Recession Mama











{September 28, 2009}   Helping My Local Economy

By Katy

Friday night, I came out of a restaurant, and I noticed that my car was gone.  I scanned the street, hoping that I just had a senile moment and had forgotten where I parked my car.  Then, I noticed the sign.

“After 9 p.m., you will be towed!” It said.

towTruck

I looked at my watch.  It was 9:27 p.m.  Aw, crap!  I didn’t even notice that sign when I parked the car.  Why was I so careless?  It’s not like I have a lot of money to burn right now.  Luckily, my fiance had driven his car to the restaurant before me, so he took me to the tow yard.  The lady behind the cage wasn’t too friendly.  I wasn’t angry, but maybe she’s seen a lot of angry people.  She asked for my driver’s license and then told me to go through a gated door to get my car.

“I’ll give you your driver’s license back after you get your car.”  Oooo K…It’s not like I’m going to drive through all of the gates!  So after getting my car down (the tow truck had just dropped it off), I went back to the super friendly lady behind the cage to face my financial fears.

“$207.50.”  What?!?!  Did I hear that correctly?  $207.50?!?!?!  Less than an hour at the pound, and it costs me $207.50 to get my car out?  Wow!!!!  I really did it this time.  Then, when I got back to my car, I noticed I had also gotten a $60 parking ticket!!!  How in the world can they double charge me like this?  $100 already goes to the City of Los Angeles for a “vehicle release fee.”  The $107.50 goes to the tow company.  No wonder they were so eager to tow me!  They’re making over $100 an hour.

Since the weekend is almost over, I am trying my best to look at the bright side.  Otherwise, I might as well slit my wrists and kill myself now.  I’m helping the local L.A. economy.  The city is broke, right?  I’ve now done my part (wayyyy beyond my part, in my opinion) to boost the city’s coffers.  Here’s $160 of my hard-earned money.  You are very welcome.  Now, please don’t come asking me for any more.



By Katy

A lot has happened this last week in the world — one of the worst typhoons in my native Taiwan’s history, hurricanes near Florida, North Korea releasing journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee… and while my fellow recession mamas were mourning the lay-offs of two veteran journalists, I was wrestling and wasting trivial thoughts on…clothes and shopping.

As a little girl, I loved shopping for back to school clothes.  When I turned 15, the ginormous annual September issue of Vogue would serve as my inspirational fashion bible.

Charlize Theron graces Sept 09 cover

Charlize Theron graces Sept 09 cover

I would earmark pages, memorize the new fall colors, and clip out anything I deemed to be too good to stay in the actual magazine.  Now, mind you, I grew up in Texas where most people think big hair is still synonymous with beauty.  But to me, Dallas is home to Neiman-Marcus, the most elegant department store in the world, well at least to my young, impressionable mind.

My obsession for style also came from my beautiful and fashionable mother.  She had a wardrobe that I had hoped to blossom into one day. (I later realized that although I love her style…I had my own distinct fashion sense.) My mother was also a champion shopper.  Not only could she negotiate anything with anybody, she also had exquisite taste.  Just by touch and sight, she can tell you where a particular dress was made and the exact fabrics used to make it.  Such a gift!

barneyssale

Well, last week, Barney’s held its semi-annual warehouse sale in my neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles.  This is a big deal because for the first time in its history, this venerable sales event came East!  The store in Los Angeles is in Beverly Hills, of course, and its annual warehouse sale was always, as far as I remember, held at a hangar at the Santa Monica airport.  And this year, I could actually walk to the warehouse sale, and that’s exactly what I did!  First day of the sale…I walked, OK practically skipped, the 12 or so blocks from my loft in the fashion district all the way to the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Once I got there, I started at the beginning.  I had all day, you see, so I really took my time.  I perused every rack, starting in the couture sections and found a delicious plum colored Prada cashmere v-neck sweater, a Dolce tan and black lingerie top, a Stella McCartney tan pencil skirt to match, and a colorful Pucci maxi dress.  I then scanned the tables for a pair of James Jeans in my size and made sure I didn’t need any of the shoes that were displayed in disarray.  If you’ve ever been to a sample sale, you’ll know what comes next.  I staked out a rack next to a full-length mirror.  I put all of my clothes on one side, and I started trying on everything over my thin t-shirt and shorts.  What didn’t fit or didn’t look right got discarded to the other side of the rack.  What I ended up with was the plum-colored Prada and the jeans.  I made a quick decision to discard the jeans.  I have a lot of designer jeans, and this one needed hemming.  I don’t have the time nor the money to hem jeans at this point.  Now, what to do about the Prada sweater?  It would go with everything!  It fit me like a glove.  It was so well made in Italy.  And isn’t purple THE color for this Fall?  Then, I looked the price tag.  Originally, the sweater costs $895.  It was on sale for $250.  Now, that’s quite a mark-down, and in better times…I would never have even hesitated.  But I did.  I thought about how many cashmere sweaters I’ve seen at J Crew or Banana Republic that were not even $250 at the regular price.  Why was I going to buy a sweater for $250?  Was it just because it was Prada?  That didn’t make any sense.  I’m not a label-whore.  I like clothes that are well made and that will last and not go out of style…so this did fit into those categories.  But $250 for a sweater?  In this recession?  No, thank you.  So I put everything back, and I walked out into the sunshine and bought myself a fat-free yogurt instead.

Now the story does not end there.

This week, my mom and I went to the Carolina Herrera Bridal Sample Sale.  Everything was marked down 30%-70%.  We didn’t find anything we loved, so we went to…where else?  Neiman’s in Beverly Hills.  While there, my mom found a Chanel bag she really, really liked.  I also thought it fit her perfectly.  It was $2870, and although I think that’s outrageous for a handbag, she told me that it was quite reasonable.  She checked out this bag for what seemed to be hours!  She dumped all of her personal belongings from her current Chanel bag to the new one.  She walked around with it.  She was on the verge of buying it.  And then, something miraculous happened.  After finding out that we were from Taiwan, the sales lady told us how sorry she was to hear about the typhoon and the deaths.  My mom said, “Oh I think that’s the very reason why I should not buy this purse.  It wouldn’t be right.”  She put the bag on hold (just in case, I guess), and we walked out without buying anything at all.

I also spent some time this week with a dear friend of mine.  She also loved to shop, and she was also great at finding deals.  And she told me, “This recession was the best thing to have happened to people like us.  Before this recession, we never thought something like this could happen.”  Oh so true.  Now, we think twice before buying something nice.  OK a bit corny, but I’ve been watching “Mad Men,” so give me a break if some of the 1950’s corn-ball sensibility rubbed off on me.  And yes, I’m completely obsessed with the clothes on this brilliant TV series!



{May 17, 2009}   GUEST POST: Saving Greens

Katy sez: My friend Jennifer is a comedian/writer in Los Angeles. This is how she describes herself:

Jennifer Eolin started being creative at the tender age of 6 months. A victim of nepotism, her Dad cast her in a local grocery store commercial. Her part was easy. Just ride in the shopping cart and look ordinary. Jennifer instead made the choice to fall out of her seat and hit her head, thus halting production and pulling focus from the lead actress (who happened to be her mother). A diva was born.

Speaking of grocery stores…Jennifer wrote about a product that would help all of us save some green on her blog, The New Old Biddy.

I asked her to re-purpose it for us here.

This would make Grandma very proud…by Jennifer Eolin:

My grandmother was a whiz-bang at memorizing produce prices. She’d read the newspaper and then you could quiz her about the price of any given vegetable or fruit at the different grocery stores in the area and she would answer with 99.9% accuracy. And to compound this, if lettuce was 5 cents cheaper a head in the next town over, she’d make Grandpa drive their Cadillac over there so she could buy it there. Even if it was the only thing she had to get there, “Broccoli is 2 cents cheaper at Wegman’s!” (We dared not tell them that they probably lost their savings in gas… It was quieter that way.) So while my grandmother would plan her whole day around her produce purchases, I avoided it like Fox News avoids the truth (HEY-OO!). Not because of taste (except for cauliflower – blech!), but because I live alone and the stuff goes bad within 2 days of purchase. And I constantly fall into the trap of, “Wow, tomatoes look great in the store!” So I buy them. Then the next day I’m all, “Wow, I don’t feel like tomatoes today.” So they stay in the fridge instead of coming to work with me for lunch. Then a few days later I’ll say, “I could go for tomatoes—EWWWW! GA-ROSSS! WHY DOES IT HAVE TWO HEADS?!” And into the trash they go. Along with the money they cost me. Phooey. While I avoid buying produce, I DO buy every As Seen on TV product I can get my hands on. So imagine my happy fists when I saw this little item beckoning me at my local CVS:

Green bagsOH HAPPY DAY!

However, I was wary and kept my happy fists to only two shakes instead of their usual fit. After all, I’d been duped before. I’ve renamed the Sham-Wow the Sham-Bullshit. It doesn’t soak up anything other than my dignity and remaining self esteem. And $19.99. (Stupid hooker beater dude is also a liar. Go figure.) But in a quest to not throw my blueberries away constantly (why does that sound dirty?!), I bought Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags (and why does that sound even dirtier??). And low and behold…. THEY WORK. Honestly, they do. I have tomatoes that are over a week old from Trader Joe’s (you know, the kind that you buy and they are already half rotten by the time you get them home). I have week old blueberries that haven’t shriveled up like Papa Smurf’s man-junk yet. I have bell peppers and grapes that are still edible and don’t look like biology experiments! IT’S A MODERN MIRACLE!!! These bags WORK! So in honor of my grandma, I’m passing along my good find in hopes that Debbie Meyer’s Green bags will help keep your produce happy and non-mulchy. But if you drive to the next town to save five cents, I’m sorry, but you’re on your own as I don’t know an As Seen on TV product that will help you there. I’ll just send you the five cents, how ’bout that?



By Katy

Barney's New York in Los Angeles, CA

Barney's New York in Los Angeles, CA

In the last two weeks, I’ve gone to several shopping places in Los Angeles. I’ve been to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and its less famous, but still fabulous shopping destinations off of Rodeo, like Barney’s New York. I’ve also eaten at Barney’s Greengrass, and it was packed for lunch! Of course, Barney’s New York is a pretty swanky boutique department store in the infamous 90210 zip and “Greengrass” is its upscale deli/diner, on the penthouse floor, so maybe the recession hasn’t really affected those who “lunch” there. But I also went to a couple of different malls lately and they were packed too!

Today, I went to the Century City Shopping Center for lunch. They have one of the nicest food courts I’ve ever seen:

photo courtesy of www.bunrab.com

photo courtesy of http://www.bunrab.com

Believe me, this photo does not do it justice. You have to see it for yourself! And this photo was not taken today at the mall because if it were, it would be 10 times more crowded! My TV crew and I could not find parking spots for a good 15-20 minutes. I couldn’t believe that every parking space was filled! We had to park on the 2nd underground level, and in my many, many, many trips to this shopping center…I have never, ever had to park on the 2nd underground level.

But what does this all mean? I mean it’s not scientific, by any means. All I’m saying is…in Los Angeles at area malls and restaurants, I’ve started to see a little bit more movement, a little bit more spending, a little bit more splurging like the Los Angeles I’ve always known, and personally, I’m extremely happy and excited about it.

And if you’re still feeling the pinch of this recession like most of us are, here’s a coupon for a free meal.



By Katy

Beverly Hills Courthouse

Beverly Hills Courthouse

After I wrote about recession-proofing a marriage and, more specifically recession-proofing a wedding…I got a lot of mixed reactions. So I sent some e-mails to wedding vendors who were looking to get my business (and had e-mailed me first). I told them that I was possibly considering getting married next year, instead of this year because of the recession and that I wanted to have more money saved up. I was hoping for a few e-mails offering me some deals. But instead, here’s a more typical response from the ones I got.

“I do understand your dilemma that you posted at the bottom, about whether or not to get married this year and the deals. Something else to keep in mind – a lot of properties go through annual pricing review and prices often increase a bit at the beginning of each new year. Mostly to go along with the general increase of the cost of goods.”

Yikes! That’s obviously what I don’t want. Another “vendor” who had spammed me with e-mails had this to say about a wedding…

“Katy, with homes prices finally within reach, interest rates at 4.5%, $8,000 buyers tax credit and our cash back rebate of thousands of dollars – why not elope or at least modify wedding costs – and set a goal to buy a home together sooner? I invite you and your fiance to meet with us for a free homebuying plan.”

I don’t know how he got my e-mail, but dude, I already own a home…an awesome loft in downtown Los Angeles. (If you actually read this blog like I asked you too, you would know that.) On the other hand, eloping IS something I’ve considered. (Although, my mother might not like that, since I’m her only daughter and the ONLY one of my generation to get married.) And that’s kind of how another wedding vendor felt about the possibility of my fiancé and I eloping:

“I cannot tell you how many times I hear that and I understand your feelings. It’s a personal preference if you want pictures with Elvis or pictures with your flower girl…? We have a great location that can’t compare to the desert – we’re the beach! Great weather, beautiful sunsets – what more could you ask for! Let me know if I can help and we’ll see if we can pull something together for you.”

Hmmm…what does the desert have anything to do with it? And to be honest, I like Elvis better than flower girls. I won’t be having any of those in my wedding. If I elope, it will be at the Beverly Hills Courthouse. And I think I can safely say that Elvis has definitely left that building.



{April 13, 2009}   Recession Re-invention
The view from the roof of my loft

The view from the roof of my loft

Since Heather, Carla, and I launched this blog, officially, a week ago, I’ve gotten some questions and concerns about my work status. (Even my own mother has said she didn’t realize how many times I’ve been laid off and how incredibly depressing it is!) Well, let me assure everyone that I am working on a show, and I am not here to depress anyone. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m hoping to help and get help with living WELL in this recession.

I want to first explain that I have only been laid off (fo realz) once (the news job in D.C). But I’ve had to look for a new job about 11 times in the last five years. That’s because TV shows end. If I’m lucky, I’ll work on a show for an entire season or two because that show is doing well and has gotten picked up for an extra season . If I’m not lucky, or if I’m just working on a pilot, that show will end in a month or two. Believe it or not, even though I’ve had to look for work 11 times, I’ve only been out of work for only 3 or 4 months in the last five years.

Here’s what I’ve learned from constantly changing jobs:

  • I really enjoy it, and it’s not for everyone. I used to be commitment-phobic. Now, when other people (usually guys) say they’re commitment-phobic, they’re usually telling a girl that they’re not that into them. For me, from the ages of 22-30, I couldn’t commit to cities, jobs, OR boyfriends. During those eight years, I moved NINE times, lived in 8 different cities, and had maybe 8 boyfriends (well… I don’t know if I’d quite call them boyfriends but there I go again with not really committing to them). Well, you get the point. Being a freelance producer fits my personality to a tee. I am a super hard worker, but I do get bored easily. As a TV producer, I am never bored. I’m doing something different every single day. TV is perfect for the A.D.D. personality. And… since I am freelance, I always have the option of moving on to the next show. Now, Fiance, if you’re reading this… I am not commitment-phobic anymore. I have lived in Los Angeles for six years now, and I actually do want stability. That’s why I bought a loft a year ago. Having a mortgage is a BIG responsibility and makes me want to have more of a full-time job… but this is also why I’ve saved up a year’s worth of expenses and why I’m thinking of postponing the wedding. It’s also why I’ve paid off my credit card debts awhile ago, which takes me to the second thing I’ve learned…

  • You do need an emergency savings and not rely on credit cards. It’s too difficult to pay off those cards once you’re working again. And c’mon, when you’re working… don’t you want every penny to belong to you and not to some credit card company? The interest on those cards add up pretty quickly. If you charged a burger on a credit card and didn’t pay off that card for a year…you’ll end up paying something like $100 for that burger! Better be the BEST burger in the world, huh? (If you’re trying to get rid of c.c. debt, read my last post or check out Suze Orman’s site. She has a great system that helped me too.)

  • Network. It may seem like an easy thing to say, but since I’ve started working in entertainment, I have never gotten a job without being recommended by someone else. I’ve never just applied for a position and gotten it. I’ve landed a couple of interviews without knowing anyone, but eventually, they seem to just go with someone they know. And just in case you were wondering, networking goes both ways. If someone helps me, I’m more than likely to help them. I also love having mentors, and I love mentoring. But I don’t always know when someone needs a job so it’s important to put it out there. It’s really no shame to be out of work. Work is work. It shouldn’t be who you are. And if you think you’re not good at networking, take another look at how you network. It’s about establishing relationships, not perfecting small talk or winning a popularity contest. I like to network with good people whom I’d like to be friends with anyway, which makes it easy to ask if they want to go to lunch, have a drink, or send a resume to their boss.

  • Re-invention. This recession, for me, is all about re-invention. Madonna is the mother of re-invention, and it’s really the reason why she still sells out stadiums. With my first lay-off as a national radio news anchor, I had to figure out what I really wanted to do. Within the last five years and a dozen jobs later, I’ve had to learn and adapt to new technology and ways of thinking. I am learning all of the time, and reinventing ways of becoming a better, more efficient producer/writer. Now, I have also never understood people who complain about their jobs. I’ve always thought that if you really hated your job, you should quit. If you were laid off from a job you hated anyway, I think this is the perfect opportunity to find what you truly love and what you are truly meant to do with your life. It’s such a cliche by now that it’s always the most fulfilling to have a job that you would do for free…but it’s so true. Think of this lay-off as a blessing. If you have kids, you can now spend more time with them. If you’ve always wanted to be a stained-glass maker, you can learn how! I have a friend who went to massage school when she thought she was getting laid off because it’s something she’d always wanted to do. Several friends applied to law school, and another friend is starting her own business. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do. What do other people tell you you’re really good at? Write down your thoughts, dreams, fears, and goals. Put together a game plan, a business proposal, or just go for it. I’m trying it out, and I believe my dream and yours will all come true.



{April 6, 2009}   Meet Katy

katyI’ve lived this recession over and over since 2003. OK you’re asking yourself…2003? Wasn’t that when the economy was still strong? How in the world could I have lived this recession already? Well, I’ve been out of a job 11 times in a span of five years! Let me explain. I get paid to be a television producer in Los Angeles. Most of the time, I work freelance gigs, which means I’m working two to three months on a project and then moving on. Sometimes, the production company or television network will pay to give me benefits, and I’m considered “full-time” or “staff” but that never guarantees I’ll have a job for any specific amount of time. The show I’m working on could get canceled or not get “picked up” for another season. So for anyone who’s ever been laid off even once, I get it! I’ve seen the same look of pity amongst my friends and family for 5 years now! Every couple of months, when a show ends, all I hear is…”Oh, no! You’re out of a job again?!” I know that sense of uncertainty, wondering if I’ll ever work again?! But when I land another gig in a week or two, I know I’ll hear people either say, “Congratulations!” or that all too familiar look that tells me, “Welcome back. You’re one of us again.”



et cetera