Sponsored: Save Time and Sanity with Sassoon’s New Blow and Style Menu

Blow & Style_MR_10Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Sassoon, but written by your friendly local blogger, Kat Griffin.

I’ve written before about my love of blow-outs (including how to make a blow-out last for multiple days!), but here’s what I don’t love about blow-outs: the Question.  You know the one: “How do you want your hair blown out?”

“Um…. the normal way.  With a brush and blowdryer and stuff.”  (I say this because I once asked for a blowout and got a flat-iron instead because that was all they offered, and I was too crunched for time to go elsewhere.)

“Yes, but straight?  Wavy? Glamorous?”

“Ummmm… straight, I guess.”

I always feel a bit dumb for not knowing the answer to this question, and I suppose if I started a Pinterest board, or ripped magazine pages out, I could go to the salon and confidently say, “Give me X.”  But I somehow always forget that this is an issue until I’m in the seat.

So I was THRILLED when I heard about Sassoon’s new service: a blow and style menu that not only names popular styles and makes it easier to differentiate among them, it puts even more options right in my hands, right when I need them: when I’m at the salon.

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Sponsored: MM.LaFleur Delivers Polished, Professional Looks to Your Door

MMLafleur ReviewThis is a sponsored post, but I really am delighted to tell you about my experience with MM.LaFleur. I’m impressed with their well-made, beautiful clothes, and I thought the Bento Box experience — where a stylist chooses and sends you a box of clothes to try on at home, for free — was smooth as well as fun.

But first, let’s back up: here’s what I knew about MM.LaFleur coming into this. There is some serious fashion and workwear cred behind the brand, which was founded by two ex-management consultants, Sarah LaFleur and Narie Foster, along with their head designer, Miyako Nakamura, formerly of Zac Posen and Jason Wu. Their mission: to take the work out of dressing for work.  They make luxurious clothes with fabrics imported from Italy and Japan, ethically made (mostly) in NYC. Plus, a lot of it is machine-washable and wrinkle-resistant, and that’s made clear right on the shopping pages (not just the product pages!), which I really like.

washable-workwear

mmfleur-bentoThe Bento Box: While you can shop their online store yourself, they’ve recently started offering a “bento box” — you fill out a quick style survey, and then (based on your preferences and needs), you’re sent a box of hand-picked, office-ready looks. You keep what you love and send back the rest.

My Experience: I filled out a quick survey online, and got a box of hand-picked items the next day in the mail. It was reminiscent of a bento box, with fun compartments (including one with a lovely red notebook — mine to keep — emblazoned with “Luck Favors the Brave”). My box contained several dresses (most below: Etsuko, Felisa, Toi, and Lydia), the Tribeca Skirt, the Angelique sweater, a silk scarf, and a luxe-feeling belt (Greenwich Avenue). I loved almost everything — the only miss for me was the skirt, which fit too long for my taste. I was really impressed with everything they sent — the fabrics felt lovely and had the right amount of stretch, the fit was great, and the construction was solid. There were no obvious workwear gaffes like a super deep V, high slits, or things like that, and instead there were intelligent details like pockets and washable fabrics.

A closer look at some of my favorites: [Read more…]

Tales from the Wallet: Wealth Building in Your 20s and 30s

Protect your moneyThis post is written by your regular friendly blogger Kat, but sponsored by Regions Bank, which features a Women and Wealth initiative to educate, equip and empower women by providing the information and tools that will help to ensure financial success for women, and by providing the insights and programs to find financial confidence in areas such as investing, saving for retirement, life insurance protection, budgeting, and managing debt, making it easy for women to manage their finances, maximize savings, and reach their goals.

Ladies, what are your best tips for building wealth in your 20s and 30s? For those of you (most of you) in that age range, what did you do in your 20s you were proud of — and what are your goals for your 30s? At the outset, let’s just acknowledge the awesome power of compound interest (these charts from Business Insider are pretty cool) — it’s why this stuff is so important to get a handle on as early as possible, which I didn’t necessarily do. (Pictured.) Some of my best tips are:

1. Get a clear picture of what you have — and what you owe.

If you have student loan debts (or worse, credit card debts), those debts will obviously play a large role in your financial plan for the next few years.  Always pay the minimum, and I strongly advise you to “round up” on the minimum for your debt with the highest interest rate — if your payment on that one is $326 a month, round up to $500 (or $350 — whatever you can do without thinking about it!) and put the extra towards principal. (If you can automate this, it’s even better.) When you extinquish that debt, you can snowball your debt payments by moving the $500 you’d been paying to Loan 1 to be an extra payment on top of your minimum for the new “highest interest rate” debt, Loan 2.

In addition to your debt, of course you should track your other accounts if you have several, particularly so you can get an idea of where your money is going. Many banks offer personal financial management tools online, such as Regions MyGreenInsights.

2. Educate yourself on what financial perks your company offers — and how to take advantage of them.

I didn’t look into a 401K until I was 28 or so, even though I’ve been out of college and working since I was 21. An colleague of mine from my early 20s later told me with pride that she had taken advantage of the company match at our first company (where, for example, if you put in $2,000, the company puts in $2,000 too) — and her retirement fund was growing quickly.  Talk about a face-palm moment! Even though things were super tight in those early days, I feel like I could have squeezed together an extra $100 a month to put towards the 401K to get the match. Not every company offers a 401K match — and some don’t even offer a 401K! — so this is one of those things that varies from company to company.  In addition to retirement vehicles, look into flexible spending plans, HSAs, and other perks (like getting subway cards pre-tax) — even if you don’t have money to spare, educate yourself so you know what you’re rejecting. (Here’s our last discussion on company perks, as well as our last discussion on the different kinds of retirement vehicles and whether you can use retirement funds for things like paying for a wedding, buying a house, or going back to school.)

3.  Build your emergency fund, and develop a savings mindset.

The emergency fund is hugely important — it lets you do everything from fix a car you didn’t expect to die, to quit your job if you really need to.   The common wisdom is that you should have 4-6 months of living expenses easily accessible in a bank.

One easy trick that I’ve used in the past to build an emergency fund is to set up a regular, repeating “automatic transfer” from my checking account into my savings account, after asking myself: can I spare $25 a month? How about $25 a week? The more you can commit to automatically moving from your checking to your savings account, the faster the money grows.  In my early 20s, working in magazines, I may not have been able to swing an extra $25 a month — I was already stretched pretty thin, and would occasionally bring a raw potato and a slice of processed cheese with me to work to make a “baked potato” in the office microwave. (I also will freely admit that half of the book lunches and other press events that I went to primarily so I didn’t have to think about dinner!) Do what you can.

Another good trick for building your emergency fund is to figure out what 10% of your income is, and break it down on a monthly basis. (So if you make $25,000, $2,500 / 12 = $209 a month.) Treat the $209 as a separate debt payment — pay the minimum every month. Once you fully stock your emergency fund with six months worth of living expenses, you can keep saving 10% of your income, which is a worthy goal in and of itself. (Even now it’s on my list of financial goals for the year!)

5. Bonus steps: get aggressive with debt payments, max out your retirement vehicles, and invest in stocks and index funds outside of your retirement accounts.

Once you’ve stocked your emergency fund, gotten any 401K match that may exist, and can pay your credit card in full every month, you may be wondering, “what next?” There are a few options, that will vary based on what you want to do. My $.02:

  • If you have any loans with interest rates higher than 7%: pay them off aggressively with any extra money.
  • If you want to go back to school soon: consider setting up a 529 account for yourself — rules vary by states, but the upshot is you can deduct a set amount every year and use it for school expenses like tuition, books, and more.  If you end up not getting that degree, you can change the beneficiary (e.g., to your child or your partner).
  • If you don’t know what you want:
    • Consider maxing out your 401K or other retirement vehicle, like a Roth IRA.
    • Another option: consider opening your own investment account, such as in an online broker.  Unlike retirement accounts, most investment accounts require at least $3,000 to open the account — you can use the automatic saving technique described above to save the minimum in your regular savings account, then move it over when you’re ready to invest.
    • Find a financial adviser.  For example, a Regions Wealth Advisor can help you determine an appropriate asset allocation strategy based on your personal goals and risk tolerance.

Ladies, what are your top tips for building wealth in your 20s and 30s? What moves did you make that you’re proud of — and what do you wish you’d done differently? 

Thank you again to Regions Bank for sponsoring this post; I’m proud to be a part of the Women+Wealth insights campaign. As noted above, note that Regions Wealth Advisors can help you evaluate your situation and build estate plans tailored to your needs and long-term goals with a team of subject-matter experts, as well as the Regions Wealth Assessment.

Sponsored: Ann Taylor’s Fall Collection

Ann Taylor's Fall 2014 CampaignDisclosure: This post is sponsored by Ann Taylor, but written by your usual friendly blogger, Kat Griffin.

Ann Taylor has always been one of my favorite workwear brands, and their fall collection is absolutely gorgeous. (And ladies, do note: they’re currently offering 40% off sale styles, with no code needed — huzzah!) I thought I’d take a look at some of the hot new pieces just hitting stores now — readers, do you have any favorites from Ann Taylor’s fall collection?

 

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Sponsored: Sole Society’s Great Collection of Work-Appropriate Flats, Heels, and More

sole society screenshot.indexedDisclosure: This post is sponsored by Sole Society, but written by your usual friendly blogger, Kat Griffin.

I’ve been intrigued by Sole Society since 2011, when the brand was founded by the HauteLook team as a subscription shoe club.  (It was spun into a separate company a few months later, and they’ve since dropped the subscription aspect — they’re now just a regular eCommerce site.)  They currently offer shoes designed by Sole Society, French Connection, Lucky Brand, Matisse, and Vince Camuto.  Note that shipping and returns are free, but in order to get a refund on your credit card (versus store credit) they charge a $7.95 restocking fee per item returned.  (Some Sole Society shoes are available at some Nordstrom locations.)

Meanwhile, I continue to drool over half of Sole Society’s stock — they have a ton of professional, work-appropriate heels, and — even rarer! — a ton of fun but appropriate flats (many with straps, too).  Some of the gorgeous pieces I’m dying over (all with rave reviews on the site):

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Sponsored: The Scoop on the Nordstrom Rewards Card

The Scoop on the Nordstrom Rewards Card | CorporetteN.B. This post is sponsored by Nordstrom, but written by your usual friendly blogger, Kat Griffin.

So here’s my dirty little secret: I’ve never had a Nordstrom card, despite the fact that for YEARS now I’ve been hearing about how you get early access to the Anniversary Sale and other perks. My main reason for holding out? I usually wait to get a store card until I’m about to make a huge purchase (a fancy bag, a particularly large order, etc) because most store cards give you a special discount ONLY on the day you sign up.  After looking at the Nordstrom Rewards card a bit more closely, though:

  • Card members earn 2 points per net dollar spent at Nordstrom on your Nordstrom credit or debit card.
  • Every 2,000 points earns you a $20 Nordstrom Note to spend on anything at Nordstrom. Card holders get early access to Anniversary Sale so they can shop online and in stores before every else.
  • Get a $20 bonus Note when you spend $100 at Nordstrom with your Nordstrom card the day you apply. (Nudge nudge!)
  • You can get reimbursed for some or all alterations on Nordstrom purchases with a Nordstrom Note in the exact dollar value of the charge.  (There are different levels of Rewards, and members at higher levels can get more alterations reimbursed.)

And then, once a year, you can also pick a day to earn TRIPLE points — so if you want to use it for the day you shop the Anniversary Sale, you get even more points than usual.  (You can just click a box during checkout to choose to use your Triple points that day, or you can call the store to set up a day to use them in person. The customer service rep I spoke with noted that it’s really easy to set up your triple points day — it isn’t a problem to schedule it; just let them know the day of.  Triple points can apply to both in-store and online purchases if they’re made the same day.) (As you move “up” the levels of membership, you can earn more triple point days.)

I went through the signup process in less than 10 minutes (it would have been faster if I’d had my driver’s license at the computer with me), and because I applied through my Nordstrom.com account, the info is already saved in my account and I can already begin earning points (and have access to the sale).  (The card will come in the mail in 7-10 days.)  Sweet!

Readers, are you excited for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale? Cardholders, what purchases are you hoping to make?