I've got a confession to make...

First, I'm not studying as hard as I would like. Ideally I'd be outlining 14-16 hours a day like I did for the past 3 final exam seasons, but I'm just too burnt out and I'm starting to get sick again. I'm at school right now and vow to stay here all night until my outline is done. I don't expect to go back home until tomorrow morning. Hopefully making my sloth public will shame me into working harder.

Second, I spent all my cash on a Tarina Tarantino Pink Head enamel ring today (a.k.a. Sample Sale Friday). I only had $28 in bills. I asked "can we do $28?' and the answer was no (worth a try), so I had to resort to using up 8 quarters that I reserved for laundry.

Can I really be blamed for succumbing to temptation? Look at it...isn't it cute? The picture has been shrunken to actual size. I've wanted it for a very long time, but it never went on sale online (retail runs between $80-88). No luck on eBay either. Even at the Tarina Tarantino holiday sale, it was $55. As an aside, if you really like Tarina Tarantino's sparkly goodies, get it from her showroom during sample sales. Lucite bracelets that retail for $30 each(!) elsewhere are sold 3 for $10 or 2 for $10 (depending on styles) during sample sales.

This was totally an impulse buy, but the impulse is oxymoronically calculated. I don't even know why I walked into the Tarina Tarantino showroom today, since I've been making my own jewelry and have throughly satisfied my accessory needs. I've been trying to figure out why I had no qualms about buying the ring the moment I saw it and the price tag: there was only 1 left, it's what I've been wanting for over a year, it's limited edition, the price had never been so low, and more importantly, I know I have a sizable check coming in for being a notetaker. The first and the last reasons are particularly insidious. It probably wasn't the only ring in stock, they could have had more in the back. But then again, there were multiple quantities of everything else. Still, this is illustrative of how easy it is for retailers to get you with the "it's the last one" trick, so I'll watch out for that in the future. The last rationale is downright dangerous--the old adage of not counting our chickens before the eggs hatch is so very true. The peril lies in the perpetuation of the "no big deal, I'll get the money soon" attitude. One thing will be bought on that logic, then another, then another...sooner or later the amount spent will exceed the amount received. Fortunately, I'll be too occupied in the next 3 weeks to buy anything other than the necessaries. I've caught my misstep, and the buck stops here.

I guess even the most cautious of pennypinchers make mistakes sometimes, so as long as we learn from them and employ immediate remedial measures, there's no huge net loss. Hope my experience is a cautionary tale to you folks, especially in the face of our current fossil fuel-generated crisis. Gas prices are going through the roof with no end in sight, so it's best to preserve the anticipated influx of cash (such as those forthcoming tax refunds) for times when we really need it.


Extreme Bargain Hunting

OK, so I have no discipline when it comes to studying. I'm ducking back in real quick to tell you about this NYT article, since this doesn't take much contemplation on my part like a full-blown post would. I'm really cheap, but I'm really put off by the idea of dumpster diving. Interesting read, though...the discussion on abandoned property reminds me of the good times in the 1st semester of my Property class (before things went down in flames in the 2nd semester). If you really want a crazy crash-course lesson on distinctions between lost, misplaced, and abandoned property, I'd suggest you look up a case called "In re Seizure of $82,000 More or Less," 119 F.Supp.2d 1013 (W.D. Mo. 2000). Great overview, and falls into my “Top Ten” list of favorite cases: drug dealers + $82,000 stuffed into a gas tank = hilarity ensues (the court ruled that the money was "abandoned" since the drug dealers would probably not risk prosecution to get it back).


On Hiatus (again)

I was going to do more DIY write-ups, but my Ethical Lawyering assignment is taking a lot longer to finish than I thought. As strange as it sounds, doing the right thing isn't necessarily obvious or easy. Some of the rules are complicated such that completely honest lawyers end up breaking them by accident. The point is, learning the law and being a good lawyer takes time. I spent my Easter Sunday doing 10 hours worth of legal research, then I worked 7 hours *straight* (I kid you not) throughout last night. I'll be pulling more all-nighters, including the one already in progress. Right after turning in that assignment, I'll have to start studying for finals, and then take those said finals.

I apologize for the delays and the upcoming long hiatus, but I hope you can understand. I'll be back in the middle of May, so don't go away forever! The rest of my DIY Considerations series will appear then, followed by so much more.

Thank you so much for reading my blog!


Tax Tactics

"In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes."
-Ben Franklin

Despite this aphorism's veracity, a lot of people make excuses for procrastinating (or altogether not paying taxes) by saying that they "forgot" or didn't think they need to. But April 15 isn't necessarily the Date of Doom. This year, procrastinators have a two-day reprieve because 4/15 falls on a Saturday. If you haven't filed taxes yet, do it NOW!!! Don't wait until the last possible moment! If you're a low income procrastinator, look for free tax help offered at local libraries or other locations through VITA (Volunteers for Income Tax Assistance).

If free, live-in-person help is not available and your income stream is fairly simple (just wages and bank interests), the Internet makes doing your taxes easier. You can download forms and instructions from the IRS website and work on them into the wee hours of the night. California allows people to e-file for free on its own website; unlike the federal income tax, there's no need to buy some commercial software. The best part is that CalFile web forms are so easy to use (it does a lot of calculations for you) that it may take as little as 5 minutes to file. Despite the intimidating number of entries on tax forms, particularly the federal ones, it's actually quite easy to do your own taxes. You'll also save a lot of dough when you don't have to hire an accountant. If you're a bit insecure, think hard to see if you have a friend or friend of a friend who is a CPA; you'll have more confidence to work on your own taxes when you know there's someone to turn to for reassurance. In the future, it might help to get yourself some tax training. I plan to take a Federal Income Tax class next year so that I'll know for sure I'm doing things right. This isn't an option available to many people, but if you become a VITA volunteer, you'll get trained to help people in your community and keep the knowledge for your own use.

If it becomes clear that your procrastination ruled out the possibility of getting taxes done in time, file an extension. You'll have until October to finish the paperwork, but you'll have to pay now. Still, it's better than getting hit with heavy penalties and interests later.

After dutifully turning in your 1040/1040A/1040EZ/(insert other tax forms here) and state tax forms, reward yourself for being a good citizen. A lot of businesses take advantage of the annual Day of Collective Groaning and try to drum up businesses by offering to pay your sales tax. This is an especially big deal for big-ticket items, since you don't have to pay for shipping that comes with web purchases. Speaking of web purchases, things are not entirely tax free when you buy online from companies that incorporate in other states. State governments seemed to have caught onto the practice of buying high-priced merchandise online to evade the big state sales taxes. When I was e-filing my 540, there's a "use tax" box for out-of-state purchases; I don't think I saw it there last year. Hence, if you're one of those people in the "high risk" groups for audits, you might want to come clean about all online purchases that you didn't pay sales taxes for, particularly the big-ticket items.


50-90% off for clothing, and we'll throw in 40% off for...Botox?

I just got my Planet LuLu email invite for the OC sale (the sale is next Saturday in Irvine if anyone cares). After seeing the "subject" line, I was going to hit "delete" right away, since I won't go all the way to the OC just for a sale. Somehow, curiosity got me to read the invite.

Apparently the Planet LuLu folks started a monthly LuLu Deals column on their invites (looks like an advertisement to me). This month's special is "You're already beautiful...Now let's keep-ya that way! Take 40% off Botox with" Dr. so-and-so. Hmmm...coincidence, or did they buy into the whole "Real Housewives of Orange County" stereotype?

Recap: Delia/Vionnet sale

For once, the sun is out and I'm not huddling in a sweater. Since the weather is in the mid-70's today, I *needed* to be outside notwithstanding my workload. Mindful that I do need to get my work done eventually, I decided to pick somewhere I can get to quickly AND find parking: the Delia/Vionnet sale.

When I walked in, there was already a good few shoppers in there, some apparently enthused about the great prices. As I rummaged through the racks, it quickly became clear that it was not worth my time. Nothing was cheap, and much of the merchandise comprised of items that weren't sold off at the last sale. Though the shoes were well-priced for designer shoes, a couple of pairs appeared rather worn. I refuse to pay $50 for a pair of used shoes, even if they're by Alexander Dell'Acqua. There was a well-organized section of accessories, but they were too expensive for me...I can make the necklaces for a fraction of the cost. I'm usually patient about going through the racks to look for good deals, but I just gave up. Basically, I drove to the sale, got out, went to the market, went home--all in 1.5 hours. I spent more time in the market than I did shopping for clothes.

Despite my personal displeasure, it's not to say there aren't good deals if you're more well-heeled. I found some cute Clements Ribeiro sweaters and some Missoni bottoms for about $100. There were some metallic lavender heels (I don't remember by which designer) for $45, which are perfect for Spring and Summer weddings. Prices on cashmeres aren't bad either.


Target 4 for $1 clearance

The $1 section at Target just got better--lots of the trinkets are being cleared out at a quarter each. I got a number of small "safari" wood boxes that I'll use as gift boxes. I'll be making jewelry as gifts, so I need a classy but economical way to package them. Other items that were on the "blue dot" clearance includes bath balls and wall hooks.

While the actual clearance merchandise varies by stores, I still think 4 for $1 is a good deal.


FIDM Shopping Tips

Friday was one of those days where the FIDM store was a miss for me. I found a Mason skirt that I liked, but that particular designer brand just isn't for me. It's not that the designs are unattractive or anything--I love a lot of the designs--but I'm consistently in between sizes. Disappointed, I decided to scour the damages rack, which isn't my usual and customary practice. I'm glad I did it though, since there were some interesting revelations.

There are lots of 2 for $5 damage specials--so much that I'm usually deterred from spending my limited time on it. Adding to that, most of the clothes are severely damaged and are the lower quality stuff from Forever 21. However, this time I discovered something new. There were some steeply marked down Mason skirts (that actually fit me!) for $5! They weren't damaged at all! The only reason why I didn't snap one up was because the shirt was a bit poofy and short for me. Maybe next time I should scoop out the racks for undamaged goods that no one wants. I ended up buying a $2.50 t-shirt from Forever 21. Although there was a hole in it, the hole was the result of loose side seams, so it's really easy to fix and not a big deal.

The bottom line: eyeball the damages racks for items in multiple quantities. They might be the undamaged gems that the store can't seem to get rid of.


In a Charitable Fashion

I love hitting sample sales because once in a while, I find affordable and edgy designs by independent designers. Besides, it's good to support up-and-comers.

Courtesy of Punky Style, I found out about a group called C4C, or Clothing For Charity. C4C offers an outlet for fledging designers to sell their clothes, and in return, the designers donate a part of their profits to charity. There's not much on the website right now, but I really like the unique and reasonably-priced dresses. I'm looking forward to more cool stuff in the future.

Milking the Most Out of Your Suit

I had to look really spiffy in a suit 3 days this week (dress code for 2 of the days was "dress like you would if you were arguing before the [US] Supreme Court"). Unfortunately, being a deeply-indebted student, I only have 1 matching suit set (I have 2 other nice suit jackets that I got for 90% off but I have yet to find matching bottoms for them). However, I was bent on not carbon-copying my look for all those days. I think my plan worked out pretty well. This may sound cliched, but accessories and color can really get the job done.

As long as you have a really nice suit and you're not a partner at a bigshot firm, your dress shirts don't have to be expensive; the shirt will be mostly covered up anyways. It is possible to get decent shirts for $5-$15 from such places as Ross, United Colors of Benetton, and department store clearance racks. White is a pretty standard color and you should have at least 1 white shirt, but getting shirts with subtle stripes and pastel colors will keep you looking fresh. However, when I say "buy cheap shirts," I mean *quality* shirts that are cheap. Feel the fabric, choose a higher "thread count" if possible, and inspect carefully before buying. I bought a white linen dress shirt from one of those small stores at the mall for full price ($15) because I desperately needed a white shirt. It lasted only 1 wash before holes started to form. By contrast, my Esprit shirt, which I bought at least 5 years ago for the same price on sale, lasted for 5 years and counting. Hence, I totally recommend looking closely, and Esprit shirts (and they have free shipping if you buy $30 or more).

Simple jewelry is cheap, which means you can get a lot of them and just rotate the lineup. Faux pearls are readily available, but if you're into making your own stuff, a basic string of freshwater pearls look even better and isn't that expensive. A lot of people like myself wear simple charm necklaces. While it's a bad idea to wear loud shirts, I see no problems with getting necklaces with small jewel-toned charms as long as they complement the colors you're wearing.

As for shoes, designer shoes are nice but wholly unnecessary unless you walk around a lot and need comfort. 2-3 pairs of cheap shoes, at least one being the requisite black, is enough to make you look profession yet interesting. The pair I wear the most with suits is a pair of $28 faux croc kitten heel pumps from Target (from the Issac Mizrahi line). People have mistaken them for expensive designer shoes a couple of times. As a supplement or alternative to Target, Ross and DSW are must-hits when it comes to shoes. The much-maligned Payless is also good for shoes that you don't wear everyday. A few times I was lucky and got Payless shoes that were really comfortable.

I don't recommend buying too many handbags, especially if you need bags big enough to bring work home. You can get lots of small handbags without spending a whole lot, but the bigger ones that won't fall apart after 2 uses are harder to find for cheap. In my opinion, you really only need one (or maybe 2) good work bag(s). I haven't seen female attorneys use briefcases, but I'd like to buck the trend and try it out in the future =)

I almost forgot, but if you have a black suit, you're in luck--it's much easier to get matching black bottoms than to get matching bottoms for other colors. Get one matching set, be it a pant suit or a skirt suit, then buy another bottom piece (the one you don't already have) later. Wear a skirt one day, pants the next, etc., and you'll look like you have 2-3 suits.


DIY Considerations: Know Thyself

DIY is popular for a number of reasons. First, it gives the DIYer the satisfaction of saying "I made it." Second, you get a piece customized to your specifications and tastes, which distinguishes you from the mass-produced consumerist crowd. Third, it's most often cheaper than buying. The benefits go on and on.

Before you get too excited and run off to the craft store, you need a reality check.

I remember that a few weeks ago I seriously considered buying a sewing machine so that I can shorten pants myself. I figured that if I can get my own entry-level machine for about $100, it'll pay for itself after I alter 10 pairs of pants (which doesn't sound too far-fetched). I came really close to acting on my impulses until my senses kicked in. When would I actually have time to learn to sew? School is absolutely crazy right now, and with my jewelry-making hobby taking off, there's barely time left over to sleep and eat. Also, a machine costs money, so if my investment is going to sit there for a long time before making a return, I better put that money to a better use. I was thus saved from making an egregious error. Before that, I thought about stenciling t-shirts. It didn't take me long to realize that it's going to take time to learn and to create designs I want.

Your personality and lifestyle may dictate the type of craft that's suitable to you. Starting a hobby requires lots of time, patience, aptitude, and start-up costs (a sewing machine, for example). Here are some of the questions you need to ask yourself: how realistic are your goals? What do you know how to do? How much free time do you have? How patient are you? How much money do you have? How committed are you to learning? I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying new things, but realistically, if you don't know yourself well enough, you'll end up spending a lot of money on supplies only to let them go unused.

For example, if you're the type of person who wants instant gratification, it's best to pick a craft that's easy to learn and doesn't take a long time before you produce something wearable; therefore, jewelry-making and applique work are great, but knitting, crocheting, and sewing are probably not for you. If you don't like complicated machines, tools, or instructions, you probably want to stick with something that requires little or no gadgetry; knitting, crocheting, or cross-stitching would work, provided that you're patient enough. If you want cool t-shirts, stenciling or applique work are right up your alley.

Before you order any supplies, google for some online tutorials of your hobby of interest. When I decided to start making jewelry, I did my research so that I could understand how easy or hard it was to make stuff, become familiar with jewelry-making terminology and techniques, and figure out what supplies I needed. A couple of sites I liked are the tutorials from WigJig and Fire Mountain Gems, two beading supply stores (I'm sure their tactic is to drum up business, but the tutorials are quite good). For stenciling, I really liked the tutorials from Stencil Revolution. Craftster.org also offers great ideas and sometimes tutorials for all sorts of projects.

Aside from finding free online tutorials, there are a few things you can do to make the learning experience more economical. If you want to sew or stencil, don't forget to save old clothes from your Spring Cleaning sessions; they'll serve as your scratch paper for your lessons. If you're learning to make jewelry, start off with cheap components like plastic beads and base-metal findings. Once you've honed your craft, you can move on to semi-precious or precious components.

The Delia/Vionnet sale is back!

Courtesy of BargainsLA, I found out that the Delia/Vionnet warehouse sale is going on again. If I'm not on a spending freeze, I'd be there in a second. While lots of things were out of my price range, there were many stellar deals at the last sale (I totally love my $20 A Common Thread top that I bought). It's located at 5613 San Vincente Blvd., LA...a bit hard to spot, but if it has the "warehouse sale" banner out like last time, it won't be too hard to find.

Maybe I'll go out there next week if I have time just to see if there are any drop-dead-gorgeous deals.


How Grating!

A while back, I got 2 packs of batteries, 10 in each package, for a great price from Walgreens. Unfortunately, my camera eats power like nobody's business, so the batteries didn't last very long. This might be an indication that I didn't really get the bang for my buck:

Perhaps I should finally switch to rechargeables and be more green like everyone else.