Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Black Friday Ads are Stressing Me Out November 22, 2012

Here’s the thing.  I’ve NEVER gone to a Black Friday sale.  Our family tradition for the past many years has been to drop by a local shop owned by a friend of ours and shop around.  But that’s pretty much it.  No staying up all night.  No camping out in a long line.  No shoving down old ladies.  We don’t roll like that.

Even as an avid NPR listener, and a pro at fast-forwarding through commercials on TV, I still managed to hear and see plenty of ads.  I get emails and mailers from stores I shop at.  And I can’t fast forward through every ad on TV. There’s lots of yelling about the crazy deals that we’d be foolish to pass up on.

So it starts getting me a little stressed out.  I think this happens for two reasons.  Part of it is I’m not quite sure what I’m getting for everyone yet.  A few family members have wishlists set up, so that will help.  But I guess I’m starting to worry that I won’t know what to get for everyone!  And second, the ads make me worry that I’m missing out on the best sales of the season.

But!  I don’t think I’m going to let these ads get to me.  I’m trying not to sweat the small stuff.  So that means that if I only get a 30% off deal instead of a 50% off deal at Kohls, I’m not going to starve.  I’ve already “missed out” on a 30% deal at one of the stores I plan to shop at, but I have a feeling there will be a few more sales there before Christmas.  Plus, the “door busters” and other items that people get really excited about, i.e. electronics are not really anywhere on my shopping list.  If there was a specific big-ticket item I was looking for, and it was actually a really good deal, I might consider it.  But I don’t think I’d put in too big of an effort.  Maybe wait until the craziness slowed down.

So, as I said before, I’m not going to go to any of these wild Black Friday sales.  I’m just going to enjoy Friday with my family and do some window shopping at local small businesses.

What about you?  I know that Andrea is So Over Black Friday.  Sandy is also Anti-Black Friday.  And J$ knows of at least 7 things he’d rather do than go to Black Friday.

Anyone planning on picking up some specific deals tomorrow?  Camping out at a store?  Waiting until a reasonable hour and then strolling into the stores?  Just hoping to do some shopping online instead?  Getting ready for Cyber Monday?

No matter your plan, I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Kohl’s is my Kryptonite June 23, 2012

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 5:44 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve mentioned before my strange relationship with Kohl’s.  For those of you who haven’t heard of the store, it’s basically a department store, with clothes, shoes, accessories, and housewares.  And they are REALLY good at getting you into the store, and at using psychology to get you to buy.

I was made painfully aware of this fact today.

I knew I wanted to add a few new tops or maybe a light jacket or two to my wardrobe.  I’d noticed I’ve been wearing the same 5 or so tops to work every week.  I mean, I wash them in between.  But I wanted to spice things up a little.  So, Kohl’s knew just how to make sure I showed up and spent my money!

Method 1:  Have a time-sensitive sale

Kohl’s has sales all the time.  (And many people have asserted that they actually mark up prices before discounting them again.)  But one of the really effective sales they have (in my opinion) is their Night Owl/Early Bird sales.  On some weekends, the sales get REALLY big for only a few hours.  The Night Owl sale lasts up until store closing on Friday night, and the Early Bird sale last until 1pm Saturday morning.  Not the earliest of early birds.  But still, for a weekend, you have to get up at a reasonable hour to get there.

I finally arrived around 10am or so and strolled around the store.  I grabbed tons of stuff, brought them to the dressing room, and realized none of it looked good on me.  So I went on a few more rounds, and found a few cute tops, plus a bunch of REALLY inexpensive wardrobe staples (i.e. camisoles and v-neck t-shirts).   I knew that this is probably the lowest price I was going to see on these items in a long time, so I ended up stocking up and probably taking more than I should have.  My reasoning?  Buy them now at this price!  Quick!  Before the prices go back up!

Then, because of the mindset, I rushed to other parts of the store to see what other items I could grab up at their lowest prices.  I picked up a new purse.  Why?  It was on sale.  For only a few hours.  Yeah, I know how crazy it sounds.  But I assured myself that if I didn’t like it, I could just return it later.  (Yeah right)  Might as well buy it now at a really low price, just in case.  CRAZY TALK.

Then, oh, don’t I need sneakers to wear on the weekends when I’m not wearing my running shoes?  Of course I do!  Why not grab a pair of Keds?  Okay, if all else fails, I can return it.  And it’s on sale.  QUICK.  THERE’S NO TIME!  Sane part of my brain says:  “What about just going to Payless?  You don’t need anything fancy.  Just something that doesn’t make you look like you’re in the middle of a 5k. ”  I assure the sane part of my brain that I’ll check out Payless afterward.  But that for now, I might as well buy them.  SALE!!!!! (I do go to Payless later.  I spot a pair for only $14.99.  Do I buy them and return the Keds? Nope.  Because I’m CRAZY.  Or maybe lazy.)

So yeah.  Sales can get you.  You think you’re getting a deal.  And when you realize that you only have a few hours to take advantage of that deal, you just run like a crazy person snatching up everything…JUST IN CASE!

Method 2:  Send out occasional additional discounts at varying amounts

Well, the first problem was that they got me to sign up for their charge card a few years ago.  So now I get discount coupons mailed to me on a pretty regular basis.  Sometimes it’s for 15% off, sometimes 20%, and sometimes it’s the ever elusive 30%.  As I’ve mentioned before, seeing that 30% off coupon, then thinking about things I “need” (but really, I just want) makes it hard to avoid shopping.  “I’ll just take a look around…”

Knowing that this is the rare 30%, and knowing I can use it on top of the Early Bird sales, I’m pretty much done for.  Plus, seeing a price at the store, I don’t actually take the time to calculate how much less it will actually be.  I just see a price and think “hey, that’s a decent price, and it’ll be even better after 30% off”.  Or, even worse, “it’s a little pricey, but it will be cheaper after 30% off!  Yeah, that’s a bad mindset to have.

Method 3:  Offer a reward that requires customers to come back again

Kohl’s also has a gimmick where they give you a $10 voucher for every $50 you spend.  This both conditions you to spend more (“If I spend a few more dollars, I get 10 more dollars!”) and ensures that you’ll come back to spend that “free money”.  And in my case, I also thought of the “extra” $10 as a consolation prize for spending too much.

I know.  I’m not good at this game.  But I’ve learned a few things about myself.  I’m not good at avoiding these types of marketing techniques.  And apparently, I like boatneck shirts with cap sleeves.  And shades of blue and purple.

What stores or sale techniques trick you into spending?  Do you shake your head and laugh at my inability to break free from Kohl’s clutches?  Or sympathize with my unhealthy relationship with a store?

 

Another Spendy Weekend August 22, 2010

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 2:30 am
Tags: ,

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to store up all my shopping until I find the right time to shop.  Either there’s something that I really need, or there’s a good deal, or I finally have a good slot of time to get my errands done.  I try not to get tempted by all the sales and other things I didn’t plan on buying, but I will also look at circulars to see what sales are going on (which does sometimes clue me in to something I might buy that I wouldn’t have thought of buying).

At any rate, I guess this post might be a bit like a “haul” video (without the video…).  I think I also may be writing this partially to justify all my purchases.  I guess I’ve seen lots of personal finance bloggers review their purchases, so I’m ready to do the same.  Hold on, this is going to be a long one!

Last weekend was “Tax Free Weekend“.  Massachusetts sales tax is only 6.25% (7% in some towns), so removing that extra cost isn’t a lot of money.  But I figured there were things I was going to buy regardless, and I might as well get them for a little bit cheaper.

First stop was T.J.Maxx.  I haven’t been there in years.   I don’t shop very often, and when I do, I want it to be a bit more straightforward, i.e. not having to sort through LOTS of racks to find the deals…I know, what a horrible personal finance person I am.  Anyway, after finally taking a yoga class at my gym (they offer a bunch of different athletic classes, free with membership…and I’ve been a member for over a year!) I realized it was in my best interest to buy my own yoga mat.  There’s just something a little gross about sweating (and maybe putting your face down on) a mat that other people have stepped on and sweated on.  So, even if I don’t go to the yoga classes very often, it’ll be worth it to have my own.  I went to T.J.Maxx for my mat because I remembered seeing that sort of athletic equipment on sale there.  And I was right!  So, I bought myself a  yoga mat (complete with carrying strap!) for $12.99.  I was tempted by all the cool kitchen gadgets, dishes, and decorative pieces in their HomeGoods section, but I resisted!  I also started looking at actual clothes (I need more slacks) but I resisted because I didn’t have a lot of time, and didn’t especially want to try anything on.  So my only other purchase at T.J.Maxx was a package of sports socks (same style as I already had, for easy matching post-laundry).  Socks:  $9.99.

Next stop was Target.  There were some general things that I was looking for, and I also planned to spend a little time “shopping”.  I was hoping I’d be able to talk myself out of a lot of things.  Let’s see how that worked out.

I have a lot of gray hairs.  Seriously!  It’s a little worrisome.  So, I’ve colored my hair exactly once, and it worked out okay.  So I headed to the hair dye section to buy some more (seeing as professional colorings tend to be really expensive).  They had the dye I’d used before, and it was on sale!  But that dye was considered “non-permanent”, and I figured I’d want the color to last longer, so I looked at the “permanent” dye.  The bad decider that I am, I ended up buying both.  Decision Fail.  And I negotiated in my head that it was okay since both boxes were on sale.  Total hair-coloring expenses:  $13.12.

Picked up a 4-pack of toothbrushes (I’m set for a while, now!) on sale (they were the cheapest per unit) at a total of $3.69.

Next stop, clothing.  The clothes were very tempting because there was a pretty intense sale (back to school shopping + tax-free holiday = give us your money).  So I tried to look for items that I actually would need, and that wouldn’t just be another t-shirt (which they had plenty of).

I tried on a few cardigans, since I’m always looking for something cute to put on when the A/C gets too strong at work.  I have sweatshirts, but I’d rather wear something more professional looking.  Enter the perfect sweater for late summer/early fall.  It’s not very thick (it’s actually pretty thin) but it’s comfortable and looks cute.  I’ll admit it’s not really a high quality long-term item, but I’ll wear it as long as it looks good!  Plus the way it buttons is very good at camouflaging the post-lunch tummy 😛  Sweater:  $17.99

Speaking of hiding my tummy: On a whim at the library, I saw a book called “How to Never Look Fat Again:  Over 1,000 Ways to Dress Thinner–Without Dieting!“.  A lot of the book discussed how certain fabrics, styles, and pieces of clothing can greatly impact how thin you look.  It got me a little extra self-conscious, though.   And so I ended up buying some shapewear, an oft-recommended must-have (according to the book).  I got a “tummy flattening camisole” (not found on Target.com, but you can see it here, I got it in “latte”).  I am not sure how often I’ll wear it, but if it works, I might buy another one in white.  For now, I’ll try it with a few outfits, in addition to working towards a healthier body (remember that yoga mat!).  Another vanity-related purchase:  $16.99

Don’t worry, the rest of my expenses on underwear were a lot lower.  I bought a few multipacks of underwear for $5 or so each.  Yep.  I’m not keen on spending $5+ per pair.  Sorry Victoria’s Secret, I’m just not that into you. The multipacks were on sale AND had “free bonus pairs” (7 for the price of 6, 8 for the price of 6).  15 pairs of underwear:  $10.54

I was in the final stretch now!  I had to get back home to meet with a potential new roommate, so the clock was ticking.  When I’m not being tempted by the clothing department, I’m being tempted by the housewares department (just like at TJMaxx).  But I held my ground.  I knew we needed new tumblers/cups/glasses for the kitchen.  Most of our tall cups have broken/chipped/cracked.  So, bought 8 new glasses for a total of $4.78.

And for my last purchase:  My boyfriend wanted a CrockPot.  And his birthday was coming up.  So, even though it was a really practical, non-romantic gift, I bought him what he wanted.  And we’ve already used it twice!  And we may even use it tomorrow!  Five quarts of delicious goodness! Wont reveal the total cost since it was a gift and my boyfriend reads my blog, but let’s just say it was cheaper than the price in the link.

So, I spent over $100 in those two stores.  I probably could have spent a lot more if I wasn’t careful, though I think I made purchases that I was mostly able to justify.  Isn’t that the way this was supposed to go?

Did you take advantage of a tax-holiday in your state?

 

Shopping will be my undoing July 6, 2010

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:02 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

To be honest, I never really considered myself a “shopaholic” (what, am I addicted to shopahol?)  I hate going clothes shopping by myself.  I require others to tell me that a dress or top looks good, otherwise I wont buy them.  I can buy jeans and dress pants on my own, but still hate doing it.  And don’t get me started on bathing suit and bra shopping.  Not fun!

So, I don’t tend to go shopping too often.  I’ll only go to the store if I’ve got a “need” for something (new dress, new pair of dress pants, etc.), and usually try to take advantage of extra sales or coupons available.  I’ve gone shopping with my younger sister (and my younger sister + mom), and also often times go out with my good friend Melissa, who has a keen eye for fashion and what works on someone.  So she and I have gone to the outlets on sale weekends to update my wardrobe.  But on those weekends I end up spending $300 or more.

So, I don’t go shopping a lot, but when I do, I tend to go nuts.  Especially if I’m using my credit card.  I’d probably spend a lot less if I bought clothes with cash because a) it’s more painful to actually see your money go away, b) I wouldn’t want to bring too much cash with me when I’m out and about, and c) I like it better if I’m getting rewards (either from store cards or my rewards credit card).

My other shopping weakness is gifts.  While I know that cost of a gift is not representative of your love for or friendship with the receiver, I feel the need to buy the right gifts.  I’ve recently been a slacker when it comes to Birthday gifts (and some wedding gifts) and end up sending them late, but even then, I buy a lot.  Probably I spend even more because I feel a little guilty for sending gifts late.  I am a lot more likely to spend money on gifts for other people than on things I want for myself.  I rationalize spending on others readily.

The good news is that I tend not to get gifts for people unless there’s an associated event.  So, some months I spend a lot less (no birthdays/holidays).  Though I have bought things “just because”…so I should watch out for that.

Overall, I don’t spend a lot of money.  But excluding my necessary expenses (i.e. rent, utilities, loan payments, gas), my gift expenses tend to add up.

Do you have a shopping problem?  Do you store up your shopping until you can do it all at once, or do you buy the occasional item when necessary?  Any tips on reducing spending?

 

Cute things can be dangerous to my wallet March 7, 2009

Let me just first say, that cute things are only dangerous to my wallet if I don’t practice some restraint.

I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and walk over to Davis Square to get my haircut (the haircut was LONG overdue!).  Went to Salon Femia (again, this time with Daniella, Ornella’s sister), and got quite a short cut.  I was nervous at first, but I think I like it after all.  She had a few suggestions, including dying my hair with regular temporary box color (but didn’t try to upsell me on anything!) because I’ve been getting quite a few white hairs already.  I think I’ll hold off on coloring until I can figure out what color to get (and maybe my friend Melissa can help with the process!)  She also said that my haircut is really versatile, that I could use some fun accessories, hairclips/headbands/scarves, etc.  So now I’ve got the thought in the back of my head that I should go out and buy some cute hair accessories!

Read outside for a while.  Have been reading the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.  It’s a pretty good book.  He actually mentions personal finance blogs (pages 122-123), including Poorer than You, We’re in Debt, Make Love Not Debt, and Blogging Away Debt, quoting an article about how bloggers interact with each other, sharing stories, ideas, etc. to encourage each others to save money and pay off debts.

And then I started walking around Davis Square.  There are a few new shops there since I last wandered around.  And two of them almost got me buying…Especially since I was hoping to find those hair accessories.  Went into Magpie, which has lots of cute handmade and indie items, like jewelry, bags, cards, and apparel.  One of my friends sells her button necklaces there.  I was tempted by all the cute stuff there, but resisted.  I then headed over to Davis Squared, which had similar items, though more likely manufactured , including tea sets,  aprons, wallets, etc.  Again, tempted!  But again, resisted!  I think stores like these that have Etsy-like products are very good at tempting me.

I guess I’ve also been tempted at Target.  They have so many cute items, especially their organization stuff and dishware/other kitchen supplies.  It’s the kind of stuff where you’d say, “Hmm, those nautical themed serving dishes are adorable!  I guess I need to have a nautical themed party and buy those”.  I resisted the organization supplies as well, because really, I don’t need organization, I need to toss all the outdated junk I have and cut out unnecessary items.  (then maybe I can organize what I have left)

So, luckily, the cute stuff called my name, but I was able to resist.  If I didn’t have as much self restraint, I’d have so much more stuff!  Basically, I want cute things to wear and decorate my house with.  But I’m thinking the housewares can wait until I have a place of my own.  The longer I hold off, the better I’ll be able to utilize these things.  Like I said before, I need to do a major overhaul of what I own.  No need to clutter up before I declutter!

 

Went a little spend crazy December 9, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:55 pm
Tags: ,

So, I’m always trying to avoid spending money if at all possible. But I think the one problem with that is that I’ll spend a lot of money all at once to make up for that. I don’t think it’s like diets, where you try to be good and then follow up by eating half a chocolate cake and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I think it’s just that I rarely spend money on things for myself, which means that there are large gaps in my wardrobe where clothes that I got 5 years ago aren’t quite fitting the bill.  So I spend.  I try to get good deals. But let’s go on a journey through my spending this past Sunday.

The purpose of the shopping trip: get something to wear to my boyfriend’s company holiday party. I don’t want to look too young (one of the women I talked to Sunday thought I was closer to 18…even though I’m actually 24!), so I wanted to look sophisticated, mature, and beautiful. And all the dresses I have in my closet may have fit me back in my sophomore year of college…but they just aren’t quite zipping up the way they used to!

I ran into a friend at the mall, who told me all the things I need to dress up for an event like this.  The dress, the shoes, the clutch, the pashmina…I wasn’t even sure I knew what all those things were!

I went to plenty of stores, and I have to admit, I was getting pretty darn sick of trying on dresses.  Though most of the ones I tried on “fit”, they just did not look good on me.  I also seemed to be grabbing dresses that appealed to the “younger me”.  And I think I’ve discovered that it’s difficult to get a good idea of what the dress looks like.  And it seems that some stores seem to know that there are people like me.

I finally went to Ann Taylor Loft, where something actually looked good on me.  But I have to say, I think it really helped that the employees there knew what they were doing, and how to sell things.  Well, that’s the cynical side of me talking.  The grateful side of me appreciated their help.  They gave me their opinion on dresses, and helped me pair jewelry with the dress.  They showed me awesome shoes that made the dresses look better.  And yep, I bought a dress (and those shoes…gosh they’re good salespeople).  And silly me, I let them trick/convince/guilt me into getting their store credit card for a little extra discount.  I know, it’s a hit to my credit score.  But oh well, what’s done is done.  I did get compliments on the dress from other customers, rather than just the salespeople, which made me a bit more confident in my purchases.

And rather than buy accessories at Ann Taylor Loft, I headed to other shops in the mall to buy all the other things you’re supposed to wear at a fancy event.  I picked up a clutch and some slightly outrageous earrings at Aldo, and bought a wrap for just $10 at H&M (rather than the $40-50 at other stores!  deal!).  It helped that I didn’t get a real pashmina…100% rayon works for me, if it looks the same!

So, I spent over $100.  Yeah.  I’m going to use the excuse that I don’t really have any of those things, and I need more mature and sharper looking items to wear…I can’t keep dressing like a college or high school kid forever. 

So, there’s my shopping confession.  And I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping!

 

A trip to the Wrentham Outlets August 3, 2008

So, I may have lived in Boston for almost 6 years, but I have to say, I’ve never been to the Wrentham Outlets.  I’ve been to outlets before, ages ago, but I hadn’t been to the ones that are south of Boston.  Well, I knew that I needed a wardrobe update; my friend Melissa offered to help me with a mini “What Not to Wear” trip.  Except I had to spend my own money.  And I only bought clothes at 2 stores.  And she didn’t make me throw all my old clothes away.  But other than that, it was like the show!  (okay, so maybe it really wasn’t much like the show at all).

I’ve known for a while that my wardrobe needed some improvement.  And now that I’m earning a steady paycheck (I got my first paycheck this week!), I feel a little more comfortable spending money.  Most months, I don’t buy any new clothes/jewelery, and most expenses go towards food, rent, transportation, and the like.  So, I tend not to spend money on extra things for myself, except for dinner out with friends or something like that.  And I also really have an aversion to getting rid of things (what if it fits? what if I need it? I paid for it, I can’t get rid of it!) so, I have a closet full of plenty of free tshirts from dorm events and clothes I’ve had since middle school.  And that’s really not the kind of clothes a 20-something should be wearing on a day to day basis.  Really, I’m just too cheap and lazy to buy new clothes for myself.  And I think I’m so afraid to make any purchase without another person’s opinion.

And so we drove out to the Wrentham Outlets.  So that was a bit of a trek, which meant using up a bit of a tank of gas.  Which is of course counter to saving money.  But I think overall, I managed to buy a lot more for the money I spent.  Overall I spent about $300.  Yeah, that’s a lot.  I spent $200 at Gap on 10 pieces of clothing (khaki slacks, jean skirt, tops), and then another $100 at Ann Taylor Loft for two sweaters and 3 pieces of jewelry.  I guess that means I got things that were an average of $20 apiece.  Could have done better (maybe gone to cheaper stores, but could end up with less quality pieces), could have done worse.  But I think that these are all key pieces for my improved wardrobe.  They’re all relatively solid, basic pieces that can be dressed up a bit with accessories.  My next step is likely to look to see where I can find some cheap but good accessories to pump up the outfits I’ll have.  That and sort out my closet, eliminating (and donating) the clothes that I really should stop wearing.

I’ve come to grips with the fact that I spent quite a bit of money.  But this is because I rarely actually go shopping, and it’s all clothes that I need for work and life as a more mature and put-together looking woman.  I guess the last time I went on a big spending spree for clothes was about a year ago.  Well, looking at my walletproof history, it looks like I’ve spent ~$80 on clothes in a few different months.  But most months in between I spend nothing.  So that’s my justification.  Whether that’s the right thing to be doing, I’m not sure.

How have you all been doing on your budgets?  I know wellheeled was working on cutting out clothing purchases.  And what do you think?  Am I justified in buying all these new clothes?  Or am I a crazy spender like the rest of Americans?