Shopping

How Going Cash-Only Helped Me Curb My Spending

I never carry cash. This shouldn’t seem like a big deal, because debit cards can be cancelled if you lose them; parking meters, farmer’s markets, and even jukeboxes in the good dive-y bars all accept Visa these days.

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Link Roundup! “Breaking Bad” Dolls, Men’s Watches, Last Call for Holiday Flights

+ Sorry, guys. Since a Florida mom complained, you can’t buy “Breaking Bad” action figures at Toys R Us anymore. Note: the NPR article about this story uses “dolls” and “action figures” interchangeably, but I feel like I read something in the New Yorker once delineating the subtle but fascinating distinctions between the categories — which matter a lot for import tax reasons. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Did I dream it, like I dreamed last night that I got mauled by someone’s pet tiger? (“He’s usually very friendly,” the person said, cleaning my wounds.)

+ Remember those happy days when there was a clear hierarchy to men’s watches?

If you’re scaling your way up the ladder of rich douchiness, you start with a middle-class-friendly Casio or Timex. After your first six figures in the finance industry, you move to an “entry-level” luxury watch, like a Rolex, by 30. Then, in your 40s, if you’re lucky, you park your annual bonus on a high-end Swiss number. And in your 50s, feeling both flush and the literal press of time, you rock the equivalent of a Porsche on your wrist, before passing it on to the next generation as a family heirloom.

But since 2007, the whole system has been disrupted by something called “the Ice-Watch” (??), at least in Europe, where everyone, even rich people, wants the cool fun watch that costs only $200. The best part of this article is that it says the Ice-Watch “cock-blocked Swatch.” Wow. Mike would wash our mouths out with soap if we talked like that.

+ Haven’t purchased your flights home for the holidays yet? There’s still time, maybe! A little time, not much. Some years the cheapest flights appear 10 days out, right before prices spike. And holiday flights are actually super expensive in July and August, to punish those of you who might otherwise feel good about being on the ball.

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The Cost of Halloween, Part 1: Costumes

I went to my first Halloween party of the season Saturday night, which meant it was time to put together my Halloween costume.

As you know from earlier postings, this year I’m costuming/cosplaying Julia Wicker from Lev Grossman’s Magicians series. (One of the parties I’m attending is themed “come as your favorite author or book character,” so that’s where I got the idea.)

Julia doesn’t have a specific look to copy, which makes the costume a bit easier. I decided to make the base level of the costume pajamas, because if there’s one thing I know about people who spend all day studying magic and posting to online message boards, it’s that they’re probably doing it in their pajamas.

Since I already own pajamas, that meant I only needed to buy a few additional items:

Binder: $12.99

Glittery letters to spell “Spellbinder” on binder: $5.49

Blue star stickers to simulate Julia’s star tattoos: $2.79

And, of course, the wig.

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The Ethics of Only Selling Clothes for the Very Thin

People saying it’s not nice for a popular brand not to include clothes for the chubbier among us are missing the point.

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Kickstarter’s New Motto: Kaveat Emptor

Anonabox, the Washington Post reports, may not just be a silly name for a product; it might have the distinction of being a Kickstarter cautionary tale.

But the Anonabox, which has raised more than $600,000 from 9,000 people since going online four days ago, is a curious case. Most Kickstarter controversies erupt after the fact, when a project has been funded and the creator fails to deliver. (Earlier this year, in fact, Washington’s attorney general sued a Tennessee-based project that did just that.) But funders began to notice problems with the Anonabox — a tiny, affordable Internet router that anonymizes your online activity — long before that point. There were glaring discrepancies, they noted, between creator August Germar’s original description of the Anonabox and actual pictures of the device online. Germar claimed that he had designed the hardware from scratch, when, in fact, the primary components were bought almost off-the-shelf from China.

Haha oops! And backers are not happy.

Since 9 a.m. today, donors have withdrawn roughly $14,000 in pledges, or 2 percent of the project’s earnings to that point. (Under Kickstarter policy, backers can change or cancel their donations at any time before a project closes, with some exceptions if they cancel in the last 24 hours.) According to Anonabox’s Kickstarter page, more than 200 people have contributed at least $250 to the project, and a handful have donated considerably more.

Funny that Kickstarter refuses to get involved in a case of fraud and misrepresentation, whereas GoFundMe was quick on the draw when it discovered that a woman was trying to raise money for a lawful abortion. But the bigger lesson is, of course, caveat emptor, everyone.

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I Bought Some Jeans on Sale at The Gap And Now I’m a Person Again

I was the only person in Gap at 9:30 in the morning on a Saturday, which I would recommend for anyone who has tried to avoid thinking about their body for a very long time and is ready to face the music in the most boring way possible and at a 40% discount.

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The Cost of Things: A Family Wedding in the DR

Lodging: Free! The advantage to having a huge family is that there are so many places to stay!

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Amazon vs Target, and How “Transparent” Changes Things

I’m hooked. What do my ethics and I do now?

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“Shortsighted, Cheap, and Unethical: Cash Only.”

A retail expert opines on Gothamist that “cash only” businesses are a racket, and a contemptuous one at that.

It’s not optional, guys: you need to take cards. Which is why if the idea is cost savings, you’re looking at a bad business with a terrible approach to its customers: basically they don’t give a crap about you, just your cash. And yes, if a restaurant doesn’t take cards they are stealing money from the state (no paperwork means no sales tax trail). You’re giving the state money, their duty is to deliver it to Albany quarterly. Instead they steal it. Pretty awful? Most business people suck is why. Shortsighted, cheap, and unethical: Cash Only.

Gothamist concurs:

A place that doesn’t take cards is bad, but a place that doesn’t take cards and has an ATM right outside—that’s just straight up evil. It’s like “thanks for patronizing our establishment, let me kick you in the crotch on the way out!”

There was a famous cheese shop in the East Village when I lived there, ten years ago, about which you had to know two things: it had amazing prices — like, “Did these cheeses fall off a truck?” kind of good — and it was cash-only. Well, great. Now I have to wonder if it’s a front for the mob.

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How Do Our Brains Change When We Can Buy Anything We Want With One Click?

It was bound to happen. After years of concern about how our brains would change when we could look up any information we wanted in seconds, spearheaded by the Society of Adults Who Told You There Wouldn’t Always Be A Calculator In Your Pocket, now we’re getting some concern that our brains will be further altered by the ability to buy anything we want with a single click, or—in the case of Amazon’s Fire Phone and Firefly technology, by simply waving our phones over stuff and then buying the stuff with a single click.

To quote Slate’s Future Tense:

When your phone encourages you to make up shopping lists of items you encounter daily, it may be difficult not to begin to see the world as made of readily consumable items. 

Maybe my brain has already started to change, but I’m not quite sure how that’s different from what we have now. The world is made up of readily consumable items, and the friction doesn’t come from the time it takes to type “Amazon.com Crocs Malindi black” and then click “add to cart,” it comes from our own budgets and our own spending capacities.

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These Boots Are Made For Walking

At last, purely by chance, they appeared on sale in my size at a store across the street from my apartment at the beginning of 2008. I snatched them up, feeling less like I had spent money than that I had won some kind of prize.

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