Archive for category Saving Money

The B&B Dream

I have this crazy dream, a daydream I guess you might say, of buying a rundown old property in Florida and restoring into a Bed & Breakfast. I recently bought a book on how to run/open/manage a B&B just to satisfy my curiosity.  The main premise in the book is that you shouldn’t rely on the B&B for your main income.  People also say that old homes are money pits.  I’ve also heard if you want to operate a B&B you should do it after the kids are grown and not have any pets.  We haven’t even started a family yet and I couldn’t imagine living without a fluffball to snuggle with.

Even with all the doubts and naysayers, I can’t get the idea out of my head.  I guess the B&B I have in my minds eye just puts so many of my passions and talents to good work (except that whole chemical engineering phd thing…heh).

I often wonder if it could be a process… I work for 20 years in research and then we purchase our getaway. Will I be too tired then?  Or could we buy a place soon and while we’re working at our day jobs, spend many years renovating it with the intention of making it into a B&B later?  I don’t want to just buy something – I want to rehab it and bring it back to its 100 year old glory.  I want decorate each room with a purpose and a vision,  to do it all on a budget, and blog about it all the while.  I want it to have an organic garden and fruit trees that we harvest from for breakfast.  I want it to have a compost bin, some rain barrels and energy saving windows. (Jason really wants double flush toilets.) Like I said, tough for me to get it off the brain.

Scouring and using the advance search feature to look for 51+ year old places for sale has only made me want to do it more.  Although, admittedly, I went into a few places that I liked on the internet and they are in oh-so-much-worse shape when you see them in person.  Here are a few I’m drooling over right now (click the links to see more photos):

Classic style, built in 1903, 4500 sq. ft., in Tampa, FL

Spanish style, built in 1920’s, 4291 sq. ft (including guest houses!), in West Palm Beach, FL

Victorian, built in 1910, 4300 sq. ft, near the water, in St. Petersburg, FL

What I’m Cooking This Week

Almost every Sunday we make a plan for our weekly meals.  This helps prevent us from buying extra ingredients or overbuying because we are hungry and it allows us to plan meals around what is on sale.  I love to try out new recipes, so we have been saving them using Evernote and pulling them up on our iPad instead of wasting paper and ink to print them.

I am embracing the fact that its Fall. The leaves are starting to change from bright green to a yellowish hue, and there is a hint of cool air in the mornings.  Here is what we’re eating this week:


Buttermilk Brined Pork Chops (I will use pork loin cut into 1″ chops)
Garlicky Greens (Swiss Chard)
Butternut Squash


Chicken Enchilada Soup (will adapt for slow cooker)


Greek Style Burgers with Cucumber, Tomato & Tzatziki on Flatbread
Sweet Potato Fries


Tarragon Chicken Pot Pies


Grilled Shrimp
Quinoa Edamame Salad


A special meal out to celebrate Jason finishing his book update, and me finishing my research work at USC.

Coffee? Yes, Please!

We are not huge coffee drinkers in our house, but when we have a cup we want flavor!  Both Jason and I have tried not to rely on coffee to wake us up everyday but we love to enjoy it as a special treat.  After a family meal at Jason’s sister’s house, she offered us a cup and we both declined until we smelled theirs brewing. She made us each a cup in her Keurig machine that we really enjoyed.  After we got home I did a little research and we got one for our kitchen… Isn’t she perdy?

We opted for the most basic Keurig model (Keurig Mini B30). Price was a major factor (we only paid $41.99+tax) and its very simple. What we are missing are fancy features of the more expensive models. No water reservoir, no variable water volume size, no lighted digital display. To us, those “features” weren’t worth the extra $100+ hike in price. We can still brew the same K-cups in less than 3 minutes have a yummy cup of coffee. Considering that our average trip to Starbucks is $6-8, we make our money back by home-brewing 11-12 cups. Although at the rate we are going, we may just become every-day coffee drinkers now, which messes up my math.

I did a price comparison for single serve K-cups shows which shows that the average is around 55¢/cup if you grab it off the shelf. If you want an everyday discount, buy from Amazon or Sam’s club in bulk. The only problem is you don’t get much variety. Keep your eyes peeled for a sale at Kohl’s if you have their store card, or the office supply stores for the lowest price with a coupon. The best price I can find right now is 33¢ per cup at Kohl’s so I will grab a few packs and hunt for a better discount in the mean time. So far, we’ve tried Newman’s Own Organic Extra Bold and its delicious… but maybe a little too bold for us.  The nice thing about the small packs is that you aren’t stuck with any one flavor for too long!

Store Quantity Price Price Per Cup Other Considerations
Amazon 50 pk $21-$23 42-46¢ Free shipping over $25
Sam’s Club 80 pk $33.98 42¢ Large pack, less variety
Kohl’s 18 pk $9.99 55¢ (or 33¢ w/coupon) Best price with a 30% coupon
Office Depot 18 pk $9.99 55¢ (36¢ w/coupon) Good price with a $10 off $25 coupon
Staples 18 pk $9.99 55¢ Lots to choose from
Target 108 pk $59.99 55¢ Huge pack, no savings, may have a better price in the store
Publix 12 pk $5.99 50¢ (41¢ w/coupon) $1 printable coupon
Bed Bath & Beyond 18 pk $9.99 55¢ (44¢ w/coupon) Lots of variety, 20% in-store coupon

I plan to consider some other money-saving options such as this fill your own K-cup, but I have a feeling the convenience of the already portioned packs might be worth the money! Also, I haven’t done the analysis but I’m thinking this little guy saves you energy since it doesn’t have to keep a large pot of coffee warm.

Stay tuned for an update after we have used it for a couple months!

Maintaining Coupon Order

Spent $20.35. Saved $92.84.

It’s no secret that I love coupons! I save at least 50% on my food & household needs every week buy buying what’s on sale, combining sales with coupons and stocking up when an item is cheap. And my husband will tell you, when I first started out it took me a lot of time. Clipping, sorting and storing all those guys and then trying to locate them when I needed to was a challenge for a while, especially for someone like me who wants everything to be structured. After a few months and trying a few different methods, I finally chose one that works for me.

Many of my friends and family have asked if I could teach them, so here are the basics!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. A small hanging file box or room in a filing cabinet somewhere
  2. 12 Hanging file folders with labels
  3. A shoe box with dividers or some cardstock to make your own
  4. Coupons! – Start buying Sunday papers (or ask neighbors/family for their inserts) and keep an eye out in stores when you are shopping
  5. SouthernSavers – Jenny is a friend of mine and has the best resource out there for matching coupons with sales

What do I do with all this stuff?

  • The three types of inserts you will get in the paper are Redplum (RP), SmartSource (SS) and at the beginning of the month you’ll have a Proctor and Gamble (PG). These abbreviations are used on many coupon sites to reference where to find the one you need.
  • Use the hanging files with labels to sort  coupon inserts by the date they came from the Sunday paper (look for the tiny letters on the spine if you don’t remember). I usually write the date with a Sharpie on the front so its easy to see at a glance.
  • Optional: If you have multiple newspapers with identical coupons, I compile them to have like pages together for easy cutting of several of the same coupons at a time.
  • Only keep 12 file folders because most coupons in the inserts will have expired by that time.  When they are all full, this forces you to flip through the old one, cut out any unexpired coupons and then recycle it to make room for the newest inserts.  Its like organizational auto-pilot!
  • Use a shoe box or photo box to store any loose coupons that you found in the store or that you already clipped.  I sort mine expiration month and use cardstock to divide the month. This does two things, it keeps the loose coupons orderly AND it allows you to pull out a whole month’s worth of coupons once they expire.
  • Finally, use your coupons when an item is on sale.  There are a lot more in-depth tutorials on Southernsavers which you can check out as you have time.  The easiest way to start is to find the stores you shop at (Publix is my favorite) and look at the weekly ad before you leave the house. You can create your list right in SouthernSavers and then print off and clip your coupons according to what you are going to buy that week. (Since you have them all filed, this is a cinch!)
  • The hardest thing  to learn is to change your shopping behavior. I used to run out of shampoo and then add it to my list for the week paying whatever it cost for the brand I wanted.  Now I have 6 extras in my closet that I paid pennies for and I can “shop” from there when I run out.

Quick & Free Photo Swap

Jason’s sister Jenna gave us an awesome stacked picture frame several years ago as a gift.  It originally came with black and white placeholder images of Italy and I have been meaning to swap them out in favor of real photos for way too long now.

We take most of our pictures digitally, and rarely do I get the chance to print out the good ones.  Since I didn’t have any photos handy, I opted for a different approach. My latest issue of Garden Design Magazine (a freebie from an online deal) had vibrant pics of several varieties of Mums which I cut to fit each frame.

Sometimes the quick projects like this are the most rewarding. We now have a colorful, in-season update to our photo frame and it didn’t cost a thing!