San Francisco – Frugal or Not?

Illustration by Samantha Hahn
Illustration by Samantha Hahn

San Francisco is a beautiful city in every way.  The people are friendly, the sidewalks are clean, the buildings are unique, the food is spectacular and there are so many great sites to see!  The question is, can San Francisco be a frugal trip?

Let’s break it down.  Obviously these prices are based on my experience, and can be different depending on where you are coming from.  I am going to list all values in US dollars.

Flights:  Good

Flying from Vancouver to San Francisco was an easy 2 hour flight and the cost was just as painless.  For $250 round trip I was able to get to San Francisco.  The key here is to book early, closer to the date it was almost $1000 return, which is a big difference.  Being frugal means booking early or watching for a seat sale.  Usually 3 months out is the cheapest flight.  If there is an airline you like flying with sign up for their emails because they send you a note when they are having seat sales.



Accommodations:  Average to Insane

I searched quite a few places online and the prices in San Francisco are crazy.  Airbnb had places for $1000 per night and the less expensive options were not very desirable.  I think booking early will really help cut down on costs.  A few hotels we had seen while wandering the streets didn’t even come up on our searches because they are booked months in advance.

Here are a few around the $150 per night mark, which in San Francisco is reasonable.

Mystic Hotel by Charlie Palmer: From $139 and up

Hotel Vertigo: From $140 and up

Metro Hotel: From $110 and up

Hotel des Arts: From $109 and up

I think with accommodations you really have to do some digging because it was not easy to find affordable accommodation on my first few searches!

Transportation: Many options!

How do you want to get around?  You have so many choices in San Francisco!

Walking: Free and the streets are so much fun to walk!  Plus it’s basically a free work out.

Buses: They have a great transit system and the bus is only $2.25 and your transfer is good for 90 minutes.

Street Cars: If you want to hop on the Powell Street Car it’s $7 one way, but an experience!

Uber: Easy to use and always available.  We wanted to go to the Treasure Island Flea Market but you can’t walk across the bridge.  We decided Uber would be the best option and it was!  Only cost $10 to get there and took half the time of the bus.  If you go to any city with Uber download the app, you won’t regret it!



Food: Questionable

As a Canadian the food and drinks seemed pricey.  They were on par with prices back home but in US dollars.  For example we ended up at the Morritt inside the Mystic Hotel, it was a fantastic little lounge with a jazz band playing.  They had craft cocktails that were out of this world so we had to order one.  The craft cocktail was $12 (which is a similar price to home) but when converted was $15.75 for us!  Eek, not frugal but a really nice treat, and we only had one!

A few amazing spots we tried out that I would highly recommend:

Trestle: A price fix menu with 3 courses, the men changes daily and it’s $35 per person.  This meal was absolutely divine.  The food was great, the atmosphere was perfect and it was a great choice for a night out.  Best part is you can book your reservation online prior to your trip!  Which I would highly recommend.

Red’s Java House: This was my fan girl moment because Anthony Bourdain ate here!  It’s a greasy spoon right on the pier, and it was totally worth it!  Plus $5 for a cheese burger, you can’t go wrong.

Food Trucks:  There are a lot of food trucks in San Francisco and we were lucky enough to have a dozen at the Treasure Island Flea.  We ended up trying mac and cheese spring rolls, what?  It sounds gross but totally awesome!  ROAMING HUNGER is a place where you can search food trucks, super easy!

We tried out a few other places along the way, but one night we simply wandered around the neighbourhood to see what we could find, and that was really fun!  Simply walk around and check out menus, pop in for an appy or two and a drink and move on!  A fun way to try out a few places without committing to one!


Tourist Attractions: Affordable but can be a trap

I think there is a lot to see in San Francisco for free.  Here are a few things we found.

  • Filbert St Steps – You get to walk through a beautiful San Francisco neighborhood, and at the top you get a beautiful view of the city.
  • Golden Gate Bridge – It’s pretty and a huge San Francisco landmark, you can see it from many different views like Crissy Park or Battery Spencer Park.
  • The Wave Organ – A really cool piece of art where the ocean is making music.
  • Chinatown – You don’t need to buy anything the sights are great, the buildings are unique and there are some hilariously kitschy items.
  • Wineries – On Treasure Island there are many wineries that have free tastings.
  • Breweries – All around the city of San Francisco there are local breweries where you can go for tastings.

Treasure Island Flea – it was $3 per person but I found a deal online for $11 for 2 people with a glass of sangria each.  It was so much fun to see all the vintage items, the local vendors, view of the city and the Oakland bridge.

All around there are so many beautiful sights to see, new restaurants to discover, hidden lounges to stumble upon, and crazy streets to walk on.

Overall I was really happy with all of the frugal adventures we had and think San Francisco can be added to the frugal travels list!  There is so much to see and do that won’t cost you a fortune!

Total cost per day per person: $75 (not including accommodations since Marks boss treated him to a few nights in San Francisco)

















Spain on a Budget

Spain on a Budget

As a frugalista I still want to travel and not let a small budget hold me back!  The challenge can Spain be done on a budget?  I think it can, when we went the Canadian dollar was $1.44 to one euro, not the best, but we still managed.

To keep it simple all amounts are in Canadian dollars.

Spain on a Budget

TRAVEL: $350 total per person

We had been talking about Spain for a while so were using our credit cards to collect points, which had huge savings as each flight only cost $150.

While in Spain we took both the train and bus to travel between cities.  This was interesting because there were a lot of savings in time and money by splitting the travel between both.  We didn’t buy a train pass since the cost was $356 and buying individually was less expensive.  It’s good to do a little research depending on where you are going.  For example to travel between San Sebastien and Bilbao on the bus was $12 Euros and 1 hour, on the train it was $34 Euros and 2 hours.  Total for travel between cities $184, a savings of $172 compared to the rail pass.

*TIP: Good thing to note if you take the Renfe between cities your local transfer (bus or subway) is free after your trip simply show your train ticket.

In cities we only took the subway a couple times, we did use the free transfer with Renfe to get a bus/subway after our train trips. Approximate spend for local transportation $16.

Spanish Food

FOOD: $22 per day/per person – including wine

Food is a tricky one, we tried to be as frugal as possible, but it was really inexpensive to eat out in Spain.  They have a lot of combos for breakfast and lunch.  For example at breakfast you could get a coffee with milk, juice and Spanish tortilla for $2 or lunch would be a 3 course meal for $10.  We also did buy food and have it at the apartment for inexpensive lunches, it was easy to pick up a loaf of bread, a jar of olives, tomato, avocado and prosciutto for $3.  Yes we probably spent around $800 over 17 days but it was totally worth it!  We were there to eat and drink wine!

ACCOMMODATIONS: $117 per day or $58 per person (this was the average at the end)

My goal was to keep the accommodations below $100 per day, I was close!  With our dollar being so low and accommodations in Spain a little on the high side, I think I did ok.  We did use Air B&B most of the time and this really helped.  When booking online the prices were in Canadian dollars so easy to figure out the total cost right on the spot.  We did also look at hostels but for a private room they charge you per person, so it was not that much cheaper.  At the end of the day we were able to have our own space for a little bit more.

TOTAL PER PERSON: $1726 including flight, accommodations, food, wine, and travel within Spain.  We each bought a couple souvenires but probably didn’t spend more than $100 each.

Spain Budget

If you are thinking of travelling but not sure if you can afford it, make a budget!  By creating a rough budget for your trip to have an idea of what you will spend and how much you will need to save prior to leaving.   If you wanted to go to Spain and had a spending budget similar to the one above you would have to save $150 per month until the end of the year, that’s doable!

Let me know about your great frugal travels below!


Packing for the Weekend

Travel Essentials

Summer is upon us and the most difficult task will be packing a weekend bag.  Getaways are fun but when you spend the week prior packing and then have to carry around a heavy bag, is it worth it?  I am trying to find a more efficient way to pack so it doesn’t take over my week before the getaway or hurt my back on the way.

A few things to consider prior to packing:

star icon  What is the weather?  Simplest way to find out is to search online and see what the current temperature is in the city you are travelling to as well as what the days you are there look like.  I know Mr. Weatherman is not always correct, but at least this will give you a good idea of what to expect.

star icon  Why are you going?  If you are headed to a wedding you might pack something different than say for a bachelorette weekend or a relaxing getaway.  Make sure you are packing for the type of weekend you are attending.  It’s easy to pack our favorite items only to realize they were not needed.

star icon  How are you travelling?  This one has really helped me to consider what to bring.  For example are you going on a road trip with 4 people and there is minimal trunk space? No one wants to be the person with the one bag taking up most of the space!  Are you flying but your travel companion has a small carry-on which will save time when checking in and out?  Packing light can also save you time!

star icon  How many days are you away?  Realistically if you are only gone for 2 days you don’t need 5 pairs of pants, you probably wouldn’t even have time to wear 5 pairs of pants.  I know we all want options and sometimes it’s hard to decide ahead of time what to wear, but by laying all your clothing out and being able to mix and match, I think you will have more options than you realize.

star icon  Do you really need it? When considering your weekend bag, do you really  need 5 pairs of shoes?  Do you maybe have a pair that could work for a walk and travel day?  It’s easy to pack multiples of items such as shoes, make up, toiletries, etc but if you are able to get rid of a few, it can easily lighten the load.  I recently purchases a eye shadow compact that has 10 colors, is small and lightweight, it eliminated the need for a bigger make up bag.

Ok now for the packing!  I saw this amazing post online a while back and it totally made sense to me!  The idea behind packing your bag was as easy as 5-4-3-2-1!

5  TOPS – Bring a tank top, t-shirt, blouse, whatever kind of top you would like, options for day or night are great, as well as being able to mix and match!

4  BOTTOMS – A dress, skirt, shorts or pants, depending on where you are going!  Keep in mind to make sure the bottoms match with your tops, you want to be able to wear them in any combination.

3  ACCESSORIES – Bag, scarf, sun hat or jewelry, whatever you need for your weekend away!

2  SHOES – A flat for walking, a heel for a party or flip flops for the beach, whatever you require!  But only 2 pairs of shoes!

1  SWIMSUIT – a bikini or one piece, whatever your heart desires.

Please keep in mind I am not including a dress for a wedding or a specific outfit you may need for an event.  That will most likely only be one outfit and I think we can keep that separate!

Ok hopefully that helps you to keep weekend packing simple and easy!

7 Long Weekend Essentials

7 Long Weekend Essentials

7 Long Weekend Essentials

1. The Bag – Ok this may not be the most important but it is for me!  Whether you are driving or flying you need a great bag.  Preferably one that is small enough to carry with ease but big enough to fit everything you need.  I love this carpet bag I found at Value Village for $10, it’s durable and has a lot of room.

2. A Hat – Hats are important for any vacation whether it is cold and you want to keep warm or the sun is shining and you want to protect yourself from the blazing sun.  Find a stylish hat that can easily go in bag or you will be carrying it around the whole trip, trust me, I have been there.  Green wool hat $30, somewhere in Spain.

3. Jean Joggers – Yes you heard me right, Jean Joggers.  These are perfect for any long weekend.  They are comfortable, look like jeans and are great for travelling as they are lightweight.  Thank you Mavi for making this amazing pair $40.

4. Music – No road trip is complete without an amazing playlist.  I am loving Spotify right now.  I have the package with no ads and I can download songs or playlists, so when I lose my cell service I don’t have to worry about losing my music as well.  Spotify monthly subscription $9.99 or free if you are a Rogers customer!

5. Water Bottle – My swell water bottle if my favorite travel companion.  Not only is it stylish and small enough to fit in my purse but keeps my water cold. I can fill it up wherever I go and save money by not having to purchase water!  Swell water bottle $40, although I was lucky enough to get it as a gift.

6. Warm Socks – This might only be me, but I always pack a pair of warm socks to wear at night, I like the cozy feeling and it saves room in my bag because I am not packing my slippers.  Yes I am an old lady who loves slippers.  Roxy wool socks $6.99

7. Nut Mix – I always have this in the car and it will last the weekend, well unless it’s so delicious you eat it on the first day!  I make my own nut mix from what is in the cupboard, today I had dried cherries, almonds and chocolate chips (yes they need to be in there or what is the point of trail mix).  Cost to make, minimal, as I buy everything in bulk.

Hope you have a safe and funfilled long weekend!

Travel Essentials

Travel EssentialsI recently came back from Spain and was thinking about a few items that really made the trip a lot easier!  Here are my four travel essentials, whether it’s a weekend away or a month long trip these items can save you money and make packing lighter!

  1. THE WATER BOTTLE – Yes, it is a pain in the butt to pack an empty water bottle onto the plane, but in the long run it can save money!  While travelling you need water!  Having a small water bottle like this one will save money on water purchases and easily fit in a day bag or purse.
  2. THE SMALL CROSS BODY PURSE – I wanted a small cross body purse as it seemed easier than carrying something larger.  This purse is great for so many reasons, first it is small so you can walk for hours without back ache, second it is secure with a snap on the outside and a zipper in the middle, the perfect design to detour thieves and lastly it works for day or night!
  3. THE SCARF – Simple to pack, lightweight and versatile.   A scarf can be a blanket when travelling, a shawl when in a cold restaurant and replace a bulky sweater when it’s cold!  I only packed one scarf and made sure the color worked with all the outfits I brought for day or night!
  4. THE RUNNING SHOES – The black Nikes were perfect, they were light so easy to pack and walk for hours, they worked with many different outfits and saved my feet in the end.  Blisters can mean less time walking, so it’s really good to think about comfortable footwear before travelling and to make sure you are able to wear it with the clothing you bring.

Only a few simple tips to help you be frugal with time, money and space while travelling!



We are going to Spain for 15 days  at the start of January!  It is going to be a grande adventure full of food and wine, oh and maybe some tourist attractions, but mainly food and wine.  I have started my research and so far am not sure how we are going to make this a Frugal Adventure.

Let’s break it down.


Free you say?  Yes free.  We have been paying everything with our credit cards over the past year and a half, both of us now have enough points for 2 round trip tickets.  This is obviously saving a huge amount right off the start, a total of $1200 per person.


Why did I imagine Spain to be this affordable oasis in the off-season, does Spain even have an off-season?  I am beginning to wonder.  Barcelona will be the most expensive, but everywhere else isn’t exactly cheap.  I mean, yes, we could stay in an 18 bed dorm room for $30 per night, rent a private dorm for $80 to $100 per night or simply get an AirBnB location which would be similar to the private dorm.  Already we are spending an average of $50 per person per day on accommodations.  I am determined to get this price down!


I looked up the routes of where we want to travel and found it more frugal booking individual train or bus tickets rather than a rail pass.  If we buy individual tickets over 15 days and possibly 6 locations we will only spend $200 each.

FOOD: Affordable

I have read online the best idea to save on food is to eat a small breakfast and then a big lunch which in Spain is called menu del dia which is affordable at around $10.  I bet we can spend an average of $20 per day per person.


A lot of attractions have free days, there are many walking tours, old buildings to see, parks to explore and I am sure I will find more!

TOTAL ESTIMATED COST: $83 per person per day (a total cost so far of $1250 for 15 days)

I guess this is a start!  I am determined to get the price down, and will continue doing research.  I’ll keep you posted on our Frugal Spain Adventure!  If anyone has any tips or tricks please post in the comments!

All of the above amounts are in Canadian dollars.