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Monday, December 31, 2012

Bye Buy Clothes: The Final Hours

Day 366

Less than 12 hours left to go to complete my one year challenge. 8872 hours in the books. I have been wearing the same clothes, the same shoes, the same socks, used the same purse for a whole year. 

During the year I donated about 50% of my wardrobe. I have another 25% waiting for the next donation pick up. So many pieces of clothing that were wrong for me. So many purchases made emotionally. Such a waste. If I think about it too hard, it's kind of sickening. The money wasted, the time wasted, even the hard work of some apparel maker in some far off land. Most things worn only once, maybe never.

So what will happen come midnight?  I have $30 in Kohl's cash that expires tomorrow. I have no clue what I'll buy. I may go into a frenzy. I may become paralyzed with fear and buy nothing. Hopefully I will carefully choose something that is needed to enhance the best parts of my wardrobe. I was thinking something neutral, like leopard print jeans. I'll be leaving for a very nice trip soon and will need to replace a swimsuit and sunglasses at the very least so I'll be visiting a mall soon. Good news: I found most of the missing matches to my socks eventually so I don't think I'll need any of those for a while. 

I have many more lessons to share so I hope you'll continue to follow. Beware: I am strongly suggesting that everyone take this challenge for themselves. It's not as hard as, say, childbirth, but it is not easy. Either way, there's a nice reward at the end. 

I'll be at a New's Year's Eve party tonight, but if a mall was open ... I could not be held responsible. 
Have fun tonight and be safe!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Path to Success

Day 362

The first lesson I learned during my one year challenge was that change is a choice. If you choose to make a change in your life, yay you! Next lesson, change requires a solid plan.

SMART is a well-known acronym that describes the steps in goal setting. This works perfectly for a Bye Buy Clothes challenge, the change in my behavior being my goal. Setting your goal is making your own rules. I found that there has to be a certain amount of pain to undo bad habits. My bad habits involved spending way too much time shopping and buying way, way too many clothes and shoes for myself, my family and anyone else I could think of. I had to stop.

  • Specific: This is the most important part of setting a goal. I was very specific about my plan: I could not buy clothes, shoes or accessories for myself or anyone else, and I could not wear items gifted to me. In a pinch, I could borrow. And, because I fancy myself creative, I could make something to wear. My daughter searched for loopholes. I tried to make her understand, cheating the goal is cheating myself. NO loopholes. I did give my kids money for clothes a few times but I could not be part of the shopping process. 
  • Measurable: My goal was measurable because it involved a time frame. One entire year. Each time I made it through a holiday or stressful situation, I congratulated myself. 
  • Attainable: The decision to stop buying clothes is a very attainable goal. Like most people, I had way more clothing than I actually needed. There was little risk that I would have to face the cold, gray world naked. Embarrassed? Possibly. Naked? Probably not. 
  • Relevant: My goal was relevant because, while it didn't solve the entire buying problem, the clothes portion of the buying was significant. I love clothes. I love to dress my family. Sadly, I was in such a buying cycle, I had no idea what I actually had or what I really wanted.
  • Time-bound: One year. I had to challenge myself to an entire year. It was painful, really painful at times, but I knew it would end. A year may sound extreme, but believe me--it took the entire year.
I was not aware of this SMART acronym before the challenge. I ran across the idea only a month ago. But it is entirely relevant, makes sense and is easy to follow.

If you are feeling caught in a buying cycle, if you feel like your emotions lead to over-spending, if you feel like your closet offers more stress than solutions, I highly recommend the No-Buy challenge. It's one year. You'll save a bundle. There's an excellent chance at regaining control over a big part of your life. And the positive changes will very likely spill over on to all other areas of you life. With planning, this one year investment in myself has changed my life.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Impact of a No-Buy Christmas

Day 361

I was going to focus on lessons learned this week but I have to step back and talk about Christmas. I hope that you all enjoyed family and friends over the holiday.

Before this year, a Christmas morning at our house meant abundance. An abundance of excitement, an abundance of food and mostly, an abundance of gifts. Both of my kids could count on at least 25 gifts under the tree, and often many more. This stemmed from my memories of Christmas as a child. My parents had to work hard to provide for us, yet Christmas always meant lots and lots of gifts. My mom continued the tradition when the grandchildren came along. Lots and lots and lots of gifts.Things we wanted? Sure! Things we needed? Sometimes. Things just to fill in? Too many.

My buying restrictions only applied to clothes, shoes and accessories, but I decided to make a CHOICE to really scale back on gifts this year. Easy in November. Easy in early December. Harder as the big day approached. Excruciating as I wrapped the few gifts. Devastating as I placed them under the tree. I had never before seen the tree skirt under the gifts. Ever. Each kid had 6 gifts and our grandson had 2 large toys and a few books. I almost cried looking at the paltry selection. I could not sleep imagining the disappointment my kids would try to hide as they slowly opened the few items.

Like a predictable movie, my kids were not (or did not act) disappointed. They were appreciative and happy. There were a few surprises along with the couple things requested. Better yet, my daughter is now continuing some of our traditions with her family. She bought Christmas pajamas, and even included a pair for her brother (since I couldn't buy them.) She made us some gifts. And she even spotted a bracelet I had pinned on my Pinterest wall and spent weeks tracking it down. My husband and son chipped in and bought me this:
Of course I will wait until January 1 to wear it but it was just so thoughtful.

We made less food on Christmas day, too. Some things were the same. We stayed in pajamas all day. We watched movies. We played with toys.

By the time we went to bed Christmas night, I was deliriously happy. I am so appreciative of my wonderful husband. So proud of both my kids. So in love with my grandson. 

I made it through a practically no-buy Christmas. If my kids were disappointed, I didn't feel it. I'm still sad about it but I think in a few Christmases, I'll get used to it like I have with all my new habits. I have to say, I am a lucky, lucky woman.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Change is a Choice

Day 355
10 days to go. I will dedicate the remaining posts for this challenge year to summing up what I have learned. First and foremost, I learned "change is a choice." (hence the fancy words up there)

Since I have bought no clothes, shoes or accessories for the last 355 days, I've had a little more time on my hands. Some of this time has been spent reading. Non-fiction, fiction, self-help, I just wander around the library until something catches my eye. I used to do this at the mall, walking until a particular outfit caught my eye. This new way is much cheaper. I spotted a book that I had read long ago, "7 Habits of Highly Successful People" by Stephen Covey. It's funny how you can read a book two times, 5-10 years apart, and get completely new information. Covey has many anecdotes sprinkled through the book and one hit me like a brick falling form the sky. It went something like this:
Counselor: Why are you divorcing your wife?
Husband: I don't love her anymore. 

Counselor: Why don't you love her?
Husband: I just don't. It makes me sad. Our children are sad. My wife will be devastated. What can I do? I don't love her.
Counselor: Just love her. Choose to love her.

There it was. Just choose.


I have known for many years that my buying habits were unhealthy. I had muttered to myself so, so many times, "This is it. Quit buying so much ..." Like little butterflies, the promises fluttered away at the sight of something shiny, the vibrant yellow of a clearance sign or 5 pounds gained or lost.

I finally changed my habits, and my life, when I made a serious choice. I made the choice to find a way, once and for all, to modify my buying habits. By choosing this challenge as the avenue for change, I made the conscious decision that I would give up a big part of my life in an effort to get my life back into balance. (I say "back into balance, but truthfully, I can't really remember balance.) If this change were forced upon me due to something like a financial situation, I would just be sad. But because I made a choice, I was choosing to accept the pain of it.

If there is something in your life that you truly want to change, don't wait for something to happen to you.  Make the decision. It is very powerful. Understand that you can choose to change. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Everything Else is Trivial

Day 349

I was going to write today but everything seems trivial when children are gunned down in their own school. I am beyond sad ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Do Beauty and Taste Have an Expiration Date?

Day 347

A friend sent me a link to this story. Supposedly, some U.K. beauty company surveyed women 45 and older about the age in which women should go au natural and "stop wearing red lipstick." Survey said: Age 59. Additionally, these same women supposedly felt that women should "tone down" their appearance in their mid-forties. Maybe this is true in the U.K., but here is the good old U.S. of A., I think we beg to differ. Am I right?

It is this kind of nonsense that sends us on that vicious cycle. Turning to magazines, store windows and articles like this to determine what we should and should not wear. 

"And we've all seen the stereotype of the too-youthful older woman, in leather pants, animal prints, a mask of heavy makeup, giant jewelry and—this is the worst violation in our opinion—wrinkled cleavage. Still, we at Shine like to see appropriately dressed older women with bright lipstick, bright nails and beautiful fabrics and colors. Appropriate being the key word. "

It's true, for most of us, our bodies change as we age. But that does not mean we hide it! I am tired of wearing sleeves lest someone be offended by my less-than-toned arms. And if you don't want to see my wrinkled cleavage, look away. Furthermore, for many women, fine assets like great legs do NOT expire. 

I am not advocating that we all revert to the juniors department but we should all wear what makes us feel good and what we think is pretty. The women that I know are smart enough, much smarter than certain Shine authors, to know what they should wear. I am offended by the suggestion that our beauty and taste has an expiration date. I, for one, will be wearing red lipstick and leopard print something as long as I can dress myself and my arms can reach my face.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Habit of Patience

Day 346

A habit is "an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary." Or an outfit that nuns wear. As for habit, the former, I have both good and bad. Many of my good habits have been formed this year.

The system I use to keep my closet organized has become a good habit. Using my document filing system has become a great habit. I am even well on my way to an excellent skin care habit. All developed during this challenge year and directly attributable to it. 

Not so good: patience. Part of the reason that I had to suspend buying for an entire year is my lack of patience. It resides next to my tendency to be impulsive. Which has led to a closet filled with ridiculous clothes that neither fit, nor make sense. This year, I have been forced into patience.

Being forced into a situation is very different than choosing the same situation. Some people have been been forced into a year of not buying due to a financial problem. Instead, I chose the situation to fix a lifestyle problem. If I were forced, I would be sad, feel deprived, and wait it out. Instead, while still sad, I am seeking changes that will increase my quality of life (as well as the quality of my bank account.)

I did not chose to learn to be patient and that's probably why it has taken so long. But it is happening, only because I am living with the results. The jeans I am wearing today are horrible. Horrible for me, anyway. They squish my thighs out, have the most awkward waistband and I am constantly tugging at them. Why did I buy them? 

Like so many other items, these jeans were:

  • Close to good (sadly, not close enough)
  • On clearance
  • A cool brand
  • My size
Rather that fight my impulsiveness and have patience to find a great pair of jeans, I have these. And I look--and feel-- yucky. So, better late than never, I am choosing to be patient.
You can teach an old dog ...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Wardrobe Solutions: It's Time to Sparkle!

Day 345

'Tis the season. Parties! Indulgence! Holiday fun! But what to wear? I want to let you in on a little known fashion fact: Between December 1 and January 1 of every year, the hard and fast rules of taste and style are suspended. For this period we have right, or even the responsibility, to sparkle! It's true.

This is easy for me. Sequins are just as neutral as any LBD in my book. And versatile. Day, evening, late night ... feel free to add some pizzazz. Here are some suggestions, starting small and going all out:

Small touches:
Headband from Kohl's
Hair or Lapel Clip from Kohl's
Clutch from Target
Scarf from Target
A little bit more of a statement:
Ballet Flats from Target
Wrap from Parisian
Sequin Accented Top from Parisian
Knit hat from Macys













And more ...
Subtle Sparkle Jacket from Macy's
Tank in a Unique Shade from Target
Tote Bag from Kohl's










Go for it!
Peep-toe Pumps from DSW
Skirt form Target
Skirt from Parisian
Top from Kohl's
Sequin Pants from Kohl's
I am not suggesting that all of these items are needed but any one (well, maybe a couple) can be added to your existing wardrobe to give you a sparkly feeling (and who couldn't use a little bit of sparkle?). The prices are low and the styles are widely available. 

I suggest trying things on first because sequins and other sparkly details can be picky on the skin.

Shine on, but remember, a little goes a long way!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Warm Cookie

Day 341

I was perusing the frozen foods department at Sam's Club when a lady with a table spread with samples offered me a freshly baked cookie. It was still warm. Of course I took it, and savored it. No matter that I am trying desperately to keep weight off. No matter that I work out as hard as I can and spend much time and energy preparing and cooking nutritious, preservative-free meals. No matter that we have a vacation coming up in which a swimsuit will be almost required. She offered me a cookie, I graciously accepted, and enjoyed every crumb of it. I am bad.

This is why I had to implement an addendum to no-buy rules. If someone gives me a gift of clothing shoes or accessories, I can not use it this year. I have a bag full of items gifted to me. In some cases, the gift-giver didn't know or remember my challenge. In some cases, they misunderstood my rules. And, I've had a few instances in which well-meaning friends or family members tried to find loopholes for me. It would have been easier to simply accept graciously, as I did the cookie. But as a cookie offered still has the same calorie count as a cookie sought out, wearing a gifted t-shirt would be the same as buying one myself. 

I have almost forgotten on several occasions. I slipped and wore a jacket given out at a golf outing. I have actually plucked a garment from a rack and headed to a cash register before coming to my senses. My son has had to remind me, I can't buy his shoes. It has taken willpower and determination. Keeping the end goal in mind, I battled through.

When offered a cookie, I don't think I forgot I was watching my weight. I just wanted the cookie. Temptation to buy unneeded clothes clothes will be there come January 1. I sincerely hope I do a better job with the clothes than I did with the cookie. Hmmm ... Bye Buy Cookie?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Maruca Video

If you get this blog via email, the video did not attach. It's worth a minute to head to the blog page and click on the video.
Thanks!

Where My Maruca Bag Originated

Day 340
A follow-up to my post about my fabulous handbag, the Maraca Design people sent this video about how and where their bags are made:
I think it's awesome to find a company that cares so much about what they do, produce right here in the U.S.A. and have a sense of humor about it.

I did not need 2-4 handbags to get through a year, just one. The big message: get something you love--just ONE of them-- and use it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Maruca Handbag: The Little Bag that Could, and Did!

Day 339

I've never been a handbag gal. I don't pine for Prada or covet Coach. Give me some great shoes any day of the week. But a handbag is necessary and my taste in them has changed over the years.

I have little recollection of my handbag habits prior to having children. I don't know if it is because handbags weren't really important to me or if having children has wiped out my memory. I tend towards the latter. I know that my baby and toddler days required a large handbag that could hold not only my essentials but bottles, snacks, diapers, toys, my husband's wallet, camera, books, wipes and anything else that could be crammed in. Just as we eat what is on our plate and spend what we earn, we generally fill any given handbag to capacity. And the mom transforms into pack horse. 

I found it stressful to be afraid to reach into the murky depths of a large handbag. It's embarrassing to empty a bag on a store counter as you seek out a receipt or credit card. I clearly recall when my daughter was two years old and we were shopping for carpet. I set her down and put my bag on the carpet display. While I was comparing colors, she dumped the contents of my handbag onto the floor and I found her climbing on the samples with mini-pads adhered to the bottoms of her feet. The salesman was speechless.

With maturity, I have grown fond of small handbags, those that can only hold what I really need. Plus, I think a giant bag can make your hips look bigger. I generally found that I would replace the bag 2-3 times per year. Never an extravagant purchase, I generally chose something in the $30-$40 range in a neutral like red, leopard or lime. A year ago last October, my husband and I were on a business trip and I spotted this bag in a boutique:
The size was perfect, the pattern and texture interesting, and it would compliment my wardrobe. At a price of $60, I was ready to pass but my husband was in a mood to buy me something.  I never want to pass on that opportunity so I graciously accepted the bag. The brand: Maruca Designs, which I had never heard of.

Little did I know that it would be the only handbag I would have in the year I took off shopping! Back in December 2011 when I was evaluating my wardrobe, I looked at the lovely little bag and thought, "You can make it through the year." And it did.

Truly, the bag is showing almost no signs of wear. The zipper is perfect, the fabric in excellent condition, the style-- timeless. Another lesson learned: when chosen carefully, a great bag can last. It's been on the floor of the car, on the beach and on vacation. It's been put through the test of 14 months real usage and passed heroically. And, I would actually save money by not replacing this bag 2 or 3 times. 

As my year comes to a close, I know I will want to replace the bag eventually. I visited the Maruca website to see what they are offering now. They stick with tried and true styles and add interesting fabrics. They are all hand-cut and hand-sewn in Boulder, CO. I'm sending them a shout-out because in a year in which I have to embrace what I had, this little bag made it really easy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Home Stretch

Day 338

Here we are in December. For 11 months I have succeeded in NOT buying clothes, shoes or accessories. One month to go to make it a full year.

A full year to this challenge is critical. I am sure much can be gained from a month, 3 or 6. But a full year means you live through every season, every holiday, every event. There is no new swimsuit or new fall boots. There is no birthday outfit. No Easter hat and no sparkling holiday outfit. No room for weight gain and no way you can mistreat the clothes you have.

A full year also ensures that the necessary time is spent living through the stages:

  1. Woo hoo! Look at me! I am not buying anything.
  2. Holy cow--look at all the stuff I have that I don't even wear! Why did I ever buy this?
  3. Uh oh--this is all I have so I'd better take good care of it.
  4. I don't need it, I don't need it ...
  5. This is the stupidest idea I have EVER come up with. 
  6. Yes, I'm still doing it. No, I don't cheat. (grrrr ...)
  7. I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR.
  8. OK- I'm seeing a light at the end ...
  9. Wait a minute, this stuff is not as important as I thought.
  10. Yes, I made this myself, I have more time on my hands.
  11. What's going to happen when I can shop again?
  12. TBD
I could stop now but this holiday season will be the icing on the cake. The desire to buy heaps of discounted clothes is still there but my voice of reason is strong. In fact, when I see others at a store cash register loaded down with goods, I feel kind of sad for them. I've been there and all of those sweaters aren't going to make anything better. There's a good chance that the recipient won't even wear the sweater. They won't return it either, because why bother? 

On the other hand, a year is completely do-able. There is only one Christmas for which I haven't bought clothes, shoes or accessories. Only one birthday. Just one summer in which I will relied on what I already had. A year can go by in the blink of an eye.

Yes--there are a few things I will be replacing on January 1. But I will never be the same person I was 11 months ago. This has been both the longest and shortest year of my life.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gimpy or Chubby

Day 336

Back in August I sustained a knee injury. The good news: I did it playing volleyball, not doing housework. The bad news: I delayed treatment until volleyball season was safely over. When I finally did seek treatment, I made an appointment with the best Sports Medicine doctor around, he even has Olympic ties.

At my first visit with the doctor I described the symptoms, explained how it happened and let him know that my recovery was urgent as it was cutting into my aerobic activities. An X-ray and MRI revealed an ACL injury and bone bruise. I was to rest--no high impact activities-- and commence physical therapy.

PT was super fun at first. I looked at it like having a personal trainer who massaged my knee. I grew tired of spending 2 hours a day, three times a week there. I decided I was pretty much healed, canceled future sessions and started jogging again. The darn knee pain flared up, only worse than before.

I finally resigned myself to a couple weeks of no exercise. It made me crazy that I wasn't burning calories. I missed Zumba something awful. Luckily, the longer you go with no exercise, the easier it gets. I started walking again, figuring I had finally healed when the doctors office called. They wanted to know why had I checked myself out of PT. I was busted. I explained I was fine so they insisted I come in for a final check. 

Not only was I not "better," I added a second injury thus prolonging healing. Now I am battling with myself, a version of me on each shoulder.
"Listen to the doctor and heal."
"The longer you don't exercise, the bigger your butt."
"If you don't let it heal you could suffer long term injury."
"If I go much longer my pants won't fit."
"Keep it up and you'll be limping for a long, long time."

My choice: gimpy or chubby. Perhaps a bedazzled knee brace ...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Personal Style

Day 331

Sadly, we lost another family member recently. My 89 year-old mother-in-law passed away suddenly. She was healthy, independent and feisty so this came as quite a shock. Decisions have to be made during these times that we are usually unprepared for. One such decision was choosing her final outfit.

My mother-in-law was a very stylish woman who loved clothes and fashion. I share that love and it became our common bond. Yet, when my sister-in-law and I faced the closet to choose an outfit, I was  struck with panic. This decision could not be made lightly. We pulled things out: tasteful dinner suit, party dress, the suit she wore to her own husband's funeral just 15 months ago. We could choose something she wore to a wedding or even a pageant gown. We realized that we had to put aside our memories of the outfits and wonder what she would choose. What was her personal style?

The idea of identifying one's own personal style has become pivotal in my no-buy odyssey. It's only occurred to me in the last month or so how important it is to discover your true personal style. Not what a magazine says you will look good in. Not what retail buyers will try to entice you with, not with the style of a celebrity and NOT with your style of 20 years ago. Your personal style is what you think is beautiful and what makes you feel confident and comfortable. The colors, textures and shapes that almost always work for you. When you build a wardrobe around your own personal style, dressing is easy because you love everything, it fits well and it's comfortable. You may need help defining your own style and I am trying to figure out a way to help do just that.

For me, the items that truly define my personal style only make up about 25% of my current wardrobe and they are the things I wear 90% of the time. Even doubling that collection, I will have fewer clothes yet more to choose from. This realization has been groundbreaking for me and I plan to expand on it.

As for my mother-in-law, her outfit choice became easy. My sister-in-law and I chose a fitted jacket in a gorgeous shade of red, a black pencil skirt, a leopard print blouse and matte gold jewelry. We nailed her personal style. She would have been thrilled.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday: Tales from the Fray

Day 329

I did opt to join the Black Friday fray. For me, it is a way to usher in the holiday season. What I saw (and felt) was not very holiday-like. If yesterday represented any sort of community holiday spirit, I'll pass on through to January.
True stories:

  • People in parking lots were uber-aggressive. Not just a few-- many, many people. Like some sort of parking lot Grand Prix, vehicles were screeching around corners, oblivious of pedestrians, wild to get an elusive parking spot. I did not witness many (if any) full lots and I think it's because the Black Friday craze is now spread over a two day period. Still, I feared for my safety a few times.
  • There were an ambulance and police car with lights blazing in front of Kohl's at 7:30 a.m. Note sure what happened but I know it gets ugly in there.
  • A very tired-looking woman was taking on 6 cashiers at Five Below arguing the price of a Dog Snuggy. Not one of the cashiers would ring up my purchase as they all posse'd to ensure that the woman would pay the full $3 instead of the $2.50 she was insisting was the offer.
  • A woman came in to Sunglasses Hut (I was just looking) and proceeded to scream a string of expletives so loudly through her cell phone that I was terrified in an effort to determine which *&%$#$% games her ^%%^&* children wanted for #$#$#!@# Christmas. 
  • I did brave a Kohl's line. The woman in front of me had a full cart. By the time we reached the register, two sisters joined her, each with a full cart. I bit my tongue.
  • This was the conversation in that same line right behind me:
           Woman #1: Look! sweaters for only $10!
           Woman #2: I really don't need any sweaters. I already have so many.
           Woman #1: But they are only $10! Why wouldn't you buy some?
           Woman #2: You're right.
         She picked four before we reached the register.

  • Parisian offered a coupon for $10 off any non-DoorBuster. Virtually everything in the store was marked a DoorBuster. I left and was rewarded later with a secret text coupon that yielded better prices that the poor saps who braved the rainy lines got. It's true.
  • Finally- I admit I did a not-very-nice thing. I tried to purchase an item on Kmart.com Thursday night at around 11 p.m. (my guests had all gone home). The site noted it was out of stock online but could be purchased at 2 specified local Kmarts. I was still wide wake so I ventured over to Kmart around midnight. Things were still hoppin' over there but the giant TV rush had passed. I asked a nice young salesman to assist me in finding my item. He said he's be right back but became mesmerized by two lovely young ladies seeking advice about a video game. He never came back. I found my item and proceeded to check out at which time it rang up for more that $15 more than the online price. Ever the careful shopper, my smartphone was ready with the web page displayed. 
           "Please adjust to this price," I requested sweetly. 
           "Sorry, we don't match online prices." 
           "But it's YOUR online price and YOUR website instructed me to come here." 
           "That's our policy."
           "Please call a manager."
           Very harried 12-year-old store manager: "We don't match online prices."
           I re-stated my case.
           A second manager came over, listened to both sides of the debate and walked away,  
           wordless. A stand-off ensued. 12 year-old Kmart manager against me. I had just served
           a sit down meal for 15, cleaned up the entire mess and just wanted the advertised price 
           of an item. Seconds passed. The cashier broke into a sweat. The line grew. I waited.   
           "Give her the price." he grumbled and sulked away. 

I won! my jubilation was short lived as I realized I just made this Thanksgiving holiday worse for this poor guy. I took my frustration with Kmart out on this kid who probably missed dinner so that all the town could enjoy a cheap 50" TV. I am not proud.

Black Thursday/Friday has changed. I think the saavy shoppers were again outsmarted by the retail machine. Probably I've changed, too. My no-buy challenge has forced restraint and I see the whole situation differently. I was denied my annual buying-frenzy high, instead enjoying only a mild buzz. 

On to Cyber-Monday ...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What Are You Thankful For?

Day 327

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am extremely thankful today. I am thankful for my family, many of whom will gather with us today to enjoy a feast of epic proportions. Two wonderful children and a grandson amount to a bounty that leaves me in awe every day. A husband who is my perfect compliment. I am thankful for my friends, the many and various personalities that enrich my life--I love you all. I am thankful for our good health, warm home and gratifying jobs. I am thankful that I decided not to buy clothes for a year.

Yep- you read it right, I am very thankful I embarked on this no-buy challenge. What started as a flicker of a thought, a wisp of a challenge, a whack-a-doodle idea has changed me. Thank you to Kathy for the conversation in the car just over a year ago that sparked the idea. How a conversation about buying another pair of boots led to this, I am still unsure. 

Enjoy this day. Take a moment to look around your table or talk to a family member or friend and be thankful for today. You can shop later.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shop Kohl's Black Friday NOW!

Day 326

I know I said I was done with Black Friday but you can shop online at Kohls.com right now and get ALL of your Black Friday specials. Free shipping with purchases over $50 and 15% of your entire order with code: shopnsave. The line at Kohl's on Black Friday (or Thursday or whatever ...) can be very, very long so if there is anything you were thinking of purchasing or need towels, housewares or basics, check out Kohl's now! Do I sound like an advertisement?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Black Friday and Me

Day 325

I have recently posted many of my best Black Friday shopping tips. The crazy thing: the reason I have this blog is because I have spent the last 11 months NOT buying clothes, shoes and accessories. I have to ask myself:
Should I be participating in Black Friday?
According to my own specific rules, I am well within my legal limits buying electronics, toys and housewares. But this year of not buying has changed my view on everything I buy. Of course I still have gifts to buy. But this year, I will be buying FAR fewer. 
I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person and yet, in the midst of a shopping frenzy, I am as dumb as a rock. I have bought so many useless and unwanted items for my kids, it ridiculous. My parents made sure to provide many, many gifts under our Christmas tree and it was magical. I tried to recreate that with my own children. It just seemed like each year, the bounty grew. Looking back, it was kind of obscene. But done with a full heart. I am sure that my kids would have been just as happy with a fraction of the loot.
This challenge is providing me an opportunity to change certain "traditions." For example, I followed my family's tradition of supplying each member of my family a new pair of pajamas on Christmas eve so we could awaken fresh and coordinating. Last year it included my 21 year old daughter, 18 year old son, my grandson and his dad. I didn't know how to stop gracefully. But now I can! It would be illegal for me to buy any pajamas at all. Now, if my daughter chooses to do so, she will continue this tradition for her family.

Black Friday has come to mean the beginning of the holiday season to me so I may still go out and breathe in the crowds and the crazy. Or I may just stay in bed. I probably won't decide until Thursday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Line Forming at Best Buy

Day 324

Today is Monday, November 19. This is the front of a Best Buy store at 11a.m. today. People are already camping out for Black Friday. 

I thought I was finished discussing Black Friday but I had to share this. A few days ago I posted my Best Buy Black Friday nightmare. This scene shocked even me!

I wonder what great deal these people are waiting for. I didn't stop to ask. What I should've done is asked if any of them have heard of Amazon.com. If you have subscribed to bfads.net then you were sent an update about Amazon. All this week they are offering "Lightning Deals" on many items, particularly, items featured as doorbusters by stores like Best Buy. It's true! Today I purchased a gift that was a special Black Friday Best Buy Deal and it was the exact same model and price. I got free shipping. I am not in a tent.
If you try for Lightning Deals, note that you can view the upcoming deals. If you see one you like, set a timer to the sale time posted. It is very accurate. Then, once the sale begins, click and add to your cart. You will have 15 minutes to check out. You may have to check Amazon periodically, but again, you won't have to be in a tent. 

I am a die-hard Black Friday fan and even to me, this is crazy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Black Friday Apps

Day 321

For my final Black Friday Tips post, I'll share some shopping apps to use with your smart phone to make shopping easier and more effective.
Discount Calculator: Quickly determinate how much you will save and what the final price will be after applying the store's discount with Discount Calculator. Free on Android and Apple.
Store Apps: Many, many stores offer their own apps now. Download ahead of time!
Black Friday Apps: BFads.net has a good, free Apple app but the Android version is getting many complaints. Zoomingo is a top-rated Black Friday app available for Android.
Shop Savvy is a barcode scanner that lists prices from various retailers.Available for both Apple and Android. Note: Many stores, like Best Buy and Target are matching prices so it pays to look them up.

Also, log on to the websites of your favorite stores and request to get coupons texted to your phone. No lost coupons or scraps of paper to keep track of! I get coupons from JoAnn's, Michaels, Parisian and more.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

If You Should Choose to Brave the Black Friday Crowds ...

Day 320

Black Friday is officially one week from tomorrow (or today if you count Black Thursday). I have been checking out the ads, the store opening times and special offers. If you have Black Friday experience, you know these things, but for those of you with less experience:

Black Friday Shopping Tips

  1. Pack your patience. You are almost guaranteed to wait in a line somewhere. Parking lots are beyond full and otherwise sane people join into the crazy frenzy. This frenzy can cause stress and I have witnessed much rudeness, crabbiness and all variations of non-charitable behaviors. I like to go into this day with a spirit of adventure and good will. Otherwise, you just might punch somebody.
  2. If you are planning on trying to secure one of those elusive special buys like a Best Buy item, be prepared. My experience has been that people will line up more than 8 hours before the stores open. Black Friday weather traditionally varies from mild fall to dead of winter. If you plan on joining one of those outdoor lines, it can get VERY cold. And lonely, so bring a friend. About 8 years ago, I decided that I would brave those lines to purchase a computer a Best Buy. I arrived to the parking lot at 2 a.m. I was alone. I brought a chair, blanket and book on tape. The minutes passed so slowly. The store was due to open at 6 a.m. I had counted the number of shoppers ahead of me and felt I had a pretty good chance of getting on the the limited number of computers offered. The line grew and grew and then I noticed the line in front of me was also swelling. Cars would pull in a drop off the friends, families, neighbors and acquaintances of a single line-sitter. No one was policing the issue. I was frozen and needed a restroom break but I could not lose that space in line. At around 5:30 a.m., a Best Buy employee came by to try to get us all to sign up for their credit card. (we were captives) Then they started handing out vouchers to purchase items. The number of people ahead of me had doubled. The employee was holding a stack of vouchers and it was dwindling. By the time he reached me, there were no computers left to purchase. I could choose a more expensive model, of course. I had just stood in line for 4 hours in the freezing cold for NOTHING. Stand if you must but do this at your own risk.
  3. Dress for the day. It may be cold outside but it can become a sauna in the mall. I leave my heavy coat in the car and run inside. Comfort is key, but you can still look like a good holiday shopper. Comfortable shoes or boots, layered sweaters with pockets and stretchy pants are key. I also bring my cross-body purse for security (the frenzy is a perfect time for thieves as well) as well as to remain as hands-free as possible.
  4. Plan your payments. If you are a good holiday shopper and only use cash, be careful. You don't want to flash around a wad of cash. I only bring one or two credit cards. Most credit card companies offer additional protection for your purchases. And, I keep a special envelope for all receipts so they don't get lost in the bags.
  5. Keep your list handy and refer to it often. It can be so difficult to resist the impulse buys. Stay on task. And if you falter, remember to keep your receipts in case you come to your senses later.
  6. If you are in a mall with no shopping carts, the large shopping bags are a great way to keep track of many smaller bags. If you become too weighed down, take a time out and drop your packages off at your car. Be sure to indicate to those waiting for a spot that you are NOT leaving. That's just common courtesy.
  7. As your cars fills with all of your incredible bargains, keep it locked and parked in a secure location. I cover my bags with a blanket just to be sure I am not enticing any would-be robbers.
  8. Keep you energy up! Keep water bottles and snacks in the car. Restaurants are crowded on Black Friday, too. 
  9. Keep smiling. We are ushering in the holiday season. We are getting good deals. If you get to the breaking point, take a break or call it a day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Black Thursday the New Black Friday?

Day 319

Is Thursday the new Friday? From the looks of it, Black Friday may soon be called Black Thursday! And if Thursday is black, what is Friday? Darker black? 

Here is a list of just some of the stores opening on Thanksgiving Day:
Meijer: Open 24 hours but the Thursday sale begins at 6 a.m.
Gander Mountain: 9 a.m.
Sears: 8 p.m.
Walgreens: 9 a.m.
Walmart: 8 p.m.
KMart: 8 p.m.
Target: 9 p.m.
Toys R Us: 8 p.m.
Old Navy: Midnight (of the 23rd)
Sports Authority: Midnight (of the 23rd)
Best Buy: Midnight (of the 23rd)
Kohl's: Midnight (of the 23rd)

Many of the stores are offering staggering deals, for example, Walmart will have different specials every few hours. I also noticed that even things that don't generally go on sale, like iPads and video game systems will have special offers like a store gift card with purchase. Again, I recommend www.bfads.net  for the most up to date information.

So what does this mean? Call me old-fashioned but what ever happened to enjoying a day with the family? By 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, we are just settling in with pie and coffee. What do we do? Shoo out our guests because there is shopping to do? Maybe we should greet our guests with a carryout bag and send them back home to eat. Maybe we'll change Thanksgiving to Wednesday! It's CRAZY! Yes, there are good deals, but this is further evidence that the retailers keep getting us right where they want us: in frenzy mode. 

I am not sure what my plan will be this year. I encourage you all to do your homework and buy carefully. save your receipts. The best defense against the gigantic retail machine is a good offense so make your list and stick to it. But please, remember:  no "good deal" is better than quality time spent with good food and family.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cyber Black Friday Tips

Day 313

Over the last few years, online shopping has changed Black Friday. Many stores will offer the same door-busting deals on their websites as they offer in stores. Shopping in pajamas sounds great, so why not? Well-- it doesn't always work the same. (side note: I have witnessed many Black Friday shoppers actually wearing pajamas ... to stores. C'mon people! Get dressed!)

I started serious online BF shopping two years ago. Again, I can't stress enough the importance of planning ahead. I tried purchasing items from:

  1. Best Buy
  2. Kohl's
  3. Staples
  4. Meijer
  5. Target
  6. Victoria's Secret
  7. Walmart
  8. Old Navy
I had little success with Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and Meijer. Part of the reason is the sale start times will vary. When a store states it will open at 6 a.m., it opens at 6 a.m. The same online sale may begin at 4 a.m., 2 a.m. or midnight. It pays to start early, log onto your selected sites often and attempt your doorbuster purchases. You will not be the only one attempting and the sites are notoriously slow. And, some items will be "available in store only" so be SURE to read the fine print.

I have had great success with Kohl's. Not sure how it will go this year but for the last two years I have been able to fill my online "shopping cart" in advance! Then, once the sale begins, the prices are automatically adjusted. Free shipping is often included and Kohl's does a great job with distributing  Kohl's Cash or whatever other promotion they are having. If you have ever been in a Kohl's store on BF, you know the line wraps all the way around the store so I am a big fan on Kohl's online. Victoria's Secret has started their online sale on Thursday in the past so I can make my choices early and take advantage of their offers. Old Navy seems to offer quite a bit more online than in stores but the big sales are not guaranteed. 
The PROS and CONS:
Online PROS:
  1. You can shop from home (and it's perfectly OK to be in pajamas).
  2. There are better opportunities to get good information about products (salespeople are not readily available in stores).
  3. Plan ahead by visiting the site in advance to browse.
  4. Some retailers, like Amazon, are only online.
  5. There is less chance for impulse buys.
  6. You can create online accounts with your selected sites in advance to expedite the process. You can also join their mailing lists for special offers.
Online CONS:
  1. The sites can run very slowly or even shut down.
  2. Shipping is not always free and can really add up.
  3. Returns of online purchases are not as easy and could also involve another shipping charge.
  4. You have to wait for delivery.
  5. There are many times that the online picture of the item doesn't accurately reflect the product and sizing can be a problem. You can't really feel a blanket or pillow online!
Cyber Monday: This is the Monday after Black Friday. Years ago, this was to attract the shoppers who did not go out BF or were not successful. Online retailers learned pretty quickly that they had to be in the actual BF mix so I think Cyber-Monday has become under-whelming but still worth a look. Just check your favorite online retailers sites on Cyber-Monday to see what's up.

Amazon.com Lightning Deals: Online giant Amazon doesn't wait for BF. They offer "Lightning Deals" every day, in fact they are already ongoing. These are very limited time offers with a specific number to sell. They are doing a good job creating a "shopping frenzy" but shop carefully. Sometimes the lure of a "good deal" can override our good sense. I like Amazon overall and I love the new choice in toy packaging. For many toys you can opt for "Frustration-Free Packaging" in place of regular retail packaging. 

Next up: If you do plan on going out for BF shopping ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote--with style!

Day 311

It's election day! It's election day! Finally ... the annoying political robo-calls will end!  

Get out there and exercise your right (and this exercise doesn't hurt!) We have important choices to make today. My choice? I'll wear something thematic, of course! It's chilly so I'm thinking blue jeans, a white blouse and red jacket. Perhaps a scarf, still undecided.

VOTE!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Souvenir Stress

Day 304

During our recent week away I was faced with an ongoing problem for me, souvenir shopping. I referenced this in an earlier post when I finally realized that my friends and family don't want a souvenir t-shirt from my vacation. The word souvenir, after all, is French meaning memory or remembrance. They will have no memory of this exotic local, in fact only a reminder that they were not there. 

Still, souvenir shops call out to me. I can't buy t-shirts or shop local boutiques this year but I still wanted to bring something back for my grandson. Heck, I go to Target and want to buy a souvenir for my grandson. I want to spoil that boy rotten!  Alas, I looked and looked and found nothing that he doesn't already have or wouldn't flush down the toilet. 

A stroll through town on Coronado Island led us to a shop featuring products celebrating Navy Seals (as Coronado Island is a prominent training location). Ever the patriot, my husband decided that our grandson would love a Navy Seals t-shirt. "Great, but you'll have to pick it out yourself." I gave him a size range and walked away. 
5 minutes later I checked on his progress. He was still in adult sizes holding them up. 
10 minutes: salesgirl directs him to children's sizes (5 feet away)
15 minutes: looking at each and every design
20 minutes: rechecking each and every design
25 minutes: my psychic screams are not reaching him as he continues to pass by the best design
30 minutes: I'm bored out of my mind and he's stressing big time
35 minutes: "Just grab one!!!"
40 minutes: Success! But let's get one for our nephew, too! I thought he would kill me. He did pick the best design though, which gives me hope for my psychic powers.
45 minutes: Same shirt for both boys. We finally pay and leave.
50 minutes: I owe him three candy bars. He let's me know that, while he is very proud of my no-buy year, this is causing him a great deal of unnecessary stress and he hopes I appreciate it. 

Stress? I grew a patch of gray hair and gained 5 lbs. over that single incident.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Day 305

Surprisingly, I am not a big "Halloween person." One might think that the opportunity to costume would thrill me (and it does) but the whole scary thing is not for me. When my kids were growing up, though, I embraced Halloween wholeheartedly. The yard was decorated, I was a volunteer party mom and I toiled to created the perfect costumes from scratch every year.

My daughter was easy. Most years she was some variation of a princess, a Disney, butterfly or even tooth-fairy princess. I became quite skilled with yards and yards of tulle and satin. My son was easy, before he formed an opinion. His first few costumes were carefully crafted, a bag of donuts, a devil, an eight-limbed spider. But as he got older he would beg, "can I please buy a costume?" 

Buy a costume? Me? I don't think so. Anything you can buy, I can make better. My children wear handmade costumes. We tried taking him to the store so he could select a character. Then I would recreate said character adding all imaginable bells and whistles (and even sound effects.) Halloween would draw near and he would become sullen, yearning for a cheap, store-bought costume. We finally relented one year and my son was over the moon when my husband took him to the costume store on Halloween afternoon to find the final cheap,nylon ninja suit available. The edges were not finished and the material so thin that I thought it would tear apart. My son was never so happy on a Halloween.

Going forward, we allowed him to choose any costume, cheap store-bought, thrown together, or whatever he chose. I had to let go of the worry that the neighbors would think I had gone soft, or photos would suggest in the future that I had become lazy. This is the kids' day and they should wear what they like.

Fine. Fast forward several years and my daughter is now celebrating Halloween with her son. Having learned my lesson, I told her to take him to the store and let him pick. But no ... not her son! She will handcraft his costume! And she did. Last year he was an awesome pirate and this year a colorful dinosaur. The costumes are beautiful but I have a feeling there will come a day when he, too, will want the cheap ninja suit.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Regatta Dilemma

Day 300

During our week away, we got to enjoy a fun and exciting team-building activity. We joined a group of people attending the conference, formed teams and had a regatta! I have never participated in a sailing race before but we were assured that no experience was required. I think the idea was to join a group of people you didn't know and learn to work as a well-oiled machine in the confined space of a sailboat. I read it as a challenge to look ultra nautical-hip and enjoy the San Diego Harbor. 

I knew about this activity well in advance but could find no "what to wear" hints. I love to be properly attired for all themes so I googled "sailing attire." Entry after entry confirmed my worst fears: deck shoes are recommended. How on Earth could I regatta without Sperry Topsiders? I searched my shoe collection and found no Topsiders (I never recalled buying any but it was worth a look.) Not even any white-soled shoes (to avoid scuffing the deck, so they say.) 

My challenge does allow me to borrow items and the lovely gal next door has several pairs but her feet are tiny. I didn't think I should risk a blow-out. I couldn't find anyone to borrow Sperry Topsiders from. My anxiety over the improper footwear grew and grew. I even went to DSW and tried a pair on. Don't even ask me why. As I recalled from last time Sperry Topsiders were in fashion, they look horrible on me and are completely uncomfortable. Still, if I could, I would have bought them anyway.

The day before the regatta I had bugged my husband so much, he sought the advice of the hotel staff. What do we wear to a regatta? "Something comfortable." was all we got. So, we left the hotel with a backpack crammed with shoes, jackets, pants and shirts. I chose a pair of navy shorts and a white t-shirt with a snappy anchor on the front. And white flip-flops. I was so worried. Would they throw me off? Relegate me to non-Topsider team? Laugh me right out of San Diego Harbor? 

Turns out, nobody cared what shoes we wore. In fact, I was barefoot the whole time. We actually had crew-duties so I never even had time to wonder if I dressed appropriately. I handle a pretty mean jib-rope, though!