Managing my clothing spending with a whitelist

I’ll leave this tidbit for a more financial update: I own 68% of the condo, my husband 9%, and the bank 23%, or in another way: I own 59%, we own 18%, and the bank owns 23%. This is a huge change from December where I owned 76% and the bank 24%. I’m not ready to write a 5 year homeownership update (!!) as I prefer to write about things after they have settled and we haven’t yet figured out how to get approval to make the condo board less broke.

Over the years, I’ve spent the most time managing my clothing spending. I have tried many ways to reign it in, to limit myself, to plan for spending, to budget, etc. and nothing seems to work for very long until now. I’ve struggled with my clothing spending for a variety of reasons over the years. Primarily, I value having a wardrobe with pieces that I love and fit and suit me well. Yet I have donated and purged so much of my closet over the years and worn a really small portion of it.

I feel so, so guilty buying clothes. I feel guilty putting them in my cart. I feel guilty putting them on my credit card. I feel guilty taking them out of the bag they come in. I feel guilty seeing the pile of online shopping bags by our mailbox. I even feel guilty wearing new clothes, sometimes so I leave the tags on them without wearing them! I feel guilty spending down investments or cash savings or using my husband’s condo buy-in money to buy clothes or asking for clothes for my birthday.

I used to over-buy clothes in categories that were easier to buy (tops) and under-buy in categories that were harder (everything else). In May, I went into a store looking for a pair of shorts that fit, a pair of white pants that fit, and a cropped cardigan. What did I walk out with? A pair of shorts, a pair of yellow pants (I decided they were so awesome they were worth foregoing the white pants), a dress that fit splendidly (but was terrible quality and I later returned for a damaged material credit after one wear), and two non-cropped cardigans that were the same colors as cardigans I already had at home. I had reached decision fatigue and bought whatever cardigan I could find instead of the cropped style I was specifically looking for. On the one hand, my color selection at least proves I know my style and color preferences but I when got home with the cardigans, I realized my silliness pretty quickly and took them back to the store later.

Despite all this guilt, when I was filling in my mindful budgeting planner, my best purchases recently were: bras, underwear, workout crops, and a summer dress I bought recently. That tells me that underneath all the guilt, having more than one pair of workout crops encourages me to go to the gym more often, which in turn brings me joy. It also tells me that summer clothes bring me far more joy than winter ones do.

To reduce my guilt and to not stress as much about the necessary clothing spending, I’ve been keeping a “Clothing whitelist” and setting one of my monthly goals as “Clothing whitelist only” and it’s been working. (I use these soft cover daily planners – not an affiliate link. I love them because they are small and fit in my purse or backpack easily!) When I start contemplating a particular item of clothing, I add it to this list. Sometimes the items stay on the list for a few months and other times, I add things to the list and immediately buy them. As I review my spending throughout the month, I check in – is a piece of clothing I bought on the whitelist? If it isn’t, I either need to add it or return the item.)

A recurring theme on the list this year is “X that fits” which falls into the “one in one out” philosophy for wardrobe management: spring jacket that fits, hiking shorts that fit, 2 pairs of workout crops that fit, bras that fit, underwear that fits, shorts that fit, summer pants that fit. Other items have included: N* winter sweaters, N* pairs of underwear (finally swapped down to just black and beige colors which is life changing), a cropped cardigan, winter over-pants for walking to the gym, N* days of summer clothes, shoes for my wedding reception. With my huge exercise push this year, I’ve lost some of the weight I gained in my last couple years of jobs I hated and felt stuck in. It’s been huge for my general happiness levels and has given me the opportunity to shop the parts of my closet I didn’t purge from what fit back in 2014/2015, plus some pieces of last year’s closet.

Similarly, I picked which bra styles and colors to buy in what number by listing out the possibilities, along with which items I would wear with them in my wardrobe. I hate having a bra wardrobe that doesn’t match to my actual closet! (What you get when you take a CS nerd and get them to shop: spreadsheets, tables, and charts.)

So far, this method seems to be working really well this year, better even than assigning a dollar number to the clothing budget. If I gave myself a dollar figure budget, I probably would have kept those cardigans I didn’t need.

Readers, what is your trickiest category to budget for? How do you handle it?

N* is variable, depending on the category.

The evolution of managing shared spending in a dating relationship

I started working on this post after my husband and I had been dating for about a year. I’m publishing it now as a snapshot of how our financial management evolved during our dating relationship. I’ll have plenty more to say about how we will manage money going forward in our marriage, don’t worry!

Friends and Early Dating

My husband and I have been friends since college. We occasionally went out for food together prior to beginning to date and we just split the bill by what food we ordered. That’s what most friends do, right? When we were first casually dating, we continued to do the same. I remember one occasion when we were trying to figure out how to split the bill, he put his card down, and poof the server took off with it! I turned out to have some cash and gave him some for my share. Since that instance, we’ve always made sure to figure out what we’re doing before either of us put our cards down on the bill. I still remember the first time we went out for dinner after we had The Relationship Talk and we looked at the bill and went “What do we do?”, realizing that maybe there was a new process to this paying for eating out madness. He also asked me how much I was going to tip, which I found quite amusing at the time. (He later explained that he didn’t want to tip vastly different amounts on similar bills.) Until we moved in together, we had several approaches:

  1. If the amounts were way off, sometimes the person who ordered more $ of food pays the whole bill
  2. Sometimes one person randomly pays for both of us
  3. If we split all the food or ordered within $1 of the same amount of food, we split the bill 50/50
  4. If the amounts we each ordered are off by less than the amount we would tip, then we adjust the amount with the tip

For any costs in cash, usually whoever has the most convenient denomination of cash pays.

For expenses that we couldn’t split at the source, we set up our checking accounts so we could transfer money to each other without seeing the other’s balances after we’d been dating for about six months, which made random things so easy to split. It did drive me a bit nuts with the number of transfers going back and forth, but it was a great system. (Square Cash made this pretty easy when I moved my money to a different bank.)

Travel

In 2014, we took a few trips and they were relatively easy to share the costs:

  1. In March, we went on a trip to an all-inclusive resort. Pretty much everything was paid for upfront, so one of us paid with a credit card and the other transferred half the cost. Super easy. If you’re ever traveling with friends, these are great trips to take! One of us took out some $ from an ATM to have some spending cash and the other transferred them half of that. We ended up spending none of it though so we both had enough cash to last us several months of normal cash spending.
  2. In June, we went on a trip to another city, a short-ish flight away. One person booked the flights on a credit card, the other booked and paid upfront for the hotel, and the person who paid less for those two transferred the other the difference. We did one activity that one person paid for in advance and the other transferred them half. Once we were there, we followed our normal pattern for splitting costs.
  3. In July, we went on a driving weekend away. One person booked the hotel and activities and the other paid them back once we had the final amounts. My husband filled up the gas tank. We followed our normal restaurant pattern.

As of early 2015, our trip to New Zealand was our biggest shared cost so far, the first one being our shared checking account for groceries. At home, we split every expense except groceries at the source. This sounds tedious to everyone else, but it works for us. When we go out to eat, we either pay for what we ordered or we split the bill evenly if our separate amounts are within a dollar of each other’s. We agreed as we were booking this trip on about how much it would cost, how long we wanted to go for, where we wanted to go, and the type of trip that we wanted to have: hotels not hostels, renting a car instead of tour buses, not a big group experience. We also decided to put most of the expenses on one credit card (and agreed to use a recent card that my husband got) and then deal with things when we got back. We both had separate credit cards that we used for non-shared expenses. This system worked out pretty well!

Living Together

It took us a few months of living together before we found a good routine with our financial management systems. The system I described in that post isn’t exactly what we ended up doing over the last two years. We did, however, stick to our plan of splitting the outgoing shared expenses other than the mortgage payment 50/50. Our incomes when he moved in were pretty similar and so that seemed like a fair system. Our incomes eventually diverged quite a bit, but we’ve still kept to the 50/50 system as we don’t want to create a financial dependence on the other person’s income.

We determined who would pay what with the question “If we were renting, would the landlord or the renter pay for X?” In order to keep my condo equity safe and clearly separate, I paid for everything related to the condo. I paid the mortgage payments, monthly HOA dues and special assessments, property taxes, and any maintenance or improvements. He paid for most everything else: groceries, travel, restaurants, utilities, new towels, etc.

To keep things simple, all of the shared expenses that he paid for were put on one credit card and I have an Authorized User card on the account. We also set up a financial aggregator account with it so that I could see the data without him sharing the online banking password. Every few months, I would enter my part of the data and his part of the data into a spreadsheet and make sure that things were relatively even since we weren’t splitting at the source.

When we did a living room furniture remodel this year, we agreed to split every item purchased at the source so that we fully owned all of the items together. I ended up getting a couple of credit cards (including the Chase Sapphire Reserve!) for credit card bonus points with the large purchases and then he paid me back for his half of the furniture pieces.

After we got married, we moved to a slightly different system (which I will talk more about next year), though I continued to pay for everything related to the condo until the postnuptial agreement was signed. I am so excited to retire the haphazardly updated spreadsheet of shared spending!! I’m really glad I kept that spreadsheet though as it made creating our 2017 joint budget much, much easier.

Happy holidays, everyone! This is my last post for 2016.

Living My Values in 2017

This is normally the point in the year where I contemplate the upcoming year and what financial goals I want to accomplish. This year, I’m switching it up a bit. Instead of writing SMART goals, I’m going to talk about my values.

Financial

No debt. I am pretty strongly against debt. I’ve never had student loans or credit card debt. I aggressively paid down my mortgage. One of my strongest financial values is to maintain this status with the only debt in the household being the mortgage on the condo. My husband is absolutely on board with this plan. His student loans are long gone at this point and neither of us have ever maintained a balance on a credit card nor do we plan to start doing so.

Save for retirement. Other than my first year out of college, I have contributed the maximum I can to all retirement vehicles available to me. I plan to continue that going forward, though it does look different from year to year and from job to job.

Spend consciously. I don’t practice extreme frugality, nor does my husband. Instead, we consider purchases for a reasonable duration of time before committing to them. We buy reduced stress. We buy a non-financial lifestyle that brings us joy. We naturally don’t spend our entire incomes, which results in a large gap between our spending and our incomes and thus results in a high savings rate.

Security. I value financial security above so many other pieces in life. I plan to keep one year’s expenses in cash at all times. Any funds available beyond eliminating debt, saving for retirement, and one year’s expenses will be invested in a taxable investment account, per my Investment Policy Statement.

Home

Home. Loving my home is so key to my mental health. Living in a home that brings me joy, that I want to go home to, that I want to hang out in, is so important to me. More important than travel.

Possessions. Thanks to Stylebook, I’ve been buying clothes more strategically. We’ve also been working on drastically reducing the amount of stuff we have in the condo, which has been a continual work in progress and I’m sure will be for a while. Trying to be more conscious of what comes into the apartment is also helpful here. Both my husband and I have parents that are minor hoarders and so living with less has been a point of growth and learning. I had no idea it wasn’t normal to keep everything you had ever owned in your life…

Style. I like having clothes that fit my body, no matter how much my body shifts around. This seems to go against the grain of the personal finance blogosphere, but I get enjoyment out of a closet that I like and that’s worth something.

Mental

Learn. It’s really important to never stop learning and to push myself to stretch my mind. Having a career as a tech professional is not the only answer to this. My Master’s program has been great for this. What does learning and pushing myself mentally look like after my Master’s program? If I’m not learning or not enjoying my job, then what’s the point? I have enough savings now that it’s becoming more and more difficult to put up with a job that gives me minimal fulfillment.

Health

Keep moving. I have a monthly average steps goal of 10,000 steps per day. I find that the closer I get to that figure, the happier I am overall. Getting outside is such a stress reducing factor, no matter the weather, even if certain types of weather make it less enticing to spend time outside.

Practice joy. I’ve always been a naturally critical person. In 2016, I started to practice contentedness with where I was in life and to find the positives in situations where really there didn’t seem to be any. I have an exercise where I write in a joy journal all of the pieces in my life that currently bring me joy. I’m always surprised at how many there are, even while I’m incredibly stressed out over something else. Practicing joy has helped me in so many ways.

Water. One of my projects this year was to start drinking more water. I have not always been the best at staying hydrated, but I’m finally making progress. I set my goal to drink 64 oz per day and I well exceeded that in the summer and since then, have been getting pretty close most days. My husband and I have noticed that we don’t drink water nearly as well when we’re traveling and my body definitely feels different as a result, so that’s something we plan to be more conscious of on our next trip. I’ve also made some minor diet shifts that made a huge difference.

Community

Support. In a way, this comes back to spending consciously. I have a variety of charities that I strongly believe in and love supporting their causes, as does my husband. It also means supporting other people in their learning and growth.

Relationships. In addition to movement keeping me happier, so does a certain level of social activity. There’s a careful balance between too little and too much and it’s so easy to fall on the side of too little when we are busy with our own lives, families, and careers. My relationship with my husband is central to my well-being, as well.

 

Layoffs: one door closes and a window opens

Note: This is more personal than most posts that I write here. It has been multiple months since the layoff happened now and I’m in a pretty reasonable place emotionally at this point, though triggers do still happen sometimes and publishing this post last week was a trigger in the few seconds that it went live, which is why I held off on publishing it for a week.

Layoffs. We think they happen to everyone but us. To no one we know. To no one in our family. Until they do and our world explodes. No matter how much you possibly wanted to leave your job, a layoff still results in far more emotional shock than you would think it does.

I could write a post about how to prepare financially for a layoff, but it’s pretty simple: keep your finances in great shape and you will be okay when you get laid off. That two year liquidity fund I was saving up with so I could take a sabbatical? Super handy when I was unexpectedly laid off this year. As was my severance package.

Nothing, however, can prepare you for the emotions that come along with getting laid off. How it feels to be told your job was eliminated in a room with multiple other people by someone you’ve never talked to before. How it feels to go into work one day and see a mysterious email about a mysterious meeting. How it feels to go into work one day assuming you have a job and leave no longer having one. How it feels to most definitely now be the lower income earner in the household for a bit. How it feels for people to assume your spouse is supporting you financially because you are “unemployed”. How it feels to wonder if you should spend any money at all on joyous things when you spent years teaching yourself how to spend money on yourself. How it feels to not get paid on the last business day of the month for the first time in almost seven years. How it feels to live off of your savings account for an indeterminate amount of time. How it feels to be laid off in an expensive season of your life.

You find sad joy in knowing others who also got laid off that day, friendly faces in a time of uncertainty, making for a shoulder to cry on. You follow your list of self-care, going on long walks in the sunlight every day that week. Somehow your partner is the one more unsure of how to proceed through this, confused that you are simply in checklist mode until you break and then he’s there, holding you steady.

But the finances? It is so wonderful to not worry about those in this strange time.

That checklist that you had ready to go for when you gave your notice? That checklist is so key at keeping your emotions in check while you wade through the last week at a job you didn’t love. In a haze, you call your 401(k) plan provider to request an after-tax 401(k) in-service distribution the afternoon you receive your layoff notice. The check comes in the mail the next week and you deposit it into your Vanguard Roth IRA.

Health insurance? You don’t even think about it. Your checklist already knew based on where your deductible was for the year, that it makes sense to keep COBRA for the remainder of the year even if it costs the insane $500/month versus joining your partner’s plan.

You’re free. After a series of jobs where you didn’t fit or didn’t succeed after a series of jobs where you had flourished, you’re set free to figure out what you want. What will you do next? You’re not yet financially independent, yet you don’t need to immediately find a new job. You can take the time to figure out what to do next, rather than rushing on to a new job that you don’t love either.

Your sense of independence has always been so key in your life. How do you reconcile that with being unemployed for a season? How do you reconcile that with your partner earning more than you ever have while it also being a success for him to be earning so much as it shows how valued they are in their organization?

The layoff took away your decision on when to leave the job. That bandaid was ripped away from you, by someone you don’t even know. The door is shut and gone forever. The job can no longer be fixed or improved or gotten better, no matter what your manager told you the previous week. Which window do you pick?

You try to be cautious about who you tell because everyone else has their own Feelings that they then want to discuss and this isn’t the time for you to manage everyone else’s Feelings. This is a time for you to get support. You shut down the person who offers you a job in their group like five times in a day. You ignore the person who outbursts their emotions about when they got fired. (Not the same thing, buddy.) Your parents try to tell you that having the mortgage paid off would be better than having cash in the bank and you call bull on that – liquidity is far more useful.

Life goes on. That self-care that you had been working on all year when you started to realize you hated your job? It, your partner, and your savings account carry you through this confusing time.

How I Use Stylebook to Manage My Closet

iPhone Screenshot 1 I’ve been using Stylebook since January to track and manage my closet. Last fall, I did an analysis of what I had in my closet and what I would like to have and identified where the gaps were. Not long after that, I got an iPhone and discovered the wonder of iOS apps, including Stylebook. I’m a huge believer of having data on your life and data gives you the power to make informed decisions, so I’m surprised I never really tracked my closet before. I probably had the mistaken impression that that was for “fashion snobs”, which I felt was not me.

Closet Organizing

The key data piece in Stylebook is importing your entire closet. This sounds like a lot of work and it definitely takes some amount of time, though I had recently done a huge closet purge when I started using the app, which made the import go much faster.

Categories

Their categories didn’t quite work for me, but you can really define your own categories. I’ve eventually shifted my categories to the following:

  1. Tops
    1. Three-quarter sleeved
    2. Long-sleeved
    3. Short-sleeved
    4. Cardigans/Hoodies
    5. Sweaters
    6. Sleeveless
  2. Bottoms
    1. Pants
    2. Shorts
    3. Tights
    4. Skirts (though I currently have none)
  3. Shoes
    1. Flats
    2. Boots
    3. Sandals
  4. Bags
    1. Cross-Body Bags
    2. Totes
    3. Clutches
  5. Outerwear – three subcategories to match the different types of jackets I wear in my region
  6. Dresses
    1. Fall/winter Casual
    2. Formal Dresses
    3. Spring/summer Casual
  7. Other
    1. Scarves
    2. Belts
    3. Hats
    4. Necklaces
    5. Swimsuits
  8. Athletic clothing
    1. Tops
    2. Pants
    3. Footwear
  9. Items that don’t currently fit – subcategories for each size
  10. Gone Items
    1. Tops

As you can see, I track pretty much all items of clothing in Stylebook except for pyjamas.

Importing Items

I add an item to Stylebook when I decide that it has a place in my closet. Many websites have pictures of their clothing on them and I use those pictures to use as the item’s picture where possible. When that’s not possible, I either take my own picture quickly and take a new picture later when I have some more time or I search for a similar item in Google images and try to find one without a person in it. The background is much easier to clear in Stylebook with its tools when it’s a distinct color from the clothing item and there are no pieces in the background layered over top of the item.

You can add a variety of fields on your items: colors, fabric, size, season, brand, status, price, and notes.

I didn’t use the Season field at first, until I learned how useful it is when I couldn’t figure out why I felt like I had nothing to wear in the summer. I went and added the Season field to all of my clothes and then realized I had about 2 items I would wear in the summer. That helped me be comfortable with going out and buying some new summer clothes.

The Notes field is completely freeform and I use it for a few purposes:

  1. I note when I added the item to my closet, i.e. “January 2016”. (This allows me to then search for “2016”to find all items added in 2016 or for “February 2016” to find all items added in that month – super useful.)
  2. I include the description of the item from the brand’s website.
  3. I include general notes about the item. For outerwear, I indicate a temperature range where I wear the piece. (This has really helped me to think consciously about when I would wear a piece of outerwear before adding it to my closet! One piece I bought this past spring was for a very specific temperature range that I realized I didn’t have a piece for and then it turned out that is a very common temperature range where I live as I have worn it 72 times since I bought it in April.)
  4. If I have multiple of the same item in the same color, I write “Multiple x3” to indicate how many I have.

Style Stats

I love the style stats in the app! You can see:

25 Most Recently Added

This screen shows the items you most recently added to the closet. I like to look at how aged these items are. The least recently added item in this list currently is from August 2016. I didn’t add anything to my closet in October 2016.

Never Used in an Outfit

This screen I don’t really care about. For me, it shows bags and jackets because I don’t usually include those in my outfits.

Never Logged on Calendar

This screen is pretty useful to see what items you added to your closet, but then never worn. If you’re someone who tends to buy items, leave the tags until you wear it, but then never actually wear it, checking in on those items here is really useful.

25 Least Worn

This screen is really motivational to me to make sure I’m wearing the items in my closet! If things stay in here for too long, I like to think about why they’re still here. Why am I not wearing the item? Did I buy it off-season and that’s why it’s staying in here for a long time of low usage? (I am not a fan of off-season buying.) Right now, here’s a selection of my list:

  • 1 day: A pair of hiking shorts that I bought because I was too warm hiking in pants. We didn’t have a lot of time to hike this summer, so I only wore them once.
  • 1 day: A dress I bought in September. The tights I would wear it with ripped, which has been a deterrent to wearing it again. I am replacing those tights though and then I’ll be able to wear the dress again.
  • 2 days: A gorgeous summer formal dress that I for some reason bought last fall that I had no reason to wear or buy and then it didn’t fit when it was summer! I’ll slowly get some wear out of it.
  • 2 days: A top I bought last December that is really cute and looks great on me that simply doesn’t fit into my lifestyle and weather. Plus it’s handwashable and I’m a tad lazy with those.
  • 2 days: Colored tights that are a little too out there in color for my more classic, subdued colored dressing.
  • 2 days: Colored tights that went perfectly with exactly one item in my closet that I sold on Poshmark because I never wore it. Thankfully they also go with something I bought in September, so I will get some wear out of them after all.
  • 2 days: A dress I bought for the many summer weddings we went to this year, but I only wore it to two of them because the other two were in the fall and I wore a different dress.

And so forth. If I can’t come up with a good explanation for when I’ll wear an item again, I add “Poshmark” to its description and try to sell it eventually.

25 Most Worn

This one is super fun. For me, it is full of bags, shoes, outerwear, cardigans, and scarves, since those are the items that are mixed and matched more often with multiple other pieces.

25 Worst Cost-per-Wear

I take a similar approach to the “25 Least Worn” items here. I have an ongoing project of wearing the items in this screen to get them out of here! It is really rewarding when they get out of here. Adding new items to my closet is horrible for this screen’s progress, which helps to not shop when I don’t need something.

25 Best Cost-per-Wear

This screen is so helpful for showing me just how much those expensive shoes, bags, or jackets really cost on a per use basis. I acquired a purse for $217 about two years ago now and despite not tracking its usage in Stylebook for most of its first year, it’s just about down to $1/wear, which is pretty good. It doesn’t show any signs of use and I will have it for a long time. It’s also shown me that the flats that I thought were “expensive” turned out to have far better cost per use statistics than some of the tops I bought that were way cheaper.

Archiving Items

Stylebook unfortunately doesn’t allow you to “archive” items, so I’ve developed a way to do this manually. When I think I should sell an item, but haven’t quite gotten around to doing so yet, I add “Poshmark” to the Notes field. I have three strategies here:

An item no longer fits

I have a category for when items no longer fit and I move the item there. I also update its status to “In Storage” and move the price from the Price field to the Notes field. (So that I still have the data easily accessible if it turns out to fit again.) This means that the “Value of my closet” field Stylebook tells me is the sum value of all of the items that currently fit in my closet. If I would wear the item if it fit again, then I keep it. Otherwise, I consider donating it or selling it and follow the other two strategies described below. This section is really helpful for when an item then fits again later and I can reverse the steps I described here to bring it back into my closet! It’s great for tracking items that are in storage somewhere else in your house/apartment too.

Deleting entirely

If an item that I’ve removed from my closet by donating or selling shows up in the Most Worn or Least Worn stats screens, then I delete the item entirely from the app. Before deleting it, I save its info into the iOS Notes app. I save the item’s picture, the picture of any looks, the price, brand, and notes fields, and indicate which days I wore it. I also delete the item from the looks that it was in, so that the other items will still show that they were worn that day.

Moving to another clothing category, e.g. “Gone items”

If the item doesn’t show up in the Most Worn or Least Worn stats screens, then I leave it in Stylebook and simply move it to another clothing category labelled “Gone items”. Like for when the item no longer fits, I mark the item’s status as “In Storage” and move the price to the Notes field.

Outfits Organizing

iPhone Screenshot 2

This is where you store all of the possible ways that you have worn or could wear the items in your closet! It is so useful to be able to see all of the different ways that you have worn an item before and then how often you wore it that way.

My lifestyle is so different from the default way the app was set up that it took me a while to figure out how to use this section. Initially I didn’t use it and just logged each item on the calendar every day I wore it. That was a lot of work so eventually I organized things into outfits. My categories here are always evolving and I rearrange them depending on the current season. This feature is really neat because then I can go back to an item’s page in the app and see all of the outfits I’ve made with it.

Categories

At the moment, the list looks like:

  1. Long-sleeved
  2. T-shirts
  3. Athletic
  4. Dresses, Fall
  5. Dresses, winter/dressy
  6. [Jeans] Size X
  7. Long-sleeved Cords
  8. T-shirt Cords
  9. Looks with Missing Items
  10. Dresses, summer
  11. [Jeans] Size Y
  12. Sleeveless
  13. Shorts

The [Jeans] Size X/Y categories are because I have the same pair of jeans in two different sizes and that’s my way of keeping the looks separate.

What goes in an outfit?

In my individual outfits, I include: dresses, tops, cardigans/hoodies, pants/shorts/tights/skirts, shoes, and scarves. I include vests in outfits and outerwear in athletic outfits, but otherwise, I don’t include outerwear in an outfit because it isn’t key to the outfit for me. Everyone is different on that. For me, outerwear is more dependent on weather than on the other items I’m wearing.

Calendar

iPhone Screenshot 3This is the meat and butter of the app really as it powers all of the statistics. This is where you log what you actually wore every day. I log everything that I wear outside of the house, with the first item being the primary outfit I wore. You can log clothing items or looks/outfits.

It’s really fun looking back on a previous month – you can really tell what the overall weather theme just by looking at my Stylebook calendar! It does show you your Most Worn and Best Value for each month. Most Worn is usually a bag or a piece of outerwear for me, so those are not particularly interesting. Best Value is usually the cheapest item I wore that month, so also not particularly interesting. I’m more interested in the long-term patterns.

You can add notes for each item you add to the calendar. I use this for a few purposes:

  1. I indicate if I wore an outfit to the gym so that I can easily search for all outfits I wore to the gym
  2. I indicate the names of the bride and groom for the wedding I wore an outfit to. This makes it easy to search “wedding” and find all outfits I wore to a wedding in my Stylebook history.
  3. I occasionally use other indicators like “dinner”, “hiking”, “walk” etc.

I occasionally will plan my entire week of outfits at once by consulting the weather and what clean items I have in my closet.

Packing

My system for packing clothes on trips used to be pretty lazy for how great I am at organizing so many other things. Now I use Stylebook to manage my clothing packing. I make a new packing list for a trip and add the expected weather, how many flights, and anything else to note (e.g. wedding(s)) in the notes field. You can add multiple outfits at once to your packing list and then once you’re done selecting outfits, it asks you if you want to add the missing items to the clothing section of the packing list. They have a packing list of all the items once you’re ready to pack that is organized by subcategory! I especially love being able to use Stylebook to figure out what is in my suitcase because I can never find anything. We’ll see if it manages to solve my overpacking problem though…

What is it missing for me?

  • Goals of number of items across the following categories: (1) summer dresses/tops and (2) fall dresses/tops.
  • Dates an item left and entered my closet so that I can search on these more easily.
  • Closet holes in list form – the app has an “inspiration” section, but I tend to make lists of things and then search later for “black flats” for example.

What have I learned?

  1. How to buy clothes that fit into my closet, rather than buying clothes that seem interesting
  2. I will never be the person who buys ten items of the same shirt in the same color and is happy wearing those every day.
  3. I do, however, like finding a shirt or dress I love and then buying it in multiple colors.
  4. 1-2 pairs of jeans really are sufficient. There is no reason to have any more. 1 pair of athletic pants per style and size is sufficient too (hiking shorts, hiking pants, and yoga crops).
  5. It’s okay to only use a particular bag in the summer or another in the fall – the long-term view is useful.
  6. There is a huge range between “being a fashionista” and “not caring about fashion at all” and I fall somewhere in the middle.
  7. If I don’t have enough clothes to wear in a particular season between laundry days, life is very stressful for me.
  8. I like clothes.
  9. I like having enough clothes to be able to not worry about whether I have clothes to wear that day.
  10. By being more conscious about my closet, my closet is much smaller than it used to be, while wearing a far higher percentage of the items in it.
  11. Stylebook is so great at helping me shop my closet and organize things in a way I never could by just staring at my closet.
  12. I really don’t need that cute dress unless it will fill a closet hole.
  13. Unless I have key accessories to wear an item (re: tights that I would wear with a particular dress), I simply won’t wear it.
  14. Based on my lifestyle, I really only need one formal dress per season and if I wanted more, I should use Rent the Runway over buying dresses because my cost per wear would be better that way.
  15. Women should stop making excuses for why they buy more clothes and instead, use the Stylebook app to manage their closet.
  16. More expensive clothes don’t always have a better Cost Per Wear than cheaper clothes and vice versa.
  17. Clothing is something I am willing to spend a reasonable amount of my discretionary income on, so long as it is conscious.

Early retirement is a LIE

You’re probably reading the title and thinking “Early retirement is a lie” – she is so right! No one can retire early because it’s simply not possible. Well, I firmly believe it is financially possible, but calling it “early retirement” is a lie. You might call me the “Early Retirement Police” for saying this, but I don’t care.

Early retirement gets such great hype because everyone in America is burnt out from working too many hours at jobs they don’t like and not having enough of a gap between their earnings and their spending for them to be able to career change, so they start searching “How do I retire early”. Their goal isn’t to do nothing for the rest of their lives – their general goal is to do something else without needing to worry about money.

Why do I say early retirement is a lie then? If you had a larger gap between your spending and your earnings for many years at the point where you decided you wanted to change careers, what would you be doing? Well, if you have a healthy mindset around money where it is meant to be spent at some point and not hoarded forever, then you’d probably use some of your savings to allow yourself time to figure out what to do next and change careers.

People love saving for early retirement because you only have to save for N years and then you’re done! You can run away from your career that you hate so badly! We love time limits on anything. How often does the instructor at a fitness class say “You can do anything for 10 seconds, just 10 more seconds!” That’s exactly what saving for early retirement is – waiting on N more years to be able to live the life you want forever. It sure sounds pretty shiny. There’s a catch though – you need to be able to stick it out in a job you don’t like for those N years. You know who gets the best raises? The best bonuses? The highest performers. I don’t know about you, but if I hate my job, I’m pretty terrible at it.

If I love my job, I’m going to be the most badass rockstar you will ever meet.

I want to live a life where I am the most badass rockstar you will ever meet. I don’t want to stay in a job I don’t like just so I can save tons of money and retire early.

I live in a place I love. I have an amazing husband. We live in a condo that we love. We have an amazing community here in this place that we live. We have great options for exercising in ways that we both enjoy. We cook and eat delicious food.

What’s missing? The intellectual stimulation from a career I love. I know I’m not going to get that from retiring early and being outdoorsy all the time. We need balance in our lives and unfortunately our North American high-powered careers suck at that.

The reality of early retirement is that it is a career shift with a large nest egg so that you have the freedom to pursue a lower income lifestyle.

If you’re a white collar career driven person in today’s world, you are not going to want to give up the mental stimulation that your career brings you. You are going to find some other way to get that mental stimulation. Some people in the ER blogging community derive that new mental stimulation from writing and other creative pursuits. Have you noticed though that only high income people pursue hardcore early retirement while lower income people gasp change careers?

Maybe the people who were in lower income careers are on to something.

Why are we holding onto the notion that we need to have the higher income in order to be happy? Shooting for early retirement means that you’re still holding onto that notion. Why not take a lower paying job that will bring you more joy in life?

Life is not about money – it’s about joy. Sometimes money is a tool to get you there, a dangerous tool that you can wield beyond its good.

Being financially stable doesn’t make you better

While I was procrastinating something the other day, I read through a thread on an internet forums wherein forum members shame their coworkers/friends/relatives for not being as good with money as them. These forum members also have tales of being ridiculed for being so cheap/frugal. And yet, they’re ridiculing their friends/coworkers/relatives in this anonymous, but very heavily search engine indexed forum. Say what?

This whole world would be better if we could learn to not judge others for their choices. This is something I’ve been working on the last few years, but at this point, I have my financial judging down to one: complaining about something that you could fix, but aren’t.

For the longest time, I judged a spendy friend for spending in different ways than I value. I also judged my boyfriend for spending in different ways than I value. But both of those two people have solid reserves and spend less than they earn – just in different ways than I would. To my friend, I probably spend more on security (savings) than they consider necessary. I think they spent more on housing than probably necessary, but you know what I can comment on? They have a really lovely house. And I absolutely love really lovely houses even if I don’t value spending my money on them. (Okay, I do, but in smaller doses of money spent.)

What does judging others for their different financial ideas get you? All it gets you is a negative attitude towards them. You don’t have to share every single possible interest with someone in order to be friends. I have friends who I work out with, friends who I work with, friends who I discuss money with, friends who I travel with, etc. Unless someone told you exactly the decision process that led them to do X where X is something you don’t agree with, you quite possibly don’t even know where they’re coming from. I’ve had people judge me for buying a brand-new car, without knowing that my plan was to hold it for 10-15 years. People judged me for pre-ordering an iPhone 6S when it was announced, without considering that perhaps I am frugal in other ways and that is a way in which I choose to spend my money, or realizing that I spend $35/month on my cell phone plan.

If you’re financially stable, that’s probably one of your values. I know it’s one of mine. I value being financially stable and secure, living in a home I love, having a closet of clothes that fit and make me feel good wearing them, getting plenty of time outdoors, and staying active.

Instead of spending time judging others for their so-called terrible decisions, instead try to remain positive. You might even end up educating them or learning something yourself. For example, when a coworker judged me for buying the new phone, I told them that I paid cash for it and have a cheap cell phone plan, which they hadn’t even realized was an option. They then bought their next cell phone in cash as well and have a cheaper cell phone plan as well now. I will say I was surprised at the person who was incredulous that I would pay $800 in one go for a phone. Yet it’s a device that they too use all the time and get a ton of enjoyment and use out of it for an $800 thing that will cost me about $1/day. I would almost say I get more use out of my phone these days than out of a personal computer.

That said, the guy boasting about having only two dollars and thirty seven cents in his checking account? Definitely not going on a date with him, no matter how cute he might be. I am allowed to reserve some judgment for potential romantic pursuits. After all, you want to find a life partner who shares many of your core values.