Confessions of a Stress Shopper

I have a number of friends who cope with stress in various ways. Some binge-eat. Others drink. Still others do dangerous things.

I like to think that I’m lucky I don’t do any of these. In fact, contrary to the name of my blog, I don’t drink, and during particularly stressful times, I can’t eat. And, well, for me, opening the refrigerator can be considered “dangerous,” but that’s neither here nor there.

My coping mechanism for stress isn’t all bubble baths and long walks on the beach (really, is that anyone’s? Don’t answer that). No. It’s shopping.

Hi, my name is Becky and I’m a stress shopper.

(Hi, Becky)

I like to delude myself into believing that it’s a healthier habit than, say, smoking six packs a day, but in all honesty, I know that’s a bald-faced lie (like there’s a bearded-faced lie or something): shopping to relieve stress isn’t the way to handle things, and it’s something I’m going to have to work through.

I’ve already mentioned that I’m a total impulse shopper, which doesn’t help matters, nor does it really play a part in my stress shopping, but, truth be told, if I’m to be (and intend to be) living the frugal life from now on, I do want to make sure I’m not spending unnecessarily.

The roadblock I’m running into though, is this: when I stress shop, I’m not shopping for items I already have or frivolous and sundry pretties, I’m shopping for things I actually need. Only trouble is, I don’t always have the cash to do my stress shopping.

Luckily, I have no credit cards because I know myself too well, but I’ll find myself, in times of great stress – which has been, let’s face it, most of the previous year – salivating over things I want. And I’ve been able to recently stop myself from blowing the cash when I feel the urge coming on. I’m not perfect (stop gasping like that!), but I’m working on it.

Knowing that I AM inclined to shop while I’m stressed, it makes it easier to throw some logic into the equation:

“Would you rather spend your money on this item or make sure the electric bill is paid on time?” And “Do you really need this right this moment? It’ll be there when you have the money again.”

I’m not going to lie and tell you that it’s been easy or pleasant – breaking any bad habit sucks – but I’m working on it.

And my new motto, just like they say in all the 12-step meetings is: “one day at a time.”

And that is how I’ll cope with my stress shopping.

One day – one second – at a time.



Also: are there any topics you’d like me write about? I’m always down for new ideas and for guest posts. Email becky.harks@gmail.com if you’re interested!
Also also: if’n you want to advertise a product or conduct a give-away of a product, I’m open to it. Shoot me a line and we’ll talk. ESPECIALLY if a yacht is involved.

How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget

I like to indulge in little luxuries every now and then. Some fancy-pants coffee, a $30 scented candle, or something equally rad, yet non-essential. Sadly, I cannot afford to bathe in champagne (which is probably good, because, STICKY), but with a little thought and care, I can indulge in something special now and then. I’m used to living a champagne life on a beer budget. This is how I do it.

Here’s how I live a champagne life on a beer budget.

How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Coffee. I don’t go to Starbucks. Why? Isn’t hating Starbucks Anti-American? Nah. I kinda think Starbucks brews coffee too bold, bitter, and tastes like burning. I brew my coffee at home, using my preferred blend (everyone’s got one, right?), throw in some half and half, and I’m one happy girl. That’s an easy six bucks a cup saved right there, plus I’m not adding to the landfill with all those paper cups.

How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Scented Candles. I totally dig the atmosphere that scented candles add to my home. There’s something about the flickering light, the delightful aromas, the relaxation and stuff, but I can’t afford $30 candles. What I did find that I can afford is a warmer from WalMart ($3), a package of 100 tealights ($4), and the $2/pack wax cubes to go in the top. Those cubes last for days, and the package of tealights lasts for weeks. I get all the benefits of the luxuries of scented candles without the expense (or mess).

How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Bubble Baths. I love a good bubble bath. No, I’m not an old-ass woman, don’t get me wrong. Problem is, I can’t afford $15 (or more) for a small bottle of bubbles that smell oh-so-good. So I wait until one of those bath stores has their sale where they’re clearing out the bottles of discontinued scents, or a holiday sale, and I stock up. You can score some fabulous and spendy lotions, creams, bubble baths, body sprays, and other sundries — without the spendy total.

How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Consignment Stores. I can’t say enough awesome stuff about consignment stores. Remember when Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City reference!) paid $398 bucks for a pair for her Manolos? Those were the good old days. These days, you can’t find Manolos for that price. We’re talking $800 or more. My underemployed ass certainly can’t afford that. Or can I? You would be shocked at what people consign. Unworn designer clothes with the four-figure price tags still attached. Shoes and boots that don’t look like they’ve ever been worn, or worn for one night. I’ve gotten leather Manolo sandals, snakeskin Dolce & Gabbana pumps, and leather Moschino mules for around the same price Dillard’s and Macy’s get for Steve Madden or Jessica Simpson man-made patent shoes. I once got a brand-spanking new pair of Ferragamo loafers for under $10. Don’t let the ick factor deter you. Those brand-new Madden pumps have been on somebody’s foot before, when a woman tried them on. Same goes for clothes. Women try on clothes and then don’t buy them. How is that any grosser than buying a professionally-cleaned designer garment in a consignment store?

I frackin’ love this site:




How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Smoothies. Sunshine and I make our own smoothies instead of spending chain-smoothie prices for them. This is rad because it actually saves me money on skincare, because I know there are no ingredients in them that will break me out (damned allergies). The added benefit is that we snack on the fresh fruits instead of buying cookies and shit, so we’re theoretically healthier.

Being healthy? That’s also living the good life.

This site can offer some amazing deals:


How do you afford the champagne life on a beer budget? What luxuries do you indulge in (on the cheap?)

Don’t Waste Your Money: What NOT To Buy Generic

I wrote last week about what you should buy generic, and I’ll be honest, a lot of the research I did surprised even me. Most consumers are afraid of generic items, which is baffling to me, but hey, to each their own. Generics, though, come with a flip-side – there are lots of things you do not want to purchase in generic form. Here’s a list of what NOT to buy generic:

1) What Not To Buy Generic – Toilet Paper – I’ve made this mistake I don’t KNOW how many times – I’ll try to save a couple bucks on generic toilet paper or paper towels only to discover that I now have what appears to be many rolls of wax paper. Don’t let your ass suffer! Most of the name-brand paper items do have coupons if you look around, so scrounge for those coupons and wipe your ass in bliss. I happen to love this site for coupons (they change daily):



2) What Not To Buy Generic – Condiments – while this is a fairly debatable topic, it’s safe to say that you should taste-test any condiments that you’re thinking of trying generic. Buy a small version of the generic form of the condiment you love (peanut butter, ketchup, jelly) and see if you can stomach the taste. Most of us really do prefer the name-brand of condiments, so always see if you can find a coupon to buy the name-brand condiment.


what not to buy generic


3) What Not To Buy Generic – Paint: while it SEEMS like a great idea to buy paint that’s loads cheaper than the name-brand paint, generic paint is a bad idea. Why? It’s thinner, which means you have to continue reapplying the paint as you go. Over time, generic paint will also chip and fade more quickly than name-brand paint. Consumer Reports always has a great listing of types of paint that may be somewhat cheaper and still of high quality.

4) What Not To Buy Generic – BEER! There are no finer words in the English language than “Hooray Beer,” so don’t waste your time, money, and drunkness on bad beer. It’s not worth it while you’re drinking it, it’s not worth the hangover, so pony up for the good stuffs!

5) What Not To Buy Generic: Vitamins and Supplements: the nurse in me wants to remind you to TELL your doctor about every supplement you take, so do that. Then, spring for the good stuff. Again, coupons are your BFF here. Between the coupons from the widgets I gave you above, and the deals you can find at your local stores (CVS, for example, often has a buy one/get one for vitamins), you should be golden to buy those at regular price.

6) What Not To Buy Generic: Electronics – while you may FEEL you’re getting a better deal by buying the generic DVD player or television, the life expectancy is considerably shorter. Plus, if you have issues, often those generic electronic companies do not have adequate customer service to deal with any issues that arise. Best bet is to save for a name-brand and scour the stores for deals, especially around Black Friday.

7) What Not To Buy Generic: Mattresses – if there’s one thing you do NOT want to scrimp on, it’s generic mattresses. Sleep is BEYOND important to our health and well-being, and saving a couple of bucks by going the cheap(er) route isn’t worth it in the long-run. So watch sales, scour coupons, and see what kind of deals you can get. Mattress stores are a place where haggling can be awesome. More on that later.

8) What Not To Buy Generic: Garbage Bags – If you use your garbage bags to hold a lot of stinky, gross, watery crap, you’re going to want to shop name-brand. I personally use the Target brand, unless I’ve got a coupon, but I also have (for the time being) a garbage disposal and a trash bin in the garage, so it’s not as important to me. Here’s a way to try before you buy:



9) What Not To Buy Generic: Diapers – while the research says that name-brand diapers are best, I’ve always gone with Target brand diapers (Target being my boyfriend) and had few problems. But for wee babes and small ones, it’s probably best to go with what fits. Try out a few types of diapers to see what you like and stick with them. You can get samples here:

10) What Not To Buy Generic: Meat - most grocery stores don’t offer “generic” meat, but if you have one that does, do your best to avoid buying generic meat. Meat is one of those things that can be too risky to buy generic, and while you might save a couple bucks, the potential for food poisoning is scary.

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What else do you recommend NOT to buy generic? Have you had any bad experiences with generic items?

Frugal Living Tips: Don’t Waste Your Money

It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s a hidden cost or fee associated with something you’re trying to do. So you do what I’ve done, suck up the extra cost, and deal. Why? It’s easier than bothering to plan ahead so you don’t waste your money, because planning is full of the bullsh!t. Who wants to plan when you can do it right! this! moment?

Apparently, me. Also, probably, you.

In that vein, it’s time to play, “don’t waste your money!” with your host, Becky, as Herself.

don't spend your money

1) Don’t waste your money on that dress you just KNOW will fit you… one of these days (substitute pants, shirts, or um, pants). Why? It’ll fill you with guilt when you see it hanging sadly in your closet, and it will only serve to increase the clutter in your house. Since clutter = stress, you want to reduce stress and focus on the things you CAN control. One of them is absolutely clutter. And guilt over not fitting into that size -2 dress.

2) Don’t waste your money on ATM Fees. Dude. It’s your money. It really is. Chances are? You worked HARD for that money. Sure, it’s annoying to have to plan a trip to the bank to withdraw YOUR MONEY, but it beats the crap out of paying those stupid ATM fees. Last one I paid? Three bucks. That was MY money. If I’d bothered to plan better, I could’ve NEATLY avoided it.

3) Don’t waste your money playing the Lotto – sure it sounds great: you pay a couple of bucks for the opportunity to win millions of dollars. Who wouldn’t want to become an overnight millionaire? (answer: me, but that’s just because I’m afraid of the Lottery Curse). Chances of winning the Lotto? Smaller than the chances you’d get struck by lightening tomorrow. The Lottery is NOT something you want to spend your money on.

4) Don’t waste your money on a new phone right before the newER new phone is coming out (yes, iPhone 5, I’m talking to you). It’s tempting all, “I have the latest in technology, neener-neener,” but really, that extra money you’re spending now can be saved in a few short weeks, when the current newest phone becomes obsolete. So bite your nails, wait it out, and be sure to negotiate your way into the very best deal on your cell phone ever. Be sure when you buy technology, the next best thing isn’t waiting around the corner.

5) Don’t waste your money on buying lunch. Packing your own lunch sucks. I haven’t enjoyed eating a brown-bagged peanut butter sandwich since… well, ever. There’s no room for doubt, packing your lunch is no fun. Going out to lunch once in awhile with coworkers is okay – everyone has to make the time and money to have some fun – but if you do it every day? You’re blowing wads of money. Don’t waste your money going out to lunch.

6) Don’t waste your money on Blu-Ray Movies (or DVD’s) – with services like Hulu and Netflix around every corner, you don’t need to be spending upwards of 20 bucks a pop to see all those special features unless it’s a movie you KNOW you want to see the extra features for. Movies take up a lot of space that could be better occupied with LESS CLUTTER.



don't waste your money
(this is awesome, by the way – saving trees AND cash)

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What other things can you think of not to waste your money on?