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Confessions of a daily deal-aholic

6 Jan

My name is Kat and I’m a deal-aholic. My inbox is bursting with daily deal emails – so many that I am one mouse click away from buying it a voucher for 40% off a deluxe detox package. There was a time – a simpler time – when I was blissfully unaware of all the delectable meals proffered by romantic, waterfront restaurants. When I didn’t know what ‘ultrasonic slimming fat cavitation’ meant (I still don’t. I’ll find out at the clinic). When I bought things as and when I needed them.

Now, every email that screams, ‘Hurry! Get This Amazing Deal for 50% Off Something You Can’t Live Without!’ has me rummaging for my worn and weary credit card and sends my endorphins soaring. ‘Gaa! Only 1 hour before the deal ends! Maybe I should buy two? After all, you can never have too many pairs of night vision goggles. Especially when they’re only $65, instead of $180! Bargain! Hmmm, maybe I should grab a pair for Mum too…’

In an attempt to slim my inbox, I signed up to receive just one email which lists that day’s top offerings from the major deal sites. It didn’t work. It had the same effect as a hotel buffet breakfast. I just wanted to have them all! There is now a manila folder on my desk (bought in a pack of 10 for 70% off. Zing!), stuffed with black and white print-outs. Evidence of my extravagance. Proof of my madness. It’s the equivalent of a chocolate lover’s wrapper stash under the couch cushions.

I now have just two weeks to indulge in a four-course Italian feast for two. One week to get my hair highlighted at a far-away salon. Four days to redeem a voucher for a blingtastic sterling silver necklace that spells ‘Kart’. It was supposed to be ‘Kat’ but in my panic to snap up the deal, I made a typo.

Forget the ticking biological clock. Everywhere I go, I can hear the faint tick of the daily deals clock. Deals that are about to expire! Vouchers I’m yet to redeem! As an editor, I’m used to racing against deadlines. Deal deadlines are a whole other shopping bag.

I do love virtual shopping carts (abandoning them is so much easier than hiding a trolley filled with unwanted wares at the back of Kmart). And it is great to shop from the sofa, avoiding the weekend Westfield crowds. But daily deals have taken online shopping to a whole new frantic, frenzied level. We’re in the midst of bargain overload. Everything is on sale and about to expire. 512 people have already snapped up the deal (including 28 of your Facebook friends) and heaven forbid you miss out! Because surely there will never again be an offer for 85% off a deluxe car wash. Riiiight.

I’ve decided there’s only one way to combat my addiction. And that’s to go cold turkey. With a shaking index finger and sweaty brow (wonder if today’s Botox offer would help with that?), I’m hovering the mouse over the teeny tiny ‘unsubscribe’ link. It has to be done…

It’s time to return to mindful shopping. To making informed, careful purchases. To buying only what I truly need (and saving up for the things I really want). To shaking off the shackles of the new online shopping space and taking back control of what I buy and when I buy it. To living simply. And to re-freezing my credit card.

Today is the day I finally say, ‘No deal!’

Do you buy daily deals? Do you like them or loathe them?

7 Lessons from 2011

3 Jan

Can you smell it? That sweet scent wafting in the summer breeze? Yes folks, 2012 is here! The year we have all been looking forward to. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to these past few weeks has said, ‘Boy, 2011 sucked!’ Mmm hmm. I heard dat! Aside from the horrible natural disasters that caused so much despair, it seems many of us felt last year was one big cauldron of crap. Made up of bad decisions, ‘meh’ moments and a general bah humbug-ness towards life.

As I stumbled and bumbled through the year, there were a few lessons I learned. There were probably way more than seven, but hey, it makes for a catchy title 😉

1. I am the queen of my own happiness

I played the blame game a lot last year. Instead of taking charge of my own happiness, I honestly believed it was other people who were making me miserable. It was their fault I was stagnant/grouchy/insecure. It was a shite game. I lost every time. Why? Because in the end, I was playing it by myself. No one can make us feel anything. Only we can do that.

This year, I vow to take responsibility for my happiness and own my feelings.

2. Shaking my booty = less booty

Well, maybe not shaking it. But moving it up and down a wooden seat while hauling a massive oar through the water sure did trim and tone my body! For so many years, I’ve been hung up on eating this, not scoffing that (but, of course, ending up scoffing it!) and endlessly obsessed with what was going in my mouth. Then I re-discovered rowing. Yes, those 4.40am wake up calls turned me into one cranky cow. No, I didn’t really enjoy the competitiveness of club rowing. But boy oh boy, my butt looked bloody amazing!

This year, I vow to be less care less about what’s on my fork, and more about how I move.

3. No meditation and no reflection time, makes Kat something something.

Go crazy? (Simpsons fans will know the rest). In 2010 I discovered meditation and yoga. It widened my mind, opened my spirit and allowed me to dream. Last year, I stopped. And the result was a meandering mess as I tried to figure out what I was doing with my life and why nothing seemed to be ‘clicking’. Last night, I dimmed the room and played a meditation track. Then I indulged in 80 minutes of sweaty, invigorating yoga. For the first time in a long time, I gave myself over to the practice. It was serene. It was special. It was right.

This year, I vow to meditate daily and invest time in nourishing my soul and cleansing my mind.

4. Compound interest is (wait for it) awesome!

As a neat and organised Virgo, I’ve always had a small obsession with building a healthy savings account. When I launched my business in 2009, I drained my savings and ended up with a nice little credit card bill (yay!). When I returned to full-time work in 2010, I spent much of the year paying off my business debts and a very generous loan from a family member. In 2011, I went full throttle. I consulted the wonderful Cindy Dahiya – a financial adviser who, with her husband Desh, actually provides independent and individual advice that makes sense to us non-accounting types. Yep, they do exist!

I set up a bundle of individual accounts with Ubank (check them out – their online tools and account flexibility will get anyone addicted to saving!). Each week, I diverted 40% of my pay into the accounts – a ‘pretty fund’ (for the oh-so-important clothes, make-up and hair expenses), as well as stashes for holidays and gifts. A further 10% of my pay was automatically deposited in an emergency account. I also set up one of the government’s First Home Saver accounts.

I’m thrilled to say I went from owing thousands in 2010, to saving just as much in 2011 (some was taken out for The Lad’s and my trip to America).

This year, I vow to keep saving (and avoiding daily deal sites!)

4. Americans are kind and interesting people

When The Lad and I were planning our trip to the US, the favourable exchange rate was really the only reason I wanted to go. I had an image in my mind of the typical American and the country’s culture. It wasn’t pretty. Then we arrived in America – diverse, beautiful, surprising America – and all my pre-judgements went out the hotel window. I now hope to live there one day. What a magnificent country it is!

This year, I vow to go into every situation with an open mind. 

5. I really don’t want to finish my counselling diploma

Ugh. It’s been hanging over my head for years now. And I just can’t, for the life of me, finish  the darn thing! I know I don’t want to be a counsellor any time soon (that’s not to say I won’t in later life) and I can’t find the motivation to finish it for the sake of ‘learning something new’. I’m yet to give up on it completely (another Virgo trait – we hate to fail), but I’m struggling with it. Big time.

This year, I won’t put pressure on myself to finish the diploma. If I do, great. If not, I haven’t failed. I’ve just moved on.

6. I’m not ready to give up sugar

I attempted to follow natural health guru Sarah Wilson’s quit sugar plan several times last year. Each time, the sugar-free stint ended when I found myself gobbling Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and loving every lick and gulp. I’m just not ready to go there yet.

This year, I’ll eat well and nourish my body with healthy foods. But I won’t deny myself those little pleasures. For surely, peanut butter mixed with chocolate is a delectable concoction sent from God.

7. Fear will get you nowhere

Do you know those people who throw themselves into wild situations? Whose Facebook statuses read like a Bear Grylls’ episode? I’ve always envied my friends who can just take off and explore and give something a shot. Hang the consequences. In 2011, I sat on my hands. And it didn’t get me very far.

This year, I vow to take charge. If I want to try something, I’ll leap into it. I’ll give it my all. I’ll jump (though not from an airplane. That is still n.e.v.e.r going to happen).

‘Tis the season to be thankful

22 Dec

The valley view from mum's verandah.

This is a short post, as I’m preparing to head up to mum’s tomorrow for Christmas.

But I don’t need many words to express today’s Thankful Thursday thought.

I am…

Thankful that I was able to write that paragraph, on a computer that works, in a comfortable, temperature-controlled room.

Thankful that I have a job which allows me to take time out to be with my loved ones.

Thankful that I am in fact paid to take that holiday.

Thankful that my mum is able to live on top of a mountain, surrounded by clouds and eagles and clean air.

Thankful that she has met a man who has renewed her happiness and helps around the house.

Thankful that I have met a man who loves me unconditionally. Even when I cry after too many vodkas. Or roll out of bed with a blonde afro and blobby thighs.

Thankful to God for all these blessings.

Sara from Tis the Life has written a beautiful Thankful Thursday post. You might like to read it and leave a comment.

What are you thankful for this week?

Useless things I’ve bought this week

30 Nov

This week, I have unknowingly bought two useless products:

  • A non-waterproof tent.
  • Christmas baubles without string.

Seriously. Waddup with dat?

Is it an extended April Fools’ Day joke by the world’s manufacturing wizards? A prank played on an ever-trusting public? Or perhaps it’s a clever marketing ploy to get us back to the shops to buy more – ‘I just need to pick up some bauble strings…hey, look at that! It’s a slicer-dicer-juicer-in-one! I totally need one of those!’

Can you imagine buying a loaf of bread from the bakery and opening it up at home to find only the crusts? Then needing to go back to buy the inside bits? Or buying a brand new car and having to head down to Bob Jane to fit it with a set of tyres?

I remember as a kid, watching those toy commercials with the sped-up voice over that said, ‘batteries not included.’ Which is why after unwrapping the latest gizmo or gadget, you’d also unwrap a 12-pack of Energizers. Cheers Santa!

Not including batteries is understandable. Plus, on toys, the no-battery notification is fairly easy to spot. But why are we being sent off with a bag of string-less baubles (don’t try threading them onto a teeny tree branch, folks. It doesn’t work!), or an outdoor tent that needs a slathering of waterproofing spray before it can be used outside (unless you want to be saturated with rain as you sleep).

I’ll be honest – I didn’t exactly choose the most expensive option when buying the tent and decorations (hey, a girl needs spare change for shoes!) But I did spend a good $30 on the tent and $40 on the sparkly balls. And in my mind, that warrants being sold a fully-functioning product.

I wonder if in the future, my kids will be left disappointed after unwrapping an empty box with ‘toy not included’ noted in fine print on the side. What a sad, sad Christmas that will be…although, incredibly cheap! Leaving Mummy with more money to spend on pretty shoes. Mwahaha.

Have you ever bought something that didn’t come as advertised? Share your experiences by commenting below.

Until then, I’m off to buy bauble string and waterproofing spray…

Why I’m not ashamed to shop online

29 Nov

This year, I shunned the shops and ordered all my Christmas gifts online. There is now a burgeoning bag of goodies in the bottom of my wardrobe, waiting to be wrapped.  I can’t stop looking at them. Unlike other Christmases, I know I made some damn fine purchases this year. The perfect pressie for each recipient. I am one seriously smug pre-Christmas shopping shopper!

The gifts were swiftly delivered to my office, headache-free and without the memories of toes being run over by racing prams or standing in an endless line to ask if the shop stocks an obscure DVD that no other store in the entire city seems to have. Followed by battling to the back of the store to find said DVD (which inevitably is not where the shop assistant said it would be) and re-joining the now longer queue to buy the bloody thing!

I also avoided the dreaded ‘Oh crap, it’s 5pm on Christmas Eve Eve (yes I call the day before Christmas Eve ‘Christmas Eve Eve’) and all I have found is this lame golfers’ book of jokes for Dad (who hasn’t played golf in years) and a novelty mobile phone holder for some poor unsuspecting friend!’

All I did was browse, click, eat some chocolate (a prerequisite for online shopping), click, click, more chocolate, put in cart, enter delivery details and sign for package placed on my desk three days later. Job. Done.

I’m afraid I haven’t been able to keep my successful shopping experience to myself. I’ve been gloating to anyone who’ll listen (and even to those who won’t).

‘Yes, I’ve already done all my Christmas shopping and it’s not even December yet!’

‘Mmm, I know, I’m just far too organised!’

‘Oh, I don’t know how you can stand going to the shops at this time of year. It’s mayhem!’

See – total snob.

But I don’t care. Because on Christmas Eve Eve, rather than sobbing into my arm-length shopping list and joining an endless Westfield car park queue, I will be slumped on mum’s couch, drinking wine and eating novelty Christmas snacks (you know those strange gooey things you wouldn’t dare eat at any other time, but because they’re shaped like Santa Claus, you can’t help but chow down?)

Is online shopping guilt-free?

Lately, there has been a lot of bad press about online shopping. The usual opponent, Gerry Harvey, one half of the Harvey Norman empire, has routinely slammed locals for turning to the net to purchase wares from overseas.  I feel for him – the true blue Aussie entrepreneur who has watched local businesses shut up shop as the internet takes over. Interestingly, the chain finally opened its own online store this week and apparently made $50,000 in the first day.

Good on him, I say. As the old saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’

Gerry’s main concern has always been that Aussies can buy goods up to $1000 from overseas online stores without paying GST. His argument is that this is crippling homegrown businesses. I can see his point – of course our economy will wilt if we’re no longer indulging in physical retail therapy. Even if you take into account shipping and exchange rates when buying from overseas, the product will often end up costing a lot less than it does at your local Westfield.

Though, as Choice reports, ‘Who can blame [consumers buying online from overseas stores] when Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games, for instance, cost 91% more from a major Australian online retailer than from an overseas online website based in Asia?  Or when a pair of Nike running shoes cost $240 at a major Australian sports retailer while the same product can be bought online for $134 from a US sports store?’

Choice has even launched an investigation into why shoppers in Australia pay more than those in the UK, US or Asia.

I always assumed it was a population thing – we simply don’t have enough people to pump up demand for goods. Or perhaps we’re so far away from the manufacturing hubs that we attract ridiculously high shipping costs, which are passed on to the consumer.

I’ll be very interested to read the findings…

In the meantime, I can revel in my super organised pre-Christmas shopping snobbery, as I did order all my Christmas gifts from Australian online stores. Not to make any sort of social statement, but it just seemed a lot easier than ordering from overseas, trying to find out whether they ship to Australia, comparing costs and then hoping that I chose a legitimate store. Plus, even though it may work out cheaper to buy from overseas, I do feel a twinge of patriotism (or perhaps it’s just a post-shopping rush?) when I click ‘confirm order’ on an Aussie site. For me, it just feels like the right thing to do. That and eating chocolate while I shop. 🙂

Does prettiness pay?

16 Nov

I joined in a heated Twitter discussion this morning. Blogger Susannah Breslin published a post about how to get a job if you’re a twenty-something woman. One of the tips she gave was ‘be attractive’.

She wrote, “If you’re a twentysomething woman who is looking for a job, it really helps if you’re attractive. If you’re not, or you pretend it doesn’t matter what you look like, or you attempt to hide the fact that you’re pretty in some weird way out of feminist-induced anxiety over your sexuality, it’s going to make things that much harder for you. This is just a fact.”

Once Susannah tweeted her blog post, the Twittersphere went off (well, at least my feed did, as I followed the convo). The responding tweets ranged from the outraged (@MichelleHaimoff ‘Just read your article. Please stop bashing feminism. It’s the reason you can vote, drive, work and own property’) to the supportive ( @ShelleyShooting ‘It helps to look put together. Distractingly frumpy and distractingly skanky are both negatives in the long run.’)

To be honest, I didn’t know which side of the pretty picketed fence I wanted to precariously place my behind.

When I started my career as an editorial assistant (the modern version of a ‘copy boy/girl’), I didn’t feel particularly attractive. Compared to the other teens in my social sphere, I felt frumpy, spotty and big-nosed. But I had drive and determination and a keen (albeit big) nose for news. Sure, I often felt uneasy in a newsroom where slimmer, prettier and more confident women reigned, but I knew my looks wouldn’t write a good story. That was the responsibility of ‘inside Kat’. It wasn’t long before I had a couple of front page stories published, fluffier features in the paper’s lifestyle supplements and was approached by the editor to apply for a cadetship. I turned it down and went on to chase a career in public relations, then online writing and now my dream role as an editor.

I might have gotten prettier along the way (at least, she says modestly, I feel that I have), but it was my continually-honed skills that got me the job each time and earned me the respect of my colleagues.

Enough about me

I know some ‘pretty’ girls (I use inverted commas because I really do believe attractiveness is subjective) and I know some ‘less pretty’ girls. I also know some ‘handsome’ blokes and some blokes who are a little more au naturale. Some of them have been successful in their careers and their personal lives. Others have struggled to get a foot in the door or find their ‘dream’ partner (but hey, we’re still young!) When I think about all these people, there isn’t a common thread running through them. And there certainly isn’t one that’s based upon the conventional western ideal of what’s hot and what’s not.

The people who stick out to me as being gorgeous are those who are full of life, always smiling, dedicated to their loved ones and who throw caution to the wind. Qualities that I always wish I had more of!

I have a friend who is forever travelling to far-afield lands, photographing and documenting her intrepid journeys. In every photo, her face is glowing with what I imagine is a tremendous feeling of freedom and awareness of the world around her. That is beautiful. That is attractive. That is what will draw employers to her when she chooses to work for someone else.

Another friend of mine gives all her time, energy, spirit and soul to her friends and family. She oozes love. She only wants to make others happy. I honestly believe this has helped her get far in life. It’s what has made people want to work with her, be with her and be like her. That too is beautiful. That trumps ‘prettiness’.

The study says…

A Google search will produce hundreds of studies and papers which claim that attractive employees are better paid and more successful.

Economist Daniel S Hamermesh reckons better looking folk receive more perks above their pay, than their ‘less attractive’ colleagues. Apparently they also score better bank loans, better marriages and are happier.

However, if prettier people are more successful, how do you explain Rupert Murdoch? Oops, did I just say that?

Do you need to be pretty to succeed?

Sure, I won’t dispute that being mildly attractive may get you that foot in the door (I wouldn’t know, I was lucky enough to get mine via my dad). But after that, it’s all up to you baby!

What do you think? Does pretty pay? Do you need to be attractive to land your ‘dream’ job?

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