Week Links [16 August]

Good morning, starshines!

T-minus 3 days until my 29th birthday. I will do everything in my power to not fall into a deep depression, but who knows what will happen when it actually arrives.? Anyone else get gloomy around their birthday? I don’t think of it as a celebration as much as a reminder of how little I’ve achieved in 12 months. Although, to be fair, for the first time I actually feel really good about what I’ve achieved this year, especially amid a global pandemic and the rise of American fascism.

29 signals the end of an era, albeit an era that mostly sucked. 28 was about getting a cool job that doesn’t make me miserable and about not being broke all the time; 29, I hope, will be about finding my joy. I’m sure that sounds like Instagram-wellness-influencer nonsense (it feels cloying to me, and I’m the one who said it), but for the first time in my life I’m in a period of relative comfort and prosperity (lol @ the idea that I have money,  I mean spiritual prosperity). I feel a sense of self and purpose that I’ve never felt before, although that could just be a general byproduct of getting older. I feel happier, calmer, and finally able to tackle the real, internal work of self-improvement and self-actualization. But mostly, I just plan on drinking less and watching more films.

Anyway, here’s what my rapidly-graying hair and I got up to this week:

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  1. If you live in Massachusetts, I urge you to vote in the September 1 primary. Outside of a VITALLY important Senate race, there are so many progressives running for local office. You absolutely love to see it! You can find your local candidates at this site. P.S. Vote Markey forever and ever, amen.
  2. I watched Knives Out and Midsommar on my recent “vacation” (both are streaming on Amazon Prime right now) and holy shit, 2019 was a great year for film. I cannot recommend them both more highly. It really put the iconic Ana de Armas Updates Twitter account into perspective for me.
  3. I ordered this pajama set in two colors. It is my goal to one day only have matching pajama sets. I feel like excellent home/loungewear is the next tier of adulthood that I must achieve. I also got this adorable set which is unfortunately sold out now. Lemons! So cute!
  4. I’m aware that this is insane, because I don’t eat meat or seafood, but how can I call myself a proper home cook without a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking? Even though I never use recipes because I am a terrible snob who thinks I have some sort genetic predisposition to cooking, I am a total cookbook freak. I just bought Nothing Fancy, and my wishlist overfloweth. If it seems like I’ve missed something…trust me, I have it.
  5. Coupling is on HBO Max. I don’t care if I’ve already talked about this. I loved this show in high school, and though it absolutely does not hold up 20 years later, it is a foundational text and tbh FRIENDS wishes it could have been Coupling!
  6. My local coffee shop uses these coffee syrups and they have to be the BEST I’ve ever had. They apparently only do wholesale, so do I have to open a café?
  7. Have you seen John Legend’s new video?? I won’t spoil it, but…[insert 20 crying emojis]. Congratulations to the best celebrity couple there is!
  8. did buy the Kacey Musgraves candle, and lemme tell you—it does not disappoint.
  9. On the subject of spending wildly frivolous money, this weekend I did a double-feature of Phoebe Robinson on Good for You and Whitney Cummings on Black Frasier. They both talked so openly about their past struggles with money management and the ways their relationships to money changed as they got older. I’m really inspired by it. Money is freedom, so of course I should be saving mine! But I never want to have a toxic, miserly relationship to money that prevents me from doing the things that bring me joy and having fulfilling experiences. Balance.
  10. And speaking of better ways to use your money, please support the USPS by buying stamps! I bought these and these, and the best part was that I bought them using cash back I’d earned from all of my frivolous online shopping. That’s atonement.

The Best Things I’ve Spent Money on This Year

Okay, so by this year, I mean 1/1/19 to present. As I may have previously mentioned, I took a really prolonged break from spending money so that I could (successfully!) pay off ALL of my credit card debt. I also refinanced my student loans and got a lower interest rate on my car loan, so despite the fact that I absolutely was not making a living wage, I managed to kick some serious financial ass. I would not have been able to do any of this without my amazing husband and my in-laws—they’re so supportive and generous.

The crazy thing is, I went through and tallied up what I spent on everything on this list, and it’s roughly equivalent to what I spent on copays and medication for the year. Not trying to be controversh, but I shouldn’t be able to get an enormous tattoo, furniture, and an iPhone for less money than basic healthcare. In the spirit of that sentiment, please join DSA and consider volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign /end rant.

It’s also worth mentioning that a couple of the things mentioned below are from truly evil corporations that I, as a feminist socialist, do not want to continue supporting. Disengaging with major retailers is hard work, and participating in capitalism at all means that we all have the “damn’d spot*” on our hands. Next year, I hope this list is all small businesses and sustainable retailers, but all I can do is try my best. So without further ado, here are the purchases I made last year that were absolutely worth every penny:

iPhone 11

Owning this device has kind of ruined my life, to be honest. I was already pretty addicted to my phone, but the size of this screen and sleekness of the device have me hooked. The best feature, by far, is the fact that I can more easily do the New York Times crossword on this screen, which is truly the only thing I care about in this life. And I have to admit, I love the facial recognition. I know Apple is probably conspiring with the government and stealing my identity or whatever, but the level of convenience of opening things with Face ID is…almost worth it? Saying this really feels like the Chrissy Teigen tweet about Airpods, don’t cancel me.

Casetify Phone Case

This thing is indestructible, and comes in about a billion designs. I, of course, went with the sunflower pattern. I got a discount code from a podcast for 20% off, but I’d absolutely pay full price for another one.

AirPods

I finally did it. I caved and bought AirPods. I was going to buy them through Apple, but I found the same ones on Amazon for considerably cheaper (I bought this silicone protective case too). I…love them. I can’t believe I didn’t buy them sooner.

Magnetic Car Mount

A lot of phone shit, I know. but I’ve tried every type of car mount on the market, and this is by a mile the best. The magnet is super strong, and you can just stick it inside your case so you don’t have a big ugly sticker on the back. The best part is, for only $6, it’s a 2-pack, so you can give one to your significant other. My husband is still rocking an iPhone 6+, but the gear’s ready for him whenever he decides to upgrade.

The Comfiest Cardigan

Target has really been coming thruuuu with cute clothes and décor lately. This cardigan, from their A New Day line, is legitimately the coziest garment I own. I love it so much, I went back for another one.

The Best Earrings in the Game

Okay, so I’m wildly biased, because creator and entrepreneur Shelly Harper is my cousin, but damned if I don’t love her work. She is a fucking artist. Harp Designs is a woman-owned, woman-made brand out of Oakland, CA, and it makes the jewelry at retailers like Madewell look like an absolute lil’ bitch. Everything she makes is outstanding, but these earrings are so fun that I had to have them in gold and silver.

A Kitchen Table

The pub table in my kitchen had been rickety for a while, but for the ~$100 I paid for it, it certainly served its purpose. Helping my mother shop for her new home, I stumbled across this beauty, basically a dupe of my old table, except cuter, and I simply had to have it. It could be a little sturdier, but to its credit, I built it, so…

Savage Lovecast Magnum Edition

IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO ME, OKAY! I’m done with podcast ads, they’ve been my undoing! This podcast is my must-listen of my week, and I respect Dan so much for evolving and growing and doing everything in his power to get progressive ideas into the mainstream dialogue. Nobody’s perfect, but I’ve never not enjoyed an episode of this show. I also subscribed to Slate Plus for Dear Prudence and Stitcher Premium for Groceries, and I have zero regrets (except for the fact that Stitcher is quite possibly the ugliest, least user-friendly app on the planet). The Stitcher subscription won’t last, but ad-free podcasts were absolutely the highlight of 2019 for me.

Netflix & Hulu (no commercials!) Subscriptions

To be fair, I’ve had these for a lot longer than a year, but when you’re trying to live that homebody life and save money, these services are indispensable! We got rid of cable about a year ago, so this is the only way I can keep up with my programmes. For the combined total of $20.98/month, I get more TV than I could ever find the time to consume. Beautiful.

Monthly Charitable Donations

I’ve been donating $5/month to the ACLU & Planned Parenthood since the day after the 2016 election. It’s not much, but the number of donors to these organizations is often as important a metric as the amount donated. Planned Parenthood is an organization which is particularly near and dear to my heart, and from whose services I have personally benefitted. I also give to WERS, which is the local radio station out of Emerson College, because independent radio is important, and for my money, it’s the only radio station in the Greater Boston Area that plays anything I’d ever want to listen to.

A Tattoo

Hell yeah. So, here’s the story from A to Z—when I was 21, and towards the end of my last pre-husband relationship, I impulsively got a matching tattoo of (gag) Minnie Mouse on my ribs with my ex-boyfriend. That was in July…we broke up in November. So, for nearly 7 years, I’ve been living with this incredibly stupid-looking reminder of the guy I started dating when I was 18. No shade to him—I truly hope he’s living his best life, he’s a great guy—but it also seems psycho to have this permanently etched on my body. So, I put out some feelers on Facebook (I know…) and my friend Lauren hipped me to her shop. After perusing the various portfolios of the recommended shops, Famous Tattoos in Dartmouth won out. It’s clean, not too far away, and the work speaks for itself. Cut to a few months later—it was the best body art experience of my life. Ryan Vidinha is incredibly talented and so skillful with the tattoo needles. I sat for a cumulative 6 hours between two sessions, and he made it an absolute pleasure. And SO REASONABLY PRICED for what he was able to accomplish. My shop 4 life. Having a beautiful piece of art in place of what used to be an embarrassing blemish is so freeing. Best money I’ve ever spent.

Oh, and I got another tattoo, whilst I was on vacation in Florida. Gaze upon it. Apparently I wore the exact same outfit to both.

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Laser Tattoo Removal

I know, I just got an enormous cover-up tattoo. Why wouldn’t I just do the same in this case? Look, I tried. Because of the placement of my wrist tattoo, and how heavily the line-work was done, it’d be nearly impossible to do a cover-up that wasn’t giant and blobby to cover the black. Luckily, I discovered Disappearing Inc. Utter pros. Tattoo removal is a long, expensive process, and I’m so lucky to have Jenna as my technician. The tattoo is 3 stars (from the corner of the pages of Harry Potter, I truly was an absolute dumb bitch as a youth) and they’re so poorly done. They never healed correctly. I’ve cringed looking at them for years, and I’m so excited to see them slowly fade away. Read up on how tattoo removal works—it’s nuts and fascinating!

So it’s been a wrap-wrap-wrap up, a 12-month wrap-up. Thanks for tuning in!

*You know a bitch got out her 1973 edition of the Riverside Shakespeare to make sure she typed that correctly. Act V, scene i of MacBeth, my fave play 4 life.

Budget (Della)Bites

I did it. I finally started The Spending Fast.

If you haven’t heard of the Spending Fast, it’s the creation of blogger and photographer Anna Newell Jones. I’ve been following her blog And Then We Saved for years, and after reading her new book and forcing myself to confront the truth about my spending, I officially began my Spending Fast.


I finally went through my personal bank and credit card statements and not counting a lot of spending while on my vacation in Tallahassee, I managed to blow through $2,000 in 2 months! Holy. Shit.

Not all of it was completely reckless spending, but, let’s be honest: did I need to buy a Rebecca Minkoff handbag just because it was on sale? Is it actively improving my life? No. Is it hella cute and am I glad I have it? Of course. But c’mon: the fact that splurging on designer handbags had become so commonplace in my life should have been a red flag that I noticed a long time ago.

bag/Rebecca Minkoff, glasses/Skunkboy for Bonlook, faux furball/Topshop, bag charm/Michael Kors

Here’s what $2,000 could have been spent on:

  • paying off one of my student loans in full
  • paying for my summer course in cash
  • paying off almost half of my car loan
  • paying off 100% of my credit card debt

But nope. It went to dinners & drinks out, home décor trinkets, and clothes. When I went through my finances, I noticed that I make plenty of money to pay my bills, including my future student loan payments. The problem isn’t my job—it’s me being an absolute maniac with my money. I’m so done with that life.

I’m blogging about this publicly in the hopes that it will keep me accountable. I’m going to admit every time I screw up (so far, $27 total on Chardonnay, water bottles, and breakfast/coffee at school), so I can’t deny it or hide it.

The typical Fast period is a year long, so I’ll aim for that. However, because of the unique circumstances of my 2016-2017 (a planned vacation, a wedding, and a honeymoon), the Fast year will have to include a few Fast vacations, which, in the lingo of And Then We Saved, I’ll call Spending Diets.

Here’s how it works:

You have to split all of your spending into two black & white categories, “Wants” and “Needs.”

My Needs:

  • cell phone bill
  • groceries
  • car loan payments
  • summer class & textbook
  • student loan payments (current & impending)
  • gas
  • medical co-pays (not that I ever go to the doctor)
  • Netflix & Hulu (reducing to one service soon)
  • wedding expenses (be as frugal as possible and pay cash for everything)

My Wants:

  • new clothes, accessories, & shoes
  • dining out
  • tech gear & accessories
  • cosmetics
  • haircuts (going to try to barter with my cousin/hairdresser for trims)
  • misc. online shopping, i.e. Etsy
  • home décor (will talk over all changes with my fiancé and work together to finance genuine improvements to the house)
  • music & concert tickets (we are huge music people, so this is going to be VERY tough)
  • premade & convenience food items

My Goals:

  • freedom from debt (duh!)
  • to eventually quit my job and blog/pursue passions full-time
  • to stay at home if/when I become a mother
  • to learn lasting money management skills

Some “Needs,” like groceries, can be wide open in terms of interpretation and actual dollar amount spent, so I’m narrowing it even further to exclude junk food and convenience items. My concentration will be on fresh produce and bulk grains/beans. It will require an added investment of time, but I’ll have a lot more free time once I stop internet window-shopping!

There is another component to the Spending Fast that is NOT fun to think about, but it’s an aspect that can’t be ignored: the Spending Fast and sobriety go hand-in-hand. I’m not talking about total teetotaling, but alcohol 100% of the time falls into the “Wants” rather than “Needs” category. There is never a time when one needs to drink. Therefore, apart from the bar of Chels (aka the liquor I acquired prior to the Fast, which I have to make last an entire year), no more drinking for me.

The Bar of Chels (bottle opener/Modcloth)

This is definitely a first-world problem, but I am naturally a very shy person who is easily overcome in noisy crowds (think: big family holidays), so being able to have a couple of drinks has been my emotional band-aid for years. Not great, Bob. I also suffer from depression, so it will be interesting to see if my mood lifts as a result of this major cutback. I’m hoping that this alleged sacrifice will actually turn out to be one of the most life-affirming and positive parts of the Fast.

So, wish me luck! I’m on day 5…only 360 more to go!

—DellaBites

*all photos taken with an iPhone 6 and edited with A Color Story