Saturday, January 31, 2009

How to Waste Time

I joined facebook this week, after being urged by a couple of old friends. I already have some friends there, including a local guy who joined yesterday, a girlfriend on the West Coast, a college buddy, his brother, my niece, an old pal from a former job, two neighbors, and my husband. It's nice to keep in touch rather casually with everyone, but I can't see the point of keeping tabs on hundreds of people, which seems pretty common on FaceBook. And since even my little clique is busily posting multiple times daily, I can see how this may become exhausting over time.

But anything seems like fun compared to writing about antihistamines. I hope to finish the writing today, annotate it for fact-checking tomorrow, and rejoin the ranks of the unemployed on Monday.

I would have finished it sooner except for this irresistible webcam that is sucking up the productivity of thousands of people across the US at any given minute, including several people to whom I sent the link. We're crazy about the black-tiger-and-white kitten and the calico. I'm seriously considering whether we should become a four-cat household again.

Another good way to waste time is the Banana Republic January sale. Online and in stores, this sale is always fun, and this year they seem to be giving away perfectly fine clothing at insane prices. I suppose many stores are these days, but I stick to the tried-and-true, and I like the quality and styling as well as the prices at Banana. Everything I picked is nicely made, fairly classic, and actually fits me. It's important to visit the stores often (or call them) in January to find out when there are new markdowns and promotions.

Because I was lucky enough to earn a "Luxe" credit card years ago, I get free hemming and free shipping if I want something sent from another store anywhere in the US. This enables me to call around the country in search of bargains in my size. Plus they keep sending me $40 or $50 rewards cards, even though I swear I don't spend enough to deserve them.

(Banana Republic executives: please stop reading here!)

It's important to realize that online and store sale prices differ, and stores in depressed towns in Alabama and Arkansas might produce whatever sold-out items you're coveting if you can give them the style number and you don't mind being put on hold for awhile. (The online store's customer service reps can give you phone numbers for stores that appear to have your item in quantity.)

If you're really willing to waste time, you can save lots of money by re-buying items when the prices go down further (and the 2-week price-adjustment period has passed). For example, I bought a $98 skirt marked down to $55 a few weeks ago. When it went down to $18, I found it in North Carolina and had it shipped for free.

Ultimately I bought a couple of $175 wool jackets for $19 and $35, and similarly priced pants and a skirt to go with them. I found a gorgeous cropped black pea coat with gold buttons for $35 instead of $198. And a black double-knit '60's-style coat for $56 instead of $175. Plus a couple of tops for less than $10 each, tailored chinos for under $20, a tweed fedora, and a handsome leather belt. Using one of my rewards cards helped, but my new professional wardrobe set me back less than $250. And they've already sent me more rewards cards!

Since the beginning of this century (doesn't that sound odd?) I've either worked at home or for companies where any form of hiking clothes is acceptable office attire. So my closet filled up with jeans, tees, cashmere turtlenecks, and funky skirts. For dressing like an adult, I had exactly one black wool suit with a white shirt ($60, from the Banana sale last year), a black skirt (that I recently noticed has faded to two shades), a blazer from the '80s, and a blazer from the '70s. (Plus a pair of nice brown pants and lots of cashmere sweaters.) When I took stock, I realized I had to be better prepared for potential new-client meetings or job interviews. And I think I did it. So I guess all that furious shopping wasn't a waste of time after all — or money, I hope.

If you really, really want to waste time, start a blog!

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