The emperor’s naked

Or, “This is why I’m cheap.”

There are many factors that go into the price of a consumer product. The only one I willingly spend more on is marginal cost of production. That is, how much it costs to make one more unit of the item. This factor includes things like cost of materials, labor, electricity to run the factory, etc. In most cases (i.e., besides in the case of inefficiently produced goods), marginal cost of production is directly correlated with quality.

Wine is a good example of this. Did you know that even wine experts can’t tell expensive from cheap wine? Or that people report wine tasting better just because they’re told it’s expensive? They aren’t lying: the increased pleasure shows in their brain scans. Here’s the solution to the wine problem: have your friends bring you cheap wine and tell you it’s expensive. Do the same for your friends.

Here’s another great example:


The MSRP on this designer (Eames Hang-it-all) coat rack is $199. But on Amazon, you can find one that looks similar for about $35. It’s even lower on Alibaba. We can assume the marginal cost of production is less than $30. Why does the original cost 6x as much? If there is really a noticeable quality difference, that would be fine, but for me, that would justify a price difference of 2x at most. Is it that the designer gets a royalty? Again, that would be fine, if most of the markup went into the designer’s pocket. However, I don’t think that happens. So why the price difference?

Here are things I won’t pay extra for: advertising, exclusivity, gimmicks, company bloat. I especially won’t pay for what I’m guessing is the most common reason things are overpriced for what they are: no reason at all. Simply to line the pockets of whoever is selling the overpriced things.

I wish the price tag of each item included MCP (marginal cost of production), so we could all be informed consumers and know what percent of our purchase price is pure bullshit.

What’s in my purse


I remember reading articles in magazines where famous women would empty out their purses for magazines and talk about the contents. They probably got paid to pimp certain brands and products. I understand that I’m not famous and no one cares what’s in my purse, but I thought it’d be fun to write a post about it anyway.

  1. Phone. Okay, not really my phone. But how to take pictures of your phone with your phone? I haven’t gotten to that level of ninja yet. iPhone 6s, if you’re curious. I don’t like that the 7 has a nub camera that sticks out. Or that I have to drill my own headphone jack.
  2. Wallet. It’s not big enough for all the cards I want with me so that leads us to…
  3. Wallet addition. This holds my slightly-less-commonly used cards.
  4. Shopping sac. Yeah, the black rectangle with reindeer and trees. It’s from Monoprix and self-declares as the best shopping sac in the world.
  5. Floss. Worst feeling ever: something stuck between your teeth that you keep trying to dislodge with your tongue. But it won’t budge.
  6. Keys. The boat keychain lets me hang my keys near the door.
  7. Chapstick. Actually, I haven’t needed this in a while. Maybe I should remove it. I’m told this chapstick makes me look like I’ve been feasting on fatty pork. Attractive!
  8. Pen. I can only remember to do things if I write them on my hand. I don’t have the habit of checking notes or productivity apps, but my hand is pretty much always in plain view. Otherwise I have bigger problems.
  9. Comb. I shed like a Persian cat in summer. If I combed my hair inside the apartment my boyfriend would probably evict me.

Before you ask, I don’t have any makeup in my purse because I don’t know anything about it. I sometimes participate in studies where they pay me to apply makeup to my face and report back if I develop a rash, so I’ve decided I only wear makeup if I’m getting paid to do so. Plus, makeup doesn’t make me look cute. It makes me look like Donald Trump.

Yeah, you should quit your job

Disclaimer: I don’t have a degree in life coaching and no, you shouldn’t be taking advice from a stranger on the internet who doesn’t know you or your situation at all.

Lately several friends have asked “should I just quit my job?” They tell me they’re unfulfilled, bored, frustrated with management. I always tell them “If you can afford to, then do it.” Note: I don’t ask them if they have plans. I don’t ask what they would do instead and whether they’d make the same money. I’m just an enabler. Here’s why.

There’s a guy I knew, let’s call him Ol’ Mac. He’s the father of one of my exes. Ol’ Mac was a responsible family man with two kids, so he stayed for years at a job he hated. He woke up every morning at 5am to drive about an hour to work and would get home pretty late most nights. He hated his job so much that his wife would sometimes find him staring at his socks in the morning. When asked what he was doing he’d miserably say “I’m thinking about which one goes on which foot.” He stuck it out until his official retirement day so he could get a full pension. (Yeah, I know this isn’t sounding like a story about quitting your job. Just wait for it.)

So, you’d think he’d be delighted with retirement, right? Well, after watching golf on tv and snoozing most days for a while, Ol’ Mac began to feel bored and restless. He took on odd jobs to get him out of the house. Then word got around that he was looking to come out of retirement, and he was offered a job doing the things he liked about his old job (hands on technical stuff) with none of the parts he didn’t (bureaucratic managers who didn’t know what they were talking about). It was a more relaxed schedule: one week on, one week off. It even paid better than his old job.

What can we learn from this one anecdote? We all know that the plural of anecdote is not “evidence” but that being said, I’ve heard variations of Ol’ Mac’s story repeatedly. People quit their jobs without knowing exactly what comes next, but they figure it out. And in all cases, they’re happier than before they quit. So if you’re miserable or frustrated at your job and you live for the weekends, save money until you can live without a job for a few months, then quit. You’ll figure it out too.

How I got a Vitamix for less than $210


This deal may not work at the moment you find it because it has some moving parts, but it should recur a couple of times a year.

  1. First, you’ll need an Amex credit card with at least 5 authorized users, because step 1 involves loading the Amex Sur La Table offer onto 6 cards. The Amex Offer seems to come up a few times a year, for a $10 statement credit when you spend $50 or more at Sur La Table. Buy a $50 gift card with each of them, so you’ll be spending $240 out of pocket.
  2. Sign up for a gift registry at Sur La Table and add this Vitamix (it’s refurbished) and they’ll email you a 10% registry completion coupon after the date of your event passes. The frequent 20% off coupons don’t apply to Vitamix, but the registry completion coupon does.
  3. Wait for the Vitamix to go on sale. It’ll go down to $299.
  4. Use a shopping portal. I used BeFrugal because it had the best rate at the time. But TopCashBack is also a reliable one.

There you have it! My total with shipping and tax (which will depend on your state) was $292.60. I got a statement credits from Amex worth $60, and the portal payout was $23.02, bringing the grand total to $209.58.

Of course, this deal will still work if you want a more expensive or non-refurbished Vitamix: you’ll just need more authorized users on your Amex accounts to get the $10 off $50 offer. Something similar would also work at Williams Sonoma.

Note: The portal links above are referral links. You don’t have to use mine to sign up, but I’m grateful if you choose to do so. Thanks for reading!

Pokémon GO: tips and tricks

Tips and tricks from one week of playing, that is. Ahem. Here are my Pokémon, sorted by CP, so you can decide if you even want to take advice from me:



1. Turn off AV

AV mode looks cool because it uses your camera and places the Pokémon in the real world with you, but the downside is that it requires you to face a particular direction. This makes it awkward to play when you’re walking (believe me, I’ve walked crablike, backwards, etc) and also awkward in a moving vehicle. If you turn off AV, you can face any direction.

2. Use the Sinathrow

It makes it easier to catch Pokémon and keep them caught. I’ve tried it and it takes me fewer balls on average to catch one.

3. Spin the Pokéstops even if your bag is full

You get the 50 XP anyway, you just don’t get items.

4. Save evolutions for lucky egg time

You can do about 1 evolution per minute. You have 30 minutes of double XP when you activate a lucky egg. Instead of 15k XP, you can earn 30k if you save them up for when you have a lucky egg going. Even better if you have eggs about to hatch and you can walk around while you evolve, and get double XP for your newly hatched eggs too.

5. You *might* be able to choose what your Eevee evolves into

This Buzzfeed article says you can if you rename your Eevee before evolving. I haven’t tried it personally, but the poll results at the moment show that it’s working for 75% of people who have tried it (12% success, 4% fail, the rest haven’t tried it).

6. Wait to power up / evolve

It is tempting to evolve or power up your Pokémon as soon as you can, but from experience, I’ve gotten better results from just walking around and finding higher CP Pokémon. As you level up, the Pokémon you find will also have higher CP. For example, if you start powering up an Eevee that’s CP 10, it would cost you about 26 Eevee candies (not to mention stardust) just to get him to CP 400, but you’re likely to just find one of that CP once you level up enough. And with all the Eevee candies you’ve saved, you can evolve the higher level one!

7. Items you get at different levels

When you level up, you start seeing new items at Pokéstops:

Level 8 – Razz Berry, which are a bribe and make it easier to catch Pokémon
Level 12 – Great Ball, like a Poké Ball, but with a higher catch rate
Level 10 – Super Potion, restores HP of one Pokémon by 50 points
Level 15 – Hyper Potion, restores HP of one Pokémon by 200 points
Level 20 – Ultra Ball, like a Great Ball, but with a higher catch rate

[The following discussion of gyms becomes relevant after you reach level 5. At which point you should choose to be on Team Mystic.]

8. Cash out at gyms

You can collect 10 gold coins and 500 stardust for each Pokémon you leave defending a gym. But you can only cash out once every 21 hours. If you think you can leave Pokémon at several gyms at once without anyone getting kicked out before you can collect, feel free to wait. Where I live, gym takeovers are swift, so I collect right away. Just go to “Shop” and you’ll see the shield in the top right corner — click on it to collect your coins. Coins you can use to buy things like more Pokéballs, lucky eggs, more storage, lures, etc.

9. Leave Pokémon at gyms

You can leave a Pokémon defending a gym even if you didn’t ever train there. Look for a button in the lower left corner of your screen when you enter a gym. A gym of level N has N spots for defenders. Sometimes gyms have an empty spot. Leave someone and cash out.

10. How home gyms work

At a home team gym, you only get to pick one of your Pokémon to fight everyone defending the gym. If you win at a home gym, that doesn’t mean you get a spot. You only get the chance to leave one of your Pokémon defending the gym once the gym levels up. Even then, someone could swoop in and leave one of theirs before you do.

11. How enemy gyms work

You can choose a team of 6. If you win, (or even if you manage to beat a few of the gym defenders) the gym prestige goes down. When it goes down to 0, it becomes “unclaimed” and you can take the gym over for your team by leaving one of your Pokémon there. But if you don’t do it fast enough, again, someone else could swoop in and claim the gym, even if you were the one that ousted the last team.

For more info, AppUnwrapper has written a comprehensive post on gyms.

Airbnb outside Geneva

On a recent trip, we stayed at an Airbnb about 20 minutes outside Geneva, on the French side. Well, in the French countryside. The interesting thing about this place was that the owner is a semi-retired former head of operations at luxury hotels around the world. Our stay was a boutique hotel experience at a reasonable price.


This was our concierge and bedwarmer, the ever-purring Robert. Actually, Robert is female, but our host said “She’s too ugly for a girl name.” Robert was found in a hotel parking lot, abandoned and bloodied from being bullied by other more street-wise cats. Now recovered, she spends her time doing her best carpet impression.


This was our deck and pool. Another plus for the Airbnb experience is never having to share the pool with other hotel guests. Or cats for that matter. Robert was all mine!


Our room — I should’ve gotten more of the details. There were antique doors, vintage photographs: small touches that made the place feel special.


Our private living room. The field beyond the picture window had horses. I should’ve gotten a picture of that, it was delightful.


“Close your door at night or she’ll end up in your bed. And she snores like a pig,” warned our host. I didn’t mind at all. I wanted to catnap her. Apparently she has a large fan following on Facebook. I’ll update you when I find her page.

Banana Republic Shopcard Haul


BR recently did a promotion, giving out $10 Shopcards for subscribing to texts. As it turned out, you could text “STOP” to stop receiving messages and then re-subscribe for a new Shopcard. I got 4, but I read about others who got 30+

Out of pocket cost: $3.85

Total items purchased: 8

Original MSRP: $236.50

Between deals like this, clothing swaps and Goodwill, I spend basically no money on new clothes.