Monday, February 29, 2016

February 2016 Purchases

Happy Leap Day, everyone! I hope you make the most of today since it only comes around once every 4 years. So let's talk about what I bought this month. If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know that I blew my budget. It was totally worth it, but I'll have to cut back over the next few months. I really love everything I got though. Yes, I always say that, but it's also true.

CeCe by Cynthia Steffe Wellesley dress (aqua surf 0) via Amazon - This year my fiancé and I have three weddings to attend. Normally I would wear this $5 thrifted Ann Taylor silk dress, but since the weddings will be attended by the same circle of people, it would be nice to have another option so that I'm not always wearing the same thing. I settled on this mint floral dress, because I think it's perfect for garden/spring/summer weddings. The fit-and-flare silhouette is so flattering, and since the dress is very lightweight, I won't get too hot on the dance floor. Originally $138. Paid $47.22.

J.Crew Factory striped knit dress (black stripe XXS) - As much as I love stripes, I don't have a single striped dress in my closet. I've been looking to add one to my wardrobe ever since I threw away a well-worn version last year. This J.Crew Factory dress was an instant love! The casual shift silhouette is really versatile, and the length (the hem ends a few inches above the knee) makes my legs look really long. I took my usual XXS, and it's the perfect amount of slouchy-slim. The material is great too. It's thick and opaque with a hint of stretch (97% cotton, 3% elastane). Originally $79.50. Paid $54.50 + 20% off + 3% off ebates = $42.92. EDIT 03/13/2016: I ended up returning and rebuying this dress when it went on further sale since I hadn't worn it yet. Paid $47.50 + 30% off + 1.5% off ebates = $32.75.

Mackage quilted leather jacket (bordeaux XS) via Nordstrom Rack - This buttery-soft leather jacket was my favorite purchase of the month (maybe the year!) and an incredibly lucky find. For months it was on my Nordstrom wishlist, but I never bit the bullet because it was out of my price range. After it sold out, I kept hoping in vain that it would pop back, but it never did. Then one day earlier this month, I went to Nordstrom Rack for some retail therapy. After combing through the racks and not finding much, I was about to leave when I suddenly spotted an oxblood leather sleeve. Not daring to get my hopes up, I parted the clothes on the rack to find the exact jacket of my dreams. It was the only one left, and it was an XS. Trying not to hyperventilate, I told myself that it would probably be too big or too small as I ran walked to the fitting room. To my amazement, it was made for me. The silhouette was slim but roomy enough for a thin sweater. The leather was so rich and smooshy, and it smelled great (yes I'm a leather-sniffing weirdo). I especially love how the collar can be worn in multiple ways. Overall I'm very impressed by the quality of this jacket. Now I understand why so many people love Mackage. The only thing I didn't love was the price. Even at 60% off, it is one of the most expensive articles of clothing I have ever bought. I do love it though and hope to wear it for a long long time. Originally $690. Paid $276.

To compensate for some of the money I spent this month, I sold a few things on eBay after my closet clean-out. It was a considerable amount of work for not a lot of money, but someone has to do it.

So the total for this month comes to...
RETAIL: $907.50
SPENT: $355.97 (39.2% of MSRP)
SOLD: $85.42
NET: $270.55 

My goal for the year is to spend no more than $2400, which equates to $200 per month. Right now I'm at $2400 - $163.50 for January - $270.55 for February = $1965.95 for the next 10 months, which is an average of $196.59 per month.

Next month I plan to look for a suit and buy some more tees and tanks.

How did you do on your budget this month? As always, I'm linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Closet Inventory

A few weeks ago I attempted a KonMari-style clean-out of my closet (despite not having actually read the book). It's something I've been interested in doing for a while, but I could never seem to find the time. One weekend I finally decided to sit down and purge everything. My main reason for the clean-out was to reduce the amount of clutter in my closet, so I can actually see the things I want to wear, instead of only the things that I never wear.

The first thing I did was pull everything out of my closet and pile it all onto my bed. Here's a picture of the resulting chaos. Coats and shoes weren't included, because those were part of my hall closet purge. Also, I apologize for the poor image quality, but the lighting in my apartment is really bad!

After emptying the closet, I picked up each item, thought about how I felt in it, and then decided to either put it back into the closet, add it to the donate pile, or try to sell it. About a quarter went to the sell pile, a quarter to the donate pile, and everything else went back into the closet. It was difficult to let some pieces go, especially when they were new with tags (ack) or in like new condition. I kept feeling bad about how much money I had wasted, but ultimately I decided that it was better to let those pieces go rather than hold onto things that I never wore and even worse, made me feel guilty. I did keep a few iffy items though. They're currently on probation, so if I don't wear them enough in the next few months, I'll get rid of them.

Here's a picture of my newly clean closet (minus whatever was in the laundry at the time)! There's also a cat. ;)

My experiment was such a success that I went on to purge the hall closet and my fiancé's closet! I think it really helped to take out everything and then decide what to put back. In the past when I've cleaned out my closet, I left everything inside initially and only removed items. In the first scenario, you choose what to keep, whereas in the second one, you choose what to discard. By  keeping only the best pieces, I was able to get rid of even more of the mediocre stuff.

So what was I left with at the end of the day? Loving numbers, I decided to tally it all up.

Coats: 6
Jackets: 7
Blazers: 5
Vests: 2
Total: 20

Sweaters: 7
Sweatshirts: 3
Cardigans: 8 
Button-downs: 13
Blouses: 11
Tees: 15
Tanks: 6
Total: 63

Jeans: 9
Casual pants: 3
Dress pants: 2
Skirts: 4
Shorts: 4
Total: 22

Dresses: 10

Boots: 5
Sneakers: 3
Flats: 14
Sandals: 5
Flip-flops: 2
Total: 29

Totes: 3
Crossbody/shoulder bags: 8
Clutches/wallets: 6
Total: 17

Hats: 3
Belts: 10
Scarves: 12
Total: 25


That's still a pretty large number, but I know it's significantly less than what I had before. To prevent another huge closet purge in the future, I'll try to be even more thoughtful about what I add to my wardrobe. I would also try the take-everything-out approach again in the future!

Have you tried the take-everything-out approach for cleaning your closet?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Suit Yourself

In my last budget post, I mentioned that I'm in the process of looking for an internship for the summer. That means I've been thinking about what I want to do when I (eventually) graduate, updating my resumé, writing a new cover letter, talking to students in my field who are already working full-time, and making a shortlist of companies that I'm interested in. It also means that I need to get a new suit. My last one was from about 6 years ago, so you can say it's looking a little out-of-date. In fact, I wore it to a recent career fair and felt super frumpy! That's the opposite of how a good suit should make you feel, which is powerful and confident.

Anyway, I started researching women's suiting options a few weeks ago and came to several conclusions about what I like and dislike. First of all, I know that I want a pant suit and not a skirt suit. A skirt suit is more conservative, and a skirt would be easier to fit, but it also labels me as "other" in an already male-dominated field. Also I just feel more confident and less self-conscious in pants. Secondly I prefer a two-button jacket. I looked at some pictures of jackets with one, two, and three buttons, and overall two buttons seem like the perfect balance. Three buttons look a little stodgy, and one button is too casual. Thirdly (and this is a personal preference), I like black best as a suit color. I think navy is hard to pair with shoes, and charcoal gray looks a little too casual. Lastly I'm looking for pants that aren't super baggy. For some reason, suit pants are always ill-fitting! Maybe that's fine for men, but it's very unflattering on women.

From my preliminary search, I narrowed my options down to a few mall retailers that fit me decently well. The early front-runners are:

1. Banana Republic

This jacket and pant combo is a relatively affordable option at $308 full-price. Since Banana Republic frequently has 40% off sales (although watch for the exclusions), this could potentially be as cheap as $185 before any additional discounts. That's not bad at all for a suit that's 95% wool!

2. Ann Taylor

Most of the pieces from these two suits are online exclusives, which means no try-on unless I order them. The first one is made from tropical wool, which is kind of misleading when you consider that the material is actually only 41% wool. The price is similar to Banana Republic at $327 full-price, and Ann Taylor also frequently has 40% off sales. I really like the silhouette of the jacket, although the pants (which are lined) don't seem slim enough. The second suit is made from all-season stretch fabric, whatever that means. Apparently it's 49% polyester, 48% viscose, and 3% elastane. I'm a little concerned about how breathable the material will be, but the jacket and pants are the cheapest option at $267 full-price.

3. J.Crew

Of course this list would be incomplete without my beloved J.Crew, even if their quality is iffy at times. This is the only suit mentioned here that is 100% wool. Of course you pay for the quality; this jacket and these pants cost a total of $396. J.Crew sometimes has 30% off everything sales, but I suspect those might be getting more rare in the future as J.Crew tries to wean us off the perpetual discounts.

So these are my top contenders. I wish I could afford this Theory blazer and pant combo, but I'm afraid my student budget just isn't up to the task.

Do you have a suit that you like? If so, where is it from? What do you look for in a suit?