Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Shopping Survey

via - The Lo & Sons Pearl in Pacific Blue is one of my favorite and most functional  purchases from the past 12 months.

I've had a bit of writer's block lately, and I thought that this survey Elaine shared from the Good Trade (which covered groups of people who had spent under $500, $500 to $1,000, and over $1,000 on fashion last year) was a nice and slightly new spin on a way to discuss my shopping. Because I focus primarily on how I'm feeling month-to-month with my shopping check-ins, it's easy to lose track of longer-term trends and changes to my approach. My answers to these questions cover the past twelve months, from July 2018 to June 2019. 

In addition to my actual total spend for that period, I also threw in the number for how much I spent minus jewelry. In recent months, I'm starting to think of jewelry as a somewhat separate category from everything else in my closet, something which I enjoy collecting for its own sake rather than for practical reasons (almost like collecting wearable art, I suppose). With almost everything else, I'm far more inclined to think about utility and whether the item would be redundant of things I already own. But with jewelry, my desire for a new item is pretty much always a "want," there's never really a case to be made for it being a "need." 

Also, what I'm willing to spend on jewelry has been inching up towards being disproportionately large relative to what I'm currently willing to spend on most other categories for my wardrobe. There could come a time (it might already be the case now) when the jewelry portion of the total cost of my shopping each year distorts the analysis of how much I'm spending spend on clothes, shoes, and other accessories that I see as more utilitarian. 

Age: 30
How Much You Spent: $3,452.58
How Much You Spent (Minus Jewelry): $2,305.48

A Purchase You Planned: This is a surprisingly difficult question for me, given that I pride myself on "planning" every purchase! Most of my purchases in this one-year period - especially after I became more regimented about using Pinterest to track all my potential shopping - were planned out ahead of time by at least a few weeks. When everything is planned in a similar way, not much stands out as being a particularly good answer to this question.

I would say that the purchase I planned out the most in the past year was the Elizabeth Suzann Georgia dress and Asawa belt I received last month. I'd spent a lot of time thinking about all the ES dresses before I first saw a photo of this particular dress and belt combination and could finally make a decision. Because of the four week production time and ES's store credit-only return policy (though the secondary market for ES seems robust enough that one should have little trouble recouping close to the full cost of the store credit), I had to feel extremely certain about this purchase before I put in the order. And it turned out well, the dress and belt together really work for me, and it's a combination that I like wearing for both work and weekend. 

An Impulse Buy: This may sound contradictory to what I just said about how much planning I do with my shopping, but I also find this question difficult to answer because, in actuality, one of the main reasons why I spend all that time planning out purchases is that I'm otherwise very prone to sudden impulses and compulsions as a shopper. I know this about myself, and so I need to take those "extra" steps to rein those tendencies in. Enough of my purchases in the past year were originally inspired by fairly sudden impulses (even if I ended up sitting on the idea for at least a few days - usually at least a week or two - before letting myself go ahead and put in those orders), that it's hard to pick just one item as an answer to this question. 

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If I had to pick just one thing, I'd say the Sam Edelman Lior Loafers in gold glitter (similar) from November 2018 were my most impulsive purchase. I definitely wouldn't have gotten them if I hadn't seen them for a particularly good price during the Black Friday sales. I had an easier time putting these into my semi-regular rotation than I imagined, and I wore them almost once a week since I got them, mostly on casual Fridays. At the same time, maybe because these shoes are made of fabric backing under the glitter and not leather, they're not as durable as my other Sam Edelman loafers. There's a rip developing near a seam on one shoe. So this was initially a more successful purchase than anticipated, but also ultimately a little disappointing. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Link List: The Farewell

This past weekend, K and I watched The Farewell, the new film from director Lulu Wang, starring Awkwafina. I hadn't realized that it was only released in four theaters nationwide last weekend, so I guess we were very lucky to be able to see it! The movie is really good, all the actors and actresses are excellent, especially Awkwafina. Although the subject matter is quite sad, with clear parallels to things that have happened in my own family, there are also surprising moments of levity. 

1. // I couldn't imagine creating a piece of art that's so personal, it must be incredibly nerve-wracking to see how audiences will react. This article in The Atlantic about Lulu Wang and the movie is great. One particular quote from the director was especially poignant, I thought, and really captured something I think about whenever I recommend something that speaks to facets of the Asian-American experience I find familiar and that resonate deeply with me: 
“I was just really hoping people didn’t hate it, because it is so personal, and it is my family. If they hated it, then they hate us, in a way, you know?”
That's even a sentiment I've expressed, though it was only buried deep in the footnotes of a post focused on something else

Whenever I recommend Kathy's novel Family Trust (affiliate link), I always do so with some trepidation because it's about people so much like me, my parents, and the community I grew up in. It's not exactly the same (there are some substantial differences, including in socioeconomic class), but before I read her novel, I would never have dreamed of seeing something so much like my lived experience depicted in a creative work, one that was receiving a fair amount of positive buzz and attention. To the extent that anyone out there found the characters in the novel absolutely loathsome or completely irredeemable, I would take it a bit personally. Such a strong negative reaction would suggest to me that the reader might not be inclined to show empathy to people a lot like like my parents and I, and that would make me sad. 

2. // Because I so recently wrote about my past notebook-hoarding habits (which did not go hand-in-hand with actually using said notebooks), I was a bit tickled when I saw that Vox's The Goods recently published an article about that exact phenomenon, of how difficult it often is for people to use up their notebooks and journals:
“A new, unused, good-looking notebook represents pure potential. The words we inscribe into this beautiful notebook will be words of pure genius, we tell ourselves,” Korkki says. “A used notebook is sullied — it shows how we attempted to achieve something impressive and fell short. [] I hate to continue writing in a journal I have previously abandoned months or even years before because that journal represents the ‘old’ me. A new journal represents the new me, who will always be disciplined and inspired.” 
But what about actually finishing the notebook once you’ve started? 
Korkki believes that “people lose steam because the idea of perfect writing in their heads never matches what they end up putting on the page, and they become discouraged.” 
I can certainly relate to all that! It's only now that I've accepted that notebooks have the most utility to me when I'm not too "precious" about them, and when I prioritize using them frequently over needing the words I put in them to be particularly high quality (or to be done in especially neat handwriting), that I actually can use them up. With my writing and journaling style, anything I handwrite tends to be in a very stream-of-consciousness style, and I never really go back to read over it. Once I've written out whatever I was thinking, the words are no longer as meaningful to me. 

3. // I was glad to see that one of my favorite bloggers, previously at To Universe, with Love, is back and newly blogging at Of a Certain Vintage. Recently, Luxe did a good entry about the importance of knowing one's values when making money-related decisions. In some ways, at least to me (a major homebody and also a fairly shy introvert), it was also an entry about introversion, about choosing not to do (or spend money on) certain kinds of social outings. 

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4. // There are a few small items from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale that I have bought in the past, and that I think could be a good deal: I got these Nordstrom-branded cubic zircona stud earrings last year, on Kathy's recommendation. They're a solid choice, and more importantly for their being a good value, Nordstrom does not seem to discount them at any other time of year. 

A lot of the more interesting items in the sale are from the beauty section: I recently bought one of those Slip silk pillowcases to see if it would help reduce the tangles and split ends my hair's been prone to. (It helps noticeably, but it definitely isn't a miracle product either. I'm satisfied with my purchase, but I won't really be able to compare it to any other silk pillowcase because I don't plan to buy any others to try.) Nordstrom is offering sets of two Slip pillowcases at a substantial discount, in white or beige

Monday, July 8, 2019

An Infatuation With Good ~50 GSM Paper

One of my old vices - small-ish in total cost, but unfortunately maybe not that small in resulting waste over many years - from before I started this blog and before I started examining my spending habits more carefully, was buying up notebooks and journals that I'd then proceed to write or sketch in for only a few pages at most before moving on to the next book. Happily, things have changed quite a bit since then. I've cut down significantly on that habit of overbuying notebooks and have started actually using up the ones I have in their entirety.

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My KonMari-style decluttering (including of my desk and bookshelf) back in early 2015 was enough to teach me (among many other sobering lessons) not to wastefully accumulate notebooks anymore, given my horrible track record with actually using them. And when I returned to the private sector in late 2017, I learned that I actually could stick with and use up a notebook after all, utilizing a somewhat bullet journal-like system for keeping track of my to-do lists and other notes. I spent approximately a year and a half filling up my A5-sized Leuchtturm notebook with dot-grid pages, writing in it just about every day. Through that, I trained myself to be a lot less "precious" or finicky about how I used my notebooks, learning to not feel a little anxious, like I'd permanently marred a once-clean and perfect notebook - making me want to pull out a new one instead - if I made spelling or other errors, or if my handwriting wasn't always neat, or if I needed to cross some things out.

Looking back, I'd actually mostly stopped with my bad habit of over-buying and under-using notebooks and journals while I was in law school, I suppose because school and internships were keeping me busy. At the time, there wasn't any appeal to the idea of doing any more writing for fun in addition to what I needed to do for school and work. Plus, relying on digital solutions like Google Calendar proved to be far more practical than keeping a hard-copy planner while I was in law school. Once at my first job, a combination of my work calendar in Outlook and my personal Google Calendar was more than enough for scheduling purposes. And for a time, I added on the Wunderlist app as a way of keeping track of both months-out long-term deadlines and also small, immediate things I wanted to remember day-to-day.

Though I eventually did buy some smaller Rifle Paper Co. notebooks later on at my first workplace, to keep a separate and more condensed list of upcoming deadlines and important tasks, when my note-taking system on the firm-provided legal pads grew a little too haphazard and voluminous to be a good system for that purpose. (I take super-wordy, stream-of-consciousness-style notes at meetings or when I'm researching and planning out how to write something work-related.)

Much more recently, I might be slightly finding my way back to my old weakness for collecting pretty stationery, now that I think I've finally learned how to be fully committed to actually using it all up. The resurrection of this quirk of mine likely began with my trip to Japan last September, as stores there really do have the most wonderful selection of stationery.

It was in Japan that I finally had the chance to handle one of those popular Hobonichi Techo planners. While I ultimately tore myself away from them because a pre-printed planner just wouldn't be functional for me, I had become quite taken with the texture of the 52 GSM Tomoe River Paper used in the Hobonichis. That paper was lovely and smooth (but not too smooth and almost slippery, the way the Clairefontaine-made paper in Rhodia notebooks feels to me), and also much lighter and thinner than that of any other notebook I'd ever used, while still being reputed to be a high-quality paper on which most inks and pens would not bleed through. People even color in pictures or paint with watercolors on the pages of their Hobonichi planners, and the paper's supposed to hold up!

Friday, July 5, 2019

A Year Later: The Shoes of Spring/Summer

Outside of my trusty FitFlops, the vast majority of the shoes I currently wear in the warmer seasons are approximately a year old. I bought my trusty Sam Edelman Loraine loafers in black leather (now on sale in limited sizeslast May, the same month I bought my somewhat impractical Soludos llama slip-on sneakers in pale pink canvas (discontinued, but discounted in navy blue or burgundy velvet). I'd bought my M.Gemi Felize in gold shimmer-effect leather that March (discontinued, similar gold leather). I also bought a pair of Rothy's Points last June, and was really hoping they'd be as durable for me as they are for many of my colleagues, such that I'd still be wearing them now. But alas, that was not to be, and I got barely a few months of heavy use from them before they started developing holes in the outer edges, the way all other ballet flats also tend to do on me.

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That was a lot of shoe shopping in just a few short months last year, but part of my rationale was that I wanted enough pairs that I wouldn't need to wear the same ones two days or more in a row, in hopes of getting more longevity from my shoes than I did before. Now that I've had most of my spring/summer shoes for a year (the Sam Edelman loafers also get worn in fall/winter, but not the rest), I thought it was a good time for an update on how these shoes were doing, whether I was actually getting a longer lifespan from them than before. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the styles I choose, or my wide feet and my manner of walking, or because I don't yet do much work to maintain my shoes, this update won't sound too impressive or exciting. While I don't think I'll need any new shoes for spring/summer this year, I don't expect that the shoes I currently have for those seasons will last too much longer into next year, particularly if I need my shoes to be presentable-looking at work.

Sam Edelman Loraine loafers, black leather: These have gotten the most wear by far, as I also use them frequently in fall-winter, so long as there's not too much slush and ice on the ground. I've gotten them reheeled once, within the first three months, but they haven't needed another visit to the cobbler since, though they'll need another trip there soon. In terms of physical condition and sturdiness, these loafers are holding up fairly well, having only accumulated a few small scuffs, just normal wear and tear. As I observed when I bought them, they're made of a very soft, pliable leather which makes them fairly comfortable if they fit your feet well, but likely isn't as good for their durability. In terms of aesthetics though, the leather is starting to look quite worn-in and dull because I haven't done anything to maintain them, outside of the one time I got them reheeled. (Not sure if this is the type of thing shoe polish is good for, as I'm completely clueless about shoe care and maintenance!) 

If I'm not able to learn how to maintain these loafers better, then I'm not sure how much longer they'd stay presentable-looking for work. It'd be a pity if I couldn't spiff up the leather a bit and get them looking better, since they've otherwise proven to be comfortable and sturdy. One additional note: From my experience with the gold glitter version, which are made of fabric rather than leather, the fabric ones are not as durable. A rip developed last month long one of the seams on one of my gold glitter loafers, and I'd generally only been wearing them once a week since I got them, so they hadn't seen anywhere near as much heavy use as my leather ones, which have not had this problem. 

M.Gemi Felize, gold shimmer-effect leather (similar): I'm very careful with these and never wear them out if there's any chance of rain, so they generally only end up getting used once a week, a little less often this year because we had a rainy start to the summer. I'd never before owned a pair of driving moccasin-style loafers with rubber pegs instead of an actual sole on the bottom, and I was a little concerned these shoes would wear out very quickly, but they haven't been too terrible on that front. It was only towards the end of last summer that some of the rubber pegs near the heel started getting close to being so worn down that the leather on the bottom of the shoe would start rubbing against the ground soon. The outer edge of my right shoe is also starting to rub against the sidewalk a little, thanks to my wide feet and the way I walk, though it isn't too close to developing a hole yet, it's just that some of the gold shimmer-effect on the surface has started to rub off. I think these shoes will last through part of next summer if I continue wearing them once a week-ish, though not too much longer than that.

As someone who doesn't have remotely adventurous tastes in shoes, I continue to find M.Gemi's business model perplexing, because it seems to be so focused on constantly developing trendy new styles, colors, and leather textures, including the shimmer effect on my loafers. They so rarely stock their more classic designs, like this Felize or the similar Pastoso, in neutral shades of leather. (I continue to resolutely avoid suede shoes of all kinds because I think they wouldn't do well on NYC's super-grimy sidewalks.) Even if M.Gemi's bread and butter is weekly releases of limited runs of exciting new styles, I suppose I'd imagine that it should still be a no-brainer to also consistently stock more classic, neutral shoes as well, since I'd have assumed there'd always be a market for those more "boring" designs, the kind that almost never go on sale from other brands either.

Soludos llama slip-on sneakers (navy velvet, burgundy velvet): Similar with the Felizes, I also try not to wear these out if there's even the faintest chance of rain. I'm almost more careful with these than the Felize because the pale pink canvas is so prone to getting dirty! I ended up wearing these about once a week last year, but have only used them once this year because we had such rainy and unpredictable weather for a while. As with the Sam Edelman loafers, when it comes to the physical condition of these slip-ons, they're holding up well. The only flaw they've taken on now is aesthetic, that they're already looking noticeably dingy despite infrequent wear, as can be expected due to their light color. With the llama applique and the cork-looking insole, I doubt these could be machine-washed like some other sneakers.

With slip-on sneakers like these, I'd expect them to be durable enough to last through a good long period of frequent wear, at least if they weren't a color that's prone to showing dirt and dust. I suppose I should have learned from that mostly-white pair of Keds I wore a lot back in 2015 to 2016 that slip-on sneakers in light-colored fabric are just not a very functional choice when one lives in NYC and does a ton of walking! I'd be better off with something like the black leather Vans I wore from 2016 to 2018.

Rothy's Points, gray birdseye: Well, I don't have these anymore because they weren't capable of enduring a full year of frequent use at my hands! It was such a big disappointment too, because they're not cheap, and they do also have some noticeable advantages over most other ballet flats I've ever tried. So many of my women colleagues really love these and have been wearing theirs frequently, including on their commutes, for ages, certainly well over a year. I'd hoped I would have a similar experience. Alas, I think it's just the way I walk, I grind down almost all of my ballet flat-style shoes with remarkable speed, in as little as a month or two of frequent wear. On me, these Rothy's points lasted around three months of 3-4x/week wear before they started developing holes in the outer edges.

I would still recommend Rothy's to other people who don't destroy their ballet flats the way I do. They're remarkably comfortable for a ballet flat, I was able to walk around NYC and stand in them all day most days, which I can no longer do with other ballet flats. I also loved how light and easily packable they are for travel. Being machine-washable (cold water wash and air dry only,  I'm told that any exposure to heat will cause them to shrink) was a huge plus, though because they're made of recycled plastic, they did make my feet sweaty, and the shoes would get quite smelly very quickly between washes. Being plastic and machine-washable, exposure to rain will not cause lasting damage, though I did hate how they felt on my feet when they were damp, so if I got badly rained on during my morning commute, I'd need to switch to other shoes at my desk for the rest of the day. (And they generally wouldn't be fully dry yet by the end of the day, when it was time to head home.)

What does a proper shoe care and maintenance regime, particularly for good leather shoes, look like anyway? I'm eager to learn, and any suggestions would be much appreciated (and of course, the internet provides many easily found and helpful resources for such things, which I'll also look into). Additionally, I'm still daydreaming about someday having a pair of those famous Gucci Jordaan loafers in black leather, after seeing, on another woman while we were both in an elevator, how much sleeker and more chic they looked compared to my well-worn Sam Edelmans. But I wouldn't dare buy a pair of shoes that fancy if I hadn't first learned to take scrupulously good care of them first!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

June 2019 Shopping Reflections

As the months go by this year, I continue to feel as if I'm settling in to a slightly new way of thinking about shopping. The jury's still out when it comes to whether the results will actually look different, of course, but as of this month, I still feel as if my mindset has changed. This isn't a process that's completely without growing pains, however, and I still wouldn't claim to have a particularly noteworthy level of self-discipline about shopping. Regardless, things feel different from 2018. 

Among other things, I'm gradually becoming more accustomed to some purchases being "slow", including in the purely literal sense of the word of needing to wait a few weeks for an item to be made-to-order. I think I've also better internalized the idea that, if an item has the right details and meets my criteria, then it's worth a longer wait. But because I'm super-indecisive sometimes, a longer production time could also mean that I end up not being able to make a decision about something until such a late date that I definitely won't get it until after its season is already over. 

I was maybe still a bit disheartened this month by some of those "growing pains" I mentioned feeling. They felt like the thoughts of a person who might be a little addicted to some aspects of shopping, namely to that sometimes-fleeting excitement of receiving something new-to-me that I think is awesome and beautiful. (There have, of course, been times when I start off with that feeling and still end up realizing, fairly quickly afterwards, that the item actually wasn't as suitable for me as I first thought. So that early excitement can be a deceptive thing!) 

This past month, there were times when I found myself browsing retailers' websites for an extended period, and I felt some real disappointment when I realized that I wasn't going to find anything new to add onto my Pinterest "shopping list". My usual next step was to go back to Pinterest, browse through the section of my "wishlist" dedicated to items I've been thinking about more seriously, only to feel further disappointment that nothing there struck my fancy as something I could order to try on right now. These feelings are so silly, the only real explanation for them is that I'm definitely addicted to something about shopping, likely to the novelty and excitement of getting my hands on something new-to-me. And it's not even like I've been deprived of that feeling recently, given that I've still shopped each month of 2019 so far!

I don't think it's inherently a bad thing to enjoy new-to-me and shiny, pretty things. If I saw something really awesome, for which the price was right, which fit my preferences and criteria, and which I expected would be functional to me for the foreseeable future, I'd totally still buy it.  

But it might not be a great sign that I get wistful about not currently having more new-to-me things that I'd like to think about buying imminently. If the open market isn't currently presenting me with ideas for new items that would actually be functional and useful for me, at the right price for my budget, and that meet all my requirements for whatever category of potential purchase I'm thinking about, I shouldn't feel disappointed! Instead, I could spend that specific time or energy appreciating what I already have, or doing something else that's more productive than, er, wishing I had something new to buy right now, or soon. 

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That faint but sometimes recurrent desire to shop for the sake of novelty or entertainment is something I'll need to keep an eye on. I've at least observed that the feeling of adding a few pins to my Pinterest boards (most recently, on a board dedicated to more fantastical and larger-than-life "Abstract/Runway Inspirations" that I don't think would ever translate to my day-to-day life) can sort of scratch the itch just a little, by giving me the chance to think about something pretty and new, even if it's just pictures. Plus, I always have various wardrobe-maintenance and clothing-care tasks in my queue, including actually making use of that handheld clothes steamer I got from my friend when I traded away my full-size one during my recent bout of free-cycling

Fashion - (TOTAL: $356.46)
  • Elizabeth Suzann Georgia Dress in Midweight Linen, black, OS - $205.00 - As I mentioned last week, I received my Elizabeth Suzann order earlier this month, almost a week ahead of schedule. I've worn my items a few times, and I'm really enjoying them so far, though I still haven't spent quite enough time with them to feel like I can give a detailed assessment. Note that the midweight linen material is a bit too thick and heavy for this to be a "perfect" summer dress for me. When temperatures climb into the upper-70s Fahrenheit under typical NYC summer humidity, I sometimes start feeling a bit overheated in this dress if I'm outdoors wandering for a long period of time. 
  • Elizabeth Suzann Asawa Tie Belt in Midweight Linen, black, OS - $60.00 - I don't think I'd have become interested in the Georgia dress in linen if it weren't for this belt and seeing an Instagram photo of someone in this outfit. While I very much like the idea of voluminous, relaxed-fit items such as the Georgia (everything in this vein looks so comfortable!), I personally think that amount of extra volume is often not suitable for the NYC business casual office environments I'm familiar with. Plus, with linen's natural tendency to wrinkle, the unbelted Georgia would start feeling even more casual. With the belt, I'm comfortable wearing this dress to work on days without formal meetings, though I prefer to keep it mostly to casual Fridays. I find the shape and design of the Asawa fairly unique and special, it transforms the shape of the dress. I like how infinitely adjustable this belt is, and with the texture of the mid-weight linen, it stays in place reasonably well (no real wardrobe malfunction risk). Though I do still find myself slightly repositioning the belt maybe two or three times throughout the day, as the widest part of it sometimes folds down a bit and shifts a little, particularly if I spend most of my day sitting at my desk.
  • Ficcare Ficcarissimo Hair Clip, gold, medium - $40.49* - I had seen Ficcare hair accessories recommended in Corporette comment threads. This was the month I finally decided to try one, now that my hair is more recovered from a recent... situation... with a failed "magic straight" perm, and I can start growing it out and going longer between haircuts again. Because my hair is quite thick, and also because I have essentially zero hair-styling skills, I've always had trouble getting most hair clips or barrettes to stay on. Whomever recommended Ficcare must have said the hair clips were unusually awesome, and that no other brand had worked for them before. With my lack of hair-styling experience, I can't fully vouch for whether that recommendation is entirely true, but I've found this clip to be easy to use. All I know how to do is to twist my hair up; position the resulting twist of hair in a loop towards the middle or lower part of the back of my head; and use the clip to keep the loop mostly in place (which results in what looks like a neat-ish updo from the front, but one that necessarily has some ends of hair sticking out a bit in back). That style stays in place the entire day with both this clip and the Maximas. 
  • Ficcare Maximas Hair Clip, caramel, medium - $50.97* - The price here takes into account a promotional $10.00 "Nordstrom Note" I received out of the blue. After getting my Ficcarisimo early this month, I couldn't stop thinking about the more colorful enamel Maximas clips. I kept going back to both Nordstrom's and Ficcare's website to try and decide which one would best suit my wardrobe only to end up with this fairly neutral "caramel" shade in the end. (And I must say, Nordstrom's photography is much better than Ficcare's, and makes the colors look far more appealing.) Note that finding the right size with both these hair clips is important. With my roughly shoulder-length (sometimes a little longer) and fairly thick, somewhat wavy hair, the "large" Maximas clip is too big for me to style my hair the way I described. The hair falls out of the clip more easily when the clip's too big. The "medium" size of both is about the right size for my hair texture and length.  

*Includes sales tax. 

With the Elizabeth Suzann purchases this month, I should be done with my warm-weather clothing purchases for 2019. There are other technically warm-weather friendly things I'm still thinking about, including the ES Bel Skirt in silk, but I don't think of that skirt as being a summer-only item. Then again, it may be that a longer silk skirt wouldn't have the right look with tights, which I find to be a necessity when wearing skirts and dresses throughout the colder months of the year. 

My one potential weak spot for an item that I see as being definitively "summer-only" comes about as a result of LinenFox's recently debuted bright teal-looking "emerald green" shade, which I think is gorgeous. I don't need any more summer dresses, but I really want one in that color. Except that, after factoring in the naturally wrinkly tendencies of linen; my preference for designs without too much extra volume; and how I prefer a design that would mostly hide my bra straps, I'm not sure any of LinenFox's dresses are guaranteed to be suitable for my tastes. There are a few designs on my "shortlist", but nothing in that group really stands out from the rest of the pack.

Admittedly, I have recently been a bit preoccupied with other shopping that's not for my wardrobe. Specifically, Bloomingdales has two styles of Smythson notebooks on sale: a pale blue Panama notebook with "Notes" embossed on the cover for 30% off and the larger Soho notebook for either 30% or 70% off, depending on the color. (And there's also an extra "buy more, save more" discount for the rest of June, which will be applied upon checkout.) These days, after starting to keep my daily to-do list (in a vaguely bullet journal-like style) and other notes in a hard copy notebook, I'm a lot better about using my fancy stationery than I used to be, so if I ended up getting one of these ultra-fancy notebooks, it'd be a major indulgence, but most likely not a wasted one.

Anyone else sometimes feel that sort of addiction to the novelty or excitement that comes from buying new-to-you things? How does one go about learning how to style one's own hair anyway, without having a patient sibling, friend, or parent willing (and also able, which is not a given) to do the teaching? Youtube tutorials are probably helpful for most people, but alas, I'm truly hopeless when it comes to hair-styling!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Link List: A Sense of Duty

A photo I took of someone else's super-fluffy, super-cute, and super-friendly dog on the commuter train to the suburbs. It seems that my M.O. with finding photographs for these link lists posts is basically just to use photos of other people's pets!

1. // Along the lines of some links I shared a few months back, on the theme of people around my age who prioritize and factor in the need (whether present or future) to financially assist their parents, and/or some of their extended family members into their money management plans, here's a recent article from The Cut that I enjoyed. It's based on an interview with Lily, who also blogs. Although our life circumstances might be substantially different (among other things, I also chose my undergraduate school due to its offering me, by far, the best need-based financial aid package available to me, but I was also a second-generation child of immigrant parents who had become fairly well-established and prosperous while I was small), and the same is true about the nature and extent of our expected future obligations to our parents, a lot of the ideas she shared still resonate with me.

When I think about what steps to take with my career in the long term, I feel on occasion that some of my desires conflict somewhat with my sense of duty. In the abstract, and completely separately from this topic, I feel some obligation to try and stay in certain more intense segments of my profession, the kind where Asian-Americans are extraordinarily underrepresented, to try and pave the way for future generations of attorneys like me. More concretely, and far more relevant here, whenever I consider the prospect of making future career decisions that would likely result in significantly lower compensation than some of my other viable options, I wonder slightly if I'd be doing a disservice to my hypothetical future children, my parents when they need me someday, and also potentially to some of my extended family members of more modest means, for whom a relatively small amount of money by US standards could make a big difference in Taiwan. This sense of duty isn't necessarily enough to substantially change my plans, and there are tons of other factors also at play, but it's on my mind.

2. // Speaking of things to do with my profession, there was a discussion on Corporette recently about law school student loan payoff timelines, particularly for people working in biglaw and biglaw-ish. 

The discussion also turned to the always mysterious and never particularly transparent norms and practices surrounding when biglaw associates eventually get the "up or out' discussion, generally with very little warning and often when the firm has pretty much already decided to give you your walking papers. Both of these topics are ones where it's hard to get reliable, "real talk"-style information, so anytime there's an opportunity to get more insight, I pay attention, even if I always take anonymous internet comments with a grain of salt. 

3. // This article at Vox's The Goods about the author's affection for, and memories bound up in, the soon-to-be-shuttered Dressbarn, and about the store's role in her transition, is lovely. 

4. // I'd been holding on to this r/femalefashionadvice link, to a discussion from an experienced leatherworker about his trying out a handbag-making class, for a while now. He noted that, with all the time and labor required to make a medium-large-ish bag by hand, it'd only be viable for him to sell them if he priced them at ~$2500 to $3000, and that the raw materials by themselves cost ~$600. 

When I saw Jess's recent post about getting started with leatherworking and her first few projects, I thought hey, it's a great time now to share these links! I'm always in awe of when people are able to make and create things. (At present, I definitely don't have the physical space to get into sewing, the creative hobby I'm most interested in. There's no room for a sewing machine in my apartment! Even if I only ended up learning some basic skills, like how to hem my own pants, I'd be thrilled.) 

5. // And now for a few interesting things over at other blogs I follow: Elaine's recent post about starting to use a safety razor is helpful, this is one of those small moves to lower-waste that I've thought about, but have put off because it's sort of intimidating; Revanche hosted a good discussion regarding how our views on money can be deeply affected by how we were raised; Michelle's discussion of some possible reasons for feeling career burn out really resonated with me (I couldn't relate as much to some of the more recent viral discussions about burn out elsewhere online); and I enjoyed M's May wardrobe roundup.

One thing M mentioned was how a social media platform or online community (in her case, r/femalefashionadvice, and in my case, some of the discussions of slow or "ethical" fashion that seem to mostly take place on Instagram, and also various money-centric discussions across multiple platforms) can have its own distinctive culture or set of commonly-held assumptions that can make a participant or observer preemptively defensive, or a little insecure, when thinking or writing about certain topics. This is an idea I've long been interested in, given all the online communities and social media discussions I follow as a mostly-passive observer (it's just on blogs that I'm a super-active commenter!). 

My own writing style has always had a natural tendency towards maybe-excessive disclaimers, lots of extra and possibly-unnecessary context, and things like that. It's just the way my brain works, and I'm also long-winded by nature. Law school may have amplified some of my writing habits that can sound defensive on the page, though law school also made me a more concise and direct writer. In any case, because of work, I can't help but think about and take into account potential rebuttals or counterpoints whenever I write, because I've been trained to always write with opposing parties and the court in mind. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Medical Bills, New and Somewhat Unexpected, For Things Entirely Routine

Bottega Veneta wallet (affiliate link), on sale at Net-a-Porter. While this is super-fancy, I spent far more than either the full price or sale price on fairly routine medical expenses in Q1 2019!

Much as it was for Luxe and many of her readers, the first quarter of 2019 was also an expensive time for me. Some of the spending was for fun reasons. I booked and paid for a few things related to my recent Maui vacation, and I also did a fair bit of shopping, particularly in February. A lot of the spending was for significantly less fun reasons, including taxes (I owed over $2000 to the IRS) and various medical bills, including at the optometrist for new glasses and contact lenses. But that was far from my only doctor or pharmacy bill that quarter. And none of the bills were for anything but the most routine or mundane of things, I never got sick or anything like that!

If you've been reading here a while, you might have noticed that I really, really like to complain about healthcare costs in the US, to an extent that might be entirely out of proportion with what I've actually needed to pay for. I've been lucky to have been in fairly good and uncomplicated health, except for one accident and the accompanying emergency dental work. Even that was far from as bad as it could have been.

Nonetheless, I basically write here about almost every single medical bill I encounter that's more substantial than a doctor's visit co-pay (~$25 for a general practitioner and ~$40 for a specialist on most of my insurance plans as a working adult). Maybe all this complaining is tiresome or tedious, but I just think it's important for us to remember that this isn't normal, things are different in many other countries. And this whole mess is among the many reasons why it's so important to vote, if you legally can. I'm also well aware that there are many far more important injustices than the minor indignities I've endured (the rising cost of insulin, for one). Plus, I think it's absurd that I - an attorney who regularly navigates multi-million dollar commercial disputes as part of my job (generally involving sets of multiple interrelated contracts spanning 100s of pages in total) - can only rarely make heads or tails of why I'm being charged a certain amount, even though I make considerable efforts to identify and review the documents setting out my coverage. 

Another "Latte Factor" Digression

To me, this topic also relates to larger questions of economic justice, and frustration with certain viewpoints in personal finance discourse. I'm talking about those rather un-charming individuals (and banks, including my own) that blame people's smaller personal choices, on things like coffees and avocado toasts, for their financial woes. Never mind that the math doesn't check out, typical life-ruining financial difficulties in the US are generally in amounts several orders of magnitude in excess of what anyone has ever spent on coffee or avocado toasts, certainly in a year, possibly even in a lifetime. And yes, I've been quite grouchy about this recently.

I say all this, by the way, as someone who deeply appreciates the importance of tracking one's spending down to the penny, enough that I can't resist any opportunity to proselytize about its virtues anytime one of my friends (both online and off) expresses even a slight interest in the topic. I even credit my use of (old, non-subscription) YNAB, to track and categorize my spending by individual transaction, with having a transformative effect on my spending and consumption habits. It almost immediately cut my careless Sephora, Amazon, and (R.I.P., they had consistently good prices) shopping, which had accounted for a shameful total in my early years as a law student, down to reasonable levels actually commensurate with my needs. For example, I used to comfortably exceed the Sephora V.I.B. spending threshold of $350/year without fail, and my online account even said I got close to V.I.B. Rouge's $1000/year hurdle once (though I think their calculation was wrong). Post-YNAB, I very quickly stopped getting anywhere close to V.I.B. status. So I'm well aware of the potential benefits of how "personal responsibility" (i.e. tedious and sometimes hard work, in the form of recording expenses and then cutting back certain spending categories) can result in a significant and beneficial overhaul of one's budget.

By tracking every single transaction without fail, one gets a true picture of one's total spending, and some of the details may be surprising. It often seems to be the case that people who try it out for the first time quickly learn the same lesson I did. Specifically, they might realize that they had quite a few categories where some careless, unthinking spending was occurring, which wasn't bringing them as much value or utility as the money they were putting in. Sometimes, all this low-utility spending represents a significant total. (That's generally the story at the heart of many posts in r/ynab raving about how the app is life-changing.) Before I started, I would have described myself as a reasonably careful spender, but it wasn't until I started tracking my spending that I learned this wasn't originally the case, and that I had some significant cuts I could make almost immediately without causing any discernible change in my lifestyle. But at the same time, none of this work was ever going to be enough to make any real dent in the actual cost of my legal education.

The financial albatross around my neck, my biggest monthly expense by far, and the thing that could have been life-ruining, but for luck (defined as a combination of preparation/hard work and opportunity/mostly random chance), is, unsurprisingly, my student loans. The numbers at issue there are the kind that no amount of cutting back on lattes and avocado toasts can completely fix. While in the private sector, for nearly three years total now, I've shoved in monthly payments of, on average, $3400. My current payments are now $3700/month and counting, a rate that requires ~35 more months of payments this exact size. With my student loan balance, I need to put in an extra ~$100 each month, every single month going forward, to cut just a single month off my projected repayment timeline. (All projections done using Lattes and avocado toasts ain't got nothing on that, if you ask me. That brings us to the medical bills. 

Medical Bills, Some New and Somewhat Unexpected

There I go again on one of my really long tangents before getting to the actual point of this entry, that I accumulated quite a range of medical bills in the first quarter of 2019, and all for fairly routine care, having experienced no accidents or bouts of illness. Despite not having been sick or injured, many of my medical bills were still for somewhat new and unexpected amounts. Many of these surprising line items were even for things of a type I'd used before, but they never cost so much until very recently. And almost everything on this list was covered by insurance.

I think this list of my surprising or unusually expensive medical bills from Q1 2019 provides a good case study for how it's becoming extremely clear, even more than before, that for contemporary Americans, the "latte factor" discussions from the likes of Chase Bank, David Bach, or Suze Orman simply miss the point. You can have all the "personal responsibility" in the world* and still be vulnerable to having your financial plans undermined by factors outside of your control. The expenses here are, ultimately, very small, because I'm a fairly healthy (knock on wood) working adult with no dependents, but the rate of the increase in costs in just a short time, for the same routine care I've been getting for years, is still, in my opinion, relatively dramatic.

And I think my list of somewhat unexpected and new medical expenses for mundane and routine things, infinitesimal as the amounts are in comparison to things such as the costs of housing, childcare, or higher education, is still enough to show how silly the people who take the "latte factor" seriously are being. Just like that, with a few sudden changes occurring almost all at once (mostly to my health insurance and its coverage of prescription medications, something outside of my control), I'm now paying close to the equivalent of an "extra-latte-every-weekday" amount in extra healthcare costs each month for some relatively simple, routine things. With regards to most of these expenses, I did just about everything "right"** (except for one thing I'll explain, but I made that particular mistake while doing my best to proactively respond to something I believed was set in stone by the text of my health insurance plan's policies).

Monday, June 17, 2019

Reading and Shopping Life Lately

To my slight sorrow, it turns out that I also spoke a little too soon about my streak of good luck with picking out books to read. Although I loved Celeste Ng's first novel, Everything I Never Told You, I ended up finding her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, extremely tedious. It's a "did not finish" or "DNF" for me, after I got through ~40% of the book. 

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Close to half of Little Fires Everywhere, at least in the portions I read, is told from the perspective of high school-aged characters, which is just not my cup of tea. It seems that, as a reader, I quite enjoy reading about the foibles and inner thoughts of college-aged characters (for example, in Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot, and more recently, in R.O. Kwon's The Incendiaries, both of which I may have enjoyed a lot more than most other readers typically do), who generally also seem very young, and sometimes also immature or foolish, to my eyes (I also cringe to look back at some of things I said or did at that age). For whatever reason, I simply can't muster up the same enthusiasm for reading about actual teenagers. 

Plus, I just really personally dislike one of the main characters (the one Reese Witherspoon will play in the forthcoming television adaptation), who seems to be the type of person who considers themselves very progressive, charitable, and well-meaning, but is actually very... let's just say... non-intersectional in their thinking, with tons of implicit biases about people from different backgrounds, both as a matter of race and class. Actually, that Celeste Ng is able to get into this character's head and write her in a way that inspires such a visceral reaction in me probably is a testament to the strength of her writing skills. Unfortunately, it also means that I just can't enjoy this book. 

I've now moved on to Preet Bharara's Doing Justice, which I just received from the library after waiting a few weeks for my turn, and it's a great book so far. Though if I had to pick just one recent, well-known memoir written by an attorney that I think everyone should read, I'd still recommend Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy first, as I think the lessons imparted by Just Mercy are of truly unique importance in explaining some of the problems facing the US today.  

As for my recent shopping life, It's been around a week and a half since I received my Elizabeth Suzann Georgia dress in mid-weight linen and matching Asawa belt in the mail, and I really love them so far! I should note that the mid-weight linen is not a perfect summer fabric for NYC, as it starts to feel a little heavy for my tastes when the temperature climbs past mid-70s Fahrenheit, given typical summer humidity levels. But with the heavier linen, the dress has a lovely shape when its belted, the fabric has just the right amount of stiffness and structure. I find the design of the Asawa belt fairly unique and clever. More on these items in a few weeks, once I've had a bit longer to test them out.

I've had very little luck with all my other recent shopping, alas, even with all the sales that have been going on. I decided to order that APC Clare Dress (also on sale here) that caught my eye a few months back, now that it's been discounted from $325 to ~$227 most places. (I ordered mine directly from APC.) The cotton-linen blend fabric has a nice texture, it felt light and breezy for summer while still being substantial enough that it wouldn't be a problem that the dress is unlined. I ordered the 38 and it seemed to be the right size for me. Unfortunately, I was also correct that the design and shape of the dress, with the extra volume around the chest and shoulders, wouldn't fit me well. (Plus, I expect my proportions in that area to change significantly in a few months.) I should also note that the vaguely faux-wrap looking v-neck actually worked a lot better on me than expected. I worried it would be so open on me that I'd need a camisole underneath, or that the neckline would look distorted because I'm so much bustier than all the models, but I didn't actually have either problem. The dress would, unsurprisingly, probably better suit someone who is a little taller, it's a midi-length dress on me. Though if the design had fit me better through the chest and shoulders, I would have been totally fine with the off-the-rack length. 

I also ordered the APC Odette bag in burgundy (sold out, only black remains) and the Alexis trench (also on sale here) to try, but neither item suited my tastes. With the Odette bag, I should have known better, that I love the look of, but generally wouldn't like actually using, very structured bags made of stiffer leather, the exact same issue I had with the famous APC half-moon bag I've also ordered and returned previously. With the Alexis, I actually really liked the way it fit on me, also in a size 38. It had a sleeker look than I get with my Everlane Classic Trench (discontinued, current version), in part because it's a thicker, sturdier fabric, with a full lining. Alas, I didn't like the color on me, it's a darker, more tan beige than my Everlane coat. I'm also not sure the thicker cotton fabric would suit NYC weather patterns either, it might be too heavy. Who knew it was so difficult to find the right beige color? Before I bought the Everlane trench, I recall trying on at least two or three other coats, rejecting them in part because they were in shades of beige that just didn't flatter my skin tone. 

How has your shopping or reading life been going recently? Anyone else have the same difficulty with finding the right shade of beige or camel when shopping for coats or other clothes? 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Latte Factor Revisited, Small Lower-Waste Moves, etc.

Photo from a recent weekend visit with K to Felix Roasting Co., on one of the rare occasions when I add a pastry to my coffee order. I couldn't resist the Instagram-friendly matcha croissant from Supermoon Bakehouse!

Turns out I spoke too soon about not buying as many lattes and flat whites this year. It seems that certain types of busy periods at the office, depending on the kind of tasks I'm doing, can increase my cravings for those small indulgences. All these fluctuations in my fancy espresso (or matcha) drink consumption habits these past few years, combined with how I carefully track every expense by individual transaction in YNAB (so I know, down to the penny, how much I actually spend at coffee shops each month, and exactly how often I go), give me what I think is an unusually specific level of insight into all those "latte factor" discussions that just won't go away.

With the ~12-15% tip I typically give at coffee shops, each of my flat whites, lattes, or matcha lattes cost ~$5/each, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less, depending on my exact order and which shop I'm visiting. In an "ideal" month, where I'm happy with how often I'm indulging and feel like I'm using the drinks as a slightly special treat rather than, er, an unthinking habit I'm getting a bit dependent on, I'm visiting a coffee shop around ~2x/week and spending ~$42/month. (Keeping in mind that between Starbucks rewards, redeeming all my Drop cash-back for Starbucks gift cards, and "get one free for every 10 or 11 purchases" loyalty cards at my smaller, local coffee shops, I'm generally getting ~1-3 free drinks a month.) So ~$42/month is my "happy medium" baseline number. 

In a more typical "not so good" month in the past, I'd generally be visiting coffee shops around ~3-4x/week, and spending more like ~$62/month. That's when I start feeling like "okay, I'm maybe starting to buy these espresso or matcha drinks more out of habit than actual enjoyment," which is not my favorite thing. Whenever I've fussed about indulging in too many lattes in the past, that's generally what was happening. 

This month has been a more unusually indulgent one, where my average is looking more like 4-5x/week, resembling that "visits Starbucks every workday" stereotype that most people who think the "latte factor" is a real thing like to talk about and deride. I think it's because I'm a bit more caffeine-addicted than usual, want my dose earlier in the morning, and the office coffee isn't hitting the spot quite as much. This is a slightly new phenomenon for me, and maybe I'll cut down on it sharply in short order by regularly making homemade cold brew again, so I'm not quite sure yet what this month's actual spend will be, but if things kept up, it'd likely be ~$85/month~$43/month more than my "happy place" baseline.

That's getting to a fairly significant amount of added spending for the month if it's going to be a recurring issue, but the conditions of contemporary American life are also such that this extra $43/month might not mean much. Given recent changes with how my insurance company covers my choice of contraception (which is also an important, even essential, part of my acne-fighting regime), the price for me now holds steady at a monthly co-pay of $39 and change (or, more specifically, that's per 28-day supply). And because the pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, and  pharmacy benefits managers ("PBMs") all act in ways that have resulted in upward hikes to the price of acne-oriented and other dermatology prescriptions, I also now have two other medications with $75 copays per 3-month supply. Oh joy! So the extra spend from when I feel like I'm way overindulging at coffee shops by going every workday covers my contraception each month with less than enough for another latte left over. That's significant, but I can't see how it apparently turns into a life-changing number each year for most localities in the US.

And I still don't quite know how my bank gets its number for $100/month savings by "turn[ing] your latte into something grande" and saving all your coffee shop spend in a high-interest savings account instead, as going every workday doesn't get me that close to $100 a month. Maybe adding in a pastry once a week would get me there, but it's the rare coffee shop that stocks pastries that are particularly tasty (I'm admittedly very picky, as I ultimately prefer savory foods to sweet). I suppose I might also be a bit above average in my ability to turn my frequent purchases into free drinks through loyalty cards, Drop cash-back, and Starbucks Rewards.

Friday, June 7, 2019

On Free-Cycling and My (Really Slow) Minimalist(ish) Journey

When we first moved in to our current apartment...

Despite all my years of closet decluttering, both via KonMari method and otherwise, I've never tried reselling any of my unwanted clothes or shoes by listing items individually on eBay, Poshmark, or what have you. I'm sheepish about this too, because I know full well that there are many reasons to try reselling, from both the frugality perspective (potentially recouping part of the cost is a good thing, even if, in many instances, one's used things don't have much value) and the minimalist-ish perspective (among many other things, from a waste reduction standpoint, it seems logically sound that the best chance for an unwanted item to have a meaningful second life is by reselling it directly to a buyer who specifically wants it, rather than donating it for a highly uncertain outcome).

Regardless of all the reasons why I really should make more of an effort to resell my many items that are still in reasonably good condition, but won't get any further use in my hands, it's simply not possible for me to routinely find the time or energy for high-effort resale attempts. If, in my current line of work, I can't even reliably make time to cook a Hello Fresh meal (~20 minutes of active work and ~20 minutes of passive waiting time in most instances), I won't be finding the time to continuously keep re-listing my (not particularly exciting or desirable) items on eBay.

Plus, as someone who is semi-regularly in the secondhand market to buy the kind of clothing I'd have available for resale (mostly Ann Taylor or J.Crew-type items I barely ended up wearing), I'm well aware of how little my used things are worth, even when in excellent condition (which isn't a given; I generally tried to wear them for a while, and not all of them laundered well). If I wouldn't buy these pieces used for much more than, say, ~$35/dress, I could hardly list them for more. It just wouldn't sit right with me, I always roll my eyes so hard when I see eBay listings for unrealistic or unreasonable prices. To be blunt, the amount of money we're talking about (especially after factoring in how poor the chances are for actually reselling many of my rather unexciting things) simply isn't likely to be worth my time or energy to actively list individual items for resale.

And the things I'd want to sell generally are far less desirable or interesting than the very specific items I've previously been in the market to buy. The market for the type of run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen secondhand clothes and accessories I'd have to offer is oversaturated and competitive, both from other individual sellers and from ThredUp. Furthermore, given the near-constant 30% to 40%-off reductions on new merchandise and the more aggressive discounts on sale merchandise available at the stores in question (Loft, Ann Taylor, J.Crew, etc.), I'd even be competing with the retailers themselves! Incidentally, that's what makes me roll my eyes at some of those eBay listings, when people try to sell their used things for more than similar new items are going for in the stores right now. The stores even have the added advantage of mostly free shipping.

Those low prices and constant sales are, of course, symptoms of undesirable trends. These are all brands that are undeniably fast fashion in their manufacturing practices (seen partially in their frequent drops of large volumes of new products), and ones that have likely been undertaking ever-increasing cost-cutting measures (based on comparisons of the traits of current merchandise to those of typical offerings in years past), likely due to their generally well-publicized financial woes. The low prices are not, in any way, something to aspire towards. But, well, that's the market my listings would be competing in, if I made them.

The result is that things have only been leaving my closet in other ways these past few years. Even though I try to be as responsible or as ethical as I can when sending off my unwanted things, I'm very realistic and aware about how imperfect my efforts are: 
  1. My best items that I think would suit my sister are saved for her. Because I know her tastes well, the things I send her way are generally put to good use for a long time after. Some of them even become staples in her wardrobe, which is a particularly gratifying outcome. (This is one of the many reasons why having a close-in-age sister is a wonderful thing.) If I had any friends who had remotely similar tastes in clothing and accessories, that'd be another place for my nicest, but underutilized, things to go. 
  2. Over the years, I've sent many items to ThredUp. Back when it was easy to track how my things were selling, they even tended to do well! That being said, payouts for my items, mostly a mix from Ann Taylor, Loft, and H&M-type retailers, were never great for what they accepted (which was ~50% of what I sent over the years), maybe ~$4/item max, mostly less. Though frankly, I was so thrilled at how easy it was that I did not care. ThredUp's intake and payout policies have changed in the many years since I started reselling, so I'd expect significantly lower payouts now. I also have doubts about whether their business model will work long-term (if they've cut payouts significantly since they started, and are also pricing many items too high to sell, those can't be good signs) or whether they're actually better for the environment by significantly reducing waste (they started making and selling new items, which is bizarre), so I'm not sure I would continue with them as a reseller now. And anything they don't accept likely ends up in the same type of donation or textile recycling situation as item 4 on my list. 
  3. This hasn't fully played out yet, but for some of my potentially more valuable used things that my sister wouldn't like, I recently dropped them off at a TheRealReal physical store for consignment. Previously, these items had languished for years on my list for possible future higher-effort resale. Most of them I already knew I wanted to resell before I even started this blog, and I certainly haven't worn or used them since, which means they've been sitting around collecting dust for a half-decade or longer!
  4. Everything else has been going to the donation and textile recycling collection points closest to wherever I've lived in NYC. And yes, I'm painfully aware that donation is generally not a route to used clothes being put to good use by someone else, due to the extreme volume of donations constantly being made in the US. But I may be at a loss for a better solution for what remains after I've exhausted the other options. 
  5. For the relatively few things that are in such poor condition that I know they truly have no chance of being a usable donation (like, say, the Wolford tights I shredded by accident), I do put them in the trash. Obviously, there's nothing redeeming about this, but I'm not sure I see another solution. 
Would you believe that I haven't even gotten to the main point of this entry yet? What I actually wanted to discuss today is another method I've added to the mix in recent months, though, as I'll explain, it's had little real success: free-cycling.

I last engaged in a significant bout of free-cycling when I moved out of student housing after law school, in order to send off furniture, kitchen items, and other home goods that would be made redundant when I moved in with K. I loved free-cycling back then, and a university campus is certainly an ideal place to do it. Other students took practically everything I listed, and I was pretty sure they'd happily and enthusiastically put all my things to good use, given how restrictive students' budgets often are. It felt like a great thing to do, to give away as much as I could!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Maui Trip 2019: Maui Chef's Table and Mama's Fish House

A scallop dish, the second to last savory course from our dinner at Maui Chef's Table. I think this might have been the best single dish I've ever had! (And I've been to some really nice places in NYC, mostly for work...) Sadly, I'm not a great talent when it comes to food photography (or iPhone photography in general), so my photos don't do justice to the food.

As promised, here is my second and last post about our recent family trip to Maui, focusing on some of the delicious food that my mom, my sister, and I got to try. 

In actuality, I'm normally not an extremely food-focused traveler: I greatly appreciate and value good food, of course, and particularly enjoy having tasty street food or hawker center food on my trips, but my travel plans generally don't prioritize food. We often don't have many specific restaurants we want to try, for instance. K and I will generally do one fancy meal on our longer trips (for example, I booked him a birthday lunch at Tin Lung Heen at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong a few years back), but that's about it. On this vacation though, some of our plans focused very much on food. Specifically, I booked reservations for us at two of the most popular fine dining attractions in Maui: We did the Maui Chef's Table, a once-a-week (usually Saturdays) tasting menu and fine dining experience and we also went to Mama's Fish House, a well-known local restaurant. 

First up, a few details about food expenses generally when traveling to Maui. As I mentioned in my last post, restaurants tend to be quite expensive, maybe a little more than I'm used to, even in NYC (~$15/meal at fast casual places and closer to ~$25/entree at nicer sit-down places seemed typical for Maui), at least in the tourist-focused areas we frequented (Lahaina, the Kaanapali Beach area, etc.). It's probably the first destination where I felt strongly that it would be a good idea to get a hotel room, suite, or other lodging with a kitchenette, and to rely in significant part on cooking food from grocery stores for at least a few meals, particularly breakfasts. There was a large Safeway in Lahaina that we stopped at a few times, and there's also a Costco near the airport that many tourists go to before driving out to where they're staying. 

That's not to say the restaurant food is a bad value! I enjoyed pretty much everything we had, whether from a fast casual place or a slightly fancier sit-down place. (More fast casual-leaning places we liked included Joey's Kitchen in the Whaler's Village shopping center food court and Ono Kau Kau.) It's just that the prices on the menus give such sticker shock, even to people used to very HCOL areas like NYC or the Bay Area, that one can't help but start thinking about ways to save on food costs during any future trips. Grocery stores and Costco in Hawaii also have really good poke, by the way, good enough that it'll ruin you for ever eating that dish again anywhere else in the world. (One of my favorite comic artists on Instagram, @dami_lee, recently made this exact observation in one of her comics.) 

Please follow the link below to read about our experiences at Maui Chef's Table and Mama's Fish House, both of which we greatly enjoyed.