How to save $2,500 in 3 hours or less

(Or how to spend $375 in the same amount of time. It’s all about perspective, really.)

Not too long ago, I was lamenting about how I was so uninspired about shopping. My only purchase during the post-Christmas sales was a plastic container for storing muffins. And maybe some hair ties. And get this —

They weren’t even on sale.

Well, one absolutely amazing sample sale later, and I am happy to report that I have made significant progress. Enormous strides… leaps, even!

It happened about 2 weeks ago, and on that sunny Thursday afternoon, I bought (wait for it………):

  • 7 Jigsaw/David Lawrence dresses @ $40 each, usually between $279 and $399 RRP
  • 3 Jigsaw skirts @ $25 each, usually between $179 and $199 RRP
  • 1 David Lawrence blouse @ $20 each, usually $149 RRP

The sale was held by Webster Holdings around their HQ in Waterloo, so Marcs samples were also available but I didn’t manage to pick any up.  No insider info about when the next sale is on, I’m afraid…

Also unfortunately, as with all sample sales there can be casualties. In this case, a parking ticket (not mine, but hopefully the cops will forget to process it!) and some missing fabric.

Can you spot which of the items I bought has a chunk of material missing?

Jigsaw floral watercolor dress

Jigsaw floral pleated dress

Jigsaw Purple textured floral skirt

Jigsaw blue tiger print dress

David Lawrence white silk shirt with black trim

Jigsaw Purple spot dress

Jigsaw ethnic print dress

Jigsaw Renaissance floral dress

Jigsaw Orange white crosshatch full skirt

David Lawrence Kelly green bow front dress

Jigsaw oriental print full skirt

(Answer: It’s this one.)

Choices, choices, choices (and a review of J.Crew skirts)

The thing about shopping online is that your exposed to a lot of choice. That’s definitely one of the perks for me, because the search for a perfect tan saddle bag (or insert desired item) can seem endless when you’re looking in person. And it’s just so inefficient, with needing to walk in and out of shops, driving in and out of shopping centres? Really, so last century.

But what to do when you’re not looking for the perfect one, but just something you like and more than one catches your eye?

Sometimes you just gotta buy ’em all.

This is the story of how I ended up with 4 new skirts from J.Crew in the space of around 2 weeks.

J Crew skirts

After comparing my new goodies with the 2 I bought while in the US, I realised something odd: they all fit perfectly but ranged from a size 2 to a 6P (US sizing).  Weird, no?

Ok, perhaps that’s a little misleading — of course I knew I had ordered different sizes, and of course I did so purposely after looking at reviews and the like.  Here are some tips so that you too can hopefully order the right size on the first go:

  • I’d say a regular 4 in J.Crew translates to a AU8-10 for Country Road, Witchery, Saba etc.
  • The No. 2 pencil skirt, both the cotton and wool versions, for some reason runs large even for J.Crew sizing, so I would size down again
  • The cut of the Sterling Skirt is supposedly A-line but is really only 1-2cm wider than the No. 2 pencil skirt on each side at the hem
  • Go one size up if you’re getting a petite size, e.g. a regular size 2 is similar to a 4P.  In fact, I could tell no difference between the 2 and 4P for the No. 2 pencil skirt

But at the end of the day, sometimes you’ve just got to take the leap.  If it helps, even though J.Crew has gotten rid of their free shipping and free returns to Australia option (i.e. risk-free shopping), shipping now is only a flat rate of $10.  Really, isn’t that just 3 coffees in the grand scheme of things?  And returns are still free!

 

Shopping Bans: The Uncut Version

Remember how I wrote about my 5 tips on how to get through a shopping ban? Well, I have a confession to make.

So, I love ASOS. It’s hard not to, with their cheap and cheerful clothes, free shipping to Australia, and abundant further discount codes.  When they launched their Australian website a while back, I was very concerned that they might inflate prices for us and market it as Good News (*cough*j.crew*cough*), but I was very happy to note that the Australian ASOS website was more about defaulting viewing options (like currency and sizing) more than forcing different prices.

What I did love though was their new local returns. Does this mean I now buy heaps of stuff knowing full well that I will return most of it and only lose out around $8 per return?

You know it. Case in point: I just ordered 4 pair of jeans in varying floral and heart prints.

 

And yes, for those with an eye for detail and who cannot be distracted by the mere mention of yet another mass purchase, you’ll notice that I said per return and not per order or per item. And yes, that’s obviously an incentive to buy heaps and not return until there’s a huge box such as this one:

 

So how does this relate to my shopping ban? Well, when I said that I had “shopping credits” from pre-ban returns (handy hint #3), I actually meant these ASOS orders which I only got around to sending back… last week. Even though I spent the shopping credits in February.

I’m pretty sure big companies do their books like this all the time.

I’ve now also worked out that my actual “shopping credits” were $420, of which I only spent maybe $80.

So either I actually made money during the shopping ban (a truly mind blowing outcome… must revisit this concept), or I’m still in credit and have an extra $340 to spend this weekend.

My math skills are awesome.

New York and the Near-Death Experience: A Review of the Affinia Shelburne Hotel

The first day in New York was ridiculously hectic.  I had recommended the Affinia Shelburne Hotel to my travel buddies, after my fabulous stay there in 2010. “It’s really clean and they give you free nail polish remover towelettes!” I said.

(Photo is from the Affinia website, but other than that tray of fruit, it’s pretty true to life)

It was unfortunate, however, that their first impression was of this gooey thing in the shower which looked like it was either alive, or would come to life while we were sleeping:

But they give you free nail polish remover towelettes!” I was thinking.

Potential unwanted roommates aside though, we actually had a very busy schedule for that afternoon so we quickly asked reception for a new room and then split like a banana.

While my travel buddies went to the Rockefeller Center to pick up our New York Explorer Pass (which I totally recommend if you’re planning to check out a lot of the tourist attractions), I headed to the Banana Republic store in SoHo, where the lovely international man from Boston had arranged for my collarless red coat to be put on hold for me:

After regrouping (a.k.a. a bit of pre-Woodbury scouting/research), we all returned to the hotel where the receptionist was very apologetic about the bathroom goo, and said that they would need to shut that room down for cleaning but could offer us an upgrade, which was very exciting.

But wait, what was that machine in our new room which looked like it could be an explosive? Bombs don’t usually plug into the wall, right??  Was it really safe to take a photo, and was there some type of bomb waves causing this blurry photo?  I don’t know.

Travel buddy 1:  Wait, let’s all stay calm, it’s ok as long as there isn’t a timer on it.

Travel buddy 2: ….but there’s a timer on it!!! And it’s on!!!

Me: (as we are in the lift) Should we have moved our bags? I don’t want that thing to blow up and damage our stuff.

Random lady in lift: (concerned, after eavesdropping) Er, what’s in your room?  And you’re on which level?

Receptionist: Oh, that’s just a machine we use to dry the carpet after cleaning. We’ll send someone to remove it right away.

…And so that concluded the brief drama we had at the Affinia Shelburne, which for the record I still say is an amazing boutique hotel that is value for money.

Quick review:  4 stars.

As well as being modern/clean/safe (these are my prerequisites), there were a couple of things I really appreciated from my 2 stays there:

  • Friendly service and quick to solve problems (see long winded story above)
  • Great value for money in comparison to other similar hotels, plus they have extended stay discounts
  • Fantastic views from the rooftop bar
  • You could get online shopping delivered to your room!
  • Staff don’t bat an eyelid if you return after every day (or after every breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack) with gigantic shopping bags
  • Great Thanksgiving dinner in the Rare Bar & Grill downstairs
  • Choose your pillow from the Dream Pillow Menu
  • Coin laundry located in the basement

I only wish they were closer to the subway — it’s about a 5-10 minute walk from Grand Central, which is nothing until you factor in the many many trips to drop off shopping bags. But given the amount of food we ate, this was probably a blessing in disguise…

And yes, they did still give free nail polish remover towelettes.

Fruits of a Shopping Ban

Before I went on my US trip, I made a resolution to start a shopping ban to first save some money.  Those 3 months were a dark, dark time in my life, but I grew up on Destiny’s Child*, so I made it through.

Today, I would like to share a couple of tips on how to survive a shopping ban, told in the story of 5 pairs of shoes — why, yes, I did acquire 5 pairs of shoes on my shopping ban, all without breaking the rules!  Here’s how.

1.  Have your birthday in the middle of the shopping ban

Obviously not everyone can rearrange the year so that their birthday falls within the shopping ban period, but Muhammad and mountain and all that (read: move the shopping ban!).

A couple of dear friends gifted me these lovely jelly flats from Kate Spade:

 

(Plus 10 points if you can convince an unbiased third party that a gift for yourself is appropriate.  I recommend working on some type of sob story.)

2.  Use up your credit card reward points 

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.  It got me these red suede peep toes — I’m just waiting for warmer weather to roll around again so I can wear them!

Oh, and I also got these cute Mimco bootie sandles.

3. Know your shopping history

Did you buy something before the shopping ban started, that now needs to be returned?  Well, that’s the very definition of a “shopping credit” that can be used without breaching the shopping ban! 😉

4.  Know the rules (i.e. necessities)

Everyone laughs at me when I tell them this, but it’s actually really important: the purpose of a shopping ban is usually to save money (mine was to save for my holiday).  But you can’t stop spending money completely — there are still necessities that are outside of the shopping ban, and rightly so.  This includes food, toiletries and, in this case, comfy flats suitable for long days of walking on my holiday**.

(I also got a travel bag.  It’s very important to keep your belongings secure when traveling — both Lonely Planet and the Australian Government say so, it must be true.)

Of course, this type of reasoning is not for the faint-hearted and can lead you down a very slippery slope, so I would suggest…

5. Appoint an adjudicator 

Choose someone you can trust.  Do not ask a fellow shopping ban-ner, as they are likely under extreme stress and might not be in their right frame of mind.  Try out all the crazy arguments with varying degrees of logic that you can think of, to see what sticks, e.g. my most compelling was:

If I am saving money so I can spend more in the US, then surely it wouldn’t be breaching the shopping ban if there is a limited period online sale with free shipping to Australia.  If I wait until I go to the US and buy it in person, it might not be on sale anymore and I’ll have to pay additional sales tax anyway, and maybe even more baggage fees??  In fact, it will cost me money if I don’t buy it now….

I rest my case.

Shopping ban?  Easy.

* I’m a Survivor! I’m not goin’ give up, I’m not goin’ stop… I’m goin’ work harder!

** Status of “necessity” determined at point of purchase.

Swatching Like There’s No Tomorrow

I have this thing where I sometimes like to match my nail polish to an item that I’m wearing.  And I have a pretty big collection of nail polish colors, so it’s usually pretty easy, right?  But then this one time, I tried to find the perfect raspberry red shade to match my Reed Krakoff bag, but after a good half-hour of comparing bottles I came to the absolutely shocking conclusion that nothing came even close.

After the initial shock died away, I knew that this was a problem I wasn’t willing to live with.  So, I decided to solve it: Shopparama Style.

The technique

The key to any good problem solving technique is that you first need to understand the true crux of the issue (this is also how I successfully navigated my three-month shopping ban and came out of the other end victorious with 5 new pairs of shoes, but that’s a story for another day).

In this case, as any nail polish enthusiast knows, the color that you see in the bottle is rarely going to be the same color on your nails.  What I really needed was a good swatching and cataloguing system, because it is just not efficient to go through 15 bottles only to discover that all the potential pink-leaning reds are actually orange-based (true story).

Fast forward a few weeks, a little eBaying here and there (as recommended in Jaztee‘s post), and some incidental fume inhalation later (which was strangely therapeutic), I can now immediately pick out the perfect greige or turquoise or magenta to my heart’s content.

Unfortunately, I can also pick out that there is no perfect raspberry red in my collection — and so the search continues…

Mind over Matter: A True Story

The other day, I admitted to Mallhaciel that I have problem, a problem called shopping, and therefore I am on step 1 of the road to recovery. Except that I was 100% sure I could control my problem (even if something was 75% off, because my decision in those circumstances would be, the epitome of control and rationality, to buy!right!now! and think about it later while knowing your constitutional shopping rights i.e. the returns policy)… so essentially I was fully recovered.

What can I say, I’ve always been an overachiever.

Today, however, I read that step 1 of the twelve steps is actually admitting that we are powerless over the addiction to alcohol, so I’m not even on step one, because I do have power over my shopping — and my alcohol — so in fact I don’t have a problem at all!

I think this calls for a celebration.  And to demonstrate my superb control and forward thinking, I am not even going to buy anything (new) to celebrate.

Instead, I am going to call this vintage Chanel small classic flap which I purchased last week that celebration. I heart it like there’s no tomorrow!

(…I also have the “celebration” ready for another 3 events.)