Monday, April 8, 2019

Money Diary: A Somewhat Typical Week, Part 1

Almost exactly a year ago today, I tried my hand at a Money Diary post (part one, part two), having been inspired by the Man Repeller format. That week turned out to be highly non-typical, involving no less than two purchases of small household appliances, one (an upright vacuum cleaner) that K and I had dragged our feet on for more than a year, and the other (a hand mixer) brought about by my sudden desire to try baking, a hobby I'd never previously shown an interest in taking up before at any other time in my adult life. As it turns out, I enjoy baking, but don't often get inspired to try new recipes: I've since made Alison Roman's chocolate chunk shortbread cookies four more times and two batches of cheesecake-swirl brownies (using Smitten Kitchen's recipe, but with sour cream added to the cheesecake mix the second time, adapting from an America's Test Kitchen recipe found here, I'm still figuring out the right balance of cheesecake to brownie). 

A few things have changed since the week of my last Money Diary. I've refinanced my student loans. I've quit Blue Apron and eventually quit Hello Fresh with no plans to try another similar service for a while. Hometown Hot Pot has become a lot more popular and much busier on Friday and Saturday nights, to the point where the wait is generally well over an hour, and we don't go half as often as we used to (sad!). I've switched around my preferred lunchtime orders; I now go almost exclusively to Sweetgreen and rotate between two salads, the kale caesar and a custom one.

Most other things have stayed the same, however. K and I still have similar grocery and eating out habits. We still split shared expenses in the same sort of eclectic way. And of course, I continue to pay a similar (very large) proportion of my take-home pay to my student loans, $3650/month now, and will continue to do so for at least another two calendar years, probably closer to three. Alas. (Those payments still happen offscreen though, in other weeks.) 

I wake up late this morning, around 11:00 AM (as is my usual weekend inclination). We used to go out for brunch once a weekend most weeks, but while the weather is cold, we've started staying in. I cook brunch for us, consisting of hash browns, eggs, and bacon. K cleans up after, as is our usual practice. 

Before long, I head out for a quick trip to Trader Joe's, by far our cheapest local grocery store. I've found that Friday nights and Saturdays are generally the best times to go. People in our neighborhood really like to stock up on Sundays, to the point where even Fairway (worse quality produce, also more expensive for everything) gets heinously busy, so I make it a point to get the grocery shopping done on Friday or Saturday if I plan to cook. Today, I get ingredients for dinner tomorrow: flank steak (the most expensive item at ~$11), the "potato medley" (a quantity that lasts us two meals), and some broccoli. I also get more frozen hash browns, maple chicken breakfast sausage, cereal for K, fresh mozzarella balls, truffle cheese, and these chocolate cookies. We still split groceries the same way as before, where I'm typically the one who shops for us, a bit more than 80% of the time (strange as it might be, I actually enjoy grocery shopping*, even in NYC where the aisles are cramped and popular stores, including Trader Joe's, get heinously crowded). When I go, I keep track of amounts I spent on bigger items we'll both eat, such as meat or fish, and we'll split those. I cover everything else fully, such as vegetables or snacks for both of us. (On the rarer occasions when he shops, he pays and doesn't record what he spent or "charge" me for my half of anything he gets.) It may sound weird and nitpicky or complicated, but I swear it's not!

K's parents are visiting us today before they head off for a long vacation, so while I'm out, K starts doing one of our "big cleans" so we won't be embarrassed by the state of our apartment when they come by. He cleans the bathroom and vacuums, and is pretty much done by the time I get back. Whenever K starts one of our "big cleans", I usually jump right in and help (but as I mentioned over at Jess's, I'm almost never the one who thinks to proactively start doing one of our "big cleans"). But today, by the time I've put away the groceries, he's completely done and I don't see anything left for me to do, and so I relax and work on my blog.

Later in the afternoon, I go to the in-building gym and run on the treadmill. These days, I only wear my newest pair of running shoes when I actually run. If I'm doing any other kind of workout, I wear an older pair that's been "retired" from the high-impact exercise of running. It seems to have helped with the longevity of my shoes.

K's parents arrive around dinnertime and we head straight downtown to Congee Village, one of our favorites. Normally, we might suggest Hometown Hot Pot when they visit, but these days, the wait on Saturday nights is just too long. As it turns out, Congee Village is also quite busy, so we end up waiting close to an hour anyway. (It would have been an hour and a half or longer for hot pot, though.) We get seafood chow mein, sauteed string beans, pan-fried bean curd with soy sauce (one of our favorites!), sweet and sour pork (not something I'd normally get, but it's great here), and clams with black bean sauce. And we actually eat almost everything, except maybe 1/4 of the noodles and 1/3 of the string beans, which K's parents take back with them as leftovers. Dinner was $94 before tip, tip is $19. K treats us, as he often does when his parents visit. (Thank you, K!)  Afterwards, we head home to relax and chat in our apartment for a bit, before they drive back home.

Please follow the link below for the rest of the week through Tuesday.

We have a quiet, restful day in at home. I wake up late and make us brunch again, this time with hash browns, eggs, and the maple chicken breakfast sausage from yesterday. I freeze the rest of the sausage, two more meals' worth, as it has a brief shelf life in the fridge. Afterwards, I go back to working on my blog (that entry about my current skincare routine took parts of two weekends to fully write up). Today, I do my workout on that folding stationary bike you can see in the background of most of my outfit photos (there's no other space in the apartment for it!). Unfortunately, K needs to spend some of his time working from home this weekend, though he is also able to work out with the stationary bike, a while after I'm done with it.

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In the evening, I cook dinner: pan-seared flank steak, roasted baby potatoes, and steamed broccoli. K still has some more work to do on his laptop, so I clean up after dinner today and load the dishwasher. Later in the evening, as I'm washing up and getting ready for bed, I realize I only have two inches of Cocofloss left (don't, er, think too hard about how long it's been), not really enough to use, so I reach for less fancy drugstore dental floss. As I use it, I realize that maybe Cocofloss is worth it after all, it's a bit thicker, more "grippy", and cleans more effectively, and is also more comfortable to use. I also realize we're getting low on toilet paper and order some from Target, $44.97 gets us an amount that should last close to four months. As usual with toiletries and cleaning supplies for the household, we'll split the expense in half. 

Time for another busy week at the office! I head out a little earlier than usual so I can stop by the dry cleaner with one of my suits. It's $12, and they'll deliver it to my apartment building by Wednesday. I'm also carrying the three sizes of that printed J.Crew flutter-sleeve summer dress I ordered to try on, but that didn't work for me. J.Crew is fairly close to the office, so even if my schedule is not always predictable, I should have a chance to go sometime after work this week. We're working on a lot of different things, so it's a bit hectic.

They've recently introduced burrata at Sweetgreen as a seasonal ingredient. These days, instead of just getting the kale caesar there, I mix it up sometimes with a custom made salad of kale, spicy chickpeas, spicy broccoli (the seasoning on the chickpeas and broccoli is quite different, but I personally think the flavors still go well together), chopped tomato, chopped red onion, feta cheese, lime juice, and some chili flakes. I decide to swap the feta for burrata, and this new combination ($12.25) is pretty good!

By 5:00 PM, it's looking like I'll have plenty of time to go to J.Crew after work, but as I'm thinking that, my friend with a membership at The Wing gets in touch about an event this evening, with actress Regina Hall as the speaker, and asks if I'd like to join. I think it's a great idea, but I know that with the timing of their evening events, I'll need to eat something before I go. I leave my desk real quick to grab a sandwich at Pret a Manger, and I also stop by Duane Reade for some candy. I eat at my desk while finishing up some tasks before I head downtown, using the Metrocard I buy with pretax money through work. Regina Hall is pretty cool, and my friend and I chat for a while and tentatively make plans to meet up next weekend.

Once I'm home around 9:00 PM, I snack on some of the Trader Joe's mozzarella balls because the sandwich was a bit light, while browsing some blogs and online shops. I decide to buy a new pair of FitFlop "the Skinny" shoes, my summer shoe of choice for four years now. There's still a lot of last year's colors on discount sites, including several colors in a close to full size range at Neiman Marcus Last Call, where I pick out a pair with brown leather straps. I get ~6% cash back through Jewel, an Ebates competitor geared more towards fashion and cosmetics (referral link, I get $5 and you do too if you're a new user and sign up through my link; thank you to Luxe for introducing me to this cash back site!) This will be my third pair, and my second is still in good shape after one long summer of frequent wear, but I wear them so often (and should have retired my first pair much earlier than I did, the wear and tear on them may have contributed to my expensive accident a while back) that I think any new pair will still get tons of use. They're more than $90 retail, so the Last Call price of $46.61 is pretty good. K doesn't get home until 10:00 PM, because one of his cases is gearing up for trial.

I grab a latte before heading in to work this morning. With tip, it comes out to $5. Today's a little less hectic, but time still goes by fast, and soon it's time for lunch. I thought the salad with burrata yesterday was so good that I order it again (and, spoiler alert, will be ordering it a few more times this week, I really am someone who is happy to eat the same meal over and over and over).

After work, I have time to head to J.Crew with my returns. That errand is done quickly, and then I stop by Sephora. I've been wanting to switch foundations because I'm no longer satisfied with the tiny quantity that comes in the Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Cushion foundation I've been using, even if I rarely wear makeup, maybe twice a month now at most. I've been thinking about trying the Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation because I quite like the Amazonian Clay Waterproof 12-Hour Concealer Stick. I figure out what color works best in the store, but I actually plan to order online later this evening because I can get 8% cash back from online Sephora purchases through Jewel (referral link, I get $5 and you get $5 if you sign up as a new user through my link; and thank you again to Luxe for introducing it!).

While on my way back, I stop by Eataly and decide to get one item, a fancy, washed-rind cheese, Willoughby from Jasper Hill Farms, which is $14.47 for one small eight ounce wheel. It's one of those smelly, stronger-flavored cheeses, and I don't buy it often. When left to my own devices for dinner (K is still busy at the office today), I sometimes just put together a cheese plate or some other snacks as a meal. These days, I almost never go to the effort of cooking if I'm going to be the only one eating, except maybe some steamed eggs or avocado mash and poached eggs once in a while. Dinner today is a portion of the Willoughby and some crackers we already had at home.

After eating, I put together my Sephora order, making sure to click through to their site from Jewel. The "actual total" in the graphic above takes into account the cash back I'll be getting, though it's not normally something I actually think about when recording the transaction (in YNAB), because I won't actually receive the cash back for a few months. This is my first Sephora order in six months, so I guess this week isn't that typical after all. I don't anticipate needing to get anything from Sephora again until much later this year. I get a refill of my Tarte concealer, the Tarte foundation in my shade, more Cocofloss (coconut this time, instead of strawberry) and I also add a refill of the at-home Olaplex No. 3 hair repairing treatment, for a total of $109.97 including tax.

It's been more than 18 months now since my straight perm gone wrong, and while my hair is a lot better, frizzing and tangling a lot less, it's still in fairly bad shape. There's a small patch in the back of my head, a bit alarmingly close to the roots (i.e., this patch is definitely only new growth from long after the perm) where the hair is still prone to breakage (I can feel a lot of very short, broken strands there) and is particularly gnarled and still tangle-prone. The Olaplex is not a miracle product, and the effects from each use only last a week or two at most, but from going a few months without, I've seen that my hair is noticeably better-looking when I'm using the Olaplex semi-regularly. One bottle ($28 before tax) will last me six to seven uses, or around two to three months. Hopefully, once it runs out, my hair will be closer to fully recovered.

And that's it for Part One of this Money Diary. Please stay tuned for Part Two, coming later this week.

*Some of my fondest memories from when I lived in Hong Kong are from when I stopped by some of the super-fancy, somewhat expat-oriented grocery stores (like CitySuper) to marvel at the range of imported delicacies (including European and Japanese products we can't even get easily in the US) and buy a little taste of home.

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