Category Archives: travel

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.

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.