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Best Places for Women Entrepreneurs

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While women have been making strides in the world of business leadership in the past decade, American companies are still far from progressive and equal in this regard. Of incorporated businesses across the top 50 metropolitan areas in the U.S., just 30% are led by women, according to a new study by MagnifyMoney.

But where are women entrepreneurs seeing the most success? We surveyed the 50 largest U.S. cities to find the best places for women who want to be their own boss, launch a business — or both.

To create our rankings, we looked at data about women entrepreneurs across four different categories. The first two related to raw income and were double weighted in our analysis, while the last two related to the number of women entrepreneurs and business owners in the metro area.

What we considered in our analysis:

Business income for self-employed women. We ranked cities on both median and mean business income of self-employed women. By including both metrics, the rankings “capture both the more common experience of self-employed women as well as monetary success overall,” said Kali McFadden, senior research analyst at MagnifyMoney.

Ideally, both numbers would be in the higher end. A wide range between the two, however, could indicate a broader range of potential earnings for self-employed women in that area.

Business earnings for self-employed women compared with wage earners. We also ranked metro areas on the difference in earnings between self-employed women and those working for wages (both median and mean).

In general, self-employed women do earn less median and average incomes than people with earned income. “But a smaller gap between each group’s income implies better a potential upside for those going into business for themselves,” McFadden said.

The rate of self-employed and “incorporated” women. The rankings considered the percentage of employed women who work for themselves. “A higher rate of self-employment suggests that the city’s opportunities and ease of entry into business are better for women,” said McFadden.

Additionally, we looked at how many of those self-employed women have an incorporated business. “A higher number means that more women are seeing enough success and permanence to think about the legal and tax implications” of the businesses they own, McFadden pointed out.

Parity of business ownership between women and men. We looked at the percentage of total self-employed workers and incorporated business owners who are women.

Cities with higher percentages of self-employed women and women business owners could indicate a more even playing field, “where women are seeing the opportunities and conditions to break out on their own,” McFadden said.

Key findings:

  • San Francisco is the best metro for women entrepreneurs by a wide margin. Austin, Texas came in the second spot, and San Jose (Silicon Valley) was third. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia came in last for women entrepreneurs.
  • Women entrepreneurs are set up for success on the West Coast. Five out of the top 10 metros are in California, with another in Washington. Tennessee is also hospitable to women entrepreneurs, with two metros in the Volunteer State landing on our list at the 4th and 5th spots.
  • There is a long way to go before we reach entrepreneurial parity — meaning an equal number of women and men starting and heading up young businesses. The average percentage of self-employed people on our list of metros who are women is a scant 37%, and the number is even lower among people with incorporated businesses: 30%.
  • Most self-employed women are not getting by on their business income. The highest median income we uncovered for women-led businesses is just over $10,000 and the lowest is zero. And across the 50 metros we reviewed, median business incomes amount to just 10% of the local median wages for women. “This is not surprising,” McFadden noted, “as self-employment could mean anything from having an Etsy store or offering a few hours of labor on TaskRabbit, to owning a bed-and-breakfast or gas station, to being a high-dollar commercial realtor or blockbuster novelist.”

The top 10 places for women entrepreneurs

In the best cities for women entrepreneurs, women who work for themselves are more likely to earn a decent living by doing so.

These cities also tend to have higher rates of women who are self-employed, a sign that the conditions could be favorable to workers ready to go at it alone.

Here’s a deeper look at the best U.S. cities for women entrepreneurs.

1. San Francisco

At No.1, San Francisco ranked at the top largely due to having the highest business incomes earned by women working there. The median business income is $10,378 among women in this city, and women’s average business income is $31,880.

In addition to their higher business incomes, women entrepreneurs are also more common in the San Francisco. Just over 10% of San Francisco’s women earners work for themselves. Looking at business owners, 41.7% of the city’s self-employed workers are women, and 32.1% of incorporated businesses are owned by women.

2. Austin, Texas

Women’s business earnings in Austin were on the higher end in terms of dollars, with the median at $8,262 and the average at $25,345.

But they’re among the highest when comparing women’s business income with the women’s earnings through wages. The average self-employed woman or business owner in Austin, for instance, makes nearly half (48.1%) what the average income for women in the city.

3. San Jose

A neighbor to San Francisco, San Jose is a similarly ideal place for women entrepreneurs. The city has one of the highest average business incomes for women, at $30,344 per year.

San Jose also has higher rates of women who are self-employed (41.1%) as well as incorporated businesses owned by women (32.2%).

4. Memphis, Tenn.

Memphis stands out for the higher median business incomes; most women entrepreneurs make around $9,068 in business income, second only to San Francisco. Plus, Memphis women have the highest business incomes when compared with local women’s earned income, earning about 25% of a typical woman’s wage in this city.

However, the average business income for women in Memphis is just twice as high as the median, “suggesting that the range of income isn’t that great,” McFadden said.

5. Nashville, Tenn.

Next is another Tennessee metro, Nashville, which is a standout when it comes to average business incomes for women. At $23,373, self-employed women in this city make just under half a typical women worker’s earned income. This is a sign that striking out on their own is a viable way for women to earn a decent living in Nashville.

That’s great news, given that Nashville has fewer women working for themselves and incorporating. Seven percent of women workers are self-employed, but just one in five of self-employed women have an incorporated business.

6. Los Angeles

Then there’s Los Angeles, which has the highest portion of self-employed women workers of any city on this list — 10.9%. Women entrepreneurs in LA can also expect a business income on the higher end, with the median at $7,758 and an average of $20,945.

7. San Diego

The next major California city to make the list is San Diego, which offers women a similarly attractive business landscape. Among women earning a business income in San Diego, the median is $8,060 and the average is $20,949 (both slightly higher than what LA’s women entrepreneurs bring in).

San Diego also has high rates of self-employment among women. One in 10 women workers in the city is self-employed, and 39.3% of self-employed workers are women.

8. Sacramento, Calif.

Sacramento lands at No. 8 by faring above average in most ranking factors, showing it’s a solid place for women entrepreneurs to take the leap into starting a business.

Take women’s business incomes as proof; the median at $7,053 and the average at $23,596 show Sacramento’s women entrepreneurs are able to outearn similar cohorts in other major U.S. cities.

9. Seattle

In Seattle, the average income for self-employed women is five times higher than the median — $22,713 to $4,534, respectively. “[This] suggests that while most self-employed women aren’t making much money, those who are are doing well are doing very well,” McFadden said.

Another factor backs up this insight: Among the top 10, Seattle has the highest rate (30.6%) of self-employed women who are incorporated. Plus, the city has high rates of parity in women business ownership: 42.1% of self-employed workers are women, as are nearly one-third of incorporated businesses owners.

10. Cincinnati

Rounding out the list of the best cities for women entrepreneurs is Cincinnati. Self-employed women earn decent business incomes in this Ohio city, with the median at $7,556 and an average of $21,432.

These earnings are high enough to compensate for lackluster rates of women working for themselves. Just 5.4% of Cincinnati’s women workers are self-employed, and these women account for 35.4% of all self-employed workers in the city.

In the 10 cities that ranked last on our list, self-employed women are earning far less than their counterparts in other cities. Take a look at the worst city, Cleveland, where women’s median business income is $0 — meaning at least half of self-employed women there don’t make anything at all.

The worst cities also have fewer women who have incorporated a business or taken the plunge into self-employment. This might make it harder for entrepreneurial women in these metro areas to find women mentors and women-centered entrepreneurial networks that can provide support vital to a new and developing business.

Placement at the bottom of this list could also signal that these cities are inhospitable to self-employed workers or new business owners in general — for both men and women alike.

That’s not to say it’s impossible for women entrepreneurs to start and build successful businesses in these cities.

Women living in these worst cities shouldn’t assume that their business endeavor will be doomed before it even begins. But they would be wise to practice extra caution in their plans to transition to self-employment or business ownership.

How women business owners can beat the odds

Living in one of the best cities won’t guarantee automatic success any more than a woman starting a business in one of the worst cities will fail. Wherever they live, women entrepreneurs must overcome obstacles and chart their own path to self-employment.

For women ready to take their first steps toward entrepreneurship, these steps can help them get further faster.

  • Start small but dream big. Even if you’re not ready to quit your job and hustle full time, don’t put your entrepreneurial goals on the back burner. Build out a timeline to get you closer to self-employment or starting a business, filled with small and actionable steps you can start taking now. A side hustle can be the perfect way to get a feel for being your own boss without giving up your main source of income.
  • Explore the business landscape of your specific city. Research local regulations and bylaws that could be pertinent to your business idea. For example, you can start checking out everything from business licensing laws to local small business tax breaks to help build out your business plan. You can also research local small businesses to see which are doing well and why, to get insights into how to set your own venture up for success.
  • Seek out local resources for women entrepreneurs. Many cities recognize the important role small businesses, startups and self-employed workers play in fueling local economies. And some have responded with support systems designed to foster growing businesses — and women entrepreneurs who lead them. One example is San Francisco-based Girls in Tech, a nonprofit founded by Adriana Gascoigne,which seeks to empower and educate women (including entrepreneurs) in the tech industry. Even the bottom-ranked city, Cleveland, has local organizations focused on supporting women entrepreneurs, such as women -focused business development courses from Aviatra Accelerators and an annual Female Entrepreneur Summit.
  • Network with other self-employed women. Don’t underestimate the power of meeting, working with and learning from like-minded, entrepreneurial women. The local organizations mentioned above can be the perfect way to connect with other women entrepreneurs in your area and find a new friend, mentor or even a future business partner. You can also look for co-working spaces, entrepreneurship-centered meetups or social events for local businesswomen to grow your network.

Methodology:

Each of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) was scaled against each other, so that the most positive result for each factor was 100 and the most negative was 0, on the following eight factors from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2016, either available through FactFinder or calculated from microdata housed in IPUMS USA. The results for each factor were then weighted according to the notation below, and the sum was divided by eight (rounded to one decimal point), for a highest possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of 0.

  • Median business income for self-employed women (double weight)
  • Average business income for self-employed women (double weight)
  • Ratio of median business income to median earned income for the metro (double weight)
  • Ratio of average business income to average earned income for the metro (double weight)
  • Percentage of working women who are self-employed (single weight)
  • Percentage of self-employed women who are incorporated (single weight)
  • Percentage of self-employed people who are women (single weight)
  • Percentage of incorporated people who are women (single weight)

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Elyssa Kirkham
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Elyssa Kirkham is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Elyssa here

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6 Budget-Friendly Places to Put On Your 2019 Travel List – Domestic Edition

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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If one of your resolutions for 2019 is to travel more, but you fear that finances will hold you back, have a little hope: there are plenty of destinations across the country that are still very affordable to visit. As fun as major tourist destinations like San Francisco and New York City are, let’s be honest — accommodation alone can cost a fortune.

When you’re on a tight budget, it’s easier to make travel a reality when you choose lesser-known locations where the cost of activities and lodging are still reasonable. If you’re willing to make a budget in advance to ensure you’re regularly setting aside money for travel, you’ll be able to hit the road even sooner.

Another way to make vacations more affordable is to get a travel credit card, said Deidre Mathis, a budget travel expert and writer, and owner of Wanderstay Hostel in Houston. If you get a travel rewards card and use it for your everyday purchases, such as gas, your car payment or groceries, and pay it off right away, you’ll quickly earn points without accruing any debt. Depending on the card you choose, you could earn free hotel stays, free car rentals or free flights.

Now you just need to figure out where to go. We spoke to several budget travel experts to find out the best places in the U.S. you can cheaply travel to in 2019. Here are their six top destinations that are still somewhat off-the-beaten-path and won’t break the bank. (All hotel prices are from Kayak.com and accurate at the time of publication.)

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Albuquerque, New Mexico  

Cost of accommodations: Throughout the year, you can get a three-star hotel room for about $85 to $100. If you’re willing to stay at a one- or two-star motel, you can nab a room for around $40 to $50 per night.

Why go: Albuquerque is one of the top spots Mathis said she’s eyeing for 2019, in large part because it’s such a friendly spot for budget travelers. It’s also known for its distinct Southwestern feel and sunny weather. If you love the outdoors, Albuquerque is brimming with scenic hiking and bike trails that range in cost from free to only about $20 to use, making it an affordable way to explore the beautiful terrain.

There are also several museums in Albuquerque, and plenty of shopping if you’re on the hunt for Southwestern-style art, jewelry or souvenirs. Just west of the city, you’ll find the Petroglyph National Monument, where you can view ancient lava flows, petrified wood and rock drawings by Native Americans and Spanish settlers, dating back as far as 700 years ago. It’s free to enter, and parking is only $1 on weekdays and $2 on weekends.

It’s also typically affordable to fly into and stay in Albuquerque — according to Mathis, “they have tons of small hotels that will be a better price than the big chain hotels, and they give you a more local feel,” Southwest offers nonstop flights from many cities to Albuquerque, she added; for example, she recently saw nonstop flights in February from Houston to Albuquerque for $250, which she says is a great deal.

“To me, a budget trip is anywhere I can go for less than $500 with flight and hotel included for the weekend,” Mathis said, “and with Albuquerque, you can definitely do that.”

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Bloomington, Indiana

Cost of accommodations: A three-star hotel room is available for as low as about $80 per night, while some two-star motels offer rooms as cheap as about $50 per night.

Why go: “I have a passion for college towns — I find they often are more progressive and innovative than their larger neighbors — and Bloomington is one that makes me swoon,” said Kristin Luna, a budget-minded travel journalist and founder of the travel blog CamelsandChocolate.com. Not to be confused with Bloomington, Ill., this town is about an hour’s drive from Indianapolis, which is typically the cheapest airport to fly into, according to Luna.

“It’s also located in proximity to so many great outdoor attractions such as Monroe Lake, Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve and Hoosier National Forest,” Luna explained.  “Another free and unique offering is the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, which was started in Bloomington in 1979 by an exile named Thubten Jigme Norbu, to protect the heritage of Buddhism,” she added.

Luna also noted that since it’s a college town, Bloomington has plenty of seasonal activities, such as Indiana University football in the fall or the city’s long-standing Little 500 bike race in the spring. She added that Bloomington has an ever-expanding greenway called “the B-line” that cuts through town and is extremely bike-friendly, though the town is also easy to navigate with the newly-popular electric scooters.

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Fargo, North Dakota

Cost of accommodations: It’s possible to grab a two-star motel room in Fargo for less than $50 per night. The average nightly rate for a three-star hotel here is around $90.

Why go: Fargo may be famous for the Coen Brothers’ cult classic film, but it’s also a great up-and-coming destination for budget travelers seeking something off the beaten path. Mathis said North Dakota is on Mathis’ radar for next year, and it’s especially an ideal destination for travelers who love nature. North Dakota has ample opportunities for hiking, biking, boating, camping, fishing, horseback riding and just about any other outdoor activity you can think of.

Fargo and many other towns in North Dakota are also known for charming small-town bars, where you can get a true feel for the city, noted Mathis. There are also a few small breweries in Fargo, in addition to great shopping.

The town also has cultural institutions, including art museums, an air museum and a historic theater. A few minutes away, just across the river and the Minnesota border, you can visit the Hjemkomst Center for only $10, where you can see a replica of a viking ship and a “Stave Church,” a replica of a Norwegian church from the 1100s. And of course, you can see the infamous wood chipper from “Fargo” the movie; it’s free to see the original movie prop, located in the city’s visitor center.

Fargo is growing, but it’s still not a well-known tourist destination, Mathis noted, so it’s affordable, uncrowded, and still feels very authentic.

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Knoxville, Tennessee

Cost of accommodations: Budget travelers can find two-star motels in Knoxville for as low as around $50 per night, and three-star hotel rooms for around $80 per night.

Why go: “I grew up just south of Nashville, but if we’re being honest, I would live in Knoxville if I had the choice,” Luna said. “Like many mid-sized cities across the United States, it has a booming brew scene, a dedication to the arts and a sprawling town square that has been completely revitalized from when I was a student there 15 years ago and almost all the storefronts were boarded up.”

As Luna noted, The Old City, Fourth & Gill and Market Square neighborhoods have all undergone major makeovers, which has brought life and investment into these areas. But despite its growth, Knoxville is still a very affordable place to visit.

“Free attractions such as Ijams Nature Center and its quarries, and many hiking and mountain-biking trails connecting to the nearby Smokies, make Knoxville a popular destination among budget travelers who like adventure,” Luna explained. She added that whiskey lovers will enjoy that two Tennessee Whiskey Trail stops are located in downtown Knoxville (Knox Whiskey Works and Post Modern Spirits), and there are several others only a half-hour drive away.

Knoxville also has plenty of museums, memorials and parks that cost nothing to visit. There are also many walking and driving tours that are also totally free — you can take a walking tour to learn about country music, a driving tour to learn about the civil war and much more.

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Cost of accommodations: You can get a motel room for as little as $30 to $45 per night in Oklahoma City. If you’re looking for a step up, three-star hotels average just under $100 per night, but can be as little as about $45.

Why go: As a centrally-located city, flights from hubs like Dallas or Denver to Oklahoma City are cheap, according to Luna. Plus, she added, as a mid-sized metropolis, Luna has found there’s virtually no traffic, and boutique hotels and parking that won’t break the bank.

“The food and drink scene is positively booming — Bon Appetit even picked America’s best new restaurant of the year from OKC,” Luna said. “In fact, one of the nation’s first brewery hotels is set to debut in 2020.” She added that a new streetcar launched in the city in December, which makes it really convenient for tourists to get around town. The city has also spearheaded other improvement projects, noted Luna, such as “the Boathouse District, an amazing attraction for visitors that includes an urban whitewater rafting course, canoeing and kayaking on the river, ziplining and a whole lot more.” On top of that, she has noticed that the locals there are some of the friendliest, most hospitable folks she’s ever met.

Another popular area in Oklahoma City is Bricktown, a fun entertainment district where old warehouses have been turned into restaurants, shops, piano lounges and wine bars. There’s even a water taxi that can take you on a tour along the Bricktown Canal.

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Oxford, Mississippi

Cost of accommodations: You can land a three-star hotel for around $90 per night, or one- and two-star hotel and motel options for only $45 to $75.

Why go: “While many people have a negative connotation about Mississippi — and yes, it’s a little complicated politically — I think it’s one of the most underrated and underappreciated states,” said Matt Kepnes, who writes the popular budget travel blog Nomadic Matt and authored the book “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.”.

According to Kepnes, the state is rife with rich history, the people are friendly and the Southern food is fantastic. Oxford is home to the campus of the University of Mississippi (known as “Ole Miss”), described by Kepnes as a beautiful (and free) place to explore. Right across from campus is Rowan Oak, former home of famed writer William Faulkner, which costs only $5 to visit.

If you want to take a road trip across the state, there’s plenty to see, according to Kepnes — and it’s all easy on a budget. A trip through the Mississippi Delta delivers a journey through incredible blues music, and he noted that it’s also worth a stop in the beautiful city of Natchez. Kepnes also loves the coastal town of Biloxi, which has great seafood, a beautiful beach and many casinos with very affordable hotel rooms. The Natchez Trace Parkway, a historic national park trail that goes up through Mississippi, is also worth a visit. It’s 444 miles long — it also passes through Alabama and into Tennessee, ending close to Nashville — and takes you along gorgeous drives.

“I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Mississippi,” Kepnes said. “I know some other travel writers who didn’t want to go, but once they did, they were surprised by how much they liked it.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Emily Starbuck Gerson
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Emily Starbuck Gerson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Emily here

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6 Budget-Friendly Places to Put On Your 2019 Travel List – International Edition

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Do you have dreams of collecting passport stamps but fear international travel is beyond your budget? You might be surprised what you can afford with some smart strategies.

If you’re willing to spend time budgeting and saving, stay in hostels and visit destinations that are off the beaten path — and therefore less expensive — it’s easy to travel internationally on a shoestring.

Another way to lesson the cost of travel is to regularly use travel credit cards. Deidre Mathis, a budget travel expert and writer, and owner of Wanderstay Hostel in Houston, said she uses her Delta credit card for everyday essentials, then pays it off right away. “I was able accumulate enough points to book a flight to go to Spain next year for free. This was just from using my credit card to pay for things I would have bought anyway,” Mathis said.

“Of course, if there’s an annual fee, you have to look into it and see if it makes sense,” Mathis explained. “For this card, it does make sense, because a normal flight to Spain from Houston can range from $900 to $1400, so an annual fee of $200 is totally worth it because I got the free flight.” If a long-haul flight is your main budgetary concern, racking up points on a travel credit card could be your ticket to ride. Plus, many travel credit cards offer huge sign-up bonuses that start you off with a large balance of reward points.

Now, where to go with all those points? We interviewed several budget travel experts to find out which countries are best for budget travelers. If you’re resolved to travel more in 2019, here are six of the most interesting and affordable spots around the globe. (All hostel prices come from Hostelworld.com, are presented in U.S. dollars and are accurate at time of publication.)

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Argentina

Cost of accommodations: The average price for a night at a hostel in Buenos Aires is an affordable $17.47. The average price of hostels in most other cities are only $10 to $20 per night, though there are some outliers, like Cordoba at $9.67 or El Calafate at $51.09.

Why go: “There’s never been a better time to visit Argentina,” said Johnny Ward, an entrepreneur who runs the hugely successful travel blog OneStep4Ward. Originally from Ireland, Ward currently lives in Thailand, and through savvy budget traveling, has visited every country on earth (seriously, he’s been to all 197). “Unfortunately, their economy is struggling a touch, but that means it’s a very cheap time to visit and explore,” Ward said.

He adds that long-distance buses in the country are like business class flights, with glasses of Malbec starting around $1 a pop. With a great bus system, it’s easy to explore the country, which has vibrant cities like Buenos Aires, in addition to areas of natural wonder, such as Patagonia.

To experience the best of Argentina on a budget, Ward suggests flying in and out of Buenos Aires. “Then, bus up to Iguazu Falls and back to Buenos Aires,” he said, “before getting those hiking boots dusted off and exploring majestic Patagonia, with Bariloche and El Calafate particular highlights.”

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Bulgaria

Cost of accommodations: Of the most popular cities, hostels are cheapest in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, with an average price per night of $6.99. Bansko is the most expensive, at an average of $18.82 per night.

Why go: “Bulgaria is not often picked on top travel lists, but it’s a great country for budget travelers because it’s inexpensive and it’s not on the euro,” said Matt Kepnes, blogger behind the popular budget travel blog Nomadic Matt and author of the book “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.”

According to Kepnes, Bulgaria has plenty of rich history, the beautiful Black Sea, delicious Mediterranean-style cuisine, friendly people and plenty of mountains ideal for hiking. “Plus, it’s sort of off the beaten path, so you won’t find the huge crowds of Prague when you’re going to Sofia,” he added. “And it’s affordable; as a backpacker, you can get by on around $35 a day. If you’re traveling on a slightly larger budget, you can get by pretty comfortably for $50-$60 day doing anything you wanted, eating anything you wanted and staying in an Airbnb or cheap hotel.”

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Iceland

Cost of accommodations: Hostels in Reykjavik are around $84 per night on average, but in most other cities, the average prices are closer to $30 to $50 per night.

Why go: While travel to Iceland has surged in popularity in recent years, it can still be an affordable place to visit if you know how to do it right, Mathis said. Known for its otherworldly landscapes and jaw-dropping geysers, waterfalls and lagoons, it’s the perfect place for outdoors-lovers (and adventurous eaters — fermented shark, anyone?).

Flights are often the greatest expense of an international trip, but not in this case: Mathis recommended looking at WOW Air, a budget airline that offers flights to Iceland from major U.S. cities for as little as $100 to $200 round-trip, on which Mathis was able to score a $200 flight. “Though Iceland isn’t super cheap once you get there, getting there is incredibly cheap, so it gives you more flexibility to use that money for something else,” she explained.

In addition to hostels, Mathis noted that the country has many Airbnbs that help you save money, as compared to a hotel. The other trick to budget travel in Iceland is to avoid public transportation, which is very expensive — “just rent a car and drive that for the time there, and you’ll save a lot of money on transportation,” she recommended.

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Macedonia

Cost of accommodations: In six of the most popular cities in Macedonia, hostels range from an average of only $7 to $17 per night.

Why go: “France, Italy and Germany are all a little played out — head east, save a fortune and explore Macedonia,” Ward recommended, noting that you can easily get meals for $7 in the country.

He said the country’s capital, Skopje, is idyllic, with Old European architecture and boutique hotels for a fraction of the price of Western Europe. Skopje is home to the Old Bazaar, a great place to shop and find cheap eats. The city is also home to the Memorial House of Mother Theresa, who was born there — the house is on the site of the former church where she was baptized.

“Then head to Lake Ohrid for a truly relaxing time,” Ward added. “The water is clearer than you imagine, and there won’t be hordes of tourists, I can promise you that!”

The Lake Ohrid region has been named a world heritage site by UNESCO, and the charming town of Ohrid is the location of one of Europe’s oldest human settlements. The area has the oldest Slav monastery, built starting in the 7th century, and hundreds of Byzantine-style icons from the 11th to 14th centuries.

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The Philippines

Cost of accommodations: You can score a hostel bed in Manila for an average price of $9.08. Hostels in other cities range from a mere $6 to $14 per night.

Why go: “South East Asia draws in so many tourists, but most don’t make it beyond Thailand or Vietnam,” said Ward. “For an additional hour or so you can explore the Philippines — all 7,000 islands of it!” Domestic flights within the Philippines can be as cheap as $40, he added, “so you can island-hop until your heart’s content.”

Ward thinks Manila, the capital, isn’t much to write home about, but from there, you can take a short, cheap flight to the “World’s Most Beautiful Island” of Palawan. From there, he recommended, “head north to El Nido and Coron for the kind of blue seas and limestone cliffs you’ve used as a screensaver for years.” According to Ward, you can nab some delicious street food and a cold beer for about $2, and if you get a cheap hotel on the beach, you can get away with only having to spend $30 to $50 per day.

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South Korea

Cost of accommodations: In Seoul, the average price of a night at a hostel is only $15.68. In other popular cities, the average prices range from a mere $14 to $21 per night.

Why go: According to Kepnes, so many travelers get excited about Japan, but they often overlook South Korea: “South Korea is an underrated place,” he  explained. “Not a lot of people go there, but it’s fascinating.”

He pointed to the incredible Korean food, rich history, excellent museums, beautiful palaces, K-pop music and the booming tech scene. Plus, if you’re a history and politics buff, you can take a guided half-day tour of the The Demilitarized Zone — the infamous border between South and North Korea — for as little as $40.

Kepnes is especially a fan of Seoul, which he described as an affordable city that many people miss out on.

“It’s like a cheap Tokyo,” he explained. “You could go out there and go eat Korean BBQ and drink to your heart’s content, and then pay only $10.”

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Emily Starbuck Gerson
Emily Starbuck Gerson |

Emily Starbuck Gerson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Emily here

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