the financial walk of shame.

23 02 2011

every year, various outlets compile lists of companies that they think won’t last out the next year.  in a way it’s sort of interesting, but it’s also exceptionally depressing. whether a mark of the lousy economy, or just the evolution of popular technology (i mourn your impending death eastman kodak!), it’s kind of like watching the dinosaurs die out right in front of your eyes, and not be able to stop it.

last week, the borders company sent out this letter to their customers, letting them know that shit was going down (chapter 11), but that everything was still essentially “ok”. except that it’s not ok. with tons of stores closing all over america (our maine locations are safe for now!), it’s hard to have faith that a little reorganization (whatever that means) can fix what’s broken. the chapter 11 email of shame is almost always a last spasm before death.

but more than the sadness over the loss of yet another US business, i feel empathy for the man who had to write that letter. the first time i got laid off when i was 22, i had to call my mom and beg for money for food and rent. she actually turned me down (a story for another day), but that phone call was excruciating. admitting to your loved ones that you’ve gotten yourself into financial trouble is one of the most embarrassing and complicated situations that a person can be in. can you imagine having to make that call to an entire country?  having your financial missteps broadcast and analyzed by the wall street journal?

so with that, 2 questions:

1. what dinosaur store/brand/company will you be saddest to see die out?

2. have you ever had to do the financial walk of shame?





suicide blonde: a budgetary conundrum.

13 02 2011

the year after i graduated from college, i was making a lot of bad decisions. i spent my first six months of independence sleeping on a couch and living pretty much entirely off of yoohoo and cheez doodles. and probably some other stuff that i shouldn’t write about because sometimes my mom read my blog. anyway, on one particularly messy evening, getting drunk off of swilly cumberland farms beer (golden anniversary if i recall correctly), my friend megan held up a box of ultra blue, and beckoned to the bathroom.

well, it’s NEVER a good idea to color your hair while drunk, but going platinum blonde while even so much as tipsy can only end in UTTER DISASTER. first and foremost, my hair was splotchy like a leopard. apparently, it’s important to make sure you get total coverage, which is hard to do when you’re half in the bag. also, make sure that you don’t leave the bleach on too long, or your hair will end up a crispy mess than no subsequent corrective hair coloring will ever be able to cover.  i knew i was in trouble when a 4 year old girl looked at me and earnestly asked: “why is part of your hair black and part of your hair yellow?” Read the rest of this entry »





less is more.

11 01 2011

so i was reading this weird article last week about a restaurateur in new york who is opening up a temporary fine dining restaurant (in a building that will either be demolished or sold within a year). it was sort of an interesting read in and of itself, but about halfway through, i ran directly into this quote:

“sometimes no money is better than money.”

in the scope of the article, they were talking about how the budget forced them to make creative design choices. but in the scope of my life, i think it might be my new mantra.

in my past, i have lived comfortably with less (much less). in fact, in my very earliest years on welfare with my mom and sister, i don’t even remember being poor because my mom was a magician. she made quiche out of government cheese and picture perfect little bo peep costumes out of our bedroom curtains (just like scarlett o’hara!). she taught me that being broke doesn’t mean not having what you want. it just means being resourceful with what you have to create what you want. dear lord, how did i forget?

though it may provide a momentary jolt of pleasure and feeling of fullness, there isn’t a whole lot of satisfaction to be had in going to the mall and buying a sweater. knitting a sweater on the other hand is a triumphant experience. for example, my brilliant friend cindy unraveled a damaged cashmere sweater and made it into the most stunning pair of cable knit mitts ever. an amazing and thoughtful xmas gift that i’ve been wearing like crazy, and that cost her virtually nothing (except time, and of course, love).

true ingenuity comes from necessity, and when we’re broke, we’re forced to be creative about how we use our resources. buying stuff is my crutch. it solves the problem in the moment (although it often creates greater problems down the line), but i feel like my “makin do” muscles have atrophied. i may not be as broke as i once was (but worry not, i still have like $16 in my bank account right now), but that doesn’t give me an excuse to forget the value of maximizing what i already have.

10 days ago, i made a resolution to PAY ATTENTION! to how i spend my money (and my time and my calories…). i also declared that this would be my only resolution this year. well, i lied. sort of. technically it isn’t new year’s anymore… so consider this to be a mid-january resolution addendum.

number 1 will still be PAY ATTENTION!, but 1a will be BE INGENIOUS. if my mom managed to materialize a fantastical christmas out of food stamps and home made barbie clothes when i was 5, i can certainly figure out how to reel in the excess and stop solving my problems with my bank account.

i need inspiration! tell me how you have been creative with limited resources, so that i can try to outdo you.





bargains are my business.

1 07 2010

my mom always liked new stuff.  and not just any new stuff, the best possible new stuff. if we were in pursuit of say… a care bear (grumpy bear to be specific), she would never just grab the first one that she saw. oh no! she would dig through every single bear on the shelf until she found the one that was perfect. no smushed faces or lopsided expressions, no flat spots or loose threads- the most perfect and pristine care bear in the whole store (possibly a second store in case the first store’s product did not meet standards). it is because of my mother that i utterly refuse to bring home any product in a crushed or dented box. even if the contents is assured to be perfectly preserved. even if i’m just going to tear the box apart the moment i get home. it’s completely irrational, but it’s all i know.

thus, when we visited our first marden’s, i distinctly remember that my mom was less than impressed. we’d heard their commercials on the radio a million times- “i should have bought it when i saw it at mardens”, but the water damaged prom dresses and the nightmare bad lighting were too much for her delicate sensibilities. if you’ve never been to a marden’s, you should know that it is the low budgetiest, discountiest, no frillsiest place you’ve ever been. generally housed in the broke down shell of a bankrupted chain store, the ultra closeout goods get tossed haphazardly onto racks and piled up in bins floating in the aisles. let’s just say that the term “visual merchandising” doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.  oh, and don’t you EVER EVER EVER go into the bathroom. please, just don’t.

anyway, flashing back to 1988, our first foray into rock bottom bargainville was not a success. i distinctly remember my mom singing “i should have left it where i saw it at marden’s” (and being 11 at the time, i of course thought this was HILAROUS). it was too much. everything was dented and imperfect, we would never go there again.

as a late in life bargain hunter, marden’s and i would grow to love each other deeply. i would come to learn that the key is tenacity. that, and a willingness to dig, dig, dig (no matter how suspect the product at hand). for every 25 polyester blend clearance rack tragedies, you might actually find something good. remember that time i found a marc jacobs prairie skirt for $6.50? if you can just get over the weird smells, expired foods, and of course the bathroom…. it’s pure magic. so you can imagine my delight when i heard that a big-ass new marden’s was moving into my backyard (if my backyard was the mall).

sadly, the verdict is: MODERATE DISAPPOINTMENT. the new scarborough marden’s is much bigger, much cleaner, and much more organized than its brethren, yet was somehow sorely lacking in the magic department. i’m hoping that a bit of the newness will fade over time. right now i can still smell the walmart in there, and it just seems too put together in a way that robs me of the joy of the dig. i mean seriously, what are all these medium sized garments doing in one place?  its looking too much like a regular store and a lot less like a smoldering pile of junk ripe for exploration.  i miss that, and have hopes that in time the disorder will be restored. that said,  i did manage to get lost in there for the better part of an hour, and did encounter many tremendous things absolutely worth exploring:

1. first off, PLACE IS FUCKING HUGE. yeah, it’s an old walmart. i doubted at first that they would be able to fill it up, but it has a really good mix of clothing, homegoods, crazy off-brand/expired foods, in addition to things like furniture & carpet (that the portland marden’s doesn’t have).

2. there’s a MOTHERFUCKING FABRIC STORE IN THERE. yeah, i sew. yeah, i have a ludicrous and ever growing stash of fabric- but i always want more. even though i barely sew anything ever, i have a demented fabric lust that knows no reason. i don’t know what fabric store went bankrupt or had a small attic fire, but that shit is nice! one would expect from a marden’s fabric stash lots of cheap and highly flammable prom satins or flannels emblazoned with losing sports teams or faded disney stars headed for rehab… but oh no! tons of nice cotton prints, rolls of high-end decorator fabrics, stacks of unusual and vintagey looking trims. heavenly, and all for about $3.99 a yard or less.

3. hey, is that FURNITURE I WOULD ACTUALLY BUY? yeah, there was some weird stuff. and yeah, there’s a lot of overstuffed nogahyde recliner action. BUT, there were also several perfectly normal and attractive couches and chairs that could have easily found their way into my apartment. well,  if there was actually any room for more couches and chairs.

4. even though there’s better stuff than a lot of the other marden’s, there’s still a HEALTHY DOSE OF HILARIOUS OFF BRANDS and merchandise from the land that time forgot. is that an entire wall of slouch socks? or maybe the novelization of the short lived tv show roswell? if you can’t find a punchline at marden’s, then you’re probably a humorless dick.

5. the shoe department for me in any store is critical, and THIS FOOTWEAR DEPARTMENT DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. in the portland store, i’m lucky to find anything this isn’t for grandmas or hookers. not a lot of range there. i don’t know how they did it (did paul lepage have to shank someone?), but there was a boatload of amazing heels from high-endier lines like coach, bcbg, and charles david. they weren’t $3/10 cheap- but the were mostly $50 or under. and they were all stunning. too bad i have no money and a swiftly developing bunion.

i love the fact that discount and thrift stores are joining the mall area, and i don’t care if it’s a sign of the bad economy. now, i haven’t completely warmed up to the new marden’s yet, but i do feel like there is potential chemistry there. let’s just say that at the end of the cocktail party, marden’s scarborough will be getting a rose. and if less scummy and more choices sounds like your idea of a dream date… i recommend heading on over. i’m pretty sure there’s enough to go around.

oh, and if the marden’s in your area has something awesome, please let me know! you know, so i can keep that information to myself and go buy all of it.

p.s. you can check out the rest of the photos of my trip on the broke207 brand flickr account.