Monday, September 30, 2019

Link List (and I Finally Picked a Reusable Coffee Cup)

At long last, I finally picked out my reusable coffee cup for all those lattes and flat whites. I ended up picking the 12 oz. Joco cup (affiliate link), and I think it's great! It's cute,  easy to wash, and even though it doesn't have a stopper, the lid design seems to keep coffee from leaking out while I'm transit.

I can't believe it's already October! Where has all the time gone? I have a week-long vacation coming up soon, to see some old friends in California, which I'm really looking forward to. Outside of that, K and I are both expecting lots of late nights at the office between now and at least a week or two past Thanksgiving. I'm hoping my upcoming vacation is enough to reenergize me for the busy months at the office to come. 

1. // I highly recommend this essay by Prachi Gupta about her late brother. It's a tragic story, and a complicated one, and she writes it beautifully. Many larger issues are implicated here, among them the same corners of the internet that gave rise to "incels" and their interest in extreme plastic surgery

2. // Via Kathy at Feather Factor, this Fashionista article describing TheRealReal's authentication processes does not inspire much confidence. I don't have too much skin in the game about this question because it's likely that I'll only ever buy "low risk" items on TheRealReal, both in terms of brands that aren't especially sought after and mostly limiting myself to clothing or small accessories that sell for less than $100/piece. 

This is as good a time as any to note that I recently had a run-in with TheRealReal's customer service because of their poorly disclosed policy that items discounted 40% or more off the original TheRealReal price would be final sale, and not eligible for return or refund. (At the time, this rule was buried in their FAQ section, but not clearly disclosed on the product page, when I was checking out, or even on my order confirmation email or the receipt in the package.) I wouldn't have ordered the item if I knew it was final sale. They ultimately accepted the return as a "one-time courtesy."

To the extent that a customer raises questions about the authenticity of an item, anecdotal evidence I've seen in a few places online suggests that TheRealReal would take the return without too much fuss. It may, however, also be the case that they commonly re-list the questionable item for other customers.

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!

3. // As I mentioned in my most recent shopping post, certain types of stressful and busy days at the office really set off my desire to stress shop. This hasn't resulted in any actual purchases to date, but I end up browsing a lot of online shops on those evenings. In those moments, I do have a feeling that my shopping judgment would not be as good or as careful as it typically is, if I allowed myself to make a purchase. Things are more likely to appeal to me or start looking like a good idea, even though part of me knows they're actually impractical, or not remotely close to being an arguable "need."

One recent trend I've been really taken by is croc-embossed leather in slightly unusual colors, think burgundy, blue, or green. Items that I've found particularly pretty are this Coach Charlie bag in croc-embossed blue, this Kate Spade Andi circle bag in croc-embossed deep bottle green, and this pair of Kate Spade loafers in croc-embossed red leather. (Oh, and I also like the Kate Spade faux snakeskin-looking Romy in burgundy.) Are these a new trend this year? I don't think croc-embossed bags or shoes, particularly in these types of colors, were very common in recent years past. I don't think I'm likely to end up indulging this craving. If I do, it's more likely to be with a pair of shoes than a handbag. Those items, and a few others, are linked in the widget below. 

A very truncated link list post today! I hope all is well with everyone as we head into the last quarter of 2019. If you ended up reading Prachi Gupta's essay, or had already read it on your own, please let me know what you think. It's such a complicated and heartbreaking story, and I think she perfectly captures the experience of loving a family member, even if you fundamentally disagree with them, don't particularly like them, and have, in fact, been almost completely estranged from them for years. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

September 2019 Shopping Reflections

Since the last time I discussed my workload, things at the office have continued to become ever more hectic. Urgent international business trips are involved, though not for me at present - for which I'm grateful, because I have plenty to do here in NYC to hold down the fort for the team.

Separately, as you'll soon see, this was also a month in which I indulged in some extremely nice things for myself, continuing last month's trend. There are days when work-related stress makes me want to shop much more than I otherwise would. (On those days, I've generally been unable to find anything else I actually want to buy.) Then there are the days when I'm so mentally exhausted at the end of the day that even browsing online shops and daydreaming about pretty clothes is - quite frankly - too taxing to contemplate. (On those evenings, I mostly just watch random Youtube clips.)

The juxtaposition of these experiences has given me some food for thought regarding various lifestyle, money management, and career choices that I might make in the future. The nice things are - there's no denying it - really hecking nice. To use the KonMari parlance, they spark some joy for me. (Because I'm a bit materialistic and really enjoy having beautiful things to wear.) And I work hard to "earn" these indulgences, both in terms of hours billed and in the way I manage the rest of my finances. Among other things, I continue to make student loan payments totaling $3,950/month, every single month. (I have around 27 more months to go at that rate.) Additionally, I'm still contributing to my savings in similar proportions as last year.

But this financial state of things is fleeting. Most attorneys who start out in biglaw or biglaw-ish do not spend their entire careers there, and I'm ultimately pretty certain that I'm one of them. My own personal ambitions are such that I would very much like to be on another government pay-scale for a good long time again someday, starting sometime towards the end of the next decade or so. I hope to have children, and to prioritize saving for and spending on their education, the way my parents did for me, and K's parents for him. Both K and I also hope to always be in a position to extend some financial support to our parents - and potentially to some of our extended family - as needs arise.

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!

It's clear to me that, with all those financial and career-related choices that I would like to make, I won't always be able to indulge like this. Compared to all those other priorities of mine, the ability to indulge in fancy clothes, shoes, and accessories for myself does not rank all that highly. (Though I must also admit that I value the ability to shop for nice things more than most. Thus, I can probably always be expected to make more room for it in my budget than many other identically situated people would.)

Fashion - (TOTAL: $819.16)
  • Alighieri Initial Spark Necklace - $332.07* - As I mentioned in July, I'd been mulling over a few options for a new Alighieri necklace, and was particularly interested in ones with a longer chain like this Initial Spark and some versions of the Odyssey. Given that this is my fourth Alighieri piece (I also have the Jaja necklace, the La Fortuna necklace, and the Surreal earrings), I'm clearly obsessed. The artist behind the brand, Rosh Mahtani, is brilliant, and I love her organic, antique-inspired designs. This necklace is exactly what I expected, with a longer chain that works well for the size of the pendant. The only detail I find slightly distracting - and this is not the fault of the design; it's likely not avoidable with any necklace around this length - is that the pendant clinks against my desk somewhat often when I'm seated at my computer. That doesn't stop me from wearing it to the office, though! 
  • Vince Boiled Cashmere Funnel Neck Pullover, marble - $419.17* - Vince seems to bring this sweater back every year, in a slightly different set of colors. I've been interested in it for a while, ever since I noticed that my preferred size and color combinations were sold out by Black Friday last year. (This marble shade is the only lighter-colored neutral available at most retailers this year, except at Shopbop, which has it in gray.) As it's still quite warm in NYC, it's going to be a long time before I can wear this sweater outdoors. It's really soft, and I like the color. This sweater is a bit intentionally oversized around the body, but not excessively so. I got it in my usual S for more relaxed knitwear designs. Given that I have tons of nice sweaters, including from earlier this year, this should be my last new one in 2019.
  • Marc Fisher Chang Loafer, black leather - $67.92* - I grind down my spring/summer shoes remarkably quickly, and as I mentioned in July, my supply was really starting to dwindle. Since then, my M.Gemi Felize driving moccasins (similar) are now on their last leg. It'll probably only be another few wears before there's a hole in the side of one shoe. My gold glitter Sam Edelman loafers continued ripping along multiple seams, and are now done for. Because it felt like there would be several weeks before I could pull out my ankle boots, I was getting desperate to add another pair of spring/summer workplace-appropriate shoes to my wardrobe. When I saw Michelle's recent post featuring these and her comments indicating that she liked them, and then I saw a good price at Nordstrom Rack, I bought these almost immediately. They fit true to size. The design is a touch more narrow than the Sam Edelman Lior or Loraine loafers, but not enough for me to size up from my usual 7.5. Right out of the box, these were comfortable to wear for an entire day, including on my walking commute. I realize now that they didn't make it onto my Pinterest shopping list before I bought them, though other things on the list make clear that I've long been thinking about more loafers. 
* Indicates that the price includes either shipping or sales tax. 

The prices on these items, particularly the sweater and necklace, were technically all reduced by Jewel cash-back rebates (referral link: if you sign up as a new user through my link and start earning cash back, we both get a $5 bonus). Because Jewel currently offers generous cash-back rates from Vince and Matches Fashion, I got around $16 back on the sweater and $23 back on the necklace. But, as always, I don't factor cash-back rebates into my monthly shopping posts because it wouldn't be consistent with how I do my personal accounting; I don't record them in YNAB until the cash back is actually paid out, which happens some months later.

How was your shopping month? Does work-related stress make you more interested in shopping? And if it does, is there also a level of work-related stress that causes the shopping urges to go away again, maybe because there's simply not enough extra time or energy one can spare to think about it?

Monday, September 23, 2019

More Money Voyeurism

via Unsplash
I have a deep fascination with voyeuristic personal finance content: The more detail contained therein, the better. In fact, those Refinery29 Money Diaries are generally not comprehensive enough for my tastes. I often find that their standard set of introductory questions - plus the listing of a week's expenses - are simply not enough information to get an accurate general sense of the diarist's overall financial picture. (I definitely don't expect all the numbers to be exact, but I do think it defeats the purpose if a major source of income or financial support is obscured.) There's lots of times when some essential information seems to be missing. Plus, probably because the comments section there is so consistently vicious, one gets the sense that the diarists self-censor a lot, so most Money Diaries are rather bland. In short, I'm always on the lookout for other sources for the kind of money-related oversharing that I crave. 

Furthermore, I also love reading discussions about that kind of oversharing-about-money content: Even with the wackiness and gratuitous nastiness of the Refinery29 Money Diaries comments section, I generally still find the comments more interesting than the diaries themselves.

Recently, I've accumulated quite a few new links in this vein that I wanted to share: 

First, there was a series of retirement savings-related discussions on Corporette, in which a few of the anonymous commenters shared their data points. These weren't very active discussions, only a small number of people participated, but I still found the comments very interesting to read. 

Corporette can be a strange internet community, and it certainly has its share of trolls and/or people who feel emboldened to say some remarkably unkind things. But the site also seems to consistently attract a wide range of people who appear to know their stuff, and who are happy to chime in when another reader asks a question about something they can advise on. I've seen some really insightful discussions of legal career-related questions, for instance, and a lot of advice that I find very credible. (Though one must always read every anonymous internet comment with a critical eye, of course.)

Anyway, I think the nature of Corporette, where one can't even make a user account to comment, and each day's discussion thread feels very "temporary" and fleeting - more so than on Reddit or other internet forums - causes people to feel more anonymous and share more candidly than they would elsewhere. So when people share personal finance-related details there, even if its just in a brief comment, I generally enjoy reading. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Link List: Sweater Blazer Edition


I was quite excited to see photos of the Duchess of Sussex wearing a very familiar J.Crew collarless sweater blazer (affiliate link) recently. I'm not sure I attain quite the same level of lovely, effortless casual chic when I wear mine, but I can certainly vouch for how this sweater blazer makes a nice and versatile topper. The one downside to the item is that, given my terrible luck with wool-containing items from J.Crew in the past, I don't think I dare machine or hand-wash it, so I'm stuck with dry-cleaning when it eventually needs laundering someday.

Things at the office have continued to get more hectic. Not long ago, I had an emergency assignment to research the standard for mandamus, which, let me tell you, is a major sign something's gone terribly off the rails somewhere, and likely for reasons entirely beyond any one party's control. I do find these odd and urgent legal research questions sort of fun and exciting, though.

1. // I wanted to put in yet another recommendation for Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy (affiliate link), and also for True Justicethe recent HBO documentary about Stevenson's life and career thus far. I've written here to recommend his book quite a few times now, and I simply cannot understate how much I admire him and what he has accomplished, as well as the outlook and perspective he brings to questions of racial justice and criminal justice. Fun fact, though I probably overuse the term "extraordinary" in my writing, to describe various things, it seems clear that I use the term most often when I'm recommending Just Mercy and describing the person behind it.

The inspiration for recommending his book again was the recent release of the trailer for a movie adaptation, from which it looks like the film will be depicting the earliest part of Stevenson's career. I'm excited that there will be a movie. Just Mercy is such an important book, and any opportunity for it to be shared with more people is therefore a wonderful thing. But I may admire the real Bryan Stevenson so much that no movie could ever possibly be fully accurate in embodying everything I admire about him. 

2. // A while back, I wrote a little bit about the process for making a claim in the Equifax settlement, the result of a widespread data breach a while back. I was also pretty cagey about exactly what type of claim I intended to file, and about the other implications of various provisions in the court documents, because I didn't want to inadvertently sound like I was giving legal advice. (As always, nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. This post does not create an attorney-client relationship, etc. etc.) 

In any case, tons of news sources out there were not so shy about recommending a type of claim to make. Events played out from there, and the FTC soon needed to amend its information page to, essentially, explain that class action settlements are not as straightforward as the general public may have originally been led to believe. Based on my review of the court-approved documents pertaining to the settlement, I have not personally been surprised by any of these developments. 

People were not at all pleased, to say the least. Nor should they be, as class action settlements are rarely that satisfying for individual class members. (A cynical view of the class action device may be that settlements are generally still quite satisfying for plaintiffs' class counsel, regardless of how the actual class members feel.) Note, however, that it seems to me as if a lot of the angry reactions mischaracterize many key facts, particularly about who technically is to blame. Plaintiffs' counsel - the people who, in theory, represent all us affected class members - did need to consent to how the settlement was structured, or else there wouldn't have been a settlement at all.

3. // So, uh, nothing literally like anything in this viral story from The Cut has ever actually happened to me. But upon a quick look at the article to help me decide whether to save the link to read later (given my situation at the office, I don't really have time to fully read and digest long-form articles at the moment), I found myself relating... a lot, actually... to some of the themes and feelings described therein. And that's a strange feeling. Especially because a lot of public reactions are fairly dismissive of the story, and not really receptive to Natalie's perspective.

That's complicated for me because, even if my own experiences are ultimately very different, I too had a time in my late teens and early 20s when I just... made poor, sometimes inexplicable (to my adult perspective) decisions about friendships because I was terribly insecure and didn't know myself, or how to draw boundaries. And I don't think it's that rare to have had this experience. I take responsibility for having made those poor choices, and I don't expect anyone to feel sorry for me. (And I'm not accusing the people I felt overawed by of doing anything wrong either. We were all very young, and sometimes immature. Sometimes they were unkind, and sometimes so was I. But ultimately we mostly meant well, including to each other. All of us have grown up a lot since, we're all very different people now.) But I also think it's something that's worthy of empathy. A lot of people have a toxic-to-them friendship or romantic relationship at some point in their lives. Or at least I think so? 

Anyway, college and the year immediately after it was a highly strange time for me. I'm still fascinated by how strange and disorienting that period of my life felt, and I continue to be befuddled by how I thought about social situations back then, how I reacted, and how I handled things. 

4. // A few blog entries elsewhere that I've been enjoying: I'm still thinking through some of the ideas raised in Adina's recent entry about personal branding. I have different ideas about "personal branding" in my profession on the one hand - the legal world is extremely small and one's reputation will precede you* - and for social media purposes on the other hand. Decluttering is clearly one of my favorite things to think about, and Luxe's post about the topic was a great read. It's always interesting to hear about different people's perspectives on the process and what it means to them. JENKR recently discussed a topic that's always near and dear to my heart, about how one's wardrobe might be different, if one's profession were different. 

Did you end up making a claim in the Equifax class action settlement? Have all the news stories about it also been giving you whiplash? I'm not necessarily shocked by the contents of any of the news coverage about the settlement, but I had thought it would take a lot longer for these problems to become fully apparent. Is anyone else following that story from The Cut, and the public reactions to it?

*Seriously, it could take as little as one bad day or bad event to ensure that tons of industry people will be gossiping about you for years to come (albeit not constantly, just whenever your name comes up, but that includes things like when you're a candidate for a new job opportunity).

Friday, September 6, 2019

Laundry Tales

via Unsplash

Although I have strong opinions about my laundry and how my clothes should be washed - I can't envision a scenario in which I would entrust the task of washing my clothes to anyone else; and now that K and I have experienced the profound luxury of having in-unit laundry in our NYC apartment, it's something I'll never want to give up so long as our budget allows - I don't actually write about laundry or "clothing care" that often. Admittedly, even with all my strong opinions and somewhat quirky preferences, there's not actually that much to say. Laundry is simply not that complicated!

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!

Plus, it's not like I'm an expert on laundry anyway. I can't fully vouch for the necessity of many of my preferences about what should be hand-washed, versus what can go in the machine. Fabrics that other people generally have no trouble with in the machine - provided that items are washed carefully, most likely in cold water,  preferably in a mesh baggie, and then line-dried, in my case on a drying rack drying rack (exact) indoors - have a history of shrinking in the wash on me. By this, I'm referring mainly to merino wool sweaters. (Over the years, I've had the most heinous luck with merino wool sweaters from the J.Crew or Madewell-ish price point.) Furthermore, I still have not the faintest idea about how to get stains out of silk without damaging it.

And if at all in doubt about whether I can wash something at home without causing damage, I'll send it out to the dry cleaner. More structured, expensive items like my suits, my wool-blend coats, and my cotton twill Everlane trench coat (current version) all go to the dry cleaner as a matter of course. I'll probably also send my cotton, polyester, and merino wool-blend J.Crew Sophie and Juliette sweater blazers to the dry cleaner as well, as I don't know if they'll hold their shape well if hand-washed. (Though, after wearing those frequently last fall/winter, none of them have needed cleaning yet.) I don't end up at the dry cleaner that often, mainly because none of these items need laundering that much, but I also don't see any likely alternative solutions for those items.

Today's post is all about laundry, a chore I quite enjoy. I even enjoy hand-washing things, though it can be a bit time-consuming, especially if I've let a backlog of items accumulate. (I hand-wash clothes in a Rubbermaid dishpan in the bathtub or the bathroom sink. I bought a bottle of Laundress Wool and Cashmere Shampoo for sweaters and Laundress Delicate Wash for everything else while I was still in law school, and am still using those bottles today, even though it feels like I hand-wash things frequently. I often put a capful or two of white vinegar in with the detergent as well.)

In particular, this post is about a few laundry-related questions that were giving me some trepidation, some of which I now have answers for, some of which I still don't: How do I wash my down coat? Does that secondhand Tory Burch stretch cotton poplin dress I bought last year actually need to be dry-cleaned? Why is some viscose or rayon so poorly behaved and unpredictable in the wash? Spoiler alert, I don't have an answer for that last question.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Little Life Updates Q3 2019

My pencil bag and the notebooks (including a splurge-y Smythson Panama notebook) that I currently keep in my work bag (still the Madewell Medium Transport Tote). 

I say this all the time, about any given time period - and it's not as if anyone ever actually disagrees with me - but dang, time sure goes by fast, and 2019 is just racing by! It's looking like things at the office will be hectic for both K and I through at least November, and probably for longer than that, which is a bit daunting. 

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!

One result of this continuous busy period is that we, as a household, may finally be done hemming and hawing over whether to hire someone to clean. We've had a few "false starts" with making that decision in the nearly 18 months since I wrote that post, times when a weekend "big clean" session turned out not so bad after all, or times when we had a slow period at work for a while and felt reinvigorated to do the chores ourselves. This time, though, I think we've finally made the choice. We're likely going to hire someone through Si Se Puede, a NYC-based women-owned co-op that recently came highly recommended via Anne Helen Petersen and a few of her readers. 

Billable Hours

Though I must say, despite having had several intense - including by biglaw standards - periods at work this year, my billed hours are still barely on track for a 1,950 hour year, i.e. one that's still a bit less busy than what some biglaw firms consider the minimum to get a full market-rate bonus (2,000 hours). And well, look at how, in its answer to a sex discrimination class action complaint, a certain biglaw firm sneered at some of the named plaintiffs' histories of ~1,700 or 1,800 hour years. (I once wrote about day-to-day life during an ~1,850 year, and while it wasn't bad at all by industry standards, it did involve quite a few late nights at the office and working through a few weekends.)

I'm only really tracking my hours out of curiosity, by the way. My current workplace does not base bonus amounts on billed hours. (Our bonuses are significantly less than the biglaw market rate.) Plus, even with all that's going to be on my plate at work for the rest of the year, there's at least a moderate chance I'll still finish at closer to 1,850 billed hours, or maybe even a little less than that. After all, there's the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods coming up, and I'll also take one more week-long vacation this year. 

Fall/Winter Shopping

Now that the weather's starting to cool down a bit, I can't help but look ahead at potential shopping for the fall/winter season. I just enjoy sweaters and coats so much more than summer clothing! There are a few things that I've been mulling over, as seen in my Pinterest shopping list

Sweater-wise, I have plenty, including from earlier this year, but I really enjoy sweaters and so I don't think I can stop myself from buying at least one. (Ideally, it'll be the only one.) Last year, around Black Friday, I became interested in a Vince funnel-neck sweater in boiled cashmere that they seem to bring back most years, but by late November, the color I liked was already sold out everywhere in my size. So if I want to try it this year, I expect I might need to order it earlier in the season, even if there are no discounts available. 

Shoe-wise, I'm actually pretty well set for fall/winter, since boots are so much more sturdy than my warmer weather shoes. But as I mentioned not long ago, some of the spring/summer shoes that I continue to wear sometimes in colder weather are kind of on their last legs. They're likely not in good enough shape that I'll still be wearing them next summer. So I've been thinking a little about new shoes. I've become interested in the somewhat menswear-inspired shoes by Office of Angela Scott, including the Mr. Colin monkstrap oxfords, the Miss Button mid-heel shoes, or the Mr. Franklin loafers. (In all instances, the fullest range of colors is available at the brand's website.)

Please follow the link below for a few other little life updates!