Category Archives: travel

Beginners’ Guide: Smart Travel for Backpackers

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

Never would have thought of some of these things---like the life insurance and not relying on your phone too much!

Travelling around the world is an amazing experience that more and more people want to have. It expands your horizons, knowledge all while discovering and developing yourself to a better version of you. Getting in contact with other cultures and religions, meeting different people that can teach you important lessons that might be helpful in the future and seeing amazing new places is something that all of us should strive for. You need to get out of your comfort zone, prepare your backpack and go out there to see the beauty of the diversity of this world for yourself.

Experience the real culture

Wherever you go you have something new to see and learn, whether you are going to the capitals or small villages, you are going to add some knowledge to what you have until now. However, if you are interested in experiencing the real customs of a culture you need to try to stay away from the busy cities with high buildings and noisy cars. Moreover, urban areas are usually filled with foreigners and are already designed for touristic purposes, so, if you want to meet the locals and see the real customs of the country that you are in, choose to go to the countryside around the big cities.

Get a memory

After some time, your trip around the world will end and you are going to be back home, with only memories to help you remember the amazing experiences that you had while traveling. Buy a small souvenir, something specific for the country that you are visiting and make your own collection of memories. Also, do not forget to take your camera with you to immortalize all the best parts of your trip.

Be open-minded and flexible

Traveling means a lot of places, people and things that are new for you, so you need to be an open-minded person in order to cope well with all of them. You need to know how to be tolerant and respectful of differences. Also, unexpected situations might pop up when you are not in your comfort zone, so being flexible is a skill that you definitely need in order to be able to deal with them without getting demotivated.

Take all the precautions

Since you are traveling to places that you do not know, it can sometimes be dangerous and you might have to deal with bad experiences. That is why you need to take all the precautions in case something like that happens. Do your research for either term life or whole life insurance policies. You can find the best whole life insurance companies here. You also need to have a health insurance card with you all the time, and have an accessible bank account in case you are the victim of the pickpockets.

Ask for help

It is true that nowadays you can so much of what you need to know on the internet, but asking the locals is always the best idea. They know all the hidden tips and hacks suitable for their surroundings. So they are the ones that you should trust when it comes to food, hotel or places to visit recommendations.

The Year of Bravery

Loving this Mark Twain quote. And I might have to steal her annual theme--love how much being brave in 2018 has changed her life.

Hey, hey, everyone. It’s been a hot minute.

To be honest, life has been crazy around here. The new school year is starting soon–both for my kids and myself. I’m learning that promoting a book can be just as much work as writing one. Plus some other personal stuff has been going on that has nothing to do with money but has added to the insanity.

I’d say I’m overwhelmed, and that would be partially true. But the circumstances I’ve put myself in are of my own doing.

Despite all the craziness, all the self-imposed stress, I’m in this place right now because of a decision I made at the beginning of the year. Actually, it’s one I made in late 2017. But 2018 has been bearing the fruit of my decisiveness.

The Year of Bravery

I realized about 8-10 months ago that I wasn’t entirely happy with the way I was living my life. Yes, we all have challenges. And, yes, those outside influences can really take over.

But in my specific circumstances, there were things I could have been doing to make things better. Steps I knew I could take, and goals I could pursue.

But I wasn’t. Because of fear.

I don’t like living my life from a place of fear, but I felt I had been cornered. Adulthood and motherhood both come with so many responsibilities that sometimes you feel saddled down by it all, and lose yourself in the process.

I thought back to a quote I saw on my history teacher’s door in high school that really changed the way I have (mostly) handled challenges throughout my life:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

I knew I had to make a shift. I knew it was time to get out of my frozen state and start taking action towards the things I wanted–no matter how scary or unrealistic taking those actions seemed to be.

I dubbed 2018 the Year of Bravery, and have tried to live my life over the past eight months in that mindset. I’m not going to lie. At moments it’s been hard. Really, really hard. But with the pain of change, there comes transformation. I can see my life and attitude morphing before my eyes, and I’m proud of what I’m becoming.

The Feminist Financial Handbook

Late last year, Mango Publishing contacted me to see if I’d be interested in writing a book on feminist finances. It wasn’t the first book offer I’ve received, but it was the first one with agreeable terms. Still, writing a book is a lot of work, and it would mean boldly attaching my name to my opinions–and then promoting it.

For most of my blogging life, I was anonymous. I’m not ashamed of my work, but I do prefer the work to stand on its own–its own merit, its own two legs. Fame and recognition is not only something I don’t seek, but is something I actively try to avoid.

I don’t think I’m going to get famous for writing a niche personal finance book. Haha. But I do know I’m going to have to shout my own name from the rooftops, which makes me extremely uncomfortable.

But I decided to do it anyways. This decision was made with encouragement from my friends and peers. It was made because a book like this needs to exist, period. And it was made because 2018 is the Year of Bravery.

This weekend, I got an email from my publisher notifying me that The Feminist Financial Handbook is officially an Amazon #1 New Release:

The Feminist Financial Handbook Amazon Number One New Release

 

It’s super exciting, and I’m humbled by all of you who have expressed interest and preordered. If you want to learn more about what’s inside, you can do so here. Or, if you’re already sold because feminism + money is where it’s at, you can preorder your copy here.

I took a risk by putting myself out there. And although I still feel some trepidation, I’m glad I did. Writing a book is something I’ve always wanted to do, and however this whole thing turns out, I can look back on my life without the, “What if?”

Traveling Across the World

pikachu japan

When I was a child, one of my best friends was Japanese. We only lived close to each other for a couple years, but our bond was deep. We kept touch even after she returned to Osaka and my family moved to Pittsburgh.

Right around the time I started blogging, she came to visit me. It was the first time we had seen each other since our tear-filled goodbyes, and brought me so much joy. I’ve always wanted to visit her in her home country, but it always seemed like an impossible dream.

I was sitting on a bunch of airline miles last year, and was waiting for a time when my whole family could go with me on this adventure. But I had been waiting for a while, and the more time wore on, the more apparent it became that there was going to be no perfect time when we could all go and have a good time. So I asked my sibling if they wanted to come with me.

They jumped at the invitation, and in Spring we finally got to visit our childhood friend and see her wonderful, amazing family for the first time in over twenty years. It was the most amazing trip of my life, but it’s one that almost didn’t happen. Because I took the plunge, despite the fears of regret that I might create by not bringing my children along, I had one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and saw some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Well, it was also because my friend and her family are amazing, generous people. Actually mostly because of that.

But you get the idea.

Returning to School

National program to get student loans forgiven

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. As the primary breadwinner, though, it seemed irresponsible to threaten my own time with more responsibilities as I’m already pressed for time enough.

But we make room in our lives for the things we value. And education is way up there for me. I’m excited to see the new paths this venture will lead me down, and all the new things I’m going to learn.

I start classes next week. I’m oddly nervous about my age even though I’ve never been a traditional student. I’m also worried about the time aspect.

But the last time I did this school thing, I did it while carrying and then birthing children. If I can handle that, I can definitely make this work.

So while I have some jitters, I’m also incredibly psyched to step back into the halls of scholarship.

If the Year of Bravery has taught me anything, it’s that I won’t regret this decision.

Seven Years of Blogging

Can't wait to read this book on feminist money and check out the budget travel hashtag on IG!

This is it, guys. Today marks my seventh year of blogging.

Okay, technically it’s tomorrow, but that’s a Thursday and therefore inherently less convenient for my posting schedule.

I really can’t believe I’ve been at it this long. What started as a way to share some of the saving and earning hacks I’d been learning as a less-than-wealthy human being has morphed into a career. It’s absolute craziness and nothing that I could have predicted when I signed up for a free platform on WordPress–and then Blogspot–all those years ago.

The Feminist Financial Handbook

Today, I’m pulling in an income through this site and freelance writing. I’ve been to conferences around the country, and made some of the best friends of my life I would have otherwise never met. I’m writing a book, which you can pre-order, and crazier than it all, I’ve been in touch with people whom my writing has actually helped.

That last one is the biggest one for me. The money is nice, though I’m by no means rolling in it because of my self-imposed non-workaholic schedule. But to know that my writing has directly impacted people’s lives–that’s why I started. And it’s what keeps me going. Thank you for reading. And thank you for letting me know when this stuff works for you in real life.

What’s Changed Over the Past Seven Years

When I started, blogging was a lot more social. We’d all comment on each other’s stuff, share a lot more of our personal lives and connect in direct ways.

Sure, there were people manipulating the SEO machine, which was far easier to do in 2011, but for the most part our community was tight-knit and supportive.

There are still aspects of our community that remain that way. But I myself am guilty of not leaving as many blog comments as I once did. I don’t share as much of my life as I have become more guarded and cognizant of the stories I put out there now that this site is a little bigger and my name is often attached to my work instead of my pseudonym.

And I’m not the only one. We’ve all done it. I don’t know how new bloggers do it anymore. It seems more like a business decision to start a blog than a passionate hobby. At least in the circles I’ve found myself cemented in.

I know some of you newer bloggers will disagree with me–which is great! I want to hear your stories and secrets in the comments!

Which is why I’m all the more grateful for the friendships I made back in those early days. Before everyone started quitting their 9-5. Back when we were just youngsters figuring out this whole money thing as young adults who came of age during the Recession. (Though many of my friends are Xennials–the Recession hit their careers and cash flow hard, too.)

Adjusting to the Times

Share your best budget travel tips every week to be featured!

So much has changed in seven years. But if you want to stay relevant, you have to keep up with the times. I’m not always the greatest at this. For example, I just joined Instagram a couple months ago. Now I understand that platform might as well be the whole internet in 2018.

I’m primarily using it to showcase my travels–which nine times out of ten are hella cheap. It’s kind of cool because while I still get to interact with the personal finance peeps I love, I also have been meeting some amazing travel bloggers who are also typically budget conscious.

I miss the community aspect of blogging, but I think rather than trying to go back and recreate an environment that may no longer exist, I’m going to try something new. Something different for me. Something a little fun–at least from my perspective.

Get Your Budget Travel Tips Featured

So I’m starting a hashtag. Check out #femmefrugalitybudgettravel on Instagram! Then use it within your own post, sharing a great travel experience you had on a low budget. I’ll be sifting through the hashtag and picking a feature to repost–full credit provided–at least once a week for #WanderlustWednesdays, getting your best tips out in front of my followers.

Want to become one of my IG followers? DO IT!

Seven years later, I’m excited to build community in new, fun and exciting ways. Thank you for being here with me all these years, and I’m so excited to continue on this journey with you.

 

Cash, Cards & Money in Japan

So glad I read this before I travel to Japan! Otherwise I wouldn't have brought enough cash--and then would have had trouble getting money out of an ATM!

True story: I hardly ever use cash. Living here in the US, I use cards for virtually every transaction I make. I rarely run into cash, and when I do, it’s a pain in the butt to get deposited into my bank account.

We were going on this big trip to this super modern, super tech-y country: Japan. Before we left, I did exchange some dollars for yen. I wanted to dodge the poor conversion rates you usually find at the airports and have enough for the entire trip. I just assumed I’d be able to use my card pretty much everywhere, but I also knew it wasn’t the best idea to be in a foreign country with zero dollars in my pocket.

I was in for a surprise, though. Less than a week into our trip, my money was gone. We had to spend it at restaurants, at a hair place for my sibling, and overall just on little things at businesses that only took cash.

For example, in Kyoto we ate at several restaurants that were cash only. Sometimes they were the only thing open, too, when we grabbed dinner later in the evening!

Fun Fact: We found food to be the same price in Japan as it is in our home city of Pittsburgh. And, yes, the portion sizes were just as generous! The food was usually a lot healthier, too.

Delicious ramen and gyoza in Kyoto Japan

I also bought an umbrella at a store front across the canal from us; they also only took cash. Because I didn’t know exactly where would and wouldn’t take my plastic, I burned through the paper money relatively quickly. It was spending I was planning on anyways–I just didn’t expect to use cash as my medium of payment quite so often.

Finding an ATM in Japan That Will Actually Work

When I first had to hit up an ATM, I went to one run by Japan Bank. Supposedly these are compatible with US-issued cards.

That was not the case for me. And I had my friends interpreting for me through the process, so I know it wasn’t a language gap.

Eventually, we discovered that while my card didn’t work at the Japan Bank ATM in the grocery store, it did work at the same ATMs at the post office and 7-11. These were both quite prolific in the parts of Japan we went to.

If you’re at a bigger train station, that’s usually a good place to find both a post office and 7-11, though they were spread throughout the cities, too. You might just have to google where they are if you’re in a more rural area, as there wasn’t the same build-up of businesses around the rural train stations we visited.

You don’t have to tip in Japan.

money fro around the world

Money from around the world at my favorite restaurant we ate at while in Japan–they just happen to serve Mediterranean fare.

My friend’s family cooked us delicious meals and took us out a few times, too. But mostly we ate at restaurants while we were away. It felt really weird not tipping the first time we ate out, but you’re not supposed to in Japan. Apparently they actually pay their waitstaff a living wage.

Go figure.

Converting to Dollars is Easy

The following was true for me on my trip, but you’ll always want to check current conversion rates before you embark on your own journey.

When I went, though, the rule of thumb was to move the decimal point two places to the left to get an approximate conversion rate. So something that is 10,000 yen is about $100USD. Something that’s 2,000 yen is about $20.

The dollar was doing pretty well when we hopped on the plane to cross the Pacific, so we knew that every purchase would be slightly less expensive than what we had calculated using our ridiculously simple conversion formula above.

Remember the Cash

Japanese money

Ultimately, the biggest money lesson I learned while in Japan was the first one we covered: bring cash, and don’t walk by a post office or 7-11 with empty pockets without stepping in to use the ATM. Even in a place which had bathrooms so tech-y they blew my mind, paper money was still widely used and sometimes even required–even in urban settings.

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.