September 28, 2015

Save While You Spend: Cash Out, Cash In and Cash Back

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for American Express Serve. I applied for the Serve Cash Back card to facilitate my review and received a promotional item to thank me for my participation. 

If you haven't figured it out as yet, I have a little bit of a spending problem. Okay, I'm being dramatic, but I do get a little swipe happy. Between grocery shopping, weekly Starbs runs, or just making impromptu purchases, my debit card is very active. And if I don't track my spending, it's really easy to blow through my budget. 

Regardless of our spending habits, everyone could use a lesson or two in budgeting and financial responsibility. Using the new American Express Serve Cash Back card, the first prepaid debit card to offer cash back, we can earn 1% cash back on every dollar we spend. So when we're buying those impulse purchases, we'll at least be saving a little something. 

The American Express Serve® Cash Back card is a full-service reloadable pre-paid account, and the best part is that it offers access to money management tools at no cost, AND cash back on everyday purchases. So for the first time, we won't feel TOO guilty about our triple venti mocha chai whatever it is that you drink.

It's super simple: you use the prepaid debit card like you would any other - online or in-store, and after your purchase, you can go to your account and access your 1% cash back for every dollar that you spent. The cash back is just added to your account and ready to spend whenever you are. You can load money on using free Direct Deposit, or you can just transfer money by linking the card to your current debit card and start saving 1% cash back immediately.

One of the best parts is that while it's not an American Express credit card, the American Express Serve Cash Back card offers you access to all of the benefits of being in the American Express network, like the world class 24/7 AmEx customer service, purchase protection and roadside assistance hotline that you can call in case of an emergency for reliable service. For only $5.95 a month (and free in certain states, like Vermont!) American Express Serve® Cash Back cardholders have free direct deposit, free online bill pay, and free in-network ATM withdrawals.

And setting up is easy too! You don't even have to go to a bank: just register online to get a prepaid card in the mail for free, or buy the card at a retail store for around $3.95 (prices vary per retailer). There are no credit checks, minimum balances or hidden fees. And with the American Express Serve Mobile app, you can check your balance and recent transactions, pay bills on the go, deposit checks and send money to family or friends who have a Serve account.

For a college girl on a budget, this was probably the best debit card that I could find, and while my spending hasn't slowed, my saving has increased with 1% cash back on every dollar. While it's small, it's something, and isn't that the best part of it all?

Register yourself for an American Express Serve® Cash Back prepaid debit card (which can be mailed to you for free!), and start saving money while you spend!

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September 20, 2015

Organization for Creative College Students

It should come as no surprise to any of you that I love planners. I mean, one of my first blog posts on The Caro Diaries was about my love of planners, and my inability to choose just one. I've been using Erin Condren planners for a few years now, and I absolutely love it, but being involved on campus, having an on-campus job, being an RA, being a member of a sorority, a full-time student AND a blogger can clutter up your planner in 3.5 seconds, and I found myself dreading looking at my planner every day.

Enter The Happy Planner! With tons of space for stickers, personalization and fitting in every little aspect of your life, it's a fully customizable planner that can legit adjust for every single person's life. The company that makes the planner, me & my BIG ideas, sent me a huge package for me to try out the planner myself, with motivational quotes, every sticker imaginable and interchangeable covers because they already know I can't make my mind up! Plus, take 20% off ANY online purchase with the code HCCARODIARIES

What I love most about this is that it is 100% customizable in every sense of the word. You can take ALL of the pages out, add more in, change the color and size of the rings, add in sticky notes and pop-in notebooks, and even add in expansion packs to include things like cleaning, budget and shopping lists! Isn't it genius?! 

And with inspirational quotes every month, and pop-in inspiration cards like the "my life is joyful" and "things are about to get really good", it's just begging you to have a great week! Every month also has the cutest planning page, with goals, important dates, special events and little "don't forget" spaces to remind you to make the most out of the month! How can you not be inspired?! 

For me, I'm not the most creative person. Shocking, I know. But my planners have all been very boring in terms of my weekly decorations. But because me & my BIG ideas sent me so many packs of stickers (seriously, so many stickers!), I knew I needed to step up my game. Luckily for me, their Instagram page is overflowing with inspiration from crafty and creative people before me, and I'm just stealing their ideas cause GUYS HOW CUTE ARE THESE! 

There's nothing like stickers to inspire your week, to turn a stressful week around, and to remind you to be thankful and live in the moment. When life gets hectic, when my head feels like it's about to explode, throwing my little "I am happy" card makes my week just a little bit better! 

For those creative souls, this is a must-have, and at the price that it's currently at, it's a steal! But I won't lie to you and say you're not about to drop your life savings on every single accessory they have because YES you do need that gold foil sticker pack, as well as everything else they have in their store

Don't forget that if you're interested in buying anything from the me & my BIG ideas online shop, use my discount code HCCARODIARIES, which will save you 20% off any of your purchases until the end of the year. 

This post is sponsored by me & my BIG ideas and Her Campus Media. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Caro Diaries possible! 

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September 18, 2015

Fall Fashion Finds

As you know by now, I'm a very smart shopper. The biggest sales, the greatest deals, thinking about how I can wear the piece rather than when I can wear it: I think before I buy. Now don't get me wrong, I make impulse purchases all the time, but they're more "bite the bullet before my smart shopping self convinces me not to and I really really want this so I'm just gonna do it" purchases!

Because I shop smart, I'm a frequent customer at Marshalls. You name it, they have it, so it's always a go-to for me for whatever season. No lie, I stop by my local Marshalls at least once a week, because they get new items in every single week, so there's always something for me to find and want. Regardless of the season or the occasion, I never leave Marshalls empty-handed, whether it's workout clothes, a new pair of shoes, or finishing touches for my bedroom on-campus.
I'm obviously a big fan of Marshalls, so when I was offered the opportunity to shop my favorite fall trends at my local store, I jumped at the chance. I believe in splurging on yourself, buying high-quality pieces and investing in a good wardrobe and great accessories, and at Marshalls I've always found that doing that doesn't require me to spend a ton of money. With high-quality brand name and designer fashions, plus the newest and cutest home decor, all at incredible prices, Marshalls had legit everything I needed to start my senior (eek!) year off right!
When I spotted this wool vest, I couldn't help myself from throwing it into my shopping cart because isn't it just the cutest?! SO versatile and flattering, I paired it with the comfiest designer white tee, but I know that almost every shirt in my closet can be transformed to work with this, which is how I know it's a great purchase. 
I combined them with my go-to medium-wash jeans, and an animal-print neutral flat. These bad boys are staples in my wardrobe throughout all the seasons - I bought both of these items almost a year ago, and they still get utilized weekly! 
Finishing off with my favorite gold accessories, and of course my sunglasses, because I don't go anywhere without them on my head, and this was the perfect Fall transitioning outfit for the bipolar weather we've been having in Connecticut. 
With summer coming to an end, my school always hosts Fall Fest - an outdoor country concert with food trucks and our favorite singers, so I was shopping around Marshalls looking for the perfect flannel to wear this weekend. When I found this one (and seriously at only $16), I bought it without even trying it on. Not only is it the perfect thickness (not too thick so I can still wear it while it's warm, but still a little thicker than a regular button up to transition perfectly into the winter), but it was my ideal flannel colors, and it is the comfiest thing that I have ever put on! 
While I originally thought I would only style this tied around my waist with a pair of shorts, but when I saw these designer navy pants and I knew I wanted to try them together. The perfectly oversized shirt combined with the tight legging style of these pants made this one of the comfiest outfits, while still making me look somewhat put together. Plus, can't you see this shirt paired with leggings this winter? I can and it's already getting me excited for bum weather! 
And for those of us who just have no idea what trends we should start shopping, Marshalls rounded up some of their favorite (and some of my personal favorite) fashion bloggers to showcase their Marshalls finds! Want fashion inspiration? Look no further! Not sure where there's a Marshalls near you? Find your local store and start shopping now! 

But before you go, enter to win one of two $50 gift cards to Marshalls! 

Outfit One:
shirt: c/o Marshalls | vest: c/o Marshalls | jeans: Gap 'Always Skinny' (currently on sale!)
shoe: Ash (majorly on sale here!) | necklace: Madewell | earrings: Gorjana (similar) | bracelets: Ilmes
Outfit Two: 
shirt: c/o Marshalls | pants: c/o Marshalls | sandals: SimplyVera Vera Wang (old!)
necklace: Spring Street via TJ Maxx | sunglasses: Tom Ford 'Alicia' 

This post is sponsored by Marshalls and Her Campus Media. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Caro Diaries possible! 

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September 16, 2015

Pop of Pink

Nothing screams Caroline more than a hot pink skirt, am I right? For some reason, I find myself buying hot pink items more and more, and my closet is slowly transforming from a "winter" to a "summer". OK, not quite, but I do appreciate a little pop of color now and then. In the last year, I've picked up an asymmetric dress, and adorable Kate Spade crossbody, and this midi skirt all in the same color.

When I was in Florida last December, I was strolling through Town Centre Mall in Boca Raton looking for outfits I wanted to bring home with me for Christmas. I knew that for New Year's Eve, I wanted something a little fun and very me, without being cliché and buying a sequined dress, and I had the idea of getting a midi skirt.

I stopped into a small boutique called Intrigue Couture after hours of searching unsuccessfully for something I liked, and within minutes my eyes (and heart) discovered this hot pink midi skirt that was practically calling my name.

I knew I wanted to avoid going the typical route, and wanted to dress this skirt up with something a little funner and sexier, dare I say it! I found this leather striped crop top that paired perfectly with the super girly skirt, and walked out the store with a full outfit in hand.

Did I mention the skirt has pockets?! Talk about a win/win!

Combined with a simple pair of black pumps, and some silver (or white gold) jewelry, this was definitely one of my favorite outfits to wear. I danced and twirled all night, and couldn't think of a more perfect outfit to ring in the New Year with.

top: Lucy Paris / skirt: Lucy Paris / heels: Steve Madden
jewelry: Anoushka by Ilmes Jewelry / handbag: Smythson Double Clutch

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September 15, 2015

How to Avoid Burning Out

It’s super scary to think that I recently started Senior year. OMG, the fact that I just typed that word alone terrifies me. I can’t be a senior, because I remember move-in my freshman year all too well, as if it was yesterday!

As not only a senior, but an RA on-campus, and a member of a sorority, the first few weeks of the semester – and even before the semester even starts – can be super hectic. Between finishing up tasks for my summer job, training long days for my position as an RA, crafting door decorations and bulletin boards for my residents, and preparing for formal recruitment which was SUPER early this year, it’s easy to burn out!

While being super involved is really important in your college years, so is getting the right amount of sleep and starting the semester on the right foot. With grad school applications, the GREs and graduation approaching for me this year, I need to be as prepared as possible for my first day, week and month of school. Whether its from non-stop meetings, partying with friends, or just running around like a headless chicken trying to get your apartment and life in order, burning out can happen before you even know it. So how do we stop from burning out?

one // try to get as much sleep as you can:
Aim for a solid 8 hours of sleep a night, especially before you begin a tough semester. While it’s super tempting to go out every night during the first week back on campus, spending that time chilling with friends, ordering textbooks and packing up your room will make that first couple weeks, and the entire year, run more smoothly.

two // avoid caffeine when you can:
But if you’re one of those who can’t go without your daily coffee, try a natural sweetener like Born Sweet® Zing™ Zero Calorie Stevia Sweetener. Made with real ingredients, it has the perfect sweetness extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant.  Sprinkle Zing™ Stevia Sweetener into your coffee or tea for a perfect sweet taste in your caffeinated drink without adding calories (because liquid calories from COFFEE aren’t even worth it, am I right?! I like to save those for my wine!)! If you’re choosing to avoid caffeine (good for you!), you can use Zing™ Stevia Sweetener in your smoothies – for everything from a post-workout shake to a morning juiced smoothie!

three // eat healthily:
I know I sound like your mom, but loading up on junk food and ice cream is the easiest way to tire out your body, and without proper nutrition and a lack of sleep, your focus drops and your productivity soon follows. Have a serious sweet tooth? No problem! The best part about Zing™ Stevia Sweetener is that you can sprinkle it over your fruit and on other favorite foods when you need a little sweetness, without added calories!
four // calm yourself down:
Summer usually is a ton of running around, hanging out with friends and crazy adventures. Going back to school at the end of the summer is always so difficult, especially when the weather is nice because we want nothing more than to be outside instead of in class. Take some time before the semester begins and calm yourself down – try yoga, meditation or just some heavy breathing, and slowly organize yourself and get back into the mindset of school. It may be difficult, but it’ll be worth it!

What tips do you have for centering yourself before school starts back and avoiding burning out?
ADD ZING™ TO YOUR LIFE! Give your taste buds something new and amaZING to be excited about – try new Zing™ Zero Calorie Stevia Sweetener for yourself! Get a free sample of Zing™ Zero Calorie Stevia Sweetener here!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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September 10, 2015

Beauty on a Budget

It goes without saying that I'm a baller on a budget, and that reflects all aspects of my life. Especially when it comes to everyday products that I run out of really often. While I'm all for splurging on designer beauty products, I'm a drug store beauty fiend and I love finding favorite products in the aisles of my go-to stores. There's nothing quite like picking up more beauty goodies while you went out to pick up some headache tablets or some more orange juice!

// Maybelline Dream Pure BB Cream: I SWEAR by this BB cream. It's my favorite in terms of coverage - and it feels super light, like I'm wearing nothing, which is what I like. It's the perfect every day makeup pick, and is super budget friendly. I picked this one up at Walmart almost two years ago, and I've been picking it up consistently ever since.

// Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Wipes: This one is a miracle worker, guys! It takes off all the pesky eye makeup that usually refuses to come off, and doesn't leave my face feeling gross after using it, which is probably the best thing to happen ever.

// Olay Complete Moisturizer: I'm a firm believer in using moisturizer daily, especially as the weather starts to change, and Olay has become my favorite over the years. Budget-friendly and it has SPF, so it's the perfect addition to my drugstore makeup addiction. 

// Baby Lips chapstick: Marshalls recently sent me a few of their favorite items from their store, and they included this chapstick which has been a long favorite of mine. With a little pink tint, it gives the perfect moisture to my lips (and I cannot standddd chapped lips!)

// Bella Beauty makeup sponge: I only found out about makeup sponges two years ago from a friend, and it's changed my life. I love this Bella Beauty find from Marshalls, because it is the perfect size and with perfect curves for blending and application. 

// Schick® Hydro Silk® Disposable Razor: I swear by this disposable razor because the shave is the closest I've ever experienced. I spoke a little bit about how much I love this razor last week, and it's hands down my favorite budget-friendly beauty find! 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Schick®. The opinions and text are all mine.


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September 03, 2015

Walmart College Bathroom Essentials

For the first time in a few years, I have my own bathroom on-campus. Living in a dorm room can be rough sometimes, and going from having a private bathroom at home to sharing with 40+ girls was a culture shock for me freshman year. This year, I'm the RA in a suite-style building, and RAs were given their own mini suite: a huge room, and an en-suite bathroom, and my little Senior mind couldn't be happier.

So when I was setting up my bathroom, I knew I needed something budget-friendly, so I raided Walmart, naturally. As a college student, I'm always focused on getting the most bang for my buck, so when I needed to pick up a shower curtain, soap, a loofah and other personal necessities, I made sure to be smart about my money. So I'm sharing my bathroom essentials for us college students..

// Dove Nourishing Body Wash (and loofah):
This one goes without saying but soap! I love and use only Dove soaps, and for someone with super sensitive skin, the Dove body wash is the best! Combined with a loofah in a fun color, I just feel cleaner after my shower (plus your skin feels so soft and it's fabulous!).

// Skintimate Shaving Cream: 
Once again, with super sensitive skin, I have to be so sure about what I'm putting on my skin at all times. I swear by this shaving cream because it doesn't irritate my skin, it smells and feels so good and it helps me get the closest shave. (Am I the only one who uses shaving cream solely so I can ensure I haven't missed a spot?! I mean, you SEE the cream shaven off!)

// Schick® Hydro Silk® Disposable Razors: 
I have a love/hate relationship with razors, and when I discovered Shick® Hydro Silk® Disposable Razors, I stopped using my previous brand. It has a water-activated moisturizing serum, and guys, this one actually works. My skin actually feels like silk, and it is hands down the closest shave I have ever gotten in my life, and for a disposable razor, it lasted me pretty long! And they're super budget friendly, and worth every single penny - I haven't used anything else since!

// shampoo and conditioner:
I was super shocked that Walmart carried my favorite brand Organix, so when I found my favorite argan oil and keratin therapy lines, I knew I needed them for the school year! (Also, don't judge me for mixing and matching, I like to use one of each!) I swear by this brand for silky smooth hair and heat protection (for those nights that I inevitably blow dry my hair!).

What are your must-have college bathroom essentials? Did I miss any? 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Schick®. The opinions and text are all mine.


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