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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 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 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 If you have subscribed to 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: 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  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. 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.


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.