Wednesday, April 29, 2020

April 2020 Shopping Reflections

I feel like my brain's starting to go a little kooky from all this social distancing. My sleep schedule has been all over the place, and I continue to be unable to focus enough to actually read most of the books and ebooks I currently have access to. I'm currently a little busy at work, billing a very ordinary six to seven hours most weekdays, but that manages to leave me completely exhausted. (Whereas, in the weeks immediately before NYC started to shut down, I barely used to blink an eye at regularly billing nine or ten hours a day, those were "slow" days for me.) In the late evenings - I sleep very late these days, typically well past 1:00 A.M. - I often find myself utterly incapable of doing anything more mentally taxing than mindlessly browsing online, which can lead to copious online window-shopping. 

I've even found myself badly missing the office! Back before the COVID-19 shutdowns, I thought my ideal arrangement as to work-from-home flexibility would be one where I had basically infinite discretion to work-from-home - on days where there weren't important client meetings or court appearances, obviously - and exercised it at least once a week, possibly a little more often. These days, I've come to appreciate the value of time spent at the office a lot more, and the attendant feeling of having some separation between "work" and "home," even if, as a biglaw-ish litigator, it's impossible to completely avoid needing to get some work done from home sometimes. I've found that having our apartment be my only available workspace makes it more difficult to relax during my downtime. 

But that's just me fussing about small, unimportant things. I continue to be deeply grateful that K and I are able to fully work from home while the New York state shutdown orders persist and that our family and friends have been in good health. 

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!

Among the ways in which my brain is starting to get a little kooky from all this staying indoors is that, shopping-wise, I'm starting to crave new categories of items I would never otherwise think about. And I end up giving in to these newly manufactured "wants" a fair bit, with so little to distract me, particularly in the late evenings when I do most of my online window-shopping. This phenomenon accounts for all of this month's purchases. (In other words, my prediction from last month proved incorrect, I'm not particularly "back to normal" when it comes to my online shopping habits.) 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $377.96)
  • Babaa Merino Wool Set - $322.96 
    • Babaa Jumper No. 25, seaside - Until we started social distancing and staying home, I had never, in my life, had a particular interest in matching loungewear sets. But this month, I couldn't help but continually seek them out online, eventually choosing this very fancy merino wool set from Instagram-famous slow fashion knitwear brand Babaa. The decision was helped along by a 15% off discount code they were running while order processing and shipping speeds were delayed by COVID-19. (I believe the discount is still running as of today, enter the code SPREADLOVE at checkout.) And yes, I was also inspired by Erica, a.k.a. ahistoryofarchitecture
    • Babaa Trousers No. 25, seaside - Each piece of the Babaa merino set comes in only one size. Both the jumper and trousers are quite stretchy, especially the trousers. On my 5'3'', roughly 37''-27''-38'' frame - with shorter-than-average legs for my height and a more "regular" than "petite"-sizing torso - I find the jumper a comfortable, "just right" fit, a little loose in the body the way I prefer, and the trousers quite roomy and relaxed through the hips and legs. There's also a fair bit of extra length in the trousers on me, which isn't a problem because of the cuffed hems; in order to get a fit on those that looks like it does on the 5'8.5'' (174 cm) model in the Babaa store photos, I need to hike up the super-stretchy, super-soft waistband almost an inch above my bellybutton. I thought there was a very slight itch factor when I first started wearing this set, though it's now subsided after a moderate amount of wear this month and two rounds of handwashing. 
  • Cosabella Never Say Never Curvy Sweetie Bralette, black - $55.00 - As a busty person who typically considers an underwire and padding to be non-negotiable features, I would have said that I would never, ever be interested in even trying on a bralette, much less actually spending money on one. Yet somehow, after more than a month of strict social distancing, here we are. Frankly, I'm not quite sure what I was thinking when I first browsed for and eventually ordered this. I don't find any bralette in my general size range - and there really aren't many out there, I think Cosabella's "curvy" line may basically be it - particularly cute, and that includes this design. (If I had a completely different body shape, my ideal bralette would have super-skinny straps and wispy lace details meant to peek out under clothes, something like the Free People Adella, but that was never meant to be.) I was pleasantly surprised by this item, it fits well enough and provides almost enough support that it might - almost - make me reconsider my previous stance on underwires and padding. (In full disclosure, however, I don't think I'll ultimately change my mind; I may only end up wearing this while relaxing at home.) Their size chart appears accurate: Going by the chart, I could pick either the size S or M. Reviews from past customers who provided at least some of their body measurements suggested it made sense to pick the smaller of two potentially workable sizes, and indeed, I found the S to fit well. When I first tried it on, I found the spot in the back where the tag is sewn in to be almost unbearably itchy, but after one wash, I didn't have any further issues. 

The curve may be starting to flatten here in New York, so there's a possibility that some restrictions may be lifted slowly, in phases, after May 15. But it's likely that high-density areas like NYC will not be among the first to see any changes to the current shutdown orders, which totally makes sense. So I expect that K and I will continue staying indoors - except for a single grocery trip once every two weeks  - through the end of May, and most likely for some time after that. 

How are you and your family doing? I hope that you and your loved ones are well, as much as we can be, in these strange times. Are government officials starting to send signals about lifting some of the shutdown orders and restrictions where you are? 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: Six Weeks On

A photograph from a different time: I took this while my mom, my sister, and I were visiting The Vessel at Hudson Yards last December. 

How are you all doing? K and I are now in our sixth week of fairly strict social distancing - we only leave our apartment building approximately once every two weeks for groceries - after officially starting to hunker down and stay in on March 13, the day after my surprise return from my business trip. We're still doing well, with nothing new to report as of yet, on either the health or personal finance management front (which makes both of us incredibly lucky, I know).

Legal Industry News

Law firms, including a few biglaw firms, have started reacting to new market conditions far more quickly than I initially expected. By late March, a number of biglaw firms had already started cutting attorney salaries, for both partners and associates. Many other firms have since followed suit. Associate salary cuts of up to 20 to 25% are not uncommon at the firms that have announced attorney salary cuts. As of yet, it appears that relatively few biglaw firms have engaged in widespread associate layoffs to an extent that quickly gets leaked to Above the Law and becomes public knowledge. Though there have been reports of furloughs, sometimes only for non-attorney staff and sometimes including attorneys. To my knowledge, this industry shift towards using salary cuts as an alternative to attorney layoffs is unprecedented: I'm not aware of any similar salary cuts for actively working associates around the 2008 crash.

Overall, things are looking okay-ish in the short term for all of my friends in the industry. It must, however, be absolutely terrifying to be a law student right now, as there's considerably more uncertainty surrounding summer associate programs - the primary path to a full-time, entry-level biglaw associate job, and the best route to paying ~$200,000 in student loans at a reasonably quick pace  - than around current associate job security.

Personal Finance Management and Related Plans

As for me, I continue to be extremely fortunate. My current workplace is so small and specialized that larger industry trends, including in biglaw, aren't predictive of how the new market downturn will affect us. I now have reason to be somewhat confident that my job and current salary will be secure through the end of May, maybe through the first week or two of June. Afterwards, it becomes much harder to predict, as there's quite a bit of work on our existing matters that we won't be able to do while international travel restrictions and various US state shutdown orders remain in place.

These days, I feel acutely that with great financial privilege comes great responsibility to do what I can to help others in these trying times. Admittedly, my efforts are modest: $400 in total donations so far to the Food Bank for New York City and World Central Kitchen, and $50 here and there to various local small businesses I'm fond of, including my hair salon and the barista relief funds at two independent coffee shops I used to frequent. I plan to maintain a similar rate of donations while COVID-19 shutdowns continue, so long as I'm still working without significant disruptions to my income.

K and I are extraordinarily lucky in that we are both able to fully work from home, and have yet to see any major disruptions to our income or job security. Though there are still a few major expenditures for our household for which the landscape has changed considerably due to COVID-19.

Monday, April 6, 2020

March 2020 Shopping Reflections

It feels a little strange to be doing a "business as usual"-type post when the world has changed so much since the last time I drafted one of these monthly shopping posts. But I still want to keep up this series, which I've been writing for five years and counting. 

K and I are now in our fourth week of fairly strict social distancing, where we work entirely from home and only leave our apartment building roughly once every two weeks for groceries (and, if needed, we'll add a trip to the pharmacy during the same outing). And it's an incredible privilege to have been able to stay indoors like this. Our household plans to continue social distancing  this way for as long as we are able, and that will almost certainly be for at least as long as New York's "On PAUSE" executive order remains in place. At this point, I'm not optimistic that this state of affairs can end before May, and I think it's most likely to last until close to June, or later. 

My desire and appetite for online window-shopping has fluctuated dramatically during this time. In the first two weeks, I was browsing up a storm, driven in part by boredom and discomfort from the new obligation to stay almost completely indoors, and also by a wave of unusually broad discounts and promotions. The discounts themselves have generally been modest - somewhere between 10% to 25% off, generally closer to 10% to 15% off - but applied to a wider range of products than is typical.

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!

This past week, I felt more "back to normal" when it came to my online shopping habits. Additionally, the realization gradually sank in that I'd need essentially nothing in the way of new clothes and accessories if I'd be working entirely from home for the foreseeable future. Some among us may regularly change into "daytime" lounging or indoor clothes when working from home, but I confess I'm not one of them. I pretty much just wear the same lounge clothes around the clock these days!

Fashion - (TOTAL: $347.50)
  • Elizabeth Suzann Harlow dress, silk crepe, black - $265.00 - It'll sound a bit like post hoc rationalization, since I never got the chance to write about my ideas for this year's shopping list until now, but I was coming up with a fairly pared-down list that didn't have much more on it than some new tights; that sleek and more office-appropriate backpack I was thinking about since January (maybe a Knomo Beauchamp?); and this dress. Given that I'm a bit self-conscious about my bust measurement, one would think I'd generally avoid this type of voluminous silhouette that billows down and out from the widest point of the chest. (For lack of more graceful wording, I call it the "boob tent" effect.) Yet I find that I keep coming back to the idea of this dress after seeing it on a few other bloggers, including Elaine. And hey, I tried out a similar shape last year in the form of the LinenFox "Summer" dress, and found that I quite enjoyed wearing it, even if the design was very much outside my style comfort zone. Originally, I wasn't planning on ordering this dress until June or so, since it's definitely summer wear. But when the owner of Elizabeth Suzann wrote about the challenges their small business was facing, it felt right to me to move up my schedule for this purchase I was already planning to make. Because Nashville has since - rightfully - imposed a broad shutdown order for public health and safety, my order will likely be delayed significantly longer than Elizabeth Suzann's typical four-week production timeline for made-to-order items. But that's totally okay by me!  
  • Wolford Velvet De Luxe 50 denier tights, black - $36.75 - In hindsight, it now feels a little silly to have stocked up on tights in March, even if they're one of my wardrobe staples for most of each year. I can guarantee that I'm definitely not wearing tights again until we're back in the office, and who knows when that will be? Tights were on my shopping list for the year, in any case. Though strictly speaking, I only really needed one new pair. 
  • Wolford Pure 50 tights, black - $45.75 - For a time in mid-March, Nordstrom was running a broad 25% off almost everything promotion, including many items that typically don't go on sale. So I took the opportunity to snag two new pairs of Wolford tights, not just one. Over the years, I've found Wolford tights extremely durable - when I don't repeatedly snag them against sharp edges of furniture by accident, that is - and comfortable, they stay put throughout the day and the waistband doesn't roll down. My previous pairs of Wolford tights have held up well to extremely frequent washing and wear. 

Admittedly, now that I've pretty much gone through my entire planned shopping list for the remainder of the year, any subsequent shopping - and there almost certainly will be some - will likely be more impulsive. At this point, that more formal and sleek backpack I was thinking about is the only thing really left on the list, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to make a decision on that genre of item until I'm able to freely leave my apartment building without endangering others in my community. Backpacks are definitely not the kind of thing one shops for when staying at home for the foreseeable future! 

I hope that you, and your families and friends, are holding up alright, and that everyone is well.