Responsible and Generous Living in Early Adulthood

But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. – Mark 12:42

Why We Never Pay for Textbooks or Birthday Presents

Out of desperation comes ingenuity

When we made the faithful leap to start my graduate program a little over a year ago, we knew it would come at a major cost. We crunched numbers for weeks determining if we could afford it. We refused to take on more debt and agreed the only way we would pursue my (much desired) Masters degree was if we could pay out of pocket and still make progress on paying off other debt.

The numbers fit (barely) and we snuggled into a life of sacrifice and deep appreciation for the cost of education.

As any student, graduate or otherwise, can tell you, tuition is just one of the expenses that goes with getting a degree. Books are another sometimes weighty addition to the budget and while we had a few extra dollars, we knew it wasn’t sustainable. We refused to let the extra $100 or so each class prevent us from going through with our plan.

After some frantic internet digging for topics like “Help me pay for textbooks” and “How can I make some quick cash?” — You can imagine the slew of spammy internet triangle companies that popped up–  I found what I was looking for.

I was diligent. Like page 10, 11, and 12 on Google Search diligent.

Finally I found a blog feed that directed me toward a website called I didn’t know if it would be a hoax, but I tried it and found slowly but surely I could take online surveys and make $10-$15 every week or two in Amazon money. I saw references to other sites and tried those. Over the span of about a month, I made a good $70 and pairing that with some Amazon book trade-ins (which I discuss here) we covered the first few months worth of books with some money left over. We’re also big on selling books back, whether to Amazon or a site like  Sell Your Textbooks For More Money At

Converting my skeptical husband

It wasn’t until the books arrived at our door that Jon was convinced my survey taking was a legitimate way to bring in some extra funds. When the money cleared, he hopped on board and signed up for the sites I had found. Between the two of us we started bringing in $20-$30 a week by taking surveys, testing products, trying out new apps – all of which amounted to maybe 2 hours during the week. It’s not the highest paying job, but it was something we could do on our own time and stop whenever we wanted.

Many critics of this technique suggest doing something like this is a waste, time that could be spent at another job. It’s a nice thought, but really who has time for another job? If you have time for a second job and want to commit to getting one – skip this post. If you just want some extra Amazon money by taking some surveys and trying out free stuff – read on.

Expanding our Amazon dreams

After the first couple months, we realized we were bringing in enough to buy way more than text books. My program started in March, and by August we realized we might be able to do something bigger. Like pay for Christmas.

We set a budget of $25  for each of our family members (which is quite a bit when you both come from split families with multiple married siblings). Then we went to work. I picked up another two sites and within two months we had enough to pay for Christmas.

Since that time we’ve used Amazon as our revolving door for random expenses. Every birthday, mother’s day, father’s day and anniversary has been 100% Amazon funded. We even stock up on things like extra razors, laundry detergent (if we run out of the different product test varieties we’ve received), garbage bags, new shoes etc.

Last month after hearing my sister and brother-in-law wanted to come visit us, we purchased our largest Amazon item ever, a mattress. Up to this point we only had a little twin bed from my single days in the spare room and of course no extra funds to buy something a couple could sleep on. We were lucky to have more than a few hundred dollars sitting in our Amazon account and took the risk of buying a bed online.

Side note: For those who are curious, the mattress came rolled up like a gigantic sleeping bag having been vacuum-sealed and pressed into a pancake. After slicing open one tiny piece of the plastic it grew fast, like those sponge tablet-toys you toss in the sink. We were both fascinated. We have had three different guests and the verdict is: comfy!

The nitty gritty of online surveys

Not all survey sites are created equal, some will try and get you to sign up for tons of other websites and fill your inbox with spam. But be happy to know our desperate attempt to search out extra funds means you don’t have to go through the grueling trial and error.

Top survey sites – pros and cons:

My Survey – This is your basic survey site and it’s easy for beginners. My Survey sends you surveys every few days to your email inbox and each one gives you points. After 1100 points, you get to browse their gift options. We’ve only done Paypal and Amazon but if you’re interested in other things they have lots of choices. The sending time varies on the product, but Amazon takes about a week. Surveys will come more rapidly the longer you stick with this site.*

I-psos i-Say – I know it’s a weird name, but this is the best introductory site. It’s easy, straight forward and consistent. Both Mysurvey and i-Say will start out slow. It’s like they’re testing you out for a while before they give you the good surveys, the product tests and what not. Be patient, these two pay off. I-say will give you Amazon money within minutes after ordering, Paypal generally takes a week or more.*

Opinion Outpost – This can single handedly be the most aggravating and the most rewarding survey site. I must tell you that this will kick you out of more surveys than any other site, you may try 3-4 before you hit one you qualify for and if you’re in a bad mood, it may irritate you to the point of giving up. I understand, it’s happened to me. It’s also the easiest site to cash out on, you only have to earn $5 in Amazon money to cash in and it sends it to you instantaneously after you order it. Not the case for all sites. I go in spurts when I have the energy and Opinion Outpost has gotten me through moments where I wanted to pay for something quickly but I needed 15 extra dollars, I often reach that in one sitting.*

Attempt this site at your moments of high motivation. Avoid it when you’re weary

My View – This site is similar to Opinion Outpost in how it presents surveys, but it always gives you consolation points. Which really does make you feel better. This site also has some fun surveys, random colleges use it for tests, political surveys, how you feel about different world issues etc. I find myself actually interested in many of the surveys – which is a little rare. My View’s downside is it takes a while to get to an incentive, they only let you cash in at $25 and especially your first time it can take a while. I would recommend starting out with one of the other sites.*

*Each of these sites also give the option to donate to a charity. Examples of charities you can support through a survey site include Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders,  American Cancer Society and Make a Wish. What a creative way to be generous when you feel your budget’s limited!

Why longevity in survey taking pays off

After a year of taking surveys, Jon and I have some pretty great stories.

  • I did one survey that payed a hundred dollars for me to use a Pinterest-like website to post party ideas.
  • I’m taking one right now for 5 days (a small survey each night) which asks me questions about my google searches. They’re sending me  a $200 check next week.
  • Jon downloaded a mobile app and after using it for a week he received $50.
  • We get products that meet all sorts of needs and save us money: toilet paper, windex, air freshners, a mustache trimmer (for Jon), Campbells soup tests, frozen meals, makeup…

This didn’t happen immediately, but after a few months we got some sort of advanced-survey-taker status and it’s now rare we go a week without some interesting survey or product test. See why we tout the fun of this process? It’s not as hokey as it sounds!

Maybe survey taking isn’t for you. That’s fine. We have enjoyed it because it gives us power over some of our expenses, but there are lots of ways to make some extra money. For example, I also babysit three boys a couple times each week for extra cash.

What are your extra income ideas? Is it always necessary to take a second job or is there a more creative way to approach this need?


12 comments on “Why We Never Pay for Textbooks or Birthday Presents

  1. Anonymous
    May 2, 2013

    Nice post Krista, I started doing surveys but obviously didn’t find the right site. May be changing over to those you recommended.

    • jkmaroni
      May 2, 2013

      Excellent Shawn, it takes a while to get the survey ball rolling but once you do it can be really rewarding. Finding the right sites is essential and patience and perseverance are critical. Best of luck.

  2. Aly Beauty
    May 15, 2013

    Fantastic site. A lot of useful info here. I am sending it to a few buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks in your effort!

  3. audrey
    May 15, 2013

    love this!! You’ve inspired me! I’m mostly a stay at home mom now, so anything helps 🙂

    • jkmaroni
      May 15, 2013

      Audrey, I’m so glad you’re doing them! Stick with it, it’s worth it. Thanks for letting us know you’re on the survey bandwagon 🙂

  4. Sherri Maroni
    May 20, 2013

    Thanks Krista, for the helpful tips. I signed up for My Survey, as my introduction into the survey world and found the process very simple and kind of fun. Loving your blog! Have passed it on to a couple of people I know will help.

    • jkmaroni
      May 20, 2013

      Sherri, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the surveys. See, they’re not that bad, and they really do give you a chance to control a bit more of your financial situation. Thanks for passing them along!

  5. Audrey Williamson
    May 21, 2013

    Not having much luck with isay or mysurvey yet, but I’ll be patient 🙂 I don’t qualify for many, or their quotas are full, or whatever. Plus they just don’t send me them very often. But I’ll stick with it. Did you guys experience that with those 2 sites too?

    • jkmaroni
      May 21, 2013

      Patience is key and our experience was exactly the same. Things were really slow to start with. Its likely because of your marketing background that you will be kicked from many surveys. Myview, datatelligence, and opinion outpost will most likely be better fits for you. Working in ministry hardly disqualified us for surveys so we don’t get kicked very often.

  6. crossj44
    May 22, 2013

    I’m going to go create a “survey email account” and get started on this survey stuff right away! Thanks for doing all the grunt work to figure out the legitimate sites! I had no idea money could be made doing surveys. Perfect activity for a stay-at-home mom to do during nap time! I knew following your blog would pay off. 🙂

    • jkmaroni
      May 22, 2013

      It is a great way to make money in your spare time. We have paid for so many things using survey money and it has freed us from the stress of expenses we know are coming up such as birthdays, Christmas etc. Glad that we could be of help.

    • jkmaroni
      May 22, 2013

      That’s been a common theme I’ve noticed Jackie, I hope this system works well for you. Again patience is key – but it really will pay off!

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This entry was posted on May 2, 2013 by in Budgeting, Managing Finances, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .
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