Inspired by the Man Repeller and Refinery29 money diaries, I thought it’d be fun to see what happens when I track my spending for a weekend. Although I’m conscious about my overall spending, I’m at a point where I don’t feel the need to review purchases line by line. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for surprises.
In this money diary: exploring the city like a tourist, dealing with credit card rejection, and my final Barneys purchase forever (RIP).
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Shopping My Way Through the Upper East Side
It’s my day off, so the weekend starts now! What to do? I could tater-tot at home and watch Lifetime Christmas movies all day (not going to lie, this is very appealing), or I could get out in the world.
I live in Brooklyn and the Upper East Side is 9 miles away, but it might as well be in another state. But today I’ve got all the time in the world. It’s a weekday, and the sky looks grey and featureless, so I’m going to pretend like I’m a tourist and stop by my top spots in the neighborhood I rarely visit. The Upper East Side to me is “old-timey, classic New York,” and I very much plan on rubbing elbows with the most fabulous-looking older ladies around the city.
No time for breakfast, because it’s my day off and I woke up late 🙂 Since I know I’m going to be out all day, I pack a water bottle or else I’ll regret it. The forecast looks rainy later, so I also pack an umbrella.
Google Maps says it will take over 50 minutes to get to the Upper East Side by train, so I toss a book in my bag called “Mindset.” Written by a psychologist, it’s about the difference between fixed mindset and growth mindset, and how each can affect success in life. When it comes to finances, I think your beliefs totally make a difference.
My first stop is Cafe Zaiya by Bryant Park to pick up some lunch snacks. I don’t want to do a sit-down lunch, because honestly, there’s lots of shopping to be done. I buy two onigiri rice balls and a green tea pudding cup. $9.94
A quick detour to the New York Public Library, the flagship one, which is so fun to explore.
And it’s completely free.
As frustrating as it is to live in New York City sometimes, this is the type of stuff that makes me feel so grateful to be here. The cultural access is unparalleled. My latest discovery:
There’s a picture room!
Where they have millions of photos from books organized by category into folders. There’s a folder for ‘Fashion Shows’ and one for ‘Unicorns’, for example. It’s a designer’s dream for inspiration.
I found some interesting color palettes in the ‘Textures’ folder and this Ecuadorian outfit in one of the ‘Costumes’ one:
I can’t stay long, because it’s getting late and the main event today is The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I decide to take the bus instead of the train, which is the right choice, because looking out the window at Madison Avenue I’m seeing tons of stores I would have never known existed if I was underground. I make a mental note to stop by The Real Real on the way back. Plus, I get to eat one of my rice balls on the bus to fuel up, which is a lot more awkward to do on the subway.
The suggested admission price for the museum is $25, but for NYC residents it’s pay as you wish. I pay $20.
The other day at work, I had to emotionally disengage from an upsetting situation that makes me wonder if I can mentally handle a project I’m on for seven more months.
But stepping foot into a famous museum, surrounded by exquisite works from centuries ago, reminds me that the world existed before me, and it will exist just as well without. That feeling of being a tiny speck in the universe cheers me up.
To my surprise, I spend a long time at the Knights and Armor exhibit, amazed that people could wear these suits that weighed 50 pounds.
This Japanese tatami suit has smaller metal pieces connected by chain mail, which meant you could fold it up and transport it—absolutely genius.
The Frank Lloyd Wright room has been open since 1982, and I can’t believe I’ve just now discovered it.
Also, who knew there’s a Versailles panorama room?
The “Pursuit of Fashion” exhibit was underwhelming to me, although I adore the spirit of it: a little girl in Detroit recognized beauty in some dresses she was gifted, and that set off a lifetime of collecting iconic fashion items.
After the museum, I have to find a place to eat my snacks. I walk over to Central Perk and sit on a bench, although it’s starting to drizzle harder. I scarf down my second onigiri and now-melty pudding to get out of the rain.
Fueled up, I walk over a few avenues to a cluster of thrift shops known for designer finds.
On the way to the Cancer Care thrift shop, I spot a Levain bakery right next door—should I buy a cookie since I’m literally right in front of it? Wait, what am I thinking—I don’t care about their cookies!
At the thrift shop, I have a bad feeling about putting my umbrella in the wet umbrella bucket, but I do it anyway to be polite.
I find this very Upper East Side-esque Loro Piana cashmere coat for $225 (haha, yes, that is not a typo price) that’s a couple sizes too big, but I make a mental note to look for secondhand options on The Real Real.
Sure enough, someone took my umbrella, which reminds me that I should trust my gut instincts. After asking around to see if the other umbrella in the bucket belongs to anyone, I take it for myself.
A few blocks over at Housing Works on Lexington, I dig up some finds from Prada, Celine, Burberry and Dries Van Noten. Nothing fits, though.
I walk 20 blocks down to the Barneys department store in the rain. I’ve always preferred Barneys over all other department stores, because they actually had a personality, so now that they’re closing forever, I have to pay homage.
Finally make it to Barneys after side-stepping 1345907 puddles. There are seven floors. And sales on almost everything.
I am embarrassed by how many hours I spend looking through the merch. But I find that the more shopping I do, the happier I tend to be with my choices. Plus, I’m discovering lots of new brands.
On one floor, I find a single Herno jacket shoved in between other similar-looking jackets. It’s clearly on the wrong floor.
I’ve been interested in Herno since last year, as it’s not so recognizable, and their coats are super light, yet warm. This one happens to be my size, so I try it on in front of a mirror.
A sales lady approaches me to see if I need help. I ask about the price. It was $845, but on sale plus tax it’s $573. That’s high enough to make me pause. I’ve already spent a lot of money on Black Friday sales.
“I can’t,” I flash a smile. “I have to think about it.” I hate saying that when I DO want something, but I have to create some distance on the jacket.
I continue browsing on all the other floors, but eventually I splay out on a couch meant for weary shopping companions and take out my phone for research.
I’ve been watching online sales on Herno for the past few weeks, and go to Farfetch and SSense to see if the jacket is cheaper at either sites. It isn’t, or my size has sold out in non-desirable colors.
I haven’t found the jacket secondhand, either…
I go back to the floor to find the sales lady, and well, that escalates quickly. $579.60
I have a feeling that the brand will get more expensive over time, and sales are already few and far between on the styles I want. In my head, I think about the things in my closet I can sell as a trade-off…that second wallet, my winter jacket, that tote bag…I will make a plan to find the money if I have to.
When I get home, I put the new brands I’ve discovered at Barneys on my The Real Real watch list before I forget.
My husband and I eat Mediterranean-themed leftovers from the previous night, and it’s still delicious.
FRIDAY TOTAL: $609.54
Year-End Money Reviews and Sock Decluttering
Since it’s December, I open up Mint and review how much money we’ve spent this year, comparing the numbers to last year.
Um, a few surprises, gulp. We have somehow spent $3,000 more in food this year. Maybe getting groceries delivered is too easy.
Over coffee, my husband and I go over other out-of-the-ordinary spending, and talk about expected four-figure costs for next year:
Are we planning on sending his son to the same summer camp as last year? And I know my brother-in-law will suggest renting a house for a week as a family vacation. How much has that cost in the past? If I have some estimates, I can at least try plan around them.
We also talk about life insurance. Someone on Instagram asked me about it, so it got me thinking. Basically, do we need it? I’m not so sure. The conversation isn’t over, but it’s started.
I browse some Christmas gift options for my niece and nephew, but am dismayed to see lego sets are $48. Much more than the $25 each I was hoping to spend. I’ll look again later.
My husband buys groceries we need to make all our meals today. $15.43.
I’ve discovered this baked eggs recipe, or Oeufs en Cocotte, that makes breakfast seem more fancy than it is.
I make myself two ramekins with mushrooms, topped with some grated cheese and scallions.
Later I’m still a bit hungry so make myself some avocado toast.
I drop off six sweaters at the dry cleaners and pick up a vintage jacket I plan to resell one day. $20, ouch.
Then I pack up a Bottega Veneta wallet I bought to return to The Real Real. How I knew the wallet was not for me: I opened up the box, unwrapped the wallet…and didn’t really feel anything. When something is a great purchase, I want to use it right away. And besides, I guess I’m not really a Bottega person. If I’m spending serious dough on stuff, I always have to identify with a brand and its values.
Getting physical mail never gets old. I get an unexpected Jewel cash back check for $65. I will never get over the novelty of taking a picture of paper checks and e-depositing them with the Charles Schwab app.
A few days ago I decluttered underwear I never wear and couldn’t have felt better. I decide to do the same for my socks. I only reach for about a quarter of my socks, so there’s no real reason to have the others taking up space.
The rest of the day I work on the blog while ‘Marriage Story’ is on in the background.
All three of my long sleeve undershirts have holes in the armpits, so I look for replacements on Uniqlo. I find one for $14.90, but I want to think it over. Plus, I’m way too lazy right now to go get my wallet and place the order.
We have crispy rice salad for dinner and homemade key lime pie for dessert.
SATURDAY TOTAL: $35.43
Heinous Money Phone Calls
I’ve been putting off calling Chase for weeks. I signed up for their business bank account a few months ago, and they’ve sent me two letters saying they need to verify the nature of my business.
The customer service agent tells me I have to go to a physical branch to fill out paperwork. I tell him I’ve already gone to the branch twice. I press him for exactly which papers I need to fill out–what are the names of the forms he needs? He puts me on hold, then says we can do this over the phone.
Dreading invasive questioning, I’m pleased when the questions are more along the lines of: “Do you engage in gambling or offer services for the adult entertainment industry?”
I sold one item on The Real Real and get an e-mail that I now have $25.20 in site credits–yay!
I’ve gotten denied for the Capital One Venture twice already, and today I’m gonna investigate why. The rejection letter said it’s because I’ve opened up too many cards in the past two years. Exactly how many is too many cards? I ring them up, but I get a recording to call back again during regular business hours.
I re-read the letter. It says that they used my TransUnion report to make their decision, so I download a free TransUnion report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Maybe they’re seeing something I’m not seeing. I count up three cards opened in the past 24 months. I tell my husband I want to try applying him for the same card, since he has opened up fewer cards than me in the past two years, but he applies and gets a worse result: an auto-rejection. OK, I’ve done all I can for now and will just need to be more patient.
Time to move onto other credit cards. I’m not working on any signup bonuses right now, and it’s stressing me out! I research some places we can travel to in April (during my husband’s son’s spring break) and it looks like the US or South America is where it’s at. I look up how many points we’d need for various options, and think plussing up our United or American Airlines points now would be the right strategy. But I have to think it over. So, no new credit cards for me just yet!
I transfer $6,000 to my Vanguard account to get ready to fund my 2020 Traditional IRA right on January 1st. It’s kind of crazy that I’m able to casually transfer money like that. It used to take me forever to save up money. And now I don’t feel so bad about spending $600 on that jacket 😉
Meanwhile, I’ve got two loads of laundry going on in the basement. We used to spend around $50 per month on laundry services, so having “free” washer-dryer access in the building has been such a game changer.
My husband makes chicken piccatta and mashed potatoes, and I have key lime pie for dessert. I’m glad we have leftovers to pack for lunch the next day.
SUNDAY TOTAL: $0
WEEKEND TOTAL: $644.97
Gosh—this whole post reads like an ad for The Real Real, but it’s not. It’s just that pervasive in my life!
What would your perfect day off look like?
Any mega-sales you’ve fallen prey to? How are you handling the overspending?
Am I the only one who declutters mundane things like socks?
Have you checked in on your annual spending yet? Any 2020 financial plans?
Feature Image: The Luxe Strategist