Archive for March, 2009

I can see clearly now

Today I had an eye exam and picked out frames for my new glasses.  The exam, frames and materials came out to $140 (and that’s because I selected a pair of frames that was 100% covered by insurance).

I’m not complaining about the price, by any means (without insurance, it would’ve been an additional ~$300), but this just made me wonder how much my parents spent on my vision care through the years.

I’ve worn glasses since I was young, and for a while I got contacts. So assuming it’s $200 a year, for 12 years, comes out to $2,400. I wonder how much they spent on health and dental.

The more I learn about the expenses of “life”, the more I realize that being parents is a very expensive (but hopefully joyful) proposition!


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It’s been confimed. The recession has had no impact on dampening my love for fine paper goods.

I have written of my penchant for thank-you notes by the impeccable Crane & Co. This weekend, on a trip to Target, I fell in love with premium handmade cards fashioned by Papyrus. Forget those $1 or $2 cards you find at drugstores – these cards, with fabric appliqué and glitter and gold foil, are works of art, all in their own.

Their prices, accordingly, are pretty high. At first I have to admit some sticker shock ($5+ for a card?!), but you know, beautiful cards for my beautiful friends! So in the spirit of compromise, I picked up a handful of cards for $4 to $5 each, but skipped the $7+ ones that I liked.

Here are some of my favorite designs, available from the website:

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Yay or Nay?

br-jadaBuy this pair of brown stacked heels from Banana Republic (pictured above).

$48 without tax or shipping.

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Question: What is dining out?

Thanks to the economic downturn, many high-end restaurants have been offering great deals. And as much as I am trying to save money, I have also been heartily enjoying the “recession specials” at high-end restaurants.

Several weeks ago I ate at a Japanese place that would normally be stretching my budget. Instead, I got a 3-course meal for $33 including tax & 20% tip. Best sea bass I’ve had in years. YEARS. I still think of it fondly.

Next week I’m going to a swanky French restaurant where I estimate $28 for 3-course meal including tax & tip. Then the week after I’m going to a trendy lounge / restaurant where I can indulge for 50% off the regular prices (probably around ~$30-$35).

I am so excited.

If you are a gourmand and you have some discretionary income (and you can’t get away for long to take advantage of those awesome travel deals), go to a nice restaurant. You will be doing something good for the economy, and treating yourself to deliciousness that would cost far more in better times.

Let’s eat our ways to prosperity!

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Coupon neophyte

I read through a little of Jane’s couponing techniques on her blog. The amount of stuff she gets with her coupons is really amazing. Even before I read her blog, I knew I wouldn’t be able to duplicate her strategies. I’m not much of a couponer for food.

I do 90% of my grocery shopping at two places: Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy. I don’t particularly enjoy food shopping, so the fact that these two stores seem a lot “happier” wins points with me. The prices are reasonable, and Trader Joe’s premade foods are just so delicious. Seriously!

If Trader Joe’s had coupons, I’d be ON IT in a minute. But I can’t complain though, their normal prices are already really good!

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The truth? Still awkward

Even though personal finance bloggers are usually all about more openness in money topics (and I’m certainly a fan of financial literacy education), I still feel weird talking about money with people in my non-virtual life. Money still strikes me as an awkward subject.

When friends ask me for investing advice, I say something vague like “diversification”, “risk-tolerance”, “do what you think is best”, etc.

Or, before I ask someone how much they pay for rent, I feel compelled to add “if you’re comfortable with saying.”

Or even with CB, probably one of the people closest to me in this whole world. I don’t think he knows exactly how much I have in the bank. He never asked, the subject just never came up, and I never volunteered the information. I don’t know exactly how much he has either.

But I’ve spoken to pf bloggers (including a couple whom now I consider my real friends), and it’s easier to talk about how much we make and how much we spend and what our fears and desires and goals for money and everything related to it are.

I guess the pf blogger comfort about money hasn’t really rubbed off on the me in “real life”.

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One of my favorite coworkers (who is not only smart and funny and great to work with, but also has amazing style) just moved into a new apartment, and I’d like to get her a little something to celebrate her new place.

I’m thinking of scented candles, tea samplers (but not really sure what kind she likes), teapot & cups, or maybe a throw for her couch (but then I don’t know her color scheme).

I’m hoping for something $15-$20.

What says you?

Edit: Thank you for all your suggestions! I decided on a set of ceramic Japanese tea cups painted with different designs (flowers, a boat, etc.). My coworker seemed to really like them – or she’s just super polite!

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The ties that bind

Personal finance, as we pf bloggers like to say, is just as much “personal” as it is “finance.” But where does the personal come from? Isn’t it a little jarring to realize that despite the fact that we grow up, leave home, and set out on our lives as adults, there are notions and beliefs that are ingrained in us.

Sometimes, we don’t even realize what they are, or that we have them… but those ties? Oh do they ever bind.

  • Earning ability is a terrible thing to lose (or, I must work). I attribute this to my mother, who has a work ethic like nobody’s business, and her friends, who seemed to have disappointing marriages where they either (1) ended up as the sole provider, not by choice or (2) became unable to leave a bad situation because they were financially dependent on their spouse. Giving up one’s earning ability is a very big gamble, and from what I’ve seen, that gamble hasn’t turned out too well for many people.
  • My financial responsibility to my kid includes college expenses. The influence? Again, my mother. Her view is that her responsibility as a parent is to provide the best “launching pad” possible to her child. I can’t scrimp and save as she has for my college education (though I will be eternally grateful that she did so), but I plan to save at least 1/2 of the college expenses for my child so that I can help him/her graduate with a manageable debt level. No matter what, I can’t imagine not giving substantial help. My mom will probably be disappointed if I didn’t at least make a concerted effort to help my kid pay for college.
  • It’s not pretty to be old and poor. Apparently, the best way to encourage your child to be financially responsible is to impress upon her the dire consequences of being old AND poor. (Young and poor? No problem, work hard and save! Old and financially-secure? Enjoy your retirement. But old AND poor? Beware, beware!)  Fear is a useful weapon, use it wisely. Because, let me tell you, it works! Those Louboutins are tempting, but they are no match for Mom’s stories of the unfortunate elderly who must reside in a poorly-run nursing home or be denied access to the newest medical treatments because they lack financial resources.

Those three are the ones that come to the top of my head. What are your “ties that bind”? Do we have any one in common?

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I was talking to a friend about this, and I realized that I like to “spread out” my payments. For example, if my credit card bill is due on the 30th of every month, I like to make smaller payments throughout the month instead of the payment-in-full on the 29th or the 30th.

If my statement says $800, instead of paying the full $800 on the 30th, I might make 2 payments of $400 sprinkled throughout the month, or a payment of $300 and a payment of $500.

This method works better for my cash flow, as I don’t just look at the pile of money in my checking account and think, wow, I’m really flush, when really I just haven’t transferred that money to the CC yet.

What do you do?

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And yet…

I found this fashion blog where the author has a delectable shoe collection.

Be warned: if you don’t want to be tempted by high-end heels, don’t click on this link.


I do believe I am most envious of her Louboutin Insectika.

Perhaps, someday.

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