Thinking women's money blog. Here on Femme Frugality you’ll find articles about specific things I’ve done to handle my finances as they pertain to each area of my life. Follow this site and get commentary on women's finance and current events in the financial world.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
This post is brought to you in collaboration with ValuedVoice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Today please welcome Mads from MightyGoods as he shares some great tips for backpacking on a budget!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
When we wake up each morning, we have no idea what the day has in store for us.
Sure, we can have plans. Sure, we can set goals.
But along the way, plans can become derailed. Obstacles can pop up between us and our goals. Emergencies can happen, taking precedence.
While this all sounds rather negative and pessimistic, believe it or not, this fact of life can be a beautiful thing. We can make new connections with people we didn’t know existed. Sometimes those people become a big part of our lives. We can conquer those obstacles, giving us confidence in our own strength. And we can adjust our plans to include beautiful experiences we didn’t see when we were further back on the path, our view of the future obscured.
The Day I Woke Up Not Expecting to Climb a Mountain
We followed the walking path down from the bamboo forest, by a beautiful river, and over Kyoto’s iconic bridge. From there, we were under the impression that we’d have a short walk to the monkey park.
It was short. We walked up some stairs and paid the 550 yen each admission fee.
I don’t know what we were expecting after that. We knew the monkeys weren’t this close to the base of the mountain. Maybe there would be a gondola to take us up?
Or maybe we just hadn’t thought that far ahead.
In the heat and humidity of Japanese springtime, we realized we were going to have to climb this intimidating mountain. I’m susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, even when I am incredibly fit. Which I am not at this point in my life, though I am working to change that.
It hadn’t rained in over a week, and the humidity clung to us like a wet blanket, making us sweat out of every pore. We weren’t the only ones disillusioned by the unexpected hike; I saw a woman in wedge-heeled sandals sulking up the mountain with her family. At every turn on the winding path, there were fellow tourists catching a breath. Stretching. Resting.
At a certain point my sibling asked if we should just turn around. This was going to take forever. But we already had sunk costs–the people who run this place were extremely smart to put the ticketing booth at the bottom rather than the top of the mountain.
We decided we didn’t want to let a mountain defeat us. So on we trudged. When at last we reached the top, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the city of Kyoto. I hadn’t known it was quite as large as it is until I saw the mountaintop view.
We were also rewarded with spectacular experiences we would have missed had we given up and turned around, taking the easy but far less enriching path.
Bonding with Monkeys
Okay, we didn’t so much bond with monkeys as much as encroach on their natural habitat. The animals allow you to do so because there is a feeding station set up in their home, and because of trained experts keeping their behavior in check at every given moment.
When we first rounded the final stretch of the path before reaching the mountain’s crest, there were some free-range monkeys messing around in the woods. It was honestly a little unnerving; these are wild animals, and this was their territory. Fortunately, one of the people working there came along with a clicking device–unafraid to herd them back to the safer area up at the crest.
When we reached the top, we stood feet away from monkeys searching the grass and floating sakura (cherry blossom) petals for bugs to eat. We saw them grooming each other. I paid a tiny fee to feed them some apples–by hand!
We got to see babies play fighting with their siblings. Adults expressing their disinterest with humans after they realized you were out of food. That one a-hole monkey that no one wanted to groom. I felt kind of bad for him.
It was a fantastic experience–unlike any other animal encounter I’ve personally had before. After a few minutes, the angst of being around wild animals subsides as you realize the trained and vigilant staff has everything under control.
Reading the Signs Along the Way
Another big reason that we felt comfortable was that along our arduous hike, there were signs at every resting point, instructing you how to–and how not to–interact with the monkeys. They showed you the faces of docile monkeys, angry monkeys and scared monkeys. You got instructions to not bend down next to the monkeys, and to not look them directly in the eye or smile at them. And you definitely needed to turn your flash off for photography.
Unfortunately, some who hiked faster than we did appeared to miss these instructions. As they blew by the rest stops, they missed clues that would have told them not to look directly in these monkeys eyes, or not bend down next to one with their infant for an Insta-worthy photo op.
Luckily, the staff were on their game. The few situations that did arise were extremely minimal because they were excellent at their jobs and headed off problems before they really unfolded.
But it could have turned out a lot worse if even one of those situations had slipped under the radar.
Lessons Learned from Iwatayama Monkey Park
I did not expect to learn so much from a tourist attraction, but I really did glean a lot of insight from our trip to Iwatayama Monkey Park.
Sunk Costs Aren’t Always a Bad Thing
We often like to talk about the sunk cost fallacy in personal finance. The most ubiquitous example is gym memberships. Often people will continue their memberships because they have paid so much for it already–even though they don’t use the gym they’re paying for access to. This leads to more money spent on something you don’t even use rather than calling it quits and accepting the losses.
But in Arashiyama, I came to the realization that sunk costs can also be a great motivator. Even though we had only spent about $5 for the privilege of our hike, the fact that we had already paid the money kept me going. Had we not spent that money up front, I would have been more likely to acquiesce to the idea of turning around, thus denying myself a fantastic experience.
Go Your Own Pace–And Read the Road Signs
While I was determined to climb the mountain after we had gotten started, I knew due to past experience that I was going to have to take it a lot slower than some of these people passing us because I needed to avoid passing out. I was cognizant that this made my sweaty self look less than other people facing the same obstacle, but I also knew my own body and that things would turn out better if I paced myself.
By pacing myself, I didn’t rush past those important instructional signs along the way, teaching me how to interact with the monkeys safely. Sometimes being the first to the top isn’t the most important; sometimes it’s all about being as prepared as you can be when you get there–even if that means your journey takes a little longer.
The same can be applied to our financial goals. It’s rough when others get somewhere more quickly than we do, but they’re not facing the situation with the same set of life experiences and past financial baggage (or lack thereof) that we are. Everyone’s money journey is different, and getting to the top first doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be the one who enjoys it the most.
You Can Climb Mountains
There was a point at the beginning of the hike where I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Climbing a mountain was not something I had envisioned myself doing when I rolled out of bed that morning, and the monkey park might not have been on our to-do list if we had known what a Herculean task it would be.
But partially because of the sunk costs, partially by pacing ourselves, and partially through sheer determination, we made it to the top. We were rewarded with breathtaking views, a new perspective and enriching experiences.
You might look at that mountain and think it was nothing. But for me, it was a hard thing to conquer.
I’m nothing special, but I can do hard things. And you can, too. Your mountains might look different than mine, but you can conquer them. Once you do, you’ll find new perspectives and a sense of pride at the top.
A few weeks ago I moved into my new place. I’m doing it slowly, which means it’s been low-stress, but I’ve also had a few moments of, “Crap, why do I not have anything in my house that I need?”
Some of those things are coming. But some of those thing I straight up need to purchase. Like tables. The only table I own is now home to the TV.
Well, that is until this past weekend. I was super lucky in that I moved into the neighborhood a few weeks before the neighborhood garage sale. I was determined to only buy the things we needed, and the kids could get one toy/bauble each. That didn’t exactly work out the way I planned, but we got some cool stuff and met our budget without going over.
Living Room Table
I needed to set some lamps up, which is why tables were so important. This one is actually a sewing machine table that I found at the first house we went to for $10. I may get ambitious and bust out the sandpaper to stain it black like the rest of this furniture by the end of summer. But I might not. It would be cool to have them all match, but I’m trying to spend my limited free time doing things I actually enjoy, and inhaling stain fumes isn’t necessarily one of them.
Another lamp situation! For this one I got an old school desk from the same lady for $5. Right now we’re not storing anything inside because little fingers. But it is working really well for giving that lamp a home–and some of the child’s display items. We actually got that truck thing (they know way more about it than I do) at the garage sale for $5. With a mint condition box and all.
I picked two of these up for $5/each. I already have a chair out on the patio, but now I’ll have somewhere to set drinks or food when entertaining. Or my mouse pad when I’m working outside.
Crazy Glass Table
This one was $10, and is going in my room–which I don’t completely have figured out yet. I know I’m going to need a nightstand, and this one is just super cool. The two outer circles swivel, so they can curl up for a compact table or spread out at various angles to accommodate all your stuff.
Stuff like this globe I got for $2. That’s for both me and the kids. They like seeing where I travel, and I like encouraging them to learn more about the world outside our own borders.
I was at this one house and they had a bunch of vases from India, where the couple was from. They were gorgeous. I got caught looking, and asked how much. Five dollars.
Too much for an indulgent purchase. As I was walking away, I got an offer for $3.
It’s beautiful, so I coughed up the money. He told me it’s supposed to be a Chinese scene. He may have even gotten more specific, but I unfortunately don’t remember.
All About that Cello
My one kiddo couldn’t stop playing with this child-sized cello every time we walked by it. The second time, I found out it was only $5. The third time, I decided to buy it. It came with a bag, looks to be in functional shape, and supposedly orchestra lessons are offered next year in school. Now I just need to find out how expensive a bow would be…
We literally came in right on budget–sixty dollars. Five hundred points to us!
This is a really great time of year to hit up neighborhood garage sales. You can find them online, or even just keep an eye out for signs as you’re driving around. To get the best stuff, you’ll want to wake up pretty early. Most start at seven or eight, but my sibling has turned up even earlier than that before to catch people as they’re setting up.
Believe it or not, while I was in Japan my friend who I was visiting had to work! We took the opportunity to spend some time in Kyoto. I’d have a hard time deciding on a favorite place I visited while in Japan, but I could definitely see myself living in that city. Even within the city streets, I found my soul once again moved by the immense beauty that can be found across the Pacific Ocean.
One neighborhood we knew we wanted to hit while we were there was Arashiyama. This is where you’ll find the famed bamboo forest among a million other cultural delights. I planned this part of the trip pretty strategically as I wanted to optimize our time without feeling rushed. As I did so, I also unintentionally planned a very girl power tour of Arashiyama–which ended up being a very cool thing.
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
The first thing we did on Arashiyama day was hop onto a train crowded with tourists from central Kyoto to Arashiyama. The ride was pretty quick–only a few stops–but hot and claustrophobic.
Luckily, when we got off the train we were headed somewhere a little off the beaten path: Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple. To get there, we took a cab for the sake of time. It was part way up a mountain, and from there, we’d be walking downhill (almost) all day as the sites got progressively more crowded.
But I think we were the first visitors of the day at this temple, and only a few couples came in after us. It was quiet and serene and peaceful.
Oh, and littered with a ton of Buddha statues. Twelve hundred of them to be exact.
These statues were made by lay worshipers under the instruction of an artisan in the 80s, and are meant to demonstrate the many expressions of Buddha–or disciples of Buddha. It depends on which literature you read, and I probably should have asked which it was while i was there. Many of them are serious and spiritual, but then there are fun-loving ones, too.
But those statues aren’t the reason Otagi Nenbutsu-ji makes the Girl Power list. First, the temple was founded by a woman: Empress Shotoku. Built in the eighth century, its been destroyed, rebuilt and relocated several times since its inaugural opening.
On top of having a female-led history, the temple itself is dedicated to two important bodhisittvas: the goddess of mercy and the goddess of space. There are beautiful statues of these bodhisittvas both inside and out, but you’re not supposed to take pictures inside of Buddhist temples.
Admission here was less than $3 each.
When you’re done at Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, you’ll turn right on the road closest to the temple–the one lined by trees on the right side.
About two to five minutes down the road you’ll see a big, orange tori gate leading to a stone road on which I saw no cars. This is Tori Motto, and it is an ancient and historically preserved street.
The architecture itself is beautiful, with thatched roofs covered with moss. But as you walk the road, you’ll be greeted by various shops and restuarants. We didn’t eat here, but I did do some shopping. Which, if you know me, is a little out of character.
But I was enchanted by the fans and origami. Blown away by the skill that went into making hand bags and jewelry. This is where I was going to buy traditional Japanese chatchkis to bring home to my kids. And a new purse. Because mine had not-so-conveniently broken on the the walk from Otagi Nenbutsu-ji to the Tori Motto.
All but one of the shops I went into was owned by Japanese women.
Gio-ji was the temple I was most looking forward to visiting in Arashiyama. It was located just off the Tori Motto right where it tees. This temple is known for its moss gardens, which looked crazy serene and peaceful in the pictures. Heck, it looks serene and peaceful in my pictures.
But it had been very dry in the region to this point in our visit, and without rain the gardens looked a little, well, brownish yellow. With a little bit of green. It sounds super ungrateful to say something like that, but really what I think happened is that I made it so beautiful in my head that there was no way reality could keep pace.
It did rain a couple days later, and I’m sure the gardens turned lush and green at that point.
But this temple did not disappoint. While the gardens weren’t quite what I expected, the actual structure was a great experience. It’s humble in size, but inside you’ll find statues of four women, which I assumed were meant to pay tribute to the women who founded this site.
The primary leader, Gio, was a dancer who fell hard for a powerful chieftain in the country’s capital. He fell hard for her, too–until he didn’t. When he abandoned her, she decided to dedicate her life to Buddha, establishing Gio-ji.
She lived the rest of her life as a priestess, as did her mom and sister who came along with her. Someone else that came with her? Another one of that cheiftan’s ex-lovers!
Dude sounds like a piece of work.
But going in to pray in front of those four figures was something special. A reminder that strength and virtue don’t come from the value men see in us.
Admission here was less than $5 each.
Okay, so technically, Tenryu-ji was founded by a male shogun in the 1300s. However, on this same site in the ninth century, Empress Tachibana no Kachiko founded Japan’s very first Zen Buddhist temple: Danrin-ji. Thus, it definitely counts for our girl power tour.
This is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Arashiyama, so it was very crowded. We weren’t really sure how much inner peace we were going to find inside at that particular moment, and wanted to save 500 yen each, so we opted to just do the gardens.
There is nothing “just” about the gardens at Tenryu-ji–especially at peak cherry blossom season. They’re beautifully manicured–simultaneously delicate and robust. Every corner we turned was breathtaking, whether we were walking alongside the temple or up a path in the adjacent mountain.
I’m sure the temple is amazing; there must be a reason it was so crowded. But definitely, definitely don’t miss the gardens.
Admission here cost us a little less than $5 each just for the garden. It would have doubled if we had chosen to go into the temple, too.
Throughout Arashiyama we found ourselves surrounded by bamboo, but the main alley that you see all the pictures of is right outside the gardens of Tenryu-ji. It’s amazing and magical, but also super crowded. The path is shorter than we thought it would be, but it’s definitely still worth a walk through. Especially since it’s free. Just make sure your expectations are matched with its actual length and the amount of fellow tourists you’ll encounter.
We cut through it on our way to our final destination of the day, which had nothing to do with girl power and deserves a post unto itself.
Today please welcome Darlene Mase, who lives in Newnan, Georgia, a town 40 minutes south of Atlanta. In her spare time, she enjoys writing for her personal blog and for popular sites like Zumper.com. When Darlene’s not writing, you can catch her outdoors with her husband and daughter or at the gym burning off the calories of something delicious she just ate.
We’ve all seen them. Those houses that look as if they were designed by Joanna Gaines herself and maintained by Dobby the House Elf. The design and layout are perfection. Everything is crisp, clean, and organized.
And then there’s us. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would say that most people probably feel as if their living space could use some fashionable updates. Unfortunately, our budgets often prove to be a hindrance in our endeavors to fancy up our homes.
Fear not. Even if you’re on a tight budget, or have no budget at all, you can revamp your apartment décor with these cheap home décor ideas.
Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere!
I am no interior design expert, but I don’t think there was ever a time where the “my house is a dump” look was en vogue. Just because you only have a few cents to your name doesn’t mean that your house should like Oscar the Grouch’s.
Clean up and get tidy and organized. Not only will decluttering reduce stress but you can’t have the sleek and clean minimalist look you’re going for with shoes strewn about your bedroom floor and cups all over your kitchen counter.
Work with you’ve got.
A tight budget is a good opportunity to improve your DIY skills. Look through your home, storage, and even ask friends and family members for old items that you need that they don’t use (think bedroom sets, tables, patio furniture, etc.). Sure, it may be in need of some TLC, but there is not much that a little sandpaper, wood stain, and elbow grease can’t fix.
Yes, you may get your hands a little dirty, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you made (well, refinished) something with your own hands, and you stayed on budget.
Incorporate live plants into your design.
Plants come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors and add an element of design to the room you put them in. And did you know that you can easily grow many houseplants from a cutting of a leaf?
If you have a friend who is into plants and you’re on a budget, ask them for some cuttings from their plant. Though you won’t have a substantial plant for at least a few months, you can still reap the benefits of having plants indoors.
Sansevieria, more commonly known as the Snake Plant, or Mother-in-law’s Tongue is often seen indoors because of its unique tropical appearance and its health benefits. A study by NASA found that the Snake Plant, along with some other indoor plants, improve the quality of air in a space and recommend having one in the bedroom.
What’s more is that you can easily propagate this amazing plant (and others) by cutting a leaf at the base of the plant, letting the leaf dry and scab over for a few days, and placing the leaf in a cup of water. Within a few weeks or months, you’ll start to see little roots forming at the base of the leaf which can then be planted for some healthy, attractive, and cheap apartment décor.
All you need is a window, fire escape, balcony, or some other place where your plants can soak up the sun and you’ve got yourself some low cost home décor.
Move furniture around.
You can make a boring, worn-out space look new and refreshed simply by moving furniture around. It doesn’t cost you a thing and it can work wonders for your home’s look. If your living room or bedroom are looking too tight and stuffy, consider moving things around.
Go for maneuvers that will make the room feel larger than it is and that allow the room to flow better.
Frequent the “free” section of Craigslist.
People post so much free stuff on Craigslist. The only stipulation is that you have to go and get it. You can find some seriously cool stuff on your city’s Craigslist. You just have to be vigilant and check the site on a regular basis.
Grab a paintbrush and set free your inner Picasso.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, you can make some bold and impactful art that can liven up your living space.
You can purchase a large canvas, paint, and a paintbrush from your local craft store for under $20. Then get to work painting some parallel and perpendicular lines for a clean, abstract look. Not only will you have some eye-capturing art to hang on your wall, but you will have saved a ton of money doing it on your own.
We don’t all have a fortune to spend on apartment décor, but that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a life of outdated furniture hand-me-downs. You can make your apartment look sleek and fashionable, and you can do it if you have a small budget or no budget at all.
Trying your hand at DIY and incorporating some live plants into your home’s décor can really liven up a space at little to no cost. And even simply taking into consideration your apartment’s floorplan can help you arrange your furniture in a way that maximizes space and makes your small living space seem larger.
Regardless of what’s in your wallet, know that budget friendly apartment décor is possible.