All Purpose – First Aid Kits

Make Your OWN First Aid Kit – For your family.

  • In your Car
  • Your home
  • Your Purse
  • Travel

What to Include??? Gather ideas from first aid kits that have already been put together. Here is one from Johnson & Johnson $10 at Office Depot

All purpose first Aid Kit: (125 items)


  • 3 Hand Cleansing Wipes


  • 4 Neosporin Antibiotic ointment single-use pouches (0.9g each)


  • 10 Gauze Pads (2in x 2in) – 5 two packs
  • 10 Bain-Aid Brand butterfly closures (3/8in x 1 3/4 in)
  • 1 Paper Tape 1/2in x 5yds (no scissors required)
  • 3 Band-Aid brand Non-stick Pads (2in x 3in)
  • 30 Band-Aid brand flexible fabric adhesive bandages
    • 5 – 1in x 3in
    • 10 – 3/4in x 3in
    • 15 – 5/8in x 2 1/4in
  • 10 Band-Aid brand flexible fabric Extra Large Adhesive bandages (1 3/4in x 4in)
  • 45 Band-Aid Brand clear strips adhesive bandages
    • 5 – 1in x 3in
    • 15 – 3/4in x 3in
    • 17 – 5/8in x 2 1/4in
    • 8 – 7/8in x 7/8in


  • 4 Motrin IB Ibuprofen Caplets (Two 2 packs, 200mg each caplet)
  • 1 Bengay Non-medicated Instant Cold Pack
  • 1 Pair – Nitrile Patient Examination Gloves (non-sterile, single use only
  • 1 Tweezer
  • First Aid Guide

Coupons 101 – For Beginners!

Local (Manatee & Sarasota County) Store Price List Thus Far: 

  • Includes BJ’s, Publix, CVS, Walgreens, Office Depot
  • pricelist-new (print & download)

Sales by Season

  • Back to School Time (Aug-September) Office Depot has their Penny Sale (yes items priced at 1 cent! Pencil sharpeners, pens, folders, crayons etc. They have a LIMIT on how many items a household can purchase per day). They also have many other items for $1 (markers, colored pencils, hole punchers, Expo makers, pencil pouches etc). Staples also has a sale with prices as low as 19 cents! 

 Know Where to Find Coupons

Top 6 ways to find the best coupons:

  • Inserts in your weekly paper – these are inserts that vary each week in your Sunday paper.  Inserts are from
    • Smart Source
    • Red Plum (You need to register/make an account, You can clip coupons to your linked loyalty store card, and they have limited printable coupons that do not require your store to offer loyalty card, you can also search where to find their coupon booklet based on your address)
    • P&G. (You can print one of each coupon. Limit is 30 coupons total per month)

Remember, you can print additional coupons online at, AND that are DIFFERENT coupons than you find in the Sunday inserts. These web sites areALWAYS adding new coupons, BUT they are LIMITED in number, so you’ll want to print right away BEFORE they are GONE!

Below I give more details on Newspaper insert coupons (not all of them are available online, to get multiples requires you to get multiple newspapers on Sundays)

  • Printable CouponClick here for a LIST of sites where you can find coupons to print  (or see my list below):

** They limit the number of times you can print a coupon. Sometimes the only way to find a specific coupon is directly from the manufacturers’ website OR from newspaper inserts 

  • Arm & Hammer (few products offering coupons for their brand only)
  • Betty Crocker (You need to register/make an account to access many coupons)
  • Sanofi/Chattem (Coupons via Step-Up-And-Save for their products: Selsun Blue Shampoo/Conditioner, Rolaids, Gold Bond, Icy Hot, ACT mouth rinse, Ultra Swim shampoo/Conditioner)
  • Colgate (specific Colgate products, their brand only: tooth brush, mouth rinse etc.)
  • (Limited digital and printable coupons, general mills products)
  • Hefty (brand coupons: trash bags, storage bags, plastic cups, disposable plates)
  • Hopster (limited coupons)
  • Healthy Essentials (Johnson & Johnson) – Brand product coupons, you need to register to have access. Aveeno, Band Aid, Listerine, Clean & Clear, Neosporin, BenGay, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Zyrtec, Baby Shampoo/Lotion/Body Wash.
  • Kleenex (brand specific coupons – limited)
  • Mambo Sprouts (Go to Print At Home for their printable coupons: Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers, LifeWay Pro Bugs yogurt drinks, Nature items, TruRoots, Taazo Teas, Stonyfield yogurt, SoDelicious, Back to Nature, Kashi, Silk beverages,)
  • Lysol (product specific coupons – limited)
  • Ortega (one coupon for their product – salsa, chips, taco shells)
  • Perdue (no coupons on their website currently, but they have a promotions section that may have coupons at some point. You can register for their mailing list and they will e-mail you coupons – Chicken!)
  • Celebrate Family Values (You need to register/make an account, via Pick Up the Values, Printable Coupons: Huggies diapers, Scott toilet paper, Kleenex, Cottonelle, Overnight diapers, Viva)
  • Pillsbury (General mills coupons, you need to register/make an account to have access to coupons: Nature Valley, Cereals, YoPlait yogurt, Motts fruit snacks, Energizer Batteries, FiberOne bars, Oral-B, Windex, Mr. Clean, OFF Spray, Excedrin, Febreze, Old Spice, Gillette, Crest, Pampers/Huggies, Aveeno)
  • Pompeian (brand specific coupons – limited: olive oil, cooking sprays)
  • Purex (brand specific coupon – limited: purex laundry detergent)
  • Purina (Pet Food coupons for this specific brand)
  • Save in Store (many coupons for different brands to print: Applegate, Huggies, Viva, NoDose, Advil, Excedrin, Sargento, Tums, Caladryl, Dunkin Donuts, etc)
  • Reynolds Kitchens (limited coupons to the brand: tin foil, tin foil pans, turkey bags)
  • Rock The Lunch Box – (Register e-mail so they can send you notice when coupon becomes available on their products: Annie’s, Applegate, Honest Kids, Rudi)
  • Sparkle (brand specific coupon – limited – toilet paper)
  • Kraft (coupons for the brand Kraft: printable, digital, promotions – Pickles, Palmolive dish soap, Colgate, Xtra Laundry, ZipLoc, Planters nuts, Maybeline, Purel Hand Sanitizer, Venus Shavers, Kleenex, Windex, Sundown Naturals supplements, Shout stain remover, Energizer batteries, Pantene, Lysol, Huggies, Cheese, Snack Pudding… )
  • Irish Spring (brand specific)
  • Dial (you need to register. They have coupons and ways for you to earn rewards)
  • Soft Scrub (brand specific coupons, no need to register – just choose coupon available & print)
  • Mr.Clean (P&G coupons they direct you to
  • Scotch (brand coupons 3M products: Tape, mounting squares, scotch guard)
  • Febreze (brand coupons)
  • Post-it (brand specific coupons) **Click here for a post on everything you need to know about Post it Note Pads!
  • SunStar GUM (brand specific clearance and special offers that you purchase directly from them)
  • Glad (brand specific offers & coupons when available)
  • Target
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Dollar General
  • Daisy Brand (New Sour Cream Squeeze coupons)
  • Catalina Printouts – these are coupons that print at your store after checkout
    Magazines – Look for magazines with coupons.  There are many magazines that contain coupons including Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Better Homes & Garden Magazine and even Shape magazine have some great coupons
  • Tearpads/Blinkies – These are coupons that are found in store.  You can find them on displays or hanging from the shelf.
  • eCoupons – These are becoming more and more popular.  eCoupons are coupons that load onto your store loyalty card or your smart phone.  They are deducted at the register when you make a qualifying purchase. Electronic Coupons:
    • Saving Star (You need to register/make an account. How it works: (1) pick your grocery offers & buy them, (2) use store card or upload receipt, (3) get cash in your saving star account) ** BJ’s is a participating grocery store. So is CVS, Fresh Market, Dolllar General, Family Dollar, Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Winn-dixie ** some stores require you to upload receipt

Sunday Newspaper Coupons (aka “Inserts”)

you’ve probably seen mention of coupons from “SS 12/7” or “RP 12/13.” If you’re new, you might think we’re speaking in code. We don’t mean to confuse you. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about confusing newspaper coupons.

Inside each Sunday paper are coupon booklets, also known as “freestanding inserts.” There are three different inserts that come out on a regular basis: Smart Source (SS), Red Plum (RP), and Procter & Gamble (PG).

  • Regional coupon inserts & value differences are to be expected!
  • Did you know you can print SOME SmartSource coupons and it is completely FREE? Click Here
  • Did You know You can PREVIEW the coupons that will be in your Sunday Newspaper: Click Here (Help you decide how many newspapers to buy on Sunday and to PLAN your shopping trip)
  • Recommended that you print a list of ALL the coupons from the “preview” & CROSS each coupon out as you use it. (save you time!) Click Here to print your list
    • Note: There will be differences in some coupons and coupon values regionally. The purpose of posting this preview is to give you an idea of what to expect in your Sunday paper to help you decide how many newspapers to buy. Expect some differences. Click Here for Preview List of Coupon Inserts (BOLD coupons = HIGH Value when paired with store deals!)
  • Procter & Gamble Coupon Inserts are ONLY once a MONTH
  • RedPlum Inserts do NOT come in all newspapers – dependent on your address. Many come ONLY in your mailbox. Click here to find out by typing in your address. 

Even with the recent growth of printable and mobile coupons, newspaper coupons from the Sunday paper still account for 41% of total coupons redeemed. Values usually range from $0.25 to $2 off a product.

What is the Best Way to Get Coupon Inserts?

**Holiday weekends such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and Labor Day tend to have fewer or no inserts. In comparison, the first weekend of the month often has the most inserts. **

Check this website every Saturday at around 8:30am to get a preview of what coupons will be coming out in the Sunday newspaper. This can help you decide how many copies of the newspaper you want to buy.

** The Sunday Coupon Preview: Click Here

NewsPapers in Florida (interest area: Sarasota & Manatee County)

  • The Observer
    • The Observer Newspapers were started in 1995 and since then has grown into a family-owned and operated multimedia company with five newspapers, three websites, a quarterly arts and social magazine and more than 80 employees serving multiple communities around Florida!
    • The company’s newspapers includes four free community weeklies: Sarasota Observer, Longboat Observer, East County Observer and Pelican Press. Also, Season magazine is the quarterly arts and social guide that they also publish. 
    • The East County Observer Address: 1970 Main Street Sarasota, FL 34236 Phone: 941-366-3468 Fax: 941-362-4808 Email: Website:
    • The Observer is delivered free to select homes and condominiums and is available at multiple prime commercial locations throughout each publication area. To find out where you can pick up your favorite Observer, call 941-366-3468, or email
  • Bradenton Herald 
    • The Bradenton Herald is the hometown newspaper of Manatee County since 1922. The Bradenton Herald provides some of the best local report available, from breaking news to education coverage and neighborly good news. The Herald has two daily zoned editions: the Lakewood Ranch Herald and the Bradenton Herald
    • Sunday ONLY subscription for 52 Weeks = $67.02 ($1.29/week) Click Here to subscribe
    • Address: 102 Manatee Avenue West Bradenton, FL 34205
      Main Phone: 941-748-0411
      Lakewood Ranch Herald: 941-708-7900
  • The Sarasota Herald
    • Tribune was founded in 1925. Today, the Herald Tribune has transformed from a newspaper to a diversified media company known as the Herald-Tribune Media Group (HTMG).
    • The HTMG’s mission is to be the most trusted and valued source of news and information in the Sarasota Bradenton area. They also have a new headquarters in downtown Sarasota which offers the most comprehensive local daily reporting in the region through traditional and digital news products. 
    • Address: 1741 Main Street, Sarasota, FL
      Phone: (941) 361-4800
  • Sun Sentinel
    • The Sun-Sentinel, owned by Tribune Publishing, is the main daily newspaper of Broward County, Florida, but circulates all throughout the three counties that comprise South Florida. It is the largest-circulation newspaper in the area.
    • News coverage for: Broward, Palm Beach, Dade County coverage and Statewide Florida News
    • Subscribe for Sunday ONLY (plus digital) for 4 week trail only $0.99 – Then $2.49/week (7 day delivery is $4/wk) Click here to Subscribe. Digital access is included. 
  • The Florida Times Union
    • The Florida Times-Union is the number one source for Jacksonville News, Sports , Entertainment, Real Estate, Job Listings, Photos and Video.
    • Widely known as the oldest newspaper in the state, it began publication as the Florida Union in 1864.
    • Sunday ONLY costs $18.55/month, that is $4.64/week. Click Here to subscribe. Digital access is included. 
  • Tampa Bay
    • The Tampa Bay Times, previously named the St. Petersburg Times through 2011, is an American newspaper published in St. Petersburg, Florida.
    • Need Customer Service help? Contact us by phone at 1-800-888-7012 or email
    • Subscribe for Sunday ONLY, the first 8 weeks costs $1.98/wk then $1.50/wk (Thur-Sunday delivery costs $2/wk). Digital access is included. Click Here to Subscribe. 

We suggest you subscribe or purchase more than one copy of the Sunday newspaper to get multiples of each coupon. You should have one copy of the Sunday paper for each member of your family, or four copies total, whichever is less.

The first step to finding a subscription is to call your local paper’s circulation department and ask them which inserts they carry, if they offer a Sunday-only or weekend-only subscription, and if they offer a discount for ordering multiple copies of the Sunday paper. Some newspapers also sell a Saturday advance paper that has coupons, but for the lower Saturday cost.

NewsPaper Availability: 

Some smaller newspapers have limited inserts or no inserts at all. No inserts tend to occur when an area receives RedPlum, Procter & Gamble or Smart Source in their weekly mail with store flyers. So those newspapers are less likely to carry the mailed inserts. Before subscribing, ask each newspaper company which inserts they regularly carry so you’ll know what’s missing. If you are missing inserts, contact the newspaper customer service or circulation departments and explain. Some newspapers may give you a refund, get you the inserts or send a new paper.

You can also check out your local Dollar Tree; they often carry the Sunday newspaper for only a buck. Walmart carries the Sunday paper all week, but the sticker price is at least $2.

Limited Inserts: Several newspaper companies only have a certain number of inserts and ad circulars available for distribution on any given Sunday. The first priority is to the home delivery customers, followed by newsstands and stores. If your newsstand newspaper had no inserts, this may be why: there were simply not enough that week to make it to all the stands. 

Why Do You Need Multiple Copies?? The easiest way to save big is to buy multiple products when they’re at rock-bottom prices. Trust me, when you find your first box of Cheerios for under a buck, you’ll understand why. Instead of buying one box to last you a week, you’ll get four to last a month—thanks to four copies of the Sunday paper!

** Since sale cycles are 6 weeks to 6 months**

You can easily obtain printable coupon deals BUT since you can only print 2 per computer, and many hot coupons are ONLY in Sunday coupon inserts, you will need to have a multiple newspaper subscriptions to become a CRAZY coupon shopper.

Inserts in the Sunday paper: SS= Smart Source, RP= Red Plum, P&G= Proctor & Gamble (once per month). Insert coupons can be used at any store that accepts manufacturer’s coupons. Almost all grocery and drug stores do.

Since Sunday, June 1, 2014, the RedPlum Coupon Insert will no longer be included in some Central Florida newspapers.

While this change in Central Florida recently went into effect, the RedPlum has been available by mail only in other areas of the country since 2011.

To find out if your newspaper will still carry the RedPlum Coupon Insert, go to the RedPlum website and enter your address.  You will need to enter your complete address to get an accurate report.

** Remember, it is ILLEGAL to take coupon inserts from a newspaper you did not purchase. **

BUY Your Coupons

If you do not want to clip your own coupons you can order them to be shipped to your home! Click Here for a provider of that service.

Coupons are also sold on ebay

Know When to Use Coupons

Clipping and using coupons is only the first step in saving on your groceries.  Knowing when to use your coupons is what will get you the biggest bang for your buck.

  • Wait for a sale – Waiting to use your coupons when the items go on sale is the secret to saving the most money.  Don’t waste your coupons on full price items.  Hang onto them for the lowest price sale and then use that coupon.
  • Follow Sales Cycles – Sales on products usually run in cycles of about 8-12 weeks.  Also, sales follow cycles of holidays and events throughout the year.  For instance, snack and finger foods always go on sale around Super Bowl and candy goes on sale in February for Valentine’s Day. 

Know How to Use Coupons

Have you asked your customer service department at your store if they accept competitor coupons?  If not, you should!  There might be some ways to save at your store that you didn’t even know about.  Here are some things you should ask your store so you know that you are taking advantage of every savings opportunity:

  • Double Coupons – Does the store double coupons?  If so, does a $0.50 coupon double up to $1?  Does a $0.75 double up to $1.50?  Is there a limit to the amount of coupons that double?  Make sure you understand exactly how their double coupon policy works. ** BJ’s accepts manufacturer coupons! They accept more than one manufacturer coupon on multi-pack items if the item can be sold individually; however, you can‘t exceed the actual retail price when using coupons.**
  • Stacking Store Coupons – Make sure to ask the store if they allow you to use a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon.  This is called stacking coupons.  Although you can never use 2 manufacturer coupons on the same product, you can, for most stores, stack a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon.
  • Competitor Coupons – Does your store accept competitor coupons?  Make sure to ask.  If they do, it’s even more of a savings opportunity.

How to Stock Up

Stocking up on sale items is a very important part of getting the most savings at the grocery store.  It gives you control of what you are paying for your groceries instead of the store having control of your prices.

Let’s say your family eats a lot of Cheerios cereal and you were able to purchase a box for just $0.50.  After 1 week, that box of Cheerios would be gone.  When you go back to the store the next week, you’ll need to buy another box of Cheerios.  And, guess what…it’s no longer on sale.  So, you wind up paying $3.99 or maybe even $2.99 if you have another coupon.  That is a big difference from the $0.50 you bought the week before.

Now, lets say you bought 8 boxes of Cheerios at the sale price of $0.50 (after coupons).  You are now in control of the price you will pay because you can wait for another sale.  You are not forced to pay a higher price for that product since you have enough to get you through a couple of months.


Stocking up does not mean turning your house into a mini market but it does mean having a stock of items that will last your family about 3-6 months.  A typical stockpile will consist of products that can be stored on 3-4 shelves.  That’s all you need.


  • Click Here  Coupon Database (search for your coupons without having to page through newspaper inserts! ** You CANNOT print newspaper insert coupons but the database will help you to locate the coupons within your inserts & to search available coupons)
  • Ibotta
    • You need to register/make an account AND download mobile App
    • BEFORE you go shopping, unlock cash rewards on great products by completing simple tasks.
      • You can search products by STORE. To unlock rebates you need to watch short video, look at a recipe etc. (for EACH item!!)
    • Buy the products you’ve unlocked at any Supporting Sore
      • Groceries: Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Publix, Costco, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, BJ’s, Sam’s Club, Winn-Dixie, The Fresh Market, Whole Foods Market
      • Clothes: GAP, GAP Factory, Express, Kohl’s, Eddie Bauer, Lands’ End, Old Navy, Macy’s
      • Liquor: ANY gas station; connivence store; grocery store
      • Specialty: Home Depot, Staples, Office Depot Office Max, Michaels, Sears
    • Scan your product barcodes, then submit a photo of your receipt OR  Link your Loyalty Card from one of Ibotta’s preferred stores & Just use your mobile number OR Loyalty card at check out! 
      • Preferred Partner: Preferred Partners work directly with Ibotta to ensure a seamless redemption experience, meaning no receipt upload is necessary.
        • Grocery: none that I recognize!
        • Specialty: Best Buy
    • You’ll have the cash deposited into your Ibotta account within 48 hours.
      • 100% of Your Cash can be transferred to Paypal OR Venmo as soon as you have earned $20 OR convert into a gift card (Amazon, Starbucks, BestBuy)
    • Give your friends $10 and get $5 for yourself each time a friend joins Ibotta with your referral code AND redeems a rebate within two weeks. Join or sign in to get your referral code to share with your friends.
    • Connect your Facebook account in the Ibotta mobile app and your friends will automatically join your team. The more friends on your team, the easier it is to earn your Teamwork bonuses, each and every month.
    • Get extra cash back with Bonuses – a fun and easy way to pile on the earnings. Buy featured products, redeem items at specific retailers, or complete certain tasks, and you’ll unlock Bonuses. They are adding them all the time so check the Bonus section of your app for details!
  • Chceckout 51
    • You need to register/make an account
    • Every Thursday morning, Checkout 51 updates with a new list of offers.
    • All you have to do is pick the items you like, purchase them at any store, and upload a photo of your receipt through our mobile app or website. **For Ibotta uploads MUST be through mobile App. 
    • When your account reaches $20.00, they send you a check!
  • Coupon Information Center (CIC): Click Here, List of counterfeit coupons- FAKES

Other Creative Way of Obtaining Coupons

Request a Unilever Coupon Booklet:To request your coupon booklet, call into their automated system. The number is 1-866-204-3942 and you’ll leave a message including your name and address so they can mail you coupon booklet right to your door! Unilever covers a ton of brands like Dove, Ragu, Klondike, Vaseline and more. It can be hard to find their coupons…

Always skim thru the Parade Magazine or USA Today (depending on in your area) each week! Sometimes they contain high-value coupons (over $2) that are worth saving! Click Here to read an article regarding the decline/end to these and other Weekend Magazines included in Sunday Newspapers.

Organizing Your Coupons

  • In Your Coupon folder keep a printed copy of each stores’ coupon Policy (in case you encounter unwilling employees)
  • Organize coupons into Categories – Pintrest has some FANTASTIC ideas with photos. 
    • Binder (one with a zipper is best to avoid coupons falling out if picked up upside down…)
    • baseball card protectors as inserts to keep your coupons visible & organized
    • Tabs: Divide by categories
    • Index Page to help you locate coupons. 
    • Make your categories according to where items are found in the grocery stores! 

BJ’s Coupon Policy

  • Please note: BJ’s does not accept mobile coupons at this time.
  • When purchasing a multi-pack, which is a set of items that could be sold individually (each item has a barcode) shrink-wrapped and sold together, Members can combine one BJ’s-issued coupon with manufacturers’ coupons.  However, you cannot exceed the actual retail price in the total value of coupons.
    • Example of multi-pack: 3 pack of toothpaste, 2 pack of salad dressing
    • Examples of products that are NOT multi-packs: Case of water, Case of Soda, Case of Motor Oil, Box of cereal containing 2 bags
  • In terms of manufacturers’ coupons that are “buy one, get one free,” we will honor the coupon for items in stock as long as our price does not exceed the maximum value stated on the coupon. If the manufacturer’s coupon does not state the maximum value, we cannot honor the coupon.
  • We cannot accept multiple BJ’s-issued coupons on a product.
  • Do You Forget Coupons at Home??? That is okay. Bring your receipt and coupon to service desk and they will give you cash (as long as the coupons are not expired)
  • Offical BJ’s Website Coupon Policy, Click Here

Click Here  Price List of Items at BJ’s Wholesale Club (You can search for items) – or see my List below for BJ’s in Sarasota/Bradenton


Comparison of Wholesale Clubs:

  • Sams Club membership: $40
  • BJ’s membership: $50
  • Costco Membership: $50
  • Sam’s: Busier with changing stock items weekly, large volume items, longer check out lines. Do NOT accept manufacturer or competitor coupons
  • BJ’s: less busy than Sam’s with consistent brands weekly, smaller volume items, accepts manufacturers coupons and in-store coupons and accepts all forms of payment. 
  • Costco: average traffic with consistent stock, but higher prices than Sam’s and BJ’s. Do NOT accept manufacturer or competitor coupons

Dollar General Market

  • They do NOT double coupons
  • They DO allow you to “stack coupons” = shoppers can redeem manufacturer coupons AND Dollar Store coupons at ALL stores. –> Will allow a MAX of 2 coupons per item (including 1 manufacturer & 1 store coupon, as long as neither coupon indicates that it is not valid with any other coupons)
  • Coupons that are accepted:
    • Internet printed
    • Newspapers
    • Magazines
    • Mail
    • Receipts
    • Product packaging
    • In-store coupon boxes
    • DG mobile alert text messages
    • Dollar General website & App
  • Coupons must have: Barcode, expiration date & clearly state “Manufacturer coupon”
  • Combining (also known as stacking) two or more manufacture coupons per item is NOT allowed.
  • The stacking of two or more Dollar General store coupons in a transaction IS allowed unless otherwise noted
  • When using $5 OFF coupon, NO OTHER DG STORE COUPON can be used in the same transaction. BUT you can get a good deal when you combine the $5 off with manufacturer coupons

To MAXIMIZE savings — match up “Print at Home” coupons from the Dollar General website with coupons from the Dollar General weekly ad. To Save even more combine with manufacturer coupons

Dollar General also offers CASH BACK and COUPON OVERAGES: If a coupon value is greater than the price of the item, the difference will be applied to the balance of the total transaction. It will NOT be given back as cash. 

** Dollar General Market offers $5 OFF coupons almost EVERY WEEKEND. Combine that with overage IF a good coupon is out, and it’s ALL FREE money to play with. Sure we can run to Walmart to get overage too, BUT it’s DG that gives us the extra $5 SO WE CAN GET MORE!! ** 

$5 OFF a purchase of $25 or more

They are for a Specific DATE only. ONE day. Always either a Friday or Saturday.

Digital Coupons (DJ coupons) are loaded directly to a customer’s account and then redeemed during checkout by using a phone number. You need to open an account. At this time you can also sign up for e-mail & text message alerts.  Click Here. **Within the Digital coupon gallery, there are Dollar General coupons AND Manufacturer coupons

Dollar General has about 20 store coupons available at any one time. The problem is that they are mostly for DG store brand items! (which can’t be combined with manufacturer coupons). Keep an eye out for DG coupons on mainstream items that can be stacked with manufacturer coupons in order to save the most.

Dollar General Dots:

When marking down their end of season sales clearance items they use a colored dot and symbol system. Discounts start at 50% and dive all the way down to 1 cent! This happens with EVERY Holiday. So…. AFTER Valentine’s, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, plus summer household/clothing clearance. Who wouldn’t want to refill their stash of beach toys, or get next year’s christmas/easter cards for a penny each? Watch & win!

Common Problem Encountered:

“It says limit of one per purchase, so you can only buy one at a time.” –> That wording means that you can only use ONE coupon on ONE product! – explain this AND show them a coupon WITH a LIMIT on it (4per/day/2 per shopping trip, etc). This helps to make clear that ALL coupons state “limit of one per purchase,” and SOME DO limit how many you can buy at a time. 

We don’t give overage here. –> YES!! They DO!! Per their coupon policy, if the coupon value is MORE than the item, then the overage may be used toward the basket purchase!! 

INSTANT SAVINGS CAUTION: “Buy 5 (of a particular item) and save $5 Instantly” — pay attention to your total amount as your coupons are scanned, due to their register program, manufacturer coupons may cause your total to increase. The manager on duty may need to intervene. **If you are not using a “Total Dollar Off” coupon (such as $5 off a $25 purchase), then it would be smart to purchase your instant savings items in a separate transaction. 

The ORDER in which you present your coupons is an important factor in your TOTAL savings (just like in some other stores). For example, the dollars off TOTAL transaction coupons are limited to the amount of your transactions AFTER other Dollar General savings, so present coupons accordingly:

  1. Dollar Store Coupons (digital, mobile, email, weekly ad)
  2. Dollars Off Coupons ($5/$25)
  3. Manufacturer’s coupons
  4. Enter your phone number in the card scanner AFTER the final tally of your order, and BEFORE swiping your credit card.

Just Like any other store you shop at, you first need to learn the RULES, then fit your shopping style for that store into their rules. 

What To do with Your Expired Coupons:

U.S. military bases can use your coupons up to 6 months after the expiration date.  Check the websites for instructions on how to mail them.

Thank military families for their service with your expired coupons.  It’s something you can feel good about! This is not a tax deductible charity.  This is a patriotic charity. 


  • Aldi has some of the lowest prices on produce you will find! They also have some good prices on everyday basics like bread, butter, cream cheese, soup, chips etc. 
  • Do NOT accept manufacturer coupons
  • Need to bring YOUR own bags & 25 cents for a grocery cart (returned to you)
  • Do not accept credit cards** 

Dollar Tree

  • Accept manufacturer’s coupons. They do NOT accept competitor’s coupons.
  • Accept up to 4 like coupons per household per day.
  • Accept up to 2 internet coupons per household per day.
  • No FREE product coupons accepted. Buy one Get one FREE coupons ARE accepted.
  • No cash back given when coupon amount is more than product cost. 


  • Accepts ONE manufacturer coupon, ONE Target coupon & ONE Cartwheel coupon per item.
  • Limit of 4 identical coupons per household per day
  • Do NOT accept internet printable coupons for FREE items with no purchase required.
  • When using a manufacturer BUY ONE GET ONE FREE coupon at Target, you CANNOT also use a cents off manufacturer coupon on the item you are buying. BUT if a Target BOGO coupon is being used, you CAN use an additional manufacturer coupon on the first item. If a manufacturer BOGO coupon is being used, you CAN use an additional Target coupon for the first item. 
  • website has printable coupons that can be combined with manufacturer coupons on the same item.
  • Cartwheel discounts: there are also coupons available through their cartwheel program. You can load specific % savings to your cartwheel account and then print out a barcode that is scanned at the register or show the barcode on your smartphone through the app (save $ on ink & paper!). These savings can be combined with STORE and MANUFACTURER coupons. **No more than ONE manufacturer, ONE store & ONE Cartwheel Barcode can be combined per item. Each Cartwheel offer may be used for up to a MAX of 4 qualifying items per offer per transaction. Limit of ONE Cartwheel barcode per transaction and SIX Cartwheel barcode transactions per day
  • Mobile coupons: sign up by texting COUPONS to 827438. 
  • Red Card: you get another 5% off!
  • They will price match before or after you buy an item (within 7 days) if the item is cheaper in target’s weekly add or as advertised at: Walmart, best buy, amazon, toys r us. **read policy for exclusions/policy. 


  • Accept manufacturer coupons
  • If coupon exceeds the price of the item, the excess can be given as cash or applied toward the basket purchase. **
  • They do accept Catalina register coupons as long as they have Manufacturer coupon on them for a specific product and specific price. 
  • Computer system will require a manager override for more than 40 coupons in a transaction, a coupon of more than $20 or more for 1 item OR $50 or more in coupons in one transaction. 
  • They will match competitor prices under certain conditions. See their policy. 


  • Publix allows up to 8 of the same coupons per day, per household (which is better than most grocery stores).
  • CanNOT combine manufacturer’s paper coupons AND manufacturer’s digital coupons for the same product.
  • Manager approval for any coupon over $5 (pretty rare)
  • Accept manufacturers’ coupons (limit one per item), Publix coupons (originals only—no copies), valid Internet coupons, AND coupons from nearby competitors identified by each Publix store. (Competitor names are posted at each Publix store.)
  • Accept coupons printed from the Internet as long as they have a barcode that scans 
  • Only Accept a manufacturer’s coupon AND either a Publix OR a competitor’s coupon on the same item. MAX of TWO coupons per item.
  • Do NOT accept coupons presented via a mobile phone.
  • For a BUY ONE GET ONE FREE (BOGO) offer, each item is considered a separate purchase.
  • Dollars-off-total-order coupons will be limited to ONE Publix AND ONE competitor’s coupon per day, per household. The total order before coupons must be equal to or greater than the combined purchase requirements indicated on the coupon(s) presented. We consider competitor’s coupons for dollars off groups of items to be a dollars-off-total-order coupon and will only allow one per day, per household.
  • Overages will only be provided on a Publix gift card, no cash back.
  • The management team will only issue rain checks for items which are advertised outside the store at a reduced retail. For example, on radio or TV, or in our weekly ad, co-op ad, mailer, or Internet site.
    • only issue one rain check, per day, per household for an item.
    • will NOT issue rain checks for Publix, competitor’s, or manufacturer’s coupons.

Double Coupons Policy: 

  • Publix doubles manufacturer’s coupons up to face value of $.50 every day.
  • The store does NOT double Publix store coupons or competitor coupons.
  • 8 is the limit of like/same coupons that you can double. The register is programmed to require a manager’s approval when the coupons total over $50 or when you have more coupons (store and manufacturer together) than items.

Stacking Coupons Policy: 

Publix will accept a manufacturer’s coupon AND either a Publix OR a competitor coupon on the same item. Dollars-off-total-order coupons will be limited to ONE Publix and ONE competitor’s coupon per order. The order total must be equal to or greater than the total purchase requirements indicated on the coupon(s) presented.

 Walgreens Rewards 

Walgreen’s offers a customer loyalty program called the Balance Rewards Program. Essentially, this is a program where you earnBalance Rewards Pointsfor buying certain products. You can redeem these Points at a later date for in-store dollar credit.

Manufacturer coupons and Register Rewards do not interfere with any Points earned. In other words, you will still earn Points when using manufacturer coupons and Register Rewards. 

To Redeem Points

Once you reach at least 1,000 Points on your card, you can redeem them. 1,000 Points equal a $1.00 reward. 40,000 Points equal a $50.00 reward. It is advantageous to save your Points so you get more bang for your buck!

(1) 1,000 Points = $1.00
(2) 2,000 Points = $2.00
(3) 3,000 Points = $3.00
(4) 5,000 Points = $5.00
(5) 10,000 Points = $10.00
(6) 18,000 Points = $20.00
(7) 30,000 Points = $35.00
(8) 40,000 Points = $50.00

If you are using your Balance Rewards Points reward dollars as payment in a transaction, you cannot earn additional Points. In other words, Points cannot be earned when you are paying with Points. However, you still can earn Register Rewards even if you pay with Points.

As long as you shop at Walgreens and use your card at least once every six months, your Points will not expire for three years.

You cannot redeem or earn Points on purchases of: dairy, stamps, prescriptions, alcohol, tobacco, phone cards, lottery tickets, charitable donations, transportation passes, or money orders.

Paperless Coupons:

Paperless coupons are manufacturer eCoupons that can be clipped to your Balance Rewards account and used when you buy qualifying products! Here are the important details:

  • To clip and redeem Walgreens paperless coupons, you must be a Balance Rewards member. You can sign up for the program in a store or sign up online.
  • Up to 100 coupons can be clipped to your account at one time.
  • Be sure you have scanned your Balance Rewards card or input your phone number at checkout. The coupon will automatically deduct from your total!
  • Each paperless coupon can only be redeemed one time. Once you have redeemed it, it will be removed from your list of clipped coupons.
  • Paperless coupons = manufacturer coupons. Each one CAN be stacked with a Walgreens in-ad coupon or a Walgreens coupon from the monthly savings book. Each paperless coupon CANNOT be stacked with another physical manufacturer coupon on a single item.
  • Paperless coupons can also be clipped using the Walgreens app or your computer.
  • For more information, visit the Walgreens Q&A page.

Click Here to read about CVS’s Reward Program

Brands To Contact (tell them how much you LOVE their product, if any improvements could be made… include your address and MAYBE they will send you some coupons!)

  1. Daisy Brand (sour cream, cottage cheese)

Purchasing a Home in Florida?

New and different issues such as wetlands, zoning, remodeling, or waterfront could present themselves here in FLORIDA. 

 It is usually well worth the money to have a consultation with a professional that is looking out for YOU, and only YOUR interests.  In most cases that professional is an attorney concentrating his or her practice in real estate law.  

THE FIRST THING FOR YOU TO KNOW IS THAT GETTING THE HELP OF AN ATTORNEY FOR YOUR TRANSACTION IS NOT EXPENSIVE- IN MANY CASES YOU WON’T PAY ANY MORE THAN YOU WOULD IF YOU JUST USED A TITLE COMPANY. Most charge $250 for a one-hour consultation and if the firm handles the closing there is no charge for an initial consultation.

While real estate agents can be very helpful, they are often serving in our area as a “Transaction Broker” which means that they are looking out for and loyal to the transaction as a whole, and not necessarily just your interest.


IN MOST CASES THE BINDER DEPOSIT REPRESENTS THE MAXIMUM EXTENT OF YOUR LIABILITY IF THE TRANSACTION FALLS APART.  The contract will contain contingency clauses like financing, inspections, etc. that if not met will allow you to get out of the contract and get your binder deposit back.  The low end of binder deposits is usually about 2% and the high end about 10%.

CLOSING COSTS:  Who will pay what?  It is typical in our area that the Buyer pays any closings costs associated with financing the transaction, and the Seller pays pretty much everything elseHowever, IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT WHO PAYS WHAT CLOSING COSTS IS FOR THE MOST PART NEGOTIABLE.  

CLOSING COSTS TYPICALLY PAID BY THE SELLER:  It is typical that the Seller pays the following closing costs:  

(1) Real Estate Agent Commission: (- if any)  The amount is of course negotiable and the negotiation takes place when you enter into a listing agreement contract for the listing of your property as a Seller.

 (2) Deed Stamps:  These are a tax to the state on all transactions involving real property and the rate is .7% of the consideration paid.  In other words, if you sell a house for $100,000, the Deed Stamps will be $700.  If your GIVING property that is not encumbered by a mortgage to someone, the deed can recite “love and affection” or “$1.00” as the consideration and in such cases only the minimum amount of $.70 (yes, 70 cents) of Deed Stamps are paid.  If you want to give property to someone and it is encumbered by a mortgage, you will typically still have to pay Deed Stamps on either the remaining balance of the mortgage, or the tax appraiser’s valuation of the property, whichever is higher.

(3) Owner’s Title Insurance Policy:  Every Buyer has the right to ask the question of the Seller- “How do I know that I’m getting good and marketable title to the property?”  In Florida, the ONLY way to answer that question is that the Seller provides the Buyer with a policy of Owner’s Title Insurance which insures the Buyer up to what they paid for the Property that the title to the property has no title defects and is freely marketable.  Title Insurance is about .5% of the sales price up to $1MM, and then amounts above $1MM are about .25% of the sales price up and over the first $1MM.  So for a $100,000 deal the title insurance is about $500, and for a $1,000,000 deal the title insurance is about $5,000.   The total amount for the title insurance is called the title insurance “premium“, and it is split between the title agent and the title insurance underwriter who issues the policy with the agent receiving about 70% as compensation for handling the closing and the underwriter receiving about 30% for underwriting the policy.  There are over a dozen title insurance companies licensed to underwrite title insurance in Florida, but the vast majority of the business is divided between Old Republic National Title Insurance Company, Stewart Title & Guaranty Company, First American Title Insurance Company, and the Fidelity group of companies (including Chicago Title and Fidelitiy National Title Insurance Company.   Title insurance rates are promulgated by the State insurance commissioner, which means that the agent issuing the title insurance (usually the closing attorney or title company) can NOT charge any more than the promulgated rate.  However, the portion of that title premium that the agent receives may be negotiated by the consumer.  Any such negotiated discount is called a “Butler Rebate” in Florida

Many people don’t know what title insurance is, much less think about the cost. For many people, the choice of a title company is made upon recommendation and not price. However, title insurance represents a fair chunk of the third party closing costs associated with purchasing a home. How much? Let’s take a look:

In the state of Florida, title insurance rates are set by the state. The rate schedule varies based on the insured amount of the property and has brackets similar to the income tax. The current rate schedule in Florida is:

From $0-$100,000* $5.75 per $1,000 insured**
Over $100,000-$1,000,000 $5.00 per $1,000 insured
Over $1,000,000-$5,000,000 $2.50 per $1,000 insured
Over $5,000,000-$10,000,000 $2.25 per $1,000 insured
Over $10,000,000 $2.00 per $1,000 insured

*Minimum premium is $100

**Fractional thousands are calculated as full thousands

Knowing the rate schedule we can know see how much your title insurance policy would cost for your $1,000,000 home

$0-$100,000 $575.00 (First $100,000 divided by 1,000 = 100. Multiply by $5.75)
$100,000-$1,000,000 $4,500 (Remaining $900,000 divided by 1,000 = 900. Multiply by $5.00)
Total Cost of Premiums $5,075

Of course, as with many things in life, and especially with financial products, it’s never that simple. Title insurance is actually made up of two different policies: a Lender’s policy and an Owner’s policy. The lender’s policy is just like it sounds, it protects the lender’s investment, that is your mortgage. Should something go awry with the title of the home you just purchased on borrowed money, the lender wants to be assured that they can recover their capital. The Owner’s policy on the other hand, protects you. The catch is that while it’s called the Lender’s policy, you’re the one who is expected to pay for it and almost every lender will require you to purchase a policy in order to lend to you! The extra cost of issuing both an Owner’s and Lender’s policy is $25. This brings your premiums to $5,100 (for a 1 million dollar house!). For a $200,000 House the Premiums would be $1,100. For a $250,000 Home the Premiums would be $1,350. For a $300,000 House the Premiums would be $1,600. 

In addition, there is an enhanced version of the title insurance that almost every lender will also require you to add on to the policy. This enhancement protects against other possible title issues including restriction violations, mineral rights, encroachments into easements and more. In Florida this enhancement costs 10% of your premiums. That’s another $510 (for a 1 million dollar house!). $110 for $200,000 Home; $135 for $250,000 Home; $160 for $300,000 Home. 

Finally, there is the environmental liens protection which guards against the title company missing a publicly filed environmental lien in the title search. This costs another $25. So, in total your title insurance premium will be $5,635. That’s a significant cost! (There are other possible endorsements, some of which are required if you are purchasing say a condo or waterfront property, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll stick with these.)

So How Can You Save Money on Title Insurance? 

There are a couple of ways. First of all, in Florida there is something called the re-issue rate. If the current owner of the property took out a title insurance policy less than 3 years ago and can provide documentation of that policy being taken out, then you pay a reduced rate on the new title insurance policy for the original amount insured.

To return to the example, say that the house you are buying for $1,000,000 was bought by the current owner for $800,000 2 years ago. That owner took out a new policy and has documentation to prove it. Now when you take out your policy you’re entitled to a reduced rate for that $800,000 of coverage. The reduced rate schedule is below:

$0-$100,000 $3.30 per $1,000 insured
Over $100,000-$1,000,000 $3.00 per $1,000 insured
Over $1,000,000-$10,000,000 $2.00 per $1,000 insured
Over $10,000,000 $1.50 per $1,000 insured

This reduced rate means that instead of spending $5,635 you will spend $3,825.50 since the first $800,000 is priced at the reduced rates and only the second $200,000 is priced at full rates. This is a savings of $1,809.5 or 32%! Many people don’t know about this potential savings so it is always worth finding out if a policy has been issued within the last three years.

The second way is through what is known as the Butler rebate. In Florida, only 30% of your title insurance premium is sent to the underwriter. The other 70% is held by the title agent to compensate them for the work done. It used to be that there was a ban on title agents rebating any portion of the insurance premium to their client, but a case in 2000 changed that. The Butler rebate allows title agents to refund a portion of the client’s premiums saving the client money. Using our case above a 10% rebate would provide a savings of $382.55 for the re-issue policy and a rebate of $563.50 for the full price original policy. That’s money back into your pocket! ** A 10% Butler Rebate on a $300,000 Home savings would be $178.85. On a $250,000 Home, savings $151. On a $200,000 Home, savings $123.50. 

Butler Rebate in Florida: 

Title Insurance. The title insurance industry in Florida is heavily regulated by statute. Attorneys in a Florida real estate or finance transaction often act as “issuing agent” for the title insurance issued in connection with such transactions. While the title insurance product actually issued and the cost of the same should be no different whether issued by an attorney agent or directly by the title company, non-Florida parties are often skeptical of this practice, especially since there are apparent conflicts of interest when a Florida attorney is acting in dual capacities in a transaction. Despite these conflicts, the practice in Florida is not likely to change any time soon since the issuance of title insurance is such a lucrative practice for attorney agents. At a minimum, any transaction party paying for title insurance should inquire about the “Butler rebate”, whether the Policy is being issued by an agent or the underwriter itself. The Butler rebate will result in a significant savings (i.e. as much as close to 70 percent) on the title premium. While in the past this type of rebate had only been available to title agents, it is now available to any purchaser of title insurance as a result of the Florida Supreme Court decision (Chicago Title Insurance Co. v. Butler, 2000 WL 1535354 (Fla. 2000)). It has been my experience that a Butler rebate is frequently not offered by title companies unless specifically requested.

 (4) Title Search Fee:  In order to be able to issue the title insurance, the title agent must first conduct a title search on the property.  The title search process consists of compiling all the documents in the chain of title to the property going back to the “root” of title under the Marketable Record Title Act (MRTA).  The documents comprising the chain of title are called the “Abstract“.  Then, the agent must examine each document to make sure that there are no defects or problems with any of the documents that would result in a break in the “chain” of title.  This process is called the “Examination.”  Upon completion of this process, the title insurance agent will prepare a Title Insurance Commitment on a form established by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) which states what requirements must be met to issue the title policy and what matters, if any, coverage will be excepted from in the title policy.  The typical Title Search Fee will run about $100.00 for most title agents

(5) Closing Attorney or Closing Agent or Settlement Fee:  This fee may be referred to as any of the three mentioned, and is negotiable.  The purpose of the fee is to provide the title agent with compensation for doing all of the things necessary to handle the closing and typically ranges in our area from about $250 up to around $550.  

(6) Survey:  It is quite typical in our area that the Seller pays for a new staked survey of the Property, although in some areas in Florida, for some reason it becomes typical that the BUYER pays for the Survey.  Surveys for typical subdivision houses usually run around $350.  REMEMBER- if the Seller has a prior survey which is still accurate, and is willing to sign an affidavit that the survey is still accurate (no new improvements built or removed), then the old survey can be re-used for the closing.  However, a prudent Buyer will still require that the property corners be re-staked so that they can verify the property boundaries.  The re-staking is often far cheaper than getting a new survey.  Also, please NOTE THAT SURVEYS ARE NOT REQUIRED FOR CONDOMINIUMS.

CLOSING COSTS TYPICALLY PAID BY THE BUYER: Pretty simple- usually the Buyer pays any closing costs that are related to any financing being procured by Buyer.  As we all know, banks and other mortgage lenders can be quite creative and sometimes it seems, endless in their fees and charges.  The good news is however that all of those charges must be disclosed up front when you apply for the loan and if there is anything more than a very minor change in them they have to be re-disclosed.  Beginning August 1st, 2015, you must be provided with a document called a Loan Estimate (Previously called Good Faith Estimate) that discloses to you all costs related to your transaction within 3 business days of applying for your loan.  Then, at least 7 business days prior to closing you must be provided with the final Closing Disclosure which shows you how much money you will have to bring to closing, all escrow account money, and all closing costs.  Impossible to know exactly what charges the bank may come up with, but it goes without saying that you should carefully shop at least 2 or 3 lenders to make sure you are getting the best deal possibleThere are a list of costs though that will be present on ALL transactions involving loans, and since they are caused by the fact that you are getting a loan it is typical that you would, as the Buyer pay them. Those include:

 (1) Note Stamps and Intangible Tax: Florida doesn’t collect personal income tax, but they make it up in a few places.. if you borrow money in Florida the State charges a “Note Tax” or “Note Stamps” in the amount of .35% of the amount you borrow.  If that loan is secured by a security interest or mortgage, the State also charges an “Intangible Tax” of .2% of the loan amount.  ** Total of These comes to about 0.55% of the loan amount **

EXAMPLE: So in other words, if you borrow $100,000 secured by a mortgage you will be charged $350 in Note Stamps and $200 in Intangible Tax for a total of $550. 

The Florida documentary stamp (“promise to pay”) tax is due in the amount of $.35 on every $100 (or fraction thereof) of indebtedness secured by a mortgage on Florida real property.

(2) Recording Fees:  The clerk of court will charge a per-page recording fee for recording the mortgage in the public records.  This is typically about $100 or so depending on how many pages are in your mortgage. 

 (3)  Simultaneousl Issue Fee for the Lender’s Title Policy:  The normal situation is that when the Buyer is getting a loan to purchase property, the Seller pays for the issuance of an Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance in the amount of the Purchase Price.  The Owner’s Policy protects YOU, as the new owner of the property, from any title defects or costs.  However, your Lender wants protection against title defects and costs as well, so they will always require that the closing agent also issue to them a Lender’s Title Policy.  The good news is that under Florida law, the closing agent can simultaneously issue that Lender’s Title Policy for a “simultaneous issue fee“, usually about $150.  **  This fee is negotiable with your closing agent by the way. **

(4) Other Lender Charges:  These can include title insurance endorsements required by the lender, application fees, appraisal fees, credit check fees, flood zone certification fees, underwriting or processing fees, discount points buying down the interest rate, origination fees, and the list goes on.  They are typically all negotiable with the lender and as mentioned above, you really need to shop at least 2 or 3 lenders against each other to make sure that you are getting the most competitive deal.

(5)  Escrow Accounts: Many lenders will require that the Buyer put an initial sum of money in an account towards the property tax or insurance bills coming due later in the year, and then each month to pay into the account an additional payment so that sums accrue which are sufficient to pay the property tax bill or insurance bill when those items next come due.  Keep in mind that the money in these accounts is truly the Buyer’s money.  When the Buyer sells the property any money left in such accounts is refunded or applied to the payoff balance on the loan by the lender.  It is typical that most lenders will require about 2 months of taxes and insurance to be put in the escrow account at the time of closing.   

A WORD ABOUT PRO-RATIONS–  In our area property values are assessed on January 1st of each year for tax purposes, and then the tax bills come out in November.  In other words, the tax bill received in November 2015 is for the WHOLE YEAR 2015.  So, if you are closing on June 1st, the tax bills haven’t come out yet and the Buyer will be paying that bill.  As such, the Seller owes the Buyer a credit for the portion of the year that the Seller owned the property (In our June 1 exampe that credit is half the year’s worth of taxes).  Since the bill doesn’t come out until November an estimate is used in order to extend the credit, and typically the taxes for the year before are used as the estimate.  This works except if the property is new construction or there is some reason to believe that the taxes this year won’t be close to the amount they were for last year.  The practice of extending the credit to the Buyer for the part of the year during which the Seller owned the Property is called “Pro-rating” the taxes.  The pro-rated amount is determined by taking the cost for the whole year, dividing by 365 days to get a daily amount, and then multiplying the daily amount by the number of days to be pro-rated.  The pro-ration can also work the other way if you are closing in November or December, after the tax bill has already been paid.  In such cases the Seller has paid for the whole year and the Buyer will owe the Seller a credit for the portion of the year that the Buyer owns the Property.  Condominium fees, assessments, CDD Fees, Homeowner’s Association Fees, and other such costs or charges are typically pro-rated using the same method.  

TIMELINE FOR CLOSING:  Think through how much time will be needed to get to the closing table.  Usually after the contract is signed you will have 10-15 days to inspect the property for any issues and reach an agreement on how to address any issues with the Seller, you’ll need to apply for your loan if you are getting one and get approved… which is usually about 30 days, and then you’ll need to get everything ready and together to close.  If everything moves along perfectly and you are getting a loan, it’s pretty tough to close any sooner than 30 days after the date of contract signing, and more typically 45 days.  Some upcoming changes in federal law which go into affect Aug. 1st, 2015 will probably add 2 weeks to this, making it realistic that you can close about 60 days after signing the contract.

FINANCING: Are you going to need financing?  If so, you’ll probably need about 30 days to get approved which means you’ll want to include this contingency in the contract so that if you don’t get approved you can get your binder deposit back. 


Therefore, if you want the refrigerator, a countertop microwave, a big jacuzzi sitting on the back deck that plugs in, or a washer or dryer to go then you must specifically include those items in the appropriate part of the Contract.  Conversely, is there an antique chandelier in the dining room that has been in the Seller’s family for 100 years?  If so, it may not be going with the house and if you are the Seller you need to remember to EXCLUDE such an item in the contract or else it will be deemed to go with the house.

 INSPECTIONS/DUE DILIGENCE:  Basically, it is up to a Buyer to investigate the condition of the Property and whether it is suitable for what the Buyer intends to do with it.  You should NEVER ASSUME that a property can be used for anything other than what it is currently being used for!  In other words, if it is vacant land, then don’t assume you can build ANYTHING.  If it has a single family residence on it, then it’s usually safe to assume that a single family residence can stay on it.. get the picture?  If you want to make any big changes or additions to how the property is being used then IT IS UP TO YOU TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT!  Common question: “If someone sells me a lot that means I can build on it right?”  The answer is an unqualified NO!!  There are many restrictions like zoning, wetlands issues, covenants and restrictions, and comprehensive plan designations that can limit what can be done with a property.  

Usually a Buyer will want to have the property inspected to see if any repairs are needed.  If you are getting FHA or VA financing, then an inspection is required by those government agencies.  In most cases under the NEFAR, FAR, and FAR/BAR contracts you’ll have about 10 days to get the property inspected and then usually about another 5 days to reach an agreement with the Seller on repairs.  If you can’t reach an agreement on who will fix what, then you must be sure and give written notice that you want to cancel before the contingency expires, in which case you can’t get your deposit back and move on to look at other properties.  Sometimes you’ll need to investigate things other than the property’s condition like zoning matters, comprehensive plan requirements, or covenants and restrictions.  In such cases you may need to change the language of the contract to allow yourself more time.  Your attorney will be able to give you advice and guide you on important issues like these. Finally, after you conduct your inspections and due diligence you must make sure that if any repairs are to be made or if you need more time or whatever agreement is reached that a WRITTEN amendment to the contract memorializing such agreements is made and signed by both parties!  Remember, to be enforceable it has to be in writing!  

MAKE SURE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT TAXES, HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATION FEES, CONDO FEES OR CDD FEES, ETC THAT YOU WILL BE OBLIGATED TO PAY.  It might shock you to learn that there are communities in our area where if you bought a typical $400,000 house and didn’t even have a mortgage that you would owe about $6,000 a year in property taxes, and then another $300-$400 a month in CDD and HOA fees!  That means that without a mortgage you would still have to pay about $900 a month to live there!  It is required by law that all HOA, Condo, CDD, and other fees be disclosed to you accurately on an addendum to the contract.  Be sure and do your homework on these fees and costs when you first become serious about a property.  Also make sure that you check to see if there are any planned, forecasted, or even possible assessmentsespecially if the property is a condominium.  In recent times we have seen assessments levied against condo units that approximated 25% of their total value!  

MAKE A GOOD DECISION ABOUT WHERE THE CLOSING WILL BE HANDLED:  Like making any other good consumer decision, you should base the decision on who you are going to allow to handle this most important transaction for you on where you will get the best quality service for the most competitive price.   In Florida, closings don’t have to be conducted by attorneys as in some states.  The only requirement for someone to handle a closing in  Florida is that they be a notary, and if title insurance is being issued, that they are licensed by the State as a Title Insurance Agent.  If you choose to close with a “Title Company“, which typically describes a non-attorney closing agent, keep in mind that the services that Title Company can provide are limited to issuing the title insurance, preparing the form closing documents, and administrating the closing.  A Title Company cannot draft legal documents, give legal advice, or provide you with attorney representation.  Some larger Title Companies do have attorneys as employees, and in such case those attorneys can answer legal questions for you or draft documents if necessary.  As such, it is very important for you to ask if you are considering using a Title Company, as opposed to a law firm, to conduct your closing as to whether or not they have an attorney on staff that can help with such things.  Be sure and ask if the attorney is on staff and available to help you– many smaller title companies will try to create the impression that they have attorney’s on staff by saying that they “have an attorney available” or that an attorney is available through their title underwriter.  Such attorneys do not work for the Title Company, usually are not located in the Title Company office, and usually are not nearly as available as an in-house staff attorney.  

 At this point you may be asking, “Why wouldn’t I just use an attorney for my closing? The answer is of course that you should!  In most cases, an attorney closing agent can provide a greater palette of services than can a non-attorney provider and usually at the same or better pricing!  Ask about your closing agent’s experience, number of staff, check out the location of their office, and request their pricing for services.  Recently the American Land Title Association (ALTA) has created a “Best Practicescertification standard for ALL closing agents in the U.S., attorney, or non-attorney.  This standard is being adopted by most quality closing agents across the country and the date for certification compliance is August, 2015.  After that date I would suggest that you eliminate from your consideration any closing agent that is not “Best Practices” certified by ALTA.    

*** BeAWARE that if you use a Lawyer for the Closing Transaction – they CANNOT represent the BUYER or the SELLER – they LAWYER can ONLY Represent the TRANSACTION. Most of the time the Lawyer will NOT see the closing documents until the day of closing – everything prior to that day will be done by their Paralegal. Title Companies on the other hand do this on a DAILY basis. It IS what they DO. Lawyers are BUSY with other things – this is just ONE more thing they do – it is NOT what they DO. *** 


     1.  REMEMBER- MOST CLOSING COSTS ARE NEGOTIABLE AS TO WHO PAYS WHAT:  There’s nothing that says that the Seller HAS to pay the Closing Attorney’s fee or the Title Search Fee, and there’s nothing that says that the Buyer HAS to pay the intangible tax and note stamps.  Except for some charges which MUST be paid by the Seller on VA or FHA loans, it is pretty well completely negotiable who pays what.  The breakdown given above is what is TYPICALLY seen in our market area.  

     2.  BE CAREFUL WHEN BUYING A HOME FROM A BUILDER OR GETTING A MORTGAGE WHERE THEY ARE OFFERING TO PAY ALL CLOSING COSTS OR THEY ARE TRYING TO STRONG ARM YOU INTO USING AN IN HOUSE TITLE OR MORTGAGE COMPANY: As the old sayings go… Nothing in life is free… and if it sounds to good to be true it probably is!  When getting a loan if the Lender is offering to pay all of your closing costs, they are probably just bumping up your interest rate a tad so that they recover the money several times over during the life of your loan.  By offering to pay your closings costs as you typically would and getting a lower interest rate you will usually save yourself a huge amount of money over time.  When a Builder is offering to pay all or a bunch of your closing costs they are simply building those costs into the price of the home, and then some.  You can probably get a much better deal by offering to pay the typical closing costs that you would pay and getting a lower purchase price.  Especially beware of these situations where the builder is insisting that you use an in house title company or “preferred lender”.  Many builder contracts will say that if you agree to use the builder’s preferred lender or in-house title company then the builder will agree to pay their typical closing costs as Seller, but if you don’t then they willl require you to pay them.  This is because they have already built into the sales price of the home the costs they would typically pay, and if you agree to use their in house title company or lender they will know you are “captive” to using that provider instead of competitively shopping those costs and they will be able to make sometimes exorbitant fees and profits on the “back end” of the deal (much like the “undercoating” on the new car…).  

     3.  BE SMART AND SHOP AROUND.  It’s no different than buying a car or anything else.  Always get 2 or 3 quotes to make sure that you are getting the best quality and service for the money.  

USDA Guarantee Loan (Single Family Residence)

*** BeAWARE that USDA Loans take a MINIMUM of 60 days to close. So if your real estate writes a contract for a home you want to buy in October you will NOT be closing until December. This is because USDA Loans go through TWO checks – one with the originator and another by the USDA. Most other loans take 30-45 days to close. *** 

A Bonus to the USDA Loans is that if you are buying a home for $200,000 and your home appraisal comes in at $205,000 — You can USE that extra money ($5,000) to pay for your Closing Costs! Finance All Closing Costs up to the Appraised Value *** Keep in mind that USDA homes CANNOT have a Pool! 

There are a LIMITED number of Banks that will offer a USDA Product (loan). For example CHASE will purchase a USDA loan from a mortgage lender/broker after the loan has been underwritten & approved BUT they (CHASE) will NOT originate a USDA loan. 

Another Mortgage Lender: Sunbelt Lending only has ONE bank that will buy a USDA product (loan) from them after it has been underwritten & approved. This particular bank currently offers interest rate of 4.0% (determines the principal & interest payment for the life of your loan) with a credit score of 670. They also offer “overage” with this particular bank of 0.2%, which Sunbelt transfers on to the buyer! Sunbelt Lending has a Flat Fee they charge $895 (some of this fee can be returned to the buyer if there is “overage”).  ** Sunbelt Lending has a database system where they input your credit score & loan amount – this populates a screen with SEVERAL Banks and each of their rates offered. This is how they are able to “shop” for the best rate. Of course different lenders work with different banks. Sunbelt Lender then underwrites your loan. Once your loan is approved – you purchase your home using money from Sunbelt Lending. Once the home is purchased. Sunbelt Lending SELLS your loan to the bank with which they locked your rate with (this could be Wells Fargo….) Sunbelt lending Does NOT work with Bank of America due to their terrible customer service. If banks are too difficult to work with a lender will drop them from their database. 

APR versus Actual Loan Rate: When shopping for lenders you want to know the Actual Loan Rate (which will depend on your credit score and the rates being offered by the particular banks at the time of inquiry) AND the APR rate. The difference between these rates will let you know your closing costs – What you are being charged by the lender for Closing FEES. Here is an example: 

Bank A & B offer you an actual rate of 3.0. Bank A gives you an APR of 3.1% and Bank B gives you an APR of 3.8%. This tells you that Bank B is charing you A LOT more for Closing FEES. 

Difference Between a Conventional Loan, FHA Loan and USDA Loan – Explained in SIMPLE TERMS and current actual rates offered (August 2016) with Sunbelt Lending: Flat FEES $895

  • USDA: 4.0 (actual rate) + 0.35 (anual rate effective October 1 2016) + 1% (origination fee/upfront fee effective October 1 2016) ** only ONE Bank with 0.2% overage going back to buyer
  • FHA: 3.25-3.5 (actual rate) + 0.85 (PMI unless you put down >10% then rate drop to 0.8%) + 1.75% (upfront/origination fee) **Minimum downpayment is 3.5%
  • Conventional: 3.6+ (actual rate) ** NO upfront/origination Fee; NO PMI if downpayment is 20%

Before Making A 20% Mortgage Down Payment, Read This: Click Here

Banks and USDA Loans

April 4, 2016 JPMorgan Chase has agreed to sell its U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development mortgage origination business to Freedom Mortgage of Mount Laurel, N.J. In May 2013, JPMorgan Chase stopped purchasing USDA rural development loans originated by mortgage brokers (purchasing Closed USDA loans is known as the wholesale market; originating a USDA loan is known as the retail market). 

Independent mortgage banker 360 Mortgage Group sees the exit of Chase Rural Housing from the wholesale U.S. Department of Agriculture loan purchase channel as an opportunity to grow its own business in this big but underserved market place.

  1. There are lender is Pasco County Florida that have a lot of experience originating USDA Loans. 
  2. Florida Capital Bank:  1.386.852.3088
  3. Sunbelt Lending
  4. First Florida Financial Group LLC; NMLS #239318
    “We Think Outside the Box”
    877-424-4562 |
    8695 College Pkwy Ste 1121 Fort Myers, FL 33919
  5. Atlantic Coast Bank, Ken L. Kovach, Cell: 407-758-5579

USDA mortgages (like other loans) will also have all the customary closing costs that come with a Florida mortgage. Appraisal, Survey, Title, Government taxes, lender fees, in addition to all the home insurance and tax reserves for your escrow account. All in all, it’s a good idea to figure about 4% of the purchase price is needed for all closing costs and pre-paid reserves. This figure can sway a few percent either way depending on the loan amount. Higher USDA loan amounts will be much less of a percentage because many of the USDA closing costs ( appraisal, survey,. etc) are fixed costs and don’t change based on the homebuyers purchase price / loan amount.


Very Useful USDA Resource. Calculator to calculate origination fee and annual fee of loan etc.:

  • USDA Loans: have to be in eligible location which manatee county has a lot of eligible locations. there is no down payment, 100% financing, You can google USDA eligible properties online. USDA Loans have upfront service fees written in them (guarantee fee is 2.75%).
    • Upfront USDA Guarantee Fee 2.75% of loan amount
    • Closing costs, including lender fees, may not exceed 3% of loan amount
    • Manufactured (mobile) Homes are not permitted (unless property is already on a USDA guarantee loan)
    • 2016 Manatee County Income Limit (4 person family): $75,650
    • The LTV of the loan can exceed 100 percent of the market value of the property when the guarantee fee is financed.
    •  Annual Fee is part of the loan (paid monthly) – USDA loans used to have NO PMI (private mortgage insurance) until October 2011. Currently annual fee rate is 0.5%
    • Up to $10,000 repair escrow hold back ok

USDA Guaranteed Loan Program

What This Program Does:

This program assists approved lenders in providing low- and moderate-income households the opportunity to own adequate, modest, decent, safe and sanitary dwellings as their primary residence in eligible rural areas. Eligible applicants may build, rehabilitate, improve or relocate a dwelling in an eligible rural area. The program provides a 90% loan note guarantee to approved lenders in order to reduce the risk of extending 100% loans to eligible rural homebuyers.

Amount Typically Financed: $150,000– $200,000; up to 100% of the market value of the home plus the amount of guarantee fee financed. Mortgage lender’s interest rate is negotiated but is fixed; 30 years; the guarantee fee is 2.0%

Purpose of the Loan: Purchase new or existing homes and repair existing homes. 100% financing– no down payment required

Program Type: USDA guarantees home loan made by mortgage lenders. Lender-driven: participant lenders make the loan — (USDA guarantees the loan) – applicants need good credit, stable income adequate for loan repayment

Program Goal: Creates incentive for mortgage lender to make home loans to low and moderate income persons.

Who may apply for this program:

Applicants must:

  • Meet income-eligibility
  • Agree to personally occupy the dwelling as their primary residence
  • Be a U.S. Citizen, U.S. non-citizen national or Qualified Alien
  • Have the legal capacity to incur the loan obligation
  • Have not been suspended or debarred from participation in federal programs
  • Demonstrate the willingness to meet credit obligations in a timely manner
  • Purchase a property that meets all program criteria

What is an eligible area:

How may funds be used:

Funds backed by loan guarantees may be used for:

  • New or existing residential property to be used as a permanent residence.  Closing cost and reasonable/customary expenses associated with the purchase may be included in the transaction
  • A site with a new or existing dwelling
  • Repairs and rehabilitation when associated with the purchase of an existing dwelling
  • Refinancing of eligible loans
  • Special design features or permanently installed equipment to accommodate a household member who has a physical disability
  • Reasonable and customary connection fees, assessments or the pro rata installment cost for utilities such as water, sewer, electricity and gas for which the buyer is liable
  • A pro rata share of real estate taxes that is due and payable on the property at the time of loan closing.  Funds can be allowed for the establishment of escrow accounts for real estate taxes and/or hazard and flood insurance premiums
  • Essential household equipment such as wall-to-wall carpeting, ovens, ranges, refrigerators, washers, dryers, heating and cooling equipment as long as the equipment is conveyed with the dwelling
  • Purchasing and installing measures to promote energy efficiency (e.g. insulation, double-paned glass and solar panels)
  • Installing fixed broadband service to the household as long as the equipment is conveyed with the dwelling
  • Site preparation costs, including grading, foundation plantings, seeding or sod installation, trees, walks, fences and driveways

How do You get started:

Applicants must contact an approved lender.  Applicants can review a partial list of approved lenders and information about all of the approved lenders in your state can be obtained by contacting your state’s Guaranteed Loan Coordinator**Florida has no List of approved lenders, you need to search for lenders on your own. 

Who can answer questions:

Applicants with questions should contact an approved lender.  Lenders with questions can contact a Guaranteed Loan Specialist in your state.

What governs this program:

7 CFR, Part 3555 HB-1-3555 – SFH Guaranteed Loan Program Technical Handbook

Why does USDA Rural Development offer this program:

This program helps lenders work with low and moderate income families living in rural areas to make homeownership a reality. Providing affordable homeownership opportunities promotes prosperity, which in turn creates thriving communities and improves the quality of life in rural areas.

Repayment Period: The loan term must be 30 years and the loan must fully amortize in that period. The promissory note must show regular monthly payments generally payable on the first day of the month.

Interest Rate: The lender and the borrower are free to negotiate any mutually acceptable fixed interest rate, as long as it does not exceed the interest rate cap established by the Agency. This cap is 100 basis points (1.00 percentage point) over the following:

 Current Fannie Mae yield for 90-day delivery (actual/actual) for 30-year fixed rate conventional loans, rounded up to the nearest one-quarter of 1 percent. The Fannie Mae website to confirm acceptable interest rates is: Click here

Obtaining Credit NOT POSSIBLE Criteria:

Form RD 3555-21, “Request for Single Family Housing Loan Guarantee” requires both the lender and the applicant to certify that the applicant is unable to secure credit from other sources upon terms and conditions which the applicant can reasonably fulfill. The certification can be made if the applicant does not meet the requirements to obtain a traditional conventional credit loan. 

Traditional conventional credit is defined for Agency purposes as:

  • The applicant has available personal non-retirement liquid verifiable asset funds of at least 20% of the purchase price that can be used as a down payment;
  • The applicant can, in addition to the 20% down payment, pay all closing costs associated with the loan;
  • The applicant can meet qualifying ratios of no more than 28% PITI and 36% TD when applying the 20% down payment;
  • The applicant demonstrates qualifying credit for such a loan.
  • The conventional mortgage loan term is for a 30- year fixed rate loan term without a condition to obtain private mortgage insurance (PMI).
If the applicant meets the cumulative criteria of traditional conventional credit, as defined by the Agency above; the applicant is ineligible for the SFHGLP.
It remains the underwriter’s responsibility to support the criteria of this Section. Documentation to support ineligibility for conventional credit will be retained in the lender’s permanent case file.
Liquid assets for conventional credit down payment purposes typically consist of cash or cash equivalents. Cash or cash equivalents include funds in the applicant’s checking or savings accounts, or investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, and money market funds, unless they were encumbered (pledges as collateral) or otherwise inaccessible without substantial penalty. Cash equivalents do not include funds in Individual Retirement Accounts, 401(k) accounts, Keogh accounts, or other retirement accounts that are restricted and may not be accessed without incurring substantial monetary penalties. Educational college savings plans, such as a 529 plan, which incur a penalty to withdraw, is not considered a cash equivalent. Owning land is not considered a liquid asset. Land cannot typically be converted to cash quickly without minimal impact to the price received and ease in transfer of ownership.

Preliminary Determination of Applicant Eligibility:

In general, the program is most appropriately used to offset the risk of making high loan-to-value loans in rural areas. It is not intended to offset risks that stem from a poor credit history or poor property condition.

  • Ratios. Do the applicant’s PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance) and total debt (TD) ratios fall at or below the limits noted in Chapter 11? Ratios are calculated using repayment income from applicants that will be a party to the Promissory Note.


  • Credit. Does the credit record appear to meet the program guidelines described in Chapter 10? The applicant must have a credit history that demonstrates their ability and willingness to repay the loan. GUS is unable to accept supplemental credit reports.

Closing Costs: Seller contributions are limited to 6% of the loan amount. (another source stated 3%) 

Qualifying Income: Adjusted annual income compared to established income limits to determine eligibility of the household for the SFHGLP. Takes into account ALL household income, from ALL family members (regardless of whose name will be on title). 2 years of Tax Returns are requested from each adult household members to verify income and assets.  ** The Purpose is to determine ELIGIBILITY for the program. 

  • Income from all adult household members, not just parties to the note, must be considered when computing annual income. This income calculation is utilized to determine the eligibility of the household for the SFHGLP.

Repayment Income: The stable and dependable income used to calculate debt ratios and determine whether the applicant(s) can afford the home. Lenders use repayment income to determine whether applicant(s) have sufficient income to repay the mortgage in addition to other recurring debts. Repayment income often differs from the calculation of annual income and adjusted annual income used to determine if the household is eligible for the SFHGLP. To compute repayment income, the lender must count only the stable and dependable income of persons who will be parties to the note.

Stable & Dependable Income (calculating Repayment Income): 

Applicants that have not been employed for 12 months with their current employer or have experienced a significant earnings increase are considered high risk. Lenders must ensure the applicant will have the required stable and dependable income to carry the mortgage debt. Caution must be utilized when the applicant’s employment includes a probationary period. The lender may consider reasonable allowances for applicants with less than 12 months job time with their current employer under the following circumstances: (1) the applicant has recently changed jobs but remains in the same line of work, (2) the applicant frequently changes jobs but demonstrates income continuity, (3) the applicant is a recent graduate, as evidenced by college transcripts, or a recent member of the military, as evidenced by discharge papers, entering the civilian workforce, (4) the applicant has recently re-entered the workforce after an absence to care for a family member or minor child, extended medical illness, or other circumstance reasonable to the lender. 

Re-entering the Workforce: Applicants who re-enter the workforce after an absence to care for a family member or minor child, extended medical illness, or other circumstances reasonable to the lender and have less than a two-year employment and income history, this type of income source may be considered as repayment income if the applicant has been at the current employer for a minimum of six months and there is evidence of a previous employment history.

Agency Review of Repayment Income: 

Agency staff is directed to recalculate the lender’s determination of repayment income for manually underwritten loans, during the review process, if the lender’s repayment ratios are within 10 percent of the published debt ratio limit found at 7 CFR 3555.151(h). Repayment ratios greater than 26.0 percent principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI) and/or greater than 37.0 percent total debt ratio (TD) require Agency staff to recalculate repayment income.

Agency Review of Eligible Household Income: 

Agency staff is directed to recalculate the lender’s determination of eligible income, as a quality control step, if the lender’s adjusted annual income calculation is within 10 percent of the applicable published income limit. The Agency review is applicable to manually underwritten loans. This review will ensure eligible household income calculations are correctly computed and include all applicable income. The recalculation will validate only eligible SFHGLP applicants obtain funding for the SFHGLP.

Prohibited Loan Purposes:

  • Income Producing Property. Purchase or improvement of income-producing land or buildings that will be used principally for income producing purposes is not allowed. Vacant land or properties used primarily for agricultural, farming or commercial enterprise are ineligible. A minimal income-producing activity, such as maintaining a garden that generates a small amount of additional income, does not violate this requirement. A qualified property must be predominantly residential in use, character and appearance. Refer to Chapter 12 of this Handbook for additional information on qualifying a property.
  • Manufactured Homes. Purchase of existing manufactured homes is not permitted, unless it is a purchase of an existing Rural Development Section 502 direct loan or guarantee, as provided in Section 2 of Chapter 13 of this Handbook.
  • Closing costs. Closing costs, including lender fees, may not exceed 3% of the total loan amount, unless flexibility is provided through guidance published by the CFPB’s Ability to Repay and Qualified Mortgage (ATR/QM) standards. The SFHGLP up-front guarantee fee and annual fee is not included in the three percent lender fee calculation. Lenders are responsible to ensure this requirement is met.

USDA Loan Credit Analysis:

GUS: The Guaranteed Underwriting System (GUS) was developed to automate the process of credit risk evaluation for the SFHGLP. Automated underwriting (AU) systems are an efficient, consistent, objective and accurate method of mortgage underwriting compared with traditional manual methods. GUS is a tool that helps evaluate the credit risk of the loan request. It compliments, but DOES NOT replace the considered judgment of experienced underwriters.

GUS incorporates applicant eligibility and underwriting requirements of this Handbook by utilizing a modified version of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage scorecard known as Technology Open to Approved Lenders (TOTAL) concurrently with a rules based engine. GUS is accessed through a secure web-based automated underwriting environment at: GUS considers mortgage loan application data entered by the approved lender, credit repository data, and income and property information to evaluate a potential borrower’s ability to meet a proposed mortgage obligation. GUS evaluates select components in a mortgage loan application and provides a credit evaluation and underwriting recommendation within seconds.

Credit Bureau Interface

  •   GUS links with hundreds of credit providers nationwide. Users may link to a full list of credit providers at:
  •   An interface occurs between GUS and the credit bureaus through a platform known as the Fannie Mae Credit Interface Service (CIS).
  •   The interface is seamless to lenders and only acts as a conduit. An attempt to access information from all national credit repositories will occur, but GUS can complete its credit risk evaluation with information from only one repository.
  •   New or re-issued credit can be pulled through GUS.
  •   Credit reports pulled through GUS are valid for 120 days for purchase loans andnew construction, unless the credit provider’s expiration is more restrictive.
  •   Lenders are not required to be a Fannie Mae subscriber or partner to utilize the credit report interface in GUS.
  • In addition to analyzing the credit report, an applicant is automatically ineligible for a guaranteed loan if they are presently delinquent on a non-tax Federal debt.
  • The lender must verify that the applicant has no delinquent Federal debt through the Credit Alert Verification Reporting System (CAIVRS). CAIVRS is a Federal government-wide repository of information on those individuals with delinquent or defaulted Federal debt, and those for whom a payment of an insurance claim or guarantee loss claim has occurred. An applicant with an outstanding judgment obtained by the United States in a Federal court, other than the United States Tax Court, is not eligible for a guarantee unless otherwise stated
  • The presence of delinquent non-tax Federal debt cannot be waived by a lender.

  • If you have been through bankruptcy or foreclosure, are trying to remove a claim from the CAIVRS system, or have any questions about getting an FHA loan, call Federal Home Loan Centers at 877-432-5626.

Max DTI Ratio for USDA Loans:

  • For USDA loans, the max DTI ratios are set at 29/41. However, if the loan is approved via the Guaranteed Underwriting System (GUS), these ratios can be exceeded somewhat, similar to FHA/VA loans.
  • Long story short, if you have a credit score of 660 or higher, solid employment history, and the potential for increased earnings in the future, you may get approved for a USDA loan with higher qualifying ratios.

Related Links:

  • USDA Rural Home (Direct Loan) Program 101 PDF: click here
  • USDA Guidance Handbook for Loans/Programs: Click here
  • USDA Florida Programs: Click Here

Searching for a Mortgage Professional (lender, broker, online…)

You should start looking for a mortgage professional before searching for a house. 

Click Here for a Mortgage Shopping Worksheet (this is a GREAT list! Take it with you when you visit Lenders)

Here is an industry secret, are you ready?  Mortgage people are salespeople.  First and foremost, the primary goal of a mortgage originator/loan officer is to convince you to apply for your mortgage with them. 

Nowadays, just about every real estate office has an “in-house” lender with an originator right there in the office. Convenient and accessible, this must be the right answer; why else would the lender have such coveted positioning?  In-house reps exist because there is a mutually beneficial financial relationship, the lender has unrestricted access to agents and buyers, and the real estate company is compensated by the lender.  Marketing Services Agreements (MSA), Joint Ventures, Desk Rentals and whatever other form these relationships take, may seem counter to RESPA (Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act), rules governing  compensation for real estate referrals, but they are industry norms.

Whether you’ll get the best deal from going directly to a bank, a mortgage lender or a mortgage broker often depends on your situation, the mortgage pro handling your case and what’s being offered at the time. That means talking to actual people on the phone or in person, not just filling out an online form.

You can buy a home with as little as 3 percent down – and nothing down if you’re a veteran. But if you put less than 20 percent down, you’ll need private mortgage insurance (or the Federal Housing Administration equivalent) in most cases, which can add roughly $100 to a monthly payment on a $100,000 home.

Do you want to pay more upfront or get a lower interest rate? If you’re planning to keep the loan for 30 years, it may make sense for you to pay more upfront to get a lower rate. If you plan to sell or are going to refinance in a few years, it may not.

To find a mortgage professional, start by asking friends, colleagues, relatives and your real estate agent. You might also ask any finance professionals you work with, such as accountants or financial advisors. If you’re a member of a credit union, ask there. Some credit unions and local banks do their own mortgage lending and others contract with brokers. Call the banks where you have accounts.

Decide Whether You Need a Mortgage Broker

There are benefits to working with a mortgage broker. A broker can save you time by doing a large portion of the work when it comes to finding lenders. Nevertheless, there are some drawbacks you should be aware of when working with a mortgage broker.

Brokers earn their profits by arranging the deal between the lender and the new homeowner. The wrong broker could set you up with a lender that offers them the highest profit, but not necessarily the best mortgage for you. Should you decide to go with a broker, it’s important to take the time to do a little research. Ask for references and learn from other homeowners what their experience working with the broker was like. Brokers who are hesitant to provide references from past clients should be a huge red flag.

Talk to Your Real Estate Agent

A good agent will not limit recommendations to his or her in-house lenders, and smart loan officers take especially good care of customers recommended by real estate agents. Use this to your advantage, and make sure the lender you speak with knows you came to them through a recommendation from your agent. This connection can not only be a good icebreaker, but it can also be a big help when it comes to reducing closing costs.

Give the loan officer all details about your situation when asking for quotes. People who are self-employed, have suffered a foreclosure or recently changed careers especially need a good loan officer.

In general, banks have the fewest options available because they offer only their own products, but they may be more flexible if they’re lending their own money – and they may make a deal if you have substantial assets. You could get a really good offer, but you have to dangle the assets.

Mortgage brokers offer the largest number of options, since they can shop your loan among many lenders. If your loan can be done, a broker can find a place to do it.



It’s difficult to discern who the best mortgage lenders are in a crowded field. Here are the most common types of lenders you’ll choose from:

  • Credit unions: These member-owned financial institutions often offer favorable interest rates to shareholders. And many have eased membership restrictions, so it’s likely you can find one to join.
  • Mortgage bankers: Bankers who work for a specific financial institution and package loans for consideration by the bank’s underwriters.
  • Correspondent lenders: Correspondent lenders are often local mortgage loan companies that have the resources to make your loan, but rely instead on a pipeline of other lenders, such as Wells Fargo and Chase, to whom they immediately sell your loan.
  • Savings and loans: Once the bedrock of home lending, S&Ls are now a bit hard to find. But these smaller financial institutions are often very community-oriented and worth seeking out.
  • Mutual savings banks: Another type of thrift institution, like savings and loans, mutual savings banks are locally focused and often competitive.

You can, and should, check if each lender you consider is registered in the state you’re shopping in through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System Registry. This web site  makes the loan officer investigative process relatively easy. The National Mortgage Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) maintains a site providing consumer access to the administrative and license information for state regulated mortgage lenders in all 50 states and the District. The NMLS Consumer Access site can be searched free of charge. ( ). 

Also, search the Better Business Bureau for unbiased reviews and information. One of the most important pieces of information available on the NMLS Consumer Access site is whether your loan officer has been the subject of any state disciplinary proceedings. The site also lets you see immediately how long your loan officer has been in the business and with what companies.

But not all mortgage lenders are regulated at the state level. For example, commercial banks that have the word “National” or use the initials “N.A.” (National Association) in their name, savings banks and savings and loan associations having the word “Federal” in their name or which use the initials FSB (Federal Savings Bank), FSA (Federal Savings Association), FA (Federal Association) or FSLA (Federal Savings and Loan Association) are organized under and subject to federal law. These federal institutions are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

Verification of these institutions can be done online at or by calling (800) 613-6743. Federally regulated credit unions also use the word “Federal” in their name. Inquiries and complaints concerning federal credit unions should be directed to the National Credit Union Administration or by phone at (800) 755-1030.


This is where homework and a lot of patience come into play. As noted, there are all kinds of mortgage lendersneighborhood banks, big commercial banks, credit unions and online mortgage lenders. You have more options than ever.

 Online Mortgage Lenders: Both MortgageHippo and SoFi have automated systems

You can search for the best mortgage rates online to start. Keep in mind that the rate quote you see online is a starting point; a lender or broker will have to pull your credit information and process a loan application to provide an accurate rate, which you can then lock in if you’re satisfied with the product.

Once you have several quotes in hand, compare costs and decide which one makes the most financial sense for you. Use your research as leverage to negotiate for the best mortgage rates possible.

Get your free credit report before you start. This will not allow you to put your feet up on the desk and demand the best terms,  but it will let you know where you stand. Just because you have a 700 credit score doesn’t put the ball in your court. No one can provide an accurate quote without knowing your credit store. 


Don’t assume that minor credit problems or difficulties stemming from unique circumstances, such as illness or temporary loss of income, will limit your loan choices to only high-cost lenders. If your credit report contains negative information that is accurate, but there are good reasons for trusting you to repay a loan, be sure to explain your situation to the lender or broker. If your credit problems cannot be explained, you will probably have to pay more than borrowers who have good credit histories. But don’t assume that the only way to get credit is to pay a high price. Ask how your past credit history affects the price of your loan and what you would need to do to get a better price. Take the time to shop around and negotiate the best deal that you can.

Whether you have credit problems or not, it’s a good idea to review your credit report for accuracy and completeness before you apply for a loan. To order a copy of your credit report, contact:

  • Equifax: (800) 685-1111
  • TransUnion: (800) 916-8800
  • Experian: (888) 397-3742

While there’s more to finding a good lender than picking the lowest rate, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. The total interest you pay on over the life of the loan is a big figure, and a low rate can save you thousands of dollars.

Make sure the lender offers the program that is best for you. Not all lenders offer FHA, VA or USDA Rural Development loans. Down payment requirements, loan-to-value ratios and credit requirements also vary by lender.


Picking the right lender or broker to work with can be tricky. Narrow your choices by asking for referrals from friends, family or your real estate agent, or by reading online reviews. Once you have some names, it’s time to ask:

  • How do you prefer to communicate with clients — email, text, phone calls or in person? How quickly do you respond to messages?
  • How long are your turnaround times on preapproval, appraisal and closing?
  • What lender fees will I be responsible for at closing? (Fees may include commission, loan origination, points, appraisal, credit report, and application fees.)
  • Will you waive any of these fees or roll them into my mortgage?
  • What are the down payment requirements?
  • Ask who will service your loan because if your loan will be sold, it might be more difficult to track someone down later who can help you with any issues.
  • You should ask what happens if the appraisal comes in too low or your rate lock expires before closing or there are other problems at the last minute, because your lender should be able to help you set expectations and commit to getting you to settlement.
  • Ask each lender and broker for a list of its current mortgage interest rates and whether the rates being quoted are the lowest for that day or week.

Interview the actual person who will handle your loan. That could be a mortgage broker, a bank employee or a loan officer. Ask about experience and qualifications. Is the person licensed (required for brokers but not bank employees)? Does he or she belong to the National Association of Mortgage Professionals or your state’s mortgage professional association? Ask for references and look at reviews online. The company does not matter as much as the originator, Even good companies hire really bad people.

Note: If you’re looking for low down-payment options, a loan backed by the Federal Housing AdministrationVeterans Affairs or Department of Agriculture might be your best bets.

Also, check with your mortgage lender or broker if buying points to lower your rate makes sense. With this strategy, you’re basically paying some interest upfront in exchange for a lower rate on your mortgage. Generally, one point equals 1% of the loan amount. For example, on a $200,000 mortgage, 1 point would cost $2,000 and could lower your interest rate by 0.25%.

This might be a good cost-saving move if you plan on living in the home for a long time. Even though you pay additional points upfront to do so, you can save thousands of dollars in interest expense over the life of your loan.

When you get quotes from companies, don’t look at just the interest rate. Look at the rate and all the fees, including points, origination fees and any other fees charged by the lender. A “no-fee” loan just means the fees are included in the rates.


Principal and interest payments on a mortgage aren’t the only costs of homeownership; you should ask your lender about other costs such as estimated closing costs, points, loan origination fees and transaction fees — and ask what each fee includes. If you are unsure of something, ask the lender for an explanation.

Some mortgage lenders will require an “earnest money” deposit to start the loan process. However, be wary of contracts specifying that the earnest money will be kept regardless of whether the lender offers a loan or the loan closes. Ask the lender to specify under what circumstances the earnest money will be kept, and if the answer is vague, keep shopping around.

Don’t forget to examine the fine print of your loan documents, particularly the initial Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure. These will tell you the exact finance terms, who pays closing costs, what items are and aren’t included in the home, whether there’s a home inspection contingency, the closing date, and other important details.

Ask to see the Good Faith Estimate worksheet, not just the GFE. Many people consider the current Good Faith Estimate, required by law, to be confusing, and it is being replaced August 1 with what consumer advocates hope will be a more useful document. Until then, ask for the complete worksheet, and make sure it itemizes all the fees.

Plan for costs that are not charged by the lender. Additional costs include title insurance, real estate transfer taxes and required escrows for property taxes and homeowner insurance. In some states, shopping for closing agents can save several thousand dollars, while escrow or closing costs are minimal in other states. 

Whether you are dealing with a lender or a broker may not always be clear. Some financial institutions operate as both lenders and brokers. And most brokers’ advertisements do not use the word “broker.” Therefore, be sure to ask whether a broker is involved. This information is important because brokers are usually paid a fee for their services that may be separate from and in addition to the lender’s origination or other fees. A broker’s compensation may be in the form of “points” paid at closing or as an add-on to your interest rate, or both. You should ask each broker you work with how he or she will be compensated so that you can compare the different fees. Be prepared to negotiate with the brokers as well as the lenders.


Once you know what each lender has to offer, negotiate for the best deal that you can. On any given day, lenders and brokers may offer different prices for the same loan terms to different consumers, even if those consumers have the same loan qualifications. The most likely reason for this difference in price is that loan officers and brokers are often allowed to keep some or all of this difference as extra compensation. Generally, the difference between the lowest available price for a loan product and any higher price that the borrower agrees to pay is an overage. When overages occur, they are built into the prices quoted to consumers. They can occur in both fixed and variable-rate loans and can be in the form of points, fees, or the interest rate. Whether quoted to you by a loan officer or a broker, the price of any loan may contain overages.

Have the lender or broker write down all the costs associated with the loan. Then ask if the lender or broker will waive or reduce one or more of its fees or agree to a lower rate or fewer points. You’ll want to make sure that the lender or broker is not agreeing to lower one fee while raising another or to lower the rate while raising points. There’s no harm in asking lenders or brokers if they can give better terms than the original ones they quoted or than those you have found elsewhere.

Once you are satisfied with the terms you have negotiated, you may want to obtain a written lock-in from the lender or broker. The lock-in should include the rate that you have agreed upon, the period the lock-in lasts, and the number of points to be paid. A fee may be charged for locking in the loan rate. This fee may be refundable at closing. Lock-ins can protect you from rate increases while your loan is being processed; if rates fall, however, you could end up with a less favorable rate. Should that happen, try to negotiate a compromise with the lender or broker.


Adjustable-rate loans, also known as variable-rate loans, usually offer a lower initial interest rate than fixed-rate loans. The interest rate fluctuates over the life of the loan based on market conditions, but the loan agreement generally sets maximum and minimum rates. When interest rates rise, generally so do your loan payments; and when interest rates fall, your monthly payments may be lowered.

Annual percentage rate (APR) is the cost of credit expressed as a yearly rate. The APR takes into account not only the interest rate but also points, broker fees, and certain other credit charges that you may be required to pay, expressed as a yearly rate.

Conventional loans are mortgage loans other than those insured or guaranteed by a government agency such as the FHA (Federal Housing Administration), the VA (Veterans Administration), or the Rural Development Services (formerly know as Farmers Home Administration, or FmHA).

Escrow is the holding of money or documents by a neutral third party prior to closing. It can also be an account held by the lender (or servicer) into which a homeowner pays money for taxes and insurance.

Fixed-rate loans generally have repayment terms of 15, 20, or 30 years. Both the interest rate and the monthly payments (for principal and interest) stay the same during the life of the loan.

The interest rate is the cost of borrowing money expressed as a percentage rate. Interest rates can change because of market conditions.

Loan origination fees are fees charged by the lender for processing the loan and are often expressed as a percentage of the loan amount.

Lock-in refers to a written agreement guaranteeing a home buyer a specific interest rate on a home loan provided that the loan is closed within a certain period of time, such as 60 or 90 days. Often the agreement also specifies the number of points to be paid at closing.

mortgage is a document signed by a borrower when a home loan is made that gives the lender a right to take possession of the property if the borrower fails to pay off the loan.

Overages are the difference between the lowest available price and any higher price that the home buyer agrees to pay for the loan. Loan officers and brokers are often allowed to keep some or all of this difference as extra compensation.

Points are fees paid to the lender or broker for the loan and are often linked to the interest rate; usually the more points you pay, the lower the rate. Check your local newspaper for information about rates and points currently being offered. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. Points are usually paid in cash at closing. In some cases, the money needed to pay points can be borrowed, but doing so will increase the loan amount and the total costs. ASK FOR POINTS TO BE QUOTED TO YOU AS A DOLLAR AMOUNT — RATHER THAN JUST AS THE NUMBER OF POINTS — SO THAT YOU WILL ACTUALLY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY. 

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) protects the lender against a loss if a borrower defaults on the loan. It is usually required for loans in which the down payment is less than 20 percent of the sales price or, in a refinancing, when the amount financed is greater than 80 percent of the appraised value.

Thrift institution is a general term for savings banks and savings and loan associations.

Transaction, settlement, or closing costs may include application fees; title examination, abstract of title, title insurance, and property survey fees; fees for preparing deeds, mortgages, and settlement documents; attorneys’ fees; recording fees; and notary, appraisal, and credit report fees. Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the borrower receives a good faith estimate of closing costs at the time of application or within three days of application. The good faith estimate lists each expected cost either as an amount or a range.

Hard Money: What Is It and How Do Hard Money Loans Work?

Most real estate investors hear terms that they don’t understand in the beginning. One of these terms, hard money, is little understood, and frequently asked about. Here is a great explanation of hard money.

What Does Everyone Mean by Hard Money? What is Hard Money
Hard money lenders (HMLs) are typically private individuals or small groups that lend money (Hard money) based on the property you are buying, and not on your credit score. Usually these loans cost (percentage-wise) much more then an average mortgage, often times up to twice what a regular mortgage does, plus high origination fees.

Who Needs Hard Money
Developers and house flippers, amongst others, will use it to fund deals because you can often borrow up to 100% of your purchase price! On the other hand, hard money lenders will frequently require you to back up your loan with real assets. If you know you can buy a property and turn it quickly at huge profit, and you can’t get a standard mortgage, it might be one way to go. Some investors use hard money to get into the property, do some quick fixes to raise the property value, then get a new loan (based on the property’s new, improved value) from a bank to pay off the hard money lender.

In Other Words . . . 

Hard money loans are easily accessed and cut through the red tape. If you can develop a relationship with a LOCAL hard money lender, you can get funds within a couple days, and sometimes with no appraisal or other costs (except for origination fees of course).

Now different HML’s have different requirements and protocol. There is a local HML that only charges 12% interest and 1 point origination if you keep it over a year and 2 more points if you keep it less than a year. He only does 30 year notes, and obviously he wants you to keep it. He has over 1100 notes, so he doesn’t want the hassle. He wants his money to stay loaned out. Another local HML who doesn’t charge any points, but he’s extremely fickle and can be hard to work with.

Now the typical HML will charge somewhere right around the usury rate. In Texas its 18% annual, so most HML’s will charge 5% origination and 13% interest on a 1 year note or no points upfront and 18% interest with a shorter call. Now they can get around usuary by shifting their origination fee into a commitment fee (little different protocol), but most HML’s don’t know this.

The beauty of HML’s is that the loan is normally not based on your credit score (especially with local lenders) or at least not on your credit worthiness (assets and income), you can receive funding within a matter of days (normally about 7-14 days) rather than 30 days+, and you can get a loan on any piece of junk that you find. You also are not normally dealing with a processing team. You deal directly with an individual lender. If he or she says yes, then you have the loan. This is quite advantageous versus going through an entire loan committee process or underwriting process.

HML’s on longer term investments are not a good idea, but for short term flips, rehabs, or for the initial purchase, they can be a very strong tool. You can start your investing using HML’s, and make very good money using them. Eventually you will be able to use a line of credit from the bank, but it will take you several years to work into that. Then you will be the one offering local hard money loans to other investors.

YP Florida Auctions (click here)

  • YPFL Auction features exclusive listings only found on, including rental properties, fixer-upper homes, multi-family properties, vacant land and commercial properties.
  • YPFl Auction specializes in distressed commercial and residential properties throughout Florida, to include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Port Saint Lucie, and Orlando.
  • YPFL Auction’s team is comprised of seasoned brokers, realtors, and other real estate professionals. We are here to provide our investors with quality listings, vast experience, and top-notch service!
  • 4 Basic Principles for Property Bidding:
    • PayPal Authorization – $1000 per each property bidding.
    • Closing costs will not be included in the final bidding price.
    • Property will sell as/is cash or hard money loan ONLY.

Auction.Com (click hereclick here)

  • has a proven track record of facilitating more sales at market value in less time. We can help reduce loss severity in all asset types, thanks to our multi-million dollar marketing efforts and our extensive network of buyers. 
  • Home Listings come from a Servicer (a company that services the mortgage loan through the default process). 
  • Home Listings also come from Institutional Investors (An organization that pools money to invest in real estate and manages a portfolio of these assets)
  • Assets turn into action when they are listed on We exponentially increase the exposure for your property across all media—far beyond what a broker can do.
  • Thousands of Properties auctioned weekly that offer Broker commission (up to 3%). Search Residential Co-op Properties here: Co-op Auction Homes with Broker
  • Some of their listings are MOVE in Ready Program that allow FHA/VA Loans and such. For this program search homes here at Ten-X: click here

Port Forwarding

To really explain port forwarding, you first need to understand a little more about what your router does. Your internet service provider assigns one IP address to your internet connection. All computers on the internet need a unique IP address, but you have multiple computers in your house and only one address. So how does this work?

NAT – What is it? Why do we use it?

Your home router has a function called Network Address Translation, or NAT, built in. Inside your network, computers have addresses like All addresses in the 192.168.* range (or in the 10.*) range are private or reserved addresses. These addresses are officially assigned by IANA to be used inside of private networks. Your router automatically assigns such an address to each computer connected via DHCP. These addresses are how computers in your network communicate with the router and with each other.

Your router has a separate network interface that connects it to the internet. This interface has a very different address which is assigned by your ISP. This is the one address that I mentioned before, and your router uses it to communicate with other computers on the internet. Computers inside of your network have non-routable private IP addresses, meaning that if they send packets directly to the internet the packets will automatically be dropped (packets with private addresses are not allowed to traverse the internet for stability reasons). But your router has a routableaddress. Network Address Translation, as its name suggests, translates between these two kinds of addresses, allowing the multiple computers inside of your network to appear to the internet as one computer with one address.

The Details

Although this might sound complicated, it’s actually pretty simple how your router does it. Every time a computer inside your network wants to connect to a computer on the internet, it sends the connection request to the router (it knows to send it to the router because its Default Gatewayparameter is set to the router’s address). The router then takes that connection request (a “SYN request” in TCP/IP) and changes the source address (the “reply-to” or return address) and changes it from the private IP of the computer to the public IP of the router, so that the response will be sent to the router. It then takes note in a database (called the NAT table) that the connection was initiated, so that it remembers it later.

When the response comes back from the remote computer (a “SYN-ACK”), the router looks in its NAT table and sees that a connection to that host on that port was previously initiated by a private computer on your network, changes the destination address to the private address of the computer, and forwards it inside your network. In this way, packets can continue to transit back and forth between networks, with the router transparently changing the addresses so that it works. When the connection is terminated, the router just removes it from the NAT table.

OR Think of It This Way

This might be a little easier to visualize with a metaphor – let’s say you’re a freight forwarder in the US working with Chinese clients. They need to send packages to many customers in the US, but it’s easier for customs/paperwork reasons to only send packages to one place. So, a package comes to you from one of your clients in China (the private network, in this example) with an actual destination somewhere in the US (the internet). You change the address label on the box to the US (public) address, and you change the return address to your own public address (since it can’t be returned straight to China without inconveniencing the customer) and hand it to the postal service. If the customer returns the product, it comes to you. You look it up in your records and see what company in China it came from, and change the destination to that company (its private address) and the return address to your private address, so that they can send back a replacement through you.

This works great, but there’s a bit of a problem. What if a customer needs to send something to the company, let’s say a money order in payment for something? Or, let’s say that a computer on the internet initiates a connection with the router (a SYN request), say to a web server that is in the network. The letter/packet only has the router’s public address on it, so the router actually doesn’t know where to send it! it could be destined for any of the computers on the private network, or for none of them. You might have experienced this problem when you call someone’s home phone – when they call you it’s no problem, but when you call them there’s no way for them to know who’s the call for, so the wrong person might answer.

While it’s easy enough for humans to sort this out, it’s a lot trickier for computers, because not every computer on your network knows all the other computers.

And finally we get to Port Forwarding

Port Forwarding is how we fix this problem: it’s a way to tell your router what computer inside the network incoming connections should be directed to. We have three different ways we can do this:

  • Faux-DMZ: a lot of routers have a feature called DMZ. This stands for Demilitarized Zone, which is a kind of network security configuration. The DMZ on home routers is often referred to as faux-DMZ because it lacks the features of an actual DMZ. What it does do is the simplest kind of incoming connection handling: all incoming connection requests will be sent to one specified inside your network. It’s dead simple – you type an IP address in to your router’s configuration, and all incoming connections go there. This doesn’t always work, though, because you might have multiple computers that need to accept incoming connections. For that, we have…
  • Port forwarding: All network connection requests include a “port”. The port is just a number, and it’s part of how a computer knows what the packet is. IANA has specified that Port 80 is used for HTTP. This means that an incoming packet that says port number 80 must be a request intended for a web server. Port forwarding on your router allows you to enter a port number (or possibly a range or combination of numbers, depending on the router), and an IP address. All incoming connections with a matching port number will be forwarded to the internal computer with that address.
  • UPnP port forwards: UPnP forwarding works the exact same way as port forwarding, but instead of you setting it up, software on a computer inside the network automatically sets the router to forward traffic on a given port to it.

An example

Let’s look at a usage example. A lot of multiplayer video games (as an example, Counter Strike) allow you to run a game server on your computer that other people can connect to in order to play with you. Your computer doesn’t know all the people that want to play, so it can’t connect to them – instead, they have to send new connection requests to your computer from the internet.

If you didn’t have anything set up on the router, it would receive these connection requests but it wouldn’t know which computer inside the network had the game server, so it would just ignore them (or, more specifically, it would send back a packet indicating that it can’t connect). Luckily, you know the port number that will be on connection requests for the game server. So, on the router, you set a port forward with the port number that the game server expects (for example, 27015) and the IP address of the computer with the game server (for example,
The router will know to forward the incoming connection requests to inside the network, and computers outside will be able to connect in.

Another example would be a local network with two machines, where the second one with the IP hosts a website using Apache. Therefore the router should forward incoming port 80 requests to this machine. Using port forwarding, both machines can run in the same network at the same time.


Video games are perhaps the most common place everyday users will encounter port forwarding, although most modern games use UPnP so that you don’t have to do this manually (instead, it’s fully automatic). You’ll need to do this whenever you want to be able to connect directly to something in your network though (rather than through some intermediary on the internet). This might include running your own web server or connecting via Remote Desktop Protocol to one of your computers.

A note on security

One of the nice things about NAT is that it provides some effort-free, built-in security. A lot of people wander the internet looking for machines that are vulnerable… and they do this by attempting to open connections with various ports. These are incoming connections, so, as discussed above, the router will drop them. This means that in a NAT configuration, only the router itself is vulnerable to attacks involving incoming connections. This is a good thing, because the router is much simpler (and thus less likely to be vulnerable) than a computer running a full operating system with a lot of software. You should keep in mind, then, that by DMZing a computer inside your network (setting it as the DMZ destination) you lose that layer of security for that computer: it is now completely open to incoming connections from the internet, so you need to secure it as if it was directly connected. Of course, any time you forward a port, the computer at the receiving end becomes vulnerable on that specific port. So make sure you run up-to-date software that is well configured.

Florida Attractions

Fun Florida Facts:

* Florida Beaches are home to 80% of the Loggerhead turtles in the U.S. from May through October, there are an estimated 50,000 sea turtles in Florida making is the most important nesting area in the United States.  

* According to research from Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota Bay is the year round home to more than 140 identifiable Bottlenose Dolphins

*An adult West Indian manatee can consume over 100 pounds of vegetation per day! 

*Venice is considered the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World” due to the many prehistoric sharks’ teeth of all types and sizes that wash up on shore. 

*Sarasota has been known as the “Circus Capitol of the World” since the 1920s when John Ringling made it the winter quarters of his famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. 

Island Outfitters 

  • (Rentals, Fishing Charters, Parasail)

  • 1250 Stickney Point Rd, Siesta Key (next to Bank of America), website
  • ParaSail Siesta: (941) 346-8200; You need to sign a waiver. Take a 25 minute boat ride out to intercostal. Parasail occurs in front of Siesta Key Beach. 2-3 People can be in the shoot at once. Minimum COMBINED weight required is 120lbs, the max weight is 500lbs. Spend 15 minutes in the air (by this time your legs will be ‘tingling’). 500-600 feet above the ground. Total time is 2.5 hours, up to 12 people can ride on the boat and take turns Parasailing. Cost: $90/person. Early Bird discount at 9am $80/person. Hours: 9am-6pm. Recommended to book at least 1 day in advance. Or same day before 1:30pm. Website
  • Private Inshore Fishing Charters: (941) 349-4400. Minimum time 4  hours. Captain + your family. $375 for 1-3 anglers, $50 extra for additional person. Max number of people is 6. All equipment is included just pack drinks & snacks. 
    • Inshore Fishing = NOT in the Gulf. In the Back waters, the intercostal. Fishes: Snook, Sheepshead, Mangrove Snapper, Trout… 
    • Offshore Fishing = a little more expensive. Fish: Grouper, Barracuda, bigger fish… 
    • Fish for Tarpon mid-May through mid-July. 
  • Jet Skis Rental: (941) 346-8200. You will need to provide a credit card with a $300 damage authorization. If you are under the age of 28 yrs you need a boaters license. *You can take the Open Book, 30 minute boaters test at the rental facility for $3. Cost: $90 1hr, $170/2hr and $250/3hr. Hours: 9am-5pm. Recommended to reserve 1 day in advance. *Minimum age to drive a Jet Ski is 14 years old & must pass the boaters license test. 
  • Paddleboard Rental: $40 for 4 hours. Single Kayak Rental: $30 for 4 hours. Double Kayak Rental: $40 for 4 hours  *Must be 18 years old to rent but no age restriction for paddleboard & Kayak. (941) 346-3000
  • Boat Rentals (call for pricing and options)
  • FREE customer parking.
  • If You pick up a FREE “Florida Suncoast’s Official Family fun Guide” You can find some coupons and discounts (like Early Bird Special – before NOON – $5 OFF Jet Ski Rentals – expires 12/2016). 

Myakka Wildlife Tours

  • 14 miles East of US 41 on State Road 72 (I-75 Exit 205- 9 miles East), (941) 365-0100. Located inside of the Myakka River State Park. 3 miles in the park, stay to the left where the road forks. They have the world’s largest airboat, holds 75 people. February , March & April are the best times to see alligators. **During this time they are VERY busy and they run 2 boats to accomadate and ask people to arrive 1.5 hours prior. Ticket Booth opens at 9am. Lots of things to do in the park to spend the whole day there!
  • All fares are sold same day and on premises. First come first serve, arrive early! Tickets go on sale at 9 am everyday.
  • Website
  • Gator Gal: 1 hour airboat tour. Informative narration on birds, plants, animals & gators. 
    • Summer Schedule (June1-Dec 15): 3 trips daily – 10am, 11:30am & 1pm. 
    • Winter Schdedule (Dec 16-May 31): 4 trips daily – 10am, 11:30am, 1pm & 2pm.   **** Airboat & Tram Tours offered during winter session.
  • $14 Adults, $8 Kids (ages 6-12yr). 
  • Hours 9am-5pm. Open 7 days a week. 
  • When you buy a $14 adult pass on any of the tours Myakka Wildlife Tours offers,  you will receive a RED ticket attached to your receipt. Good for one year beyond the date of purchase. The RED tickets are good for one half price adult fare on any tour we offer anytime of the year.

Le Barge Tropical Cruises

  • website
  • (941) 366-6116 Reservations & information
  • Live entertainment, Light food & snacks, Food, Wine, Beer & Mixed drinks. 
  • Tropical Sunset Cruise (Live entertainment, dancing, fabulous sunsets over the Gulf) Hours: 7pm-9pm daily, $28 for adults & children
  • Sightseeing/Nature Cruise (see spectacular waterfront homes, fun interactive narration) Hours: Tue-Sun, 2pm-4pm. Cost: $25 adults & Kids (4-12 yr)  $20
  • Dolphin, Manatee & Wildlife Watch Cruise (narrated by trained naturalist/marine biologist) Days: Tues-Thur & Sat Cost: $25 adults & Kids (4-12 yr)  $20.
  • You can order food/drinks on the boat (not included in price). No outside food/drinks allowed. 
  • Free Parking dockside! Boarding time is 30 minutes prior to start time. If you purchase tickets Online there is a 6% surcharge. Best is to purchase tickets onsite at ticket booth 30 minutes prior to start time (same day). Weekends are busier. 

Siesta Sports Rental 

  • 6551 Midnight Pass Rd, Siesta Key, In the Southbridge Mall (Close to 7-eleven), (941) 346-1797, Website
  • Open 7 days, 9am-5pm
  • Paddleboards:  $40 4 hours or $65 full day; Single Kayaks: $30 for 4 hours or $45 full day; Double Kayaks: $40 for 4 hours OR $55 full day.
    • *Options on where to use:
      • 1. Where you are staying (Free delivery & pick-up on Siesta Key)
      • 2.Turtle Beach launch, then you paddle to the Jim Neville Preserve
      • 3. off the beach out in front of the Rental Facility 
    • *Kayak Tours: set up ahead of time $48/person, 2 hours. Minimum 4 people required. Paddle around mangroves and bird preserve in Little Sarasota Bay. Short picnic stop at Palmer Point Beach. Explore the Jim Neville Preserve
  • Scooter Cars (2 seater with a 50cc engine. Drivers License required & credit card) $30/1hour or $44/2 hours or $70/4 hours or $90/day or $215/3 days. For the roads on siesta key. For fun & sightseeing. 
  • Skim Board:  $8/day  (throw on the shallow waves and ride on it, best for calm ocean days); Boogie Board: $8/day  (ride on your belly best for wavy days)
  • Snorkel Equipment: $12/full set for adults & kids (no kid fins available)
  • Jet Ski: $90/1hr each additional hour is $80/hr with a max of 4 hours for $300.
  • Bike Rentals: Children’s bikes, Beach Cruisers (single speed) for sand and street riding, Trek Hybrid (21 speed) street only, Trek Alpha 1.1 Road bikes (50cm-62cm frames), Tandems. Cost: $10-30/day or $8-20 for 4 hours or $4-8 for 1 hour. 

** See the Neville Marine Preserve Trail, from Paddle Sarasota, a Guide to Sarasota’s kayak and canoe trails.

Siesta Key Bike & Kayak

  • 1224 Old Stickney Point Rd, (941) 346-0891 (Located in Captain Curt’s Village in Siesta Key), website
  • Hours: 7 days a week from 9am-5pm 
  • Scooters: age limit 18+, must have drivers license, double seater, Suma 2 wheel, you can take them anywhere. $50 4 hours minimum, 24hr  for $70,  3 days for $150 OR 1 week for $225. *You must take a “road test” so they can make sure you have the skills to drive them. Helmets included in rental. 
  • Electric Bikes: size limit. They are like a beach cruiser bike – they are heavy and large. $40/day (9-5pm), $60 for 24 hours  OR $80 for 3 days
  • Scooter Cars: age limit 18+, must have drivers license, Double seater, Must stay on the island roads. $30/1hr, $50/2hr,  $60/4 hours  OR $80/day  (9am-5pm)
  • Single Sit in Kayaks: $28/day; Double $40/day   (Sit in Kayaks are for Calm waters in Sarasota Bay); Single Open Kayak:$40/day; Double $50/day (open Kayaks are for the Ocean/ for the Gulf of Mexico – they have holes in them for water to drain out – prevent sinking)
  • Kayak Tours: Must book in advance. Call Frank (941) 779-7426. Kid/Family friendly. Rental & lifejackets included in price. $50/person. 

Nature Safari Cruise (at MOTE Aquarium)

  • (941) 388-4200, website, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy, City Island Sarasota.
  • Hands-on Adventure! Their newest eco-tour gives the visitor an in-depth look into the unique ecosystem of south Florida
  • Cruise with a marine biologist looking for manatee & dolphin
  • Nature & Beach walk exploring on Lido Key Beach.
  • Disembark on a sandbar & explore the grass flats with your own personal net for sea horses, hermit crabs, juvenile fish, sea stars & more. 
  • For Ages 6 and up.
  • Mon, Wed & Fri during Low Tide (times change depending on the day)
  •  Cost: Adults $45, Kids (6-12yr) $40 – 2 hours long total. Need to wear water shoes 
  • Make Reservations in person or by phone (no online reservations available as of now). 1 day advance reservation required.  Minimum of 4 people needed to cruise.
  • Some suggestions for you to bring: waterproof camera, bathing suit, towels, watershoes and sun protection (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, etc.).

* Search for: Low tide in Sarasota Bay. There are 2 high tides and 2 low tides throughout the day. The cruise only happens once daily. 

Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf


  • 2 Locations: 3815 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 351-6620 OR 2000 Cortez Rd West, Bradenton, (941) 756-0043, website
  • Mini-Golf fun for the entire Family!
  • Hours: Daily 9am-11pm. $13 adults. $12 kids (12yr & under), after 7pm the price increases by $1 more per person. 
  • 26 LIVE BABY GATORS! You can purchase a food bag with 28 pieces of food for $3.50 (after taxes).

iKayak Sarasota

  • Easy online booking at: or call (941) 302-2677. Mornings are popular. Reserve with 1 day in advance. 
  • Take a guided Kayak adventure through the exotic mangrove tunnels of Lido Key Ted Sperling Park. 
  • Tours are 7 days a week, 10am & 1:30pm. Need to make a reservations. 2 hours. 
  • Touring adventure through the exotic mangrove tunnels of Lido Key Ted Sperling Park (no big waves). During the 1950s, mosquito control efforts included cutting ditches along Brushy Bayou and Little Grassy Lagoon. Mangroves grew over those cuts and became shady places to paddle. At low tide, especially, dozens of mangrove crabs cling to the trees. Sometimes the dark little crabs fall into boats. 
  • Tours Tandem Kayak (double): $80, Single Kayak: $47
  • Stand Up Paddle Board: 4hr Rental & Free Lesson: $45
  • Tour starts at 10AM at south Lido Park, 190 Taft Drive, Be there at 9:45AM to check in and sign a waiver. Your guide will direct you to the kayaks and some instruction on paddling and so forth. 

Cruise & Discover (MOTE Aquarium)

  • (941) 388-4200, website(Sarasota BAY Explorers), 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy
  • Sea Life Encounter Trip: 1 hour, 45min. A tranquil cruise on Sarasota & Roberts Bays where you stop on an uninhabited island. May see Dolphins & Manatees, you will discover the fscinating creatures living in local waters which are gathered from the trawl net pulled by the boat. See mangrove islands – home to pelicans, herons, ibis & egrets – while osprey soar overhead. Cost: Adults: $27, Children (4-12yr): $23. 
  • Sea Life encounter Cruise: The highlight of this trip is the collection of a sample of marine life with a trawl net.
  • Clean restroom, covered boat, sodas & chips. Combo Ticket (Cruise and Aquarium): Adults: $40, Children (4-12yr): $33
  • Cruises are Daily: 11am, 1:30pm & 4pm. 
  • Reservations are recommended. Check in 30 minutes prior to departure. 
  • Additional Tours offered: Sarasota Bay Kayaking: A  Naturalist/biologist will lead you through the shaded “tunnels” in a mangrove forest, South of Lido Beach. Adults: $55, Children $45 , Nature Safari (described above) & Miss Explorer Private Charters. 

Yolo AMI 

  • Website
  • Parasailing: $80/Person. $10 per person discount for tandem (double) or triple flights. $20 Spectator Fee.
    • Kids under 12yrs must have a parent fly with them. 
    • Book online OR call (941) 778 5000
    • At YOLO Adventures, experience the thrill of a lifetime by soaring above the Anna Maria Island and Gulf Coast parasailing.
  • Fun Dolphin and Eco Trips: Daytime trips, See Dolphins, manatees, sting rays, and sea turtle watching, Swimming, Snorkeling, Seashell hunting while stopped at Sandbar. CALL (941)792-6000. 2hr trip. Cost: $35 per adult, $25 per child. Only require 4 people to take a trip. 

Segs By The Sea


  • Adventure Away AMI Rental Center 12208 Cortez Road West Cortez, FL 34215 (941)209-5970
  • Must be 12yr old. Segway models are not appropriate for those weighing under 79 pounds or over 260 pounds.
  • Hours: Sunday-Monday – By Reservation Only
    Tuesday-Saturday 11am-4pm
  • Segway Tours range from 1-2 hours. 15-30 minute training required. Helmets included (or bring your own).
  • Guided Segway Tours: $49 1 hour. $59 for 90 minute tours. Self-Guided SegwayTours: $39 for 1hr, $49 for 90min.
  • Tour Routes: Segway Cortez Fishing Village Tour, Coquina Trail Segway Tour, Coquina Trail & Longboat Key Segway Tour 


Siesta Key MARINA & Water Sports

  • 1265 Old Stickney Point Road, Siesta Key, FL 34242 (941) 349-1970, website
  • Jet Ski Rental: 
    • You can drive your own at 18 yrs. and older with Boater Safety Course License and/or valid driver’s license. 16 yrs. and older can drive with an adult on the ski. Parent must be present to sign.
    • Offer 1,2,3 and 4 hour rentals.
    • Hours: 8am-6pm, Daily
    • jet skis accommodate from 1-3 people (500lbs. max.).
    • Rental rate of $90/hour includes gas, oil and life jackets.
  • Adventure tours – Siesta Key Marina offers a very unique all inclusive half day day excursion. Small group boat trip to the sand dollar island to enjoy parasailing, jet skiing, and snorkeling. This tour is a once in a lifetime adventure packed half day on the water. Enjoy the ride out and relax on the ride back after flying in the air, riding the beautiful waters of the gulf of mexico on a jet ski and snorkeling the pristine waters around sand dollar island. Departing Daily from Siesta Key Marina, this 4 hour all inclusive tour costs $150 per person.
  • Sunset Tours – 3 hour tour, guests can get out of the boat on beautiful sand dollar island. This is the best location to see a sunset on the west coast of Florida. Corona commercials are filmed here. Enjoy a cruise where you will see dolphins, manatees, exotic birds and also spend time watching the breadth taking sunsets only Siesta Key Has to offer. provide large coolers with ice. Snacks and Beverages are available for purchase at the marina for your tour. $45/ per person – Call 941-349-1970 for times and availability.

Tree Umph! Adventure Course


  • 21805 East State Road 70, Bradenton (Just 10 minutes east of I-75 in Bradenton). (941) 322-2130
  • Southwest Florida’s only treetop adventure park! Courses take 3-4 hours. Expansive park over 10 football fields in size (14 Acre). 76 obstacles from beginner to extreme (progressive). 650 foot long ZIP line. Cargo Nets, wobbly bridges, swining logs, barrel tunnels, Tarzan rope swings. 
  • 10% OFF Weekday Bookings with Promo Code: MustDo
  • Adult Ticket (12yr or older): $55/person. 5’11” reach height requirement (two hands over head, no tippy toes).  Plan on 3-4 hours. All 5 courses included + Finale (Giant zip-line). All kids under the age of 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult. 
  • Junior ticket (9-11yr OR Chaperoning someone who is): $37/person. 5’9” reach height requirement (two hands over head, no tippy toes). Includes the first 3 courses + Finale (Giant Zip-line). Plan on 2-3 hours. 
  • Children ticket (7-11yr): $30/person. 4’7” reach height requirement (two hands over head, no tippy toes). Adults are not allowed on the this course. Course Designed for younger kids (may do the course twice). Adult Supervision required from the ground. Plan for 1-2 hours.

Same Day Reservations are not accepted. But Walk-ins are accepted based on availability. Book reservations online or via phone. 

Arrive 30 minutes prior to start time. Safety is top priority, a trained guide will fit you safely into your harness and direct you to a mandatory instructional video. You will practice what you learned on their low-and-easy Practice Course – demonstrating you can do it!

Safety First: Everyone starts out on one of two practice courses, where you’ll learn the rules of the park, how to use your climbing gear and our mandatory safety procedures.

They operate RAIN or SHINE! 

  • Summer Hours (June 1-Sept 5th): Open every day except Wednesdays
    8 Launches per day. Start times every 30 minutes between 8:00am and 11:30am
    Last Walk-ins must arrive by 11:00am
  • Fall Hours (Sept 6-Oct 31): Open Thursday-Sunday
    7 Launches per day. Start times every 30 minutes between 8:30am and 11:30am
    Last Walk-ins must arrive by 11:00am
  • Winter Hours (Nov 1-May 31): Open every day except Wednesdays
    Weekdays: 7 Launches per day. Start times every 30 minutes between 9:00am and 12:00pm; Last Walk-ins must arrive by 11:30am
    Weekend: 12 Launches per day. Start times every 30 minutes between 8:30am and 2:00pm; Last Walk-ins must arrive by 1:30pm
  • Holiday Hours: Extended hours available for your convenience on select holidays: 12 Launches per day. Start times every 30 minutes between 8:30am and 2:00pm.
    Friday November 27, 2015
    December 21 – December 24, 2015
    December 28 – December 31, 2015
    March 1 – April 13, 2016


  1. Florida Resident Annual Pass: $199/person. Florida Resident Pass is not valid on the following dates & Not valid on Special Events: November 25-27 2016, December 17, 2016- January 3 2017
  2. Rise & Climb Specials for Early Risers: This special is offered on WEEKENDS ONLY from November 1 through May 30 and every day from June 1 through October 31.
  3. Purchase a ZipBack ticket before you leave the park and save BIG on your next TreeUmph! adventure.*Your ZipBack ticket lets you come back one time within six months for half price!


Sea Turtle Walks

Nearly all sea-turtle walks require reservations. Some get booked for the season on the day they take reservations, and some don’t take reservations until specific dates. Several of the best sea-turtle walk locations are away from urban centers, so a turtle walk might make a good anchor to a weekend getaway or vacation trip.

To see a nesting turtle, you need to go with a group: Turtle-walk guides know the federal and state laws about what you can and cannot do regarding these threatened or endangered species. (For example: No flashlights except for guides, who need permits, and no flash photography.)

No matter where you go, there’s no guarantee you’ll see a sea turtle. 

There are sea turtle walks up and down the Florida Atlantic coast.


Florida beaches are the # 1 place for sea turtle nests in North America  from May to October. During the summer months, there are approximately 50,000 sea turtles in Florida. This makes it the most important nesting area in the United States. Up and down the Atlantic coast (where sea turtle nests are most common), parks and environmental groups organize night-time sea turtle walks in June and July to observe the natural wonder.


Getting a chance to see a sea turtle in action takes some doing, but it’s a memorable experience. Visitors are led to a spot on the beach where a sea turtle is digging a hole a foot or two deep with her hind flippers. The turtle then starts filling the nest with soft-shelled eggs the size of ping-pong balls.  After laying, she re-fills the nest with sand and heads back into the ocean. The whole process takes 30 to 60 minutes.


The most common variety of sea turtle here is the loggerhead, with leatherbacks and green turtles being much rarer.  Loggerheads average 200 to 250 pound. Greens can way up to 500 pounds. Leatherbacks can get up to 1500 pounds. Wildlife-protection regulations limit turtle walks to observing only loggerheads.

After incubating for two months, the hatchelings break out of their shells

  • Click Here to see the List. The following organizations have been permitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conduct public sea turtle watches. Watches are usually held during June and July and reservations must be made in advance.
  • Click here to view a Large Map of Where You Can See Turtles in Florida. Download & Print the Map (Adobe): where-can-i-see-seaturtles-4

Evie’s Fun for the Entire Family 

  • Evie’s Tavern & Grill, 4735 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota.  (941) 377-0990, website
  • 18-Hole Mini-golf: ($7/child and $8/adult); Arcade Games: range in price from 50 cents to $1;  60 Station Driving Range: ($5/bucket)
  • They have an Ice Cream Parlor and a Full Service Restaurant & Tiki Bar
  • Open Daily; Hours: 8am-10pm 


  • Wednesdays: 69 Cent Wings (order of 10 or more & beverage purchase)
  • Mondays: Beef/Chicken Tacos (3) served with Rice & Beans $6.95; Corona $3.50
  • Wednesday Pizza: $8 for 18’’ Cheese Pizza
  • Thursday: $5 for 1/2lb Burger served with Pickle with purchase of beverage
  • Fridays: Fish & Chips served with coleslaw $7.95 with purchase of beverage. $5 Guinness Pints & $5 Fireball Whiskey Shots

Beach Horses

  • Horseback Riding: on the beach & in the water! (Horse Surfing & Horse Skiing)
  • Cost: $130/person + 6.5% sales tax. In addition there’s a 6% “Booking Fee” that covers the cost of selling tickets. The total comes to $146.18 per person. 
  • Two rides at the beach almost every day. Each ride last approximately one hour. All dates and times are scheduled to coincide with Low Tide to insure that you have the widest possible beach.
  • The Ride takes place at Palma Sola Bay Park. The address is 8400 Manatee Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34209. The GPS coordinates are 27.49621,-82.64529. Website. Right on Manatee Avenue, 3.8 miles east of Anna Maria Island and 11.2 miles west of I-75. Park on the north side of Manatee Avenue/SR-64 anywhere there’s an open spot. Parking is free. The park has public restrooms approximately 1/2 mile west of the ride location. At the west end of Manatee Avenue, there is a public beach facility with showers at Holmes Beach.
  • What to Wear: swimwear. You can wear sandals or flip-flops.
  • Suggestions on what to bring: Towels, Dry clothes for after ride, Cash for tipping (not required but $20/person is popular), Waterproof camera, Binoculars, Sunscreen. 
  • Office Contact: (941) 907-7272. Monday-Friday 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM.

The ticket price includes a specially trained horse AND a trainer. Each rider will have their own personal guide/trainer who will teach you how to do some really cool and fun things on your horse. Some of these actives require two people per horse even for expert riders.


The first half of the ride is on the beach. For most people (and their horses) its like a warm-up. It’s literally a 1-mile walk on the beach. This usually takes 20-30 minutes.


The second “half” of the ride takes place in the water. Sometimes we have to make adjustments before going into the water. for a variety of reasons, you go out 200-300 yards offshore. Once you get to the right spot, the guides will teach you how to HorseSurf™, HorseSki™, and take you for a short swim. 


Everyone must purchase a ticket beforehand. We stop selling tickets online 12 hours before ride time. In the summer, tickets sell out nearly every day, sometimes 2-3 weeks in advance! 


PFD’s are mandatory. We provide BeachHorses™ life jackets .


According to the American Medical Equestrian Association, head injuries are the most common cause of death for people who ride horses. In Florida, “Nicole’s Law” requires everyone under the age of 16 to wear an ASTM/SEI certified equestrian helmet. We provide riding helmets for anyone who wants them.


They can accommodate children ages 3-85+ and disabled people. Our only restriction is that you must weigh under 300 lbs.


Professional-quality still images and videos are available at a very reasonable price. Book online or contact Elise Wickland at or (941) 224-9539 before your scheduled ride to book a photographer. You are also welcome to take your own photographs and/or bring your own photographer


Plan to check-in 10-15 minutes before the scheduled start of your ride to sign release forms, ask questions, and get acquainted with horses and staff. Your ticket is only good for the times stated on your ticket. Your ride will end at the scheduled time regardless of your arrival time.

Hunting For Sharks’ Teeth on Venice’s Beaches


These warm Gulf Waters were once filled with numerous giant sharks (like the Megalodons). Area waters are still home to a few species of smaller sharks, but it’s very unlikely to see on within sigh of land.  

Millions of years ago, the sharks lived, bred, and then died in these exceptionally calm waters and their carcasses lay on the seabed. Although most of the shark’s remains would rot, disintegrate, or become fish  food, the hardened T-shaped teeth became fossilized over time. 

The tides carry, burry, and later uncover these hard objects, especially during WINTER storms. Eventually the teeth are thrown up on the beach around Venice, due to the converging currents that deposit sediment along the shallow drop-offs along the coastline. 

Venice Beach is one of the busiest beaches in the area and for that reason is possibly not the best beach for competing with other sharks’ teeth hunters. However, after a storm you may be lucky and find a tooth thrown up from the depths after 15 million years or so. The Quieter Service Club Park Beach further south may be a better place to start your search. It is located behind the municipal airport and has free parking, restrooms, showers and a boardwalk to the beach. The BEST beach for finding sharks’ teeth is Caspersen Beach, at the extreme South end of Venice’s beaches. This beach is also good for Scuba diving, which greatly enhances your chances of finding larger Megalodin tooth which can be more rare and valuable. 


Flying Fish Fleet

  • 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota (941) 366-3373, website
  • Offer Daily Half day to full day, family friendly inshore & offshore fishing trips. Included are rod, reel, bait, fishing license. Food & beverage available for purchase. All charters depart from Marina Jack at Sarasota’s Bayfront Park. Reservations Required. 
  • HDR_BigCatchHead
  • Big Catch Charter Boat: Offshore Fishing. Custom 43’ Hatteras Express. The hull is a 1978, hand-laid solid glass, built like a tank to handle any sea condition.Split Charter Rates (based on 6 people).   (Plus 20% Gratuity)
    • 4hours: $130; 6 hours: $170;
    • 8 hours: $240; 10 hours: $280; 
    • 12 hours: $320
  • Flying Fish, Offshore Party Boat Fishing: The 85-foot Flying Fish vessel is the flagship of our fleet. Running the 6 and 8-hour trips and our longer specialty trips, the Flying Fish is licensed to carry up to 80 passengers. The captain and mate work hard assisting all anglers to maximize their fishing time and overall enjoyment. 
    • Saturday ALL DAY Trips (8hrs, 9am-5pm) $96 adult, $86 kids. *Offered Seasonally.
    • 6hr Day Trips Daily (9am-3pm). Adult $74, Child $65
    • Half Day Trips (4.5hrs): Morning (8am-12:30pm, year round) or Afternoon (1-5:30pm, seasonally). Adult $60, Child $50. 
    • *Remember that the Captain and Crew are your “Waiters on the Water” and like waiters at any restaurant they count on your tips for their livelihood. They love what they do and will give you their best, so please compensate them accordingly (15 – 20% recommended).
  • HDR_BusterHead
  • Buster Charter Boat, Inshore Fishing: 24’ Pathfinder Bay Boat. Equipped with two live bait wells, a power pole and trolling motor to give you every advantage in targeting hard-fighting inshore game fish like snook, tarpon, redfish and trout.
    • 4 hours $450
    • 6 hours $650 (Tarpon season $625.00 for 2 anglers/ $50.00 each add’l angler)
    • 8 hours $850
    • (Plus 20% Gratuity)

Fishing the Sarasota area during the winter months we will be primarily targeting redfish, trout, flounder, sheepshead and pompano among other species. Snook are an option year ‘round, but are strictly catch and release most of the year. In the spring we’ll also be making short runs offshore to bag larger species like kingfish and cobia. Summer time is Tarpon time around these parts! Tarpon in our area typically run from 70 to 200 pounds and are fished just offshore of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Hook into one and you’ll understand why they’re called “The Silver King”. For those not interested in tarpon, summer is also a great time to catch permit as well as snook, redfish and trout. Fall brings schools of hard fighting redfish to our area along with a possible brief opening of snook season.

Payne Park Tennis Center


  • 2050 Adams Lane, Sarasota (941) 961-8193, website
  • Features 12 well maintained  & affordable, lighted Har-Tru Hydrogrid Tennis courts with canopy covered bench seating, water fountains, tables, locker room with showers. 
  • Certified teaching pros, junior & adult activities are available throughout the year.
  • Daily, weekly & monthly play fees, lessons & clinics offered. 
  • Ball Machine Available for rent
  • Private Lesson Rates:
    • 30 minutes: $25
    • 1 hour: $40
    • Series of 6 lessons – $200
  • Clinic Rates
    • Single Clinic $15.00 each
    • Series of 4 Clinics – $50.00
  • Court reservation by calling 941-861-8193 or in person at the counter. Reservations are not required. Courts are available on a first-come first serve basis. 
  • Hours: Mon-Thur 7:30am-9pm, Friday: 7:30am-7:30pm; Sat-Sun: 7:30am-4:30pm
  • Rates: 
    • 1 Hour Singles $8/person
    • 1.5 hours doubles or daily $10/person
    • 1 month pass: $82
    • 3 month pass: $165
    • Annual Pass: $497
    • Family Annual Pass: $746 (2 adults)
    • Junior Annual Pass: $130 (17yr and under)
    • Ball Machine Annual Pass: $200
    • Ball Machine: $14 + $8 your time (Pass-holders $10)
    • Racquet rentals: $4

Island Style Watersports

  • 2433 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 954-1009, website
  • Windsurfing Lessons: If you’re fearless when it comes to water, speed and swimming, you’ve got the perfect criteria for learning how to windsurf. Windsurfing is all about balance and control so if you can master that, you’re well on your way!
    • Intro to Windsurfing: Private $225/person, Group: $175/person. 
    • Beyond Beginner Lessons: $130/person + rental gear
  • Kayak Tours: We offer kayak Sarasota tours seven days a week all year round. Call to Reserve your Kayak Tour (941) 954-1009
    • Tour the exotic tunnels of South Lido: cost is $55 per person.Length of tour is approximately 2 1/2 hours.
    • Turtle Beach, Siesta Key: The Jim Neville Nature Preserve Tour: Cost is $55 per person. Length of this tour is approximately 2 1⁄2 hours. Explore mazes through mangroves and waterways leading around the main islands on 30+ acres as you drift through the Nature preserve located in Little Sarasota Bay. 
    • Tour through Philippi Estate Park: cost is $55 per person. Length of tour is approximately 2 1/2 hours. This kayak tour immerses you in the estuarine environment where Phillippi Creek flows into the south end of Roberts Bay. Since estuaries are some of the most biologically productive in the world you have many chances to view a variety of wildlife up close.
    • Myakka River State Park: cost is $75 per person and a 4 person minimum. Length of tour is approximately 3.0 hours. Myakka River is one of Florida’s most beautiful and diverse state parks. Take an exciting adventure through fresh water wetlands and you paddle through prairies, pinelands and hammocks. Enjoy the beauty of Florida wildlife such as Alligators, turtles, the river otter, American bald eagles, the gopher tortoise, wild boars, birds, fish and even armadillos. 
  • Stand Up PaddleBoard Rentals & Lessons. (SUP): $35/ 1 hour group lesson; $45 daily rental. 
  • Week Long Summer Camps offered. Call 941 861-9870. (register through Sarasota Parks)



Cottage Counseling Advice (Boundaries, Keeping Hands to Self, Violent Play, Non-involved Parent)

Do you get told that your child has trouble “keeping hands to themselves”? If yes, then it is important that you  Have a conversation about boundaries with your child/children.


Explain what boundaries are. What is means. Talk about the invisible bubble that everyone has around them. Explain that they are not to cross that invisible bubble. 


Present it by giving a ridiculous & funny example using yourself: “Can you imagine if mommy was at the grocery store and she slapped a man looking at the yogurts?” Or “Can you imagine daddy walking down the grocery store aisle and lifting up a womans’ shirt to check out the color of her bra?” 

Explain that these are violations of BOUNDARIES. 

You Tube Video for Kids on Boundaries:

Depending on the child’s age explain that:

  • “Kids in middle school do not behave this way.” 
  • Acknowledge that you are aware this behavior has been common in the household, with siblings/friends BUT that they are “getting too old to continue this behavior” and that “nobody likes it.” 
  • When you catch them invading boundaries (not keeping hands to themselves) – Don’t get mad – DO NOT MAKE a FIGHT over it. DO NOT ESCALATE IT. Just remind them that is a violation of boundaries and they are getting too old to behave that way. 
    • “Let’s stop right here. Remember our talk about boundaries, you used to do that but you are too old for that now, nobody likes that.” 

Do Your Kids Continue to have trouble with boundaries? Sibling Boundaries Gone Wrong!?!?! Did they spend time in an environment that lacked appropriate boundaries?

  • Continue to reinforce boundaries.
  •   Get locks on your doors. When it is time with one child – LOCK the door to prevent your other child from coming in and taking away from that time (hands not be kept to themselves, touching, wrestling… prevent all of that!)
  • When it becomes a HABBIT to break boundaries between siblings – you as the parent NEED to measure to CHANGE the habit. Prevent it from happening as much as you can. Think about when boundaries are broke the most.. During down time? Homework time? — during those time implement separations. 
  • Discuss with your kids how boundaries and rules are different in different places and across different cultures. 

Seeking Out Counseling For Your Middle School Child

  • Some kids are at such a young age that they are NOT able to understand WHY they are in counseling. So they play GAMES. But in middle school a child is old enough to understand WHY they are seeing a COUNSELOR. 
  • Meet with the counselor before your child meets with them. Either as a single parent or as a couple. WITHOUT your child present. 
  • Talk to your child in simple terms. Let them know that the FAMILY needs help and he is not the ONLY one going to see the counselor. Let them know you went to meet with the counselor already WITHOUT them. 
  • Plan a sessions together with parent(s) and child. Inform your child. Let them know that after the session they can choose where to go out to have dinner together as a family. 
  • Emphasize that you are seeking out HELP together as a FAMILY – The FAMILY needs help. This way they will not feel singled out or like something is wrong with them. You will actually make them feel good about it. POSITIVE approach. POSITIVE talk. 


Does your child use toys to play in violent ways with killing, hurting, smashing, cutting, guns, knives, etc. ??? 

  • When You see your child engage in any play that is violent STOP IT!!!
  • Quietly go up to your child and say “That kind of play looks inappropriate.” 
  • You do not want to give it too much attention. 


Was your child a victim of sexual abuse? Does your child play in ways that are sexual? Has your child been exposed to porn videos and is now very curious or confused? 

  • Purchase a Sex Book (child appropriate). Here is my favorite book. 

51hx9IPeV-L._SY419_BO1,204,203,200_ $7 on Amazon

  • If You child has been exposed to porn – Point out that they are ACTORS – its is NOT real life. 
  • Discuss the process of meeting a person, forming a very good relationship leading to a strong friendship, then you might want to hug & kiss. Emphasize that a GOOD relationship comes before SEX and lastly a baby. 
  • Remind your child they NEVER have to do anything they do not want to do. (sexually, physically)
  • Read the book with your child. Answer any questions that come up. Do NOT dwell on the topic. Do NOT emphasize the topic. Act very matter of fact. Do NOT talk about it for too long or have conversations about it for consecutive days. Read the book, let them ask a couple questions and then move on. “Okay, that is enough for today let’s go have some dessert.” You can revisit again later on. 


Does a non-involved parent SUDDENLY want contact with your child? Is Your child old enough that they have their own mobile device/contact number? 

  • When a non-involved parent SUDDENLY wants to “talk” with their child it is usually to fill a Personal need. This is not fair to the child. Children do not work this way. 
  • If a parent that has not been involved suddenly wants involvement you need to talk to them ahead of time and find out what they want to talk about, what are their motives. If you do not feel comfortable doing the talking – have your child’s counselor speak with them. You need to know what they are planning to say to your child. You wouldn’t want them to say something that would be psychologically destructive to them. 
  • If your child has their own mobile device – block the non-involved parent’s phone number so that you are in control of the communication. It could be DANGEROUS to allow communication to suddenly start without being aware of the motives. It could damage your child. 
  • If the non-involved parent tells you that they are “sorry” or that “they feel bad for not having involvement” and “they want to build a relationship” with the child. It is a good sign but still care needs to be in place to avoid any damage to your child. 


Does your child ask for their non-involved parent? Does your child say they wish they could “live” with their non-involved parent? Does your child ask to call the non-involved parent?

  • It is okay to let your child call, text, e-mail, mail letters to the non-involved parent but at some point you need to teach your kids BOUNDARIES. You do not want your children to grow up and think that they can just keep calling a girl over and over again even though the girl NEVER RESPONDS. 
  • If Your child has tried calling, leaving voicemails and the non-involved parents had NOT RESPONDED. The next time your child asks to call them reply with “Sweetie you have tried calling your father many times and he has NOT RESPONDED. Before Mommy used to think that it was because he was busy with work but now mommy knows that it is because your father has adult problems and we need to let him deal with those problems. If you want you can write him a letter or draw him a picture and we will mail it.” 
  • Allowing your child to write/draw a letter to be mailed will allow your child to express themselves in a safe way while also teaching them BOUNDARIES. In the case of the girl not responding the reason is the girls is NOT interested. In the case of a child calling a parent and getting no response the reason is that parent has adult problems. 
  • When they are young and for a short while you can tell your child that the non-involved parent is “busy with work” but as they get older kids realize that is not true. How can someone be “busy” with work enough to ignore their child. 


Is your child confused about the timeline of their childhood? Has your family had to move, relocate, start new schools, leave schools, leave behind family, family death, unexpected events, trauma, abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse?? These changes at early ages can leave kids feeling anxious and confused about their life story. Kids just like everyone else will try to make sense of their world using their limited life experiences. This confusion can lead to BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS, LOW SELF ESTEEM, Trouble making and/or keeping friends, etc. 

  • As a parent you can write a story of your child’s life! 
  • There are websites that will help you do this. Print the book. Even help you with themes.
  • Make your own book, laminate the pages.
  • Use photos. 
  • Make it SIMPLE. No details. Let your child fill in the details or leave yourself room to fill in the details for them.
  • ALL POSITIVE or neutral. 









4th of July in Sarasota Florida 2016

**** Heading to the Fireworks Spectacular over Sarasota Bay? Find out what traffic is like by calling 511 toll free, visiting, or checking the free Florida 511 mobile app. You also can get traffic updates on Twitter by following @FL511_SOUTHWEST. ****


July 2 ,2016: Enjoy Marauder’s Baseball along with Fireworks after the game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. as the Marauders take on the Charlotte Stone Crabs with game time at 6:30 p.m. and a post-game fireworks show. Pre-game events include live music with the Gator Creek Band, free shirt giveaway to the first 1,500 fans, face painter, balloon artist, Kids Zone. Tickets: $6 – $8 and $10. 1611 9th Street West, Bradenton.

Get Tickets for Marauder’s Game here

July 4, 2016:  It’s the 3rd annual Myakka River Kayak Festival and 4th of July Jam Blast featuring live music and craft beers. Live musical entertainment will take place throughout  the day kicking off  with Steve Arvey  from 11:00 a.m. – noon.  From 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. it’s Treble Hook’s Florida Folk and Medicine Show with a unique and powerful Americana/Bluegrass sound. Kayak and canoe rentals will be available starting at  8 a.m. or you can bring your own. No cover charge for entrance. The festival will  benefit Friends of Sarasota County Parks. Free admission. 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Snook Haven, 5000 E. Venice Ave, Venice.

July 4, 2016: It’s being billed as A Patriotic Spectacular and will feature Gloria Musicae with a patriotic concert full of choral fireworks celebrating America. General admission: $25 in advance, $30 at the door, students with student ID $15 at the door day of the concert. 4:30 p.m. First United Methodist Church, 104 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Click here for tickets and more info.


  • Convenient parking: Come for the concert and stay downtown for the fireworks!
  • Order Tickets by phone:  Call 941.387.604610 AM – 7PM Mon – Friday  ~  10 AM – 4 PM Saturday

July 4, 2016: Have a Grand Old Time and Celebrate America’s Independence Day, The Fourth of July! The Sarasota Suncoast puts on as festive an occasion as anywhere else. During the long holiday weekend there are events and fireworks displays up and down the coast, from beach to shining beach! All fireworks displays start around dusk, of course, and all can be viewed by land as well as some by sea. (Please note: schedules may change and weather conditions may force cancellation of events.)

July 4, 2016: Have a Grand Old Time and Celebrate America’s Independence Day, The Fourth of July! The Sarasota Suncoast puts on as festive an occasion as anywhere else. During the long holiday weekend there are events and fireworks displays up and down the coast, from beach to shining beach! All fireworks displays start around dusk, of course, and all can be viewed by land as well as some by sea. (Please note: schedules may change and weather conditions may force cancellation of events.)

July 4, 2016: Sarasota: Enjoy an All American Barbecue and Independence Day Celebration on the grounds of Selby Gardens. Four premier barbecue pit master vendors, live music from the Lauren Mitchell Band and family activities are all part of the celebration plus enjoy the fireworks over Sarasota Bay from Selby Garden’s bay front location. 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Food and drink are available for purchase). $30 members, $35 non-members, 11 and under are free. $150 VIP Ticket available (Includes valet parking, open bar and catering by Michael’s on East in our indoor VIP area). Selby Gardens, 900 S. Palm Ave,. Sarasota. Click here for more details.


  • All American Barbeque: July 4 2016 · 6:00pm  – 10:00pm; Food Costs $7-5; Drinks $3-$9
  • Shuttle service to and from State Street will be available from 5pm to 10pm

July 4, 2016: Siesta Key: Sarasota Fourth of July Events on Siesta Key: The 26th Annual 4th of July Fireworks Display is set to go according to the Siesta Key Chamber.  Fireworks over Siesta Key are blasted off just north of the volleyball courts, so viewing is good from anywhere south and along Crescent Beach (south of Siesta Public Beach), out on the Gulf, or from the Intracoastal waterway. Good weather brings estimates of 20,000 to 30,000 to the fireworks on Siesta Key. The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce has canceled this year’s VIP Party. Due to renovations they lost access to picnic tables and VIP parking for the event. Fireworks at around 9 p.m.More info: (941) 349-3800.

July 4, 2016: Venice: The Venice area fireworks are fired from the south Venice Jetty in the Venice Beach area and there are a number of good vantage points: anywhere along Venice Beach, Nokomis Beach, or from a boat on the Gulf of Mexico or anchored on the Intracoastal waterway, northeast of the Jetty on the water. Fireworks go up after sunset. Arrive early as thousands line the beaches, jetty and surrounding waterways.

July 4, 2016: Longboat Key: The Annual Freedom Fest Parade begins at 9 a.m. at Town Hall, 501 Bay Isles Road. Commissioners, police and fire rescue personnel are in the parade along with children who wish to dress up and walk with their pets. Put on your best red, white and blue and decorate your bike or wagon. Parade lineup begins at  8:30 a.m. on Bay Isles Rd. Activities, food and drinks, children’s games all in Bicentennial Park, next to Town Hall, after the parade. 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. 941-383-2466 for more information. 

July 4, 2016: Anna Maria Island: The Anna Maria Island Privateers hold their annual 4th of July Parade from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. There will be an after Parade Party at the Anna Maria Island Beach Café located on Manatee Public Beach where the Privateers will announce the Scholarship recipients of over eleven thousand dollars. Parade route: The Entire length of Anna Maria Island (South at Coquina Beach to North Anna Maria City Pier).  The 2015 Parade was attended by 20,000 Parade Watchers along the 7 mile parade route, 115 Parade Entries and over 850 participants. Be in the parade or bring a chair to watch. More info: or call (941) 209-2212. Anna Maria Island.

July 4, 2016: Check out the 3rd annual Myakka River Kayak Festival and 4th of July Jam Blast with kayaking, live music and craft beers. Live music throughout  the day kicking off  with Steve Arvey  from 11:00 a.m. – noon.  From 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. it’s Treble Hook’s Florida Folk and Medicine Show with a unique and powerful Americana/Bluegrass sound. Kayak and canoe rentals will be available starting at  8 a.m. or you can bring your own. No cover charge for entrance. The festival will benefit Friends of Sarasota County Parks. Free admission. 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Snook Haven, 5000 E. Venice Ave, Venice.

July 4, 2016: Sarasota: The Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s Liberty Day Regatta and Family Festival takes place. They will have a water slide, an ice cream truck, a pig roast and live music followed by fireworks all around the bay. 6:30 p.m. p.m. Pig Roast, Baked Potato Bar, salad, watermelon and your favorite summer desert potluck! Dinner wrist bands are $7 a person for dinner, bring a desert to share! Kids 12 and under are $5.00 each. 1 p.m. – 8 p.m. 1717 Ken Thompson Parkway, on City Island. 941-388-2355 or click here for more information.

July 4, 2016: Anna Maria Island: The 30th Annual Sandbar Restaurant Fireworks Spectacular is at the Sandbar Restaurant on the north end of the island next to Pine Avenue. There will be a VIP Party under the open air Sandbar Event Pavilion. Seating is limited. 100 Spring Avenue, Anna Maria Island. Fireworks after dark, weather permitting. Fireworks show viewing is free.

July 4, 2016: Bradenton: There will be a Fireworks display over the Manatee River after dark. The fireworks display is handled by the City of Palmetto. People usually mass along both sides of the Manatee River Riverwalk waterfront in downtown Bradenton and Palmetto. After dark around 9 p.m.