14 Ways I Save Money And Travel More: Part II

A while back I wrote about how I save money so I can afford to travel, and since y’all loved it, I’m back with ROUND 2!

I’m definitely not any kind of millionaire, and I don’t have a limitless incomes, so traveling has to be a very intentional priority for me. I don’t budget because I don’t like spending money (believe me, I love spending money) but because there are some things that are just more important to me. It goes like this:

My income + Saving on everything I buy = MORE $$ FOR PLANE TICKETS (yay!)

Disclaimer: My life is my own and these tips don’t/won’t necessarily work for everyone or every lifestyle…duh.

1. Rewards Programs 

Check out the reward programs for the things you already use. Have a credit or debit card? You probably have rewards or perks. If you go to the movies a lot, like I do, then you should check out their rewards programs as well. I also make sure to always get punch cards and things like that from smaller shops because the fact is, they usually don’t expire, and I’ve got a whole lot of free food/drinks for spending money I’d already be spending.

2. Mailing Lists 

So, call me old fashioned, but I actually use the U.S. mail system. This is how I get birthday specials, coupons for artsy sh*t and also how I keep up with the art world around Seattle. You’d probably be surprised how many mailing lists you’re missing out on, and what they’ll send you. (On another note, don’t forget to sign up for email lists)

3. Get High Off Learning

Can I just tell you how much I love taking free learning/educational courses? Not only does it give me a ton to talk about with people, but it also nourishes my mind when I’d probably be out doing something stupid because I’m “bored.” My favorite go-to is Khan Academy, but there are actually a ton out there. A quick Google search can usually find you a million and one to choose from.
*Fun fact: I got my last job because I self taught myself techniques from online courses.

4. No Alcohol Or Coffee

Here’s a fun fact: I don’t drink alcohol or coffee. There are a couple reasons for this, including (but not limited to) the fact that alcohol makes me pass out on the first sip and coffee puts me to sleep (#ADHD) but this also allows me to save a whole ton of money. If I do need to hang out in a coffee shop, or get some caffeine, I usually stick with tea. As for alcohol, I just lie and always say I’m the designated driver.

5. Car Sharing

I’m a huge advocate for public transportation, but I also use car sharing services like Car2Go and ReachNow. Both of these services allow me to use a vehicle when I’m in a hurry, or when I need to transport things like groceries. Overall, it takes such a huge load off my mind to know there’s an independent way for me to get around that’s WAY cheaper than Uber (Car2Go starts at $.35/minute).

6. I Have Roommates

I actually hate the idea of living alone, so this one’s easier for me. As we all know, Seattle’s a pretty expensive city. So to help with the cost, I live with three other awesome women in a house. Some people have issues with this, but as long as student loans rule the universe I think it’s a great way to save money while being able to afford city living. Especially when moving home to your parent’s basement isn’t an option.

7. Cook At Home Date Nights

I really love to cook, but I absolutely hate cooking for one. Seriously, I’ll eat a bowl of cereal for dinner, rather than cook myself a solo meal. That being said, date nights are a great time to step into the kitchen and get yo’ pizza on. The best part of cooking with someone you care about is that it’s inexpensive fun, there’s a tasty end result, and you get to make fun of them, you get to encourage the other person’s cooking efforts.

8. L-I-B-R-A-R-Y

I actually almost broke this rule recently, because I really wanted a book and almost cracked and bought it from Amazon. But then it came from the library, and I reminded myself why I keep things in my Amazon cart rather than allowing my impulsive self buy all the things. Books are my weakness, I’m not gonna lie.

9. Blow Money On Some Things

Here’s the deal. I don’t hoard money. I save money for things that I want (even if that’s for retirement, that’s still something I want…down the road). I do, however, have a list of things that are important to me (plane tickets, shoes, art supplies) so I have a rule: When those more expensive things are available at a great price, I throw down on them. This actually ends up saving me more money because when I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself, which means I’m more likely to save.

Don’t live a completely miserable life in order to save money. It’s about being smarter, not living in a blackhole of misery.

10. Stare At Your Finances

Grab a glass of grape juice ’cause shit’s about to get real (sorry mom). Every now and then you’re going to need to take a deep breathe and look over your finances. It’s not fun. Believe me, I know. But if you’re keeping careful track of what you’re spending I promise it will get less painful as time goes by. Some people recommend apps and spreadsheets for this, but honestly I just go through my bank statements. The truth will set you free.

11. Pay MORE For Student Loans

Here’s a fun fact: By paying more on student loans you’re actually paying less on your loans. Your mind is blown, I know. I usually pay an extra 25% on each of my loan payments because as “little” as that sounds, it actually really adds up over the 10 year span of time. See if you can pull a little more money in that direction. If you end up with a chunk of change from some random life, that’s also a great time to make sure it goes toward paying off, rather than partying.

12. Buy Refurbished Electronics…On Holidays

I love Black Friday. Not because I go stand in lines at 3am, but because that’s the time when I purchase my electronics—it’s when I bought my action camera, DSLR, and tablet. Why? Because it makes sense.

If you’re research the electronics you want to purchase, then you know exactly what you’re in the market for, right? Now all you have to do is find the online shop with the biggest sale. Also, whenever you can, try to buy refurbished!

13. Buy Essentials When They’re On Sale, Not When You Need Them

Again, this does not mean hoarding like a squirrel. But there are some things that you’re going to use, because it’s a part of your daily routine. For instance, yesterday I bought makeup removal wipes in bulk. Am I going to use 100 makeup wipes in the next week? No. But I do use them on a daily basis, so I know that if I buy them when they’re $3/pack, instead of $8/pack, I’m ultimately saving money. Have a mental or physical list of the things that you continually use (for me it’s usually toiletries, cleaning and bathroom supplies) can save you a whole lot down the line.

14. Download App Alerts 

A lot of the time people think I’m texting when I’m checking my phone, but usually I’m looking at some kind of alert. No, not from Snapchat (because I hate it…story for another time). I sign up for a few different store apps that send me special promotional deals and alerts when there are coupons or cheap prices for things. This is anything from art supplies to plane tickets to groceries. If there’s somewhere you shop a lot—download the app!

What about you guys? What are your favorite ways to save money? Leave yours in the comment section below! 

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How I Paid Off My Plane Ticket To London…In 1 Week

Oh, travel, how I love thee. But my bank account does not. Sound familiar?

Let’s get real for a second: I do not make a lot of money. That being said, I’m pretty good at managing the money I do make. So much so that people often think I make a lot more than I actually do. How? I hack every single thing. ALL THE HACKS.

It all started back in my mom’s kitchen when my brother was explaining to my child self about “inherent value.” I guess there are advantages to having siblings that are five years older than you, because I actually learned a lot during that conversation. The main lesson was this: value is determined only by what people are willing to pay. Nothing is actually “worth” anything.

When it comes to travel, this is huge because I’ve decided that I just WILL NOT pay $1200 for a plane ticket to Europe. No.

But how do I do it? As a social experiment (because in another life I was an anthropologist), I bought a plane ticket about a week ago…and then decided to see if I could “pay for it” in a week. Here’s how I did it:

1. Price Alerts

I’m signed up for a couple different types of price alerts. I set price alerts on Skyscanner for specific cities I want to go to. This means that when cheap tickets are flying out of that specific city I get an alert! I also subscribe to Scotts Cheap Flights (email newsletter/price alerts) which periodically sends me “cheap ticket” alerts. The thing about these is that they aren’t always for flights going out of Seattle, so you have to sift through them a little, to find your city. But when you do find one? BAM! I just paid $350 for a round trip ticket to London.

2. Work yo’ butt off

We all have jobs. In my case I have about five jobs, but I always encourage people to find alternative incomes that they can tap into, if they need a spare buck. For me, it’s:

  • Selling my art in my Etsy shop
  • Babysitting (shoutout to care.com)
  • Picking up extra shifts at work
  • Freelancing (copywriting via UpWork)

For this past week I really called in the reserves on this one, because I needed to make some quick cash to meet my “deadline.”

3. Prioritize

I once heard a saying that the fastest way to make $5 is to fold it up and put it back in your pocket (or something like that) and I wholeheartedly agree. Making cutbacks is a great way to finance your passions, like travel. For this experiment, I didn’t count the money I saved, but I wanted to point out that being really intentional about purchasing groceries, clothing, coffee etc. really does add up!

The Breakdown:

Here’s how I paid off my $350 plane ticket, in vivid technicolor description: Drumroll, please!

  1. I babysat an awesome Star Wars obsessed 8 year old | $70
  2. I took a couple of freelance copywriting gigs | $157
  3. I took two extra shifts at work | $70
  4. I babysat a couple other cool kids | $90

TOTAL = $387

And with my extra $37 I might even buy a Starbucks travel mug while I’m in London.

Cheerio,

Tea Talk 4: Claudia Graf | Lifestyle Blogger & Photographer

Claudia and I are both part of this completely awesome Facebook group called Female Travel Bloggers, and I immediately knew I needed to reach out to her when I saw her adventures on her blog. Supporting, encouraging and highlighting other women who travel blog is such a huge priority for me, so collaborating with her for this Tea Talk was amazing.

Claudia started her blog A World Full Of Fairytales after a 6 week adventure in California, and she’s been photographing and writing her way around the world, ever since.

What started your passion for traveling? 

I went on a road trip in 2016 from San Francisco to Los Angeles what is one of the best road trips in the world. On my way from San Francisco to LA, I visited Carmel, Monterrey, Big Sur, Morro Bay and Santa Barbara. The beauty of the California coast hit me like a bolt out of the blue, and I fell in love with the magic of exploration.

What’s one travel tip you think the world should know? 

Be fast when it comes to booking of flights, cars and hotels. It’s always hard for me to decide on times and places. I never know how long I want to stay somewhere. Unfortunately prices can rise after days or weeks of research. If I had been faster now and then, I definitely could have saved some money.

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. Food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

It sounds like a cliche but it’s the lifestyle credo ’Don’t worry, be happy’. During a vacation in Argentina and Chile I met and stayed with different local people. All of them were very relaxed and spontaneous. Nobody cared about time, nothing was stressful. That can be annoying (e.g. when you have to catch your flight ;-)), but overall I loved it.

What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about solo traveling? 

Every woman should ask herself a few questions: Would I like to spend a whole day on my own? Would I like to go out for breakfast or dinner on my own? Would I like to go to the movies on my own? If everything is a yes, go for it. If you don’t feel comfortable, travel with a friend and plan a short solo trip for two, three or up to five days during that vacation. That’s a good way to find out, if you would love to be a solo traveler.

What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel? 

Sometimes, I despaired while reading too many hotel or Airbnb reviews. I mean, reviews are great and I appreciate them. However, it can be exhausting. Now, I try to check reviews only for a few requirements like cleanliness, friendly host or hotel staff. In the end, I rely on my gut instinct.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo? 

The best part is that you meet and get to know a lot of new people and friends. I made so many new contacts during my solo trips in the last year and have made new friends in LA, New York, Dubai, Italy, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris. For me there is no worse part, I love it 100%.

What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling? 

I have much less fear in general when it comes to areas of a city and crazy people. 

What is your favorite way to travel (ex. Plane, train, automobile?) and why? 

I love flying. It’s calm, you can watch movies or listen to music. You don’t have to do anything else and nobody can call you. However, a road trip is still the best way to explore a country. You can stop wherever and whenever you want to and you see so much more.

What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self? 

I should have started earlier to travel the world. It really changed my life and mind. It gave me the conviction that everything is possible and I started my travel blog and Instagram account.

What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit? 

Oh, that’s hard. I have so many places on my list and almost everyday I add a new destination. I would love to do a trip with the Trans-Sibirian Railway from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar. That trip must be an amazing once in a lifetime experience.

Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing? 

I want to go to Iceland to visit blue lagoons, do horse riding and visit Reykjavik. A lot of people told me that this is an amazing city.

Looking for more travel inspiration? You can also follow Claudia on her adventures on her blog, or at any of the links below! 

5 Things You Should Know About Hostel Bathrooms

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This morning I woke up at 5am, remembering that I forgot my washcloth in Scotland. One of the easier things to replace, I wasn’t that upset, but it got me thinking about how many different aspects there are to backpacking; one of the quirkiest being the bathrooms you’ll find. And toilet paper. Good grief, I could write an essay on how toilet paper varies around the world.

Obviously there isn’t a way to write a perfectly comprehensive guide to every bathroom in every hostel, because every single one is different, and people are different in what they think is necessary. But there are some tips I can give, based off my own experience. I wish I had a clue when I started backpacking, so think of this as your big sister giving you some tips and tricks of the trade. It should also be said that these tips pertain to women’s restrooms since obviously I haven’t had any  very much experience with men’s.

 

1.   Showers

Here’s the thing: you can will get absolutely disgusting when you backpack. There are reasons such as the fact that you’re walking around strange cities and transportation spots, which just tend to be dirtier. And then there’s the fact that you have the equivalent of a toddler on your back. Sweat happens. That being said, showers are kind of a big deal. The thing is, it’s pretty hard to pinpoint when you’re going to get a “good”one. This is something to pay attention to when you’re booking spots, but you can also be a little more prepared by remembering:

  • This is not a hotel: Bring your own soap, shampoo, wash cloth, razor (which you CAN take on planes as long as they’re disposable) etc.
  • Bring flip-flops: They weigh pretty much nothing, and can help you feel a little bit better (or a lot) if it turns out that you get a sketchy shower situation. I just like using them in general when showering in places that aren’t home.
  • Towel: I have a really awesome backpacker’s towel that dries super fast and folds up into the tiniest little square bundle. I would definitely suggest going with something like this since most hostels won’t just give you towels. If they do provide you the option, you’ll usually pay a small fee for “renting” one. Obviously there are exceptions (such as the hostel I’m in right now, actually) but it’s better to just save the rent fee because it really does add up.


2. Toilets

First off, make sure that you understand what “toilets” means when you’re booking. In the U.S. a restroom usually has a toilet and shower, but in a lot of European countries the rooms are separate. In fact, sometimes (like in France) the “toilet” is actually outside the building. Or, if you’re in India, it might just be a hole in the ground.

The point is: know your country and do a little research before assuming what will be available to you. I also always travel with a mini pack of seat protectors (not much use while squatting in India) and a mini roll of toilet paper. You should be able to find both pretty easily at a local drug store or outdoor store like REI.


3. What You Should Bring:

I’m a lover of lists, so I thought I would let you know what I actually bring with ME, when I’m traveling (in regards to toiletries):

  • Shampoo
  • Razor
  • Leave-In Conditioner (because my hair gets really matted if I don’t use it #curlyhairproblems)
  • Washcloth
  • Soap bar
  • Shaving Cream (I bring it, and then if my pack gets too heavy, I throw it out and use soap.)
  • Mini TP
  • Seat Covers Mini Pack (2)
  • Easy Dry Towel
  • Makeup
  • Makeup Wipes
  • Mini Pack of Lysol Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Lotion
  • Flip-flops
  • Ziplock bags (if things are still wet when I leave somewhere these come in handy)


4. Shared vs. En Suite

What type of a bathroom you have, in a hostel, can be a game changer. You might be sharing one with 40 other people (usually there are multiple toilet and/or shower stalls in this type) or you might be sharing with just the people in your room (en suite). Or, if you have a private room, you might have your own (don’t assume this, some solo rooms still share).

Whichever type you have, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. If you get a room where you’re sharing with a lot of other people, it’s probably going to be a good idea for you to either wake up before everyone else, or take a shower mid-afternoon/evening. The busiest time I’ve found is right around 9am-10am. This is probably because most check-out times are around 10am and people don’t usually wake up early after partying all night. I usually shoot for 6am or 7am and I have the place to myself.

If you’re in an ensuite bathroom you should also pay attention to how much time you’re spending in there. I’d say 15 minutes should be the tops. Most people can hold it for 15 minutes, but if you’re being a 45 minute diva you’ll probably make some enemies real quick.


5. Leave It Better Than It Was

So here’s the deal: Unless you’re in your own room (and even then, sometimes), you’re going to be sharing with a lot of people. These are community spaces. Hostel workers are not your servants. Regardless of whether you’re in your own room or if you’re sharing with 40 other people, pick up after yourself. Whatever you do, don’t leave your stuff, or traces of yourself in bathrooms (you get what I mean) when you’re not in there. Take it back with you or throw it in the bin. Nobody likes a mess, and the hostel community is about being respectful of your surroundings.

 

Like I said, everybody and every hostel is different. What are your funny/horror bathroom stories. Or better yet, what do you pack so you’re prepared for any kind of toilet type? Let me know in the comment section, below!