Christmas Gifts that People Will Actually Use

Let’s get right into it. The holiday season is a beautiful time of year, full of food and family and coziness and friends and everything good in life. BUT, it’s also a spend-crazy, consumerist holiday that leaves us stressed and broke. I find myself with items I wouldn’t have normally purchased and a weirdly overwhelming guilt about returning them or not using them (I’m talking to YOU, White Elephant).

Recently, I’ve been trying to have a different approach on Christmas shopping. While I used to view these gifts as “things we want, but don’t want to buy,” I’m trying to think more about what a person needs. Of course, this isn’t always practical kitchenware or food gift cards. If someone requests their yearly perfume or a dainty everyday necklace, you can bet it’ll get some use, and that’s the goal here.

I’ve compiled a list of items that will hopefully inspire you to get someone something useful, or even if you’re still looking for gifts– read on!

For the Chef

1. High-quality cooking utensils – Since everything I bought for my first apartment was from Walmart and Target’s college essential lists, I could use some quality cooking gear that will last me more than a year or two.
Measuring cups | Measuring Spoons | Cast Iron Skillet , etc.
2. Silicon baking mats – These reduce the need for parchment paper/tin foil and make cleaning so much easier.
Option 1 | Option 2
3. Appliances – This year, I asked for a food processor. That’s where I’m at in life right now. But if I get one, I’m making some incredible hummus and some way better banana bowls so I’m not mad about it. I’ve also linked some high-rated blenders that would CHANGE my life.
Food Processor | Vitamix | Blendtec Blender

For the Eco-Friendly Folks

1. Reusable produce bags – You guys already know how I feel about these 🙂
Option 1 | Option 2
2. Coconut bowls – These are natural and sustainable alternatives to plastic bowls, and I swear I enjoy my salads and nice cream more when I eat out of them.
Coconut Bowls | TJ Maxx also has some good wooden bowls
3. Hydroflask – A good, reusable water bottle is KEY, and Hydroflasks are my forever favorite. I’ve linked a couple traditional options and some fun ones that would be great gifts for plenty.
Small | Large | Coffee | Wine | Pictured: this PHOTOGENIC S’well coffee thermos that was gifted to me : )

For the Beauty Lover

1. Facial cleansing brush – These exfoliators are tried and true tools to help with dry skin and acne– perfect for any skincare fan.
Clarisonic (splurge) | Facial cleansing brush (budget)
2. Small humidifier – Looking at you, Chicago folks. Combat that dry winter air and static with a small humidifier for your room (on my list!!)
Option 1 | Option 2
3. Spa certificate – I don’t know a single person that would be upset about a massage or manicure/pedicure! No fail, every time.

For the New Adult

1. Carry-on suitcase – Because you’re using your parents or your college duffel bag. It’s just time.
Option 1 | Option 2 | TJ Maxx also has good options
2. Costco membership – This was my favorite gift of 2017, because it’s the gift that KEEPS ON GIVING.
Membership
3. Bill payments – A bit more on the creative side, and limited to parents (most likely) but having a few months of phone payments, money toward groceries, or chipping in for rent goes a long way.
4. Uber/restaurant gift card – Because no one likes paying for lunch or transportation : )

For the Homebody

1. Kindle/NookAs you all know, I use mine religiously and couldn’t recommend it enough. However, don’t waste your money and buy a fancy one. If your purpose for it is to read books, then get one that does just that.
Option 1 | Option 2
2. Slippers or robes – Especially during the colder months, these staples are ON REPEAT.
Robe 1 | Robe 2 | Slippers 1 | Costco Ugg Dupes

For the Techies

1. Apple TV/Firestick – Another everyday use, these streaming devices make sure we’re not overpaying for cable and making the best out of our friends’ parent’s HBO accounts. Thanks!
Apple TV | Fire Stick
2. Automatic start – One of my friends got this for her car for Christmas and thanks the lord every day. I believe it’s a quick installment and it’s super helpful in the winter.
3. Tile – If you know someone who frequently misplaces their stuff, get this. It’s a life saver.
Tile App

When all else fails, you really can’t go wrong with a blanket, mug, or candle 🙂

P.S. I know there’s a lot of Amazon links in here (for your convenience), but remember to shop small if you have the resources/time!

Thanks, all!

*Photos by my homie, Laurel Pierce*

How I Save Money to Travel

One of the questions I get most often is simply, “How do you afford to travel?” Since I’m not exactly subtle about the financial struggles of working an entry-level job, (see my blog’s headline lol) I figured it makes sense for me to share my pointers on how I can afford international trips and weekend galivants throughout the year.

Now, a quick disclaimer. While I think this goes without saying, everyone’s situation is different. Some of us are working around PTO and vacation days, others around class schedules and winter breaks. We all have different salaries, different student loan payments, you get the idea. None of the below ideas are GROUNDBREAKING, but I hope it inspires you to be more conscious of spending in order to get your dream trip booked. I promise it’s worth it every time.

Please enjoy photos from my trips of 2018, and without further ado, my tips to saving money for your next vacation:

1. Examine your monthly costs

I have a whole blog post dedicated to this (coming soon), but these costs are often the foundation of our spending. Are you signed up for music services? Can you join a family plan to save a few dollars? Are you really using your gym membership or can you deal with the gym at your school/office instead? What about the Birchbox free trial that you forgot to cancel? Make sure ANY monthly cost (including cable, etc.) is something you’re using daily. Cut the ones you don’t.

2. Stop eating out

I truly think this is the number one thing that sets people back when it comes to saving. I eat out maybe 1-2 times a week (1 lunch and 1 dinner), and the rest I cook at home. It’s better for your body, it’s better for your wallet, and hopefully you’ll pick up a skill or two in the kitchen. Stop buying Chick-fil-A every day and pack a lunch. 🙂

3. Be conscious of small spends

Yes, this includes coffee runs. *eye roll because this is everyone’s advice* Drink coffee at work, avoid getting overpriced candy at the movies, and finish your not-so-great can of hairspray before buying a new one. Small purchases really do add up, and often times we’re buying things we don’t need, which is a whole other topic that I’ll get to later.

4. Open up a travel account

Not accessible for everyone (including myself), but my boyfriend has a separate travel account that he puts money into monthly. This way, it’s easy to budget for trips and you know right off the bat if you can afford to book something. If you’re not great at limiting yourself on the day-to-day spend, this may be a good tactic for you.

5. Give yourself personal challenges

Cut down/take a month off of drinking (helloooo, dry January! Join me!), don’t buy clothes for a month, or limit your grocery runs to a set amount. This kind of makes saving feel like a game, but it’s definitely not always fun 😅 Sometimes I try and see how many days I can go without spending money, which is absolutely terrible but I recommend.

6. Book the flight

Once you have your flight, you’re going (unless you’re actually willing to pay the cancellation fee, which is just BONKERS if you ask me). Knowing that I have a trip coming up is usually what gives me the push to start saving and have more discipline with my spending.

The last thing to remember has less to do with saving and more to do with the actual travel aspect. In order to afford bigger or more frequent trips, paying for an average-priced ticket, staying in hotels, and having brunch daily just isn’t in the cards (not yet, at least lol). Use these hacks to find a cheap flight and stay open to the idea of hostels or small Airbnbs. My trips usually involve public (sometimes overnight) transportation and the same hostel breakfast daily. If you want to visit somewhere, this is how you make it happen. And again, I promise it’s worth it.

If you have tips to help you save for travel, let me know! Follow my Pinterest board for more travel inspiration, stay tuned for some more itinerary posts, and good luck not spending any money at all!

Thanks for reading,

5 Ways to Stay Committed to Your Health During the Holidays

This post is not about how you should chug 4 water bottles before any social gathering or how you should swap beers for a ~light and ~low-carb vodka soda (but if you want to, I do recommend vodka and LaCroix). It’s more about how to navigate the holidays while not falling COMPLETELY off the wagon/messing up any kind of will-power or control we had once instilled.

December always seems to be the month where our discipline is pushed aside. We’re busy. We’re shopping, attending work/friend/family holiday parties, and trying to cram in the last of the year’s projects. It’s easy for our health to take a backseat, but it doesn’t have to. Here are the ways I keep myself committed to my health during the holidays.

1. Eat what you want

Depriving yourself of something you want to eat is a lose-lose for everyone. There’s simply too much good food going around during the holidays for you to miss out on it. My only advice here is to be conscious of how it’ll make you feel. For example, I love cheese and could stand over a platter for hours and be perfectly content. However, IT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE SHIT. Therefore, I’m NOT going to stand over that platter for hours. I’m going to grab a few squares of gouda, bask in the warm, fuzzy feeling that is pure satisfaction, and move on. 

2. Explore new workouts

When the sun sets at 4:30pm, there is NOTHING I want to do less than workout. These last few weeks after Daylight Savings Time have shown me that I have no motivation to go to the gym, so I signed up for a Classpass free trial to test out new workouts and new studios in the city. If you don’t have Classpass in your area, look for gyms that offer weeklong trials or ask your friends if they have guest passes/guest discounts. This is a good way to bring a little excitement back into working out (or conversely, just pure, full-blown anxiety, which is me in any group workout setting #bringafriend). I’ve also noticed myself leaning toward less intense cardio workouts in the winter, like yoga and barre, and you can find these on YouTube! Woo!

3. Bring a healthy appetizer

Sometimes, they’re just NOT available. Everyone’s favorite dishes (including my own) are hot, cheesy, have the word “crack” in it, and likely includes God’s gift to the world (Hawaiian bread) on the side. So everyone brings it. But let’s switch it up a little! Give people the option to grab a fruit skewer or that Mediterranean dip that’s all over Pinterest. If “healthy” is just not doable, at least opt to bring something with a little nutrition.

4. Make your holiday activities active

Find a way to be ~festive and include yourself on this month’s cheesy activities in an active way. Go ice skating for a couple hours (I last maybe 13 min and 45 seconds before I’m too frozen, but I’ll PERSIST this year) and do a long walk instead of driving around for Christmas lights. If you’re in Chicago, the Lincoln Park ZooLights are another active way to be Christmas-y. An added bonus: It’ll make cozying up inside that much better.

5. Learn how to say no

Because mental health is important, too! Remember that you are not obligated to go to parties you don’t want to go to– whether that be to save money, to save yourself the anxiety, or to save yourself from being around triggering food/people/whatever it is. Spend your time with people you WANT to be with and the holidays will be a lot less stressful.

So there’s my two cents. How do you hold yourself accountable with food, workouts, and mental health during the holidays? Could always add a couple more to the list 🙂

– Outfit details –
Similar leggings: 1 | 2 | Sports bra | If I could find a similar cardigan I would buy it because mine is destroyed. Sorry!