Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Future is So Bright -Gotta Wear Shades!

Welcome to another mobile blog post. I have had a lot of issues with this iPhone app so hoping they will upgrade it soon so I can blog more!
So the other day while shopping (for a gift, not for myself) I came across displays in Bloomies for the coming season's Brights. The color of the year Tangerine Tango is cropping up in store windows everywhere.
Kelly Greens, Bright Blues are the new "it colors." But I am not so sure I want to be Spring's "It Girl." Maybe if I lived in LA or Florida, but as a hard core New Yorker I am reluctant to give up the Costume de rigueur of head to toe black. I'm afraid of color like some people are afraid of snakes! Maybe it's because I went to an art school where "goth was the new preppy"? Or is it just functional to wear dark colors when you live in a filthy city? Most definitely wearing all black makes you five pounds thinner! So regardless of what the magazines will be promoting, I'm not buying it, or anything else for that matter as I am committed to my own bright future of not buying new clothes or shoes for the next three months! But I think I may need some new shades( if I were to shop, I would click here), those colors hurt my eyes!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

American Express Excess- Dont Leave Home With It .

I have holiday hangover and I am not talking about booze. It was tis the season... to overspend . And overspent I did. It started with Black Friday and ended with one last hurrah of finding the almost perfect new years outfit. (See last post).

Of course I didn't have the cash and since I no longer use credit cards, I put everything on Amex. I would just pay it off at the end of the month. After a plethora of holiday gifts and medical expenses combined with a non-existant Christmas bonus and an insurance check that never materialized,the end of the month came and I could not pay the balance in full .

I longed to be an American Express member since my college days. Maybe it was those celebrity endorsed commercials? Or perhaps the time my college boyfriend took me to a fancy hotel and the condescending clerk suddenly lost his "attitude" when he tossed his Amex onto the counter (he was probably a member since kindergarten, but that's another story). That's when I learned  membership has it's privileges .

Post college, my friends began applying for and receiving their own Amex cards, some through their employers, but many held claim to their own "personal card." It was the status symbol of the 90's. So I applied. Not for a gold, not for a platinum, just a measly little green card. A month later, I received a "Dear Nicole" letter that made me cry. They rejected me!

So you can imagine my elation when in 2004, I was finally granted membership into the special Amex club with my very own GOLD card!  A gold card would teach me responsibility because unlike a credit card, it is a charge card-  you have to pay it off at the end of the month (click to see difference between charge cards and credit cards). And usually I did (or at least within the grace period) .

The privileges of membership? My sister booked a trip to China on the Amex points she racked up. Another friend paid for her honeymoon with points alone! But they don't treat you as privileged when your bill is late! I put everything on Amex. The dry cleaner, my gym membership dues, tomatoes. Yes tomatoes. They can be expensive. I pay a hefty annual fee in exchange to show off my shiny gold card and collect "points." I am saving up for a trip to The Amalfi Coast!

I put so much on my Amex this past season, the Huffington Post even wrote about it in a story about shopaholics click for article. Then, on December 31st, somewhere in my stack of holiday cards I noticed a letter from Amex. And no it was not a discount to the Amalfi Coast! They said my bill was overdue and they threatened to contact the credit bureaus!

Now for a shopaholic, my credit is pretty good . Why? Because I pay my bills. On time. Almost always. So I freaked out and called customer service. I spoke to a young man named Jared, who was probably VPO (very pissed off) he had to work on a holiday. I was sweet and friendly. He was not. I soon learned that if you play hardball with your Amex, they play hardball back.  I explained my predicament: no Christmas bonus this year, an insurance claim that never paid, a Diane Von Furstenberg sample sale (okay, I left out the sample sale). All Jared wanted to know is "Can you pay this bill? Yes or No?" My answer was yes, but not right now. I somehow managed to channel the "holiday spirit" and  flirt my way into a payment plan. I was assured my credit score would not be adversely affected.

So three incremental payments later, I paid off a third of my bill on the schedule Amex set up for me . So you can imagine my surprise while getting a pedicure last week at Zen Spa in NYC, my cell phone rings. It was Amex demanding full payment! Talk about ruining my zen! How did these guys even get my cell number? How did I know it was not some scam artist asking for my bank routing number?  Yesterday, Amex called my house, threatening my spouse's credit score, even though we do not share an account and our finances (including our tax returns) are managed separately! I also learned that over 15,000 points I had earned over the past 7 years had been frozen because I may have been several days late on past payments! Can I get them back? Sure if I pay a fee of several HUNDRED dollars! Being a member of this club is not all it is cracked up to be. Amex demanded that my friend , who never had a late payment and paid his balance in FULL EVERY MONTH, produce several years of tax returns to prove he can justify his AMEX spending! Is not religiously paying your bill in full enough? We are not the only ones disgusted.( click here for consumer complaints)!

So I am starting to think maybe I am allergic to plastic and maybe the club I wanted so badly to be a part of, is not all that, (sort of like my ex-college boyfriend with his very own Amex card). My number one New Years Resolution? Pay off my Amex card and never use it again! Unless of course there is an emergency...or a sample sale!

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Monday, January 2, 2012

One Last (Shopping) Hurrah!

2011 was quite the year. I came out to the world as a closet shopaholic (no pun) and made a resolution to stop using my credit cards. If you have been reading my posts however, you probably learned I did stop using my credit cards (it will be one year on January 26!) but did not stop shopping. Stopping shopping, is akin to stopping breathing, for me at least.

What I did learn in 2011 is that  even if you pay cash, or use a charge card like Amex, it is still quite difficult to pay down your debt. Especially if if your cash flow is being diverted through the retail flood gates of Madison and Fifth Avenues.  Hence, as we welcome 2012, I resolve not only to continue on my credit card ban, but to stop shopping and commit to not buying any new clothes for three months! That may not seem like a long time, but for a shopaholic/fashionista it is an eternity.  

That being said, how did I end 2011? With a shopping spree!
With the clock rapidly ticking and New Years Eve celebration just hours away. I hit the stores hard. And they hit back even harder . Even with the after Christmas sales, I learned that ANYTHING sparkly was marked UP not down.

 My dilemma was that I was going to a nice restaurant for dinner, but then to Times Square to watch the ball drop. Born and raised in NYC, I have only seen this spectacular event on TV. The challenge was how to look fashionable at dinner, yet stay warm and comfortable standing on my feet for several hours. I had bought a J Crew sequin tank on sale, but did not have a suitable bottom (no pun, once again). One friend advised me that you can't wear sparkly on top and on bottom, because it becomes a clash of the sequins! I was also informed sequins make your ass look ten pounds heavier. I was about to give up when I was saved by the Japanese... who can miraculously combine fashion with technology.

 I found a great dress by Tashishi Shoji.  With ruching across the bodice,sheer sleeves and  sequin detailing, it was sophisticated,sexy and sparkly!
 And it was on sale!  At 40% off  from $345, it totalled, well... who had time for math? It was on sale! 
To stay warm I turned to my favorite  fashion invention, the Japanese brand Uniqlo's Heat Tech line which is super thin microfiber that retains heat sans bulk. I layered a tank underneath my dress and layered Heat Tech socks over my tights then finished styling with a pair of last years Cole Hahn boots . No peep toe stilettos on this night. I was going all for the Nike Air technology!

I then hit the Chanel counter. Can they do my makeup? The associate laughed at me."Do you know night this is?" she asked.
Me in Tadashi Shoji and Laila Rowe!
She helped me pick a new lipstick and gloss and sold me a concealer to hide the dark  circles  under my eyes, I mean the night had not started, and I already looked exhausted! What is a girl to do?
Then off to my hair at Frederick Fekkai. Michael, a brilliant stylist made me look like a million bucks .It also cost me nearly that! I almost forgot- I needed accessories!
 Accessories? I had no money left.
So, I was off to Laila Rowe for cheap jewelry. Yep Laila Rowe. I don't shop there. Really, I don't. But with a near zero bank balance, I wasn't exactly marching to Harry Winston!
I bought a set of sparkly bangles and a pair of earrings for $20 total that were too cute!  
My total for the  last night of 2011 was close to $400 including tax and tip and a  lip gloss application.And this is with wearing last years shoes!!  Was it worth it?

 For the first time in my life, I experienced Times Square on New Years Eve, rocking away to Lady GaGa and feeling that NYC energy turned up to a volume I never knew existed. Words cannot describe what it was like to be in the center of the universe when the Waterford Crystal Ball descended at midnight. The experience, however, was more about the people and places, not the price tag of my outfit!

Yes I watched the ball drop, but when it came to spending , I was the one who "dropped the ball." Another lesson learned.  Here's to a Happy Healthy 2012, and all my NEW resolutions!