Posts Tagged ‘budget’

How I Spent A Month in Vietnam for Under $500

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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.

Transportation

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.

Accommodation

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
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12 Tips for Frugal, Healthy Eating

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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?

 

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5 Best Stores for Cheap Workout Clothes

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Workout clothes are expensive. It’s crazy to think that I spend more on a top that I sweat in for an hour than I do on business clothes I wear all day. And while I used to workout in Soffe shorts I quickly learned that wasn’t practical in public (especially not for any exercise that requires bending down). Quality workout clothes are important and here are my favorite places to find affordable versions!

Old Navy

cheap workout clothes activewear old navy compression

Courtesy of Old Navy

Old Navy has some of the best deals around on activewear! They regularly have low prices, but look out for their sales which are pretty amazing. I bought most of my clothes there when I started working out and they’ve all held up and are still in great shape. These compression cropped pants are on sale now for as low as $10.97 (depending on the color).

TJ Maxx

budget workout clothes reebok cheap

Courtesy of TJ Maxx

While Old Navy definitely has quality workout clothes, TJ Maxx is the best if you want the big brands at an affordable price. This Reebok tank top (with padded support) is just $16.99. In addition to your typical sportswear designers, they also offer a great selection of active gear from top fashion designers if that’s what you’re into!

Target

cheap active wear sportswear target sports bra

Courtesy of Target

Target is a little bit more expensive than some of the other places, but you can still find some good deals if you look hard enough. For instance, this sports bra is only $6.48!

DSW

cheap sneakers affordable dsw nike

Courtesy of DSW

DSW offers good quality, affordable sneakers. But keep in mind that it varies by location. Some places have rows upon rows of sneakers and others might only have a few pairs. These Nike Revolution sneakers are just $39.94.

Thrift Shops

workout clothes biking

Courtesy of me :)

Sure, it sounds sketchy. But quality thrift and consignment shops often have never-before-worn workout clothes with the original tags still on them. If you live in NYC, my favorite is Housing Works (which is where I got the top in the above photo for $10- never used!)

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My Secrets to Finding Free Workouts

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yoga beach fitness free workout outdoors

If you’re a runner, then this probably isn’t a concern for you. Or if you’re a machine person then Planet Fitness is a very affordable option. But if you prefer classes like I do, then it can be hard when you can’t afford to shell out over $100 a month on ClassPass. Yet, I work out at least 4-5 days a week without spending a dime.

Free Trials

workout class exercise kettle bells gym budget fitness

As One Fitness on the Upper West Side

Most gyms and fitness studios have free trials for as little as a day to as long as a week or two. So why not try out some classes? You may actually find one you really like that’s a good price for you. If not, you at least got some free workouts in!

Community Classes

Big cities (and many towns) often offer free workout classes at local rec centers or outside in the summer. In New York, we have Shape Up NYC, which offers classes like Pilates, Bootcamp, Zumba, and even Bellydancing all year long!

Youtube Videos

Tone It Up Youtube Video Fitness Free Workout Exercise Budget

One of my favorite ways to workout is by using free videos on YouTube. Most of them don’t require much space or equipment besides a few dumbbells (hey, if I can do it in my tiny NYC apartment, you can do it!) Some of my favorite videos are from Tone It Up, Blogilates, and FitnessBlender.

Special Events

Many companies, like Athleta, lululemon, and Nike, are now hosting free fitness events to attract new customers. Check your local store for schedules. I’ve gone to a few hosted by Athleta and they’ve all been great!

Bonus: Meetup.com

Another great option is to go to Meetups! There are plenty of fitness groups, which often host free classes or hikes. It’s also a great way to meet new friends!

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