Archive for November 2013

Vacation in Northern California on a budget (part 3)

In my previous blog I discussed a few ways I was able to keep the transportation costs down on my trip to Northern California. In this post I am going to discuss specifically how we were able to affordably dine out and site see while vacationing in Northern California.   Prior to the trip I was watching 20/20 and they did a story about traveling on the cheap and it just so happened they were in San Francisco.  One of the tips they offered was to always go a street over from where the tourists were to find the deals.  That is probably best advice I could have received when it came to dining out and sightseeing.

My mom and I were able to enjoy the foodie scene of San Francisco and Northern California all while spending on average than on less than $50 a day during our vacation. We usually only ate one large meal and then were able to snack or eat smaller meals.  One night we even ate leftovers from the previous nights dinner, which we only paid $25. Of course, we were only able to do this because we had a fridge in our room and there was a microwave available to reheat the food.  We were in San Francisco on a Saturday and were able to grab a fresh homemade breakfast from the Farmers Market on the Pier, which is very similar to Portland’s Saturday Market.  The Farmer’s market was also a great place for browsing the local arts scene.  The vendors offered many free samples of locally grown produce, desserts, wine and much more.

Another great way we saved money was by purchasing bottles of water from local corner market stores and not the tourist areas.  In these areas you would pay almost $3 for a bottle of water, but walking a block or two over you could find a large bottle for around a dollar. Souvenirs were the most affordable in Chinatown and the shops outside the main tourist areas.  As far as sightseeing there were plenty of things to do and see for free.  The only two attractions that we spent money on were the Conservatory of Flowers museum ($7) and then wine tasting/tour of Castillo de Amorosa in Napa Valley ($34).  Overall, my mom and I had a great time on our trip and it was a bonus to save some money and stick to a budget at the same time.

It’s not often that the cheapest option is also best option

I’ve been doing a lot of business travel lately and hands down have the best way to get to my hotel in most every large city…the train/subway/metro!  Not only is taking the metro usually a fraction of the cost of a shuttle or taxi, but I’ve found time and time again it’s usually the fasted way to go.

Here are some real life examples I’ve had (one way travel):

City                             Taxi                Shuttle                  Metro

Washington DC         $20                 $15                 $2.80

Atlanta                    $30                 $16                 $1.75

San Francisco           $40                 $17                 $3.50

Not only is the metro option usually, by far, the cheapest option, but I’ve also heard from several others of their long journey from the airport to the hotel via shuttle or taxi because of traffic.

Most recently the hotel I was staying at in DC, the President of Iran was staying the next block over so there were several streets around us closed.  I heard one person say he was dropped four blocks from the hotel after a 45-minute and $60 cab ride.  I on the other hand was dropped two blocks away after only 20 minutes and $2.80.

Twice I’ve been dropped in the middle of San Francisco during the gay pride parade and again saved time and money not having to deal with taking a taxi or shuttle.

Most hotel websites do a good job of outlining your travel options and giving you detailed directions on what trains and stops to take.  Usually they will list the information under “Maps & Transportation”.

Something to check out the next time you are planning how you’ll get from the airport to the hotel.

Press Release- Local nonprofit hosts free public forum on healthcare

PORTLAND and HILLSBORO, Ore., November 5, 2013Financial Beginnings, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides  financial education programs, is offering a free  forum to answer the public’s questions regarding healthcare to take place Thursday, November 7th from 6:30-8:00pm at the Hillsboro Public Library located at 2850 NE Brookwood Parkway in Hillsboro.

Financial Beginnings, The Hillsboro School District and The Oregonian are partnering to present Unraveling the Mysteries of Your Money: Navigating the Changing World of Healthcare at the Hillsboro Public Library.  The series sponsor is OnPoint Community Credit Union and the event sponsor is the Northwest Health Foundation.

Panelists will include:
Cynthia Hulton, Field & Training Officer- SHIBA, State of Oregon
Ariane Holm, Spokesperson for Cover Oregon
Laura Cali, Insurance commissioner & Chief Actuary, State of Oregon
Chris Senz, Operating Officer, Tuality Health Alliance

Spanish translation and childcare will be available.  Registration is required for this free event online at or by phone 800-406-1876.

Unraveling the Mysteries of Your Money is a series of free forums open to the general public. These forums offer expert panelists who field questions and discuss finance topics that are relevant and important in today’s economy. They are organized and hosted by Financial Beginnings in partnership with The Oregonian newspaper and Brent Hunsberger, writer of the It’s Only Money column on personal finance; Hunsberger also serves as forum moderator.  OnPoint Community Credit Union is the title sponsor of the Unraveling the Mysteries of Your Money 2013/14 series.

For more information about the Unraveling the Mysteries of Your Money panel series, visit:

About Financial Beginnings

Formed in 2005 and based in Portland, OR, Financial Beginnings is a nonprofit organization that provides free financial education programs throughout the Pacific Northwest.  Financial Beginnings’ largest program educates youth and young adults in the basics of personal finance through visits to schools or community groups.  Financial Beginnings’ courses incorporate all aspects of personal finance to provide individuals the foundation needed to make informed financial decisions. More information is available at



Starting a Budget with Mint

As a college student, budgeting became a huge part of my financial life, but since becoming employed, it seems I have left my money saving and monitoring back in Eugene. In the next coming months, I have a lot of saving that needs to be done, so the buckling down is starting now.

To help me track and monitor my budgeting and goal setting, I decided to give a try. Like I have mentioned before, I am a technology buff, so anything that is online and can be accessed from my laptop or cell phone is great. I downloaded the Mint iPhone application and got started, and I shortly realized I should have done it sooner. After my accounts were all synced, my transactions were auto-categorized into predefined categories and subcategories, exposing the truth of my spending habits. I was amazed at how much I was actually spending in each category, and quickly realized I should start working on eating at home a little bit more, or that I really don’t need that cute top I saw at Nordstrom. This also allowed me to better gauge my overall budget, and look for areas I can scale back on to free up some money, especially for my upcoming vacation to the Dominican Republic.

In order to get a better feel for this app, I thought I would share a few screen shots (not of my personal accounts).

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With the start of the new month, I am going to use the application to set and monitor my new budget for November. I am hoping to report back with some more conservative spending habits, a little more fun money for my travels, and a little less Starbucks coffee in my system.


Basha Gitnes