Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Shopping List Thoughts

It's still far too early in the year to know how my goal of reining in some of the slightly careless, not always well-thought-out, excesses of last year's shopping will ultimately turn out. January was fine, but February was less promising. It's too soon yet to tell how March will be, though it's looking reasonable so far. When I first declared that lofty intention to rein things in a bit last December, I didn't have the clearest sense of how exactly I thought I should go about it. 

Well, fine, I did say one concrete thing, that a few-months' shopping ban might be a good idea, something that clearly has not come to pass. But I also did mention how that was an idea that had never quite worked for me before. Another thing that changed my intentions on that score was that certain plans shifted and were postponed, in part because I balked at what turned out to be a far briefer than expected downturn in the stock market (a protracted one would affect the market for legal services and, therefore, my long-term job stability) and when the federal government shutdown looked like it might be here to stay (if federal courts close due to lack of money, an event without true precedent, my work would be seriously disrupted). I still want to go ahead with my plans, am still very certain of them, but at this point, working around my planned vacation schedule, I'll only be able to set a date in July or later, more likely in September or October. Once the procedure has actually been scheduled, then I think a shopping ban (at least as to clothes for which the fit would be seriously affected) in the few months surrounding the formal date would be a good idea. 

Anyway, I think I have a clearer sense now of how I want to approach my shopping-related goals. Although I fussed about 2018 being a year of somewhat excessive "joy" in shopping, upon further reflection, something resembling "joy" can be good. A form of it tends to correlate with an item becoming one of my "best" buys, my most-loved and well-used items, which is about as ideal an outcome as I could want. It's just that, as I mentioned to Jessica a few months ago in the comments, I can't always reliably differentiate between the fleeting "joy" of a super-impulsive purchase that I will get tired of in a few months and the deeper-set "joy" of something that becomes a well-loved favorite item that I will wear for years, and will want to admire out of the corner of my eye, or every time I pass by a reflective surface, each time I wear it. 

I've also been thinking about how to organize and make more effective use of my one central, consolidated shopping wish list for my wardrobe, the only other particularly concrete idea I had for guiding my shopping this year. It's taken a bit of time to work out a method for making the board well-organized, and to find a way to keep track of things I've tried and rejected, or what ended up getting purchased. I still don't have a perfect system, it's definitely a work in progress, but I've now added more internal organization to the board, by making several sub-boards. Those sub-boards will track items in four different categories, and I'll be moving items from one to the other where appropriate. 
  • First is things I've now decided against, whether or not I actually tried them on first.
  • Second is items I ended up buying. To the extent that I originally picked a different brand's store image to portray a general category of item, or color and type of item, I'll usually swap those images out with ones of the item I actually bought. 
  • Third is things that are essentially "fantasy" items for me, whether because they were discontinued or are long since sold out, or, in some cases, if there's some highly impractical-for-me detail about them. Another factor is if I think the only realistic prices I think I could potentially find the item for, if one was available on the secondhand market, would definitely be too expensive for the purchase to be a good value to me. 
  • Fourth, the list that's illustrated above, is items I'm still thinking about possibly trying and buying, some of which are vague and extremely unlikely fantasies, and some of which are much more likely to be actual potential purchases. In some cases, for the much fancier items, I would need to cut a lot of other things out of my budget, both for shopping and for some other expenses, if I was serious about making room for getting the item. 

And I must say, I'm having a lot of fun using Pinterest recently! I was so very late to the party when it came to making active use of Pinterest, given that I've only really been using it in earnest for a year or less. It's just one of the many ways in which I've proven to be a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to new-to-me social media platforms. (I still haven't figured out Twitter, for instance, and am still mostly too shy to actually interact with anyone or even put out much of anything in my own words there. I pretty much just use it as a kind of weird, mostly law nerd-y, and less visual Tumblr.) Over the years, I used Pinterest only occasionally to find photos to use in some of my posts, and I did keep a personal style inspiration board since the earliest days of this blog, but I didn't log in often until much more recently. 

Please follow the link below for some additional thoughts on the current state of my shopping wish list!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Things that Happen When I'm (Briefly) on Pace to Bill 3,000 Hours/Year*

*Please note that this is said with tongue firmly in cheek. While I did work that much for a few weeks in January, it was mainly due to an unusually urgent project of a type that isn't likely to recur often. At the rate I was working, I still would only have billed 3,000 hours if I didn't take any vacation and also worked at that exact same pace for the entire year. I don't expect to be anywhere near that busy again for quite some time, and thank goodness for that! Now, two months on, I'm already significantly "off pace" for getting anywhere close to 3,000 hours billed in 2019. I'll probably come in around 2,100 at most, if I had to guess.

I'm told there may be a number of biglaw firms where regularly billing close to 3,000 hours/year may be necessary to be a tip-top associate, but hours like that (as opposed to a "mere" 2,100 or 2,200... which is still a lot) are not terribly common. Lots of things need to align just right (or wrong) to get close, including that one's practice group may need to be consistently busy the whole time. A lot of practice areas are subject to the whims of the markets, and not every firm or practice group is always able to bring in enough new business to sustain hours like that. While I was in biglaw, I was on track to fall slightly short of 2,000 billed hours that year, even with significant pro bono hours included in my total (firms generally allow pro bono service to account for a small percentage of an associate's total hours for the year, usually not much more than 200 hours out of a 2000 target). Most of my fellow junior litigators there were also struggling to hit 2,000. I could speculate on what that says about where the biglaw litigation market is going, but I only have a small sample size of my old firm and my friends' firms to go off of.

Back in January, that intensely hectic period was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. I didn't mind it too much, actually, I enjoyed having a lot of responsibility, but I was definitely also feeling sleep-deprived and exhausted by the end. At least for me, there is a point at which one works so much that performance and efficiency inevitably deteriorate. In no particular order, here are a few observations about what life looks like with just two or three weeks of working so hard that I'd potentially be on track to bill 3,000 hours that year if I kept it up:

A recent email from Ally, Bank where I keep my savings account. While it's great to save that money from coffee, if one wants to save and invest more than that, then further steps in other areas of one's finances would also be necessary!

1. // Latte factor: I tend to go to coffee shops a lot more often than most people who like to save. (Though I think we're all well aware that cutting out a frequent coffee shop habit wouldn't, by itself, be anywhere near enough when it comes to longer-term saving and investing for retirement and other big needs.) There have been times in my life, when I had a killer commute and needed to wake up hours earlier than I'm used to, that I had a latte almost every weekday morning and considered it "worth it". Given that I'd taken a large pay-cut at that time, I felt extremely sheepish about my habit, but in the end, it wasn't a big deal, relative to my larger financial situation in the long run.

This past January, though, when I started getting that fancy latte almost every morning, I was surprised to find that those purchases gradually started losing their value and appeal to me. I suppose that might have been because the biggest challenge at the time was the intensity of my work, not my feeling tired or sleepy from needing to wake up a lot earlier than comes naturally, so the extra caffeine boost wasn't as useful anymore. Also, the lattes finally stopped feeling "special" because I had them so often. My propensity for going to coffee shops has been significantly reduced in the weeks since that busy period. We'll see if the trend continues for the rest of this year!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Book and Podcast Life Lately

After taking a bit of a break from reading for fun for a few months (I read a few books that were emotionally intense, in a really good way, but I needed some time and space afterwards to reflect on them), I'm easing back into the habit. I've read a few things recently that I greatly enjoyed, and that I wanted to share. First up is Nicole Chung's All You Can Ever Know, a memoir about the author's childhood as a transracial adoptee and the process of reconnecting with her birth family once she was an adult. It's a really wonderful book, she writes with a remarkable sensitivity, and she has a deft and clear-eyed way of describing the highly emotionally complex things she has experienced. She has a somewhat restrained and understated writing style that nonetheless packs a huge emotional punch. It's a very powerful book, and I think you'll be swept away into her story. 

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While the focus is largely on the emotional and other implications of adoption and transracial adoption, and on her family, All You Can Ever Know also has some very sharp, very real things to say about race in America in general, and the experience of living in this country as a person of color. I can't recommend this book enough. 

I've also been reading a lot of much lighter fare. In particular, I recently rediscovered the work of Mira Grant, whose Newsflesh series I read years ago and found quite clever and fun. (Mira Grant is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, but I've only personally read her work as Mira Grant.) I found her Parasitology series a bit of a dud, unfortunately. It was a cool premise, but the pacing was really off and it would have been much better off as two books instead of three. The first volume of her new series, Into the Drowning Deep, is fantastic however, a fast-paced adventure with a great sense of humor (and a fair bit of horror movie-type violence and gore, I should warn, in case you're sensitive to that). It's so much fun to read and quite original. 

As to podcasts, thank you again to everyone who recommended some in January! It'll take me a long time to get to all of them, but I've already started listening to some, and they're pretty great. In particular, I wanted to second the recommendations for The Dream. It started off as a slow burn for me because I find some pyramid schemes or multi-level marketing schemes ("MLMs") more interesting to learn about than others, and a lot of the ones they mentioned at the start were ones I'd never heard of. But once I gave the series some time, it really grabbed me. They've done a lot of research, and they did a great job weaving together a lot of seemingly very different, fragmented stories that all fall under the same central theme of pyramid schemes and the way they sell that "dream". The episodes about the history of (ultimately mostly failed) attempts to regulate and take legal action against MLMs were particularly interesting to me. 

Another podcast I wanted to recommend, though this is just part of a single episode rather than a full series, is the second half of the February 28, 2019 episode of Stay Tuned with Preet*, which features an in-depth interview with Bryan Stephenson, the author of Just Mercy, one of those two books that had such an emotional impact on me late last year. Mr. Stephenson is extraordinary, and what he has accomplished through his work at the Equal Justice Initiative is so important, even though the nature of such work is that there is always, always more to be done. 

I can also recommend a few other somewhat new and recent podcasts, both in the "true crime" genre. First is The Dropout, which is about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. The podcast doesn't necessarily tread much new substantive ground that wasn't already covered in the excellent and incredibly comprehensive Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, one of my favorite books from last year, but it is interesting to hear the voices of the people in the story, including the whistleblowers and Ms. Holmes herself. Second is a less well-known story, Over My Dead Body, about a murder case in Florida that may be tried later this year. Attorneys or law students who frequently read Above the Law, our main online news source for law school and biglaw industry gossip, may already be familiar with the underlying events, as one of the writers feels a personal connection to the story (he's interviewed in the podcast as well).

Have you read any great books so far this year? Discovered any new podcasts? 

*The whole podcast is very high-quality, but it's just not quite my cup of tea. I spend so much time thinking about legal topics at work that I don't necessarily want to listen to a lengthy podcast episode about it every week!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

On Well-Loved Shoes and Shoe Repair

At the time these photos were taken, my nearly four and a half year old Sam Edelman Petty booties had just been freshly resoled and polished and had yet to be worn since. Otherwise I'd never put them on a desk!

Until after I graduated college, I never knew shoes could be repaired or resoled, sometimes many times in just a few years of normal use. I suppose that gap in my knowledge makes sense. For much of one's childhood and throughout one's teenage years, one's feet are probably growing too fast for shoe repair to be much an issue. And my feet still grew while I was in college, I mostly wore a size 7 shoe when I started, but by the year after I graduated, I wore a 7.5 and occasionally an 8, or even an 8.5. Plus, I was never on my feet as much and never did half as much walking until I moved to NYC. Also, from college through my first year or two of law school, I had a terrible "success rate" with buying shoes that I'd actually wear, probably worse than 50%. (After that particular "after" photo was taken, I eventually decluttered another four pairs of nearly-new shoes from it without ever actually wearing said shoes again.) And if shoes don't actually get worn, they're not exactly going to need a visit to the cobbler.

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I've had this pair of Sam Edelman Petty booties (discontinued in leather, though lingering pairs remain in size 6 only, and they're still available in suede) for a little over four years now, and I've worn them frequently throughout fall and winter each year, a period lasting from late September through practically April most years. They're likely my single favorite pair of shoes, so well-loved that I bought a second pair while my first was still in fairly good shape. That newer edition was made of a stiffer leather, so I've never liked them as much, though I wear them sometimes, mostly on more formal occasions.

I'd only ever needed to get my first pair of Pettys reheeled before, the sole was still in great shape until very recently, when they started to peel off. Thankfully, that was also easily fixed at the cobbler's. My current go-to shop reheels my boots for $20 and replaces the sole and heels for $40 total, which I think is a fairly good deal by NYC standards. Because I generally needed to reheel my Pettys twice a year, and most shops are a little pricier than my current one, I've definitely spent more than the original ~$120 cost of the shoes on repairs by now.

But it's been well worth it, because I don't think I'd quite know what to do when I finally need to replace my main pair of Pettys. I so rarely see anything with a near-identical design. Currently, it's maybe just the Blondo Villa booties, but they use a more suede-looking leather that wouldn't be as versatile in my wardrobe. Neither of the current Sam Edelman booties (the intentionally distressed leather Packer with their more casual look, or the more pointy-toed Walden) are that similar. The Petty booties might not have the most fashionable or interesting look, with their round toe and fairly low heel, but that's probably what I like about them. I even consider them appropriate for court in the fall/winter, when I wear them with black tights and a skirt suit. 

How often do people normally get their shoes reheeled and/or resoled anyway? I go often for new heels for my boots, basically twice a year each for both Pettys and my knee-high riding boots; Generally once at the start of NYC's extended fall/winter season and again a month or two from the end. I'd expect that high-heel shoes with skinny heels probably need new heel caps fairly frequently, but I wear them so rarely that the issue doesn't come up (the also-discontinued Sam Edelman Tristan pumps, which have a slightly shorter heel than their current basic pump, the Hazel, are my current super-conservative job interview shoe of choice, but basically no other event, even most court appearances, could convince me to wear them). I'd never actually needed any repairs done on any of my ballet flats before, I'd wear them out completely in a way that probably couldn't be repaired, by rubbing unsightly holes in the outer edges of the uppers (due to my wide feet and probably how I walk) long before reheeling or resoling was ever an issue. Now that I own a pair of leather loafers, however (another Sam Edelman shoe, the Loraine - clearly I'm very fond of the brand, and their shoes typically work well for my feet), those seem to need reheeling semi-frequently, maybe also once or twice a year when worn on and off all year round, though a lot less often in fall and winter.

This post was partially inspired by my having done some shoe shopping during the recent Shopbop sale. I tried on the Rachel Comey Mars bootie I was so taken by a few months ago, but alas, that particular shoe wasn't right for me at all. There's no zipper, which makes them hard to put on, and the shape of them is such that I had to maneuver quite a bit to get them on my foot, despite having sized all the way up to an 8.5 (which did otherwise fit). I also found the leather a bit oddly stiff and thin-seeming for a shoe of that price, it just wasn't what I was used to. I was terribly disappointed that they wouldn't work for me, because they can look so chic on others. I also ordered the Sam Edelman Leah because of their Chanel-like look and my general good experiences with the brand, but those just didn't fit me, they may run a bit bigger than expected, or just are difficult to get a good fit on because of the slingback design. Both shoes had been on my main shopping list before I made the order, though I took the Leahs off now that I know I'm not going to want them, and could delete the Mars booties too*.

*I guess that's one complication with how I've been maintaining my main shopping list on Pinterest, because I put items on, but remove some inconsistently when they've been purchased or because I've tried and rejected them. It'll be hard to keep track of how the list has changed over time that way. I have to think about whether there's a better, slightly more consistent way to manage the list!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Money Life Lately: Net Worth Zero and Tax Time

Chloe "Tess" wallet (affiliate link)

I'm approximately a month and a half away from a significant financial milestone: "Net worth zero", where my total assets, including what's locked away in my 401(k) and my Roth IRA, will be equal to the balance of my student loan debt. At nearly four years since law school graduation, it's taken me longer than K and most of my close law school friends to get to this point (most of them are so good about aggressive repayment that, if they worked in biglaw that whole time, they were close to paying off their loans in full by then) because I took a year off to clerk, which, due to the timing; the ~7% interest rate on my student loans; and my inability to refinance while I was still relying on income-based repayment to manage payments during the clerkship, created a nearly two-year delay in my student loan repayment schedule. That was despite my best efforts to be good about money during my first relatively brief stint in the private sector. I'm super-excited about getting to net worth zero! It'll feel great to finally be "worthless".

Tax Time: Back to Turbotax 

Whenever it comes time to do my taxes each year, I'm always reminded about just how bad I am at anything to do with tax. I took the introductory tax class in law school, which discusses personal income tax no less, and while I was typically a top 10 to 12% student at almost everything else in law school, I was solidly rock bottom in that particular class. My sheer incompetence in that subject was distressing, and absolutely boggled my mind. I worked hard to study for that exam, possibly harder than for almost anything else! How is it even possible?! I came away from the experience convinced that the way words are used in the Internal Revenue Code does not resemble the actual English language. I'm probably just bitter. I swear though, words actually don't mean what you expect when you read the provisions of the tax code, even more so than in any other federal statute I'm familiar with. While the interpretation of any statutory text can be surprisingly complex, it's only in the tax code that things I think sound like one thing might actually mean the opposite, particularly when the tax code explains how to do some math.

In any case, having a legal education can be surprisingly unhelpful for things you'd think all lawyers might naturally have a comparative advantage at because of the nature of their job. I'm definitely no better at interpreting or navigating my health or dental insurance plans than anyone else (now there's a context in which the way words are used in key documents barely resembles English). I'm not necessarily better at negotiating anything. It seems that I'm also much worse than your average American when it comes to understanding my taxes. If you're able to use just about any other software or self-preparation method for your taxes besides Turbotax, I'm convinced that you can probably count yourself more knowledgeable and capable than I am.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

February 2019 Shopping Reflections

This is not going to look like an impressive month, in light of this year's goal of shopping "less". (Yikes, but let's see how the next few months shake out before worrying too much.) Looking back over the past two years, I may have a recurring habit of really splashing out and splurging around February or March, with the biggest purchase usually coming from the last waves of post-Christmas sales.

For months now, I've had heavier-knit, hopefully luxe-feeling turtleneck sweaters on the brain. It all started with last January's sweater of not fully known material (worn here), which I loved wearing, despite the inherently dubious provenance of many items bought on Taobao. The seller called it cashmere, and back then, I was inclined to believe it, because I thought the material was behaving similarly to that of my other cashmere sweaters (including by being prone to pilling quicker than most wool or synthetic blends, and machine-washing well in cold water and a mesh bag). But more recently, I'm less sure, now that I have a little more to compare it to. In any case, I knew I was assuming the risk of not getting what was "promised" when I bought it.

At the same time, I'd become disillusioned about the durability of sweaters from J.Crew or Ann Taylor-ish, which was a bit of a reversal, as I'd previously said I thought the synthetic-blended machine-washable sweaters commonly offered by those retailers were great for my work wardrobe, and a practical fit for my lifestyle. The sweaters I purchased in that spirit mostly proved to be poor choices. They didn't hold up terribly well, and started pilling badly or looking worn and tired fairly quickly. One developed holes just from normal, not especially frequent washing and wear.

Separately, even before I started this blog, I'd always had a hard time with wool sweaters from that price point. Merino wool sweaters from J.Crew or Madewell had, in my experience, a remarkable propensity for shrinking up noticeably from (usually accidental) contact with cold water in a washing machine, even though I was careful about never putting them in the drier. A few months before I started tracking my shopping, I purchased two Madewell Assembly sweaters (pictured in this post), made of a thick, chunky wool. While I adored them, and wore them all winter, they pilled dramatically and started losing their shape and looking oddly stretched out, and, for lack of a better word, lumpy, even though I was careful about hand-washing them gently and laying them flat to dry. I wanted to wear them again the following year, but couldn't bring myself to, they just looked awful.

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So I was in the market for a thicker, heavier sweater, and I also expected it to cost a pretty penny, especially if I preferred it in fully natural fibers. The J.Crew-ish price point had already disappointed me repeatedly, so I was primed to look above it. I considered Everlane's waffle knit cashmere turtlenecks, but they never had the right sizes and colors in stock whenever I looked. I also tried on this Club Monaco "Kikoka" cashmere funnel neck sweater, but it didn't suit me, I didn't like the more sweatshirt texture of the fabric, and, more problematic, the website failed to disclose that it was a synthetic blend. I'd even gone to Nordstrom while in California to take a look at Vince sweaters and the new-ish and similarly pricey "Nordstrom Signature" ones. I found that both brands' thicker, heavier sweaters really did feel nice, with a heft and weight to them, and in the case of the cashmere ones, a softness that was noticeably different from any sweater I'd tried on before. That's possibly in keeping with their price (even when on sale, generally far more than double what I ever paid for any sweater previously). Note that, between the Vince and Nordstrom Signature sweaters I looked at, the Vince ones seemed nicer, the material just a bit thicker, so if it comes down to those two brands at the same price, Vince may provide better value. 

And then, while things were hectic at the office earlier this month, I started looking at the Scottish brand Brora, which I'd occasionally seen mentioned on other blogs, including Feather Factor. They have a store in NYC (though I've never been), as well as a US-based website, but I found that it was definitely best to shop from their UK site, as it ships internationally and (after factoring in the exchange rate) the UK prices were consistently cheaper, sometimes by more than $100 an item. (For whatever reason, once each transaction was processed, I got a noticeably more favorable exchange rate than what Google said was prevailing at the time of each order. I wouldn't count on that happening in the future, though, and it really confused me.) International shipping cost me 15.50 GBP per order from the UK site, and items were shipped remarkably quickly, arriving in as little as four days. Returns are, or would be, complicated and expensive, as orders from the UK site must be shipped back there fairly quickly, on the customer's dime. If one purchased from the US site, the order could be sent back to their NYC store instead. Also keep in mind that UK and US sizing are different, a UK 8 is roughly equivalent to a US 4, and that the US site uses US sizing.

Oh and in terms of more modestly priced sweaters I think provide the best value, I've generally been most satisfied with Uniqlo's more classic sweaters, the cotton, merino wool, or cashmere ones they offer in basic style every year in a wide range of colors, and also some of their cotton-cashmere blend sweaters. I don't have as much experience with the other, trendier sweaters they sometimes do, but had some isolated bad experiences with the durability of some in the distant past. I was extremely satisfied with the linen and rayon-blend long open cardigans I bought last year, though. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $706.70)
  • Italic "Albee" Leather Card Case - $50.00* - wrote about and photographed this item recently, and also discussed my general impressions of Italic, a paid membership-based (fees currently waived) online retailer startup claiming to sell goods manufactured at the same factories as Prada, Celine, and the like. Most of their product line is quite dull, and this particular item likely a bit too transparently a copy of the Saint Laurent Five Fragments card case. It's not a 100% copy, there's an extra pocket in the back that isn't present in the original, and there's no logo on this. But the similarities are certainly undeniable. 
  • Brora Donegal Cashmere Polo Neck Sweater - $268.30* - For the Brora purchases this month, I had pinned similar-looking items onto my wishlist, sometimes only briefly before these orders, but chose to buy these instead. Part of what inspired me to start looking at Brora was that I didn't think Vince would restock the funnel-neck sweater I was interested in this season, and it didn't seem like the Nordstrom Signature asymmetric funnel-neck sweater I was also looking at would be discounted for the post-Christmas sales. I'm also easily convinced to try a brand if I see it regularly being complimented as "high quality" or a bit special in trusted internet circles, and I also trust Kathy's tastes. When I received this and tried it on, I was indeed impressed. It was so soft! And I thought the pale blue "Air Force" color was beautiful, rich, and more complex than it looks in the store photos. Brora's styles and colors may not be for everyone, many of their items have a more "boho" or quirky feel to my eyes, somewhat reminiscent of things Anthropologie would stock, or of Boden's aesthetic. There also weren't that many neutral shades available in their post-Christmas clearance section. 
  • Brora Gauzy Knit Cashmere Poncho - $116.80* - These other two items were part of my... second order from Brora this month. I'd been stuck in the office most of the weekend I put in this order, so there probably was some stress-induced retail therapy at play. Also, the prices from Brora's US site for both orders combined would have been a whopping $1079 dollars before tax (and sales tax likely another ~$100 on top of that), so the feeling of getting a huge discount (a total steal!) may also have played a role. I do love these purchases, and I do that thing where I admire them whenever I wear them, in this case by marveling at the softness and the colors of the poncho and donegal sweater. But this is also such a dramatic step up in price compared to any knitwear I'd previously purchased that I can't say for sure that I can accurately assess how good a value I'm getting. I couldn't get an exact photo of the "Ocean" shade of my poncho, which is a bit brighter and closer to teal than the picture above. I think this two-ply "gauzy" material, which Brora also uses for sweaters, is an adequate thickness and warmth to be part of outfits for most climates I'm familiar with. The four-ply funnel neck sweater below (which has a textured, chunky knit that adds to the thickness) is heavy, enough that I sometimes start feeling a little overheated once I get indoors, even though my apartment and office aren't that aggressively heated. In comparison, the three-ply material of the donegal polo neck sweater above is maybe a better, slightly more versatile weight and thickness.  
  • Brora Textured Funnel Neck Sweater - $271.60* - This "fig" color was a bit less exciting and complex than the others I picked. I took a UK size 12-14, the equivalent of US size 8-10, in both sweaters, and they are a slightly more relaxed fit than I expected. Though I also suspect that the next size down, UK size 8-10, may have run the risk of being too fitted in the bust for my tastes. This sweater is also a little long on someone of my height (5'3''), which I probably should have guessed, as it already looks a bit long on the model, who must be significantly taller. I still enjoy this sweater, even though it's maybe a bit too thick and warm to be fully practical on any but the coldest days here (about two to three days a week this winter so far). And if I ever moved back to California, this sweater might not be practical anymore.
*Indicates that price includes shipping costs, which in the case of each of these purchases, were all quite substantial.

What brand makes your favorite sweaters? Do you regularly shop from brands or retailers for which you need to pay international shipping and/or might encounter more difficulty shipping back returns? Does anyone else ever feel a bit... insecure about their ability to fully assess whether they're getting a good value from items that are outside their typical shopping "comfort zone", whether in terms of price, or maybe the genre of item? (Like if it's your first ever business formal suit when interviewing for a new job, or a heavy winter coat when first moving to a new climate, or something like that.) 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Take What's Useful, Ignore the Rest: On "KonMari" and "FIRE"


Back in December 2014, when I started writing here, I first encountered both Marie Kondo's book and the Financial Independence, Retire Early ("FIRE") movement at about the same time. Although one wouldn't necessarily know it from my writing (I started writing about "KonMari"-style decluttering immediately, but my first mention of FIRE by name was not until early 2018, though I did link Frugalwoods in mid-2016, so one could infer I had become familiar with FIRE by then), I was thinking about, and learning from, both schools of thought simultaneously, since the beginning. Both sets of ideas were major influences to me at the start of the money-conscious minimalism-ish journey that I've been documenting here all this time.

In my personal interpretation of KonMari method and FIRE, the two have significant traits in common. Although I don't think think this is clear from the Netflix show, Kondo's book explains that when a person goes through her "tidying up" process and learns what physical objects "spark joy", it often causes them to think about more abstract things, including how they want to live their life and spend their time. "The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life." To me, KonMari is about keeping the things (both physical and intangible) that you want in your life, that you like and need, or that you value, and then leaving the rest behind. And some of the ideas associated with FIRE are similar. Because FIRE is, to a large extent, about increasing one's savings rate, which often means reducing expenses, many adherents recommend aggressively cutting spending on things one doesn't need or value. Furthermore, the theoretical end goal is the "dream" of not needing a traditional full-time job, so it's very much about being able to spend one's time living the life one wants.

On my initial reading of these ideas, I thought of both as being the sort of flexible and relatively "friendly" type of self-help and advice that I favor. As a general matter, I prefer to be gently cajoled into doing things with light-hearted, supportive words and reassurance. I find any judgmental language in minimalism and personal finance discourse, anything harsh and lacking empathy for different people and their situations, extremely distasteful and off-putting (i.e. suggestions that if you ever wear or buy any "fast fashion" ever, you must be a decadent clotheshorse who hates the planet, or, that if you ever buy a latte or a more expensive piece of clothing or makeup, you're a profligate spendthrift). And to me, when one isolates the actual, required fundamentals of each concept, it seems clear that various important and helpful elements of each can be adapted to a wide range of lifestyle choices and circumstances.

Thus, when it comes to both theories, KonMari and FIRE, I've always thought it easy to take and learn what was useful to me from each and ignore the rest of the pieces associated with them. If there's something in either set of ideas I find unhelpful or unproductive, then that's fine. The ideas are flexible enough that I can continue on with the rest.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Link List: Some Movie and TV Show Chatter

It was only after Sandra Oh won her Golden Globe that I finally watched Killing Eve. I had heard a lot about the show when it was originally running, but wasn't sure if it was something I would enjoy. I think I had envisioned something more dour and serious, which isn't quite to my tastes. Instead, it turns out that Killing Eve is wickedly funny, and that the two leads, Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, are excellent, both perfect in their roles. I would try and describe the show more, but I don't think I would do it justice. In short, I highly recommend Killing Eve!

1. // This series of comments from the wonderful, thoughtful Courtney Milan (seriously, she's the best, everything she has to say about problems in the profession, law school, and the institution of the federal clerkship is always super on-point, as someone who has been there to experience all those things, and from following her Twitter account for months now, her general sheer brilliance as a person is also in full view all the darn time) regarding some of the harsh truths about success in law school and the, er, general inability of professors to give good advice about whether the law school investment will pay off, is super accurate.

I adore my professors from both college and law school and credit them with a lot of good and important things, but providing me with career advice or actually knowing anything concrete about what I've faced in student loan repayment or in building my career are not among them. The best advice my favorite undergraduate History professor gave me (theirs was a field I loved dearly, though that wouldn't have prepared me to pursue graduate studies) was that I should absolutely not, under any circumstances, make the decision to go straight to graduate school in their field without having spent at least a year or two doing something else. I was honestly a bit heartbroken to hear it, but dang, it would have been a bad life decision if I had ignored their advice. 

2. // Definitely check out this interview with Lulu Wang, the director of The Farewell, a new film starring Awkwafina, which just premiered at Sundance. The premise is something I hadn't realized might be a more widespread Chinese cultural practice, but it is something that has happened with my extended family in Taiwan, with my maternal grandfather. (In my family's case, there was only a very short period of time between his lung cancer diagnosis and when he passed, so the situation was less... complicated than it is for Ms. Wang's family.) 

3. // There's currently a lawsuit going on between Chanel and TheRealReal disputing, among other things, TheRealReal's ability to reliably authenticate Chanel products. (There's also a r/femalefashion advice discussion, though I should note that one's ability to fully discuss a legal case might be limited if one hasn't reviewed the papers. I also haven't looked at the filings for myself.) This case is in its earliest stages (there's apparently been a motion to dismiss, and now an amended complaint), which means there's been nothing but allegations thrown around, no actual evidence has yet been assessed by the court, much less a jury.

Although I am, on balance, a fan of TheRealReal, I know that some bloggers I follow and link to have had mixed experiences with their quality control. (I don't think anyone I read has reported issues with suspected counterfeit product, though.) I'm also generally aware that there are lots of fake designer bags out there, some of which might be difficult to discern from the real thing, at least when looking at photos. Thus, as a customer with no real firsthand experience with designer bags anywhere particularly close to the Chanel price point (and who can't, therefore, reliably authenticate any purchases on her own), I'm inclined to being nervous about any company's ability to have a 100% accuracy rate when authenticating an incredibly large volume of items from a wide range of brands. There have also been other allegations about TheRealReal letting fake designer items slip through, though that was about clothing, not bags. Because I've only ever bought anything from TheRealReal that they priced in the $50 to $100 range, I'm not actually that worried about my items being fake. Still, these allegations may be important food for thought for anyone considering a more expensive purchase from them.

4. // Luxe wrote about using a credit card perk, car rental insurance from Chase Sapphire Reserve, to recover slightly over $6,000 in fees. What a saga, and as she explains, it was extraordinarily time-consuming, took ages, and must have been quite stressful! Thankfully, it had a happy ending. I commented there about my own experience with using a credit card insurance perk (travel insurance from Chase Sapphire Preferred, an offer that may have since been discontinued), but my experiences (with only ~$200 at stake) were definitely far less lively. 

Audrey wrote about her bullet journal layouts - we seem to share the practice of keeping a bare-bones and un-prettified bullet journal. Mine are, alas, not presentable to the public, even in blurred out or redacted form. My handwriting is too messy, and even with a notebook with gridded pages, I have a hard time drawing neat, straight lines. Michelle has been sharing photos from her new apartment, including her living room. I always like seeing how other people decorate their living spaces!  

Please note that this portion of the post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support!

5. // I've been doing a bit of window-shopping lately, though I haven't seen many items in those searches that have made it onto my shopping list for more serious consideration. I can't help it, I swear, I just really like to browse shops online! 

This isn't quite consistent with my sense of my own personal style (which doesn't have much use for a leopard-printed skirt, though I like leopard print on other things, particularly shoes) but I found this J.Crew outfit from their website extremely compelling (but for the shoes and headband). I'm quite fond of the idea of whimsical printed sweaters, but can be very picky about the print or design, so I rarely see ones I would actually want to buy. This particular sweater seems to be just the right amount of whimsical to me, not too cutesy while still being fun. 

Uniqlo seems to have brought back that long, open linen-rayon blend cardigan I loved so much last year. I can't tell if this year's blue shade is identical to last year's, but they've brought back what looks to be the same gray one. I really like wearing these cardigans over both my work and casual dresses once the weather warms up, and I wore mine throughout the whole summer last year. Also, I was intrigued by these new linen-rayon blend "short sleeve long shirts" until I realized they aren't dresses. To me, they definitely look long enough to be worn that way (as long as the side slits aren't cut scandalously high for that purpose, but that can't be easily discerned from the website photos). 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

On Adulthood, (Not) Having it All, and the Marie Kondo Show


In some ways, 2018 was the first year I felt like a "real" adult. Although I graduated college nearly a decade before, and had been financially self-sufficient since, the path I've taken since graduation has also been rather circuitous, full of arguable fits and starts. I went from school to short-term academic fellowship; to law school; to what was technically a full-time biglaw job of open-ended duration (but because of the known end date to start my clerkship, combined with the firm's reluctance to staff soon-to-be clerks on long-term projects, it sometimes felt artificially like a short-term gig); and finally to the clerkship, another short-term job. For nearly a decade, everything had a definite expiration date that I knew about well in advance.

It's not that I wasn't technically an adult, or that I didn't act like one. In all that time, I made many big, grown-up decisions, some of them with huge financial implications. Going in to law school, I felt very certain of myself and what I wanted from life, and I felt quite grown-up as a result. I knew I wanted children someday (hopefully two, as it's wonderful, especially now, to have a sibling close in age, though we fought like cats and dogs as children), that I wouldn't like to raise them while living in the city (because I just couldn't imagine that, being a lifelong child of the suburbs), and that I'd like to continue working after (far and away the most common scenario for my peers and professional role models). I was fairly sure of all these things back then, and remain fairly certain about them now. 

Except that, looking back, I was also rather willfully not thinking about some of the practical realities associated with those things I wanted, as I started reflecting on last year. I still want these things nonetheless, but I hadn't really thought about just how hard it might be to have all of them at once. Heck, I've been known to get driven slightly to tears by the prospect of cooking a poorly-designed, highly inefficient Blue Apron meal after a long day at the office, in a week when my hours were biglaw-ish (and K's even more so, so if anyone was going to cook and avoid wasting food and money, it had to be me), and we don't even have kids yet!

2018 was the first year of my adult life spent entirely in a job or other pursuit with no clear, built-in end date. Because of that, it also felt like the first year I truly had an opportunity to begin thinking concretely about the type of life I wanted in the long term, that I would choose for myself. Do I want to stay in the private sector, or do I want to someday go into public service? Will I want, at some point, to make the tradeoff of taking a significant pay-cut for fewer working hours and greater scheduling flexibility? If and when I have children, will I be able to go to school events that take place during business hours? How much childcare and cleaning help do I expect our household to hire*, exactly, give that we are both likely to continue working full-time?

This isn't meant to be a sad post, by the way. By now, I think most women around my age have long since realized they probably can't have it "all", both a high-powered career and everything else they want at home. Nine times out of ten, "leaning in" probably won't work as well as one might have hoped. And in biglaw, new associates, men and women alike, quickly realize it's a tough industry in ways they didn't fully understand as law students, and that the hours and expectations might not be compatible with a lot of what they want from family life. That's if there's even room at the top for them to stay in the industry in the long, long term. (Let's not even talk about the particular challenges for women and minorities, that's a story for another day.) One has to be prepared for tradeoffs, that's just part of life.

And even after thinking about all these questions for a year, I (predictably enough, for someone who is likely still a few years off from starting to make any of those big decisions for real) don't have any clear answers. I would imagine that working through some of these questions is a lifelong process, one for which the correct answer, and the work-life balance or compromise captured in it, is constantly being revisited. Circumstances will inevitably change from month to month and year to year, and with that, one's position regarding all these concerns (amount of hired help; what salary one is aiming for; what expected working hours one can, or needs, to accept, etc.) will need to change too.

I maybe feel a bit silly writing all these paragraphs of introduction when I truly have no answers, only questions. Actually, the only thing I feel particularly sure about sharing today was my thoughts regarding episode three of the Marie Kondo show, about the Mersiers (a charming family of four struggling to downsize from a multiple-story house in Michigan to a small, two-bedroom apartment in the Los Angeles area). Specifically, the episode illustrated something I found painfully real about some of these questions surrounding housework, emotional labor, and the gendered dimensions of those things.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Shopping From Italic, and Some Thoughts on Startup-y Retailer Marketing

Italic's "Albee" cardholder bears a strong resemblance to a certain Saint Laurent cardholder I used to want.

Some of you may remember that, a few months ago, a startup called Italic did a big marketing push, getting featured in places like Vox and TechCrunch. Their premise was simple, they claimed to offer products made in the same factories as well-known designer brands such as Celine and Prada. As The Fashion Law noted, this approach to marketing may be iffy, to the extent that it involves the explicit use of other brands' trademarks to sell their products. (I don't know enough about "soft IP" law, copyright or trademarks, to know whether this is actually an approach that's potentially going to lead to legal issues, but it sounds plausible that it's something to research further and be cautious about doing.) 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support! None of the Italic links are affiliate links, and this post is not sponsored, I was intrigued by the company and bought an item on my own volition. I quite like the cardholder, but am lukewarm about most other things to do with the brand, as you can see below.

I suspect that most who read here are inclined to be skeptical about Italic's marketing taglines, "luxury goods, no brands" or "no brands, no markups". If nothing else, it vaguely sounds like concepts that are old hat to us by now. For instance, it's not that unlike some of the ideas behind Everlane's original, more limited product line. As late as 2014, when I bought an Everlane slim zip wallet and Petra tote, their bags had no visible external branding. Cuyana's handbags also have minimal external branding. And, if you recall that "fancy millenial" article Michelle and Elaine also shared, lots of these startup-y brands that target our demographic build their brand identities on claiming to offer products comparable to those from fancier, more expensive and more well-established brands for relatively modest prices. (Away seems to try and compete with Tumi or Rimowa, for example, and Everlane used to claim the "traditional retail" price of the Petra Magazine Tote they sold at ~$450 was ~$1,200, the price of a Chloe tote. Their "traditional retail" price claims for their current line of leather handbags are a bit less ambitious.) None of those brands have, to my knowledge, ever claimed to use the same factories as this or that other bigger, more well-known brand while identifying said brands by name, that much seems unique to Italic. 

Also, I don't think it's a surprise to us that higher-end brands and other brands may use some of the same factories for certain products. That much is stated in both Dana Thomas's Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster and Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion, both of which were already old news when I read and reviewed them back in 2014. It's not really a selling point for any brand, I would think, it's just the reality of how the industry works. And I'd suspect, without actually having any specialized knowledge about the business side of the industry, that just because one company uses the same factory as another, it doesn't mean the resulting products would necessarily be comparable. It seems to me to be common sense that the design, materials, and many other non factory-specific details must also go into determining the "quality" of the resulting product.

Still, just as Everlane and Cuyana bags (and their general brand identities and marketing campaigns) appeal to me, I was also curious about Italic. With all these "fancy millenial" brands, I'm basically the exact target customer, and am often a total sucker for their marketing regardless of my occasional bemusement. So I signed up.

They currently have a "waitlist" for new registrations, which I find rather gimmick-y, and it took a week or so for me to be able to sign up and shop. Oh, and they also plan to charge a $120/year membership fee someday, though they've "waived" that fee for now, for everyone that signs up prior to a certain unspecified cutoff date in the future. Obviously, from all I've ever written here, one can probably guess that there's absolutely no way I'd ever pay $120/year for the "privilege" of shopping anywhere! Once they start charging a membership fee, I'll be out of there immediately.

Even if I'm skeptical about quite a few things to do with Italic, when I saw this "Albee" textured leather cardholder for $40 (also available in gray and black), compared to the $200-plus of a certain Saint Laurent "Five Fragments" card holder I've long been interested in (but that is far too expensive for me for a wallet when I have other perfectly functional ones), I decided to try it. There are some differences in the two designs, including the lack of visible logo on Italic's, the leather zipper pull, and an added pocket in the back that's not present in the original (see photos of original at TheRealReal), though the, er, source of inspiration for the "Albee" is still quite obvious and largely undeniable.

Presently, shipping from Italic is quite slow and expensive. I didn't keep close track of the order date and delivery date, and I don't think they did a shipment notification email either, but I believe it took close to two weeks, if not a little longer, for it to arrive. Shipping cost $10, so my purchase cost me $50 in total, which I think is still a fair price for the cardholder.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Link List: Money Lessons and Other Things

Wearing my new to me Alexis Bittar bracelet. In this light, one can almost see why my recent interest in jade bangles led me to it, at least in terms of the color!

It's now been long enough since I graduated law school that I have a few friends who have left their first workplaces, sometimes in order to leave NYC and sometimes in order to do something that's not biglaw. I've found it exciting to see where my peers and former colleagues end up, though we're still so new to this profession that it's still impossible to predict what our careers will actually look like in the long term. I am always a bit sad, however, when any of my friends move out of the city. Of my closest law school friends, only a few are still here!

1. // I enjoyed this article about Kathy's novel, Family Trust (affiliate link). There's a very particular perspective presented in the novel, one that I'm very familiar with. It depicts a community that's very similar to the one I grew up in (some would call it the exact same one, but I'm not sure that's 100% correct, mine was a few zip codes away, among other things). A lot has changed in the Silicon Valley since I was a child. 

2. // I also enjoyed Carly the Prepster's post about her thought process when making a recent large designer handbag purchase, in this case, a Chanel bag. Among other things, it gives some insight into how she runs her successful social media-based business (for further context, she once indicated during an AMA two years ago that her blog brought in mid-six figures of revenue/year at the time). It also touches on larger themes I'm interested in, including about the money lessons one learns from one's parents (whether those lessons were intentionally taught or not, a theme I last discussed over at Sherry's). And well, as one can see from much of what I write here, I too enjoy writing at somewhat excessive length about my thought process for various purchases! 

I was a little surprised to see that many at r/blogsnark found that post annoying. I can see the reason for some of the criticisms. For instance, it really sounds like her parents were a perfectly reasonable level of frugal (through things like not ordering sodas or desserts at restaurants most of the time, driving older cars, paying off their mortgage, and prioritizing things like paying for college tuition for their children, etc.). While I'm definitely familiar with how a parent's sensible approach to money can still have unintended consequences, in which their child interprets from it certain unhelpful lessons (in my case, the focus on "sale section only" shopping I was raised with may have fed into some of my bad shopping habits later), I don't generally think it's fair to be too critical of one's parents for something like that, at least when it's clear that the odder, less useful lessons were accidentally conveyed.

Also, I agree with Luxe that, like Carly specifically mentioned, it's perfectly reasonable, and even rather smart, to save for a wedding before such an event is actually, er, concretely on the horizon. Weddings can be expensive, and the sometimes brief window between engagement and when people start putting down deposits for wedding-related expenses could mean that, if one has a certain type of wedding in mind, one can't exactly... wait until the engagement has happened to start saving, given the amount that might soon be needed. 

I do understand that it's not exactly "cute" for someone in an extremely strong and privileged financial position to fuss overly much about money-related anxieties. It could easily sound bad or terribly out of touch. That's why I try to be cautious about how I write about my own finances, to always keep in mind that I've been incredibly fortunate to have the economic opportunities I have. At the same time though, I do see the US as being a society where it's perfectly normal even for people in an excellent financial position to still be afraid about money and their future. A major medical emergency could decimate almost anyone's finances here, and that's legitimately terrifying, and reasonably so.

3. // And now for some other blog entries that I've been reading lately: I found Adina's detailed, thoughtful post about her local thrifting scene very interesting, as she's definitely an expert. I was entertained by Kitty and Piggy's post about how to write and cash checks, which, let's just say, may no longer be a skill that one learns naturally in the course of becoming a young adult these days. I don't think I had a checkbook until I was in law school, and that was only because student housing didn't accept rent payments any other way. And I admit that I had to do some research on Google before I really knew how to write my first check. Elaine's posts about her experiences with selling through TheRealReal (affiliate link) will be helpful if I ever decide to resell anything that way. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

January 2019 Shopping Reflections

The period between Thanksgiving and now has been a hectic one, to say the least. Because of a big mid-January deadline, I was working most days between Christmas and New Year's, and I hunkered down to work even harder from practically the first day of 2019. I was even, for the first half of this month, on pace to bill 3,000 hours this year (a formidable number, even to some of the hardest-working biglaw associates), and that was significantly busier than I had ever been before. Thankfully, things have calmed down now, and should hopefully stay that way for at least a few more weeks!

I'm still trying to suss out whether I think working like that, particularly if it's for longer periods and/or on a more regular basis, would have the consistent, noticeable effect of increasing my spending or shopping. Work-related stress and long hours do make me more likely to rely on delivery food and a daily latte, and at some point it could drive K and I to finally make the decision to hire cleaning help, so it definitely affects my spending in all kinds of areas outside of shopping. And of course, I've often confessed that I'm prone to online window-shopping when I'm stressed out, which can easily lead to buying more things, so it definitely has some effect on my shopping as well. At the same time, as some of my peers in the industry have noted, there is definitely a point at which one might be working so much that it has a sharply depressive effect on spending and shopping, if there simply isn't enough time to do anything but wake up, go to work, go home, and fall asleep promptly, rinse and repeat (including on the weekends sometimes), at which point even the limited mental energy required to browse an online shop and order something may be a little too much. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support!

I'd say that my recent busy period at the office helped with not buying clothing this month, but it wasn't for lack of trying. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I ordered some clothes, but none of them worked. And after that, I even ordered and tried on one more extremely extravagant thing, a deeply discounted. but still very pricey, Mansur Gavriel braided cashmere sweater in dark gray (also available in blue), which was, let's just say, proportioned for a woman closer to six feet than to my actual height (5'3''), and also ran bigger than expected all around.

For next month, I may still be tempted by all the cozy sweaters out there, especially if the end of season clearance discounts get any better. The Vince funnel-neck sweater on my wish list seems to be fully sold out in my size everywhere, but maybe I'll see something vaguely similar from another brand. Oh, and although I'm typically not a shoe person, I ended up in an elevator with a stylish woman wearing those Gucci loafers that the Sam Edelman ones I like so much are, er, essentially imitating, and I must say, the contrast is dramatic. The Gucci loafers definitely come off much better in the comparison, as they probably quite naturally should, for obvious cost, materials, and craftsmanship-related reasons. Even though I'm perfectly happy with the Sam Edelman loafers and expect them to last quite a while with occasional reheeling, and even though the Gucci ones are far, far more expensive than any other pair of shoes I've ever tried on, much less bought, I would be lying if I said I wasn't still daydreaming a bit about the Gucci loafers now, they're so sleek and beautiful. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $171.63)
  • Alexis Bittar Hinged Lucite Bangle - $108.28* - (I haven't seen this exact design elsewhere, but somewhat similar new ones can be found here and here; or used ones here and here.) This wasn't on my actual shopping list, so I've technically broken the only actual rule I set for my shopping this year. I'd been tracking it for quite some time on another Pinterest board (the one I send to K with Christmas gift ideas), however, so I gave myself a pass. I only rarely like Alexis Bittar designs, his larger, more statement-making pieces are generally a little edgier than my usual style, but his lucite pieces, many of which are textured to resemble stone, can be intriguing. Separately from that, I've been interested in jade bangles, both more classic, plain ones and ones with metal accents (like from Choo Yilin). But I don't dare buy one myself. I don't know anything about jade, nor even about what a "good" bangle should cost. Also, I've never regularly worn a bracelet of that thickness or weight, so who knows, maybe I'd hate wearing one. For whatever reason (lucite and jade are, obviously, not at all alike), I became convinced that an Alexis Bittar bangle, in green or blue-green, would be a good way to try out this general look. I hunted through eBay and TheRealReal for quite some time to find ones I thought had the right look. This was one of my favorites. It's gorgeous, and is another one of those pieces I can't help but admire throughout the day. I'm still not used to wearing a bracelet of this thickness on a regular basis, though, it does feel like it gets a little bit in the way when I'm typing at my computer. 
  • Mejuri Dome Ring - $63.35* - I'd been thinking about this ring, or something like it, for months now, and this also came straight from my current shopping list, so I have no qualms about having made this purchase. I was going to feel compelled to try this, or a design very much like it, at some point, whether it happened now or later. Also, I went to the Mejuri showroom to make sure I got the right size, and that the design looked good on my finger. Alas, despite my diligence in seeing this item in person before I ordered it (something I almost never do), I think I may still have chosen wrong. This purchase may yet turn out to be an error in judgment after all. I'm just not used to wearing rings, I hadn't worn a single one out of the house since shortly before I started law school, so it feels fussy to me to have this on. The size 9 that fit correctly on my index finger at the showroom is now a little too big most days. (The weather's been quite cold, maybe my fingers will swell more normally throughout the day once it's warmer?) The sizing issue is making the ring even more fussy. 
**Indicates that the price included sales tax and/or shipping charges. 

One thing I'm realizing, when it comes to my rather loose set of rules and guidelines for shopping this year (the "put everything through one consolidated wish list" rule is the only particularly concrete one), is that I may not have had a clear sense of what my larger goal actually was, except for there to be "less" shopping than the year before. Sounds simple enough, but I may not even have known what "less" was supposed to mean, exactly. It begs the question, "less" of what?

It isn't really about "less" total spending, though I'd be pleased if it turned out that way. (I know that sounds absurdly extravagant, but I trust myself to manage my overall finances well, and it's always been easy enough for me to cut from other budget categories to make room if I overindulge a bit in shopping.) I don't generally count total individual items bought in each category, though I have the data to go back and calculate it, and I did find the totals a bit sobering when I looked back at the past four years, so it is sort of about "less" of that. It definitely meant "less" purchases that were not as good an idea as I originally thought, in which case my track record for the year is already not great. Was it also supposed to mean "less" time spent thinking about shopping and "less" packages from online shopping going back and forth? It probably should mean both those things, but I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to that yet.

How's your shopping year looking so far? Is anyone else also working on some kind of goal to shop less this year? How's that going so far? Also, does anyone else have as much trouble with ring sizing for fashion jewelry as I do? Way back in the day, when I was in college and was into the statement cocktail ring trend (anyone remember those YSL "Arty" rings? I thought some of the colors were gorgeous, but could never dream of owning one), none of the standard ring sizes quite worked for my index finger. A size 7 was definitely too small, but it was sometimes hard to find size 8s, much less the size 9s that may be closer to the right fit. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Cost of a Trip to the Optometrist

via Warby Parker, which is not where I went for my new glasses

I have terrible vision, and that's been true for most of my life. When I was a child, starting around age seven, my vision deteriorated quickly. Like clockwork, I needed a new prescription every year, and it changed by a similar (and rather significant) margin every year. Thankfully, once I was an adult, my vision stopped deteriorating quite so fast, and I no longer needed to see the optometrist so regularly, though at my mom's insistence, I still went frequently, generally at least once every two years or so during one of my visits home to California. These days, though, now that I don't get to travel home as often, I'm far less responsible.

Fast forward from law school to earlier this month, and it had been three years since my last optometrist appointment, and nearly five years since I last got a pair of new glasses (and I wear glasses often). Although my vision hasn't deteriorated much since my early 20s, and I generally never notice the slight decline, if any, between appointments, the doctor still adjusts my prescription upward every so often, maybe every other appointment or so. This time around though, I was starting to actually notice and feel that it might be high time for a new prescription. While my vision still seemed clear, I was starting to feel a little eye strain when I'd been staring intently at a computer screen for too long in one day, and feeling a slight urge to squint to read small or faraway text.

In terms of whether I have vision insurance or not, it's been about 50-50 in the years since I was a teen. I was originally going to say that I've often been lucky to have vision insurance. But, actually, looking back, I'm not sure it generally conveys much real benefit, at least, not with the vision plans I've been on. I no longer have the option of getting vision insurance through work, but back when I had that choice, it usually cost around ~$23/month, but didn't seem to offer benefits that were necessarily worth that. I did a little casual research just now into what it would cost to buy my own vision plan, and the first website I looked at was very upfront about how, at ~$20/month in premiums, typical patients only saved around $240/year, which seems to be a rather open admission by the insurance company itself that their product may not be worth it.

Way back in the day, I generally had vision insurance as part of my mom's health plan with Kaiser Permanente (a fairly common provider in parts of California), which could only be used at their in-house optometry department, nowhere else. And the vision insurance part of that health plan was pretty terrible, at least as far as I can recall. (The last time we tried to use it, I was in middle school, so the memories are admittedly quite faint.) The benefits only covered either one of contact lenses or a pair of glasses at a time, not both (which is fairly typical on other plans as well, in my experience), and one may have needed to wait longer than a year in between each instance of actually using the benefit. I'm even tempted to say that the required gap was two years, but may not remember well enough to say for sure. And the price for the exam, although it was supposed to be covered, was always quite high, often an extra nearly two hundred dollars. My mom thought it was such a terrible value that we only ever tried using Kaiser's vision benefits once, actually. We ended up going to Costco instead, for the rest of my optometry appointments in California, even if we couldn't use our insurance there.