Thursday, January 29, 2015

Project Payoff:
10 Small Changes to Create Big Rewards in 2015

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Payoff, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #payoffmindset #whatsyourpayoff  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Payoff, Project Payoff, Pollinate Media



Heyyy, 2015-- you nice new slate, beautiful broad horizon, and fabulous fresh start, you. I didn't publish an official resolution post this year, but one of my main goals for the year is to get my financials in order. I actually manage a financial planning firm, so the fact that I'm not putting aside money for retirement and/or designating a rainy day or emergency fund is straight up painful for my bosses, especially while I'm still unmarried and childless. The truth is that very small changes or substitutes can accrue a substantial amount of money over the course of a year, so I'm vowing to set aside all of these small bits of savings in a separate savings bank account to finally be invested appropriately at the end of the year. 

You may remember a post I wrote around a year ago about 15 Easy Tips for Saving Money without Changing Your Lifestyle, and these tips are absolutely still applicable. However, these new tips will slightly alter your lifestyle while reaping substantial financial rewards, so combine all 25 tips to be your most financially responsible self-- while still having fun and being fabulous. I'm only 26; being un-fabulous really isn't an option. 



1. Palliate the payoff. 


Payoff, Project Payoff, Pollinate Media



There is actually a program which allows you to simplify your credit card bills into one monthly payment, and it's called Payoff. I just graduated a few years ago, so I know first hand how intimidating accumulating credit card debt and student loans can be. You feel like you're drowning, and more and more water keeps rushing in. You make a relative dent in one credit card, and then you get the bill for the other 2 or 3, and all your hard work seems fruitless.

 Payoff.com is in the business of empowering people in all financial stages to become more financially healthy and live their dreams-- basically, they're in the YOU business. All you have to do is apply through their website, which won't affect your credit score, and see if you're eligible for their program. They'll help you get rid of your credit card balances, so you can move forward in your life and achieve your wildest dreams. The application takes minutes, and somebody's always there to instant chat to answer your questions. 



Payoff, Pollinate Media



And if you're not approved for their loan program? Payoff can still help. You can still utilize the "Lift" program, which is designed as a credit and money education platform to help you gain control over simple areas of your financial life.



Payoff, Pollinate Media



2. Auto-transfer.


Payoff, Pollinate Media


I'm speaking from experience, the larger my bank account grows, the more likely I am to splurge on $400 worth of makeup and athletic equipment I have no intention of ever using. Sign up online for auto-transfers with your bank. I have mine set so that as soon as I'm paid, a chunk of money is automatically moved from my checking into my savings account. 

Also, if you anticipate just transferring the money back over to facilitate a binge spending spree, make sure your savings and checking accounts are held at separate banks. For example, my checking account is held at SunTrust, and my savings accounts is with BB&T. External transfers can take days to complete, while internal transfers take minutes. Odds are you won't still want those 7 Lululemon tops in 3 days, especially once the $500 price tag settles into your stomach. 



3. Hit the pavement.  


Payoff, Pollinate Media


I would like to preface this tip with the following message: I am not supporting a sedentary lifestyle with no physical activity. However, instead of throwing $50-$100 dollars at a gym every month, see how much you enjoy exercising in the outdoors. Transition from treadmill to sidewalk, Stair Master to actual stair climbing, or elliptical to something way better than an elliptical



4. Bye Starbucks, hello Keurig. 


Payoff, Pollinate Media


The amount of money I spend at Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts is sickening. To be completely transparent, I went to one of the two coffee shops, averaging about $3.50 per visit, just about every work day of last year. Yep, that's 280 (56x5) days, totaling around $980 in coffee per year. 

Now, I'm not going to tell you to forgo caffeine altogether; that's just crazy talk. However, if you can reduce your average daily coffee cost to around $1 (Keurig k-kup + creamer + sugar cost), you'll save around $700 annually. That's $700 you can invest in your Roth IRA, put towards your student loans, or use for your play money. Any way you look at it, you'll benefit generously from this cost effective switch. 

Plus, I think coffee mugs are much cuter than Styrofoam and/or paper cups. Preserve the environment, people.



5. Drink water.


Payoff, Pollinate Media


This tip obviously offers multiple benefits. I'm sure one of your resolutions involved being healthier in some way, shape, or form, so avoid ordering drinks when you go out to eat. Unless it's a weekend or you're celebrating a special occasion, get out of the habit of ordering a glass of wine or a Diet Coke with your meal. Water is free, and your body needs it. Plain and simple. If the average person dines out 3 times per week, you'll save approximately $15 per week or $840 per year by only ordering water. Cray.

In conclusion, buy a cute Tervis tumbler and drink more h2O.


6. Pack a lunch.

Payoff, Pollinate Media


Again, the benefits to a packed lunch are plentiful. Not only are you more likely to eat healthy if you arbitrarily pack your own lunch, but you'll also save a substantial amount of money in the restaurant/meals expense category. I'll be the first to admit I'm a horrible planner, so I use the "I don't have time" excuse as to why I spend $12 a day on lunch. That $12 per day equals $60 per week or $3,360 per year. Holy friggin' guacamole. For over 3 grand, I should make time to pack a lunch every morning. 

If you can reduce your average packed lunch value to around $5, you'll save just under $2,000 per year in meals. You can buy a car with power locks and windows with that... so pack your lunch. 

7. Leave the cards at home.


Payof, Pollinate Media


The #1 tip I've ever gotten or will ever give for controlling frivolous spending is to only use cash. When you physically witness your wallet shrinking, you're left wondering a) where all your money went and b) how much you have left. Credit cards make it so easy for us to feel better about spending our money... because you're not seeing your money disappear. You'll be much less easily coerced by your subconscious to get your nails done when you avoid swiping your card, trust me

So, how do you start? After your next paycheck, withdraw an amount you think is reasonably realistic for the week or two weeks and make that your blood money. It's all you've got. Try your hardest to not charge anything-- gas, groceries, and other essentials included. Yes, it's less convenient to pay inside the gas station, but again, this is a small change that will generate big results. You'll be amazed at how much you have left at the end of the period, and the remaining funds should go directly into your savings account before you withdraw cash for your next period. Do not let your cash carry over into the following pay period; you don't want to get comfortable and/or spend happy at any point during this process, elsewise the frivolity will kick back in. 



8. Not without coups.


Payoff, Pollinate Media


It's called RetailMeNot, and you need to have it on your smart phone. This app will show you any and all available discounts in stores or online on any given day. I've started using it so religiously that I won't even go to stores if they're not offering some sort of a promotion. 

Each discount also comes with a success rate, so you know full well if your code is legit or not. One of my ultimate pet peeves is how Bath and Body Works and Ulta send our coupon codes... which conveniently only work for 7 of the 385038608603 products in their store. False. Advertising. RetailMeNot sees through the nonsense and tells it like it is. In conclusion, this app is awesome, and you need it in your life. 


9. Shop online through eBates.


Payoff, Pollinate Media



If you're in master saver mode, I discourage you from shopping online at all. Just like the credit card mentality, it's much easier to push "Submit Order" without any immediate regrets than to anxiously watch your stack of dollar bills rapidly deplete. If you must engage in online shopping, use eBates. You can sign up to get paid to shop at over 1,800 stores online, including Piperlime, Amazon, and Best Buy. You'll literally get cash back via check or PayPal, and there really aren't any gimmicks or catches. Ebates is the real deal. 



10. Hoard no more. 


Payoff, Pollinate Media


Sell your old stuff on eBay, Craig's List, or on newer community platforms like Bib + Tuck, which allows you to sell gently worn/used clothing, shoes, and accessories with ease. For your finances and your sanity, don't end up on Lifetime's Hoarders or TLC's Hoarding: Buried Alive. Plus, especially with clothing, the more you have, the less likely you are to remember specific garments. Keep funneling through to make sure you're not still stashing clothes from high school with the hopes of maybe needing them for a potential Halloween costume in the distant future. If the Bib + Tuck or similar community guidelines aren't your thing-- and there isn't a Plato's Closet or second-hand store nearby, at the very least donate your items... just get them out of your life. It's all part of the fresh slate mentality.



What small changes do you make during a financial makeover? Anything I left out?



Happy {almost} Friday!
xo



♥ Stephanie

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Color Me Pink:
Playful Galentine's Day Brunch Outfit

Fashion, Style, Stephanie Ziajka, Anna Yanev Photography


Oh, Florida. I love you and your unpredictable temperament. One minute you're blessing us with beach weather, and the next? Better pull out the flannel onesies. On this particular January morning, I was deceptively tricked into believing us Floridians were about to enjoy a day filled with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s; however, the weather people in their infinite wisdom didn't factor a) that they're always wrong b) the wind chill and c) the wind chill near any particular body of water. It was in the 50s (plus wind) on Lake Baldwin, and although I may have been freezing, I froze with good company (you're the best, Anna Yanev) in my favorite C. Wonder hot pink crepe mini skirt. #RIPCWonder

Since I am and have always been anti-Valentine's Day, I decided to create the perfect "Galentine's Day" brunch outfit. Just because I disagree with this Hallmark marketing ploy of a holiday doesn't mean I can't salute one of the traditional colors of good old St. Valentine, hot hot pink. 


Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography

Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography

Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography

Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography

Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography


As many of you know, I have a slightly clinical obsession with monograms, and as soon as I saw this cross body envelope clutch from Marley Lilly, I just knew it had my name {and my initials} written all over it. For being pink and relatively large, it goes surprisingly well with... everything, and it's quickly become my favorite go-to clutch.


Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography

Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography


I'm literally about to beg Express to both re-stock and make this Crochet Trim Tee in 7 more colors. The back lace detail is chic and gorgeous, and it can be easily paired with a work outfit, which is pretty much all I'm wearing these days, or included in a girly brunch or dinner outfit outfit combo.


Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography

Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography

Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography

Fashion, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante, Anna Yanev Photography


Top: Express Crochet Trim Tee // Skirt: C. Wonder Crepe Mini Skirt (No Longer Available), Similar ASOS Mini Skirt in Texture with Folds Here // Shoes: BCBG Paris Gaminkha Patent Pumps // Clutch: Marley Lilly Monogrammed Penny Cross Body Wristlet Purse // Bangles: Lilly Ivory // Necklace: Francesca's (Out of Stock), Near Identical Kelsey Statement Necklace here


Stay warm, loves!
xo


♥ Stephanie

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Know That We'll Be Safe + Sound
Support the Red Cross with #MasterLockProtects

As per FTC regulations, this post is sponsored by Global Influence Network on behalf of Master Lock, but all opinions are my own.



Only a few people in my life have earned the title of BAE. Who is BAE, you ask? Michael Scott, Tory Burch, and Audrey Hepburn-- obviously. One of my favorite Audrey quotes is, "As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and one for helping others." This has become a philanthropic mantra of sorts for myself ever since I learned of her lifelong humanitarian efforts and their global impact. My personal community involvement over the past few years has opened my eyes to the perpetual need for helping hands around the world. 

Who doesn't love the American Red Cross? They're the well known humanitarian organization that generously provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and education inside the United States and around the world. I became a genuine advocate and devout donor when a monumentally destructive 7.0M earthquake struck the Haitian coast in 2010. I was 22, and it was the first time I'd ever felt personally affected and disturbed by an international crisis. 200,000 lives were lost and nearly 2 million innocent people were displaced from their homes. The American Red Cross announced in early 2011 that they allocated $314.7 million dollars for Haiti earthquake relief and recovery, and by March of 2011, their disaster relief totals were upwards of $484 million in donations. Ever since I saw the passion and power of their purpose, I've believed in their mission more than ever. 

In a similar yet completely different fashion, the ARC also serves as a gentle reminder to always consider your own personal safety and security. Can you imagine if everything you owned was destroyed in a matter of seconds? I live in Florida, and I remember being terrified of our roof collapsing during the 2005 hurricane season. Yes, that was the year we were graced with the presence of Hurricane Charley (aka the strongest hurricane to strike the United States since Hurricane Andrew) and Hurricane Katrina. It's so easy to get caught up in life's undeniable joys and excitement without any precautions, so I'm trying to make a conscious decision to live dangerously, as Austin Powers would say, without throwing my gut feeling out the window. Even something as simple as stocking up on bottled water or checking twice to ensure your hair straightener is turned completely off, you're always better off safe than sorry. 

Master Lock, the world’s largest manufacturer of padlocks, recently announced its continued focus on helping its consumers stay safe with a yearlong campaign dedicated to safety through every life stage and season. How do you participate? Easy. Share the time in your life when safety and security has been most top of mind. For every tweet posted with the hashtag #MasterLockProtects, a $1 donation will be made to the American Red Cross up to $10,000. Each tweet will also be entered for a chance to win one of 20 prize bundles, including $100 Visa gift cards and various Master Lock products to help keep you safe and sound throughout each and every season. Based on our participation in the sweepstakes, they're even willing to donate up to an additional $10,000 to the American Red Cross to support the urgent needs of the ARC mission, including responding to disasters, collecting lifesaving blood, teaching skills to save a life, or assisting military members and their families during emergencies. 

So pretty please tweet away! Don't forget to share the time in your life that safety and security has been most top of mind, using the #MasterLockProtects hashtag. There's actually a designated #MasterLockCares Twitter Party this Tuesday, January 27th at 8PM ET with @Resourcefulmom, so come join the community fun. RSVP here to support the American Red Cross and enter to win fabulous prizes!




Happy Sunday, loves!
xo

♥ Stephanie

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Spring Clean Outside the Closet:
SingleHop Clean Up Your Computer 3-Week Guide

SingleHop, How to Clean Your Computer, National Clean Up Your Computer Month


Did you know that January is National Clean Up Your Computer Month? I didn't. What I do know is that my computer is a chaotic mess of pictures, videos, documents-- probably viruses, too. Who knows? The point is that just like your closet, your computer also needs a little Spring TLC, and this is apparently the designated month to do it in.

The cool tech people over at SingleHop sent me this handy Clean Computer Calendar, and I wanted to share it with y'all. SingleHop is a leading provider of Hosted Private Clouds (which I apparently need), Manged Hosting, and Infrastructure-as-a-Service for businesses and enterprises around the world. In a nutshell, they're pretty legit. Follow their easy 3-week plan to stay organized and purge your hard drive of any unnecessary garbage. Use this for your work computer, home computer, iPad, tablet, whatever... it works for all of the above. Especially for us citizens of the blogosphere, it's more important than ever to stay organized and ensure that your records are stored safely and efficiently.


SingleHop, How to Clean Your Computer, National Clean Up Your Computer Month


Don't forget to ask yourself the following two questions while cleaning up your files:

1. What do I need on a daily basis?
2. What works for me?


SingleHop, How to Clean Your Computer, National Clean Up Your Computer Month



Since I know the text is kind of small, here are the Notes blown up for easier reading. This section, in my opinion, is the most useful, so take note (pun intended). 



SingleHop, How to Clean Your Computer, National Clean Up Your Computer Month



Although most of the technological vernacular is way over my head, I am a fervent supporter of all things educational. Check out their Resource Center (here) for information on cyber case studies and private cloud information. 


Happy Cleaning!
xo

♥ Stephanie

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How to Look More Awake:
9 Easy Skin Care + Makeup Tips to Hide Signs of Fatigue

I was compensated for this shop by Collective Bias, Inc. on behalf of Neutrogena for this #NewNeutrogena campaign #AD #Collectivebias. All opinions are mine alone.

Neutrogena, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


I'm a normal girl. I like to drink wine, sometimes I go out on week nights, and I usually spend way too much of my late evening watching Law and Order SVU re-runs. Unfortunately, I'm also a working girl, so these productivity distractions take away from my much needed beauty rest. Most girls say "beauty sleep" with a silly or pompous undertone, but since my body's been tortured from health complications in the past, my face literally wears my body's burdens more than anything. In layman's terms, I look like a walking zombie when I don't get enough rest. In order to overcompensate for dark circles and worn skin, I've come up with a routine of 9 skin care and makeup tips to hide the look of fatigue and/or anxiety. 

I found this amazing new line of Neutrogena skin care at Target that works specifically to fight signs of anti-aging, so be on the lookouts for some of my hydration favorites during your shopping adventure. I'm seriously such a fan, and for the drugstore brand/drugstore prices? You can't beat them.  


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


To start, be sure you've got a crystal clean face. Apply Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Water Gel, side note: it smells amazing, evenly all over your neck and face. This miracle formula quenches and continuously hydrates your tired skin, locking it in so skin stays bright, smooth, and supple all day. It doesn't leave behind an oily or greasy feel, so it's a great base for any makeup routine. 

PS- I apologize in advance if my face before completion scares any small children. This morning was a zombie morning. 


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


Next, minimize dark circles with Neutrogena's Rapid Dark Circle Repair Eye Cream. This nourishing eye cream works to make under-eye skin tone more even and diffuse the look of dark circles while light-reflecting minerals brighten your eyes. Plus, it twists out like a crayon, which during the early morning hours, seems a lot more fun than it sounds. 


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


Next, lightly dab-- not smear-- on Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream to stimulate circulation. It contains Retinol SA, aka any wrinkle adversary's best friend, and it works to fade the look of stubborn crow's feat while brightening your under-eye area. 


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


When I'm extra tired, my skin needs extra moisture. Plus, SPF is the cardinal anti-aging must have. I use Neutrogena's Oil-Free Moisture with SPF 15, since it's non-greasy lotion formula is PABA-free and contains no drying alcohol. It goes on light and keeps my skin feeling extra soft and hydrated for the entire work day. 


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


When my tired skin is screaming for air and moisture, the last thing I want to do is suffocate it with a cakey foundation that's going to make me an oil pot of a hot mess. I use Neutrogena's Healthy Skin Enhancer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 for a healthy hint of bronze, and it gives just enough coverage to look natural while still hiding any puffiness or inflammation. 


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


Highlighting is a powerful art form that not only maximizes your gorgeous facial features, but also makes your skin literally look like it's glowing. It's basically the key ingredient to any major "hide the hangover" makeup routine. I typically highlight my nose, chin, cheeks, under eyebrows, and T-zone, but your preferences can be your own. 


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


I'm Italian, so the shine from all this excess moisture and makeup needs to be controlled. Use a translucent powder with a protein complex, like Neutrogena's Shine Control Powder, to absorb oil throughout the day, keeping your skin looking shine-free for up to 8 hours without over-drying your skin. 


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


When your skin is finally looking even and hydrated, move on to the eyes. I always apply a light, tannish shade around the top and bottom eyelids. You're not looking for color; you're looking for a subtle hint of highlight. 

Next, take a nude colored waterproof eyeliner and line your lower eyelid. This is hands down the most noticeable and effective part of this step. Your eyes will instantly look brighter, wider, and more awake with very minimal application. Follow up with a dark brown or natural shade of mascara to give your eyes a natural look of youth and energy. Fill in your eyebrows, too, to draw attention away from your dark circles and into the {fake} dreamy sparkles in your eyes. 


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake


Choose a bright colored lipstick, grab some Starbucks, and the only person who knows you're slowly dying of sleep deprivation/insomnia on the inside will be you-- promise!



Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake



There you have it! Any questions? To find any and all of the products I used in this tutorial, head to Target and look for their new anti-aging skincare display (pictured below). Oh, and since anti-aging anything isn't cheap, use these fabulous coupons for Neutrogena discounts on Cosmetics (here) and Facial Skin Care Products (here)


Neutrogena, Target, Collective Bias, How to Look Awake



Did I miss any secret tips or products? How do you fake your tired eyes and worn skin?


Happy Thursday!
xo

♥ Stephanie

Monday, January 19, 2015

Wear Blue Like It's Black:
Ivory Lace + Tile Blue Columnist Work OOTD

Express, Style, Fashion, Work Chic


I've been so impressed with Express lately. When I first entered into adult life, some 5 years ago, and started shopping at Express, the go-to store for young girls who have no idea what to wear to work, I only noticed neutral-colored business wear. There were tons of black, gray, dark gray, heather gray... basically every shade of gray... business slacks and pencil skirts. We're talkin' real fun and limit-pushing clothing. However, in recent months, I've seen a variety of fun colors and styles in their seasonal catalogs, and my fanaticism in their previously predictable stash has been revitalized. 

Unless I'm in a time bind, I steer clear of plain black pants. They're a staple; I'd never argue that. However, they're kind of boring, for lack of a better word. I found these amazing tile blue Express Ultimate Double Weave Ankle Columnist Pants, which I also purchased in red, and instantly fell in love with the vibrant color. They're surprisingly versatile, but my favorite match thus far has been with this elegant ivory lace blouse. Full outfit details at the bottom of this post. 









I bought this necklace for a pageant interview a few years ago, and I was amazed at how well it works with this outfit. The green stones match perfectly with these fabulous vintage shoes my super hip step mom gave me, and I'm kind of obsessed with the blue-green-ivory combo. In conclusion, random vintage finds are the best, and they probably match with other random accessories you've lost in your over-sized closet. 







Oh, and who could forget my new boyfriend-- my precious Tory Burch Robinson Pebbled Open Dome Satchel? I've been on the hunt for a staple dark brown bag to hold all my Mary Poppins-esque #girlboss essentials, and the Lord answered my prayers with this chestnut Tory treasure.


Tory Burch, Robinson, Open Dome Satchel, Chestnut

Top: Express Lacy Yoke Blouse // Pants: Express Ultimate Double Weave Ankle Columnist Pant in Tile Blue // Coat: Express (Out of Stock), Similar Express Classic Trench Here // Shoes: Vintage, Similar Nine West Lovefury Platform Heels Here // Bag: Tory Burch Chestnut Robinson Pebbled Open Dome Satchel // Necklace: Cache (No Longer Available), Similar Kate Spade 'Balloon Bouquet' Cluster Collar Necklace Here // Watch: Michael Kors (Out of Stock), Similar Michael Kors 'Slim Runway' Watch Here // Bracelet(s): J. Crew (Out of Stock), Similar Kate Spade 'Squared Away' Hingle Bangle Here // Sunglasses: Marc by Marc Jacobs Polarized Sunglasses


Oh, and Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! If nothing else, try and do at least one random act of kindness today-- and every day-- in Dr. King's memory. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."- Dr. MLK


xo

♥ Stephanie
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