New Year’s Resolution Alternative – Personal Challenges

Because let’s face it– New Year’s resolutions are trash. No one can stick to anything for a year. But I GET the concept, I really do. I just think there’s a better way to go about it.

I had originally written this post to explain what I do when I feel I’m in a “rut,” but as we head into 2019, I figured we’re all trying to determine how to better ourselves anyway. So here’s the idea, and this goes for wanting a new start, or when you’re in the middle of February and you haven’t seen the sun and you feel like every day, week, and month feels the same. Maybe it’s just me, but I often get this need to CHANGE something (if you know how many schools I went to, you understand this is just part of my personality at this point). 

Bettering yourself doesn’t start with some half-committal statement like “in 2019 I’ll go to the gym more often” or “I’ll be a better employee.” It just doesn’t work that way. You have to REFLECT! You have to MANIFEST! But first of all, you have to evaluate. For example, ask yourself:

What am I feeling is lacking? What aspects of my life can I improve? Am I surrounding myself with the best people? Am I feeding myself the best foods, or conversely, am I cutting myself enough breaks to enjoy foods that I love (that may not be the best for me)? Am I using my time to better myself?

Please note: I have almost no idea what I’m talking about. BUT, this helps me when I need a change. So, leading into the new year, look into completing your own personal challenges. The time lengths are at your discretion – maybe you’ll turn your phone off for a day, or maybe you’ll join me in not drinking for a month (wish me luck😬). The purpose is to try it and see how it makes you feel. That’s it.

Personal Challenges

  • Give up social media
  • FaceTime/call an old or distant friend every day
  • Try a new way of eating for a week (vegetarian, vegan, Keto, paleo, Whole30, etc.)
  • Read before bed instead of using your phone
  • Give up alcohol
  • Work out every day
  • Give up TV
  • Go makeup-free
  • Cook a homemade dinner every day
  • Workout BEFORE work every day
  • Do something outside every day
  • Have phone-free dinners
  • Try a new workout every day (in a class or through a YouTube video)
  • Participate in acts of service (tutoring, volunteering, picking up litter)
  • Try being waste-free

Let me know if you try any, and as always, thanks for reading!

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.
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,