Tag Archives: budget

Link Love: 56

Link Love “I’ve decided that this fall will not be about gathering more stuff. I am not going to add additional stress to my life or fill counters and closets with more unneeded items. Instead, I am going to gather happiness—happiness to sustain me this winter … happiness to sustain me when I encounter life’s difficult trials … happiness to sustain me in my ripe old age.” – A Season to Gather Happiness

I talked a little about how to not do ALL THE TECHNOLOGY this week, but really, it’s about not doing it all.

5 tricks to avoid budget burnout.

And similarly… Fight budget burnout with smaller, but more frequent indulgences.

How to be more interesting than a phone. Alexandra Franzen just gets it, ya’ll.

Lately I’ve been dreaming of a wood fire hot tub. Here’s a DIY version.

And because we’re talking about luxury… Really very good chocolate pudding.

I hope your weekend is luxurious!

love,
melanie

Our Trip to Niagra Falls and Toronto and A Few Money Saving Travel Tips

Toronto A couple of weeks ago, George, two friends and I boarded a plane for Buffalo, NY. About a year ago, a college friend had planned to get married that weekend. Fast forward about 6 months and that friend called off the big wedding and just had a small thing. That’s cool, no hurt feelings, but we had non-refundable plane tickets. Instead of moping about our used vacation days, we decided to make the best of it. And by making the best of it, I mean seeing something slightly more exotic than Buffalo. Toronto and Niagra Falls are nearby, so we hopped in a rental car and went looking for some adventure.

Niagra Falls We didn’t really plan on seeing the Niagra Whirlpool, but we saw so many parks and signs for it, that we just pulled over!

Niagra Falls

We stopped at a park and discovered the 237829371283 stairs it took to get a closer look at the whirlpool. Although my legs were burning on the way back to the top, the view from the bottom was worth it.

After the whirlpool, we decided to mosey on over to the American side of the falls. Most people had told us it was dirty and not worth it, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

Niagra Falls

Niagra Falls The American side of the falls was surprisingly clean and of course, breathtaking. Seeing that much water rush over the side of a cliff is spectacular.

Toronto

The view from the top of the tower.

Toronto After the American Falls, we headed over the border to Toronto. We stayed in Hannah’s loft while we explored the city. She has a great view from her balcony. We ate a lot of food and visited the CN Tower.

Niagra Falls Niagra Falls Niagra Falls Finally, we finished up the trip by visiting the Canadian side of the falls. We went “Behind the Falls”– it’s kind of self explanatory– and we rode on the boat that gets you up close and personal with the falls. We did a lot of touristy stuff on this trip, but we still had so much fun. The people you travel with can really make or break the trip.

Not only are my friends fun, they are also thrifty. Here’s how we saved some dough on this trip.

  • We used Groupon* and Airbnb* for discounted hotels. We also shared a room and our Groupon came with free breakfast!
  • We bought our plane tickets from Costco. Crazy, right? It helped us save a bundle.
  • We flew into Buffalo and drove over the border. It was cheaper than flying into Toronto.
  • We BYOB! (Read more about how I save money on booze.)

Thanks for letting me live vicariously through my travel photos. Ha-ha. Have you ever been to Niagra Falls or Toronto? Talk to me in the comments!

love,
melanie

*Affiliate links, but the Airbnb link gets you $31CAD off your next trip!!!

 

 

 

Traveling to Charleston, South Carolina on a Budget

Charleston park I’ve been under a lot of stress at work, so when I finished up the huge conference I was planning, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go on a little weekend getaway. I’ve been on a spending fast for a while, i.e. I only spend $100 per month on unnecessary stuff. I knew this would totally blow my budget, but I did it anyway. Travel is so important to me, but I also know that if I travel too much, I’ll never save any money. It’s a Catch 22.

swamp in Charleston swamp in Charleson We did a lot of things to cut costs for this trip. Charleston is only four hours from our home so we drove there in my fuel-efficient car. I found a budget hotel and used my credit card points to book it. We packed snacks, we participated in free attractions (we found a gorgeous park and visited the beach!), we had a continental breakfast each morning at the hotel and, although we ate at restaurants several times, we also picked up dinner from a local grocery store.

George and Bambi Bambi at the beach We even took Bambi with us! That was an adventure, but places were much more accommodating than I imagined. And after she got used to the hotel and not barking every time someone shut a door, she calmed down. By the end of the trip, she was a road dog. We even took her on a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city. Ha-ha. I’m sure we looked insane, but I love that little girl.

rainbow row

charleston house

How huge are these houses?!

house in charleston Charleston house george in Charleston Charleston is so pretty and I’m glad we got to share it together as a family. After the trip, I felt much more relaxed and ready to take on the world.

What are your favorite tips for budget travel? I want to hear all about it in the comments!

love,
melanie

Link Love: 21

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This was my first week back at work and it’s been insane (as always). Here’s what has managed to catch my eye this week.

In case you missed it, we’re on Tiny House Swoon! So pumped.

This “micro” home is so lovely.

16 “weird” houses. (I’m in love with #12!)

27 hacks to keep your fridge clean and organized.

A guide to which foods you can freeze.

Timeless tips from the Great Depression.

Delicious dishes for less than 4 bucks!

I love this “swimming pool of the future.”

Create a “secret number” for financial goals.

A good way to minimize your clothes: limit yourself to just 40 hangers (or less!).

29 things to remember for the New Year.

And just for fun… Dads acting like fashion bloggers. (This made my day!)

love,
melanie

Our 1978 Airstream Sovereign Land Yacht Remodel: The Interior Tour

Airstream Remodel Airstream Remodel Yesterday I showed you all the before and after shots of the Airstream, well, today I want to show you a few glamour shots. We live in the Airstream full-time, so not only did I want the Airstream remodel to be functional, but I also wanted it to feel warm and cozy. (Even in the winter, when it isn’t so warm!) We had a tight budget, so we built most of our furniture. We bought very little for the Airstream, instead we used the things that we already owned.

In the shots above you can see our copious amount of handmade pillows. One of my favorite things to do in the Airstream is curl up in the queen-size bed and watch a movie.

Airstream Remodel

Airstream Remodel George does all of his art work from the trailer, so we knew it was important for him to have his own space to work and conduct all his business. 

Airstream Kitchen Remodel Airstream Kitchen and Sitting Area Remodel

Fiestaware in the Airstream copy

Although the kitchen is small, I’ve managed to squeeze out some killer meals in there. Sometimes when the space is feeling too cramped or hot to cook, we’ll go outside and cook right over the fire— camp style.

Airstream Bench Remodel Airstream bench remodel There for a while, the bench was something we didn’t use much. But since George built me a mini-desk, I’ve been sitting (and napping!) on it constantly. Again, it’s got plenty of homemade pillows and we covered the bench cushion in vintage fabric.

Custom Drawers and Shelves in an Airstream remodel Records in an Airstream Pictures in the Airstream Record player in an Airstream When we first designed our the Airstream, I had grand dreams of open shelving. We had open shelving for a few months until I just couldn’t stand the clutter anymore! I’m a minimalist and I love a clean space, but George is an artist and needs a lot of stuff for his business, so we decided to compromise and build drawers from reclaimed barn wood to hide our junk.

Bathroom in an Airstream remodeled Bathroom in an Airstream remodeled I like to think that I’m not prissy, but I couldn’t live with a composting or camper-style toilet. Just couldn’t do it. That’s where I draw the line. But since we are parked and hooked up to a septic system, a real toilet wasn’t a problem. Thank god.

What do you think of our little home? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

Frugal Fridays: The Magic of a Dollar Store

c/o Wikimedia Commons

c/o Wikimedia Commons

I recently popped by my local dollar store to purchase hand sanitizer for work. I was never one to use hand sanitizer until I started working in a school. Believe me when I say the germs are out there and crawling all over public computers. Hand sanitizer is a necessity now.

I had totally forgotten about the magic that is a dollar store. My dollar store was chock full of goodies and it reminded me of how wonderful it is knowing that literally everything in the store is a dollar. Along with the hand sanitizer, I also picked up brand name Airbourne! That stuff sells in a drug store for almost $10! I also picked up canned pizza sauce, olives and banana peppers. I was tempted to pick up another set of wine glasses because the only ones that have endured my clumsiness have been the ones from the dollar store! Man, those things are hefty. Since my local dollar store is right across the street from Target (my budget’s nemesis) I’ll definitely be stopping there first before making any more purchases from the ol’ bulls eye.

Do you ever shop at a dollar store? Did anyone ever see the short-lived cooking show, Fabulously Frugal Feasts that used only food from the Dollar Store? It was pretty spectacular.

Have a beautiful weekend!

love,
melanie

18 Tips for Traveling to Memphis, Tennessee

18 tips for traveling to Memphis Tennessee I finally surprised George for his 30th birthday. Big time. With a trip. To Memphis. Because I’m the best wife ever. Surprising George was a huge feat for me. Something always happens and that little stinker somehow figures out his present. Not this time. Oh no. This time I waited until I could hardly stand it anymore (12:01 PM on his birthday) and whipped out those tickets with so much pride.

We had the best time. No stress. Just relaxing and sight seeing. And Memphis is perfect for that. Of course I learned a bunch along the way. And as I learn, I like to share it with you all. Learn from my triumphs and tribulations, folks.

Here’s what I learned along the trip, along with some phone photos because I remembered the camera, but forgot the charger. Story of my life.

1. Memphis is in on Central time (duh!).
I did a lot less planning on this trip because I had to keep it a secret. Much of this trip was loosely planned or not planned at all which was a little nerve-wracking for me. I didn’t even remember that Memphis is on Central time! We went to bed much earlier than many of our Memphis friends, but we got up earlier too and avoided some of the crowds.

Memphis Trolley

The inside of a trolley in Memphis.

2. A downtown trolley ride is a steal.
The downtown trolley in Memphis is a steal. The trolley doesn’t travel very far, just in a large loop around the downtown area and up and down the main drag, but it’s only $1 per ride or $3.50 for a day pass. The trolleys are heated, and beautifully restored. I was ready to move into one, they were that pretty. We even took a ride on the trolley at sunset right by the river. Gorgeous.

3. There are weird alcohol laws in Tennessee.
If you are a drinker, especially a wine drinker, be aware that the alcohol laws in Tennessee prohibit you from buying wine at a convenience or grocery store. You’ll have to visit a liquor store for to purchase wine. And the liquor stores, especially in the downtown area, where we stayed are not plentiful. But you are allowed to enjoy adult beverages on the street. I did some researching and the wine laws may change soon, but as of April 2014, you still can’t easily buy wine in Memphis.

4. There are weird smoking bans.
I’m not a smoker, but apparently in Memphis if the bar, restaurant or establishment is 21 years of age and up (even for breakfast!) people are allowed to smoke. This may have been more of a problem if we were traveling with kids.

5. Be careful if you have food allergies or intolerances.
The food allergy and intolerance wave hasn’t hit the south yet. I love the south, it’s my home, but people are still fairly clueless about food allergies and contamination. And it can be dangerous for folks like me. Almost every single thing was served with a biscuit or on toast. I would suggest doing your research and asking your waitstaff how your food is prepared. Some places surprised me with a gluten-free items that weren’t on the menu.

Beale St. in the morning

Beale St. in the morning

6. Visit Beale Street in the morning to avoid crowds.
Crowds don’t bother George and I, per say, but if we can avoid crowds, we will. Beale Street doesn’t get going until the late afternoon, but if you like to keep it a little quieter, visit Beale Street in the morning. We went about 11:00 am. The bars and restaurants were just opening. Beale Street didn’t get crowded (and obnoxious) until we swung through at 4:00 pm.

7. There’s no breakfast restaurants on Beale Street.
Really. It’s hard to imagine because breakfast food cures hangovers, but there are no restaurants serving breakfast on Beale Street. You’ll have to get a couple of blocks away to get your breakfast fix. We stopped at a little diner called the Bon Ton Cafe, just a short walk away.

Sun Studios 8. You can walk from Beale Street to Sun Studios.
We had debated whether or not to get a car on this trip. It would have been convenient, but after doing the math, I decided against it. Parking fees can be steep and other than Graceland, you can walk to most attractions if you stay in the downtown area. Walking from Beale Street to Sun Studios, for example, was no problem.

9. Be prepared for crowds. Check local events.
I had booked a hotel and bought our plane tickets for this trip months ago. I’m also pretty oblivious to sports. Little did I know that Memphis was one of the hosts for the NCAA tournament. There was an insane amount of people in town for the games. It was also spring break for schools in Arkansas which is right across the river. Luckily I booked early so the hotel rates weren’t outrageous, but the restaurants and the streets were a little overwhelming at times.

Wearing our nerdy headphones at Graceland.

Wearing our nerdy headphones at Graceland.

10. Sun Studios does guided tours. The Graceland tours are self-guided.
I was a little disappointed that the Graceland tour was self-guided. We wore nerdy, Walkman-esque headsets and it was distracting trying to figure out if I was on the correct audio chapter. Sun Studios, on the other hand, had a guided tour. It was obvious that our tour guide had a passion and respect for music history. It made such a difference. She even played a bit of guitar for us! Just get to Sun Studios early. The tours fill up quick and the waiting area is cramped.

11. You can’t walk to Graceland from the downtown areas, but the taxis from Graceland are plentiful.
You’ll probably have to call for a taxi to Graceland, but the taxis will be waiting to whisk you back to your hotel. I considered staying at the Heartbreak Hotel for a night—its right across the street from Graceland, but it was more expensive for us to stay at the hotel than to commute via taxi from downtown.

The living room at Graceland

The living room at Graceland

12. Graceland isn’t open late and it’s smaller than you’d imagine.
I splurged and purchased the “platinum” tickets for Graceland. It was a good decision. In addition to the house, we also visited most of the exhibits. I think I would have been disappointed with the house-only pass. The platinum tickets gave us access to other exhibits where we saw boat loads of costumes, artifacts and videos. It’s also important to note that Graceland is only open 9:00-5:00 pm Monday-Saturday and 9:00-4:00 on Sunday. And the lines can be long.

13. Buy your Graceland tickets online first and pick them up at will-call.
In order to avoid the long lines, I would highly suggest purchasing Graceland tickets in advance. You will avoid the long ticket lines and you might even be able to find an online discount code like I did!

14. For souvenirs, get away from the tourist areas.
I try to stay away from souvenirs. Instead, I take a lot of pictures for mementos. If you must purchase souvenirs in Memphis and in other big cities, get away from tourist areas. The local drugstore or even Wal-Mart will carry similar souvenirs at half the price.

15. Check the weather report, especially if you are staying downtown. The streets fill with water pretty quickly and without boots, your feet will get wet.
I packed in such a hurry that I didn’t even check the weather report. I really wish I had packed boots. It was rainy for two days out of our trip and the older streets of downtown Memphis were filled with water in a matter of minutes. I genuinely thought I might get trench foot from this trip.

16. The highlights of Memphis can be seen in a long weekend, but the museums and sites are plentiful.
There’s plenty to see in Memphis. Memphis is steeped in music and civil rights history. And there’s plenty of museums to prove it. And although there’s much to see, if you get your priorities straight, Memphis can be seen in a long weekend. With just four days in the city, George and I felt like we saw almost everything we wanted to see, but also never felt rushed.

Memphis Skyline from the top of the Peabody hotel.

Memphis Skyline from the top of the Peabody hotel.

17. The view from the top of the Peabody Hotel is the best in the city.
The Peabody Hotel is a sight to see— especially if you appreciate architecture. It’s a seriously majestic hotel in the middle of the city that was built in the opulence of the 1920s. The hotel is also home to live ducks! The view from the top of the hotel is awe-inspiring. On a clear day, you can see all the way across the Mississippi river to Arkansas and most of the city’s sites. And the best part is that the view is free and open to the public!

Ducks in the Peabody Hotel fountain!

Ducks in the Peabody Hotel fountain!

18. If you want to see the ducks march at the Peabody, get there early.
The Peabody Hotel is home to a parade of ducks which at 11 am everyday march from the roof to the fountain in the lobby of the hotel. Then at 5 pm, the ducks are wrangled up and marched back up to the roof. The original ducks were put in the fountain by some boozed up guests who were going to use them as decoys on their fishing trip. Years later, a hotel employee, who was a former Ringling Circus animal trainer, trained the ducks to march on the red carpet and the tradition is carried on to this day. The march is super cute, but a bit crowded. We arrived 30 minutes early to the march and got a pretty good view. But we definitely weren’t the first folks there!

Have you ever been to Memphis? What kind of tips do you have? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

love,
melanie