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Thursday, September 22, 2022

Money Maven?

Above, photo on for “23 Tips on Saving Money Daily."

Greetings from the same woman who, for months, tracked her daily spending out of pocket at the bottom of each blog post. Remember that? Here’s a refresher from 2019. Even I forgot how tedious that was.

Is it ironic for someone who spent $8 on a whim for a mini Magnolia Bakery cheesecake or too much money on a turquoise cashmere sweater (on sale) to be writing financial articles now? Yes, and no. 

Just as I learned to leave pretty floral heirloom china around the house (because why hide that beauty in a cupboard?) when I interviewed Shabby Chic founder Rachel Ashwell, and when I gathered that Italian rainbow cookies are labor-intensive in the course of writing a Good Housekeeping Christmas cookie feature, I now polish my penny with consumer financial writing. I learn about budget tools and savings goals. I write about how much it costs to get a pet and where to resell your clothing. I have done this kind of writing on and off for years; being immersed in it now feels healthy. 

Also, my life has true challenges at this point. I like being able to tune out, even briefly, use my skills, earn money, sit on the dark green sofa or at my parents’ old mahogany dining room table and WRITE, in between meetings, phone calls and appointments, in between bouts of worry, concern and fear.

Here are some new article links. Have a good day.  

Yours truly, 
Smarter Shopper
  1. 23 Tips on Saving Money Daily 
  2. Guide to Financially Downsizing Your Life and Saving Money 
  3. 23 Easy Ideas to Pay It Forward 
  4. Does Couponing Save You Money? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

As Seen in Montclair

Pre-owned, vintage white gold and mother-of-pearl Alhambra necklace from Van Cleef & Arpels, sold on now for $3,290.

This is Montclair. Hence, I’ve seen some well-heeled style in the 31 years since Dan and I first moved into an old Bellevue Avenue apartment here with plaster walls, golden sconces, a butler’s pantry and black-and-white tile bathroom after our honeymoon.

The township is not homogeneous, no whole-milk Madison Avenue. Montclair prides itself on being inclusive. We have Grey Poupon mansions with groundskeepers and crowded apartments, polished parks with ponds and grassy patches worn down by teens with nowhere else to go. We don’t have just white skin, but all rich colors and all gender identities. 

It’s the style watch I’ve kept as we moved along, saving money to drive our possessions across town from apartment to small house, living as writers, putting our girls through the public schools. It’s this home base where I take in fashion, where I first saw a man wearing a pink oxford shirt with jeans and good brown leather shoes without socks. (I saw him often, and came to believe he had a trust fund.) 

Sure, I’ve peeked into the Van Cleef & Arpels shop, a hushed church of jewelry ensconced in Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue, musing about how it would be to have an income (mine or someone else’s) to cover a piece of that. But here in Montclair, I have seen the jewelry up close, resting just so against the tanned collarbones of beautiful women. 

On Friday, after my doctor’s appointment, I stopped at Van Hook, where the well-cheesed fill their baskets with select wedges, Norwegian crackers, ceramic Brie bakers, and pints of heavy cream from a farm. Then I walked around the corner to Jones Road, Bobbi Brown’s flagship makeup store. (Did I tell you I once saw Bobbi in the Kings produce aisle?) Due to Covid, the shop limits customers to six at a time. 

I waited 15 minutes in the sun and got to know the women in front of and behind me. Both were warm and friendly. We all had kids in school, and were happy to have a small pocket of time to beauty shop. We chatted as only fans can when bonding to get our hands on Bobbi’s cult line.

Ahead of me, the pretty, slim-hipped blonde wore penny loafers (penny loafers!), with her jeans, perfect for back-to-school week. She said the shiny copper pennies are remembrances of her two high school children--a penny in each shoe, with the appropriate birth year. She wore Van Cleef & Arpels necklace and earrings from the venerable Paris jeweler. I had a chance to study the iconic Alhambra charms and start to grow a love for those flowers, between drinking paper cups of lemon water from the mason jar outside Jones Road.

Behind me was a mother of three kids who, like me, said she often ran around with no makeup on and wanted to change that, maybe with Bobbi’s Miracle Balm, which comes in different glowy shades. 

Both shoppers were from nearby towns, not Montclair. But here is where I’ve plumped up my style file. This is where I first saw:

*Hermès jewelry, favored by fashionable Holly, owner of a clothing shop on Valley Road.

*Tory Burch flats, in the former Tory Janes store, which I still miss.

*Luxury linens and Santa Maria Novella shampoo from Florence. The shopowner brought it back in her suitcase. It was expensive even back in the nineties but I swear I had a great hair day whenever I used it. 

*Even elite boutique chocolate, from Mariebelle bars in Susan's dark-chocolate shop with a narrow winding staircase to Basque Cheesecake (made by Julia at Vesta Chocolate) with whipped ganache and caramel.

Style is beauty, comfort, art. Earrings that catch  the light when they swing. Fun coats that make a dark winter day better.  Cakes that stir up conversations. Mothers who share everyday fashion talk on a line outside a shop.

I do love Montclair, whether or not, at the moment, my heels are worn low and I need a new pair.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

When Wedding Bells Stop: A Tough Topic to Face

I once applied for a writer position at Bride’s Magazine at Condé Nast on Madison Avenue. In the copy test, fed on white paper through my IBM Selectric electric typewriter--after hours at my women’s magazine job--I used words like frothy lace, magical, fairy tale and princess.

I was young and bridal magazines sell dreams, after all.

It was fun to write like that. I came close, but ultimately didn’t get the offer. I cried. But my dream career continued.

For, assignments come my way, on topics from safe deposit boxes to pet care savings. This one was an awakening, and a little hard to dig into. We all have friends, family and acquaintances who are divorced. Life informs one’s writing, so that helped. I thought of the women and men I know, the ones I’m close to, the struggles they faced.

Enjoy your day. I’m at my dining room table writing. Nina, our cat, runs by to visit or crawls into an empty grocery tote to rest nearby.

Here is the divorce budget article link: 

Budgeting Tips for Life After Divorce

(Image from

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Summer Travel Fashion Faux Pas

 This pineapple skirt from Dudley Stephens is my favorite summer piece (bought half price in a flash sale) but I left it air-drying when rushing into the Uber for our plane to Florida.

I have adjusted to these rather than overspend to fix them. I have breathed in the beauty of my surroundings and counted my blessings. Yet:

  1. My silver Tory Burch sandals broke as I stepped into the car to go with Dan to our friends’ daughter’s beautiful dinner wedding cruise in New York City. I briefly considered high gold Coach sandals with charms, pretty but it would have been too hard to dance and also walk up and down from deck to deck. I would also have towered slightly over Dan. So I wore flat sandals, not at all slimming for me, especially with a long hemline. 
  2. I packed in a rush for Cape Cod. I swam in Great Pond in Eastham in my sunny yellow Soon swimsuit top designed by our goddaughter, Florida Orange, with an old mismatched bottom. I didn’t feel comfortable, so the next two days at the pond, I wore the top and left my light sport skirt on over the bottom. For this Florida trip to see Figgy, I brought the sunny top and my black tankini, too, for the ocean.
  3. Travel regulations cramped my style. I prefer car trips, tossing books and full-size beauty products into the trunk. This 3-ounce fluids limit is hard. Landed here in Jacksonville Beach Airbnb sans makeup remover or lip soothers. Found a lip butter at Whole Foods and Vaseline (great for both tasks) at CVS.
  4. I grabbed hit-or-miss accessories. I only packed one fun, light scarf to tie in my hair or around my neck. Slept just four hours before the flight, didn’t bring my gold charm bracelet, a sentimental favorite that brings me joy.
  5. No heels. I flew to Florida for six nights without a single pair of heels. Grievous oversight. I missed them.
I guess that’s it.....not bad in the grand scheme of things. I did bring good bras, black anchor pieces for tops, comfy PJ set, hair ties for the beach, more....have to go, writing project before Dan, Skipper and I rent bikes here....Figgy making dinner at her house tonight for us, with her three lovely housemates--and peppers they grew in the backyard.

Sit Still & Write: Maine Memories

I wrote this after Maine trip (we returned July 31). Clicking “publish" now. A busy summer.

Skipper and me at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park, Saturday, 7.30.22. We zipped in and out for a couple hours. It was a 1.5 hour ride each way and a $30 entrance fee but worth every penny to show her the marvels of Thunder Hole and Sand Beach. Next time, we will explore more. (Figgy had already flown back to Florida after two weeks in Montclair and Maine.)

Mima (nickname), age 61, with Figgy, 26, and Skippy, 15, at the wedding of their cousin Chris to Marie-Camille in Belfast, Maine, Saturday, 7.23.22.

Beautiful ladies in blue. My sister-in-law Martha, Figgy, Skipper and Angel.

With Dan at McLoon’s Lobster Shack in Spruce Head, Maine. Excellent lobster roll with a heap of tender ocean riches, and the setting was a tonic.  

Still sliding today in anxiety and worry....which of course does nothing to move life’s compass in the right direction (toward calm and acceptance)...though Skipper and I are doing a DBT (hands-on therapy skills) program for mothers and daughters...all adolescent teen girls....the girls are in one room with a therapist covering the same material we cover with a therapist in our room. I have heard about DBT’s value for years and grateful we are doing it. It is a course of about six months, in person, two nights a week for 1.5 hours each time.

I think it is helping and will help.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Writing about Christmas Clubs (to Build up Snow Sugar Funds)

I immersed myself in Christmas Club savings accounts for SoFi*, one of my new clients. It’s a strong resource--a modern, flourishing fintech (personal financial technology) platform. An online bank. Read about its interesting history here. 

Over decades of lifestyle and financial writing, in terms of rugged, rigorous fact sourcing, SoFi stands tall--on strapping shoulders--above my consumer pieces for Good Housekeeping Magazine (holiday deals, cutting car costs), (clickable guides to best teen Christmas gifts) and (savings tips for sea-bound travelers). Those latter three brands are thorough and true to their claims, but this money reporting requires me, as the writer, to very carefully document where I found every fact (if it’s not common knowledge).

I’m always careful, but this is super careful. This is a bank, with banking rules and regulations. I like my two editors a lot. Yet even for a seasoned writer (and for a while I did some Citibank writing), this has been a learning curve.

I’m grateful that the work is portable and remote. I can fit it in from my comfy, stuffed living room chair, a hotel business center at the Shore or the Port Authority Bus Terminal--and at any hour, so long as my Rose Gold MacBook is charged. The internet practically never, ever takes a coffee break or goes to sleep. With the stress level at home of late, this flexibility is key. I can do many SoFi assignments per month if I accept many assignments per month.

You may know the name: SoFi Stadium is home to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. I have also seen many TV commercials for SoFi.

My article link below. I enjoyed charting the history of Christmas Clubs. Dan had one as a boy in Teaneck, NJ and I had at least one as a young magazine staffer in NYC (maybe Seventeen Magazine?). But it got to where I had to take out the money before Christmastime to cover other expenses, such as a carburetor. Now I am more learned and becoming more careful. I’m on a road in that direction, anyway.

Speaking of white Christmases and evergreen trees, greetings from Vermont in June. I took the Amtrak "Vermonter" up here to my friends’ home in Stowe for peace and perspective, with Dan’s encouragement.

*Based in San Francisco, SoFI was sparked in 2011 by four graduate students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. (I want to say by four male grad students, since their names appear to be traditionally assigned to men.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

41 Minutes by the Blue

Life can be scary. Nature is healing.

Today I drove Sis’s car, with Sirius XM radio and good A.C., to Sherwood Island State Park, exit 18 off Route 95 North. It’s a little beyond Westport, Connecticut (the town where Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward raised their family).

I had to get the car back in time so Sis could go to spin class. Traffic was bad. I had 41 minutes at the beach, 4:19 p.m. until 5. 

It was enough. Nature in my heart, my soul, my pocket. I took off my Peds and Nikes, minced my steps over a dense carpet of whole and jagged seashells, and walked into the Long Island Sound--ankle-deep. 

Many gifts if eyes open to see them:

  • A sailboat, crisp white wing against June sky.
  • Seaweed. 
  • Shells in hand, an oyster shell for Sis.
  • The promise of summer in my heart. Joy, sand, sunscreen, water, waves. Always and forever.
  • Walking the path, which climaxes by the quiet "living" 911 Memorial, designed to change naturally with the seasons. It’s a beautiful pocket by a rocky coast. 
  • A few Wednesday sun umbrellas and small beach tents.
  • Beach roses, pink and promising white. Just like Cape Cod! (Dan even planted a hot candy-pink one in our backyard.) We can’t pick flowers in public places, so I plucked a single pink petal and held it to my nose.
  • White clover in green grass. I remember that in the lawns and parks of my girlhood. Wildflowers. How pretty. Flowers that grow wild, whether we want them or not. Determined blooms. Rugged.
  • Quick prayer.
  • Lungs filled.
I asked the nice guy at the snack bar if they had iced coffee. Not today, but they will, come summer.

I was back in time for Sis to get to spin class. #grateful

Good night.