Showing posts with label finances. Show all posts
Showing posts with label finances. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Building a Financial Safety Net Part 1

TEOTWAWKI Blog talks this important topic

Short of physical fitness, financial health is probably the most under discussed topic in survivalism or it's better dressed cousin preparedness.  Everyone wants to be a cool guy and have guns, stash a bunch of food, etc but nobody pays attention to the novel concept of saving.

The brutal truth is that you are far more likely to need five hundred bucks right now than any preparedness item, certainly any preparedness item beyond your basic week long power outage type kit.  It could be many things from injuries, vehicle breakdowns, to job loss or whatever.

You need an emergency fund to prepare for all manner of potential financial emergencies. Amazingly once you have one emergencies seem to come less often. Maybe it's more accurate to say if you have the $500 to fix the family hauler it's an inconvenience, when you don't it is an emergency.

There are a ton of ways to establish an emergency fund but they all boil down to spending less than you make and saving the difference. As noted in the article I think it is very important to be smart with new money be it a raise, inheritance or whatever. We've gotten into a pretty decent financial spot largely because every time new money comes in we make intentional choices with it some to saving for this, some to saving for that, some to lifestyle, some to fun.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Food and Fitness

Too many folks are doing a lot of reading and blogging and discussing but not enough DOING.

Food and fitness are the two primary areas people tend to fail in at the most basic level. For goodness sake do something to improve your situation.

Food is easy. We could go at it from a lot of angles but at the most basic level just buy a little bit more of the stuff you regularly eat on each shopping trip. I am talking about shelf stable stuff like dried pasta and sauce, beans, rice, pancake mix, Bisquick, peanut butter and jelly and various canned goods. We will touch on money later but if you can't manage to squeeze five or ten bucks of extra stuff into the budget per shopping trip I recommend looking at your life. If you have some more money and want to stash away some canned staples or emergency food then all the better. I care less how you do it so long as you are doing it. The point is simply that you need to be putting back food in case something happens that disrupts the supply chain.

Fitness is something way too many folks miss. I split off my fitness efforts into another blog because folks would rather talk about other things here. How folks think the world is going to collapse and they are going to be doing all this stuff but lack of fitness will not come into play baffles me. There are way more situations where you will need fitness than cool rifles and emergency food. Sort of like food getting started in any way is a good thing. Eat a bit better and do more exercise. Lift and run or do crossfit, man aerobics or whatever. Heck just go for walks. Doing anything will improve your situation.

In the context we are talking about finances are not that hard either. Avoid debt for obvious reasons. Do some thinking and educate yourself about what is happening and historical comparisons. The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse by FerFal is a bit pricey but has some great info. It's writer has actually lived through an economic collapse which is a lot more than most other folks can say. 
If you have some money that isn't doing anything right now you might want to think about what to do with it. Putting a portion of it into precious metals and emergency food could be a good way to go. 

It is easy to put too much money into firearms.  Most guys who are into preparedness like guns and it's easy to get canalized into stuff one likes. However if you are objectively short on .38 ammo for the nightstand revolver or buckshot for the scatter gun then do something about it. I like a lot of ammo but even the tightest budget will let you put back at least a couple hundred rounds per gun with a bit of dedication and some planning.


Get out and do something! Exercise and stash some food. Look at your money situation and if you need it some ammo. The bottom line is that unless your butt and gut are getting smaller and the pantry is getting filled you are not actually becoming more prepared. A little bit of knowledge put into action is a whole lot better than a bunch of knowledge which you do nothing with.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

RE: Claire Wolfe's Preparedness Priorities 2

Claire Wolfe has continued her excellent Preparedness Priorities series.

In Part 3 Claire talks about how people need to prepare differently. To me this is pretty obvious but some folks miss it all the same. We could break these differences down into regional and personal. Regional differences are pretty obvious. Different areas have unique weather and disaster concerns. Folks who live in really cold places like Michigan need to worry a lot more about warm clothes and sleeping bags, etc than those in Arizona. Conversely people in Arizona should pay more attention to keeping plenty of water around and such. Preparing for a hurricane in Iowa or an ice storm in Florida would be foolish.

On the other hand personal factors vary well, person to person. Let's look at two potential examples, economic/ financial vulnerability and violent crime risk factors. We will meet Tim and Bob.

Tim is a hustler but not in the bad way. He has a pretty good full time job, always has a few side projects going and works with his Dad when the full time job is slow. Also his wife has a clerical job for the state. If Tim loses his full time job they would probably be down 40% income but he could make some of that up putting more effort into other areas. If Tim was seriously injured (he works with heavy machinery full time and does some logging so it could happen) they could eat and keep the lights on with his wife's income. The point is that their 3-4 income streams come from totally different places. It is very unlikely they would all fall apart at once.

Bob makes a very good living. He went to college and got a business degree and went to work in management at the local plant. His wife stays at home with the kids. If he loses favor at work or the plant closes or whatever they have absolutely no income. (I do not mean to say stay at home mom's are a bad thing. That is another discussion entirely.)

The point is that while Tim's income may vary a bit Bob is actually more vulnerable. If something happens they are hosed. Bob would have a heck of a time finding a similar job in the same area. They probably want more like a year worth of expenses put away because it will take awhile to figure things out. On the other hand Tim might be comfortable with 3-4 months to get them through winter until he is busy again.

Looking at violent crime risk factors for our two guys.

Tim does a lot of work for cash. He also pays helpers and subcontractors and suppliers in cash. He buys equipment with cash. Tim carrying around a couple thousand dollars in cash and having 10k at home is pretty common. More to the point due to all the people involved a pretty good amount of people know Tim deals in cash. In the nature of normal events and casual conversation lot's of folks know about this. Tim is often alone driving between job's or putting in bids or working in the middle of nowhere. Also let's be honest in and around his line of work there are some unsavory characters.

On the other hand Bob gets payed by direct deposit. He rarely makes large cash sales or purchases. They do not have any particularly unique or special valuables that would be easy to sell/ transfer. He keeps some cash at home and have some PM's but only Bob and his wife know about that stuff.

[Real world point. A buddy of mine had a SWAT team spend a week camped out in his living room once. There was a pretty nasty home invasion crew and intelligence said he was on their list. His work was very seasonal and a lot was in cash. In season he often had a lot of cash at home and the wrong people knew about it. Aside from random crackheads people usually get targeted because crooks know or think they know something particularly valuable is there.]

Tim has some risk factors. He would be prudent to do something to mitigate that risk.Maybe nothing will every come of them but then again it would only have to happen once. Bob on the other hand has considerably lower risk. Aside from general common sense stuff he probably doesn't need to go out of the way here.

The point I am getting at is that different people have different concerns based on their unique situation. Obviously there are a lot more variables like medical issues, family networks, etc.

Part IV has some really good points. Focusing on more likely scenarios (job loss, violent crime, inflation) over less likely (EMP, nuclear war, Zombies) ones just makes sense. Also when giving people advice I think it is important to tailor advice to their situation, finances and level of commitment. Giving unrealistic advice will leave them bummed if they want to do it but can't, turned off if they don't want to or dismissive of the whole thing.  The right advice for a family with a modest income and a lot of kids is different than for a working couple who make a lot of money.

I was talking about this with Wifey today. Often I find myself in the position of recommending things that I do not actually recommend if that makes any sense. The reason I do this is because it fit's their situation and makes them more prepared than they previously were. A few boxes of shells for the old .38 special and 12 gauge or a spam can for the Mosin Nagant you swapped for a case of beer, some batteries, a few gallons of water and some food in the pantry is a heck of a lot better than nothing.

Claire continues the series touching on risk assessments and water storage neither of which I feel like talking about. Anyway those are my thoughts on that.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Buy Once Cry Once?

I have heard this saying for a long time. Heck I have even said it a few times myself. It really came up in the recent discussion of night vision. I found that phrase coming up and got to thinking about it.

Generally speaking I like the idea. Buying something good that will last for a long time (or indefinitely) appeals to my frugal nature. Also it appeals to my survivalist tendencies. If things are moving along like normal and a tool or piece of equipment fails you go pick up a new one. However if things are not normal you have a problem. This also suits my minimalist nature. Aside from some key redundancy (don't like relying on a single anything) I am generally willing to have less stuff if I know it will not break. Instead of a whole box of $5 junk folders I can have a couple good backups.

The question of when this applies is what I have been thinking about the most. I suppose it comes down to three main questions:

-What is the price difference between the right answer and the more affordable (or convenient or whatever) alternative?

If it is a matter of a small amount of money like 10-25% to me the answer is easy. On the other hand if the difference between the two is more like 50-100% or even more (like night vision) the question is more complicated.

For example once I got a .22 rifle. The Remington 597 was a little bit cheaper than a Ruger 10/22. Being stupid I bought that piece of junk instead of saving another $40 or whatever. I ended up giving away the 597 and getting a 10/22 down the road but that is another story. The point is that I should have been smart and bought the much better but slightly more expensive tool and been done with it.

 -How urgently do you need the item?

If you are moving to Alaska and it is November you need a really warm coat right now. In this case you need to buy an old milsurp parka or something as you obviously cannot wait until you can afford the coolest big name outdoor parka. If Jimmy Crowbar is after you then saving up for a few months to buy a Glock is a bad idea. Instead you should scrape up enough cash to get a used S&W .38 today. On the other hand if you are upgrading a tool set or a firearms there really is not any sort of urgency. A nicer set of box end wrenches would be great but you are getting along fine now.

Project Upgrade AR falls into this category. I already have a functional long gun so there is no reason things must be rushed into buying less than what I want. I want to do it right and not have to mess with it again. If the right part(s) mean saving for an extra month that is not a huge deal.

-Does this item fit well with where you are in life?

 The whole debate is pointless if you cannot afford it. An XX dollar difference might be a deal maker for one guy and not an issue for another.  Should those dollars be put into savings or divided into a variety of areas?

Anyway those are my thoughts on that. 





Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Random Thoughts: Money, Life and Stuff

This weekend I got to catch up with some long time friends. One guy I grew up with just happened to be in town for the weekend to go to a wedding and we were able to catch up. That was great.

In particular it was great to see one friend with whom I have a lot in common. At the surface we are very different but a lot of core beliefs and attitudes are the same. Stuff like meeting a girl, getting to know her, getting hitched and then having a kid and how we deal with finances and such.

We talked a lot about all manner of things. He has done real well for himself. It was a reminder to me that I need to put some energy into developing additional streams of income or at least the skills and stuff to do so if needed. Also I need to get better at mechanical stuff. We talked about a few things and I was pleased he was on the right track and gave him some ideas to think about.

I was disappointed to hear that a couple we know was going through bankruptcy. I do believe that bankruptcy is a necessary legal mechanism. Things can happen that make it so people cannot meet their debts. Somebody could do all the right things and get hurt or disabled or whatever. This is not one of those cases. They seem to have just bought a bunch of toys on credit and generally lived a lifestyle they could not afford. My friend also mentioned that the guy thought his wife did not need to work as a contributing factor. He sort of implied this was an antiquated or impractical way of living.

I sort of dissented at this point. I said it is perfectly possible and relatively simple. Figure out what Dad (or really mom if you want to go that way) makes, chop out some to save and then live on it. Simple, though not necessarily easy. He makes enough money that it could work but they would have a pretty modest life. No big fancy trucks or boats or expensive hobbies. Apparently they wanted to have their cake and eat it too.

Anyway I have a hard time with this. I suppose they had good intentions to honor the debts they took on. However at some point before deciding to file for bankruptcy I wonder if they knew the jig was up. Maybe they decided to have some fun going down. I don't know. The idea that they are deciding it is too unpleasant to honor their debts and it is easier to default is difficult for me. It isn't that Chevy or Visa or Cabellas or whatever are going to be unduly hurt or are worth anything in particular. More that I have, maybe theoretically to my own detriment, a sense of honor about these things. [ Wifey once said there are two things to know about me. I don't do things I don't want to do  and I do what I say I will do.] Doesn't matter if the other party is worthy, like a friend or relative, or not. If I say I will do something then I do it, or at least give it my best. 

Went for a little run today. It is amazing how a half dozen long (150m ish) sprints totally change the character of a 2 mile run. Between that and the 3 miler I did late last week puts me at 20.5. Getting to 50 might be rough this month. However in the big picture considering I have never done any sort of exercise program on leave getting halfway would be something solid.

Today we had a family dinner. That was pretty good. A couple relatives drove a long way to make it which was totally surprising and great. One of them who is pretty like minded and I got to talking about life and our economy. The benefits of diversification came up. Having some silver and an extra gun or three you could sell or swap without shorting yourself is a good thing.

I saw the new show Revolution which was interesting. Will watch next week. Between it and Sons of Anarchy my TV lineup is getting going again. Big fun.

Sorry for a rather random post. I had planned on something else but the evening kind of got away from me. Anyway I hope all is well for everybody.




Monday, September 10, 2012

Getting Ready On The Cheap

As my own situation has improved (the blog started in my last year of college and I was broke as a joke) I have worried a bit less about money. A couple promotions and some good choices later and we are in an OK spot. Enough so that the solutions which work for me might not be realistic for some folks. I still want to make a conscious effort here to talk about solutions for all manner of budgets.

One could say the right answer is to make some good choices (how do we do it, commonalities in survivalist finances) and for folks with decent incomes that have a spending problem this has some merit. Other folks have an income problem. This is either due to life circumstances such as disabilities, etc or choices like getting married and having 6 kids when you work as a part time laborer (I'm talking the guy who picks up scraps, etc, not a skilled tradesmen) or the choice to live where you want on less income. Regardless simply saying to tighten the belt a little bit and make it work is a cop out. Also I think that approach alienates good people who want to become prepared but cannot throw tons of money at the problem.

First let us talk about some general principles that will guide this discussion:

Buying cheap stuff that doesn't really work for what you need and is not durable is false economics. You don't need junk but instead need affordable good stuff.

When you do not have much money it is even more important than normal to get the right stuff. Things that do not fill the role you need them to fill are a real problem here. A person in a different situation might put that item into their (it works but isn't ideal) backup pile or gift it but that doesn't work if cash is tight. Spending a month or two in prep money on a knife or gadget and not having it work is a real problem even if the cost is just $50.

The less stuff you can afford to have the more it needs to do. A family on a tight budget might have 2 pistols, one of which is a .22 (ideally you would have one for each adult but I digress). This means you are not going to have a concealed carry gun, a pocket carry gun, a full sized house gun, a woods gun and a target/ competition gun. The family hunting rifle might be your only rifle for awhile. Having a sniper varmit rifle, a big game rifle, a hunting rifle, an all around carbine, a CQM carbine and a couple collectibles will not work.

It is important to let go of the need to have the coolest chicks dig it Gucci kit. Be real with yourself. If you make 25k a year a Knight Armament SR-25 is not the rifle for you. Unless you want to make drastic life changes to be able to afford cool stuff then swallow your pride and deal with it.

Do your research. Sometimes a difference in price represents superior materials, better manufacturing and closer quality control. Other times it is just a brand name. Knowing the difference will let you get the best stuff you can at the most affordable prices possible.

Obviously it is worthwhile to shop sales and look for deals. This is a great example of the old time vs money trade off. In other words if you can't afford the money put in time and if you don't have the time be prepared to spend money. For folks who are short on time and money I suggest you make the choices to free up some of one (time or money) or seriously reconsider your goals. 

That stuff being covered I have some ideas:

Military surplus can offer a real value. An old LCE you can get for under $20 will fill the role of a chest rig and pouch combo that costs a couple hundred bucks. Not Gucci but better than trying to stuff loaded mags into your pants pockets. Milsurp sleeping bags are not as small and light as the latest and greatest high end civilian stuff but you can get one for a lot less money. ALICE packs are not exactly comfortable but you can get a bombproof pack for about $30 which is less than an extra pouch to go on a high end civilian pack.

Seriously consider buying used stuff. Lots of folks will buy something, barely use it, then sell it a year or two later at a huge loss. Be the guy that buys that stuff. Used items offer a real value and once in awhile you will find a downright steal.

Commander Zero once figured out how many hours at minimum wage you would need to work to get a Glock and an AR, really it wasn't that many. Picking up extra shifts for a month to give things a jump start might be an option depending on your situation. I once worked Christmas Break to stash enough cash to buy my first real rifle. Those 3 weeks or so sucked at the time but years later I still have the rifle.

TEOTWAWKI Blog does the outstanding Preparing on $40 a Week series which is definitely worth checking out. It offers a lot of affordable solutions.

Anyway I hope this gives folks who are on tight budgets some ideas and maybe even helps a bit.




Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Comprises

I have been watching some Nutnfancy videos recently. He regularly uses the phrase size and weight considerations. The point is twofold. First weight matters as ounces turn into pounds and heavy kit often gets left at home. Secondly and possibly more interesting are the compromises and trade offset involved. A multi tool is a pretty sucky substitute for a whole box of tools but nobody puts a 25lbs toolbox into their daypack or ruck. It is important to consider what additional weight will get you and if you need that capability. Out in the woods you probably will not need the benefits of a toolbox and are not willing to haul the weight anyway. A leatherman to tighten a screw or whatever is all you probably need anyway. When ot comes to other compromises it is important to look at what you expect the item to do as well as considerations like your budget. Also the primary goal or goals are important as they weigh a bit heavier. A pistol that will guard against black bears in the woods, serve as a house gun and occasionally get carried might be a .357 or .44 revolver or maybe a .40 or 10mm auto. On the other.hand a pistol you will regularly conceal that pulls woods duty occasionally will need to be smaller to be carried. Some of these decisions are less than quantifiable. For example I gladly trade the additional size and weight of a compact 9mm for its increased round count and shootability vs a snubby 38 or a .380. Another person might not choose that option. All fun poking at the snubby/ pocket gun crowd aside it is hard to beat folks up too much if the proverbial sweet spot is different for them. That being said I cannot help but note thar you often see trends among well trained folks in given areas. I guess the point is to really think about the trade offs that you are making. Sometimes you can cut size, weight and or cost with little real loss in capabilities. Other times if you really look at it the trade off kind of sucks so anyway those are my thoughts on that.

Comprises

I have been watching some Nutnfancy videos recently. He regularly uses the phrase size and weight considerations. The point is twofold. First weight matters as ounces turn into pounds and heavy kit often gets left at home. Secondly and possibly more interesting are the compromises and trade offset involved. A multi tool is a pretty sucky substitute for a whole box of tools but nobody puts a 25lbs toolbox into their daypack or ruck. It is important to consider what additional weight will get you and if you need that capability. Out in the woods you probably will not need the benefits of a toolbox and are not willing to haul the weight anyway. A leatherman to tighten a screw or whatever is all you probably need anyway. When ot comes to other compromises it is important to look at what you expect the item to do as well as considerations like your budget. Also the primary goal or goals are important as they weigh a bit heavier. A pistol that will guard against black bears in the woods, serve as a house gun and occasionally get carried might be a .357 or .44 revolver or maybe a .40 or 10mm auto. On the other.hand a pistol you will regularly conceal that pulls woods duty occasionally will need to be smaller to be carried. Some of these decisions are less than quantifiable. For example I gladly trade the additional size and weight of a compact 9mm for its increased round count and shootability vs a snubby 38 or a .380. Another person might not choose that option. All fun poking at the snubby/ pocket gun crowd aside it is hard to beat folks up too much if the proverbial sweet spot is different for them. That being said I cannot help but note thar you often see trends among well trained folks in given areas. I guess the point is to really think about the trade offs that you are making. Sometimes you can cut size, weight and or cost with little real loss in capabilities. Other times if you really look at it the trade off kind of sucks so anyway those are my thoughts on that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I Can't Afford to Prepare

This one comes up often enough that my periodic post on it is about due. I do think it is true that today, this week and maybe month some folks can not afford to put real money into food and whatnot. My first thought is that right now you can do something. Yes I do mean this week. Pick up a box of bullets for whatever gun is in the house. Get a big bag of rice or pancake mix. If you are an adult and cannot pull together ten or twenty bucks to something to prepare this week then you have serious i§ues and I recommend professional help. Beyond this week and month you can start looking at your finances and make some choices. Maybe you need to cancel the super sports package and even cable all together or eat out less. Maybe a big ticket item like a jetski has to go. Now somebody is going to say "TOR I have 12 kids and make 20k a year, so I genuinely can't afford it." I always wonder why folks choose to get into these situations." These folks are not going to get far on the budget cutting side of the equation. That is fine anyway as they do not have a spending problem but instead have an income problem. They need to figure out how to bring in more cash. This means working more or working smarter. These app4o├áches take longer than working the spending side but do pay of in the end. So basically you can either spend less or earn more. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Small Business Thoughts

I caught up with a friend this weekend. As always he is busy with a side business. He is in the trades and does small jobs on the side that are losely in the same nitche. Between contacts from a family business, working and just sorta being his hustling self the guy drums up plenty of business. Enough so that he can pass the couple hundred dollar jobs onto another buddy.

Thoughts: Some jobs are a lot more condusive to side gigs than others. For a variety of reasons the trades are probably best here followed by professions like law or accounting. A manager at a grocery store or a supervisor at a box company or an executive are good jobs to have but it is kind of hard to get a little something going on the side. My gig in the Army and the skill sets I have developed unfortunately fall into the second category. For those at a place in life where they haven't chosen a path yet or need to find another one this is something to consider.

From the successes and failures I have seen it is essential to go into areas with negligible start up costs. Maybe you need to pick up a couple new tools, print some business cards and place an ad for a few hundred bucks, not a big deal. On the other hand renting and setting up a storefront, purchasing equipment, etc before a business has proven itself is risky and not smart. You can fail pretty often if it costs $300 but if it costs $3,000 let alone 30,000 or more that is not an option. Since small businesses fail at a crazy high rate this is worth considering.

Once a business gets going and you start making some cash then putting some money into it is reasonable. Buying a new piece of equipment that will let you do more jobs, going from a normal personal type BBQ to a big custom job on a trailer that will let you feed more people and thus do bigger events or whatever. My anecdotal observation is that the risk of failure in expanding a already profitable business is far lower than getting one started in the first place.


I would be really uncomfortable relying on a new venture to put a roof over out heads, food in the pantry and gas in the car. In other words keep doing whatever thing(s) you are doing now and add the new one. I realize this lack of adventuresome nature will probably mean I will never be wealthy but I will probably also never be broke trying to wrestle a living out of a business that won't get going. Once something takes off you can phase out a less optimal (fun, $ for effort or whatever) thing that you have been doing.


If you only put in a little bit of money and keep doing whatever is already paying the bills all that is really risked is time and effort. The folks who I have seen fail and have it harm them often borrowed heavily (a relative term) and or needed it to start paying out immediately.


Personally I am at a stand still when it comes to developing multiple streams of income. My job is pretty totalitarian in nature and leads me to desire more anonymity than I otherwise would. That kills most of the directions I might go into. All things considered I am pretty OK with this. We hit the live cheap side of the equation pretty hard which helps. Any energy I put in this direction is mostly about setting conditions for the future. It is still pretty interesting to observe what does and doesn't work.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Intentional Purchasing Plan

Last night I realized that my purchases in terms of stores and survivalist stuff have been all over the map for awhile now. I got motivated to build a few more IFAK's which is a great idea. Also I got to looking into longer term 'feminine hygiene' solutions. All of this is good stuff but there is no order. The point is that I need a way to manage my resources more evenly. I probably tend to gravitate towards certain areas at the detriment of others.

I have done pretty well at rank ordering stuff within a given category. I can figure out what the most important thing is, then the next, the one after that, etc. However between different categories it is a bit of a mess. Divying up money between categories and working down their respective lists makes the most sense to me.

Here is what I came up with. Dedicated survivalist funds will be spent in the following manner:
50% food, water, various cleaning and ancillary household stuff like dishwashing soap, bleach, etc.
25% Medical and communications/ alternative energy
25% Defensive stuff and gear/ wilderness survival items
(Note: precious metals, savings and investments are not addressed here as their plans are working fine)

The simplest way to do this I can see is to do it is Medical and Communications/ Energy one month, food the next, then defensive stuff and finally food again. Putting percentages into each every month really split my effort as the amounts involved would be below the threashhold for many common purchases. By going with one area a month I can cover most purchases or save up for bigger ones if need be. That food is weighted higher is because it is really important and also where it is right now in our overall priorities. Having been here for a few years I have been able to take care of a lot of stuff but food has lagged behind due to multiple long moves.

 I think these categories pretty much cover the major bases. Medical and communications/ alternative energy is not at all a cohesive category but it seemed easier to group those than having a half dozen categories. I know some stuff doesn't fit perfectly into any of these categories but using common sense and the rough groupings outlined above it should work out OK.

Personal money and gifts/Christmas/ Birthday's etc are going to stay discretionary. I regularly use 50-75% of this money towards survivalist purposes but reserve, if just to myself, the right to do this as I please or not at all. Sometimes I want a bottle of good scotch or a book or whatever. These should also be a pretty good valve for little things that come up or when I all of a sudden decide that X is super important or would just be really cool.

Anyway I am going to give this a shot. I think at least 4 months should give me a clue if it works, needs to be changed or just scrapped.

Do you have some sort of intentional purchasing plan? If so what is it and how is it working for you?




Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Random Thoughts # Whatever

To rehash a valid topic. It is very difficult to substantially change your current spending patterns unless there is some sort of event forcing you to do so. Most folks like what they spend their money on. [Or if you are married at least one partner does; you might think it is fine to ditch the wife's pet cable tv and hobbies and she might think you could cut back on beer and smokes and preps but I digress] It really sucks to stop doing things you like to do and adjust your lifestyle downward so most folks won't do it if they have a choice, heck a lot of folks won't do it if they really don't have a choice.
The thing is that it is much easier to make intentional choices about new money because you are not used to having it. Money that has not been part of your operating budget, be it additional income or a windfall, is a great opportunity to make good choices. We have hit on this before talking about becoming debt free. The short rehashing is that I got promoted and started making significantly (for us anyway) more money. If memory serves me correctly we put about 85% of this new money toward becoming debt free. Between this and what we were paying before we were making adiditional payment of about 200% a month. We did this for right around a year and got it paid off, instead of making minimum payments for two extra years.

I was recently reminded that folks who choose to make stupid decisions, in this case financially, will do so even if their situation is improving. It is really hard to outearn stupid financial choices if you increase your poor decision making when more money comes in.
Awhile I saw a review on Survival blog of Grip Pods. They are a pretty cool piece of gear. Basically it is a forward vertical grip that, if you hit a button on the top, has a bipod that pops out. I have one of these things. Slaps right onto a standard rail. They are pretty darn tough. I have seen a few break but that doesn't mean anything. If you gave every enlisted Infantrymen (Not NCO's, or O's) each a brick and a bowling ball a bunch would get broken and it doesn't mean they are not sturdy objects, just that Infantrymen break things like nobody else. These things aren't beefy enough to use during buddy rushes and whatnot like the bipod on a machine gun, though I have seen those break too. It looks like they cost between $80-100ish. More than about $110ish would definitely be overpaying. If you like to run a strait vertical grip and think a bipod might be handy sometimes it is worth looking into. If they are worth it I would say maybe (didn't pay for mine;). A quick search of the web says vertical foregrips from names I recognized tend to be $50-80ish. Another 20-30 bucks for that foregrip to have a bipod isn't a bad deal really.

Over the past year I have been shocked and saddened by things public officials I grew up trusting have done. In any case the amount of times I have thought "I would do something terrible to that person" have been on the rise. Maybe it is a change in the news cycle or particularly the democratization of information via the web and particularly the drudge report, I don't know. I get that in any bunch there are always a few bad apples. If you have enough bad apples there is always something bad going on. (Example, an Infantry Battalion has somewhere around 700 soldiers, depending on its configuration, of that probably 450-500 are young men between 18 and 23ish. Prime age to drink way too much and do stupid things. On any given weekend at least one will get into a fight, another will use drugs, and another will commit some other crime. Almost always at least one of them will get caught. So saying that a Battalion has a problem because every weekend somebody gets in trouble is while accurate, misleading. Saying that 1 in 700 soldiers got arrested looks very different.] That being said it seems like these sort of events are on the rise.
This saddens me and means I need to relook how different groups may act in various circumstances. It is worth noting that local conditions matter the most. Look at your local laws, culture and recent events. These should tell the tale. I hate to rain on the tin foil hat folks conspiracy theories; however the odds of your local deputy sheriff/ policemen/ dog cater/ zoning inspector/ health department getting into your business are far higher than a SWAT team from a federal alphabet agency taking down the door at 3 am. The importance of living in a place that doesn't suck may not be possible to overrate.
Anyway that is about all I can think




Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cash or Card?

Lots of folks for various reasons say that you should only use cash. It will magically solve all of your money problems and keep the Trilateral Bildenberg conglomerate from knowing what your favorite order at Krystal. It is a cure all.
One of the theories is that people think harder before reaching into their wallet for cash instead of just swiping a card. Personally I do not think that argument is particularly meaningful. Maybe it is like that for older folks who spent most of their adult lives doing things with cash. For those under 30 or so it is my observation that there isn’t really a difference. Heck, some kids get allowances and pay for chores from their parents via online bank transfers these days. Unless you are the kind of person who gets stupid drunk and buys the whole bar a shot of Crown on your credit card or are so addicted to shopping that you spend money you don’t have I would say it doesn’t matter much.

Cash is better if you are seriously working about a tight budget. No surer way to spend $50 or less on groceries than to go to the store with two twenties and a ten. Obviously with cash you can only spend what you have. For those sorts of absolutely no wiggle room situations this could have a place I guess.
The downside to cash is that it is a lot harder to track where it has gone. I usually get $100 when I go to the ATM. A week later when I have $65 there is about no way I could tell you what I spent $35 on. Yeah I could carry a little notebook and a pen and write down every transaction but I am not actually going to do that and I do not know anybody who does. An advantage of online banking and services like Mint.com is that you can look and see what you have bought. Not in a month when statements come but this weekend when you are curious.
While nowhere near as desperate as trying to stretch things out to payday or whatever and going all money Nazi with cash it is good to know where your money is going. It lets you see trends you would otherwise miss and make decisions. Instead of saying “where did our money go?” you can look. Maybe you have started eating out a lot more or something and it is adding up to more than you would like. With this kind of information you can make choices that aren’t possible due to lack of information if you use cash.

Personally we mostly use cards because they are convenient. We both keep cash on us because it is necessary for personal transactions, sometimes it is convenient and it is good to have just in case (in addition to a stash at home). Also we like being able to look back to see transactions and recent trends as it helps us manage our money better.
There is some sharing of information with the Trilateral Bildenberg conglomerate but we are OK with that because we are boring. Who cares if somebody sees how much cereal we buy? If I was going to buy a thousand gallons of diesel, a truck load of chemical fertilizer, and some miscellaneous stuff from radio shack on the same day I rented a moving truck I would use cash. Otherwise I don’t see it as an issue.

Cash makes it slightly easier to manage total amounts and cards make it easier to keep track of spending trends so on the whole it is a wash. My advice is to use whichever you prefer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Choosing To Get Equipped and Ready

So much stuff is readily available these days. You can buy semi automatic military pattern rifles like AR-15's, AK-47's as well as a slew of others and all the magazines, ammo and accessories you want. You can buy tactical gear, pouches and chest rigs as well as body armor that will stop rifle bullets and military quality night vision. #10 cans and 5 gallon buckets of food that will store almost indefinitely can be ordered on the computer in your underoos while drinking coffee. My point is that all of this great stuff is readily available, all you have to do is pay for it.

I cannot say how long that will last. Maybe inflation will make these things slip out of the reach of poorer folks, then middle class folks and finally only be available to the really rich. Maybe importation of cheap Russian/ Croatian/ whatever ammo will get cut off. Maybe the sale of body armor and night vision will become regulated or just banned entirely. Who knows what could happen with guns. Maybe the economy will get even worse and you will lose your job and not be able to buy anything. The point is that within reason it would be advisable to get what you need to sooner instead of later.

I can't tell you what to do or how to prioritize your money or life but getting the training, capabilities and stuff that increases your chances of survival is pretty important. I am probably preaching to the converted here. That being said you may have a spouse who is not on board, other priorities or goals or just a tight budget already strained by the rising costs everyday basics or other problems. As I mentioned yesterday you do not have to break the bank to get gear. It is also worth finding that sweet spot between what you would like and what you can afford to pay for to get the best deal possible on the right kit.

To spend money on this stuff you have to cut it from someplace else or figure out how to earn some new money. While it is not possible to tell you exactly how to do it but I can say how we do it. Looking at your life and finances wholisticly is important. See where everything is going and think about what your lifestyle is like. Also priorities definitely come into play here. If you drive a newish cool guy tricked out 4X4 and the Mrs has a BMW, go on a great 2 week tropical/ international vacation every year and have a huge house full of the newest coolest electronics, gadgets and other stuff but "cannot afford" to prepare then rethink what is really important to you.

Life is uncertain so getting equipped and ready is a good thing to do.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Preps or Investing?

Our longtime invisible friend Rourke wrote a post that got me onto this topic. Taking a topic somebody else came up with and giving my spin on it is a pretty good way to have a hitting from the tee kind of blogger day. Anyway this topic comes up all the time.

In some circles you can't be a real survivalist unless you have cashed our every investment you have to buy a bunch of buckets full of wheat and extra pants. Clearly every dollar you have will just burn up in a hyperinflationary disaster so the only reasonable thing to do is to get it all out right now, fees be damned and turn it into good tangible's like buckets full of wheat and lots of extra pants.

If you haven't picked it up I am really not a fan of this strategy. There are so many reasons for this. First if you can't see a reasonable (heck probably likely) chance that eventually you may get old and not be able to work consider the possibility that you are a fool. We could debate investment strategies (and will get there later) but fundamentally you need to be saving for your future. Buckets of wheat will not put gas in your car or pay property taxes in 40 years when you can't work.

The thing about experts is that they tend to be a bit fixated on whatever they are an expert in. This makes sense as people don't tend to get really good or attain significant status in areas they are ambivalent about. The amount of time a championship marathoner or powerlifter thinks is reasonable to spend exercising probably differs from most people. A guy who writes for Car and Driver probably puts more of his money into vehicles than most. An uuber gunnie might think a super custom pistol that costs 2k and a tricked out uuber AR that costs 3k and wears another 3k in accessories are totally reasonable. The point I am getting at is that as a sort of jack of all trades (vs just a gunnie or whatever) we need to look at the big picture. Looking at the big picture means we cannot always shoot the same guns as a guy who just does 3 gun tourneys or whatever. It should be pretty obvious that letting the guy from Car and Driver choose your carry piece is about as smart as letting some preparedness guru choose your investing strategy or the champion marathoner pick your next family vehicle.

Maybe more to the point a definite this or that mentality comes up here which I think is ridiculous. There are almost infinite ways you could spend your money so it certainly does not just come down to preps or investing. It is better to look at the big picture. You could invest $500 a month or have a boat with a payment. You could spend $300 a month on preps or have the big cable package and go out to eat a few times a month. The options are endless which is why this whole argument is kind of foolish to me.

Note that I am talking about taking money that was allocated toward longterm savings (in whatever form) and putting it into food storage or whatever kind of survivalist stuff. Folks who decide to go all contrarian/ hard money are a different sort of discussion. They may be right or wrong but this makes much more sense as they are still saving for the future but in a different way. I know some folks who are seriously contrarian in their investment plans. They keep liquid savings in PM's and put the rest of their money into various things like specialized equipment for businesses or real estate or small businesses that earn money. It is worth noting that lots of "contrarian's" mess up on the part where the point of getting something is that it makes you money. A NIB .44 magnum or gold coin tucked away in a safe does not get you interest or pay a profit. A lot that you rent out to somebody or a share of a local business can make a profit.

However tempting it is to raid your investments to get a jump start on preps I think it is dangerously short sighted. The world MAY end but assuming you do not take an untimely dirt nap you WILL get old. I cringe every time some survivalist blogger/ author/ expert recommends this approach.Taking a couple grand from your liquid savings to buy some basic stuff is not a terrible idea but cashing everything you have saved in your entire life out to buy some stuff you may never need is just not a smart thing to do. A far preferable alternative option is to leave your retirement money alone, cut some stuff you don't need anyway from your budget/lifestyle and use that money towards your preparedness goals. It isn't as fast or easy but you end up in a much better place. Personally I look at the two as entirely different streams of money for different purposes. My retirement account is for if things go just fine and our preps and stores are for if they don't.

Anyway those are my thoughts on that. I am interested in hearing yours.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Azimuth Check

I have stolen this title from Lizard Farmer who runs an excellent newish blog that focuses on retreat/ farm/ ranch defense. His post was more a check on how folks thought his blog was doing. I will head in a different direction. My azimuth check is more about the direction from where my/ your overall situation was to where we want it to be. I will break it into a few categories.

Finances:
How is your debt situation? Do you have any debt with an adjustable or otherwise particularly high interest rate?

Do you have some savings for if something happens?

Do you have some money accessible to buy things if there is an event that interupts normal banking (this means cash on hand)?

If you can afford it have you considered putting some money into precious metals? There isn't a right or wrong answer to this one. Folks differ widely on this topic.

Health:
Are you and your family of a reasonably healthy body weight? If not are you making tangible progress towards getting there?

Do you have any health/ medical/ dental issues that could be improved but have not been? Maybe you need an elective surgery or have been putting off dental work or need to get into physical therapy to get something worked out. Bringing us back to the last question it is utterly amazing how many medical issues decrease or go away if you get to a reasonably healthy body weight.

If applicable do you keep a stash of essential perscription meds on hand? Keeping 30 days on hand is ok, 90 days is pretty decent and will cover a lot of issues but of course more is better. It may mean paying out of pocket but consider the alternative which is, to varying degrees, very ugly.

If applicable do you have at least a pair of spare glasses in your current perscription (two or three would be better)?


How are your chompers doing?

How are you doing at physical fitness? Can you walk long distances with a load? Run fast for short periods and slower for longer ones? Control your body weight through a variety of tasks and obstacles? Lift heavy things or carry another person?

Skills and Training:

Can you make a fire? At night? Can you do it when it has been raining for a week strait?

Can you find your way around with a compass and a map?

Can you make or improvise some sort of shelter to be as comfortable as possible in a variety of situations?

Can you turn basic staples like flour, rice or wheat into a decent or even tasty meal?

Can you grow or raise your own food?

Can you find or gather food from fishing, hunting, plant gathering or something else really cool I have never heard of?

Can you fix stuff? Mechanical things? Small arms? Brick and mortar? Wood? Plumbing? Electrical?

Can you engage targets with personal weapons in realistic circumstances?

Can you organize a defense be it at home or in some sort of hasty situation?

If the Chinese invade or whateveer can you plan and execute small unit Red Dawn/ partisan/ G style offensive operations?

Stockpile and Equipment:

How is your food storage doing?

Do you have personal weapons as well as the stuff needed to use them? Do you have some spare parts, cleaning stuff and ammunition to keep your guns running without a trip to Wally World or the local gun shop?

How are you doing at storing all of the other stuff like medical supplies, batteries, fuel, cleaning and hygiene stuff, spare parts, etc all to keep on keeping on as well as you can without outside assistance?

Is the stuff you have put together into kits or packages or systems that will meet your needs on short notice?

I am sure there are some good questions that I missed. This covers a ton of ground so do not be ashamed if there are some areas where you fall short. My goal is to give you some areas to think about and see where you are at. Every one of these questions is not equally applicable to all situations. Like many things you would be well advised look at these questions with brutal honesty, action what is applicable and disregard what is not.

Hope you all had a great weekend!










Friday, May 25, 2012

Help a Blog Buddy Out

Our longtime blog buddy Mayberry/ Craig's side gig fell apart when the partner decided to sell off the boat and gear. One of his readers who goes by Wonderdog came onto the net with the offer of a replacement boat. Some guy dropped a comment and often nothing ever comes of it. Then it seems that the two of them talked and it seemed legit. Yes the dude offered to give Mayberry a boat. This means that he just needs some traps and I suspect other ancillary stuff to get going. Wonderdog challenged other readers/ invisible friends/ blog buddies to each donate the cost of a trap which is aproximately $35.

I thought this whole thing was pretty crazy to be honest. That some dude is giving another dude a boat is pretty crazy and cool. Personally I could use a Harley but any sort of motorcycle would be good. In any case I got to thinking about donating.

Mayberry has been in a situation of fairly low wages and a rising cost of living. It has been a slow downward spiral for awhile now and (IMO) slowly grinding him down mentally and emotionally. Like most problems in life this was at least partially of his own making. Over the last year or so he has (IMO) really turned a corner. He has gotten out of the dreaded problem admiration phase and started doing stuff hustling and working side gigs to bring in some more cash. The dude seems to be doing a lot of the right things but nothing has quite clicked yet.

Thinking about donating lead to thinking about what $35 would buy. Wifey and I could order take out for dinner if we watched the tab. Kiddo could get toys #192 and #193 which uncharacteristically came from the store. I could get a silver round or another Buck 110. If I tossed in another 5er it would get me a bottle of Glenlivet. It would get me 3 AK mags and a 6 pack of light beer or 2 PMAG's or almost a 33rd Glockamole mag. The list goes on I guess but you get the point. I realized pretty quickly that I don't really need any of that stuff. It would be another thing to toss into a bag or pile of like items. Sure I can always use these kinds of things but I am not filling any critical shortages.

Donating was a simple decision for me. At the end of the day I realized that Mayberry could benefit from this a lot more than I could. I don't do it very often but it is a good thing to be able to help a friend when you are able. Not getting a good bottle of scotch really isn't much of a sacrifice anyway.

It is noteworthy that A) Mayberry didn't ask for any of this, it sort of came together on it's own and B) this will help him improve his situation over the long term instead of buying a tank of gas or whatever and kicking the proverbial can down the road another couple weeks.

There are times when somebody gets the right help at the right time and is really able to make it turn into into something long lasting and meaningful. I think this may be one of them. Not much would make me happier than seeing Mayberry be able to get some good things going on. The guy could really use a break and this seems like it. To be honest that is probably what got me to donate (to some blogger type for the first time ever). The idea of helping somebody to really improve their situation appeals to me. It is pretty unusual and cool that a bunch of folks are coming together to help towards a significant goal that will benefit a member of their group. Also I figured if Wonderdog could kick in a frickin boat I can reach into my wallet for a measley 35 bucks.

Anyway I am not going to put on a hard sell or a guilt trip. I passed the information which was my goal. Donate if you want or not if you don't. It goes without saying that you should not donate unless you can afford it without shorting yourself. If you kick in $35 it will buy the guy a trap to put into the water to catch little fish to sell. It is a reasonable amount for a lot of folks. Of course less is fine and more is great too.  

Happy Friday!

Edited to include: I tried to send the donate links directly to his paypal account but it didn't seem to work. All links will now send you to his blog. On the left side there is a donate button that will take you there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Quote of the Day

"You don't wanna buy crappy stuff, but if you're on a budget you want to get the good stuff, the cheap good stuff."
-James Yeager

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