I have a personal journal that I paste clips of magazine pictures or notecards from anywhere and everywhere. A graphic advertisement notecard from Merck, clippings from Travel & Leisure magazine, pictures of a Seattle boutique, etc. I also peruse Apartment Therapy.

After while, I noticed a theme: I like neutrals with pops of color. I like comfortable (mid-century Swedish might look amazing, but I just can’t live in it). I like dashes of red or aubergine. I like details. I love a good duvet.

2. Look for cheaper alternatives in a similar style.
I love the iron-wrought beds featured in Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel. I love the scrolls and the nobs. But no money = no C&B.

When I first bought my bed, I found the Halingby headboard & frame (since discontinued) from IKEA for only $80! That’s a quarter of what a frame would’ve cost me at another, more upscale store. The frame is less fancy and I’m sure the quality is reflected in the price, but the style is very similar for the picture I’m trying to create.

3. Keep “foundational” colors basic and make “accent” colors stand out.
My furniture are divided into two camps: white, or black. The black pieces are larger and “anchors” my space (I find the look of an all-white bedroom too colorless for my taste), while the white furniture brightens up the room. It’s also much easier to find these basic colors.

4. Paint!
Paint is often the cheapest way to change the look of a room or a piece of furniture. I really, really wanted a white secretary desk (graceful and feminine, I imagined).

Instead, I found a $10 IKEA desk on Craigslist, lugged it home, and painted it white. Not quite a secretary, but it will do for now. I can’t paint my bedroom because, well, it’s a rental, but at many places you can check with your landlord and they’ll let you paint. Although, I’ve gotten quite fond of my white walls…

5. Check out Craigslist, yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets.
I got my nightstand at a yard-sale for $10. This is also where the “style file” comes in handy – if you know what you’re looking for, or an idea of what would work in your room, it’d be much easier to walk away from “bargains” that doesn’t fit your style. I got a gorgeous pewter lamp shade for $6 at a local Goodwill.

If you are in the Bay Area, check out Alameda Flea Market. If you are in the LA area, check out the Rose Bowl Flea Market.

6. Picked up cute accent pieces at Ross, Marshalls, or TJ Maxx
These stores are great for discounted desk accessories, french fabric boards, and notecards and stationery. I got three sets of 6 satin padded hangers for $5 a set. I’ve also gotten a black & white memory board that fit perfectly with my color scheme for $6.

7. Declutter!
Too many knickkacks will look messy and hapazard. The key is to keep a small cluster of pieces similar in color (and maybe structure – a group of vases in various shades of blue, for example) or one statement piece (a large, deep, red bowl), and then that’s IT!

I had to resist the urge to add to my knickkacks, but I think my room is better for it.


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Friday is in sight!

Which means the Freedom Fund will get another cash injection (or an additional buffer between job loss and the streets Mom & Dad’s).

Recently, the recession has hit home when one of my relatives lost her job at a tech company. She is poised to weather the layoff well (she received a good severance, her husband has a well-paid job, and they own a couple of different properties), but the news is still disconcerting.

Many newspapers are touting the need to bulk up one’s emergency fund, but how much can you really save with only a few months’ notice? It has taken me more than a year and a half to save my emergency cash.

What I’ve learned from everything that’s going on around me is that in good times, I need to prepare for the not-so-good times. In this economy, it seems that nothing is guaranteed. I’ve read account after account of laid off bankers, consultants, marketing managers, engineers, IT workers (not to mention the scores of auto worker) who made good salaries but are now having trouble finding work after several months of searching.

I’ve been a saver mostly because of Mom’s influence – she has taught me through words and actions that saving for a rainy day is important. Living through my first recession as a working adult (a recession that may be the stormiest of a generation) has made the lesson just that much sharper.

So come Friday, I’m going to take my paycheck, pay my rent, and put everything else into the Freedom Fund. $30,000, here I come.

***Okay, having said all that above – as long as I still have a job, I’m going to keep eating out. Not every night at a $50 a plate restaurant – but, to give up dining out entirely? No can do.

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Selective memory

I was itching to buy a pair of boots and a couple crewnecks at Ann Taylor Loft ‘s sales section. After all, I rationalized, it’s been so long since I’ve went shopping.

Um, no. It’s actually been less than two months. (How come it feels so much longer?)

Selective memory? Yes, yes, and yes.

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I have to admit I’ve been feeding into the frenzy as well. As an information/news junkie, I must know where the Dow closes. And the difference between a Tier 1 Ratio and a TCE ratio. And why banks are actually in MORE trouble according to the conservative TCE.

All this news-mongering must’ve gotten to me, because, last night? I had a dream that I was laid off. What’s the worst that can happen? According to WSJ, really really bad things. (Think alcoholism and sleeping on the train tracks). SP is right… all this economic doom & gloom is EXHAUSTING.

So this post is dedicated to all the good stuff that’s happening in my life despite the economy:

1. My aunt & uncle (who live overseas) will be visting in a month. I am very excited, as I haven’t seem them for two years.

2. My mom may consider buying a condo at the end of 2009, which means I can tag along on house-hunting trips. When I was younger and my parents were looking for our first house, open-house-viewing was THE weekend highlight for the whole family. Come to think of it, that’s probably how Mom saved enough money to buy real estate – subbing open-house watching for family vacations.

3. CB and I are doing well. I finally got the perfume he bought me for our anniversary, and now I greet every day with a spritz of Marc Jacobs.

4. Not sure how this categorizes as “good news”, but I haven’t filed my taxes yet. Hmm… I guess the good news is that I still have time to file. Woohoo!

5. I am surrounded by good, great, and so-delicious-I-think-about-it-all-day food. In the past week, I’ve discovered a Japanese fusion restaurant with a delicious sea bass dish and a Thai restaurant with the silkiest, coconutty-ist curry I’ve ever had. And speaking of the diversity of deliciousness around me, I can get Ethiopian on Monday, Japanese on Tuesday, Chinese on Wednesday, Thai on Thursday, Mexican on Friday, French on Saturday, and Italian on Sunday. (That still leaves Vietnamese, Indian, Cuban, and many, many more). Oh, and let’s not forget the great Californian classic. My taste buds are spoiled.

What are 5 good things that’s going on in your life?

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Circle O (see below) has center O, diameter AB and a radius of 6. Line CD is parallel to the diameter.

What is the perimeter of the shaded region?circle1

The perimeter will be the length of the arc CAE and the line segments CB and EB.

Calculate arc CAE

Step 1: Angle X = 30 degrees, because they are alternate interior angles

Step 2: Angle CBE = 2X = 2*30 degrees = 60 degrees

Step 3: Angle COE = 120 degrees because COE is a corresponding angle of the inscribed angle CBE. Corresponding angles = 2x inscribed angle’s measure

Step 4: arc = (120 degrees / 360 degrees) * circumference = 1/3 * 2(radius)pi = 1/3 * (2)(6)pi = 4pi

Calculate lines CB and EB

Step 1: Triangle ACB is a 30-60-90 triangle because one it’s in a semicircle. Angle C = 90 degrees.

Step 2: 30-60-90 triangle = x – rad3(x) – 2x

Step 3: line segment CB is opposite 60 degrees, so the length is radical3(x) = radical3(6)

Step 4: line segment EB is the same as CB, so EB = radical3(6)

Add them together:

perimeter of shaded region = 4pi + radical3(6) + radical3(6)

perimeter of shaded region = 4pi + 12 radical3

*after the timed practice test & looked at my notes, but still. I RULE (for one, brief, shining moment).

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Six words to sum up my day

In the tradition of six-word-memoirs:

Might lose job. Ate out anyway.

Tell yours in the comment section.

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Today, a friend and I discussed the difficulty of really watching credit card spending. Like my friend, I put 95%+ of all my non-rent expenses on my credit card. We are both responsible credit users – we pay off our charges in full every month, and we use the card to get rewards like cash-back and gift cards. But we both agree that somehow, credit card spending seems to be subject to the “creep”, and the direction is often upwards.

The conversation got me thinking: am I prone to spend more paying with a credit card than I would be using cash?

Research says yes, and as much as I love my CC, I tend to agree:

Even though I don’t carry a balance month-to-month, a CC is just SO convenient that it’s easy to rationalize that “oh, it’s just an extra $20” and “oh, I’ll get rewards on it.” A $20 bill seems to be like a quite a bit of money. But a $880 credit card bill doesn’t seem that different from a $860 bill.

I don’t think I spend MUCH more using a credit card than I would using cash, but I’d be giving myself too much credit (heehee. pun intended!) if I insist that I haven’t been lulled by the CC into spending just a little bit more at times.

Still, I have no plans to give up the plastic. My credit card allows me added protection that I would not get with a debit card (virtual account numbers, low liability in case of fraud, etc.) and is way more convenient than cash. Besides, when my cash is gone, it’s gone. I have no idea where it went. At least with a CC, I have a statement and can keep track of my purchases.

Despite some valiant attempts in the past, I don’t really keep track of every penny either. My fixed expenses are what they are, and I have an idea of how much my credit card bills should be every month (below $800-ish) for me to make my savings goals. I have dollar-amount saving goals – as long as I make those, the rest of the money is mine to do as I will.

Do you think you spend more using a credit card?

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No, not that clock!

I’m talking about my Real Estate Clock and my Puppy Clock.



Here are all the reasons why I should NOT buy a place and why I should NOT have a puppy:

1. I may very well move for school in the next 2-3 years.

2. I don’t have a down payment saved up.

3. I have no time to spend with a brand-new puppy.

4. I live in an apartment that doesn’t allow dogs.

5. I must achieve more financially stability before I become a homeowner and a dog owner.

An honest assessment of my personal situation tells me that it’ll be another 6+ years  before I can buy a place and a puppy.


But it doesn’t change the fact that I yearn for a little townhouse and a fur ball of love to call my own.

What clocks have you got going?

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My confession

I want to see Confessions of a Shopaholic, and I don’t care what (good or bad) messages it send about shopping!


Has anyone else seen it?

What did you think?

How closely did it correspond to the book?

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In defense of Valentine’s Day


It seems as if a lot of bloggers are up-in-arms about this holiday, especially when the money aspect comes in. I’m feeling a little sorry for poor ol’ Valentine, so here’s my take. 😉

True, Valentine’s Day is just one day. And true, no one should feel pressured to spend exorbitant amounts of money on dinner. And true, there’s no rule that says you have to comply with an arbitrarily chosen date manufactured by the chocolate-candy-flowers industry to celebrate your love.

But I see it as kind of like, well, all other holidays:

  • We SHOULD remember that family is important, every day. But Thanksgiving and Christmas brings out the warm-fuzzies (often neglected because of the rat race).
  • We SHOULD love and appreciate our moms every day, but Mother’s Day shines the spotlight on moms everywhere.
  • We SHOULD remember that freedom isn’t free, but Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day reemphasize the sacrifices made by our soldiers, living and dead.

That’s why I say: even if your significant other insists that Valentine’s is a overly-commercialized day devoid of any actual meaning, do something nice. A picnic by the beach, a handwritten card, his favorite movie, a cake from her favorite bakery – the good feelings you get in return are worth multiples of what it’ll cost you to put together something simple and heartfelt.

People aren’t very good at being the best person they can be, all the time – we aren’t very good at being great children, or lovers, or citizens. We take things – people – for granted. Sometimes, we just need a reminder.

Which is what Valentine’s is. A reminder that love should be cherished and celebrated.

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