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Early Holiday Shopping Tips & Tricks

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Early Holiday Shopping Tips & Tricks

Hiiii everyone! If you’re like me, then you like to get your holiday shopping done nice and early. I’ll tell you what, there is nothing better than clearing off your Christmas shopping list in November so that you can relax and be merry all December long. I recently began my shopping for my friends and family and even buying for just a few people has let me breathe a huge sigh of relief.

But, sometimes, holiday shopping can seem like a bit much – especially if you have a large family or group of friends to buy for. And, believe me, I get it. I have a pretty substantial list of people to shop for and that’s why I ball on a budget more than ever during the holiday season with the following tips:

Make A List/Budget:

The very first thing that I do when I prep for holiday shopping is the obvious starter of making a list. I go through everyone in my head that I need to buy for from family to significant others of the family to my boyfriend, BFFs, and colleagues and then write them down accordingly. Then, I include some basic ideas of what to get for each person by their names.

Once I have a good idea of who I need to shop for and what I would like to purchase for them, I set a budget. Normally, I have a pretty set in stone price range that I would like to stay in that applies for everyone. But, there could be certain people that you might want to shell out more or less from depending on the situation. Are you surprising your parents with a holiday gift basket? Awesome, ball out. Do you have a white elephant gift to buy for the office party? Spend a little less. That way your budget will still end up balancing out in the end.

Shopping lists and budgets provide a great guideline for completing your present purchasing in a (Somewhat!) stress-free manner. But, don’t let the price points that you set make you go too crazy! Going over budget is fine if the item is worth splurging on and you know that the giftee will love it. Like I said, there are always deals and hacks to utilize to bring yourself back within your spending limit. Like the following:

Steals, Deals, & Freebies:

My number one rule of shopping is to always get something extra out of your purchases. Whether that be points on a credit card, a free gift, or a BOGO style deal in store, always always shop smart. Do your research on the promotions that your favorite stores are running in store or online. Is a huge Black Friday sale happening? Maybe wait on that big screen TV, then. Is the deal that you can get online even better than what you could get in store? Then you better grab it before it goes out of stock.

Being aware of what promotions that the stores are running is just half of the trick. A good way to go about whether to wait for Black Friday deals or to purchase now is to think about what sales the store ran last year. I worked four Black Fridays in a row and the stores that I worked at ran the same promotions every year and they still do now. So, if those deals are worth waiting for, hold off until Black Friday or Cyber Monday. If not, and a good sale is running already, buying it now is just fine.

The next thing that you should be concerned with, are the deals that you can get with your credit or store rewards cards. Sometimes, it’s worth applying for a credit card just to do your holiday shopping on it. For example, if you apply for an Amazon credit card and get approved, you get a free fifty dollar gift card to spend on the site. Other credit cards will reward you with points or store credit when you use them. Can your cash do that?

And, finally, always compare in store and online prices before you purchase! Some stores will price match if it is cheaper online. And, other stores, like Sephora offer deals that you could never get in store. I spent fifty dollars on their website and got free shipping, two free samples, and two free really nice gifts for spending a certain amount of money. You should try to get the most bang for your buck whenever you’re shopping and free gifts for yourself never hurts!

Ready, Set, Gift Sets:

Gift sets are the bread and butter of my holiday shopping. They are a crowd and wallet pleaser and they are so fun to assemble. Some stores offer stellar pre-made sets that have a lot of product for not as big of a price tag, and those are great, too. If a family member or friend has a more eclectic taste, gift sets are an excellent way to go, because you can give them an assortment of odds and ends that will speak more to their uniqueness than a gift card. Or, if you’re shopping for nieces or nephews, hit up a Five Below and create a goody bag on a dime. And, always remember, that a nice basket or container is part of the gift so pick something nice that can be used again. 🙂

What are your tips and tricks for holiday shopping? Who has their holiday shopping finished already? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

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Five Below Find

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Five Below Find

Howdy! Something that I’ve grown very fond of as of late are discount stores. Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Five Below – you name it, and I like it. Ballin on a budget is my lifestyle choice and these stores live by my motto of “why pay more if you don’t have to”. From office supplies and snacks to holiday decor for a dollar, sometimes I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot when I stop into a discount shop. Just the other day at Five Below, for example, I walked away with this darling hair bow for three bucks and I’m sure it would have costed at least ten at Claire’s! Take a look:

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This beautiful black bow with the long streamers ties in perfectly with my sweet goth aesthetic and I cannot wait to wear it. My hair definitely needs to grow out a bit more and, once it does, I will be pairing it with half up and messy bun styles ASAFP. The beauty of discount stores is that no one needs to know the price that you paid for a good find. For three bucks, I found a new accessory that would have costed me triple the price elsewhere and you just can’t beat that!

What is your favorite discount store to shop at? What is one of your best discount store finds? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Featured Image By: Five Below

Step-By-Step Guide On Finding A Gift For Someone Special

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Step-By-Step Guide On Finding A Gift For Someone Special

Buying someone a present is something that is extremely fun, but it can also be very stressful at the same time. This is because new products and goods are released onto the market each and every day. This is obviously great in one sense because it means that with so much choice people are bound to find something perfect for the person that they are looking for. However, it also makes it increasingly difficult to come to a final decision because one cannot make up their mind.

This blog post aims to help people out with that, as it will provide guidance and tips regarding what one should look for when they are buying a gift for someone they are close to in order to help them narrow down their search:

Budget:

The first thing that obviously needs to be considered is how much the individual in question is willing to spend on the present. It can often be tempting to buy a gift that is elaborate, exciting, and impressive but also highly expensive in price. But, buying a present should be fun; it shouldn’t be something that causes damage to one’s bank balance. The first thing that anybody looking to buy a gift should do is sit down and come up with a limit on how much they are going to spend. This is a good idea, because not only does it help people to keep their finances in check but it also helps to narrow down the search for a gift dramatically.

Brainstorm:

Once a budget is set, the best thing to do is to take a piece of paper and brainstorm some facts about the person that they are buying for. There are a whole host of different things that people can write down. The following are just a handful of things which can be considered; the person’s favorite color, where they were born, their favorite alcoholic drink, whether they are a handbag or a shoe person, do they wear a lot of jewelry, what was their most memorable holiday, what is their favorite scent, etc.

This brainstorm is highly useful, because it will allow the person buying the present to open their mind in order to find inspiration for the types of gifts that the person would like. People always say it is the thought that counts and that is certainly the case. The brainstorm is also great, because little things can spark off a plethora of present ideas. For instance, if one’s favorite smell is lavender, then you could buy the person lavender scented candles, a floral based perfume, or a lavender-scented sachet. Or, if the person likes to travel, you could buy a toiletry bag, a guidebook on their new destination, and a new book to keep them occupied on the plane.

Always remember that gifts with some thought behind it are the best way to go, and will always be cherished by your giftee. Happy shopping!

Featured Image By: Pexels

Blog Better And Make Some Cash

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Blog Better And Make Some Cash

These days, blogging has become a lucrative career, so there is no wonder that many hobby bloggers are now turning their sights to making a bit of money from their blog. There are various ways that you can monetize your site, from offering advertising space to companies to running sponsored posts for them. You might even want to sign up to an affiliate program, such as the one offered by Amazon, which will earn you a commission for every reader that you send over to their site.

Of course, you will need to put in a bit of effort and hard work before you can start to make some money from your blog. Ready to start blogging better so you can cash in on it all? Here are some tips that can help you make a success out of your blog:

Figure Out Your Niche:

If you don’t already have a niche for your blog, it’s time to figure one out. This can help you bag a lot more readers and followers. The bigger your readership, the more you will be able to charge for advertising space and sponsored posts, so it’s always necessary to try to get more clicks onto your site. Even though your niche will mean that you need to narrow down what you write about, it will bring you a lot more dedicated fans. So, what sort of niche should you take? If you are a beauty blogger, you might want to start blogging about niche products that can help soothe certain skin conditions. Food bloggers can cater to different dietary requirements. For example, you might want to turn your food blog into one that focuses on gluten-free recipes.

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What is your niche?

Create A Long-Term Plan:

Next, it’s essential to think about your whole editorial approach. This will include things like the topics you will cover in future posts and when you will be covering them. Ideally, you should create an editorial plan to keep you on track. One useful tip is to write a lot of posts at once but then schedule their publication. That way, you will also have a bank of posts that you can fall back on if you ever go through a slow patch with your writing.

Take Your Own Pictures:

If you are currently using stock photos to brighten up your posts, you might want to think about starting to take your own pictures. Sure, there is nothing wrong with stock photos, especially since they are free to use. But, your own images will help to add a personal touch to your blog. Thankfully, the cameras on smartphones are so good these days, that you won’t have to invest heavily in professional camera equipment to be able to make your blog photos look incredible. It’s amazing what you can do with a smartphone and some filters!

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Snap!

Double Check Content For Errors:

Don’t forget that you need to make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes in any of your posts, either. If there are, then your blog might not look as professional as you would like, and this could ruin your chances of building some solid relationships with other brands and companies. Brands will want to find a blog and blogger that can help them reflect the quality of their products and services, and making these kinds of silly little mistakes could really put them off of working with you. If you know that spelling and grammar is something that you struggle with, you might want to hire some ServiceScape proofreaders to take a look at your posts before you publish them. You can then be happy knowing that all of your blog posts are free from any kinds of errors!

Use Mixed Media:

Photos might not be enough to make your blog posts look engaging and interesting to readers. Lots of bloggers are now using a variety of mixed media in their posts and throughout their website so that it all looks super appealing. If you go onto YouTube, you will find that there are thousands of videos that you might want to embed into your posts, for instance. In fact, you might want to even start making your own videos and try your hand at becoming a YouTuber. You can also earn money by posting videos onto YouTube. The more clicks you get, then the more money you can make. If you add advertisements to the start of each video, you even stand to make a lot more! So, using mixed media can not only help to improve your blog, but it can even help you make a bit of extra cash along the way!

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Pexels Image

Always Cross-Link:

Do you already add a lot of links to previous posts in your new blog posts? If not, then this is something that you need to start doing right away. This encourages readers to click to your other posts, which will keep them on your website for longer, and will bring down the average bounce rate. A low bounce rate is something that you need if you want to attract big-name brands to collaborate with you.

Integrate Social Platforms:

It’s also necessary to integrate social platforms into your blog, as well. This means that you need social media buttons on your website to encourage readers to share the posts on their own profiles. The wider your posts get shared, then the bigger your audience will grow. It’s also a good idea to automate sharing to your own profiles whenever a post is published. This can be easily done by connecting your blog hosting account to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Then, when a post is published on your blog, a link will be posted on your social media.

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Make sure to cross link!

It may take some time before your blog can be monetized, but making use of all of the tips in this post will set you off in the right direction. Good luck with it all in the future!

Featured Image By: Pexels

Making Big Purchases Possible Even If You Are In Debt

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Making Big Purchases Possible Even If You Are In Debt

In late 2017, Americans had an all-time high outstanding debt total of $13.1 trillion. Experts also estimate that “student loan balances soared by 146%” in the last 10 years, and that roughly 80% of Americans are in debt. If you are one of the millions of people who find themselves under a mountain of student loan, credit card, or personal loan debt, you’re not alone. As a result of the level of debt that most individuals carry, many are delaying the process of making big life purchases (e.g. homes, cars). However, there are many instances in which big purchases are not completely avoidable.

Need to make a big purchase while in debt? Explore three expert strategies to make your goals a reality:

Figure out where your money is going:

Having a large amount of debt doesn’t mean that you can’t make big purchases. Although you have to be more strategic in your approach, there is almost always a way to find the funds you need. The first (and most crucial) step that you should take, is to find out where your money is going. In other words, it’s time to create a budget (if you haven’t done so already). One study recently revealed that “only 41% of Americans use a budget.” While many people see a budget as something that is restrictive, it will actually show you how much money you have leftover after paying your bills. This enables you to know how much money you have to put aside toward your big purchase.

Make a savings plan (if possible):

The best strategy for making a big purchase while in debt is to not add more of it. Rather than applying for another credit card or loan right away, see what you can do to save up for the item that you need. Since you’ve already made a budget, you should know exactly how much you can set aside each week. If your finances and timing allow, create a savings goal and an estimated date for when you plan to reasonably reach that milestone. Depending on the urgency of the big purchase you’ll be making, see how long you can go without in order to avoid further debt.

Quickly clean up your credit if you will need financing:

Need to make a big purchase right away? Whether you have to find a replacement car or appliance, you may not be able to pay off all of your existing debt before going into more debt. What should you do if this is the case? Prior to making the purchase, do whatever you can to quickly clean up your credit. Experts recommend paying down your revolving credit balances as much as possible, looking for and disputing any errors on your credit report, and continuing to make all payments on time. Any boost to your credit score (and reduction of your current debt) will give you the best chance of getting approved for a new loan, and for receiving a low interest rate.

Although it can seem daunting, making a big purchase while in debt is possible. Utilizing the tips listed above will help you reduce the impact to your current financial situation, and assist you in achieving your goal.

Featured Image By: Unsplash

How To Borrow Money For Home Improvements

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How To Borrow Money For Home Improvements

Giving your home a makeover can be incredibly expensive and, if you don’t have the cash in the bank, you might have to make do with it as it is. But, making improvements to your home is an investment, because it increases the value of the house and you’ll get that money back if you eventually decide to sell it. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to borrow money to make those changes around the house. However, you’ve got to be careful, because if you don’t borrow sensibly, you could end up in serious financial trouble. If you want to invest in your home and make some improvements, here’s how to safely borrow the money to do it:

Sort Your Credit:

Your credit score tells lenders how sensible you are with your money and they’ll use it to decide on the interest rate that they’re willing to offer you on a loan, if they’re willing to give you one at all. If you’ve got a poor credit score, you’re going to be paying a lot more to borrow money. That’s why you need to sort out your credit score before you try to find a loan to make home improvements.

Request a credit report and look over it carefully. Often, there are mistakes on there and you’ll be unfairly penalized. If you think that might be the case, you can dispute credit report mistakes and have them changed. Once you’ve got an accurate credit score, you can start taking steps to change it. Cut back on your spending and clear any debts that you’ve got. Then, you need to get a credit card and start making purchases, while making sure to pay it off immediately. This will show that you’re trustworthy and help you to start building your credit score again.

Personal Loans:

Getting a personal loan is one avenue for borrowing money. You can go to the bank and borrow the money from them. The amount that you’ll get and the interest rate will depend on your credit score so the first step is important. You’re not likely to get as much as if you borrow through other avenues, so you’ll have to make those improvements on a budget. Before you sign anything, shop around a bit and find the best deals. You should also be careful about the amount that you’re borrowing. Only agree to borrow an amount that you can comfortably pay back so that you don’t get into financial trouble.

Borrow Against The House:

Personal loans are fine, but you might be better off borrowing money against the house itself. The benefit of doing it that way, is that you’ll probably get more money and, because you’ve put the house up as collateral, the interest rate isn’t going to be as high as a personal loan. However, there is an element of risk involved. If you’re increasing your mortgage, then you’re more likely to default on the payments and risk losing your house. Just like with personal loans, make sure that you’re only borrowing what you can afford.

Follow these rules and you’ll be able to borrow the money to get all of the home improvements that you need done!

Featured Image By: Pxhere

Creative Ways To Save For Travel

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Creative Ways To Save For Travel

You can travel with debt, but taking steps to reduce your debt before traveling is advisable. Loan consolidation makes a lot of sense, and could save you enough capital for a trip over time. Generally, when you’ve got any debt, your best strategy to liberate yourself will be to live beneath your means until the cost has been overcome.

For example: say you make $2,000 a month. $800 goes to rent and utilities, $200 goes to gasoline, $500 goes to food. What do you do with that additional $500? Do you spend it, or save it? Well, if you’re living beneath your means, you save it. That, or you put it toward paying off any debt you owe.

Something you additionally want to do is find ways to cut down on regular bills. For example, if you’re paying $200 a month in gas, but you only live two miles from where you work, and this is your primary reason for driving, see if you can cut that number in half. A 250-mile tank can make 125 two-mile trips or 62.5 consecutive work-days.

If you’re only working 20 days a month, then you can make it to and from work and still have 80+ miles left over for whatever you like. If you’ve got a conventional car, a tank is only around $50. So, if you can cut down your time spent driving, you can preserve the lifespan of your vehicle while reducing your monthly expenses, allowing you to either save money or pay off debt with greater expedience.

Practical Considerations:

Certainly, this is easier said than done. Once you’ve established the non-negotiables of your budget, it’s time to see what you’ve got leftover and what you can do with it. Even if you have relatively little, proper planning can help you attain necessary capital for a vacation.

If after you streamline your budget, you can only add an extra $200 to your expendable income, that is still $2,400 in a year; or enough for a pretty decent vacation.

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Budget wisely!

Avoiding Creature Comforts:

Still, this is a fairly ideal circumstance, and cutting down your monthly expenditures in terms of food and gas can be difficult. So, you must find ways that you can eliminate discretionary spending. You may be surprised at how many unnecessary things you buy. Don’t think about creature comforts, think about living at a bare minimum.

For $100, you can eat well for a month as an individual, should you be careful enough in purchasing and preparing your own meals. You can combine such a budget with EBT or food bank sustenance to increase the amount of food you have access to. You can additionally seek options beyond your income to help you acquire what you need.

You may be surprised to find what you actually qualify for, especially if you’re a low-income family, there may be support solutions out there for you. Here’s the AUS Benefits website; it can help you to see if you’re eligible for financial assistance in certain areas of life. Sometimes, this can come in the form of direct support or tax breaks.

Something else that can help you save money is where you choose to travel. You don’t have to stay in the highest dollar accommodations available. You may look for friends, relatives, or look for special offers such as these. There are also after-market type hotel situations which, though perhaps not ideal, can save you a few hundred dollars.

Although travel is a luxury, it can be more attainable with the above tips!

Featured Image By: Pixabay