Sunday, December 6, 2015

Starbucks Obsession

Pretty much every single day of my life is spent visiting Starbucks.  I would be lying if I didn't say that a huge selling point in purchasing my house was that there is a Starbucks less than a mile away.  About 5 years ago I told myself that I could save SO much money if I bought an espresso machine and made my own drinks.  A natural shop a holic I convinced myself $170 was a great buy for this fancy semi automatic machine...the good feeling lasted only 5 Caramel Macchiato's in!

At one point I had bought free drink vouchers from eBay but the barista's were on to me.  After I discovered this great site that sells gift cards at a discount I decided to get my 7% off on my coffee obsession.  On the site most of the gift card funds are available as an eGift which means you get the code to enter at checkout, which is perfect to add to your Starbucks Gold Card!  Being a new customer I also found a promo code on for $5 off $50 or more.  In the end I paid $50.80 for $60 of coffee!

Another great tip for saving on coffee - CoinStar!!  There was a jug of coins in my closet I had been waiting to bring in but didn't want to pay any fees.  After a little research I found that if you convert your spare change to gift cards there is no fee!  So one OJ jug later I redeemed my coins for $150 in that sweet sweet coffee.  What a nice contribution to my morning ritual!

Gift Card Genius!

Recently I've been looking for all sorts of ways to cut down costs and bring in more cash.  Upon clearing out my closet and going through old purses I've found some unused gift cards.  I've definitely seen the new CoinStar machine at the supermarket that allows you to sell them there but I also found a great site called

While most of the cards there are offered at 5% you can find some steals at about 23% off (for example Panera Bread) which works if these are places you would normally visit.  Since I visit Starbucks nearly every day I decided to purchase a few for 7% off, this was also my first purchase so I found a promo code for $5 off of $50 for even more savings!!  You can check sites like my fav for more promo codes.

Today I found a great deal at PetsMart for 15% off the gift card, combined with their friends and family sale I got an extra 15% off AND with pet food purchases you get a $5 credit for your next purchase - winning!  You should note that most of these gift cards are eGifts and some of them are only available online.  The great thing about stores now like PetsMart is that you can buy online and pickup free in store usually the same day!

I was able to stock up on pet food for both of my babies at a 30%+ savings, didn't have to lug a cart and lift the items.  I'd say

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shoe Closet under $100

Do you have a small closet you don't know what to do with?  Or need more room for shoes (hey, who doesn't?)...I decided to turn one of my small closets into a shoe closet and I'm loving the results.

The closet is standard two feet deep with a rod and shelf up top, I had four two tier shoe racks that I bought for $20 each.  Instead of going up and wasting space with the racks I decided to place two racks in the back and two in the front.  It would be easier if they were shelves and a bit taller to grab the mate but this works fine for me!

For the boots I was having a hard time finding a way to keep the form, the accessories for boots were expensive - I could have put them in clear boxes or added forms to each of them.  Instead I used skirt hangers I found at Target (the soft kind work better) for about $10!  For some I placed one shoe on each clip, for others I did a pair per clip.  Love how it keeps the shape and I get to use the bar I didn't want to remove.

Total cost: $90

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vegas Pool Part 1: Structure

Project Budget: $4,000
Project Scope: Vegas style concrete pool (11' wide, 23' long, 42" deep) with Swimout and Swim Up Bar

After many trips to Vegas and with the hot summers in California I thought a small pool would be perfect in my backyard!  From start to finish here are the steps and costs, hopefully you'll be inspired to create your own!!

Step One: Planning and Layout
First thing you need to do is check your setbacks (the distance from your property line that you're allowed to build from), you can find yours by visiting or calling your city building department.  The setbacks on my property are five feet from the back and five feet from the sides.
You can use chalk, spray paint or stakes for the layout.  The two most important features to me for this project are the Swimout and the Swim Up Bar so those had to be planned carefully before we started.  A great program to use for free is!  The Swimout is going to be to the right, 5'6" wide and only 8" deep - I used the measurements from a lounge chair that I might use in there but typical depths are anywhere from 8" to 18" deep so it's really your choice.  For the Swim Up Bar I plan to have the outdoor kitchen area to the left so that's where the bar stools will go.

Time: 2hrs

Step Two: Digging
Once you plan you can start digging!  Since it's cheaper to build most of it above ground and my heart is set on the swim up bar we're only digging down 8", a couple inches are for the gravel base and 6" is for the cement (as are the walls 6" thick).

Since the Swimout is basically cantilevered we're using the dirt from the dig to somewhat support and fill in the space below the Swimout.  We also cut down a couple trees so that once we got the pool up and running we wouldn't have to worry about all the leaves falling in it.  Most likely they'll be replaced with palm trees!

Time: 8hrs
Cost: $100 for labor

Step Three: Gravel and Exterior Form Boards
Fill the base with gravel, any remaining amount should be used for the swimout.  Start building exterior form walls with plywood, use 2x4's for support.

The 2x4's up top are nailed at the exact dimension to help line everything up, then you can place stakes and make sure everything is level.  We used extra rock and brick from the yard to fill the area under the Swimout and cut the cost of concrete.

Time: 9hrs
Cost: $613 (Gravel $77, Plywood and 2x4's $536)

Step Four: Rebar
Next we added rebar approximately 16" apart on the walls and base.  Before we added rebar to the front of the Swimout wall we installed the form ties (see drawing below) to maintain the 6" thickness of the walls.

Then we added rebar to the top of the swimout, planning on filling that area with gravel, brick and rock as we go.

Time: 8hrs
Cost: $348 (Rebar $286, Form Ties $62)

Step Five: Interior Form Boards
After finishing the Swimout wall we added form ties to the exterior form walls and then installed the interior form walls.  

Time: 8hrs

Next step is ordering supplies...I'll have a full list of costs for labor and material at the end of the Part 2 post!