The Beauty of a Capsule Wardrobe

Having a capsule wardrobe will help you travel light.

If you’re someone that likes to travel, anticipates a big move, or just enjoys the lean and frugal lifestyle, having a capsule wardrobe lets you pack up and go without much hassle.  A capsule wardrobe is nothing more than an abridged variety of clothes and accessories that are both timeless and adaptable, any time of year.

Anyone that is like me has probably has had the problem of pulling something out of their dresser from months ago that has never been worn and still has the tags.  How can we get away from unnecessary spending, whether it’s at the outlets, at the mall, and especially online?  The goal to this is to build a wardrobe comprised of versatile enough clothing that can be worn mostly in any season to mostly any event, formal or casual.

When doing any organization myself, I find starting with an arbitrary number to be unhelpful, and like to simplify the process by trimming the fat from my initial starting point (good-bye tight Express T-shirt) then doing a deeper clean.  If you feel more comfortable saying “I want no more than 30 different pieces of clothing,” more power to you.

Build the Scaffolding

These are your base layers and your basics.  You might get away with a light pair of jeans, a dark pair of jeans, a thinner windbreaker-style jacket, and a more wintry one.  Go through your clothing in a way so that everything serves a distinct purpose and you don’t end up with more than one or two items that fill a specific purpose.

At the end of the day it’s really fine if you have some overlap…  My soft spot happens to be winter coats.

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Sample women’s capsule wardrobe.  Lots of layers, neutral colors, and multi-seasonal items.

Quality is Overrated

This may be a point of controversy because I’ve found that people very strongly assert that designer clothes cost what they cost because of the high-quality material (bullshit).  I even managed to convince myself of this when I first bought my $350 Hugo Boss windbreaker.  When I was in college, I generally bought cheap clothes because it’s what I could afford and what I cared (or didn’t) to spend the money on.  More honestly, I pride myself on my significant lack of style.

The problem with cheaper clothes is that they’ll wear out, become pilly, fade, unravel, or otherwise self-destruct more quickly than a similar model of the designer variety.  You might spend $5-10 on a basic or novelty T-shirt that might be worn out after just a few washes; the alternative $50-60 T-shirt might make it through a few more washes but my argument here is that you can still go out and get 5-10 times the number of shirts, lasting a much longer time and costing less.

Multi-Purpose Items

Pretty simple point here- Try to make as many items work interchangeably as possible.  Like I mentioned earlier, having a staple pair of dark blue jeans will go a lot further than a hot pink boa.  The more limited the number of clothes you give yourself, the more you’ll find items that don’t just serve a dual purpose but can work with pretty much anything.

It should also go without say that you should avoid buying anything that’s going to be worn once and never touched again.  A dress for a bachelorette party, for example, will likely only be worn a single time, whereas a LBD could potentially be worn out twice a month.  One of my own personal rules that I came up with was coming up with a “cost per use,” meaning figuring out the cost of each time you wear it.

Cost Per Use = Cost of Item / Estimated # of Uses

It’s a Steal!

One rule that might seem to contradict the the capsule wardrobe philosophy is getting clothes when they’re most on sale.  Having a capsule wardrobe doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a static selection of clothes, but there’s always the option to rotate and change what’s there.  Something to always look out for online is free shipping, or coupon codes that can get you further discounts.

Thrift shops are back in style (thanks, Macklemore) and can sometimes hold hidden treasures.  Just check out your local Salvation Army, Good Will, or other secondhand store to see what’s in stock.  As an added bonus, you can usually find some great deals on furniture there too.  Let’s not forget Marshall’s, Burlington or TJMax for those of us who are willing to take the time to sort through endless racks for the occasional discount designer gem…

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Macklemore brought it back but now that the hype’s died down, it’s the best time to check out a thrift shop.

As everything, take it with a grain of salt and don’t be afraid to splurge here or there on something that you truly want.  This, of course, is my personal list of rules.  You can use these as general guidelines to help maintain a minimalist, functional wardrobe, or come up with your own.

TL;DR

  • A capsule wardrobe can save money, travel easier, and gives value to your clothing.
  • Start with staple items that are versatile enough to wear in all or most seasons.
  • Maybe quantity over quality isn’t so bad when the alternative is designer…
  • Save on clothes by shopping for sales, or at outlets and thrift shops.
  • These are my guidelines.  The important part is sticking to your own rules!

Have you, or will you, try a capsule wardrobe for yourself?  What rules would or wouldn’t you incorporate into your own?

Monday Must-Haves: Poshmark

Poshmark Logo

When it comes to buying clothes there’s no shortage of malls, boutiques, outlets, catalogs, websites, or apps to connect and make your transaction.  In this day and age with everything that we have available at our fingertips, we can have a complete wardrobe that rivals even the most dedicated fashionista’s in just two days’ shipping time.  Instead, the main issue that comes to mind isn’t where to go to get the best fit, it’s trying to limit spending so we don’t 1-click order our bank accounts into the red.

On the other hand, if you find yourself setting up a capsule wardrobe or in the midst of a clothing strike you might be sitting on a big pile of lightly used clothes.  Now, you can try to sell these for a quick buck at a yard sale, consignment store, or online but unless you’re in abundance of like-new designer clothes, chances are you’ll either spend a lot of time watching people weed through a box of your old clothes or have to keep relisting your stuff at a lower price.  After trying both of these, I’ve found the easiest solution is to just drop them at the nearest donation box.

Once you know your size, use Poshmark to find discounted clothes.
Sample women’s sizing chart

Or I should say, the easiest solution used to be…  A few weeks back I was introduced to an app called Poshmark, a community-driven marketplace for clothing and accessories.  By connecting buyers and sellers, members no longer have to spend time trying to find a needle in a haystack when shopping in consignment or thrift shops.  Trying to find pants or a top in good condition, let alone in your size, can seem an impossible task if you’re shopping second-hand.  Poshmark makes it easy for shoppers to find the types of clothes, brands, and sizes they are looking for, all at discounted prices.

Poshmark

Poshmark is a web and mobile app that dramatically simplifies buying and selling fashion.  The Poshmark platform enables members to connect through the app as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.  It is also the largest marketplace for fashion where members can buy, sell, and share their personal style.

While millions of women across the country participate every day, spending nearly half an hour on the app, there’s a growing number of men that also list items for sale and shop directly on the app – all through their phones.  Boasting over 5,000 brands all available with a single tap, Poshmark is redefining the way we consume fashion.

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Poshmark’s audience has an extraordinary level of engagement, spending nearly half an hour on the app everyday.

Since Poshmark is available on iPhone, iPad, Android and the web, there’s no barrier to finding deals on new clothes and listing your own items right now.  They handle all payments and even provide verification of luxury goods listed over $500 (designer brands, watches, jewelry, etc.).

Currently, Poshmark is only available in the U.S. and its territories.

Buying on Poshmark

All that you have to do is find a deal since the transaction details are all handled by Poshmark.  As soon as you’re logged in you’ll be able to start favorite-ing, sharing, and purchasing listed items.  Since nearly everything for sale on the app is previously owned and the original item’s price is included right in the listing, you’ll get great, high-quality clothes at serious discounts.

To add to the savings, the app comes with a “Make An Offer” tool that features real-time negotiating to privately bid on items that catch your eye but might be outside of your price range.  If the seller accepts, you’re confirmed immediately and your new item be shipped!

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The “Make An Offer” feature lets you negotiate directly with the seller.  Most users are active, so you’ll know in minutes if your offer is accepted.

Poshmark provides a flat-rate, expedited shipping for $5.95.  All items are shipped via USPS Priority Mail, which means they should arrive within a week (1-3 days for shipping, 1-3 days for the seller to package).  Shipping is always paid for by the buyer and multiple items from one seller’s “closet” (store) can be combined at the same cost, as long as the total weight of the order doesn’t go over 5 lbs.

As an added level of protection all purchases are guaranteed with PoshProtect until the buyer confirms the order was received as described, so you can buy with confidence.   If your order never arrives or the item you receive does not match the description, you will be refunded in full.

Come to think of it, after watching this video, finding your size just might be the only hard part about shopping…

Selling on Poshmark

Armed with the understanding that a clunky interface is the number-one deterrent to seller engagement, Poshmark takes pride in their simplified, easy-to-use listing feature.  Sellers can create a “Covershot,” or featured image, using proprietary filters that can beautify any old pair of shoes, broadcasting the listing for all to see in less than a minute.

As described above, buyers pay the shipping costs and have up to a 3 day grace period before having the item shipped, giving you time to pack and ship at your own pace.  In my opinion, the best part about the process is that buyers can interact direct with sellers for a true one-click purchase, cutting out the intermediate shopping cart.

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Poshmark’s website comes with a ton of sorting tools so that you (or your buyers) can easily navigate.  Original prices are crossed out, discounted prices are in bold.

Posh Party (at the top of the screen, under “Parties”) lets members attend shopping parties wherever they are.  Popular themes include Designer Handbags, Neons & Brights, Stripes & Sequins, Work-wear Chic, Fancy Flats, and Floral Prints.  Swapping clothes for your seasonal capsule wardrobe has never been so easy!

Instead of turning your old clothes into hand-me-downs and dropping money on new clothes, see how much you can make every time you flip your clothes through the Poshmark app!

TL;DR

  • Poshmark enables buyers and sellers to come together in one market to simplify the fashion shopping experience.
  • The app is available on iPhone, iPad, Android, and has a web-based platform so members can participate no matter their device.
  • Buying on Poshmark features discounted, like-new clothes and accessories with in-store prices listed to compare how much you’re saving by shopping with them.
  • You can also put offers in on items that you like but might be outside of your price range.  If the seller accepts, your purchase will be shipped within 3 days!
  • Selling is simplified too – with Poshmark’s listing interface users can use filters to take professional-style pictures of their clothes and broadcast their listing in just 60 seconds.
  • Once your product is received by the buyer, funds are deposited right into your account.
  • Rather than sitting on a pile of slightly worn clothes, try throwing them on Poshmark just to see how much you can make!

My Experience with Blue Apron

Eating three square meals a day made from wholesome ingredients is important, right?

But how often during our busy lives is this actually a reality?  Unless you’ve been following some guidelines on bulk-prepping meals for the week, you just might not have the energy to make a healthy dinner after a long day at work.  Even if you do have the motivation, do you have all the right ingredients?  Stopping at the grocery store on the way home often seems like the last thing you want to do at the end of the day.  Then if that’s the case, fast food or takeout are the only options left.  This is a cascade that I know all too well, and I’m sure some of you are laughing in agreement.

Enter the alternative, Blue Apron.

Last summer, a friend of mine gifted me a free week to a pre-portioned, meal plan subscription box called Blue Apron.  Chances are you’ve seen the ads or heard about it from a friend, at the very least.  With the trendiness of subscription box companies, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to them.  After all, who the hell wants to pay for takeout that you’re still going to have to cook?

Blue Apron

Blue Apron is national (US-based) subscription box service that sends a pre-portioned box of ingredients and recipes.  There are 2-person (3 meals) and 4-person (2-4 meals) options, so you’re good whether newlywed, a family with kids, or a lone wolf (or she-wolf?).

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Blue Apron’s meal plans.  Price per meal (per person) ranges $8-10.

When signing up, you have three choices for the meal plan that you pick: meat, fish, or vegetarian.  There are options for poultry, beef, pork, fish, shellfish, and vegetables, presumably because they’ll offer more unique plans in the future.  For now, anyone with dietary restrictions is essentially limited to the vegetarian option.  You can also choose a window of time for the box to be delivered; 8am to 8pm or 6pm to 8pm, to accommodate anyone working a 9-5.

Travelers fret not, there’s an option to postpone or cancel a week, and get meals credited to your account for anything that you would have missed.  There’s a 72-hour buffer to do so.  Blue Apron lists their menu on the website one week in advance, so if something doesn’t look appetizing, you can skip that too.  This was a welcomed change for me, personally, since I hardly know what I’m doing for dinner until I’m on my way home from work…  Even then it’s usually up in the air.  The first two dishes were Eggplant Tagine and Spiced Shrimp & Pearl Couscous, but my favorite was Brown Butter Gnocchi, which I still make on an almost-weekly basis.

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Brown Butter Gnocchi – Whether you try Blue Apron or not, definitely give this meal a shot!

Meals come in a nicely labelled box with ice packs and insulated foil to keep cool for several hours if you miss the delivery time.  The shrimp was vacuum-packed and produce was in good condition despite the havoc my mail-lady can wreak on things I’ve ordered.  All spices and garnishes came in little bags, sauces were packaged in plastic ramekins, and the two eggs were packed in small cartons made from what I think was the material they build bomb shelters with.

Last but not least, there were three recipe cards.  Each card, the size of a full sheet of paper, lists all ingredients you’ll need, a blurb about the inspiration of the dish, and a suggested wine pairing.  All color photos on the card look exactly as pictured in the recipe above.

Recipes were very straight-forward and utilized every ingredient they send you, so you won’t find out you’re missing something in the middle of cooking.  No more “…and a dash of cayenne seasoning…” that was never mentioned in the ingredient list.  Although not overly inspired, I enjoyed browsing through the recipes on the site and trying the ones that came in my trial pack.  It’s a great way to try new dishes that you would otherwise skip when going out to dinner.  The plan that I sampled was, again, for two – the portion sizes were definitely enough for a serving each, with (hardy) a small amount remaining for leftovers.

The biggest drawback, in my experience, was that the meals didn’t exactly amount their quoted $9.99 price point.  Taking the same $10 can probably get you further at the grocery store.  Similarly, with $65 (2-person weekly cost), you could likely get a week’s worth of groceries, or at least more than three meals for two, depending on how you shop.  Of course, factor in that you’re paying a premium to have seasonal produce and pre-portioned custom recipes sent to your door, and it doesn’t seem too far off.

TL;DR

  • Blue Apron is meal delivery service that sends pre-portioned ingredients and recipes.
  • Plans cost $60 for three 2-person meals or $70 for two 4-person meals.
  • Packages are well-labelled, organized, and kept fresh with ice packs and insulation.
  • Each meal comes with a recipe card featuring color photos, easy-to-follow directions, and suggested wine pairings.
  • Few leftovers and slightly more costly than preparing meals from scratch with your own ingredients, but timely delivery and unique recipes are worth the premium.

Featured Interview: Pursuit of Happiness

Today’s post is an interview that I had with Wes over at The Pursuit of Happiness.  Most of what I talk about here is money and our relationship with it; making it, saving it, investing it, but today’s featured interview is actually about happiness.

Wes took the time to put together twelve questions about happiness like what it means and where it comes from.  One of my favorite questions from what we discussed was…

What has been the happiest moment in your life?

Several years ago I went backpacking around Europe with a few close friends. The three-month trip culminated with a hike to a cliff overlooking a Norwegian fjord, known as Trolltunga. What was most amazing about this experience was that I’d seen pictures of this landscape for years—it was actually the desktop background on my computer back when I had Windows 98—seeing it in person was truly otherworldly!

Check out the full interview over at The Pursuit of Happiness!

Before you go, read below to learn a little more about Wes and his latest project:

Hey there!  My name is Wes, creator of thePursuitofHappiness.me.  I won’t bore you with the full details of the inspiration for the site.  To share a little bit though; growing up in America, I had always been taught about this nation’s founding documents and I heard all the time about the Declaration of Independence and the phrase “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” but frankly, did not appreciate it until I was in my late twenties. 

I mean seriously, our founding fathers named the Pursuit of Happiness as an unalienable right for all in the Declaration of Independence, but how many people do you know that are truly happy?  If your experiences are anywhere near similar to mine, not very many.  What an incredible opportunity we are squandering!

So this is what thepursuitofhappiness.me is about really, a collection of content hopefully designed to help each and everyone one of us fulfill our own pursuit of Happiness. This is done in an increasing number of formats as we continue to expand our internet footprint.  For the ENTIRE month of March, we are celebrating the Days of Happiness (inspired by the International Day of Happiness on March 20th).   I hope to see you around social and on the site – don’t be afraid to leave a comment!

Thank you for your time, after all – it is the most valuable thing we have. 

4 Ways You Can Save Today

If you’ve had a budget set up for a while or have just begun tracking your expenses, you’re probably interested in some ideas on how to cut back on spending.  You might want to jump-start your savings, build an emergency fund, or take a vacation.  Regardless of the exact goal, here are a few quick ideas on how you can save more of your income with some minor changes you can make as soon as today.

Nothing in this list is meant to get you rich today or I’d have done it already.  Instead of the typical approach of writing how you can save by not drinking coffee everyday (duh), these are small changes that I’ve actually applied in my own day-to-day activities, resulting in a few thousand being saved each year.

Buy Wholesale Groceries

Before you even go and buy groceries, look through your cabinets today and see what’s been sitting there, that you’ve been putting off using.  Obviously if it’s expired, toss it.  Otherwise, bring everything sitting in the back collecting dust to the front, and incorporate into your dishes for the week instead of going out or ordering in.

Next, find your local grocery and produce wholesaler (Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s) and get a trial membership.  Put together a list of meals that store well and start prepping your meals 3 days to a week in advance.  Not only will this save you time in preparation, but buying the stuff you normally eat, in bulk, will only save you money over time, especially if it’s non-perishable or has a long shelf life.  If you don’t think what you’re buying will last a long time, remember that you can always freeze or vacuum seal to prolong it’s lifespan.

Change your Cell Phone

The days of being handcuffed contracted  with a carrier are over.

Before you do anything else, find a cell phone carrier that offers month-to-month plans, no ball and chain.  Any provider that doesn’t offer unlimited talk and text in all of their plans is unacceptable, it’s 2017.  My personal favorite, who I have been with for over 2 years now, is Republic Wireless.

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Republic Wireless’ current plans all feature unlimited talk, text, and WiFi data.

There’s one additional plan offered for $90/mo, which offers the same unlimited talk, text, and WiFi data, plus 10GB of cell data.

I’ve been using the $15/mo plan (slightly cheaper because I was grandfathered in from being an old customer) because I never used much data when I had 6GB with my old carrier.  If you do decide on a plan with cell data, anything over your limit will just roll you into the next higher-tiered program and carry the “leftover” into the next month, rather than charging you $25 more for going a little bit over.

If you’re stuck in a contract with your current provider, try speaking with someone at Republic to see if they can cover a portion of the severance fee to unlock your handcuffs.

Lower APR and Waive Fees

I’ve always been a proponent of paying credit cards off in full every month to avoid any interest charges.  If this isn’t a possibility and you do carry a balance, you might benefit from calling your credit card company and asking for a lowered interest rate.  It’s worth mentioning that you can probably try this through your creditor’s online chat service from your account.

For someone that uses their card often and is always in good standing (i.e. makes payments on-time), you’ll have a much higher chance of success with this than someone who might have recently missed a payment.  In either case if you’re a longstanding customer, you can always try to push them by saying you’re considering leaving for a different company.

Other statements that you get like phone, water, cable, and electric will sometimes have additional, unrecognized fees included (my local power authority is notorious for this).  Even if it’s a late fee because you missed the bill, call and speak with a representative about a “one-time” fee waiver.  I frequently do business with people out-of-state, who wire funds into my bank account.  Every time this happens, I’m hit with a $15 wire fee by the bank.  Since I’ve been banking with them for 5 years, I leverage our relationship and haven’t paid a dollar in fees.

Cash is King

The next time that you have to pay for something, try paying in cash and see if you can get a discount.  Gas stations are known for charging 10-20 cents more per gallon for anyone paying by debit or credit card.  Bars and restaurants will tend to take cash only or require a minimum tab balance before they accept a card payment.  The reason for this is that credit card companies take a percentage of their sales, plus a fixed fee, for every swipe.

Instead of waiting for the discount to be offered, ask if they’ll cut you a deal for paying in cash.  Mechanics in my area have an unspoken rule that you can save 15-20% simply by paying cash when you pick your car up.

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Cash is King in most small businesses.

For a store that you might not know about, try asking for a discount just for the hell of it.  NPR ran an interesting segment about this approach, deemed the “good guy discount.”  If you don’t ask, the answer will always be a resounding “no!”

TL;DR

  • If you haven’t set up a budget and don’t know where you’re spending most of your money it’ll be hard to tell what you need to cut back on.  Set one up when you can.
  • Do a sweep of your cabinets and fridge to use anything that was forgotten about.
  • Buy groceries in bulk at a wholesaler like Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s to save per item.
  • Cut costs on your cell phone plan by switching to Republic Wireless.  I pay $15/mo.
  • Lower the APR on your credit cards by inquiring with customer service.
  • Request to waive fees charged by the bank, phone carrier, utility companies, etc.  Sometimes all it takes is a simple call.
  • Cash is king; pay by cash instead of swiping to save money when getting gas.