How To Exchange Money When Traveling

8463683689_baa33ca431_zYou’ve probably already heard (cause I’ve said it a bazillion times!) but I’m going to be traveling to Asia at the end of the week. Yay! Unfortunately, I’ve come down with a small cold but it’s OK. Nothing I can’t handle. I’m still super pumped!

I haven’t traveled internationally a whole lot so I’ve been doing my research about every single thing, from whether I need outlet converters to what the weather will be like. One thing that I didn’t think too much about in the past was exchanging money but the more I did research about it, the more I realized I’ve always been doing it all wrong!

I always exchanged my money at the airport.

Anytime I traveled internationally, I always got off the plane and exchanged my US dollars for the local currency at the Travelex at the airport. I never thought twice about it, until I did my research and found out that’s the last thing you should do. Duh, Connie! Exchanging your money at locations in airports and hotels can cost you anywhere from 10-14% more. The transactions fees or service charges are a little ridiculous and the way they bake it into the exchange rate, you don’t really notice it. You definitely pay for the convenience. If you use an international ATM or your credit cared internationally (depending on your bank or credit care), you’ll still encounter fees….just typically not as much.

Hence, never exchange your money at the airport, if you can help it.

So how do you exchange your money internationally and avoid foreign exchange fees? Here are a few tips:

  1. Use a no foreign transaction fee credit card – Most credit cards will charge you a 3% foreign transaction fee anytime you use your card internationally. There are some though that have no foreign transaction fees. They are typically the travel rewards cards and carry a higher annual fee. Here is a very comprehensive list from Nerd Wallet of those no-fee cards, along with what the fees are for all other cards.
  2. Use a no foreign transaction fee debit card – Similarly, when it comes to ATMs, using your debit card abroad will also incur fees. Typically, you will see a flat fee of about $3 – $5, plus 3% of your transaction. So yes, it can add up. Most banks charge a fee if you use a international ATM but the one I know of that doesn’t is CapitalOne 360. Also, I bank with Chase and have the Premier Plus Checking account – they  will wave the first 4 transaction fees each statement period for non-Chase ATMs, including international ATMs (the 3% isn’t waive but hey, I’ll still save $5)
  3. Find out if your bank has international branches – If your bank has international branches, you should definitely try to use those ATMs to avoid fees. My boyfriend banks with HSBC and luckily for him, they have some international locations
  4. Try to exchange money at a local bank – If your bank does not have any international branches and you are bringing cash with you, you could always try to exchange it at a local bank. This is a little tricky though because many banks won’t do it if you are not a customer. Ask around, especially at the larger banks.
  5. Otherwise, just use any credit card! – If none of the above work, your best bet is just use your credit card. While you will incur a fee, it’s typically the smallest fee you will encounter.

Always do your homework before you go and know what the current exchange rate is. Also, don’t carry large amounts of cash with you. As a tourist, you’re a bigger target for theft.

Do you have any good tips for traveling?

Week In Review – Countdown to Vacation!

I haven’t done a ‘week in review’ post in awhile but I’m not known for consistency so it’s ok. Let me give it another try…on one of the most boring weeks I’ve ever had.

In all seriousness, I’ve been on a spending lock down for the past couple of weeks. Our vacation to Taipei and Tokyo is coming up in about a week and I can already foresee us spending a lot of money there. So I’m trying my best not to spend before we go. It’s actually going pretty well. I haven’t even stepped foot into a Starbucks for about 3 weeks. But I might break my ban and get a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I just can’t say no to those.

I missed FinCon last week, which I was really bummed about. Then I read tons of posts this week about how awesome FinCon was and it made me even more bummed. But I’m glad everyone had an awesome time! :) Congrats to all the Plutus Award winners!

For some reason, I’ve been coming across videos of awesome interviews with football players (check out this one with JJ Watt on what rich people buy). Here is another great post-game interview – this time with Apollos Hester, a high school football player. Seriously, if this guy doesn’t become a professional football player, he can have a career in inspirational speaking:

And lastly, check out some great posts I enjoyed this week:

  1. Mel @ brokeGirl rich – The Danger Zone
  2. SB @ One Cent At A Time – Talking About Finance To Your Teenage Girl
  3. Derek @ Life And My Finance – How To Get Paid To Workout
  4. Graham @ moneystepper – Why Can’t I Find Cheaper Life Insurance Quotes?

Have a great weekend!

How To Manage Money With Roommates

roommates during happier times

roommates during happier times

I’ve never met anyone that actually liked living with roommates.

I’m sure there are people that love living with roommates but for most people, living with roommates comes out of necessity, not choice. Living alone can be quite expensive and roommates can help ease the cost. I currently live with my boyfriend, so I guess I can consider him a roommate? Anyhow, if I lived alone, I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford my apartment.

The only time I had to live with roommates was in college. I rented a house with 5 other people for about $1500. Yes, only $1500 and we each had our own room too! I went to school in the middle-of-nowhere upstate New York so rent was dirt cheap. After that experience, would I ever want to live with roommates again? Hell no. I love them but living with other people is tough. Aside from deciding who cleans the bathroom, managing money is the hardest part…especially with 6 very different people. I certainly learned a lot from those two years so I’ll share my little bit wisdom:

Choose the right roommates

This probably goes without saying but choose the right roommates to live with. Before you live with someone, think about about whether or not you will mesh well together, not only personality-wise but also financially. You will have a lot of joint expenses so if one person is a major spender, you might be stuck with part of the bill. For instance, one of my roommates always left the lights on and turned up the heat. Love the girl but that can add up, especially when we’re gone for days. I also would be cautious living with friends. Just because you’re friends doesn’t mean you can live together. To be honest, I think living under the same house put a strain on my friendships. Suddenly, we had to work together on keeping the house together and we didn’t always see eye-to-eye.

Sit down together and have a talk

Ideally, before you even move in together, you should sit down together and have “the talk”. Hash out everything right then and there, write it down, and even have everyone sign it. Yes, it sounds a little too much but you’ll be happy to have done it later on when you’re in the middle of an argument. And when I mean everything, I mean everything – agree to what expenses you will split and which you won’t, down to light bulbs. From my experience, when one person gets stuck paying for something, even something small, resentment starts to build up. To avoid that, just throw it all out there to start with. Not everyone will agree but at least you can come to a compromise earlier rather than later.

Nominate a Chief Financial Officer

Pick a Chief Financial Officer, a.k.a the money manager. Lucky for me, I was given this responsibility when I lived with roommates. We decided to work in cash, since there weren’t as many helpful apps backs then (now, I would recommend Venmo and Chase Quickpay to send money to eachother!). We decided on how much each person should contribute to the house fund every month. Everyone would pay me and I would use that money to pay the bills. Whenever someone bought something for the house to use, they would come to me with a receipt for reimbursement. I recorded everything in a Google Doc and shared it with everyone – anyone could take a look at it whenever they wanted and see how the money was being spent. When we moved out, I divided the remaining funds evenly. We had a pretty good system down and it worked. When you pick your CFO, choose someone who is good with money, is organized and has the patience to keep track of everything.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Lastly, the most important rule of thumb is to communicate. This is the hardest part and something I had trouble with. Especially when living with people you are friends with, it’s hard to bring up uncomfortable conversations. For example, one of my roommates always had her significant other over, which meant he used shared supplies (like toilet paper) and electricity. We didn’t want to nit-pick over it but eventually, it annoyed us since he was over multiple nights a week. We didn’t have the conversation about it for months and in retrospect, it was silly not to talk about it earlier. Learn to communicate. Some topics may be awkward but if you’re comfortable enough living in the same house with someone, you should be comfortable enough to talk to them.

Have you ever had a roommate? Were they easy or difficult to live with?

7 Completely Random Facts About Me (Thanks to The Versatile Blogger Award)

versitle-blogger-bwBefore we get into my completely random facts, I just want to say that I hope everyone is having a great time at FinCon! Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it this year but am following all your tweets (may even get the virtual pass!). Aiming for next year though!

Now onto the topic at hand…. I’d like thank Kali over at Common Sense Millennial for nominating me for The Versatile Blogger award. To be quite honest, I have no idea what this really is or how it got started and it seems like no one else does either. If nothing else, it’s a great way to get bloggers to do more of what they love….talking about themselves.

The one rule I do know about this nomination is that I have to share 7 random facts about me. For those of you that know me in real life, you’ll be the first to agree with me when I say I’m actually really boring. But if you want random, I’ll give you random. Here we go:

  1. I’m allergic to band-aids. And no, I’m not allergic to latex. I’m actually allergic to the adhesive found in most bandages and I get a itchy, red, blistering rash from it. It’s totally gross and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (well actually, maybe I would…). Luckily, I’ve found a brand of bandages that don’t make my skin go bananas and I carry it with me everywhere I go.
  2. I can’t swim and I don’t have a driver’s license (technically, two facts!). I’m totally a city girl. I can’t swim, I don’t have a driver’s license, and I can’t even ride a bike properly. In my defense, most people don’t own cars when living in NYC. I’ve taken swimming lessons before and it didn’t help me. I think I have a fear of water. It’s kind of embarrassing since my mom use to be a competitive swimmer when she was younger. I know, I know – they’re both good skills to have. They will perpetually be on my to-do list.
  3. I didn’t learn to use chopsticks until I was 18. You’re probably thinking “what’s the big deal?” Well, I’m Asian and using a chopsticks is just like using a fork in an Asian household. My parents weren’t very strict with me when I refused to learn how to hold chopsticks growing up (yes, I’ll put the blame on them!). I finally learned how to use them in college, when even my non-Asian friends could use them and I couldn’t. Now, I’m a pro!
  4. When I was little, I wanted to be a photographer when I grew up. Most kids I knew growing up wanted to be something cool like a astronaut or a firefighter. I wanted to be a photographer. I’m not really sure why since I’m not that creative and I couldn’t name one famous photographer if you asked me to. I gave up the dream awhile ago, which is for the best cause I’m actually really bad at taking pictures.
  5. My first love was Josh Harnett. You know that guy from Pearl Harbor? No, not Ben Affleck… the other one. For some reason which I can’t even comprehend right now, I thought he was the hottest thing to walk the earth and I bought every teeny bopper magazine that had him on the cover and plastered it all over my walls. He’s since faded into oblivion and I no longer like him. But I do miss the 90s.
  6. If I had to pick a favorite food, it would probably be a burger and fries. But only by a slim margin. I love all types of food, particularly Asian cuisine (I could eat Pho any day, anywhere and be happy!). But I think a burger and fries, for me, is the most comforting meal. Cheese, meat, carbs…what’s not to like? Add a soda and I’m a happy camper.
  7. I played the violin for a hot minute. I had many random activities growing up but this has got to be the most expensive. I took a violin class in school and was semi-good at it. Somehow, I thought I could become a concert violinist and convinced my parents to buy me my own violin. They did and I obsessed over it…for a bout a week. After owning it for a couple weeks, I snapped the strings while trying to tune it, got fed up with it, and stuffed it in the closet. I probably picked it up again maybe twice after that but lost interest pretty quickly. I still have the violin at my parents’ house and get a good laugh every time I see it.

Now that you know more about me, I have to nominative 7 other bloggers for this award (my apologies if you’ve already been nominated, we just really want to know more about you! :) ) :

  1. Alexis @ FITnancials
  2. Andrew @ Living Rich Cheaply
  3. Daisy @ Suburban Finance
  4. Jessica @ Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses
  5. Dave @ The New York Budget
  6. Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver
  7. Lisa @ Lisa Vs. The Loans

5 Ways To Save Money On Alcohol

5435035816_f385a27cf5_zWe’re all adults here, right?  So let’s talk about something many of us like to enjoy every now and then – alcohol.

First things first, I’ll throw my disclaimer out there – these tips should be used in moderation. Drink responsibly, folks!

Great, now that that’s out there, let’s move on to the good stuff. I don’t go out all that often but I do enjoy having a couple drinks. Having a drink at a bar or lounge in NYC can get really expensive. I was at a rooftop bar a couple weeks ago that charged $16 for a glass of wine. I mean, sure it was a fancy rooftop but damn, I could’ve gotten a couple packs of beers for that price (at the very least!). Also, a lot of the socializing we do revolves around drinks – parties, dinners, happy hours, etc. So sometimes, spending money on alcohol is inevitable. That’s not to say, though, that you can’t have your drink and save a little money at the same time. You won’t be drinking Ciroc but the important part is that you will still be drinking.

Drink at home

If you just want to enjoy a drink and you don’t really care where you do it, then just drink a home. Grab a pack of beer or a Two Buck Chuck at Trader Joes (click here to see how a ‘expert’ rated Trade Joe’s Wines) and enjoy a movie. This is personally one of my favorite things to do since it’s relaxing and you don’t have to stress about what to wear, how much to tip, and who’s going to be there.

Make your own

I don’t make my own beer or wine but if I lived in a bigger apartment or house, maybe I would. It certainly requires some patience and getting the equipment is an investment but it can be worth it if you regularly drink. It’s also great if you host dinner parties often. Definitely a conversation starter!

Buy domestic

There are plenty of cheap domestic beers available but let’s be honest, they taste pretty bad. If you don’t really mind, then go for it. Otherwise, try visiting local craft breweries. Craft beers are cheaper and tend to be higher in alcohol content. Plus, visiting breweries is an excursion in itself so make a trip out of it.

Join a wine club

I’m considering joining a wine club but since I’m not a super avid wine drinker, I’m not sure if it would make sense for me. But still, my friends swear by their wine club memberships. It’s like they anxiously wait for their shipment every month. It is super convenient (especially if you live in a big city) and you get great discounts. I’ve heard great things about both Lot18 and Zagat Wine.

Look for happy hours

Lately, the only time I’ve been going out to drink is during happy hours. After getting 50% off drinks, I’m not sure I can drink at any other time now. It’s also just a really fun thing to do after work to catch up with some  friends and relieve a little bit of stress. It depends on the bar but your best bet for a good happy hour is on Thursdays from 4-7PM.

And here’s an unofficial sixth tip: if you really want to save money, don’t drink. That’s definitely not as fun but on the bright side, you’ll save a lot.

Do you drink and if so, what is your best money-saving tip?