2 Oct

Apps For a Happy Life

I’m definitely not a ‘techie’ by any means, but I’m going to geek out a bit here in the name of four cool apps (which are also on the web) that have vastly improved the fun and ease in my day-to-day life. If, like most people, you’re in a tizzy over the iPhone’s new non-Google map, read on!

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Songza: A playlist for every mood
If your usual music app is Pandora or Spotify, change it up with Songza, the handy (free) music app based on mood and occasion. You choose playlists based on day/time of day, mood, activities like girls night out, and much more. You’ll never get bored because there is absolutely no shortage of playlists. I love that the music stations aren’t based on narrowly defined genres that play the same artists over and over, and because of that, I’ve found this app has a much more varied song selection within each playlist. And, did I mention Songza is free of audio ads?

Level Up & GoPago: Convenient (and sometimes free) goodies
If you hate using your precious lunch hour standing in line waiting for food and if you like free credit, download Level Up and GoPago. These apps tell you what restaurants are nearby and allow you to order and pay for your meal via a credit card you upload. All you have to do is pick it up! The apps can even be used for a mani or apparel. The best part is that you can enter promo codes to get credit and sometimes the app people are just nice and give you credit without having to do a thing. Follow them on Twitter to get the promo codes and start hitting your favorite spots for cheap!

MySkin: Skincare recommendations tailored for you
Aisles of skincare products can be overwhelming, so that’s where the MySkin app comes in. It catalogs over 160,000 beauty products for you to compare and zeros in on the ones that are best suited to your skincare needs. How does the app know your needs, you ask? Well, when you sign up (for free), you fill out a short questionnaire about your skin type and concerns. Then, it recommends products for you based on percentages of effectiveness (you want at least 80%). Of course, there are reviews and Q&As, but you can also find users that have a similar skin type as you and trade skin regimens.

Download these apps and I guarantee you may just fall in love all over again with your smartphone.  (And for some icing on the cake, check out these oh-so-cute monogrammed iPhone cases!)

Do you have any favorite apps that help make your life easier or simply more fun? Share your go-to apps with us so we can join in on the fun!

26 Sep

The Bride’s Code of Conduct

Hey guys, Chelsea here.  So, I’ve never been a bride (give me a few more years, please!) but I have been a part of four weddings, and as a bridesmaid, I’ve learned a thing or two about what to do (and not do) from watching my respective friends handle their bridal duties.

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I know when it comes to weddings there’s a ton to plan. In fact, when I went to my friend’s wedding this past weekend she did things I had never even thought of, like making welcome baskets of snacks, toiletries, and an itinerary for guests staying at hotels . Read this article about wedding etiquette and you’ll see that apparently this is a must-do!

Each of my four friends had very different ideas about how she wanted her special day to be and I can respect that since every bride (i.e. woman) has unique personalities and preferences. But as someone who has carved time out of my schedule on four different occasions for these weddings, I’ve compiled a list of three things that brides should consider when it comes to managing their bridal party.

1. Pop the question

Once you have set the date, choose your vital bridal crew and ask them early on to be part of your wedding, letting them know how much they mean to you. I loved the way a friend of mine got asked (see the picture above). Of course it’s perfectly fine not to get crafty when asking, but a few kind, meaningful words go a long way.

Also, make sure you are clear with your intentions. If you want someone to be in your wedding party, let her know. It sounds simple but recently a friend invited me to her wedding with only six weeks notice and then a week later, asked me to be her maid of honor. I was first confused by the initial invite as a guest when I thought I’d be in her wedding, and then I was even more thrown when the maid of honor invite was seemingly an afterthought.

2. Give a token of appreciation

My friends who made the bridesmaid experience most enjoyable are those who recognized her bridal party had taken time and money to celebrate her future marriage, and in turn, found a way to show their gratitude. One friend made us cute shirts to wear while we got ready and gave us each an adorable necklace to wear on her wedding day, while another wrote the sweetest personalized notes. For me, it’s not about a gift. It’s about being thought of and feeling included and important.

3. Keep your bridesmaids in the know

Not everyone is a great planner, but if a bridesmaid is going to fulfill her duties of attending to the bride’s needs and being present at important wedding-related events, then the bride needs to properly communicate plans. Someone who doesn’t do this could actually just be a very laidback bride who doesn’t want to sound bossy, but you can still provide logistical details without being a bridezilla. Trust me, your bridesmaids will be happy to know the plan so they can be there for you!

If you’re married, what did you do to make things easy and fun for your bridesmaids? And if you’ve been a bridesmaid, what did the bride do that you appreciated?  Got anything else to add to the list?  Share ‘em in the comments!

20 Sep

Money Matters

Now that it’s almost fall, we’re heading toward a rather pricey time of the year with holiday gifts and travel. We all know that between our necessary expenses (rent, utilities, bills) and our wants (all the fun stuff), extra cash can be hard to come by. Try as we may, it’s hard to budget.

Personally, I’m always aware of the fact that I should be budgeting and I am conscious enough of my money to know that I can’t go on a crazy shopping spree, but somewhere between this thought and the action of getting out 40 bucks every now and then to pay for cabs, my social life, and the random Starbucks run, something is amiss.

(how cute is this piggy bank?!)

In an effort to make my budget a reality and not just some lofty idea bobbing around in my head, I decided to take control of my finances. Luckily, for our generation, we almost have no excuse to not have a budget with all the online resources available to assist us. Drumroll, please…

Try a budgeting website and app

I just joined Mint, a totally free (and secure) budgeting site/app. It connects to all of your accounts so that you’re able to manage all of your money in one place, rather than logging into multiple sites.  And it’s more than a list of transactions.  Based on how you categorize your purchases (ex. concert tickets would be entertainment), you can visually see exactly what sorts of items and activities you spend your hard earned dollars on.

The site is very user friendly and helps you create a budget while doing all the math for you (score!). You can even create goals, such as saving for a trip, and Mint will guide you through the financial steps necessary to make that achievable.

Find a credit card that works well with your goals

Recently I realized that my credit card wasn’t rewarding me for the types of purchases I make (mainly groceries, dining, entertainment, and personal care) or with the type of benefit I’d prefer (travel). The Consumer Credit Card Guide breaks down the types of credit cards depending on your rewards preferences, from air miles to redemption at restaurants.

Double-check your checking account

Are you still using a college account? Hey, me too! Unlike so many accounts, it’s free. But if you’re curious about what’s out there, check out Nerd Wallet to search for free checking accounts based on your zip code.

How do you keep track of your money?  (Or do you?) What steps do you take to budget your expenses? C’mon, share the wealth!

13 Sep

Travel On the Cheap(er) Side

Life is expensive and every dollar counts, especially when it comes to travel. It’s a daunting thought knowing you could spend the majority of your hard-earned money on flights and a hotel. And what about all the fun “extras” you want money for like food,  entertainment, and shopping?

Well, these days, discounts and deals abound— you just have to know how to find them! So, read on for tips and tricks to becoming the savviest traveler possible.

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Buying airline tickets

Finding, booking, and purchasing a flight is somewhat of an art if you’re trying to score a good deal. According to the Airlines Reporting Corporation, the best time to buy tickets is six weeks before your flight, and of course, flying on unusual days (namely Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and inconvenient times (like 6 am or midnight) gets you cheaper flights. Even if you want a good price, sometimes the limited times and/or days just aren’t worth it, though, so for more tips learn how to score cheaper fights, including links to a number of handy sites, check out this handy guide.

Know before you go: To avoid exceeding airline weight limits, get a Digital Luggage Scale from The Container Store. For about $20, this worthwhile investment lets you know just how many pairs of shoes you need to lose in order to avoid excess baggage fees. Plus, it only weights eight ounces so you can take it with you to use for your return flight.

Easy lodging

Ever heard of Airbnb? Well, go head and familiarize yourself with this travel site that’s become the go-to for affordable lodging. (Kim and Travis are using it for their entire trip to Italy!)  Airbnb is pretty much like a home stay. After creating a profile, you can browse listings for your desired destination and contact hosts to book something.

The perks: it’s much cheaper than a nice hotel and much nicer than a cheap hotel! Plus, there are no hidden hotel fees and your hosts can give you the local lowdown on where to go, what to eat, etc. Some hosts cook for their guests (mine made French toast!), but if a solo stay is more your style, there are definitely options without the host actually being there.

Prefer a hotel stay or on a major time crunch? Download the Hotel Tonight app for last minute hotel deals. You can only book hotels through the app (not the website), and since it’s used solely to book a hotel for the night of booking, prices generally go live at noon.

Join deal sites

The only downsides to deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Bloomspot is that your inbox will start to overflow, but hey, at least it’s full of great deals! By signing up for these sites, not only will you get notified of travel specials, you’ll also learn about new products, services, and events you otherwise may not have.

It can take some extra effort to get great deals on travel, but the elbow grease is definitely worth it once you’re enjoying an awesome getaway!

Do you have any travel tips on getting cheaper flights or hotels? Tell us about them and any other ways you save while traveling below!

30 Aug

Power to the Plum: How to rock one of fall’s hottest colors

Labor Day weekend is upon us and that means the tell-tale signs of fall are just around the corner. With temperatures dropping, we’ll soon be trading sandals for booties, sundresses for layers, and summer brights for fall-like jewel tones.

One of the colors repeated on runways and beauty pages alike is deep plum (i.e. almost-black). From eyes and lips to fingertips, this cool-toned color is oh-so-hot. So, it’s about time to retire summery corals in favor of sophisticated, sexy plum and give your makeup routine some oomph! for the new season.

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Getting Pouty

Yes, dark lips are kind of a tricky makeup choice because you run the risk of the color feathering or transferring onto your glass or (eek!) your guy. But don’t let this stop you from rocking fall’s hottest lip color! To keep your fab new color in place, start out by choosing a lip primer like Too Faced Lip Insurance, which helps lipstick last longer and prevents feathering. Or, opt for Urban Decay’s clear lip pencil. It creates an invisible barrier around the perimeter of your lips so that your lipstick won’t have anything to do but stay put.

Want to find the perfect plum shade? For lipstick lovers, try Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Golden Lustre #104 or Too Faced Le Crème in Divine Wine – Bordeaux. For a not-so-lipstick feel, use Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatment in Sugar Plum for a pop of plum with optimal moisture.

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Pretty Peepers

If black eyeliner is a bit too much or maybe too ‘been-there-done-that’ for you, why not trade it in for deep purple? It’s softer than black yet still provides definition for your pretty peepers. It looks good on all eye colors but is especially flattering on hazel eyes. If you like pencil eyeliners, try out Too Faced Black Orchid, but if gel eyeliner is your preference, MAC’s Fluidline in Dark Diversion is the perfect blackened plum. Just remember, wear your plum lips and eyes on two different days!

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Femme Fatale Nails

When fall rolls around, I love trading in my neon nails for the total opposite – dark, dark, dark! These vampy shades are bold yet feminine in an edgy sort of way. Black nails are, of course, a fashionable staple but if true black is just a wee too much, give almost-black a try. Endless Night by NARS is your go-to for an ultra-dark plum. For a cooler-hued companion with blue undertones, try Zoya’s Monica. Or, rock Essie’s Velvet Voyage a deep amethyst with a hint of chocolatey brown.

What’s your take on trading in black for plum? Do you like to experiment with dark, bold colors or do you prefer to stick with understated everyday colors? Tell us what you think below!