Category Archives: Finances and Money

The Ultimate Guide To Tipping in the U.S. for Food, Travel, And Hospitality

The conversation about tipping in the U.S. has been in the news more than ever recently, with stories of miserly and generous restaurant patrons alike taking stands on the subject. The restaurant industry is beginning to experiment with alternative tipping, revenue, and pricing models in an effort to iron out many of the wrinkles in an industry where a living wage often depends on the non-requisite kindness of strangers. And for travelers, the tipping question goes well beyond restaurants. In the U.S. industries including transportation and hospitality also rely on tipping to various degrees, so it’s worth a deeper dive into how tips make a difference to the people working to make your stay, travel, or meal that much better.

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Taxi drivers who work for a taxi company (as opposed to owning their own vehicle) take home, on average, 33% of their total shift fares. This often works out to $8-$9 an hour after 12-hour shifts filled with stresses like urban traffic, rude/drunk patrons, and minimal bathroom breaks. Acceptable tips for cabbies can start around 10% (or a $1 minimum), but typically range upwards of 30%, depending on a number of factors: efficiency, safety, cleanliness, friendliness, traffic, destination, etc. Around 15% is standard, though most people tip 20 – 25% (in NYC anyway). If the driver help with bags, add an additional $1 – $2 per item is customary, especially if they’re heavy.

Much like the food-service industry, a valet’s base-pay is minimal and assumes tips will compensate. As valets are in charge of making sure the second-most expensive thing most people own (after a house) is navigated cleanly through tight spaces, the pressure is on for them to perform, and they should be tipped accordingly. Around $2 – $5 is standard, and the money should change hands when the vehicle is (safely) delivered. Many people choose to tip when dropping the car off as well to ensure quality service, though it’s not necessary. If there is a flat parking/valet fee, tips are still still expected.


Hotels employ in a wide range of rolls, many of whom are paid around the state’s minimum wage. Bellhops make, on average, $8.73 an hour, with a porter’s hourly wage leaning only slightly better. A standard $1 – $2 tip for each bag every time a bag is handled may not seem like a lot, but it adds up day-to-day. Add in an extra dollar or two if bags are heavy, and a $5 minimum is a good idea if they also escort you to your room. This generally applies to anyone who handles your luggage anywhere, be it a cab, a train, a hotel, or a cruise ship. If someone calls you a cab, another dollar or two is in order. They appreciate it!

The concierge exists solely to serve guests’ special requests. Their base pay isn’t much more than a porter’s, but the standard tipping range compensates them for their unique set of skills. No need to tip if you only get directions from them, but the more difficult the task, and the more time it takes (e.g. securing tickets to a sold-out Broadway show), the more they should be compensated. Tips for the concierge typically run $5 – $20.

Housekeeping, while they don’t often interact with hotel patrons, ensure a spick-and-span experience. Try and tip $2 – $3 per night, left daily in an obvious place. If your room is host to more than three people, or you make more than three-people’s worth of a mess, add a dollar or two for the extra effort. A brief thank-you note clears up any confusion as to if the money was left on accident, and it may make someone’s day a little brighter.

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Food Service

As the industry currently stands, server hourly pay is usually well below minimum wage, in some states as low as $2.13 an hour. It is assumed tips will bring their wage up to a liveable minimum. The front-of-house staff (whom patrons interact with) often pool and evenly distribute their tips, but the kitchen staff rarely receives anything more than their base-pay. The system is imperfect, but restaurant owners are beginning to find more equitable ways to pay front-of-house and kitchen staff alike (though these systems aren’t without their controversies). Until the system is changed, and unless you’re eating in one of the few establishments trying out a new model, you should be tipping your server a minimum of 15%. If the service is exceptionally bad, and you are positive it’s the servers fault, speak to the manager before you get stingy.

A bartenders hourly base-pay is generally better than their table-serving counterparts, but a large portion of their take-home pay (which is likely underreported, and therefore difficult to track) comes down to tips. If all they do is transfer a beverage from a container to your glass (e.g. from a bottle or a tap), $1 per drink is standard. If the drink is a little more complicated, start at $2, and depending on how cute and/or chatty they are, tip to your heart’s content.

Tipping may be a controversial subject, but basic human decency is something we should all be able to agree on. If you’re lucky enough to travel, spread the wealth!


Flying to Europe Might Get a Whole Lot Cheaper… in 2017

The airline Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA just announced its plan to sell $69 one-way tickets to Europe from select U.S. airports. The initiative is slated to roll out by as soon as 2017 (although for would-be international travelers, “soon” might be a relative term).

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Flying to Europe On a Budget: Here’s the Scoop

While the lure of cheap international tickets may have travel-lovers drooling, travelers looking to take advantage of the deals will be limited to only a few destinations—namely, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Bergen, Norway.

The airline believes it can reduce fares by flying out of U.S. airports that currently offer limited international service (or none at all), reports NBC News. That’s because those airports will charge airlines lower operating fees, meaning both airlines and travelers won’t incur the same costs that they would at more heavily trafficked international airports. Currently, Norwegian Air has its eye on New York’s Westchester County Airport and Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.

Thanks to this low-cost strategy, Europe’s third-largest budget airline anticipates charging an average of $300 round trip for the nonstop routes named above—that’s several hundred dollars cheaper than the average cost of flights leaving from the United States’ busier international airports.

Still, travelers looking to take advantage of these deals will want to remember that the flights will come with added fees for everything from checking luggage to booking a seat assignment or ordering an in-flight meal (even for overnight trips), reports Condé Nast Traveler. Savvy travelers can subvert some of these budget-friendly airline tactics by packing everything in their carry-on and bringing along their own snacks for the flight.

In charging lower fares, Norwegian Air hopes to draw customers away from more well-known international carriers. The airline has already ordered 100 new Boeing jets and plans to receive the first five in 2017, at which point it expects to begin rolling out the cheaper flights. Of course, the airline’s ability to do so will hinge on the smaller U.S. airports’ willingness to set up customs stations that are equipped to process international travelers.

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The Beginning of a Trend?

Norwegian Air isn’t the only airline to start toying with lower cross-Atlantic fares. Iceland’s Wow Air reportedly has started offering $99 one-way fares from Boston to Paris, while Eurowings (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) has also begun offering some cheaper international flights. And while Norwegian Air awaits its arsenal of low-cost jets, the airline is offering $300 nonstop, round-trip tickets from New York to Oslo, Norway from December 2015 through February 2016.  

In the meantime, travelers looking for other ways to save money on holiday travel should consider purchasing flights in October and booking hotels in December, according to our evaluation of historical travel data. Those looking to book cheap flights to places other than Edinburgh or Bergen can save money every day by utilizing Hipmunk’s mobile app and online travel booking options. And remember that the best time to book a flight varies by destination, so your best bet is to consult destination guides that provide insight into the most strategic times to buy flights to specific locales.

As for whether recent initiatives in low-cost cross-Atlantic travel will inspire other airlines to follow suit? We’re keeping our fingers (and toes) crossed.


Companies Trying to Make Currency Exchange a Little Easier

Figuring out how to exchange foreign currencies is always a hassle for international travelers, but several companies have made it their mission to make this process less daunting. Whether you’re fretting about tipping internationally or you’re just sick of returning from vacation with wads of foreign currency, here are four companies working to make your life easier.

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1. CurrencyFair

This one’s for the traveler willing to wait around for the best deals. The service consists of a peer-to-peer marketplace in which users declare their own exchange rates and then wait for someone else to accept the transfer. The company hosts the marketplace and skims off 0.15% when users exchange currency with each other. If no one accepts your offered exchange, then CurrencyFair will—for a 4-5% fee. While the service won’t do you much good if you need to exchange currency very quickly, it can be a great way to get cash for foreign currencies after returning home from a trip.

2. Fourex

The premise of Fourex is easy to grasp: Simply insert coins and notes from any of more than 150 currencies into a kiosk, and get cash back in the form of U.S. dollars, British pounds, or Euros. The kiosks even process old European currencies like Schillings and Deutschmarks. There’s no minimum deposit required; travelers can exchange any amount between £1 and £1,000 at any Fourex kiosk.

Remarkably, travelers can expect to pay the same exchange rate at any kiosk; the company doesn’t even hike prices at its airport locations. And there are no hidden fees; Fourex makes money by buying and selling currency on the market.

The biggest downside to the service is that it’s currently only available in and around London. But if you’re passing through on a layover or traveling around England on holiday, their find-a-kiosk feature will allow you to seek out a kiosk and convert currencies into whatever form is most convenient for you.

3. TravelersBox

TravelersBox functions similarly to Fourex, only it has kiosks in airports around the world, and it applies deposits toward gift cards or donations instead of doling out cash. The idea is that travelers can invest unused currency at the end of a trip by purchasing gift cards (think Starbucks or iTunes) or donating to select causes.

After depositing money into the kiosk, travelers will receive an email confirmation with instructions for redeeming their gift card or donation. The company applies a fee of 3-10% depending on the amount that gets deposited. Currently, TravelersBox kiosks are available in Turkey, Georgia, Italy, Israel, and the Philippines. Depending on the country, kiosks will only accept certain kinds of currencies.

4. WeSwap

Similar to CurrencyFair, WeSwap allows users to exchange currencies directly with each other via a peer-to-peer marketplace. The service promises fast, secure exchanges that’s up to 10 times cheaper than the rates travelers will encounter at banks or bureaus.

Here’s how it works: Users load their account (via debit card or bank transfer) with the amount they want to exchange, input their desired currency and the date by which they need it, and then get matched with other travelers looking to swap. Users can expect to pay a mid-market exchange rate in addition to a sliding fee charged by WeSwap. (The fee varies depending on how quickly you need cash.)

As soon as a swap occurs, the money is instantly available to spend or withdraw on the WeSwap Prepaid MasterCard, which all users receive (for free) after signing up. The card can carry up to 16 different currencies at once and will recognize what country you’re in in order to access the appropriate currency. (The card is accepted everywhere that Mastercard is accepted, without additional foreign-exchange fees.)

The service works best—and costs less—with plenty of advance planning, so sign up as soon as you’ve purchased tickets for an international flight.

From London to Turkey and everywhere in between, high-tech companies like the ones featured here are helping to make currency exchange a more democratic process by lowering fees, improving competition, and enabling peer-to-peer transactions. Here’s hoping that when it comes to providing travelers with low-cost exchanges, this is only the beginning.

The Traveler’s Guide to Tipping Internationally

Tipping is a hot topic in the United States these days, as rising minimum wages call into question the standard practice of making servers reliant on tips. For travelers abroad, tipping is an equally sticky issue. Figuring out what to tip when can all too quickly turn a relaxing vacation into a stressful one. Knowing what to tip, on the other hand, can empower travelers to navigate a foreign culture with ease.

Because tipping rules vary by country, region, and place of business, it’s important to research your destination’s customs prior to any trip. Start by consulting this guide, which outlines tipping customs in 20 countries around the world, for restaurants, hotels, and beyond!


Restaurants: While tipping at restaurants and bars isn’t considered a necessity, many tourists often tip around 10%.

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but consider rounding up to the nearest whole peso so the driver doesn’t have to sort out change. If they help you with your bags, add on a bit more as a token of appreciation.

Hospitality: Tip tour guides up to 20% and always give bag handlers a small bill or two.


Restaurants: Australian servers are paid decent wages and generally don’t expect tips. Recognize exceptional service by rounding up the bill. In upscale establishments only, tip 10%.

Taxis: While tipping isn’t expected, it’s common courtesy to round up to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: For the most part, tips aren’t expected within the hospitality industry.


Restaurants: Canada’s tipping protocols are similar to those in the United States (although most Canadian servers are paid minimum wage before tips). Most restaurants expect a minimum 15% tip.

Taxis: It’s customary to tip cab drivers 10% upon arriving at your destination.

Hospitality: Tip concierges for exceptional service only, leave behind a few dollars (or more) for housekeeping, and give bag handlers $1-2 for each bag they carry.

The Caribbean

Restaurants: Most places in the Caribbean islands follow the same tipping standards as the United States, so in general plan to tip 15% or more. One possible exception: If you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort, check to see if the service charge is included.

Taxis: Plan to tip around $1-2 for in-town fares. Tack on a bit extra for late-night or long-distance rides.

Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge in the bill. If this isn’t the case, be sure to tip bag handlers ($1-2 per bag) and housekeepers ($2 per day). Many resorts discourage tipping, so use your own discretion.


Restaurants: China has a fairly strict no-tipping culture (though some finer establishments may include a 10-15% service charge), so there’s no need to tip at restaurants. If you want to offer a tip for exceptional service, do so out of sight of the server’s employer.

Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but it is appreciated (especially in larger cities). Because there’s no customary rate, use your own discretion when deciding how much to tip.

Hospitality: Tipping is usually not expected, although this is changing in more westernized establishments. A good bet is to tip tour guides, housekeepers, and bag handlers a few dollars per day (or bag).

Costa Rica

Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most Costa Rican restaurants. If you want to recognize exceptional service, add another 10% on top.

Taxis: Tips aren’t required, but it’s a friendly gesture to tip a few dollars or round up the fare to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: Tip tour guides 10-15%, and give a few dollars to bag handlers and housekeeping.

Czech Republic

Restaurants: While tipping wasn’t always standard in the Czech Republic, the custom has been catching on. There’s no need to tip if the bill includes a service charge (though feel free to add on another 10% for great service). If no service charge is included in the bill, tip 10-15%.

Taxis: Round up the fare to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-3 per bag, housekeepers $3-5 per day, and concierges $20 if they go above and beyond.


Restaurants: The government requires a 10% service charge on all bills at restaurants, bars, and hotels. While it’s not necessary to tip more than that, you’re free to hand over a few extra dirhams to the server.

Taxis: Cab drivers don’t expect tips, but it’s polite to round up to the nearest 5-dirham note.

Hospitality: Because service charges are included in the bill, there’s little need to tip hotel staff unless you want to recognize great service.


Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most establishments, but plan to tack on another 5-10%.

Taxis: Pay cab drivers 10-15% beyond the stated fare.

Hospitality: Give housekeepers $1-2 per day throughout your stay, tip $1 per bag for bag handlers, and give the concierge $10-20 at the beginning of your stay to ensure great service.


Restaurants: French law requires that service be included in the price, but most locals round up their bills with small change (or up to 10% of the bill).

Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers about 10%.

Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-2 per bag and housekeepers around $2-3 per day. Exceptional service from the concierge should warrant 10 or more Euros.


Restaurants: Germany’s tipping customs work much like France’s: Service is included in the price, but it’s customary to round up the bill to an even figure (this usually amounts to 5-10% of the total bill).

Taxis: Round up to the nearest Euro or tack on an extra few Euros if you’re feeling generous.

Hospitality: While tips aren’t required, it’s courteous to leave behind a few Euros for housekeepers and to pay baggage handlers around 2 Euros per item. Slip the concierge 10 or more Euros for great service.


Restaurants: Tip 10% for the waiter, even at upscale restaurants (where a 10% service charge is included in the bill).

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected for short trips. If you hire a driver for a long trip or multiple days, tip around 150-300 rupees per day.

Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around 20 rupees per bag and offer tour guides several hundred rupees.


Restaurants: Tips aren’t expected, but feel free to round up the bill or tip 10% for exceptional service.

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but they are appreciated. Use your own discretion.

Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tipping really isn’t expected in Italy, but who doesn’t like being appreciated for good service?


Restaurants: It’s unlikely that a server will accept your tip, so it’s probably most polite not to offer one.

Taxis: Tips are not at all expected. A simple “thank you” will suffice.

Hospitality: Tour guides don’t expect tips but are likely to accept them. Hotel staff may refuse a tip if offered; you’re more likely to transfer cash if you put it in an envelope and leave it behind for staff, rather than foisting cash into their hands.


Restaurants: When service is included in the bill, there’s no need to tip. Otherwise, plan to leave 10-15%.

Taxis: While tips aren’t expected, it’s courteous to round up the fare.

Hospitality: Many hotel staff rely on tips as part of their take-home pay, so be generous. Bag handlers, housekeepers, the concierge, and anyone else who performs a service during your stay warrants a tip. The amount is up to your own discretion.

New Zealand

Restaurants: Like Australia, New Zealand doesn’t have much of a tipping culture. Service and sales tax are almost always included in the bill. Tip only for exceptional service or when the menu states that service is not included.

Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but acknowledge great service by rounding up the fair or leaving behind a few small bills.

Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tips aren’t expected, but they’re a nice way to express appreciation for a job well done.


Restaurants: Locals generally leave small change or round up to the nearest euro, so go ahead and follow suit. If you receive great service or are dining at an upscale establishment, leave a 5-10% tip.

Taxis: Small change, rounding up to the nearest Euro, or a couple of extra Euros are all acceptable tips.

Hospitality: Pay the bag handler up to five Euros, the person who delivers room service 1-2 Euros, and housekeepers a few Euros for the stay.

South Africa

Restaurants: In nearly all establishments, it’s customary to leave a 10-15% tip for the waiter.

Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers around 10%.

Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around $1 per bag. Tip other hotel staff at your own discretion.  


Restaurants: Expectations here vary widely: Some sources advocate for not leaving a tip, others suggest leaving 10-15%, and still others suggest leaving $1 per diner. Keep it simple by sticking with 10% or $1 per person, whichever is more generous.  

Taxis: Tips aren’t encouraged, but a tip of 20 or 30 Baht is courteous.

Hospitality: It’s standard to tip bag handlers 20 Baht. While there’s no standard tip for housekeepers, it’s respectful to leave behind a tip (the size of which is up to you).

United Kingdom

Restaurants: If a service charge isn’t included in the bill, tip 10% (or higher for exceptional service).

Taxis: Tip 10-15% for black cabs and licensed minicabs, or just round up to the nearest Euro. Tip extra for help with loading or unloading baggage.

Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge, but it’s still customary to offer small tips to bag handlers and housekeepers.

No matter where you are in the world, remember that servers, cab drivers, and hotel staff are performing a tough (and often thankless) job. Be both appreciative and thoughtful—try to tip in cash and in the local currency so your server can put the money to good use. And practice discretion when handing out tips, particularly in regions where tipping may be frowned upon. Respecting local customs will go a long way toward make any excursion a positive experience.

The College Vacation – How to Spend Wisely and Protect Your Money While Traveling

Every college kid dreams of having at least one global trek before graduating college and venturing into the real world. Whether it’s an extended spring break vacation or the ultimate European exploration experience, it’s important that you financially prepare for your travels in advance. Budgeting for a trip and protecting your money before you leave, can help you travel safely and avoid any frightening situations. Before you go traipsing off into the wild, consider a few aspects of travel to ensure that you have enough money with you and a plan in case you lose your funds.


We all know traveling occurs in many forms – sometimes in luxurious form with nights in 5-star hotels, and other times couch surfing in between pizza buffets and big macs. The odds are that most college travel plans adhere to a strict budget due to college loans, part-time jobs and a lack of career income. With that being said, an amazing vacation does not have to break your bank. Start by creating a travel budget. Figure out how much you are willing to spend on the entire trip, and then break out each day’s spend accordingly. Factor in the hotel or hostel stays, meals, gifts and other entertainment purchases. Like most college kids, you’ll probably overspend. Take that into consideration ahead of time and allow yourself to splurge in the areas that you are most excited for, while maintain a strict allowance on other days.

Planning and sticking to your budget is great as long as you actually have the money with you to fund the trip. It is not uncommon to forget your money or lose it while traveling. To counter being in a tough situation, look into travel insurance plans that will reimburse you for lost or stolen cash and valuables. Don’t wait until it’s too late and always have a back-up plan in mind.

Banking and Credit Cards

Before your plane departs, inform your banks and credit card providers of your travel plans to avoid service interruption while you’re away. Determine which cards have the best exchange rates and lowest international banking fees to avoid a higher than normal statement when you return. You may want to consider opening a new bank account with international-friendly banking to take advantage of local policies and ATM availability. If possible, try to memorize your credit card number in case you have to take out cash in the event of an emergency.

Check your travel insurance plan to determine if they have an emergency cash policy as well. Travelers checks can sometimes be more secure than cash as they can easily be replaced if lost or stolen. Be sure to research your destination in advance as some countries and attractions don’t accept travelers checks. Although most of the time credit cards and bank cards are universally accepted, it’s always a good idea to have some cash with you at all times. Store small sums of money in different areas in case your bag is stolen or your hotel room robbed. As in any situation, be sure to have an emergency contact at all times in case you are stranded somewhere without any funds.

Learn From Others

You may have heard horror stories from those who have traveled before you and were stranded for days at a time. These stories can often be intimidating and make you question if your dream vacation is really worth it. Remember, no trip whether it’s domestically or internationally, is 100% free of drama. To reduce the likelihood of something going wrong, plan ahead by talking to friends who may have traveled to the same place in the past. Research your hotel accommodations and attractions online and be cautious of reviews that are overly optimistic. Most of the time, reviews and price estimations are accurate and can help you budget your trip ahead of time. With the power of the internet, you can easily ask questions or post in travel forums to learn more from other people’s experiences. You’re about to be a world traveler, so don’t be shy and keep an open mind as you listen to someone’s advice.

If you have the opportunity to travel while in college, make sure you start your travel career on the right foot. Plan ahead and budget your trip accordingly so you have the money left when you return to plan your next vacation. If you prepare for the unexpected, no situation will ever be a surprise to you, allowing you to travel comfortably and maximize your experience. A final parting piece of advice is to get your shots, fill your prescriptions and bring your smile. Buen Viaje!

Stephanie Walton

Bio: Stephanie is a writer on anything that strikes her fancy, but particularly travel and food. When she isn’t writing about travel insurance, she can be found in Central Park reading with her dog, Darcy, or exploring vegan restaurants in New York. For more information, click here.

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What Kind of Deposit Rates Can You Get Abroad?

Depending on how long you are staying overseas and whether you stay in one spot or move around frequently, you may or not have a foreign bank account. I always wondered what kind of rates travelers could get on the money in those local banks. Surprisingly (to me), it can be quite high. My friend Dan at BankVibe recently wrote a post about the countries offering the highest deposit rates. Which countries top the list?

Not exactly the countries you’d expect to be on this list.

Ukraine (18.5%), Iran (18.03%), and Bangledesh (12.5%). High rates, but also high inflation.

For more info, read more at BankVibe.

[Photo via]

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Trinkets, Trinkets, Trinkets (aka Trash)

Seriously, I don’t understand why travelers buy trinkets. At all. Aside from burning a gigantic hole in your pocket and taking up more space in your bag, what do they do for you? Do they make you happy? Do they solve your problems?

When I see photos such as these…

…all I see in my mind is “TRASH“.

If I bought any of these trinkets, here’s what would happen:

  1. Trinkets would sit at the bottom of my backpack and take up space for the next few months, or whenever I happen to find my way back “home” to Seattle. Until I reach Seattle, I would carry them on my back wherever I go.
  2. Whenever I got home, the trinkets would be moved from the bottom of my backpack to the bottom of my closet — where they would collect dust for the several years until I get around to buying a place of my own (not happening anytime soon).
  3. Whenever I buy a permanent place of my own, the trinkets would be moved from the bottom of closet #1 to the bottom of closet #2.
  4. After collecting dust at the bottom of closet #2 for 5 years or so, they would be sent off to goodwill or the trash.

Or I can cut that 10 year cycle entirely and just not buy them in the first place.

Spend your money on experiences. I guarantee you’ll be happier for it.

Can someone explain to me why you buy this trash??

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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3 Reasons Teaching English in South Korea Can Save You Money

Teaching English abroad is an excellent way to experience a new culture, travel, and attain some unique work experience. What many English speakers don’t consider, however, is the fact that teaching abroad for a year or two can save them a great deal of money, compared to the amount they could save while working in their home countries. South Korea is one of the best options for teachers looking to have an abroad experience and collect some considerable savings at the same time. Here are three reasons why teaching English in South Korea is great for the bank account.

1. Paid Flight There and Back

The coolest thing about teaching English in South Korea is the fact that almost all schools will cover the  travel expenses for native speakers who are hired to come teach. This is a savings of around $1,500 up front. Then, you can travel within Korea and neighboring Asian countries while you’re living there and really make that free ticket rack up savings. For die-hard travelers, having an international flight covered is like winning a free vacation.

2. Paid Housing

Many schools in Asian countries offer to pay for teachers’ airfare if they are hired for a six month to one year contract, but South Korea is one of the few countries with schools that will typically pay for your housing while you’re there, as well. This is usually set up either by the school that has hired you or by your recruiters, and it can save you tons of hassle. The only housing expenses teachers in South Korea cover are utilities, food, and small housing items.

3. Opportunity to Save

Most teachers who arrive in Korea have little more than a few suitcases to hold them through the entire year abroad. However, many find that they don’t need much more than that. English teachers have furnished housing, down to kitchen utensils. They don’t own a car or a home, so they will have no maintenance expenses to think about. Food can also be found fairly cheaply in Korean cities in small neighborhood restaurants and street vendors, and grocery stores offer ingredients to make easy meals that westerners typically enjoy. Expats can generally budget to save as much or as little money as they wish.

The Cost of Full Time Travel

Every now and then, I get asked how much I spend on traveling. Unfortunately, I don’t have it documented in a way that I can easily track it. But the ProfessionalHobo does. Total cost for all of 2011?



Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Money To Make The World Go Round – Funding A Gap Year

With university fees rising on a seemingly never-ending basis and newspaper headlines dominated by recession, debt and increased cost of living, more and more people are reluctantly giving up their opportunity to take a gap year.

This is a great shame, as a gap year is not only great for developing your confidence, self-reliance and independence, but can also improve your CV or personal statement. Prospective tutors and employers will usually see a year out as a positive accomplishment, whether it involved relevant work or voluntary experience, or simply helped you to develop as a person.

But how should you finance you trip? Gap years can be expensive, and depending on where you plan to travel to, you may find you need anything from £2,000 to £6,000, which can seem quite daunting when you’re in the planning stage. But fear not, there are a number of ways to finance your travels and the following options should help you fund the trip of a lifetime.

1. Work before you go

The best way to build up a significant amount of funding for your trip is to knuckle down, get a job and save like a demon before you go. There are a few things you can do to optimise how much you save, starting with your living arrangements. If possible, see if you can live with your parents for 6 months or a year paying reduced rent, or if you’re lucky, no rent at all. The
savings will start to mount up very quickly.

You’ll also need to start making a few lifestyle sacrifices. Maybe you could ditch evenings at the pub for a night in having drinks at a friend’s house, or you could take it in turns to cook for each other rather than going out to expensive restaurants. You may want to make a chart of how much you want to save, and then tick off landmarks along the way to spur you on towards your goal, and don’t forget to give yourself the occasional reward for all your scrimping. Just make sure it’s something in the sales!

2. Work while you’re out there

You’ll definitely need to save some money before you head off, but working as you go is a great way of earning valuable extra cash while you’re on your trip. The best way to find work abroad is usually through word of mouth. Ask in bars, hostels or anywhere else that sees a lot of backpackers, and they will usually be able to point you in the direction of someone that needs an extra pair of hands for a few hours.

Working abroad can also help you gain a more detailed understanding of the country you‘re in, and help you meet and get to know the local population better. Even if you can find somewhere to stay that will offer free accommodation in exchange for a couple of hours spent changing sheets or cleaning rooms, you’ll save enough to treat yourself to a meal at a quality restaurant or a nicer hotel room when you really need it.

3. Get sponsorship

Believe it or not, there are companies that will provide financial help to aid your gap year. Sure, you’re unlikely to have your whole trip paid for, but even an extra £50 can make a big difference once you are away, particularly in countries like Thailand and India. Contact small organisations like the local Lions or Rotary Club and your school or college and ask if they offer bursaries for those looking to travel for a year. The level of funding you receive may be dependent on what you want to do while you’re out there, and you’ll be hard-pushed to find someone to sponsor you for a year of lying on the beach drinking cocktails. But if you’re looking to do some volunteer work, or something vocational while you’re away, you may find yourself able to get some financial help.

You may also want to do some fundraising yourself to elicit some support from friends, family and the local community. Doing a sponsored walk, bike ride, silence or similar feat might get you some extra funds, and if you opt for something that helps the local community (a sponsored clean-up of a local park for example) you might be able to get donations from
further afield.

4. Have rich parents

Okay, so this one isn’t really going to work for everyone, but having a bit of financial support from the folks is a huge help when saving up for a trip. Maybe you could consider doing some of the housework or re-formatting their computer for a fee, or maybe their gift to you is the chance to live at home rent-free while you save up. Either way, parents can be an absolute
godsend at times like these.

Similarly, it might be worth writing that letter you’d been meaning to send to your various relations letting them know how you’re getting on, and possibly dropping in the fact that you’re headed off on a life-changing trip abroad. Remember, if you can point out the potential benefits of your travels (enhanced job prospects, growing as a person, spiritual enlightenment etc ) to friends and family rather than crowing about the tan you’re going to get and all the partying you’ll do, you’re probably more likely to generate a positive response.

5. Enter a competition

It’s probably best not to rely on this one for your gap year funding, but it’s always worth looking out for competitions that will help with your air-fares, accommodation or even give you a full free gap year. The internet is one of the best places to check what’s on offer competition wise, and following the gap year travel companies on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is the best way to keep ahead of the game.

So there you have it, gap years can be expensive, but taking on board one or possibly all of these suggestions should help you finance the trip of a lifetime. Just remember to say thanks to all those who’ve helped you out, and take lots of photos to show them just how much fun you’ve had!