Saturday, December 15, 2018

Doctor of Philosophy

I successfully passed my PhD defense yesterday! And best of all, my committee passed me with no revisions, so I'm done as soon as I submit my paperwork on Monday! The defense itself went very smoothly, about as well as I could have hoped for. I was a little nervous before the actual presentation, but I felt prepared, and once I got going, the nerves dissipated. I was able to start strong and finish strong. During the closed session, my committee mostly asked clarification questions about my research, which I was able to answer easily. After my defense, one of my committee members (a more junior faculty member) told me that he thought it was one of the best defense presentations he had ever attended, which made me feel proud. Overall, I'm very happy with the end result, and I'm glad I can finally close this chapter of my life.

Right now, everything still feels pretty surreal. The best way I can describe it is by comparing it to that feeling you got when you lost a baby tooth as a kid. Your tongue keeps returning to feel the gap over and over again, because it's so strange and unfamiliar. I think it'll take a while for the reality to sink in. Yesterday after my defense, J and I got dinner with a couple friends who attended my presentation to support me. Then he and I went to our favorite cocktail bar to enjoy a celebratory drink. Today we're throwing a post-defense/holiday party, so hopefully things will feel more real after that.

For the rest of this month and also next month, my plan is to be a total bum! I'm going to sleep in every day, do all of the fun stuff that I've wanted to do but didn't have time for before, watch way too much TV, read all the books on my reading list, catch up on the maintenance/chores that I've let slide for the last couple months, and clean up our place. Also, I want to lose my extra dissertation weight and get back in shape (in time for J's family ski trip in early January). There's a bunch of other stuff I need to do before I start my new job in February, but I'll worry about that in a couple weeks.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Exciting News

I have a couple big announcements. First of all, my PhD defense is this coming Friday! If all goes well, I will be done with grad school forever (minus paperwork and hopefully minor revisions). This has been a long time coming, and I'm really excited. So far I'm not too nervous yet. My dissertation is done, my slides are done, and I already held a practice defense. For the rest of the week, I'm planning to polish my talk some more, make paper copies of everything for my committee, and figure out what I'm going to do for refreshments. We'll see if the nerves hit later.

In other news, I accepted a job offer! The whole thing came together really quickly, much faster than I had anticipated. I did three rounds of interviews with this company in the span of about a month. It was grueling, but I'm pleased with the end result. The work sounds interesting, challenging, and flexible in scope. It's a bit of a stretch for my current skill set, but I think it'll ultimately be a good move for me career-wise. The compensation is fair (maybe even more than fair), and the benefits are good. The only downside is that first I have to relocate to a small East Coast city for 6 months of training. Then I'm moving to the Seattle area! (I'm already dreaming about all the hiking, rock climbing, and skiing I'll be doing in the Pacific Northwest...)

Last but certainly not least, J is going to move with me after all! When we had talked about it before, he thought it wasn't a good time in his career to make a move just yet. However, after we came back from our trip to Europe, he said that he had given it a lot of thought, and he felt that it was only going to become harder to move later on. We still need to work out the exact details and timing, but I feel really good that he agreed to come with me. Right now our tentative plan is to do long-distance for 6 months and then move together. I think long-distance will definitely be challenging, but at least we have a target end date.

You know, I'm amazed how everything came together in the end. Just a month ago, I was stressing out about well, everything. Now it's all pretty much settled. I feel like there's a lesson in here somewhere. I should learn to trust that things will work out, because they usually do. Now I'm looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

November 2018 Budget

November has been an extremely eventful month! Between wrapping up my dissertation, submitting it to my committee, traveling to Europe, getting sick, doing interviews, and trying to schedule my PhD defense (it's in 2 weeks!), I've been very busy. I've also been (over)indulging in retail therapy. I already know I tend to shop more when I'm stressed out, so that was definitely a factor, plus I picked up a little souvenir while I was in Europe. At least most of my purchases were pretty practical. Let's take a look at what I bought this month.

Banana Republic washable merino wool boyfriend cardigan (burgundy red XXS) - I love this cardigan! If my size wasn't sold out, I would buy it in more colors. It's the perfect boyfriend fit without being oversized. It's long enough to cover my bum but not so long that it overwhelms my frame. I like the lightweight merino and the fact that it's washable. I've only tried to wash it once so far in cold water and laid it flat to dry. It turned out fine albeit slightly wrinkled afterwards. Next time I will most likely handwash and use a cool iron. If you like cardigans as much as I do, I highly recommend it. I found it to be true to size. Originally $78. Paid $40.91.

Everlane the authentic stretch mid-rise skinny (washed black 24) - As I mentioned in this post, I've been looking for a new pair of grey skinny jeans. I tried to find something at the usual suspects (Nordstrom Rack, Amazon, J.Crew), but nothing fit my criteria (true grey, no weird embellishments, small ankle opening, mostly cotton, 28"-29" inseam). Then I read Kimi's review of the new Everlane skinny jeans, and I immediately ordered a couple pairs to try out. I chose the mid-rise, which turns out to still be relatively high rise. Also, the sizing is inconsistent between different colors. The washed black colorway seems to run large. I ordered both the 24 and 25, and the 24 is a better fit (I wear 25 in most denim brands). It's a hair tight in the waistband (I'm a little overweight at the moment), but the 25 was too large overall and felt loose/stretched out. However, I later ordered the true black in size 24, which I couldn't even get over my hips. If I were to order another pair, I would probably go with my true size 25. The interesting thing about these is that they look like real jeans, but they kind of feel like yoga pants. They're not stiff at all and are actually pretty stretchy. The material is not the thickest, but it's also not paper thin. I think they're worth a try if you're in the market for denim. Originally $68. Paid $50.

(not pictured) Chelsea28 jacquard side button tank (grey micro XS) via Nordstrom Rack - This tank was an impulse purchase. I went to Nordstrom Rack to return a few things and then of course had to browse around afterwards since I was already there. I've been looking for some pretty camisoles and tanks to wear under cardigans, and this seems to fit the bill. The pattern kind of reminds me of a Chinese qipao. I was surprised to see that it was made of 100% rayon (I had assumed it was polyester), so I do have to be a little careful in terms of laundering. Originally $49. Paid $6.12.

J.Crew tartan scarf (red multi) - I purged the majority of my scarves before I moved in with J, so I only have one winter scarf. I wanted a new plaid scarf that would go well with my winter coats, and this fits the bill perfectly. This white, red, and green Christmas plaid somehow "matches" my red lady day coat, my camel cocoon coat, and my navy peacoat. It's also very soft and pretty big. Originally $59.50. Paid $30.61.

J.Crew ribbed beanie with faux-fur pom-pom (ivory) - I bought this hat for my trip to Europe and ended it wearing it every single day. It's not the warmest, so I wouldn't wear it in the depths of winter, but it did keep my head warm when the temperatures were in the high 30s to low 40s. It fits my big head pretty well, and I love the large faux-fur pom. Originally $39.50. Paid $20.32.

Madewell medium perfect leather belt (pecan S) - I've been wearing my cognac leather pieces nonstop, so I thought it would make sense to also add a cognac leather belt. I instantly knew I wanted to buy Madewell's version, because it matches my bag perfectly. I'm really happy with the purchase. The leather is very soft, and the width of the belt is perfect. Originally $45. Paid $36.75.

Longchamp large le pliage neo (black) - I purchased my first Longchamp Le Pliage Neo back in April 2014 (when it was still called the Planetes), and it instantly became my everyday tote bag. I used it for school, and I also used it for conferences/interviews/career fairs. Earlier this year, I noticed that it was starting to look shabby after 4 years of nearly daily use. The bottom had little holes, there were permanent scratches on the nylon body, and the leather trim was dotted with tiny teeth marks (my ex-fiance's cat used to like chewing on the corners for some reason). I decided to replace it after graduation. However, when I found out that we were going to Europe, I researched the price of buying it overseas and realized that it was considerably cheaper. For example, the bag costs US$190 while it only costs €115 right now. The current exchange rate is €1 ≈ US$1.13, so that comes out to about US$130. Once you factor in the VAT refund (varies by country but usually 10-12%), it definitely made more financial sense to buy it in the Netherlands versus in the US. My VAT refund ended up being €12, which has already gone back on my credit card. I was worried about going through the VAT refund process, because I had never done it before, but it ended up being pretty fast and easy with GlobalBlue. They do take a cut, but they also streamline the process, so I'm okay with it. Anyway, now I have a great souvenir from my trip! Originally $190. Paid $117.13.

RETAIL: $529.00
PAID: $301.84 (57.0% MSRP)

SUMMARY: During Q2, I spent $453.82. During Q3, I spent $549.52. For Q4, I have spent $776.48 to date, making me officially over budget for the year, and there's still December left.

How did you do on your budget this month? And have you ever bought a handbag in Europe, because it was cheaper?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving (and Thanksgiving Sales)

Happy Thanksgiving, America! I am back from my European vacation just in time for the holidays. Perfect planning, I know. My trip to Amsterdam and Bruges was amazing! Unfortunately, I got sick while I was there, and I am still recovering. Since we don't have any special plans for Turkey Day, I'm going to just veg out for the rest of the week. When I feel better, I'll put together a post about what we saw/did/ate!

Obviously, Thanksgiving is synonymous with eating too much food and shopping Black Friday sales, but it's also a reminder to count our blessings. I want to take a moment to talk about what I feel grateful for this year. These are things I normally take for granted, but not everyone is as fortunate, so I should appreciate what I have. First of all, I am grateful that I am in generally good health, as are J and my parents. One benefit of being sick is that it always reminds me of how important good health actually is. With all of the wildfires that have happened, I feel grateful that I have a roof over my head this Thanksgiving. Not everyone is as lucky. I appreciate that I have had the opportunity to pursue a PhD, which is a luxury not everyone can afford. Also, I feel enormously grateful for the progress I have made with my mental health. I honestly can't imagine taking the trip we just came back from a few years ago at the peak of my anxiety. Last but certainly not least, I am grateful for J, my friends, and my family.


On a lighter note, here are the Thanksgiving sales I am most excited about. I confess that I already ordered a bunch of stuff. Probably too much actually, but most likely not everything will work out. (By the way, if I find any other exciting deals, I'll come back and update this page, so check back.)

BACKCOUNTRY // Up to 40% off select styles (plus 10% cash back through eBates). Backcountry is one of my favorite stores for outdoor clothing and gear. I am currently eyeing a new pair of climbing shoes for myself, although I may wait to see if Santa brings me some for Christmas. My pick is this hooded Patagonia down jacket, which rarely goes on sale past 30% off. If you didn't already know, I kind of have a love affair with Patagonia. I'm a big fan of their products and their company mission. I own the non-hooded version of this jacket and wear it all the time. In fact, it was the only coat I brought with me to Europe, because it's warm, lightweight, and packable.

BANANA REPUBLIC // 50% off with no exclusions through 11/24/2018 (plus 8% cash back through eBates). I own this merino boyfriend cardigan in burgundy, which I really like. I just ordered this strappy ivory cami, which I hope works out. I also like this washable silk cami and this longer open cardigan.

GAP // 50% off with code BLKFRIDAY and an additional 10% off with code TREAT through 11/22/2018 (plus 10% cash back through eBates). I love buying sweaters and PJs from Gap. This year they have some really great offerings in my opinion. I own last year's version of this 100% cotton cable-knit sweater. I also like this turtleneck tunic sweater and this popcorn sweater. I ordered these flannel shorts and these soft joggers.

J.CREW // 40-50% off your purchase with code GOLDENDEAL through 11/22/2018 (plus 6% cash back through eBates) 50% off your purchase with code TGIF through 11/24/2018 (plus 10% cash back through eBates). I bought this faux-fur pom-pom hat right before my trip and ended up wearing it every single day. It's not the warmest, but it makes me feel cute and fits my head really well. I ordered this Christmas plaid scarf. On Black Friday morning, I also ordered this camel sweater-blazer, this fair isle sweater, these black jeans, this lace tank top, this ivory cami, and this striped tee. My other picks include my favorite coat (I own a previous year's version) and this longer camel cardigan.

MADEWELL // 25% off your purchase with code DEALWITHIT through 11/25/2018 (plus 5% cash back through eBates). Now is a great time to get their jeans or bags on sale. I bought the zip-top mini transport crossbody a while back, and I really like it. It was the only bag I brought on my Europe trip, because it's pretty lightweight and surprisingly spacious. I've been on a cognac leather kick recently, so I ordered this belt to match my bag.

NORDSTROM // New markdowns now through 11/26/2018. If it's more convenient for you, you can buy Madewell items through Nordstrom. They will price match as long as the same color/size is in stock. I love Nordstrom's return policy, so I buy through them whenever possible. I ordered this pearl-embellished tee, these glitter loafers (what can I say, I'm attracted to shiny things), and this faux shearling coat. I actually saw a ton of chic women in Europe wearing similar coats, and it makes me want one too.

NORDSTROM RACK // Extra 30% off clearance items and free shipping sitewide through 11/26/2018. I've been shopping at Nordstrom Rack a lot, because I frequently find really awesome deals. I prefer shopping in store for the best selection, but I realize your mileage may vary depending on your local store's selection. My favorite things to buy here are jeans, bags, shoes, and bras.

SOKO GLAM // 30% off sitewide with code SGBF18 (plus 6% cash back through eBates). Now is a great time to restock your favorite Asian skincare products or to try out a new one. I own and recommend the CosRX low-pH good morning cleanser, the Missha time revolution first treatment essence, and the CosRX oil-free ultra moisturizing lotion. I am thinking about ordering ordered the CosRX advanced snail 96 mucin power essence, the Etude House moistfull collagen emulsion, the Acwell licorice pH balancing cleansing toner, and the Dr. G brightening peeling gel set. If you decide to order, I'd really appreciate if you would use my referral link!

What do you feel grateful for this Thanksgiving? And what sales are you shopping?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Life Lately

It's been a while since I posted about general life stuff! I find that I need to be in a certain mood to write this kind of post, and lately I've just been too busy/distracted to really sit down and collect my thoughts. The biggest thing going on in my life right now is wrapping up the PhD. This past month I have been working on a research paper that is based on part of my dissertation work, which I am submitting soon to the top conference in my field. The decision doesn't come out until next March, but I hope it gets accepted! Now that I'm done with the paper, I can finally start working again on the last section of my dissertation. I would love to wrap that up soon, so I can submit a draft to my committee before everyone leaves for the holidays.

Also, I started casually looking for jobs again, and by casually, I mean, I'll-apply-if-I-happen-to-come-across-an-interesting-job-and-if-it's-in-a-city-I-want-to-move-to,-but-I'm-not-really-looking-that-hard-right-now. I initially started the process last fall, but I decided to put it on hold, because it was taking up too much time and preventing me from actually finishing the PhD. I got 3 offers at the time, but I felt like I could do better and turned them all down. Hopefully, I don't come to regret that decision, haha. Then again, I'm not sure I want to start working right away anyway. Since I still have some savings from before, I wouldn't mind taking time off after graduation to be a bum, travel, and detox from the whole PhD experience.

You never know how things will go though. So I applied for a position about a month ago, and things are moving faster than I expected. I already did two interviews with the company, and they want to fly me out for a third in-person interview. I would still like to explore my other options, so I've been trying to put the brakes on. We'll see how that goes. Also, my job search is complicated by my relationship with J. Right now he and I live together in the same city. However, there just aren't a lot of good opportunities for me here, and I don't want to stay in the area long term. Ultimately I want to move to the West Coast, ideally California or Washington. We've discussed the possibility of moving there together, which he is open to, but I understand that it's not a good time in his career right now to make a move. So there's a lot of uncertainty. I worry about what's going to happen to us in the future if/when I move, and the whole situation is stressing me out. I want to trust that things will ultimately work out, but I really struggle with it since I have generalized anxiety. Anyway, thanks for listening (reading?), and sorry if all this is kind of a downer.

On a lighter note, I am going to the Netherlands and Belgium next week! J has to go to Amsterdam for work, and we decided to turn the trip into an extended vacation. Honestly, I could use the break, and I'm looking forward to checking out the museums, the canals, and the local architecture in and around Amsterdam. I'm also looking forward to eating some Indonesian food (Indonesia was a Dutch colony) and going to Belgium for Belgian chocolates, waffles, and beer! (Yes, I travel to eat.) I expect we'll be doing lots of walking in chilly weather, so I'm prepared to bring warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes. Still need to plan our exact itinerary and what to pack!

How do you deal with the stress of uncertainty when you're faced with circumstances that are beyond your control? And do you have any recommendations for what to see/do/eat in the Netherlands or Belgium?

Monday, November 5, 2018

Your Vote Matters

Tomorrow (November 6th) is Election Day here in America. I hope those of you who are eligible will go out to the polls and exercise your right as American citizens. As an immigrant from a country without democracy, I cherish the privilege we have in this country, and I cast my ballot last week. Every single vote matters right now. Many congressional, governor, and local races all over the country are very close, and the effects of these elections could have a lasting impact on our society for years to come. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to make sure that your beliefs are being represented and that your voice is being heard. Please go out there and vote. Let's  create a brighter future for ourselves, our families, our friends, our country, and our world.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 2018 Budget

October turned out to be a very spendy month! I'm not going to make any excuses for myself this time. I honestly just had a serious case of grabby hands and made a couple big impulse purchases. I bought a pair of boots and not one but TWO purses. It turns out that browsing Nordstrom Rack is a very dangerous pastime. Overall, I'm really happy with all of my purchases. I thought long and hard about whether I would get enough use to justify keeping them all, and I concluded in the end that each piece would have a place in my wardrobe. Without further ado, let's talk about what I bought this month.
Madewell whisper cotton tank (white wash XS, similar) - Unlike my other purchases, this was actually a need instead of a want. I am constantly on the lookout for flowy tank tops that are made of cotton or linen. I wear them year round, frequently layered under a cardigan or jacket. Unfortunately, they never seem to last very long. Either they develop these annoying little holes in the front near the hem (does anyone know how to prevent this??), they get warped in the wash, or they get stained accidentally. I probably go through at least 5 tanks/tees a year. Anyway, I like the fit of this one (I went a size up from my usual XXS at Madewell for a more casual look), and I was pleasantly surprised that the white wasn't too sheer with a nude bra. Unfortunately, the material is rather thin, so I expect this tank to develop holes too. Originally $18.50. Paid $12.09.

Madewell mini transport crossbody (English saddle, also here) - This cognac leather bag has been on my wishlist for ages, but I could never pulled the trigger because I couldn't justifying paying full price for it (it's usually excluded from Madewell's sales). When I saw it on sale at Nordstrom Rack recently, I finally went for it! I really enjoy the simple silhouette of this bag, and the shade of cognac is perfect (not too brown and not too tan). It's also a good size and can fit all of my essentials, including my Kindle Paperwhite. If I had to nitpick, I think they could have done a better job with the shoulder strap. It's a little thin and is unfinished on one side. I do like that you can adjust the length. I put mine on the shortest setting. Also, the bag doesn't have much internal organization. It only has two slip pockets and no zip pocket. Overall, I'm willing to overlook the design flaws, because I just really like the way it looks, and I can imagine pairing it with lots of outfits. Originally $148. Paid $92.55.

Born Clements boots (brown full grain 6) - Maybe this is cliche, but I like matching leather, so of course I wanted to buy a pair of cognac boots to go with my new cognac purse. I was specifically looking for ankle boots, because I find them to be more versatile and more convenient than tall boots. Also, because I walk to school nowadays, I wanted a pair that was comfortable enough to commute in without looking like comfort shoes. I was pleasantly surprised to find these lace-up boots from Born that look pretty similar to these Frye boots. When I think of Born, I think practical but matronly, similar to Clarks or Birkenstock. I'm happy to report that these boots are actually surprisingly stylish. They have an almond toe, which I find very flattering, and the leather feels high quality. Also, they're extremely comfortable! The padding of the insole is great, and there's a zipper that allows side entry as well as laces that let you customize the fit. The laces are a bit long, but I actually laced them using a special method that shortens them. Also, the shade of cognac doesn't exactly match my bag (that's okay), and the smooth leather may be prone to scuffs and scratches, so I need to be mindful of polishing these boots regularly. Originally $165. Paid $111.07.

Loeffler Randall medium rider satchel (black, other sale colors and styles) - This is one of my other dream bags, and I highly highly recommend it! I've long admired the Loeffler Randall rider on other bloggers (see the larger version on Jean from Extra Petite). It's exactly the sort of bag I adore: structured silhouette, clean lines, sturdy leather, neutral color, and can be worn in a variety of ways. The most amazing thing about this bag is its incredibly thoughtful internal organization. It has two large main compartments (one has a slip pocket, and the other has a zip pocket and a slip pocket), a smaller outer compartment with a slip pocket, and a slip pocket on the back of the purse. That's a lot of pockets! It's so nice to have everything organized for a change, instead of needing to rifle through my purse every time I have to pull out my keys or my wallet! Also, there are a variety of ways to wear this bag. You can hold it by the top handle, shorten the strap to wear as a shoulder bag, or wear it as a crossbody with the strap long. Honestly, this is one of the best designed handbags I have ever seen. My one complaint is that it's a little heavy since the leather is so sturdy. Other than that, it's perfect! I got it in black, because I have a lot of black shoes, and I like that matchy-matchy look. Also I needed to replace my black Rebecca Minkoff bag, which has seen better days. Originally $475. Paid $258.93.

RETAIL: $806.50
TOTAL: $474.64 (58.8% of MSRP)

SUMMARY: During Q2, I spent $453.82. During Q3, I spent $549.52. After this month, I am officially over budget for the year. I'm going to try to keep my spending relatively low for the rest of 2018, but honestly I don't know how successful I'll be. As I mentioned in my fall/winter wardrobe wishlist, I actually do need to buy a couple more pairs of jeans to replace old worn out versions. Also I tend to go a little nuts in December when the winter clearance sales begin, so we'll see.


I bought a couple more skincare products this month. I've only been using them for a little bit, but I have mixed feelings about them both. Here are some of my preliminary thoughts.

DHC deep cleansing oil (4.1 fl oz) - I wanted to try double cleansing, which is an important step in Asian skincare routines, and this cleansing oil is one of the most popular products. It seems to work well enough and takes off makeup/sunscreen, but even a small bottle is pretty expensive, and I can't help but wonder if I could achieve similar results with a cheaper oil. If anyone has recommendations on what I should try after I finish this bottle, please let me know! Originally $21. Paid $21.00.

Klairs freshly juiced vitamin drop - Every skincare blogger seems to rave about the miracle benefits of vitamin C serum, so I wanted to try one out for myself. This version uses a weaker stabilized form of L-ascorbic acid that's more shelf-stable and also cheaper. I haven't used it long enough to see any noticeable effect, but I don't like how it's kind of oily feeling. Since this is my first vitamin C serum, I'm not sure if that's normal or not. Again, I'm curious to hear what other people think, and I welcome any suggestions. Originally $23.50. Paid $23.50.

So how did you do on your budget this month? What are your dream handbags? Do you double cleanse and/or use vitamin C serum?

Friday, October 26, 2018

My Fall/Winter Wardrobe Wishlist

It's like someone flipped a switch around here, and all of a sudden it's fall. As much as I love this season, I think it can be pretty challenging to dress for. Right now my neck of the woods is in that transitional period where it's chilly in the mornings and evenings but relatively warm during the day. That means it's too chilly to wear what I've been wearing all summer but too warm still for my winter clothes. Also some of my wardrobe workhorses have finally given up the ghost, and I need to start replacing them. All this leaves me feeling once again like I have nothing to wear in the morning.

To breathe new life into my wardrobe, I would like to add some fresh pieces to supplement what I already own. First, let's talk about color palette. My summer color palette consisted of white/ivory, denim, blue, stripes, heather grey with accents of blush and black. I still like most of these colors for fall/winter, although optic white and blush feel too spring/summer to me. I think my fall/winter color palette will be black, blue/denim, heather grey, burgundy, and camel with accents of cognac and ivory.

(clockwise) camel sweater, ivory cami (similar), black bag (50% off, ordered to try), cognac bag (bought recently), brown boots, cognac belt, black jeans, grey jeans

Black. I have this weird thing about wearing dark colors near my face (I think it makes me look sallow), so no black sweaters for me. I already have a black puffer vest that I wear all the time. It's the perfect layer for transitional weather. Also, I already own several pairs of black shoes, including these flats, these sneakers, a pair of knee-high boots, and a pair of loafers, so I'm good there. I do need to replace my old ripped black jeans from J.Crew. I bought them on a whim back in Fall 2014 and wore them so much that the knees are now completely worn out (they originally had small knee rips). I want to replace them with a pair of black skinny jeans that aren't distressed and don't look like leggings (maybe something like this pair but with more dimension, not just flat black). Based on the selection I've seen so far, this might be a tall order. I would also like to upgrade my beloved black Rebecca Minkoff purse that I wore all last year, which has seen better days. I'm currently lusting after this beauty, which is 50% off (ordered to try)!

Blue. I already have a navy turtleneck sweater and a navy sweater-blazer from J.Crew. Also I have a beautiful navy peacoat that I really ought to wear more often than I do. In addition, I own a couple pairs of blue jeans (but I need to get my favorite Hudson jeans repaired, because the button somehow fell out) and an old J.Crew chambray shirt. If I added anything else blue, it would be another pair of classic blue skinny jeans with no extra embellishments, but that's not a super high priority.

Heather grey. I already own several grey sweaters, so I'm banned from buying any more. However, I would like to buy a new pair of grey jeans. I used to own a pair of grey Siwy jeans that I wore all the time, but I had to throw them away after finding a big hole in the crotch. To replace them, I want a plain simple pair without any extra embellishments or details (like this pair).

Burgundy. I already own all the burgundy pieces I need. My beloved Mackage leather jacket (I bought it for a great price years ago and still wear it all the time) is burgundy, and I just bought a new pair of burgundy pants last month.

Camel. During the winter, I wear my J.Crew camel cocoon coat all the time. It's still one of my all-time favorite coats. Warm, great for layering, and goes with everything. What I would like to add is a thick camel cardigan, something warm and cozy to bundle up in.

Cognac. I love the idea of cognac accessories for fall, and I just recently acquired this crossbody bag that I've wanted for ages. I've been eyeing the matching cognac belt, and.I'd like to get a pair of cognac ankle boots that are both stylish and good for walking long distances. I'm currently deciding between this pair and this pair.

Ivory. I own a few ivory silk blouses and a cream colored cable sweater. I would like to add a silky ivory cami for layering under cardigans.

Miscellaneous. Maybe a fun patterned/colorful scarf that fits into my palette. And a few more cardigans! I actually wear cardigans year round, even during the summer. My boyfriend likes to joke that I look like a librarian when I wear one, but hey there's nothing wrong with that!

What's on your fall/winter wardrobe wishlist?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Sale Alert: Madewell at Nordstrom Rack

Quick PSA for you guys today. If you're a fan of Madewell like me, be sure to scope out the selection at Nordstrom Rack! It's a great opportunity to find stuff at a significant discount. I usually prefer to shop in store (you never know what you'll find), but sometimes the website has good deals too. For example, get your hands on a Madewell mini transport crossbody bag on the Nordstrom Rack website for 43% off! That's the best deal I've ever seen, since the bag never gets marked down at Madewell, and it's usually excluded from promotions. Even when it is included, the discount never exceeds 30% off. Right now it's available in 3 different colors at that price: black, English saddle, and petal pink. I picked up an English saddle (cognac) one from my local Nordstrom Rack store a couple weeks ago, and I adore it. Check out the rest of the selection too. Happy shopping!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Dupe Comparison: Pureology Hydrate versus Kirkland Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner

In my post about hair care mistakes, I mentioned that I had recently switched to using sulfate-free products at the recommendation of my hair stylist. She suggested that I try the Pureology Hydrate line, because their products are very moisturizing, and my hair is quite dry. Since the full-size bottles are pretty expensive, I decided to buy travel size versions of the shampoo and conditioner first to see if they would work well for my hair. I used both the shampoo and the conditioner for about a month. The small bottles actually lasted a surprisingly long time, even though each one is only 1.7 fl oz, because you only need a little bit of product. Also, I've been trying to wash my hair less frequently to avoid further stripping the moisture. I didn't care for the shampoo very much (keep reading for why), but I loved the conditioner. However, because the price is so high, I started looking for a cheaper alternative.

After doing some research online, I discovered that Costco had a possible dupe: the Kirkland Moisture line. Personally I'm not a Costco member, but luckily my boyfriend is. Like Pureology, Kirkland Moisture is sulfate-free, paraben-free, and 100% vegan. Unlike Pureology, it's extremely affordable. So on our next trip to Costco, I picked up the duo to try them out.

Before I get to the reviews and comparison, here is a brief description of my hair type. I have naturally wavy hair (2a curl type) that's not very thick, but it is pretty voluminous. When there's a lot of humidity, it turns kind of curly and frizzy. My scalp is on the oily side, so I usually need to wash my hair every 2-3 days. However, my ends are dry, so when I go too long without a haircut, I tend to get split ends. Nowadays, in addition to shampoo and conditioner, I use a leave-in conditioner every time I wash my hair, and I apply a hair mask every couple weeks. I usually let my hair air-dry (which gives me slightly wavy hair), but sometimes I blow-dry (which gives me mostly straight hair).

Air-dried waves after plopping (highly recommend if you have wavy or curly hair!), which boosts my curl type to 2b

Shampoo Comparison

This shampoo smells very herbal/medicinal, which I don't really like. Also, it hardly lathers at all, which I also don't like (typical of sulfate-free shampoos though). However, it is very moisturizing. On the first day after washing, my hair looks great. The ends feel very soft and smooth. On day 2, my roots start looking oily, and my scalp feels a little itchy. I have to resort to using dry shampoo, which I normally don't need until day 3. On day 3, my scalp feels pretty itchy, like there's too much oil build-up. When I use this shampoo, I need to wash my hair every 2 days (instead of 3) to avoid the itchy phase. In terms of price, a 1.7 fl oz bottle of shampoo costs $7.50, a 8.5 fl oz bottle costs $28.50, and a 33.8 fl oz bottle costs $66.
- Pros: Very moisturizing
- Cons: Smells very herbal/medicinal, causes too much oil build-up/itching, expensive

This shampoo smells sort of sweet and floral, which I like better although it's still not my favorite scent. I really like how it lathers like normal shampoo. It is also reasonably moisturizing, although not as moisturizing as the Pureology Hydrate shampoo. My hair looks pretty good on day 1, and my ends feel very soft compared to when I use normal shampoo. On day 2, no scalp itching, but my roots start to get a little oily. By the end of day 3, my roots feel too oily again, and my scalp is a little itchy, so I need to wash my hair. In terms of price, a 33.8 fl oz bottle costs $9.99 at Costco.
- Pros: Pretty moisturizing, affordable
- Cons: Still causes a little too much oil build-up

WINNER: Kirkland Moisture Shampoo

Conditioner Comparison

I love this conditioner! Out of all the conditioners I've ever tried in my life (mostly drugstore), I think it does the best job of smoothing and moisturizing my hair without weighing it down (I only apply it to the ends). Also it smells really good, like peppermint. Used in combination with my holy grail leave-in conditioner, my hair looks and feels great. However, it is pretty expensive. A 1.7 fl oz bottle costs $7.50, a 8.5 fl oz bottle costs $30.50, and a 33.8 fl oz bottle costs a whopping $68! 
- Pros: Great for smoothing/moisturizing, weightless
- Cons: Price

This conditioner smells very similar to the shampoo, i.e. sweet and floral. Personally I prefer the clean peppermint scent of the Pureology conditioner. It's also very good at smoothing and moisturizing, but it's not quite as weightless as the other one. However, the price is much much better. A 33.8 fl oz bottle costs only $7.49 at Costco. 
- Pros: Good for smoothing/moisturizing, not quite as weightless, price
- Cons: None

WINNER: Pureology Hydrate Conditioner (by a hair, pun intended)


Overall I'm impressed by the Kirkland Moisture line, and I highly recommend it. I think it really is a good dupe for the Pureology Hydrate line, and the value is amazing when you consider how much product you get for the price. Kirkland is a Costco-exclusive brand, but even if you're not a Costco member, you can buy the shampoo and conditioner online through Amazon. Once I use up the Kirkland Moisture conditioner (it's a huge bottle), I think I'll switch back to the Pureology Hydrate conditioner though.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this comparison! Do you use sulfate-free products? Have you ever tried plopping your hair?

Friday, September 28, 2018

September 2018 Budget

I wanted to write a couple blog posts this month, but unfortunately I just couldn't find the time. All I ever do these days is sleep, work, and eat. On the bright side, my dissertation is coming along, and if everything continues to go smoothly, I should be done soon, so wish me luck!

Because I've been stressed but don't have the time to do anything else fun, I have slipped back into my old habit of stress shopping, and that definitely shows in my budget this month. In particular, I bought a lot of stuff from Nordstrom Rack during their Clear the Rack Sale (you get an additional discount on clearance items). I'm actually super pleased with my purchases. I think these pieces will transition well into fall/winter. Without further ado, let's take a look at my new wardrobe additions this month.

Rails plaid hunter shirt (indigo berry XS) via Nordstrom Rack - I love love love this super soft medium-weight plaid shirt (currently still full-price at Nordstrom). The online product image does not do it justice. I adore the color combination (grey/burgundy/white), which looks much more vivid in real life than the muted colors shown online. The color scheme would pair well with black, grey, blue, maroon, and white bottoms. The shirt is incredibly soft and drapey since it's made of rayon. Unfortunately, that also means it's going to be high-maintenance since rayon doesn't wash well in water. My plan is wear base layers whenever possible so I don't have to launder it as often (like I do with wool sweaters) and hand wash/flat dry whenever possible. Originally $158. Paid $38.10.

BP lace trim satin camisole (black XXS) - I wanted to buy this cami during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but it sold out early on. Later it popped back in just my size, so I took it as a sign that it was meant to be mine. The lace trim is pretty, and the cami isn't sheer in black, although I suspect a lighter color would be. I like that the strap length is adjustable. It does show a little cleavage (probably not appropriate for work), but it's not scandalously low-cut. I find the XXS a hair tight across the chest but not enough to size up (there's no stretch since it's 100% poly). Originally $35. Paid $38.12.

Cynthia Steffe Alicia jumpsuit (blue abyss 2) via Nordstrom Rack - I suspect that this jumpsuit might be made specifically for Nordstrom Rack, because I couldn't find it anywhere else online. This piece is totally out of my comfort zone and inconsistent with my usual style, but I love it! This is my first jumpsuit ever, and it's a little crazy between the print and the wide crop leg, but I've gotten so many compliments. I've already worn it a bunch of times, usually paired with a denim jacket and statement earrings. Glad I took a fashion risk here. Originally $268. Paid $28.56.

Madewell 10" high rise sateen skinny jeans (deep plum 25) via Nordstrom Rack - I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but these pants were another great Nordstrom Rack find. I was looking for a new pair of plum pants to replace my old faded ones, and also I've been interested in trying out the high waist silhouette. These fit both criteria. I know that Madewell sateen pants tend to stretch out over the course of the day, so hopefully 25 is the right size (in the past I sized up to 26 for the sateen pants, and they were saggy by the end of the day). I can envision putting together a ton of outfits with these pants, plus it goes well with the plaid shirt and lace cami that I bought this month. Originally $128. Paid $26.14.

Treasure & Bond Grant ankle boyfriend jeans (25) via Nordstrom Rack - Another first for me: boyfriend jeans. I've been curious about trying this trend for a while now (don't worry, I'm not giving up my skinny jeans anytime soon), but I couldn't find a pair that didn't look like baggy mom jeans and was also affordable. The denim material of these jeans is pretty substantial (99% cotton, 1% spandex) without being stiff. They're slouchy slim without being baggy. Best of all, they have super deep pockets (I hate those tiny half-pockets most women's pants have)! I can fit my entire phone in the front pocket. Is this what it's like to be a man?! I'm picturing myself wearing them with sneakers, loafers, and ankle boots next month. Originally $79. Paid $16.32.

Converse one star sneaker (white/gym red 6, also sold here) - I've been walking to school for the past couple months (about 25 minutes each way if I walk briskly), so I've been looking for comfortable commuting sneakers. I love the look of the original Converses, but they have zero support and wreck havoc on my flat feet. I was excited to find these Converse One Stars, which are made of leather rather than canvas and have a significantly more padded sole. They're actually comfortable! I love the surprise red bottoms, and the white leather goes with everything. I know some people worry about white shoes getting dirty, but I own two pairs of white sandals that still look fine after a couple seasons of wear. I found the sneakers to be true to size (the originals run large). Originally $75. Paid $48.98.

(not pictured) Everlane cotton v-neck (white S) - I bought this to replace an older white Everlane v-neck that got stained. I went a size up from my usual size XS, because I've put on a little bit of dissertation weight. Everlane sent me a $20 credit, so this tee was effectively free. Originally $15. Paid $0.

RETAIL: $758.00

TOTAL: $196.22 (25.9% of MSRP)

SUMMARY: During Q2, I spent $453.82. I spent $225.53 in July and $127.77 in August, so after this month, I am left with $346.66 for the rest of the year (an average of $115.55/month).


As I mentioned in last month's budget post, I've been getting really interested in skincare, especially Asian skincare. Some of the products I ordered last month turned out to be amazing and are now upgraded to holy grail status, while others have been lackluster. I am planning to do a full review as soon as I find some time. Also, I want to share my new skincare regimen at some point, which I find to be a relaxing self-care routine. This month I added a few more products to my arsenal, but I want to use them longer before I review them.

Missha time revolution the first intensive moist treatment essence - Originally $49. Paid $27.80.
COSRX low-pH good morning cleanser - Originally $11. Paid $8.87.
COSRX oil-free ultra moisturizing lotion - Originally $20. Paid $16.13.
Skinfood black sugar wash-off face mask - Originally $10. Paid $10.

RETAIL: $90.00

TOTAL: $62.80 (69.8% of MSRP)

How did you do on your budget this month?

Friday, August 31, 2018

August 2018 Budget

Sorry about the radio silence around here. The new semester just started, so things are kind of hectic right now, and I've been spending a lot of time working on my PhD dissertation. If all goes well, I would like to submit it in October, but there's still a lot of stuff left to do. Because the dissertation is taking up so much of my time and energy, I will be posting less regularly on the blog over the next couple months. I'll get back to a more regular schedule soon. Thanks in advance for understanding!


I didn't realize until I started putting together my budget post that everything I kept this month was striped. In particular, I feel a little crazy that I bought not one, not two, but three striped dresses! I've already worn two of them though. It's still really hot here in my neck of the woods, so I'll probably get plenty of wear out of them well into September.

Madewell striped scoopneck knit dress (neon peony XXS) - I reviewed this dress in a recent post. After wearing it twice, I still like the simple casual silhouette, and I appreciate the lightweight material, which helps keep me cool in the heat. Also, the material seems to wash pretty well, but the dress definitely shrank a bit (mostly in length). Luckily, I thought it was a hair too long before, so that worked out fine. Also, it seems to loosen up with wear, so the fit was mostly back to normal by the end of the day. Originally $69.50. Paid $30.55.

Madewell stripe t-shirt dress (true black XXS, love this colorway too) via Nordstrom - I bought this dress during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, and I've been wearing it nonstop ever since. It's honestly perfect. I love the slim but not clingy fit (runs slightly smaller than most Madewell dresses). It looks great with any shoe (flats, sandals, sneakers) and any layer (denim jacket, army jacket, cardigan). The shirt-tail hem gives it some character and also makes my legs look longer. The only thing I would change is that the hem curls after washing, so I usually have to iron it. Otherwise, this was a great purchase! Originally $78. Paid $56.52.

J.Crew strappy knit midi dress in stripe (ivory navy XS) - Theoretically this is a cover up, but it's thick enough that you can wear it as a casual dress. I would recommend nude underwear or a slip though, because I've noticed other colors seem to show through a little. I haven't worn this out in public yet, but the cut is really cute. It's easy to slip on (no zipper), and the strappy back looks really nice. It does run small, so I sized up. Originally $69.50. Paid $14.80.

J.Crew French cross-back bikini top in classic stripe (vivid flame ivory M) - I've actually had this swimsuit on my wishlist for ages, so I'm glad it finally went on sale. I have another solid red J.Crew bikini, and I'm planning to mix and match the sets. This top runs at least one size small though. I'm a 32C and usually a small in sports bras/bikini tops, but I had to size up to a medium for this one. Originally $52. Paid $13.32.

J.Crew surf hipster bottom in stripe (vivid flame ivory XXS) - I really like the J.Crew surf hipster style, because it offers enough back coverage without being matronly, and it actually seems to stay put in the water (no saggy butt). Fits true to size. Originally $48. Paid $12.58.

RETAIL: $317.00
TOTAL: $127.77 (40.3% of MSRP)

SUMMARY: During Q2, I spent $453.82. I spent $225.53 in July, so after this month, I am left with $542.88 for the rest of the year (an average of $135.72/month).


I also spent a pretty penny this month on skincare and hair products. I've been getting really interested in skincare, especially Asian skincare routines. When I have some spare time, I'd like to write about what I've learned so far and do a detailed review of my haul. For now though, I'm just going to list the products I bought this month.

Missha all-around safe block essence sun milk via YesStyle - Paid $17.01.
Biore UV aqua rich watery essence sunscreen (2 pack) - Paid $23.80.
Mizon all-in-one snail repair cream (75mL) via YesStyle - Paid $15.44.
Hada Labo Gokujun hyaluronic lotion - Paid $10.91.
Bioderma Sensibio H2O micellar cleansing water and makeup remover - Paid $13.87.
Etude House eyebrow pencil (grey brown) via YesStyle - Paid $2.84.

Kirkland Signature moisture shampoo - I bought mine from Costco, but if you're not a Costco member, you can buy it here. Paid $10.88.
Kirkland Signature moisture conditioner - I bought mine from Costco, but if you're not a Costco member, you can buy it here. Paid $8.16.

TOTAL: $119.25

How did you do on your budget this month?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sale Alert: Madewell

Quick sale alert this morning. Madewell is currently offering 15% off all purchases during the insiders event (free to sign up), including leather and denim, which are usually excluded. Here are my sale picks.

The following are already on sale, so combined with the discount, the prices are good:
1) striped tank dress (I own this, read my review)
2) striped swing dress (ordered, read my review)

The following are usually excluded from sale (this is about the best discount you can get, especially for the classic colors):
4) leather crossbody bag (on my wishlist)
8) leather jacket (on my wishlist)

Happy shopping!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians: The Movie

I love Kevin Kwan's bestselling novel Crazy Rich Asians, so I was super excited when I heard it was getting made into a movie. I was even more excited when I was lucky enough to score a ticket to an advance screening in my city. You guys, it does not disappoint! If anything, I would say that the movie is even better than the book, which very rarely happens.

If you're not familiar with the story, here is a brief plot summary (no spoilers). Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American economics professor from NYU, finds out that her Chinese-Singaporean boyfriend Nick Young is not just a humble history professor. He is actually the Nicholas Young, heir to a massive fortune and the most eligible bachelor in all of Asia. They take a trip together to Singapore to visit his family and to attend the hottest event of the year: the wedding of Nick's best friend Colin Khoo and fashion icon Araminta Lee, both from extremely wealthy families. Right away, Rachel is made to feel like an outcast by the Singaporean elite, because she was raised by a single mother and is more American than Chinese. Also, unlike everyone else from Nick's world, she wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth. In particular, Nick's mother Eleanor Young disapproves of Rachel and warns her to stay away from her son. Hijinks ensue as Rachel tries to navigate her way through Nick's world.

Like the book, the movie is super fun. There are lavish parties, exquisite couture costumes, dazzling jewelry, and amazing scenery. The characters are so wacky and over-the-top, like Rachel's best friend Peik Lin (tasteless new money), Nick's cousin Eddie Cheng (obsessed with having the perfect image), and trashy gold-digging soap opera star Kitty Pong. The casting choice really brought the characters to life in my opinion. I like Constance Wu (Fresh off the Boat) as Rachel. She was fresh, plucky, and sassy. I also love Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies) as Eleanor Young. She was so proud and elegant, a true tiger mom. I feel like she really nailed the nuances of the character. But my favorite ended up being Awkwafina (Ocean's Eight) as Peik Lin. I didn't particularly like the character in the book, but Awkwafina stole every scene she was in. She had perfect comedic timing, and it was hilarious to watch her deliver her killer one-liners.

I really enjoyed the movie, and I highly recommend that everyone go see it. I'm already planning to go again with my boyfriend when it comes out in theaters. The movie was very funny and even touching at times. Even though the story is set in Asia and revolves around Asians, its themes are universal: dealing with your significant other's family, feeling like you don't belong, complicated family dynamics, etc. Also, this is the first time in a long time that Hollywood has made a movie with an all-Asian cast. In general, directors are reluctant to cast minority actors in lead roles, because they believe that people of color don't have mass appeal at the box office. We as moviegoers need to show up and send the message that we want to see more diverse casting in American media. But hey, even if you're not political, it's just a great movie!

If you want to learn more about Crazy Rich Asians, check out this article from the Hollywood Reporter. And go watch it when it comes out on August 15!

Have you read Crazy Rich Asians? Are you planning to go see the movie?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My Hair Care Mistakes

Post-haircut/blowout selfie

I went in for a haircut recently and found out from my hair stylist that apparently I have no idea how to take care of my hair. It's like finding out you don't know how to brush your teeth or take a shower. It's one of those things you learned to do a certain way when you were little, probably from your parents, who learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents... And then you just end up always doing it that way without giving it much thought. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that it turns out I've been making a bunch of hair care mistakes all these years.

First, some background on my hair. As you've probably noticed by now, I have naturally wavy hair, at least by Asian standards (more obvious in the second picture of this post). My hair is not that thick per se, but it's pretty voluminous since each hair is thick and a little wiry. When there's a lot of humidity in the air, it gets even bigger, turning kind of curly and frizzy. That's why I tend to wear my hair long. The length weighs it down and makes it more manageable. My scalp is on the oily side, so I usually need to wash my hair every 2-3 days. Yet my ends are very dry, so when I go too long without a haircut, I find a lot of split ends. I didn't think there was anything I could do about these problems, so I never thought to look for a solution. 

At the recommendation of my hair stylist, I made a few simple changes to my hair care routine recently, and I've noticed a big difference in the way my hair looks and feels. It's much softer, smoother, and less frizzy. The ends don't feel dry anymore (and it's not just because I got a haircut). The hair actually feels moisturized without being weighed down. In case anyone is curious, I thought I would share my mistakes (surely I'm not the only one doing these things!):

1. Using too much shampoo.
It turns out that I've been using waaaay too much shampoo this whole time. I use to like lathering up all of my hair, and since it's very long, I would use a big palmful every time I washed it. Apparently that inevitably dries out the ends. Nowadays I use a quarter-size dollop and only rub it into my roots, letting the suds run through the rest of my hair.

2. Not using enough conditioner.
Even though I was using a palmful of shampoo, I only used a nickel-sized dollop of conditioner. Now I use a quarter-size dollop, sometimes more if my hair feels dry, to help detangle and moisturize the ends (never apply to the scalp). I also switched from my drugstore conditioner to this sulfate-free conditioner (also here) that I really like. It's a little more expensive, but it smooths and moisturizes hair much better than any other conditioner I've ever tried. Also it doesn't add any extra weight, plus it smells like peppermint!

3. Never using a hair mask.
Sometimes your hair still feels dry, despite using plenty of conditioner. That's when I use my hair mask. I do it once every couple weeks. It seems to help seal the ends and keep them feeling soft. Previously I had never even purchased a hair mask, let alone use it regularly.

4. Not using the right products for my hair type.
As I mentioned earlier, my main hair concerns are dryness and frizz. My hair stylist recommended this extremely lightweight and moisturizing spray (also here) that is a combination leave-in conditioner/frizz reducer/heat protectant. I love it! It's become one of my holy grail items. (Also, the bottle lasts forever.) Previously I had used Moroccanoil, which worked okay but left my hair more oily than I would like. I also felt like the oil was just sitting on top of my hair if that makes sense. The moment I washed it out, it went back to feeling dry. This product is different. It seems like it's actually moisturizing and treating the hair. Now my waves are more defined and noticeably less frizzy. Best of all, it feels completely weightless. No stickiness or crunchiness at all. It's also supposed to be safe for color-treated hair, although I don't have personal experience with that.

5. Heat treating too often.
Because my hair is wavy, sometimes I like to blow-dry it straight, but honestly heat is pretty damaging for hair. Nowadays I air-dry most of the time and embrace my waves. Of course, it's easier to do that when the waves are also less frizzy! On the rare occasion when I do use the blow drier, I also apply my spray as a heat protectant. 

I realize everyone's hair type is different, but I think these tips are fairly universal. You don't necessarily have to use the same products as me, because what works for me may be different from what works for you. However, I hope this helps. Everyone deserves to have beautiful healthy hair that they love. 

Are you making any of these hair care mistakes? Do you have any extra tips to add?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Millennial Spending

I recently came across this interesting article on how much money millennials spend every year compared to other generations. I'm not sure how accurate these numbers are, but they supposedly come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey. Unsurprisingly (based on my personal experience), millennials spend a lot of money dining out, although apparently they are not the group that spends the most money on food. I was also not surprised to see that millennials spend less money on shelter and utilities than other generations, since they may live with family members who cover these expenses. However, I was surprised that people from my generation spend relatively little money on alcohol outside the home (I guess I expected people to spend more money at bars and clubs). Also, I was surprised that the average millennial spends as much money on clothes as they do. Maybe I shouldn't be, since I obviously like to buy clothes, but I thought I was an outlier. Finally, millennials spend a decent amount of money on entertainment every year, although I don't think internet should be included in this category, because it's definitely a necessity in this day and age.

All of this got me thinking about how my own spending compares, so I thought I would do a rough break-down using the categories from the article.

I love good food, and I consider myself a foodie, so it's definitely one of my biggest monthly expenditures. I love checking out new restaurants, and a lot of my social life revolves around food in some way, shape, or form. I really like communing with friends over meals, because the experience just brings people together. I usually eat dinner at home on the weekdays but frequently go out for lunch and on the weekends. Also, when I shop for groceries, I like to buy quality produce and try out new exotic ingredients. I estimate that I spend about $500-$600 per month on food.
Verdict: on par with most millennials, maybe slightly more

In general, I'm not a huge drinker. At home I will occasionally have a glass of wine with dinner, or if my boyfriend offers to make me a cocktail (he's actually pretty good at mixing drinks!). I very rarely drink beer. In fact, I don't even like it, so I'll only order one when friends drag me to a bar or brewery. However, I do like fancy cocktails, especially the complicated ones that you can't make at home. They're expensive though, so I only have them on special occasions. I estimate that I spend less than $20 per month on alcohol.
Verdict: less than most millennials

I'm currently in an unusual situation. Right now I live with my boyfriend, who owns a small studio condo unit. It's not the place I would have chosen to live if we had picked it out together (it's simply too small for two people), but due to the circumstances, we will be living here at least until I graduate. We agreed that it would strain our relationship for him to act as my landlord, especially given that the place is really meant to house only one person, so we just split his monthly HOA and any household expenses.
Verdict: temporarily less than most millennials

Since our place is so small, the electric bill comes out to less than $100 per month. The condo HOA includes internet and water. Also, I am currently still on my parents' cellphone plan, which they have generously agreed to pay until I graduate.
Verdict: temporarily less than most millennials

Obviously I have blogged about this subject extensively over the years. This year I set myself a clothing budget of $150/month calculated on an annual basis. In 2015 (the last time that I did a comprehensive clothing budget review), I spent about $195/month.
Verdict: more than most millennials

I live in an area with poor public transit, so you really need a car to get around. I used to share one with my ex-fiance, but after our separation, I had to get my own. After searching for a while, I found a 5-year-old European car that I really liked. Originally I was just planning to use the money I had saved up from before, but then my parents generously offered to buy it for me as a combined present (normally I never get presents from them for my birthday or Christmas, so they said it was back pay for the last 20+ years). My insurance costs about $100 per month. Sadly, my car requires premium gas and isn't the most fuel efficient, so I spend about $70 per month on that. Also I pay for an on-campus parking permit, which comes out to another $60 a month. I never use rideshare apps. So far I haven't spent too much money on car repair, but I expect that it will eventually cost a pretty penny since repairs for European cars tend to be more expensive. I still love my car though!
Verdict: on par with most millennials

I don't like to watch too much TV (because I already spend enough time being sedentary at school), so I don't have cable or Netflix. Also I don't usually watch movies in theaters for that same reason. However, I will sometimes catch free movies or documentaries on Amazon Prime Video since I already have Amazon Prime. I don't follow any of the major organized sports, although I do watch a few obscure ones (climbing, figure skating, and swimming for example). Even though I read a lot, I usually check out free e-books from my local library (and now via my 3-month Kindle Unlimited membership). I do spend quite a bit of money on my hobbies, but I feel okay about that since they're improving my mental and physical health.
Verdict: more than most millennials

What did you think of the article? How does your spending compare? Which categories do you spend more and less on?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July 2018 Budget

July proved to be a crazy spending month for me. I had a hard time exercising self-restraint in the face of several huge sales, so it was no wonder that I ended up going over budget. I tried to be fairly selective in what I kept (a mere fraction of what I ordered), and in fact I've already worn most of these pieces. I still feel embarrassed by the shockingly large amount I initially ordered, but at least what I ultimately decided to keep was (mostly) from my wishlist. My prediction is that August will also be spendy, since I still have some orders on their way to me as we speak. Hopefully my spending will calm down come September (famous last words). Anyway, let's take a look at what I bought this month!

J.Crew supersoft Supima tank in stripes (pale sepia ivory S) - Most of my tank tops have developed these little holes in the front (by the way, does anyone know how to fix this???), so I'm slowly replacing them one at a time. Last month I bought these super soft tanks, and this month I added this little striped number. It runs pretty small, so I went up two sizes for a slouchy fit. Doesn't the color scheme look more Madewell than J.Crew? I think it pairs well with cognac accessories. The arm holes are a little big but not enough to bother me. Originally $28. Paid $7.11.

J.Crew denim short in white (white 25) - I actually ordered these shorts at the end of last month as part of that crazy J.Crew sale I posted about. They ended up being the only item that worked out. These shorts are fantastic! For white denim, they're surprisingly opaque as well as soft and stretchy. They do run large, so size down if you like tighter shorts. Personally I went with my normal size, because I want them to be more comfortable. I usually roll up the legs an extra time, because a shorter inseam makes my legs look longer. I've been wearing these nonstop! Originally $69.50. Paid $17.33.

Fitflop Bon II back strap sandal (caramel 6) via Amazon - So I've always been somewhat prejudiced against Fitflops, because I tend to think of them in the same category as Clarks, Crocs, and Danskos: comfortable yet matronly. Now that I own a pair, I take back all of the negative thoughts I had about them, because you guys, these shoes are sooooo comfortable! I feel like I could walk forever in them. The sole is incredibly padded, and it feels like I'm walking on a cloud. However, there is a slightly annoying issue with the synthetic footbed material, where the top layer leaves what looks like pencil eraser dust. Also, the sandal runs slightly large. I would have gone down half a size, but Amazon only carries whole sizes. Originally $130. Paid $66.12.

Top: J.Crew
Shorts: J.Crew
Shoes: Fitflop
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff
Sunglasses: Knock-off Karen Walker
Necklace: Madewell (old)

J.Crew Factory seersucker apron dress (light blue white XXS) - Wearing this apron dress makes me feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. In a cute way, although I wonder if the style borders on twee (or maybe Southern belle). The seersucker material is quite heavy and substantial, plus the dress is lined. Hence no problems with opacity, but I would have preferred if they skipped the lining in favor of making the dress lighter weight. Overall, I like it. The color scheme is very clean and refreshing. The dress does run a hair large, but since the waist is elastic, I don't find it to be an issue. Also, it features pockets and an interesting back detail, which makes the dress look more mature. You do have to wear a strapless bra though. Originally $89.50. Paid $38.77.

J.Crew Factory striped studio t-shirt (ivory navy XS) - This is a rebuy. I wore the original version so often that it developed a bunch of those little holes I was talking about, which is puzzling because the tee itself is actually thick enough to be mostly opaque, even given the light color. Anyway, I highly recommend getting one. I wear mine all the time, and it seems to go with most bottoms and layers. Originally $29.50. Paid $10.84.

J.Crew straw hat with grosgrain ribbon
 (natural navy ivory S/M) - My search for a straw hat is finally over! After trying on countless fedoras and boaters, I decided on this one, which I can only describe as a hybrid. The crown is deeper than your average boater, but it doesn't have that camel hump shape on top that most fedoras have. It also runs large. I have a medium to large head and had to size down, so I don't think it would work on someone with a smaller head. Also it's not packable, but I'm very happy with the straw material, which feels very sturdy and high-quality. I did have to settle for a striped ribbon instead of the solid black ribbon I was originally looking for, but that's okay. It actually goes well with that seersucker dress I bought. Originally $39.50. Paid $14.36.

Cole Haan Tali bow ballet flat (black 6.5) via Amazon - This is also a rebuy. I loved the original pair so much that I wore them almost every single day and ended up badly scuffing the toe/heel on both shoes as well as wearing out the elastic and footbed support. When I saw these on serious sale, I had to snatch them up. If you're interested, I recommend going up half a size because of the elastic sides. Originally $170. Paid $71.00.

RETAIL: $556.00
SPENT: $225.53 (40.6% of MSRP)

SUMMARY: As I mentioned in this post, my clothing budget for 2018 is $150/month starting in April with the ability to roll over leftover money (or debt) at the end of each month. During Q2, I spent $453.82. After this month, I am left with $670.65 for the rest of the year (an average of $134.13/month).


As I mentioned before, I want to start budgeting how much I spend on my hobbies. Lately I've been running a lot more and needed a new pair of running shorts.

Adidas running M10 shorts (black/white XS) - I really like the way these look and feel. They run a hair small but do a good job of staying put. My old pair needs readjustment every so often, which is the last thing you want to be thinking about while running. So I normally don't like shorts with built-in briefs (yes, they make sense if you're going for a long run and don't want to chafe, but I'm not running that much), but these actually feel very supportive and comfortable. Originally $28. Paid $21.77.

RETAIL: $28.00
SPENT: $21.77 (77.8% of MSRP)

SUMMARY: I am budgeting $75/month for my active hobbies ($117/month if you include my climbing gym membership). After this month, I am left with only $237.88 (once I account for my membership) for the rest of the year.

How did you do with your budget this month?