Monday, June 27, 2011

Free SoyJoy Bar (while supplies last)

You can get a free sample of SoyJoy if you follow the link and fill out the form.
The same link will enable you to print out a "bricks" coupon for Buy 2 Get One free.(Being a "bricks" coupon means you can push the "back" button on your browser and print the coupon a second time.)

I've never had one, so I look forward to trying one. If they're good, I may use the coupon. If they're not so good, I may wait and see if there's a bogo sale I can use the coupon in conjunction with, since the coupon is good until the end of October.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Inexpensive fences

Fences are not cheap to make, and those that are (and some that aren't) often fall apart. We made a fence for our horses several years ago out of landscape timbers and livestock fencing. At times, you can find the landscape timbers at Lowes for under $2 each. Right now is one of those times. When they're not on sale, they're between $6 & $9 each.

Landscape timbers and barbwire or livestock fencing aren't fantastic fence materials and it won't last 20 years, but it will work and will probably last 8-10 years.

To get the best deal, go through UPromise or Ebates, then choose Lowes, make the purchase online and choose to pick the order up from the store. You can put a note into the system or call the store and say you would like to select your own timbers. You can also get 10% off coupons if you're moving through Lowes or the change of address forms from the post office.

Be choosy about the boards you select. Landscape timbers are landscape timbers because they're not choice boards. They won't be perfect, but you can get ones that are decent. Choose ones with few if any knots. If they have knots, chose ones with the knots at the very top. Bury the 8' timbers 2' deep.

Amazing Shirt Buy

My kids and I went to Bealls Outlet to find something for Father's Day last week. We decided to get shorts to go with his new fitness video game. The shorts were on clearance and I was able to get them for $3. Since the shorts were such a good deal, we decided to get a shirt too. My son chose the shirt out of the 5 I selected. He chose one of those shirts that are supposed to keep you cool.

My husband works outside a lot and it gets horribly hot during the summer. We were very skeptical about the shirt making any difference especially when we noticed it was 100% polyester. He tried it out Monday and wow, was he impressed! It worked wonderfully. He wore it everyday except on Friday. Friday, he wore one of the traditional white undershirts I gave him for Father's Day. Friday afternoon, he called me and said we needed to get more of the polyester shirts. I went back to Beall's (Fridays are 15% off for everyone under 55 with a Beall's One Card and this weekend everything on the clearance rack is at least 50% off). There wasn't anything on the clearance rack and I didn't see any of the same shirt, so I bought some others that were "dry" shirts for $5.99-$7.99 each. He wore one today and let me know they were not the same.

So, now we're on a mission to find more Stitch Extreme Dry Activewear by 3M with Scotchgard. It's truly an amazing shirt and well worth spending money on. Staying cool isn't easy and anything that makes it easier is good, especially when you can get it for $3.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Livestock Auction

If you live in the boonies, most likely you've at least seen an auction sign.

Livestock auctions can be kind of fun. They can be smoke-filled, hot, smelly, sweat boxes too. This weekend we went to one. I think it was the best layout I've seen. They do an excellent job of moving the animals smoothly and keeping things moving. The auctioneers tried their hardest to get good prices for the animals being sold, but no one seemed to want to spend much money. Weaned calves went for $60, registered Tennessee Walker yearling horses went for $30, a pot bellied pig of about 30 lbs went for $5, rabbits went for $2-10 (even the pedigreed Flemish Giants), and large koi went for $1.50 each. It was quite a place to buy whatever farm animals you wanted that night. It was not a night to sell. We groaned when our full grown peacock went for $15 instead of the $50 we're used to. We'll be back again to buy, but I'm not so sure about going back to sell.

Many things influence the price of an item: the time of night, the number of buyers, the quantity of like items present, the area economy, the appearance and behavior of the animal, and the condition of the cage.

We did learn a lesson... whenever going to an auction, always come prepared to bring someone new home with you. We bought 2 additional rabbits and 2 ducks, Sweedish Blue Crosses. We had ducks several years ago and lost them thanks to hawks and dogs. We're  hoping for better luck this time.  The ducks weren't planned, but they went so cheap, we thought it was worth the buy for the meat if nothing else.

Oh, there were 2 animals that went for more than anyone expected. The Silver Laced Wyandottes went for $45/bird and the Gold Laced Wyandottes went for $100/bird! That's a whole lot of money for a chicken that doesn't lay golden eggs! Guess I know what type of chicken to raise for money now.

There are usually kids at the auctions and this one had lots of kids. They had a great time playing in the shaded, grassy field just outside the bidding area. They were away from the animals, cars, and bidders, but within sight of parents. It was perfect in that regard.

Livestock auctions can be fun. It's always a good idea to checkout the auction before selling or buying anything.

Monday, June 13, 2011

More Classes!

I've had requests for classes in Chiefland and Gainesville, Florida. If you're interested as well, email me and we'll see if we can find a time and place that works for everyone.

Free Lipton Tea

"Like" Lipton tea on their facebook and get a coupon for a free bottle.

Be aware though that many stores will  not accept coupon from the internet for free products if you don't have to buy something according to the coupon. WinnDixie will. I think Publix will. But I think those are the only ones I know of.

Free Mueller Noodles plus money back

Winn Dixie has Mueller noodles BOGO for $1.79 right now. If you go to the Mueller Noodle facebook page, you'll find $1 off coupon you can print. You can only print one per Facebook account and it's for whole grain noodles (I think they're included). If you go to the Mueller website, you can register your email address and then you receive a coupon for $1 off.

$1.79 -$1 -$1 = -$0.21

Facebook coupons like this don't last long, so get there asap.

Update: Well, turns out it's not $1 for registering. Someone got it wrong and I passed it on before I checked it out first. Turns out it's $0.55 off. So, they're not free, but it's still only $1.79-$1-$0.55= $0.24 for 2 boxes, which is still only 12 cents each! That's still a really good deal for noodles.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tide, Downy, Bounce Rebate

Proctor & Gamble (P&G) is doing a rebate. It started in January, but I just found out about it. It ends 6/30, so if you act fast, you can still take advantage of it.

"To receive your $2.50 or $5.00 rewards card by mail, buy any combination of 2 or 3 of the following: 1) Any size Bounce Dryer Bar or Bounce sheets 105 count or greater, 2) any Downy liquid 90 ld or greater or any Downy sheets 105 count or greater, and 3) any size Tide Stain Release or any size Tide Washing Machine Cleaner."

You have to send in the UPC codes and the original receipt with the qualifying items circled with the rebate form and have it postmarked by 6/30.

You can use coupons for these products and still get the rebate. Here are some possible companion coupons.
$0.50/1 Downy Liquid Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets 6/5/2011 P&G Insert (exp 7/31/2011)
$1/1 Tide Stain Release Product 6/5/2011 P&G Insert (exp 7/31/2011)
$1/1 Tide Stain Release TARGET 5/8/2011 SS Insert (exp 6/18/2011)

P&G does several rebates throughout the year. Keep an eye out. Some of them are pretty good.


Facebook can be a good place to get coupons, but I strongly suggest you have a separate Facebook account for couponing. Ideally you should already have coupon email, so just use that for Facebook.

Facebook offers are usually very limited and go fast! So get to them as soon as you know or hear about them.

Every Friday in June Bounty is doing a $5 coupon.

Check your favorite products and manufacturers on Facebook and look to see if they have a "coupon, " "like" incentive, or promotion available.

Coupon Class at Coffee Clutch in High Springs

The class yesterday went really well. The next class at The Coffee Clutch in High Springs will be Monday, July 18 from 6-8pm.

I'll put notices and a sign up sheet at The Coffee Clutch this week. If you sign up, I can give you a phone call or email reminder a day or two before the class.

The class is $5 but you'll save more than that in your first trip after class and I always have coupons for you to take.

Money in your account

If you sign up for, you get money deposited into your PayPal account when you select coupons to load to your loyalty cards. It works much like UPromise, except it's more like cash than UPromise. You can use regular coupons in conjunction with the SavingStar coupons.

Coupons via mail

Publix has a coupon book they'll mail to you for $50 in free groceries. There are only a limited number, so don't take too long to register for yours.

If you enter 3 email addresses after you register, they'll email you a coupon for an additional $2 off produce. If you use your back button after you print the first one, you should be able to print an additional one.

It will take 2-4 weeks for the booklet to arrive in the mail. The coupons are good 7/15-8/15.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Video games at 26% off

We had a successful shopping day this week! My husband wanted to buy some video games with a little extra cash he received. I convinced him to wait and buy them online. It turned out well!

First we went to and bought an unwanted gift card for 10% off. I had hoped for a more immediate experience with cardpool, but it was alright. Our order was delayed because we were a new customer and they had to call to verify our information.

With gift card in email, we then went through to By going through Ebates, we get 2.5% cash back on GameStop purchases. Well, we have a GameStop loyalty card and all of the games my husband wanted were 16% off.

Of course we have to wait a little longer to get the games, but we both agree it's worth the wait.

Classes in Couponing

The class for the High Springs LDS group went really well, as did the last class I taught at Coffee Clutch in High Springs. I'm really excited about the upcoming classes I have, this Saturday at 10 am at the Coffee Clutch and Monday at 5:45 at Santa Fe College. In fact, the Monday class has a wait list, so they decided to open an additional class on the 20th.

I've got a great new presentation and hand outs and some extra coupons to make things fun. I'm happy I can help others in the community to save money and meet the needs of their families while meeting the needs of mine. Couponing can be a challenge and trying at times, but it's an inexpensive hobby that benefits my family and provides me with some fun when I see the bottom line go down and the saving line go up.

If you have a group that you think would have fun learning about couponing, I'd love to come out and share what I've learned. We'll play some Price is Right type games and learn quite a bit as well.

I've also had fun and success going shopping with friends and teaching them one-on-one how to set up a coupon binder, find deals, and shop. If you'd like to do that, I can do private lessons as well. It's much easier when someone will go with you and help with the check-out process a time or two when you first get started.

Happy Couponing all!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dead Goose Follow up

As you probably read, our goose died several weeks ago. We moved the eggs to the incubator, but with only a 40% hatch-ability rate under the best conditions, we weren't too hopeful.

Well, none of the eggs hatched, sorry to say. It happens. I wasn't certain what day she started setting them, so it's hard to know exactly how long what needs to happen in the incubator. They have to be turned so many times per day, watered so many times per day, the humidity and temperature have to be just right for so many days and then changed for other days, the eggs have to be cooled for x number of minutes per day. All in all, it's better left up to the goose.

When the goose died, that left us with 1 gander. Well, 1 gander can't really do much but eat. He's too old to eat ourselves.

We have an agreement with a local company, we provide them with rabbits and chickens for their larger animals and they trade us peacocks. It's a pretty good deal for us when we have rabbits and chickens breeding.

So, since none of the eggs hatched and we need a cage for the peacocks (we have plans and some parts for a new cage, but don't have the cash for the rest of the materials at the moment), we decided to sell the gander. I have someone coming to pick him up this afternoon and then tomorrow, we should be able to bring the peacocks home.  Then, we'll have peacocks again.

Peacocks don't do much for us, other than eat, but our friends love the feathers. When we get extra peacocks, we sell them at the local farm auctions. My husband has a peacock recipe he's been dying to cook for years, but we never have the right situation to try it out. Maybe this time we'll get lucky.

A Cheap Greenhouse

Over a year ago, we bought some broccoli and cabbage. When we discovered how cold it was going to get, we realized they would die if left outside. So, we rummaged around and found some poles and rope and bought a small roll of visquine plastic from the store. We set up a make-shift tent type greenhouse by stringing two poles together and then anchoring the plastic down on the sides with some bricks. We put a light inside the "greenhouse" to keep it warm enough through the frosty night.

Over the following months, we acquired more plants. On days when it was too hot, we just took the cover off the greenhouse and put it back up when it was too cold. Pretty soon, the plastic started to tear and the number of plants exceeded the amount of space undercover.

We built a bigger greenhouse using the visquine, some 2x4's and the small fenced area of the backyard. Our greenhouse is now 8'x24'. The fence creates the side frame, 5 2x4's attach to the fence and center beam supported by 5 2x4's standing in the ground. We've replaced the visquine 3 times in the last year and a  half. The sun weakens it and the wind pulls it up over time. We plan to replace the visquine eventually with panels, but for now, the visquine is what we can afford. 1 box of 100' of visquine is only a few dollars more than a 25' roll and can cover the greenhouse twice, so that's how we buy it now.

Inside the green house, there's a fan mounted over the doorway. It's one of those 2 fan units that goes in a room window instead of an air conditioning unit. It runs non-stop in the summer and only during the day in the winter. When we can, I want to put it on solar power, but for now, it just runs on an electric extension cord.

Underground between the backdoor and the greenhouse is an electric line, a water hose, and a duct for our dryer vent. The electric line is used for the fan in the summer, the heaters in the winter, and the air pumps for the fish tanks. We bought heaters that turn on and off according to the temperature. The water line is used for a hose to water plants and a timer to run misters hung from the rafters to add moisture to the air and cool the greenhouse. The dryer vent is on a Y connector with a screw cap. In the summer, the cap is on the greenhouse end of the vent. In the winter, the cap is on the side of the Y under the house where the dryer would normally vent. The dryer provides warm moist air, that would normally be wasted anyway, to the greenhouse where the plants enjoy it.

Inside the greenhouse, the plants are in pots elevated off the ground on whatever shelving can be made out of available materials, closet organizers, scrapped shelving unit pieces, bricks, cinder blocks, boards, etc. A few months ago, I found a sturdy, old, wooden cabinet on the side of the road and it's now a perfect work surface and storage space for all things gardening except the seeds. We have two fish tanks in the greenhouse as well, a 75 gal koi tank and a kiddie pool turned into a tilapia farm (we hope). The fish tanks originally hoped to create aquaponics are now more to regulate temperature and grow water plants to feed the birds. A recent addition to the greenhouse is the weed cloth on the "floor." Last year we had horrible issues with pests in the greenhouse. The hope is that the weed cloth will keep down the weeds which should help control the pests.

Over the outside of the visquine is another layer of weed cloth. It does cut down on the amount of sun in the greenhouse, but it also cuts down on the temperature and solar wear of the visquine. The weed cloth is stapled down over the visquine over a string. The string helps keep the staples from tearing through the other layers and it also makes it easier to pull the staples up when it's time to replace the visquine.

The greenhouse isn't perfect, but all together, I think we spent around $200 for the structure and about $150 for the lines, heaters, fans, water system, etc. If you bought a 24'x8' greenhouse kit, you'd spend several thousand dollars. The greenhouse provides us with supplemental food for us and the animals. It also teaches our kids about food and encourages them to eat more vegetables. They'll eat almost anything if they know it came from the garden, no matter what their preconceived notions about it are.

How to Be a Mystery Shopper

Don't ever give a company money to be a mystery shopper!

There is no fee to be a legitimate mystery shopper. It's actually fairly easy too, as long as you're ok with writing and following directions. Rurally speaking, there aren't many opportunities, but that doesn't mean there aren't any.

I have two main companies I shop through, Shoppers Critique and Mystery Shopper Services. There are many, many others you can use. To find them, I look through the oversight group, Mystery Shopping Providers Association. I use the MSPA member company search option to find companies to shop for, even though they suggest you not. I search that way because I can find companies who are located in Florida. You don't have to do it that way, I just think there's a better chance of finding Florida shops that way. They have an option to search for "shops" (that's the word that's used for mystery shopping opportunities), but I've found they're usually for shadier companies or only sample jobs that aren't really available.

After I find a company, I search the internet for scams and reviews of the company before I sign up with them. There are many that have scam alerts because people use their names to create scams, even though the company isn't a part of them, so it's not an automatic sign for me, but I do try to be aware of them. I do read reviews from other shoppers to see that they pay out for the shops scheduled. Use some common sense when you look at the reviews though too. Sometimes people can't follow directions, so they don't get paid and then blame the company.

When I've read what I feel is enough and decide it's probably a reputable company, I go through the company website listed on the MSPA's website, not the ones on the search engine. I sign up through their system. Some companies require you to be certified through the MSPA, I'm not, so I don't shop for those companies. Some companies require you to have previous mystery shopping experience. I don't think Mystery Shopper Services does, that's the first company I shopped for. Most do require you to give them a sample write up.

You might find it helpful to go to a store specifically to evaluate it for a sample write up. I recalled a recent trip through a fast food drive through and used that. I paid attention to how I was greeted, the speed of the service, how I was asked for my payment, if the order was correct, how many people were before and after me, how an incorrect order was handled-if there was an issue, and if my change/receipt was correct. The more details you can give, the better. Use actual, tangible examples, not feelings. Feelings can be helpful, but most companies don't want that. They want specifics of verbiage used, facial expressions, minutes and seconds of service and wait, notations of dirt, spots, or holes in chairs or tables, etc. 

Most companies give you the option of checks, paypal, or direct deposit for payment. Personally, I use paypal as often as I can and checks when I have to. Just a side note, anyone you give permission to deposit into your account has permission to withdraw from your account. I try to keep that list of companies as small as possible.

After you've done one shop for a company, you can tell other companies you have experience as a mystery shopper and you can sign up with them. To start with, I'd keep the list of companies you shop for small at first. They look for different things and it's easy to get shops confused in your head if you do several in one day.

Many companies limit the number of shops they'll allow you to take on any given day because of that. You can "get around" that guideline if you shop for different companies, but like I said, it can get confusing. Most of the time, you cannot take notes while you're doing the shop, so you'll want to have paper in your car to write down everything you can when you finish the shop before you go to another one. I try to do 2 or 3 at a time to justify the gas. Usually, they're for totally different types of shops though, oil change, pet shop, cell phone, restaurant. Then it's easier to keep them clear in my head.

As soon as you finish and return home, submit everything. Usually, there's an online form (normally, you can take a hard copy with you to use for notes) to fill out, then you have to scan and submit a business card or flier and any receipts you have.

Mystery shopping isn't fast cash. They have to review what you submitted, send it back to you if there are any issues, re-review your submission, send it to the client for client approval, wait for the client to pay them, then send the payment to you. It usually takes 4-8 weeks to get your reimbursement/pay. It's usually worth the wait though.

You won't get rich from mystery shopping, especially if you live in a rural area, but it can help. It's a great way to get your oil changed. Oil changes usually pay $35-$75 in addition to the reimbursement for the oil change. You have to do it anyway, so why not get paid to do it. Some things don't pay at all, like checking to see if restaurants are carding people who might be underage, but you get "free" food and drinks for it. Some pay you but don't require you to spend any money, like cell phones and car test drives.

Most of the time, the pay is in relation to the time you have to spend there and the amount of work you have to do. Test driving a car will usually pay $30-$70 because you have to call them, visit the website, and go to the lot and do a test drive. That's quite  a time commitment, plus the time to write up each stage of the shop. If you have the time though, why not. It still usually takes 2-3 hours for a test drive shop including travel time. I'm ok with $10-$20/hr.

The trick to write ups being approved is to be as detailed as you can. Tell them EVERYTHING, all of the names of the people you interacted with, the exact words used, every step of the process, the conversations you had with people, etc. The other trick is to make sure you use proper grammar and spelling. They have to present your report to their client. It needs to reflect well on them. If they have to spend lots of time editing your report, you cost them time and you won't get approved for many jobs. If they have a question on your report, address it immediately. The other trick to being approved is to follow the directions. If they tell you a scenario to play out, play it out, don't make up your own. Read and re-read the directions before you accept the shop, immediately after you accept it, just before you leave to do the shop, before you get out of the car at the shop, after you get into the car after the shop, and before the write up. Make sure you didn't miss anything. If you don't follow the directions, they can't get paid and they won't pay you.

It can be lots of fun and it can be a nice way to get a little extra money. Enjoy it. If the shops are things you're not comfortable with or you think it's too much work for the money, don't do it. You're an independent contractor, that means you have to follow their directions for the jobs you do, but you can choose what jobs you take and how often you work. My son thinks it's the coolest thing that his mom is a spy.

Save on Purchases

When the stores are farther away from home, often it makes sense to buy things via the internet, rather than driving to the store. There are a few ways you can save money.

Buy unwanted gift cards online through sites like They buy unwanted gift cards from individuals and then sell them to others at a discount. You can find cards for movies, groceries, gas, home improvement, flowers, etc.

Shop through referral sites like Ebates pays you cash through paypal or a check quarterly on the purchases you make on other websites when you go through them. You can get paid back on purchases through Amazon, Ebay, Lowes, Officemax, and TONS of other websites. They often have good discounts on  top of the money you get back.

Discount sites like offer you the chance to buy goods and services often for half of what you would normally pay. Many but not all Groupon offers are specific to geographic location. It's often a good idea to check other cities and states, even though they're not officially for your location, they're often web based or national offers anyway.

UPromise is a website that doesn't pay you directly exactly, but it allows you to get money back from each purchase made through their site for a 529 program for educational expenses. It's pretty neat. They just changed the way they do their credits,  so you'll want to look at them again if you signed up in the past and haven't checked back recently.

Many of these programs can be combined to save you even more. For example, you can shop through Upromise or Ebates and use a gift certificate from CardPool. I'm not sure if there's a way to combine a gift certificate and Groupon, but you can look into it if you find some that are for the same company.

Watch for ways to use these ideas in combination for stores where you can pick up your purchases locally if you're worried about shipping costs or timing. For example, Lowes and Sears will let you make your purchases online (so you can get more discounts than in the store) and then pick them up soon after making the purchase.

Disclosure: The links in this blog article are affiliate links. If you make purchases through them, I'll receive a kickback. The links are here because I believe them to be of benefit to you, not because of the affiliate status.