We SAID: Ready… Set… SHOP!

Staff Writer

It seems like the Holiday Shopping Season comes earlier every year. No sooner do Halloween decorations come down… Christmas lights go up. Thanksgiving is passed over as little more than the ultimate sit down dinner; and long before Black Friday, holidayshoppingshoppers are already out and about scouring for the best holiday bargains.

What you need to know this year is that there is no overstock. Retailers ordered less than in previous years, so there’s less of a chance for blowout sales so stores can dump overstock. Instead, sales will focus more on promotions, gifts with purchase, free shipping and limited edition items.

If you’re looking for toys… take your time. Experts say that most toys (including electronics) don’t really hit the sale section until after Black Friday. That’s the best time to get all of the holiday shopping done for the kids or kids-at-heart in your life.

Ditto for clothing. The longer you wait, the cheaper clothing is likely to get. Right now, retailers are rolling out specialty holiday apparel, suited to the office party or night out on the holidayshopping2town. While there are some promotional sales, clothing won’t really get cheap until mid to late December. So if you want to score the perfect NYE party get-up at the last minute… remember that fabulous deals come to those who wait.

Free shipping is a big deal this time of year, and online retailers are jostling for the best strategy to capture the most sales. If you’re not a fan of holiday shopping crowds and prefer to most of your business online, now is the time to score hefty (both in weight and price) items and take advantage of getting it delivered at no additional charge.

No matter what you do, set a budget. Sales and bargains aside, nothing quite says ‘Happy Holidays’ like a few extra dollars to carry into the New Year.

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We SAID: Autumn Money Matters

Staff Writer

The month of September is an annual indicator of change on multiple levels. Kids go back to school, adults go back to work. Vacation season ends and the majority batten down the literal and financial hatches to prepare for the coming winter. September is also the perfect time to revisit your spending habits, and adjust to meet your 2015 goals.

autumnmoneymattersOn average, consumers spend more during the summer months than during the winter, even with the addition of Christmas. Beyond travel and dining out, the cost of keeping cool at home can quickly add up, particularly in hotter parts of the country.

Experts advise taking a hard look at your summer spending, to determine exactly how much you’ll need to adjust to afford the holidays and meet your annual financial goals. As you crunch the numbers, rank your debt by amount, from the highest to the lowest.  Your credit card and store card debt would be first, followed by your line of credit, and then any personal loans.

Prioritize your debt by due date, and be prepared to negotiate if you find yourself stuck between a deadline and a deficient amount of available funds. Tap into potential money pits like monthly subscriptions or memberships to services or places that you don’t frequent enough to warrant the cost.

Once you’ve plugged any immediate financial leaks, start planning ahead. If you  haven’t already, start building a holiday fund. Dedicate a small amount daily or weekly (even as little as $5) to stack a nice bundle for seasonal spending. Build a hard-line budget for regular monthly expenses to carry you through the end of the year, and commit to starting the new year with a surplus from which to set your resolutions. A little bit of planning can go a long way to keeping you healthy, wealthy, and money-wise.

autumnmoneymatters1

We SAID: Hot Commodity

Staff Writer

When it comes to perfume, some of us like to spray and go. And some of us want to mix, mingle, and blend all manner of scents for a bespoke result that speaks to our true selves. For the mixologist in all of us, there is Commodity.

commodity commodity2commodity1  commodity3

The fragrance house combines unusual notes to create blends names like Gold, Paper, Whiskey, and Book (which literally smells like… a book). You’re invited to wear these scents alone or mix them to your hearts desire and make something totally new. And although the scents seem to be separated by gender, it’s hardly more than a suggestion. The fragrances easily translate across gender and occasion lines with the additional spritz of one scent or another.

rain mossmimosawool tea

What sets Commodity apart are the singular scents themselves. There is some particular pleasure in wearing a scent that literally mimics the starchy clean scent of a blank sheet of paper. It reminds us of the film Perfume, where the protagonist tries his best to capture the scent of everything around him.

If you’re not ready to commit to this unusual journey into fragrance, no problem. Commodity offers sample kits to try before you seriously buy. So settle in and take a whiff. You’ll be glad you did.

She SAID: NUDE for Every Body

Shahada Karim

“In order to make money… TRULY make money… you have to do two things: Sell something that makes people’s lives easier, and do it at a price point where people don’t feel like they have to spend too much to get it.”-‘Mr. Wonderful’ (Shark Tank)

The creator of Nubian Skin has introduced something so wonderfully simple and so desperately needed, nubianskin6the true crime is that someone didn’t come up with it sooner and commit to the idea long enough for it to take hold. In a world where brown skin is anything but just… BROWN… Ade Hassan is addressing the need for nude lingerie to flatter every hue.

SAID: They say necessity is the mother of invention. What is your personal experience with shopping for nude lingerie as a woman of color?

Hassan: I wanted a product that I couldn’t find in shops, so I decided to create it.  I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt the same way.

 SAID: When did you decide that enough was enough, and take the plunge to start your own company?

nubianskin1Hassan: I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I’ve always wanted my business to be fashion related. When I took 15 months off work several years ago, I decided to take sewing and pattern cutting classes. I had several ideas in the past, but ultimately this idea truly stuck. It was so essential for me, and I figured it had to be something other women of color would want. 

SAID: Did you find starting your own company challenging? How did you overcome those challenges?

Hassan: The biggest hurdle to overcome at the start was finding a good quality manufacturer.  As a new and small business, a lot of manufacturers simply didn’t respond to queries. Others were looking for incredibly high volumes, so it was tricky.  Once you actually secure a manufacturer, it’s always a battle to manage expectations. 

SAID: People of color come in a myriad of hues, with special shades and undertones that are unique and often individual. How do you adjust for this need when you source fabrics/materials/shades for different skin tones?

Hassan: More than a year’s worth of research went into the color selection.  No fabric will match anyone’s skin-tone exactly. But the aim of having ‘a different kind of nude’ is for women of color to nubianskin5have lingerie and hosiery that looks close to their skin colour and disappears under sheer or light colored clothing.  After a lot of research at make up counters and artists, and testing on countless women, we decided four colors would cover the majority of our target market.

SAID: Where is your largest market to date?

Hassan: Our largest market is in the United States. After that it is the United Kingdom and Europe. We’ve had orders from as far away as Australia.

SAID: Who wears Nubian Skin?

Hassan: Age, income, education isn’t so much the priority.  It’s a woman who cares about how she looks, and how she expresses herself and isn’t willing to settle.  She knows what she wants, and she goes for it.

nubianskin9SAID: How are celebrities responding to Nubian Skin?

Hassan: We received a tweet from Kerry Washington when we first launched. We’ve also had support from Thandie Newton!

SAID: How does one care for your beautiful garments, to ensure they last as long as possible?

Hassan: NEVER put your lingerie in the dryer!

SAID: What does the future hold for Nubian Skin?

Hassan: We have listened to our customers and will be releasing larger back sizes this Spring. Larger cup sizes will be available this Autumn. We also have some exciting products in the pipeline!

My dream is that Nubian Skin becomes a household name.  I can’t wait for the day any woman of color walks into a department store and can pick up a pair of Nubian Skin tights or bra.

She SAID: Co-Wash Goes Commercial

Shahada Karim

Look up ‘co-wash’ on Youtube, and you’ll find thousands of videos dedicated to the subject. The act of washing your hair with conditioner (to retain moisture) is a common practice among those interestedunwash4 in preserving the natural texture and curl pattern of their hair. There have been some attempts to take the practice mainstream… most notably by Wen, but even a slew of celebrity endorsements, infomercials, and an independent salon haven’t really translated in to household recognition and usage.

Plus, there’s a lovely little side-effect of co-washing that seems rarely shared: if you’re going to wash your hair with conditioner, you have to clarify once in a while. Otherwise you eventually end up with a mushy, stinky mess. And funky hair is no fun for anyone.

Enter Unwash, a product line designed to de-mystify the practice of co-washing, and share the benefits of clarifying between washes. The cozy collection offers only three products: A Cleansing Conditioner, A Hydratunwash1ing Mask, and a Clarifying shampoo for those in-between times.

Unwash touts itself as a more ‘civilized’ way to clean and care for hair. The potentially inflammatory choice of words are likely little more than a marketing ploy, since the reality looks more like a sulfate-free creamy cleanser, a standard clarifying shampoo, and a conditioner that goes on thick and full of promise… but rinses a little too clean to qualify for ‘masque’ status.

Most of the ingredients are standard enough. The company goes out of its way to break down every major ingredient in the products. What we found is that there is no magic formula (see Phylia de M) to getting clean and conditoned hair.

One of the most attractive features of the Unwash line is the price point. It hovers firmly in mid range, making it more likely to appeal to textured types of all ages and tax brackets. It’s also fairly easy to use. The lack of extra ‘hair helpers’ makes this line a better choice for low-maintenance wash n’ go types.

It’s also pretty easy to find. We were disappointed to learn that you cannot purchase the products through the website, but there are dozens of locations throughout the United States, according to a handy map on the company site.

We SAID: Fitness 2015

Staff Writer

Every year, millions of people make the resolution to get into better shape. The year usually starts with a bang: gym memberships, fancy workout clothes, the latest fitness gadgets…

It all adds up to a very expensive plan that fewfitness manage to see through to the end.  According to AARP,  Americans spent $22 billion dollars on health and fitness in 2013. What’s worse, many people likely didn’t get their money’s worth, because they didn’t take full advantage of the thing they were paying for. Reaching your fitness goals doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your budget.

DON’T GO ALL IN

For many people it’s ‘Perfect Body or Bust!’ That often means too much… too soon. Instead, start slow. Try out a ‘trial’ gym membership before tethering yourself to a fitness center indefinitely. See if you can stick to a routine before committing to a place that may cost you more than you bargained for in the long run.

-USE APPS

fitness1There are plenty of lower cost phone apps that can deliver even more effective results. Like the gym, the app is only as good as you are committed. But at a fraction of the price, you’re less likely to break the budget while trying to get in shape. Plus using an app means you can workout just about anywhere… from home to the local park or beach. Changing the scenery each time may also help motivate you to keep it up. If you’re not a fan of seeing the same gym/people/equipment with every workout, there’s likely an app for that.fitness3

-PERSONALIZE IT

Identify your personal workout style. Every workout isn’t for every body. You might like the results of HIIT but not the actual exercises. You may not have the patience for yoga. You might find a quick run outdoors more enjoyable than any amount of time on a stair-master or in a weight training class. If you aren’t crazy about an exercise, you’re less likely to stick with it.

-BUILD IT IN

It’s always a good idea to build your workout ‘into’ your daily routine, instead of treating it like an optional addition. Set aside specific times to work out, and mfitenss2ake those times non-negotiable. You don’t negotiate whether you go into work everyday. Treat workouts the same way. The more you ‘normalize’ the idea of getting in physical exercise, the less likely you are to quit the activity. Keep workout times realistic. If you don’t have 2 hours to spend at the gym, find a workout that is just as effective in 30 to 45 minutes.

Working out doesn’t have to be a chore. If you enjoy the activity and consistently build it into your day, you’ll be that much closer to reaching your fitness goals for 2015, and beyond.