Mar 11, 2016

How Divorce Changed My Spending Habits

As far as separation and impeding divorce goes, I have had an easier time than most. My divorce is amicable; Mars is still one of my closest friends. I also have a fantastic career making a good living and a flexible employer. Mars makes a great living, too. Financially, we should be sitting pretty.

But we live in San Francisco.

San Francisco has the most expensive housing in the United States. I rent a 1,200 SF 2-bedroom home that costs a whopping 70% of my take-home income... and even that's a fabulous deal because I snagged it when everyone else was out of town for the holidays. I was out hitting the pavement hard looking at rentals and networking with landlords when everyone else was sitting by the fire and laughing it up with friends & family while drinking eggnog.

I have lived on my own for a year now (with spousal support and child custody, of course). It has been extremely difficult financially. Living here comfortably as a single parent with children requires a large amount of money... or at least 2 incomes.

I have had to track every outgoing penny. I use an awesome free mobile app called Expense Manager. I record every single purchase I make, down to the coins I add to a parking meter. My budget is extremely tight. There is no room for error.

Financial distress causes huge behavioral shifts.

In addition to carefully tracking my expenditures, these are a few other things I have had to do differently:
  • I no longer get salon pedicures. Even $25 every other month was too much for my budget to handle. I now do my own pedicures. It took a little practice (my first couple pedicures were hideous!) but now they look almost professional. I cut, file, apply cuticle remover, soak my feet, push back the cuticles, and buff before applying a base coat and 2 coats of colored polish.
  • I canceled my wine club memberships. I know what you're thinking: "Well, no duh!" And you're right. No more $40 bottles of wine for me; Mama now splurges on the occasional $6 bottle.
  • I switched hair salons. My hair grows super fast, which is detrimental for those of us who color our hair. My hair is about 30-40% gray now. Roots show fast. I had to find a less expensive salon and had to extend the amount of time between appointments. My current stylist is not as talented as my last but that's okay, I'll live and adjust. I used to get a cut & color every 7 weeks; now I go every 9 or 10. I also have to touch up my own roots with a home coloring kit twice between visits. I have been considering just letting myself go gray to prevent all this fuss and expense. If you have done this and love it, please tell me so in the comments. Convince me!
  • I now use public transit on the days I don't have custody of the kids. Parking near my office costs $15/day and bridge toll is $6/day. That adds up fast! I do have to drive to work on the days I have kid custody (I have 2 kids at 2 different schools) but when I don't, I rock the public transit. It's a pain in the neck (I have to walk 1 mile each way and transfer trains twice; commute time is naturally a lot longer) but my employer partly subsides my transit fees. It's worth it.
  • I don't buy coffee on the go anymore. My beverage of choice is a plain cup of decaf coffee, which costs $1.50 to $2.25 a pop in a counter-service coffee stand like Starbucks. Now I make my own coffee every morning at home.
  • I grocery shop at the bargain markets. I can no longer afford the luxury of the organic grocery delivery service I used to enjoy when I was married. I have to carefully watch what I buy even at the discount stores.
  • I dramatically reduced my contribution to the kids' mutual funds. I used to allocate $250/month to each child's account. Now it's $150 total... and that's only because a $75 minimum contribution per account is the required minimum. (I originally planned to allocate just $50/month per account.)
  • I dramatically reduced the frequency of restaurant meals. When married, we ate out often. It was a sad and hard habit to break but it had to be done... especially so because I strongly dislike cooking. It sucks but there is no alternative. I have to prepare a meal or we don't eat.
  • I dramatically reduced my entertainment allowance. This was another thing we didn't really think about when married. If we wanted to spend a day at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, we did. Now that's out of the question. I have budgeted enough for the 3 of us to go to a movie theater once a month, maybe out for frozen yogurt a couple times as well.
  • I changed my health insurance. I used to be on Mars' sucky PPO policy, which was ludicrously expensive. It made sense for everyone else in the family because they don't have chronic health issues like I do (I have severe allergies and asthma). And every time I went to the doctor or went for a check-up, it would cost me anywhere from $200-700 out-of-pocket. Last fall during my company's open enrollment, I switched myself only over to an HMO plan. It has made a huge difference. I can now get medical care when I need it without worrying how I'm going to pay the bill.
  • I increased my hours at work. With my 2+ hours commuting and the kids' schools' after-care hours, I am not able to work 40 hours/week. I increased my hours as much as I could and now work 6 hours more per week than I used to, which made a big difference in my income. I also take on freelance writing work when possible.

Vacations are a thing of the past, at least for now.

Most recently, my car needed extensive repairs (new transmission). It was a huge unexpected expense. I cried.

My laptop is on its last legs (i.e. buttons are missing) and I am terrified it's going to self-destruct soon.

I feel like I am on the verge of financial ruin. I know this is temporary and my finances will only improve over time. They already have. Last summer was my lowest financial point and I lived in a constant state of panic. My budget is still super tight but, fortunately, it's not nearly as bleak as it used to be.

What financial changes have you had to make after separating from and/or divorcing your spouse?

Jan 5, 2016

Stitch Fix #6 Review

Being that I was on a very tight budget, it had been several months since I'd scheduled a Stitch Fix delivery. However, early last month the good people at Stitch Fix sent me a complimentary style plus $20 off code as incentive to schedule another Fix. There was nothing to lose! It would be a Christmas gift to myself... and it would hopefully get me out of my current fashion rut.

I scheduled my Fix to arrive on December 18th and waited impatiently. I had asked my stylist for some unusual pieces to inject some fun into my wardrobe, long-sleeved tops, and either a pencil skirt or a pair of slacks.

My stylist, Kim, delivered.

She sent a dress, a pencil skirt, a sweater, and 2 long-sleeved tops. I loved everything and agonized over what to keep. My budget said I could only keep one item but if I could have, I would have purchased 4 of the 5 items.

Pixley
Kathy striped fit & flare dress

$68
I initially didn't like the navy blue & white stripes. Horizontal stripes make busty me appear even more busty. Not good. But, in a surprising turn of events, I tried it on and loved it. The cut was flattering, the stretchy material was comfy, and the stripes were fun, just as I'd requested. The brilliant 'nipping & tucking' at the bust fortunately made me appear less busty. It had a v-back. I took photos of myself in each item and this was the piece that my boyfriend and my friends liked the most, by far.
Verdict: Keep


 
Brixon Ivy
Cyndi lace pencil skirt

$74
Oh, how I loved this skirt! It was absolutely stunning. It had a dark brown leather waistband, gorgeous red lace, and fit like it was made for me. However, the color made it nearly impossible for me to think I could wear it year-round, especially to the office. Navy blue would have been perfect. I really, really wanted to keep it but passed for practical reasons. This was my 2nd favorite piece.
Verdict: Return

 
41Hawthorn
Presley colorblock button-back sweater

$68
I had been wanting a button-back sweater and this was fun, asymmetrical, and bold. Love! The fit was perfect, too. I loved the olive green color but wasn't crazy about the ivory. Plus, some friends said the buttons down the back were odd, like I had put on a cardigan backwards. Still, they didn't deter me from wanting it. This sweater was my 3rd favorite piece.
Verdict: Return
Front

Back

Market & Spruce
Chaimbers cowl neck knit top

$48
This top was so soft and comfortable and had a flattering fit. However, it seemed a tad short and I wasn't crazy about the gray color. I was hoping for something a little more vivid for winter. This was my 4th favorite piece.
Verdict: Return


Fate
Rietta suede trim top

$58
Although this top fit perfectly, I was not happy that the black suede trim, located under the front button placket and under the collar, was practically invisible. I'd essentially be paying for suede I couldn't see.  I would have considered this piece had the top and the suede been different colors and, therefore, actually noticeable. Paying $58 for a plain black top was simply out of the question for me. This was the only item I didn't care to purchase.
Verdict: Return


A forced 1/5 isn't so bad. With my $20 discount, I only paid $53 for the dress. Merry Christmas to me! I have worn the dress to the office already with navy tights, brown knee boots, and a brown cardigan. I will continue to wear it with tights and boots for the remainder of the winter and then will wear with silver or yellow ballet flats and fun colorful jewelry in the spring. It's versatile and fun!

To read more of my Stitch Fix reviews, just click on the "fashion" link on the right.

Apr 17, 2015

Stitch Fix #5 Review

I received this Fix just last week. I waited a while between Fix #4 and Fix #5 because I was in the process of getting my finances in order and moving into my own place post-separation. I knew scheduling a fix between December and April would just tempt me into spending money I didn't have.
 
And it turned out to be a good decision, as I loved everything in this Fix so much that I (spoiler alert!) purchased it all.

Laila Jayde
Jorji Knit Top
$48
This lightweight colorblock sweater has stripes on the front that are sewn on, not just knit in... if that makes sense. I was digging the neutral colors that could be worn with anything. Great fit, too.
Verdict: Keep



Kut from the Kloth
Kate Boyfriend Jean
$78
Yes! I had been wanting some boyfriend jeans. I even tried on a pair in Nordstrom Rack not long ago but the fit wasn't very flattering. This pair, however, was flattering! And the price was right.
Verdict: Keep



Loveappella
Davidi Button Detail Knit Top
$48
I loved this as soon as I saw it. Great colors (white/black/blue) and pattern, nice pearlized buttons at the shoulders, soft lightweight fabric, and 3/4 length sleeves. Fit nicely.
Verdict: Keep



Renee C
Addae Fit & Flare Dress
$68
I wasn't sure what to think of this dress but holy moly, it was flattering! Nice color, too. I wasn't crazy about the synthetic polyester-like fabric but I could overlook that issue
Verdict: Keep



Renee C
Cheli Striped Maxi Dress
$68
"What?! Is this a maxi dress in my box? Oh hell no!" I had specifically requested no maxi dresses/maxi skirts on my profile. I don't like long dresses/skirts and was not happy to see this. But then I tried it on. The fit was flattering and I loved the bright summery orange-y coral color. I was a fan. Oops, did I really just say that?!
Verdict: Keep



I have already worn the maxi dress twice, the striped knit top once, the black & blue patterned top twice, and the jeans once. I haven't yet worn the cobalt blue dress but will soon. A great fix. This was the first time I bought all 5 items in my fix and, therefore, received the 25% discount. Yes!

To read more of my Stitch Fix reviews, click on the "fashion" on the right hand side of this page.

Apr 14, 2015

Stitch Fix #4 Review

While Fix #3 contained burgundy pieces, Fix #4 contained purple!

I received Fix #4 in December. Brooke was my stylist. Once again, I had asked for fun clothing items to wear on dates.

Pixley
Edmond Chevron Print Henley Shirt
$54
I loved this as soon as I saw it! Super soft, great colors (navy blue, purple, black, and white), modern chevron print, and nice button detail at the elbows. I was pleased to find the fit was perfect, too!
Verdict: Keep



41Hawthorn
Jace Abstract Chevron Print Dress
$68
Great color, great fit (fit like a glove!), and comfortable. This was a dress I could wear to work, on a dressier date, or to an evening event. The price was right, too.
Verdict: Keep




Just Black
Amalia Pull-On Skinny Jean
$78
More skinny jeans! Black: good. Slimming and flattering: good. Comfortable: Good. Price: Not so good. But I loved them.
Verdict: Keep



Mystree
Amelina Ponte & Faux Leather Jacket
$98
Oh, how I wanted this to work for me! I loved it. However, the fit wasn't quite right. It looked bulky on me and the sleeves were too long. It's possible it was simply too big.
Verdict: Return


Market and Spruce
Alan French Terry Asymmetrical Zip Cardigan
$78
I had pinned this cardigan on Pinterest and was excited to see that it had made its way into my box. I was disappointed to find that it just wasn't flattering on me. It looked sloppy and baggy. Again, it's possible it was simply too big.
Verdict: Return



It was a successful Fix, as I kept 3 out of 5 pieces. I wear the chevron top often; I have definitely gotten my money's worth from that one! I wear the black skinny jeans often, as well, and have even paired them with the chevron top. I have only worn the dress once, to my sister's birthday dinner. I need to find somewhere to wear it soon, as the fabric weight might not work for summer.

Click on the "fashion" link at right to read more of my Stitch Fix reviews.

Stitch Fix #3 Review

I apologize for my absence. The past 6 months have been crazy!

I wanted to get caught up on Stitch Fix first, as I just received Fix #5 last week. I am behind! Forgive me for just jumping in.....

Fix #3 arrived in October, styled by Rachel. I had specifically asked for fun clothing to wear on casual date nights, as I was newly separated from my husband and was dating for the first time in 16 years.

Pixley
Martina Slub Knit Open Cardigan
$54
I have a weakness for cardigans so I was naturally thrilled with this pick. Most of the cardigans I own are classic, fitted button-front style so it was nice to try something a little longer and unstructured. I tried it on and loved it! I loved how soft it was, how the gathers on the front placket made faux pockets (great for cold hands), and also how it dipped a little lower in front.
Verdict: Keep

 
 
Creative Commune
Anita Cowl Neck Lace Trim Blouse
$58
I loved this as soon as I saw it! I am a big fan of cowl necklines and burgundy. Plus, the lace detailing and the split at the back waist were unique touches.
Verdict: Keep


Front

Back

Collective Concepts
Lisette Dot Print Blouse
$68
I loved the color and the polka dots but, unfortunately, it wasn't very flattering on me. It was too loose and made me appear boxy.
Verdict: Return



Kensie Jeans
Sophia Skinny Jeans
$88
After receiving my last fix containing skinny jeans, I was now a newfound fan of skinny jeans. I wanted to love these but they were a little too tight at the waist and, frankly, even if they had fit I didn't love them enough to spend $88.
Verdict: Return

 
 
Renee C
Raegan Polka Dot Swing Skirt
$58
I wasn't sure what to think of this when I first saw it. I don't wear full, gathered skirts! But I tried it on anyway. While way too tight at the waist, it was surprisingly flattering and fun. However, I couldn't make the fit work (too small).
Verdict: Return

 
 
So... I went 2 out of 5. Not terrible. I get a lot of wear out of the pieces I kept. I have worn the cardigan casually, on dates, and to work. I have worn the lace-trim blouse on dates and under a jacket or cardigan to work and have received many compliments.
 
Click on the "fashion" link at right to read more of my Stitch Fix reviews.
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