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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Getting Your Finances In Order

Re-post courtesy of Matthiasj from Kentucky Preppers Network

Running a strict budget could be THE most important part of living a frugal/preparedness-minded lifestyle. The goal is to save money, prep like hell, and cut out all the waste. I follow a mainly cash only budget plan modeled after the advice Dave Ramsey gives. The idea is that you use cash all you can, which allows you to physically see your money leave. It's a lot harder to spend cash than to swipe a card.

The first step to getting your budget set up is to figure out your monthly income. No matter how large or how small your income is a budget WILL benefit you. Next you need to map out all your expenses. This includes everything from your cell phone bill, to your water bill, to grabbing a cheeseburger at McDonald's. *Warning: Once your expenses are mapped out you might be surprised to see all the waste.

After every monthly expense is mapped out they need to be categorized. There are two expense categories; committed expenses and non-committed expenses. Committed expenses are your monthly bills that you couldn't "live without." This doesn't include monthly trips to the salon or a case of beer every Saturday. Although it would include you’re electricity bill, water bill, grocery bill, and insurance. Non-committed expenses would be eating out, vehicle maintenance, purchasing clothes or other non-essential items. *I say clothes are non-essential because most of us have a closet FULL and don't need anymore.

At this point your jaw should drop when you realize all the money you waste in any given month. From eating out to "junk" purchases. Even the little things add up from a coke at work to a snack on your break. Look at all the waste and pledge to remove it. Stop eating out, stop buying more junk that you already have, and cut down on your bills. Television is a huge waste and who watches that junk? There are endless amounts of commercial free TV on the web. Keep your internet, ditch the TV.

Your committed expenses need to be broken down to a weekly or bi-weekly figure (however you get paid). So each paycheck before anything is spent or saved the money for that week's committed expenses gets taken out. Then remove your savings. The amount you save from each paycheck is up to you, but even if it is only $1 a day, GET IN THE HABIT OF SAVING. I would suggest saving most of the money outside of your committed expenses (assuming those are the bare minimum). Before starting your savings account an Emergency Fund must be established.

Your emergency fund is your "rainy day" fund. It's there when things come up unexpected. This allows you to take care of it without dipping into money for bills or savings. You would use your emergency fund if your car broke down and needed repairs, home repairs, or medical care. The amount in your emergency fund is up to you. I suggest keeping it in cash and at least $2000 especially for families. This would cover most vehicle issues and other things. Take the money you are planning to save each week and put that towards your Emergency Fund. Once it’s where you want it, then put that same amount to the savings account to build it up. *I would suggest working towards a goal of having 3 months wages in your savings account.

So the concept is simple, as soon as you get paid take out your committed expenses (bills & food) and the majority of the rest save. It's okay to have a little fun money or Over Budget money. Over Budget money is used if you want to go out and eat, buy a video game or something outside of the normal budget. Make sure the over budget money is a small amount so that you don’t overdo it. This is your main source of spending money so spend it wisely and keep it at a minimum.

The committed expenses need to be separated into the payment type. I pay most of my bills online with my card, which is fine. Only use your checking account and debit card for this purpose. Keep just enough in the account (adding from each paycheck) to pay the bills when they're due. All bills that you can't pay with a card take the cash out as soon as you’re paid.

The bills to pay with cash need to be kept in an envelope. Each envelope labeled with the type of bill. When the cash is withdrawn after payday, put it in the envelope and don't touch it. This way, if you're monthly electric bill is $100, and you get paid weekly; put $25 cash each week into the envelope and at the end of the month pay it. This doesn't affect your bank account, savings account, or over budget money. And that's the beauty of it. You don't have to worry about paying bills because the money is there.

Click here to see a sample budget chart

*This is assuming you have little to no debt. If you have any debt, you're best plan of action is to cut everywhere you can and get out of it quick. Buckle down and spend every extra penny on paying down the debt. Pay down your biggest payment first. Then use that money to pay on the next biggest payment; and so on.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to Make a Laser Mag-Lite

Re-post courtesy of Matthiasj from Kentucky Preppers Network

Here is a really cool video on how to make a laser flashlight. It shows you how to turn an ordinary mini Mag-Lite into a powerful laser beam. This laser is so powerful that it can light a match, pop a balloon or light a fuse. It might not be the "perfect" survival tool because it's questionable as to how long the batteries would last but for a quick fire starter this should be able to light any tinder you have. Watch the video for the parts list and instructions. If I can get a cheap DVD burner I'm going to give this a try!

**Caution: This is a very powerful laser and WILL burn your skin. Keep the laser away from your skin and any animals skin. NEVER point into ANYONE'S eyes, this will cause permanent damage.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Prolong the Life of your Automobile Part 1

Re-post courtesy of Matthiasj from Kentucky Preppers Network

To me prepping has become a hobby. I look at life and the world totally different since I started prepping. Prepping is a mindset or even a way of life; it's not just putting some canned goods and batteries into storage (not that doing this would be a bad thing). Taking care of your vehicle falls right into place with the prepper mindset. You must prepare for potential vehicular problems, and not only keep a good Car Emergency Kit, you must practice preventative maintenance on your vehicle to prolong the life of it.

It's important to follow your vehicle's specific maintenance schedule. The following information is generic and would apply to any vehicle. Performing your own maintenance can be rewarding and a lot cheaper than paying for it. If you do see a problem, consult with a mechanic about getting the problem fixed before it becomes a big issue. Never let something go. Always keep your vehicle in top running condition.

Here is a list of items you should check each month. Set aside a couple hours once a month to go over each item to make sure the basics are working properly.
1. Check the Engine & Ground for Fluid Leaks
2. Test Heater & Air Conditioning
3. Check Wiper Blades (Make sure the blades are in good shape, and function properly)
4. Check Headlights (High Beam & Low Beam)
5. Check Fog or Driving Lights
6. Check Turn Signals (Front & Back)
7. Check Hazard Lights (Front & Back)
8. Test Door Locks on All Doors
9. Inspect Windshield for Chips or Cracks
10. Test each Window (If Power Windows Check Each Switch)
11. Test Door Locks (If Power Locks Check Each Switch)
12. Check Radio & Make Sure Each Speaker Plays
13. Test Horn
14. Verify that you have your proper information in the glove box and the information is up to date (Proof of Insurance & Registration)

Every 3,000 miles or 90 days you want to perform these tasks:
1. Change Engine Oil & Filter
2. Check All Engine Fluids (Coolant, Power Steering Fluid, Brake Fluid, Windshield Washer Fluid, Transmission Fluid)
3. Check Tire Pressure & Tire Tread
4. Check All Belts for Cracks or Fraying
5. Check All Hoses for Leaks or Bulges
6. Lubricate Grease Fittings (Where Applicable)

Even if you have no idea about how to work on a car these tasks are simple and can be performed in your driveway. By doing this you WILL prolong the life of your vehicle and help to ensure that these problems don't pop up when you're on the road. If any one of these things that you check are not functioning properly it is time to fix it yourself, or take it to someone you trust to fix it. I will continue this series with more information about how to prolong the life of your automobile in the future.

*Disclaimer: Always consult your service manual for exact maintenance procedures. If you are uncomfortable with performing the maintenance yourself, contact a trusted mechanic to do the work.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Simple Survival Tips - Winter Hazards for Pets - Antifreeze

Re-post courtesy of Riverwalker from Stealth Survival

Antifreeze, also known as ethylene glycol, can be a potential problem for your pets in the winter. Cats and dogs are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze. They will usually not hesitate to sample some if it is left out in a container or spilled on the garage floor, carport or driveway of your home.

Antifreeze is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Antifreeze is rapidly absorbed into their system and it has a high mortality rate if not treated very quickly. The initial signs of antifreeze poisoning usually appear within one hour after being ingested.

There are also other sources of this deadly chemical. Heat exchange fluids (sometimes used in solar collectors for heating water), some brake and transmissions fluids and diethylene glycol which is used in color film processing are just a few.

Usually within 12 hours of ingestion, acute cases of antifreeze poisoning pets often exhibit symptoms resembling alcohol intoxication. The signs include stumbling, vomiting and depression. The kidneys are the most severely affected part of their bodies. Even if the animal seems to show signs of initial improvement after treatment, they may succumb shortly afterwards as a result of kidney failure. When the kidneys shut down, your dog or cat will be unable to produce urine.

This type of kidney failure usually happens within 12 to 24 hours after being ingested by cats and within 36 to 72 hours after being ingested by dogs. Successful treatment is entirely dependent upon a quick response by you when ingestion of antifreeze by your pet is suspected.

If you suspect that your animal has come into contact with antifreeze and may have ingested it, contact your veterinarian immediately.

A safe alternative to ethylene glycol antifreeze is available. It is called propylene glycol, and while it does cost more than “regular” antifreeze, it may be worth the extra piece of mind it will give you knowing that your pets will be safe.

Staying above the water line!

Pennsylvania Prepper sNetwork Est. Jan 17, 2009 All contributed articles owned and protected by their respective authors and protected by their copyright. Pennsylvania Preppers Network is a trademark protected by American Preppers Network Inc. All rights reserved. No content or articles may be reproduced without explicit written permission.