Archive for May, 2009

To continue with my 30 before 30 goals, here are the educational / self-development goals I want to achieve in the next 5.5 years.

1. Get an MBA from a respectable school that will round out my business, analytical, and “softer” people skills.
2. Learn to speak Business Chinese, preferably through an immersion program in China. (Later in my career I want to do a stint in China).
3. Learn to speak Conversational Spanish, preferably through an immersion program in Latin America (Chile? Ecuador? Argentina?)
4. Take a class or a workshop in negotiations where students conduct mock negotiations.
5. Take a session of cooking classes. (In France, I hope, but… in the States is okay too).
6. Take a class in real estate principles / finance. I’ve always found real estate interesting, and would love to get some foundational knowledge.


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McDonald’s and Starbucks are two of the most successful and iconic consumer brands in the world. In recent weeks, I’ve received several new coupons for McDonald’s new McCafe lattes and mochas throuh it’s big marketing push for the new drinks. Starbucks (who has been struggling lately after years of outperformance) must be concerned about its new-found competition.

I came upon this piece on Pierce Mattie PR‘s website (note: I am not affliated with them in any respect), and thought they asked an interesting question:

Will this new campaign help McDonald’s become the coffee brand of choice?

Here’s what I think:

McCafe will not replace Starbucks. The consumers who are seeking the ambiance and the customization that Starbucks offers will not flock en mass to McCafes. McDonald’s, to me, appears “transactional.” People pull up to the drive-through and get a Big Mac and a diet coke, or stop by before work to grab a new latte. Despite the happy characterization of Mickey D’s commercials, few people I know would suggest that as a spot for an after-date drink or a catch-up session with girlfriends.

Starbucks, on the other hand, focuses on the “experiential”. At its best, the coffee giant truly represents the “third space” between home and work where a customer can chat with the barista, order a drink to his specification, then settle in for conversation, socializing, and relaxation. Before he leaves the store, he might pick up a CD or a Starbucks coffee mug

If McDonald’s can woo the consumers who go to Starbucks four times a week and convince them to frequent McCafe twice instead, it will have achieved great success. These consumers are likely to be more interested in a transactional experience even at Starbucks (i.e. the quick morning coffee vs. the drawn-out coffee date or after-work snack).

McDonald’s chose a very opportune moment to push the McCafe concept – in the recession all consumers are looking for a better value-proposition, and McDonalds seeks to deliver that with a lower (than specialty coffee) price point but a higher (than perceived McDonald’s coffee) quality. Before the recession, an office worker may have bought a $4 frappacino before her morning meeting. Now, with a tighter budget, she may instead grab a $2 McCafe latte.

I’m not sure if the McCafe concept as a stand-alone store will catch on – I’ve visited a McCafe, and while the space is nicer and more “coffeehouse-like” than a regular McDonald’s, it’s still a far cry from the styling and the comfort of a Starbucks. I’m very excited to hear that McCafe will be coming out with new drinks over the upcoming months. More coffee drinks are always good in my book!

What do you think? What were your experiences with McCafe drinks, and would you forgo Starbucks for McCafe instead?

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My new phone

LG KC550. 5.0 megapixel.

lg-kc550-pinkDad renewed a 2-year family plan commitment with our carrier, so he and I both got new phones (his is the same model, but in black). Good times in the father-daughter bonding department.

Because this phone has a decent camera, I can hold off on buying a digital camera for another couple of years. My next big electronics purchase shouldn’t come until I need a laptop and/or web cam for school.

I’ve been on a family plan ever since college. At the risk of sounding like a mooch, I don’t see myself getting off the plan until I start my own family (which can be a long while). Many of my friends, it seems, also stay on their parents’ family plan. It’s just so much easier.

(Some young adults I know also stayed on their parents’ auto insurance. My parents kicked me off for liability issues. They have assets to protect, I don’t. Not yet, anyway.)

Readers, how many of you are on family plans?

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Because the days are long but life is short.

As a twentysomething, it’s hard to seriously believe in my mortality, even though the rational part of me understands it well.

So to help me with the goal of not being one of the young whom youth is wasted upon, here are 30 things I want to accomplish before I’m 30, divided into 5 categories (Personal, Career, Education/Self-Development, Travel, and Finance), with 6 goals each.

My personal goals:
1. Live on my own, in my own apartment. (I just want something on this list that I KNOW I’ll accomplish, okay? It’s not cheating!).
2. Publish an article / op-ed. Or book, as long as we’re dreaming big here.
3. Complete a 5K run. Without gasping for breath.
4. Throw a good party with really, delicious appetizers that are more or less “homemade”.
5. Learn to dance the Argentine Tango. And actually find some milongas and dance!
6. Get married.*

*I hesitated before I wrote this, because, isn’t it a privilege of modern women to be able NOT to have “get married” as a goal? This is not the 1950s, when women went to college for a BA and an MRS degree.

But I thought about it more and I decided, why not write it down? I shouldn’t be ashamed of wanting to get married. Assuming CB and I stay together, I’d like to get married before 30. And if we don’t stay together, then, well, I’d still like to meet and marry the love of my life (because if CB and I break up and I STILL think he’s the love of my life? I’d be up a creek without a paddle). But maybe not by 30.

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The world may be scared of swine H1N1 flu, but Iโ€™ve been struck down by a heady case of want-to-spend-money-itis.

Sounds serious? It is!

Here are my symptoms:

1. Eating out with increasing frequency (lunches, dinners, brunches).
2. Shopping on a weeknight. My haul included a silk blouse and a pair of Cole Haans. In my defense, they were on sale.
3. Paying double rent for a couple of weeks in June due to my upcoming apartment move.
4. Being overly influenced by Apartmenttherapy (planning to buy furniture from Craigslist or flea markets, but that still costs money!)
5. Booking a massage for CB and I for Memorial Day weekend ($$).
6. Planning a vacation to Vegas and the Grand Canyon ($$$).
7. Trying to hold back from purchases I want to make, all in the $100+ range.

My partner in crime enabler(!), Revanche, insists on showing me pictures of cute dresses that should NOT be in my budget right now.

Basically, Iโ€™m spending a lot of money. Despite the pf blogsophere’s general insistence to the contrary, spending that money does make me happy. Good food and a gorgeous new apartment and new dresses and vacations make me happy.

The problem is, my wallet just canโ€™t sustain such prolonged periods of happiness!

I blame this illness on the summer.

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I wrote a hair post in both 2007 and 2008, so I suppose it’s only appropriate to continue the tradition in 2009!

The recession is a major reason why I’ve been neglecting my hair a bit during these past several months: skipping my straightening treatment ($250), trading down my stylist (from $60 per cut to $20 per cut), and spacing out my haircuts (long layers mean I haven’t cut my hair in… I’m too embarrassed to admit how long!).

Recently, I thought about getting a digital perm (~$250) because I have a hankering for long loose curls. A few of my girlfriends got it done and they look beautiful. Imagine long cascading waves that tumble past your shoulders. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But I decided to put it off given that I have many uncertainties looming in my life: job and the whole recession doom and gloom, expenses for a possible new business, a new apartment w/ increased rent, the need to save for retirement (or else be reduced to a life of penury), etc.

A gorgeous head of hair is lovely, but I’m not sure it’s so important that I need to get it done right this moment. So, as many others have done, I’m putting off the “big-ticket” items in these uncertain times.

Have you decided to trade down on haircuts / treatments and or products because of the recession? Did your hair budget decrease from what it was in 2007 or 2008?

If I have any hairstylist readers out there, how are you faring?

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That’s right…. another giveaway is here. ๐Ÿ™‚

From the nice folks at TJ Maxx and Marshalls:

This spring, we are inviting you to join shoppers everywhere in a national spending intervention (“Spendervention“) to stop spending too much on fashion and beauty products.ย  T.J. Maxx and Marshalls are hoping to show people that there is a better way to shop for spring! You don’t have to sacrifice quality or spend tons of money to get designer goodies and beauty products. Especially this season, it’s going to be easy to look on a budget!

I’ll be moving into my own place soon, and I can’t wait to decorate (but prudently, on a budget, i.e. my own spendervention). That’s why I’m so excited about TJ Maxx and Marshalls, two great discount stores with lots of housewares and home products. I’m thinking: new towels, bathroom accessories, maybe some decorative pieces such as mirrors and vases. There’s also a bright new kitchen to furnish, so plates, utensils, and cookery are on my to-buy list as well!

I’m giving away one $25 gift card to TJ Maxx for a reader to enjoy his/her own spendervention experience.

To enter, please leave a comment in this post on what deals you’d like to get with the $25. Please only leave one comment per person. All entries are due by 7 PM PST or 10 PM EST Wednesday, May 27.

Thanks, and good luck!

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The apartment is mine!

Afterward, my future landlord and his wife showed me their tiny little herb garden and invited me to come and get cilantro, basil, thyme, or rosemary anytime I want.

It’s seriously time to learn to cook!

I can’t believe I lucked into an apartment with just about everything I wanted, and at such a great price. And with such nice landlords.

In other news, I am worried about being let go at my job. One of my friends just passed his sixth month on unemployment. But being out of a job may be the impetus for me to finally take action on my idea.

A lot of people around me (four, at last count, and all in their 20s) are pursuing their own businesses, even (or maybe because) of the dismal labor market and recession. Some have been laid off, but others are quitting decent-paying jobs to take a risk and make a go of it on their own.

Talking to them and hearing the excitement they bring to their work inspires me. The trick is to get enough inspiration and determination to get over the FEAR of flying out, on your own.

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How to start a startup*

* I don’t actually have the answer to this question. If you do, please share!

BUT – I’ve been kicking around a couple of ideas after speaking to my cousin. I’ve also discussed starting a side business with my roommate a while back. And for several months I just kind of let the ideas die away because, well, I am scared and apprehensive and I’ve never thought of myself as particularly entreprenuerial.

Yet – I have some ideas that I think are worth progressing on. I’m going to speak to my parents later this week to get their input on it. I have NO idea if it will succeed, but it costs me nothing to think more about it.

Lots of market research and business planning in the works, me thinks.

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After a few weeks of looking for love in all the wrong (and scary, and run-down, and too-expensive) places, I finally met an apartment that’s right for me. I hope it feels the same way, because I’m tired of looking and I’m ready to commit!

Why this studio is a gem of an apartment:

1. Rent. The rent is $900-$950 (landlord indicated willingness to drop $50 from list price of $950 for the “right tenant”) for a studio with a full-sized kitchen and bathroom. Best of all, the rent includes ALL utilities and laundry.

2. Natural light. Lots of natural light courtesy of huge windows in the main room and the kitchen. Out of the 4 walls in the main room, two have windows.

3. Six-month lease. YES! I have finally found the elusive 6-month lease apartment. And I didn’t have to plead and cajole for the landlord to even consider a 6-month, as was my experience with most other places I’ve seen.

4. Size. The studio is a nice ~400 sq. feet. The main room is a bit small, but it’s enough for just me. Ultimately I didn’t want to pay the premium for the extra space of a 1-bedroom.

5. Location. Close to work and close to shops, a movie theater, and an entire restaurant district. Also conveniently located close (but not too close) to the freeway.

6. Hardwood floors! Beautifully finished hardwood floors stained a glossy espresso with a just hint of red. I’ve read Apartment Therapy – all the stylish homes have hardwood floors!

A couple of things that are less-than-perfect but that I decided I can live with:

1. No designated parking. There’s enough street parking that I’m okay with the lack of a designated spot. The landlord did say that I can pull up into the driveway for the night if I can’t find parking on the street.

2. Not a secured access building. The studio is part of a 4-plex and is in a reasonably safe neighborhood that I feel comfortable not being behind a gate.

3. Small Tiny closet. Fortunately, there’s a linen closet that provides additional storage. ‘Tis okay – this will be a chance for me to edit my closet even more.

Also, I basically met the landlord’s entire family (wife, daughters, and dog) during my visit to the apartment. They were all extremely nice and warm. It was weird (I’m used to having a Faceless Random LLC as the landlord), but in a delightful way.

I’m going to fax in my application tomorrow. Please cross your fingers for me.

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