Influenster Homecoming Voxbox

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Hey guys! I think I’ve mentioned it before but I am a member of Influenster. Influenster is a members-only community of the social media savvy. There, you link up all of your social media accounts to show your networking potential. You fill out various quizzes called “snaps” so the company can learn about you and your lifestyle. Then every few months, you receive a box with complimentary products for you to test and review. It is absolutely free and there are no fees to join. I have been a member for years and have never paid a cent.

First you will get an email confirming your box with a tracking code. The products will arrive. They will vary based on your demographic. I usually always get college-themed boxes, rightfully so. I have received products such as snacks, nail polishes, face and body washes, chapstick, shampoo and conditioner, and coupons. The coupons are always fun extras because you think you saw everything in the box but then there will be a coupon for a free smoothie from Jamba Juice, Olay face wash, etc.

I just received my latest box this week so I wanted to give you a rundown of what was inside and do some product reviews. Every box comes with a card explaining the contents of the box and the retail value of each item.

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Kettle Brand Jalapeno Chips ($2.99)

Now I’ll be honest, I am not one for overly spicy things. Mild hot wings make my eyes tear up. But these are really good! They aren’t overly hot but have a nice underlying flavor.

Olay Active Botanicals Gel Cleanser ($5.99)

These are my favorite types of products to receive. I am a beauty junky and this item just came out. I haven’t tried it yet so stay tuned.

Red Vines Candy ($1.59)

These are like a vintage, lightweight version of Twizzlers. Despite their neon redness and plasticy-ness they seem a lot less artificial than Twizzlers because they aren’t shiny. They also taste a little like cinnamon which is pleasant.

Luden’s Watermelon Throat Drops ($2.49)

I have seasonal allergies and always end up with a dry throat because of it. I love throat lozenges but they usually taste too minty or like honey. These are watermelon! They also smell great and do a good job. These were super practical.

SinfulColors SinfulShine Nail Polish ($2.99 a bottle)

I was so excited to receive this product! I was sent a true white polish called Wisp and the GelTech top coat. This product is supposed to be like Sally Hansen’s MiracleGel: an at home, two step gel system with no light. I’ve never had much luck with these systems. They never come close to competing with my Sensationail at-home gel system or with gel manis from the salon. Regardless, I was excited to try the product. It is inexpensive compared to the competition and comes in 27 shades.

First off, the color was horrific. I love a white polish but this lacked any pearlescence which made it look like Witeout. I followed the instructions and shook the bottles well but the polish still came out clumpy in spots. I applied two coats of the polish, same with the gel top coat. I let my nails dry fully and they looked decent. Again, didn’t love the color and there was some unevenness but not terrible.

The big issue with this product is longevity. If I am paying more for this product than the line’s regular polishes and the product claims to have some type of gel technology, I am not only expecting higher shine (which this did have as SinfulColors are notoriously dull) but also longer lasting results and this product chipped away in about two days. Thankfully, it came off as easily as standard polish with remover.

I will continue to use the products throughout the next month. Then I will receive an online survey to tell Influenster what I think of each product, brutally honestly. In the meantime, I can complete sharing challenges to spread the word on these products and increase my likeliness to receive boxes. If you are really dedicated and complete all the challenges, you can receive extra product. For instance, if you open your box on a Youtube video, do a review and tutorial of the nail polish on your channel, and leave feedback on the company Facebook page, you can receive a voucher for another polish.

For anyone who likes to do product reviews, this is definitely the place for you! I am including my referral link below so if you want to join, now you have an “in”. Just click or type the link into your browser.

Referral Link

Have a great day, beauties!

-BGB

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National Free Coffee Day

Good morning, java heads!

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Today is National Free Coffee Day. (That definitely wasn’t a thing until last year.) I have an interesting relationship with the good ol’ brew. As a kid, I hated it. Loved the smell but frankly felt like it tasted like wet sand looks only nuttier. In high school, I was somehow introduced to iced coffee with caramel and pumpkin and sugar and creamer and all that other horrible fake stuff and I. was. in love. I looked forward to stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way home with my permit. Still, I was never the type to drink coffee every day. Then college hit. And my once-in-a-while drink became my multiple-times-a-week, why-am-I-premed-again? drink. But coffee started to replace breakfast and besides going broke, I started to feel jittery. So I quit coffee altogether and then added it back in slowly and that was great and is the point I am at now.

I still don’t drink coffee without breakfast first. That seems to prevent the jitters. And to be honest, once I’m awake I have enough energy to not need a cup. I usually get my coffee around two or three in the afternoon when I’m at work or school and feel sluggish. I am also careful about drinking coffee at night because hot or iced, it gives me heartburn if I drink it and then try to sleep.

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So National Coffee Day, bring it on! Yesterday, I got a free medium coffee from DD because I live in the Philadelphia metro area and the Eagles won! Every Monday following a winning Sunday game, you can get a free medium hot or iced coffee with any flavoring and fixings. You simply download the DD app and click on “perks” to find the coupon. (Thankfully the DD app isn’t like Starbucks where you have to give out your credit card information to use it.)

Note: Word has it that if you sign up for the DD app today, they will give you a free coffee every week for the whole month of October in addition to National Free Coffee Day, Eagles Days, and Rewards Perks. What?!

For today, I hit up DD and my dad hit up Wawa for freebies.

DD limits the coffee to one per customer but if you want to be ambitious and you drink the stuff daily, stop by a couple neighborhood Dunkin’s (they’re on every corner around here) and get all iced coffee cups after the first with no ice. The coffee won’t be watered down so tomorrow morning you can just add in your own ice and be on your way. You could also order your coffee hot and put it in the fridge when you get home (which is my favorite way to do iced coffee at home anyway). Just like with the Eagles promo, you can get any flavoring you want so this is a great opportunity to try out DD’s seasonal pumpkin spice syrup. Yum!

Note: All free coffee given out will be DD’s newish Dark Roast so keep that in mind when opting for skim milk.

Wawa does not limit you to one cup of coffee so feel free to get some for the office. However, there is a lot of miscommunication within Wawa about iced coffee. Last year, I saw on the Wawa site that all coffee, including iced from the machine, was free. I saw posts upon Instagram posts with girls and their free iced Wawa coffees. And yet when I got to the counter, they tried to charge me for mine! I was about ready to pull up the Wawa corporate page to show where it specifically said iced was included in the promo but the kind gentleman behind me paid for my cup before I had the chance. (The gentleman was my dad.) So again, be careful with that and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Are there great coffee deals at the chains in your area today? Where are all my Tim Horton’s peeps? Comment below with your National Free Coffee Day story!

Brews away,

-BGB

Fall Festival Season Begins in South NJ!

Last Saturday was South Jersey’s unofficial start to the fall season. Despite preconceived notions about the state, southern NJ is filled with small towns with 1930s era Main Streets, lush farmlands, and artisans and crafters galore. An amazing display of this New Jersey could be seen at last weekend’s fall fests.

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Photo courtesy of Uptown Pitman Business Bureau

The weekend started with Pitman’s Fall Craft Fair. Pitman is a tiny town with a rich history as a resort location for northerners. Only an hour from NJ’s famous beaches, 20 minutes from Philadelphia, and filled with charm, Pitman attracts those looking to live in its eclectic mixture of historic-era homes. The town is known as one where “everyone knows everyone” but I never mind that. Broadway, the center street of action in town, has been revitalized in recent years. It now includes multiple restaurants, antique shops, paint studios and galleries, and the famous Broadway Theatre which shows live action productions on weekend evenings.

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The Fair is a mile long event stretching down Broadway and to the surrounding streets. Some favorite vendors arrive each year like Pennsylvania Soy Candle Co. The owner is so sweet and has my Pumpkin Roll candle melts ready for me each year. Other artisans include those making dainty sterling silver earrings, the coolest wind chimes made from old beer cans, and a countless number of fall decorations. Local businesses also open so the fair is a great way to see the town for how adorable and homey it truly is.

Insider’s tips:

  • DO bring cash, a tote bag, and a light jacket.
  • DO opt to take the shuttle instead of parking.
  • DO avoid strollers and dogs. (They may seem like a great idea in theory but these are tiny, old streets we’re talking about.)

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After the craft fair, I was ready for food. Not that there wasn’t any offered at the fair- all the local spots put out a spread and offer indoor seating- but I had in mind what I was after. You see, that same day about 10 minutes away in the adjacent town of Glassboro was the Italian Festival on Rowan Blvd.

Glassboro is a friendly neighbor to Pitman. Having humble beginnings, the town’s heart was in the glass factory which gave it its name. The employees eventually helped truly colonize the area and those outlying towns. In fact, families which still reside in Glassboro and have been there since the factory era are affectionately called “Townies”. Though now more recognizable as a college town, the home of Rowan University, there are still strong ties to the surrounding community.

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Rowan, originally founded in the ’30s as the Glassboro Normal School for teacher education is now one of the premier universities in the southern part of the state. A generous donation was made to the college a decade ago which has been used to create one of the top ten engineering schools in the region, two medical schools (awarding MDs and ODs) and a large, developed street which connects the college to downtown. This physical connection was the final step in cementing the highly symbiotic relationship between the college and the town.

It was down this street, Rowan Blvd, that the Festival took place and boy was it a blast. On the BN green space, a band played and people brought out their chairs to listen. Local restaurants brought out their best sellers. There was a food tent with cocktail tables, carnival games, and local vendors displaying their products. Rowan gear could be seen everywhere but clearly there were many out-of-towners attending as well, based on the fullness of the free parking lot.

Insider’s tips:

  • DO bring a lawn chair.
  • DO try the mac and cheese bowl with fresh pulled pork from PB’s. (I know, I know, it’s not Italian.)
  • DO bring your kids along to this one! The little ones will have plenty to do and the security presence will make you feel free to let them run.

The Pope himself even made an appearance!

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(Love you, mama!)

If you live in the area, you should definitely put these events on your to-do list. They are a great representation of the NJ I grew up to love and cherish. These events are also an amazing opportunity to shop small and support mom and pop businesses which employ locals and put money into your economy.

Happy fall, y’all!

-BGB

Product Review: Essie Sleek Sticks

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Hey guys! So if you haven’t already read the blog on my latest drugstore beauty haul, head over here to read that so you know a little background on how I obtained this product.

Basically, Essie Sleek Sticks are nail stickers similar to the ones made by Sally Hansen, Jamberry, etc. They are marketed as an all-in-one nail solution which provides nails which are instantly dry with little mess and no topcoat necessary. Essie takes this one step further and even embellishes its stickers. Packages include 18 stickers of various sizes, enough for one full manicure (or two if you’re thrifty and willing to cut stickers to size). I prefer to use these products for one full mani and then use the extras to accent solid, polished manicures on my ring fingers. A package retails for about $10 and can be found in most big box stores and pharmacies.

But boy am I glad I didn’t spend $10. Or I would be in line, receipt in hand, at Walgreens/Target right about now. Because I rarely say this but this product stinks. Badly. Of old cheddar left out to dry.

First off, the stickers feel like straight up scotch tape. What didn’t set off any alarms when inside the packaging quickly had me saying eww as I pulled the actual stickers out of the wrapping. They feel thin and chinsy and have an unpleasant residue. The shine seems highly unnatural and the embellishments look like they are from the $0.99 aisle of the children’s craft section (right next to the pom poms and pipe cleaners).

Putting the product on was way too difficult, especially since I was fully focused, used a flat surface, and have put on nail stickers before. The stickers had the embellishment on the top. They were impossible to cut while sticky so I decided to reverse them so I could actually see the design since my nails aren’t 3 inches long like the stickers. The stickers would not smooth out. I continued to smooth the nails, warming them with the heat of my fingers but they only continued to wrinkle up, refusing to lay down and be still. I read online that top coat would only cause the stickers to shrivel up so I did not attempt to add that.

When I was finally done and somewhat satisfied with my handy work, I went to sleep. The next morning I woke up to this…

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And promptly turned into Hades.

Now why was I so upset? If you read my blog you know I only paid a dollar for each package. But it’s the point. It’s the point that these are Essie, a reputable brand that we all know and love. And these are still on the market for full retail. And the consensus across multiple media sources is pretty much unanimously that they stink. The edges are rough, they chip within days, and they lift like there’s no tomorrow. My nails haven’t looked this wonky since the first time I tried a marble manicure.

My message to Essie is a simple one: do better.

-BGB

The Art of the Last Hurrah

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I am, innately and unabashedly, a writer. I have a huge journal that I’ve been hacking away at for years, along with my blog, social media accounts, and bits and pieces on paper in pockets, shoved in notebooks, and in my phone’s reminders section. These tidbits are all leads, ideas, and inspirations for stories yet to come. I use writing to express myself in every event of my life. Only in recent years have I come to incorporate photos into this expression.

So when I go through something mentally and emotionally traumatizing (ie: a breakup), writing is my first method of defense as well as my primary source of healing. I look through my entries of good times, write about the bad times, and start to use that as a way to make it through the haze.

A lot of times at the end of a relationship (especially a long one), I feel this need to share my final thoughts on the subject. I don’t do it because I am trying to rekindle a love lost or to prove a point or make the other person feel guilty. (It’s really a combination of the three.) Honestly though, I just want to feel a sense of closure and until that person has all of the facts and feelings in the raw and in front of them, I don’t feel like I can really move on. So I tend to have a habit of writing down said thoughts, good and bad, and handing them over to the latest chapter in my history book.

I’ll tell him about that time we went to eat and he was truly the most attractive man in the world for three whole minutes. I’ll tell him how his cupcakes are actually heinous and should be considered cruel and unusual torture. How I loved his dad, how I hated his cat, how I don’t actually like hardboiled eggs. I’ll tell him how insecure I felt next to him at times. How much I appreciated him being there for that honors banquet. I’ll tell him all the little things I probably should have told him along the way.

Then I feel like I’m off the hook. I was able to say everything I wanted without confrontation or tears or eye contact. I can be like an anonymous kidney donor who just drops a bomb on you that enlightens the whole world like BOOM! Kidney. Only mine is BOOM! You’ve got mail. (Donors, you are amazing.) What I mean is, I want that letter to change the receiver’s life, much in the way an organ donation can. I want it to make him question everything. I want him to doubt himself, learn something, and relive the whole experience through my eyes, even for just half a second. Because then maybe he would get it.

I have come to call these letters my last hurrahs. That’s how I see them. They are my last stage of mourning, my first stage of healing, and the first step in a new direction. They mean that I have come to a place where “our song” is a normal song again, I can eat at “our place” and not be miserable, and I have turned my sights toward a new future.

I sometimes wonder how these last hurrahs are met. If the receiver bursts into tears, laughs it off, shreds it and never even reads it. It really doesn’t matter. My hurrahs are just that: mine. The receivers are only a part of my process.

Good luck out there, heart throbs. You’ll get ’em next time.

-BGB

Dollar Tree Drugstore Beauty Haul

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Hey guys! So I was around town today and happened to stop into my favorite hidden treasure: Dollar Tree. Now I know what you’re thinking but this Dollar Tree is in an affluent neighborhood and is the size of a small supermarket. It tends to have some really high-end brands, albeit in small quantities, so I encourage you to shop frequently.

Today was my day off so I just went to the store out of convenience, not for anything in particular. Shocker: I ended up finding some serious deals in the beauty aisle! I picked out three packages of Essie Sleek Sticks. These are nail wraps or stickers, similar to Jamberry. They are a whole manicure in one. I didn’t know how much they retailed for but being Essie, I knew it was definitely more than a dollar.

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(From L to R: stickers and stones, over the moon, glam it on)

Next big deal were the Maybelline Color Tattoo 24hr shadows. I actually picked these up because I recently saw in a magazine (which one, I can’t remember) that these were a top makeup artist pick for fall or something along those lines. They are apparently really pigmented and blendable and come in a range of colors. I stuck with neutrals but there were gorgeous goldenrods, pinks, and blues as well. Again, these were in small quantities. There were maybe a dozen total shadows in the store.

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(buff & tuff, downtown brown)

I also picked up a Milani Shadow Eyez pencil in brown deluxe. I love shadow pencils in golden brown colors to use on my lower lash line to make my eye shape really pop. The shadow sticks are as easy to use as liners but smudge a lot more easily.

Finally, my last find was a package of tribal Hot Jewels, the As-Seen-On-TV variety of flash tats. Those are the metallic temporary tattoos that kind of look like jewelry and have been popular all summer. I’ve been wanting to try them but hadn’t been able to validate the cost. For $1, I figured they were worth a try. (Plus, tonight is Roglow, a huge paint/glow party you will hear more about soon.)

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Some of you are probably thinking: B, why not just pull out your trusty smartphone and see exactly how much these items retail for as you go? Well you see dear readers, I am a deal-catching fanatic. When I’m done deal hopping, I run directly home so I can look up the retail cost of each item and marvel at the glory of how much I saved (even though I usually didn’t need anything I bought). So for me, the chase is the best part. I love using my own knowledge-base to estimate how much I’ve saved. So here’s the roundup…

Essie Sleek Sticks: $9.99 (Target)

Maybelline Color Tattoo: $6.79 (Walgreens)

Milani Shadow Eyez: $6.49 (Walgreens)

Hot Jewels: $9.99 (Target)

That means I spent $7 for $60 worth of product! That’s a savings of over $50!

So check out your local discount spots; you never know what you’ll find.

-BGB

*everyone runs to Dollar Tree*

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Future Rich: A Lesson in Roth IRAs

We aren’t all born Kennedys and Gateses. Some of us have to make our own success from scratch and for some (fine, most of us) a major indicator of that success, however unwarranted, is money. Chaching, mula, bank. There are lots of ways to get that high-earning job and education plays a huge role. But today, I am here to talk about a way to start yourself off on the right financial foot from a young age. I am here to talk about investing.

For a lot of readers, investment is one of those terms you’ve only ever heard at the dinner table when your parents have those friends over for sangria, or at the doctor’s office when you overhear the guy in the room next to you (how is this all HIPAA approved?), or in those ads with the talking baby. The truth is, investing is just a way of building your money over time by making smart decisions and being patient, and you don’t have to have “CFA” (certified financial advisor) after your name to be hip on saving.

IRA is an acronym for individual retirement account. Don’t let that scare you off because today’s accounts make great high-yield savings for down payments on homes and college funds too. There are two main types of IRAs, traditional and Roth. Today’s post is going to focus on Roth IRAs because they are generally a better fit for young investors. Roths offer a lot more flexibility. (I definitely encourage you to do your research before doing any type of investing and I will list reputable resources for that at the end of the posting.)

A Roth IRA is a type of account which can be started by anyone of any age. You put money into it once you receive your paycheck just like you would with your normal savings account. The difference is that you are putting the money into an investment account, so it can fluctuate with the stock market. That fluctuation is what causes you to gain an average of 9% interest on your account versus the 1% going rate your bank offers. To give you an idea of that difference, $1000 placed in an account at your local bank will gain about $10 interest over the course of a year. By contrast, that same $1000 would gain close to $100 in interest in that year in a Roth.

Because we are talking about big money in interest, there is a cap on how much you can save in your Roth: up to $5500 a year. The money you contribute can be taken out at any time, which is one special feature of Roths. If an emergency were to happen, all your contributions could be returned to you within days. The interest you gain on your Roth can be removed at any time with a 10% penalty, or completely penalty free if you are over age 59 or using the money to buy a house or pay for school. Then $10000 of interest can be taken out penalty free as well, as long as you’ve been an account holder for five years.

Think you’re ready to take hold of your savings for the future and open a Roth of your own? Stay tuned for my next posting in the series, Future Rich: Choosing a Roth IRA.

Not sold yet? Check out this awesome graphic on how to turn $5000 a year into nearly $2.5 million. And no, I’m not a magician. (Courtesy of Bankrate)

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Happy #financefriday!

-BGB

Resources

Starter’s Guide

Official IRS Guidelines

Roth vs. Traditional

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Vacations under $500: Montreal, Canada

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My next journey is in the works and it is to *drumroll please*…Montreal! In reality, I would love to go France this year but neither my budget nor my schedule will allow it until next summer. Montreal is much closer to home, takes less travel time, and costs a lot less so it is the next best option.

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Montreal is a large French-speaking colony in southeastern Canada, less than two hours from the US border. With its culture and tiny streets, it feels like Europe. Being close to home has its perks: English speakers aplenty, similar currency rates, and a short flight.

As far as attractions go, the city has enough to keep someone as active as myself busy for a solid three to four days. I am not one to sleep-in during vacations in cities as culturally rich as Montreal- naps are for the Bahamas.

National Geographic had some great recommendations for free or low cost activities:

  • Musee de Lachine: outdoor sculpture museum along the canal
  • City Hall
  • Notre Dame Basilica: free if you go to a service
  • Musee de la Banque de Montreal: the city’s oldest bank which is now a museum
  • Parc du Mont Royal (which offers bus and hiking tours to the Belvedere observatory lookout spot) & the historic Smith House
  • McGill University’s Redpath National History Museum
  • Parc Maisonneuve area: Botanical Gardens, Insectarium, Olympic Stadium, Science Center (fees apply)
  • Marche Jean-Talon & Atwater: open air farmers’ markets

Continuing into food, I hear I must try poutine, basically fries with cheese and gravy on them. Also, local beer, honey, and smoked meat sandwiches. And surprise- bagels?! I will live to see and eat these Montrealian bagels. For around $50 you can even take a food tour of the Plateau neighborhood which is apparently the hipster center of the city.

There is also great shopping to be had down various main streets and there is a huge underground mall. You know you are in a cold, snowy climate when it was more economical to build an entire mall underground than to clear and salt the roads for the season.

The Old Port area also has culture to be explored, including small BYOBs, tiny boutiques, and the Grevin Wax Museum. Add that in with the downtown area’s jumping club scene and I see the recipe for an awesome long weekend.

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Cost

*passport not included

$50 in bus/cab/uber fare

+ $270 flight (nonstop from NYC)

+ $66 AirBNB (3 nights)

+ $50 food tour

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That brings us to a grand total of $436! Make sure to consider money for food and souvenirs. I tend to be on the low end of that because my favorite souvenirs are memories, pictures, and postcards. Plus, I enjoy buying at local markets and cooking.

When it comes to flights, I fly nonstop whenever possible. It’s more comfortable and generally takes less time. When booking flights, I try to leave early and arrive early and do the opposite on the way back, flying home late in the day. This allows the most time in the city. (Stay tuned for a packing tutorial and never pay to check a bag again.)

As far as AirBNB, I like having a home instead of a hotel. You get a lot more for your money and the guides are generally more than happy to help with directions, suggestions, and sometimes even family dinners or rides to the airport (score!) For my own reassurance, I choose to travel with friends, rent an entire apartment (not a room), and I only go with “Superhosts” (preferred hosts, screened through AirBNB) whenever possible.

If anyone has been to the land of the Maples or is a current ‘Trealiar, please comment below with suggestions!

Au revoir,

BGB

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September Ipsy Bag (and a note on Ipsy customer service)

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Calling all makeup mavens!

I have been receiving ipsy bags throughout the summer. My parents bought me a one-year subscription for my birthday which is an awesome gift idea for the woman in your life. It’s a present every month!

Basically, ipsy is a cosmetic subscription service. You can pay for ipsy each month or for a year (in which case you’d get a month free). Each month, you receive a bag with five high-end cosmetic products ranging from skincare to hair products, makeup and nail polish, and beauty tools like brushes. This all comes in a makeup bag designed exclusively by ipsy and it all arrives in one of those metallic pink bubble mailers that probably took over your Instagram at some point. Before receiving your first bag, you fill out a detailed, online quiz to choose which types of products you prefer, as well as your skin, hair, and eye colors.

I have been so happy with the products I have received and this month is no exception. I particularly love the lux material and color of this month’s bag. Below are the products I knew I was receiving through my sneak peek email.

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My bag arrived yesterday and I opened it so excited and major bummer- there were a couple of problems. First off, I received two lipsticks and no lotion. Second, the amazingly smelling, high quality argan oil should probably have been individually wrapped because it spilled out and saturated my bag’s liner with oil.

The rest of the products were fine but I contacted ipsy customer service about the lotion and oil/bag. Their primary mode of contact is email. A few hours later I received a thoughtful email back apologizing and issuing me an entirely new bag! I will let you know how it pans out when it arrives but the customer service experience was great. Prompt, thoughtful, apologetic, and willing to make things right. No wonder people love ipsy.

If you’re interested in subscribing, ipsy costs $10 a month or $110 for a year. There is often a waiting list so feel free to use my referral code below to start getting your bags and earning points toward bonus products!

Referral Code

Stay tuned for reviews and have a wonderful day, gorgeouses!

-BGB

Photos courtesy of ipsy.com

Budgeting 101: Mint

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Being a full-time college student and part-time employee, I have a delicate balance in my hands. Free time is hard to come by but I don’t mind because I know that my balancing act is helping to cut down on college debt. Still, it’s important to make sure there is a light at the end of the tunnel besides just a lack of debt. For me, that light is travel.

Going to new places, meeting interesting people, and immersing myself in other cultures is what I live for. To get there, I budget my funds so I make sure there is enough to live the life I have planned in my head. (The one where I gently throw my hair over my shoulder when I meet that guy who backpacked all over Europe as I prepare him for an audio-representation of my travels.)

I don’t have the time or desire to sit down with a pen and paper or an Excel spreadsheet or to hold onto receipts like my grandmother. Instead, I do what any good millennial would: I use an app.

Mint is a completely free app by Intuit, the people who make TurboTax (which I am also a dedicated fan of). By completely free I mean no fees upfront, no trial period, no popups. Really free for your enjoyment and use. How often does that happen?

You can use the app from your phone or your computer. Once inside, you can connect all of your accounts like credit cards from your bank or stores, checking accounts and debit cards, savings accounts, IRAs, you name it. The app will track each purchase you make and categorize it based on your budget. No need for receipts- the power of online banking has you covered.

The first month you use Mint, you can set goals for yourself or use the program’s estimated budgeting goals. After that, you can stick to where you’re comfortable or be like me and treat personal spending as a cut-throat game of savings. I see how I can get those budgets down, not because I need to but because once you see the way spending adds up, it seems downright necessary. It doesn’t matter how many times your mom told you that packing your lunch is a lot cheaper than eating at Chipotle four times a week. Until you see your burritos lined up in dollar signs, it’s hard to validate the switch to PB&J. (More on how to not have to eat PB&J but still save money to come.)

The app also offers helpful tips and tricks based on your spending. For example, if you have a low interest savings account, Mint will show you alternatives with the same monthly fees that offer better rates. You can even get your Equifax credit score for free through the app with helpful tips on how to improve your score for next time.

Make sure once you get down the budgeting aspect of Mint you set goals for yourself in the computer-only “goals” tab. This is a great feature for my fellow (or future) world travelers who want a visual representation of how long it will take to get where they’re going.

Try it out and tell me what you think! Know an alternative? Comment below!

-BGB

Photo courtesy of Mint.com

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