• 5 no-regrets purchases that make life with a toddler WAY easier

    5 NO REGRET PURCHASES - that make life with a toddler way better

    Voila! A list of things that are making life way better (affiliate links below). Because toddlers are hard work.

    In comparison, it feels like we needed so many more baby products when he was younger (here were my top must-haves when Spud was little.)

    I got sick of hoisting Spud up to wash his hands. A  bamboo step stool has now taken up permanent residence at the bathroom basin. Most importantly, it has saved my arms and back, and many splashes…


    With two dogs and a toddler around, the floors are in a constant state of disarray (emergency, even?). A dustpan and brush sometimes feel inadequate and it’s not always convenient or practical to whip out the vacuum constantly. Enter the BISSELL manual sweeper! It’s like a contained broom and it’s a godsend. The carpet sweeper ‘vacuums’ up carpet nicely, controlling pet hair, and it does a reasonable job of hard floors too. There are a lot fewer crumbs in my life now and I’m much happier for it.


    It’s not uncommon to see railway tracks chalked all over our driveway and the footpath outside our house, all in bright colours courtesy of Crayola sidewalk chalk. Great fun on dry days!

    Speaking of tracks, I nabbed Spud some secondhand wooden train tracks for Christmas and they were a hit. These are his fave toys at daycare. I was reluctant to double up at home, but really, he loves them – why deny him?

    The long days, short nights and 2 year sleep regression hit hard. Later, I figured out that granola for breakfast was probably causing a lot of the painful wakings (sleep and eating issues are still closely linked for Spud even at this age … and the traces of nuts in the granola were probably the culprit). As for the prolonged bedtimes, I resorted to trying chewables with magnesium to help support/encourage falling asleep. No idea if they actually helped, but now they’ve become a key part of the routine: vitamin, books, and bed.

    Next up on my wishlist? Bath crayons to keep bathtime engaging. Thankfully, you can buy anything online these days with a good internet connection (remember to shop around on broadband comparison websites). As a working parent, leisurely instore browsing is a thing of the past.

    What are you loving right now for your little ones?

  • 5 baby essentials I didn’t know I needed

    Beyond the core basics (a car seat, a crib, some clothes and nappies) it’s damn near impossible to get a grip on what you need for a baby. Some people swear they couldn’t live without Thing A, B or C, while others find the same item to be a total waste of money. All the more reason IMO to buy secondhand gear – no point shelling out for something new that may never get used!

    We’ve been so ridiculously fortunate to have almost everything gifted or lent to us. From former coworkers to random friends of my mum, we’ve been overwhelmed by generosity.

    Beyond the usual essentials, here are a few things I’ve found invaluable so far…


    Haakaa pump

    Pumping at the hospital (with their double electric) was uber depressing – and I swore off pumping after that. But my midwife brought me over a manual Haakaa pump and it’s been a lifesaver for expressing extra when needed. It’s annoying to sometimes be overflowing and sometimes running dry, but this helps even that out.

    Mum2Mum swaddles

    I cannot wrap to save my life, and this wriggly worm is impossible to contain anyway. So far two other types of sleep sack haven’t worked, but these Mum2Mum Dream swaddles are doing the trick at the moment to contain his arms. They seem to be the same as the SwaddleMe. We also got given a couple of Miracle Blankets, which are pretty similar and also get a fair bit of use, particularly when it’s hot, as they’re quite lightweight.

    Witch hazel

    I didn’t go as far as freezing padsicles but I did get witch hazel to help with calming matters down there. Particularly when I got a delightful butt rash (FML) the cooling effect of witch hazel was the only comfort I could get.


    Baby bath support

    Even if we didn’t have a massive baby bath tub, supporting Spud in the water is a killer. I gave him a quick clean in the sink solo once and that was a mission! We were rushing through bath time because T would get a sore back/arm. The plastic support seat thing that we prop him up with now is still quite awkward but it’s a big improvement. One pro to rescheduling our baby shower to post-birth was being able to request stuff we genuinely knew we needed; this was one of the best gifts!

    Change table

    Again, this is so much better for our poor backs, not to mention streamlining the process! Now there is a place for everything – storage for nappies and cream/sanitiser/flannels etc – and a laundry bag plus rubbish bag. It’s just much more organised and pleasant all round especially now we’re using reusable wipes. Also eliminates the drama of trying to avoid picking up dog hair accidentally off the bed/couch. Our change table, which I got for free on Facebook, actually also has a built-tub, but we don’t use it.

  • Confessions of a non-shopaholic

    By: Nattu

    You know it’s time to go shopping when you have recurring dreams about clothes.

    I wish I was kidding. I’ve lost count now of the number of times I’ve dreamt about finding new items hidden away in my closet. (Waking up in every case has been surprisingly disappointing.)

    I really hate shopping. I tend to buy stuff in bursts – bundle up the pain, I guess. And it’s about time for one of those, since I haven’t bought anything in about a year. Belt-tightening (figuratively) and all that.

    It’s embarrassing how many of my clothes are faded, stained, torn or need to be firmly retired to ‘at home’ status only for whatever reasons. I’m 27 this year and badly need to update my wardrobe accordingly.

    Where to start? At the minimum:

    • Black pants
    • Jeans (probably one dark and one light/medium)
    • Multiple cardigans
    • At least one long-sleeved top
    • A non-summery skirt
    • More dresses
    • Black boots
    • Neutral flats
    • Swimsuit
    • A handbag
    • And maybe a soft blazer?

    I am really not looking forward to this quest. Fashionista friends, put me in your prayers.

  • Why I’ll never buy men’s clothing in NZ again

    How to save money on men's clothing in NZ

    Know what’s always been next to impossible to do here? Shop for clothes for my husband.

    I swore the next time we needed to buy anything for him, we’d buy online from US sites, since we know they actually cater to his size.  

    Although a lot of retailers won’t ship to New Zealand, or charge an arm and a leg to do so, NZ Post has this service called YouShop that gets around this. Basically, you sign up for an account. You’ll then get a US address that you can tell retailers to ship your order to. That address is a giant NZ Post/YouShop warehouse. Once your package gets there, NZ Post/YouShop will notify you, and tell you exactly how much it will be to ship over to NZ (and repack the parcel if, say, it’s been lazily/wastefully packed).

    Making use of this, I ordered a few things from Dickies and a few things from Target (with help from Sarah!). Here’s how it shook down, roughly:

    • 3 x Dickies pants, plus a bunch of packs of socks to get the order over the limit to qualify for free shipping within the US
    • 4 x T-shirts from Target – the corny kind T loves, eg Batman, Star Wars, Flash and Iron Man

    Total: approx $NZ150 for the items, plus $70 for shipping = roughly $220 in total.

    If we were to buy 3 pairs of Dickies in NZ, that alone would add up to about $210. They are about $70 a pop! On the US Dickies site, they are US$30 at full price (we got them on sale at a discount), or about $NZ35 – literally half the cost.

    And that’s before accounting for shipping within NZ, either.

    So for the price of 3 pairs of pants, we got a bunch of shirts and socks as well, delivered to our door.

    You may not be perfect, America, but you sure do cater to people who need to buy stuff.

  • Loyalty pays … or does it?

    Sometimes it pays to be a loyal customer

    Shopping around is one of THE cornerstones of frugality. Taking a little time to do your research in order to get the best deal … it’s a no-brainer.

    But when do you draw the line?

    I wasted far too much time early on in Europe trying to save money on accommodation. Hostels and hotels were so expensive in Brussels and Amsterdam that frankly, I may have saved a few euros, but it was a poor payoff in proportion to how much time I spent searching countless websites looking for the best price.

    My go-to sites for booking accommodation are Agoda (in Asia) and Booking (Europe/North America). I also used Hotwire, Priceline and Expedia once each in the US, but by and large, Booking.com is where it’s at for me. Unlike other sites, it’s always upfront about taxes and other charges that individual places levy. And while I don’t ALWAYS check against other sites, I can’t think of any instance where I’ve found the same room for cheaper elsewhere.

    (As for hostels, I always play off both Hostelworld and Hostelbookers against each other, though Booking also includes some hostels in its database.)

    The convenience of booking through the same site can’t be understated, particularly if there’s a good mobile app. All your details are saved, so you don’t need to enter them every time. You know how to navigate your way around instinctively to get the information you need. And your loyalty starts to pay off – you start to get emails with special subscriber deals and exclusive discounts. I’ve booked through Booking.com so many times I now have a 10% Genius lifetime discount, although it applies to certain hotel deals only.

    Loyalty pays in other areas, too. You’re more likely to get fees waived if you’re a long-time customer. You get discounts for staying with the same insurance provider after a certain number of years. You get a free coffee if you rack up enough stamps at your favourite cafe. And so on and so forth.

    Personally, I’m pretty loyal when it comes to banking and insurance, but I’m a personal finance nerd. Nothing is totally sacred.

    When do you go with the easier option, and when do you hunt down the best possible deal?

  • Link love (Powered by shopping woes and dropped phones)

    ZOMG. The wedding ring buying process has totally exhausted me. What follows is one of the most painful and awkward retail experiences I’ve ever had.

    • T decided he wanted a tungsten wedding ring. They seem to mainly be sold online, so we look at Simply Suave, MaD Bling and Man Up Jewellery (and then see Google ads for the former everywhere online afterwards. Bless you, retargeting).tungsten wedding ring
    • We also visited the mall for a looksee, and turns out Michael Hill also sells tungsten rings. We get to see them in person and try them on. T likes them, but I don’t like the price ($500). But Jenny, our awesome salesperson at Michael Hill Jeweller Lynnmall (New Lynn) tells us that they are going to go on sale the following month. She takes our details and promises to call when that happens. Seriously. She is the shiz.
    • T doesn’t like the idea of buying a ring online, even though they are WAY cheaper, so we wait. At one point I go back to the store just to check (and no, they’re still not on sale) and have a quick chat to a different, male staffer, who gives me a little more information on the specifics of the tungsten ring buying process while I’m there.
    • Suddenly the end of February rolls around, and we decide it’s time to just buy both our rings online (I’m getting mine on Etsy).
    • But wait! On February 28, Jenny calls and texts to let us know the tungsten rings are half price. We hotfoot it over. There’s a big sale on and the store is totally packed. She’s busy at the bracelet/necklace counter – physically separate from the ring counter – with a stream of customers.  I catch her eye and smile (though she probably doesn’t remember or recognise me) and wait in line.
    • Male staffer who I talked to on my second visit seems to be the only salesperson NOT occupied. He zeroes in on me; I shrug him off and tell him we’re being taken care of. The second time around he finds us looking at the tungsten ring page of a catalogue which was lying on the counter, and goes for the kill. Jenny is still busy, so while I inform him that she had been the one dealing with us, we end up going along with him. Not only do I feel terribly guilty, it also turns out to be a huge mistake.
    • This guy (I won’t name him) is useless. Fast talking (came across as kind of sleazy), and downright incompetent. He promised to call us when the ring arrived instore, but forgot to get our contact details (I had to prompt him). Then he forgot to give us our receipts, and texted T once we had left the store to come back and get them. According to T, however, the guy was NOWHERE to be found when he returned. But by that time Jenny WAS free, and helped him sort things out (reprinting the receipts, etc). He apologised for what happened, and apparently she understood, though no doubt she was pretty gutted.
    • The next day Jenny texts me again asking when we’re going to come in. Cue back and forth messages while I recount what happened (even though she spoke to T, obviously she wasn’t sure if we were the same couple she originally spoke to. She must see dozens of people a day…

    I can’t tell you how awful I felt. She gave us top notch service, and I gave in to the pushy sales guy who swooped in while he could. I FAIL. I hope she didn’t miss out on too much commission (how much would they earn? And is that reduced during massive sales (50% in this case)?

    link love nzmuse

    This week’s links:

    Via Alexandra Franzen: how to say no (nicely) to anything

    Amber Naslund explains how to get paid for your expertise

    Newlyweds on a Budget enjoys a Pretty Woman moment

    Plagiarism is well and truly alive in the PF community. Financial Uproar goes into all the dirty details

    Housesitting as explained by Traveling 9-5

    Do you need hours to marinate food? Nope, not according to Stonesoup

    I think this is beyond me, but someone should try making A Wandering Food Lover’s colourful pasta and reporting back

    Finally, here is a Venn diagram explaining how to find happiness in your work

    Happy weekends, all!

  • Reflections on a year of no shopping

    a year of no shopping

    <image via jostel on flickr>

    It’s official: I don’t give two shits about fashion.

    Of course I wish I was more hip, thanks to the infinitely more stylish ladies in my office. (Still has nothing on the time I worked in the office of a fashion magazine.) But the thing about maturity (ha) is you come to realise what your real priorities are – and clothing and accessories are not among mine.

    I set myself a no shopping challenge this year, and I can’t say I’ve missed it. I don’t miss malls. I had no idea what ‘peplum’ meant when one of my best friends dropped it into a conversation, and I didn’t care (I’m googling it now).

    Basically, I was only allowed to replace things I actually needed. And my trip to Sydney in July proved the perfect time to do so, where I picked up two pairs of flats, a bag, and a wallet (the latter not strictly being essential at the time, but everything else was definitely a need).

    The canvas shoes (Ked-style ripoffs) that I put through their paces walking all over the city got waterlogged on the first (or was it second?) day, and while I could handle the squelching, I could not deal when the sole actually cracked – it literally split across the middle. So off I headed to a cheapie shoe place – I forget the name; we don’t have it here in NZ – and bought two pairs of ballet flats for $30. Expensive flats have never worked out for me, so I stick to the low end. Boots, on the other hand, are a different story. (That reminds me – I got my one pair of black leather boots resoled this winter, but they’re not going to last another season. Sigh.)

    Elsewhere, I’ve been lucky in that I scored free moisturisers and makeup through work, and the goodie bag at Semi-Permanent included a full-size tub of my holy grail: Trilogy Everything Balm. It almost made up for the fact that lunch wasn’t provided on either day, forcing me to go out and buy food.

    The one thing that’s still on my wishlist? A killer leather jacket. Unfortunately, I have neither the budget nor inclination to find the perfect one, unless it falls out of the sky. Cloudy with a chance of leather jackets? Yes please.

    What’s your shopping philosophy? Any standout purchases this year? What’s on your wishlist?

  • Online shopping: a New Zealand perspective

    Since I got my first and only credit card back in 2007 (I still have the same one, although obviously not the exact same physical card as I’ve been through a couple of expiry dates, but the same account nonetheless) I’ve made many big purchases online. Mostly things like hotel reservations, flights, concert tickets.

    When it comes to buying physical goods online, I stick to smaller items. Guitar strings and contact lenses are SO much cheaper online than in shops. I bought my voice recorder and phone recording adapter online. I’ve bought a handful of clothes online, which is okay when you stick to a label you know and where you’re familiar with their sizing. I even played it risky and bought a bass amp online once (a trusted brand, of course).

    My Pretty Pennies recently had a bad experience buying clothes online, which actually inspired this post. See, I recently made my biggest ever purchase of physical goods online. T bought aftermarket full fairings for his bike (which he’s been working on), which cost not far off $1000. They arrived safely, are the right colour, shape and fit, and allowed for an all-round sigh of relief (although for some reason they packaged and sent one lot of bolts separately. Bizarre).

    To date, my only real damp squib remains picking up a genuine leather jacket off TradeMe that was never, ever going to fit me.

    We suffer from high prices and lack of choice here (on a related note, see Vanessa’s guest post on the headache that is shopping in Canada) though NZ Post has a new service, YouShop, that lets NZ shoppers buy items from US online stores to be delivered to a US address, and then on to their NZ address (circumventing policies that exclude NZ delivery, or impose high shipping charges). So it’s no surprise that online shopping is serious biz.

    That said, I’m definitely cautious about buying things off the internet, a fear that rises in proportion with the amount at stake.
    Here’s what I take into consideration.

    Is it a commodity? If so, it’s probably cheaper online. Books, CDs, etc.

    Can I check it out in person first, somehow? I bought my glasses online, but only after I was able to try the exact same pair on in a retail shop. That  was uber important to me because I have a ridiculously wide head and flat nose/face, which means very few frames fit properly. After that, by all means buy the exact same item online at a major discount.

    What about shipping? Shipping costs can kill a bargain. Apparently everyone loves Asos thanks to its free freight around the world. I’m keeping that in mind for the future (when I’m off my shopping ban), but not knowing anything about their sizing, I’d be wary.

    What do you buy online?

  • Layby vs hire purchase

    I’ve been doing some higher-end mystery shops of late: jewellery, luxury fashion. They’ve been awesome experiences, actually. The staff know their stuff and when it comes to making suggestions for improvement, I really don’t have any ideas to offer. In fact, one of the surveys went so well I very, very nearly went through with the purchase (and if New Zealand had strong return policies I probably would have). This wasn’t one of those surveys that included purchase, or purchase followed by return. Just one of those teasy ones where you pull out at the very last minute.

    Luxury retail, SoHo

    Luxury retail, SoHo (Photo credit: La Citta Vita)

    One thing they always make a note of is to mention a layby option. I never really understood this until I got older and realised that some people spend hundreds of dollars on a single item of clothing. (Personally, the most I’ve ever spent is under $200, on a coat, and a pair of a boots respectively.) Since the big bad GFC, layby is apparently making a bit of a return to the retail scene.

    If you’re not familiar with the term, layby involves the shop putting aside the item for you. You pay weekly instalments toward the balance – usually interest-free – and once it’s paid for in full, that’s when you finally take it home.

    For those who can’t pay in full upfront, I think it’s a great option. It beats paying 20 percent interest on a credit card, that’s for sure. And I certainly am not going to argue with a system that promotes delayed gratification (something I think our generation lacks a little, myself included).

    Then there’s that other beast – hire purchase, offered on bigger-ticket items. Electronics. Appliances. They’re not such a good deal, in my view.

    I did consider taking out a hire purchase on one of my laptops. It was a lovely interest-free deal, and interest rates were high enough that I figured I might as well keep money sitting in my account as long as possible.

    But digging down into the fine print, I found upfront fees and annual charges that totally wiped out the interest-free carrot. And that’s why I whipped out my credit card, took the rewards points, and took the savings hit.

    I can see in some situations this might also be preferable to carrying a credit balance, depending on the specific numbers. But I don’t anticipate a hire purchase ever worming its way into my list of financial liabilities.

  • No questions asked

    So I hear that most retailers in the US have a no-questions-asked returns policy.

    Having grown up in New Zealand, the concept strikes me as totally bizarre. Here, the responsibility is on you to make sure you put a bit of thought into your purchases. Changed your mind about a pair of pants? Unless it still has the tags on and hasn’t been worn, you’re out of luck. Even then, odds are you can only exchange it for a store credit, not cash.

    I wonder if that is part of the reason for rampant consumerism? How easy is it to buy something knowing you can easily return it later for no reason?

    Personally, I hardly ever impulse shop, so when I buy something it’s because I really want it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with spur-of-the-moment purchases, but I don’t see why stores should have to take back products back “just because you changed your mind”. It’s a waste of energy and time for their staff; returns can be a tedious process, to say nothing of their wasted time on the original transaction.

    The Warehouse is the one retailer I know of with a very generous returns policy. 12 months on pretty much anything, and I don’t THINK you need a reason. They need one though; when you sell cheap stuff that doesn’t last, customers will expect a refund or replacement.

    Sure, I wouldn’t complain if local shops suddenly adopted a looser returns policy overnight; I’m just amazed that one exists. It doesn’t seem to make good business sense.

    Your thoughts?