Reader Q&A! (6.21.10)

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(Note:  Questions are paraphrased and each asker’s personal details have been left out for privacy reasons)

Q: Where do you shop to get great deals?  I noticed that you like Ebay, Loehmann’s, and Neiman Marcus Last Call.  We don’t have those stores here where I live.  Do you have any suggestions for me?  What do you look for on Ebay?  I love Ebay but I don’t really know what to look for.

A: If I didn’t have a Loehmann’s or Neiman Marcus Last Call to go to, I’d check out any outlet stores, consignment stores, or thrift stores in the area (Goodwill?  Salvation Army?).  I also like to check out Ross, Marshalls and TJMaxx as well, although sometimes they can be a bit messy.

For consignment/thrift stores I tend to browse without any clear wishlist in mind… any kind of secondhand shop will have varied, ever-changing inventory so it’s good to keep an open mind when browsing.  And everything is cheap enough that you can try to explore styles and trends that you’re not accustomed to, which is great for expanding your personal style.

For Ebay I check out a lot of things… makeup, clothes, skincare, shoes, I guess pretty much everything.  If there’s a specific item I’m looking for I’ll check Ebay first because in my personal experience Ebay prices are cheaper in general (compared to department stores, anyway).

When I’m bored most times I’ll just browse on Ebay for my favorite brands in my size.  For example, I really like Elizabeth and James clothing so I’ll just search for “Elizabeth and James xs.”  Or a lot of times I browse for “Chanel 2.55” just for fun and take a look at where auctions are ending, etc. just for research purposes so I know what to expect when I finally do buy a Chanel purse.

I guess I do a lot of legwork when it comes to shopping… Browsing, comparison shopping, researching, etc.  I just love the hunt for a good deal.  😀

Q: Hi Elle.  I was wondering what pattern you used for the Eco Bag you made?

A: I used Butterick B5413.  You’ll need 1 yard of fabric and one package of matching bias tape.  Good luck!

Q: According to your monthly quota for spending, you allot roughly $670/month.  How can you survive on this amount?

A: My “monthly quota” for spending is actually more than stated on my blog. I only budget for the things I can actually control… shopping, food, etc.   The other things, like rent, utilities, and medical bills I don’t post on the blog and on my budget breakdown because honestly I think it would be boring to to read about.  I just focus on the fun things.  The food! The shopping!  :) So my TRUE spending is actually more.

Q: What other Japanese products do you use?  I found things on Ebay, but I’m not sure what is good or not.  What do you recommend?  Thanks!

A: I’m not a huge expert on Japanese skin care/makeup but I do read a lot of recommendations from bloggers and Makeupalley reviews online.  The ones that actually stick for me are listed on my HG Makeup List on the right if you’re interested  :)  As far as brands I like… I do happen to like Shiseido and their lesser known Japanese subsidiaries, I like Fiberwig mascara, and KATE eyeshadow.  Of course products from each brand can differ in quality and performance so I’d check Makeupalley reviews first before trying anything new.

A good blogger that writes a lot about Japanese skincare/makeup is Musings Of a Muse. She tries a TON of Japanese stuff out (as well as Korean and Chinese) and gives pretty comprehensive reviews and final verdicts on whether or not she approves each product.  She has an insane amount of product reviews so I do think she knows what she is talking about!

Q: How do you balance everything in your life?  Work, home life, BF, friends?  Is it all in the preparation?  Time management?

A:  Work life and social life:  Firstly I work from 3PM to 12AM (swing shift) most days so that enables me to run errands with no crowds nor traffic.  It saves me a lot of time plus doctor’s appointments are easy to schedule!  But the disadvantage is that I can’t go out on weeknights… no Friday night plans for me!  I don’t have any close girlfriends nearby and most of my friends are coworkers, so I only go out about once a month, two max.

Love life:  I try not to eat out often at all so I cook.  BF comes over to eat and helps with quality control when I’m cooking something new 😀  We spend time together every weekend! 😀

Home life:   Also, I’m a morning person so I like to wake up at about 8AM every day and do everything before work rolls around…. walk the dog, make my work lunch, run errands, cook, etc.  I used to hate my work schedule but I finally realized that a regular 9-to-5 would leave me too tired after work to do anything productive.

I try to keep as tidy as I can but when I’m busy I tend to get a little cluttered.  I’m trying to do one big chore per day (laundry, kitchen, bathroom etc.) to not get burnt out but sometimes its hard to stick to… :)  Speaking of cleaning when I first moved into my new apartment I made a “cleaning kit” out of essential cleaning products (they had to be cute so I’d enjoy using them) and put them in a nice little caddy.

I have a magnetic pen and a pad on the fridge so I can write down things I need as soon as I realize it.  When I run errands I’ll rip off the list to bring with me.

Time management: Any appointments I have go on Google Calendar and I set up different categories for each type of appointment and corresponding email alarms for the really important ones.  I use Google Tasks for To-Do lists :)

Q: How do you organize your finances?  Do you have one checking account that you budget out of with separate savings accounts for your goals?  And a Roth and 401K?  I have accounts everywhere and I was wondering if I should consolidate or keep it separate.

A: I use Mint.com to review my finances at least every other day, to see how my net worth and budget are doing and to make sure there are no fradulent charges/bank fees I’m unaware of.   I have a checking account, a 401K, a Smartypig account, Roth IRA accounts, an investing account, money market accounts and CDs.  (All of these accounts have different goals so I don’t think there’s a need to consolidate)

The thing that I think is most important about budgeting and balancing all of your separate accounts is by automating everything… linking your accounts to automatically transfer money from one account to another as soon as you get your paycheck.  After some of your money has been allocated to each important account, 401K, Roth, Smartypig, etc. then what you’re left with is money you can spend guilt-free :)  Bonus points if you have automatic bill pay for your fixed costs like your utilities and rent, as well as a “cushion balance” in your checking account to avoid overdraft charges from your bank.

I’m always recommending personal finance guidance from this book by Ramit Sethi because he gives great advice.  There’s a Youtube video of him explaining PF automation here.

More details on how this works here (look at Case study: Michelle’s Automation System as a good example)

Got any questions?  Email me! :)

♥ E&I