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LET’S CATCH UP 1.31.21

I haven’t done one of these posts since last October! To be honest the time since then has been a whirlwind of my old company closing, then starting my new job, then the holidays. I just now really feel like I’m coming up for air. So as I sit with a chai tea latte in hand, waiting for the snowstorm to arrive this evening, I thought I’d finally catch up with you all:

ON MY MIND:

  • For the past 2 years I’ve picked 3 months throughout each year that would be “no shopping” months. I can buy essentials like food and pharmacy items, but otherwise no new clothes, accessories, books, etc. I’ve found it to be such a great way to reset the constant pressure for new items and gives me time to focus on carefully selected purchases that I’ll perhaps want to get in the following months. My goal for 2021 is at least two no shopping months and I’m kicking it off with what I’ve dubbed ‘Frugal February’. Anyone else want to join? If you’re interested, I wrote post earlier this month on how to prioritize your finances this year.
  • This post – asking women to name something they like about themselves – from Cup of Jo – is so simple, yet so uplifting. We all need to do more of this. Don’t miss the comment section too!
  • I can’t stop watching the Chanel SS21 Couture presentation. It’s just hauntingly beautiful. Volume up.
  • The other night my two best friends from college and I had a Zoom catch-up and crafted homemade Valentine’s Day cards for each other while we chatted. I have the fondest memory of us doing this one year when we were all single in our early 20s in my old studio apartment on the Upper East Side. They’ve both long since left New York and are married with babies, but it’s a good reminder that no matter what stage of life – take a minute to tell the people you love that you love them. Even better if done in a hand-crafted card!

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • Adam got me a signed copy of the new David Sedaris anthology, The Best of Me and I just cracked it open this weekend. It’s a selection of his fiction and non-fiction over his decades long career and despite being a devoted fan I’m finding that there are many in the book so far that I’ve never read.
  • My NYC book club is reading Outlawed this month (which also happens to be a Reese’s Book Club pick) – described as True Grit meets The Crucible. And my virtual club is reading The Comeback, which is a ‘Me Too’ era story of a young actress who finally comes back to right the wrongs done to her earlier in her career. I’m really looking forward to both!
  • The perpetual upside to freezing cold weather and a pandemic making us housebound is that I continue to devour books. I read 6 1/2 in January and have plenty of great ones stacked up for February including this new release that’s meant to be a prequel to The Great Gatsby.
  • Aside from the book that I’ve been slowly working on for the past year (and I do mean slowly) – I’ve started a new side project based on letters that a family friend has trusted to me. They were written by her parents back and forth to one another and involved a clandestine meeting in NYC in the 1940s. I’m sure they never expected a woman in NYC in the year 2021 to be reading these precious love notes but I’m honored to have the chance.

IN MY SHOPPING CART:

  • Before I go all ‘Frugal February’ I’m going to try to grab a new pair of jeans to try today. I’ve recently bought and returned two pairs and asked for brands you all love on Instagram. Everlane was one that was mentioned and so I’m thinking of trying these – which have great reviews.
  • I’m not usually a Valentine’s Day themed outfit person, but these new socks really spark joy for me.
  • My friends at NYDJ sent me this tie dye sweatsuit and this chic navy sweatsuit and I’m living my best pandemic-life in them. One of my goals has been to refresh my basics and at the end of last year when I cleaned out my pajama and activewear drawer I realized I didn’t really have much good quality loungewear. This solved that problem with flying colors.
  • I have chronically static-y hair in the winter. This touch-up creme is the only thing that saves me from looking like I was electrocuted. I throw it one my ends and flyaways before Zoom calls.
  • Another goal for this year is to update our sad, old kitchen items. Over holiday break we cleaned out every cabinet and decided what to toss and what we’d like to replace. This weekend we made huge headway by finding all new pans, baking sheets and muffin tins. We got ours at Marshalls (the 6th Ave location had a great selection if you’re in the city!) but I found the same ones online here.
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COLLAPSIBLE TREADMILL REVIEW

I don’t know that I’ve ever written such a specific product review on the blog before, but after I shared my excitement over my new collapsible treadmill a couple of weeks ago on Instagram, SO many of you reached out with questions and have followed up looking for the link since then – that I thought it would be easier if they lived in one permanent place.

As a short backstory – I love walking/running but truly hate the cold. On top of that, the concrete can often be hard on my knees and in recent years have found that running on a treadmill at the gym is far more forgiving. Enter – the pandemic. My gym was closed for 6+ months, but since it was spring/summer/fall weather I continued my strength training exercises at home and would take long walks or short runs outside. Although my gym has since reopened, I find running inside with a face mask pretty difficult and the risk of being there just generally doesn’t feel like it’s worth the reward.

As we faced the winter ahead I was feeling really anxious about losing the joy that walking/running brings me. Not in a million years did I think I’d be able to squeeze a treadmill into our NYC apartment – but when I started seeing these collapsible options on the internet I was super game to try them.

SHOP THE POST:

This one in particular has thousands of reviews and a 4 star rating. I’ve had it for about 2 weeks now and probably used it 7-8 times and I’d personally give it 5 stars – with a couple of caveats. First of all, you’re not buying a $3,000 treadmill you’d find at the gym so it’s not going to have all of the same bells and whistles. That being said, for less than $500 and the fact that I can run inside my apartment, I couldn’t be happier.

PROS:

  • Compact – I can’t get over the fact that this fits under our apartment sized couch. We checked measurements beforehand, but like magic it disappears once you’ve collapsed it. Besides fitting in our living room comfortably, you could also use this with a standing desk to walk while you work!
  • Price – For less than $500 this will pay for itself easily over time with how often I use it. And while there certainly aren’t any “frills” to it, I wasn’t looking for those. Despite being reasonably affordable, it feels plenty sturdy when I’m on it and has a really solid weight to it.
  • Ease of use – There’s a lever on the side that collapses that top arm and this thing goes from under the couch to me running in probably 2 minutes flat. Assembly took less than half an hour.
  • Quiet – When I’m walking, it’s super quiet – maybe comparable to the hum of the dishwasher. When I’m running, you can definitely hear a louder hum to it and of course – the sound of my steps. But no louder in the hall than when someone has a radio or the TV turned up with bass. That being said, we don’t have neighbors in the apartment below us right now, so if someone moves in I’ll definitely be conscious of not using it super early in the morning or very late at night.

CONS:

  • No incline and limited metrics – Again, there are no frills here. Just a simple little remote that you can increase or decrease speed. I’d recommend using a Fitbit or Apple watch to track distance and time. The speed is actually in km/hr and I think the max speed translates to around 8MPH. Again, I wanted this for walking and light jogging so that’s just fine for me. If you’re looking for sprints and measuring your heart rate.. this might not be for you.
  • Compact – For me this is a major perk, but it took a couple of days to get used to the fact that the belt is more narrow and shorter than what you’d find on a gym-sized treadmill. I’m 5’4″ and have no trouble with not having room for a full running stride, however if you’re very tall you might find it awkward.
  • Device stand only fits phone – The small device stand at the top is only built to hold an iphone, but Adam took out a couple of the screws and now my iPad can sit up there too. Otherwise you could simply face the treadmill towards a computer or TV. I usually just listen to music when I walk or run so it doesn’t bother me.
  • Weight – this is partially a pro, because it feels really nice and sturdy. But be forewarned, it’s about 70 pounds total. We live in a 4th floor walk-up and managed to carry the box upstairs, but if you can get help from a delivery person or have an elevator.. all the better. Now that it’s assembled, the front is on wheels so I only have to lift the back end and then sort of pivot and roll it to get it under the couch but it’s hefty. Most mornings I just have Adam get it out for me as it’s easier for him to left.

Voila! Tucked away and completely out of sight under our couch until the next time I want to use it. Shop the treadmill here and happy walking/running!

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A WEEK OF REAL OUTFITS: 1-12-21

I always find myself hitting reset on my wardrobe in January and going back to basics. Usually we’re coming off a season full of sparkles – and although it was more like a season full of sweatpants this holiday season, it still feels good to be getting up these first couple of weeks of the year and putting on a real outfit.

Below – the outfits I’ve worn this past week. If anything was older or unavailable to shop, I linked a similar item.

BACK TO BACK ZOOM MEETINGS:

This dress is quickly becoming my go to for instant polish. I found this lace blouse on major sale and I love the way it adds a little interest to the look while still being neutral.

MORNING WALK AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

I got these boots and high-rise flare jeans back in the Fall and I’ve worn the combo countless times since. A navy sweater and silk scarf feels a little bit retro, a little bit modern.

LUNCH DATE:

Last weekend, we took advantage of a warm afternoon and grabbed lunch outside at one of our favorite neighborhood spots. I can’t wait to wear this dress with bare legs come spring, but until then – tights, boots and a headband for good measure. This print looks to be sold out now, so I linked two other prints still available.

AFTERNOON AT HOME:

While I like a pair of sweatpants as much as the next person, a stretchy pair of jeggings and a simple top is a nice alternative when you want to feel a little more put together. I love the subtle ruffle on the sleeves and peter pan collar details on this shirt.

CASUAL FRIDAY:

My no-fail combo is a simple pair of jeans, t-shirt and a great oversized blazer. I usually pair with my favorite lucky charms (mostly vintage charms and mine + my grandmother’s ring) and throw on a scarf if I’m heading out at lunch to grab a Diet Coke.

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HOW TO FOCUS ON YOUR FINANCES THIS YEAR

Hello 2021! If 2020 (and frankly the start to this year) has taught us anything, it’s that there are many things out of our control. For most of my adult life – I felt that my finances fell into this category. Which often led to a feeling of general helplessness and frustration. In January of 2019, finally fed up, I made a huge personal shift in my money mindset (you can read all about that here). To put it plainly, it changed my life.

I realize that for so many, the past year of the pandemic has been crippling when it comes to finances. But if you’re in a place where – due to debt, reduced income or just general uncertainty/fear – you’re not focused on your finances at all, I’m here to try and convince you to make a change. I say this as a person who has made a lot of mistakes with her money, had years where I had practically none of it and now am finally in a place where I’m out of debt, have emergency savings and am investing in my retirement. I promise you it can be done, even with the smallest baby steps.

It sounds counterintuitive, but being strict about my finances actually provides me a huge sense of freedom. The more I understand, track and control my budget and goals – the less worry, shame and guilt I feel about my finances. Below – my best advice for finally focusing on your own finances this year.

Go It Alone

You can only change yourself. If you partner isn’t on board yet or none of your friends/roommates talk about money – don’t wait for them to start the conversation. I can’t stress enough how important it is for women especially to not rely on anyone else when it comes to their finances. A savings account can give you the freedom to walk away from a bad relationship or a toxic work environment. Plus, on top of the fact that women statistically earn less than men.. we also outlive them. So we have more years to save for with less money to do it. It’s harsh.. I know.

The great thing is, once your partner, family or friends see you getting things on track – they just might be inspired to join in.

Become Financially Literate

I was SO intimidated when I first began my financial journey. I was always good at math but I’d never taken a course in accounting or personal finances and had couldn’t have told you the difference between a Traditional or a Roth IRA. It felt like an old white man’s club that I hadn’t been invited to. So I sent myself back to “school”. I found podcasts, blogs, books, Instagram accounts and youtube videos that talked about money in relatable ways. I sought out the voices of women that came from esteemed financial backgrounds, people with careers I admired and young people with similar messy financial starts who had since gotten themselves on track. It made me feel less alone, more informed and ultimately confident that I could figure this all out.

I like the podcast HerMoney and She Makes Money Moves, the info on Ellevest and Instagram accounts @thefinancebar, @babeonabudgetblog and @thefiscalfemme for starters.

Lead With Your Values

Money is SO personal. The reasons why I want to save or what I think is worthy of spending on is likely completely different than yours. And that’s fine! I found that once I wrote out the things that felt important to me and some benchmark life goals it really helped for me to get clear on why I wanted to focus on my finances. It also makes it easier to resist the urge to ‘add to cart’ because in the back of my mind I know what the bigger picture looks like and can remind myself of the “why” behind the numbers.

Lay It All Out

Look at every cent you have coming in against all of your fixed expenses. Make savings, debt repayment and – eventually – retirement investments non negotiable. See what’s left. Is it enough to live on? If not – could you pick up a side hustle to earn extra income? Could you sell unwanted items on Facebook Marketplace? Could you give up some of those monthly subscriptions? If it it enough – could you be saving more? A good benchmark is the 50/30/20 rule. You should spend 50% of your income on fixed expenses, 30% on discretionary spending and 20% on savings. Our budget lives in a Google Sheet so it’s easy to access and edit at all times.

Make Time for Your Money

This is probably my number one tip and my real “secret” if I have one. Make it a habit like anything else. I began looking at my finances as another layer of my health. If I can make time to workout, I also have to make time to budget.

  • DAILY: I check my account balance and budget spreadsheet for about 5 minutes every morning. I promise you – your skincare routine or mindless Instagram scroll takes longer than this – your schedule will allow it. And I find that when those numbers are top of mind it stays in your subconscious throughout the day and you’re more likely to make better decisions.
  • WEEKLY: Once a week Adam and I meet for about 15 minutes to check in about our spending that week, talk about anything coming up in the next couple of weeks and look at the month as a whole.
  • MONTHLY: We check in to be sure we met all of our monthly savings goals, make transfers between accounts (like our regular checking/savings and our high interest savings account) and look at how we’re tracking towards our yearly goals.
  • YEARLY: A major review of everything. We look at how we did the year prior (did we meet our goals? If not, why?) and plan for the year ahead (will there be any big purchases like a car or big vacation we want to save extra for? Does one of us want to look for a new job?). We also check in and revise our 2-year, 5-year, 10-year and 20-year plans as needed. Life is not perfectly predictable and these aren’t set in stone – but I think it’s important to have a big picture mentality.

To recap: Commit to starting – even if you’re on your own. Even if you can only set aside $10 a month. Even if you think you’ll never see the end of your student loans. Lean on free resources to get comfortable with finances. Make a list of your values, goals and create a preliminary budget for yourself. Track your income, expenses, spending, savings and debt payments. Check in on those numbers often and remind yourself why you started. Write to me in 6 months and tell me how far you’ve come.

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2020: A YEAR IN REVIEW

They say hindsight is 2020. While I’m not sure that enough time has passed to allow for perfect clarity, the memory of this past year is, at the least, still fresh in my mind.

We’ll all have our own stories to come out of 2020. The silver linings of those that welcomed healthy babies, finally enjoyed their own backyards, relished their lack of commutes. Those that just might look back on the year with fondness. But there are many others, less lucky, that grieved losses and loneliness, watched careers evaporate, were trapped in unhappy spaces with the wrong people, were asked to juggle too much or found themselves, unexpectedly, with not enough to get by. I suspect it will take many a long time to come to terms with the effects of this year.

I find myself somewhere in the middle. Incredibly grateful that our immediate family remained healthy and we had a safe home to weather the worst. Someone to kiss me goodnight at the end of every long day.

And yet. I watched the city I love become the epicenter of a deadly pandemic nearly overnight. Stores boarded up and police barricades built. In April, silence and sirens. By June, the screams of people so tired of the same old shit in this country amidst a year that was anything but the same old. By October, the company I’d worked at for nearly 7 years closed and I lost my job. There was isolation from friends and family, worry over what would come next in my career and what would pay the bills in the meantime, the stress of the election and useless fights with Adam.

When I look back on this year I will remember us lying in bed listening to the persistent drone of hovering helicopters. How we constantly watched the news and some days, never even stepped outside. I will remember kneeling on pavement in the middle of Fifth Avenue amidst a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. A young Black woman next to me holding a baby boy to her chest, as police in riot gear looked on. I will remember the constant stream of moving trucks by summer – offering a way out or a reluctant exit for so many. I will remember scrawling our initials into permanence in freshly poured concrete outside our apartment, when the world beyond our block felt so incredibly uncertain.

I will remember our long talks on the couch that dug deeper than the petty fights and healed past hurts. I will remember catching the afternoon sun on the fire escape, a good book in hand. Watching sunsets and season change from that same perch. I will remember leaning out the windows at 7PM as the city erupted into applause for healthcare workers while the “corner DJ” played our street a song of the day. I will picture the pink whistle that I used to add to the noise. I will remember working the polls on election day, spending 17 hours with a woman named Lena who has lived in Harlem since the 50s. The way she reassured me ‘baby, we’re gonna be alright’. I will remember that as the rest of the world fell away – those of us who stayed in this city held tight to each other. Even from a safe distance. I will remember walking miles and miles – admiring the bridges and bones of New York that have held steady through so many other storms.

I’m not sure what’s to come next year, but I’m thrilled to share that I started a new job at the beginning of December and I couldn’t be more grateful or excited about the position and the company itself. They say that 1 million New Yorkers will be vaccinated in January and we’ll have a new president in a few short weeks. Despite a year that held so much darkness, there are glimmers of hope everywhere.

Wishing you all a 2021 filled with more health, happiness, love and light.

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