recent purchases and thoughts on money

March 7, 2012 |  Category:   happy purchases life rambling

I don’t often talk about shopping or things I buy on the blog. Other than the fact that I don’t want to focus on “stuff” here, the last time I talked money and shopping, the comments took on a life of its own and quickly veered toward the ridiculous till I had to shut the comments down. Long time readers may know this incident as “Paralegal-gate”. Truth is, bloggers often get judged on things they buy, the money they spend, the price point of products they post, or the perceived priorities that they place on their spending. I see it all the time. Even if it’s not said outright, you can bet somebody out there is thinking something. But we’re all human. I’m sure we’ve all had envious (and maybe judgemental if we’re being honest) thoughts of one kind or another, so shopping or products I covet rarely ever become blog posts (for all you know, I am a hoarder of expensive shoes and I have a closet full of Rachel Comeys and Jimmy Choos, ha! Nooooo).


After we came back home from our trip, I took a walk around the city by myself a few days later after my morning meeting. It was 60 degrees and the weather was glorious. I had been really good about not spending money after putting myself on a spending freeze for a while, but I bought a few things while walking around and it felt nice. Sometimes I think about what life was like pre-kids when Mark and I didn’t have 2 extra little people to support and I wonder what we did with our money. We ate out a lot more, that’s for sure. I booked things like facials and frequent haircuts. We went out at night, we traveled, maybe not necessarily more, but to farther places overseas. I definitely did a lot more walking around, popping into stores and shopping, just like I did last week which seems like a treat these days when it does happen. Without any responsibilities, spending money came with no regrets, but we weren’t thinking about the future either.
Certain things like healthcare costs and college tuition for the girls can still keep me up at night, but while our strict budget have loosened since I started this blog (thankfully we are at a different place income wise than where we were 4 years ago), we’re still careful with our money and our overall spending habits haven’t changed much from the time when every single penny counted. Those years taught me how to economize and make savings a priority even when we were broke when we first became parents (we collected loose change and dollar bills in a jar and put that in our savings once a month for 2 years when that was all we could save). These are lessons that I’m grateful for because those are life adjustments in priorities we still choose to live by. While I would love to eat out more, get pedicures, treat ourselves to daily lattes and pastries, or buy nice cosmetics and candles, these are things, for example, that we’ve decided we can live without in our daily lives. And we don’t really miss them. We’d rather spend our money differently like our yearly summer trips to the West Coast, which really only have been a recent thing, or save as much as we can for some sense of security. This is what’s important to us, but for some people, those pedicures, lipsticks and lattes might be necessary splurges and is important for them. Only we can decide what is right for each of us.

Mark and I are definitely not “young people” anymore. As much as I would like to think otherwise, our feet are planted firmly in adulthood, but I also think we’re at an age where we really should enjoy the payoffs of hard work – with no regrets. It’s been interesting to see the arc of the last 10 years. 10 years of so much change and addition to our lives and so many shifted priorities. Sometimes it scares me to think that these are considered our prime earning years. We have a good, fairly modest life and we’ve made enough money to support that life so far with some frugal planning and hard work, but sometimes I think, “this is it??” (still waiting for that genius million dollar idea to pop into my head…) “But how will we ever retire? How will the girls go to college?”. Like any normal person, I sometimes do envy the vacations that other people take, the apartments they live in, the perceived lifestyle that they may have, but then I think to myself…what would we do if we had more money? What would I spend it on, what would change? Would our problems go away? Other than feeling more secure and maybe having more freedom to do things, which admittedly is huge, I’m thinking maybe not as much as I may think. You’ll always have more and make more money than some people and you’ll always have less and make less than others. It’s what you do with your particular situation that matters. I’d like to think that we have just what we need right now.*

Because you’ll ask, here’s the stuff I bought: Orla Kiely for Uniqlo scarf ($12 bucks!); enamel bracelet from J Crew; ceramic berry basket from Anthropologie; Striped shirt from the sale rack at Madewell.

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  • Christine Jimenez March 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I love this post. So honest. Life is about choices, no?

  • wendy March 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    thanks for another honest and refreshing post jenna. it does scare me a bit sometimes that we are supposedly in our prime earning years and yet it doesn’t really feel that way. and it’s so true that we are all human and that the perceived lifestyles of bloggers are open to judgment. i admire that you put yourself out there this way – it’s nice to be reminded that for many of us who blog and read blogs that there is the blog and then there is the life we’re actually living.

  • cindy March 7, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I don’t comment much but I love reading your posts because you are candid with us as if we’ve been friends for years. And seriously, those readers who have nothing nice to say should SHUT IT. They are such blog bullies! It’s your blog and you can write and express whatever you want! They can start their own blog and post their thoughts and have readers scrutinize their every choice! But seriously, thank you for always welcoming us readers into your life. I envy your desire to share and be open!

    And OH how I wish Uniqlo would open up in Chicago. Whenever I see Orla Kiely, it just makes me smile!

  • Karen March 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Insightful and beautifully thoughtful as ever. I need to be more frugal. Learning! Thank you

  • Jane March 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I think we all have these inner conflicts sometimes – I could definitely make more money working in a different profession, but I enjoy what I do, even if it means I have to be frugal, so there’s some value in that as well. We all have different priorities, different values, and it gets more complicated when kids are involved, because our choices affect them and their futures. I used to be a more highly stressed person because I felt that life was like a contest, or a test, something I could lose at, or fail at. But really, you just end up doing the best you can, making mistakes, trying to learn, and just trying to have a bit of fun while you’re at it!

    I wish we had Uniqlo here too ๐Ÿ™ And Madewel!!!!

  • Bekka March 7, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I love this. I used to spend a lot of time judging or envying others based on my perceptions of them through their blogs. Recently though, I haven’t been allowing myself to judge anyone for what they spend or don’t spend their money on. We really have no idea what other people make or how much debt they have, so material things are silly to get jealous over. As long as you feel good (and not guilty) about what you spend your money on then good for you.

  • Procrastamom March 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Great post Jenna! You’re so right that we all have different views about money and spending. My issue right now is lack of time to spend as opposed the reverse of past years where I had lots of time to spend and no money to do it with. As full-time working parents with teenagers, my Husband and I seem to spend most of our time in the car driving to practices and games and the mall (for them) and the movies (for them). I drive by major shopping hubs and envy the buyers not for what they’ve purchased, but for the time they have to stroll around and look at all the pretty things. We’ve had an Anthropologie store here in Vancouver for over a year and I still have not taken the time to browse (love that ceramic berry basket!). I guess I should try to see it as a good thing that the money is building in my savings account….maybe I’ll have time to spend it when I’m 60 or so ๐Ÿ™‚

  • oilandgarlic March 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve been reading Your Money Or Your Life which is about transforming your relationship with money and it’s been a very interesting mental exploration so to speak. Rather than write a review, I’m simply posting my thoughts as I read. Someone took and ran with this and is starting an online book club. Anyhow, no matter how you spend, it’s good to do so mindfully and without judging others.

  • oilandgarlic March 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Oh, the most ‘transforming’ thought for me is equating how much work I have to do to earn that trinket. In other words, if my work time is valued at $10/per hour (say $15/hour minus cost of gas for driving, work clothes, work lunches), then is that trinket really worth it? Sometimes the answer is yes; but more often times it makes you step back and think. Do I really want to work 6 hours just to get that $60 pair of shoes?

  • benson March 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    it is true that the more you make the more you’ll spend…or; you’ll allow yourself to spend. Our three children have college degrees but no debt (we paid for a total of 12 years of college); amazing teeth due to braces; same three children were gifted autos upon graduating; great vacations and beautiful homes while they/we were growing up. Now that all three have left the nest; our income is lower (husband is custom home builder) but we (obviously) don’t have the kids at home to gift upon and we are much more careful with our money. Do I wish we would have saved more? yes, but at the same time we gave our children a great start (debtfree) into adulthood and experiences that our family will never forget. It’s wise that you are aware of what you and your family need and want for the future and are planning for that.

  • kay w. March 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    thanks for this, jenna. a very sensitive subject since brought up on d*s that i totally relate to, ofttimes on a much deeper level than obvious even to my closest friends. i think you’ve pointed out the most important things to remember (at least in my opinion): 1) only we can decide what is right for us and we alone, and 2) if you have something to show for the hard work you’ve put into something, there should be no shame in having something to show, something people seem to forget. money is such an easy scapegoat, but many seem to forget there’s a huge difference between someone who is entirely self earned versus a “trust fund baby”, and it says a great deal about what someone chooses to spend their earned dollars on. there’s always more to the story than people might realize, and in realizing that is at least a great start.

  • Cecilia Madden March 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    touchy subject for sure. i have to remind myself too that it’s all relative and that the most important thing is to be conscientous in spending.

    as for blogging jealousy/judgement, i try to remind myself that a person sharing their good taste does not necessarily have loads of money. it’s not about the money at all actually, in most cases.

  • Mo March 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks Jenna, I needed this today. I love your phrase, “feet firmly planted in adulthood.” It’s so true, you get to that point when you think, o.k. this is it… adulthood and all that comes with it, the good and the bad. I need to put this on my fridge, wallet and on my computer, ” youโ€™ll always have less and make less than others. Itโ€™s what you do with your particular situation that matters.” Thanks again.

  • Jossie March 7, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    You know – I say to my 11 yr old all the time – if you aren’t prepared to say it to someone’s face then the rule is don’t text or email it. I wish blog lurkers would apply the same sound thinking to their comments. It gets me that some people have a go through the comments area at bloggers. Zip it if it’s not nice. They really are oxygen thieves – ignore them Jenna – you write with honesty which is what makes your blog so interesting And your girls are drop-dead gorgeous – love the pis of them – they are so divine!

  • mette / ungt blod March 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    As always, such a good and thoughtful post! Thank you.
    When ever I find myself dreaming of the million dollar surprise from a long lost relative, I know it is because I am stressed out about something else. Often something I need to get done but have avoiding. In those situations I drift into daydreams about a carefree life where I didn’t have to work for any of my dreams to come true, but when I become more contiens about what I am doing, I realize that there are actual things I can do to get closer to the dreams and it does not have to do with money.

    hope this makes sense ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kimi March 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I know what you mean about adulthoodโ€”thank you for showing how you’re facing up to such a scary word! But I also hope life is different from what it used to be, in terms of earning years and allowing for change et al, things feel so different these days in both good and bad ways. No more job-for-life security, but in comes creative entrepreneurial stuff like you and your husband are all about. And by the way? That bracelet collection on you? Fabulous.

  • Kelly March 7, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    your blogs is always so good. thank so much for your honest sharing. everything here really resonated with me.

  • Eve March 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Wow!!! Orla Kiley for $12……SCORE!!!!

  • Jill March 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I know this is totally not the point of this post, or an appropriate response, but OMG I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT ORLA KIELY AT UNIQLO. I have to go after work. I will write more later – I have a lot of thoughts about this. And more grandparent stories. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Allison March 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I really love this post. I’m only 24 but my husband and I have very different financial goals compared to other people our age. The perceived lifestyle of a lot of bloggers can be a bit overwhelming to me at times. As a blogger, posts like this sort of re-inspire me in all the right ways. Thank you!

  • Gillian March 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your post Jenna, thanks for taking the time to write it.

  • a March 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    your post is really hitting me today, my husband and I are going to have our 10 year anniversary next week and its strange to look back on the years to where we started and where we are now. those early days we were students in college, we were broke but we did what we needed to do. these days we definitely have more money than back then but we don’t have kids and i often wonder where our money goes now. it definitely keeps me up at night because we still have no sense of urgency to be responsible in that sense. right now i am on a spending hiatus for lent and even though it has not been long, each little thing i want to buy that i can’t, makes me stop and think twice. i tell myself that after easter i can buy it, but i really don’t know how much of the things i see now will still be on my radar then – probably won’t. and i guess that is a good thing.

  • nichol March 7, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Brilliant post. I am so grateful for your writing voice!

    I like the point you make about “perceived” lifestyle on blogs.
    It is a good reminder to myself to push to keep my own blog content honest and authentic.
    Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mariella March 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I never quite thought about the fact that bloggers are judged for the stuff they buy or “share” . Actually I find the habit of sharing nice stuff on the blog a kind of therapy that enables me to satisfy at least for a good half the desire to possess something. Ironically, since I started blogging I shop less I think. It’s like my eyes are already filled with all the beauties I see on various online shops that really I don’t need the real thing, after all. Also if I share the work of an artist or a because I find it particularly inspiring or a beautiful bag just because I like it, doesn’t necessarily mean I can afford to buy it! I think blogging allows to dream a little bit, reality is a different thing.Anyways I loved this post, it inspired some good thinking.

  • ruth March 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    hi jenna, i’ve been reading your blog since i chanced upon it a few years ago and i’ve been admiring (and been inspired by!) your little family and how you and your husband have pursued your passions so wholeheartedly, with two little girls in tow. thanks for this authentic post on the financial “sacrifices” you guys have had to make in pursuit of the more materially intangible, important things in life. i’m a newlywed and my husband and i are considered at the prime of our lives. we don’t have children yet but we work at a non-profit so even in our lifestyle choices we have to be frugal (saving for the future โ€“ i’m from singapore, kids and housing are expensive). i completely identify with most things you’ve mentioned, and most days we count our blessings and forget about how much our peers earn ๐Ÿ˜‰ we don’t earn much, but it is enough.

    and i have yet to check out the orla keily designs at uniqlo! except they’re not as affordable here.

  • geena March 7, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    such a great post im 21 and spend beyond crazy and not a penny in my savings account i make enough as a waitress yes still never have enough (things)

    my boyfriend thinks i have an illness

  • Millk March 7, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Ahh, that was so nice to read! I think we’d make great friends! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • velika March 8, 2012 at 12:22 am

    I think your post is so thoughtful. However, I do have sympathy for people who complain when bloggers post about purchases. A blog can start to feel like a sort of a friend, where you cheer the blogger’s successes, appreciate their good tips, learn from their advice, and celebrate the good events of their lives. So when the blog suddenly starts “bragging,” I think many readers — our brains not evolved yet to navigate this complex new type of relationship — start to have the same feelings someone might feel if a close girlfriend suddenly started showing off expensive purchases without regard to our situation, as illogical as it sounds. I think we are all really just adapting to a new medium and way of interacting.

  • chickything March 8, 2012 at 1:18 am

    Never feel guilty about how you live your life as long as youre not hurting anyone.

  • Carolyn March 8, 2012 at 2:33 am

    Great post!

  • Ayse March 8, 2012 at 3:59 am

    I will have to learn from you. I am quitting my good-paying full-time job soon for more freedom and art in my life. I believe that I won’t miss the money so this post encouraged me. Purchasing things is not really necessary, it is the only indulgement of extremely boring corporate lives. I hope I will be repeating this six months later ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jessie March 8, 2012 at 6:59 am

    I’m inclined to not judge people on how they spend their money, but it does seem that a lot of blogs out there are just full of material lusting — expensive stuff, too.

    I like to look at them, because looking at pretty things is nice, but I’ll admit that it does make me feel sometimes as though I don’t spend enough on things as other people do. The point of those blogs might not be, “See how I spent my money,” but rather, “Look at this pretty thing.” But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

    Anyhow, I now live in a country where things are soo expensive, so people have less than they do in the US, and seem to be living well in spite of that. I appreciate reading your blog, because it focuses on life beyond “stuff.” Also, it makes me nostalgic for the “old days” when I lived in Brooklyn… ๐Ÿ™‚

  • paige March 8, 2012 at 7:02 am

    haters are going to hate….dont let them get you down. keep posting true and authentic things about yourself with no shame. you are doing such a great job! xo

  • Sophia March 8, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Someone mentioned earlier the possibility that “the close friend” might interpret our behaviour as “bragging” and I can reasonate with that. Though to me the problem rises when that said “friend” or, even worse, “relative” has already enough(at least we make this assumption by his/hers visible possecions) and no need to feel threaten by someone else’s earnings(or spendings) but chooses to do so because it’s in his/hers nature to forget easily his/hers status the minute someone else mentions “a spending affair” which is considered socially notable. I guess I’m bringing this particular string of thoughts up because it was triggered by today’s insightful post!

  • Gracie March 8, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Orla Kiely for Uniqlo!!! No way! Anyway I have been paying my way through college for a while now and paying rent and trying to live and all that and I look back and wonder what I spent my money on before. These life lessons and harder times make us appreciate everything, money included. I appreciate what I already have a lot more now. And I want more stuff too, ha ha.

  • Ellen March 8, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I have been following your blog for about a year and think its the most real one out there. I can very much relate to what you posted today. My husband and I are about to close on our first house, have our first baby and paying for grad school out of pocket, so money issues are never far from my mind. We try to live a simple life and I try not to want or be envious of things others have, but it can be diffiicult. I totally admire how you and your husband began your own business and have two kids and are making things work. I hope my husband and I can take that plunge one day ( he would like to be a business owner). Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Delia R March 8, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I love this post and I am always worrying too!! thanks for the honest post!
    those stores you mentioned…..ha…those I admire from afar because those are out of MY

  • Vanessa Rae March 8, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on spending with us. I write a blog that shares what I’m inspired by, and for the most part, it could be interpreted that I’m basically into materialism and beautiful photographs. Although I enjoy those things I feel there is so much more to me, my thoughts and desires and the way I live my life and I often feel like I am falling short, as compared to all the beauty strewn throughout the internet. I am a stay-at-home-mom and blogging has been such a great creative outlet for me and I am working on the courage to get more personal and share more about my day-to-day life as you do. I try to use the beauty (in photographs and things) as a means of storytelling and mood boarding versus the ideal to aspire to. I can’t afford the clothing that I post on my blog but when I go to thrift stores I try to find similar silhouettes. Depending on why you read (or write) blogs, one can either be inspired or compare. The choice is our own. Thanks for inspiring me Jenna.

  • Jen March 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I’m eye to eye with you on this one. Before my husband and I launched our new business in 2009, we ate out as often as we wanted to and lived life relatively carefree. Just a year later, we were humbled and learned some late lessons in life about finances. It knocked us down, but it was one of the best things that happened to us. We’re so much more careful about what we spend money on, and when we do spend money (like on the rare occasions we eat out, we appreciate the experience that much more). However, when things get super stressful, I have to at times engage in some retail therapy, even if that means a $2 used book or a $15 thrfited dress. We’re careful about money, but we have to enjoy ourselves too. Life is too short not to.

  • Linda March 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Hi Jenna, do you watch Shark Tank? That show always makes me think… if I had that ONE idea! Anyways, I personally think that your million dollar idea could be whimsy & spice, I could definitely picture seeing you & Mark on Shark Tank one day!

  • red March 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you for this. Being a working & fairly new mom to twin girls, adjusting to full-fledged adulthood has been rough. Time is a luxury, let alone time alone. Trying to figure out how to budget/provide for my new instant family and save has been a challenge (so long Madewell, hello child care). But I think commenters are right about what we each choose to take from not just blogs, but from watching the Joneses in life in general. I appreciate design and photography blogs, but I look to them for inspiration. At this point in my life, following your blog and looking at others has become my new time & cost-effective equivalent of taking a stroll through some shops on a sunny day. You provide me with the adult thought and eye candy that help keep me sane and a bit more myself. I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate your voice. Thank you.

  • Laura March 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Great insightful post. One of the things I admire most about your blog is that it is very real. I love how disciplined you are with your finances too. I am often coming to your blog to get inspired so I can be just as disciplined!

  • Chai Ling March 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    one of the reasons, you are on my top-3-bloggers-i-adore list, it’s because post like today’s. you write and share about valuable life experience that i could never learn it from those commercial parenting magazines/books. My husband and I have no children yet, but we do talk about kids’ expenses, sometime and your posts help to get us prepared (from the other side of the globe!) many thanks for a good blogger like you : )

  • Ronnie March 9, 2012 at 3:52 am

    I just wanted to say Jenna – thanks for being so brave in being so honest.
    And your writing is truly special.
    Ronnie xo

  • Shayna March 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Thanks for this, I feel like I could have written this (not as eloquently, of course).

  • Sarah March 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I LOVE your blog. You’re a gem, such a wise woman.

  • plum March 9, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    living in any capital city with an an obvious wealth-gap where you’re judged by your consumption patterns, would make anyone anxious. in the end though, money alone cannot protect your loved ones absolutely. surely its the support network that you make for them, family, friends, community, that is invaluable and will sustain you all. reading your blog, you seem to have this covered. though of course, 10 million dollars wouldn’t hurt!

  • Jessica C. March 10, 2012 at 4:21 am

    Thanks for your honest posts. I can really relate to your thoughts on money having gone back to school this year to try and get more skills to help find a better job. Money is such a struggle for me, especially when I try to think of how I’ll pay for school on a part-time salary.

  • Jenna March 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Thank you everyone, for your comments here. Always nice to hear from readers- they are so appreciated.

  • Kate365til30 March 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Great post. As always I love love love your honesty. As a freelancer I feel like I am constantly worried about money and filled with fears of the future. Thank you for sharing…:)

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