10 Ways I Save Money and Travel More


Saving money has always been a hobby for me. It really does feel more like a game, at this point. How much can I save? How far can I stretch one amount? This is not because I have to, but because I love being able to do twice as much with what I have. Not only do I think that it’s fun, but I also think it’s important to be a good steward of your money, in general. During the holidays this can get a bit tricky, but here are some of my ideas for saving a little extra cash so you can travel more!

1. Popping Tags

I have a degree in fashion design. That being said, I love expensive clothing (or well made clothing, which is usually very expensive). I love well made fibers and fabrics and leather boots are my weakness. I know that clothes are important to my psyche, so I make room for them in my budget. But there’s a catch. First off, if I want to go shopping for clothes, I have to sell clothes to Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads. This way I’m not only buying new clothes at a discount price, but I’m also cleaning out my closet and using credit to reduce how much I’m spending even more. There are also apps that do this, so don’t panic if you don’t have a store near you. The best part of this system is that I end up paying 1/10 of the price for designer clothing.

2. Discount Tickets

I grew up doing theater and I’ve always loved the stage (whether I’m on it or not). That being said, paying to see theatrical performances can feel like cutting a hole in your bank account and watching it drain. But I NEED theater, so I’ve found a few ways around the system. I usually go to previews or first performances (which can be based off of a “donate what you can” system) or I buy my tickets through GoldStar which is a discount site for just about everything in your area. I’ve literally paid $6 for a performance, before. Some aren’t quite that discounted but it does save a whole ton of money, especially for date nights.

3. Volunteer

I am hugely into volunteering. I grew up volunteering basically every weekend and I think it’s so important to give back to causes that you’re passionate about. For me, this includes some local venues that promote the arts. In exchange for volunteering I get free access to the performances and I’ve even been able to catch one by the amazing spoken word artist and poet, Sarah Kay.

4. Buy And Cook In Bulk

I have a bit of a dietary advantage because I’m allergic to pretty much everything expensive (cheese, dairy, alcohol) but I still keep an eye on how much I spend on food. Not only do I make massive meals which I then store so I can eat them in the future, but I also buy in season (fresh food that are usually on sale). This is a great technique for people not onboard with a Top Ramen diet.

I’m also very pro stats and analytics, so I love drawing up lists of what I’m going to buy and then trying to keep it all within budget. You might not be so nerdy. But here’s one small tip: Do not go in the store without a list – and stick to it. You’ll be surprised how much money it saves you.

5. Monthly Phone Plan vs Contract

I decided a few years ago to go off of a contract and grab a “pay as you go plan” for my phone. Why? Because it’s really important for me to be flexible about where I live and what I’m paying for. If I end up moving back to Europe, I don’t want to be tied to a three year plan. This also saves me a lot of money since Verizon offers plans for as little as $40 for 3gb of data and unlimited texting/call.

6. Phoning A Friend 

I’ve had my iPhone for three years, and while it’s not cutting edge, it’s also not cutting into my savings with a $700 bill. I do like technology, but I’m not onboard the get further in debt to get a phone the size of your face train. My phone is just now starting to show signs of wear/needing to be replaced, but even in replacing it there are ways to save money! For instance, I’m going to be buying a refurbished phone rather than shelling out for a brand new phone. You might be surprised how much you can save! Check out some buy options HERE, if you’re not crazy happy about searching Craigslist.

7. Breaking Up With Netflix

Here’s the controversial one. I don’t have Netflix. I know: how do I survive? But I manage it with only having to occasionally explain that I don’t have it, to people who refer to shows/movies based off of them “being on Netflix.” To clarify, I also don’t have Hulu. These services just aren’t something that I need in order to be happy. A lesson that I didn’t learn until I lived in France and couldn’t afford them. Even now that I can, I just don’t need the temptation. I do have access to PBS because I donate to them monthly. Supporting public programing is really important…and I love documentaries.


8. Negotiate EVERYTHING

I save $240 a year on my wifi bill because I negotiated it down with my provider. Why? Because prices are arbitrary and companies would rather be getting some money from you, than for you to go to a competitor because of $10/month. The moral of this story? Ask! If you’re paying bills you can always call and ask if there’s any way they can decrease the bill. The key here is to be really nice. Customer service people get yelled at 60% of their day ( #unofficialstat) for things they have no control over. Show them some kindness and you’ll go far.


9. Invest In Things That Last

Okay so this goes back to the same idea as saving money on clothes. Something I never realized (being raised in the consumer capital of the world: the U.S.) was that if you buy a good pair of shoes then you can literally wear them for YEARS. Well, I apply this principle to everything I buy. If there’s a sturdier option, I go for that one. It might be a few more dollars initially, but if you don’t ever have to buy that thing, again, then it’s so worth it. Example: buy glass, not plastic, to save food in.


10. Make It Myself

Here’s another thing I learned whilst being hopelessly broke in France: there are a lot of things that are pretty easy to make. While I realize not everyone is crafty, there’s always the option of hopping on Pintrest if there’s something you love, but can’t swing budget-wise. Chances are, there’s a tutorial (let’s be honest, Pintrest has everything). Especially if you found it in a store that rhymes with Shmanthropology, look it up on Pintrest – you can probably save 60% just making it yourself. Check out my crafting Pintrest board for more fun ideas!

Phew! Fun, right!? Here’s the great part – even if you only follow one or two of these, you can save a little more and put that money toward travel. Want more ideas? Check back for part two (because I have that many ways I save money) next week!

Did I miss something? Comment below with your money saving ideas!

You Know You’re An Au Pair In France When:

DSC_1262 Being an au pair anywhere is an experience in itself, but there are some things that just really strike true for being one in France. And since these aren’t things you would necessarily know if you weren’t in France, I’ve decided to share 15 of them with all of you lovely people. So here we go: 15 ways you know you’re an au pair in France:

  1. Your children have at least 1 “doudou” which is a lapin (rabbit).doudou-lapin-beige-bashful
  1. For gôute (snack) your kids want compote pomme (applesauce in a tube), crêpes, pain chocolate or brioche.

goute france

  1. This.logo-bonne-maman-capsule
  1. The park is your best friend.Selling-street-photographs-1
  1. You’re frantic to get your kids places on time, because you know it ain’t no joke to be late.scolding
  1. You dread Wednesdays. All Wednesdays.readImage
  1. Life really is a musical…or that’s what your kids think. sound-of-music
  1. Soups come in one form: Purée.

Pureed Soups

  1. Turtle necks are the cutest/worst thing to ever happen to your child’s wardrobe.


  1. Night life on a week day? What’s that.


  1. Your child crying sounds like this: DSCN4284
  1. Your children do some kind of extreme sport activity… for fun.article-0-056FC1AE000005DC-184_634x347
  1. Your kids play some kind of instrument. And anything less than perfection is unacceptable.74812_990x742-cb1387828202
  1. You know who Tchoupi et Doudou (aka Charley and Mimmo) are.
  1. World Cup theatrics are nothing compared to your day to day life.


Applying For A French Au Pair Visa 101


Since applying for a French Visa (Au Pair) was one of the most stressful events of my life, I thought I would share some insight, so those of you thinking about doing the same might have an easier time. There are a lot of outdated resources out there that are way less than helpful, because they have you running around getting paperwork that you don’t even need. Here’s an updated list of paperwork you WILL NEED for the French Consulate  (in San Francisco as of August 2014)

Things you NEED to apply for an Au Pair Visa: 

1. Visa Application Form: First things first, make sure you print out and fill out the application form and attach a passport style (color) photo to the top right corner. Make a copy.

2. Your Passport: Sounds like a no brainer, but you will need to bring your passport and a copy of the identification pages when you go to apply. Make a copy.

3. Contract: Make sure you have an approved contract signed by you, the family you’ll be working with, and validated by the local DIRRECTE where you plan on moving (in France). Make a copy.

4. Flight/Travel Plans: You’ll need to have proof of plane ticket purchases, OR written plans of when you’ll be traveling with a signed statement that says you won’t leave the country before you receive your visa. Make a copy. 

5. Letter of acceptance from a French Institution: As an au pair you will be required to be enrolled in language/culture classes while you are working in France. I decided to enroll in a 1 year program at a language institute at the University near where I’m going to be living. Make a copy. 

6. OCII form: Once you actually get to France, you will need to get this form validated within 3 months of getting there. When you apply, make sure to bring it with the top part filled out.

6. Self addressed prepaid express mail envelope: You’ll need this for getting your passport and visa back (unless you decide to go back to the embassy and pick it up). Make sure this is from USPS (not FedEx or UPS) and does NOT have the mailing label stuck on it (this way they can give you your tracking number).

7. Processing Fee: The easiest way to pay this is by Visa, but they also take personal checks. For me this fee was $136.

Things you WON’T NEED: 

Certificat Médical: Some Au Pair websites told me that I would need to get a signed document of health for applying for my visa (within three months of applying) but they never even asked me for this when I was applying, so don’t worry about it (unless you really feel like going to the doctor for a physical).

Extra Passport photos: Other than the photos in the top right corner of your application, you shouldn’t need any other passport photos.

Bank Statements/Guaranteer: This was my ALL TIME stress because some websites stated that I needed to have the total amount of $820 x 12 months I’m living there in my bank account before leaving, OR someone to notarize a statement saying they would be available to provide that amount given the need. NOT NEEDED.

CampusFrance: This is NOT FOR AU PAIRS. And it is a stress and four week waiting + $100 dollar waste of your time. I cannot believe I waited so long for this paperwork, just to find out that it wasn’t needed.

Diploma: Some sites stated that I would need a printed copy of my last diploma (so, University) when applying. NOT NEEDED.

Might want to bring (BUT DON’T NEED) if you’re OCD, like me:

Receipt of Booking: You don’t really have to have this, but I brought mine just in case (for some reason) they tried to say that I hadn’t made an appointment. Proof on paper is generally a good rule of thumb.

Proof Of Residence: I didn’t need this when I was applying because my passport has my Washington State address on it, already. BUT if you’re from a different state originally, and are applying for a visa within the district of where you’re living now, you’ll need to provide proof that you live there. This can include a copy of your drivers license or state ID (refer to consulate website for more examples).

A Pen: Just in case you’re sitting in the waiting area and realize you forgot to fill something out. Which may or may not have happened to me.

For more information visit your Consulate’s webpage (or email them). Here’s the link for mine (San Francisco): CLICK HERE

REMEMBER: This is a list based off my personal experience at the San Francisco French Consulate, consult your local consulate before making an appointment to double check you have everything you need!