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The Beauty Essentials I Can’t Travel Without

I like to travel to see new places, have new and memorable experiences. One of the things I don’t like about traveling is the packing. Especially the packing of my beauty products.

There are some products that I feel are essential to my skincare regimen, especially when I travel. So I tend to stress about how I’m going to pack certain products that don’t come in travel sizes.


I also worry about making sure I bring the beauty products I can’t live without because it’s not always easy to get my hands on them when traveling. Either I won’t have the time, the products will be too expensive or I’m vacationing where those products aren’t available.

In an effort to try and lessen that worry and stress I stick to 12 beauty products that I always take with me when I travel.

12 beauty products I always take with me when I travel. | A Relaxed Gal: Hair + Beauty + Blogging + Finance

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7 Ways to Save Money as a Broke College Student

When students start college it can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. It can also be an expensive one. For me college I didn't realize how expensive being a college student could be. Who knew that the cost of college is more than just the typical ones we all think about - classes, books, room, and board.

Once it hits that the costs for college go beyond that, it becomes clear that going to college is like getting your first takes of adulting.

Saving money in college | A Relaxed Gal: Hair + Beauty + Blogging + Finance

Well, there are ways that you can limit these other costs. In fact, here are seven.

(This post includes affiliate links. Read about my use of affiliate links here.)

Use student discounts

Who knew there were several companies out that will reward you for being a student by giving you a discount?

You can find these discounts by visiting sites like studentrate.com. There you can find student discounts for clothing retailers, technology like computers and cell phones, entertainment, and even travel.

While student discounts aren’t anything new, there are more now than when I was in school. Over your college years, student discounts could save you hundred dollars a semester.

Have roommates

My college roommates and I would take turns purchasing grocery staples or foods we all eat like milk, eggs, sandwich fixins and ice cream. We would even carpool to the store and other places.

Splitting living costs like an off-campus apartment or groceries two or more ways can help you save a lot of over your college career.

Use coupons

I’m a big believer in coupons. No matter where you are in life or how much money you make or don’t make.

Students today have more options now than when I was in school for how to get and use coupons. Most of them make saving money convenient because they are apps you can easily use on your phone.

Some of my favorite places for coupons are Ibotta, coupons.com, and ebates.


Eat out less

This can be a hard one to do since eating out is a great way to make friends and build relationships. But it’s also a costly one.

You can eat out less by finding ways to have meals in your dorm room or apartment. When I lived in the dorms I would bring pre-made meals from home that I would freeze and then defrost and heat up in the microwave.

You can also find ways to have breakfast in your dorm room. Foods like cereal, bagels and microwavable sausage make easy breakfasts that don't cost a lot or require a kitchen.

After I moved off campus I would cook most of my meals and only eat lunch a few days on campus and the occasional dinner with friends who still lived on campus.

Do less decorating

I admit all of the pretty dorm room essentials advertised by retailers can be pretty tempting, but many of those “essentials” are items you don’t need.

Things like bed skirts, vanity mirrors, lounge seating, ottomans and picture frames I found weren’t necessary. Besides, what you buy for your dorm room most likely won't fit the type of aesthetic you want for your first apartment. And you’ll end up throwing it away or giving it to Goodwill.


Limit the extracurriculars

Don't sign up for non-essential or elective classes that require you to buy or rent equipment or special clothing.

Also, try to limit the number of concerts and movies you attend. And whenever you do, opt for places that have a student discount or go to the matinee. Or opt for the free movies and entertainment offerings that your school provides.

Saving money as broke college student | A Relaxed Gal: Hair + Beauty + Blogging + Finance

Shop off campus

If you can avoid it, I highly recommend that you don't buy items from campus stores. Items such as snacks, toiletries, school gear etc. I've found these stores mark up their items quite a bit making them so not a good deal.

When it comes to your books, you may want to look off-campus for those as well. When I was in college I found much better deals in off-campus stores and online.

Another alternative for your textbooks is to rent them. Then you don't have to worry about whether or not you can re-sell them and not lose a ton of money.

What money saving tips do you have for college students? Share in the comments.

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Taking Care of My Hair on a 10 Day Overseas Trip

Summer is travel season. The kids are out of school and the weather tends to be nice. So many people will take a take a vacation or multiple vacations. This could be a long weekend or even two weeks.

To kick off my summer I went on a seven-day Mediterranean cruise. While the cruise would be seven days I would be gone about 10 days. To prepare for the trip I studied the weather for the ports we’d be visiting, gathered everything I would need based on the excursions we’d be taking and made a list of everything I would need to at home before leaving.


How I cared for my hair during a 10 day overseas trip | arelaxedgal.com

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How You Can Save Even More Money During Your State’s Tax Holiday

August has rolled around and with August comes back to school, back to school sales and state Sales Tax Holiday.

This weekend is Florida's sales tax holiday and a big back to school shopping weekend and there are a few items I’m planning to buy.

Now you're probably wondering why I’m shopping during a back to school shopping weekend and sharing this when I have no kids and I'm not in school. The reason is this. Sales Tax Holidays are a great way to save money on items you need or were planning to buy anyway.

How You Can Save During Your State’s Sales Tax Holiday | A Relaxed Gal: Hair + Beauty + Blogging + Finance

(This post includes affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.)

When I lived in North Carolina, pretty much every year since I graduated high school, with the exception of two, I've been taking part in my state’s Sales Tax Holiday.

The thing some people don’t realize is you don't have to have kids or be a student yourself to be able to take part. Everyone can benefit and save money.

To help you save, I’ve plotted out the ways you can make sure your dollar goes even further when shopping your state’s Sales Tax Holiday.

Step 1. Get the details on your state’s sales tax holiday

First things first, you’ll want to check to make sure your state has a sales tax holiday. Dates and times vary state-by-state though there are some weekends where several sales tax holidays fall.

Here’s a nifty little link where you can find info on all the states having a sales tax holiday this year.



Step 2. Confirm what items are eligible

If your state does have a sales tax holiday, you’ll want to confirm the items are eligible. As well as any dollar amount caps. For example, in Florida, personal computers are eligible, but only up to $750. Limitations and restrictions will vary by state.

When North Carolina had their sales tax holiday they had several eligible items on the list. Florida has a lot fewer items on the list so I have fewer items that I plan to buy. Which leads me to step three

Step 3. Decide what you want to buy

Now that you know what’s exempt and not exempt from sales tax, it’s time to create your list of the items you want to buy.

Typically my list consists of any office I products I want to stock up on such as copy paper or printer cartridges. I also include clothing items if there’s anything I need to replace or has been on my wish list and can afford.
6 step plan for saving during sales tax holiday | arelaxedgal.com


Step 4. Decide where and how you want to shop

After creating my shopping list, I then plan out where I’m going to shop. At which store will I buy each item? Many times this is driven by who has the best deal.

Will I buy some or all of my items online or go to the store? Sometimes items are only available online or you may get the best deal by going to the store.


Step 5. Find additional ways to save

Once you’ve figured out what you’re buying, from where and how, looking for additional ways to save money should be your next step.

I like to do most of my shopping online, probably because I don’t like to shop or go to the store. So I shop using Ebates because I can get cash back on several of my purchases making the no sales tax deal even sweeter.

If you're good at paying off your credit card, there are some reward apps that let you link your credit card to them and when you make an eligible purchase you can get rewards points. One of those apps is Shopkick. Several of the stores in the Shopkick app give you Kicks (Shopkicks reward points) for purchases you make with the linked card. Then you can redeem the kicks for gift cards. So it's like getting cash back!

Another way to save more with your credit card is if it's a cash back credit card, use that to make your purchase and earn some additional cash back.

Other ways to save include using reward apps like iBotta or searching online for coupons or discount codes.

This year, I plan to stack my savings using a mix of Ebates cash back, my credit card cash back, Shopkick and gift cards I've earned through reward apps for each purchase.

Step 6. Go shopping!

Have fun, be safe and don’t spend too much. 

 Are you doing any sales tax-free shopping this year?



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Using Google Analytics to Improve My Blog

I started blogging back in 2014. Since then I’ve learned a lot that has helped me to grow my blog to what it is today. Reading tips and taking courses from other bloggers has been helpful, but the place I learned the most about how to improve my blog has been my site analytics.

How I use Google Analytics to Improve My Blog | arelaxedgal.com
 

So what is analytics?

Analytics is the measuring, collecting, analyzing and reporting on data from your website or blog to help you understand current performance and usage so you can improve or optimize future performance and usage.

By tracking the analytics on my blog, I’ve been able to
  • Know my audience better
  • Have another resource for generating content ideas
  • Improve my content promotion

How to get access to your site analytics

Ask anyone who knows anything about analytics and they will tell you the best tool for capturing your site analytics is Google Analytics. This is a free tool offered by Google that is not only used by bloggers and small business, but also by large companies and brands.


How I use Google Analytics

I’ve pretty much been using Google Analytics on my blog since day one. This has been helpful for me because I’ve learned a lot about my blog’s performance and audience. All of which has helped me to make changes or adjustments that ultimately have helped my blog improve and grow.

Before I jump into the details let me break down what Google Analytics provides. Google Analytics has a lot of data, which can be helpful, but also overwhelming. Especially if it’s new to you.

Ok. Here we go. Once you’ve set up Google Analytics and logged-in you’ll see there are four key sections where all of your analytics is housed.

1. Audience Overview: Here you’ll find you’ll find most of the information about who your audience is and their interests.

2. Acquisition: this section shows you where your traffic is coming from

3. Behavior: See how your audience behaves once they’re on your blog and what content they are consuming.

4. Conversions: To use this section you have to set up goals in Google Analytics. Once you do, you can tell how your audience is converting against those goals.

Within each section are several subsections. It can be a bit daunting when you first start poking around. So I’m going to share with you the key places I go to see how my blog is doing and what I can approve.

Know my audience better

I love the Audience Overview section so it’s one of the sections I spend the most time in. Here I can see and track

How many from my audience are visiting my site by looking at Pageviews and Users.

When my audience is coming to the site by breaking down Pageviews and Users by day and even by the hour. This is helpful for planning when to post and promote content.

Using Google Analytics to Improve My Blog | arelaxedgal.com

How long my audience is staying on my site by looking at Average Session Duration and whether it is increasing or decreasing over time. Additionally, I also look at the Bounce Rate. If my Average Session Duration is decreasing l look to see if there’s any correlation to my Bounce Rate and if so where the bounces are coming from.


Who my audience is. By looking at this data I can tell if I’m hitting the right audience and gather more demographic information about them such as age and interests that can be used in my media kit.

A resource for generating new content

I get this information from two sections
  1. Acquisition: Here I can dig into the organic keywords driving people to my blog. If I see some keywords in the top 10 that don’t correspond to content I’ve already created I make a note of that as an idea for future content.

Using Google Analytics to Improve My Blog | arelaxedgal.com

Behavior: In this section, I look at which landing pages are the most popular with my audience in terms of high Pageviews and a low Bounce Rate. If I see a particular topic has been performing well I look to see if I can capitalize on that with future content by either creating related content or expanding it into a series.

Improve my content promotion

In the Acquisition section there is data showing where my blog traffic is coming from. I can also see how engaged the traffic coming from those channels is. Are they bouncing or sticking around and reading multiple posts.

Using Google Analytics to Improve My Blog | arelaxedgal.com

By knowing this information I can focus on the channels that driving the most engaged traffic for me and spend less time and effort on the ones that aren’t.

Another benefit is I can see if any of my high performing traffic drivers are now underperforming. If there are any I can develop strategies for those channels to try and improve performance.

How do you use you Google Analytics?
 


Using Google Analytics to Improve My Blog | arelaxedgal.com
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