Tackle Holiday Shopping with these 5 Tips

Last night on Instagram, I shared that I have the opportunity to do Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University through my work, and wow…two weeks in, and I really need to make some changes in my spending habits. The course could not be starting at a better time, because I am notorious for spending too much money, especially around the holidays.

When the holidays role around, it can be so easy to over spend or splurge on items that otherwise wouldn’t be worth splurging on. I often get caught up in the “sales” and the idea of saving money and end up spending so much more than I should on gifts for people that I really don’t need to buy anything for. Sound like you too? Try incorporating some of these tips into your holiday shopping this season!

Holiday Shopping Tip #1: Make a Budget and Stick to It

By far the hardest thing about shopping on a budget is sticking to it. Each Christmas, I make a list of who I need to buy a gift for and how much I want to spend per person. For my parents or grandparents, I usually give myself a range (i.e. $100-150), whereas with friends or distant relatives, I’ll usually try to stick to $25 or less. In many cases, I don’t even end up buying gifts for everyone I’ve allocated money for. It’s so much better to over budget than under budget, amiright???

One of the most important parts of budgeting is writing it down. Keeping a mental note of how much you’ve spent is one sure way to over spend during the holidays. You should write down your budget so you can reference it when shopping, check off gifts once you’ve purchased them, and if you’ve saved money in some places, you might even be able to redistribute the money for someone else’s gift.

You also shouldn’t feel obligated to buy everyone a gift. This is something I really struggle with, because I would love to give gifts to everyone, but that’s just not financially feasible right now. When I begin writing my list of people I need to shop for, I typically create some sort of ranking (i.e. my nephews will be the top on my list, parents/grandparents, siblings, and so on). I’ll be sharing my favorite DIY/low-cost gifts to give your family and friends over the next few weeks, so stay tuned. 🙂

Holiday Shopping Tip #2: Get an Accountability Shopping Buddy

It also isn’t a bad idea to share your budget with a friend, family member, or significant other. Having someone to keep you accountable while you shop for the holidays is a great way to stay on budget! It also might add a sense of competition, and if you’re like me, might make finding deals seem even more fun (my little sister has always been great at finding deals, too, so it’s always fun to see who saved the most money haha!).

Holiday Shopping Tip #3: Don’t Use Credit Cards

It seems like every Christmas for the last few years, I’ve been sucked into charging everything to my credit card. This year, I’m only purchasing gifts using cash. In my opinion, there’s no worse feeling than buying a really nice gift for someone, only to be stuck paying it off for the next few months because you spent too much money on it. I know it can be incredibly easy to charge everything, especially during a time when money always seems to be tight, but don’t do it! It’s not worth getting into debt. If you don’t have the money for a gift, don’t get it. If you think, “Oh, I’ll just pay it off later…”, don’t get it. Buy only what you can afford. Your friends and family will still love you the same, regardless if your giving everyone a new Michael Kors bag or a simple hand-written letter.

And when you’re not using your credit cards this holiday season, I would 100% recommend getting the Target REDcard! Did you know that that was even an option?! Essentially, the Target REDcard/debit card just links to your personal checking account (so you only spend the money that you actually have), you get 5% off every purchase, free shipping, and extended return periods! It’s a win-win.

Holiday Shopping Tip #4: Use Coupons

There should be absolutely no reason to not use coupons or discount codes during the holidays. Almost every store has sales going on, and if you look hard enough, you can find them! Subscribe to your favorite stores’ email list so that you get notified of sales and discount codes. Follow bloggers who have discount codes to hand out. There’s no shame in finding the best deal and don’t buy anything until you’re absolutely sure that’s the cheapest you can get it!

Holiday Shopping Tip #5: Download Apps & Save

Similar to finding coupons, downloading your favorite stores’ apps during the holidays is a super helpful way to save money. Target and Ulta are my personal faves, and they alert you when there’s new sales and promotions going on! I would also recommend downloading the RetailMeNot app (more coupons!!!) so that you can check for sales/cash back opportunities while you’re shopping. Apps and store reward cards also offer the added benefit of allowing you rack up points to cash in at a later date. If you’re spending so much money over the holidays, why not make sure that you get rewarded for it at a later date?

While these tips aren’t meant to be a complete guide to prevent you from overspending during the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, incorporating even just one holiday shopping tip can help you stay on budget! I hope this list helps you think about how you’re going to tackle your holiday shopping this year, especially as I’m gearing up to start publishing some fun gift guides! 🙂

What are some ways that you save during the holidays? Do you have any go-to tips and tricks?

Happy shopping, friends!

XO

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My Favorite Neutral Sweaters Under $30

As much as I’m sad that my favorite month is over, November usually means that temperatures are dropping and will actually stay pretty low (!), which also means that all of my sweaters get pulled out of their space bags, and I get to be a comfy girl at work. Woohoo! When the weather finally drops, I really try to refrain from buying too many new sweaters. Most sweaters I own, I’ve had for at least three years, and I have some that I’ve had since high school! This is probably because it’s really not cold for very long in the south, and if it is, I just mix up the ones I already own and style them in different ways.

 If I do shop for sweaters, though, I always always go for neutral tones. This makes it so much easier to style them differently, and I feel like a good nude, white, or black sweater will never go out of style. I mean, those striped, distressed sweaters this season are cute and all, but ya girl will not be buying one because it probably won’t be so cute next season IMHO.

I also really try to stick to a budget when I’m shopping for sweaters. It pains me to see bloggers who think they post about “affordable” fashion, and they’re promoting $50+ sweaters. Like…no. At the most, I’ll usually spend around $30 for a sweater, and that’s really a splurge for me. If you’re ballin’ on a budget like me, check out my favorite neutral sweaters below. I’ve included a list of sweaters that are perfect for lounging, work, going out, and most importantly, keeping you warm! Enjoy!

Best Affordable Neutral Sweaters Under $30

American Eagle always has great sweaters, and I usually always watch for sales or shop their clearance section to find the best options. Typically, I buy my more casual sweaters here. I love their Aerie basics and also some of the lighter sweaters that they have that would be perfect for lounging around the house, wearing to the beach when it’s a bit chillier outside (looking out for my FL peeps ;)), or layering! Here’s my picks from AE/Aerie.

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Forever21 also never disappoints. You can always find basics, but you’re also sure to find some edgy/trendier stuff too. I’m sometimes skeptical to shop online at Forever21–mostly because I always forget to return things when they don’t fit–but these options are so cute and affordable! Here’s my picks from Forever21.

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H&M is one of my favorite places to shop for sweaters; they’re affordable, always on trend, and super cozy. I’ve had the most adorable chunky knit sweater from there for YEARS, and it still fits and looks brand new. Here’s my picks from H&M.

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Old Navy has typically always been my go-to store for affordable sweaters that are great for work. They’re good quality, usually basic yet stylish, and are always on sale. (Pro tip: You should never pay full price for anything at Old Navy… There are always sales/promos going on!). Here’s my favorites from Old Navy (I own both v-neck styles in almost every color…they’re just that good!).

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Where do you shop for your sweaters? Do you typically stick to a certain style or budget? Comment below and let me know!

XOXO,

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Easy Last-Minute Halloween Costumes for Women Using Things You Already Own

I’ve really put off planning for Halloween this year, and it’s the first year that I haven’t done a “couples costume” in five years, so coming up with what I want to be by myself hasn’t been a top priority because, well, it’s just not as fun to me. I also never really go “all out” for Halloween. I typically always want to use what I already own, play around with makeup and hair (but not excessively), and just have fun. Since it’s pretty cold where I live right now, I also want to be warm haha. Here’s a few ideas of last-minute Halloween costumes that you should be able to put together from items you have in your closet!

Pirate Halloween Costume

I think a “sexy” pirate is so cute and something everyone could easily pull together. If you’re worried about the cold too, it gives you the perfect excuse to wear leggings and a long-sleeve top. For a sexier look, a cute black mini skirt, fishnets, and OTK boots would be so cute. Pair that with some excessive gold jewelry, a smokey eye, and maybe an eye patch ($0.79 at Micheal’s whaaat) or a bandana if you have one, and you’ll be good to go!

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Cheetah / Cat Halloween Costume

This is a last minute costume I fell back on when I was studying abroad a few years ago, but I think this has to be one of the easiest that you can do! Again, it’s perfect for colder weather: you can wear black leggings, a long sleeve black/cheetah print top, and boots. For my warmer weather gals, black shorts or a skirt would be so cute paired with OTK boots as well. You’d then just need to accessorize and have some fun with your makeup. I’d suggest buying a cute cat ear headband, like this one, and/or pairing it with a cute cheetah print scarf. I’m also linking to the best cheetah/cat makeup tutorial that I’ve used here.

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Rosie the Riveter Halloween Costume

Okay, y’all…this actually might be easier than the cat costume! I think it’s safe to say that most of us have a denim/chambray top and jeans we could throw together to make a cute Rosie the Riveter costume! Buy a red bandana if you don’t already own one and throw on some red lipstick, and POSE. I mean, who doesn’t want to dress up as a cultural female icon?!

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What are you being for Halloween? Do you have any favorite DIY costumes?!

In the past, Josh and I have been: Squints and Wendy (Sandlot), Steve Irwin and a crocodile, Christmas Obsessed, and Phil and Lil (from Rugrats)–all of which were super easy DIY costumes. 

3 Affordable Products That Helped Me Grow Out My Bleached Hair

 

The first time I ever got highlights in my hair I was seven years old. Seven. I’ve been bleaching my hair for nearly 16 years (give or take my scene queen wannabe days, but I was still coloring my hair black every six weeks nevertheless… LOL sry mom). If you color your hair, but especially if you bleach your hair regularly, you know how damaging it can be. I’ve tried everything from $300+ keratin treatments to name-brand sprays and hair masks, but nothing’s helped, and it’s certainly been discouraging for my wallet.

So, I got fed up and resorted to the only thing I thought would work: cutting off all of my hair. Well, not all of it but pretty close. My hair was so dead that I opted to get a “lob” which actually turned into a short af bob (hate when that happens). It was cute, but nothing compared to my long, luscious wavy locks that I had in high school. I was desperate for my hair to grow back, but again, nothing helped. Not even biotin (!!!).

I continued to bleach my hair because I’m most comfortable as a blonde. But I needed to find something that would keep my hair healthy and my wallet happy. Here’s what I found worked for me and what I sincerely hope will work for you!

Vital Protein’s Collagen Protein Peptides ($43)

I plan to write an entire blog post on this stuff because it’s just that good. I started taking Vital Protein’s Collage Protein Peptides about six months ago and the results that I’ve seen in my hair have been ridiiiiiiculous. My hairstylist couldn’t believe how much my hair had grown since the last time I saw her, and I owe it largely to this stuff. I put two scoops in my coffee every morning and viola, shiny, strong hair. Get you some, for real. It’s less than $40/month for a subscription and worth every. single. penny.

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Damage-Erasing Balm ($5.99)

I got this product in an Influenster PR package. I was super hesitant to use it because it feels like a really thick conditioner and my hair usually gets extremely oily, but OH MY GOSH. Within a week, my hair was so much softer, and there were noticeable differences when I wore my hair natural (aka softer hair = less frizz…thank you LAWD, amirite!?). This L’Oreal product is so affordable, will last you at least three months (I use about a quarter size dollop on the ends of my hair every day). Try it out! You will not regret it.

Mane ‘n Tail Original Shampoo ($6.19 for 32oz)

I’m sure you’ve heard about Mane ‘n Tail Shampoo before and thought, “Does that really work?” I think it does. It’s made with collagen, so it helps your hair look stronger and shinier. And combined with the products listed above, I’ve used nothing but Mane ‘n Tail Shampoo for the last year. My hair seriously hasn’t looked healthier, stronger, and longer than it has in YEARS.

Try these three products together for a month and see if you have the same results, because I would bet that you will. For less than $65 (which is, let’s face it, almost half of what it costs to get a full set of foils), you can keep your hair protected in between bleaches! Maintaining blonde hair is no small task, but if you can save money on products that will keep your hair strong and not looking fried, why not try them!?

As for me, I’ll be embracing my natural beach waves for as long as possible, and I will never take them for granted ever again. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the growth I’ve had (I can almost get a high pony without bobby pins woohoo). If you try any of these products, please let me know! I’d love to hear how they work for you. Have more questions about hair? Let me know! I’d be happy to help. 🙂

What are your favorite hair products?!

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XOXO,

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4 Tips for Packing for Your First Conference

Last week, I flew out to Vancouver, Canada for the Unbounce Call To Action conference and was there for four days! Because I just recently started working in marketing, I was so excited for the opportunity to go and learn alongside my coworkers about the industry (and I was extra excited about going to Canada for the first time!!!) Every time I travel, though, I tend to overpack. Bad. Since I was limited to only a carry on, this was even more overwhelming. I figured that this would be a good opportunity to share some of the tips that help me get organized and narrow down my traveling essentials. Here’s my 4 tips for packing for your first conference when you’re dealing with limited space.

Packing Tip #1: Make a list and lay everything out

Packing for Your First ConferenceI’m a visual person, so checking things off a list and being able to visualize everything on the floor helps me so much (and reduces my travel anxiety!). I start my lists by planning my outfits for each day (shirt, pants, underwear, bra, shoes). Next, I list the accessories I’ll need to bring (purses, jewelry, etc.). When I’m traveling with just a carry on, I use a tote bag so I can fit my work laptop, charger, notepad, headphones, etc. and will later use it has my bag for the conference. Then, I’ll list what needs to go inside of my tote bag. Finally, I list out what beauty products I’ll need to bring and make sure that I have the products in travel sizes.

Packing Tip #2: Try on your outfits (comfort is key!!!)

Checking the dress code for any conference is super important. Many conferences require business casual or business professional attire, but luckily, the conference I attended was more casual, so I had a bit more flexibility for comfort. When I’m putting together my outfits, though, I always ask myself things like: “Will I be able to sit in these pants all day comfortably?” “Can I walk or stand in these shoes for long periods of time?” “Will I be adjusting my bra straps all day with this top?” It can be so tempting to wear brand new flats or heels, or a top that looks super cute but requires you to adjust the straps all day, so keep in mind: if they’re going to be uncomfortable, don’t bring them.

Packing Tip #3: Limit yourself to only the essential beauty products

Packing makeup is always my weakness. Although I use the same products every. single. day., I still find myself wanting to pack every nude lipstick I own, five shades of foundation (just incase I tan sitting in the window seat ya know), and every eye shadow palette I’ve ever purchased at Ulta. So, I check myself. I’m not going to prom; I’m not going to dinners that require extra glam. My daily, “natural” makeup routine is all that I need. Pro tip: I try to limit myself to a small cosmetics bag. If it doesn’t all fit in there, I need to consolidate more.

Packing Tip #4: Do NOT get caught up in the “What if” scenarios

If you’re like me, you probably over analyze every travel scenario possible. What if there’s a storm? Should I pack an umbrella and a rain coat? What if I have a layover? Do I need to pack another outfit? What if we go to a nice dinner? I might hate what I packed…Should I bring five backup dresses just in case?

Stop. Don’t listen to these thoughts. If you’ve made a list of the absolute essentials for your trip, you’ll be fine. If you have a layover? You can re-wear an outfit or wash an outfit at a hotel. If there’s a storm, you can grab an umbrella there. Worried about hating what you packed? That’s why you try it on before you go.

Packing for any trip is stressful, but when it’s your first work conference, it can be that much more overwhelming. I hope that by following each packing tip you’ll be able to consolidate what you really need, feel confident in what you’ve packed, and have a successful trip! What’s your favorite packing tip?!

Here’s what I packed:

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I GOT THE JOB

This morning a dear friend of mine texted me an inspirational quote, as she usually does most mornings,  that really made me stop and reflect. It read: “Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.” Wow. 

If you’ve been following along with my posts over the last year, you’d know that I’ve been living through quite the roller coaster. The past few months have been rough. Realllllly rough. I’ve contemplated dropping out of grad school, moving back home to Florida, and whether or not I’m doing what I’m truly passionate about. I’ve been harder on myself in the last four months than I probably have my entire life. It’s sucked.

But things are finally starting to look up.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my Insta stories the other day chronicling my “traumatic” interview. (If you missed my overly dramatic, way-too-long Insta story, here’s a quick recap: the weather was cold and rainy #badhairdayaf; rushing to get to the highway, I realized I forgot my phone; I made it to the interview location just at the scheduled meeting time only to realize it was the wrong location; and I ended up being 30 minutes late.) Luckily enough, though, I got a second interview with the CEO. It went really well, and the company and position seemed honestly too good to be true. I couldn’t have been more excited about the opportunity to be in a position that allowed me to use both of my degrees and be creative.

Well, yesterday I was offered the job! And while I was fairly confident I would get it, I couldn’t help but let out a “woohoo!” when the offer was presented to me (I’m so lame, ugh). Part of me is so relieved that I don’t have to search for a job any more; I can focus solely on finishing my Master’s and teaching for the rest of the semester. But mostly, I’m just filled to the brim with gratitude. That this job literally fell into my lap without me seeking it out; that I found a company that seems to really value its employees and does whatever they can to help them succeed; that I won’t just be a number at some big corporation; that everything I’ve gone through in the past year wasn’t in vain; that my God is so, so faithful.

Over the next few weeks, I will begin working part-time until I graduate in May.  I will also be studying for my comprehensive oral exam, teaching two classes, and taking two of my own classes. I am so excited for the future I could cry (which could be because I’m partially overwhelmed already), but I know that God’s plan for my life is beyond anything I could ever imagine for myself, and for that, I know I can handle anything that is thrown my way.

Lastly, I really want to thank all of my family and friends who have given me words of wisdom and encouragement throughout the hiring process, throughout school, and throughout life. Without each of you, I am certain I would not be where I am today. And if you could remember from time to time, I would so appreciate it if you would keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I begin my career in Marketing!!!

XO —

Ashlyn

 

 

 

Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So Freakin’ Done with Grad School

For those of you who aren’t keeping up with my blog or haven’t had the chance to read some of my most recent posts, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my grad program over the last year. After this summer, I was ready to drop out, but decided I just needed to finish. However, here I am with three weeks left in the semester, and I still can’t help but to feel like I’m wasting my time.

 I’ve also been MIA on my blog for a few weeks, and I really get frustrated at myself for not keeping up with it because, honestly, it’s really the only thing I enjoy doing. BUT my other “responsibilities” keep getting in the way: I have to keep up with my school work, plan lessons for the classes I’m teaching, and grade grade grade all of the freakin’ time. And on top of all this, I’ve also been battling severe anxiety and depression.

Because of this, I sought out therapy to work through my mental health issues and to help myself find clarity about whether or not I should drop out. I’ve been dealing with this internal conflict all semester, and it hit me a few weeks ago that the program I’m in isn’t going to help me be the best version of myself, give me any skills that I’ll need to be successful in the career(s) I’m interested in pursuing, and just doesn’t seem to be fulfilling in any way. And coming to this realization seemed to be making my depression even worse.

I mentioned to my therapist last week that I feel like I’m wasting my time in this program, and that I should just drop out now (even though I only have two classes left…) to get on with starting my life / career. I told her I thought being in the program was making my depression even more difficult to cope with, and I didn’t think there was anything I could possibly get out of the program by finishing it. This is the advice she gave me:

  1. Thinking that your wasting your time is wasting your time.
  2. No matter where you’re at in life, always try to find some purpose in what you’re doing.
  3. If you’re not putting 110% into what you’re doing, you’re always going to feel like you aren’t getting anything out of it.
  4. If you feel like you are wasting your time, what can you do about the situation?

Hearing this, I was honestly floored. I sat in her office, contemplative about what was I doing to make the situation better for myself. I knew I was under contract to teach for another semester, had already taken out student loans, and didn’t want to regret any decision that I would make, but I also knew that I laid in bed most weekends throwing pity parties for myself because I hated that this is what my life had come to.

I quickly realized that I was half-assing all of my assignments, put minimal effort into planning my lessons for my students, skipped classes more than I had my entire life (and if you know me personally, you know this is a huge deal), and wasn’t giving 100% in my relationship with Josh. I was living every aspect of my life in mediocrity, and I needed to stop. But how?

It’s not as easy as it seems to stop thinking that you’re wasting time when you’re truly unhappy in a situation, but until you’re giving 110% effort to at least try to get something out of whatever you’re doing, that feeling won’t change. I don’t want to look back on my time in grad school five years from now and feel regret, but I also don’t want to feel bitterness if I continue the program and still feel unfulfilled.

As the semester comes to an end, I have a lot of reflecting to do. If I do continue, what can I do next semester that will ensure that I make the most out of my classes? But also, how will I be able to utilize a degree in English in a way that will help me reach my goals after graduation? I need to ask myself why did I even decide to get this degree?

I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the mindset that we’re wasting time when we’re at a place of uncertainty in our lives. However, it’s what we do about it—what actions we take and the positive mindset we create for ourselves—that is the only way to overcome this negative thought process. I truly believe that there is always a rhyme or reason behind where we’re at in our lives, and although it isn’t always clear, there is always something that we can learn from it. I’m still searching for that purpose, but I am trying to start giving 110% in all areas of my life (which means more blogging and doing more that makes me happy!!!) in attempt to find it.

What are some ways that you overcame feelings of uncertainty or feeling like you were wasting time? Let me know in the comments below!

Xo,

Ashlyn


*S/o to Blackbear ft. Gucci Mane’s “Do Re Mi” for the inspo for the blog title!! I’m obsessed lol.