The Careful Editor

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Save or Splurge? TCE edition May 7, 2010

Filed under: saving — raffydarko @ 4:50 pm
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Personal finance/frugal sites abound with comprehensive lists of the Save vs Splurge variety. I do have some personal guidelines myself and would like to share them – actually, my splurge is not an actual splurge, more like “choose well, buy good brands but find cheap ways to get them”. eBay in this matter is a good friend of mine! No need to ever break the bank.

Do you agree with my “rules”?

cotton tops: save

jeans: splurge – cheap jeans often are a sloppy fit, hems get “wrinkled” soon, the cotton is thin

wool sweaters: splurge – I’m extra-picky about winter sweaters, since I can’t stand itchy wool but also synthetics, also in blends; so I just own a limited number of sweaters and cardigans in cashmere and merinos which are lovely and last years

bra: splurge – small or big, your breasts deserve to be held and shaped by the best bras! A good one really makes the difference even under a simple T-shirt (wink wink)… and lasts long

panties: save

socks: save – hell, some of my best socks were bought at the supermarket

stockings: splurge

shoes: splurge – it’s a given, no? I’ve had my share of hurt, bleeding feet, something that can ruin anybody’s day. Not just flats and heels, but also cheap sneakers can hold bad surprises

makeup brushes: splurge – try applying powders using the softest and thickest brushes and see

hair brushes: save – I don’t think those overpriced, luxury brushes really make the difference. Or do they?

body lotions etc: splurge – no need to explain my cosmetic choices again

scrub: save – or do it yourself with salt and body lotion/oils!

umbrellas: who knows? I’ve had fancy umbrellas which broke soon, fancy umbrellas lasting forever, cheap umbrellas of poor quality, cheap umbrellas which just were indestructible…

eyeglasses: splurge – I’m not fond of designer stuff, but designer frames are just another world, and since eyeglasses have to stay on my face during all my waking hours, they better be the best


Regift… paper April 12, 2010

Filed under: green living,saving — raffydarko @ 10:55 am
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When it comes to creativity, I’m a slacker. I’m always afraid of not being too good at making things with my hands… I know it’s silly, since I can’t judge the results of what I haven’t even tried. (I envy  people who are able to modify clothes, I should find someone to teach me.)

But at least I can reuse some things as they are. Wrapping paper, for example. I just received some birthday presents with a lovely wrapping which I will surely reuse. The lilac one in the picture is a metallic envelope; the flowery one is made of a very thin paper, with a second layer underneath in burgundy – very classy! It comes from a luxury perfume shop (thanks to myboyfriend for giving me a wonderful niche fragrance). The pink one: genius. It’s tissue, it used to wrap an Easter egg and my very creative almost-sister in law used it to wrap her present. Tissue as wrapping paper is very practical, since it can be ironed before reusing.


I love swapping April 5, 2010

Filed under: saving — raffydarko @ 4:42 pm
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Swapping is the new shopping, they say. Oh yeah!

I found in a drawer a diary I had never used, they gave me a T-shirt for it. A body lotion was replaced by mineral foundation. In place of a book I got a DVD. These and many other swaps happened through two sites, and and cost me nothing – except those few euros needed to post my things.

The first is the best one: BigWardrobe (UK-based) was created for swapping exclusively and trades work as on eBay. You can contact a user to offer a swap, then make a formal offer for the item and after trade is completed (which means both parts have received their ends) you leave feedback. It’s free, though you can have your address verified (thus becoming a more trustworthy swapper) by the site admins, after paying a small sum through PayPal. Each user has a virtual notice board and can build a network by adding friends as on Facebook. Clothes and accessories are the most swapped items, but almost any kind of item can be found on the site. Oh, and one can choose to swap or sell or be open to both options.

MakeUpAlley (US-based) is great for finding cosmetic brands from other countries or trying new stuff without the guilt of spending money on it. Just don’t be fastidious about used m.u.: lipsticks can be cleaned, eyepencils sharpened and brushes washed. The downsize of the site is that it is about reviews and forum debates rather than swapping: users list their items, contact other users, make a private agreement, leave a token (feedback) and that’s all. Site admins don’t meddle in swaps, home addresses can’t be verified and anybody could leave tokens to anybody, even if no swap had ever occurred between the two parts. As a result, swaplifters (people who get items, especially from new users, and send nothing in return) abound. That said, I was swaplifted just once and my experience in general is very good. If I buy a product which I then find out is not right for me, I put it up for swap right away instead of hiding it in my drawer until it expires.

Thanks to swapping, I was able to find a new home for some nice things which I wasn’t using anymore, which made decluttering a more pleasant experience. I discovered my favourite mineral m.u. brand, Everyday Minerals, through a swap. I could try the fabulous eyepencils by Urban Decay. I got organic skincare products, Abercrombie and Fitch tops, great books, nice shoes… And the best swappers also include some extras in their packets, be them cosmetic samples or teabags. I once swapped for a green eyepencil and I received *three* eyepencils in different shades of green! And yes, I love green eyepencils.


Kitekat and the art of saving March 30, 2010

Filed under: saving — raffydarko @ 9:23 am
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Our cat eats too much. At least he seems to be eating all the time, since we moved house and he started staying inside most of the time. He’s always trying to get food by whining and whining, unless I ignore him and he reverts to more constructive and healthy hobbies like tearing toilet paper into pieces. Anyway. The 12-pack of catfood, which once lasted a week, now is empty before you know! According to a guide, a cat like Spooky should eat more or less 250 grams of food a day. So I began to make a sign on the writing board on the fridge every 50 grams I gave him and now I’m sure I’m not giving him more than it’s healthy.

Just out of curiosity, I made calculations about how much he costs us in catfood if we stick to the right amount every day. In this case we have to buy 76 packs a year, which means more or less € 300. What if instead, hipotetically, we gave him 300 g a day? That’d make 91 packs per year, € 360 totally. Wow! We can save € 60 a year simply by keeping track of our cat’s eating. Which totally makes sense, since he’s a recurring cost (I hate to call my lovely hand-muncher a “cost” but you know what I mean.) And the central point of recurring costs is that, well, they are recurring – you don’t care much about what you’re spending a single time, but you start caring if you do some maths. It’s a ah-ha! moment.

So, how much can you save by being careful about recurring expenses? € 60 might not be a lot of money, but what about saving € 60 a year in other fields as well? It might sound tiring and cheap to have to check every area of expense, but really it’s just a matter of taking a habit, of thinking about those everyday actions we usually take for granted. And sometimes not wasting is enough to save, so it’s just common sense.

Water is one of the things most taken for granted in the Western world, object of much wasting, especially by showering and flushing. Do we really need long showers? Wouldn’t we be clean and relaxed enough after a few minutes? I’ve also read in more than one on-line place about a tip for not wasting the water from the shower which is not hot yet: just gather it in a bucket and use it for flushing. (Not recommendable if you have guests though.)

Electricity and heating in the winter are two areas where being careful and reducing consumption can really save a lot (many old condos in Italy still have central heating and some flats are so hot that people have to open windows!) so a programmable thermostat is a must. (20 °C is the healthiest temperature.)

Anything you use on a daily basis might be used in less quantity. One doesn’t have to make terrible sacrifices: just choose the areas where reducing is possible and maybe smarter, the possibilities are more than one thinks.

Using your washing machine? The measure of detergent that’s really necessary is always inferior to the one recommended by producers, which, at lower temperatures (30/40°) can even be harmful, leaving residue on clothes. Try and find the right quantity for your machine and water type. If you use Colour-Catcher and the clothes you’re washing are not so bright-coloured or not so new, use just half a sheet.

There are also expenses which can be just cut. Many of us pay yearly subscriptions for magazines they then get tired of, or for TV channels they stop watching that much after a while. Just set your priorities. If you love to buy/rent dvds, don’t pay for more channels on tv (I, being a film lover, do buy a lot of cheap dvds on, where I can find films which aren’t released in Italy).

Readers: what do you do about recurring expenses?

[Picture: it’s him! The hero of this story.]