a fast fashion holdover, my personal finance homework + other updates

levis 501 ct at 11.06.14 PM

This is an old photo, but I posted it because it’s finally cold enough to break out the old wool socks + Birks combo.  Yes, I know it’s ugly, but I’m shameless, and for casual days lounging around, walking the dog, it’s not too offensive.

I’m wearing one of my favorite sweaters here.  It’s a 5 + year old cotton knit from Zara.  I think it’s true what the Luxe Strategist has said about fast fashion– they don’t all fall apart quickly.  Some do last, if you choose carefully and properly care for your clothes.  But I do think the quality can vary to the extreme at fast fashion retailers.  And quality is only one factor when deciding on what brands to buy from.  At this point, ethics and the environment drive my decisions more than anything else.

I just got back from a week in Cali where I gave a talk at a conference.

I was shocked to discover that the Forever 21 headquarters is now located in the very same neighborhood I grew up in (boooo!).  I’ve heard some terrible things about how they treat their employees, a culture of women bullying other women in the work place.  Why am I not surprised?

But anyway, since being back in NYC, I’ve been busy doing homework that my personal finance coach assigned to me.  She had me total up everything I spent in October and calculate the percentage of my take home pay that I spent on each category.  This is the breakdown of how much I should be spending in each category according to my coach:

housing 25-35%
savings 5-20%
utilities 5-10%
personal 5-10%
recreation 5-10%
food 5-15%
transportation 10-15%
clothes 2-7%
medical 5-10%
misc 2-5%
unsecured 5-10% (student loans, credit cards)
charity 10-15%

Turned out my biggest expenditure was on food.  I was shocked to find out I spent the same amount on food as rent!  Eek!  I don’t go out for fancy dinners, but I guess all those seamless orders + tip add up.  My coach challenged me to not order from Seamless at all in the month of November and cut my food bill in half.

Tonight I made cauliflower tacos (vegan) from the Thug Kitchen website.  It was really good.   I bought pre cut cole slaw to save time on food prep and toasted the tortillas on a frying pan instead of microwaving them to get a crunchier texture.  Tomorrow I’m trying the mushroom tacos recipe from NYT, for something a little different that will still use up all the leftover ingredients from tonight’s dinner.  Cooking every night is going to be a challenge but it will force me to be more creative and actually plan out my meals the night before.

I just finished reading The White Coat Investor, a book two friends from med school recommended.  I highly recommend you read if you’re also in the medical field.  And I just started reading Ikigai  (a japanese version of Hygge) [update:  I just finished reading it; it’s not well written; not a book I’d recommend unless you are very interested in the topic] and Why Buddhism is True  by Robert Wright, who was recently on the Secular Buddhism podcast, which if you have not listened to yet, you should.  It’s gold.   One of the most helpful episodes for me has been the podcast on perfectionism and the problem with comparing.

[outfit:  old zara knit sweater, levis 501 ct*, vietnam wool socks, birks]


20 thoughts on “a fast fashion holdover, my personal finance homework + other updates

  1. I’ve just moved out of home and I’m tracking my non-housing related finances. I can’t believe how much I spend on eating out/unnecessary food! I’m definitely going to have to brush up on my cooking skills (I set off the fire alarm on the first night…)


  2. I taught myself to love cooking and now find it very meditative. We spend 40$ per week on food and eat rather well. We entertain at home and that takes care of trimming the social spending. Its one of my most frugal categories when it comes to spending. Doing the zero waste routine cut a lot of household expenses for us. I think clothes are my biggest indulgence. The rest is in line with the norms.

    I have clothes from Zara and Victoria Secret that have lasted me years. Same as you : ethics and sustainably made – matter. And I cant go back.

    Listened to a discussion on Why Buddhism is true on Sam Harris’s podcast ( am a huge fan ).


    1. Hello! I read your blog too, Archana. Can you post about your $40 food budget? I feel like my husband and I are good about spending in general but we’re still more in the $80-100 range plus both of us eat out a few times a week (work people and together).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Its not a strict budge and we would mind going over if needed. But never seem to.

        Am no nutrition expert and am afraid of giving bad advice. But will do a post on zero waste kitchen combined with what I ate in a week if that helps. Will try to get it out in January. Thank you for the request.


  3. I fell down the rabbit hole of MD personal finance blogs/White Coat Investor. It’s really addicting.

    I think that my favorite cardigan was from Forever 21. I wore it for 7 years and the ‘upgrade’ was more expensive, but lower quality. So I guess not all fast fashion garments are garbage, but I don’t think I’ll deliberately buy from Forever 21 either.


    1. I’m trying to get addicted. But I actually have the opposite problem. Hard to stay focused on my finances but I keep trying. Glad you understand re the F21 thing:)


  4. I just started listening to Secular Buddhism because of you and I love it! Thanks for the recommendation. And the book is now on my to read list as well.


  5. Food expenses really add up insanely fast in NYC! The number for me is always pretty shocking, even after I’ve made a reasonably successful concerted effort to order less delivery food. I haven’t quite figured out how to be consistent about cooking with my new job.

    I also have the experience of some of my fast fashion sweaters holding up remarkably well while others from say, Ann Taylor or Loft – still kind of fast fashion, but not seen quite the same way as H&M or Zara – have not done nearly as well. I did end up donating/gifting away the H&M and Zara cardigans I’m thinking of though, and now I kind of miss them, and wish I’d kept them.


    1. Hi Xin — so glad you stopped by. I love your blog ! I’ve been doing pretty good on the cooking this week but it is hard and takes so much discipline especially without a dishwasher and a big (non nyc) kitchen.


  6. Hi! I just found your blog. Thanks so much for the link!

    If you’re looking for a book that writes about personal finance in plain English, try I Will Teach You to Be Reach. The guy is kinda arrogant, but his advice is super actionable. Sometimes reading about how to do something is better than reading about theory.


  7. Tracking is always super revealing. I started tracking my spending for the first time in August 2016 and was shocked at how much things I considered were trivial purchases quickly added up. I’m not perfect but since then I’ve kept near perfect records of my spending for 14 of 16 months and my finances are so much better for it. Looking forward to finding out how your challenge to cut your food bill in half goes.


    1. wow impressive… its very hard for me to keep track of everything. i get lazy about it quickly. I did pretty much stop my seamless orders.. i eat home cooked food at least 4x / wk now.. which pretty much cut it in half.


  8. I always track my spending and when I first started doing it I was appalled! Food is also one of my biggest categories. Slow and steady changes are much easier than people think, and in a few months you don’t notice anything different except you have extra money at the end of the month for savings! I recommend Mint for tracking expenses. It’s free and helps you budget easily. I personally use YNAB, but it has a yearly cost so people who are not as anal as me about budgeting a reporting tend not to like it as much. Great post! Following!


    1. I used mint for a long time and it was helpful. the uncategorized purchases were annoying but not a deal breaker.. then i became paranoid about hackers gaining entry and deleted my account and changed all my p/w’s … Maybe an over reaction but after reading the book “art of invisibility” I’m generally more paranoid about handling finances over the internet. i still do online banking but have insane passwords and take extra measures to secure my traffic when i do. But anyway, glad you stopped by! =)

      Liked by 1 person

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