Wake Up and Smell the Stupidity

Wax Collage

Also the scented wax coffee blends, but more on those in a second.

In my end-of-the-month spending assessment for March, I indicated that I hadn’t yet worked up the nerve to address the spend-a-thon I enthusiastically undertook in 2017 in any real detail.  Frankly, I was scared.  It’s difficult to confront hard and unflattering financial truths, isn’t it?  But Mr. Finger Candy and I recently made some smarter-than-usual financial decisions, and they have paid off in our ability to hopefully very soon book a second, interim Disney vacation between now and our bought-and-paid-for trip at the end of the year.  We’re even looking into becoming annual passholders.  This would have been completely incomprehensible this time last year for a wealth of reasons, including our actual wealth – hard to go on lots of fun Disney vacations when every cent you’ve got (and plenty of those you haven’t) goes into wax or nail polish or streamable media or video games.

So I took the plunge, and the total as represented through my PayPal account alone was startling – over $5,000 Canadian.  Feel free to let your jaw rest there on the floor for a bit – mine certainly took a while to rejoin the rest of my wide open mouth.  Distressingly enough, that $5,000 doesn’t even represent the purchases I made on a credit card, or the almost vulgar amount of shipping and customs fees I paid out of pocket.  Those alone could total in the thousands.

So yes, this was a hugely unflattering look into last year’s apparent total abdication of financial responsibility, a state we’re only now emerging from thanks to a lot of “sacrifice” and daily diligence.  But it was also a necessary peek behind the curtain, where of course there was a wizard furiously pulling the levers, a nasty little gremlin in dinky short pants who encouraged us to replace life with things.  Turns out, neither one of us was particularly enjoying the gremlin’s not-so-sage counsel, which is the moment we decided to really turn things around.

I love my nail polish and my scented wax and Mr. Finger Candy loves his Apple purchases and his GTA DLC, but I think life experiences, as well as the comforting assurance that your finances are not a total clusterbiff, are more important to us now.  God, getting old can be such a drag, suddenly you’ve got to be all responsible and shit. 😉

As always, some of that responsibility is manifested in the mantra of “Don’t buy more; just use what you’ve got.”  I’ve been following this sage advice for a while now, picking up books that have been sitting on the shelf for years, watching movies that have been sitting on the shelf for even longer and melting through my formerly extensive collection of scented wax.  At the beginning of all of this, I estimated that I probably had enough wax on hand to keep me going for eight or nine months.  Nine months may have been a bit of a reach, but eight is looking doable.  I very much hope the end coincides with a really fantastic Rosegirls sale, or a SMT customs opening.  My Mini Melter cupboard is beginning to run bare (not an actual cupboard; I didn’t go that hog wild!)

And the cupboard is running bare because I have been going nuts on the Mini Melter blends, conjuring up all sorts of fun creations in an effort to not deplete any one scent category completely.  Which didn’t stop me from going further nutso on the coffee blends this month – apparently I was really feelin’ the java!  Here are some of the more successful scent blends I came up with, in case you too feel like getting experimental with your scented caffeine.

Absolute Coffee/Marshmallow Smoothie/Monster Cookie/Raspberry Sauce

Wax 3.1

Starting with a tried and true favourite, we have the pleasant bitterness of Absolute Coffee as set against warm brown sugar cookies, fluffy marshmallow cream and tangy, ultra fruity raspberry drizzle.  Egads, this is a yummy blend!  You’ll note that save for one bakery-heavy combination, everything I’ve highlighted here is a fruit-and-coffee combo.  Very strange, as I generally loathe flavoured coffee, particularly the ones that are supposed to smell like fruit (my husband used to love the stuff; I still kept him.) 😉

Blackberry/Vanilla Hazelnut Latte

Wax 2.1

This juicy, fruity treat is equally delicious when paired with scrumptious Marshmallow Smoothie, but I’m down to my last three pieces of my Precious, so I must conserve.  But this blend doesn’t suffer from a lack of creaminess; there’s plenty of that provided by the rich Vanilla Hazelnut Latte, which holds its own nicely against the super juicy Blackberry.

Royal Sugar Cookie/Snickerdoodle Latte/Waffle Cone

Wax 4.1

Next up we have what is probably my least favourite of the four blends, and that’s because I’ve never been fond of Snickerdoodle Latte, the scent that forms the coffee base of this sweet bakery treat.  To me, it’s always smelled very sweet, very powdery and very phony – like Swiss Miss instant coffee mix.  It fared a little better paired alongside buttery Royal Sugar Cookie and toasty, sugary Waffle Cone, but it’ll never be a favourite.

Absolute Coffee/Apple Clove Butter/Marshmallow Smoothie/Monster Cookie

Wax 1.1

Finally, saving perhaps the very best for last, we have what should be an incongruous mix of bracingly strong coffee, warm and creamy bakery and spiced apples?  Sounds abhorrent, smells positively delicious, like a warm, cakey apple fritter.  It’s the closest thing to a total dupe of a favourite Sniff My Tarts custom – very fortunate, as I’m running low on that gem as well.  Fruit and coffee – seriously, who knew?!

Next month/this month?  More of the same financial goodness and cents sensibility, only this time accompanied by slightly fewer coffee-based blends – I’m in danger of running out!  Perhaps an “Anything but Marshmallow” (and Coffee!) challenge would stretch my blending legs, hmm? 🙂

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Breaking the Financial Fast

VCS Melted Wax

Last month, during my casual, end-of-month assessment of my formerly getting-to-be-concerning financial habits, I noted that after three solid months of abstaining from any purchases that don’t qualify as the necessities of this (good and kind of spoiled) life, I was actually starting to have difficulties parting with my hard-earned funds.  As in I really didn’t want to, even for the necessities.  Becoming unnecessarily tightfisted, I was!

And so for April, my birthday month, I vowed to loosen the purse strings a little, not just in the procurement of some fun birthday gifts, but also to remind myself that so long as you keep a critical eye trained to your spending habits (like Mad Eye Moody’s, only it susses out boneheaded money mistakes) you can occasionally treat yourself, even while pursuing other financial goals.

Of course, this almost zen-like approach to finances has been made all the easier this month by a major influx of parentally-provided birthday funds – hard to be bitchy about the things I’d like to buy when I’ve been given the means to do just that.  And do that I most certainly have, nabbing a pile of new clothes from a favourite online retailer during a well-timed sale, as well as some nice new nail polish and two streamed seasons of a favourite show (Misfits seasons 1 and 2, and I’m actually kind of miffed about it because in the version I purchased, at least half of the original songs have been swapped out for what I’m assuming are less copyright-protected tunes.  Misfits is a show with a very strong, very specific (mostly electronic and Brit Pop) musical presence, and these amendments change the entire tone of the program.  In hindsight, that’s money I very much wish I had not parted with.)

Gift from Jay

This month I continued making good progress towards melting down my scented wax stash, although there were some top-up additions courtesy of a lovely gift from my blogging buddy Jay of The Scented Library.  It was in this scrumptious-smelling and completely unexpected package that I found April’s pick for favourite melted wax, an entire freaking loaf of one of Vintage Chic Scents’ marshmallowy Jackie O-based blends!  VCS, an insanely popular indie vendor, has some of the hardest wax to get your hands on.  They also don’t ship to Canada.  As such, I have always been quite lacking in the VCS department – but not any more!  My house is gonna smell like cake for days.  Plus it’s just so stinkin’ pretty with those delicate little rose inlays that shatter apart when you slice into it.  Thanks again and again, Jay – you’s good people. 🙂

VCS Loaf 1

Keep Climbing That Mountain

I experienced both the pros and cons of my low buy-turned-no buy this month when I first found myself feeling unflatteringly resentful about all of the things other people have been buying and I have not, and then wildly proud that because of our commitment to cutting back on unnecessary discretionary spending, we have already been able to pay for half of our now-booked Disney anniversary trip!  I’m so proud of this accomplishment, and it came about at just the right moment, precisely as our joint motivation was really beginning to wane.  Being financially virtuous is kind of a pain in the arse, and it’s no fun abstaining from the fun things in life, even with the promise of even funner things in the future.  So quite literally being able to put my money where my mouth is is a great feeling indeed. 🙂

We're goin back to Disney!

Other positives to this unintended no buy of a low buy?  Learning to identify other poor or lacking financial habits outside of the area of discretionary spending.  That’s one spending foe I thankfully seem to have vanquished – I haven’t made a wax purchase in over three months, and I doubt I’ve spent more than $75 on the non-essentials of life during that time either.  And as for the essentials, I’ve now begun paying a directed mind to them, looking for ways to maximize our hard-earned money.  But man, being virtuous truly sucks, and I miss the little rush that accompanies a new purchase.

However – and this would be another unintended positive – I don’t miss coughing up for exorbitant shipping fees on my online purchases.  International shipping fees are just beastly, and I can’t bring myself, even now with the benefit of hindsight and some gained wisdom, to make a full accounting of the shipping and customs fees I paid in 2017.  I have a feeling the number is terrifying.  And while we’re on the subject, I absolutely do not miss dealing with the always-clumsy postal system, nor do I miss guiltily breaking down reams of cardboard boxes to sneak out in stages so my neighbours don’t think I’m some sort of weird box hoarder (a candle hoarder, sure, but cardboard?  Never!)

And as I have noted the past three months running, a wonderful positive of the no buy-low buy is that I’m actually using up that which I did buy; my once fit-to-bursting stores are now merely bursting. 😉 And as I promised scent highlights, here’s one from this month – Rosegirls’ Mini Melters in the comfortingly cozy blend of Birthday Cake, Marshmallow Smoothie and Vanilla Bean Noel.  I actually used to really dislike Vanilla Bean Noel; there’s a musky note to it that does not always play well with some of the juicy fruit and berry scents I prefer.  But it is so darn scrumptious on its own, and it’s amazing in combination with fluffy marshmallow and rich, frosted cake.  This is a simple, “warm hug” kind of a scent – it just makes you feel cared for and comfortable.  Not bad work from a few hunks of scented wax!

VBN

Next month I really hope to find a bit of balance in my spending habits.  As in, I should not feel absolutely ridden with guilt because we ate out once in the past month.  Life happens and money needs to be spent – now I just need to learn to find a happy medium between the two states.  To another month of continued positive financial growth!

Ducking Debt

Duck 1

I indicated at the end of January that in an effort to continue some positive, newly developed financial habits, I’d be aiming to do an assessment of my progress at the end of each month.  So here I am, ready and waiting, eagerly awaiting my grade!  Such a little brown-noser, I know (I noted the other day that I’m a J-school grad; you never seen ANYONE grade grub in your life like a journalism student, trust.)

And I know I’m far from the most unbiased moderator on the subject, but I’ll go ahead and give myself an A++, because we killin’ it.  February was another unintended no buy of a low buy for both my husband and I.  Once again, we probably spent just $100 on the non-essentials of life between the two of us.  We’ve actually kind of turned it into a game – how long can you go without spending money?  No, really, how long can you go without purchasing something?  I think you’d be surprised at how quickly just a wee something every day adds up.  Or the problem I think we all encounter, which is we’re out picking up that wee something, and oh! while we’re out and about, we might as well stop in here, and while we’re in here, we should really grab this thing, and while we’re getting this thing, we should add this and…it’s seriously so much easier just to stay in and use that which you already have at hand!

Speaking of, another part of my accountability report was to make note of any already-owned items I finally used and enjoyed.  I made good progress melting through my wax stash this month, and by not adding to it (not hard; there actually wasn’t a single release that called to me in February) I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.  Or the bottom of the drawer in the wax cupboard.

Duck 3

The wax hit of February was this pre-decapitation duck from The Melting Duck in Briarcliff, a very Fall-friendly blend of pumpkin, vanilla and marshmallow.  Demented Ducks, I think they’re actually called, but this one was insolent and kept leering at me with that one purple eye, so I off’d his head.  Still didn’t stop him from staring unnervingly at me from the bottom of my warmer as he melted into a pumpkin-scented puddle.  Like, ever get that feeling you’re being watched by your wax?  No, just me?

Duck 2

Please join me next month when I will hopefully continue to have good news for you on the spend less, use more front.  To our continued strength in the face of so much inviting temptation. 🙂

Dollars and Scents

Customs Collage

Back at the beginning of the year I indicated that owing to an overabundance of stuff and an underabundance of life, I was going to attempt to curb my spending in an effort to not only stem the seemingly endless tide of scented wax (and other treatsie-type items) slowly overtaking my home, but to also put those “found” funds towards another far-more-important-to-me experience, namely another end-of-year trip to Disney World.

People call these cut-er-off regimes “no buys” or “low buys.”  I’m not particularly fond of the no buy approach – most tend to come at them as they would a diet (“I’ll start on Monday!”) and along with that comes a nearly identical rate of failure.  It’s hard to turn off years of poor shopping and hoarding behaviour all at once – if it was easy, you probably wouldn’t have to institute a no buy in the first place, and you definitely wouldn’t be in danger of being buried alive by your candle collection.

Low buys are a far more reasonable approach to financial management and stuff assessment, as they really allow you to examine your shopping habits on a bit of a forensic level.  Absent that so-tempting-to-walk-right-across-it no buy line in the sand, is this really how you want to spend your budgeted mad money for the month?  Don’t you already have this exact candle, plus three backups in the closet?  Do you even have room to store this stuff?  And even if the answer to all of those questions is yes, yes and no, I ran out of room two years ago, at least you’re giving a bit of thought to your purchases and where they fit into the scheme of both your life and your budget.  I just find it easier to operate within the confines of a reasonable framework than to cut myself off completely – the raze-the-earth approach rarely works in the long-term, often setting off an avalanche of “zero hour” purchases that badly undermine your efforts before you’ve even begun.

All that to say I’ve been on an unofficial low buy since the beginning of the year.  And when it comes to scented wax, one of my favourite treat-myself things, I haven’t placed any orders since November of last year.  So there’s nothing coming in, although there’s plenty going out – the flip side of the low buy coin is use-up-what-you-did-buy.  I’ve been diligently melting through my wax every day, and I wager I have enough there to keep me going for the next eight or nine months.

But I’ve been doing so well (correction: we have been doing so well; Mr. Finger Candy and I are prioritizing the crap out of this trip!) that I thought it might be of some benefit to share my progress on a monthly basis.  Perhaps you’ll draw some inspiration from my attempts to whittle down my wax and be a bit more mindful of my spending in the first place.  Also, this will hold me accountable to my low buy; there’s no slacking when the blogiverse is watching!

Without getting into specific numbers, I did very, very well this January, purchasing absolutely nothing of a discretionary nature.  Seriously, not a thing.  That’s ever so slightly less impressive when you remember that I am coming off a rather pricey Christmastime trip to Disney where I treated myself just fine, but all the same, I avoided FOUR pre-orders from favourite wax vendors, as well as about a half dozen movies I’d like to purchase and some DLC updates to favourite video games.  I estimate that my husband and I spent just $50 this month between the two of us on the non-essentials of life, a trend I’d like to continue for as long as it possibly can.  Building up a bit of momentum in the early stages of anything is key, let alone when you’re trying to correct years of cruddy financial behaviour, and marking off those huge initial strides is super motivating.

I also like that the other side of the low buy (the “use it already!” buy) forces you to actually use the things you’ve already bought.  So much of this fragrance and beauty and home decor stuff is limited edition, and the urge to stock up on and hoard the things you know you’ll never be able to buy again can be quite overwhelming.  But there’s really something to be said for actually using the things you bought, and deriving every bit of enjoyment from them while they’re in your possession.  Somewhere Tyler Durden has a bullshit, machismo-laden take on the things you own owning you, but who needs that walking set of abs anyways? 😉

This will also provide me with a great opportunity to share with you any beauty hits or scent slam dunks I discover over the course of the month – you just never know what gems might be languishing in storage.  Gems such as this custom loaf and half-and-half pie I nabbed from Sniff My Tarts during a quickie Thanksgiving sale.  All three are AWESOME – I may just be getting the hang of this custom blending thing. 🙂

Apple Cider Latte/Ice Cream Scoop Bread/Vanilla Waffle Cone

Apple Cider Latte Custom

I was super pleased with all three of these scents when I received them a la carte in one of last year’s customs orders.  Apple Cider Latte is the absolute ideal of an apple fragrance – crisp, juicy, tart, sweet and lightly, slightly spiced.  Coffeephobes need not turn up their noses at this wonderful fragrance either – that latte note is a deceptive one, hovering lightly in the background, providing just the barest hint of bitter to support all that sweet.  In combination with Ice Cream Scoop Bread and Vanilla Waffle Cone (a favourite “base blend” of mine that I like to pair with juicy fruits such as blackberries) it’s a total slam dunk – I think it smells EXACTLY like a warm, cakey apple fritter.  And now I want an apple fritter!

Mango Sorbet/Coconut Cream Pie/Vanilla Waffle Cone

Mango Sorbet Custom Pie

Vanilla Waffle Cone makes another appearance in this fantastic, sunny blend, which I created during my first customs order last year or maybe even the year before.  I’m very nearly finished that gorgeous decorated sheet cake, so it was time to re-up my stores of a fabulously fragranced favourite.  A scrumptious, fruity, creamy treat.  Holy gosh, is this blend ever yummy!  The only scent in my years of custom blending that I’ve seen fit to duplicate.

Starbucks Vanilla Latte/Vanilla Butter Fudge

Coffee Custom Loaf

And finally, one for Mr. Finger Candy, who loves coffee in all its varied forms (we stood in line for half an hour on Christmas Day at the Main Street Starbucks in the Magic Kingdom so he could get a keg-sized mega cold brew, the same keg-sized, apparently open-topped mega cold brew that later denied us entry to the People Mover after we had waited in line for half an hour for it as well.  WHAT THE HELL, MAN?!)  Hmm, I’m suddenly wondering if my husband even deserves such an adorable little loaf! 😉 I’m not totally sold on coffee scents, but this is a nice one.  SMT’s Starbucks Vanilla Latte fragrance is seriously decent, bearing none of the acidic bitterness common to coffee blends.  Nor does it smell like one of those appallingly powdery Swiss Miss concoctions – nothing here but a lovely creamed coffee scent, not too sharp, nor too milky.  And now I want a latte.

And with that, I close out January.  I’m proud of myself for sticking to my spending guns (again, proud of us) in the face of so much post-holiday temptation.  But I’ve got my eye on a much larger, hopefully more fulfilling, prize, the mere thought of which takes a lot of the sting out of abstaining from my favourite things.  Please join me again at the end of next month, when I hopefully have continued good news for you on the low buy front.  Until then, let us all go out and use the things that bring us happiness, and enjoy them for no more complicated a reason than simply because we can.