Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

Boutique Hostels – New Trend Or Misnomer?

February 18, 2009

The Ace Hotel, Portland, OR

I’m not a fan of hostels. There, I’ve said it. Call me unadventurous, call me a snob, I don’t care. I want to like them and am fully aware of their virtues, but I simply can’t hop aboard the Hostel Love Train. This is a major problem for David, who has traveled alone through most of Europe. The boy loves hostels. Then again, he’s a boy, and he’s social. Whereas I am a self-proclaimed high(er)-maintenance girl and not quite as social. I’m not looking for new people to chat with when I check into my lodgings, I am looking for a decent bathtub and a bar.

Granted, not all hostels are created equal. And, admittedly, I don’t have a tremendous amount of hostel experience. I’ve stayed in four, all in Scotland, and only because I was forced by a tour I took with friends. I had a blast, and I didn’t mind the hostels; but in my post-college and coupled state, I would really prefer to avoid bunk-beds and nasty communal showers.

Enter the Boutique Hostel, which, according to Budget Travel, is the “new trend.” The idea piqued my interest, but upon further investigation I learned that some of the hostels were…..well, not really hostels at all. All, with the exception of those featured in Bangkok and Lisbon (where it’s cheap to travel, period), will cost you over $100 for a private room. You can find a similar deal at thousands of other boutique hotels around the world, many of whom offer European (read: shared showers) lodgings. That said, I love discovering new and affordable places to stay.

Budget Travel Recommends

Mama’s Shelter
Paris, France


  • Designed by Philippe Starck.
  • All private rooms, all with kitchenettes, iMacs and showers.
  • Located on the Right Bank.
  • Attached restaurant head by star chef.

Aschau Im Chiemgau, Germany


  • 13 private rooms.
  • TV-free and 1000+ books.
  • Located in a medieval hamlet located 90 minutes by train from Munich and 45 minutes by car from Salzburg.
  • Lots of restaurant local choices, from budget to foodie.

Los Angeles


  • Private and shared rooms.
  • Near Little Tokyo and MOCA.
  • Restaurant and bar planned for the future.

Lub d
Bangkok, Thailand


  • Broad range of rooms are available, from private to shared.
  • Located near Silom district, with plenty of shopping and eating nearby.
  • Walking tours offered every Thursday morning.
  • Hotel movie theater, with free popcorn!

Amsterdam, The Netherlands


  • Located near the Schipol Airport.
  • All private rooms with XL beds and touch-screen mood/temperature control.
  • 20-minute train ride into Amsterdam.
  • Second location slated to open in Amsterdam’s business district.

Living Lounge Hostel
Lisbon, Portuga


  • Located in the Baixa section of Lisbon.
  • 17 artists designed the rooms, ensuring that none are the same.
  • Singles, doubles and dorms available.
  • Morning walking tours with wine tasting and 4-course meals served nightly, for 10 bucks.

Penny Plastic Recommends

The Ace Hotel
NYC, Portland, Seattle, Palm Springs

I’ve made no secret of my love for Ace Hotels. And any hotel offering $100/night rates in NYC, much less an awesome hotel like Ace, gets my vote. Big time.

The White House
Melbourne, Australia

Joie de Vivre Hotels
San Francisco

Galleria Park Hotel is a fabulous hotel near Union Square that feels quite decedent for the price.

Personality Hotels
San Francisco

Hotel Metropolis is positioned just north of Market Street near Union Square. I’ve stayed here quite a bit, as it’s very close to my favorite SF club, Mezzanine and one of my favorite SF restaurants, Zuni Cafe. It’s simple, modern, and they serve wine every evening. They also offer special rooms just for children. Rates from $70/night.


Plastic Decorating – Treat Greeting Cards As Art

January 30, 2009

At work yesterday I scored a huge stack of cards, including a bunch New Yorker cover cards.  I am planning on creating a cluster of framed cards on a wall somewhere in the house, because I LOVE New Yorker cover art.

If you find yourself with bare walls, framing cards is a great way to get some art onto a surface without spending much money.  You can create a cluster of frames, mix some smaller frames with larger framed art, or fill a small horizontal or vertical space.

In our bathroom, I hung two framed 7 x 7 inch silk screened cards by Tall Cow, one of my favorite card companies.  I bought some frames at IKEA and mounted the cards on top of the mat.  All together it probably cost me 20 bucks.

Good News, Folks

January 21, 2009

I was just notified that my loan through Lending Club was issued.  84 lenders for a total of $14,000 at 12%.  This means I can not only transfer my Bank of America (29%) balance, but also my Washington Mutual (just adjusted to 28%) balance.  I did the math, and this new loan with save me 4 GRAND in interest.  As you can imagine, I am beyond thrilled.

The loan was set up for 3 years, but once I get the other balances (totalling around $8K) paid off, I will increase my loan payments, hopefully shortening its length.

I will be posting about any adjustments in my budget shortly.  Just wanted to share!

I Officially Suck At Budget Grocery Shopping

December 14, 2008

I just hit the grocery store for some shopping.  Let’s just say I spent more than I hoped I would.

For starters, I don’t usually budget my grocery shopping.  Which is probably stupid.  However, I did take this opportunity to be more mindful of sales, generic items and monitoring needs vs. wants.

My boyfriend requested a butternut squash and goat cheese risotto tonight (I typically hand him a cookbook and ask him to choose something).  He also asked me to pick up beer, ham, ramen and swiss cheese.  He’s such a boy.

Every time I grocery shop I pick up vegetables.  We eat a ton so they never go bad.  I’ve gotten into the habit of buying rotisserie chickens from store delis because after we eat the meat (typically used in salads or pastas) I will use the carcass to make chicken stock.  I thought that I might pair some chicken with our risotto tonight and make stock (as risotto requires a lot).


I don’t even really like butternut squash (I’m a spring/summer squash person), so you can imagine my dismay when I discovered the lightest squash they had weighed in at 5 pounds.  And I only needed a pound and half.  At 99 cents a pound, I wasn’t about to pay 5 bucks.  I picked up a few acorn squashes instead.

I needed leeks and onions for the risotto, and picked up an additional onion for the chicken stock.  Cauliflower and mushrooms were on sale so I grabbed a package of each.  I also picked up two lemons and three bananas.

Acorn Squash – $1.83; Lemons – $1; Leeks – $1.11; Cauliflower – $2.49; Bananas – $1.02; Mushrooms – $2.50; Yellow Onions – $0.63

Total for Produce = $10.58


Organic milk was on sale (horray!).  I grabbed an 18 pack of eggs – I love hard-boiled egg whites.  I usually try to buy free range, but I ignored my animal-friendly/health-conscious nature to save money (I’m going to hell).  My boyfriend wanted Swiss cheese so I grabbed the cheapest package I could find.  He also asked for ham.  I got 1/2 pound at the deli.  The risotto called for aged goat cheese, which this market didn’t even have.  I hemmed and hawed and ultimately decided to grab Parmesan instead.  I don’t care for goat cheese (too heavy) and we use Parmesan more anyhow.  I would have to improvise the recipe.

I took a look at fryer chickens and found that I could get one for cheaper than the deli rotisserie chickens.  So I grabbed one.  I will roast it myself.

Eggs (18 Pack) – $3; Organic Fat Free Milk – $3.29; Swiss Cheese – $3.59; Deli Ham – $3.98; Parmesan – $4.99; Fryer Chicken – $4.12

Total Meat/Dairy/Deli = $22.97

Grocery (AKA Processed Crap)

My boyfriend is addicted to ramen.  Asshole got me addicted as well.  I bought 5 packages.  We needed ketchup, so I found the cheapest available.  I also bought a 24 pack of water (generic) and some sliced wheat bread (we freeze).  I grabbed two cans of Swanson’s chicken broth, in case I ran out of stock for the risotto.

Ramen – $1; Bread – $1.99; Ketchup – $2.79; Chicken Broth – $1.60; Water – $3.50

Total Grocery = $10.88


I needed wine and David needed beer.  Forestville (cheap as shit but tastes decent) chardonnay was on sale 2 for 7 bucks.  I poked around in the beer aisle for awhile before grabbing a 6 pack of Newcastle Brown Ale.  And yes, it cost more than TWO bottles of my mine.  Next time he gets PBR.

Beer + CRV – $7.29; Wine – $7

Alcohol Total – $14.29

The last thing I bought was a fresh baguette.  Because I like them.  $1.89.  I got a 15 cent rebate for my canvas bags.

All together I spent $61.57, which seems like an awful lot.  It should feed us through Wednesday or Thursday of this week, although we’ll need to restock on booze (because we’re alcoholics).  Laying it all out makes it seem not so bad, but 60 bucks?  I am supposed to be on a $100 a week budget.

What are your thoughts?  I can take the criticism.  Hit me with your suggestions and critiques.

Holiday Gift Giving

December 12, 2008

It seems that everyone is trying to rein in their spending this holiday season. Even with retailers in mark-down mode, consumers are feeling the pinch of the recession. Not only that, but when so many people are losing their jobs and struggling financially, it becomes hard to justify spending loads of money on holiday gifts.

I’ve collected some tips I believe will be useful for those hoping to keep a tighter lid on their spending this December.

Tip One – Get Your Family/Friends/Partner On Your Side

My family ditched traditional Christmas gifting a few years back, when I was in my early twenties. We now each draw names and place a limit on how much we spend. Two years ago it was $250. This year it is $100. And yes, even children are included.

Ditto with friends. If you’ve traditionally exchanged gifts with your girlfriends, suggest gathering for a pre-holiday dinner or potluck. Rent corny holiday movies, bake cookies and drink cheap champagne. Anything that takes the pressure off buying gifts for one another.

Striking a No Gift Deal is easiest with a partner. I’m 29 and David is 30. We’re not buying gifts for one another this year. It’s not necessary. Then again, I don’t place much weight on holiday/birthday or (god forbid) Valentine’s Day gifts. I am lucky to have a boyfriend who brings me flowers on a random Tuesday night. I don’t need a box of candy on February 14th to know he loves me.  Trust me, it’s easy. And, if you feel you must do something – how about opening an ING Savings account and agreeing to deposit money each month to save up for a vacation?

Tip Two – Food, Food, Food

Yes, I know that everyone eats too much during the holidays. However, I am not much of a “crafts” person, so if I make something homemade, you can bet it will be edible. Skip the usual cookie/fudge/fruit cake route and try something new and different. Try making some fruit preserves or create soup mixes, adding beans and herbs and rice with instructions to throw in some vegetables and water. The great thing about these gifts is that you can add on a small, inexpensive coordinating item. For example, a wooden spoon paired with the soup mix, or a cute monogrammed mug with a homemade hot chocolate mix.

Tip Three – Those Who Can’t Give, Write

Instead of buying gifts, buy a few boxes of holiday cards, a roll of stamps and stretch out your fingers. But, for the love of baby Jesus, no printed out “What’s Been Up With Us” novellas. No one reads them.

Tip Four – (Almost) Everyone Likes Music

If you have decent taste in music or your family or friends are always asking you to load up their iPod, then you’re in luck. A great (and cheap) option for holidays gifts is to create a holiday CD mix for everyone on your list. If you need some inspiration, hit up NPR’s music blogPitchfork.

Tip Five – Follow The Passion

Every Christmas growing up, my grandmother would stuff my stocking full or art supplies. I LOVED to draw. So does my boyfriend. Last year for Christmas I gave him a sketchbook and a Micron. Simple, useful, and cheap.

Almost everyone is passionate about something – cooking, cycling, fashion – you name it. Pinpoint your gift recipient’s passion and buy them something small and nice that will get a lot of use. Trust me, it will be appreciated.

Gift Ideas Under $15

Featured Vendor – Orange Art
Their Brookfield Letterpress square notes are great for the home or office. I use these at work and at home. They are a great upgrade from your run-of-the-mill post-it note. Cards are square and printed with a letterpress icon. Bonus: they come in a square box that is entirely giftable.

Featured Vendor – Powell’s
If you’ve never had a chance to visit Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, you can certainly peruse their extensive website. I recommend the Staff Recommendations. I am also a big fan of supporting local bookstores. This also guarantees less hassle if the book needs to be returned or exchanged.

Featured Vendors – Bonny Doon, RH Philips
You can find many, many wonderful wines for under $15. In fact, you can find a great value for under $10. I am partial to California wines and recommend RH Philips Tempranillo and Bonny Doon Big House Red or White for gift giving. The wine editors at the Wall Street Journal recommend South American wines, especially those from Chile. Check out their articles here.

Featured Vendor – Cavallini
It kind of bums me out that no one gives calendars as gifts these days. And, I’m not talking the cheesy wall calendars you can pick up at the mall. I love giving Cavallini easel desk calendars as they are useful for referencing dates, compact, sophisticated and nearly everyone has a desk, right?

Featured Vendors – Stumptown, Peet’s
Along with wine, this makes a great gift for anyone who loves their caffeine. Buy them a pound, ground or whole bean, and call it done. Try your best to find a local brewer with decent beans. If you can’t, I recommend ordering from Peet’s or Stumptown.

Home Accents & Hostess Gifts
Featured Vendor – CB2
Buying a unique (albeit cheap) home accent can be fun. A vase or some cool glasses. Take your pick. I have linked to CB2’s gift giving page.

I recommend Paper Source and Papyrus for great wrap and ribbon.