Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Resolutions for Fitness & Fashion


I like New Year's resolutions. They allow me to asses what is working in my life and what I could do well enough to dispense with. But I don't only make resolutions on New Year's Day. If you have visited this blog before you know that I have made a Buy Nothing Day resolution on what we know here as Black Friday, that post American Thanksgiving Day sale, which it seems the entire world is now adopting. That one is going well and my only transgression was buying some Salt Spring Island goat cheese for a salad I was making for a dinner party on one Saturday out of four so far. Not bad. Since New Year's often brings wishes of prosperity, I shall retain this resolution and attempt to maintain it for 2015.

Walking with my husband in France. Photo by JoyD.
Yet another resolution that many make is one to do with fitness. This one is evident by the number of gym memberships purchased the first week in January. I start out relatively well and then I move to France and lose complete control of my fitness schedule. Being in France for six months is not an excuse at all but somehow my routine there doesn't include fitness in the same way. I walk, maybe stroll is a better word; but there is no gym membership, and I certainly don't walk enough to make a difference. I now carry four extra kilos that proves my point. Of course, you know where I am going with this . . . 

A fit healthy body - that is the best fashion statement. 
- Jess C. Scott

That statement along with, "nothing tastes as good as losing 5 kilos feels" will complement my fitness goals in 2015.

It takes me a good week to think through and commit to any New Year's resolutions. I wish you well with yours and you might consider commenting, resolving, and coming back to this post to remind yourself of any you might make for this year.

Wishing you happiness, prosperity and fulfilment of your goals in 2015.

Friday, 26 December 2014

It Just Doesn't Stop . . .

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, Pre-Holiday Sales, Boxing Day, Boxing Week Reductions, Post-Holiday Sales . . . it just doesn't stop . . . what is the "real" price of anything?

I never really paid attention to the inundation of targeted sales propaganda but now with my Buy Nothing Day resolution I seem more aware of all these commercial entities telling me that they are offering me the best prices ever. My electronic devices deliver "buy something" messages constantly: Monday - spend $25.00, get 10% off; Tuesday - buy 4, get one free; Wednesday - buy 3 get 3 free (the lowest priced 3 that is); Thursday - if I spend any amount I get a free gift; Friday - buy 1 and get a something or buy 2 and get something bigger; Saturday and Sunday - up to 65% off but only this weekend; and if you didn't take advantage of the sales last week, you can this week with 50% off selected items in the store and so the weeks rotate with some such variety of shallow promises enticing me to buy, buy, buy.

Reclaim control of your consumer life, of your wants and needs. Buy what you need and do not be fooled into the false satisfaction that you got something for nothing. 

I have written about buying less before. Check your closets and your pantry before you buy another thing!

Monday, 22 December 2014

A Gift to One's Self

Part of the Stash. Photo by JoyD.
A former jewellery maker and client called me last week and asked if I had anything left in my pre-Christmas inventory of jewellery. But of course - Bien sur! When I sell, I am motivated to create more and so I always have a stash. When she arrived I asked what she needed. "A gift for myself", she responded. 

The beauty of buying from an artisan like me is that you can say, I'd like that chain with this pendant or I would prefer a shorter/longer chain with larger/smaller links and so it goes. She chose the piece with the oversize silver heart that you see in the photo. Because she knows the production process, she asked that I replace the black links with a medium size silver chain link. My sense of balance was slightly nudged but the customer knows what he or she likes. She chose another large black enamel heart but only wanted the pendant and I was able to accommodate there as well. 

This year will not be as profitable as last when I had two major sales before Christmas. Arriving from France the first week in December this year created a void for me. The shows I usually participate in were over and the timing was such that I was unable to organize a gathering of my own. However I am still creating to round out my inventory; I have a commission; and I am planning a March sale. As well the former jewellery maker offered to host a show at her home in the new year.

I enjoy the home environment for shows since I can accommodate many different requests. I bring my tools and extra findings and am able to work as guests are browsing. As well guests have often brought old pieces that they have grown tired of and would like reworked and updated. I receive the most satisfaction from recreating something that has lain dormant in their closets, making it more wearable as a reconstructed piece.

"Junk" jewellery is a challenge. Many people have unwearable bric-a-brac that they pick up as souvenirs, especially when done so on the beach during a warm weather vacation. A woman in Edmonton once brought a bag of wooden souvenir baubles - those inexpensive wooden and shell trinkets that you kick yourself for buying when you get home but still accumulate on every vacation. I combined and recreated them into one statement necklace. She could identify pieces from her mother's Cuban vacation, her sister's gift from Mexico and her own purchases while in Spain along with other warm weather spots. Hers was the reaction I remember the most and from which I received the greatest satisfaction. She told me that she could not believe that the trinkets she was thinking about discarding (and feeling guilty doing so) were so beautiful and meaningful in the combined product. I never did take a photograph of that piece. Too bad.

Often, many pieces that people want reworked are family keepsakes. One woman handed me a green seed bead flower brooch that truly was questionable, insofar as spending the money to reconstruct. She sensed my hesitation and then explained, "I know it's kind of ugly but it has a special meaning to me". I added some metal leaf elements, mounted it asymmetrically on an oval metal disc, added a complementary chain and remade it into a necklace. She now claims that she feels more comfortable wearing it and it no longer languishes in a box under her bed.

Women hang on to the the strangest things - a single earring, a broken necklace, a tangled chain, unwearable, oddball, yet beautiful pieces that sit and wait to be thrown out but somehow never do. We keep them for their beauty and maybe more so, for the memories they evoke. Those were exactly the items I found in a box when going through my mother's estate. I dismantled the lot and reworked them as bracelets that I gave to the granddaughters and even one to a grandson. Now rather than being tossed, they can be worn to bring forth memories of the original owner and perhaps even become heirlooms in their own right.

So now you have an option - instead of discarding, have the pieces remade as a gift to yourself (or someone else) at any time of the year. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Buy Nothing Saturday #3

This is the third Saturday before Christmas where I promised to buy nothing and all is well. We invited friends for dinner so the day was spent preparing the table and preparing the food. When your mind is occupied with a definite goal, it is easier. As well, I decided to do without something I thought I must have for the dinner. I forgot to buy it yesterday and my husband, who was prepping the veggies and meat, offered to go and pick it up. I declined, saying it was not necessary. How many things do we go out and buy that are truly not necessary? At the very least, this Buy Nothing Day has made me stop and think, do I really need it?

I believe I can manage to maintain this and carry it over to the new year. However in France, I may have to change the day since Saturday is the weekly Ste. Foy La Grande market and much of our grocery shopping takes place there. I suppose I can make food exempt from my Buy Nothing Day because there are many things that tempt a person at the market and that would be a good exercise in self-control, so perhaps my resolution will be to Buy Only Food at the Saturday Market (when I am in France later in 2015). Yes, in fact, that would test my self-control when it comes to buying frivolously.

Those in France who are thinking of a Buy Nothing Day should not include Monday since most independently owned commercial enterprises are closed Monday anyway. Those kind of days do not exist in North America where some stores and malls are open 24/7. Amazing . . . that there are enough people buying to warrant being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Incroyable!

Are you prepared to include a Buy Nothing Day commitment as part of your New Year's resolutions? Where in the world are you? Let me know.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dressing Up During the Holiday Season

Nice for Women and Men

Holiday celebrations have been going on since the end of November in my life and each year it seems that they start earlier and continue longer. I said no to an invitation for a large event this year because it coincided with my return from France. Part of my jet lag condition is lethargy and the first couple of days include going to bed at 8:00 PM and rising at 5:00 AM. This schedule does nothing for holiday reverie! However, if I had had the stamina to attend, I would have chosen my little black dress. Besides the holiday season and New Year's, there will be other opportunities to get dressed up since the season extends into February and March with gala fundraisers, at least here in Canada.

Photo Source: Wendy's LookBook
Of course, you probably can predict what I am about to write - for women, the LBD is the best alternative for holiday dressing. The jewellery or scarves you choose will determine whether it is a casual or more formal look. Formal indicates to me long gowns and a bit more elegance than the LBD can provide but for now . . .

Casual LBDComplement your LBD with a pair of oversize hoop earrings or an asymmetrical choice with an armful of bangles and cuffs.

The Not-Quite-Formal LBDJust add bling. Choose a statement piece - earrings, necklace or bracelets, and then keep anything else you choose to add to the feature piece toned down. Nice is just one of the above. Say No Thanks to an overwhelming combination of blinged-out chandelier earrings, a statement necklace and an armload of bangles and bracelets. 

For men, the suit can be the answer to all your holiday needs in the same way the LBD is for women. You can make it casual or more formal as well.

Casual SuitWear a dark suit with a t-shirt so that you take the jacket off if for some reason you feel overdressed or wear the jacket with a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt to show that you took a little effort to get dressed.

Photo Source: Bonobos
Formal SuitMany men wear dark business suits with a shirt and tie to formal functions; however there is the tuxedo as a truly formal alternative. Not many consider buying a tuxedo but now an American company has made that choice contemporary and real for a new generation. I've written about Bonobos before. Launched as an e-commerce business selling better fitting pants in 2007, it now is selling a full range of suits, including tuxedos, at Nordstrom's and in other select storefronts in the United States. Visit Bonobos here. This is not your father's suit or tuxedo. Even if you cannot order from them because of your location, it's a good site to visit to see contemporary North American styles in suits.

The question of being under- or over-dressed is a question for another post . . .

Monday, 15 December 2014

Buy Nothing Saturday #2

Accomplished without incident!

However what was a restriction in one part of my life became an over-indulgence in another. We were invited out for both lunch and dinner on Saturday, the 13th. The family gathering at lunch had me exerting more control than I have in a good while when it came to food. Then there was dinner where again I had to temper my appetite - I repeated the mantra - Nothing tastes as good as losing 10 pounds feels. You see I gained 8 pounds in 6 months while in France.

Psychologically I am setting myself up for failure. Apparently if one imposes too many restrictions upon oneself, it is easier to lapse into old habits. Buy Nothing Saturday is working for me now but I can see myself changing it to another day when I take on another teaching contract. My Black Friday resolution to have a weekly Buy Nothing Day will be easy to maintain I am sure!

My second resolution was to be more analytical with the contents of my closet and donate clothing whenever I want to buy something new. I can see this as being more difficult. In fact I was looking to buy something and changed my mind because I realized that I had not perused my closet nor did I make a decision of what I would put in the donation bin. As well the articles I was looking at did not comply with my third resolution. 

The third resolution was to not buy anything "Made in China" or other countries with questionable labour practices. This may be the most difficult! I need to look at this with a more analytical eye and take a survey of what percentage of the clothing that I look at is actually made offshore. Almost all I would bet! But that's another post.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Buy Nothing Saturdays During December

For those who might accuse me of being a "Scrooge" during the holiday season because of my Buy Nothing Saturdays proposal, in fact, I think I will be better prepared for the holiday season with Saturdays off from shopping.

December 6, 2014 was my first Buy Nothing Saturday in the month of December. What did I do, what was or was not accomplished and will I be able to maintain this through the month?

What did I do?

1. I had a long and leisurely breakfast. After all I had nowhere that I had to go or anyplace that I had to be.

2. I had gone grocery shopping on Friday and planned to make chicken soup from scratch. After breakfast I prepped the chicken and ingredients for the broth and let time and a slow simmer do its magic. By noon I had a delicious chicken vegetable soup that was not only healthy but also low fat.

3. I read.

4. I watched tv.

5. I read.

What was not accomplished?

I wanted to organize my winter closet. My plan was to take out items that needed mending, cleaning and put them in respective bins. I also wanted to pull out all clothing that might qualify for "holiday" dressing.

What were the consequences?

I revelled in the luxury of not having to be anywhere at any particular time. Surprisingly, I did not feel any pressure or sense of remorse that I did not get to "save" any money on the "only today" sales. With a more relaxed day, I now feel more organized for any holiday buying I need to do during the next couple of weeks.

Friday, 5 December 2014

A Weekly Buy Nothing Day

To commemorate my November 2014 "Black Friday" alternative to shopping, I decided to make non-buying resolutions. I need to add some detail to my promises. The first resolution I made was to . . . have a weekly Buy Nothing Day. But what day should that day be? When a person works, Friday, Saturday and Sunday tend to be the "shopping" days and therefore the most difficult days to assign as Buy Nothing Days. Insofar as Monday to Thursday, if you assign a Buy Nothing Day to a day that you usually buy nothing anyway, what's the point? 

Now the question arises, does food count? After all it is a necessity. But then if you say food is exempt, then it may be easier to rationalize restaurant meals. OK food is exempt from Buy Nothing Days but then how would restaurant meals be defined? As a luxury or as a necessity . . . you see, it does get difficult to determine what is necessity and what is not. If we define Buy Nothing, it means "buy nothing". So what part of "buy nothing" is there not to understand?

I guess Friday can't be my assigned day since we arrived back in Canada last night and have to replenish the fridge and food cupboards today and today happens to be Friday.

I am thinking that I should make Saturday my Buy Nothing Day. It would be difficult but it would also force me to do other things, like downsize my closets. OK, Saturday it is - at least for this week.

As soon as I finished writing that last paragraph, an email came in from a vendor telling me about a further 20% off all purchases (sales items included) tomorrow only. Sigh. I have a feeling this is going to be more difficult than I thought . . . I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

"Sale" Induced Over-Buying

There's something about hotel rooms that make me want to write. And so as I waited for a reasonable hour to go to sleep while at the Merignac/Bordeaux airport enroute to Canada, I began thinking about spending money on things I don't need - in this case clothing in particular.

With my "Buy Nothing Day" resolutions, my own unfortunate "sale" experiences, and while contemplating the "Black Friday" mentality, I came up with the notion of "sale induced over-buying". With discount retailers inundating the market, you would think that this would not be a problem. After all, on any day of the year, you are likely to find a "deal" albeit requiring some "shopping around". Perhaps the difference lies in the fact that on "Black Friday" the consumer believes that the best possible price is given no matter where one ends up shopping. Or is it the idea of "lost leaders", those items possibly marked below cost of production minimums that bring you to the store or website but once you are in, you end up buying many other items besides the lost leader? After all, the shopper can rationalize that since the lost leader cost almost nothing, he or she can afford to buy more. And that is how my thinking progressed and my idea of "sale-induced over-buying" began.

I then researched a smattering of both economic and psychological literature, where the following topics recurred: "buyers' remorse", the "paradox of choice", "addictive/compulsive buying behaviour" aka shopaholic along with some Marketing 101 terminology. I think there's a post in each of these.

My belief is that at the "over 50%" discount, consumers begin thinking, "at this price I should buy two or three or twenty", whether it be toilet paper or cashmere sweaters. A University of Southern California paper tells us that for regular mark-downs, "a large segment of the population . . . respond(s) to negligible discounts (as little as half of 1%)" and that the words "everyday low price" increases sales of the product exhibiting that sign. It may be the standard price for that particular store and it doesn't mean it has been marked down. So if consumers respond that significantly to insignificant reductions or no reduction at all, at what percentage will they overbuy? 

The way we think about retail pricing determines what we might overbuy at sale prices. If I am introduced to a product at a low price, it will be difficult for me to pay a higher price whereas if I only know a product at a high price, I won't mind paying it and anything lower will lead me to believe that I am getting a deal. This is what Introductory Marketing calls "internal reference prices" or the prices a consumer is willing to pay based on experience. Then comes the discount, which I suspect would have to be significant and range between 60% and 80% off before a rational person becomes irrational about the number of items he or she buys. As I write those numbers I have to remember that consumers also respond to negligible discounts of less than 1%. So the question still remains, what discount percentages provoke overbuying?

What should you do so that you do not become a victim of sale-induced over-buying?

Buy what you can use and not more . . .

1. Lost Leaders. Only buy the lost leader and only buy as many as you can use. If you want to give them as gifts, this is of course a good time to buy.

2. Never say, "this is such a good deal, I'm going to buy three (or however many) more". Buy what you can use. If you buy with storage in mind, consider the hoarding mentality, and ask yourself if it is really necessary.

3. Go to the storefront, auctions or online with a plan and stick to it. I have heard of those who go to auctions and get so caught up in the excitement of the moment that they come home with way more than what they originally set out to buy.

Or is it personality type that factors into overbuying? . . . a discounted price, a perceived need, a spendthrift mentality and there arises the circumstance to buy more than one really needs. I have never seen this idea clinically analyzed but maybe someone somewhere has already done this. Let me know if you have seen this literature or have done research of this kind. 

In the meantime, be careful about how many cashmere sweaters you buy!


Scherhorn, Gerhard. The addictive trait in buying behaviour. Journal of Consumer Policy, 1990. Retrieved November, 30, 2014 from

Bigne, Enrique, Ruiz, Carla, and Sanz, Silvia. The impact of internet user shopping patterns and demographics on consumer mobile buying behaviour. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 2005. Retrieved on November 30, 2014 from

Lars Perner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing. Department of Marketing, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. Introduction to Marketing: Pricing. Retrieved on November 30, 2014 from