Category Archives: The Number

‘Fession

Well, the gig is up.  Here we are nearing the end of July, and I still have consumer credit outstanding.  The Number is flat-lining at $11k.  (To my eye, the ‘k’ looks so much more pleasant than horrid $000s.)  Past attempts at retail restraint have been well meaning but doomed from the get-go  – due to prior bouts of clothing and accessory starvation (resulting in bingeing) coupled with plain old lack of willpower.  My last plan was to limit purchases to ‘just what I really LOVE’, which didn’t work because, clearly, my ability to love inanimate objects (clothes, shoes, handbags) knows NO BOUNDS. 

So, I ‘fessed up to my husband about my personal debt load.  Rather, my husband inquired about my outstanding credit card balances, and I told him.  He was less than pleased, but not particularly surprised.  Kind of anticlimactic – he appreciates that I make an effort to not schlump around, and has at least a basic understanding of the concept that a certain level of non-schlumpiness comes with a price tag.  Who knew?  I feel a little silly about trying to be so subversive about shopping.  Also in my favor is that I have more job stability than previously anticipated – a surprising change from earlier in the year – so he is more relaxed and I feel less guilty about impacting the family in a negative way in a down economy and weak job market for finance professionals.  

My husband and I differ in our approaches to money.  I am better at picking stocks and investments, but am missing the saving gene.  My husband alternates between crushing conservatism and day trading, but is a fantastic saver.  I suspect his saving ability relies largely on gender – he is not female, hence is immune to the siren song of the Jimmy Choo.  In most economic climates, I am comfortable carrying a certain amount of debt, a small percentage of my personal GDP so to speak.  My husband is not at ease with any debt, as the plaintive cry of the Chloe bag does not keep him awake at night. 

The long and short of it is that I am shifting down to second gear in my quest for financial health (and wardrobe improvement) – the slow track.  And this is what I am wearing today:

XO

Debtonaire

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Filed under Chloe, Debt Reduction, Polyvore, Shopping, The Number

Back from Hiatus! (and Progress Report . . .)

It has been an unforgivably long time since my last post. My absence has been due to partially to torrentially horrid conditions at work (20%), and partially because . . . I just D-E-S-P-I-S-E all the barbaric self-inflicted personal maintenance and wardrobe deprivation seemingly necessary to reach my goal of “debt free by June 30th 2009” (80%+). It’s embarrassing as I was so gung-ho.  In the end, I just couldn’t stick with the plan – couldn’t do it a minute longer and was ashamed to own up. I am weak weak weak, and clearly apocalyptic cost cutting is not in my nature.

New plan– get what I need and no more. It has to be perfect: fit, color, fabric all flawless. If not, back to the store it goes. (This sounds basic but for me is a huge obstacle – I don’t like returning things to the store or even repacking returns to send back, so in the past tended to keep or give away substandard purchases. Yup. Seriously. Another bad, embarrassing habit now out in the open. Another confession:  I reeealllly can’t bear going to the gas station and am trying to train my husband to do it for me, automatically, like an upgraded full-service option – but that’s another story.)

On my Spring purchase list: versatile dresses – the sort that can be worn at a wedding, work or out to dinner with carefully shifted accessories; nice (aka leather or fabric not rubber) flip flops to supplement and enhance my Havaiana stockpile; short sleeve cotton/linen/silk cardigan to go with everything 24/7.  Not purchased this Spring – a new handbag.   However I did send one of the Chloes to refurb for freshening with very snappy results. 

During hiatus I have resumed salon waxing (thank goodness) and lash tinting – but at a less posh salon. Instead of Keratin Complex straightening I have been using Living Proof NoFrizz and am hopeful this will get me through the humid months and into Fall. I had a little laser to correct some sun damage, and a little Botox to correct the crevices the market turbulence left on my forehead. However, apart from the odd mani-pedi – I AM doing my own toes and fingers.

So, although I am more sane and better groomed, what has this fiscal detour done to my debt repayment plan? As of today, “The Number” is roughly $11,000.00, down from the $14k-$15k range at last writing. All my department store accounts have been paid off – all that is left are balances are on two Visa cards. By the end of June, one of those cards will be paid off in its entirety, and the other will have a $7,000.00 balance. And counting.
Back soon. Really.

XO

Debtonaire

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March Madness?

I am reviewing my finances for February.  Despite unnatural disasters (see Liquid Keratin) and a few/several/many indiscrete purchases (see Checks and Balances) and several visits to the MediSpa (more on that later) I appear to be making slight progress with my debt levels.  My total personal debt has decreased marginally from $15,116.13 at January 21 to $14,961.93 at February 13.   At least the accelerated debt service to Visa is outstripping my spending.  The large payments made over the last few weeks are largely possible due to – I hate to admit it – the salon services I have avoided this month.  My only salon visit this month was for corrective color – a non-negotiable necessity.  

 The best news so far this month is a forecasted budget surplus of approximately $1,500.00 by 3/6/09.  This amount could flow through the bottom line straight to a new handbag – its almost enough for a new Chloe – however, I will likely get a couple pair of shoes and some great accessories to jazz up my basics.    Should the surplus be applied to debt service, probably yes.  I can’t go cold turkey – total deprivation will only lead an unfortunate occurrence . . . an incident at an outlet mall or ‘rack’ store where returns are not accepted.  Self restraint is so much better in moderation.  I am going to make like a Democrat in Congress and spend spend spend that surplus . . .

XO Debtonaire

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Checks and Balances

I haven’t posted for a while due to a severe bout of whining that I have been trying to stave off.  The orange hair incident was disheartening, and frankly, I harbored doubts that I would be able to continue with such a strict regime of DIY activities.  DIY is exhausting and time consuming and not therapeutic in the least.  I justified a lot of bad spending behavior because “I work so hard, I need to relax” and  “I work so hard, I deserve to own the overpriced XYZ”.  The primary flaw in this logic is that I still work hard and am about to be unemployed. 

My hedge fund job was demanding before the credit markets went to hell, and now it is interminable.  Is it completely unreasonable, after a hard day of battle, to park myself in a massaging easy chair, glass of wine in hand, and peruse US magazine while my hooves are dunked in paraffin, scraped and painted back into the semblance of human fingers and toes?  Post topple, I am truly grateful and somewhat surprised every time my firm makes payroll.  I work hard, keep my chin up, try to keep people off the window ledge, and come straight home from work every night.  No cocktails, no dinners out, no picking up a quick pair of shoes ‘to wear to that thing tomorrow night’.  Once I arrive home, my husband and I deal with dinner (from ingredients NOT even a take-out box).  If the stars align, I hit the treadmill or the gym.  I can still get away with the glass of wine and a gossip magazine, and I do have a cute little portable foot spa and a great stash of pedicure supplies, but adding these items to an ordinary weeknight results in a hot mess and sheet marks on my freshly-varnished toes.  Perhaps I am healthier person post topple, drink less, consume less sodium, have some interesting war stories, but so far it does not appear to build character.  I am neither a better or more likable person for any of this nonsense. 

Last Thursday morning, I nearly ran over my Cleaning Lady in the foyer while dashing through my pre-CL cleaning regimen.  CL is very personable and I don’t mind chatting with her at all – she used to work in HR before fleeing corporate America for her current vocation, which she says allows the flexibility to handle the schedule of three active children.  Apparently, CL’s business is suffering – half of her households have cut back to once a month or cut out cleaning services completely.  She was able pick up cleaning of a veterinary clinic at night to make ends meet.  Her husband will soon be severed from his job at a plastics molding company with a meager package.  Finally, CL hit me up for any Goodwill bound clothes or shoes – apparently I am the same size as her 14-year old daughter. 

Saturday morning, with the rough edges of my current fiscal situation ground down a bit after my conversation with CL, I resumed self-improvement activities.  I attended an early morning spinning class and caught up with a friend for coffee.  I further extended my virtuousness into Saturday afternoon by performing several waxing and facial treatments on myself.  While not a totally unpleasant way to spend a couple hours (in that it is more pleasurable than shoveling rock), it does cut a chunk out of the weekend.  I will also cop to a certain level of personal fulfillment in that I am improving in speed and skill level with the Nair wax strips (and am now utilizing the strips on parts of the bikini area completely forbidden by the good folks at Nair . . . with no ill effects thus far).  I do not miss shelling out $120 per session for a Brazilian wax plus waxing of various appendages.  I personal exposure due to the ‘ princess pose’ or the bacteria laden community wax bucket in the least. 

Control of my plastic this month has been less than masterful.  I swiped my VISA card with vigor during the first week of February and regrettably report several unnecessary, albeit lovely, clearance priced, purchases.  Total damage is over $1,000.  Arguably this amount will offset somewhat by payments, as well as savings in aforementioned areas such as waxing.  This behavior does not move the Number in the appropriate direction, which is closer to zero.  To recap, February purchases as of today included. 

Miu Miu –spike heel hidden platform loafers – Plum patent – $145

Cole Haan Collection – tall boots – Brown $200

Cole Haan Collection – tall boots – Black $200

Anthropologie- black wool cropped jacket, cotton lace top and t-shirt – $220

Victorias Secret – boy shorts (5 for $25) and t-shirt cardigan $32 – $57

Sephora/Ulta/Macys – make-up and other personal supplies – GO SMiLE, gloss, liquid liner, powder $200

 

 

The Miu Miu’s are perfect and update all the neutrals in my closet.  The tall boots are beautiful – parade- gloss-style super stiff and shiny leather, extra tall shaft and almond toe – very sleek with a medium heel . . . too perfectly timeless to pass up, not to mention they were practically free.  I absolutely did need them in both colors.  Anthropologie there is no good explanation for.   I don’t typically venture into Anthropologie due to an extreme allergy to rick rack, but a friend recommended the adorable buttery soft t-shirt.  I happened upon the black jacket (I have it on now!  Have worn 3 times since purchase on Thursday – great with trousers, skirts and jeans) and black cotton lace top (mysteriously can be layered over or under literally everything in my closet) while waiting for a fitting room.  All the clothes and shoes were marked down at least 60% – massively clearanced items are so tempting – particularly when I didn’t buy everything I needed for fall and winter to start with.  The boy shorts and cardi from VS and make-up etc. are mostly necessities, although I could have waited on the GO SMiLE kit but it was on sale. 

Factoring in my corrective color debacle and the afore-mentioned clothing and accessory acquisitions, things are off to a really bad start.  The rest of February needs to be exemplary and March as a whole must be a better month.  In the meantime, I will put together a Goodwill bag for penance. 

XO Debtonaire

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Brave New World

Today the nation wakes up to a brave new world.  In a much smaller and considerably less profound fashion, I find myself in unfamiliar territory as well.  Three words.  Credit Card Debt.  As of today’s date, my personal debt load totals $15,166.13.  This does not include car payment, student loans or any household expenses shared with my husband (these are minimal as my husband manages our household finances and is great with money) – this amount consists solely of my own personal nonsense and includes two visa cards and six store charge accounts (three with balances, and one of those three in excess of $1,000).  My debt load (hereafter the “Number”) was considerably higher until recently – over the past four months I have paid down approximately $8,000 to arrive at the current Number.  I would be proud to tell you that the paydown was simply prudent judgment in response to economic uncertainty; however that would be a stretch.   The truth is that my employment situation is wobbly.  Half of the workforce in my small firm was eliminated last year, and in addition no 2008 year-end bonuses were paid.  More reductions in force are on the way, including my position.  As difficult as it would be to be laid off, I dread the confessing the Number to my frugal husband, and subsequently accepting his help in servicing the Number, even more. 

How could I allow the Number to grow so large?  How does this sort of thing happen?  I am a smart, professional woman.  I work in finance.  My base salary is very decent – even excluding bonus, this sum should enable a person to subsist very pleasantly in my particular metropolitan area, make a significant contribution to the household, and put something aside for a rainy day.  Historically my compensation has been bonus heavy, and against all common sense, I have grown accustomed to a big fat check at the end of the year.  I am baffled and still unraveling how the Number and I arrived here.  Clearly, a combination of bad decisions, delusional thinking, over-application of retail therapy and general self indulgence is in play.  As such, following are the major categories nominated for expense reduction/control/elimination near term:

·         Handbags:  I love, adore and worship Chloe handbags.  Some love Gucci or Hermes or Chanel, but a Chloe bag is so perfect for me.  I have 7 Chloe bags of various colors and configurations.  All but two were bought on clearance, marked down by at least 40%.  Sadly, even a severe mark-down may represent unseemly sum to spend on a handbag in the brave new world. 

·         Shoes:  Occasional dalliances into the Jimmy Choo, however most are classics from Stuart Weitzman or Cole Haan.  Also the occasional Chloe shoe, from the clearance rack of course.  Many shoes are typically purchased in a season – I am hard on shoes and they do not last. 

·         Apparel:  It should be much easier to reduce clothing purchases versus accessories.  Given my penchant for the bag of Chloe, I compensate in other areas and will continue to focus on good quality basics from Brooks Brothers, Theory, J Crew and Gap.  T-shirts and tanks from Target.  I love Theory tees, and these can often be found on clearance (although arguably they are worth the full retail spend as they wash and wear like iron).  

·         Personal maintenance:  This is a very important (and often expensive) category.  As one nears the upper age quartile of the 25-45 year old female demographic, maintenance becomes very important, and one also becomes more sensitive about it.  Highlights, cosmetics, skin care products, waxing (brows, bikini, leg and arm), nails and toes, regular Botox at crowsfeet (and occasional in forehead), fillers, laser for sun damage, annual varicose and spider vein treatment.  Also laser removal of a small tattoo on ankle is in progress.  Two years ago I spent $4,500 on Thermage with amazing results.  A second round of Thermage is probably not an appropriate expenditure for brave new world, although clearly it is time.  Also in the category of personal maintenance, I belong to a gym and intend to start using it again – maybe if I improve my body, my existing wardrobe will look better on it. 

Drafting this post has taken me past the red zone for online shopping, and even though a new blue Chloe Heloise shoulder bag (clearance priced) would change my life, I staved off the desire to track one down this afternoon.  Additionally, I am returning an adorable silk/wool leopard print trench coat from J Crew – sleeves too short.  Another tenet of the brave new world is rejection of items that do not fit the bill 100%. 

Total daily personal expenditures = $0, -$237 if the return of the return of the trench is included. 

XO Debtonaire

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