7 July 2010, 14:30
Life without a credit card?!
When Sheila interviewed me for the Post, I think she was surprised to hear that I don’t own a credit card. I think most people would be surprised to hear that! The fact of the matter is that I only recently moved to America, & as I have absolutely no credit history here, it would be nigh impossible for me to get a credit card (even if I wanted one, which I don’t!).
This puts me in the position of actually having to EARN my money BEFORE I spend it, & while this may sound like an epic drag, it is one of my keys to being financially secure. (Putting a bunch of your money into savings every month is obviously another good step!)
I was discussing this with Molly Crabapple the other day. She knows Sheila & I was telling her about the discussion we’d had — especially the part about not having a credit card. She said,
“Not having a credit card is so key! I don’t have one either. Not having a credit card is I think one of the best ways to allow yourself indulgences without getting into the sucking maw of debt. You know exactly how much money you have, and so you can spend it or save it without being irresponsible.”
I was definitely an irresponsible spender when I was younger. In New Zealand, I had been with the same bank since I was about 12, & when I got my first job, they happily offered me a credit card. I accepted with delight. ‘Free money!’, I thought, & so, with absolutely no regard for what I could afford, I spent my way through my youth, & at the end of every month I would sit around chewing my nails, unsure whether I had enough money to pay my rent.
When I started this website (at 23 years old), I was living off my credit card, & eventually I hit my limit. When that happened, things changed. I could only spend what I actually had in my hand, & while it was immensely stressful & difficult at the time, it actually turned out to be a good thing — & has set me up with good habits.
Credit cards can be wonderful (say, in emergencies, or as a way of building up good credit), but they can also be extremely dangerous! It’s so easy to rack up debt without even thinking about it, & if you know you’re irresponsible with money — especially when you’re young — you will save yourself a lot of anguish later on if you can put off getting one until you feel like you can be trusted to be responsible with it.
When your bank sends you a sweet little note in the mail asking if you’d like to increase the limit on your credit card, please be smart about it. Spending money you don’t have has consequences, & you will learn it sooner or later! I learned the hard way, & you shouldn’t have to. Bear in mind that collecting late fees from credit cards is a constant & easy stream of income for a bank. The majority of people will be paying off the interest on their card for years & years.
Here are some choice facts about credit card debt.
The average household owes $16,007 in credit card debt.
There are 576,000,000 credit cards in circulation in the United States… & the population is only 309,000,000.
98% of the U.S.A.‘s debt stems from credit cards, & it totals $864,000,000,000. That’s $864 billion!
The average credit card holder has 3.5 credit cards.
Half of all college undergraduates had four OR MORE credit cards in 2008.
Credit card penalty fees ALONE reached $20.5 billion in 2009.
If you do have a credit card, make sure you know how much you can afford to spend, & pay it off every month! If you can’t afford to buy something, don’t buy it! It’s a simple premise, but it will keep you out of a lot of trouble.
Another thing you might like to do is transfer the money you plan to spend in a month from your bank account to your credit card. Then just charge everything onto your card. It’s a good way to accumulate “points” (if your card is on a points scheme) & to generate a good credit rating. Additionally, this way, you’re never spending what isn’t there. You just need to keep an eye on it!
What is “shopping”?
The funny thing about the article on shopping that I was quoted in is that the word “shopping” wasn’t defined. I think we all have a different idea of what “shopping” is. Is it an all-out blitz, a credit card frenzy? Or is it more about window shopping & weighing your options? My view of shopping leans more towards the latter — I don’t think of “shopping” as purchasing, necessarily. When I say I’m going to go shopping, what that really means is that I’m going to see what’s available. So while I may spend some time looking in stores & browsing online, that doesn’t mean I’m handing over my dosh! It can sometimes be more fun to create an incredible outfit on Polyvore than to have your eyes roll back in your head with sticker shock!
I do love to shop, though — window or otherwise. I love the challenge of it, the thrill of seeing what’s new, the way everything is merchandised, the excitement of putting things together, comparing & contrasting items, & maximising the value of the things I buy.
I’m also in the fantastic position of being able to shop as research — & regardless of what anyone might think, it’s necessary to find out what’s happening in the world of fashion. While the top tier of fashion is what’s happening on the catwalk, what it REALLY comes down to is what people are buying! How do people look in those latest styles? What do they say to their friend in the dressing room over about how they feel in the clothes? Fashion is about what happens on the street, & you only learn about that by pounding the pavement, looking in windows, & observing other people as they shop.
It is absolutely possible to be a smart, intelligent & discerning shopper these days. There is almost no reason to pay full retail for anything, & I do so extremely rarely. I don’t care about being the first off the block with the hot new pair of shoes or the “it” handbag, because I don’t have any love for trends & I can’t think of anything worse than owning the same thing as everyone else. Who wants to buy their way into a clique? Other people perhaps, but not me.
Even beyond getting a bargain, the concept of shopping one’s own wardrobe, buying vintage & re-purposing what you already own is a fantastic way to get out of a sartorial rut & not feel the strain on your wallet. Way, way, waaaaay back when I started galadarling.com (2006 baby!), the reason I began doing daily outfit photos was to show people how useful it could be to document their wardrobe. You get an idea of what fits & what doesn’t, the items which suit your shape or colouring, & you realise what a treasure trove your closet already is! The idea was not to encourage you to spend like mad — a fact compounded by the fact that I had no money & couldn’t do so myself! — but to inspire people to wear their old favourites in new ways.
The site has changed since then, & I no longer find writing about fashion or style as satisfying as I once did. While I appreciate & adore clothing, writing about improving your life, learning how to be happy or the thrill of travelling is much more interesting to me these days!
Despite all this, I am still not the world’s most responsible person with money! I live in the realm of fantasy a lot (um, if you hadn’t noticed!) & previously, I have been less concerned with paying my rent than perhaps I should have been! But as I get older & more mature, I’m a little more thoughtful about where my money goes — & what my priorities are! I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it.
How much time do you spend shopping? Do you consider yourself responsible with money? Do you have a savings account? Did your parents teach you how to be smart with money or have you had to figure it out yourself? What’s the best piece of money advice you’ve ever been given?
5 July 2010, 09:30
A couple of months ago, I was featured in the New York Post in an article whose premise was the fact that the average woman spends three years of her life shopping (!). The journalist, Sheila, has been reading galadarling.com for a long time, & approached me to ask if I’d like to be included.
While there are a lot of things I said in my interview about my spending habits that I would have liked to have had emphasised — like the fact that I don’t own a credit card, that part of my work as a fashion editor & writer is to know what’s in the stores, & that I believe supporting small business is really important — they’re right that I enjoy shopping & do so in a guilt-free manner. I believe we all have a right to spend our money however we please!
Money: a feminist issue?
It seems like the subject of money & how we spend it — especially as women — is a hot one right now. Ashe Mischief recently wrote Finance & the Fashion Blogger: Ignore-ance which received oodles of comments & also sparked a conversation on Twitter between myself & a few fashion bloggers I know (@thecoveted, @verhext, @ashemischief, @Birdiee & @holierthanthou).
One of the things Ashe pointed out was that fashion bloggers particularly feel the pressure to always go bigger & better, & “keep up with the Joneses”. After all, if every blogger in your RSS reader has a Chanel 2.55 handbag, eventually you’re probably going to feel like you should have one too.
When you spend a lot of time online, especially looking at style or fashion websites, your view of reality becomes immensely distorted. You start to think it’s normal to have multiple pairs of Christian Louboutin stilettos, a rotation of designer handbags & a constantly multiplying wardrobe. Newsflash: Most people cannot live up to this kind of hype! Most women will never own anything designer, & they probably don’t care, either!
Sometimes disengaging from the internet & giving yourself a stern reality check is really important!
Ultimately though, if you’re lusting after a Chanel 2.55 because everyone else has one, that is all about peer pressure. (No, it’s not just about smoking behind the bike-sheds!) Whether you succumb to peer pressure or not is entirely up to you, & I would add, how confident you are in yourself.
I have to say that while I sometimes see the items on other girl’s blogs & feel envious, it very very very rarely results in me going out & buying the same thing. I can only recall one incident in which I’ve done that, which was when I saw a pair of BCBG Mendel booties on Sea Of Shoes. After calling around the stores in NY, all of which had sold out, I added the shoes to my eBay watchlist — & bought them, at a much cheaper price, a couple of months later.
Fashion bloggers are particularly susceptible to spending a lot to keep up, because essentially fashion is ALL about what’s new — which naturally means you’re going to be constantly aware of what is fresh — & constantly aware of what you don’t have. You end up focusing on what you lack as opposed to what is already in your possession.
If you’re a fashion blogger who takes it relatively seriously, you find yourself assaulted with this information constantly. The natural conclusion is to find yourself wanting the latest, greatest things, & there are always a gazillion latest, greatest things to choose from.
There used to be a lot of buzz in the fashion blogosphere about shopping your own closet & repurposing your old favourites, but I see less & less of that these days.
It’s an interesting phenomenon, though, because fashion is not the only industry in which there is always a new hot thing. What about tech bloggers? Are they all secretly racking up thousands of dollars in credit card bills so they can be the first blogger on the block with a tricked out iPad? I don’t think so.
Again, this is so fashion-related: it’s easy to feel like you can “never have enough” pairs of shoes, pink dresses, fabulous handbags. If you’re a tech blogger, you probably only need one of each thing. One phone, one computer, one crazy cool gadget which fills a need… But when it comes to fashion, there’s no limit, except your own level of restraint.
Fashion is so aspirational. Sometimes when we look at a skirt on Net-A-Porter or a pair of shoes on Zappos, it’s as if all rationale flies out the window. We don’t see them just as a bit of fabric or an architectural heel. These things are marketed to us in such a way that we feel like our lives will GENUINELY improve, GENUINELY get better, if we only had that item in our closet. The truth is that owning stuff doesn’t really change your life at all. If anything, it complicates matters.
Do you think some people get duped into trying to buy their way into the upper echelons of fashion blogging? If not, do you think people are duped by fashion in general?
Additionally, the majority of fashion bloggers are women — & it’s such an unfortunate phenomenon that so many of us assign an assessment of our own value or self-worth to what we own &, as an extension, how we look.
Though you may sometimes wonder, ‘How does she afford that?!’ while perusing your favourite blogs, I believe very strongly that the way people spend their money is their business, & their business alone. Ultimately, you will never know their story — whatever that might be — & sitting around trying to work someone out is a waste of your time & intelligence.
There are certainly some fashion bloggers who come from wealthy families, plenty who have corporate jobs in addition to their blogging capers, & some who work like maniacs on their blogs so that they can afford to buy the things they want (I’m in this camp!). But unless someone sits down with you & has a frank discussion about the nature of their income, you should never assume anything!
Let’s face it: the way Sarah Smith spends her money may not be the way I would want to spend mine, but that’s okay because it doesn’t affect me IN ANY WAY! I feel that this is especially true with fashion bloggers, most of whom you will never meet (or know)! How does their bank balance impact on your life, really?
So I ask you…
How do you feel when you read fashion blogs? Do they make you feel good, inspired & excited about style — or do they make you feel left out, jealous & uncomfortable? Do you feel a twinge when you see other women with your Ultimate Item Of Desire™? If you are a blogger, do you feel the pressure to have the latest, greatest thing to blog about or do you not care?
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems parts two & three coming this week!
30 June 2010, 21:55
I love knowing what other people have in their bags! It is the ultimate voyeuristic act. Don’t you think it provides an interesting insight when you find out what people have prioritised as being important enough to carry around all the time?
The contents of my bag change constantly. For a start, I have two handbags I rotate between — a pink bag by B. Makowsky & a purple embossed satchel from Cambridge Satchel Company — & they hold different amounts of stuff!
The satchel is perfect for quick, uncomplicated excursions, while my pink bag is better for all day or high-maintenance expeditions (when I need everything but the kitchen sink!).
To the left you can see some zipper pulls I attached to the pink bag. They’re from the Things That Hurt series by Kid Robot.
My Filofax, wallet, keys & phone are always on me, but the rest of the list expands & contracts depending on the circumstance. Often, in addition to the list below, I’m also carrying my MacBook Pro, Leica D-Lux 4, & a couple of bags for dog poo. (It’s a glamorous reality!)
Here’s what I’m normally schlepping around town…
Deux Lux Chubby Heart wallet
Classic Filofax in pink
HTC Droid Incredible with pink case
Kinky Girlfriend pill box
Opal & hematite essences
Rose quartz & amethyst bracelets
Deux Lux Sparkle Baby heart pouch
Chloe 2145 sunglasses
666 Photography business card case
M·A·C Cosmetics Lipgelée in Cellopink
Keys (& attached bits & pieces: personal alarm, Tarina Tarantino heart keychain, David Barton membership card & New York public library card)
The perfect wallet
I have been on the search for the perfect wallet for what seems like forever, & of course, as soon as I mentioned it on Twitter & Facebook, you all came to the rescue! (I knew you would & I love you for it!) A handful of people suggested Deux Lux to me, & after some excited perusal of their website, I ended up ordering both the Chubby Heart & Sparkle Baby purses. The Sparkle Baby is much bigger than I was anticipating, so I use it to hold little things which might otherwise be lost in the depths of my bag.
I love the Chubby Heart wallet so much! It’s quite big but appears to be really well-made & I think it’s so cute! It has mega pocket action & is sparkly & a great colour. When I was initially thinking about buying a new wallet, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted pink or gold. This colour is called champagne & is the perfect combination of rose & gold. (It’s hard to photograph the colour accurately, but it is great!)
The Sparkle Baby colour is mint & it is beautiful. LOVE!
Lip gloss & gem essences
This M·A·C Cosmetics Lipgelée looks super-bright in the tube but is thankfully very easy to wear. It has barely left my kisser since I picked it up at the Las Vegas Premium Outlet a few weeks ago.
The Alaskan gem essences were bought at Flower Power. They work just like flower essences — you put a couple of drops on your tongue whenever you feel like it.
Opal: Increases psychic awareness, spontaneity, sensitivity; calms overwrought states; brings joy & creativity. Draws hidden emotions to the surface to deal with.
Hematite: Strengthens energetic boundaries in the emotional body; promotes emotional independence rather than co-dependence; helps us maintain a state of compassionate detachment while witnessing an intense emotional experience in another, & contain our own emotional experiences in a responsible way.
Who knows whether they work, but I like having them with me regardless. They’re 20% brandy so even if they don’t make magic, at least they make you feel good!
A couple of days after I published A Filofax Love Affair, a box arrived on my doorstep with a new Filofax inside! Thank you, organisation gods! Included was a Classic organiser in pink, a Filofax pen (in pink, bien sûr!) & even more accessories. More accessories than I know what to do with! I swiftly moved everything over from my Metropol & I’m delighted.
My organisation fever has reached new, ever more obsessive heights, by the way. I have more coloured tabs, dividers, inserts & madness than ever before. I’m totally into it. Being able to write everything down in one place is SO wonderful. I feel like my productivity & creativity have reached new heights, I’m really happy!
Tins & cases & madness
Isn’t this the most amazing business card case ever?! It was sent to me by 666 Photography in Austin, Texas (which is owned & operated by a woman called Gayla!). They have an amazing range of merchandise which they just released — more news on that later!
Anyway, I have never owned a business card case before, if you can believe it, so I’m really excited to put this to good use. In the past I have just secured my cards with a bulldog clip, which is very utilitarian & efficient but not very fun!
I’ll show you what’s inside the case in a few days! Or, what will be inside… I just had two new, different types of business cards printed up & I am dying for them to arrive!
The “Kinky Girlfriend” pill box originally held mints. Now I use it to hold a day’s stash of vitamins, & it’s always in my bag. Sometimes I forget to take them in the morning, so if I have them in my bag, disaster is averted! I love the picture on the front, & it is the perfect size for indulging my vitamin obsession.
I bought a round metal tin with a picture of Kali on the front at the same time. It contained “curry flavored Kali mints“, but unfortunately it is too small to hold anything useful. Or at least anything useful that I can think of! It’s preeeeeetty rad though.
More often than not, there are errant pieces of jewellery floating around my bag. I get restless during the day & take my accessories on & off all the time. I also hate wearing rings while I eat! So sometimes my bag is like a little treasure chest.
This skull ring came from eBay. It was a blinkin’ bargain & I love it! The skinny one beside it came from Claire’s in Las Vegas & is simple but sweet. Other things you are likely to find in my handbag: headbands of all kinds, dozens of bangles, rogue Swarovski crystals (I find them everywhere!).
This heart keychain is by Tarina Tarantino. It’s good to have a bit o’ bling on your keychain, don’t you think?
Some of the aforementioned rogue Swarovski crystals probably fell off of this heart. I don’t mind.
HTC Droid Incredible
A friend of mine, who works in PR, hooked me up with an HTC Droid Incredible phone a little while ago, & it is rocking my world & blasting my mind wide apart! While I love my Kin for its fun social networking ability & rad display, the Incredible is, well, incredible. It’s immensely powerful, fast & sexy. I’m a huge fan.
Lately I’ve been geeking out over the apps you can download for it. I’ll probably write more about this at length later on, but for now I can tell you that I’m loving Last.fm, Google Sky Map, Twidroid, Yelp, Jonathan Cainer’s Horoscopes, eBay & Ustream. (I haven’t used the Ustream broadcaster yet but the possibilities are so exciting!)
I bought a pink case for it on eBay which cost me about $7 & will hopefully prevent it from smashing into a million pieces. Not that I have ever really dropped a phone… but I love this one too much to take any risks!
What’s in your bag?
What do you carry around with you? Are you a minimalist or a maximalist? Do you ever entirely purge the contents of your handbag & clean it out, & if so, do you agree that it is immensely satisfying?
28 June 2010, 12:44
My feet are a-tingling. My legs are jittery. I keep tapping my fingers. When this happens, all I want to do is pack a bag, grab my passport & hoof it to JFK. I just want to breakout a-town!
I don’t like to stay in any one place too long — it makes me antsy. I am always hankering to see the next bright thing, to have a new experience, to walk a road I’ve never seen. Getting away from everything familiar is one of the best ways to reinvigorate your soul & reignite your passion for life.
If I could go anywhere right now, these would be my top contenders!
Photo by Souvik_Prometure.
Oh yes, the Greek Islands. Someone, years ago, told me that Greece was my “spiritual homeland”. I laughed it off because I had absolutely no interest in going there, but as time ticks by, I feel myself being drawn there.
There are over 6,000 Greek Islands, & only 227 of them are inhabited. Only 78 of them have more than 100 people living there! Santorini is one of the most well-known islands. It’s on the rim of a volcano & is situated 1000 feet above the Aegean Sea.
I would really like to visit Paxos. Paxos was constantly attacked by pirates during the Byzantine period & Middle Ages, & the coastline is dotted with blue caves. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen pictures of. I grew up by the ocean & when I don’t see it regularly, I feel weird & out of touch. Let’s go!
I would love so much to spend some time in the Greek Islands, getting some sun, doing lots of writing & enjoying the sea breeze. I’ve been looking at hotels in the Greek Islands all morning & drooling. A few weeks at Aigialos, Hotel Katikies, or On The Rocks would totally not go amiss! Haha! (I am sure it would be less expensive to stay in a house, though.)
The best times to travel to Greece are from the end of May to the beginning of June, & from September to mid-October. Time to start saving up!
In my searches, I discovered Matt Barrett’s Greek travel guide, which is an amazing resource for anyone planning a trip.
Photo by Marcel Germain.
Photo from Desktop Wallpapers.
I can’t believe I am almost 30 (okay, I still have 3 years until I’m 30 but it seems very CLOSE) & I haven’t been to Japan yet! Does this seem completely ridiculous to anyone else?! It is one of those places I know I am going to adore even before I get there, which is how I felt about New York City, too.
I want to visit Tokyo Disneyland, roam the streets & get lost. I want to sing karaoke & get a million sticker photos. I want to shop my ass off & freak out over how immaculately everything is presented. I want to visit temples & sit under cherry blossom trees. I want to soak in the neon & bathe in the lights.
I am also completely obsessed with love hotels. How could you not want to stay in a hotel room which is a combination of S&M & Hello Kitty themes?! One of them even has a carousel in the room! COME ON! It must happen! If you’re interested too, here’s what to expect. There’s a good love hotel guide here as well, & Misty Keasler has a great love hotel photography series.
Happy Jappy (what a name!) is a massive site with oodles of information for visitors to Japan.
Photo by Melissa.Tse.
Photo by Sharad Gupta.
Just the thought of India excites me, gets the juice flowing. I have been planning to go there for a long time & can’t wait to get in amongst it! I even have a friend in Mumbai who works at Vogue (fancy!) who has promised to take me shopping & show me around.
I want to ride a motorcycle from city to city, see big pink palaces & attend Holi.
Taj Mahal photo is stock; Holi photo by dharmendrasingh.
Of all the places I want to visit, India is top of my list, but it’s also the one which makes me most nervous.
While all the pictures I’ve chosen to illustrate this article are bright, exciting & beautiful, India is much more than that. It’s wild, intense & unrelenting, & a place of massive contrasts. My friends who have been there tell me that the extreme poverty in India is so closely juxtaposed with extreme wealth, which can be hard to take in & difficult to accept.
I know that when I finally bite the bullet & go there, it will be the experience of a lifetime; that it will change me. I just don’t know if I’m ready for that much change right now. But is anyone ever “ready” for a massive shift? I think you just need to jump into it feet-first… !
Photo by s i a m.
What cities do you salivate just thinking about? If someone told you they’d buy you a return plane ticket tomorrow, where would you want to go & why? Have you ever been to the Greek Islands, Japan or India? How did you find it? Tell us!
19 May 2010, 11:40
Well, hello there! I call this look “elf princess”!
You can’t tell, but I am actually wearing a purple sweatshirt, black sweatpants & UGG boots with this ensemble! (Very glamorous!) It just evolved as I was sitting at home writing. It was uncommonly cold the other day, so on a whim I dug this (very warm) coat out of the back of my closet, & put on this flower crown which I SERIOUSLY can’t get enough of. (It is from Which Goose on Etsy, if you want one of your very own!)
Now about this coat: it’s vintage fur. I haven’t owned it for very long. It was a gift, but I just don’t wear it because the ethics of it make me feel extremely uncomfortable. Instead, it languishes in the back of my wardrobe.
On one hand, it was a gift from someone I love, & it seems extremely wasteful & horrible to throw it away. But on the other hand, the fur industry makes me feel really sad & it’s not something I have any interest in supporting, especially when there are so many great faux options available (which I am reallyhappy to wear)! Some of you have probably heard the story about when I met the man who did all the fur for the Sex & The City movie, & I wanted to throw up on him… Bad!
When I posted this picture on Facebook, a conversation sprung up about fur. As the discussion evolved & I said that I felt conflicted about wearing it, I asked the people commenting what they would do with the coat if it was theirs. It was suggested that I donate my coat to Coats For Cubs. When you give them your old fur, they use it to keep orphaned & injured animals cozy & comfortable! I think this is a great idea, & one I was not aware of before. I am all for keeping injured animals warm!
One rehabilitator related a story about a restless orphaned river otter who chirped constantly. Once she was given a fur blanket, she settled right down. Turning the sleeve of a fur coat inside out, a rehabilitator can also create a warm nest for a burrowing animal such as an opossum. Some animals adopt a piece of fur as a playmate, jumping on it and wrestling with it.
After I read that I went & had a cuddle with the world famous Hank Williams, who I pretty much love more than life itself, & couldn’t help but think how AWFUL it would be if someone tried to make a coat out of him! (Not to mention how hard I would kick their ass for even thinking about it.) It’s not really any different, is it?
So, I ask you…
What would you do if you owned this coat?
Do you own any fur personally?
How do you feel about fur in general?
Do you buy it new or vintage or not at all?
What would you do if you inherited a fur from say, your mother or grandmother?
Do you wear faux fur (or do you think of it as a “gateway drug”)?
If you don’t buy fur, are you vegetarian?
Do you wear leather? (The cows they use to make your shoes are not the same ones they make into hamburgers!)
How do you feel about taxidermy?
Do you go hunting or fishing?
Where do you personally draw the line?
I would be sad to give this coat away, but I also think it would be going to an excellent cause. I’m not wearing it anyway, so it might as well be used for something positive! Would you donate your fur coat too? Should we all do it together?! (Fur Coat Drive 2010!)
P.S. I know this is a hot-button topic for a lot of people, but please keep it respectful & charming! Love!
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