About Me

My photo
New homeowner in Black Rock, Buffalo NY. Bachelors in art ed, masters in social studies/ special ed, job where I use neither. Addiction to thrifting, tights/leggings, boots, VHS tapes and liquid eyeliner. Enjoy painting, drawing and occasionally some chalk on the sidewalk. Love de- and reconstructing clothes, knitting, making jewelry and experimenting with fun eye makeup and hair color changes. Love the outdoors, learning to garden, practicing composter. Obsessed with greening up my life but not a preachy, pretentious jerk about the subject (maybe a bit pushy on the recycling thing *cough*). Loads of interests, small circle of friends, always looking for more of both. My fashion is influenced by street style, movies, comics, and my imagination.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Budgeting for Fashion: The annual report

It's that time of year again, the time when Moonqueen writes herself up a new budget so she knows what she can afford to spend on thrift store clothes and liquid crack (eyeliner). Thanks to my built-in-1910-but-made-energy-efficient home (newer windows, mostly insulated walls, insulated under 1st floor, insulated attic floor, high efficiency furnace - thanks to previous owners) and my obsessive energy saving/recycling habits, I am living fairly cheaply. I thought it would be good to post this and give people an idea of how much being green can actually save you, as well as some ideas as to how I'm trying to plan ahead for expenses. To get some idea, my home is about 1350+, with a good size living room, medium dining room, large kitchen, 1 full bath, utility/laundry room, storage room (not heated - back porch built over by previous owners) and a tiiiiiiny third bedroom I use as my office downstairs. There is an open loft used as a second tv room, large master bedroom, and medium sized second bedroom upstairs (only part of my house is two stories).

***For anyone not familiar with the term, budget billing is where the utility company estimates your monthly cost by taking your 6 month or annual cost and dividing it up into equal payments - it is the BEST. If they overestimate it is credited to you, if they underestimate you may owe them a little (rare).

My general expenses for the house are as follows:

electric: $60 a month budget billing
heat: $74 a month budget billing
water & sewer: $100 for every three months (I put 1/3 of this a month into my savings)
trash & recycling (user fee): $36 every three months (I put $12 a month into my savings for this - having the smallest can saves me $80 to $150 a year versus the larger sizes - recycling everything that can be helps make this possible)
house payment (mortgage, homeowner's insurance, PMI, and taxes): $438 a month (plus $30 extra towards principal - this will pay my loan off 5 or 6 years faster); I live in the city of Buffalo and my taxes are VERY low to encourage people to move there. Once I get the STAR program this will further decrease.
internet: $38
Monthly bill: $685.34 (versus estimated double for urban homeowners with no energy updates/energy saving strategies and up to triple this for most of the suburban homeowners I know who also don't pay attention to energy saving techniques - I'm talking same size house, obviously a bigger house = even more utilities and a higher house payment; part of smart buying is considering how much space you REALLY need, and what's economical to heat, clean, and furnish, versus what the bank says you can afford).
My car, a still mostly-free-of-rust 1994 Pontiac Bonneville, gets a sad 17-20 mpg versus the 25-30mpg when I first got it in November of 2005. Older cars run poorly on 10% ethanol gas (the norm at 99% of gas stations now) and I live so close to work my car does not warm up before it is shut off (my farmer but also mechanic father claims this has multiple effects on the system which reduce mpg). I'm hoping a good overhaul of the filters, a new oxygen sensor (which can reduce mpg by 15% if bad) and a tire balance will help with some of this, but I doubt I'll see more than a mile or two a gallon increase. I haven't given much thought to a new car as I currently live 5 miles from work within 2 miles of my gym, 6 grocery stores, a Target, good priced gas station and several dozen mom and pop stores & restaurants. It cost a whopping $1900 and came from down south so the body is in great shape. I've never had a car payment so I don't mind it nickel and diming me on repairs (lord knows I've changed many things). I am hoping by the time I need a new car I have a few grand saved up to buy a used compact, although I love huge boat GM cars. I may even suck it up and take the bus a few months to save cash when the time comes, but mass transit is AWFUL in Buffalo, so we will see. I estimate my expenses for it as follows:

$60 a month gas
$78 a month insurance (I have full everything on this too, even though it's old, because I can pay insurance much cheaper than I can make major repairs to the car)
$85 in maintenance/repairs a month (this is hard to gauge - I can go six months with no repairs, then need $300 worth of work done out of the blue - I guesstimate about $1000 a year, which sounds high until you consider what a $300 a month car payment will run annually; it's easier to set some aside every month in anticipation)
Monthly bill: $223 (versus estimated $400 to make payments and insurance on a new/leased car with better mpg)

Other expenses:

Student loan: $280 a month (DEAR SWEET LORD!! I can't BELIEVE how much this is and the sad thing is I am on a special plan to lower it or it would be $440 - that's right, more than my house payment). One of my biggest goals for this year is to pay more on principal for this. My interest rate is only 6.8% but as student loans can consolidate interest (thus charging you interest on interest) it seems a never-ending task to pay it down.

Cell phone:$61 a month with discount from my job, versus $75 without discount and $100 *gag* with a data plan - I tried having a Cricket phone ($45 a month) but I found it got poor to no reception in most of the places I've lived in Buffalo.

Groceries: I spend $100 to $150 a month. This is also hard to gauge as I don't go regularly. I tend to do one large shopping trip every month to month and a half then occasionally do a run on my way home for emergencies or milk. This versus $225 a month (food stamps estimation of what one person receives with no children).

Cats: $24 a month in food (I have to buy food to prevent UTI's or my male cat is constantly sick) and $7 a month in litter.

Home Depot bill: $100 - I'm paying off my washer in 6 months before interest is due, so this is a temporary bill.

Monthly Bill: $522

Total Monthly Bills: 1550.34 (with paying $20 extra on my student loan)
Monthly income after taxes, health insurance and 401k - $2314

This, theoretically, should leave me with a surplus of $763.66 for entertainment and savings.

Now of course, this does not include non-monthly expenses - xmas & birthday presents, doctor and medication co-pays, and the occasional travel outside of my area (boosting gas for my car prices significantly).

I HAVE to form a stricter mind set about saving and stick to my guns about putting money in my savings account every month (for actual savings and to use towards my non-montly bills). I used to be absurdly stingy, but the more you make the more you spend and I've definitely gotten lax.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Moonqueen's Top 10 Fashion Gifts/Deals of the Holiday Season


Alright. I'm bored at work. I like fashion. I have a computer handy. Therefore I'm compiling a list of my top ten fashion gifts (received) or deals of the holiday season. Shameless consumerism, go!

10. electric blue cable knit hat w brim (similar to left) 60% off at Old Navy  

9. electric blue metallic pyramid ring, received as a gift from my best friend, similar to these at the right (want...one...in...every...color...)

8.Purple faux suede faux-fur lined boots (all sorts of fake animal parts in there), 75% off at Old Navy, a dustier purple than shown below. I have one pair of purple boots already I really enjoy using to liven up a more black/neutral based outfit so...why not two? These are also toastier than my non-faux fur lined ones.

Cherokee® Boys Long-Sleeve Footed Sleeper - Black.Opens in a new window

7. Skully feety pajamas (exactly as shown above and sadly, as they are childrens ones these don't quite fit, but fingers crossed they will shortly - if not, fabric for a hoody); present from my friend Chris. These are super soft fleece with grippy circles on the feet. Slumber party!

6. EcoTools eye make up brush set - after a serious amount of research I was seconds away from buying these with an amazon gift card I got for my birthday, then decided to be practical and use the gift card towards xmas presents. Made of largely recycled or sustainable materials with cruelty free (non-animal) bristles these are not only space saving and come in a convenient hemp pouch but are also labelled for their intended purpose (shade, blend, etc). A friend who had ran out of xmas ideas asked me to throw a few things out there and not only did he get me the set....he got me two.  

5. Gray and silver sweater boots, 75% off at Old Navy - gray with silver accents, black buttons and trim. I have an addiction for knit, shiny stuff and boots. hese are PERFECT. Comfortable, warm, casual and funky...I spotted a similar pair on a friend's niece and was shocked to learn they came from Old Navy. I wound up picking up several other cute items (as seen above) while I ran in to get these as they had an amazing sale on winter accessories. I try to avoid buying much new, as I find it wasteful and expensive versus thrifting/yardsale-ing/etc, but I've wanted a pair of these for a LONG time and never spied any at local thrift stores. I paid a measly $23 for two pairs of boots and a heavy knit hat, with tax included.

Vegan Palette - 100% vegan make-up
4. Urban Decay make up sale -I <3 the above palette. The shadows are smooth and richly pigmented. The packaging is ADORABLE. The same can be said of the awesome, but not vegan, Book of Shadows IV. Purchased together on sale for $60 with free shipping, compared to the $100 plus they cost originally.  
Book of Shadows IV - shadow, mascara, primer, liner and a speaker,holder and scan cards for your smart phone to watch make up tip videos online.

 3. Tokidoki Makeup Bag (I got the cylindrical one, shown sticking out farthest on the left). My boyfriend, who is an AWESOME present buyer, scored me one of these. I love the attention to detail in the design, from the pattern itself to the charm adorning the zipper pull and stitched on vinyl heart and crossbones logo. It is also a very heavy duty fabric and a great size to take all the basics - shadow palette, brushes, eyeliner, mascara, lipgloss, small perfume and deoderant - in your overnight bag.

2. H & M gift card - Thank you boyfriend's parents! $40 got me two pairs of knit mittens (navy blue and gray fleece lined), two large, gaudy rings, fingerless knit gauntlets in dark orange with threads of brown and black, heavy knit grey/white/black variegated socks, and a distressed look black racer back tank top with snap accents. That's right, I'm even thrifty with other people's money.

1. Multi colored houndstoothed vintage 60's coat
Mid-calf, full sleeved double breasted overcoat in oversized houndstooth with red fading to orange on black. I scored this for $25 (talked the seller down from $45) at a local vintage and artisans xmas market. Nothing beats the fit and quality of a vintage overcoat and the colors and pattern are very unique. It was in excellent condition, aside from a small section of the lining that had come unstitched at the neckline. This is the closest coat I could find to the style. Pictures WILL be posted!!!

Starting the New Year right...with THRIFTING!

Like a moth to the flame, I am drawn to Amvets.
I had to go to work two hours later than usual today, due to holiday hours, so I decided to spend that time doing some much-deserved thrifting at one of my favorite thrift stores, Amvets on Elmwood Avenue in the city of Buffalo. Check out Amvets website for the 411 (oh, dating myself there) on their mission to help veterans and provide quality, low-cost goods to the community. I just completed a MASSIVE OVERHAUL of my clothes, shoes, makeup and accessories (as well as 95% of all my earthly possessions) during December. I completely looked through and sorted (donate, sell, keep, recycle or *gulp* throw out) everything and reorganized the "keepers," with the exception of my daunting book collection and a few odds'n'ends in out of the way places. 

Since becoming a cubicle cowgirl four years ago I've gained about 40 pounds (putting me between a 9 and 12 depending on the brand) and I would like to start a stricter regiment of better eating and exercise for the sake of my health. My plans do not include getting back down to the absurdly small size I was in my early 20's that prompted my father to inquire worriedly of my mother if I was dying from a secret illness. In my clean-out I found quite a few clothes that looked small enough to fit a baby doll, and frankly were I to be rail thin again I just don't dress as whoreish as I used to (sad, but true). There were MANY things I could never realistically see myself even wanting to fit into again, or that were "desperation" purchases - i.e. what I could find in a short time on a limited budget when I had a far lower paying job, weaker standards and less reliable transportation. Skirts were particularly hard hit - always a fan of skin-tight, barely-cover-my-booty mini's paired with fishnets and stompy boots in my late teens, I had many items that were better sized to fit my slender 8 year old niece. My style has also significantly evolved. I tend to appreciate tailoring, attention to detail and combining a wider variety of textures/patterns/cuts than when I was younger.

I often avoid the skirts at thrift stores, as I've consistently had too many for years, but both my weight gain and increasing love of layering (this all goes back to the tights addiction...) has led me to wear them more and more.  I focused my attention at the thrift store on this area and I was RICHLY rewarded. (Sadly, I don't have photos as my home computer is persona non grata at this juncture and I am editing this blog in my free time from other sources. Hopefully they will be coming shortly as blogs seem rather pointless without pretty pictures - "there's too many word in 'em!!") The sheer amount of quality plaid was incredible and there was a style for every occasion - from a heavy cotton school-girl style A-line mini in a bold hot pink, black and grey plaid that I picked up to a pleated, ankle length Alfred Dunner in a grey wool plaid with red and blue accents that I sadly ultimately decided to leave behind (as I tend to only wear long, flowy skirts during warmer weather).

Some of my greatest skirt purchases included:
- a heavy chocolate velvet pleated, knee-length style with a flat front (beautiful tailoring on this and great quality fabric)
- a grey mid-weight wool knee-length style with an almost Victorian school girl appeal - flat, fitted top, long row of buttons down the front, gathered A-line bottom starting lower thigh
- mid calf A line twill plaid in browns, greys and oranges
-  and to appease my love of Asian clothing a floor length blue, white and bright green flowy cotton skirt from India (great for windy summer walks in my water-bordering 'hood and sure to match one of my future hair colors)

I tried to steer clear of other clothes for the time being - skirts are often more forgiving to weight gain and loss than many other pieces and I don't need to augment my already huge collection of pants and tops when I may be 25 pounds thinner (or ten pounds heavier - why not be a little pessimistic?) in a year. I did pick up a mid-thigh length, short sleeved turtleneck sweater tunic top in a fuzzy grey with purple argyle pattern across the chest (it was on the end of a rack, beckoning me). I also skipped through accessories and managed an adorable open-weave tan vintage or vintage knock off hat with velvet ribbon/bow detailing (needs further inspection as this was tossed in the cart lickety-split), two pairs of unused-looking crocheted over the knee socks in a fun diamond pattern (one black, one brown), two thin scarves for the spring (one about 10" wide in a variegating pink cotton fabric, the other a throw back to Jem and the Holograms in an intense metallic dark pink), a heavy knit scarf in chocolate brown with variegated accents of blue, orange and red and, just to be practical, a plastic chain with clips attached to hang laundry (as I refuse to buy a dryer).