Black Friday Weekend – What I didn’t Buy

Thanksgiving weekend!  A very short work week followed by tons of food, wine, family and kids.  My husband and I do two Thanksgivings each year.  We do Thursday with his family, which is a lot of people and kids gathered at his mother’s house.  And then we do Friday with my family in Maine, which is much more calm and relaxed.  This year my sister and her husband couldn’t find reasonable flights, and my grandmother didn’t want to leave the assisted living facility, so it was just four people splitting all kinds of awesome food.  My mother’s favorite hobby is to feed us, and then to tell me I’m gaining weight.  Mothers!

I always look forward to Thanksgiving.  I tend to think of myself as “too good” for the Black Friday hubbub, but in practice, I end up spending quite a bit of money Thanksgiving weekend.  Historically we go to Freeport and I drop several hundred dollars at stores like J.Crew Factory and Sperry and Brooks Brothers and Orvis.

This year, I steeled myself.  We didn’t go to Freeport.  I stayed off the J.Crew Factory website.  The only store I “needed” to go to was my friend’s watch store in the Portland Old Port.  My husband’s family does a gift exchange (I don’t participate).  The guideline had been $200 but last year was lowered (thank goodness) to $100.  He drew a sister-in-law, and we wanted to buy her a beautiful gold Skagen watch, as well as pick up the Swiss Army knives I had ordered for my nephews.  It should have been a quick transaction.

But damn if those Hamilton watches aren’t gorgeous.  I was drawn like a

The Bagley Quartz watch - "an American classic."
The Bagley Quartz watch – “an American classic.”

fly to light to a delicate, beautiful watch which I immediately put on my wrist.  I love gold, I love brown leather, and I love watches.  My internal monologue went something like this:

You’ve been so good for the past two years.  You deserve something nice.  You haven’t bought a new watch in more than two years.  This one is so classy and pretty – and high quality!  It’s $645.  That’s a lot.  That’s alot-alot.  That’s hard to justify.  But Nicole – you never buy yourself “anything.”  You work hard.  You should have nice things.  And you can afford it.  It could be your Christmas present!  In a few months, you’ll get that extra $600 from the TD Bank accounts.  Why not use it for this watch?

At that point I had to drag myself away from the watch.  My father was with us, and he wanted a coffee.  We went next door to Bard Coffee, and as soon as I stepped out of that intoxicating watch shop, I started to come to my senses.

A $645 watch is nuts right now.  We owe $240,000 on our mortgage, for God’s sake.  And who knows what kind of unexpected bills will come over the next few months.  We’ve been averaging hundreds of dollars a month in medical bills, and there’s no reason to think those will stop.  Winter is always more expensive; the cars run less efficiently and the house needs to be heated.

Not to mention… I already own several [beautiful, high-quality] watches…

You know what they say - a girl can never have too many watches! Well...
You know what they say – a girl can never have too many watches!

If you look closely, you can see that I haven’t even worn half these watches since daylight savings kicked in nearly a month ago.

Bottom line – much as I love the Hamilton model, I do not need another watch.

My next Black Friday weekend “challenge,” which has been ongoing, was the Allen Edmonds website.  The Allen Edmonds brand first blipped on my radar a few months ago.  My husband told me that he really liked his brother’s shoes, which were Allen Edmonds.  I immediately went to the company’s website, saw the prices, and thought, “ain’t no way in hell my husband is ever gonna wear Allen Edmonds.”

The shoes are gorgeous, and look high quality… and run in the neighborhood of $400.  But for yucks, I submitted my email address into the company’s database.

That was mid-August.  I now receive emails from Allen Edmonds every few days.  I’ve received 59 emails since I signed up.  Allen Edmonds is pretty much always on my mind.

Allen Edmonds – purveyors of gorgeous shoes, and relentless email marketing geniuses.

I’m now familiar with the styles and the rotating sales prices.  So when the Black Friday prices came up, I didn’t question that they were much lower than the usual mid-week “bargain” prices.  All of a sudden, the gorgeous shoes were in the “still-really-expensive-but-sort-of-justifiable” range.

The Sanford cap-toe Derby is HALF OFF for Black Friday!
The Sanford cap-toe Derby is HALF OFF for Black Friday!

The Sanford cap-toe derby in walnut leather, for example.  A gorgeous shoe!  Does my husband already have a brown dress shoe?  Well yes, he does.  But I hate that pair of shoes, and I know they don’t fit him well.  They don’t look nice.  I can order this pair in a size 14B, which is incredible.  These shoes will last a lifetime.

The Long Branch Wingtip Boot in "Golden Brown Chromexcel Leather"
The Long Branch Wingtip Boot in “Golden Brown Chromexcel Leather”yb

OK, OK, so maybe he doesn’t need a brown dress shoe right this minute. But what about a pair of boots for the weekends?  A nice pair of boots!  The Long Branch Wingtips!  Those would look amazing on him.  Zexy.  He doesn’t have anything exactly like this, and it could be his Christmas present.

But again… he just doesn’t need a pair of $300 boots.  I’m not saying he’ll never own a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes.  It just needs to wait until he actually needs a new pair, and then a little longer until the next Black Friday sale.

So no Allen Edmonds shoes.  But maybe something more reasonable.  For me.  I looked at the sales – and there are many – but I stayed calm.  I have several craft projects to get through (I quilt) before I can justify buying something new, even at a “bargain.”  Nevertheless, I decided I “needed” a new cutting mat.  The 24″x36″ Olfa mat for $38.40 plus shipping (normal price $64) seemed like a good deal.  My old mat is still doing the trick, but it’s beat, and the fabric seems to be slipping, and my cutting accuracy suffers.

24"x36" Olfa Cutting Mat - a bargain at $38.40.
24″x36″ Olfa Cutting Mat – a bargain at $38.40.

Truthfully, I didn’t really need this mat.  I have one.  The same one.  And it’s older, but it’s fine.  Luckily, but the time I tried to purchase it online this morning, Craftsy was plum outta stock.

See, that’s the thing about people like me.  My husband and I don’t consider ourselves wealthy, we certainly don’t have “F-You” money.  But we do have much, much more than we need.  We both work.  We don’t have kids or the associated expenses.  We can afford to put a couple thousand extra bucks towards the mortgage each month.  So taking some of that money and putting it towards a beautiful watch, it doesn’t really seem like all that big a deal.

The problem with the “Old Me” was that I tended to splurge at all levels.  I would splurge on coffee, sure.  And happy hour.  And restaurants.  And vacations.  And Volkl skis.  And hair salons.  And Crossfit.  And handbags.  Splurging on something specific is one thing, but when you splurge in all areas of your life, you end up rocking 18% credit card interest debt and refinancing again and again to a new 30-year mortgage term.

At 35 years old I realized that while my husband and I were certainly doing OK, we could be doing so much better.  The point wasn’t to buy things.  The point should be for our income to buy us options.

Overall we did well this weekend.  We bought some presents.  We didn’t buy anything expensive and unnecessary just because it was a “deal.”  Best of all, I anticipate that we will stay within the week’s budget.  If I had purchased the things that I wanted, I could have quickly spent more than $1,500.  I would have loved the stuff, but it wouldn’t have been worth the crazy spending hangover, and it would have derailed us for this month and next.  We’re having a good November, budget-wise.  I’m so happy we’re keeping it that way.



Don’t Buy Underwear at Marshall’s

I went to Marshall’s yesterday to buy underwear.

I walked in.  BOOM, shoe section.  I looked through all of the shoes, but didn’t see anything I “needed.”  But right next door – SWEATERS!  Such a nice looking French Connection sweater, only $29.99.  I love that brand, but don’t buy it because of the price – kismet!  And then another beige sweater by Michael Kors.  $29.99, which would look great with leggings.  I grabbed those and continued on towards the underwear section.

Five steps later I was deep in to the handbag section.  And then I was trying on sheer-ling Ugg gloves, gorgeous, marked down to $79.99.  And then I was considering whether I needed a new mud mask.

I put the Ugg gloves back.  Underwear.  I came here for underwear.

But what’s that?  Gorgeous socks!  Beautiful, patterned, high quality, comfy socks!  Snowflake patterns, SmartWool, I was swooning.  I grabbed three pairs.  At this point I was juggling two sweaters and three pairs of socks, more than $80 of merchandise.  On to the underwear!

But first – pajamas!  I haven’t bought new pajamas in forever and there was such cute Christmas-themed stuff.  And wouldn’t my husband like me better if I wore fuzzy pj pants with candy canes?  No!  Focus, Nicole!

Finally, I got to the underwear.  It took all of thirty seconds to see they didn’t have what I was looking for.  So I turned to leave and landed smack in the middle of… the kitchen section.  The evil, evil kitchen section.

And didn’t they just get a gorgeous shipment of “handpainted, made in Japan” little bowls and food savers-  super cute!  And only $3.99 per bowl and $6.99 per food saver.

I needed this stuff.  I was down several food savers from gifting food in the past few months, and this stuff was gorgeous.  And cheap!  I also scooped up a spoon rest for $2.99.  I already have one, but wouldn’t it be convenient to have two?

At this point, I ditched the sweaters on a rack of dish towels.  And the socks.  I had pulled out four little coordinating bowls and two food savers.  So I was “down” to $30.  That’s not bad, right?

I was already over the sweaters, but at this point I still badly wanted the socks and had my heart set on the bowls and food savers.

Then I started thinking big picture.  Shit from Marshall’s is the kind of stuff that immediately gets absorbed into a home and becomes lost money.  I started to imagine seeing the thirty bucks on my credit card statement a few days down the road and to think hard, what was it that I bought?

Also, my mother just gave me some very nice little bowls.  Why did I think I needed more?

Ugh.  I put it all back and left the store.  I hate Marshall’s.

You Don’t Ever Need to Go in to the Hallmark Store

But what about…


AKA dust collectors.  You don’t need these, and your mother and grandmother are real tired of pretending to enjoy receiving them as gifts.

Snow Globes

No one actually likes these.  Only wistful movie characters.

Christmas Ornaments

You have enough.  Also, check out this link.  Would you ever buy a Barbie or Star Trek Christmas ornament online?  No?  Then you shouldn’t buy it in the store, either.

Gift wrap, bags, tissue paper, bows

Buy it on super sale after the holidays at the grocery store.  Before the holidays?  Wrap in brown paper or newsprint, have the kids decorate.

A single ball of Lindt chocolate by the register

75 calories and 55 cents.

“Active Lifestyle” shoes

C’mon now.  No one goes in to the Hallmark store planning to buy orthotic shoes.  It’s hella expensive collateral damage.

Painted Wine Glass

Again, no one actually likes these.  People seem to enjoy purchasing them, but no one wants to drink wine from these monstrosities.  They frequently show up at garage sales covered with dust.

Special card that Sings

These singing cards are annoying AND crazy pricey.  Get a silent card at the grocery store. 

Puzzle of a Kitchen

Ask around – your friends are dying to unload several puzzles.

Fun socks


Here’s the bottom line: when people try to re-sell stuff from the Hallmark store – be it at a yard sale, or online – no one wants to buy it.  No one.

There’s something alluring and nice about the Hallmark store.  Heck, it even smells nice.  These people know how to market the hell out of a  kneeling figurine of a little girl praying in her nightgown.

But once you get those items out of the store… it’s junk.  You don’t need more junk.  Stay out of the Hallmark store.

TD Bank is Giving Away Money

We keep an “emergency fund” lying around in a savings account.  We decided on $30,000.  We earn pretty much nothing on this money.

TD Bank is currently offering $300 to open a new Premier account, so I went ahead and opened two accounts, one for my husband and one for me.  I transferred $2,500 into each account from our emergency fund and changed our direct deposit for a few paycheck cycles.

Free money courtesy of TD Bank. Why not?
Free money courtesy of TD Bank. Why not?

$300 is 12% of $2,500 – that’s a fabulous guaranteed return on investment.  It sure beats the fraction of 1% that we earn in our normal savings account!

95 days after opening a new premier account – during which time the account balance doesn’t drop below $2,500 and $2,500 is direct deposited — TD Bank will deposit $300 into each account.

Here’s the link to the promotion:

I’m not sure if we’ll keep either account open past Day 96.  I did visit a TD Bank branch in my neighborhood, and I was impressed by an ATM in the lobby which distributes any dollar amount, in the bills of your choice.  Well… I was impressed by the idea of it.  It was out of order that day.

It’s a good gimmick, this $300 bonus.  I never would have stepped foot in the bank otherwise.  I’m a sucker for free money.