Thursday, September 22, 2016

Frugal Bagel and Practical Cranberry Nut Roll's List of Shared Civic Fantasies

Choo choooo

Boston Makes Up Its Mind Not To Support Driving in the City As a Thing Anymore
The City of Boston raises metered parking costs to $10 an hour and uses the proceeds to increase the reach of public transportation, especially in low-income areas. Cars gradually disappear from the roads, as buses, bikers, and pedestrians increase.  

The U.S. institutes Universal Basic Income
UBI is the main part of this, of course--every single citizen would receive a monthly stipend of, say, $2000. Enough to live on, very frugally, if you can't work; enough to make your life comfortable if you work full-time, even at minimum wage. It would replace welfare, food stamps, social security, and every other government program based on proven need or complex calculations, therefore actually saving money in bureaucracy, and reducing that nasty paternalistic flavor that welfare currently has.

The MBTA Adds a North-South Subway Line West of the Red Line
The "Chartreuse Line" connects to the Orange Line at Forest Hills and the Green B Line at Brighton Center. The northern branch includes stops at the Watertown Arsenal Mall, Chestnut Hill, and Boston College. The southern branch continues to Mattapan. Oh, and also, while we're at it, the Orange Line extends past Forest Hills into Roslindale, the Green Line extension into Somerville is completed, and the Red Line continues past Alewife to Belmont Center where it connects with the Commuter Rail. The Blue Line is fine as it is, we guess.

The U.S. Institutes a National Bank
This was basically an add-on dream to UBI, as it would make it easier for the government to provide the payments, but even without that, there are advantages. No bank would be "too big to fail" because everyone would have the option of banking with the government. And since every citizen would be entitled to an account, it would grant people who've gotten on the wrong side of ChexSystems access to checking and savings accounts without having to resort to an expensive shadow economy of money orders and payday loans.

Our Building Gets a Gym
The government building where we work converts its top floor into a gym, which we can join at a substantial discount. The circular hallway that forms a circuit around the floor is converted into a red clay track. The offices and alcoves facing the windows are fitted with treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes, so you can look outside while you work out. The bathrooms are expanded into shower/changing rooms, and conference rooms are turned into weight rooms. Wooden flooring is laid down in one of the larger bullpens, converting it into a yoga/ballet studio with adjoining meditation spaces. Internal windowless offices are turned into squash courts. The gym holds numerous classes throughout the day at no extra charge to members, including Zumba, P90X, Sports for Absolute Beginners (Lesson 1: How Not To Be Afraid of the Ball), and Biking in Traffic.

Boston Hates Drivers, Part 2
Boston is officially declared a pedestrian city. Cars are banned from the roads, except for emergency vehicles; mass transit (including buses, trolleys, taxis, and Uber); and commercial vehicles such as freight trucks, food trucks, and pizza delivery. We realize that this loophole weirdly incentivizes setting up a small business in order to be able to drive a car; any yahoo who wants to drive around town just has to set up an Etsy and fill their car with sock monkeys. But we think this is kind of interesting, and we want to see where it goes.

Everyone is Issued a Jumpsuit
Instead of choosing their own clothes for work, everyone wears a uniform consisting of a jumpsuit. This is standard for all jobs. There are options you can choose to customize your jumpsuit. This is up to the individual, not the business. There would be four color options, one for each seasonal color palette: black, navy, olive, or sand. There would also be at least three cuts: one each for pear-shaped, apple-shaped, and straight figures. You'd mix and match from limited options to create your perfect jumpsuit, which would have your company's insignia on the shoulder and your name and rank on the chest pocket.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How to Buy Used Clothes Online

I love thrift store shopping. If you've read any of this blog, you've probably already heard me singing the praises of Goodwill to the moon and back.

But I realize not everyone has the same access to excellent local thrift resources. After shopping a few Goodwills in different neighborhoods, I've come to realize that I live near an unusually excellent Goodwill. Some of my finds there (100% cashmere sweaters, Brooks Brothers shirts, 100% silk shells) would be unheard of at other locations. Besides that, it's just a really big, well-laid-out location with a ton of turnover from local yuppies with good taste and a community-minded, pro-donation spirit. When I get sick of Goodwill, there is a second very good thrift store just down the street, plus a higher-end vintage/consignment store walking distance from my work. I'm unusually well provided for with high-quality thrift stores, and that is undoubtedly why I am able to shop there with so much success. But if I ever say something like, "Only fools would shop at new clothes stores," slap me, because most people don't have so much excellent thrift access.

So what do you do if you live in a thrift store desert? Shop online, of course. Here are my top three sites for buying used clothes online.


The mother of all individuals-selling-their-stuff sites, eBay is an online auction house where sellers can list pretty much anything, new or used, and potential buyers bid on it. Many clothing items also have "buy it now" prices for a standard, instant sale.

Audience: Any and all. eBay is a huge site, and you can find just about everything (though it may not be the best for niche items). Sellers are located worldwide and many ship internationally; use filters to limit your results to those that ship to your area.

Price Point: Varies. There are so many sellers and buyers on eBay that it can be tough to find a true deal (an item priced below its market rate), but since clothing taste is so individual, you can still find things where the value to you is higher than the value to others.

Shipping: Varies by listing. Generally you are not going to be able bundle shipping since most of the time, you will be buying one item from each seller. You can usually bundle in the rare cases that you find two items you want from the same seller.

Return Policy: Varies by seller, so check those policies.

To my mind, the biggest downside to shopping eBay, and online used & swap sites in general, can be the lack of a comprehensive return policy. When you can't see something in person first, it's difficult to justify spending irreversible money on it. For clothes and shoes, it's especially important to be able to try things on before fully committing. For this reason, used online shopping is best for specific situations:

  • The items are so cheap that you can afford to gamble that amount of money.

  • You are seeking out near-new versions of specific brands/models you've already fully vetted (e.g. replacing something you already had, or getting the same shirt you already love but in more colors).

  • You are willing to become a seller on the site and go to the trouble of reselling items yourself. (Be honest. And don't necessarily expect to sell it for the same price you paid.)

eBay Buying Tips

  • Read the description carefully for any defects or dealbreakers, especially on items where the pricing seems too good to be true. Before forking over your cash, make sure you fully understand the size, color, style, and condition of the item. You can always ask a question of the seller if the description is unclear.

  • Scan the seller ratings to see if other users have had trouble with them in the past.

  • A reverse image search can be a useful check to make sure the seller hasn't stolen the image from somewhere else. (Sellers of new, brand-name items may legitimately use the catalog image if they're selling the exact same model, but knockoff sellers will often post images of the item they're trying to approximate, not the actual thing they're selling.)

  • Search returned too many results? Filter, filter, filter! You can filter by size (after choosing the item type), color, material, and tons of other options. Click "see more" first if you want to select multiple options (e.g. see items in medium AND large). I usually click the "preowned" checkbox to see only used clothes (I prefer used for environmental reasons, but it also filters out those cut-rate knockoff products from giant manufacturers.)

  • Not ready to buy (or bid)? Add the item to your "watch list," and eBay will email you when time is about to run out.

  • Didn't find anything, but crafted the perfect search? Click "Follow this search" to receive email updates when new items are listed matching the search parameters. Shopping eBay can often be a long game.


If I were to imagine how a used clothing exchange site works, I'd probably imagine Poshmark. Every user has their own little individual "store." Items are listed for flat prices. Social media aspects of the site encourage communication between buyers and sellers.
Audience: Sellers skew young and options are almost exclusively women's clothes (there's some men's stuff but you have to dig). My experience has been that Poshmark is best for casual clothes (T-shirts, flannels, jeans, etc.) All sellers are in the U.S. and only ship to the U.S.

Price Point: Prices are usually quite low, often because the items are not all that expensive new! You can easily find a T-shirt for $5.

Shipping: A flat $5.95 per order. As with eBay, individuals are listing the items and shipping from their homes, so most of the time you will only want to buy one item per order. If you do want multiple things from the same seller, use the "bundle" button (instead of the "buy" button) to create a combined cart, for which you will be charged only one shipping fee (as long as the total weight is under 5 lbs). Return Policy: All sales are final on Poshmark (except for cases of seller misrepresentation). So only buy what you can afford to write off as a noble experiment.

Poshmark Buying Tips

  • There's no button to shop by color, but if you include a color word in your search ("green t-shirt"), the result set usually represents the color well. I think there must be an algorithm to match synonyms their parent color name, since I get about the same results searching for "green" and "lime." This can be good since it returns more results, but frustrating if you are searching for an exact shade.

  • Make sure you scroll through all the photos. The first photo is much more prominent, but the seller can upload several, and the later photos can include key information, such as close-ups of labels and any defects.

  • Not sure you want to buy? Most listings seem not to move too quickly, so you can favorite things and think about it. You can also make offers and see if the seller is willing to sell for less than their asking price.


Where Poshmark is city-states, ThredUp is a centralized government. Potential sellers order a "closet cleaning kit" and ship packages of clothing to ThredUp's headquarters, where each item is examined, processed, and listed (if in good enough condition). Only certain brands are accepted. Because of this vetting process, you can be sure that the items are high-quality: brand-name items that range from mildly imperfect to like-new.

Audience: ThredUp is like Poshmark's big sister. The clothing style skews older and more professional. I use it to find work clothes. It's also supposed to be pretty good for children's clothes. Men's clothes are in evidence, but the site is pretty clearly marketed to women.

Price Point: Vary. You can find extreme deals (pants that retailed for $150 being sold for $15), and moderate deals (blazer that retailed for $250 being sold for $175). Still, because most of the clothes are in like-new condition, the higher-cost things can still be worth it if they are things you might have bought new anyhow.

Shipping: A flat $5.99 for your entire order, free over $79, and free if you are a member of "ThredUp Everyday" (you have to spend a certain amount to qualify so this is probably belt & suspenders). Because the items all ship from the same location, you can create a giant order with no problem, and only get charged shipping once (if at all). Return Policy: ThredUp items are returnable (unless marked Final Sale), This enables you to do the thing where you order a bunch of similar-seeming things and return most of them. I love this thing. (You do have to eat return shipping, unless, again, you are a member of ThredUp Everyday.)

ThredUp Buying Tips

  • Churn seems to be higher on this site than on Poshmark or even eBay, so it's quite possible to examine an item one day and not be able to find it the next (presumably someone else has bought it!) I think this is why there is no ability to "favorite" items. You just buy or you don't. Additionally, I must warn you that your carefully crafted cart is going to expire within 24 hours. For these reasons, it is crucial only to shop ThredUp when you are ready to make an order. There's none of that leisurely perusing you get on retail sites or even on Poshmark (where things take awhile to sell). Spend your thinking & dreaming stage making a specific list of the type of things you want, then go find those items when you are ready to make a purchase.

  • Listings consistently include a lot of information that I really appreciate, including a verbal description of the condition, style, color, size (including inseam), and materials of both the shell and lining. But it's not possible to use all of these things as search parameters. There are searches for size and color, but not material or inseam. This can make it kind of slog to find things matching your exacting specifications. I typically open about 20 listings in new tabs only to instantly close those that are polyester or have the wrong inseam.

  • ThredUp often offers deals and coupon codes for first-time buyers; I got 40% off my first order, so you can bet I bought a ton of stuff in that order! They also offer "give $10 get $10" type referral bonuses, so it can be a considerate thing to ask if any of your friends want to refer you or scan the Internet for a referral link before you make your first purchase. (For example, here's my referral link -- not that you have to use it!)

More Options (I've Not Tried)

  • Goodwill Online is an ancient-looking auction site, similar to eBay. The sellers are all Goodwill branch stores across the country, and the goods are items that have been donated. I like the idea of this, but I don't have any tips for you, since, so far, I have yet to win anything on the site. I'm always outbid almost immediately. Despite its 1997-looking interface, it seems like it's a very popular platform.

  • has a model very similar to ThredUp, though the target audience seems to be more frugal families: there's a lot of very inexpensive, ordinary/casual clothes and kids/family stuff, including a toy section. The search options are extensive and dynamic, but despite all of that power, I just couldn't find anything I wanted on here.

  • TheRealReal also has a centralized model, but its focus is specifically on high-end consignment and it can be hard to find a deal on here. I mean I guess it's a deal to get used Stella McCartney pants for $145, but I'll stick to getting used J. Crew for $45.

  • Versitiaire Collective, similarly, boasts "pre-owned luxury fashion" and I just don't have the budget.

  • Tradesy has a centralized model too, but with a "closets" component that allows individual stores or sellers to have their own special boutiques. It seems to skew higher-end, but has a number of affordable options. Window-shopping there, I saw a lot of intriguing options, but its policy of offering returns only for site credit makes me gunshy. I'd rather buy a bunch of things at once and return them for real money, rather than do a drawn-out process of try one thing, return for credit, try the next thing, etc. Another frustration is that the search is overly generous; I searched for "merino pants" and it returned, in no particular order, all merino items, all pants, and all items from a brand called Merona which I guess it figured sounded close enough.

  • The Attic has relatively small stock and seems designed to cater to a sort of bohemian, vintage-y aesthetic; it's easier to find a quirky dress on here than a T-shirt. It's like the ModCloth of used clothes sites. Limited search options make me feel like I'm always missing something. 


The more I thrift online, the more I appreciate thrifting in person. Online options give you way more stock than you could ever find in a single store, which is great if you're looking for something fairly specific. Name brands are also easier to search and find online. But pictures just cannot give you enough information for clothes shopping. You can't feel the material, or try on the item, or see the color. In an in-person store, I pass up a lot of items I might consider if I only saw a picture; and I pass up still more items after trying them. These are items I'm apt to buy from online secondhand stores, so I need to be very careful about buying from stores with return policies (like ThredUp), or "gambling" with small amounts on money on stores that don't (like Poshmark). 

I could always try to re-sell the items I don't want, but in my experience, that doesn't turn out to be a great moneymaker for low-value items. With that said, this article does beg for a follow-up: How to Sell Your Clothes Online! 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Churn: The Hidden Enemy of Minimalism

This simple rustic basket and chair have each been replaced five times.

Over the last few years since I discovered the idea of minimalism, I feel like I've done a pretty good job of getting my possessions under control. I've donated bags and bags of clothes to Goodwill. I went from a large bookcase of 200 or so books down to a stack of 5 (plus any current library books) which easily fit in the bottom of a nightstand. I traded in most of my DVDs back to Amazon and gave away the rest, preferring to watch TV and movies on Netflix (with the occasional cloud purchases from Amazon or rental from the library). My recent move showed me that I still have a lot of random one-off items, as we ended up packing way more boxes than we thought we would, I feel like most of the current things we currently own justify their existence.

What I've been struggling with lately isn't the amount of things I own, but the pace at which I replace or upgrade them. I've internalized the idea that it's more comfortable to live without clutter, but that doesn't mean I've paced my consumption. On the contrary, I buy as much as ever! I just have new reasons for buying things which are "minimalist" but still materialist/consumerist.

  • Upgrades. This is the biggest category, and it's why a rule like "one in, one out" doesn't help for me. Of course I'll discard my existing (coat, computer, backpack, water bottle, couch, coffee mug) when I get this NEW FANCY ONE. It will be better in every way! Sure, it's expensive, but it will last forever… Well, until I take a shine to an even newer, fancier one.
  • Ultralight/compact versions. This is a subcategory of upgrades that is particularly tempting to my minimalist aesthetic. It's very hard for me to resist desiring a version of something I already own, maybe something I'm not particularly excited about, which is super tiny or packs up super tiny while still performing the main function equally well. Usually this is totally unnecessary because I live in an apartment which is totally big enough for me and my stuff and, after all the work we've already done decluttering, it's not especially cluttered. And often the ultratiny version doesn't, actually, perform as well as the normal-sized one. So why am I so attracted to teensy things? I think I have this idea in my mind that I could or should aspire to living out of a suitcase, but if that's truly the case, most of these things wouldn't make the cut at all, no matter how tiny.
  • Seeking The One. While I've criticized the idea that you should have only One Item in each category as impractical, it's still an idea that appeals to me a lot. In those cases where I do have only One, I'm usually happy with it. I never have to make any decisions. It just works. At this point, categories where I have more than One are usually categories where it would be difficult or impractical to only have One, but that doesn't stop me from trying to "solve" them by trying out new and fancy items. (Usually this has the opposite result of me adding yet another item to the mix.)

Of course, it's not actually in the spirit of minimalism to do all this buying and churning. It completely counteracts some of the most important desired outcomes of minimalism.
  • I'm not saving money
  • I'm not reducing my environmental impact
  • I'm not thinking less about stuff and purchases; if anything, I think about them more
  • I'm still on the treadmill of consumerism and always thinking, "If I just had that one more thing, I'd finally be satisfied!"
Frugality and environmentalism are important to me in a global, long-term kind of way, but they are difficult principles to adhere to in the heat of the moment. I'd hoped minimalism would be a sort of backdoor into them, but with churn, there's an escape hatch. It's clear that I need something more than a minimalist apartment design aesthetic. Something more than a numbers-based approach to stuff ownership ("I'll only own 100 items!") I'm just not sure what that is yet.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Advanced Color Palette Tips & Tricks

Because I talk about it so often, you know that I've been relying on my seasonal color palette (True Summer) to guide me to colors I look good in. For the most part, it's been a huge success. The color palette gave me guidelines. It showed me a ton of colors that work for me without my having to individually stumble onto each one. And it explained why colors which I kept trying, kept failing.

I've been spreading this dogma to several friends, identifying their colors (usually using this quiz) and then selling them on their palette like I'm getting a commission. "Oooh, you get LOTS of purples. I'm jealous!"

But being too dogmatic about this palette idea has also led me astray in subtle ways. For example, there's this shade of bright aqua that I've been CONVINCED should work for me. But I've never been really satisfied. Recently I decided it's "more of a Light Summer aqua," which I guess is an explanation I can live with. But really, even if were smack on the True Summer palette, there's no reason I need to wear it if it doesn't make me look healthy and alive!  

Here are some issues I've run into:

Varying Online Representations of the Palette
Monitors vary. Printers vary. Online sources vary. Eyes vary. Problems in any of these areas could lead to you toward clothes in slightly suboptimal shades. (Gasp!)

For best results, find an online source that lists twelve season variations (three variants of each of the four seasons). The old "Color Me Beautiful" way of sorting everyone into one of four seasons wasn't, in my experience, specific enough. The palette image for your season should include 50+ shades, enough to get a real idea of what's what, and they should be different enough from each other for you to tell the difference. Ideally, you'll print out your palette on a good, well-stocked color printer so you can hold it up to clothes in person.

Lossy Word Translations
The colors that are on the palette are very specific. You can't just say, for example, "Blue works on me, and red doesn't." In most palettes, it's not that simple. Some kinds of blue will work on you; some won't.

Because I am a verbal person, though, there is always a temptation to turn the color images into words in my head. Sometimes the words I choose are good rules of thumb because they describe incredibly specific shades: "peacock blue." Sometimes, though, the word includes multiple shades, and only some of them work: "aqua" is a tricky one for me. Some aquas work on me, but some, I've recently discovered, are really more part of the Light Summer palette. I've been wearing them anyway, slightly dissatisfied and unsure why, because I thought they MUST work, but when I look closely, some of these shades were not really on my palette to begin with!

What was most helpful here was familiarizing myself with the other, adjacent palettes; this introduced me to a variety of shades and helped me to see the subtle differences between, say, True Summer Hunter Green and Soft Summer (Slightly Grayer) Hunter Green. Some colors are legitimately on multiple palettes, but sometimes the sublte differences can be telling.

Being "Off By One"
You can think of the palettes as a continuum, with each palette having a lot in common with its neighbors, both within the same season, and in adjacent seasons the share similar characteristics. Dark Winter has some colors with in common with True Winter, and other colors in common with Dark Autumn.

This can make it tricky to pin down your palette, because you can say, "Well, dark vivid pear green works for me, so I must be a Dark Autumn," but that color is also on the Dark Winter palette! It's important to look not only for confirmation (colors in the palette that you know work for you), but disconfirmation (colors that definitely don't, or "diagnostic colors" that separate this palette from its neighbors).

Being Between Palettes
I'm lucky in that the True Summer palette is pretty much exactly me, but many people I know are sort of between palettes. For example, Practical Cranberry Nut Roll is sort of between Soft Summer and Soft Autumn. It's pretty common to be between two related palettes, so you have to kind of cobble together which shades work for you (and which don't!) from the two palettes.

Ultimately, the goal of the palette is to make it easier to find colors that make you look healthy and alive. The palette is a tool to steer you toward those colors. Following the palette is not, in and of itself, an end goal. When in doubt about a particular clothing item, don't ask: "Is this color on my palette?" Ask: "Does this color make me look healthy and alive?" (Or have someone else answer this for you.) There's no call to wear a color that doesn't work for you, even if it "should" work according to your palette. By the same token, if a color looks good on you, even if it's not on your palette, go ahead and wear it anyway! Over time, you can use the seasonal palette image as a starting point to create your own, personalized palette.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Minimalist Mini-Win: I Didn't Buy An End-of-Bed Bench

The other day at Ikea, I was really tempted by a little trestle bench which was placed at the end of a bed in one of the model bedrooms. It looked just like all the minimalist bedroom inspiration photos I'd been drooling over on Pinterest! I could buy that bench, and my bedroom would look just like the photos!!!!!!

But accustomed as I am to questioning my purchases (even if I do make most of them anyway), I had to ask myself…


What would the bench enable me to do that I can't currently do?

What would be the point?

I couldn't think of anything. And I began to wonder:

Why in the world do all these Pinterest minimalist bedrooms have an end-of-bed bench??!

Isn't minimalist lifestyle and decorating all about eliminating the unnecessary? And these bedrooms are usually very large and open, with nothing in them except a bed with relentlessly white sheets; a simple nightstand or maybe just a standing lamp; and the ubiquitous bench. No desk or chair or TV or bookcase or any of the other hundreds of things listed under "bedroom" in The Sims. So why, why the bench? In a world where functionality is vital and nothing is there just-because, what is it for?

Is it for storage? No, if you wanted storage, you'd use a trunk, and it's never a trunk. It used to be a trunk, but now it's a bench. Sometimes it will be a "storage ottoman bench," with a top that opens into about a six-by-eighteen inch little narrow storage area, and sometimes it will have shelves just big enough for a pair of shoes or a little basket, but these halfhearted storage efforts always seems like a compromise. The pure form of the "look" is the unadulterated bench, ostentatiously screaming "Look at me! I don't store ANYTHING! Because you have nothing to store, do you, you sexy minimalist?"

Is it for sitting? I guess? But you could just sit on the bed? What are you doing sitting there all the time anyway? Putting on your shoes? But it makes more sense to put on your shoes by the door, especially if you have clean, white floors.

Is it for putting things on? I'm inclined to say that this is the closest thing to a function in evidence in this type of photo. While the bench is frequently bare, it is just as often strewn with what I call "minimalist clutter."

Minimalists aren't meant to have any clutter, but it seems like maybe people who set-dress magazine photos aren't entirely comfortable with nothingness, so they'll dot surfaces with a tastefully sparse assortment of items chosen from the following:

  • A white mug filled with hot coffee
  • One or more lit candles
  • A potted succulent
  • A stack of books
  • A guitar
  • A fancy camera
  • A vase of fresh cut flowers

  • A magnifying glass
  • An ancient map
  • An iPhone
  • A leather backpack
  • A safety razor
  • A Macbook Air
  • A lantern

And the thing is that I can't think of an assortment of items LESS suitable for placement by your feet while you sleep. Don't they know how the Great Chicago Fire started?

I'm beginning to feel that the function of the bench is the same as the function of that list of items: set dressers feel the room looks too empty, so they throw in something that has no function but fills space. Which is no way to choose your furniture if an uncluttered, minimalist home is your goal.

So I didn't buy the bench. I did buy a potted succulent, but that's just good sense. I mean, Pinterest shows them in every room of the house. They're just so versatile!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Learn Economics From Pokemon Go

Hmm... apples? I was collecting oddishes
If the makers of Pokemon Go ever implement trading, it will instantly because an economics-heavy game, as a miniature economy will suddenly be established around trading pokemon. My friends and I have noticed that different pokemon are prevalent in different regions. Boston is Drowzee City. But I'd never seen a Pinsir until I visited my brother in Brooklyn. He, apparently, sees them so often that he doesn't bother to try to catch them anymore! If we could have traded, we'd have both gained some new pokemon from the deal. Mutual gains from trade, supply and demand, scarcity, comparative advantage - think of all the economics concepts we could learn.

I have noticed, though, there are still things we can learn about economics from Pokemon Go. Although there's no trading, there is still personal resource management. Here are the economics terms I've thought about while playing.


"Pokemon Go has really made me want to take more walks."

An incentive is a motivator that gets people to do what you want them to do. If you want people to work for you, for example, paying them in a huge incentive. You can use incentives on yourself; if you want to take more walks, the hope of getting pokemon might just be the extra incentive you need to get yourself off the couch. Of course, the makers of the game hope to incentivize you to spend money in their in-app store (or, at least, play and enjoy the game enough that you promote it to friends who may spend money in their in-app store).

Perverse Incentive

"I got Pokemon Go to take more walks, but it turns out I can access a pokestop from my house, so I just sit there spamming it and throwing down lures. I haven't left my apartment in three days."

Whether an incentive is effective  depends on what behavior you want to encourage. A perverse incentive is one that actually encourages the opposite behavior, making the problem worse.

Sunk Costs

"This dumb pokemon has escaped from 9 pokeballs. I don't care if it's a CP 15 Pidgey, I've already wasted those pokeballs so I might as well have something to show for it!"

Sunk costs refers to the pokeballs you already wasted. There's no getting them back. The sunk costs fallacy is feeling more committed to this course of action just because you've already sunk resources in it.  Logically, you should evaluate your willingness to make each throw based on your remaining pokeballs and your interest in getting this particular pokemon, without regard for what you have done previously. Whether you get that Pidgey in the next throw or not, you'll never get those tossed pokeballs back.

Opportunity Costs

"Ooh, a Venonat. Ooh, an Eevee. Ooh, a Rattata. Darn, I'm out of pokeballs… Augh! A Scyther! I've never seen one before! Why, oh why, didn't I reserve a few pokeballs?!"

"If I take the short path directly to the lurre, I'll have more time there,but if I take the long route along the bridge, I might catch a water pokemon."

"Yes! I finally caught the Vulpix! -- Hmm, what fox cub? There was just a baby fox cub here? I didn't see it because I was glued to my phone? Auugh!"

If you spend your limited resources in one way, you can't spend them in another way. The thing you gave up is the opportunity cost. We often choose to spend limited resources (time, money, pokeballs) on whatever shiny thing is in front of us, forgetting about the opportunity cost - all the other things we could do with that resource.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

2016 Summer Wardrobe Retrospective

Now that summer is drawing to a close and I find myself shopping for flannel, I thought I'd review my summer wardrobe: what I bought, what I thought I'd wear, what I actually wore.

Work Wardrobe

I'll start with my work wardrobe since it's super simple. Here's what I wore this summer (and when I bought it).

  • 4 rayon dresses (2 this year, 2 last year): While I'm not especially girly in my dress usually, I like dresses and skirts for work in the summer because they keep me cooler than pants.
  • Pinstripe pencil skirt (last year): Worn once I run out of dresses.
  • Denim pencil skirt (actually over 2 years old): This versatile skirt is nice enough to wear to work (especially on "casual Friday" which, in my experience, isn't all that much more casual), but it also doesn't look like I'm wearing "work clothes" if I wear it on the weekend.
  • 2007-style button-down shirts with short, puffy sleeves (this year): I got a bunch of these at the start of summer--pre-owned, obvs, because they're so out of style. I ended up passing a few on due to color and fit issues, but I really like the two I ended up with, and I wear them often. Dated-looking, but they work fine.
  • Infinity scarves (this year): I went from owning 0 scarves to 3 this year after discovering the joys of accessorizing by just adding an infinity scarf. It is the easiest thing ever.
  • Navy pumps (last year): These shoes go with both my dress and my skirts, so I wore them.all the time, basically. Except when I forgot to change shoes and wore my…
  • Tevas (last year): I live in my sandals all summer. I wear them for commuting. I love the wind on my toes.

And that is more or less it. My summer work wardrobe consisted of 13 pieces (4 dresses, 2 skirts, 2 tops, 1 pair of pumps, 1 pair of commuting sandals, and 3 scarves). Occasionally I'd add a light sweater, but because this summer was so hot, even this was rare.

For some reason, even though casual-clothes-wearing accounts for less than half of my time, I was much more concerned with, and spendy about, my casual summer wardrobe.

Casual Wardrobe

There's a lot more here, so I'll break this down into categories by frequency of wear.

Wore A Lot
Let's start with the all-stars. Most of these items are things I already had - not specific summer buys - although, as with most of my wardrobe, they were all acquired within the last 2 years.

  • 2 linen boat-neck drapey T-shirts (1 replaced this year): Lightweight and breezy, these T-shirts are the only thing I want to wear when it's super-hot out.
  • Merino wool drapey T-shirt (this year): Wool isn't well known as a summer fabric, but it's a great one. I found my ultralight wool T-shirt to be cooler than any of my regular cotton T's. Because of its comfort and smell-resistance, this is the shirt I wear to exercise, but it's also cute enough for me to wear on a normal day. And it's super packable. So basically it's Supershirt.
  • Terrycloth skirt (this year): I didn't even pick this out - Practical Cranberry Nut Roll passed it on to me - but I found myself reaching for it constantly. I wouldn't have said "You know what I need? A sweatshirt material skirt," but it was great! Cool, comfy, and cute. On the hottest days, my go-to outfit was a linen T and my terry skirt.
  • Nightgowns (this year): I talked about this in my purchase review. I surprised myself this year by wearing nightgowns a lot for lounging and sleep, especially when I wasn't feeling well.

Wore Somewhat
  • Merino wool lightweight hoodie (this year): Although I didn't wear this enough to justify the $100 price tag, I was really glad to have it on a few occasions. I was looking for a magic garment as light and packable as a T-shirt but as cozy as a sweater, and this comes close. I did in fact wear it a bunch on my Maine trip; the rest of the summer has just been too hot for any kind of layer. It navy-and-white stripe pattern is a summery look, but I imagine I might still get some use out of this in the fall.
  • $4 Goodwill cutoffs (this year): I became obsessed with finding the perfect pair of shorts at the beginning of summer, and ended up buying two even though I suspected (correctly) that I only wore shorts enough to support the ownership of one pair. This was my backup pair, a $4 pair of cutoffs from Goodwill, but ended up being the pair I wore most often (though not as often as my terry skirt!)
  • Aqua lightweight cotton skinny pants (this year): I wore these a handful of times. On the rare occasions I wore pants, I usually reached for jeans by default, but these found a place in my wardrobe as a lighter-weight alternative that went especially well with dark blue tops.
  • Hemp V-neck (last year): A little scratchier and more fitted, the hemp shirt ended up taking a backseat to the linen and wool drapey T-shirts, but was still a solid performer.
  • Plaid button-down shirts (last year): I love my summer-weight plaid button-downs, and I get compliments when I wear them (especially one - I may be "splitting my wears" by having two). But I often forget to wear them, as T-shirts are easier.
  • Goodwill dark wash skinny-ish jeans (this year): Though not specifically FOR summer, I got these a few months ago, and I've worn them several times. Even though they have dumb rhinestones on the butt, they're a good balance of comfort, fit, and nice silhouette. I anticipate wearing them more through fall.

Rarely/Never Wore

  • Navy linen blazer: This was on my to-buy list for YEARS, and I finally found one for $30 at Marshall's. I'm glad I got a cut-rate one before/instead of sinking money into it, since I never ended up wearing it! Part of that is probably because it was a cut-rate one that I never felt confident in, and part of it is because it was such a hot summer that I rarely wore layers, but I think mostly it is because a summer blazer doesn't really fit into my wardrobe in a meaningful way. I think I'll give this away and not replace it.
  • Lightweight, crinkle cotton button-down shirt (this year): I got this at the beginning of this summer for a specific purpose - to wear as a sort of breathable, barely-there layer over a camisole - but I never ended up wearing it. For one thing, I didn't wear that type of outfit that often, and when I did, it was an excuse to wear my plaid shirts. For another, the cotton fabric of this shirt was actually not all that breathable, for all it was semitransparent. Another argument against cotton as a lightweight summer fabric.
  • Full-price shorts (this year): I ended up preferring my $4 Goodwill shorts. My wife loved these, so I passed them on to her.
  • Full-price dark wash super-skinny jeans (this year): This is another example where I essentually "doubled up" by getting an equivalent thing at Goodwill, and then the Goodwill thing ended up being more useful in practice. I liked these when I tried them on, but then they went into a drawer never to come out again. When I dress casually, especially in the summer, I am concerned most with comfort, so even though I love the skinny jeans look, it just never was "the right time" to wear tight pants.
  • Nice sandals (last year): Had I taken these to work, I probably would have worn them more often, but as it was I kept waiting for a semiformal summer event which never happened. I'll keep these, though, because they're so useful when those occasions do occur. I should wear them to work sometimes, probably.
  • Nice summery cotton dress (last year): Same deal. Coulda/shoulda worn this work instead of holding it aside for some sort of event. In the past, I've worn both the dress and the sandals to graduations and rehearsal dinners, but this year I didn't go to any.

Tried Valiantly to Make It Work

  • "Gate Check T" (this year): I loved this drapey cotton/Tencel T-shirt when I first got it out of the box and put it on. It was so soft! But after trying to run in it, and wearing it for medium-strenuous activities (like errands or furniture rearranging on a hot day), it's clear that it simply is not as good at dealing with sweat as my merino, linen, or hemp shirts. It's meant to be the kind of lightweight T you wear on a hot day, but it gets damp and stinky. Maybe I just have more sensitivity to being a sweaty T-shirt than I used to. I think I need to stop buying cotton shirts altogether.
  • T-shirts with images/slogans (last couple years): These used to make up the bulk of my casual tops, and while I've pared wayyy down to my favorites, I find myself wearing them less and less. I still like the art and jokes and everything, I just reach for my other shirts first.


Let me try to cobble together some generalizable lessons from this…

  • I need less than I think I do. I tend to overprepare for casual living (especially vacations), and underprepare for work. And which wardrobe did I end up happier with? My work wardrobe! I really liked having such a small capsule for the season. (With that said, I'm looking forward to wearing different things in the fall.
  • Skirts are a practical choice for summer. I always wanted to wear skirts, even around the house. Even shorts lost out against skirts most of the time, as skirts are cooler, more comfortable, and, usually, nicer-looking.
  • "Spend out" festive looks at work e.g. garden party dresses, brunch sandals. Medium-formal summer occasions don't actually happen that often; when I really go to brunch, I wear casual clothes.
  • Avoid cotton for summer shirts. Hemp, linen, and lightweight wool are cooler and dry quicker.
  • Save art for the walls. Another reason I try to make cotton shirts work is the art and slogans on them, but if I really enjoy an image, it might make more sense to get it as a print or something, so that I can choose my clothes based on comfort and style instead of endorsing or displaying a particular image/idea.