Tool of the Trade: What Small Purchase Has Made Your Life Better?

Small purchases that make your life betterI saw an article on Lifehacker (I think?) a few weeks ago about small purchases that make your life markedly better. One of the things listed was a 6-foot-long lightning charger which, as soon as I saw it, I said, ACK, I have that, and it HAS made my life so much better. I primarily use mine to plug in on my bedside table while I’m sleeping so I can use the SleepCycle app, but I always grab it when I travel and it just makes everything better in hotel rooms, at the airport, or at other random “have outlet, will charge” kind of places. (Another good thing to throw in your bag: a three-sided wall tap.) So I thought we’d have a fun little “Tool of the Trade” feature: What small purchase has made your life markedly better? What small thing brings you joy, makes your life easier or more efficient, and otherwise makes you grateful for buying? I’ve got a few purchases that I’ll share…

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The Best Laptop Bags for Work

the best laptop bags for workSure, we all know what wardrobe essentials for work professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

Which are the best laptop bags for work, ladies — which ones have the pockets you need, the weight (or lack thereof) that you like, and generally looks great on your commute? Do you prefer to have a laptop sleeve within a larger tote bag, or a laptop bag by itself? How big is your computer — and how important is padding to you? We haven’t rounded up stylish laptop totes and sleeves in a while, so I thought we’d take a look!

Pictured at top.

Some of our Hall of Famers styles, mentioned below:

the best laptop totes for work

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Workwear Inspiration Series: How to Get Diana Trout’s Style from Younger

How to Get Diana Trout's Style in Younger - Workwear Inspiration Series!Welcome to another installment in our series on getting workwear inspiration from television shows — while Selina Meyer in Veep and Claire Underwood from House of Cards were obvious choices, I asked the readers for further suggestions. I was thrilled when a number of people mentioned Diana Trout’s style from Younger because I love that show, and taking a look at a creative professional is always fun.

For those of you not familiar with the 30-minute comedy on TVLand, at the start of the show, main character Liza (played by Sutton Foster) finds herself in a pickle: about to turn 40, getting divorced, and suddenly needing a job after being a stay-at-home mom for 18 years. She finds herself unable to get even an entry level job in her old career in the publishing world, so a friend comes up with a plan: She can simply rewind her resume to when she was 26 and pretend, in general, to be Younger. She is hired at the small publishing house Empirical, working as an assistant to the esteemed and rising editor Diana Trout, who’s played with grace and gravitas by actress Miriam Shor. In early episodes Diana is more of a villainous Devil Wears Prada type of boss; in later seasons she becomes more of a friend — and because she is (unbeknownst to her) the same age as Liza, she represents in many ways the path that Liza didn’t take. (Hilary Duff plays a young and rising editor at the same publishing house, Nico Tortorella plays the very cute 30-year-old tattoo artist Liza starts to date, and Peter Hermann plays Charles, the recently divorced publisher of Empirical who really, really wishes Liza weren’t a 26-year-old junior staffer. I am on Team Charles, FWIW.) It’s cheesy fun and I highly recommend the show!

OK — without further ado, let’s take a look at how to get Diana Trout’s style from Younger

Step 1: Get a Huge Collection of Statement Necklaces

How to get Diana Trout's style from Younger: Statement Necklaces

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The Best Tote Bags for Work, Interviews and More

The Best Tote Bags for Work - 2017 Roundup!Sure, we all know what wardrobe essentials for work professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

Here’s today’s question, readers: what do you think makes for the best tote bags for work, interviews, and beyond? I’ve argued in the past that the best tote bags for interviews are nylon (lightweight) but structured (non-floppy, stand up by themselves on the floor), large enough for a folder (for copies of your resume), and are mostly a solid color without brash logos. In contrast, I’ve argued that the best professional tote bags in general may be leather (they often look more polished), be a laptop bag (or have a removable laptop sleeve), and have a ton more organization as needed for your daily schlep.

Ladies, do you have different tote bags for interviews and tote bags for work? Do you tend to collect tote bags in general? (I know I’ve got about 10 of them in my closet…) Which ones do you carry the most (and/or love the most)? In general, what qualities do you think makes the best tote bags for work?

Pictured at top, clockwise from top left: one / two / three / four .

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Tales from the Wallet: When to Dip Into Your Emergency Fund

when to dip into your emergency fundWe’ve talked in the past about emergency funds — particularly where they fit in a money roadmap and where you should stash the cash you’re saving for an emergency fund — but here’s something we haven’t talked about: when is it ok to dip into your emergency fund? How big of a deal is it to you if you need to take some money from your emergency fund to cover a big shopping trip, a vacation, or more? Do you overfund your emergency fund (and keep more than 6-9 months living expenses) so you CAN dip into it if you need it — or do you have a “stop point” where anything above a certain amount of money goes into an investment account? (On the flip side, do you keep a “fun money” or “mad money” account just for these kinds of indulgences — and save money to be spent?)

Pictured at top: I’m not usually a beige wallet kind of person, but this highly rated “tan sparkle lizard” wallet might make me change my mind. It’s $89 at Nordstrom (six other colors, too) (affiliate link).

As we’ve discussed in the past, I’m a pretty aggressive saver who hates to keep money sitting in low-interest checking and saving accounts, so for the most part I clear out our checking account every month and move left over money to higher interest online savings accounts. In addition to retirement savings, I use automatic transfers to savings and automatic investing as often as I can, and I also try to amortize known big purchases (like term insurance and a vacation budget) so that the cost is spread out over the year instead of hitting in one particular month. In fact, I have about 10+ accounts open at Ally right now for various things personal and business, as well as one big account at Ally that we consider to be our “family emergency fund.” But of all my crazy accounts I don’t have a “fun money” account — and maybe I need one for those for times when our credit card bill is bigger than expected, or it’s been a birthday month (or, ahem, a Nordstrom sale month) and more.

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The Hunt: Job Interview Heels

Sure, we all know what wardrobe essentials for work professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

In honor of on campus interviews coming up, I thought I’d focus today’s Hunt on job interview heels. What DO you look for in a job interview heel, readers? The most important thing to me, first, is that a job interview heel is comfortable for you — this may mean arch support, it may mean a puffy, sneaker-like insole, it may mean anywhere from a 2″ heel to a 4″ heel. (You can also wear flats for an interview, of course!) A comfortable shoe means a confident stride — I’ve seen some women interviewing look wobbly and unsteady on their feet. Don’t choose height  for “style reasons” if you feel like a baby giraffe just learning to walk! The second thing that’s most important for an interview shoe is that the shoe should be pristine — no scuffs, marks, or anything. If you’re interviewing in a heel you’ve had for a while, take it to the cobbler for new tips and polishing, at the very least. (Along the lines of a “confident stride,” note that many cobblers can add rubber tips to heels and even replace part of the sole with a rubber portion to make the shoe less slippery.) Readers, how about you — have you gotten any great job interview heels lately? Have you seen any faux pas or other fashion gaffes (or made any yourself) while choosing heels for job interviews?

Pictured at top, clockwise from top: one / two / three

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