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cheap meals in japan Cheap sit down meals in Japan   how to get full and satisfied for under $10Japan can be an expensive place to visit, but I’ve found it a surprisingly easy place to get cheap and delicious meals. Of course, we purchased snacks and rice balls at convenience stores and had a satisfying breakfast or lunch for under $5 (those rice balls are filling!), but there are times when CB and I just wanted to sit down and relax a bit.  The best thing is that even on a budget, Japanese meals are prepared with care and attention – for the same $10, I’d venture to say that the quality of food in Japan tend to be much higher quality than that in the U.S. or Europe. I’ve noted the prices for both Japanese Yen and US dollars, and the information is accurate as of July 2014.

Here are three of my favorite sit-down places to eat- all chains with multiple locations in Japan – where one person can get full for under $10, and definitely under $15. And because there is no tipping in Japan – in fact, the servers will run after you if you leave change – you can be sure that a $10 dish will actually cost you $10. All three are very foreigner-friendly, with pictures and friendly (if not fluent-English-speaking) staff.

Gogyo

This restaurant’s signature dish is ramen kogashi, or burnt ramen (pictured above). The ramen broth is ladled with spoonfuls of lard burnt at 300 degrees… I assume that’s what those black flakes are. Horrible for your arteries, I’m sure, but delicious for your taste buds, I can attest. A ramen kogashi (with your choice of either miso- or soy sauce-based soup) only cost 850 yen, or around $9. One of my biggest regrets is that I only went to Gogyo once. I believe there are 5 Goygos in Tokyo and Kyoto. It is SO GOOD. Go to Gogyo. Go go go. http://ramendining-gogyo.com/shop_kyoto/index.html (unfortunately, it seems like the website is only in Japanese)

Marugame Seimen

Udon noodles with tempura. Udon noodles is the thick white noodles that people often eat with hot soup and tempura batter-fried meats / veggies. CB and I had a fabulous dinner here – two hot bowls of udon and five pieces of tempura for just 1,500 Yen, or under $16. Marugame Seimen has locations all over Tokyo and Kyoto, including two of the most popular tourist spots: Shibuya (http://www.toridoll.com/shop/search/store?id=110441), and Shinjuku (http://www.toridoll.com/shop/search/store?id=110661) http://www.toridoll.com/en/, and you can check out some pictures and prices here: http://www.toridoll.com/en/shop/menu.html. I recommend the classic Kake Udon with shrimp and kabocha tempura.

Ootoya (大戸屋)

This is probably the best value for your meal in Tokyo/Kyoto. I went to this place three times in our 10-day trip! For 600-1,000 yen, you get a teishoku set meal which consists for a main dish, a rice, miso soup, pickled radishes, and maybe even a salad depending on the dish. CB’s and my highest bill at Ootoya was 2,400 Yen or $25, because we splurged on an ice cream dessert. When we just ordered the teishoku meals, we spent less than $10 a person.  www.ootoya.com

  • Jenny - I haven’t tried any of these places! Now I’m on a mission :) ReplyCancel

  • Money Pincher - Japan is one of the places on my “to visit list” and the main reason to go there is to try out their RAMEN!

    I’ll keep these places in mind when I plan my Japan trip!ReplyCancel

  • The Wallet Doctor - These sound delicious! Japan has some truly awesome food, but it can be a bit pricy. I’ll be on the lookout for these.ReplyCancel

  • Annie Logue - We ate breakfast at McDonald’s in Tokyo – not exactly traditional, but it helped save money for Japanese meals later in the day.ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Urban Departures - This post makes me want to travel to Japan even more. And eat some ramen.

    So not Jiro’s sushi at $300/person dinner for you? :) ReplyCancel

  • No Nonsense Landlord - There is some great Japanese food out there. I have never been to Japan, but in Hawaii, where I lived for 11 years, there is a lot of Asian influence on the food.

    Never be afraid to try something, you may never get the opportunity again. Of course, anything with live bugs, or worms, I would pass. Even if I never got the chance again.ReplyCancel

Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, it pays to do a little bit of research in advance to get the best deals. Although there are often last minute deals or discount coupons available for hotel rooms, it can be a bit trickier to avoid hidden charges and get a fair price on a rental car. It’s not uncommon to agree to a quoted price only to turn up at the rental counter and be presented with a far larger bill than you were anticipating. The following are a few handy tips to avoid sticker shock and get the best possible car for your money.

carhire Getting the Best Deal on a Rental Car

Image Source: Mary and Angus Hogg/Geograph.org.uk

Don’t rely solely on comparison websites.

When booking flights and hotels, you probably use aggregators like Kayak.com or booking sites like Travelocity or Booking.com. There’s a wealth of comparison sites and search engines to help you narrow down your choices and find the best deal. However, it’s important to just use these as a guide when you’re looking at rental cars. Car rental comparison sites tend to only focus on the biggest companies, overlooking local operators who might be able to give you a bigger deal. Get a feel for your options with these comparisons, but don’t neglect the small, local companies.

Look at cars before booking.

The type of car you choose will influence your price, but this doesn’t always mean that you have to choose a sensible, medium-sized hatchback. Pricing models will vary between companies, so while one may charge you more for an SUV another would charge you the same price as a family sedan. Part of the fun of renting a car is driving a vehicle that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to. Splash out on that sports car if the price isn’t much higher than a basic model! You can click here for more inspiration in that department. Just be sure that you know what the price is before you agree to an upgrade.

Buy your own insurance.

One of the biggest unexpected costs of renting a car is the insurance. Car hire firms offer a range of extra policies to choose from, including personal insurance, theft waiver, and collision damage waiver. All of these can cost an arm and a leg, so it’s better to take out your own stand-alone policy rather than buying insurance from the car rental company. Your travel insurance may also cover third-party liability claims or theft, so be sure that you’re not paying twice for the same benefit.

Search for discount codes and coupons.

Social media accounts, online coupon sites, and services like Groupon are all worth checking before you make a booking. You may be able to find a discount code to shave more money off of your car rental.

Make a booking directly from the rental company.

Just as smaller, localized companies may offer you a better deal than the big names, you can also save money by booking directly from the car rental company’s website. Use aggregators and search engines to research your options, pick up a discount code, and head over to the car rental company’s own reservations system to get the very best price. Be sure that your rate quote includes costs such as insurance, sales tax, and airport concession fees or you could be looking at a nasty surprise when you go to pick it up!
Always read the fine print and shop around before you get a rental car, and you’ll be able to choose the best fit at the right price.

  • Michelle - Car rental insurance is always so expensive. Some credit cards these days offer car rental insurance as one of their benefits though, which can make renting a car much more affordable.ReplyCancel

In welcoming the second half of 2014, I’m going to shed my Moderator skin and try behaving like an Abstainer for the rest of the year in a bid to max out my 401K and pay for CB’s private school tuition at the same time.

That means that from July to December 2014, I am refraining from less-than-necessary purchases. What are necessary purchases, you ask? Well, I’ve expanded my definition to things that might not be considered truly necessary for survival but that I think are reasonable for me to acquire:

I can spend money on:

  • Bed – I’ll be moving into a new place and although I will not die sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor, I think a bed ranks high enough on the “necessary” list that I can get one.
  • Desk and chair – see above.
  • Sunscreen, cleanser, and moisturizer if/when they run out.
  • Groceries – d’uh
  • $25 worth of happy hours & meals out with coworkers and friends per week – I still want to be social and go out.
  • Barre/pilates classes if I can get the classes down to below $10/class – Groupon and Amazon Local deals will be my friends.
  • 1 flight a month to visit CB and a flight home either during Thanksgiving or Christmas.
  • Covered parking at home and work (if I am not traveling for work).
  • Hangers – I think if I max out my 401k for 2014, I’d like to get myself a set of petite-sized hangers to celebrate.

I will not spend money on:

  • Bedding – I have enough comforters, sheets, and pillows. I may want a new duvet set, but I do not need them.
  • Makeup – again, I have more than enough foundations, lipstick, and eyeshadows to last me through 2014.
  • Clothes and shoes – I really want a pair of nude wedges, but I’m delaying that purchase until 2015. Also, no clothes means no new dresses for the plethora of weddings I have to attend this year. I do not need a new dress for every wedding, because I have ENOUGH! Must repeat to self as necessary.
  • Restaurant meals/takeout/drinks/lattes when I’m by myself – meals out should be a social activity.
  • eBooks – the library (and Project Gutenberg) are my friends.
  • Any personal technology items – I have a smartphone, a laptop, an iPad mini, and a netbook. I really truly do not need any more personal technology.
  • Deena Dollars - I’m cheering for you! :) ReplyCancel

  • Athena - I am cheering for you as well! It’s great sometimes to really cut back and reign in the spending. I’ll be starting school in the fall so hopefully I can do something similar. :) ReplyCancel

  • Sandra Mercier - I wish you all the best!ReplyCancel

  • Jack @ Enwealthen - Good for you!

    Life is full of temptations. Building the willpower to stay on the path you’ve selected will benefit you in all areas of your life.

    With a new child on the way, we’re in a similar thrifty mode. It’s amazing what you can do without when you truly prioritize your needs.ReplyCancel

  • Liette Seguin - I’m cheering for you too. Hope to hear more from you!ReplyCancel

  • save. spend. splurge. - I’d like to follow this but realistically.. telling myself to do more than just not spend on retail is a recipe for me to want to spend even MOREReplyCancel

  • The Wallet Doctor - Sounds like a solid plan. It’s really valuable to understand where you need to spend, what’s reasonable and what can go. Good luck!ReplyCancel

multigenerational living Multi generational living: the new way of the future?

Multi-generational living on the rise despite historical stigma

The US has a thing about living alone: moving out of your parents’ home and living without roommates has been long deemed a sign that you have achieved adulthood. I come from a culture where it’s normal, even expected, for folks to live with their parents until they get married – and even then, it’s viewed as a sign of financial maturity to keep living with family until you have saved enough for a down payment on your first home. That’s why my ears perk up every time I see articles about the “boomerang” generation (twenty- and thirty-somethings who move back home) and multi-generational living. I think multigenerational living will be, by necessity and maybe even desire, become a much more common way of life in the years forward.

A new AARP Magazine article on the “changing faces of American families” highlights the Hua-Puiches, a family of four who has moved in to the same house as the wife’s mother. This move doesn’t seem to be driven by finances – one spouse works in software and the other is a writer – but a desire to be close to family and allow the kids to get to know their grandmother. (Vanessa, the mother, also writes a lovely blog called Three Under One that I’m having so much fun reading). I think that idea is grand. Where did we get in our heads that the only way to be successful and “adult” is to stake out our own piece of land? Isn’t there something wonderful and precious in pooling resources and spending time with each other?

Living at home for practical and sentimental reasons

A New York Times Magazine article on Boomerang kids is full of comments by folks who can’t understand why people move home, and who see the move as nothing but utter failure instead of the pragmatism that it can be. If a young person finds job opportunities near their parents and live in an expensive part of the country – i.e. not one of these cities where it’s easy for Millennials to “make it”, why shouldn’t they live at home as long as the parents are OK with that arrangement? Far from being something to be ashamed of, or even something to be merely tolerated, I say multi-generational living should be celebrated and embraced, both for their financial benefits and for the closeness it can encourage within families and communities.

A 2010 Pew Research study shows that multigenerational living is at its highest point since the 1940s, driven both by a weak economy and by demographic changes. It’s no surprise that a household with multiple wage-earners are better able to weather economic downturns and achieve a higher degree of financial resiliency. Furthermore, in families that put three generations under one roof, grandparents may be able to provide emergency childcare (if not full-time care) and kids will get the benefit of knowing their grandparents more closely.

Some cities are fully embracing the trend: Portland, Oregon has made it easy for folks to build a “granny or in-law unit” on a main property so that homeowners can move relatives in or rent out the unit for additional income. That’s an easy way to have a smaller environmental footprint and lower your housing costs, for all involved.

I would live at home in a heartbeat

As I’ve gotten older, my feelings on living with family has evolved from “must be avoided at all cost” to “I guess it’s financially smart” to “I want to buy a complex for my parents and myself and be able to eat my mom’s fried rice every day and live happily ever after!” Right now, I am living on my own because I’m several states away from family. But I have decided to live with a roommate to keep down the costs and to have some companionship. In addition, CB and I have decided that if he were to find a job in a part of California where we have family, we’ll be living with those family while we save for a down payment. It’s the smart thing to do for us, and in the meantime we’ll be enjoying the company of parents and relatives as well as gaining financial security. I have several friends in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, who are living with family right now. When I hear that, I think, “good for them!” and even feel a tinge of envy. I would love to live at home, not even for the financial benefits, but so I am able to see my parents more often.

When I’m older, I hope to participate in multigenerational living of my own (by choice, not because anyone will be out on the streets). While CB and I are still unsure on the questions of kids, I do know that I want to move my parents closer to where I’m at – I envision a duplex or townhouse where we live side-by-side, or house big enough to accommodate all of us.

Do you think multigenerational living is here to stay? And would you want to have all three generations under one roof?

  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal - Wow, good for you! I think it’s cool that you have that kind of relationship with your parents that you could live with them. I could NEVER live with either my mother-in-law or my mother again- both usually drive me crazy a few days into a long visit! But if it works for you, more power to you!ReplyCancel

  • Jess - I lived at home for a couple of years in my mid-20s (after spending a few years post-college on my own). I can confidently say that it was an experience that neither I nor my parents enjoyed a bit.ReplyCancel

  • save. spend. splurge. - I used to want to live with my parents, but in the past few years, I’d only live with my mother, not my father. OR my mother in law. She’s great too.ReplyCancel

  • Laura - Not to be morbid, but if my mom outlives my stepdad, I have a feeling she will end up living with us. She is my nanny for my 19 month old while I work and we’ve got another one on the way, so I don’t see that arrangement changing! We lived with my grandparents for 5 years when I was really young and I loved it and was so close to them. My mom is super close to my daughter now and I’m sure as she gets older that will continue. I think it would be a good thing for everyone, even though it might be a bit stressful at times.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Congrats on your second little one!! I lived with my grandmother when I was young and I didn’t realize how precious that was. Now that she’s gone I wish I can go back.ReplyCancel

  • Pecan - I’ll happily live with my parents but cannot imagine living with my in-laws mainly because my husband doesn’t get along with his parents and their conflicts drive everyone crazy. Unfortunately they are feeble health-wise so they will likely move in with us at some point.ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa - Thank you so much for the kudos! I just added you to my blogroll and I look forward to reading more of your insights.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - I live in Chicago while my sister lives in our home town. She firmly believes it takes a village to raise a family and she constantly talks about having our older family members move in with her. I, on the other hand, do not want that.ReplyCancel

  • Kirsten - I’m a private, independent person and I need my space so you’d think I’d hate this idea, but we are onboard. We’ve thought about getting a house with a mother-in-law apartment for my aunt to live with us and we’ve also thought about moving in with my husband’s family. Both would involve interstate moves for someone. But with two small kids, it sure would be nice to have the help.ReplyCancel

  • SP - I like the idea (esp. with an in-law apartment). It is practical for financial and social reasons!

    In reality, it probably won’t happen for us since our families are so far away. We also both have siblings that would be more likely to take in a parent if the time / need came. I really really like the idea of staying with relatives to save up for a down payment. the stigma is not very strong any more, at least not at the younger age levels.ReplyCancel

  • engineer2freedom - Bravo for this sentiment. I think it’s disgusting how the mainstream media tries to portray this living arrangement as a sign of failure in the US and UK. I think the reason is that it is a way to truly fight back against the system. The combined family unit can vastly reduce combined living costs and the media is clearly funded by those corporations that have a lot to gain by everyone being brainwashed into thinking they need their own expensive home in order to be considered a “valid” human being. I also think it is a proud and responsible tradition still displayed in many parts of Europe (Ex UK) and Japan.

    But we must be cautious. Just think, if this gets to be a trend people may not even need credit cards or enormous amounts of debt and what will become of those poor banking companies when people are not beholden to them? It could truly be considered a revolutionary act. Perhaps these inconsiderate people will soon be classed as “Terrorists” as they might upset the status quo of the banking elite? Clearly everyone should be borrowing beyond their means at all times to be good citizens!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Urban Departures - I wouldn’t be able to live with my mum, as much as I love her. My dad yes, but not my mum. That said, I wish I lived down the street from my parents and next door to my siblings. I could not live with or even near my in-laws.ReplyCancel

  • MakintheBacon - After having gone away to university, I found it quite difficult moving back home and living with my parents while I searched for a full-time job. I was so used to the freedom and independence I had while I was at school. The house actually felt more small and cramped when I came back.

    I love my parents, but I love my independence more. My dad told me I could live with them until I got married and I thought to myself, No way Jose! I like my space.ReplyCancel

fidelity myplan calculator1 Retirement calculators: love em or leave em?

I have very mixed feelings about retirement calculators. Perhaps that’s why although I’ve been saving for retirement since my early twenties, I almost never run retirement calculators. (I think the last time I did it was in 2010, with the Pudding Index). And when I do, I don’t really pay attention to those numbers.

Why?

It’s just way too early. I’m almost 30, so at normal/early-ish retirement age I am still 30 years away from calling it quits from the workforce. My goal in terms of retirement savings, ever since I first started as a junior in college, was simply to max out the Roth IRA and then save as much as I can in the 401K.

On the one hand, retirement calculators can provide some guideline answers into the questions: “Am I saving enough?” “Am I on track to retire at age XYZ?” “How much will I have when I stop working?” On the other hand, these calculators are only as good as their assumptions, and when calculators tell me I’m “over-saving” I think, “no such thing!” and when they say I’ll have to eat cat food in my dotage I think “well… still can’t save more!” (Gotta balance retirement savings with shorter term goals).

A lot can happen in 30 years, and given all the assumptions that have to be made to make those retirement calculator projections, I know the numbers from calculators won’t change my behavior today – they won’t make me feel better about saving less, and I can’t/am not willing to save more than I am already, at least not at my current projected income level and anticipated expenses.

To me, retirement calculators (or any personal finance calculator, actually) have two purposes: information and motivation. Bottom-line: my timeline is too long and the assumptions to uncertain for me to count on the information, and I’m not motivated either positively or negatively, by the results I get from the calculators. So I don’t pay much attention to those retirement calculators. I just save as much as I can, try to keep a solid asset allocation, and cross my fingers and hope for the best. It’s a leap of faith, you might say.

However, if you do like retirement calculators, here are the ones that I have the most fun with:

  • Fidelity MyPlan - I love the narrator’s voice, for some reason.
  • Flexible Retirement Planner - Runs Monte Carlo simulations and gives you probabilities of a portfolio outlasting your life instead of a specific number. This calculator requires Java to run.
  • Pudding Index - Fast and simple. Plus, who doesn’t love pudding?
  • AARP Retirement - Great because it takes into account your spouse’s retirement savings and expected Social Security as well as your own.

Do you use / pay attention to retirement calculators?

  • save. spend. splurge. - I do and I don’t.

    I can’t count on them because I don’t have a steady income or savings, so I can’t say for sure: “$50,000 every year saved”.. or whatever. I just have to take it as it comes and see how it goes in the future.

    I am not too concerned though.ReplyCancel

  • Deena Dollars - I agree that retirement calculators do not feel like they teach you much about your individual situation. I mean, they illustrate general principles like early saving, compounding, etc. – but the idea that your salary now can be adjusted for inflation and carried forward for 30 more years seams so unrealistic in today’s economy when people change CAREERS several times throughout their lives, typically. I found the Monte Carlo retirement simulatior you provided above really neat, though! :) ReplyCancel

  • Newlyweds on a Budget - I don’t really pay much attention to retirement calculators bc it doesn’t really change what I’m doing and it also doesn’t take into account our pensions. WE have 10% of our income in a 401k and this is the first year we’re trying to max out our Roth IRA as wellReplyCancel

  • rob - I started saving in my 20s, never gave it much thought until I was in my mid-50s – now that we’re in our 60s & retired having a great time! Save as much as you can, enjoy life now, & sleep well at night knowing you’re taking care of your future!ReplyCancel

  • Karin - Leave them! I find them so frustrating because they don’t take into account that (i) my husband and I live way below our means, (ii) we started saving a bit late as a result of law school and (iii) we have high incomes now but who knows if they are sustainable? We max out our traditional 401Ks and we’ll start maxing out our Roth IRAs next year now that we’ve purchased our first (and probably last, with NYC prices) apartment. Beyond that we have daycare, private school and college costs to save for and student loans to pay down.ReplyCancel

  • SP - Leave them. For the same reasons as you. I just save as much as I can, always, until I get closer and can re-evaluate this strategy.

    BTW, there was a really interesting article in HBR this month that talked about the way we view risk in retirement accounts. I’d never thought of this before or heard it looked at in this way, which is strange considering I’ve spent ~7 years in the personal finance blog world.

    http://hbr.org/2014/07/the-crisis-in-retirement-planning/ar/1ReplyCancel

piggy bank family Borrowing money from family (it can be win win)

A lot of people say you shouldn’t borrow money from family, or that you should draw up complicated documents or have really in-depth conversations about it. I realized that in my family, this isn’t really the way things go. Siblings lend/borrow from each other to take advantage of real estate opportunities or help out the kids (my generation)’s education. My aunts have borrowed from my mom and my mom has borrowed from my aunts, and my grandmother had lent money to all her children. So far, everyone is still talking to each other.

So with that as the background, I approached my mom about potentially borrowing $10,000 to cover CB’s fall quarter tuition/expenses. I plan to cash flow the rest of his grad school tuition once I start work in August, but as the fall tuition is due in August, there’s a wee bit of a cash timing issue. Fortunately, my mom understood, took a look at her checkbooks, and agreed to lend us the $10,000. In fact, mom has a similar arrangement with my aunt, and she views it as a win-win situation – the lender is helping out family and getting a higher interest than he/she would in the open market, while the borrower is enjoying a lower interest rate than the market demands.

This means a lot, because taking out this family loan will save us money and time. A $10,000 family loan only costs 4% interest with 0% origination fee (and no application required). In August 2015 I’ll repay my mom $10,400. On the other hand, if CB were to borrow the same amount from Stafford loans, we’d have to pay 1.072% origination fee and 6.21% interest. So, I’m very grateful that Mom is helping out our cash crunch. The hope is that CB can also graduate debt-free and then we’ll both greet 2016 without any graduate school loans. At that point, we’ll probably still have ~$10,000 extremely low-interest college loans, but I plan to take our sweet time in repaying those.

 

  • Money Beagle - It sounds like you put together formal terms and there’s background of making it work, so I like the odds. When it’s done ‘informally’ that can lead to pretty big trouble.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - It is informal – we are not drawing up any documents. But she’s my mom. She knows and I know that she knows I’m going to pay her back. If you can’t trust your own kids who can you trust?ReplyCancel

  • The Wallet Doctor - Sounds like a good plan. I think the key to making family borrowing work is for everyone to have a clear understanding of the terms and conditions. So long as you are all on the same page, I think it can work.ReplyCancel

  • debs@debtdebs - My Dad lent me money for a downpayment on a home many many years ago, and it was considered a win-win based on the interest rate scenario like you described.ReplyCancel

  • Pauline - I do the same with my mum, also at 4%. Being self-employed I don’t even think I would get the loans anyway and she always has plenty of cash so she enjoys the better interest. If I were in a difficult situation and unsure to repay though, I would charge a credit card instead.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - I have borrowed money from immediate family in an informal fashion. It was not a big deal, because it was paid back in the terms that we had set. But I can easily see how this could be a problem if there are no terms and guidelines.ReplyCancel

  • Slinky - The difference is that everyone in this picture sounds relatively well versed in good financial management and has a solid financial footing. Your family has money available to lend and your family are good investments.

    In my experience, that’s definitely the exception to the rule. It’s different lending out your life savings to someone you aren’t sure will ever pay you back, but you feel like you should because they’re family and they’re going to .

    Good general rule: If this person was a stranger, would you lend to them?ReplyCancel

My month-long no shampoo experiment started by accident. I finished using my bottle of shampoo a few days before graduation, and I didn’t want to buy another bottle before I had to move. I have also read a little bit about this “no-poo” movement online, and thought it couldn’t hurt to go without shampoo for a week or so.

Then I went on vacation with my parents and forgot to bring any hair products. I don’t like the brand my mom uses, so I just skipped shampoo for that whole trip as well. Then I just kept going, and now here I am, one month after putting nothing in my hair except water.

hair 1 Month of No Shampoo (No Poo) Experiment

Here are some things after my one month:

  • The first week, my scalp was so oily I almost gave up. I have thick, coarse, wavy hair that is prone to oily roots, and that’s probably the only thing that will cause me to go back to shampoo.
  • I almost never blow dry my hair (once a year, if that) and I do not color or highlight my hair either – if I did either of those things, I think it’d be harder for me to do no-poo.
  • I never have that ‘squeaky clean’ feeling I’d get after shampooing. I miss that feeling. When I run my fingers through my hair, the strands feel oilier. My hair looks, however, better than it feels.
  • My hair doesn’t smell bad. It just smells like hair.
  • Many folks swear by the baking soda / apple cider vinegar mix to rinse their scalp and an oil treatment for the ends of their hair. I haven’t tried any of those methods (mostly due to laziness), but I probably will if I keep up with no-poo.
  • Based on my completely unscientific powers of observation, I think my hair grew faster than normal during the month of no-poo.
  • I want to buy a boar bristle brush as I think that will help distribute the oils in my hair more evenly (i.e. away from my scalp and closer to the ends).
  • There were a few days when I thought my hair looked really great, and there were days when I hated the way my hair felt and fell. To be honest, I think my hair looks best the 2nd day after shampoo. I’ve read a lot of posts where people raved that their hair has NEVER LOOKED BETTER and they are never going back to shampoo again. That hasn’t been my experience, but it hasn’t been so bad that I’ve gone back to shampoo.
  • I wash my hair once every 2-3 days. I’m hoping to be able to end up in a place where I can wash my hair twice a week.
  • During this month I put my hair up in French braids a lot – there’s nothing like a good French braid to keep greasy hair looking presentable.

I’m satisfied enough with Month One that I’m willing to continue no-poo for a while longer, maybe incorporating the vinegar rinse and boar bristle brush. I’m not so satisfied with no-poo that I’ll swear to forsake shampoo forever.

  • save. spend. splurge. - I do this. I wash my hair once every 3-4 days depending on how active I was during the time. Some days, I wash on the 2nd day because I was running around or sweating a lot.

    I DO NOT however, wash my hair daily. It dries out my scalp, gives me more dandruff and is horrible.ReplyCancel

  • d - I used to shampoo my hair every day. After hearing a lot of talk about how it’s worse for your hair to wash it so much, I cut down to every other day. Then I went to my dermatologist (for an unrelated matter) who looked at my scalp and told me that I had some light dandruff, which I didn’t realize. She asked me about my hair washing habits and I told her my story. She scoffed at the idea of cutting down shampoos and said I should wash my hair every day, especially since I’m Asian (she’s also Asian) and Asian hair is fine with repeated washings because it tends to be thicker, and the straight, monochromatic strands show off grease more. I’m back to shampooing every day now.ReplyCancel

  • NZ Muse - I tried this for about a week. I know you probably need longer for a fair shot but I just don’t think it works with my limp, oily hair. The longest I can go is every other day for a wash.ReplyCancel

  • Cassie - My hair is wavy on top and thick and curly underneath. I wash my hair on average every 5-7 days, partially blow dry it maybe every 2nd week, and flat iron it once every month or two. Last year I went in to get my hair cut, and I asked the stylist how the ends looked. She said they looked good, really healthy. I told her afterwards that I hadn’t had a hair cut in approximately a year. Got a sour look for that one, but it appears that whatever I’m doing is working!ReplyCancel

  • debt debs - I really want to try this. I’m hoping maybe this summer when I am on holidays I will give it a go. My nephew has done it for years with great results.ReplyCancel

  • Cat@BudgetBlonde - Thanks for sharing! I wash my hair about twice a week. It pretty much stays in a ponytail. :) ReplyCancel

  • Amber - I went a month, I think, with just water, and basically felt like my hair looked like crap every day and was pretty ready to go back to shampoo. Once I started with baking soda and vinegar, I started washing my hair every 7-10 days (and I rinse with water every time I shower, also) and I feel like it looks pretty good, pretty consistently. I’ve been doing that for almost 4 years now! But I’m thinking of coloring my hair so my no ‘poo days are probably coming to an end soon.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - This gives me hope. I’m going to try out the baking soda and vinegar mixture. Would be amazing to only wash my hair once a week if I can keep the oilies at bay.ReplyCancel

  • Cindy @ GrowingHerWorth - I attempted to go no-poo, and failed miserably. I have thin, straight hair that starts to look oily and stringy after about 12 hours from washing. The baking soda and apple cider vinegar didn’t help me any. My hair felt gross all the time, looked terrible, and the ends started looking really damaged. I’d like to get to the point where I can go at least a day without washing. But so far, no luck!ReplyCancel

highlightlowlightsurprise Highlight, Lowlight, Surprise

Sometimes, a conversation is better with structure.

CB and I usually talk late at night, when we are both pretty tired from the day, and our conservation isn’t the most scintillating. Then I remembered an idea I read about – the “highlight, lowlight, surprise” structure, where  we’ll go over the highlight of our day, the lowlight of our day, and something that surprised us or was unexpected. This has to be an improvement over our typical – “how was your day.” “It’s OK. I’m (insert one: tired, busy, stressed, hungry) or fine”) .

When I brought this idea up with CB, I was afraid it’d sound a little cheesy. But I’m really happy with the results so far. I like the structure that this gives our conversation – it’s much easier for both of us to share something unique/interesting/meaningful with this framework, and it only takes 4-5 minutes. We can go into the details or talk about something else if we have time or we feel like talking. Often times, the highlight/lowlight/surprise will lead to tangents about other topics or food for thought, but even if our call is just for 5 minutes, I still feel great.

This is mine for yesterday:

  • Highlight: leaving my barre class (the first in a while) feeling relaxed and optimistic. Exercise endorphins… they are real!
  • (Second higlight, just because): finding some 10-year+ photos of my mom and I, looking really happy
  • Lowlight: stupid tiff with my dad over drinking glasses
  • Surprise: there’s apparently drama among a texting group of Mom’s friends. These people are 60!! I guess drama in texting knows no age limits.

I’m curious to hear yours. (Also, does anyone else use this framework with their friends/significant others?)

  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal - Love that! So simple, yet way better than “the usual.” My hubby and I usually fall into similar conversation, as nearly every how are you is followed by “tired, stressed, hungry,” etc.ReplyCancel

  • save. spend. splurge. - I don’t, but I like the idea. Although my news would only involve the baby.. so it’s kind of boring :) ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - I’ve never heard of this. I guess it’s a good conversation starter though especially for between parents and little children after school.ReplyCancel

  • SarahN - I taught the bf about my family’s three good things dinner table tradition. (Cause let’s face it we can all whinge endlessly!) he’s since adapted it and always asks “what was good in your day?” Still challenges me (and him) to be positive no matter what we faced :) ReplyCancel

  • deb @ debtdebs - We used to do this with our 4 kids round the dinner table. It brought about great conversation and was a certain way to be sure everyone was included and had their say!ReplyCancel

san francisco real estate Real estate tales from crazy San Francisco (p.s. they are all true!)

I spent the weekend in the iconic City by the Bay, and guys, I think I have a problem. I am falling more and more in love with San Francisco and the entire Bay Area. This is worrisome because I am not, oh, a multi-millionaire AND I’d like to not spend 50% of my income on housing AND I’d like to eventually buy a house someday (and retire).

There are many stories out there about how crazy San Francisco real estate / rental market is. I’m here to tell you – it’s ALL TRUE.

Case in point #1: a friend said she got her apartment in the Lower Haight neighborhood by overbidding on rent. As in, the landlord asked for $x,xxx and she said, please, let me pay you $x,xxx + however much more so you will give me this apartment.

Case in point #2: another friend said she went to every appointment showing with copies of her pay stubs, credit report, previous landlord references, friend references, bank statements, and a checkbook. So she can move quickly before the next guy can even think about whether he wants the place or not.

Case in point #3: a friend who was looking to sublet a room in his apartment had prospective tenants bring him wine, beer, ice cream, and snacks in an attempt to secure the room.

Case in point #4: a friend is paying $1,200 for a small dining room-converted-into-a-bedroom in the Mission district. The room that can never heats up right and she shares 1 bathroom with two other roommates, but she considers it a bargain because it’s rent-controlled. Market rate is at least $1,700, she says.

Case in point #5: CB and I wandered into a couple of open houses in Noe Valley, an especially sunny and pricey part of San Francisco. The asking price for single family homes (3-bedrooms, ~2,000 sq. ft) is $2 million in that area. And, during one open house I overhead another person who looks to be in his 20s or early 30s say “the down is $400K, I have that but I’d have to dig into my savings.” Cue MASSIVE jealousy and despondency, which we then attempted to cure with a jaunt to a chocolate shop.

Do you have crazy real estate stories to share about San Francisco / Bay area? Let’s hear ‘em!

  • save. spend. splurge. - This sounds horrific. It better be worth it to live there then….

    I had no idea it was that insane. My uncle lives around the area but I never knew it was that competitive!

    Toronto isn’t that bad. Thank goodness. It’s a million bucks for a wooden shack that needs a lot of work but at least rents are reasonable.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - My friend in case #1 said that it’s hard to make almost $150K and still feel squeezed once she makes her rent payments, but she also knows that it doesn’t help to compare herself with the techie millionaires, and SF makes her so happy. So I guess for her (and for many, many other people), SF/Bay and its culture, weather, nature, and job opportunities are worth the price.ReplyCancel

  • Erin - I wish I could find it now, but I read an article a few weeks ago about a house in San Francisco that sold for $1.4 MILLION OVER asking. The final sale price was 67% more than asking.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - 67%?! Holy guacamole. I’ve heard most places sell for 15%-25% over the asking price. It’s depressing.ReplyCancel

  • Deena Dollars - (1) I was in SF this weekend, too!
    (2) I am extremely familiar with the spot you photographed above. :)
    (3) My 235-square foot apartment in SoMA that I lived in until summer 2012 was renting for $1,600 at the time (near the CalTrain, so prices are extra inflated by people who want to commute to the South Bay/Peninsula). Now, that apartment is renting for $2,400. It’s the size of a dorm room.
    (4) I feel your pain. I love SF so much, and there’s a pretty reasonable chance that is where it will make more sense for fiance to find a job (and my company has an office in Oakland). My wallet is already crying in anticipation!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Oakland should a little more affordable, but I guess everything looks affordable when 1-bedroom apartments are going for $3,000. Ha!

      But if we both move to the Bay, we can hang out and talk about how crazy real estate over brunch! :) ReplyCancel

  • Cristina - I lived in SF for 5 years, and will personally confirm doing #2 and #3. Being extremely overprepared/aggressive is the only way to get an apartment in SF! You need to show up ready to take action, preferably with a six-pack or bottle of wine.

    When we moved out of one place, we had new prospective tenants offering to pay the entire year’s rent up front. I live in L.A. now, which is not exactly a low cost of living area, but relatively speaking it is like a dream.

    SF is a fun city, and I thought that all of the hassle was worth it to live there. Not forever, but it’s a great place to spend your 20s.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I’m curious to hear your thoughts on SF/Bay vs. LA. My impression is that the job market / public transportation is better in SF, but housing in LA is definitely easier/cheaper. I’d love to live in the East Bay and just visit the City when I feel like it. Of course, East Bay real estate is no picnic either.ReplyCancel

  • SP - Yes – when I heard of the concept of a “rental packet” with paystubs, credit, a personal letter, references from previous landlords, etc. I decided that I’d be looking elsewhere!

    We’ve been casually going to open houses, and I’m always shocked at how young other viewers look. How can they afford this? Then again, we can’t always afford the ones we look at either. :)

    We looked at one listed in our price range this weekend, but the maximum we’d pay is 15% over list, and it will probably go for at least 20% more. There probably will be 20 bidders. It’s annoying! Isn’t it just rude to list it so low?!?!ReplyCancel

  • Little House - Sounds like San Francisco is in another housing boom. I love California, but sometimes I think I’m crazy to stay here!ReplyCancel

  • Her Every Cent Counts - Indeed rent here is ridiculous. I live outside of SF and rent isn’t quite as bad as in the city but it isn’t great. I absolutely love it here and work in tech so hard to move — it’s just really hard to save living with rent costing $2350 a month for a 1br in the burbs. Ugh. I’ve always wanted to move up to SF but between the commute to work and the RIDICULOUS housing costs I’m not going to… not unless I win the lottery.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - Yep, this is all spot on. The stories like this could go on forever.ReplyCancel

  • Lorrwill - Sadly, when you live here, these are NOT crazy stories.ReplyCancel

  • Billy - We’re two nurses, just competed a relocation to Sacramento last week. We left 500SQF shoebox, 3200 / month rent for nearly 2000SQF, 2000 / month (fairly high in Sacramento), a killer kitchen (our refrigerator has two doors and a fucking ice maker!), a two car garage / storage, warm sunny (every day), and a community of Huns beings who make eye contact, smile, and say hello just because. Oh, and we were able to roll our saved income in to something else and are now for three weeks. You decide what’s important to you.ReplyCancel

    • Billy - That’s “completed NOT competed (ironic slip?) And, “a community of human beings, not HUNS (necessarily).”ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I heard Sacramento is a nice place, but I think it’s harder to find jobs there unless you are in the state government or in healthcare. I agree though, the savings are substantial!

      Also, 500 sqft for $3,200?! I hope you were living somewhere really cool/trendy, or else my dream of getting to the Bay is looking further and further off…ReplyCancel

  • Slinky - Talk about sticker shock! I’m uh….going to stay over here in the midwest with my 1500 sq ft farmhouse and 2 acre wooded lot for less than any of those numbers.ReplyCancel

  • Coach - I think I understand that these are crazy stories, but they are the expected norm in Sydney, Australia. It is not only expected that you’ll do these things, but people are now arranging private showings and submitting applications without event inspecting just so they can secure a place. $1200 is a great deal if the room is close to what you need.ReplyCancel

Since my last post I have packed and shipped all my stuff, finished grad school, and went on an AWESOME and not-at-all-frugal  vacation with my parents to New York City, Boston, Montreal, and Quebec City. It was their first time to the East Coast and to Canada. I’ve been to Boston and New York City before, but what struck me the most was the picturesqueness of Vieux Quebec, the walled old city. That place is probably as close to a real-life Disney set as there ever is. My parents both loved Quebec City, and seeing my mom’s face light up is my most treasured memory of this trip.

The other thing I realized is that I LOVE being a tourist. I’ve read some bloggers who make a distinction between “travelers” and “tourists” (usually with the implication that travelers are more authentic), but well, being a tourist is pretty great. Apparently, I love doing unabashedly touristy things such as going to see the most significant sights, taking tons of photos, and doing walking tours with people who dress in costumes. My whole family does!

We ate out every night at places and got desserts almost every meal. Speaking of food, we had many great meals, especially in Boston at my favorite place, the Courtyard Cafe at the Boston Public Library, and Montreal. We strolled and walked and took the subway when convenient but also splurged on taxis when we got tired. We sat in the Orchestra section of a Broadway show, and did not stand in line for day-of tickets at the TKTS discount booth in Times Square. We went up to The Top of the Rock observation deck. I hired a private guide to lead us around Lower Manhattan. We took trains when flights would have been cheaper (but less comfortable). My parents bought souvenirs, a few landscape drawings by a street artist from Quebec City and a book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

It was a great trip – a bit hurried as we covered 4 cities in 12 days, but I’m glad we went to the cities that we did. I’m glad we didn’t cut out Montreal as I was considering at the beginning. I was impressed with Montreal – it seems very affordable (our 1-bedroom AirBnB in the center of Le Plateau was less than $100 a night), extremely clean, and the boulevards are beautifully lined with trees, restaurants, and boutiques. Unfortunately I will never live in Montreal because 1. The winters. The winters!, and 2. je ne parle pas français. If only the whole year has May weather – I would be motivated to learn French in that case. 

All in all, I calculated that this trip cost a total of ~$7,500-$8,000 for this family of tourists, or an average of $220 per person per day. On the one hand, the trip wasn’t extravagant, or at least, it didn’t feel extravagant in the way that a 5-star hotel suite or limos or first-class flights would feel extravagant. On the other hand, I – and my parents – almost NEVER spend money without calculating fairly detailed budget, and on this trip, while I kept an eye on menu prices and we had breakfast inside our apartments many times for convenience as well as cost, we didn’t count the pennies. Or even the dollars. So that was extravagant for my parents, as this type of spending is probably 4 standard deviations away from how they normally spend. My parents paid while I offered to cover our accommodations ($2,400-$2,500). My dad has always liked to see places, but now I think my mom has caught the bug as well. She has already said she wants to do a family vacation to Europe in 2015.

  • Erin - GOOD FOR YOU!

    I’ve been reading your blog for years and years now, and have always admired your ability to focus on both the micro AND the macro when it comes to personal finance. There is a lot to be said for traveling on a shoestring budget and making your money stretch as far as possible. But there is also a lot to be said for splashing out and simply enjoying yourself with few (if any) holds barred.

    On one hand, I’d say this was the trip of a lifetime and so you and your family very rightly did it up. But I hope it’s NOT the trip of a lifetime! I hope you guys go on to enjoy many, many more trips where your primary concern is to spend time together, eat good food, see great sights and simply enjoy yourselves, without the constantly worrying about the budget.

    Congrats on finishing graduate school as well….that’s amazing!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Thank you Erin. I really hope it’s not the trip of a lifetime, as I hope to have many more trips with my parents. I’ve already mapped out about 3 different itineraries in my head for our Europe trip. :-) ReplyCancel

  • Alicia @ Financial Diffraction - Oh those are some of my favourite touristy places. My hearts second-favourite place (after my home province) is Montreal. I used to spend so much time there. I love it :) Surprisingly, I haven’t been to Quebec City… yet!

    Glad to see you had a great time. I think that would be an awesome trip with the parents. Whenever my parents come to visit we go and do touristy things. Nothing major, but go to a museum, or a nature park.ReplyCancel

  • NZ Muse - Sounds rad. Unfortunately we had barely any time in Montreal – overnight, got in late and left early – but liked what we saw. Didn’t get to Quebec, but I daresay we got our French fix in Paris.ReplyCancel

  • Kitty - We just went to Montreal and Quebec City and was amazed at the reasonable prices too! (granted we’re in the SF/Bay area so we’re use to sky high prices) But gosh the Citadelle was cold and windy. Do you have any tips on traveling with your parents? I’m in early 30s, my parents are in their 60s. They’re healthy, but I’m setting up a family trip (likely renting a condo in Hawaii next year) with them, and it’ll be first trip we take as a big family (me and my spouse, my sister and their S.Os, and my parents) and also the first trip that the kids will be paying for everything. So not sure how to budget/plan for this?ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - It sounds like you have at least 8 adults going – parents (2), you + spouse (2), two sisters and SOs (4?), plus however many kids. I’m not sure if you can find a condo big enough to accommodate everyone, but I would try to find condos that are right next to each other or that are within a minute’s walk of each other in the same resort. Then each family can just pay for their own place (find a condo with 2 master suites, if you can, if you need to share with sister and her SO) and split the cost of Mom & Dad’s accommodations.

      In terms of food, I’d put in $20 or something a day into a communal pot for buying milk, bread, for breakfast, etc., and then you can take turns picking up the tab dining out or you can keep the receipts and divide everything evenly afterwards. Much of it will depend on how financially responsible/responsive your sisters are and whether you have similar financial resources. It’s harder to split everything evenly if one person in the family is a doctor and another person is a teacher.

      Have fun on your trip! I think it’s an amazing gift you are giving your parents. I’m sure they will treasure it.ReplyCancel

  • save. spend. splurge. - The winter is pretty nasty in Montreal, especially if you consider that with the corrupt government there, the money slated to clear the snow from the streets goes to line their pockets instead, so you kind of need a 4×4 or a truck to make it through Montreal sometimes with all the snow that builds up :P :P :P

    I hope you went to Vieux Montreal! (Old Montreal). It’s my favourite tourist-y part of Montreal. That, and the stretch of St-Denis and St-Catherine.. both are very nice as well.

    Quebec City is nice, but I prefer Montreal.. call me biased.

    Also, learning French is not hard. It’s surprisingly close to English, just say everything you would say in English but with a French accent ;) ;)

    (This is kind of what I do. I’ve managed to guess at a few words this way, verifying with BF that my guess was correct)ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - We did go to Vieux Montreal – went on a nice walking tour and saw Notre Dame Basilica. It was lovely! I liked both that area and Le Plateau.ReplyCancel

  • Jack @ Enwealthen - Congratulations on graduating, and a well planned trip!

    Despite being a tech person, it is still amazing to me how much money you can save using AirBnB. The quality of the accommodations for the price in most areas I’ve been is surprising. I still tend to go for the hotel for the short trips, but for anything more than a few days, renting someone’s place, especially for a family or group, is usually a great deal and a great experience.ReplyCancel

  • Mathieu Lebrun - Wow! That was amazing! Congratulations on graduating! And your wonderful trip!ReplyCancel

This is the night view from our balcony in the Condado district of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was somewhat of a spur of the moment trip – a good girlfriend wanted to go somewhere to celebrate the impending end of our graduate school journey, but she had visa issues that precluded traveling outside of the U.S. So Puerto Rico was the perfect solution. It didn’t hurt that we found roundtrip tickets for $250 and that our lagoon-side accommodation, with a balcony, was only $120/night. Neither of us have been to Puerto Rico before, so this is a chance to just relax, recharge, and lounge!

Isn’t it beautiful?

condado Hola Puerto Rico

  • Raquel@Practical Cents - Wow, That was definitely a good deal on the airfare. I’m really do back for a visit. I hope you enjoy my beautiful island.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - We went to the forts in Old San Juan today. I loved it… I think I have a slight preference for San Cristóbal.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - Amazing! We went a few years ago and it was one of our favorite trips. Have a great time! :) ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - It’s going well so far. :-) Even the heat hasn’t bothered us too much, because there’s always a breeze.ReplyCancel

  • Mel @ brokeGIRLrich - San Juan was always one of my favorite ports when I worked for the cruise line! I hope you guys made sure to drink some Bacardi while you’re there!ReplyCancel

  • The Wallet Doctor - I love Puerto Rico. It is such a fascinating place. I hope that you get to try some delicious plantains while you are there!ReplyCancel

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be on my way to Boston where I’m meeting up with Mom & Dad for our first ever family vacation to the East Coast. It will be great because I will be done with finals!! and I will get to go on vacation with Mom and Dad.

When I was growing up, our family never took big family vacations. My mom was too frugal for that, and my parents would use all their vacation days to visit my grandparents in Asia. So no money + no vacation days = no big family vacations for us. The only trips I remember were a trip with my aunt and cousins to Canada, to Stanley Park, and a combined family trip to Yosemite National Park in California in the late 1990s.

So, as I mentioned, this week-and-a-half family vacation is our first big family vacation ever, and I am so so so excited. This will be my parents’ first time to Canada, and my first time to Eastern Canada. I want to make sure they have a good time so I researched the heck out of AirBnB locations, emailed many friends and fellow bloggers for their tips on location and sights, and dug deep into bank account to the tune of $2,700 to pay for all of our lodging for this trip. I love to give “vacations’ / “experiences” as gifts, and I’m glad that we’ll have the money, the time, and the health to all go together.

I really hope my parents have a good time, and that I’ll be able to take them to other destinations before too long. My dream is to do an European river cruise with them in the next couple of years, and make sure we hit some big travel highlights (London, Paris, etc.) while they are still healthy enough to travel.

The other thing I realized is that as I get older, my desire to be closer to my parents – physically – has gotten much stronger. So funny. When I was growing up, it’s all I can do just to leave the nest and FLY AWAY. And now I realize that there’s something really great about hanging out with family. I hope that family vacations will become regularly scheduled programming and I’ll get to experience many new places with my parents.

  • Emily @ Urban Departures - My childhood was similar in that we never went on family vacations because of a money. We went on a cruise one year, which at the time, cost a lot of money and took my parents a couple years to save up for. We had a blast. I would love to take another family vacation, including my siblings, but it’s difficult because of the different schedules (i.e. school, work or other familial commitments).

    And I totally understand the desire to be near family. I’m lucky to have my parents live 20 minutes away in a neighbouring city, but sometimes I wished I lived down the street from them.ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - That’s so cool! I’m currently in the stage of wanting to be as far away from my parents as possible. I think it’s just a cycle that comes with age…ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - Have fun! Eat lots of lobster rolls and clam chowder. :)

    I want to take my parents on a west coast trip in the future. Maybe next year when things slow down at work. =/ReplyCancel

stuff How I feel about stuff right nowThe above picture probably makes it quite clear how moving makes me feel about furniture, clothes, decorative items, necessary items, i.e. all of the stuff that I own. My room is looking extremely empty right now, thanks to a frenzied bout of Craigslisting in preparation for my move after graduation. This situation is akin to a trial run for minimalist living – will I miss all the stuff I’ve sold / donated / consigned? Will I realize that I will never be as minimalist to go without a bed? (I just sold my bed, and so I’ll be spending the next few weeks sleeping on a makeshift futon. I hope I don’t live to regret this decision.)

This will be my fifth move in 7 years. I’ve schlepped my stuff and packed up my suitcases in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and now, 2014… and every time I move I swear to myself that I will never have so much stuff again.  I’ve mostly kept that promise in that I have progressively whittled down my number of possessions, but I know I’ve purchased more things than I needed, or things that I wanted in the moment but when the moving time comes I wonder why the heck!? The hardest thing for me will be to step back from the pretty/useful/quirky home decor items (a la a cheeseboard from the Oakland Museum of California, these soapstone horse bookends from Novica, and anything from Uncommon Goods). But with at least one more move – likely more – in the next couple of years, I need to remind myself that fewer stuff = fewer stuff to MOVE.

How do you feel about stuff when you are moving? Has moving around frequently encouraged you to scale down on the type of possessions?

 

  • save. spend. splurge. - Pre-baby it took us 7 hours to pack up and unpack (5 to pack, 2 to unpack)

    Post-baby.. not sure. :) Depends on how old/active he is I guess haha!

    Anyway, the less you have, the better. I keep trying to remind myself of that fact as I accumulate coats and boots :| ReplyCancel

  • The Wallet Doctor - I always end up cursing my stuff when I move. Even when I move into a home knowing I will be moving in the not so distant future, I manage to accumulate so much stuff. Minimalism is super appealing when it comes to moving, but its a lot harder to remember that as you get comfortable in your place.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I indeed forgot how much I hated moving stuff when I settled in.. but fortunately I minimized the big pieces (furniture, etc.) and only added to, well, clothes. Which at least are easier to move.ReplyCancel

  • Camille @ Challenge Mantra - Yes! I am very anti-stuff and pro experiences. I will make exceptions for stuff that we use frequently even if I don’t use it frequently. Vice versa, my husband never uses my Vitamix but I whip it out all the time. I can’t say that about a lot of purses or shoes I have but that I still want to keep for some reason.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - During one of my moves I starting throwing things in a dumpster without a second thought. Too. Much. Stuff. Still, I never truly went minimalist until the firm sent me abroad with two suitcases. A year and a half later and I’m still surviving. We need so much less than our colleagues in the marketing department have led us to believe!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I seriously started investigating getting a Japanese futon (shikibuton?)at my new apartment, if only to save myself the headache of buying / moving / selling a bed.ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - Not really. But then again, I haven’t moved as often as you. That being said, I’m no pack rat either. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist but I keep things that I truly like and enjoy with me. I think that’s the most important idea – not to have clutter in one’s life/fill it with stuff you don’t enjoy or need.ReplyCancel

  • Jack @ Enwealthen - Minimalism is great when you’re younger. Once you have a family, and a house, just managing the furniture alone makes any move a significant event.

    Personally, I love moving. It’s painful, to be sure, but it forces you to make those hard choices on what’s worth moving, and what isn’t. There’s nothing like unpacking in a new place and enjoying all that free space from the things you got rid of…ReplyCancel

So says a new Time Magazine article that concludes “Millennials are scary smart with their money”. After I read the article, I wouldn’t go so far as to say “scary smart”, but it seems that more Millennials understand the importance of saving than other generations. In fact, financial security may be one of THE most important priorities for some Millennials, over having kids, exercise, and fun (?!?! Is this smart or sad?)

A survey by the Principal Financial Group Knowledge Center found that…

84% of Millennials describe themselves as passionate about creating financial security—more than are passionate about raising well-rounded kids (60%), having fun (66%), making a difference (49%) and exercise (44%).

As an almost 30-something, I’m definitely closer to 34 than to 18. And as an older Millennial I’ve lived through the 2008 financial crisis / economic implosion. I’ve lived through a bout of unemployment. I’ve seen relatives get laid off. I’ve seen friends get laid off. Through all this I think I’ve grown to appreciate, even more, the importance of building a financially secure future. I wouldn’t say I’m fantastic with money, but I do think I have the basics down pretty well – I know I should save money, I make a consistent effort to save money, and I invest said money in funds appropriate for my risk tolerance and future needs. (And I don’t even need to photo-age my picture to get the motivation to save!)

Are you a Millennial (loosely defined as people between the ages of 18 to 34), and are you good with money?

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - I think I’m pretty good with money. I try my best. I do think I care more about financial security than having kids. I can’t understand why people have kids who are not financial secure. To me it sounds super scary! You are stressed financially and then add kids to the mix. I don’t have to be rich, but I don’t want to be living paycheck to paycheck.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I have a very low tolerance for financial stress – other types of stress, yes, but one way I handle other stress is by structuring my life so I have low personal financial stress. So it sounds like we kind of think alike. :) ReplyCancel

  • nsheils - I’m 28 and if it weren’t for my student loans (113k down from 169k) I would certainly be a lot more financially secure, but those should are scheduled to be gone in 2 more years after 1 year of repayment so far. We are still saving, putting away for retirement and saving a bit for college for the girls. I certainly know many people who are in the same boat as me or much better off financially without lots of loans/kids.

    I think it comes mainly from seeing how hard it was for my parents. My mom filed for bankruptcy, grandmom and I think my dad as well. I’ve seen people put $5 worth of gas in their car. I don’t ever want to be in that situation. It scares the crap out of me, so much so that my husband admonishes me for fixating on it too much.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - You are paying off $170K in 3 years? That is amazing. Please tell me you’ll do a guest post on how you are able to do that… I think I have a lot to learn from you!ReplyCancel

  • NZ Muse - I do care A LOT about financial security, more than most people I know. I would say it’s because I became independent very young, younger than any of my peers/friends. Also paired up very young. Was still studying when the GFC hit but T was working and got laid off. And then he got laid off again this year.

    I’m 25 so slightly closer to 18 than 34, but definitely would rate myself toward the older side in regards to finances.ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - I’d say that… I am good with money but not great with money. I am DEFINITELY closer to 34 than 18. Hahaha. o___o;;ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - I think I’m pretty good with my money. I’m well on my way to early retirement and it’s because of my money smarts — not hard work. (The kind of people who want to stop working ASAP? Naturally not the hardest-working bunch.)ReplyCancel

  • MakintheBacon - I guess the age range with millennials seems to vary. I thought they ranged from 18-25, since they grew up in the 2000s. (It doesn’t seem as weird when you say the 80s and 90s). I’m in my early 30s and consider myself more of a Gen X/Y.

    I care a LOT about money. Probably more than my friends and family. Sure we all complain about money, but how many people do you know that actually care about it? (as in monitor, plan, maintain their cash flow, try to grow their net worth, manage their finances, etc). I think a lot of it has to do with all this talk about people in their 60s not being able to retire. Fortunately my parents are not in that category and are enjoying their golden years.ReplyCancel

shopping mishaps Shopping Mishaps, or Hindsight is 20/20

One of the benefits of having blogged as long as I have is the the clearly noted purchases of years past. Going through my archives, I found many, many things that I’ve purchased and in retrospect, really shouldn’t, or I could’ve gone without. As I’m evaluating future purchases, I try to keep those shopping mishaps in mind.

Shopping Mishap #1 $300 Lela Rose dress

I wavered quite a bit on whether or not to snap up this beauty on sale, and ultimately did make the purchase. I still really like the dress and think it’s lovely, however, I would not have paid $300 for it again. I just don’t have that many occasions to wear it, and I believe in the past 3.5 years I’ve only worn it twice.

Shopping Mishap #2 $140 Kate Spade Tote

This Kate Spade Quinn tote is still one of my favorite purses in terms of style and color, but it just doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I am too afraid of spoiling the light-colored leather, and the open top makes it easy for things to fall out. So the result is I’ve carried this bag out the door at most 7 or 8 times in the past two years that I’ve owned it. If you think it’ll fit your life better, I’m selling it for $90 + shipping.icon smile Shopping Mishaps, or Hindsight is 20/20

Shopping Mishap #3 $50 Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palette

I bought the famous UD palette to do my makeup for my wedding. While I love the palette and the colors, it’s been almost two years and I’ve barely made a dent. I just don’t wear eyeshadow very much – at most once a week. So again, this was a case of being lured by the “pretties” and not realized what would actually work for my lifestyle. In hindsight, I should have just purchased an individual eyeshadow.

I think I need to reread #5 of Why We Are So Bad At Buying Happiness, and be more careful of getting things that will truly improve my quality of life.

  • saverspender - You mean Urban Decay Naked, not Nars right? :)

    You could always try and resell it. I bought mine from someone online (a fellow blogger)…

    Well we all regret things. I regret quite a few, myself, which has taught me a good lesson — DO NOT BUY THINGS.ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - I have had a couple of these buys. The more costly have been furniture wise. I bought a few pieces of furniture and decor for my house and now I don’t want them…sigh…do not rush into decorating your home. It’s so important to choose your decor before buying stuff. I’m actually funneling any additional savings straight into investment accounts, so I don’t feel comfortable to spend it.ReplyCancel

  • Jess - This couldn’t have come at a better time for me to read! I’ve started a new job where the pay is amazing but its monthly. Payday was due yesterday and I was still twiddling my thumbs this morning waiting for my salary to hit my account, hundreds of dollars worth of clothes and makeup sitting in shopping carts on web pages. Then… I get a call from the payroll department saying they’d lost my new employee paperwork and I wasn’t going to get paid this month, I had to wait until next when they’d make it up to me. WHAT THE?! I freaked out, then put it all into perspective. I was so excited about the haul of unnecessary items I was about to fork out for, and now I had to worry about putting fuel in my car and buying food.
    Kinda makes me think twice about it next time too…ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - I have a couple of those $300 dresses sitting in my closet right now. Mainly, because I have gained so much weight lately that I cannot even fit in them! I hate “one day” dresses!ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - I have TONS of regret purchases. Stuff I don’t wear or use because I bought it not really LOVING it. Or I bought it because I was just fixated on it. Oh well. My most expensive regret purchase would be my laptop. I have no idea why I thought it’d be a good idea when I’m very much a desktop girl. Oh well. At least my Dad has something to use to visit YouTube…ReplyCancel

Let me introduce you to the 3rd dress I’ve purchased in 2014: this 3/4 sleeve maxi dress from Old Navy, currently on sale for $25 + 30% off sale. I got it for just $15, and it’s one of the most comfortable dresses I’ve ever worn. I love it because it’s easier than putting on sweatpants and 10x more stylish. More impact, less effort. Sounds like my kind of dressing.

old navy maxi dress This Maxi Dress is Perfect. Get Thyself to Old Navy Now

It comes in charcoal, deep red, black, and heather grey. I can probably live in a dress like this, so the challenge is stopping at one and not stocking up on all the colors.

Speaking of comfortable dresses, where do you get yours?

  • NZ Muse - Hmm, I can tell just by looking at it that I’d look like a sack in it. Maxi dresses just don’t work on me.ReplyCancel

  • Cristina - Thanks for the link! I just bought it in black and red. I cannot usually pull off maxi dresses (I’m short and they seem to drown me), but I’m pregnant and I think they will be a staple of my wardrobe for the next few months. I love that this one has sleeves so it can be dressed up for work.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - This dress runs short as well (I’m very petite and I can get by without hemming the dress if I just wear a tiny heel). I hope it works out for you as well as it does for me.ReplyCancel

  • saverspender - I can’t do maxi dresses because they always get wrapped around my legs when I walk.. I speedwalk so this is a problem.

    Even while pregnant I preferred dresses that were midi or just above the knee.. I like freedom !!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - That maxi style doesn’t work on me, but I have two Old Navy maxidresses (the v-neck faux wrap tank top ones) and I love them a million times over.ReplyCancel

When CB and I were sharing our travel destination dreams, he mentioned that Japan is the one country that he really wants to visit. So… we are visiting the Land of the Rising Sun at the end of June. The whole reason we can afford this trip is because we redeemed our United miles for round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo. $2,600 worth of flights for only $78.80. Now THAT is a win in my book!

japan Konnichiwa Japan!

We will be spending 10 days and 10 nights in the country – 5 in Tokyo and 5 in Kyoto. Our accommodations are made via AirBnB, looks to be tiny by non-Japan standards, and averages out to $81 per night. I haven’t been back to Japan since 2005, and I’ve never seen Kyoto before, so that’s the part of the trip I’m looking forward to the most. Other than that, I’m excited about ramen, donburi, curry, and tempura! A luxe sushi dinner isn’t in the cards, nor is a stay at a Kyoto ryokan, nor do June/July have the best weather, but whatever… we are going to Japan!

Our budget for Japan:

  • Round-trip flights: $78.80 (paid already)
  • Hotels for 10 nights: $811 (paid already)
  • Food, budgeted at $45/person/day: $900
  • Attractions: Free is the way to go. Fortunately, many of the sights and temples do not charge an admissions fee. I may splurge on the 3,000 Yen fee to visit Koke-dera, or Moss Temple in Kyoto (~$60 for the both of us).
  • Transportation: $360. This includes round-trip bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto for the both of us, plus local transportation.

The whole trip should come down to $2,300 or $115/person/day.

Do you have tips and recommendations for Japan, particularly Kyoto and Tokyo? I’m all ears!

  • Leigh - I was in Japan last fall! The bullet train was pretty cool. I went to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto and it was gorgeous! http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/lang/01.html (I think it was actually free!) I also went to see one castle, near Kyoto. In Tokyo, I loved the Imperial Palace East Gardens and the zoo. I also went to the Botanical Gardens in Kyoto. I got a JR rail pass, which was somewhat useful, but it wasn’t useable on the metro in Tokyo or some of the buses in Kyoto, so it was a little annoying, but still made things convenient. I also went to an onsen (amazing!) and stayed in a ryokan in Tokyo. It was a pretty cool trip!

    I have a Charles Schwab checking account and they refund your ATM fees anywhere in the world, but I never had any ATM fees in Japan. I don’t know if you’ve been to Japan before, but very few places took credit cards, so I was carrying around large quantities of cash a lot. Not having to pay ATM fees made me feel better since I could carry around less cash at a time and go to an ATM more often.

    (Note: I’m a wandering around, gardens and castles, minimal museums kind of tourist.)

    Hope you enjoy your trip!!!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Thank you! Your comment was so helpful – I’m adding Kiyomizu-dera Temple on my list. I love walking around and seeing temples and historic buildings, so I think Kyoto might just be my cup of tea. Good tip about the ATMs. I’ll make sure to investigate the cash situation before I go.ReplyCancel

      • Jenny - Chiming in to say that the ATM thing is an issue. In the last year or so, the ATMs in the 7-11s stopped taking certain American debit cards (including my bank’s debit card). A lot of foreigners depended on those locations heavily! I had a problem with this in Kyoto, but in Tokyo I always seem to be able to find an ATM that takes my card.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - Wow sounds like an awesome deal! I’ve never been to Japan, but I would love to one day.ReplyCancel

  • anna - So excited for you and your husband! We only stayed in Tokyo, but would have loved to explore Kyoto and other areas. The people watching at Akihabara District is pretty cool, and the temples are beautiful. Looking forward to seeing your pics and traveling vicariously through you! :) ReplyCancel

  • Cassie - That’s awesome! I hope you do a recap of your trip, Japan is on my list of must see places :D Have a great time!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Urban Departures - Ah, got to love travel points- that’s a pretty good deal you got there! I would love to visit Japan one day. It’s definitely on the list.

    Have you watched the documentary Jiro’s Sushi? Care to pay $300/person for a meal? That’ll be 2/3 of your food budget, so I’m guessing not?ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - $300 a person!?!? I hope one day I can afford that, but alas, that day is not today (or a few months from today).ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - Thoughts on food prices in Tokyo — lunch sets during the week seem to be a good deal on eating out (900-1,000 JPY per person for a meal that might cost double at dinner time), konbini (convenience store) food is much better than in the US and, if you’re looking for a light breakfast you can get sliced fresh fruit for about 490JPY (serving for one person) plus any kind of drink for 100-200JPY. Knowing how well you research your trips, you probably know all this already :)

    If you want to do a (free!) guided tour of the Imperial Palace, you need to sign up in advance http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/guide/koukyo.html but, as Leigh mentions, it’s also possible to walk through the gardens on your own (there is some signage in English!). The Imperial Palace is across the street from my office so maybe I can sneak out and say hello when you’re in the area! I go walking there on my lunch break often.

    If there are any restaurants you really want to go to, make a reservation in advance. Last weekend I was with friends walking through Nakameguro and we could not find a restaurant that would let us sit down (group of 4). If you need help with the reservation send me an email and I can arrange it.

    Finally, fun pf fact: no tipping in Japan!

    So excited to get your take on Tokyo and Kyoto.ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - Whoa, that’s a nice deal you got there! I guess having a long-distance relationship means collecting a lot of air miles then? ;) Have fun in Japan!ReplyCancel

  • Karen - The majority of the buses in Kyoto have English signs and recordings. You board from the back and pay as you get off.
    You can get a multi-day pass (slip this in the reader when you get off). http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/transport.html (card pass. Lots of other bus and subway info).
    Japan-guide.com I think this is the world’s best info guide! It will tell you what to see, how to get there, admission costs, what’s under construction, how to pay respect at the shrines and temples, etc…Suggested itineraries: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2400_tokyo_9.html

    I suggest seeing Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.

    Regarding ATMs http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2208.htmlReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - I really want to visit Japan! I’m so full of envy right now. I particularly want to go to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Unfortunately, coming from Toronto, it’s WAY too pricy usually. :( Have fun! Take lots of photos!! :D ReplyCancel

  • John @ Coughupthedough - Wow, that is a awesome cope you got there! I really want to visit Japan. I think having a long-distance connection indicates gathering a lot of air kilometers then? Have fun!ReplyCancel

tax refund I LOVE Tax Refunds

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it againI love tax refunds. This love is exponentially increased when we are experiencing somewhat of a cash crunch and are trying desperately to bridge that gap between my full-time employment in August and the dwindling amounts in our saving accounts.

Last weekend, we stayed up until 2AM crunching the numbers, and it turns out that our Federal + State refunds netted out to $6,000. SIX THOUSAND. That sounds like a small fortune to us. Thank you Lifetime Learning Credit!

Did you get a tax refund? And what are you doing with it?

  • The Asian Pear - HOLY! NICE! I thought my $1500 tax refund was good too. WOW.ReplyCancel

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life - I always hope I don’t get too big of a refund because that means I gave the government an interest free loan. I’d rather have held onto that money and earned interest on it myself.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - That makes sense. Although in these low-yield environments even a $6,000 will get you < $50 in interest in a bank account.ReplyCancel

  • Money Beagle - I just wrote a post earlier this week about how we’re allocating our refund. Mostly toward savings goals and paying down some self-debt (you’ll have to read to understand), and a little toward fun. I was pretty excited to see that our refunds arrived in our bank account today!ReplyCancel

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance - Holy cow Batman! I think ours is going to be around $1000, and it’s going straigh to savings… or a vacation. I don’t think we’ve decided yet.ReplyCancel

  • spiffi - I also LOVE my tax refund. I know technically it’s an interest-free loan blah blah but honestly, I love having a lump sum come available in April!

    My estimate was that I’d get about $4000 – but I ended up with about $1300 more than that!

    Since I’ve bought my house, I’ve been putting my tax refund toward the principal on my mortgage. This year I was weak, and only put the $4k I had estimated I’d get back, to the mortgage, and kept the “bonus” and it’s going into my vacation fund!ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - WOW. $6,000 is a ton of money! I would so go on a vacation with that cash, haha. I am not getting a refund (in fact, I’ll owe probably around $2,000), and I think this will be one of the first years I am not getting anything back. My fiancé is getting a small refund of less than $500 but I am sure he will appreciate the extra money. Have fun with that cash!ReplyCancel

  • Terry - That’s a nice windfall!

    A couple years ago I put it toward paying off a car loan, last year a credit card. This year I’m using it for vacation.

    Maybe you could do a post on how you got such a big refund?ReplyCancel