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In defense of designer coffee

August 29th, 2008 at 12:47 am

I saw the SA post and just had to say a few things. Then again, I'm 21 so this doesn't hurt her point- still had to defend myself though (and my favorite corporate coffee).

1. Coffee is not that expensive. 3 cups of Starbucks a week costs me under $6. That's less than the cost of a single sandwich, and I always brought lunch to work anyway. What costs $4 is a mocha caramel chocolate chip honey chai latte with whip and stawberries sprinkles on top, or a "coffee" with some kind of syrup marketed with a sexy name like Cinnamon Dolce. But that's not designer coffee, that's designer ice cream.

2. I won't argue that $6/week adds up over the year ("That's $312 you could be saving!"). But think about it- for $312 you're getting 156 comfortably alert hours, many of which are spent with people you like. Put it in your "entertainment/luxuries" budget, cut out 12 meals out or one outfit and you've covered the cost.

3. If you want to save the environment and stop wasting cups, bring your own travel mug to the coffee shop. A lot of places give you a discount for that anyway.

4. Brewing your own coffee isn't that cheap if you buy the good-or-even-moderately-good stuff. I tried cutting out Starbucks and Coffee Bean for awhile, and I was spending about $8 every other week on ground coffee from the supermarket.

For people who don't love coffee this is probably irrelevant: just take the $312 and run.

Why I don't love people rummaging through and judging my old clothes

August 23rd, 2008 at 09:02 pm

I sold $27 worth of clothes I never wear to Buffalo Exchange (a consignment shop) today. That's actually decent for that store- they tend to take "mall brands" (Express, Gap, etc.) rather than super high-end items, so a few bucks for a shirt is a good deal. It's such a painful process though.

Unlike some consignment stores where you make an appointment (or a donation center where they're happy with what you can offer), you're instead subjected to some degree of humiliation.

On a typical day, a girl with eyebrow piercings, pink hair, and a studded plaid belt picks through your "gently used" clothes and makes an array of faces and loud comments to her coworkers. In one particular location, they make you stand/sit in front of the counter as they work. As I sat uncomfortably in the plastic chair (watching an employee skip around asking patrons to participate in a hula hoop contest- possibly to drown out the snide comments of her friends behind the counter), I realized that I was hopelessly out of place despite being surrounded by 20-somethings. Everyone around me had tattoos, checkered hats, and bubblegum pink lips. I'm pretty sure that they're what you're supposed to be when you're "young". Into music, concerts, "fun" clothes, forging a new and offbeat identity.

Apparently I have no identity. At least I have 27 more bucks.


August 17th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

I didn't drop off the face of the earth. Just got back from Boston for a psychology convention: 15,000 psychologists under two very large roofs. Does anyone know Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink and The Tipping Point)? He gave a pretty decent speech on the rags-to-riches story and signed my book afterward. He essentially argued that without financial hardship, a number of extremely influential and powerful people would not have achieved the same success. There's certainly a flip side to the argument but I thought it was inspiring anyway.

Which goes to show that just because some of us have to take out loans and work before grad school, we might still reap the benefits. Wink

Dating- Who pays?

August 11th, 2008 at 10:19 pm

People are so divided about who should pay for what when dating. Some of my friends have rules: first date the guy pays, then you split; never let the girl pay; asker pays either way. Some just do whatever feels natural when the check comes.

It's always a little bit awkward. I'm a big fan of always offering to split without pushing it to a level of embarrassment. My logic is to let the guy feel chivalrous if that means something to him, and not feel like he's snagged a freeloader if it doesn't.

Remember the Milk

August 8th, 2008 at 10:49 am

More free online software I thought I'd share. It's the best task management application I've found (although I guess you can pay $25 for more features). My blackberry calendar alone was a little cumbersome and wasn't organizing my brain very well (when things keep beeping at me and disappearing, it's more chaotic than not having a schedule at all). Milk does sync up well to smartphones, gmail, iCal, etc. and, unlike with googlesync, when you add an event on your phone it then goes to your online account.

Remember the Milk


August 7th, 2008 at 09:28 am

I am in love with this online software. It's like the simple, student-friendly, online version of Quicken and it's free. It's synched to my accounts (and my blackberry), so I don't get away with anything, and it does a decent job of breaking down my expenses into graphs.

If Excel isn't doing it for you and have fairly basic accounts/bills, this is the best way to track your finances.

Pt. 2: Calling (kate) spade a spade... why do we shell out for image?

August 4th, 2008 at 08:53 am

I thought I'd try to answer my own question.

I think there are a lot of reasons why my generation in particular is so caught up with labels (and not just Gap or Abercrombie, but Cavalli and Gaultier, too).

1. We feel that luxury is within our reach. Extravagance is not limited to the stars and ultra-rich. We don't dream about Chanel bags- we rent them, if need be, or we eat canned fruit for a month to afford one. We are less prone to idolize and more prone to emulate (think reality TV, youtube, blogging). I could never quite identify when my mom talked about her adoration of certain movie/rock stars when she was young- they could do no wrong, they were glamorous and chic and lived in a fantasy world. Today it seems like we're more interested in photographing our celebs with no make-up or unveiling their latest drug habits than in viewing them through rose-colored glasses. Underlying message: They're just like us! ...Or, "We're just like them!"

2. We associate luxury with being good to ourselves, not with irresponsibility. Commercials and our peers keep drilling into our heads that in a fast paced world, we deserve to be rewarded. A busy woman who takes a two-day spa and yoga retreat is being well-rounded and spiritual, not financially reckless. A career woman who works 7 days a week on the brink of burnout has her priorities out of whack. Unless, of course, her hard work is manifested in a Fifth Avenue address.

3. In spite of #2, we correlate our bank account with our work ethic. Despite a number of bestsellers highlighting the near myth of the rags-to-riches story, we still somehow believe that if we work hard enough we, too, can drive a Maserati. When we're scraping by and our friends are VIPing their way across the country, we secretly wonder if they're just more industrious/dedicated/ career-focused. And then when we have more than our friends, we think, "I worked damn hard on days that they were at the beach."

All of this culminates in the need to perfect an image- both as individuals and as a community- often at the cost of pure rationality. You don't really have to live in luxury, be good to yourself, or have a solid career; you just have to look like you do.

An introduction...

August 3rd, 2008 at 02:38 am

This blog was born out of my involuntary night in, walled off from the glitz of a Saturday night in Los Angeles by 4.15/gal gas prices and a rapidly dwindling bank account. All of my good friends (the kind you can enjoy without structured plans or loud, thumping music) are out of town. That left me home, eating carbs, feeling sorry for myself.

As I sat in the dead silence of my apartment, it occurred to me that I probably wasn't alone in this. How many other college girls were making small sacrifices in their social lives to keep themselves financially afloat? How many other girls, when faced with two choices, 1) drinking Coors Light in a casual friend's shabby apartment, in front of SoYouThinkYouCanDance reruns, for the sake of being "out", and 2) breaking the bank at an ulta-trendy club/restaurant/concert venue, choose to opt out completely? How many other girls are used to an inflated standard of living, maybe due to friends, parental loans, and a college education, that is just not reflective of their fiscal reality?

It's not just about an occasional night in. That in itself is not much of a complaint, and we could all use a few quiet nights for laundry and organizing. It's more about maintaining a lifestyle that is just out of reach. To be simultaneously told that you should want something, and that what you want is irresponsible excess. Which leads me to my first major list (because I love lists): What This Blog Is Not.

1. This blog is not a tale of woe. Barbara Ehrenreich is not going to write a book on this, and I am not going to raise groundbreaking issues on social justice and poverty in America. I know that it's a luxury to be able to make these decisions in the first place, particularly since I'm not saddled with extensive debt or family responsibilities. (The only life I've ever been responsible for was a NanoPet in 5th grade.)

2. This is not a mature personal finance blog, which you probably figured out already. I will offer no tips on managing your portfolio or billion dollar assets; I never advanced past Econ101 and I can't even afford a Netflix membership.

3. This is not some kind of frugal-gurl-fab-deals-for-under-$20 blog where I post links to Tampax coupons and list all the high end designers now offering lines at H&M. Not that those aren't helpful in their own right...

This is my own personal story of money and spending, which I feel is very reflective of a lot of young women out there today. We live in a culture where Lil'Wayne is declaring that that he "got money and you know it take it out your pocket and show it then throw it", while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is declaring we have the highest unemployment rate in 4 years. The Hills is selling us a couture-ridden 20-something lifestyle, when most 20-somethings' can't afford to fill their gas tanks. We aren't scraping together pennies to survive, and we still budget for spicy tuna rolls, yet we still squirm when an airline hits us with an extra $15 fee for baggage.

I guess I'll end by telling you who I am. I'm a psychology major on financial aid, about to start my senior year at a liberal arts school. I'm planning on a career in market research and ultimately an MBA. My parents are financially comfortable, but on fixed incomes and I have no trust fund or rich dying uncle. I love fashion but fall short of the genuine fashionista label (I can't tell you what hem-line will be a faux pas between Oct. 1st and 15th this year). I grew up on the East Coast. There's probably more, but you'll figure it out.