Monday, April 30, 2012

Labor of Love

This weekend has truly been a lot of what we call a "labor of love".

It started out bright and early Saturday with a trip to Lowes with my Dad.  We purchased another set of insulation for the rabbit barn while Tim was at home pulling out cages and cleaning trays.  When we returned, I ran inside to order pizza for lunch.  Tim was off to go pick it up, while "Deddy" (I am going to spell it phonetically, rather than what I consider the more childish "Daddy") and I started cutting insulation in to strips.

After a quick lunch, we worked until 7pm, putting up insulation, cutting "specialty" pieces and putting up a heavy duty plastic to shield the new insulation from stray urine streams.  When young bucks figure hit puberty, a favorite game is to see how far they can shoot their pee.  Gross but true, especially in the presence of other males!

Unfortunately we ran out of staples in the home stretch- we were literally shy just the last few to finish putting the plastic around one window and the last small space by the door.  It figures!

We completely rearranged the barn- I pulled out 10 cages for sale and moved my hay container in to one corner.  I plan on putting up shelves to accommodate nestboxes and other supplies.  The rabbits seem to enjoy the new space and I can't believe how much room we have!

Sunday was a more work- after a farewell church luncheon for the intern, we got down to business!  We took a quick trip back to Lowes for zip ties, wire cutters and more staples of course.

Once home, it took less than 5 minutes to finish putting up the plastic.  We move the new AC into it's window and it's running now on a test basis so I can get a sense of how great the insulation is going to work.

I reinforced one of the walls of the chicken coop with a taller, heavier duty wire- thus the need for the wire cutters.  We also moved around their ceiling tarp so that they have more sun on the west side of the coop.  They seemed to love the new sunshine- though the new suet holder stuffed with chickweed and dandelions may have sweetened their temperaments too.

We bought a packet of sunflower seeds and I planted six today.  My plan is to harvest the blooms for us and for the chickens to enjoy, especially after pricing bags of bird seed! Yeoch! I thought rabbits were an expensive hobby, but bird seed gives rabbit food a run for it's money!

So we've worked ourselves to death this weekend.  My back is super sore, but I'm so happy that all the animals are taken care of- I can go on our vacation and not worry about them... as much.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grandfather Mountain, NC

We took a trip to Grandfather Mountain last weekend with my in-laws.  It's funny, even though we don't live terribly far away from there, I had never been to see Grandfather Mountain!  In recent years, the price has skyrocketed ($18 a person! OUCH), but thankfully in April they run a "Dollar Days" special ($2 [used to be $1!] a person if the person driving the car can present a driver's license for that county or one of the surrounding ones).

It was a wonderful day, full of beautiful views and lots of fun hiking.  Tim, his sister and I opted to take a .4 mile hike from the top of mountain to a secondary area while his parents drove down to a nearby parking lot to meet us.  I'm so glad we walked down- we found an awesome cave and some natural areas where it seemed like the mountain went out of it's way to provide a stone staircase for us.

It was a wonderful trip in general and it was nice to get outside for a while!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Couponing Brag!

Our local grocery store, Harris Teeter, is doing SUPER DOUBLES this week.  It means they will double any coupon up to $1.98- so a $1 coupon doubles to $2, so forth and so on.

I purchased:
2 Tubs of Country Crock Butter
2 small tubs of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
1 2pk of Tum's Freshers
1 100ct Bounty Napkins
1 4pk Double roll of Charmin
2 Kashi Steam Fresh Meals
1 box of Lance Cracker Creations
1 package of Kraft Fresh Takes
1 box of 20ct Tampons.
2 bags of Birds Eye Steam veggies.

By the time I used all my coupons, they were doubled and Harris Teeter's "ZVR" (store coupons loaded on to my loyalty card) came off, I only spent $3.40!

Half the coupons used were internet printables, the others were from old coupon inserts- another reason it's important to keep your inserts!


Monday, April 23, 2012

Job Worry

In this economy, worrying about your job security is pretty commonplace.  Tim and I are lucky in that we know that Tim is guaranteed an appointment- though there are rumors that this guarantee may be nixed in the near future.  Even then, Tim is a rarity in his field- a young, first-career preacher.  Top if off by the fact that he hasn't been in major trouble and he graduated from a top University (two, if you want to be honest) and is oh-so-close to becoming fully ordained and you find him several pegs up from the bottom of the totem pole.  We all know the cuts start with the bottom positions and the oldest folks (think forced early retirement), so we are at least confident that Tim will have a job always unless something drastic and terrible happens to the Methodist Church as a body.  We are extremely lucky to know that we have one income we can count on.

Then there is me.   With Tim's job requiring moving around a lot, it's much harder to build a career.  In fact, in the mountains a career wasn't possible, as the few jobs that existed were very much filled based on who you knew or were related to. So I took the job I could find and dealt with the fact that I didn't particularly enjoy the work.

When we moved, it was a bit difficult to find new employment.  After all, the economy was down, the nearest big city has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and not long after we moved here more businesses shut down- leading to more unemployment.

We all know all about this kind of thing- so why am I bringing it up?

My job is currently $15,000 in the red.  They made budget cuts at the beginning of the year and through some folks not giving what they had committed to and some complicated church politics... we are still hemorrhaging money.

An emergency finance meeting is being called for May.  My worry is that soon my position may be reduced- or eliminated all together.  Where does that leave me? Unemployed or working even less hours than I get now- which isn't going to work for us financially.

Luckily, thanks to my stockpile, we do have a lot of health items- toothpaste, shampoo, etc.  That will be helpful if we go down to a one-income-family.  I am going to be focusing my energy on finding things to sell around the house and hitting the sales even harder for non-perishable food items that I can stock up on.  What extra money I can scrimp and save will go in to our "Emergency Fund". 

I guess we should be thankful that the trip to San Diego is 80% paid for- we have our tickets, the rental car, the hotel, etc. already booked and paid for.  I'll just have to coupon harder to save us money while we are there!

This could all be for nothing- I could keep my job and my hours- but since I do have some warning that there could be a problem, it would be foolish not to prepare as best I can now.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's not always easy

It's not always easy to have so many animals.  Unlike cats or dogs, rabbits are prone to just dropping dead for no reason.  Luckily, as an experienced show breeder, I can more easily detect early warning signs than your average pet owner.  One thing I can't predict is when the rabbits are going to have trouble giving birth. 

I lost 9 rabbit babies this week.  Four were because the mother didn't make a nest for them, five died because of birthing trouble the mothers had.  I had only two babies survive and they aren't out of the woods yet- between birth and weaning, so many things can kill baby bunnies- from abrupt temperature changes to leaving the nests too soon- to genetic defects not visible to the eye or troubles with processing their food.  I don't breathe easy until a rabbit is at least 10 weeks old.

The chickens are a whole new set of problems.  I only have owned two in my life before this set.  I was lucky in that Boo and Nugget were healthy girls who survived everything life and my inexperience could throw at them.

Yesterday one of the black pullets, Kettle, came up sick.  She was lethargic and hanging out in the back of their house.  She refused to eat or drink and looked like she had been blowing snot, as well as exhibiting signs of diarrhea.

I immediately began to panic, knowing full well I didn't know what was wrong with her, much less have any idea how to treat her.  Google is only so helpful when you know what exactly you need information on.  "Sick Chicken"...that's not so helpful.

We did a few commonsense measures- she was removed from the flock and quarantined.  I mixed up some electrolyte and vitamin water and dipped her beak in it repeatedly until she drank a little, more to get me to leave her alone than for any real want of the liquid.  I dipped some bread in to the water and tried to get her to nibble that to no avail.  In the end, I just sat and talked to her, stroking her head and back.

There comes a point where you can do all you can do.  Then you just have to hope they survive the night.

Thankfully, Kettle did survive the night.  She ate a bit of chick food out of my hand and lightly fussed at me for keeping her away from the other flock members.  I was incredibly relieved.  I had prepared myself for the worst.

She still isn't out of the woods.  I'll keep her quarantined a few more days until I am sure she won't relapse.  Then she will have to deal with the joys of reintegrating back in to the flock. 

It's not always joy and sunshine when you own pets- especially not those of the dual purpose/livestock variety.

Thankfully it seems like a crisis has been averted this time!


Monday, April 16, 2012

$1000 Challenge Update

03/17- $15.00 Survey Payment
           $50.00 Walmart GC from Mypoints (removed $50 from checking)
           $5.00 Gift Card to Food Lion for doing a Survey for them. (removed $5 from checking)

03/19- $10.00 Superpoints

03/29- $3.00 Survey Payment

- $1.00 Survey Payment

4/10- $3.00 Survey Payment

4/12- $5.00 Survey Payment

4/13- $32.24 Cash Back from the Credit Card (which I pay off in full every month!)


Man, it's hard to believe that we are on track to top $900 by the end of the month and it's only April!  I also ended up with $35+ of amazon credits that I don't count.

These surveys really do add up, I never realized quite how much they help out!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Southern Sayings- Part 1

I often use Southern sayings- and it greatly amuses me how many people have no idea what I am saying. However, I've noticed the generations coming after mine have absolutely no idea what is being said either- and they are from the South!

So I'm putting together a reoccurring series of Southern Sayings! Enjoy!

Month of Sundays- a long time.  "I haven't seen you in a month of Sundays!"

Blue Million- a lot.  "I have a blue million book ideas!"

Forty eleven- a lot.  "She has forty eleven cats."

Mule eatin' mayonnaise- an unattractive face or an unattractive person.  "She looks like a mule eatin' mayonnaise."

Champagne taste, beer pocketbook- Expensive tastes but not much money.  "I always seem to like the most expensive clothing.  I've just got champagne taste and a beer pocketbook."


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Check Your Receipt!

Tim called the other day, wanting to know if he could grab lunch out at Burger King.  I know what you're wondering- "Why does he have to ask permission to go out to lunch?"  Because, we're on a budget people.  It's less asking for permission and more of checking in to make sure the money is available (since he doesn't do anything with the budget).  He also knew I'd say yes because we have a booklet of BK coupons, so he could go get lunch for half price or less.

Anyway, he brought home the receipt so I could enter it in to my budget spreadsheet (I love you excel) and I flipped it over to see the survey offer.  "Get a Free Whopper with purchase of fries and a drink at regular price, when you complete this survey online."  Since I know that it is a pretty reasonable price to buy the smallest drink and smallest fry (we're looking at $2.00 vs. $5 for a Whopper Value Meal), I went online and did the survey.  Poof- coupon code for a free Whopper.

PetSmart, Bath & Body Works and Chickfila often do "random" surveys for money off your next purchase, or a free item, etc. 

Always make sure to check your receipt to see if you received one that is offering coupons.  It's a great way to save some extra money.  In the case of PetSmart, I recently used my receipt-coupon in conjunction with a manufacturer's coupon to score a free item!  The surveys usually take just a few minutes and tell you in advance what the discount will be, so you can judge if it is worth your time or not.

Likewise, always check your receipt to make sure your coupon(s) came off total correctly.  I've been overcharged by several dollars before.  It's kind of a pain to go back in and get the totals fixed, but I look at it this way- if it takes 10 minutes for you to get your $3 back...that's like making $18 an hour.  Worth it!

So, always remember to glance at your receipt!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Soap Challenge Update

I realized it's been 4 months since I have updated you guys about the "Soap Challenge". 

Here we are! The Equate brand hand soap container on the left is the brand new container of soap we purchased this past January.  The soap dispenser is in the middle to show you how full that is currently.  The "Laura Lynn" brand soap container is the one that keeps the diluted soap in it, for quick refills.  The liquid in it comes up to just under the bottom part of the "Antibacterial Liquid Soap" banner.  We have two other dispensers that are nearly empty.

So, we have used very, very little soap from our original $3.88 investment. A third of the way through the year and we haven't even scratched $1.00 worth of product used!

This challenge is going to be entirely too easy.

Just think about your hand soap purchases and how easily you could save a ton of money- especially in larger families!

Do you spend $3.50+ per bottle on the foaming hand soap from bath and body works?  Here is a little hint.  Buy one container of the body wash (or use the "get a travel size free" coupons that come out occasionally) and squirt a generous amount in to your diluted soap (the more you put in, the heavier the scent.  Remember to put in a bit less of the other soap if you do this, so it won't get too thick!).  You get the B&BW scent without the B&BW price tag!

Hopefully this picture shows you about how much soap to use per large diluting container!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Growing Mini Farm

This post has been a long time coming! We added something new to the "mini farm". I dearly wish I could go buy acreage somewhere and have the farm I truly want! Some day... some day.

We drove an hour and a half to pick up this little building.  It was well worth the price, though by the time I put gas in my dad's truck (though I use that as a sneaky excuse to help him out) and bought us all lunch, it turned out to be a little expensive.  Still cheaper than the one from Tractor Supply that was smaller and flimsy!

We spent a few days doing some conversion to the dog pen.  They only hang out there when we are outside feeding the rabbits or working in the garden and they continually disobey orders to stay in the yard, so they didn't really need such a large pen.  So we reinforced the bottom with extra wire.  Due to the extreme costs of wire right now, we weren't able to fence over the top like we originally intended.  Right now, a heavy duty tarp is taking care of over-head predators.

Here are the little creatures that we've done so much back-breaking work for over the past few days!  These bantam cochins will hopefully provide us with extra eggs and perhaps even baby chicks! I have quite a color variety and they are very sweet little birds. 

The chickens spent their first night out in the pen locked into their coop.  I a m hoping they will learn that when it gets dark, that's where they need to go.  We shall see, chickens are definitely not the brightest birds.

I spent a bit on this project- the actual chickens were "free" because I had excess and sold them all, which paid for the initial order.  In fact, I pretty much also paid for their first bag of food.  Thankfully We had been planning on doing this last summer, so I didn't get a gift for our anniversary since my gift was going to be getting chickens.  So I can offset some of the costs by saying "oh it's my gift from last year that we never spent the money on".  I will probably also tell Tim it counts as this year's anniversary gift as well. 

Whew, glad I justified those start up costs in my mind! :)


Monday, April 9, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

We have a lot of our garden items purchased this year! Just waiting on getting the tomatoes and perhaps a cantaloupe plant.

It made me think (after we checked out at Lowes), is it really worth it to grow your own garden?  I plan on recording what we spend here on the blog, then comparing that to our harvest/prices at the time.  So if we get 5lbs of tomatoes, how much would it cost us to go to Walmart and purchase 5lbs there?  We'll see what we see.

Plastic Sheeting- $10.98 (too lazy to weed this year)- Lowes
Stakes to keep the sheeting down- $2.98- Lowes
Peas & 2 packs of onions- $4.20- Walmart (planted 100 onions)
Broccoli- $2.98 (9)- Lowes
Cucumbers- $.98 (3 plants in one cup)- Lowes
Hot Banana Peppers, Jalapeno peppers, Green peppers (7)- $20.86- Lowes
4 inch stakes (2- reuseable) for the peas- $3.96- Lowes

So far, we are $46.94 in the hole and don't yet have our tomato plants, which are the core of our garden.  I know, I know- we could save a lot of money by buying seeds and starting our own plants, but for some reason  I have never been successful doing that.  The only thing that has ever done well for me was corn! I do still have some corn seeds from last year, so I may stick a few out and see how they do.

We also could have saved 20% of our bill this year by not going with the plastic sheeting.  However, the jerk that mows the yard (we have no control over him, by the way and we are not paying him out of our pockets) likes to mow around the garden in such a way that all the clippings fly in to the garden.  It's impossible to keep ahead of the weeds and I don't even want to try this year!

Hopefully a nice big yield will show that we are truly offsetting our costs. At least we will know!


Friday, April 6, 2012

You sunk my...wait, what?

I'm currently watching a very long trailer for "Battleship".  The movie based on the Hasbro game.

This game.

I have been confused since the beginning about how in the world they were going to turn red and white pegs into a movie. 

Now I am totally confused as to how this movie can be said to be based on this game at all.  Oh- ok I guess there is a battleship in it.  Uhm...and... I've got nothing.

If you haven't seen it, here is a shorter preview. Someone tell me how this ties in with the game at all, cause I just don't understand it at all.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Saving Money: Hotel Goodies

Raise your hand if you have ever taken the soap, shampoo, conditioner and mouthwash from a hotel room you were staying in.

I do.  I am, in fact, raising both hands right now.  I'm typing this with my toes.

I do this so often, in fact, that Tim doesn't even roll his eyes at me anymore. That's how I know he is used to my antics.

So why do I do it?  First of all- we've paid for the room and those items are "complimentary".  I am not suggesting that you demand the front desk send up dozens of extra soaps so you never have to buy any- however, I prefer my own shampoo.  With curly hair, change throws it for a loop and a harsher shampoo than it is used to makes it frizz out of control.  So, I bring my own shampoo and pack away the hotel provided stuff. 

What do I do with the items though?  Well, I keep a few shampoos and conditioners, as well as soaps, to keep in my guest bathroom.  If a guest forgets something, they can just use what we have there and there is no "well I felt bad using your  <insert item here even if it isn't that nice>".

I love to send the items overseas to the troops as well.  My bank often collects items to send and they ask that you send travel sized things, so that they can get more in the boxes.  What are hotel items, but glorified travel sized bottles? 

Tim recently spent a week in Haiti.  When he traveled, I sent him almost exclusively with hotel bottles.  Why?  Because you never can tell what customs is going to take from you, they were already in airline-approved sizes and if he forgot them or decided to give them away to the Haitians, it was no big deal!

Sometimes, occasionally, I find a hotel shampoo I love.  We stayed somewhere once that had partnered with Pantene to provide shampoo and conditioner to hotel guests.  I actually used the items- but wait, the bottle was still half full when we were about to check out!  Why have those items tossed out by house-keeping?  I took the bottles home and used them at a later date when we stayed in a hotel that did not have a brand-name partner for their shampoos.

You can also donate these items to Homeless Shelters or Women's shelters- even Food Banks! There is always someone that can use them.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Phantom Power

We have all heard of "Phantom Power".  Anything that is plugged in to an electrical socket draws power, whether the item is in use or not.

I never gave this much thought.  We tend not to leave random plugs in the wall, but lamps are plugged in whether they are in use or not- same with Tim's video game consoles, the fan in the bedroom that has been run twice, ever, etc.

Recently I was reading on about a man who's family had a power bill of $120.  They were doing things we are doing- turning lights off when you leave a room, being reasonable about the temperature in the house, etc.  Still their bill climbed higher and higher (sound familiar?).  Out of sheer frustration, his wife told him they were going to unplug anything that wasn't in use.  Items like the TV, dvd player, video games, etc were going on surge protectors that they could turn off easily.  The Wii has a light that changes colors depending on if it is "on" or "off".  When you flick the surge protector off, the light goes out! Voila, no longer drawing power!

In the thread, dozens of other people mentioned saving as little as $20 and as much as $100 by unplugging items that aren't in use.


I am definitely going to give this a try.  Who couldn't use an extra $20 a month?  If we are one of the lucky ones and can get our bill down even lower, so much the better!  It's going to take some time to remember to unplug things- for instance, I know for a fact my hair dryer is still plugged in at home even as I type this.  Oops.