Saturday, June 30, 2012

How do you vacation?

I was talking to a friend recently about her vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  I mentioned that if I had known she was planning on vacationing there, we could have rented them our timeshare, which is a very nice property.

April then said that it was a last minute trip, as most of their trips are.

That got me thinking- what is your style of vacationing?

For me, I need to have at least a month of planning.  I prefer multiple months.  For instance, we're going to Disney World (again) with my in-laws in October.  I've known since March or so that they wanted to take the trip and I've succeeded in getting myself named Trip Planner.

For me, that includes research on the parks (again), research on dining options (again), planning out which park on which day to visit, stopping by the Florida Welcome Center for coupons and brochures (mostly coupons).  When we went to San Diego, I had an itinerary for each day with what we wanted to do, addresses, etc. 

Now, don't misunderstand me when I say itinerary.  It did not read like this:

9:00am        Get up
9:01-9:06     Bathroom Break
9:07-9:09     Brush Teeth
9:10- 9:20    Breakfast

Instead, it was much more like this:

Saturday: La Jolla, Old Town
Sunday: Point Loma, Coronado, La Jolla
Monday: Los Angeles, Anaheim Angels Game
Tuesday: San Diego Zoo
Wednesday: Disneyland
I actually tend to be very laid back on vacations, but I do like knowing what we are going to do each day.  I feel it helps us get everything we want to do done, without cramming things in on the last day or visiting on the very worst day possible.  I knew in Disneyland what we *must* see that was different from Disney World and where to eat (because of large portions and the ability to split meals).  I knew little trivia about certain rides- for instance, in Disneyland "Pirates of the Carribean", they used to use all real human skulls, because they were cheaper than buying fakes.  One skull in the ride is still real, it's the one over the captain's bed.   I like knowing that kind of thing.  I'm a nerd. 

If I have to, I can plan a vacation in a week. To just up and go? That would likely kill me.  I have to hunt for the deals, check groupon and living social for anything we want to do, get my tip sheets and itinerary ready, etc.   I have to coupon my way to my vacation.  Once there, the stress disappears.  A few days in San Diego we even finished up with what we wanted to do with half the day left! In that case, we flirted with flying by the seat of our pants, just up and saying "Well, let's go get Sprinkles cupcakes!"  One day, we went to Palomar Mountain then drove the length of the coast down to San Diego just to enjoy the views.  It was completely unplanned but lots of fun.  Thanks to my daily planning, we had the time to do that without stressing we wouldn't be able to squeeze something else in.

I'm not saying one way of vacationing is better than the other.  I can definitely see the appeal of just going and enjoying! I'm not wired that way though. 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tricking Yourself in to Saving Money #1

It's easy to trick yourself in to saving money once you get started.

Every time you pay a bill online, take the price of the stamp and put it in a change jar or move it online from one bank account to another (note: My bank requires that I move $1.00 or more at a time.  Simply calculate how much you will save in a month by paying some or all of your bills online and move all the money at once.)

I like this one a lot because it's more up-to-date than some of the other tricks.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

$1000 Challenge- Completed +!

5/21-    $3.00 Survey Payout

5/29-    $5.00 Rebate
            $3.00 Survey Payout

6/07-   $54.00 Credit Card Payout

6/11-   $3.00 Survey Payout

6/12-  $7.75 SavingStar cashout.

6/19-  $20.00 Survey Cashout
           $50.00 Giftcard Cashout

6/22- $3.00  Survey Payout

6/23- $10.00 Market Research Payment


Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Homesteading Update

I've been out of town since Wednesday- now that I've returned home, so many things seem to have changed!

The garden has gone absolutely feral.  The cantaloupe vine has expanded to the edge of the garden, then hooked a left and started climbing the peas trellis.  The cucumber has taken the opportunity to expand and began crawling on top of the cantaloupe vine and the pea trellis.  Also, we have teeny peas now.

We learned that planting onions under black plastic works fabulously to keep down weeds.  It also keeps the soil too damp and causes your big, beautiful onions to rot.  RIP onions.  We did manage to salvage a few, they are out drying as we speak.

The chickens are doing wonderfully, we had four eggs when I returned!  I'll be boiling those up and feeding them back to the chickens since they laid in the nestbox for a while in the heat.

I'm trying to sell the last rooster.  He is loud and obnoxious- fingers crossed someone wants him! I have him paired with the hen of the same color, so hopefully they go as a nice set.

I have some exciting things in the works as I work on building up a mini-working farm in a housing develop on parsonage land!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Selling and Reselling

There are several important factors to keep in mind when you go to sell or resell an item.

  1. Check condition
    This one should be a no-brainer. Is the item clean and gently used or like new?  This is especially important for books, in general I don't try to resell unless they are in "Very Good" condition at the worst.  There are simply too many paperbacks out there to waste my time buying an "Acceptable" copy, especially when prices are often so close.  No stains, no rips, no funky odors- if you wouldn't want it, someone else probably wouldn't either. }

  2. Check the market
    Sure, you can get an excellent copy of a paperback book- but is there a market for it?  This is where Smart Phones are actually super helpful. A quick check on amazon may show that "Very Good" copies of a book are selling for a single penny.  I've found typically that it's very difficult to sell even a "Like New" copy of a book for a profit in cases like this, as the market is flooded.  Check ebay for items like clothing and purses.  Don't pay as much attention to what the prices people are asking for the item are, look and see what the prices are that have bids!

  3. Write good, detailed descriptions
    As a buyer, I don't have a problem at all paying a few extra cents to know what I am getting in an item.  I hate to see those generic "100% satisfaction guaranteed, we ship daily" ads on Amazon.  I hesitate to purchase from ebay when I see "Nice coat, worn twice."  What do I want? "Book is like new, tiny crease in the right corner, pages are clean, spine isn't even creased.  Never read!"  or in the case of ebay, the more details you can give me the better.  Smoke free home? Pet free home? Stored in the closet?  These are things I like to know about.

  4. Set reasonable prices
    Remember, you are selling used.  In most cases, it's used, common items like books or clothing.  It may even be new, but you still owned it for X amount of time.  You are not dealing in antique paperbacks and I will not pay you those prices.  Can I get a "Very Good" version of the same paperback for $2.00 cheaper? Then I will not pay you what you are asking for your Like New copy.  I just won't.  I'm cheap and so are most buyers out there who aren't purchasing new.   I try to sell my items as quickly as possible.  In the case of paperbacks, who knows if 100 people aren't logging in right at the same time to sell their copies too?  Soon the market is glutted with my book and everyone is going a penny less than everyone else- so my $4 book is now only worth $2- if I can get that much!  I am not saying you sell the only "Like New" copy online for the same price as an "Acceptable" copy, but don't ask retail value either- you won't get it.

  5. Sell Seasonally
    You'll get more money for used winter clothing if you start selling it in the Fall rather than in the Spring. The same pretty much applies to everything you want to put online.  Try to stay a month or two ahead of the holidays.  The best time to sell those old True Blood box sets is a month or so before the new season starts.  A little planning can net you more money!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Selling Books

Tim and I spent Saturday bumming around the counties adjacent to the one we live in.  It was fun, we went to a festival that grossly misrepresented itself (150-200 vendors?  Try 15-20).  We walked the Farmer's Market, which was super crowded, then we headed to the county I grew up in to check out the Hospice Thrift Store.

I found a beautiful frame for a print Tim gave me for our anniversary- only it was $40 and had no glass! No thank you.  I did end up getting several other pieces of art though, so that was nice.

The biggest find was also the one I was least looking for.  Tim purchased several paperback books and I was browsing them in hopes of finding a few cheapies that might be fun to read.  I don't want to pay $10 on Kindle for a series I'm on the fence about.

Instead, I found books 1-3 of the Game of Thrones series.  I know that's not the series name, but you people know what I'm talking about.  I tried to read book 1 "Game of Thrones" years ago and couldn't get in to it.  At all.

So I called up my friend Becca to see if she needed Book 2 or 3- nope, she has them already, but asks that I pick up Game of Thrones because she loaned out her copy and the loanee is slow in returning it. 

I remember an app on my phone called "Redlaser"- it tells you the online prices of things with barcodes. I scan the two books and see both are selling for around $5.00 on amazon.  So, I take a deep breath and take the plunge, buying the two new books for 50 cents each.

Around 11:00am I listed both for sale and I'm thrilled to announce both have sold.  Yes.  In less than 8 hours I sold two books I've owned for less than 24 hours.

After Amazon takes their cut and after I ship them out, I'll be netting around $7 for both books. Not too shabby!  I was surprised that there was such a market since the books are hardly new- I first tried to read Game of Thrones 10 years ago and it wasn't new then!  I suppose the HBO series helps the books take on a new life.

Needless to say, I'll be more mindful when I'm checking out thrift stores from now on! I am thinking I'll do a follow up post soon on what to look for in items you'd like to resale.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

No Beer Purchase Required

My newest "money making scheme" (which really isn't a scheme at all) is the use of NBPR rebates.  NBPR stands for No Beer Purchase Required and luckily for those of us in North Carolina, we get a lot of these.

You've seen those tear pads at the stores- "Get a $5 rebate when you buy $5.01 or more worth of meat and two cases of Beerofyourchoice Lite!"  Maybe you pass them by because you don't drink Beerofyourchoice.  Next time, stop a minute and check out the fine print.  In a good number of states, you actually are not required to purchase the beer to get the rebate! So in this example, if I spent $5.01 on meat, I can get a $5.00 rebate back when I fill out the original form and mail it in. 

I found a tear pad at Walmart the other day for $5 back when we bought propane and beer- but oh wait! Right there in the fine print, NC is a NBPR state! So I can get $5 back just on buying the propane for our gas grill, which we buy anyway.

You can purchase NBPR original forms on ebay cheaply, which is a double edged sword.  You can get a lot of rebates from all over the country, but people also steal the entire tear pad so they can make a few bucks on ebay- meaning you have to pay for something that should be free.  The good sellers will type up which states don't require you to purchase beer and all the other little legal ins and outs as stated on the form- make sure if you do decide to purchase them, you buy only originals.  99.995% of the time, a copy is not acceptable to the companies and who can blame them?

This is a fantastic way to "find" money if you are lucky enough to live in a NBPR state- after all, you are probably going to spend $5.01 on meat at the grocery store anyway- why not get $5.00 back? 

Just make sure you keep track of which rebates you've submitted! Most state only one per household and run for several months, so you don't want to waste postage on a rebate you have already done!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Saying Goodbye

When you raise animals, you get used to saying goodbye to them, whether it is through death or through sales.

Thankfully, this post is about sales!

I sold Frizzle and Mottled, two of the bantam cochin chickens yesterday.  I also sold the pair of d'uccles I had and a pair of dark laced bantam cornish!  I am thrilled.  We are down to just six chickens- five hens and a rooster.  

I'm tickled! I let the sales group go for a steal, but they are going to a good home and we already have made plans to get a Frizzle baby back- only it will be a pullet this time.  Now I have less birds to feed and take care of, and a better ratio of "egg-layers" to "worthless but pretty" boys.

That's one less thing to stress about! Hooray!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

How to act when you are buying something-

So here is the deal.

Let's say you are cruising craigslist and you spot something you want to purchase.  For the sake of argument, let's say it's an animal- a rooster.

First off, check the ad.  Most ads are going to have a price and a location of the animal/item you want to purchase. Don't know where a place is? Google it.  Use mapquest. Call a friend that is smarter than you are.  There are options people.  Decide if you are willing to go to said place before you contact the person selling the rooster.  When I inquire on something, I know for a fact I'm willing to go get it.  I don't care if you didn't know where the city was.  That's not my problem.  I don't care if you have to drive 30 minutes to come get it- again, not my problem.  I state where my item or animal is, it's up to you to know where it is.  Don't email me asking where it is either- because frankly, you could have googled the location in the same amount of time it took you to email me.

Make sure you know what a rooster is.  Or what the breed is.  Or whatever it is you are buying.  Don't waste a few hours of the person's time then go " mean this is a chicken?"  Again- google is your friend, if you don't know what a bantam cochin is- or a mini lop.  Or a maltese.  Whatever it is, google has it.

Next up, make sure you can meet someone when you set up a pick-up time.  This waiting until a few hours beforehand to cancel or reschedule doesn't cut it.  I know that things come up, we've all been there- but it is still very frustrating to someone who has probably already been holding an animal for you.

Don't save haggling for the end.  Ask your questions about the animal or item, THEN ask for a price break.  Don't get everything set up, down to the meeting time, then suddenly decide you really want to haggle an extra dollar off the price- again, you're just wasting time if you aren't willing to pay the price in the add.  I'm not saying don't try to haggle, but again- either state your desire to get a lower price up front, or don't email.

Show up.  If you have buyer's remorse and have decided you don't want to purchase your item, let the person know.  Don't have them waste their time sitting around waiting on your, or their gas driving to meet you when you know you aren't going to be there.  There is a special place in Hell for you people who do this.

Remember- be courteous and treat people the way you want to be treated.  That's really all it takes.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Depression Lies

Whether you suffer from crippling depression or "depression lite", as I self-deprecatingly refer to my own struggles, it's important to remember one thing.

Depression Lies.
That's what it is, you know. It's every self doubt, every bad feeling, every tiny, niggling, paranoid thought you've ever had.  It takes up residence in your brain and it roots there.  It's anxiety, blackness, despair- and it's a liar.

I have finally been able to identify some of my own triggers. I can be perfectly fine for such a long time, then suddenly there it is- it starts with a fluttering feeling in my chest and a sense of urgency. It moves to an almost frantic searching for something.  Maybe it's a way to save more money, I don't know- it just depends on what the trigger is at the time as to what I'm searching to change, or "fix".

The anxiety builds, it paves the way for a little more self-doubt to sneak in. Then a lot more.  Then suddenly, everything is bad. Everything.
Some people spend days or weeks in a dark fog, unable to get out of bed. Some people are "walking depression victims"- they can function and seem relatively normal, but inside is a turmoil.

Why am I posting about this?  Why do I occasionally post about depression in general?  To remove the stigma.  I'm not going to say something kitschy like "depression isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign you've been strong too long"- I'm going to just say- Depression Lies.
Whatever it tells you, wherever you are, whatever is going on in your life- it's too easy to listen to the negativity.  Don't.  If only it was that easy.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Making Your Own Laundry Detergent!

I've decided to give making my own laundry detergent a try.

You'll Need:
1 bar of Fels-Naptha (97 cents at Walmart- find it in the laundry detergent aisle) or a cheap bar of soap.
1/2 cup of Borax
1 cup of Washing Powder
- NOT baking powder or baking soda, which they also house with the laundry detergent.

All of these items can be easily found at Walmart and for much cheaper prices than you will see somewhere like  I paid less than $5 for all three ingredients.

You will also need a 5 gallon bucket, a grater and a small pot.  I had to buy all of these things, but no worries, I'll recoup the money spent ultimately.

First grate your bar of Fels-Naptha and add it to your pot with water. Stir the soap continuously over medium-low heat until the soap is melted and dissolves.  This can take a while, but believe me when I say you don't want this stuff boiling over.  Keep track of it.
Fill your 5 gallon bucket half full of hot water. Add your melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all the powder is dissolved. Fill the bucket to the top with more hot water, then stir the mixture and cover it.  Let it sit overnight to thicken up some.

Stir again in the morning/afternoon/whenever and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with the soap/water mixture and then fill rest of way with water. Shake it up well before you use it each time, or it will get gunky and gel-like.

See how weird it is when you first open the container the next morning? LOL
For Top Load Washing Machines, use 5/8 cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)
For Front Load Machines, use 1/4 cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Spoiled Rotten...Chickens?

Our chickens are possibly the most spoiled creatures on earth.  No really.

Apparently they have come to the decision that we should hold each and every treat for them, while they nibble on it.  I went out earlier with a bowl of broccoli stems, strawberry tops, a small piece of stale bread and half a banana pepper.   Tim and I were required to hold each piece of food while they nibbled it and clucked to each other, trying to decide if they wanted to finish eating it or not. 

In true picky-chicken form, they turned their beaks up at the broccoli in favor of the sweet strawberries and bread.  Tim is convinced I've spent too much time with them and they've picked up on my eating habits.  I'd have gone for the strawberries and bread too!

They all are starting to let me pet them now.  The two black hens pretty much always let me, others I can only stroke when they are distracted by food.  Hopefully they will all eventually let me snuggle them.  Yes, snuggle chickens.  Don't judge me!

Frizzle crowed all morning- starting at 5:30am.  I think we normally wouldn't have heard him, but we were both up for a potty break- his squawking made it very hard to get back to sleep, so I am thinking he may have to be rehomed.  I hate to do it because Tim loves him very much, but I don't want complaints from the neighbors- and I sure don't want my sleep interrupted!

I had looked in to placing another chick order to hopefully get more frizzles (and keep a hen this time!), but the specialty color I wanted is sold out until Spring 2013! So it looks like that idea is out until at least next year.  That may be the smarter way to go anyway.


Friday, June 1, 2012

First Harvest!

As a massive rainstorm hits us, we managed to run in to the house with the first harvest of the year!  Well, I ran in to the house.  Tim was stuck outside, belatedly trying to put up tomato cages on massive tomato plants.

Look at the size of the broccoli! It's ALL that big! I was amazed.   The hot banana peppers aren't exactly tiny themselves though.

One thing that is slightly worrying me- we already have green peppers at a decent size! Since I planted those to go in salsa and we don't have any tomatoes even close to ready yet, I'm getting a little twitchy.  Normally the green peppers are the last thing to come in- this year they are way early! Maybe that means we'll get a better harvest than normal.