Blogging

Manage Your Blog with Ease

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Having a blog and keeping up with it can seem like an overwhelming task. I made myself a binder to keep me on task, since I blog in the evenings and on weekends. It's very easy for me to get distracted, or put things off until later... Anywho... I decided to upload these to my website, because I wanted to share my helpful binder pages with other bloggers looking to take their blog to the next level! 

Click the links below to download these easy-to-use PDF worksheets that print on standard letter-sized paper today!


Planner Options for Every Budget

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This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of the product links with an asterisk (*), I’ll receive compensation. Let's be serious, mama needs a new pair of shoes :)

Getting your days organized can be challenging. If you're new to the planner world, the options could even become overwhelming. I thought I'd help you out! Below are different types of planners for every price point (even free!). For each type of planners I'll provide an approximate price range, explanation, and examples. So, if you're looking to get into the planner game, keep reading!

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of the product links with an asterisk (*), I’ll receive compensation. Let's be honest, mama needs a new pair of shoes :)

Printables ($15 or Less)

Some people have shared free versions of planner printables online. Most of these downloads do not contain dates, which could see as a good or bad thing. Someone may like not having the date, because you can use the same document year after year. However, some people may not like filling in the dates every day, week and/or month. If you're looking for a free, printed option and are okay filling in the dates, then these are probably a good option for you!

My Planner Printables: I definitely have a preference for planner printables - mine :) You can download them here.

Printables on Pinterest: There are definitely more planner printables you need to pay for out on the internet and there are free versions. Luckily for you, I have created a Pinterest board that has a few different options for free printables. Check it out and see if there is one you like!

Electronic Calendars

I personally love using digital planners. They work great for me as my long-term planning, and back up in case I don't have my binder or paper planner. However, for some reason, I can't get myself to completely give up my paper planners yet. Maybe one day I will, but until then, these two are options I like to use to supplement my other organizational tools.

Apple's iCloud Calendar: To date, I'm an Apply iPhone gal. I love my phone, and I have tons of reoccurring reminders on my phone (Twitter chats, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.). This calendar is amazing and syncs with so many other calendars. I have this calendar set up to show my reoccurring events, work Outlook calendar, and personal/blog Google Calendar. I absolutely love that it pairs perfectly with them, and I always have this information in my phone as my "just in case" in almost every scenario.

Google Calendar: This thing is awesome! I love using to plan my personal life, and to keep track of blog posts and newsletter I'm planning on to getting out. I've also heard of it being extremely helpful for small businesses who don't have software like Outlook. It can be used on Macs and PCs, as well as sync with Androids and Apple devises.  Plus, it's free!

Bullet Journals ($10-20)

This planning technique has become huge recently. I love the idea of it, because it's simplified and constant but you still get to be creative. However, I just can't seem to find the time to design my monthly, weekly and daily pages every time. Then, I seem to find myself losing track of things. Maybe this planning technique will work great for you, and I don't want to leave it out. So below are two highly recommended bullet journals. Since, I haven't personally used them successfully, I won't be leaving a description. BUT! Feel free to check them out yourself :)

Leuchtturm1917 A5 Notebook*

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Large, Dotted*

Downloadable Binder Pages ($10-25)

There are tons of amazing bloggers and graphic designers who make their own printable planner pages for the year - dates and all. They normally have all kinds of helpful toolkits and are a perfect addition to a home base binder. These are perfect for someone looking to organize their day, and are willing to carry around a binder. Some day I hope to have time to make some of my own. Until then, here are a few great ones that I personally love!

Just a Girl and Her Blog's Simplified + The Intentional Life Planners: The writer of this blog offers a planner and home binder with tons of helpful documents to get organized. Check out her page for more information as to what's included.

SecretOwlSociety's Ultimate Life Binder on Etsy: This is a super cute planner set that keeps showing up on my Pinterest page. I haven't tried it myself, but I love the look of it.

Budget Planners ($10-35)

You want to check these out if you're new the the paper planner world, and don't want to be filling in dates or designing your own bullet journal. These are great options for someone looking for something that's cheap, but is still cute and practical.

Eccolo Planners*: I adore these cute planners. I've heard they can be found at places like TJ Maxx and Marshall stores, but you can also find them online. They're a great, budget alternative to the designer planners.

At-A-Glance Planners*: These planners are available everywhere. They have some basic, black options that are fairly inexpensive, as well as some with fun colors, prints, and sayings. They're a great option if you're looking for fairly inexpensive planners, and you can find them almost everywhere.

Designer Planners ($55-65)

Looking to upgrade your planner to something durable, useful and amazingly cute? Then these three options will be perfect for you! The name brand planners are amazing, and have the best of the best when it comes to covers, bindings and paper. However, you are going to have to pay a pretty penny. BUT! If you're using it every day, then it's definitely worth it.

Simplified Planner by Emily Ley*: I have used the daily version the past two year for organizing tasks, and managing my daily to-do list. I love using this in conjunction with my Apple calendar and blog organization binder. It's a beautiful planner that helps simplify your days (hence the name). This is the planner I take with me everywhere, and it's extremely durable. The daily version of the planner itself is fairly thick, but the cover and pages are top quality. Also, the main reason I prefer the daily Simplified Planner to the other designer planners is that it only contains the basics for each day (to-do list, meal planning, notes, and hourly breakdown), and I can use additional organization items (electronic calendars and project binders) for the other aspects of my life.

Day Designer*: A highly-acclaimed alternative to the Simplified Planner is this one. Personally, I have never used it, but I have heard great things. The designs are so sophisticated, and this planner is extremely similar to the simplified planner. There are some small differences in the layout for this planner for the daily layout when compared to the Simplified Planner. You may prefer the Day Designer if you're looking for a planner that has a little more built-in planning tools in one place.

Erin Condren*: This planner is extremely different when compared to the other two designer planners. First, there are tons of cover options and you can personalize it with your name. Second, the days are broken down by morning, afternoon, and evening. This would be perfect for someone who is looking to organize large chucks of time, and doesn't need to keep track of what is happening each hour of each day. Finally, there are also tons of cute stickers and stamps you can buy online (especially on Etsy) for this planner. They're so fun, and the make planning seem so fun and exciting every week.

Step Into My Office

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Okay, so it's not quite an office as it is the corner of one of our spare rooms, but I'm very proud of this little corner. It's so nice having a place for all the miscellaneous things I use for my website. I even have extra storage for paperwork, which is oddly satisfying while also uncomfortable. It's amazing what having a little corner to yourself can do. I absolutely love it!

Don't forget to check out the reset of the photos below!

4 Reasons Why Your Business Needs A Social Media Strategy

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Using social media to market your business seems like a no-brainer. It’s free, easy to set up, and it seems like anyone can figure out how to use it. So why do businesses struggle to get followers and engagement on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc? A lot of them don’t have a strategy in place to get the most out of their platforms, and to stay on task. Below are a few reasons why I’m a firm believer that every business needs a social media strategy.

Provides a Roadmap

Creating a social media strategy gives you time to think about what you want your social media presence say about your business. A social media strategy helps you decide on your tone of voice, graphic look, posting schedule, key words, hashtags, and much more. Then you know what your content should be, and it becomes easier to determine what to and what not to post.

Sets Expectations For Followers

People will follow accounts they believe provide some kind of benefit including aesthetically pleasing, educational, helpful, inspirational or aspirational. When people who are new to your profile, they tend to peruse your recent posts to see if it’s something relevant to them. If your posts are all over the place, someone may hesitate to or all together forgo hitting the follow button. However, if you are constantly providing content they like, then they are more likely to follow you. Because of this, it is key to understand your target market and build a strategy around them.

Keeps Your Posting Consistent

One key component to any great social media plan is a posting schedule for your content. You need to pick broad categories, and determine how frequently you will post each one. Maybe every Monday you post something motivational, Tuesdays you post a new blog post, Wednesdays you host a webinar or live video, Thursdays you share your sales, and so on.

Luckily it is very easy to schedule social media posts, which also makes fitting social media posting into a busy schedule a little bit easier. You can schedule posts days, weeks, or months in advance. However, scheduling posts doesn’t mean you should avoid checking the pages you manage. You still need to include your audience in the conversation and promptly reply to any questions, comments or concerns raised on your pages.

Helps You Find Your Audience

You need to engage with your audience on social media. This means that in your social media strategy, you should be outlining those who make up your target audience. These are the people who share the same values as your business. By defining and connecting with these people, you will have a more effortless and genuine connection with them. In the long run, these are the people you want following your business on social media. They will provide you will valuable feedback, be excited about the new things you offer, as well as be more willing to like, comment, and share you posts. 

Need help creating your social media strategy? Contact me today!


Five Easy Ways to Grow Your Blog's Pageviews

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How to improve post statics, and increasing pageviews is on every bloggers' mind. It took me a little while to get into the swing of things, and start seeing a consistent increase in my blog's pageviews. In today's post, I wanted to share what helped me.

Pick a Topic You Love

Writing about a topic you enjoy is the best way to have great blog stats. Why? Because if you write about what you enjoy, readers can feel that, and are more likely to enjoy reading it. When picking a topic (or topics) you want to write about, make a list of blog posts you'd write. This is helpful for many reasons. First, you'll have a go-to list of posts you can write, so you don't have a lull in posts. Secondly, it's a good way to determine if there is a topic you should write about. If you have a list that goes on-and-on, you know this is something you're passionate about and have a lot to share. However, if the list is fairly short, you might want to look at different topics you can use instead of, or in conjunction with the one you were planning on using.

Write Evergreen Content

To get the most out of each post, make sure it will stand the test of time. If your content is tied to a specific day, like that year's Oscar nominees, then you'll see the stats for that post diminish as it ages. On the other hand, if your posts are useful day-after-day and year-after-year, then you're going to get more views out of each of your posts everyday. I'm not saying don't write content that has an expiration date. But I am saying that you need to make sure your have a good mix of content that is evergreen and will expire.

Search Engine Optimization

Proactively managing your site's SEO is key to increasing your pageviews. By following basic SEO tips, you should be able to increase the amount of organic traffic you get. Not sure where to start to improve your SEO? You should definitely read my Beginner's Guide to SEO:)

Share on Social Media

If you're not doing this already, this is going the easiest and fastest way to increase your pageviews. Share your new content with your friends, family, and fans using social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Personally, I love using Pinterest to attract readers to my blog, but it does take a little more work then just posting a photo. To get the most action out of  your Pinterest posts, you need to create bright, colorful, and long graphics that depict what you're sharing about. When done right, those few extra minutes pay off to a lot more pageviews.

Link to Your Other Related Posts

You may or may not have noticed that I already did this earlier in the post. I already have an in-depth post about improving SEO that ties in perfectly with the topic of improving your blog's stats. So I linked it :) You need to be doing this, too. When someone finds your site, you want to give them an easy way to find all the other relevant content on your site. To do this, you need to be mentioning and linking your other posts that relate to one another. Maybe you wrote a new post that ties in to one you wrote a couple months ago. Well go to that older post and link the new one. You need to make it as easy for your readers to find what they need on your site. The fewer clicks and searches they need to do, the better!

Want to start a blog? Read my post "How to Start a Blog" here!


The Beginner's Guide to Improving SEO

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Understanding how to get your blog or website to show up in search engine results can be very overwhelming at first. It can be difficult to decide where to even start. So on today's post I'm sharing some SEO tips and tricks that have helped my blog.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which in a nutshell means that your site is search engine friendly. In broader terms, this means that the code for and content on your site is fashioned in a manner that makes it easy for search engines to understand what each page is about. This is extremely important if you're trying to increase your organic search traffic, because search engines are looking for sites that ensure it's providing relevant results for each search.

Write About Content People Are Searching

Now I'm not saying never write about what you enjoy. BUT! You should make sure to write content that people are searching for that's within your blog's genre. Because, let's be honest here, if your content isn't about what people search for, then you're not going to get any organic search engine traffic. For example, my product review posts get more organic search traffic then anything else. Now those types of posts make up a small portion of my blog's content. Because I'm very selective about the products I review on here, I only write about products I love or was honestly curious about myself before I even got it. However, because I know this helps my blog's overall SEO, I keep an eye out for products I personally would search for more information about to review on my blog.

Choose Titles That Work Well as Search Results

This is key! When you write the titles for blog posts and webpages, you need to make sure it's something your reader would click on in their search. For example, I picked the title for this post, because someone who is trying to learn more about SEO would be likely to click on it. I wouldn't want to name it "Search Tips" because that name is too vague for someone who's quickly skimming through search results to think, "That post seems relevant, and they must know what they're talking about. I should read that one." So make sure you choose your titles wisely if you're trying to improve SEO.

Post Regularly

Now you're probably wondering, "How often should I post?" Sadly there is no perfect answer for this one, because it depends on your site. For example, if you're posting about news, you'll need to update your site on an hourly basis, while I can get away with only posting new content a couple times a week. However the more stale your site becomes, the more likely it is that it will dip in the search rankings. So, try to set a schedule you can maintain, so you have some new content on your site regularly. Even if that schedule is only once or twice a month.

Give Your Photos Descriptions (and use Alt Text)

When you look at a photo of flowers, you know it's flowers. However, when search engines see a photo of flowers, they only see the information in the code. So, you need to tell it what's in the image. This is when adding photo descriptions is important to increasing the odds of your photos and website coming up in search results. Wordpress also gives you the opportunity to add Alternative Text to your image that can also help search engines better understand what's in your photos. This is the perfect place to add keywords that might be searched related to your post's topic.

Use Google WebMaster Tools

This is an extremely helpful tool when you're trying to improve your SEO. The one feature I use most is Fetch as Google to have it Request Indexing. This is one way for you to tell Google that your site is there, and it has content to crawl and read. You can chose to have it fetch your site as mobile or desktop, and you can even give it a specific URL on your site to fetch. Once you click the "Fetch" or "Fetch and Render" button, it will give you the option to select a "Request Indexing" button for the new fetch. After click on the "Request Indexing" button, you can chose for it to crawl only that URL or that URL and all direct links (I typically do the latter). This process can take a few days to complete, but once it's done it will also give you a report of any errors it found on your site. Some of these errors are minor that you don't need to fix, while some are major and need to be fixed before Google will trust your site enough to use it in search results.

Also!!! Make sure you add every version of your site to this tool. This includes http and https, with and without www., and all sub-domains you have. This will help better direct Google to your site. Plus, it will help you understand what is being pulled up in organic searches, and any errors that occurred when your site was crawled.

Give it time!

Last, bust certainly not least: SEO doesn't just magically work overnight. It takes weeks, even months, to really take full effect. So, do not get discouraged if you're not getting the organic search results you were hoping for right away. Just keep implementing these tips and tricks, and eventually you should see results.

Want to start a blog?
Read my post “How to Start a Blog”
here!


How To Use Your DSLR Camera in Manual Mode

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Taking the next step with your DSLR, and switching over to manual mode can be overwhelming at first. Let's be honest, that's why you're here. In this post, I'll help you understand the basics of your manual mode settings: shutter speed, aperture, ISO. I even threw in how I check my exposure when adjusting these settings. So, take my hand, and I'll help guide you on your photography journey.  

What is Shutter Speed?

Let's take a couple steps back before getting into choosing your shutter speed setting. Okay, so DSLR stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex. The Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) part means there is only one shutter mechanism moving when you take your shot. It will move up to let the light into the part of your camera where the digital sensor is, and then back down. The amount of time the shutter mechanism is up and letting light hit the sensor is your shutter speed, which is measured in seconds.

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Now that we covered the background information, what should you choose for your shutter speed? Honestly, it depends on the shot... I'll walk you through why I might choose a slow shutter speed, and why I might choose a fast one.

Slower Shutter Speeds: I'm going to get this out of the way now: if you're using a very slow shutter speed, you're going to need a tripod. Now that we have that out of the way, lets talk about the two reasons why you might end up shooting with a slower shutter speed. First, it's a low-light shot. These are typically at night or indoors with absolutely terrible lighting. Second, you want to emphasize motion in your images. These include images like blurred cars racing around a track or moving water blurring into a silky texture. For those situations, I'd be shooting below 1/50.

Faster Shutter Speeds: When I'm shooting at higher shutter speeds, I want to stop a moving object. For portraits of people who are fairly still or landscapes, I prefer my shutter speed will be set at 1/150 or higher (but I can make 1/100 work if I'm in a pinch). If I'm taking photos of a child, who is most likely going to be on the move the whole time, my goal shutter speed will be at least 1/500. When taking photographs of fast animals (dogs, birds, etc.), athletic events, or moving vehicles, I would want a shutter speed of at least 1/2000. For those types of shots, you can probably get away with a shutter speed of 1/1000, but if it's possible shot at 1/2000 or higher.

Minimum Shutter Speed to Shoot Without a Tripod: This depends on the lens you have on your camera, and if you're using a full- or crop-frame camera. I'll start with full-frame, because there's less math involved... For full-frame cameras you want the denominator of your shutter speed to be greater than the maximum millimeters your lens can shoot. Confused? That's okay, stick with me. If you're using a 50mm lens, you want your shutter speed to be 1/50 or higher. If you're using a 70-200mm lens, you should set your shutter to at least 1/200. For crop-frame cameras there's a little math involved (sorry...). The reason for the math is because crop-frame cameras basically have a build in zoom (AKA crop). Because of this, you'll need to use a shutter speed that's actually faster then if you were using that size lens a full-frame camera. I know... it's super confusing... BUT! From all the research I've done, if you multiple your lens' maximum millimeters by 1.6, you should be good to go. For example, if you're using a 50mm lens, you'll want to use a shutter speed of 1/80 (50 x 1.6 = 80). Now if  you're using a 70-200mm lens, you'll want a shutter speed of at least 1/320 (200 x 1.6 = 320).

What is Aperture?

Have you seen those photos with the super blurry background? That's done thanks to aperture. What is aperture? In a nutshell, it's the hole in your lens that lets light through to your sensor. When you open your aperture more, you will let more light in and reduce your depth of field. By reducing your depth of field, you get those buttery, blurred backgrounds, which are perfect for portraits. If you are taking a landscape photo that you want to be in focus for miles, you'll want to close your aperture.

Now, if you're looking at the aperture setting, it might seem a little backwards. Let's clear this up a little bit. If you want to open your aperture and have a wider opening, then you'll want to reduce the number in your setting. So, if you follow that idea, an aperture of f/22 is a smaller opening then an aperture of f/1.8. I know... confusing right?! Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Something else to keep in mind, is some lenses (including kit lenses) have variable apertures.  This means your widest aperture changes as you zoom.

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What is ISO?

This is the shortest section, but it's pretty straight forward. Your camera's ISO setting adjusts how sensitive it is to light. As with all the other settings, there is some give and take with this. You trade an increased sensitivity to light (higher ISO) for a decrease in image quality (more grain). Personally, when I shoot in manual mode, ISO is the last thing I'll adjust. I'll start with an ISO of 100 or 200, and then adjust all my other settings before going any higher. Then, I'll change the ISO if I have the shutter speed and aperture to a point that I'm not comfortable going past to get the shot I want.

How Will I Know If I Have the Right Exposure?

I personally use the meter in my camera, which displays in my viewfinder and on the back screen. There are a few different metering modes on DSLR cameras, and I prefer using Spot Metering. Why? I like knowing that my meter is showing me what it's reading at for that exact point, which is the center focal point. For example, if I'm shooting photos of a person where the background is darker than their face, then I put my center focus dot on their face and use the meter to fine-tune my exposure to ensure their face isn't too dark or too bright. I might not use a center focus for the shot, but I use it to meter. Once I have the exposure I'm happy with, I will change my focus point for the composition of the shot. Keep in mind, the meter might not be "perfect" exposure, but it is a great starting point. So, make sure you're taking a couple practice shots when you change up your lighting or location.

Now you have the basics, put them to use and get out here and take some photos!

How to Start a Blog

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Starting a new blog can be a daunting task, especially when you think about how many blogs are out there. It has even been hard for me to continue or even start blogging again, but my love of it means I always return. Because of this, I've learned a lot over the years, and I wanted to share it with you.

1. Always remember that there is only one you!

I think this is the thing that always gets me excited about blogging. On the flip side, forgetting this is what discourages me the most. Blogging is a way to share your story, whether it be through recipes, style tips, parenting advice, workout tips, or even literally telling about what's happening in your life.

You shouldn't start a blog to be like someone else. It makes it too easy to give up because you don't have what they do. There will always be someone out there who has more money, better equipment, or more time to make their blog better than yours.

It's easier to find inspiration when reading other blogs, if you always remember that there's only one person who can tell your story, your way.

2. Decide what you will be writing about

Pay attention to what blogs interest you. This also means bloggers you follow on social media, especially  Pinterest and Instagram. Bloggers use these sites as a way to capture their audience's attention and get them to read their content. Maybe you follow a lot of fashion bloggers on Instagram, you might follow food bloggers on Pinterest, or you could read more posts by mom who share their parenting advice that you Google search.

Knowing what content draws your attention, might help you narrow down your blog subjects. It's very hard to blog about something consistently that doesn't keep your attention. So, picking subjects that you enjoy reading about is extremely important. You also need to build your blog subject list, and find a way to bring them under one umbrella. Keep in mind that your interests might grow and change. So pay attention to that throughout your blogging career, and consider evolving your blog throughout the years.

3. Pick a name

This can be one of the hardest parts of starting a blog. You want to make sure your blog's name fits with the subject(s) you have decided to cover, but there are two camps on how to name your blog:

  1. Choose a name that clearly defines what your blog covers

  2. Choose a name that allows you the ability to change your blog topics as your interests change

You can probably tell by the name of my blog that I went with option number two. I write about what interests me, and what's happening in my life. So, I was somewhat narcissistic and named my blog after myself. However, that name gives me the opportunity to write about my interest even when they evolve and my life changes.

4. Get your domain

Now that you have a name, it's time to see if it's available as a domain. Honestly, you may need to come up with a few different names before you can find one with an available domain.

If you are going to be a hobbiest blogger, I would recommend starting your blog with Wordpress.com. It's an awesome site and gives you a lot of options for free. With this site however, your free domain will end with .wordpress.com (for example thehayleyfiser.wordpress.com).

However, if you are looking to make money off of your blog and monetize your site, there are two options I would recommend using. First is Squarespace, which is what I’m currnetly using for my blog. It’s super easy to set up and relativly inexpensive. It’s the perfect option for someone who doesn’t have experience with coding a website. They make it super easy to purcahse and host a domain through them with some of the pricing packages they offer.

The second option is for someone who knows website coding and wants more control over the way the blog looks and functions. For those people, I would highly recommend using Bluehost (yes, that is an affiliate link :) ) to purchase your domain and host a Wordpress.org site (this is what I did for my website before I starting using it for my consulting business and it was just a blog). You can use their Domain Name Checker below to see if the name you want to use is available.

If your domain is available, head on over to Bluehost  and purchase your domain. They also make it super easy to install Wordpress.org, and they'll host your site. So once you buy your domain, you can immediately start your blog on a trusted blogging site. They make it super easy, and have professionals available via phone and chat if you have any questions or run into issues when setting your site up. I ran into a ton of issues migrating from a Wordpress.com to Wordpress.org site, and their chat representatives where extremely helpful.

5. Design your site

You officially have a blog! Now it's time to make it shine. There are a ton of different templates and themes to choose from for Squarespace and Wordpress, and they are super easy to put your own stamp on. I am currently using the Squarespace’s Bedford template. Back when I had my site on Wordpress, I paid for the theme Holly & Weave by pipdig and loved the way it looked and functioned.

Have your blog set up?
Read my “Beginner's Guide to Improving SEO” 
here!

This post contains affiliate links for Bluehost, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation. Let's be serious, mama needs a new pair of shoes :)