Showing posts with label charity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label charity. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Unpacking, Donating, Selling and Minimalism

The last few days we have been unpacking. Things are getting unpacked and coming together. We did some sorting and getting rid of unneeded stuff on the other end but definitely could have done more. On this end we are rather ruthlessly attacking the problem.

Our place here has more living space but less storage space. We are continuing to embrace a bit of minimalism. A lot of it to me is just about getting rid of stuff we do not use or need. That we move regularly definitely brings this issue to the forefront. If you have ever helped somebody who has lived in a large house for more than a decade move you know that people will fill the space they have.

Unpacking our entire household worth of stuff is a terrible hassle great opportunity to really go through what we have. The rather obvious categories for unpacking were keep, sell, donate and trash. Keep is self explanatory. Stuff to sell are things that should sell and bringing enough money to merit the time and energy that involves. Donate stuff are things that other people can use but may not sell easily or won't bring enough money to justify the hassle. This stuff will go to the good will. Trash is also self explanatory.

Of the stuff we choose not to keep most of it is going to donation or trash. Maybe this is because we tend to use things until (or arguably past) their optimal life. If you buy something used and keep it until that item is really used the resale is not great. Also that we are really tired of dealing with junk could be a factor.

Maybe saying that we are flirting with minimalism isn't quite accurate. It might be more correct to say that we are trying to get to a point where we only have things with a purpose that tend to be used regularly. Also we wanted to get rid of all sorts of junk and simplify our lives! We are most of the way unpacked and have gotten rid of approximately 30 cubic feet of stuff. That is clothes that haven't been worn in ages, books that do not get read and all kinds of junk.

We still have (and will keep) some redundancy in important stuff. Warm serviceable clothes, sleeping gear, blankets, tools, weapons and so forth. The significant distinction (and what I have been working on) is to store the right stuff instead of all sorts of junk. There is a significant difference between having several pair of fatigues and or sturdy work clothes put away and a bunch of too small/ worn out/ soiled clothes whose highest future is as shop rags.

Once household stuff gets figured out in the next couple days gear/ tools/ survivalist junk will begin to get organized. This stuff doesn't need the keep/sell/donate/toss treatment so much. It is just in dire need of organization and inventories. Going through everything, putting it into like groups and useful systems and the like. We will talk more about this later.

Anyway that is what's going on here.

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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Budgeting for Christmas and the Holiday Season

It is pretty early yet but we are approaching the holiday season so it is time to start thinking about how to not let it ruin our finances. I am going to come out and say I don’t think this one is really that hard. Seriously it is checkers, not chess.

Total Expenditures:
I am not going to tell you how much or how little to spend. Provided that you are not going into debt and are continuing your other financial plans (bills, investments, savings, and such) on schedule then spend as much as you want to.

Events and Gatherings
Most people with normal lives have jobs, family, friends, a couple clubs or associations and who knows what else. This means a slew of parties and activities and such. Many of these things are cheap but some cost money, potentially a lot of it. Being choosy about what you really want to be involved in is a darn good start. Do you really need to go to the annual hockey game and bar night with 3 guys you barely liked back when you worked with them a decade ago? If you do in fact like the guys but don’t want the expense suggest a cheaper activity, possibly at an alternate time. You might just find they could cut out the expensive evening also.

This is where I could say something about the spirit of Christmas and family and all that but I am not going to. Gifts are a big one that gets a lot of people. I think that in general it is a lot easier to be reasonable in a family where other people are reasonable. Both Wifey and I are part of solidly reasonable families. We don’t buy gifts for random uncles and cousins or anything but with both of our families and some close friends the list gets long in a hurry even when we are pretty strict about it. Here are some strategies I have found work to keep everybody happy and costs in line.

With pretty much everybody we exchange gifts with there is an (approximate) agreed upon value. Often it is unspoken and other times it is spoken. In my family over the last few years we have had kids born and people get married and various income changes. We have had discussions about how these various events affect gift giving.  At times when things are particularly tight for an individual we have found that giving people a heads up that for whatever reason gift giving is going to be a bit lighter than normal works really well. Here is a hint, they know it already and don’t care. I don’t know anybody who wants somebody close to them to hurt their self financially to give gifts. The emphasis is on making sure nobody gets unpleasantly surprised, has an awkward moment or hurt feelings.

Budgeting for Gifts:
You certainly want to plan for this one and might want to save a bit of money out of every paycheck for a couple months if money is tight. I and then we did this for a long time. In the last couple years our income has gone up and our expenses have gone down which gives us more disposable income. That coupled with our relatively modest gift giving means we don’t need to save up this year.

My advice is that you (or you and your spouse) figure the total amount you have to spend on gifts, give it a 10% haircut and then decide how to divide it up figuring about how much you want to spend on each person. My experience has been that if you plan to spend 25 bucks a person some gifts will be 21 and others 28 so it sort of averages out and with the 10% set aside you have a small cushion. We have used both cards and cash for gift shopping but typically use cards. If you don’t have the discipline to do that then take an envelope of cash to the store.

Tipping: I hear about this on the TV every year and to be honest I don’t get it at all. Is this some sort of an east coast thing? Is it a big city thing? The list of people they talk about tipping and the amounts are staggering to me. I know folks typically make more money over there (on paper at least as it is largely eaten up by much higher cost of everything) but it seems nuts to me. My folks used to give our paperboy a card with a few bucks if he had done a good job and I think MIL gives a bigger than normal type to her hair dresser around the holidays but both of those are for one person and are a small amount (20 or less I think). Maybe the news is totally out of reality but it seems like some folks are sending giant wads of cash to all kinds of people. Maybe it is a cultural difference but it seems ridiculous to me. We don’t tip anybody just because of Christmas.

Giving:  Times are really hard for a lot of folks right now so consider that in your financial planning. If you can afford it and want to then good for you, if not that is fine also. We do gift giving for a few kids via those tree things. In general we are cheap and I am heartless (Wifey has a big heart but is also cheap so that keeps it reasonable) but little kids shouldn’t have a bad Christmas because their parents are having a hard time or just plain suck at life.  If memory serves me correctly we have also done some food bank donations in the past. Both are causes we will continue to support in the future.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saving Big

Saving a lot of money on things takes a few traits.

The first that comes to mind is flexibility. You either need to purchase pretty common things or be flexible and look for a more broad type of good instead of something real specific. Example, buying a mid range mens mountain bike is reasonable. However you could wait a very long time for a Speed Demon 97 with a blue frame to come up on a great sale or gently used. A used 04-06 4 door Honda with reasonable miles is very different than a green 2005 with a tan interior, the VTech engine and a specific list of options.

The ability to plan ahead is next. Getting good prices often requires some time (either looking or waiting) and thus you have to be thinking about what you will need in the weeks or months coming up, not today or tomorrow. Here is an example. Let us say that I like to eat cereal every day and thus go through a box a week. If I go shopping on Saturday and have absolutely no cereal in the house I am stuck paying full price or eating something else. However if I have a few boxes because I planned ahead I can wait until the next sale to get more cereal. The same could be said of winter clothes or any other need you can forecast.

Last is cash on hand. Often deals come when you least expect them. It could be a half off sale on canned goods, a buddy who needs to sell a gun in a hurry or who knows what else. So often a deal will be missed if you have to wait for payday. Having cash to take advantage of all manner of deals is essential.

There are also two areas in which people can go wrong trying to save money.

The first big mistake is getting a "great deal" on something YOU DO NOT NEED AND WILL NOT ACTUALLY USE. This sort of bumps up against the "be flexible" but it comes down to knowing and being honest with yourself. I will talk about it in two parts.

First do you need it? Example, buying a chair or a lamp you do not need (even if it might get used) is not good economics.

Second will you actually use it? Example, I use Heinz Ketchup. It does not matter of Hunts or Walmart brand are on sale for a penny because I won't use them. If in doubt it might be smart to try one or two of something before buying 5 cases. [Note, A family member of mine does that "extreme coupond" type stuff and she donates a lot of things she gets super cheap to charity. Either this or passing it on to a friend who can use it (ideally they would do the same for you;) makes sense. Just so long as the stuff will get used.]

The second big mistake is failing to consider the investment of time and effort involved.  Time is a valuable commodity as you cannot make any more if it. If you save 5 bucks by doing something but it takes 4 hours is it really worth it? I can't tell you what your time is worth (though your wages aren't a bad starting point) but you need to consider it. There is not an exact formula for this but the factors would be enjoyment, your available time and other income producing opportunities. The answer will vary depending on your currenti life situation (how busy you are, how broke you are or are not, etc all). Example, by making tortillas wifey can save a dollar (over the cost of ingredients) by making them herself. When she is working or otherwise busy that dollar is not worth it, however when she has time to spare it can be.

Another classsic fail is driving 50 miles and burning up 7 bucks in a fuel guzzling vehicle to save .75 cents on a package of hamburger. Totally misses the point, unless you buy 25 packages and combine the trip with business in that area.

I often ask myself "would I take a side job if somebody offered me this wage (the amount of savings in the time involves)?" It is a pretty good test.

I ran the ideas in this post by Wifey because she does this stuff more often and more successfully than I do. She added that a lot of people put start up money into things before they know they will use them. The most common example is spending a ton of money on equipment for a hobby to then use it twice and realize you hate it or for whatever reason will not use it. Bikes, fishing gear, etc all are common examples of this. We have found that borrowing or renting equipment to try things, or at least getting in on the cheap with basic used stuff helps with this a lot. You can always get newer, better stuff down the road and either sell the first set of stuff or keep it for backups.

A couple of recent real life examples which I believe will help to illustrate what I am talking about. We went to a big sale and got all of Walker's clothes in the next size up (well I am sure Wifey will get him a thing or two later to fill a gap or because she likes it, the vast majority of his clothes might be more accurate) for awesome prices. We got gently used shirts, onesies, and pants for an average of about two dollars and fifty cents.

We were at an outlet mall looking for something and needed to stay while and look around because Walker neeeded a break from the car. We went to an outdoor store and were idly looking at the stuff they sold. Wifey noticed name brand shell jackets on sale for $30 (retail of $110). I wasn't in the market for one but could definitely use one and at that price it would be foolish not to get it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Helping People- Mechanics and Principles

Last night I did a lot of walking around. Anyway I had some thoughts and since I sorta gypped you on postage yesterday I figured it would only be fair to post a second one today.

Anyway I got to thinking about helping people. Not like an "I need to send a check to Jimmy" sort of helping people but more about the stuff behind helping people.

First and foremost you can not help somebody else unless you have already taken care of yourself. Let that one sink in. No way you can write a check to help Jimmy out with expenses this month if you don't have any money. Can't put together a box of food to take to the neighbors if your cupboards are bare. Can't put together a 'grab bag' of a box or two of ammo each for the 3-4 guns your friend has lying around with just a few rounds each if you don't have a few ammo cans full stashed in the closet.

Second someone needs to have some sort of need for you to really help them. Showing up at someones house just to say hello and bringing 6 bags of groceries with you is nice enough but sort of odd if your friend/ family member/ church member/ whatever is doing just fine and not hurting for anything. However showing up with a bunch of groceries at the home of somebody who you know is really hurting will really help them.

Thirdly (this sort of goes along with the second one) your 'help' must meet a need somebody has. Lets say a friend of yours has got to fence the land they just bought and needs help doing so; you show up at his house with a dozen brand new life jackets. Does that help them? Eh maybe in a broad conceptual sense but it will not do anything towards putting up that fence. Conversely if you show up with the 2 dozen bags of cement you had sitting around from an old project, a wheel barrow, tools and the teenage neighbor kid who helps you out (and you take him hunting or whatever) it will go a long way towards getting that fence put up. The help has got to meet a need.

Fourth is admittedly a bit more conceptual than the others. It has got to do with if your help is going to really help, not so much today but more in the long term. This is the "give a man a fish vs teach a man to fish" discussion. In my life I have helped people from time to time in different ways, often it was labor and sometimes it was cold hard cash. The line between assistance and enabling is a very difficult one to see.

For instance. Once someone ran into money trouble. They didn't make a lot of money and recently expenses had been kind of high. Somehow (if happens to all of us) she got confused balancing her check book and got into overdraft. Since she used the debit card for everything (like so many folks do) and was about to get her ass kicked with overdraft fees (for every pack of gum or tank of gas bought after it went into the red) that was a real issue.

She was fundamentally responsible with money but had just messed up; a normal mistake that happens to everybody at least once in their life. She and I sat down and figured out how much it was going to cost to get back into the black and avoid even more overdraft fees plus live on until the next paycheck came in a week or whatever. I think it was $400. At the time I was able to do that without it affecting my bottom line at all and if my sister wasn't able to pay me back it would be fine. A month or two later she sent me a check.

I had another person had the same thing happen. While the event was the same the circumstances behind it were substantially different. This individual had fundamental financial issues; spending as much or more than they made with no pretense of financial planning (budgeting, etc) or intent to work on their situation. It was not the first time this had happened and would not be the last. I did not offer to fix this problem. First they didn't have any income to speak of so it would have been a gift and second that would just have been a short term solution which would have prevented them from being taught a lesson.

Again this one is sort of philosophical and subjective. However in good conscience I can not 'help' someone if in fact it is going to hurt them in the long run.

Any other thoughts about helping people?
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