Fashion Friday: Cheap and easy Halloween costumes

It’s Halloweekend! While I love Halloween as a holiday – pumpkin everything + candy! – the costume expectations give me anxiety. I don’t want to spend a ton of money on a store-bought costume, but I’m way too much of a procrastinator for a great DIY costume.

So, for those of you out there in my boat, I’ve got a few Halloween costumes you can throw together last minute for almost no money.

Rosie the Riveter

Easy and free halloween costumes

Source: Beyonce’s Instagram

Thank goodness denim shirts are super in this season, because it makes this costume a snap. And if it’s good enough for Beyonce…

What you need:

  • Denim shirt
  • Red bandanna
  • Red lipstick

Lorde

Easy and free halloween costumes

Source: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

This one is for all my fellow girls with crazy, curly hair. Tonight’s the night you get to own it.

What you need:

Inspector Gadget

Easy and free halloween costumes

What you need:

  • Trench coat
  • Fedora
  • Tie
  • Any gadget-y toys you can find around the house (like slinkies). Bonus points if you have a robot claw you can use as a hand

Gym Rat

Free and easy halloween costumes

My personal favorite costumes are ones which involve sneakers. Last year I went as a “gym rat” and have never been so comfortable at a party before.

What you need:

  • Workout clothes (the top and leggings in the picture are from Target)
  • Eyeliner to draw whiskers

Carl from Up

Free and easy halloween costumes

This is a photo of my little brother from last year’s Halloween (hi, Zach!). I think he totally nailed it and was adorable, but I might be a little biased.

What you need:

  • Your dad’s old clothes
  • Big glasses
  • Balloons

Hope you all have a fun (and safe) Halloween!

Money saving ideas: pack lunch and save up to $1,400 per year

Quite a few of you have been asking for some ways to stick to your budgets and save money. Today I’m sharing one easy trick that can save you money and make you healthier. Today’s post is #tbt (throwback Thursday) all the way to elementary school: save money when you pack lunch!

Pack lunch to save money

Sometimes we forget that small changes every day can add up big time. Lunch is one of those potential changes. On a day-to-day basis it doesn’t seem like going out for lunch does anything to your budget. But all of those take-out salads can add up pretty quickly over the course of a year.

Let’s do a quick comparison. Lunch varies depending on where you live, but I’m going to estimate it’s about $10 per day to eat out. If you work in the suburbs it might cost a little less, but you have to pay for the gas to get there, and if you’re in the city it might cost a bit more. So let’s make it easy and stick with $10 per meal.

I used Peapod to calculate the costs of a few typical lunches you could pack. Here’s what it likely costs to pack these lunches:

pack lunch to save money

Again, let’s make it easy and say you average about $4 for every lunch you pack for yourself. That means you save $6 every day you pack lunch! Yes, $6 is not a ton of money on its own, but we’re talking about changes that add up over time.

I get that you have friends and a social life at work, and going out to lunch with people is probably a big piece of that. So I’m not going to suggest you pack lunch every day.

But even if you just switch from eating out to packing your lunch twice a week, you save $12 per week. And assuming you work 47 weeks per year (52 weeks minus 5 weeks for vacations and holidays) that’s $564 per year.

Packing your lunch twice a week? Not a huge deal. Getting an extra $564 dollars? Awesome! That’s the kind of budgeting I love – easy swaps that add up to something much bigger. And if you can pack lunch every day, you’re looking at an extra $1,410 per year.

While I’m pretty good about packing my lunch, I’m also pretty bad about putting thought into it. If I’m lucky and have leftovers I’ll take those, and if not I throw something together in the 2 minutes before I leave in the morning. For those like me, here are some easy (and healthy) lunch ideas I rely on since I can throw them together quickly:

  • Yogurt or cottage cheese with cut-up fruit
  • Leftovers (when I cook dinner I often make a little extra so there’s something to take for lunch the next day)
  • Turkey sandwich
  • A salad with whatever protein and veggies you have in your fridge (my staples: avocado, tuna, or deli turkey)
  • Sweet potato topped with Greek yogurt and cinnamon (can bring this raw – when you get to work stab the potato a fork a few times and microwave it for 7 minutes)

Lunch design is clearly not my forte (honestly, I find lunch to be a very boring meal) so you can read more interesting lunch ideas from Buzzfeed and Shape. Courtney at Sweet Tooth Sweet Life posts a lot of great looking lunches, particularly monster salads, so you can check out her blog for real-world and easy examples.

I also keep a few snacks (like mini bags of microwave popcorn) and a jar of peanut butter at my desk so I have extra things on hand if I realize I didn’t pack enough for lunch. Takes some of the stress out of lunch prep :).

That’s it. Easy but effective budgeting. Do any of you have go-to lunches you’ve been packing? Let me know, would love to hear (and copy…) your ideas!

What Facebook earnings teach us: beware of internet stocks

Happy hump day! This morning’s post will be a bit reminiscent of yesterday’s, but I think it perfectly illustrates the thought I had – reactions to internet stocks make no sense!

Facebook (FB) was probably the biggest name in my preview list that is reporting earnings this week. I expected great earnings out of Facebook, but I avoided holding the stock going into earnings, because as I told you yesterday, I don’t trust the market to have rational reactions to internet stocks.

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg earnings

Zuckerberg is probably not feeling so confident this morning

Facebook reported third quarter earnings last night and the results were good. The social media company reported earnings per share of 43 cents, beating analyst estimates of 40 cents, and revenue of $3.2 billion, over analyst expectations of $3.12 billion.

Unlike Twitter (TWTR), Facebook did well on user growth, with monthly active users up 14% from last year, and mobile monthly active users up 29% from last year. The company’s cash and operating margin are nicely up as well from last year.

You’d expect the market would be happy and Facebook stock would be trading up after the announcement, right? Nope. Instead, Facebook is down almost 6% in pre-market trading.

Now it’s time to ask the same question we asked about Twitter, what happened!?

In this case, I’m a bit stumped. Unlike Twitter, which saw slowing growth in its monthly active users, Facebook reported great growth on all fronts. The one trouble spot is that they project costs to rise 50% next year, as they invest in talent and new revenue streams like video. But as an investor I don’t necessarily view this as a bad thing, because it means they are investing in growth.

Oddly enough, the main issue for the drop is Facebook’s own success to date. Facebook has been so hyped recently, that investors don’t just expect it to do well; they expect it to blow all expectations out of the water. The problem here is not with the company, it’s with the market. It just doesn’t seem to have rational reactions to these types of stocks.

Ultimately, that is why I am extremely wary of social media investments (well, that plus their price to equity ratio is too high). There’s no worse feeling for me than feeling like I’ve perfectly researched a stock, and the market reacts in the exact opposite way it should. There’s no way to predict crazy (as I learned the hard way with Twitter), so I’m staying out of these stocks for the time being.

Twitter meets earnings and drops 12% – what the tweet!?

Oh, Twitter (TWTR). An interesting land where Justin Bieber has more followers than the President of the US. Just as perplexing was the reaction to Twitter’s earnings report last night, which sent the stock spiraling down 11% after hours even when the company did well in earnings last quarter.

Yesterday I shared a preview of this week’s big earnings and economic announcements, which featured quite a few familiar names. Going into the week I was thinking the social media stocks reporting this week (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) would have the most volatile responses to earnings, and Twitter is starting that trend off with a bang.

TWTR

Twitter actually did pretty well last quarter. They reported their first ever profit with earnings per share of 1 cent, the same as analyst estimates. Revenues beat analyst estimates at $361 million vs. the $351 million expected (and doubled over last year). And Twitter’s revenue estimates for next quarter are in line with what analysts expected too.

Overall, nothing too alarming to report. So… why did Twitter’s stock price drop 11%?

On one level, I have no idea. The market can have some kooky responses to earnings, especially for hyped up stocks like Twitter. Plus, I think all of the market volatility we saw in October is still driving big moves. Look at the similar fate felt by Netflix (NFLX) the other week when it dropped 25% after a so-so (but not terrible) earnings announcement.

That said, here are 2 items I’d point to as possible explanations for Twitter’s big drop:

  1. Twitter can’t just meet, it needs to beat big

Many investors already had positive expectations of Twitter going into earnings. This can be both a blessing and a curse. The high expectations meant that the positive earnings were likely already taken into account in the stock price before earnings even came out.

Since good earnings from Twitter were already expected, to just meet expectations may have felt like missing them to some investors. To see a big positive move up after earnings investors likely have needed to see a huge beat – even bigger than the beat they already expected.

  1. Monthly average user growth slowed (MAU)

There is one key metric for Twitter that is almost as important as earnings and revenues: monthly average user growth (MAU). Last quarter, Twitter added 13 million MAUs, for 284 million total.

The problem is that while Twitter is growing, it may not be growing fast enough. MAUs grew 6.2% from Q1 to Q2, but only 4.8% Q2 to Q3. This concerned some investors.

Investors were also concerned about declining engagement with Twitter. Twitter said active timeline views per MAU dropped 4% in the US from last year, and 9% internationally.

I’m sure there are more reasons than those two, but those are the two main ones I’d attribute the drop to. Overall, I think the huge decrease (now over 12% in pre-market trading) is more extreme than it should be given Twitter’s Q3 performance.

The extreme reaction does go to show the volatility and difficulty of internet stocks (particularly social media ones). The problem with these stocks is that they are surrounded by lots of hype and are affected so heavily by expectations, rather than actual performance to date.

I’ll occasionally trade internet stocks for a short term earnings bet, but for the most part I’d recommend staying far away from them. It’s just too hard to pin down where they’re going, and there are other stocks that will provide you good returns for less risk and lower valuations.

Key news to watch for this week: 10/27 edition

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a relaxing weekend, because this week may be a roller coaster in the markets. There are a ton of big companies reporting their earnings this week – notably ones in social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), healthcare (Merck, Amgen, Pfizer, Gilead), and energy (BP, Exxon, Chevron).

On top of the earnings news, the market is also expecting big news in the forms of durable goods, 3rd quarter GDP, and a Federal Reserve announcement that will affect interest rates. So without further ado, here’s a list of some key reports and commentary you may find interesting this week:

Monday

 

-I’m holding Twitter and Burger King ahead of earnings as short-term earnings plays so fingers crossed these go well.

Tuesday

-I’m thinking social media could go either really badly or really well this week, so I’m hesitant to get into both Facebook and Twitter this week, especially when Facebook was at $80 a share this past week.

-Luxottica has a near monopoly in the eye-wear manufacturing (turns out your Chanel sunglasses are made by them, not Chanel) and distribution (Sunglass Hut) industries, so I have my eye on them as a long term investment regardless of how earnings go.

Tuesday‘s Big Economic Report: the durable goods report. Durable goods are consumer products that are purchased infrequently (think appliances, tools, TVs). This report tells you how much consumers are spending on these products, and in theory the more consumers are spending, the better the economy is doing.

Wednesday

-Baidu is China’s search engine and with the amount Alibaba (another big Chinese internet company) has been in the news recently I’m thinking Baidu will be evenly more heavily analyzed than normal this time around. Along with the social media companies, I’m thinking the stock price movement after earnings will either be very good or very bad.

Wednesday’s Big Economic Report: The Federal Reserve (Fed) is expected to announce the completion of its quantitative easing program. Quantitative easing is the Fed’s bond buyback program. By buying US treasury bonds, the Fed drives up their price, and thereby keeps interest rates low (bond prices and interest rates move in opposite directions).

The Fed is ending the quantitative easing program now that the economy is pretty stabilized, in an effort to normalize interest rates again. A big issue with this for the stock market is that higher interest rates on bonds mean some people will want to buy bonds again instead of stocks, and this may cause stock prices to decline in response. I’m hoping that since we know about the end of the bond buyback program already (this is just the official announcement that it’s done) the effect will likely not be too great.

Thursday

Big Economic Report: Q3 GDP (stands for Gross Domestic product). GDP is the value of all of the finished products created in the US last quarter. How big GDP is, and how much it grew over the previous year’s GDP, is a measure of how strong the economy is. The more products produced, and therefore the bigger the GDP, the better the economy is doing.

Friday

Phew, I am exhausted just writing the preview of this week, there is a ton going on! Be sure to check back in for updates on how these announcements turn out.

Side note: Can we discuss how much blue there is in this post!? I get that blue is a soothing color, but I didn’t realize before how many logos rely on blue. I’m trying to pick out logo colors for the blog right now and I’m thinking I should rule blue out in favor of some originality…