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?