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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dribs and Drabs: Packing for a Trip to Paris and Beyond

I have many big things to think about, the main one being whether I want a now-valuable vacation house when my mother is no more.  My brother does not want it. This simple little house is now worth a good bit--more than a good bit for someone like me--and I am unsure if I can handle the expenses.

Then, like many in my age group, I have to think about retirement: how, what, when, where.

I am one of those little things people. All my savings come not from making super choices in my investments or earning a lot of money but from saving a dollar here, a dollar there on the (too) many consumer goods that come into my life.

To take my mind off the big questions, which are filling me with anxiety, I am thinking about little tiny things that will make my trip to Europe (soon!) a little easier and a little more frugal.

1. One of those under-clothing pouches. We have been using these for years. They cost around $10 at LL Bean. We have been approached by scammers (fake deaf people, the fake gold ring trick) and fondled by people in crowded metros. No worries! We have our pouches! And yes, your tummy pooches out a little, but--guess what?--no one is looking at you.

2. Pantiliners. Aside from their regular uses, I just learned that you can put these in your shoes to absorb sweat! What a great idea.

3. Stick deodorant. I also learned that you can rub cheapo stick deodorant on your feet to prevent rubbing. That way you don't have to buy blister sticks (which are 99% vegetable shortening).

4. Make-Up. I am very low maintenance (i.e. lazy) in the grand scheme of womanhood. Nevertheless, I have amassed many lipsticks and foundations that are 80% used up. All the declutter experts say: throw 'em out. Frugal Me is reluctant to let even some wax and coloring die in vain, so I am putting them in my travel luggage. I will use 'em up in Europe. And, hey, if they have to die in vain, at least they will be in the Eurozone.

5. Books. Mr FS has solved his reading problem. He brings Walden every year and never reads it. I read it last time. I have amassed--thanks to the 25 cent books at the library--a bunch of classics (Austen, Graham Greene, Dickens)  in tiny formats and very bedraggled condition. These are due for re-reading. i will pass them on by stacking them on TOP of the garbage cans so others can take them--this is the Parisian way.

Do you have any tips for dribs and drabs?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Good Deal on Paula's Choice: Sunday Only

Miss Em and I have a subject line that we sometimes use: Shallow. That tells Mr FS not to bother opening the email. This subject line alerts the reader that the topic will be various shallow bargains: sales on stuff I think Miss Em might want, stuff I might want, things like that.

This post is semi-shallow. As everyone knows, I love Paula's Choice--both her products and her recommendations. She always has something on sale. I only post when there's a convergence of stuff on sale. That was true this weekend, but I was too lazy to post till now.

Here's the convergence:
2. If you spend $50, you get a free sample of Vitamin C something that promises to fade dark spots.

The above should be good all month.

3. THIS WEEKEND ONLY (and it's now Sunday), she has 20% off all her products good for rosacea. Neither Miss Em nor I suffers from this condition, but the products include ones we use anyway: serum, toner, BHA. The code for that is  EDDROSACEA15 .

Additionally, if you haven't bought from her and use MY code, you will get a $10 credit and so will I!


Saturday, April 11, 2015

I Fail at the Kondo Method. Everything Sparks Joy.

The title says it all. While the internet is filled with tales (and videos) recounting everyone's success with the Marie Kondo method of decluttering, I have been a failure. You are supposed to discard anything that doesn't spark joy.

While going through my tiny closets and pulling things out, I find that almost everything is sparking joy. Some things would spark joy in a lot of people. My weak spots involve fabric--pretty fabrics (no matter how small a piece--and no, I do not sew), cashmere sweaters, Italian sheets, linen dish towels.

I am also made joyful by bedraggled versions of the above. I LOVE the Eileen Fisher long alpaca vest that I rescued from an ignominious end at Goodwill. I wear it all the time at home. Ditto for the linen comforter cover with holes. Ditto for the frayed linen dish towels. I could go on.

If I donate these things back to the thrift shops, they will be tossed in the garbage can. Really. They get too much immaculate stuff. They have no room for the shabby. It gets put out by accident and if a worker or customer  spots a hole, into the garbage the item will go.

As I declutter at a snail's pace, I am filling a bag with things in good shape. My holey alpaca vest is safe with me. (And think of all the time and labor involved in producing that vest!)

Maybe I need to read that Kondo book again. I'm #12 on the list at the library.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How I Ended Up with the Notorious Eileen Fisher Harem Pants: Selling on Twice Clothing

A few days ago, I recounted my (over)buying from some of the new resale sites. I swear I've put the brakes on.

Here's how I ended up with the EF harem pants that everyone was writing about a few years ago when they were first introduced.

I was going to write reviews of the various resale sites. For the "full picture," I decided to try the selling angle--at Twice Clothing. This is my story.

Selling at Twice: I sent in 7 things, including two pairs of shoes because they offered an extra $5 credit for shoes. These were unworn havaianas, so I knew they would be taken. If you send stuff in, you risk having items rejected. You can get items back, but it is a use it or lose it proposition. Either you take the offer (including having rejects sent to charity, which is a good thing) or have everything sent back for a $4.95 fee.

If I were sending in anything of high value (which I myself would not do, not that I have anything of high value), I would send it alone for the above reason.

 I only sent in items that had already been rejected by the Buffalo Exchange, so I was willing to lose everything in the experiment. You must check your items to see if they are on the accepted brands list. They took 5 items of mid-value and I got $21 in cash or $23 in credit. Plus $10 in credit  on the shoes. The amounts were in-line with their calculator. The things they rejected were nice, but there is no arguing with their evaluation.

I decided that for ease, I would take the credit. That decision was a mistake for me. I kept checking the site to try to use the credit. Of course, I didn't see anything I liked. Turns out having credit makes me rather agitated. 

Finally, I saw a pair of THE Eileen Fisher harem pants. They were 28 plus 5 in shipping--that would use up my entire credit. I've always wanted to try these on, so I figured it would be worth it for that alone. I also rationalized that I could sell them on Ebay (which I absolutely hate doing, so this was probably wishful thinking on my part.)

Much to my surprise, I love the harem pants! I will take them to Europe this summer. I only hope that Miss Em doesn't mock me too much when she sees them. She is prone to devastating critiques of my choices. She's always--or usually--correct in her assessments. 

As you can see, you get a ridiculously low price for your items. This is also the case on Thredup, a competing site. It seems that you get between 10 and 15% of the eventual selling price for things they take. The spread is much better at the Buffalo Exchange, where you get 50% of the selling price in credit or 30% in cash.  

The plus side is that i tried something I never would have tried "at regular prices." 

Will I buy again? Probably not, I'm afraid.  While engaged in my obsessive effort to use up my credit,  I noticed that the prices on items for sale are not consistent, but go up and down--and sometimes up again. I find this annoying. One Eileen Fisher jacket was $59, then $42, then $46, and is back up to $59 again. They probably have a complex formula. Still, prices going up and down and up--well, that's enough to take the site off my list (thank heavens!)

Will I sell again? If I have enough piled up that i don't care about, I might send in a bunch to get Miss Em some credit. I like to take things to the Buffalo Exchange for the social interaction. And I always like to donate. Sending to Twice would be a low priority.

Anyway, I am now the proud owner of EF harem pants. No way will I wear them to work. They will attract too much commentary (much derisive, I am sure). In Paris, I will just blend in. They are very comfy and I can cross my legs in them--unlike the experience of some reviewers.

No, I will not post pictures. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Those Resale Sites Are Dangerous! To me!

While everyone else is ecstatically decluttering via the Kondo method, I've been succumbing to temptation again and again. That is because I've discovered--to my peril--the various resale sites--Thredup, Poshmark, etc. There are about five of them out there. Even a cursory glance at my favorite brands--Eileen Fisher and Garnet Hill--yields an array of the greatest hits of the past few years. It is easy enough for me to resist these items new (scarily expensive) or even on sale (still pretty scary, especially EF), on these sites I can afford just about anything I might want.

One thing about shopping at the two thrift stores near my house is that even at the ridiculously low prices--averaging $3-$5--there's just not that much that appeals to me. 

On the plus side, what a sense of (over)abundance. Anything you might pine for will undoubtedly show up in new or almost new condition. No need to feel deprived. 

Also on the plus side is the fact that you will assess your stuff with a new and critical eye. You will see just how little you can get for your items. That's a sobering realization. Might as well donate.

Have you checked out these sites? Have you bought? Sold through or to them? What do you think of them?

P.S. I'm putting together a donation bag RIGHT NOW.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Donation Dilemma: Fake Vuitton Bag (No, I didn't buy it)

Let me reiterate: I didn't buy it. A relative bought a fake Vuitton (two, actually, one for me and one for Miss Em) in Chinatown. We thanked the relative profusely and never used them.

Now that I'm pretending to declutter, these are on the chopping block. But what to do? There are plenty of people frequenting thrift stores who would love to carry an LV, real or fake. I'd be happy to let them have the bag.

There are also plenty of people who would BUY the fake bag and sell it as authentic on Ebay, local consignment, or similar. I do not want to be part of the process.

There is also the possibility that the thrift shop would put a large price on these bags and get it. In fact, I've seen this happen. The customers were ecstatic and the thrift store got some dough. I'm not too thrilled with being part of this process either.

So...what do you advise? I was thinking of defacing the bags, by writing REPLICA on the INSIDE with magic marker. I fear the ethical path would involve cutting them to bits with scissors.

Fake Bag Anecdote. One of my students was carrying a Chanel bag.  She showed it to me. Figuring that she knew it was a replica, I remarked that it looked real. This was a booboo. I thought she would know. She got very huffy and told me that TINY TOWN, Louisiana got ALL the "seconds" of Chanel bags direct from France. She said she had paid $40 for the bag and showed me a certificate declaring authenticity in several languages. She said she happened to have put a good deal of study into the bag. She was getting really angry at me.

Since I didn't want this episode to appear on "Rate My Professor," I said, "Wow. You are really lucky!"

Again, dear readers, I await your words of wisdom.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ends of Frugality

Now that Mr FS and I are in our 60s, we are having lots of "what" and "when" discussions. When should we retire? What if...we retire? What if...we have to retire? And, of course, the biggies: What is it I/we really want? What's it all about?

And that brings us to "ends." Ends in the sense of "purposes." Ends in the sense of "the end." I've been thinking about endings, well, ever since I became a serious reader.  

Right now I'm thinking about the purposes of my lifelong habits of frugality. I am thankful for the example my frugal parents provided. Frugality got me through many years of panic in graduate school, more panic during a difficult job market. More panic though worries about tenure. More worries about ...well many things. I am a worrier. It must be genetic.

It occurs to me (us) that I (we) don't really need to be particularly frugal any more. We've done what we've done. What we do now won't make that much difference. This would not be the case if we hadn't saved over the years. Then it would be great to adopt frugal practices, which WOULD make a big difference in retirement. So maybe we are--or could be--at the end of frugality in that sense.

So we can keep chugging along in our frugal fashion. Or not so much.

To that end (haha, pretty obvious), we have a plan that is sort of frugal, sort of not frugal. If we do it, I'll write about it. (OK--we want to build a little guest room behind Frugal Son's New Orleans house. Where we can stay).

To that end, Mr FS does NOT want to retire any time soon. We both love teaching, in spite of living in a state that has not valued us for many years (If interested, do a google search. Too dispiriting for me to rehearse all the indignities).

To that end, I had my eyebrows tinted at the nearby beauty college.

To that end, I've redone my wardrobe via various online sites that do NOT involve auctions (more another time).

Treats are really fun when they are occasional. Ditto for vacations. Looking forward to spring break...

I was going to close with the "last words" of some piece of literature, but instead I'll end with something from the END of the FIRST ACT of Shakespeare's Henry 4, Part 1