Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cherry Blossom-Inspired Date Night:
Homemade Maki Sushi Rolls & Kirin Beer

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Millennial Central for Kirin. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

I literally just returned from a fabulously epic girls weekend in Washington DC with my BFF, the famous S, Kate, Alex, Catalina, and Zack (honorary female) for the final weekend of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and my first official order of business upon my return to Orlando was to make my own maki sushi rolls. Call me uninformed, but I honestly had no idea the festival was rooted in such rich Japanese history, so I learned all about the sublimity that is Japanese cuisine and Kirin beer

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls
Playing with my BFFs during the final weekend of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.-- Formal post to come! 

Apparently, Kirin is one of Japan's oldest breweries, with a history dating back to 1888. The back story of Kirin's history is that the mythical Kirin Beast is considered a good omen of serenity and prosperity-- so everyone should consume it abundantly according to Asian prophecy. I've seen my brother drink it before at sushi//hibachi restaurants, but I've always turned a cold shoulder and stuck with wine... cause you really can't ever go wrong with a glass of Riesling (let's be real). Luckily, there are a few different variations of Kirin beer, so if something doesn't quite fancy your palette, you have alternate options. My friends and I were able to taste test all the Kirin beers, known world-wide as beer at its purest because of its first-press brewing process and clean taste, and we were all obsessed. 

First, there's standard Kirin Ichiban, which is 100% malt, first-press beer with rich flavor, a smooth finish, and a clean aftertaste. It only uses the first strain of malt liquid, which means it's truly beer at its purest, and it's known for pairing beautifully with traditional Japanese cuisine and modern Asian cuisine. Second, there's Kirin Light, which offers a full flavor and authentic Japanese-style beer with just 95 calories. Kirin Light calls to me, simply for the caloric content, and it intuitively pairs well with lighter, healthier Asian dishes, ie. pageant girl food. Lastly, there's Kirin Ichiban Frozen, which is a draught beer topped with frozen Kirin Ichiban using a fancy pants proprietary process. Now available at select lucky U.S. location (Yes, D.C. is one of the privileged few), it's an innovative and non-traditional way to enjoy Ichiban in Japan, and it's good. Real good. 

Kirin's unique taste is the perfect compliment to refined traditional Japanese cuisine (like maki sushi), the bold flavors of modern Asian food, and other flavor-forward dishes. S, the driving force of our impromptu beer tasting, actually attended a National Cherry Blossom Festival event last week where former fashion model and celebrity chef Candice Kumai introduced Kirin pairing tips and Japanese-style recipes with event goers. Throughout the year, Chef Kumai will continue to share more special recipes and tips on Kirin's Facebook page, so I will continue to attempt different Asian dishes and force poor bystanders to eat my masterpieces during this one-year time period. Have I mentioned I'm trying to be more domestic?

Former model and celebrity chef Candice Kumai at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Sake Tasting, kicking off the release of Kirin's Ichiban Frozen beer

In preparation for my little cooking adventure, I did some mild research on the Japanese customs, since my dad is adamant about doing as the Romans do when in Rome. Japanese custom mandates never filling your own glass and never letting another's glass get completely empty, so you have to be on your hostess A game when preparing for an Asian-inspired dinner party. Also, in Japan, when everyone is ready to drink, they salute by saying, "Kanpai," which literally means, "Dry your glass." Cheers to that.

In order to get started, you're going to need a rice paddle, bamboo mat, rice bowl, and soy sauce ramekins, among other optional instruments. As far as the actual ingredients go, the essentials are: 10-12 sheets toasted nori (seaweed), 1.5 cups sushi rice, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Set the mood for your evening with cherry blossoms, or in my case, the next best thing at Publix: purple or pink miniature orchids. Atmosphere is everything.

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

Make your sushi rice first. Prepare and cook the sushi rice as directed on the package, sticking to a roughly two parts grain, one part water ratio. Cool the rice slightly while preparing your sushi-su (sushi vinegar), which is an Asian creation consisting of 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and one teaspoon of salt. Combine in a medium mixing bowl and whisk well to completely dissolve all the sugar and salt. 

This is the kind-of-tricky part, and it's best to tag team with a cooking partner. Transfer your slightly-cooled sushi rice into a large bowl. Using a rice paddle and a small paper fan (ie. piece of paper), fan the sushi rice as you slowly drizzle the sushi vinegar over the rice. Cut the sushi rice with the rice paddle as you fan the rice to cool at the same time. Be sure to not mix the rice. Simply cut through your block of rice until all of the sushi-su is absorbed. 

They see me rollin'... they hatin'...

This was the fun part. Don't be surprised if a guy completely reveals his inner domestic goddess while rolling your sushi. Make sure your rice is still warm and that you've got a clean surface to work on, like a clean cutting board or counter top. Lay down your bamboo mat on your work surface, then place the nori on top of the bamboo mat, shiny side down. 

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

Using your rice paddle, spread a layer of approximately .5 cup sushi rice in the middle of the nori sheet. At the bottom of the sushi roll, closest to you, add your choice of fillers (cucumber, avocado  etc), proteins (imitation crab, salmon, etc.), and seasonings in a horizontal line. Tightly roll from the bottom up into a long maki roll. Gently squeeze the bamboo mat to tighten your roll. 

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

To cut into edible pieces, remove your bamboo mat and cut your roll in half. Wipe off your knife with your towel in between slicing, or things get nasty real quick. Next, line up your two halves and cut into fourths and sixths. Repeat until all the sushi rice is used. Serve and enjoy immediately. 

Make sure you've got wasabi (or in our case, Japanese horseradish), ginger, soy sauce, and spicy mustard, since those are popular Asian sauces/compliments. Serve on a rectangular sushi plate, and you're ready to go. Asian sensation say heyyy

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

No joke, our sushi tasted amazing. Like, legit amazing. The Kirin Light, ringing in at only 95 calories, was the perfect beverage pairing for me, and Ian opted for the full bodied (and full calorie) Kirin Ichiban beer. It's refreshing, mildly sweet, and well balanced, so it complements the sweet and spicy flavors in the maki sushi like an absolute charm. 

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

Kirin USA, Japanese Cuisine, Candice Kumai, Cherry Blossom Festival, Maki Sushi Rolls

I never honestly thought that my trip to DC would spawn an urge to make my own sushi, but it did, and I'm glad it did. I feel more domestic already. The fact that Ian did 96% of the work while I "supervised" is irrelevant. 

Who else has made their own sushi? Did you pair it with Kirin Ichiban like we did?

Have a great week!

♥ Stephanie

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pageant Girl Problems:
How to Repair Dull & Damaged Hair

As per FTC regulations, this post is sponsored by Global Influence Network, but all opinions are my own. #WeightlessHair

So apparently dying your hair back and forth from dark brunette to honey blonde can be harmful to its structural integrity. Who knew? It's an unfortunate truth, but as a pageant queen, I tend to perform better as a blonde-- on the contrary, in my every day non-glamorous life, I prefer to be brunette. It's more natural and a heavy favorite among my friends and family. Since this is my last year of eligibility in the Miss USA system, I'm doing all I can to ensure my best foot is forward come the state pageant in July, which translates to: my hair will be significanly lightened, tortured with heat, and tangled with extensions over the next few weeks. I think it goes without saying that my hair will be suffering. Majorly suffering. We're talking poor, dry, brittle, and tangle-prone locks who are supposed to somehow shine with illustrious sparkle on stage. 

As far as protectants go, Keratin is not an option for preserving my hair's health, since it removes any potential for volume and bounce-- which are two vital characteristics of effective pageant//bombshell hair. I've tried every other serum under the sun, and nothing seems to actually repair the damage besides reverting to air drying my hair, waiting a few months, and avoiding any and all forms of color treatment. Well, I'm happy to say I came across a fabulous and inexpensive method for restoring the natural shine and luster of healthy hair. It's called the new Dove® Advanced Hair Series, and it's available at my favorite place for all things feminine: Walgreens. 

The new Dove® Advanced Hair Care line offers an innovative and sensorial hair collection that provides weightless moisture plus volume and shine, so you can keep that oomph and bounce all day. As their slogan says, it literally "breathes life into lifeless hair." This brand spankin' new series' products create non-oily, weightless moisture and nourishment for hair, ranging from Oxyfusion to Dry Oil treatments aimed at correcting the burdens of fine-flat hair and dry-dull hair. I seem to suffer from all 4 conditions (fine, flat, dry, & dull-- yippee), so I'm an avid fan, especially for the price. 

Their products range from about $5-$10 at Walgreens, and although I'm such a fan of Moroccan and Argon Oil, I just can't justify spending $10 more for half the product when a full-sized Dove bottle accomplishes the same objective for less. Watch this super neat and quick video below for more information about product details and comparisons.  

Oh, and y'all are all invited to join in on the #WeightlessHair Twitter party on Wednesday, April 16 at 8 PM ET with @ResourcefulMom. RSVP here for a chance to win one of ten $50 Walgreens gift cards: http://resourcefulmommy.com/13754/dove-advanced-hair-series-at-walgreens-twitter-party/

Has anyone else given Dove's new Advanced Hair Care Series a try? What did you think? 

Have a great week, lovelies! I'm seriously sad I'm leaving DC this afternoon. Back to reality! Blah

♥ Stephanie

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Can Be Trophy Wife Barbie:
Springtime Bees, Trees, & Graphic Tees

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

One time, a guy I was regrettably kind of seeing disclosed that his friend referred to me as a "trophy wife." I was offended. How rude. How sexist. How shallow. I have a degree in Actuarial Science, and I manage a financial planning firm for a living. Then, in my infinite wisdom (ie. once my period ended), I realized it's actually a back-handed compliment. Although the term "trophy wife" has an extremely negative connotation of implied incompetence and superficiality, I will be a trophy wife. Not in the sense that I'm all about looks, but because my nonexistent husband should be proud of me and all my professional accomplishment. Plus, hopefully he'll think I'm hot. Trophy wife hot. 

So the point of this rant is that I have fallen in love with the Trophy Wife graphic tee that 9th & Elm sent me. It was between this and their Selfie tank, so I'm sure you can fathom the inner debate that perpetuated in my head for 20+ minutes-- but ultimately, it stole my heart, and I'm in love. Opting for a casual look, I styled my amazing tank with black skinnies and a mint sparkle spin scarf from Subtle Luxury

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

Call me a crazy bag lady, but the bigger the better in my opinion! I use my Tory Burch Nylon Ella, Ella for short, as a work tote, and she doubles as a fabulous weekend bag, holding everything from my wallet to my towel and sunscreen for tanning opportunities. 

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

As far as accessories go, I tried to keep it clean and bright with a classic silver Kate Spade Gramercy Grand watch, David Yurman "Cable Classic" bracelet, and-- my favorite-- Lily and Laura bracelets from 9th and Elm.

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD

9th & Elm, Trophy Wife, Tory Burch, Subtle Luxury, Lily and Laura bracelets, Lauren Conrad, OOTD
Top: 9th & Elm // Jeans: Express // Scarf: Subtle Luxury // Shoes: Lauren Conrad // Watch: Kate Spade // Bracelets: Lily and Laura & David Yurman // Earrings: Max & Chloe // Bag: Tory Burch 

Shout out to my fellow trophy wives! Baby, do whatcha do!

Happy Hump Day, pretties!

♥ Stephanie

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The New Age Girls' Night:
Chill Out, Max, & Relax without the Calories

“This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #TENways  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Four Ten Calorie DPSG Products, Core Four, #TENways, #PMedia, #ad

Y'all, I'm all for cheat days, but if you're anything like me, one downward spiraling binge can ruin my restrained appetite and dedicated exercise routine for weeks. Since I'm training for Miss Florida USA in a few months here, I have to be responsible... even on my designated off days. Hence, I've decided to revamp the idea of the standard Girl's Night. Instead of erasing the week's hurdles at a bar with wine, cocktails, and sugar, opt for classy night in with mocktails, Cards Against Humanity, and a plethora of fruit and cheese with all your favorite ladies. 

When I was shopping at Walmart for my last GNI (Girls Night In- duh), I passed the beer aisle, paused, then kept moving... then I passed the wine, paused, and kept moving... then I came to soda section. Now, I'm one of those girls who absolutely refuses to drink her calories. I'd so much rather eat and enjoy an entire chocolate bar than quickly gulp down a sleep-deprived-female-sized glass of full calorie soda. Normally I'm completely turned off to all zero calorie soft drinks, with the exception of diet cola, just because the taste is so blah. Well, low and behold, the soda peeps came out with a 10-calorie formula for all the most awesome soft drinks (7UP, Sunkist, A&W, and Canada Dry)--with legitimate full flavor. They're called the TEN beverages, and seriously, they taste just like their full calorie cronies. 

Four Ten Calorie DPSG Products, Core Four, #TENways, #PMedia, #ad

Just cause I like y'all so much-- and since I'm quickly becoming a coupon queen, here's a link to a coupon for $0.50 off the purchase of two 2 liter bottles or two 4-pack cans of 7UP TEN, A&W TEN, Canada Dry TEN, RC TEN, or Sunkist TEN soda from Walmart.com. This offer is valid until April 17, while supplies last. 

Oh, and the party planner//girly girl in me won't settle for boring old traditional glasses either. Brighten up your evening with some fruit garnishes to set a playful and fun mood for you and your friends. If your guests aren't quite as concerned about getting beach body ready for summer as you are, suggest they bring their own liquor and use the TEN sodas as mixers. They'll enjoy the exact same full flavor Whiskey Ginger with a fraction of the calories without sacrificing taste. Pretty dang awesome, if you ask me. 

Four Ten Calorie DPSG Products, Core Four, #TENways, #PMedia, #ad

Then, make sure your calorie conscious night is set with all the the remaining sustenance, like healthy snacks, magazines, movies, and games. Luckily, my besties are super easy to please, so I try and have copious amounts of fruit, veggies, dip, and cheese platters, in addition to a variety of refreshing and low-calorie mocktails, which are basically just Sunkist TEN and 7UP TEN with ice and citrus garnishes. 

Four Ten Calorie DPSG Products, Core Four, #TENways, #PMedia, #ad

Four Ten Calorie DPSG Products, Core Four, #TENways, #PMedia, #ad

Lastly, make sure there's ample entertainment. Movie nights are always a crowd favorite, but it's probably a good idea to factor in a round or two of Cards Against Humanity or Mad Gab and to have a few recent magazines out and about, as well. As far as the movie selection goes, make sure you have an adequate selection of female favorites, and then put your top picks front and center. It's effective marketing, y'all. 

Disclaimer: This tactic doensn't work on men. I've tried. 

Four Ten Calorie DPSG Products, Core Four, #TENways, #PMedia, #ad

I would like to point out that somebody debo-ed my Mean Girls, and I'm kind of upset about it. Bridesmaids may or may not be my second choice.

Four Ten Calorie DPSG Products, Core Four, #TENways, #PMedia, #ad

I know it sounds pretty mellow, but our Girls' Nights In turn out to be a complete blast, and I prefer them to counting calories at a local dive bar any day. What does you ideal girls night consist of? Have you tried any of the TEN beverages yet? 

Have a great week, pretties!

♥ Stephanie

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Host the Perfect Poker Night:
A Party Planner's Guide to Poker + Cigars

“This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Scandinavian Tobacco Group Lane, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #CuberoLuxury http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

#CuberoLuxury, #PMedia, #ad, Poker Night, Cubero, Cigars

Let me tell you something I've learned all too well from personal experience... You can only host so many soirées before the boys start complaining about a lack of manliness in your social agenda. Party planners across the globe must learn to perfect the art of creating the perfect "boy's night," while still making sure it's 100% geared towards having fun with your girlfriends. So, how do you throw a poker night that's sure to be a hit amongst males and females alike?

Easy, you follow these simple requirements.


My girlfriends are all about creating social media worthy photo ops, so forcing their boyfriends//boy friends to dress in a respectable and similar fashion on their designated guys' night makes everybody happy! Since I wanted to go for a Casino Royale theme (James Bond, y'all), I invited all my guests via casual Facebook invite and asked all confirmed attendees to don black Vegas-worthy attire.


Poker is obvious. Now make sure you have the right gear, since we all know men take poker very serious. Make sure you've got at least two decks, a superfluous amount of chips, and a proper table to play on (circular is encouraged, although we've played a time or two on our rectangular one).

#CuberoLuxury, #PMedia, #ad, Poker Night, Cubero, Cigars

I'm all about hanging in for a round or two, but I'll be honest... I have no interest in playing poker all night, nor do I have an interest in inevitably losing money while pretending to know what I'm doing. Pick a game organizer, and allow them to run the poker table, while you and your non-card playing friends opt for one of the following:

1. Movie Night
2. Cards Against Humanity Game
3. Intense Gossip Sesh
4. Impromptu Dance Party
5. Karaoke

... or you can frustrate the boys while playing on your phones and/or threatening to go ALL IN on every hand, like my friends and me.

Oh, and don't forget the essential playlist! Music is too often ignored in general conversation about poker night preparation, but it's the only sure-fire way to guarantee that, no matter which way the game turns, the atmosphere will remain fun and relaxed. I, as always, opt for 90s pop and hip-hop, since I'm clearly 12 at heart. Hence, Spice Girls Pandora definitely made the grade at my party. Never give up on the good times!


Besides getting a variety of fancy pants drinks for the ladies, nothing will get you party planner brownie points faster than making sure the boys are well stocked on luxury cigars and beer. First thing's first, the right product choices at a poker game say a lot about your character, so I obviously picked up a variety of Cubero Cigars from Walmart.

Perfect Poker, Cubero Cigars, #PMedia, #CuberoLuxury, #ad

Cubero represents a wide combination of tobaccos that are renowned for their aromatic and flavorful qualities, and they manufacture and sell a variety of cigars, pipe tobacco, and fine-cut tobacco in the US. The guys will thank you with each and every puff-- and if you're feeling daring, try one yourself! Although my girlfriends and I don't smoke, we sure take some pseudo bad-A Vegas diva selfies.

#CuberoLuxury, #PMedia, #ad, Poker Night, Cubero, Cigars

Straight out of Vegas, baby.

#CuberoLuxury, #PMedia, #ad, Poker Night, Cubero, Cigars

Next, there's beer. Think about how many beers you drink a night... then multiply that by 4... then multiply that by your estimated number of party attendees... then add 10... then buy that number of beers. Remember, poker night is a free license to cut loose (except for you DDs), so there should be ample liquid courage to further intensify the gambling. 

Also, make sure your liquor cabinet is still going strong, since most ladies will opt for cocktails. I always make sure I have an adequate amount of the following 9 essentials: gin, tequila, vodka, dark of spiced rum, light rum, bourbon, brandy, whiskey, and scotch. You can pretty much make any cocktail under the sun if you've got these babies in your household. Lastly, grab a bottle of wine or two, just in case you've got some classy old timers (like moi) in the mix.

#CuberoLuxury, #PMedia, #ad, Poker Night, Cubero, Cigars

And don't forget about your designated DDs. Make sure you've got some soda, sparkling water, or sparkling cider available, too.


KISS, kiss. Keep it simple, sweethearts (no, I don't like calling people stupid; it's the preschool ingrained in me). Do not go all out with a gourmet spread, since it will be completely unappreciated. Poker night calls for pizza, chips, dip, cheese, fruit, veggies, and other one-word snacks. If you want to get a little fancy, maybe try some homemade pigs-in-a-blanket or buffalo chicken dip (description below). To ensure people aren't expecting a four course meal, have the poker party start after 8, since it's only reasonable for guests to expect drinks and snacks from that point forward.

My friend showed me how to make this amazing buffalo chicken dip featured on the back of Frank's Redhot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce bottle, and I wanted to share the recipe with y'all. It takes literally under 20 minutes to make, and paired with some pita chips? It's to DIE for.

Frank's Redhot Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients: 8 oz pck cream cheese // 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese // 1/2 cup blue cheese dressing // 2 cups diced cooked chicken // 1/2 cup Frank's Redhot Sauce

1. Place cream cheese into deep dish.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients.
3. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until hot.
4. Stir.
5. Enjoy.

And there you have it! My poker party was a huge success, mostly thanks to my amazing besties, who've asked to be referred to by the following aliases: Lyle Smith, the investment banker from Utah, Greg McGuillicutty of unknown location and profession, Ri, Goat Roaper, N, Tonx McAwesome AKA Brother Bear, among several anonymous others. I hope these tips make your next poker night a guaranteed good time, as well!

Oh, and major shoutout to Mike-- I mean, Lyle Smith. the investment banker from Utah-- for some seriously awesome photography! What would I do without you?!

Who else loves an excuse for luxury cigars and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity with all your girlfriends-- AKA a boys' poker night?

♥ Stephanie

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How to be Fab on a Budget:
15 Easy Tips for Saving Money without Changing Your Lifestyle

Talking about money is tawdry, and I've always made it my personal goal to not broadcast how much I have. Now, this is not because I have just sooo much of it-- primarily because I don't. It's because style should be timeless and effortless; wealth is irrelevant. Class speaks for itself. Contrary to what I thought when I was twelve, you don't need designer brands and high-end accessories to be fabulous. It's all about confidence, character, and a knack for eyeing classic style! 

With that being said, drowning in debt can be a serious downer when it comes to living a fun and fancy free lifestyle. On the contrary, counting nickels and dimes can be just as frustrating and may turn you into the oh-so-attractive female version of Mr. Scrooge. Ergo, I've compiled a list of 15 tips for saving money with ease... without changing anything major about your lifestyle. 

Make an online budget through Mint or eMoney. Stick to it. I've been an avid user of both systems for years now (started off with Mint, which is free to use, and graduated to the more secure and investment savvy eMoney). You set and analyze savings goals, credit card balances, home loans-- you name it. You can even sign up for notifications when you're approaching, or after you've exceeded, your budgeted amount in any given spending category. They even have mobile apps you can access on your phone, so you can carry your monetary reminders with you wherever you go. 

There really isn't any excuse for not using an online budgeting system. If you're spending too much, you immediately need a budget; subsequent changes must be made if you ever hope to make progress towards financial freedom. Mint and eMoney are the solution. 

This has been the biggest financial obstacle for me. At this point in my life, I'm 25, and I only have one more year of eligibility as a competitor in the Miss USA Organization. All of my efforts, both mentally and financially, need to be directed towards that Miss FL USA crown... not traveling across the country or going shopping every weekend. Lord knows this is an expensive hobby, so I have to remind myself of imminent future expenses lurking in the distance and save accordingly. 

If your goal is to save, travel, attend as many galas as possible, donate or tithe a certain percentage of your income, you name it... make sure only ONE is more primary focus. All other objectives need to be viewed and treated as secondary, at least until you receive that massive raise and/or find your rich husband.  

Pay for as much as you can in cash. This is key for extreme money saving strategics, and it's straight from the mouths of key financial gurus, like Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman,  and my bosses (cause I really do consider them the smartest financial guys I know). Nothing puts the halt on your purse strings faster than physically watching your stash of money deplete, and with credit cards now a days, you so quickly lose track of what, how frequent, and how much you spend.  Trust me, that $5 drink at Starbucks will look a whole lot less appealing when you realize you only have a $10 left in your wallet, and you still need gas to get home and food to eat when you get there. 

If you're ever in a pecuniary pickle, consider selling your new or gently-used clothes, makeup, electronics, books, etc. on eBay or Half.com. You can set a low Buy It Now option and have your item sold in hours... and trust me, you'd be surprised what people are willing to buy. 

I've also sold a few electronics through Gazelle. They pre-pay your shipping and have a check or direct deposit to you within days. I'd go with eBay first, just because the pricing is more competitive, but if you have any issues selling electronics online, Gazelle is a good backup.

Download the RetailMeNot app for daily coupons and discount codes. I've found myself purposely avoiding stores (cough*Kohl's*cough) now until I have a coupon code... but you know what? I'm saving TONS of money. You see how regularly different retail stores offer discounts, and it makes you literally unwilling to pay full price. Another key example? Never ever pay full price for clothing at Express. It's 100% guaranteed that some discount is going on somewhere on the internet, and Lord knows the store clerk won't mention anything about it to you. You can even set store favorites, and the app will notify you whenever a new promotional code is detected. To put it bluntly, this app is freakin' awesome. Download it NOW. 

Visit Consignment Stores. Plato's Closet is the perfect example. Not only will they pay you for your gently-used clothes and accessories, but they have some adorable and impressively relevant stuff for purchase, too. 

Rent the runway through Rent the Runway. Unexpected wardrobe expenses can completely kill my entire month's clothing budget. Unfortunately, as a pageant queen, I regularly attend formal galas and events, and call it cliche, but I can't wear the same outfit within a given period of time, and a girl only has so many formal gowns. As a titleholder, or local philanthropist or model or excited attendee, you always want to look your best, and with my modest salary, everything high-end is typically completely out of my price range, which is depressing. Instead of purchasing a new $xx-hundred dollar outfit for each evening, I use Rent the Runway.

Never heard of it? It's a community designed to fill the needs of every day fabulous women-- women who love high fashion and want to experiment with new upscale brands-- without the anxiety of investing in piece after piece. Users benefit from the expertise of professional stylists and the shared wisdom of like-minded fashion-forward members through user reviews and photographs. Through their exclusive relationship with top designers, Rent the Runway is able to continually update its stock with the latest pieces, so you're literally able to rent the runway for a fraction of the cost. 

My BFF, S, is a local philanthropist making her impressive mark in Washington D.C., and she is the culprit who got me hooked this site. As a nightly attendee at a different cocktail hour or formal dinner every night, Rent the Runway continually saves her butt and her budget on the reg. Oh, and did I mention you get $25 off your first rental? Pretty awesome. Rent away!

Google the desired product name. Nothing ensure you're getting the best deal more than an old-fashioned Google search. It will give you a basic grid of available purchasing options, displaying obvious discrepancies in cost for the same item amongst different vendors. Do your research, and make sure Google doesn't have any more competitive offers on the table before you buy. 

Sign up for sites that offer money back for purchasing through them, like Ebates or FatWallet. They're free to sign up, and the steps are simple: log in, pick a store or coupon, and get cash back on every purchase! You can set preferences for favorite stores to experience the easiest form of online shopping and completely customized deals. I'm adamant about using Ebates this Christmas; my BFF, Ashley Brooke, swears by this easy online money saver, and I won't be caught dead in Millenia Mall after Thanksgiving! I'm too big of a fan of personal space. 

Don't knock Craigs List. Look, I love Lifetime just as much as the next girl, but conducting business through Craig's List doesn't have to result in sexual assault. Sell your stuff, respond to talent ads, place a personal ad (go getcha some), the sky's the limit-- just make sure you're verifying the credibility of the other party and ALWAYS bring somebody with you if you're meeting to exchange goods and/or receive payment in person. 

When shopping online, abandon your shopping cart for a day or two. Stores get antsy and most likely will start emailing you discount codes and incentives for purchase. Just make sure it's something you don't absolutely need in the immediate future; the possibility of items selling out is a scenario I've been plagued with several times when exercising this game plan. 

For bigger purchases, don't be afraid to negotiate. If you're not a barterer, bring someone with you who is. Let them do the talking. My bosses have literally perfected the art of extreme negotiation, and from here on out, I will not purchase anything in 4-digit territory without them speaking to the associate beforehand. I recently witnessed them schmooze their way into buying major office equipment at cost, saving tens of thousands of dollars on multiple machines, and although I don't possess these same skills, I'll never accept  a high price as a final offer ever again. 

Sort through your closet often. Most times I resort to buying new things because I feel like I have nothing to wear. My walk-in closet begs to differ, and when I actually take the time to see what I forgot I already own, my desire to spend money usually disintegrates. Basic closet maintenance is a factor, too, so be sure you're clearing out what you don't wear at least once a  year. After all, how will you remind yourself about that gorgeous gown when it's sandwiched in between 10 dresses you admit you'll never wear again? Answer: Not gonna happen. 

Always keep tags and receipts. Sure, I fall victim to my own compulsive shopping habits all the time, and it's taken me a while, but I can finally bring myself to return things when my emotions get the best of me. Hence, I keep all receipts and tags until I'm 100% committed to wearing an article. 

Sign up for your favorite stores' newsletters. There's no better way to be notified in advance of deals, steals, and sales than to receive upcoming news from the sources themselves. That way, you can budget and prioritize accordingly. Win-Win. 

So that's that! How do you save? Any budgetary tips I should know about? A girl can never have a big enough savings account! 

Have a fabulous weekend, y'all!

♥ Stephanie
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