Showing posts with label money. Show all posts
Showing posts with label money. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Life and Risk Management

Hey Folks, I figured I should say hello. Things have been busy. On a positive note for me and by default you all school just finished up. Waiting for grades to post but if everything goes well I will be done. I can use a mental/ financial/ emotional break for awhile. With more available time I may blog more. No promises but it might happen.

Anyway our friend Meister did a Couple of posts about risk management which are worth looking at. He brings up some excellent points. Specifically looking objectively at our potential risks, focusing on more realistic risks instead of unrealistic ones, mitigating risk whenever possible, making are the residual risk is worth the benefits and constantly reassessing. You all should go there and leave a comment to encourage his efforts.

My next risk management post is written. It is 6 pages long albeit with some lists and pictures. I am going to review it and hopefully get it out to you all this week.

For me currently the big pushes are financial and fitness. I need to rebuild some savings and plan for a transition. Also lose a shade under 20 lbs and get faster. Other then that my main goals are rounding stuff out to really get my systems right.

If it works out ok I have some training opportunities on the horizon but that’s not really my focus right now.

So anyway I’m not dead and that’s what is up with me. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Star Cluster

Hey Folks, It’s been awhile. Life has been pretty busy. Between jobs, school, PT and various self improvement I am a fairly busy guy. Won’t apologize for that. A lot of the meaningful self improvement we do isn’t necessarily good blog fodder. This spring when school wraps up I may take up writing more frequently, if I want to, unless I don’t.

The financial markets are getting downright sporty. While huge moves to time the market are generally foolhardy a bit of rebalancing is probably a good idea. Taking a few profits out of equities isn’t a bad idea. Today on CNBC someone called the current market “picking up dollars in front of a steam roller.”

The topic of inflation is reading its head.

Money is under mentioned in preparedness. Part of this is the inherent oddly American trait to not talk about it and all call ourselves middle class. In our systems aside from some basic stuff like a pocket knife, a flashlight, comfortable footwear and a first aid kit money is probably the most important part of our systems for realistic emergencies followed closely by a concealed handgun. A roll of 20’s can solve a whole lot of problems. A comparable roll of 50’s can solve even more. A credit card with a high limit can get you a room to stay in, plane tickets or even buy a car to drive away if needed!

For a real world get home I am pretty comfortable with a day pack that has some basic stuff and a wad of cash. I am unlikely to be using a survival fishing kit but cash to buy lunch would be nice. Even in a realistic bug out situation I will have my pre packed bag, some guns and such but what I really need is a Visa card to get a motel room and a pizza!

Money also buys gear and bigger items like buy out vehicles and fancy survivalist retreates!

While not a sexy part of survivalism the answer to work more and scrimp to pay for stuff is really important. It applies at different relative levels for most everyone.

In a very transitional American view get out and earn that cool new thing you want!

One of the cool things about survivalism is that t is so broad. When life throws you a curve in one area focus on others. PT and dry fire are free. Organizing your stuff into cohesive systems is free. Rotating stores food and relaxing it as part of your diet is cost neutral if not free. The point I am trying to make is that there is a lot of stuff you can do even when money is tight.

Get out and do something this weekend!

Friday, September 8, 2017

F You Money, or Maybe Just I Quit Money

I am going to curse in this post. If that offends you I am sorry.

Our buddy Commander Zero brought this phrase into my vocabulary. Today I got bored and googled it. Basically Fuck You money is an amount of cash where you would never have to work again. Not do anything you want forever but live at a certain income level without needing to work.

Obviously what constitutes fuck you money is based on a multiplication of your desired annual income so it depends on the lifestyle a person wants to keep.  Fuck you money for a guy who lives in a trailer in the desert on 20k a year would be a lot less than for me in a fairly average middle class income. What would be F U money for me would be a kind of bad weekend at the tables for Dan Blizerian.

We could calculate this a couple of ways. One would be strait years X dollars but realistically unless you are pretty old we are talking about living off of interest. So you need a chunk of cash sufficient to pay interest at the level you would be planning to live at. We could debate this realistic interest number on a balanced portfolio (I have seen 8% a lot) but lets say .05 so some rolls over for inflation protection. Say you want to make 50K a year and figure your money can make .05% so  you would need an even million dollars. A smart person would realize inflation exists so to keep the same relative lifestyle it will obviously cost more in the future. So say you keep some interest rolling into the principle.Or if we want it to be 100k annual income we are talking like 2 mil.

Now 1-2 million dollars is a lot of money. It is not like crazy Warren Buffet/ Bill Gates money though. Not unrealistic if you have an OK income and a good savings plan or the ability to get a couple of big, but not insane, pay days.

That got me to thinking.

In Dave Chapelles recent comedy special on netflix, which you should check out if you like that kind of thing, Dave describes Kevin Hart as having "Shut the Fuck Up Money." Like he could tell a partner to STFU an they would deal with it because he is ridiculously rich. Dave then says that "he has please be quiet money at best."

So in this spirit I got to thinking about what would be a short term goal on the way to FU money? I realized I already knew the answer.

I quit money. Not a place where you can burn every bridge an never work again but one where you can decide you do not want to take the transfer to Los Angeles or that you are tired of putting up with a terrible boss and want to just find another job. Or maybe there is a major life event going on and you are going to take a month off, whether the boss likes it or not.

Then I realized this is simply a good emergency fund. The smart money people say 3-6 months expenses is a good emergency fund. Some in this market where people, especially upper middle class older people say 50+ can be unemployed for a long time, say 6-9 months. Obviously your individual situation matters. How vulnerable you think your situation is, how much back up you have (does the Mrs have a great job or is she a stay at home mom) an how easy it is to replace a job where you are all matter.

I think a fully funded emergency fund in cash (bank or safe) or items that can be immediately converted to cash like silver and gold gives you a lot of options. Also it is a reasonably attainable goal for most people with some savings and maybe increased earnings.

Preparedness and normal life event benefits aside being able to politely tell your boss you quit or not take that new client/ contract an know you have some wiggle room to find something else sounds pretty darn nice. Also this seems like a good motivator to save and earn to stash that cash.

 Got emergency fund?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Realistic Emergencies- Money not Guns and Gear and Buckets O Food

Recently I had an emergency. I didn't need my pocket rocket .380 or my trusty AR. Did not need buckets of rice and beans or body armor or night vision. Know what I needed, MONEY!

Our friend commander zero talked about this recently, well more or less. 

From losing jobs to surprise car repairs or medical problems or legal issues that require a lawyer the common denominator is these problems cost money. The way to solve them is with cash. Yes a bunch of food stashed is a good thing and can displace some expenses but good luck sending your landlord or bank 200 pounds of rice as payment!

One of the blind failures in survivalism and its hipper more politically correct brother preparedness is focusing too much on unlikely or outright fantasy (the classic grid down collapse apocalypse porn stuff) at the expense of failing to adequately prepare for much more likely real life events. 

Got Emergency Fund?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What To Do With Some Money?

If everything goes as it should I will have some money become liquid in the next month or so, between $15,000 and 20k. I am trying to figure out what to do with it. As such I am soliciting your input.

Ideas I have considered then discarded
-Beans, bullets and band aid's. I am relatively pretty good there. Of course these are always areas we are working to improve but I have a bunch of guns, cans full of ammo, literally tons of food, etc.
-Various medium to large sized prep items. FLIR, silencers, a nice rifle scope or two, etc. Will get many of these in time in due time but I can handle them (except FLIR) on a save for a couple months then buy type plan. I try hard to be smart with the occasional times I get a big chunk of cash.
-Buying a(nother) house. With my semi nomadic nature buying a place I planned to live where I am working is a lot more space than I need, plus the costs of buying/ selling as often as we move add up. Buying where I might live later would leave me as an absentee land lord for a long time. Also that would involve debt which I really don't like.
-Cash in the bank. I have an emergency fund and a vehicle replacement fund both in the bank now. Between the two that is as much exposure to that risk as I can tolerate. Still I included this in the poll on the right because it is a good 'figuring it out' short term option.

Ideas that remain with pro's and con's
-Buy land. Pro. BUG OUT SITE!!! Tangible and not going away. Will allow me to cache a bunch of stuff I have been hauling around. Like no BS I would set up a Terminator Cache!!!  Except technically a Terminator inspired cache as we should all know CONNEX's are only designed to take weight on the top corners not on the roof or sides so literally burying one would require bracing, probably via poured cement but I digress. Will give me a place I could go and live real cheap if I need to. Con. I am in the bottom end of this being feasible price wise. Fixes me to a location. As I move every 2-3 years that it is a bit more complicated than buying land 30 minutes from home. If I don't end up nearby when I settle down this could end up being a long distance thing which is not optimal.

-Buy gold/ silver. Pro. Inflation proof and (particularly silver) at pretty good prices these days. Transportable store of wealth. Con. Doesn't solve any problems for me. Also leaves me trying to physically store more assets and a higher percentage of my net worth. My risk, relative to my overall financial situation, of a catastrophic break in is already about at tolerance level now.
-Replace the soccer mom SUV. It is still running fine now but isn't getting any younger. I hope to get another year or 18 months out of it but am not totally sure that is realistic. Since I do not borrow money for vehicles this will be a major expense. Pro. Solves a significant financial/ life problem I have coming up. Con. This is the closest thing to a nest egg I have and using it for a short term (vehicles constantly need fixing/ replacing) problem seems penny wise and pound foolish. Used right I think this money could go a long way to setting me up in a decent spot. Also I feel like having the upcoming need to replace the vehicle will help me be disciplined in saving for that while I might not be so disciplined to put money back in the bank (or whatever) to replace what came out. Worst case if the vehicle I have now dies before I have the cash to replace it outright I could borrow from my emergency fund or get a loan for some of the money and pay it off in a hurry, which ever made the most sense.

-Something else I didn't mention?

My gut says if I can make it work land is the preferred option. 

Please vote in the poll on the left and leave your comments here.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Old Economy Steve

I saw the Old Economy Steve Meme last Friday at work. Spent more time than is reasonable looking at the thread. There were two distinct groups. The first is Generation Y AKA the Millennial generation born from roughly 1980-2000 (though the comments were from the older part) who are bitter about the economy they are coming to age in. The second group were Boomer's of whom most were replying to the Y's using various degrees of sarcasm and the rest were mentioning things haven't gone great for them over the last few years. Both sides have some room to complain.

Generation Y is coming up in a terrible economy. In particular college tuition as compared to wages or inflation or really any other measure has exploded. Finding a job, especially as a recent college grad is very difficult. With the current job market plenty of folks with experience are looking for jobs so why get a Newbie. It is really a terrible time to be young. We do have some very legitimate gripes. The bottom line is we are NOT going to have it as good as our parents. To have similar outcomes we are going to need to work harder, be better educated/ skilled and make wiser financial choices than they did. The American Dream is taking a downturn at best.

At the same time, despite what is happening around us, we cannot be absolved entirely of responsibility for the situations we find ourselves in. Things are hard but plenty of other generations and groups throughout history have had it hard. It sucks but we can do something about it or bitch. Folks who get crazy loans for silly degrees then cannot find a good job who choose to reside in LA or NYC where the cost of living is astronomical are going to have a rough go of it. I talked with a guy about this some years back. To some degree my generation bought into the idea that immediately after college we would have lifestyles equal to or what our parents had in their late 40's-early 50's at the peak of their earning power. Everybody who sold that pack of lies to us, though not with bad intentions, deserves some blame and we deserve a bunch for buying it. So the Soc Major's with massive student loans that cannot afford a sweet new car, a nice house, a fancy vacation every year and to invest like crazy can't really blame everybody else.

As to the Boomers. They did work hard for everything they have. Despite what the Generation Y folks making the memes think many Boomers are not doing very well. As a group they saved like they had defined benefits retirement plans while many do not. Instead of buying a small house and paying it off they moved to larger more expensive houses 2-3 times so close to retirement many have significant mortgages for homes that are under water. Some did very well indeed but many are approaching retirement age and serious problems. Also in the natural cycle of things (with most people) boomers have become fiscally conservative as they aged (well except for social security, medicare, and any other government program/ tax deduction that benefits them;). So sympathy for kids with student loan debt and a hard time finding a job are low on their list of concerns. Seeing a bunch of kids who expect to get everything right away probably grates on them something awful. (Heck I am in the same cohort as these folks and it grates on me)

The boomers did work hard but they had the advantage of coming into the workforce in a much better time. They inherited an awesome economy and on their watch it went down the toilet. Not saying it is entirely the boomer's fault; Europe rebuilding after WWII and being freed from Communism, Asia coming into the modern era, globalization at large and numerous other factors were involved. However the boomers certainly did not help things. Young people are, at least to some degree, reaping what their parents sewed and the picture is not pretty.

This article brought up the valid point that this meme can piss both Millenial's and Boomers off. That might mean it has some truth to it. Anyway I thought this whole thing was pretty interesting. Or maybe I just thought way too much about a funny online thing.

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. 

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.

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.

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 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, May 2, 2012

Biggest Wastes of Money in Preparedness

Lots of folks seem to feel the need to waste a ton of money on watches. You do not need a super seal swimmer watch or a Suunto or anything fancy and expensive. Here is a hint, the "cool guys" wear that stuff but largely because they have substantial budgets without a whole lot of oversight. A watch that is waterproof, tells time and has an alarm is all you need. If you spend a lot of time mountaineering and prefer to have an altimiter on your watch (vs GPS or another separate gadget) then I guess that makes sense but for a typical guy or gal all of these features are a huge waste of money. If you want a nice watch then get one but don't pretend it has anything to do with preparedness. I wear a timex and it works just fine.

The newest waste of money trend is "tactical pens". First let us look at the concept. The concept is that you can use this pen as a weapon, maybe in an area where better weapons like guns are verboden. This is just about the dumbest thing I have ever heard of. Seriously if you want to waste your money then send it to me. In the extremely limited circumstances where you have to fight somebody using a pen the important factors will be skill, violence of action, strength and then luck and somewhere after that the completely sub optimal improvised weapon in your hand. I really just don't think it is going to matter if you have a bic or a super tactical titanium fighting pen. If you are seriously worried about it buy the cheapest ballpoint pen you can find with a steel body, there is no need to spend a ton of money here.

Lastly knives are an ever present place to overspend. Between Gerber, Buck, Spyderco and Cold Steel (among others) there are so many high quality knives in the $35-75 range that you don't need to spend a ton of money. You could have a very nice collection of knives never spending more than $100 a knife. Even if you feel like being pretty fancy you could definitely stay under $200 a knife.
You are adults and it is your money so do whatever you want. I'm just saying that if you are hurting to figure out how to pay for gear these are some places you can have a pretty tight budget.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

This week we added more cash to our on hand emergency fund. A few weeks back we were trying to figure out what to do with some money, a rather decent problem to have I guess. Anyway we decided that where it would do the most good is at home with us.

Also I got some tuna pouches and granola bars for the get home bag I am working on. It is pretty much functional now though I do need to order a few things. Kinda holding off on buying anything until the Glock 19 mag deal is completed.
We organized and inventoried our medical and hygiene supplies. I am pretty happy with what we have got, especially considering most of it can't be shipped when we move back to the US. My one big take away is that we need to be more organized. I think there were 2 half empty bottle of cough syrup and 3 things of Ibuprophen that were being used. We shifted to one area for stuff we are using and another to store replacement's.

Also I tweeked my workout routine some. More on that once it is solidly underway.
Though not exactly traditional preparedness tasks we did get some good stuff done this week. What did you do to prepare this week?

Edited to include: This was supposed to post yesterday, I am not sure why it didn't.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just Do It

There is a saying in running that “the hardest part is putting your shoes on.” I go through it about every other time I run; it is wet/ cold/ windy/ hot and I am sore/ tired/ busy with work/ have lots of stuff to do so maybe it would be better to just run tomorrow instead. Most of the time my motivated side wins and I do in fact go running. About 95% of the time that is the right decision.

I am coming to see that most things are a lot like running in that regard. It is always easier to start dieting tomorrow, start saving next paycheck and go train at the range next weekend. Today you can have a double quarter pounder with cheese, this paycheck you can buy some junk and this weekend you can vegetate on the couch.

My advice is to just do it. Tomorrow/ next paycheck/ next weekend it isn’t going to be any easier.
Most of us are inherently lazy in our personal time. After a long day at work we just want to relax. However sometimes our current lazy side needs to take a back seat for the long term goals we have for ourselves. You will not be in better shape in a year if you don’t do anything different. If you don’t save you will keep living paycheck to paycheck. Why people keep doing the same thing and expecting different results is utterly beyond me. IIRC it is the definition of insanity.

While I gave some examples here and I do give advice in other posts telling you what to do is not my goal. Maybe you want to get better at long distance shooting and gardening or sewing and mechanical repair, or cooking with staple foods or whatever. My point is to start doing it. Don’t be that guy who buys the same “how to get 6 pack abs” edition of mens health  (versus the other two issues “how to get huge arms” and “how to add 40 pounds to your bench press this week”) and reads it to then eat a whole pizza and wash it down with a 6 pack. Be the guy who buys the magazine, starts eating reasonably and running, the guy who might actually trim down his stomach.

Don’t just sit around waiting for things to change, do it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Long View and Goals

In the areas of finances, physical fitness and all around preparedness taking a long view is essential. These are not things you can accomplish in a day or a week or even months. These are truly multi year journeys. Looking at them as anything less and either you have low standards or unrealistic expectations.

The biggest single thing with long view type improvements or journeys is consistence. You will do far better to make consistent, even modest efforts, than to start and stop and take a break over the summer and hunting season and then fizzle out for the winter. Over time consistent efforts really pay off. Think crock pot not microwave or industrial fryer.

I find having goals to be essential to keep myself accountable and measure progress. If you are not defining and measuring progress how will you even know what you are trying to do, let alone if you are doing it? An aimless country drive is nice but that is no way to go through life, at least if you want to accomplish anything.

So we need goals.
Goals are sort of like budgets in that they get a bad rap unjustly. It is important to remember that you, your spouse and your family set your own goals, not me and the other talking heads or experts or famous people or whatever.

Sometimes you decide a path is important and it leads to goals. Example you want to become a better runner so you decide that x, y and z are your goals. Other times you start with a goal and work backwards. Whichever works for you is fine.

Different people set goals differently. Some folks make low goals and regularly exceed them; other folks shoot for the moon and often come short but still accomplish a lot. I am in the middle towards the ambitious goal side. I choose goals that are realistically attainable given hard work and things working out well. I often fall a little short. Part of the reason I do this is that in terms of personal goal setting I often lose motivation when I get real close, it is good enough for me due to my lazy nature. So if I set the goal to work out 3 times a week for 30 minutes it could easily turn into 2 30 minute workouts or 3 20 minute workouts. However if I set the goal to work out for 4 times for 30 minutes I will probably average 3.3 a week for 25-30 minutes each. This is about knowing yourself and whatever mental tricks work for you.

Goals need to be specific enough to be measurable. Being “strong and in shape” is a good goal if you have defined what you mean by strong and what you mean by in shape. Ditto for “become a good shot” or “have storage food” or whatever. You need to be able to easily know if a goal is being met.

As one of my favorite bloggers said “the difference between a goal and a wish is a timeline.” The time component of goals is important because it is always easier to start tomorrow and it helps hold you accountable for progress toward your goal.

Here are a few common issues people have with goal setting and long term planning in general:
Goals and your training or plan to meet them need to be aligned. This should be common sense but in some areas, particularly fitness it is a common mistake. If your goals are to gain strength and explosive speed then doing calisthenics and long distance running exclusively your goal and training are not aligned. If you want to become a good defensive shooter going to the range 3x a year with your buddies to screw around isn’t going to get it done.

For goals which build on or are affected by something else you need to know where you are. It could be amounts of given items, weight, strength, conditioning or whatever. Without a recent accurate benchmark you are just guessing in terms of starting points. This is significant because it will let you know what end point you can get to with realistic progress. Dead lifting 400 next year is probably realistic if you did 365 last month. However if you did 365 a year ago and had an injury and a significant lapse in training so you now would actually max out closer to 315 it would probably not be realistic. In those situations you should reestablish a good max or inventory and go from there.

Look at a goal from a big picture perspective considering your other goals and obligations. Often you want to accomplish A-H and could do any of them in isolation but can only do 3 of them together given the other demands on your time and energy. Total amounts of money and time matter as a measure of how much stuff you can realistically do. Of the common issues we are discussing this is the one that I have the biggest problem with.

Resetting or adjusting goals is also worth discussion. Sometimes on the way to a goal we decide it is not important or that something else is more important. Other times life in the form of work or injuries or financial woes or other obligations gets in the way. This is part of life and not a particularly bad thing.

I would caution people, particularly for mid and long (let us say between next month and 2 years from now) term goals, against constantly changing things. If a goal or two drop off your list over the course of a year that is fine, of your list rewrites itself 4 times in the first quarter of a year something is not working. Either you are not putting sufficient thought into goals to choose ones that are important and meaningful to you or are not being realistic about what you can and will really do. In terms of my personal and preparedness goals I am getting better over the years it seems.

Fitness is the biggest area where this is a problem. Folks jump from program to program with different methodologies and goals always having unrealistically high expectations (every muscle magazine has the ‘”Get a 6 pack this week with 3 easy moves” or “add 40 pounds to your bench press this month”) and thinking the program sucks when it falls short. By constantly switching gears and programs these folks aren’t really getting anywhere and will be in the same place in a year. They would be better off finding any reasonably sane program that meshes with their goals and just doing it than always looking for the perfect one. To counter this I recommend a brief trial period and then sticking with it for a predetermined amount of time. Trying something for a week or two to see if you hate it and sticking with it for 3-6 months to see if you get results is probably a good plan. Obviously if you have a significant life change or injury things change but you aren’t going to move on to the next big new workout until the end of the time frame.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stay At Home Mothers

A girl I know that just had kiddo #2 brought up the idea of staying at home with them.  That got me thinking and talking about this topic. I thought an update might interest some of you.

In case you didn’t know Wifey has been at home with the kid since he was born. It has worked pretty well for us and while he drives her crazy occasionally she likes it. We know what he eats for meals, because she feeds it to him. We know if he hit his head, because she was there. No worries about him being abused or neglected or whatever else happens in daycare. There is lots of one on one time to play and try to teach him words and all that stuff. Studies consistently show that a stay at home mother is the best situation for a kid’s development and all that stuff. I don’t think anybody will seriously argue against that point.

So far it has turned out to be a very good decision for her to stay at home with him and I don’t see a reason that would change. Mothers staying at home and raising their kids has been, as of the last few decades, going the way of the Dodo bird. I don’t know why exactly.

There are two fundamental questions when it comes to momma staying at home with the kids. The first question is does momma want to stay at home with the kids and where dad is with the whole thing. A simple enough question really. The best part is that there is not a right or wrong answer. Some women have interests and goals outside of the home and that is fine too. While the women’s lib fantasy that a woman can have a big important career and balance a marriage and children could be debated it doesn’t matter. If she wants to work then that is just fine, I’m not the Taliban.

The second question is whether the family can make the numbers work to afford for momma to stay at home. This is a more complicated one and will be addressed at more length. For momma to stay at home the family needs to live off what dad makes. To back up a second this means dad needs to be in the picture and that there is a cohesive family unit which today is sadly not a given. This is one of those things that is simple but not easy, sort of like how the way to lose weight is to eat less. This is really where the hypothetical meets real life. 
To paraphrase Ronnie Coleman, a champion body builder, “Everybody wants to be strong, but they don’t want to lift the weight.” Lots of folks talk about staying at home with kids but it doesn’t happen. The reason is that with only one income you will not be able to do what you could if both partners were working, especially if both are capable of more than menial labor. To say it another way; living on one income means a more modest lifestyle than you could otherwise have. For a lot of people that is a hard pill to swallow.

Personally I don’t really mind it. I have run the numbers on what we would be able to save and invest and otherwise do if Wifey worked and they were pretty attention grabbing. However it is not worth it to me. I certainly wouldn’t mind a nicer vehicle or whatever but at the end of the day it is just stuff. How much do some bigger numbers in some electronic accounts really matter?

 For other folks the math simply doesn’t work. That is a more complicated discussion. Sometimes it just doesn’t, especially if Dad is a part time non union janitor or works for minimum wage. Unless you are willing to live REAL CHEAP that won’t work. However I would say if he is making more than 30-40k or so a year (or course cost of living is a factor, 30k in Manhattan, Kansas is a lot different from Manhattan, New York) income probably isn’t the whole issue.  What gets a lot of folks stuck is that they have a debt load which can’t be covered by one income. It could vary from rent/ mortgage to credit cards and vehicles or whatever which just can’t work with one wage earner. This is yet another reason to stay out of debt. You can radically change spending habits tomorrow should the need arise, it sucks to go from steak and lobster to spaghetti or rice and beans but it can be done. However money that has been promised is baring default, not an expense you can change. This is, more than most folks will admit, the reason the numbers just don’t work. Either they can’t drop their living expenses due to it being locked in obligations or they choose not to for whatever reason.
When I hear folks say it is impossible to have a parent stay home with the kids I want to ask what their cars are, what sort of toys they have and where they went on vacation last. The answer is that yes, it may well be impossible to buy a nice new car or two every couple years, have their toys and vacations on just one of their salaries. However all that stuff is a choice, not a given. I am not sure if they are unwilling or don’t even consider it but usually the answer is that yes, they could afford for her to stay home if they changed their lifestyle.

On the plus side having a wife at home helps with expenses or at least it can. Home cooked meals instead of eating out all the time, stuff like that. The possibility of having one car or an older one that will just go to the grocery store, etc is legitimate. She doesn’t need professional clothes or have those types of expenses. One of the biggest places a second income goes is daycare. Daycare for two or more kids adds up in a hurry. The bitter irony is many wives are working for a tiny salary once daycare is considered. Their real take home is just a few hundred dollars. I would submit to them that cutting that amount from their budget is pretty doable should they be so inclined.

I don’t want to get anybody down or poke at however you choose to live your life. You are free to make whatever choices you want.  All I want is for folks to know that having mom stay at home with the kids is quite possible if they are willing to make a few sacrifices. It is quite worth it to us and Wifey will stay at home until the kids (planning on getting Walker a battle buddy) are in school then she will likely start some sort of job.

Monday, January 9, 2012


The concept of student loan repayment forgiveness as a public program fills me with rage. I have talked about this before so there is no need to rehash it in full. It doesn’t bother me that for a year we put a huge amount (something like 1/3rd) of my wages toward paying off my loan. We decided that instead of making normal payments forever we would knock it out and of course I borrowed it so paying it back is only fair. However that some folks should get a pass because they borrowed a lot will have a hard time and (probably in part due to degrees in underwater basket weaving and gay transgender Eskimo studies) paying it back seems insane to me. We could debate the politics and economics of higher education all day long but if you borrow money you should pay it back. A guy who makes $25k a year and was stupid enough to borrow 40k for a big shiny truck shouldn’t get a pass anymore than someone who goes to an expensive private school and gets a degree which tends to pay poorly. Hint; don’t borrow a ton of money to go to a private school and study communications or education or sociology. If you want to go into those fields I recommend a much more reasonably priced public school.

Also the topic of mortgage write downs came up again somewhere. That might fill me with even more rage. The reason why is simple. I haven’t bought a house yet, dun dun dun, because I couldn’t afford it. Sure I could make the mortgage but I didn’t have any savings, let alone a down payment. Idiots and hopeful fools who made bad choices I was smart enough to avoid should not be rewarded. However if it is any conciliation to me I don’t see this one happening. It is clear to me that the trend is to hook up the banks at the expense of the people, not the other way around.

It pisses me off when we bail out individuals or companies who make stupid choices. Here is an n unavoidable truth, people learn from stupid choices by suffering their consequences. A person who makes stupid choices and feels the consequences stands (assuming he doesn’t blame everybody else) a good chance of learning a thing or two and just maybe making better decisions in the future. If we bail these idiots out they will not learn how to make good choices. Also there is significant risk that we are telling a whole other group of up and coming idiots to go ahead and be idiots as the government has got their stupid back.
Both of these things make we want to start a fire bombing campaign to show my displeasure. I don’t even know who I want to firebomb, I am just really angry.

On the bright side I had a really good talk with Wifey today which as always, helped turn down the burner under the boiling pot that is my rage. She pointed out that we can take a good amount of pride in knowing that we are doing the right thing. Also that in years to come (these programs come and go, woe is a person or a business who is only viable because of a government subsidy or tax deduction) we will be fine and able to take care of ourselves because that is the sort of people we are.

Note, this article is about a month old. I am trying to clean out my writing folder a bit.

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, November 19, 2011

Leveraging Experts

One thing that has worked very well for me in life is seeking out and taking the advice of experts in various fields. I would not be where I am in numerous areas without these folks. I have been able to get new ideas, bounce my plans and ideas off of them and generally leverage their experience in a certain field to my benefit.  There are folks I talk to about money, folks I talk to about tools or home repair or computer stuff or taxes. Some are friends, family or neighbors and others are in a more professional capacity.

It goes without saying that these folks excel, at least relatively, in the area in which I seek their guidance. The person I consult on financial stuff is loaded (despite never having a massive salary), and the guy I listen to on strength stuff is really strong, the guys I listen to on defensive stuff are folks I really would not want to fight. Get the idea?

It never ceases to amaze me when people look to someone else who is not good (or great) at something for advice. How some somebody going to help you get good at something when they are not excelling in that area? Maybe more significantly why in heavens name would you listen to them? A friend of mine used to always try and give me financial advice. His history read much more like a cautionary tale than a financial success, I wasn’t rude but I certainly didn’t follow it! When fat people try to give me diet advice I have to bite my tongue or leave to avoid openly mocking them.

In recent years the internet was really democratized information. Instead of just being able to talk to people you personally know or buying a book you can (via blogs and websites and forums) hear the opinions of all sorts of people. Want to hear a 40 year old mom from Peduke, Iowa’s opinions on finances or a 23 year old guy from California’s thoughts on weight training? You can do that.

The big issue with this wealth of information is that there are a bunch of totally unqualified people giving advice which is often wrong or misleading or even dangerous. (Yeah it is ironic that I write this on my blog) Total beginners giving other beginners advice is a huge problem, particularly in forums. All sorts of massive problems stem from this.

So how do we sift the wheat from the chaff? The first thing I can say is to really listen to people, especially when they talk about themselves. I have found that most people are generally honest online (at least on forums and blogs that are based around specific things like fitness, self defense, guns, finances, etc) and the ones who aren’t are so stupid it is easy to tell. It isn’t beginners portraying their selves as something else and other beginners following their lead; it is self described beginners giving their opinion and other beginners taking it. It is worth noting that I do frequent numerous blogs and am on a couple forums now and then. I find them useful. I tend to lean toward paying more attention to concrete individual reviews, reports or experiences than people’s broad ideas. How easy is it to make this modification or does this product suck sort of things. A guy who has put this pouch onto that chest rig and had issues is talking about something he personally experienced. I don’t care what he thinks is a perfect load out rig or zombie killing gun.  Often I will find someone else has already asked a question and gotten it answered or I can find something similar. The best is when I find something a few months old where one person gave another advice and they had time to try it and come back and say how it worked.

Also educating yourself on a topic through a variety of resources which you know are legitimate. I have found that with some basic knowledge in an area I can smell bad ideas and BS in a given area easily. Certainly long before I fully understand the topic or have mastered it. Do however beware of confirmation bias which is where we seek out experts whose ideas totally mesh with the ones we have which makes them validate our original beliefs, sort of “yes experts” if you will.

Do you leverage experts in your life? If not I would consider it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How To Pay For All This Stuff

Survivalism and preparedness (it’s friendly, better spoken non camouflage wearing cousin) involve a lot of stuff. Even if you take a relatively middle of the road view you are talking about all kinds of gear, several firearms with lots of mags, ammo and spare parts, a bunch of stocked fuel and lots and lots of food. How do you pay for all this stuff?

Well the first and least socially acceptable solution is to have a real job that earns a decent living. It is not socially acceptable because Americans have this weird taboo about talking money. We have our middle class myth and are sticking to it. If you make the choice to get a job with an average or above average income you get some flexibility; more flexibility than say, being a part time employee at Walmart.

The next option is to live simply. Some of the most well prepared individuals I know earn average, or slightly below average incomes. However they do not buy new cars all the time or live in huge extravagant houses or always have new newest consumer electronics. They tend to shop sales and forgo a lot of consumer trappings. By living below their means they can afford things they could not otherwise.

Next comes prioritization. When something is important to you it is amazing how much more likely it is to happen. Pick up side work, go out and hustle (not illegal stuff but side work, deals, etc), scrimp and save. There are numerous times I have bought the next important item on my list with a wad of wrinkled fives and tens I saved over a period of months. I saved that cash by working more and doing without all sort of small things or substituting cheaper items (going to Jack in the Box instead of someplace nicer, etc).

Lastly be sure to take a long view. Like building physical fitness or financial health preparedness is a true multiyear effort. Unless you are truly wealthy and dedicated getting all of the “stuff” is going to take time.
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