Friday, October 19, 2012

Sale: Kate Spade... Also a bit of info on chaining discounts

It's that time of year again! Kate Spade is offering 30% off in-store and online from now until Sunday, Oct 21st. All you have to do is use the coupon code: F12FFUS 
Using seasonal sales like this and a bit of planning can be an excellent way of scoring pricier clothing for a lot less. In order to keep from compulsively picking everything since it's on sale (discounts can really mess with one's ability to make good financial choices, right?) I tend to pre-identify the pieces I want to pick up, typically months prior when they're new arrivals. That way I know I'm buying things I really love rather than just being swayed by a big discount. By the time the fall sale hits, these pieces have usually already made it to the sale section, then by waiting just a bit longer for the Friends & Family sale I end up getting a double discount for my patience.

On top of that, I chained in a 7% discount from Ebates gives you additional discounts from online stores and then sends you a rebate check once every quarter. The percentage discount isn't huge, usually anywhere from 3-8%, but any bit helps.

Enough with the theory. Here's how it actually looks in practice: 
  •  In this particular sale I picked up this adorable dress. I liked it when I saw in in-store (it's always nice to be able to do this if you eventually intend to buy online), but at $428 I wasn't ever going to pick it up at full price.

Cute, isn't it?!

  • Months later it ended up in the sale section at $256 (or about 40% off). That was getting better, but still more than I wanted to pay. 
  • Holding out for the Friends and Family sale (30% off of the sale price) dropped it down to a more approachable $179.
  • Then adding in the Ebates rebate took another 7% off of the Friends & Family price.
  • This gave me a final price of just under $167. That's just 39% of the original price.

Yes, I'm the first to admit that the final price is still not super cheap, but Kate Spade clothing holds up substantially better than most cheaper options, so I'll have it for much longer than a dress bought at a lower price point. To keep my clothing budget vaguely reasonable, I also make an active effort to buy less clothing overall. Once again, this goes to the idea of choosing to own less, but have what I own be higher quality pieces that will last a long time and be items that I won't tire of after a season or two of wearing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Link: Add some (temporary) personality to a rental unit wall

That rental unit white wall color does an amazing job of making your home look kind of bland. But unfortunately most people with an apartment, rented condo, or dorm aren't able to change out the ubiquitous white with anything permanent.

Thankfully, there's some great options out there now for temporary wall coverings that look great but also peel off the walls easily (and without damaging the boring paint underneath. Check out this article on Apartment Therapy for 10 sources for your new best friend: removable wallpaper.

I'm personally rather keen on this Trellis Pattern from Swag Paper:

*Happy people drinking coffee not included
And for some reason this cartoony mountain range option from Blik has really grown on me:

It's so easy to put up even Bruce Willis here can do it!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Link: Sew your own mini wallet

Okay. I appear to be easing back into blogging by sharing links. Well, better something than nothing... especially if that "something" is a link to a reasonably easy to follow tutorial for creating your own custom mini wallet.

A little sewing project like this is a great way to create a piece that's reminicent of a more expensive item you may have been lusting after.

My vote for inspiration for this project:

The adorable Kate Spade striped Flicker coin purse

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Link: How to become better at detecting clothing quality

One of the best ways to save on clothing costs is to become better at noticing how a garment is constructed. These little details are what will tell you how well a piece of clothing will fit (or NOT fit as is so often the case) and how well it will hold up over time.

The cost savings are easy: the better made your clothing is, the longer it'll stay nice looking, the more flattering it's likely to be on your body, and the happier you'll be with it over time.

For those of us with some sewing experience, being able to spot the signs of a well made garment are relatively easy. But what if you don't have this experience? Often people will try the shortcut of just assuming that the more something costs, the better it's made. You know what sucks? This isn't always the case.

For today's link I've got a blog posting from Couture Allure Vintage Fashion that gives you some hints about what to look at when evaluating how well a shirt is made. It's a useful bit of insight for sewers and non-sewers alike.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: Makeup Sample Subscriptions

Do you like getting packages in the mail? I know I do. It's kind of like opening a present, even if you already know what's inside.

I love packages, and I also happen to love makeup samples, so when I heard that Canada was starting to get makeup sample subscriptions (much like BirchBox in the US) I was maybe more than a bit giddy. If you haven't heard about these subscriptions, here's how they work. For a minimal fee (about $10-15 a month depending on the subscription) you get a box with several beauty product samples in it, often with one of the products being full-sized. Generally you don't know what you're going to get, but in the case of some services you can fill out a profile to help the service customize your samples slightly.

For the geeks in the audience, it's like those blind box toys you can get from Japan. You have a gist of what you're getting, but you don't know exactly what you'll find.

Over the past few months I signed up for several boxes... you know... in the name of science!
Behold my boxes, in all their glory!
Seriously though, in theory these boxes seemed like they could be a good way to discover new products for a relatively small cost. Now that I'm several months in, though, I can tell you that not all of these subscriptions are created equally.

Here are my reviews of the 4 major services I've used. The pictures for each are photos of the actual boxes I received in March. For the purposes of full disclosure, I should mention that the links I'm posting to these services are my personal referral links, where available.

Service: Glymm
Cost: $10 + tax (So, in reality, $11.30)
I've been using this service since: October 2011

This is the first subscription I tried, and also the first subscription I've dropped. It was fun to get my first boxes, but I was always disappointed with the colours of products I received. I quickly discovered that I needed to lie in my profile to actually get flattering colours, but even after that I still received products that didn't suit me (I've gotten two, count 'em TWO, tubes of clear lip gloss. Seriously! What would I do with clear lip gloss). I've also had shipping issues (although this was likely more due to Canada Post than anything else) AND billing issues (they forgot to bill me for two months, and then suddenly billed me for three shipments in a row without warning me).

Also, the samples in the last two boxes have gotten a lot of bad feedback on the beauty blogs. I'm apparently not the only one who has been disappointed with what I've received. There's a lot of comments online about the boxes not providing the same level of value as other services, both in the number of products and the brands. I'd have to agree with the other bloggers on this one. February's box came with a single sheet of blotting paper as one of my samples. That isn't remotely enough to let me test it out.

The one perk with this service is that with every month's box you get points to spend on their website (you also accrue points for buying items from their online store). After a few months you can easily collect enough points to get $10 off an item. Shame the shipping costs are so high though.

Glymm seemed good without any comparisons, but now that I've got other subscriptions it just isn't up to snuff. I can't recommend this one at all.

Service: Luxe Box by Loose Button
Cost: $12 + tax (So, in reality, $13.56)
I've been using this service since: December 2011

Honestly, I wasn't too crazy about this service at first. The brands they carried leaned much more towards drugstore brands than that luxury brands I had expected (think brands they carry at Sephora). Luxe Box has also had some issues with their website. They started a program called First In Line, in which you were able to pick out a specific item from a selection of four options. Great idea, right? Well, the numbers of each sample type were limited, so people would all log in to the site as soon as the month's First In Line link became active, causing their servers to crash each time. It was deeply frustrating.

I was this close to cancelling when they started turning around. My March box had two Cargo products that I liked a lot, and it seems they're legitimately working on better solutions for their First In Line program (in April, after yet another server crash, they had us all sign up for one of several selection time windows, with each window allocated the same number of products). I think the service is still too heavy on perfumes (something to note if you have allergies), but it is getting better.

I'm giving it another couple of months to see if it's worth keeping.

Service: Topbox

Cost: $10 + tax (So, in reality, $11.30)
I've been using this service since: March 2012

I signed up for this back in December, but they've had a backlog on subscriptions. This means if you sign up today you likely won't start getting a box for a couple of months. It's annoying, but likely smart as it's allowing the company to expand comfortably and keep the quality of the service high.

I've only gotten two months of the service, but I'm happy so far. The samples are fun products, with an interesting range of brand names and types of products. I've also looked at other people's boxes from previous months and what they received was also rather decent.

Worth trying if you like a range of products and can stand waiting for a few months to actually start receiving anything.

Service: Glossybox

Cost: $15 (taxes are included in this one!)
I've been using this service since: March 2012

This one is a relatively new subscription as their debut box came out in February. The brand isn't new, though. The service has been running in several European countries for awhile now and has a stellar reputation there. Thankfully Glossybox appears to be living up to this reputation.

While Glossybox is the priciest of the lot (although not by much once you factor in taxes), it's also currently my favourite. My first box came with multiple full sized products AND I've liked them all (even the bizarre Evian aerosol that seemed rather useless at first). It's the first box I've received where I've liked everything, from the product quality to the colours.

If Glossybox can continue to keep up this level of service, it's a must have as far as I'm concerned.

In Summary
All in all I'm enjoying these services, but I can't recommend subscribing to them all. As you can see above, the monthly haul you can get is pretty impressive. But all four services cost $51.16 a month total, which is a lot to spend on beauty products you didn't pick out yourself. It's also a lot to spend if you don't actually like everything you're getting.

I've scaled down to 3 subscriptions, but ideally I think it's most cost effective to go down to 2, or maybe even one. At that number you're still getting a decent range of products and getting all the fun of random samples sent to you, but not spending nearly as much. I'm sticking with the three I have for now and will make the final cull during the summer.

As these services are starting to be the next trendy thing, I'm sure we'll be seeing more spring up in 2012. I know I've seen ads for two other services, but the reviews of both seemed so weak that I didn't even want to try them out. Should any better ones pop up, though, I'll likely test them out for a few months and review them on this blog.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cheap trick: Save 20% on iTunes purchases

iTunes is relatively cheap and has an exceptional selection. Plus, I don't know about you but I have lost all patience for waiting for music. What, you want me to actually go into a store, hunt down the CD, take it to a half-asleep cashier, pay for it, drive my sorry carcass home, unwrap the darn thing, pop it into my computer, rip the music, and then plug in my iPhone before I can have it with me at all times? No! I grew up with the Internet, thank you!

So, yeah, iTunes it is.

I admit, though, that on the surface iTunes can be a bit more expensive than other download options (although not remotely as convenient if you have an iPhone). So, to even the playing field while keeping almost the same level of convenience, I give you the following counterintuitive advice:

Buy iTunes gift certificates.

Yes, you're going to buy physical cards to save on digital music. Go fig.

Okay, hear me out. You're not going to buy them anywhere, anytime all willy nilly. You're only going to buy them on sale, and you're going to buy a lot at a time.

More often than not, if you go through your local stores' weekly flyers, you'll find at least one that's got these gift cards on sale for 20% off. Usually it's your tech stores (Best Buy and Future Shop), but I've seen them on sale at places like Target and even occasionally at grocery stores too. I don't know what the story is behind the discount, but regardless of whether the cards are loss leaders for the store or discounted by Apple, you save a decent chunk of change.

In order to keep yourself out of stores as much as possible, don't just buy a $10 card and call it a day. Save yourself the trouble and pick up enough credits to cover what you tend to spend over a few months. It's not like the cards are going to go bad or anything, which is why I tend to pick up $50-$100 worth at a time.

Once I have the cards, I tend to put the credits in my iTunes account as soon as I get home. It's a good way to make sure you don't lose the credits by misplacing the physical gift cards.  If you're better at keeping track of small items than me, though, you can also consider only inputting your gift card codes as you need them. That way you have a stash of unused cards that you can either use yourself or dip into if you suddenly need an emergency gift for someone.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Project: Expedit with legs / Cost: $$$$

Guess who finally has a camera again?!

Yes, as it turns out it's rather difficult to blog about home projects when you drop your camera on the ground mid-photograph, bending the lens beyond all repair. Stupid gravity!

Anyway, a new camera has been acquired and, now that I finally have some free time again, I'm back and ready to post some of the projects I've worked on over the past few months.

Good old reliable Expedit. Why don't you have leg accessories?
First up, a quick but effective Ikea hack. I'm in the process of leveling up my bedroom from the current college-student-style mess of mismatched cheap furniture to something not much more expensive, but significantly better looking. Most of what I'm using is from the Ikea Hemnes family, which is a lovely line that unfortunately is completely devoid of anything that can hold Kassett magazine boxes, of which I have and use many.

What to do? The best option was an Expedit unit, but without legs it didn't match the rest of the furniture.

Because Expedits are reasonably cheap, I decided it was worth trying an experiment. I would pick up some legs, and then force them to attach to the Expedit in some way or another, presumably through brute force or coercion.

So an Expedit came home with me, as did two sets of Besta legs. At $10 a pair, the legs were a bit more than I wanted to spend, but if I could get them to work they would look perfect.

Behold! Overly expensive legs, in all their glory.
Expedits are predominantly that weird wood chip mulch Ikea is so fond of, so I figured it wouldn't be too tricky to drill leg holes into the unit. Of course, that requires having a working drill, now doesn't it? Wouldn't you know it, I had the drill, but the drill bits, on the other hand, were AWOL.

I guess I could have waited until the next day, gone to a hardware store, picked up drill bits, brought them home, and then drilled the appropriate-sized holes (FYI: you want to drill the holes just slightly smaller than the width of the metal screws that attach the Besta legs), but I wanted this thing done immediately. My patience, at this point, had completely evaporated, so I instead decided to stab out holes using a screwdriver and a hammer. I'm happy to say this is a legitimate option if you don't have a drill. If you have a drill, though, do yourself and your sanity a favour and put in the holes the right way. You'll save an obscene amount of time that way.

An important thing I should note is that, when placing the holes for the legs, you must be sure to avoid drilling/stabbing your way into the huge screws that hold the Expedit together. If you match the legs up exactly with the corners of the unit, you'll end up hitting these screws when you drill your leg holes. As such, it's better to line them up just a little off to the side. They'll still look right, and you'll actually be able to attach them that way.

Once you put in the leg holes, you only have about 5 more minutes of work to do to screw in the Besta legs. It's stupid easy at that point. Just follow the directions that come with the legs and you're all good.

Look! You'd never guess I had to stab this thing with a screwdriver to get it together!
Overall, I'm happy with it. Does it match the Hemnes furniture more this way? Yup. Do I wish I'd had the drill bits? Heck yeah. Was it okay without them. Yeah, I suppose so. Would I do it that way again? Um... NO!
Still decent-looking from the side
Close up on the leg. It actually looks like it belongs there. Fancy that.

Final project cost to me: $100
Time to complete project: About an hour and a half (if you include putting the Expedit together and my bootleg drilling solution. Give yourself about 10 minutes if you already have an existing Expedit and a proper drill setup)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Quick tip: free calendars for Telus customers

Happen to be a Telus customer? Want a free 2012 calendar with their adorable animal pics in it? Then click here!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kate Spade sale!

I'm a negligent blog owner, but I'm getting back in the game today by sharing the coupon code for Kate Spade's Friends and Family sale this weekend (fall11ff).


Not a Kate Spade fan? Well, you're likely still in luck. We're hitting the Fall sale season, so now's a great time to pop in to your favourite stores (AND get on their mailing lists if you aren't already) and look for large discounts. For example, Banana Republic is doing a 30% off your entire purchase weekend up here in Canada this weekend.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I just read this blog posting on finding clothes that fit and tailoring and thought it immediately needed to be shared.

I think most people, and especially most women, know the depression and anxiety that can come along with trying to find off-the-rack clothing that actually fits in a flattering way. Even if you have a clearly defined sense of style and cuts that look best on your body type, it's still incredibly easy to walk into a change room with dozens of things to try on and still end up trying outfit after outfit that looks horrific.

I'm not going to lie... I personally find the whole trying on clothes experience completely stressful. It's not to say I don't enjoy shopping (clearly I do), but I don't have the easiest body type to work with (yeah being a pear-shape *smirk*) and sizing and cuts at stores are just insane. When I compare the way I look in a piece of clothing to the way a model in an ad or a celebrity wearing the same piece, I usually come up looking completely sub-standard in comparison.

That blog post, though, reminds me of the important fact that at least a direct comparison doesn't make any sense. These people don't just look better because they're skinnier/taller/more-evenly-proportioned (which they are, but whatever); they look better also because every single thing they wear is tailored for their body, and that kind of tweaking can make a world of difference.

I can't afford to alter everything I own, but at least I can remind myself of that blog posting every time I try something on and start to beat myself up over that fact that nothing seems to fit me quite right.