Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stitch Fix Review #2

If you are unfamiliar with the Stitch Fix shopping service and want an overview, please go here first: Stitch Fix Review #1

After some success with my first Stitch Fix, I was really looking forward to my second.  After saving up some money and looking at multiple reviews on the internet, I finally placed my order.  This time, I requested the 41Hawthorn 3/4 Benson Blazer in dark grey or burgundy, the Yumi: Wilhinina Polka Dot Belted Skater Dress in blue and yellow, and dresses.

When my order arrived, I was sad to see that my two requested items were not included, with no explanation as to why.  However, I was pleased that Stitch Fix honored my request for multiple dresses.  Here's how my Fix turned out:

Item #1: Brentwood Tiered Striped Sheath Dres

stitch fix

I really had high hopes for this dress.  In the past, I had luck with bandage style dresses flattering my figure.  I also liked the non-symmetrical design of the dress, which masks my scoliosis.  Unfortunately, this particular dress made me look at least 15 pounds heavier.  I also did not like that the front pattern did not extend all the way around the back (see below).

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Item #2: Yola Abstract Print Faux Wrap Dress
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I also had high hopes for this dress since I'm a fan of wrap dresses.  Unfortunately, the top half of this dress was too baggy and the bottom half too long.  I also was not a fan of the print, which had a frumpy effect on me.


Item #3: 41Hawthorn Walt Striped Skirt ($68)

stitch fix

I normally don't wear horizontal stripes because they make me look wider.  However, I decided to give this skirt a chance.  The fit wasn't bad but, as is my problem with all pencil skirts, it started riding up after taking a few steps (see below).  Not worth the $68 price tag.

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Skirt after a few steps
 Verdict:  RETURNED

Item #4: Harriet Aztec Print Fit and Flare Dress

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Down to my last two items, I was hoping to find something to keep so I didn't lose my $20 styling fee.  Unfortunately, this dress just didn't work for me.  The top half is made of a stretchy polyester which seemed to accentuate my scoliosis and chest size.  The bottom half was way too long and full, making me look pregnant.

Verdict:  RETURNED

Item #5: Abigail Colorblock Lace Trim Top

stitch fix

I actually really liked the color of this last item.  Unfortunately, as a friend pointed out, the blouse was cut such that it looked really narrow up top and made my hips look bigger.  Not worth the $58 price tag.


After the luck I had with my first Stitch Fix, I was really disappointed that this one was such an utter failure.  I'll probably update my profile again and give Stitch Fix one more chance to see if things improve with my next Fix.  It's a promising service, but if the clothes don't work for my body I'm just going to lose $20 with each order.  For my next Fix, I'll ask them to dress me up for Generation Beauty, a fashion and cosmetics convention which takes place in June!  Wish me luck!

If you are interested in trying out Stitch Fix, feel free to use my referral link here:  https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3203420.  No, I am not affiliated with Stitch Fix in any way, shape, or form. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stitch Fix Review #1

Seeing that part of this blog is about how I save/spend my money, I figured I should start posting reviews on the various shopping services I use.  Currently, I use Stitch Fix and Birchbox.  If anyone has recommendations for other awesome sites, let me know and I'll look into them!  For now, here's my Stitch Fix review!

About Stitch Fix
Stitch Fix is an online personal styling service based out of San Francisco.  The way it works is pretty simple:  Sign up, then complete an online profile with your clothing sizes and style preferences.  After paying a $20 non-refundable "styling fee", Stitch Fix will send you a box with 5 articles of clothing/accessories on a date you select.  You'll have three days to try everything out and ship back unwanted items in a prepaid envelope!

Stitch Fix is not cheap, with pieces of clothing starting at around $58.  You do get a 25% discount it you keep all 5 items, but that's still much higher than I'm used to paying for clothes.  However, I decided to give it a shot because I frequently have trouble finding clothes that fit me and wanted someone to pick out flattering, high quality clothes based on my measurements.  It also helped that a friend gave me a coupon that waived the $20 styling fee!

Stitch Fix Box #1
I actually ordered my first Stitch Fix back in October, but due to a backlog of orders had to pick a shipment date in early November.  In my profile, I requested no pants, accessories, or maxi dresses.  I also requested that the stylist focus on getting me work clothes and a cute dress to wear for the holidays.  After several weeks of anticipation I received my box a day early!  Here's what I got and my thoughts on each:

Item #1: 41Hawthorn Calafia Jersey Wrap Dress ($58)
stitch fix

41Hawthorn is a brand exclusive to Stitch Fix.  This particular dress is one I saw in numerous blog reviews and the main reason I finally decided to place an order.  While the jersey fabric is a little thin, I really liked the fit and the color of the dress.
Verdict: KEPT

Item #2: Kut From The Kloth Michael Faux Leather Jacket ($78)
stitch fix

I've never been into leather - faux or real - and never though I would ever own a leather jacket. A trip to New Orleans last October changed that, as I found a flattering brown faux leather jacket in a boutique shop that soon ended up in my souvenir stash.  I liked the quality of this black jacket and really wanted to keep it.  Sadly, it was too long and too narrow as I couldn't get it to close.  Fortunately, I ended up finding a great fitting black faux leather jacket at Forever 21 of all places.

Item #3: Kensie Vince Swiss Dot Cap Sleeve Dress
stitch fix

When I filled out my Stitch Fix profile, I wrote that I really liked polka dots.  Rather risky since own at least 5 polka dot sweaters and do not need another one.  Fortunately, they sent me this lovely black dress with a subtle Swiss dot pattern.  Loved the fabric, the length, and the fit.  The only problem was that the back zipper wasn't straight, but that's because I have scoliosis and so nothing ever fits me right.  Stitch Fix has helped me get pretty close, though.
Verdict: KEPT

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My crooked back

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Close-up of the Swiss dot pattern (click)

Item #4: 41Hawthorn Mission 3/4 Sleeve V-Neck Blouse ($68)
Item #5: Lasome Pacific Chevron Print Skirt ($58)
stitch fix

Sadly, the last two items didn't work out for me.  While the blouse fit alright, I generally can't justify paying $68 for a top.  As for the skirt, it was way too long and went halfway down my calves.

Stitch Fix Pros
-You can conveniently try on clothes from the comfort of your own home.
-You receive clothing both customized to you tastes and outside your normal comfort zone so you can experiment with new styles.  I definitely would have bypassed the black faux leather jacket if I saw it in stores.
-The stylists actually take the time to read through your profile and accommodate requests.  If there's a specific Stitch Fix item you want then you simply ask for it, just like I did with the Hawthorn41 dress.
-You get a 25% discount if you keep all 5 items.
-Easy returns!  Just drop unwanted clothing in the provided pre-paid envelope and drop it in the mailbox within 3 days of receiving your Stitch Fix.

Stitch Fix Cons
-Stitch Fix is not cheap, and with some work you can probably find most of these clothes for much cheaper.
-The $20 styling fee is non-refundable if you decide to send everything back.

Overall, I was very pleased with my first Stitch Fix, despite only keeping two of the five items.  I especially enjoyed being able to try out clothes I would have skipped over at the mall.  However, the price is definitely a deterrent, so I will have to limit my future orders to several times a year.  After waiting several months, I finally ordered my second Stitch Fix which is scheduled to arrive in mid-March.  Can't wait!

If you are interested in trying out Stitch Fix, feel free to use my referral link here:  https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3203420.  No, I am not affiliated with Stitch Fix in any way, shape, or form.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What Social Workers Make

While browsing my facebook feed, I ran across an anecdote called "What Social Workers Make", a modified version of "What Teachers Make".  The gist of the story is this:  At a dinner party, a person goes into a rant about social services.  He then targets a social worker in the room and asks, "What do you make?"  The social worker's response is one I can only wish to replicate if ever asked the same question.

Social work is one of these most difficult and thankless professions out there.  It's also one that requires so much sacrifice, financially and time-wise.  With social work, there's no guarantee that you will work that standard 9-5 job, have time to spend with friends/family, and even have the money to pay the bills each month.  Most of us know this, yet choose to go into the field despite scorn from friends, family, and society.

Not all of us can handle the rigors of social work, and many of us do move on to greener pastures for emotional or financial reasons.  Whether we stay or leave, we all know that the time we have in the field is an honor.  What sets social work apart from other professions is our conscious decision to help individuals that society has cast aside as hopeless and worthless.  As someone once told me, it's a privilege to comfort people dealing with the worst of what life has to offer.

So the next time someone superfluously asks, "What do you make?", respond proudly with, "I make a difference."  Despite what other professions may claim, social workers are the biggest difference makers out there.  Enjoy the honor while you can.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Models of Social Work Practice in a Hospital

Social Work Practice in a HospitalIn my short career, I've been fortunate enough to work at various hospitals as a medical social worker.  Doing so has helped me hone my social work skills and learn about the various community resources in different locales.  Additionally, I've been able to see first-hand the true versatility of this profession, as demonstrated by how the social work role differs at each hospital.

I've practiced two main models of hospital social work practice: pure social work and social work/discharge planning.  In this post I will elaborate on these two practice models and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Pure Social Work
Pure social work focuses exclusively on the psychological and social barriers that affect a patient's well-being and hinder a safe discharge home.  Social workers practicing this model focus on completing comprehensive psychosocial assessments, providing brief counseling/crisis intervention services, assisting with end-of-life situations, finding shelters for homeless individuals, placing individuals who cannot return home for social reasons (i.e. no family support), and evaluating patient safety (i.e. abuse assessments, domestic violence intervention).

Social Work/Discharge Planning
This model takes pure social work and incorporates elements of discharge planning.  Social workers who practice this model take on the medical barriers that interfere with a safe discharge home.  Tasks include placing patients in skilled nursing homes, ordering durable medical equipment, arranging home health care, making transportation arrangements to other facilities, and addressing any other post-hospitalization needs (i.e. medication, follow-up appointments) in order to reduce the likelihood of patient readmission.

Pure Social Work Pros
-A slightly smaller caseload means more time to interact with patients, develop rapport, and go above and beyond to address their needs.  When I have the time to get to know my patients, I can better anticipate their future needs and provide resources/interventions as necessary.
 -Hospitals with a pure social work focus usually have a dedicated social work department headed by a social worker.
-I find myself having more autonomy on the job than when I'm at hospitals that use the social work/discharge planning model.
-The bulk of my time is spent practicing social work, which is what I went to school to do.

Social Work/Discharge Planning Pros
-Compared to pure social work, discharge planning requires a more expansive knowledge of insurance requirements and medicine/nursing.  I feel that this helps me better address patient needs and makes me a more effective clinician overall.
-I interact a lot more with other disciplines, such as nurse case managers, nurses, discharge planners, physical therapists, occupational therapists, etc.
-I get a sense of fulfillment and closure from coordinating patients' discharge plans from the moment of admission to discharge.

Pure Social Work Cons
-Social work cases are usually extremely emotionally draining.  Sometimes I like having the occasional straightforward home health or skilled nursing referral to get a mental break.
-Social work cases also tend to be the most complex, with no simple solutions.  There have been many instances where I've had absolutely no idea how to fix a patient's problems.  Anyone who has ever said that social work doesn't involve advanced problem solving skills has never worked a day in our shoes!
-With regard to the interdisciplinary team approach, I feel more like a consultant since I typically only get involved in more challenging situations.

Social Work/Discharge Planning Cons
-Social workers who function as discharge planners have job duties that overlap with nurse case managers. This often results in situations where staff members confuse us as nurse case managers and vice-versa.  Because of this confusion, social workers are often asked to do things outside their scope of practice, such as analyze test results, predict discharge date, and provide updates on medical status.  I've definitely felt stupid more than once for not knowing things that are basic to nurses/doctors.  Not my training!
-Having higher case loads mean less time spent with patients.  Patients who have discharge orders have first priority, meaning patients with mental health problems needing support sadly may not be seen.
-Case management departments tend to be focused more on metrics and the bottom line.  The goal of discharge planning is to discharge patients in a quick, safe manner and prevent readmission. This is not always compatible with social work practice.

Honestly, I am not sure which model of hospital social work practice I like the best.  I suppose this is part of the reason why I continue to split my time between various hospitals.

What do other medical social workers think of how social work is practiced in a hospital?  Comment away!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014 Spending and Savings Goals

Yesterday, I was looking at my Mint.com account, which I signed up for over the summer to better track my spending.  Let's just say that after getting the account, I probably visited the site a total of 5 times between then and yesterday.  Looking at the charts from the past six months, I was horrified to find out that in the span of half a year, I had spent over 35% of my annual pre-tax earnings.  I know I'm not cheap, but I didn't realize I had spent that much!

Fortunately, upon further inspection I noticed that Mint.com was adding my total credit card charges to the totals on my credit card statement, making it look like I spent a lot more than I did.  Mint.com also counted several transfers to savings accounts as spending.  In the end, I computed that I actually spent 29% of my pre-tax earning in the span of a WHOLE year.  Still not that great, considering I live at home, but not as terrifying as the idea that I spent more than I made.

Here are a few more things I pondered as I worked on my 2014 budget:
-Due to the ACA I am now paying $3000/year in healthcare premiums, double what I paid last year.  I am also budgeting $200/month for gasoline, and due to my long commute to work I will likely go over that amount.  Adding the two, it looks like I will be spending over $5000 on healthcare premiums and gas alone!
-Reading through an old post about the costs of moving out (written before studio prices rose above $1000) and number crunching, I know for sure that I would be broke if I moved out in 2011.  I suppose this is one perk of being part of a family who believes in living at home until you 1) get married or 2) buy a house.  Since 2011, I've been able to travel extensively, shop, help my family, donate to charity, contribute to a retirement fund, and set aside a down payment to be used when the housing market calms down.  Absolutely no way I could accomplish all of that living in a shabby studio.
-My cheap boyfriend told me that I should be only be spending $1000 a year on non-essentials (i.e. shopping, travel, eating out) because I live at home.  Considering my travels plans alone for this year, I conclude that he's crazy.
-I spend WAY too much money on shopping and need to work on this... maybe.

Anyway, here are my main spending and savings goals for 2014:
1) Spend no more than 25% of my projected pre-tax earnings.  This basically covers shopping, food, drink, presents, travel, health insurance, gym membership, gas, and a $708 emergency fund.  I plan on using Mint.com to track my monthly spending.
2) Max out my Roth IRA ($5,500) and HSA ($3,300) contributions, a total of $8,880.   Since I work several per diem jobs I don't get a 401K.  Fortunately, my HSA provides a helpful deduction for my federal taxes.  I really need to do some research and look into alternatives to 401Ks so I can start another retirement account, though.
3) Split the leftover money between retirement savings, house down payment, and rainy day fund.

That's pretty much it!  I think these goals are definitely achievable, though my boyfriend might complain that 25% is way too high.  Hey, I'm a social worker, and 25% of my salary is lower than 25% of his tech salary!  Overall, I hope that setting these goals will help me be more cognizant of my spending, yet leave me some breathing room to enjoy my money as well.  We'll see how the year goes!

Friday, January 10, 2014

2014: Another New Start

It's been a while since my last blog post.  Between work, travel, and general writer's block, I've really haven't written very much lately.  Hence, I really feel like my already mediocre writing skills have diminished even more!  This year, I'm hoping to change that by making alterations that facilitate more frequent posting and allow me more practice in writing.

The first major change is streamlining my blogs.  Looking through my archives, I noticed that I was cross-posting many of my posts to my other blog.  Instead of having two infrequently updated blogs, I figured it would be best to consolidate everything into one blog.  I will still keep Adventures of a (not so) Cheap Social Worker up for now, but all the posts from there can now be found on this site.

Postings on this site will pertain to my job, the social work field, anything remotely social work/healthcare related, money related issues, and my attempts to make the most of a social worker salary.  Like the title of this blog states, I am NOT cheap, but will try (and probably fail) so as to make the most of my money while having the most fun.

I have another infrequently updated blog that documents my daily like and things I like to do for fun, which is to travel.  I think of it as my escape from social work.  I'll probably post a link once I've fixed it up a little.

To end this post, here are my goals for 2014, which I will elaborate on in future posts.  I will keep the list short to increase the likelihood of meeting them all:
1) Blog more frequently
2) Travel more
3) Earn more money that I did last last
4) Spend less than I did last year

Wish me luck!  Happy 2014 everyone!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Nurses Make More Than Social Workers

On social worker blogs and among my peers, I often hear about how unfair it is that nurses get paid more than social workers. A common catchphrase is, "Social workers have twice the education, but half the salary!" A while back, this same issue came up on a social worker salary post on SocialWorkersSpeak.org. I wrote a rather long comment in response and thought it would be good to repost it here. It's my take on this controversial and recurring issue in our field.
I can only theorize as to why nurses make more than social workers. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything on this list, here’s what I’ve brainstormed:

-Liability: Perhaps nurses are paid more because they directly impact the lives of patients. Injecting the wrong medication dosage, not using proper sanitation methods, and other such mistakes can severely hurt of kill a patient. Furthermore, nurses face many occupational hazards such as direct exposure to diseases, bodily fluids, needlesticks, etc. I did not go to nursing school because I did not want to handle wounds, clean bodily waste and commodes, and whatnot. I’m willing to pay the nurses to let them deal with that.

-Curriculum: My social worker friends me that they cannot handle nursing curriculum because it is too difficult and rigorous. I do not know if this is true, but I can attest that curriculum-wise, my MSW program was significantly easier than any science class I took as an undergrad (though my brain is probably just not wired for science). At work, I am frequently impressed by the breadth of knowledge the nurses have, even the ones with an AA degree. These nurses are individuals that make recommendations to doctors as to how to treat the patient. Even with an MSW, I find myself feeling like an idiot at work due to my utter lack of medical knowledge compared to nurses. Furthermore, I feel as if I apply very little of my grad school curriculum at work.
Where I work, RN case managers lead the discharge planning process. This seems to make sense to me because RNs are capable of obtaining psychosocial information while also being knowledgeable about the medical aspects of the patient. It’s much more efficient, as social workers like myself often have to defer to RN case managers when getting insurance authorizations, explaining why a patient needs a certain treatment, reading lab/PT/OT/x-ray results, and even determining if a patient is discharging. When coordinating care between the various allied health fields, I’d trust the nurse to do it over myself because I simply don’t have the medical knowledge a nurse does. I feel I work best when brought in as a consultant to handle the psychosocial aspect of care affecting discharge.

-Unions: Nurses have a very powerful union and are able to bargain for their wages. I know of hospitals with nurses that threaten to strike every year unless their demands are met. If social workers were to do the same, I’m sure the wages would go up.

-Economics: Nursing schools are severely impacted. At some schools in my area, there is a 5 year wait list to get in. By keeping nursing schools capped, this keeps the number of nurses entering the workforce low. With such a high demand for nurses, these hospitals with snatch up these new nursing grads and pay pretty generous salaries too.
Unfortunately the field is saturated with social science type majors who can get hired to perform “counseling” type work. Until social workers can ensure national title protection, we’ll have high school/college grads doing our work for cheap and driving down our wages. Nursing does not have this problem.
It seems like the high paying jobs these days are in health and hard sciences: engineering, computer programming, technology, medicine, etc. If you look at salary figures, those who studied the health/hard sciences tend to make more than humanities/social sciences. That’s because those in the former tend to work in profit-driven companies. Most social workers on the other hand end up in the non-profit sector.

I’m not trying to say that nursing is better than social work. However, I don’t think we should be talking about an AA in nursing like it’s cake. Many RNs I know with AA degrees are as knowledgeable than BSNs. Also, nurses should be our allies, not our rivals. At my job, the bedside nurse spends significantly more time with the patient than the social worker, and is hence an excellent resource when it comes to psychosocial issues.

Instead of comparing ourselves to other professions, we should look without our own field and see how we can improve. If we must compare ourselves to nursing, remember than decades ago, nurses were as overworked underpaid as social workers. By unionizing, advocating, and empowering themselves, they have grown to be a powerful profession in the medical field. Nurses have worked their way up since the days of Florence Nightingale. Social worker have the capacity to do the same.

Hope this explanation helps!