10 ways to get your financial shit together.

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i recently came across this article by sallie krawcheck in harper’s bazar about women and money; specifically about how the majority of women do not invest their money-they hold it in cash and tell themselves they don’t have enough or know enough about it to invest. i remember reading this article by alice finn last spring and realizing that i related to the statement that women think that investing is too complicated and that it is “for men with white hair.” after leaving my job and becoming a stay at home mom, i had to make some major lifestyle changes and figure out how to manage what money i had better. looking over my 401k statement from the job i had left, i felt my eyes glaze over. i had originally set it up very conservatively on the advice of my father (a man with white hair who knows about these things), so that i wouldn’t have to think about it. i realized that that applied to all of the money i had in my life: i had largely tried not to think about it- kept it in low risk savings accounts and told myself i’d figure it all out one day when i had more of it.

below are the top 10 things that i have done to figure out money: how to spend it wisely; how to save it; how to live on a budget and how to educate myself about investing it.

  1. budget. it took me a long time to figure out how to budget, because i had to find a way to budget that worked for me. i tried envelopes (putting cash into a different envelope for expenses each week); using an app; and keeping up spreadsheets (google sheets has a basic budget and most banks let you input a budget/spending report into your online account). i found that without adjusting my spending habits, a budget didn’t do much for me. i had to first figure out how to get organized about shopping & curb impulse purchases; once i did that sticking to a budget was much easier. i recommend tracking your spending for at least 2 weeks, to get an honest picture of your spending habits. from there, you can build a budget that is realistic for you.
  2. clear the clutter. cleaning out my closet for the first time was daunting. i first tried the dreaded/lauded kondo method but found that several months later i had re-cluttered my life. i now keep a rotation: i have a beautiful antique trunk that i use to keep summer clothes in in the cold months; and winter clothes in in the warm months so that my closet doesn’t feel packed. other than that, i don’t store anything because if it’s sitting in a plastic tub somewhere, it might as well be gone. every new season when i feel the urge to buy all the things, i go through my closet & edit out what no longer “sparks joy” or looks cute to my eyes. selling clothes can make a little money, but it’s not for the faint of heart. don’t expect to make much, and prepare for lots of rejection. here is a good guide to some options if you’re looking to sell your stuff.
  3. shop online. often i feel like if i have free time to myself (a rarity!), i go shopping because it is something to do outside of the house. for me, avoiding temptation is crucial. i try to order household supplies online: through amazon prime or walmart (which typically has free 2 day shipping on orders over $35). it’s been a big money saver to avoid wandering the aisles of target & making impulse buys. buying clothes online can be tricky: i always look at return policies to find out if something is returnable & at what cost. i also check the measurements: against my own measurements and against a similar item that i have that fits well (if i’m buying high waisted pants, i measure a pair that i have that fits great and compare to that). for beauty products i try to shop at ulta, because they are one of the only places that actually has sales on beauty products. they regularly have coupons & promotions that give big discounts.
  4. quality over quantity. i have found that if i fall in love with something that i feel is too expensive, i tend to buy multiple fast fashion/cheaper similar versions, but they never seem to add up. the acrylic h&m version of the wool celine sweater or the crappy particle board ikea version of the mid-century cabinet falls apart, and often has to be re-purchased. i have also been guilty of buying cheaper knockoffs of something, only to eventually find the original at a good price and buy it after all. in the end, it’s worth it to invest in something you really love.
  5. get honest. before investing in something i ask myself: is this on sale somewhere else, or can i find it pre-owned (on sites like the real real or vestaire)? does this fit into my lifestyle: can i walk in these shoes; can i wear this on a school run; to a meeting or on a date? am i willing to take care of this: am i willing to have this altered if the fit is off; have it dry cleaned; or will i hand wash or iron this? if it’s more work than i am willing to do, it’s not worth buying. can i think of 3 items of clothing that i have that i can wear this with? do i love this because it will look good on me or because of how it looks on a model or insta-darling? when i got honest i realized that i continually bought things because i wished my body was shaped differently. i finally accepted that i will never be able to wear skinny jeans, off the shoulder tops or vintage 501s because they do not flatter my figure. it’s important not to buy something just because it looks good on someone else, or simply because it is on sale (!!!). you should buy what makes you feel great, and what feels great to wear.
  6. plan ahead. it can seem tedious, but planning meals for the week & making shopping lists saves money. i try to stick to a rotation of meals that are easy to cook, plan out the week on sunday & then do my shopping with a list. to get started i saved grocery receipts for a couple of weeks to get an idea of what i was spending, and then made adjustments from there. it helped to look at what i really spent, what impulse buys i made and food i wound up wasting. i now don’t run out or throw away much food each week, which is awesome.
  7. skip the drinks. this one seemed like it would be tough, but we found that not ordering drinks with dinner afforded us two meals out a week instead of one. having a drink at home after a meal as dessert is a good (and much cheaper) way to still get the booze in.
  8. workout at home. boutique fitness classes and gyms can be motivational, but they’re also hecka expensive. even with a membership or multi-class discounts, classes add up fast. i set aside time at home to work out online every day. some of my favorites are karen lord pilatessadie nardini for yoga, and ballet beautiful, all free on youtube. i also stopped paying for pricey spin classes and invested in a rowing machine.
  9. educate yourself. when i was 25 my dad gave me the book the wealthy barber. i of course didn’t read it, because i was more interested in putting my money into faux chanel handbags and sugary cocktails, but i have since come around to this book. the intelligent investor is a great book to learn how investing, stocks and bonds and all that shiz works. if you prefer online info to a book- i highly recommend jlcollins stock series. i also recommend the financial diet.
  10. put your money to werk. the basic financial rules are: 1. make a budget. 2. pay off debt. 3. build an emergency fund. 4. put money towards retirement. 5. invest. you don’t have to have a ‘uge pile of money or a vault filled with bars of gold to invest. there are apps like acorns that round up your purchases & invest the change (a good place to start but not so good for the long run). if you aren’t comfortable investing on your own and want to use a financial advisor, it’s important to find one that you like. i recently invested with ellevest, because i want to support a female centered firm.
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farewell my queen.

Word came down the wire yesterday that Phoebe Philo has left Celine. What astounds me about Philo is her ability to plant an idea into the sub-conscious of culture, her designs don’t just shoot down to fast fashion as hot trends but rather send a ripple that alters the landscape. Take for example the fury slides and heels that Philo showed for Spring 2013, versions of both (seen here and here) are currently being offered at every fast fashion shop out there. Nearly 5 years after their debut. There are countless examples of this, but they go undetected, because Philo has the ability to change the way that women want to dress without them even knowing it. Her influence on her contemporaries as well as those who follow fashion is unparalleled, but the wonder of this is that it all happens with very little fanfare.

Philo single handedly ushered in the “age of minimalism” with her debut collection for Celine, for resort 2010 (which wasn’t even a runway collection). She was the first to expand on ideas over multiple seasons, to bring back designs and re-work them which tapped into the psychology of women everywhere who often buy the same thing repeatedly because it feels good to wear that thing. This translates to day-to-evening wear and capsule or uniform wardrobes, both huge in the post-2008 economic meltdown era. She gave us the arty, high flash in nature, unknown and often model-free ad campaigns (shot by Juergen Teller) which set the new standard for fashion photography. She gave us Birkenstocks and giant floppy shirt cuffs, camel coats with exaggerated, rounded shoulders, fashion vans & stan smiths, monochrome dressing, optic white boots and ballerina heels- trends that don’t just dissolve like cotton candy but seem to last, become part of the collective and fixtures in our closets.

For me, Philo’s tenure at Celine so represents my generation of women, Philo’s generation: Generation X. Women who grew up in the age of art pop and post-punk and third-wave feminism. Women who grew up in an analog world and watched as it went digital. Women that grew up watching films and reading books and magazine articles instead of Youtube videos, Facebook posts and Tweets. Women who frequented art galleries and book stores, women that want a tactile experience. Women who can appreciate technological advances but who know the value of having the space and presence to connect, and to use your imagination. Women who carved out careers and built families. Women who appreciate the freedom of not being observed and value solitude. Philo herself is famously private, rarely giving interviews, and has no online presence. She has a rather British sense of modesty and no bull shit attitude that translates to incredibly intelligent collections.

We are certainly in a new era: globally; politically; economically; and in the fashion world as well. If Philo’s debut with Celine declared the era of minimalism, Alessandro Michele’s debut with Gucci declared the era of maximalism. Certainly Demna Gvasalia and the indie designer movement have shaken the industry, turned it on its head. Instagram is now the top engagement platform for designers. Celine has not had a social media presence or even been offered online until very recently. Philo’s departure on the heels of this seems timely. The last few Celine collections have felt, to me, like a passing of the baton in some way. Little nods to the new guard seemed to say, “go on ahead without me.”

Philo’s departure has been rumored for a while, comments she’s made about wanting to disappear with her family have made people wonder if she might bow out of fashion entirely. She has a history of long absences, but there is already talk of where she may go next (possibly Burberry). For now, all we have are our memories and dreams and of course, the clothes.

 

ode to self-care.

self care, a term i tend to be turned off by for its buzz-word-y-ness. a term lifted from the medical world and used in articles about sheet masks and bone broth cleanses and mini-meditations, by and for the luxury wellness/perfectly curated instagram mom legions that spawned from or shot up around shiny haired gwenyth and her solid gold juicer. a term that elicits eye rolls from most men, my husband included. a term that makes me cringe a bit when spoken out loud, but one that i find myself saying in my head, despite all of this.

technically, self-care is how one takes care of their own health, from how they manage chronic illnesses or physical maladies to their diet and exercise routines. over the last couple of years it’s been applied more to the latest wellness trends such as infrared saunas and sound baths and jade vagina eggs, but really it’s about how you keep yourself healthy. how you manage stress and hormonal fluctuations and balancing the million things you have to do each day for other people with the things you need to do to keep yourself afloat.

i remember back in the early aughts when the episode of sex & the city came out where carrie had let aidan move in with her, and she was complaining to her friends about having to share her space with him. she lamented over the lack of privacy and time to engage in what she called, “secret single behavior” or “SSB” if you’re nasty. carrie’s included eating grape jelly on saltine crackers while standing in her kitchen, reading fashion magazines. for charlotte it was examining her pores in a mirror. i think about this when i think about self-care, because to me it’s really the same thing. things we do to decompress, to take a damn minute for ourselves. sometimes they are things we were not allowed to do for some reason, sometimes they are things we do to numb ourselves, but mostly they are things that just feel comforting. i call that self-care.

for me, i get a lot of satisfaction and comfort from cleaning. particularly a clean refrigerator makes me feel like i have accomplished great things. tidiness is very soothing to me. creating order in a chaotic life feels so good. i have been known to clean out closets in times of stress, clearing out kitchen cabinets and laundry room drawers and my son’s toy baskets and hauling all of that stuff to the thrift store feels like a big relief. but i also enjoy eating peanut butter from the jar, putting on lady gaga really loud and trying on outfits, cutting out pictures from old fashion magazines and making collages, bedazzling old pairs of jeans and shoes, putting on a full face of all the makeups i can’t afford at sephora and then coming home to pull weeds (you can call me the fancy gardener). also weird gross stuff like peeling nail polish off of my toenails and trying on the trashiest body-con/slutty teenager clothes i can find at h&m with absolutely no intention of buying any of it.

these are all things that must be done in solitude. the presence of another person would take their power away, render them ridiculous and embarrassing and often impossible (where unruly toddlers are concerned). perhaps having such a limited amount of time to myself has made me more appreciative of these things, has made me recognize their value in a sometimes chaotic life. the world no longer revolves around me, but it’s lovely to take those moments where for a brief time, it does.

the gilded cyber cage.

a male friend of mine indulges me in the same conversation whenever we are having drinks, one where i list off the things that women worry about constantly that men never think about. he listens to me talk about weight, diet, exercise, body shape, outfits and outfit appropriateness, hair coloring, waxing, nail care, lingerie, tanning, skin care, makeup, on and on, and shakes his head with exasperation. and always replies, “i literally never think about any of that.” my husband agrees and they both tell me that apart from the occasional thought of working on the beer gut, weight doesn’t figure. neither of them have ever looked at another man and thought, “i wish i looked like that.” in fact, both tell me that they have never wished that they looked differently than they do. it has never occurred to either of them.

this conversation comes up often because it continues to astound me how much women go through daily that men never experience. the standards that we hold ourselves to and live by that don’t exist for men. i would say that largely my life revolves around my appearance. my weight, how i look, my hair and skin are things that are constantly on my mind. that’s not to say that there aren’t more important and meaningful things in my life. it’s more like those things are always present, like being a diabetic who always has to be conscious of food choices and blood sugar levels, it’s just something that i live with. having a child changed my priorities and most certainly my schedule, but i still manage to insert those things into my life, i find time to exercise and color my hair and eat well and use seven different creams on my skin every night. because i feel that i must.

the dark side of being a female comes via comparison. social media seems to have taken over the role once occupied by men judging beauty pageants (and sitting in the oval office, apparently). women posting selfies tauting six pack abs or thigh gaps, or padded behinds with teeny tiny cinched waists. waifish girls lounging on beaches in string bikinis holding giant frothy sugary cocktails. all of them implying that there is something natural about it. easy. i don’t know how girls today are supposed to establish any sort of positive self-image when they are bombarded with images of bodies constantly. bodies that are starved or worked into submission, surgically enhanced and photoshopped and corseted and cajoled into looking like a hundred other bodies in selfies posted on social media.

when i see pop stars or internet starlets of the day getting surgery to give them enormous hips and bums with teeny tiny waists that look like cartoon bodies, i wonder how they will feel about it in 10 years when that look is no longer in fashion. but really, what’s the difference between iggy azalea’s hips and jennifer gray’s nose? perhaps kardashian bodies are the baywatch boobs and lip injections are the tribal tattoos of the present day. it does seem to be an evolution, it’s an intense one for sure, but along the same line. and the thing of it is, despite growing up in a different era i am not immune to the current pressure to look bikini booty selfie ready. the effects of being photographed constantly and having a hyper-photo-documented life and feeling like you’re being watched & judged all the time are real. even if you avoid being snap-chatted or selfie-sticked, we’re all seeing those images in a steady stream, all day every day. what you are seeing 8 billion times a day is bound to influence and make one compare themselves to the easy breezy yet perfectly curated minutia of the insta-world.

i often lament that girls today have no personal style because they are flooded with so much information that they don’t have the space to make choices for themselves. to quote chloe sevigny: “I’m very confused by millennials. When I was a teenager, your wardrobe identified who you were. There aren’t any tribes anymore; just teenagers dressing as one.” as a teenager my idols were musicians and actors that had unique styles of their own, i looked for pieces of them that felt true, or like pieces of the puzzle to the woman i was becoming. i wanted courtney love’s lipstick & babydoll dress or winona ryder’s haircut & baggy old man sweaters. i never wondered who their personal trainers were or what diet they were on.

when my mother was a girl she was not allowed to wear pants to school. her generation fought for sexual liberation as the free love generation and became largely a generation of single mothers. my generation fought for the right to be individual and to “speak our truth.” we fought against conformity as the riot grrl generation and we became largely a generation of career moms. when i look at millennials i don’t know exactly what they represent or aspire to, apart from fame. what saddens me is the extremely cut-throat and competitive attitude of girls and young women today. i agree with chloe sevigny, tribes have been replaced by gangs. it’s taylor or katy and kill or be killed.

what’s incredible is that it is the men who are speaking out about this. i noticed in comedy specials by both tracy morgan and dave chapelle that there were complaints about how women hate their bodies these days, and how sick of hearing about it they are. rappers, comedians and husbands everywhere are sick and tired of the selfie culture and the faux perfection it demands from women. and i have to say, aren’t we all sick and tired of it? isn’t it time the reality tv generation grew up and accepted a little reality?

-end rant-

a week of outfits.

clearly still drinking all the demna gvasalia ironic kool-aid. also breaking down and buying a little fast fashion when it includes jacquemus-esque puff sleeve tops and celine-esque net skirts. but mostly doing my best to look like james spader’s bitch girlfriend in pretty in pink.

on getting dressed.

there’s something about getting dressed. i never realized how much time i put into the process of outfit selection until i had a baby. suddenly not only the amount of time that i had each morning but the amount of time i had alone became non-existent. the pressure of having someone in the room while getting dressed, asking for your attention can make putting together an outfit feel impossible. i believe this to be the culprit behind moms in sweatpants everywhere. getting dressed is a luxury that many women don’t have. the thing is that i always felt that it was a luxury, and one that i enjoyed even when i drove myself crazy with indecision or self-loathing over what i saw in the mirror.

giving up getting dressed was part of a loss of identity that came with motherhood for me, and looking back it’s interesting how much is involved in losing and re-finding yourself after giving birth. postpartum bodies are soft and stretched and re-arranged and things are out of place. some of them (okay most of them) never go back. pre-pregnancy clothes rarely fit after birth and you spend so much time nursing and dealing with baby fluids and insomnia that it feels pointless to get dressed anyway. the newborn phase, the first year even, is this sort of liminal period between your pre-baby self and your new self. emotionally and physically. it’s only within the last year or so that i’ve started to feel not like my old self again but like my new self. i have always thought a lot about clothes, but having a baby made me realize how much i identify through clothes.

there was a period where i didn’t know what to wear, where i reached for things that i could hide in. this is something that i have always done, at times where i felt particularly bloated or depressed or even when i had to be in business meetings or work situations where i felt i needed to be…shielded or protected in some way. my son having autism has made it really clear when i do this. having to deal with different therapists, case workers and doctors on a daily basis has made me stop to think about what i am wearing. days where i deal with a difficult person or where i feel particularly vulnerable i dress in those ways: ways where i can hide or appear blank. days where my son has no therapy or days where i get a break, i dress differently.

what women wear when they feel like shit is something that interests me a lot. as does what women buy or consume when they feel like shit. there are periods where i buy things that i don’t even particularly like, because i feel some need to disappear: to disappear into a uniform of blankness. of baggy tent dresses made of crappy stretchy synthetic non-fabrics and elastic waists and cheap acrylic sweaters that are shapeless. or something incredibly trendy that has no practical use in my life because i want to feel present or relevant or cool again.

i find the cycles that we go through of cleaning out our closets and then not just re-filling but over-filling them again really interesting. this year i have been trying to pay closer attention to those cycles. because i certainly have cycles of cleaning out my closet, vowing a life of minimal conscious dressing and then i have times where i just want to hit the mall. lose myself in 3 floors of tightly packed brightly colored items. times where i feel a real need to have more stuff, and times where that “gotta have it” feeling overcomes me. and that is a feeling that i enjoy. i’m trying not to beat myself up so much over those times, the times where i want to get rid of everything and the times where i want to buy everything. and to realize that those times are tied to moods which are most certainly fleeting. they come and they go.

part of connecting to myself as the woman that i am now: 3 years after having a baby, after leaving my career and committing to a life of caregiving, has been spending some time in my closet. being at a point where i can take a little time to get dressed has felt like getting something back that was lost. taking the time to stand in my little closet and dig around and pull things out and try them on does feel luxurious, and fun and exciting, even when it’s disappointing.

solidarity.

Women-Wearing-White-Trumps-Speech-1900x1068

“It was clear for example in 1988 that the political process had already become perilously remote from the electorate it was meant to represent. It was also clear in 1988 that the decision of the two major parties to obscure any possible perceived distinction between themselves and by so doing to narrow the contested ground to a handful of selected ‘target’ voters, had already imposed considerable strain on the basic principle of the democratic exercise, that of assuring the nation’s citizens a voice in its affairs. It was also clear in 1988 that the rhetorical manipulation of resentment and anger designed to attract these target voters had reduced the nation’s political dialogue to a level so dispiritingly low that its highest expression had come to be a pernicious nostalgia.” -Joan Didion.