February 2023

Photo credit: Jim Cobb
Location: Lower Springs Park, Delavan, WI

Focus of the Month – Food Storage

Reading Recommendations:
Non-fiction book – The Urban Prepper’s Guide by Jim Cobb
Fiction book — Locker Nine by Franklin Horton
Focus of the Month – Money Management

Budgeting and money management is absolutely a survival skill, and one that far too few people learn how to do properly. For many folks, a sudden, unexpected bill of just $200 will throw their entire household budget out of whack and cause a potentially catastrophic ripple effect. The tips this month aren’t going to undo a lifetime of problems, but they’ll get you moving in the right direction. The biggest takeaway is to do everything you can to live within your means and to get out of debt and stay there.

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Our non-fiction book of the month is The Urban Prepper’s Guide by, well, me. Don’t let the title trip you up, pretty much everything covered in this book is perfectly suitable no matter where you live. It is lavishly illustrated and goes over everything from the survival mindset to storing supplies and more. While the focus is mostly on hunkering down at home, it also discusses preparing to evacuate, just in case.

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Locker Nine is a companion series to The Borrowed World, both by Franklin Horton. They take place in the same “world” I guess you’d say. This story features a young woman named Grace who was raised by her father to be ready for anything. Toward the end of her freshman year of college, a series of terrorist attacks throws the country into chaos. Grace called her dad to see what she should do, and just before their conversation is cut off, he reminds her about the key he gave her, that she’s worn around her neck ever since.

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February 1 – Setting Up a Household Budget

This isn’t a fun project, and it is going to take a fair amount of work to do it properly. But, if you can set up and follow a reasonable budget, you’ll be in a position to improve your financial situation, rather than just relying on the hope and pray approach. You need to have a good handle on where you stand right now in order to plot a course forward.

At the core, a budget is simply a plan for how you’re going to use your money. Some people like to use a notebook and pencil for this, others prefer a spreadsheet or some other computer-aided method. Use whatever you feel most comfortable with, and recognize that the budget is going to be a work in progress.

Start by accounting for every bit of reliable income for the month. This includes your regular job(s) as well as side hustles. Anything that brings you money on a regular basis should be included. This is a household budget, so be sure to include what comes in from all family members who chip in to help pay the bills.

Next, you need to determine all of the money that has to go out regularly. Make a list of all of your monthly bills, including utilities, credit card payments, and rent/mortgage. Some of the expenses will need to be estimated or averaged, like groceries or gas for the car.

When it comes to personal spending, such as entertainment, fast food, and the like, you could probably come up with reasonable estimates by looking at your bank statements. However, it might serve you better to track every nickel you spend over the course of a couple of weeks. Every cup of coffee, every vending machine candy bar, every single penny you spend out of pocket gets written down. You might be surprised how much you’re spending without even realizing it. Either way, add those expenses to the list.

When you subtract your total expenses from your income, hopefully you have a positive number. If you don’t, then you need to find ways to trim expenses, bring in extra income, or both.

When it comes to reducing expenses, credit cards and other finite accounts are where you can make a real impact. I recommend what’s called the Snowball Method. This concept has been around for decades. I can remember my folks using it back in the 1980s. On paper, it is really easy. In practice, it takes a little effort.

Make a list of all of your credit cards and loans. Pick the one that has the smallest balance and put as much money toward that bill every month, while still making the minimum due payments on everything else. When that bill is paid off, put that money toward the next lowest balance, and so on. It won’t happen overnight, but if you can stick with this plan and avoid increasing the balance on the other accounts, you’ll get out of debt sooner rather than later.

There might be simple things you can to do bring in a good-sized lump sum of money that you can then use to retire one or more debts. While my wife and I have never done really well with them, rummage sales can be profitable for many people. Selling through Facebook Marketplace or eBay can bring in some extra cash, too, though the latter does incur some fees.

The other area where you can trim is personal spending. If you’re able to cut down on your entertainment expenses temporarily, you can use that money to pay off other bills. I’m not suggestion you forgo any and all fun. But, if you can go without Netflix for six months and add that $60 to money from a rummage sale to pay off your Kohls charge completely, it might be worth the sacrifice.

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February 7 – The Death File

Despite our best intentions, not one of us gets out of life alive. Anyone who has gone through the loss of a parent or spouse will tell you that few people take the time to properly plan for their eventual demise. That leaves the surviving family and other loved ones to try and pick up the pieces.

A better approach is to set up a Death File, which contains not only your last wishes, but forms and other documents your family may need.

Here’s how to do it.

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February 13 – Wilderness Survival Kit

There are a few things that you should carry with you any time you head out on the trail. The idea isn’t that you’ll be able to live off the land for days on end. Rather, these bits of gear can keep you safe until you’re able to self-rescue or find help. There are two articles that will help in this regard.

Wilderness Survival Kit
The Ten Essentials

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February 21 – Sprouts

Sprouts are incredibly high in nutrients. They’re also pretty easy to grow, even if you live in a small space. There’s a fairly large range of seeds and beans you can grow for sprouts, but most people prefer the milder flavors of mung beans, alfalfa, and clover.

You can buy a special seed sprouting tray like this one, but really all you need is a clear glass jar.

Rinse your seeds in clear water, then put them into the jar and soak them overnight. The next day, drain the water (use it in the garden or something so it doesn’t just go to waste). Keep the seeds moist by rinsing and draining the water two or three times a day. Avoid putting the jar in directly sunlight, but keep it in a location where it will get light regularly, such as a kitchen counter. In three to five days, you should see sprouts coming up.

You can add sprouts to salads or sandwiches, or just eat them as a side dish. This is an easy way to add nutrition to a bland diet, and they can be pretty tasty, too.