Archive of ‘Budget Tips’ category

The Dangers of Dental Tourism: How I Broke My Jaw

er broken jaw

Unhappy ER selfie

Dental tourism, traveling to another country to save money on dental work, is super popular right now. There are even entire websites dedicated to helping you find the best providers. It’s generally considered pretty safe as long as you take certain precautions, such as checking their reviews and taking a look at where the dentists received their degrees.

I’m no stranger to dental tourism. When I went to Bali, I decided to have my teeth whitened. Everything went swimmingly and I raved about it. What’s better than saving over 50% of the cost it would be in the U.S.? Maybe the fact that I was traveling there anyway and it didn’t interfere with my relaxation time at all.

Since moving to San Diego, CA, I’ve been visiting a dentist in Tijuana, Mexico. This is relatively common here and I’ve met other people who do the same thing. It just seems to make sense economically. Can you even call it dental tourism when you’re only 30 minutes from the border?

Things Take a Turn for the Worst

When the dentist told me I would need two of my wisdom teeth removed, I figured I better get it over with right away. The dental staff were so friendly and comforting and I felt safe. But things didn’t turn out so well.

First of all, I looked in the mirror to find that they had taken out the wrong tooth! They took out the bottom left wisdom tooth instead of the top left. When I told them this, there was a bit of back and forth until they told me they would not charge me for the third tooth and I would have to wait two weeks for them to remove it! Furious, but deliriously swollen, I agreed. I later realized this didn’t even begin to make up for what was essentially malpractice. In addition to the unnecessary pain and the time it would require for me to keep going back, it also put me at increased risk for infection, especially since I am over 25. But this was far from the worst of it.

When I got home I tried to eat liquid foods, as recommended. But each time I went to swallow I felt excruciating pain in my jaw. Several times it seemed to slip out of place entirely! I immediately made an appointment with a local dentist so he could take a look at it. The dentist assured me that this was common and likely a normal part of healing. I kept regular appointments with this new dentist so he could keep tabs on my condition.

Unfortunately, things got worse instead of better. I could only open my jaw the width of my finger and my teeth weren’t even touching on one side. I was definitely not healing. Finally, I was referred to a specialist.

Three Days in the Hospital. Two Months of Suffering

Nearly three weeks after the procedure, I finally received a panoramic x-ray. I’m not a doctor, but it didn’t take a genius to see the results in that x-ray. It was broken. Badly!

broken jaw dental tourism X-ray

I was told to immediately go to the ER in the hospital across the road. So much for a weekend with friends visiting. I spent two days waiting, one night in surgery, and one day recovering.

The surgeon informed me that since the break was so bad and since it was so long after the initial fracture, my jaw would have to be wired shut for a whopping six weeks! Meaning I can only eat foods that are pure liquid with no chunks. I also can’t exercise or talk very easily. Since my food intake is limited, I’m constantly weak and tired. I try to get out of the house, but I mostly stay in bed because I have frequent dizzy spells.

Moral of the Story

Sure, this could have happened in the U.S. The surgeon told me my jaw was very small and susceptible to fracture. BUT if this had happened in the U.S., I could have very rightfully sued. Since it didn’t, all I can do is kick myself for making this mistake.

In addition to all the pain and loss of time I could have been looking for a job, I’m out a lot of money. And the bills won’t end here. Due to the force of the wires, my teeth are shifting and I will likely need braces again. Furthermore, I’m at an increased risk of cavities since I can’t brush the inside of my teeth. Yes, the wisdom tooth procedure was a fraction of the cost it would be in the United States, but my total costs are now much, much higher.

Yes, there are some great dentists abroad. However, I can’t recommend that anyone else take the risk of dental tourism.


Singapore on a Budget


singapore budget marina bay sands

Singapore is one of the most expensive countries in Southeast Asia, and you could definitely have a luxurious vacation here if you wanted to spend that kind of money. But you really don’t need much money at all to get the full local experience.


You’re probably looking at $15-$25 USD a night, which is still much more expensive than Thailand or Vietnam. But it’s doable and much better than Western European prices.


singapore food hawker centers budget cheap

Hawker centers are basically huge, diverse food courts. You can easily get a full meal for under $6 USD and they have some of the best food I’ve ever had. Hawker centers began as a way to regulate formerly unhygienic street hawker food. Now they’re a staple and some food stalls even have Michelin stars. My favorite hawker center was Lau Pa Sat, which is probably the most popular choice. It’s also a very local experience as many of the local business people eat here.


Public transit in Singapore is the way to go. It’s efficient and cheap (half the cost of the subway in New York). It’s also cleaner than anywhere I’ve been in Europe for sure!

Budget Activities

Marina Bay Sands

Singapore marina bay sands gardens by bay budget

Go to the top and take in the views. We got drinks, but you can actually go up for free and look over a small (but crowded) balcony that’s open to the public. Beats spending $500 a night to stay there.

Gardens by the Bay

This is completely free and one of my favorite thing to do in Singapore. You could definitely spend hours here. I went both at night and during the day and I just couldn’t get enough. If you don’t have a lot of time, try and go at night because the lights are beautiful.

Botanical Gardens

singapore botanical gardens free

The Botanical Gardens are also free to the public. There are some gardens that cost extra, but we were already so overwhelmed with all of the free options that it’s hard to imagine getting bored.

Explore the Neighborhoods of Singapore

Walk around Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street to absorb the local street culture. Singapore is all about the immersion of different cultures. Be sure to check out the local food, architecture, and shops.


How I Spent A Month in Vietnam for Under $500


vietnam travel budget backpacking

A lot of people ask me how I can afford to travel so much. There’s a very in-depth answer to this that I’ll share in a future post, which includes frugal living, saving, side jobs, and prioritizing. But choosing affordable destinations is equally important. Here’s how I spent a month traveling through Vietnam for less than $500. You may spend more or possibly even less depending on your spending habits and priorities.

Budget Breakdown
  • Visa: $40
  • Transportation: $91
  • Accommodation: $84
  • Food: $51
  • Alcohol: $18
  • Water: $9
  • Toiletries and Necessities: $7
  • Tours and Activities: $192

Total: $492

Vietnam Visa

The cost of a visa will vary depending on your country of citizenship, as well as where you apply. I found it was much cheaper to apply for my visa in Cambodia than it would have been to apply in advance in the US.


I traveled throughout Vietnam exclusively by bus. Many were overnight buses, which were surprisingly comfortable and I had a (mostly) positive experience. However, I’ve definitely heard horror stories as well. Alternatively, you could take planes or trains, which are a bit more expensive but still a lot cheaper than you would pay nearly anywhere else in the world. For $91, I took buses from HCMC-> Mui Ne-> Da Lat-> Hoi An-> Hue-> Hanoi-> Sa Pa-> Cat Ba.


I stayed mostly in hostels and homestays, with the occasional night on a sleeping bus or boat. Rates per night ranged from $2-$7. I definitely wasn’t staying in the nicest hostels, but I made sure not to skimp on anything that was important to me either. Check out my post for tips on picking the best hostels.

Food and Drinks

vietnamese food hanoi

I will admit I probably spent less than the average person in this category. Many of the hostels I stayed in included meals and free/discounted water refills. I also ate mostly budget-friendly, local food rather than dining at tourist restaurants. Western food tends to cost nearly double, but when you’re traveling for a long time I can understand the appeal. I also had the occasional night out, but I didn’t get too heavy with the drinking. Alcohol is very cheap in Vietnam, with mixed drinks coming in under $4, but this can add up quickly if you’re a big partier.

Tours and Activities

A lot of budget backpackers like to skimp on tours in order to save money for alcohol and food. I tend to believe in the opposite philosophy. While I definitely prefer to experience culture through interacting with locals as opposed to taking tours, there are some things that you just can’t do otherwise. I do not regret any of the activities I paid extra for and I highly recommend abseiling, Mr. Rot’s Secret Tour in Da Lat, and trekking in Sa Pa.

Tour Breakdown
  • Sand dune tour in Mui Ne: $10
  • Abseiling in Da Lat: $32
  • Mr. Rot’s Secret Tour: $35
  • Overnight cruise of Halong Bay: $94
  • Trekking in Sa Pa: $26

7 Tips For Choosing the Perfect Hostel


youth hostel beds budget backpacker

Staying in a hostel can be rough sometimes, but for backpackers it’s often your best option. Hostels are cheap and a convenient way to meet people. However, the wrong hostel could ruin your trip. Here are my tips on choosing one that suits your needs.

1.) Don’t Book the Cheapest Hostel

Unless it also happens to be the best one! But don’t sacrifice on location, comfort, and friendly staff to save a few bucks as it will definitely impact your trip. Nobody wants to be far from the action in an isolated hostel with no friends. Likewise, you don’t want to be in a noisy, party hostel if you know that’s not your thing. While traveling on a budget, the difference between $10 and $7 a night can seem like a lot, but make sacrifices elsewhere in your budget if you need to.

2.) Use the Map Function

Speaking of location, don’t assume you’re in a good one just because the hostel is located in the city you want. Use the map function on Hostelworld to see exactly where it is. I like to make sure I’m near other hostels as these areas are generally safe, and it’s nice to be nearby other travelers. That said, if you don’t like noise, you also want to make sure you’re not on the same street as all of the bars. In addition, make sure you’re near the attractions that are most important to you.

3.) Read the Reviews

This seems simple enough, but I’ve had travel buddies who have booked places solely based on the star ratings on Hostelworld. Problem is, the star ratings include all reviews and there are so many things that can happen over time, like a change in management. When you actually read the 5 or so most recent reviews, you might find that the 7 star hostel is now better than the 9 star one.

4.) Know Your Priorities

For me, these change based on my mood. But I generally avoid party hostels at all costs. I like to get a good night’s sleep. But I also like a social environment so I can meet other people. You can have both if you look hard enough! It’s usually pretty easy to tell from the reviews if it’s a party hostel. But to ensure that there’s a social scene beyond that make sure that there’s a common area/bar/TV room. If there are organized activities, like BBQ nights or games, that’s also a good sign.

5.) Ensure Basic Needs Are Met

Almost every hostel has working showers, free linens, free Wi-Fi, and basic security features. But some don’t! Double check that everything you need is there. I’ve been to (seemingly nice) hostels where there were no locks on the doors nor any lockers provided. It’s a bit difficult to sleep when you have to keep one eye open.

6.) Decide Whether the Free Breakfast is Worth It

Some backpackers won’t consider a hostel without a free breakfast. However, most hostels that serve free breakfast only give you toast and cereal. Not very nutritious or filling. It might be free, but in most places you can just buy your own groceries for a few bucks extra and live off them for your entire stay anyway. So it may not be the best deciding factor when you’re torn between hostels.

7.) Look for Extra Amenities

Once your basic hostel needs are met, keep your eyes peeled for fun amenities. No, you’re not at a luxury hotel, but you’d be surprised by some of the fancy “flashpacker” hostels out there. I’ve stayed at hostels with nice pools, free dinners, free laundry, and other cool perks. Check out some of the coolest hostels in the world.


12 Tips for Frugal, Healthy Eating


frugal healthy eating budget cheap diet food

In one of my very first posts I discussed how I shop for groceries for just $20 a week! I figured it’s about time I go into some more detail with additional tips for frugal, healthy eating for those of us on tight budgets.

1.) Only buy organic when it matters. Honestly, for a lot of food it doesn’t make much difference, including bananas, avocados, asparagus, peas, eggplant, etc. Click here for the full list of foods that should always be bought organic and those that don’t matter as much.

2.) Re-prioritize. Focus on getting the most quality (aka nutrients) for your buck instead of the most quantity. We often think a deal is getting a ton of food for a few bucks. But wouldn’t that money be better spent getting a smaller amount of nutrient-dense food? This post from Nerd Fitness discusses how to reevaluate your way of thinking about deals.

3.) Come up with interesting combinations and ways to use cheap, healthy foods in your cooking. “Good and Cheap” author Leanne Brown says that using popcorn in salads is a tradition in Peru for those who are gluten-free. Likewise, baked potatoes can be a substitute for breads. Creativity is especially helpful when you’re on a low-FODMAP diet.

4.) Buy fruits/veggies when they’re in season. Want them all year round? Freeze them and you’ll always have them in stock.

5.) Buy brown or basmati rice in bulk. They may not be as in vogue as quinoa, but they’re still high in nutrients and much cheaper!

6.) Befriend your local produce sellers. I buy my produce from the same guy down the street all the time and he’ll often give me awesome discounts! A smile and a little loyalty goes a long way.

7.) Check out some local ethnic markets. Asian markets, for example, often have a good (and unique) variety of produce, meats, and fish for very reasonable prices. I’ve seen many vegetables that I’ve never even heard of before at these shops (and they were delicious)!

8.) Compare unit price rather than overall price in order to find the best deals. $2 isn’t always a better deal than $3!

9.) Avoid pre-cut and pre-washed produce. It will take less than three extra minutes to do it yourself and you’ll easily save up to 30%!

10.) Potatoes are your friend. They may get a bad rep since they’re a bit higher in carbs and calories than most other veggies, but they’re still healthier than most things you put in your mouth and they’re only a fraction of the cost!

11.) Consider a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You basically buy a share of a farm and get fresh, local produce every month at a reduced price.

12.) Protein powder can actually be pretty cheap when you buy a big tub and it’ll last a heck of a long time. It shouldn’t make up the bulk of your protein, but it can be a great supplement.

What are your tips for healthy eating on a budget?



How I Score Groceries for $20 a Week


cheap groceries vegetables veggies food healthy

Yes, you read that right! I live in New York City and I spend $20 (or less) a week on groceries and I eat very healthy!

My Typical Weekly Shopping List

  • Lettuce. I like Romaine or Arugula, since spinach or kale can be rough on sensitive tummies like mine.
  • Baby carrots. So yummy.
  • Eggs or egg whites. I try to switch this up by week. A lot of women on diets try to stick to egg whites, but yolks really have a ton of nutrients! As long as you aren’t eating more than 7 eggs a week you really shouldn’t worry too much about cholesterol (Further reading)
  • Almond milk/coconut milk. Great for smoothies.
  • 2-4 veggies: tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, squash, green beans, peas
  • Protein in rotation (one or two per week): Chicken, ground turkey, deli turkey, tempeh, canned tuna/salmon
  • Bananas. I have at least 2 per day! They’re my favorite.

Staples I Already Have in the Cabinet

I buy these in bulk when I can and I always have them on hand!

  • Quinoa. It’s the best way to add starchy texture to a meal while also adding protein and fiber.
  • Protein powder. I prefer Rice Protein Powder since it doesn’t have the negative effects on digestion that dairy-based powders have.
  • Oatmeal. (I actually found out I can’t eat this anymore! It aggravates my IBS. But I wanted to include it since for most of you it should be a staple.)
  • Spices. My personal essentials include basil, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.
  • Condiments: Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, coconut oil.
  • Tea: green tea, chamomile, ginger (for upset tummies)
  • Frozen vegetables. I love to buy the huge bags for $3 or less! Despite what some people might claim they’re just as good for you as fresh veggies.
  • Chia seeds. They’re great in smoothies or on their own as a pudding! I have them almost every day.

Other Tips

  • Go to Farmer’s Markets. In some places they may be more expensive, but oftentimes they’re much cheaper and the produce is much fresher. Plus, you’re supporting local farmers.
  • Keep track of where you find the best deals. I often shop at different stores for different things. For example, my local health food store has cheap chia seeds, almond milk, and tempeh. I go to produce stands on the street for cheap bananas, cherry tomatoes, and whatever is on sale that week. The local grocery store is good for cheap meat. And I only buy canned tuna when it’s on sale at CVS.
  • If there’s an Aldi’s near you, be sure to check it out! I venture all the way up to Harlem sometimes (to the dismay of my mother) to get my groceries and I can get an avocado for as little as 50 cents! My groceries up there come out much cheaper than $20, usually only $12!

~Stay tuned for a post on a typical day’s meals for me! I have some delicious recipes to share!