Posts tagged Budget
Origami Guides: A 3 Day Itinerary Through Kyoto (on a Budget)

Kyoto is the city where we met and fell in love. During the twelve months that we lived there, we biked through every square inch of the city and remember it with greater clarity than the places where we grew up. 

Over the years, a lot of friends have asked us for suggestions on what to do when they visit our favorite city. In the future, we can just refer them to this post. 

In this guide, we’ll show you how to experience Kyoto as a local for $100 a day. 

Who should use this itinerary? 

Budget conscious solo travelers, couples or small groups of 3-5 looking for ways to avoid the tourist traps in favor of a quieter, slower pace of travel.

What are the best times in the year to visit? 

There are only two correct answers to this question: 

  1. During the first two weeks of April or, 
  2. During the last two weeks of November  

For reasons that should be obvious:                                

            First two weeks of April

           First two weeks of April

                             Last two weeks of November

                            Last two weeks of November

And here’s what you can expect when you visit outside of Spring and Fall:

                                        Summers in Kyoto

                                        Summers in Kyoto

                                             Winters in Kyoto

                                            Winters in Kyoto

What’s the best way to experience Kyoto? 

By bicycle.

Where should I stay in Kyoto? 

Western Kyoto (near Arashiyama) is an extremely peaceful and underrated area. Staying here allows you to steer clear of downtown and the accompanying tourist traffic. 

The Utano Youth Hostel is located right across the street from the dorms we stayed in during our one year abroad. You can get a room for as little as $35 per night. Plus they offer bike rentals for $6 a day on a first-come first-serve basis. 

How do I use this guide? 

The map is divided into three color-coded areas:

  • Day 1 attractions are in Blue (Western & Northern Kyoto)
  • Day 2 attractions are in Red (Eastern Kyoto)
  • Day 3 attractions are in Yellow (Southern & Downtown Kyoto)
  • The grey markers are for optional sites

For simplicity’s sake, this itinerary assumes that you’ll be visiting in the springtime. If you’re visiting during the autumn, just replace Ninnaji Temple and Hirano Shrine with Tofukuji (grey) and Eikando (grey). Kodaiji Temple (grey) is probably the best place to see the momiji/autumn leaves light-up after sunset. 

Note: All currencies below are in USD.

A 3 Day Kyoto Itinerary

Day 1 (Blue) 


  • Rise early. Breakfast at Utano Youth Hostel ($6) or stop by a Japanese bakery on your bike ride to Arashiyama. Bakeries open as early as six. 
  • Rent a bike ($6) from the hostel and make your way to  Hirosawa Pond (free). We went on our first date here and not many people know about this place. It’s perfect for a secluded picnic or to watch the sunset. You can also rent little rowboats and head out onto the water. 
  • Arrive at Arashiyama, it’s a popular weekend spot for locals so you should arrive early to avoid the crowds. Walk through the Bamboo Forest (free). If you insist on visiting a temple here, we suggest Adashino Nen-Butsu ($5, opens at 9) to see 8,000 moss-covered Buddhist statues. 
  • Visit the Arashiyama Monkey Park ($5.50). Hide your food and watch out for poop.
  • Find the super secret temple. It’s called Senko-ji ($4). When you come down from Monkey Park, stay on that side of the river and walk until you see a narrow flight of steps to your left. At the summit of this magical trail is a tatami hut lined with calligraphy boasting an equally magical view of Kyoto. Sign the book before you leave. You’re welcome. 


  • Lunch at Unagiya Hirokawa for grilled eel. Basic grilled eel set costs around $20-25. Get some cherry blossom flavored ice cream for dessert from one of the Arashiyama vendors. 
  • Ditch Arashiyama before the tourists arrive. Head to Ninnaji Temple ($5) and local favorite Hirano Shrine (free) for cherry blossoms. 
  • Make the obligatory stop to the Kinkaku Temple/Golden Temple ($4). In our opinion, this is the most overrated of Kyoto’s well-known attractions. Looks way better in photos.   
  • Visit Kitano Tenman-gu ($3). This temple is popular with students studying for exams. It’s known for its plum blossoms in late February and the flea market held on the 25th of every month.  


  • Head back to Hirosawa Pond to watch the sunset. 
  • Dinner at Jumbo Okonomiyaki ($5-10, closed on Mon & Tue). This place serves jumbo-sized okonomiyaki and yakisoba.  A popular spot for broke university students looking for huge portions on the cheap. 
  • If Jumbo is closed, head over to Kura Kaiten ($1 per plate) for some conveyor belt sushi . 
  • End the night in a karaoke booth at Karaoke Build Kitano Hakubaicho Branch ($5 per hour)

Cost of Day 1

Hostel ($35) + Travel costs ($68.50) = $103.50 (+$15 optional costs)

Day 2 (Red)




  • Whatever you want. Hang out by the Kamogawa River. Be free!

Cost of Day 2

Hostel ($35) + Travel Costs ($33) = $68

Day 3 (Yellow)


  • Check out of hostel. Take the bus or train down to Kyoto Station ($2).  
  • Leave your bags at a coin locker or with the luggage storage office ($3-7) at Kyoto Station.
  • Bus to Fushimi Inari Taisha ($2), the temple with the orange gates. Admission is free and it’s open 24 hours. But try to get there early in the morning to avoid the crowd. 


  • Lunch at Roan Kikunoi Restaurant for traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine. Typically places like this start at $100, but Roan does pretty decent lunch sets for $40 and $70. Without reservations, you should get here as soon as it opens. 
  • Walk through Nishiki Market (price varies)


  • Kiyomizu Temple ($4) is not quite as overrated as Kinkakuji, but is also four times as crowded. The trick here is to buy your tickets 45 minutes to an hour before it closes at 6. They stop selling tickets a half hour before closing time, so you’ll have the whole place to yourself. 
  • Explore the Gion District & Pontocho Alley. Where the geisha and maiko hang out. Drinks here will destroy your wallet. 
  • Dinner at Sushi Musashi ($1.5 per plate) near Kyoto Station. Higher quality conveyor belt sushi that’s popular with the downtown crowd. 

Cost of Day 3

Hostel ($35) + Travel Costs ($66) = $101

And if you're having trouble deciding which temples and shrines are worth going to in Kyoto, we've ranked the Top 30 temples and shrines here to help you narrow down your list! 

Can You Plan a Round the World Trip on a Budget? (Part 1 of 2)

How does one plan a year-long round the world trip? How do you even begin?

One thing’s for sure, going into this without some sort of budget buys you a one-way ticket down Poverty Lane en route to Regrets-ville. 


You heard the man. So let’s play a game. Shout-out to The Ringer for the inspiration.  

The Rules

Pick 10 countries on a budget of $50
Must circumnavigate the globe at least once
Avoid doubling back
Minimize the number of flights
Maximize the number of continents

The Prices

The following values are based on a combination of cost of living, The Economist’s Big Mac index and subjective factors to adjust for traveler prices. For example, Tanzania is an $8 country because climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is crazy expensive. 

It does NOT reflect how much we value each country. With that caveat out of the way, let’s play. 

$12 countries (Scandinavia)
Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Monaco

$10 countries (Western Europe & Oceania) 
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Ireland, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Israel

$8 countries (Asia Pacific, Mediterranean, and Islands)
Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, Portugal, Pacific and Caribbean Islands, Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritius, Maldives

$6 countries (Eastern Europe and Middle East)
Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Balkan countries (Croatia, Serbia, Albania etc), Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman

$5 countries (Industrialized Africa and South America)
Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Belize, Chile, Mexico and Central America, Peru, Bolivia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt

$3 countries (Southeast Asia & Africa)
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka

$2 countries
Rest of the World

Ivan’s Round the World Itinerary

Depart from: Los Angeles, California (September 2018)


  1. Czech Republic ($6)
    Train journey across Eastern Europe. It’s probably smart to ease into the trip to get ourselves acclimated to traveling. Don’t want to get sick on our first month. 

  2. Greece ($6)  
    This was Turkey originally until the recent Istanbul bombings and the attempted coup. Might be fun to run a marathon here. 

  3. Ethiopia ($5) 
    Ethiopia is the second most populous African nation after Nigeria, which was my original pick until Boko Haram (aka those asshats) showed up and ruined everything. It’s also the only African country that has never been colonized, which is pretty cool. 

  4. Tanzania ($8) 
    Jennie, we’re going to turn thirty by 2018 - not getting any younger. This is our time to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. Only downside here is that it’s probably way more expensive than we think. 

  5. Sri Lanka ($3) 
    I’m super fascinated by the Buddhist majority on this island.

  6. India ($3) 
    Another epic northbound train journey. 

  7. Nepal ($3) 
    I’ve heard the Nepalese are some of the most amazing and resilient people despite poverty and the recent earthquake that devastated their country. I want to find out what their secret is. 

  8. Interior China ($5) 
    Everyone goes to Bejing and Shanghai, but Sichuan and Yunnan are super underrated provinces. I’d also like to see Tibet if the Chinese government would stop being total dicks about it (forcing you to take guided tours, imposing large deposits to ensure you’re on your best behavior). 

  9. Vietnam ($3)  
    Jennie, it’s your people. And pho. Would be interested in traveling from North to South.

  10. Japan ($8)  
    There’s something poetic about ending the trip in the city where we first met. 

Total: $50, 6 Flights, 4 Continents

Jennie's Feedback

I’d like to put it out there that I have NOT officially agreed to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (Ivan: booooo). That’s going to be toss up at this point in time. Sell me harder on this idea of climbing up for days...without showering. I like the majority of your itinerary though. 

Closing Thoughts

Stay tuned for Jennie's round the world itinerary. In the meantime, how would you plan your round the world trip? Let us know in the comments below! 


5 Stress-Free Rules that Saved Us Time and Money

Ivan here.

Life’s too short to have to worry about money all the time, and the reason you worry is because you don’t know what you want, and have to settle for either:

  • Blowing your entire paycheck searching for answers, or
  • Hoarding money in your savings accounts like Smaug from the Hobbit. 

Both are desperate cries for help. 

In my experience, frugality can be just as problematic as reckless spending. Oscar Wilde once said a cynic is someone “who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.” I think of this quote whenever I read financial tips suggesting that I ditch my morning coffees to save a couple hundred extra dollars a year.


I happen to enjoy waking up extra early and walking to my neighborhood coffee shop. Maybe sit in the sun for a half hour with a paperback before heading to work.  Is that experience worth the $400-500 I spend a year? Absolutely.  

Here’s the problem with the micro-budgeting mindset: you become so obsessed with streamlining everything to death, you forget that the one who’s eventually going to die is -- well, everyone. 

Sometimes it’s the small things that make living worthwhile. 

To me, the purpose of personal finance is freedom, and the currency of freedom is options. I base all my important decisions on one simple formula: 

Time > Money > Possessions

Time can be converted into millions of options, money into hundreds of options, and possessions into a couple of options. 

So what's the goal? The goal is to minimize the amount of money and possessions you need and the amount of time you spend worrying about the latter two. You do this by setting rules for yourself that help you hone in on the bigger picture, rules that will help you find and add value to your life whether you’re spending or saving. 

Here are the 5 rules we follow that work for us:

1. Reduce Your Overhead: keep your rent payments under a third of your after-tax paycheck

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your problems are driven by 20% of the causes. Rent is that 20%. Get it right, and that’s 80% less things for you to worry about. Since you typically only have one chance every year to renegotiate the terms of your lease, it pays to be ruthless. Especially if you’re carrying debt. 

2. Automate Your Money: open your checking, savings, and retirement accounts with different banks

Under no circumstance should you open a checking and savings account with the same bank. 

Your checking account should have no fees or minimums, and your savings and retirement accounts should make it difficult for you to access your own money (a two day wait period for all transfers is ideal). Next, automate your transfers.

Here’s an example of what this should look like when your paycheck hits your checking account: 

  • 5-10%  disappears into your retirement account, never to reappear
  • 20-30% disappears into your savings account, only to reappear in life or death emergencies
  • Remaining 60-75% stays in checking and is the only number you’ll ever see on a day to day basis

Now service your debts and pay the rent and bills. That’s your 80%. And the amount that’s left over isn’t money -- it’s freedom.

3. Commit to One Small Routine: Designate the day after your weekly grocery run as a “no spend” day

We’re flooded with ever more clever ways to save money, which decreases the likelihood that you’ll ever follow through on any of them. Instead, focus on building one recurring routine. 

Dining out is probably the second highest expense after rent and bills, so commit to staying in the day after your weekly grocery run. Better yet, get some Tupperware containers and cook enough to get you through the next 3-4 days. It’ll make you more thoughtful about your grocery purchases as well. 

4. Curb Your Impulses: Designate one or two days out of the year for big ticket/luxury purchases (i.e. nonessential Purchases) 

No amount of caffeine-less days and ramen noodles will save you from those status-seeking luxury purchases charged to your credit card at two in the morning. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to treat yourself. But you’re not special enough to deserve a treat whenever the impulse strikes you. The reasoning for this rule is simple: you’ll be more reluctant to drop three grand over a day than three hundred over ten days.

If shopping online helps you relieve stress, then go ahead and browse away. Fill up that digital cart. But you only get to pull the trigger once. I’d recommend having that day towards the end of the year because that’s when:

  • The best deals can be found
  • You’ll have actually earned it

5. Invest in Yourself: 5-10% of your savings should be plowed back into your education

Financial independence is great, but it’s more of a prerequisite than your actual major. Your major should be finding ways to add value to your life and the lives of those around you. The best way to do this is to invest in yourself. 

This doesn’t mean you should sink further into debt to get another college degree. Remember, freedom is about options, and debt decreases your options at a compounded annual interest rate. 

Besides, credibility can sometimes be overrated. People think it can be bought (as a ‘resume padder’) rather than earned through the sweat of real world experience. 

In the digital age, there are hundreds of options allowing you to try new things and further your education. This is your chance to test the waters before jumping in with both feet. 

Because that’s what it means to be alive.