I know this meme does not typically evoke positive feelings about the length of a given week but it really *has* been a week.
I have, so far:
appeared, drunk, and singing, on national television
did a walk & talk on national television (!!!!)
told everyone I was going to be on national television
regretted telling everyone I was going to be on national television
got over the regret of telling everyone i was going to be on national television
ate so much cheese I almost threw up :)
These developments have been unexpected, truly thrilling (except the cheese part) and deeply meaningful. As I have mentioned once or twice (or 4,000 times) confronting my debt and understanding the ways in which it has impacted my mental health and wellbeing over the years has been transformative, as has sharing those realizations and seeing them resonate with others.
Many years ago I switched my mom’s car radio to WNYC and since then, public radio has become one of the pillars of our relationship. We even have tickets to see Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me at Carnegie Hall this weekend. The timing!! Hearing a part of this story be told on one of my regularly-listened-to programs on one of my most beloved channels and mediums was surreal.
If nothing else, these two experiences solidified even further what I have already found to be true: Talking about money, and all its baggage, is not something to be ashamed of. It’s something we need a lot more of. I am really grateful for this week, and for these opportunities, and for all of you. And that November is over and I don’t have to keep using cash to pay for things.
Now, a note on gifts. I’ve been asked a number of times about giving gifts while on a budget. My blanket response is that the greatest gift of all is open and honest communication about what actually is and is not feasible for you in the present (ha) moment. If you buy a bunch of gifts you can’t afford and then spend the entire holiday obsessing over spending money you don’t have, there’s no way to be present (ha) for the actual occasion. Your loved ones love you because you’re you, not because you give them stuff.
Having said that, chances are you still have some gifts to get this season. And if you’re going to buy things, perhaps you’d like a few ideas that are A) not too expensive and B) approved by me?
Below, a few gifts (all under $75, most under $50) that I would love if I got them so maybe your loved ones will love them too. And if you want to listen to my NPR segment while you read, who am I to stop you?
Joy Lab Sweatsuit
I have lived in Target’s Joy Lab sweats since I discovered them in the early days of the pandemic. So many brands do sweatsuits now at many different price points, but I keep coming back to the soft, affordable and comfy Joy Lab pieces. I have this set in yellow, hot pink, black and green tie-dye. But this pewter color I just discovered is pretty chic.
French Terry Acid Wash Jogger, $34
French Terry Acid Wash Pullover, $32
There are things I regret buying during my pre-budget days. Four ARQ bra and high waisted underwear sets are not those things. Like the Joy Lab sweats, I started wearing ARQ during the early days of the pandemic and was surprised at how sexy it made me feel during such a decidedly un-sexy time. Sure, you could get cheaper underwear, but if you want to gift them something that feels special and useful and under $75, this is a safe bet. The sets are super comfy, the brand is size inclusive and the prices are decent. 10/10.
ARQ High Rise Undies, $30
ARQ Full Coverage Bra, $40
Revlon One Step Volumizer
Fun fact - years ago I was sent one of these at my old job and immediately wrote a glowing review that I was not allowed to publish because it read too much like an ad. Well, guess what! I don’t work there anymore and I would love to do an ad for this blow dryer because it rocks!!!!! And I mean it. There are also many of these on the market now too but you can’t go wrong with the price here. An important caveat for this brush is that you should wait for hair to be semi-dry before you use it and always use a heat protectant (do as I say, not as I do).
Revlon One Step Volumizer, $40
I love supermarkets. I once had a birthday party at Wegmans. Before that, in high school, my then bff got me a Zabar’s gift card for my birthday. I still think about it, honestly. But while you would never call Zabar’s and its many, many different variations of mayo-based salads affordable — its merch certainly is. I already have a baseball hat and two mugs (which I use most mornings). Now I have my eye on the $25 sweatshirt — quite the bargain, considering a sweater released earlier this year as part of a collaboration between the appetizing empire and Coach retailed for $495. Even if they’re not a smoked fish enthusiast like me, no one can deny the power of a good piece of classic NYC merch.
Baseball Hat, $13.98
I got this adorable little lamp as a gift for my birthday last year and honestly it just makes me happy every time I look at it. Plus the glowy light is a vibe. And it’s something someone probably wouldn’t buy for themselves. AND it’s under $15. Parfait.
Croissant Lamp, $10.98
Glossier You Solid
Seeing as I am currently freelancing for Glossier this recommendation would not fly at a newspaper. However, this is not a newspaper it’s a newsletter and after finally trying their fragrance I can attest that it really is that girl. People stop me on the street to ask what I’m wearing whenever I have it on. It’s my favorite kind of scent: musky, sexy, not too sweet. The regular bottle is $64, but the solid version is $30, and the candle is $45.
Glossier You Solid, $30
Trade Coffee Subscription
Another one of my my pandemic discoveries: Trade Coffee. The subscription service works with roasters from all over the country and delivers a new bag of beans based on your taste preference / brew method each month. I eventually gave up the $15.75/month subscription when I found a coffee locally I loved most. But for the caffeine enthusiast in your life, this is a great, thoughtful gift that starts at just $40.
Trade Coffee Subscription, starts at $40 for two months
Other cheap/FREE! ideas: printed photos in Ikea frames since no one ever has real photos anymore, pickled vegetables in pretty jars, Alison Roman’s salted chocolate chunk shortbread cookies, tie-dye anything (get a kit at Michael’s and a bunch of white socks / T-shirts /anything from Target and go nuts), a class, like the one on calligraphy I took at Brooklyn Craft Company a while back. It was $75 and I got to keep all the tools, plus it was a super fun way to spend a few hours that didn’t involve spending additional money on other things.
I love getting these newsletters each week and hearing about your adventures through the world of finance! Honestly, you helped me be honest with family about gift giving this year. You can still have fun without fun-ds!
Everything about this makes my heart sing. It’s amazing how under the shame lies the gold…I’m always inspired by people who talk openly about what’s “taboo” because it’s really what we all want to hear. Big thanks & congratulations. 🧡