Author Archives: femmefrugality

Finding Ways to Save Extra Money for Next Vacation

This post is brought to you in collaboration with ValuedVoice.

Going to be making some calls to save on those recurring monthly bills. Totally worth dealing with a CSR if it means I can afford that next family vacation!

Everybody wants to go on a fun, relaxing vacation every now and then, but it can be hard to save up enough money and get the time off work. While we can’t help you with your work schedule, we can help you find a few ways to pocket some extra money and start building your vacation fund. If you really need a bit of extra money, you might even consider picking up a side hustle to bolster your income. In any case, here are our top tips for saving vacation money.

Bills

If you’re trying to cut back on your monthly spending, the first thing you should look at is how much you’re spending on monthly bills and how much you can reduce that number. There are a lot of monthly bills that are set in stone, such as your rent, but you can actually take steps to reduce numerous bills.

For example, there are a number of ways to reduce your auto insurance bill. By bundling your auto insurance with other types of coverage, shopping around and looking for any eligible discounts, or even raising your deductible if it’s currently too low. Simply speak with your Pittsburgh insurance agent to learn more about how you can save.

Other bills you may be able to save on include your power bill, water bill, cable and internet bill, and your cell phone bill.

Saving Tricks

For some people, employing a simple trick is all it takes to start saving more effectively. It can be difficult to save money when you’re simply spending and putting some aside with no regard for your budget. Instead, you should make a list of all of your expenses compared to your income. You can use this list to make sure you’re staying on track and saving enough.

Many people find the envelope system to be a good method of saving. All you have to do is separate your money into envelopes for various purposes: one for rent, one for groceries, etc. As long as you only use the money from each envelope for its intended purpose, you will have some money left over at the end of the month.

Side Hustle

If you’re really having a difficult time-saving money with your income, you might consider trying a side hustle. Now is a better time than ever to find these sorts of gigs, although a traditional second job works as well.

The biggest benefit of having a side hustle is that you don’t have to dedicate too much time to it. If you want to drive for Lyft, for example, you get to choose your hours to make as much money as you need. If you were particularly busy at work this month so you made enough money and didn’t have time for your side hustle, you aren’t obligated to do it.

If saving money were easy, everybody would do it. However, as long as you follow these tips and make a conscious effort to budget and save, you can make your next dream vacation come true.

What to Do in Osaka

Punk rock shows, baseball games, local fare...makes me want to go to Osaka, Japan! Loving the cultural differences in frugality and money-saving measures, too.

This post should probably be titled What I Did in Osaka–because there’s so much going on in this city it’s insane in a very awesome way.

We had such a great time in Osaka, and even found some frugal differences from what we were used to at home while we were there.

Go to a Baseball Game

orix buffaloes game

Our friend was super generous and got us some tickets to an Orix Buffaloes game. It was sooo much fun. When we got there, I had a water bottle with me. I was expecting to have to throw it away, but instead they took it and poured its contents into an open paper cup. Score for not having to buy another once I got inside!

In between innings, there were dancers that came out to perform and amp up the crowd. During plays, there were sections of volunteers who performed practiced cheers complete with arm movements and everything. These sections looked to be mostly or completely male, but I was across the field from them so I couldn’t tell for sure. If you watched the Olympics, it was similar to the cheerleading section North Korea had.

At one point, between one of the innings, a whole bunch of people in the crowd let go of these blue, phallic shaped balloons (not purposely phallic–I don’t think) and they scattered all over the park as the gas escaped its blue, plastic cages.

There was a woman walking around with a keg on her back, selling beer, but you could get the same thing for a little less money at the concession stand inside. Like everything else in Japan, the park was extremely clean, and they still have cordoned off rooms for smokers.

Our team didn’t win, but we had a great time. Aside from all the excitement of the cultural differences, watching a ball game live is one of my favorite past times, and it was really cool to get to do so in another country.

Another big team in Osaka is the Hanshin Tigers. From what I can tell, they’re a bit more popular than the Buffaloes–Ichiro played for the Tigers before coming to the US.

Punk Rock Shows at Namba Bears

NAMBA BEARS OSAKA

If you’re checking out any underground scene in Osaka, there’s a good chance it’s literally going to be underground.

That’s the way it was when my sibling and I caught a local punk show at Namba Bears. Beer was three yen and was stored in a cooler–like the type you’d take camping. Tickets were pretty much the same cost as they are here–somewhere around $20. I bought a t-shirt for someone back home and the artist was cool enough to throw in a free pin with the purchase.

So that’s the money side of things. The experience, though, was what really made the night. The music was amazing. In fact, I found a new favorite artist. I was totally digging the first act, though I wasn’t in a place where I could see the whole stage at first. My sibling pointed out that it was a one-man band. I moved so I could see better and sat there with my jaw on the floor for the rest of the act.

It was incredible. He had bells on top of the drums he was playing completely with his feet as he rocked his guitar and sang. And he sounded amazing–whether there had been three other people in his band or not. He’s currently recording–he only has one track out right now, but should have a full album up soon. You can check out USGKZ & The Equipments on Bandcamp.

The other two sets were amazing, too. But this guy was my favorite.

Disclaimer: My Japanese is horrible and I have no idea what the lyrics say.

Underground Comedy

funny in japanese

Outside one of the bigger comedy clubs.

Osaka is known for its standup. My sibling wanted to go to a show, but speaks even less Japanese than I do. Eventually they made the financially savvy decision to go to an underground show rather than to one with bigger comedians. It was super affordable–about ten dollars if I remember correctly.

We had no idea what these guys were saying, but it was pretty interesting to see some of the basics of how comedy differs from our culture. First, there were a lot more duos than single comedians. And pretty much all of them got into a character rather than just standing up there as themselves telling jokes.

My friend laughed particularly hard at this one comedian, and she said he was singing about all the little embarrassments he goes through in daily life. Like truly silly ones, and many of them were unique to Japanese culture–or at least completely new to me as an American.

As obvious gaijin, we got asked where we were from. When we said Pittsburgh, the comedians knew about our history with steel mills (which aren’t here anymore, but a lot of Americans don’t even know that,) and were excited about the Pittsburgh Pirates. Every Japanese person we met on our travels knew our baseball team–and we have a long history of sucking! (Our ownership actually makes money off of losing and it’s messed up.)

It was a fun experience. Worth the money, and–once again–literally underground.

Visit the Pokemon Center

pikachu japan

A couple years ago, I downloaded Pokemon Go onto my phone. I was a nerd child, and actually played in a Pokemon card league when I was younger. Augmented reality seemed cool, I thought my kid would have fun with it, and really I just wanted to play Pokemon again.

My child did get super into it, so I promised before I left that I’d catch all kinds of new Pokemon for them and get them some stuff from the Pokemon Center. There are multiple Pokemon Centers around Japan, but we went to the one in Osaka.

That place is expensive as heck. Super cool, but super expensive. I got a couple plates for the kiddos, blind boxes, a stuffed Squirtle, and–for myself–a notebook. And I spent too much money. And I wanted more.

I restrained myself, though! Even if you don’t spend any money while you’re there, it’s still a really cool place to visit if you’re into Pokemon even though it’s just a store.

Eat Kushikatsu

kushikatsu

Kushikatsu is the food Osaka is famous for. Essentially, they batter meat or vegetables and maybe other things–I don’t know–and then deep fry them. Ours came on a stick, and then you could dip it into this great sauce.

Our friend took us to Kushikatsu Daruma in Lucua Osaka. It looks and feels like a diner–though with completely different fare than what you’d be used to as an American. Daruma is celebrating it’s 89th birthday this year, so you know they’re doing something right! They have other locations around the city, and there are other places to get kushikatsu. But this was my only experience with it, and I absolutely loved Daruma.

Buy Candy

candy store osaka

I kid you not when I say that my sibling brought back an entire suitcase full of candy. It was kind of ridiculous, but also a little bit understandable, especially as a lot of it was for gifting when we got back.

But it was also ridiculous.

While in Osaka, we went into this huge candy store. And I mean huge. It was like the ToysRUs of candy. (Too soon?)

There were all kinds of new-to-us sweets–even from familiar names. Like:

  • Peach gummies (that had liquid inside which exploded in your mouth when you bit into them.)
  • Strawberry cheesecake Kit Kats.
  • Wasabi Kit Kats.
  • Five million other flavors of Kit Kats.
  • Meiji Horns (which remind me of Milano cookies except way better–yes, it is possible!)
  • Whatever is in those geisha containers in the picture.
  • So, so much more.

Osaka is fun.

Of the three major cities we visited, Osaka seemed the grittiest to me, and I mean that as a compliment. In Kyoto, I got to visit ancient sites and experience the natural beauty woven into the city’s fabric. In Tokyo, I felt like I was in an uber clean, uber safe, uber tech-y modern metropolis.

But in Osaka, with business after business stacked on top of each other, squeezed into shorter high rises than those in the country’s capital, I felt like I was learning about and experiencing what Japan’s culture is becoming.

 

 

Money-Saving Tips for Your Next Backpacking Trip

Today please welcome Mads from MightyGoods as he shares some great tips for backpacking on a budget! Loving these money-saving tips as a backpacker myself. 2018 is the year of travel!

You are going on a big backpacking trip that could literally take you all over the world, but you really need to do your homework first. You could save thousands on your trip because you have taken a few smart steps before even leaving the house.

These money-saving tips for your next trip can be very helpful because they let you get some of your investment back on every little thing that you do. This is a simple way for you to cut back on your costs so that you can actually do more on your vacation.

1. Plan Ahead

Planning will always be the best thing that you can do from getting a good backpack to planning where you will go. You must choose a backpack that will help you carry all that you need for the length of the trip. You might need a really big bag for a really long trip, or you might get something smaller for a shorter trip that may only take up a few days of travel.

The planning that you do must be done with regards to everything that you are doing. This means that you have gotten the bag, packed the bag, and then made certain that you know where you are going. You have to have the tickets for all your transportation bought, and you also have to find some places that you can stay. You could pick anything from a hostel to a hotel, and you might find campgrounds that you can hang out in.

It is literally impossible to take a successful vacation without a plan. You will run into snags along the way, and your plan is the only thing that will save you when you are in a foreign country possibly all by yourself.

2. Cheaper Accommodations

You could be going anywhere from the jungles of South America to Asia on your trip, and you must be certain that you have places to stay that you can actually afford. You might stay in a hotel in one town, on a campground in another, and in a hostel in another. You might want to make your experience as varied as possible, and you must see if the locations that you choose are along your route.

The accommodations that you have chosen must have all the things that you need at that point in your trip. If you are backpacking without a tent, you cannot go to a campground, or you might find a hostel that has a trunk where you can lock all your belongings. Comparison shopping is what all the best travelers do. If you are buying a hotel room that you found on your first search, you are wasting money.

3. Transportation

Transportation could be the most frugal part of your trip, and you must be certain that you have selected the modes of transportation that you think would be best for you. You could get a ferry instead or trying to take a train, or you might take taxis instead of renting a car. You might take a bus instead of driving, or you might actually get a plane that takes you to your next step along the trip.

You can package your transportation as part of a trip, and you should never go up to the counter and just buy tickets. You are wasting money every time you do not plan ahead. You could get a rail pass to travel through Europe, or you could get a plane ride into the hills or mountains you want to see in places like Nepal.

4. Souvenirs

Buy from local vendors who always have the lowest prices, and you might get to know these people at the same time. There are many people who are buying too much, or they cannot travel with these items because they do not have a place to put them. Have your souvenirs shipped home because you do not want to slog these items around.

5. Conclusion

Your next backpacking trip could be the best time of your life, but you will have a very hard time trying to figure out what to do if you are spending too much money. You must have a plan that will help you cut down on the costs of the trip, and you also need to see if you could plan places to go where you know you will always have service on your smart phone and be near the transportation you paid less for. Each of these things works only when you plan ahead and think like a smart traveler.

Praying for Wealth at Fushimi Inari

Totes want to go here! Planning a trip to Kyoto, Japan right now!

You know those pictures you see of orange tori gates lined up one after another, creating a fantastic tunnel?

Those pictures are of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto. Visiting there was a really cool experience for my sibling and I while we were on our trip to Japan.

What to Know Before You Go to Fushimi Inari

If you’re taking a JR train to Fushimi Inari, you’re in for a treat. It’s a super quick train ride away, and you’ll be met with the first orange tori gate when you step out of the station. You literally just have to walk across the street.

Once you pass through this first gate, you’ll enter a huge complex with places to pray and shops to purchase souvenirs. From there, you’ll enter the first tunnel of tori gates. Bear in mind that this path will take you up a mountain–wear appropriate clothing for your trek!

The gates get thinner the higher up you go up–the most condensed section is right there at the bottom.

The Story Behind the Gates

We were told that when you pray at Fushimi Inari, you are undertaking an obligation. The complex is set up as a shinto shrine dedicated to wishes for wealth. Should your wish be granted, you should use a portion of your money to donate another one of these orange gates.

That means that the tunnel created by the gates isn’t just a cool way to get people to come pray; it’s a manifestation of the success people and organizations have had since offering their prayers.

It’s also why the gates are closer together at the base of the mountain rather than the top; odds are that by the time you visit, there will be more gates up at the top than when I went as more wishes for wealth are granted!

Am I Praying for Wealth or Something Else?

When we made it to the main shrine, I threw in my go yen and prayed. I found myself praying for wealth, sure. Because that’s what you do when you’re there.

But I also found myself not so much desiring material gains for material gains’ sake. I found myself praying for the things money can grant: independence, freedom (hopefully to travel some more!), and the ability to be an actor in my own life rather than a passive vessel. To create my own path rather than being forced to walk upon one I had been told to travel.

Because it isn’t ever really about money. It’s really easy to fall into the numbers trap, measuring our success with a calculator in hand. But the reasons we pursue money are our true driving motivators, and we should never lose site of them. They’re what keep us grounded, and what can push us to keep going when things get hard.

I’ll be sure to let you guys know if they ever end up erecting an orange gate in my name.

 

What would you pray for at Fushimi Inari, besides the obvious request for cash?

 

Financial Lessons Learned From Marilyn Monroe

I had no idea Marilyn Monroe was so fiscally responsible! It does make sense that there were some money flaws, too. Nobody's perfect.

Or should I more properly state, “…from The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe,” which is a biography by J. Randy Taraborelli.  The bok was a great, anything-but-dry reconstruction of a life that both confirmed some of my assumptions and opened my eyes to realities that fly in the face of decades of gossip.

Monroe lived a sad life, but in all honesty, after reading this book, if I had met her in real life I would undoubtedly feel bad for her and want to help her, but I’d also probably be annoyed and find the woman a bit melodramatic. She had a hard childhood, but she made it sound oh-so-much worse for publicity’s sake.

Her ultimate demise was the pharmaceutical drug culture endorsed and encouraged by her industry at the time, which is a sad, shameful thing. Then again, it would appear that when she was at her best she was such a joy to be around–such a duplicitous character.

But isn’t that the case for all of humanity? We all hold within us light and dark.

Anyways, as I was reading I ran across a ton of financial lessons: some good and some bad. Any quotes I use are from Taraborelli’s work.

Don’t Let Any Man Hold You Back

From a young age, the men in Monroe’s life tried to keep her down. Or, more appropriately, tried to turn her into their ideal of what a woman should be: a home-making, doting wife that had no concerns outside of her marriage and family.

That wasn’t unusual for the time, but Marilyn wanted more. From a very young age she had a very specific goal of becoming a star. She chose her career over her marriages with Jim Dougherty and Joe DiMaggio, and while she may have never achieved ultimate happiness, she certainly achieved her goal.

If You’re Worth More, Demand More

Marilyn struggled with her relationship with her contractual overlord–Fox–for much of her career. After being cast for a film where she would play yet another dumb blonde (which frustrated her as she wanted to break out and take on more serious roles,) she found out she was being grossly underpaid compared to her peers.

To quote Taraborrelli’s account of the pursuant interaction:

“‘I’ve been in this business a long time, and I know what’s good for you,’ one executive told her.  ‘I’ve been in this business a very short time, but I know what’s better for me than you do,'” was Monroe’s reply.

YAS, Marilyn!

You know what? Her attitude worked. She didn’t have to do the movie she was disgruntled with, and when she resigned she got a $100,000 bonus.

Later on in her career she would establish her own production company to further her point and use as leverage to get paid more money. She was never paid commensurate to what she was worth, but she sure knew how to prove her point.

Show Up for Work

Monroe was constantly late to work. It frustrated the bejeezus out of her coworkers. Towards the end of her life it started getting so bad that a lot of times she wouldn’t even show up, citing one illness or another.

Granted, she was addicted to the meds her doctors were prescribing her and may have inherited a mental illness that hadn’t manifested itself in full-force until later in her short life, but her tardiness and constant absence eventually got her fired.

Lesson learned: show up to work.  So you can keep your job.

Your Home Doesn’t Have to be Lavish

Marilyn Monroe spent a good part of her childhood in a foster home that she cited as an adult was quite horrible, but in all reality was very loving. It was, however, modest.

Yet when she became a star, she didn’t go out and buy a mansion. In fact, her home as a grown woman was actually smaller than the one she spent her younger years in. Only a few rooms large, she loved it because it was her own and enjoyed entertaining there with no hint of shame. Had she managed the rest of her finances properly, she would be a personal finance role model.

Know Where Your Money’s Going

Towards the end of her life, her accountant advised Monroe to stop spending so lavishly. He had no idea where she was spending her money, and apparently neither did she. She only had $13,000 to her name.

Considering what she was making, that sure wasn’t a lot. It impacted those she left after she died. While she intended to leave $5,000/month to her mentally-ill mother for her hospitalization and care, her mother had to be removed from the high-class facility she was being treated at during her daughter’s life because the money simply wasn’t there.

Leave Your Estate to Someone

When Marilyn Monroe died, she was broke. The money she left to her family had already been spent.

But then, years later, something happened. All the work she did during her lifetime starting earning her money, and it all went to her estate. She had left part of it to her psychiatrist, and a larger portion to his acting coach.

It seems like an odd choice, but apparently it was a good one. When the money did start rolling in, her wishes regarding her family were fulfilled. And the owner of the estate (her coach’s widow) works hard to uphold her image and has the deepest respect for her. It would have been such a shame to just let that money go into anyone-who-could-grab-it’s hands.

 

 

What have you been reading lately?  Check out more recommendations on the Around the World in 80 Books Challenge.