Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April Preparedness Tally

What did you do to increase or manage your preparedness in April?  We did a few things, didn't get to a few others.

I made a target for my compound bow with a bale of wood shavings and hand-stitched a burlap cover. Didn't get any practice due to an injured left elbow.  If you haven't looked into a reasonably-priced bow, or made one yourself (saw a video re: making one from PVC pipes -- it was a nice bow), it is a very frugal alternative to some types of firearms.  No, don't keep a bow under your pillow to defend against intruders, but for areas where it isn't safe to use a varmint gun, a bow may work.  Reloading your ammo is a lot faster, too!
We organized and rotated some food storage, checked and reorganized meds in the first aid/med bags, and ended up with some extra firewood when the big tree came down. By the time we need heat, it should be a dry enough. Nice to have a little something back for what the tree work cost!

Also tended the fruit trees -- thinned the apples, fertilized the serviceberries and pulled weeds from the Jerusalem artichoke patch.  Next month is canning time for currant and serviceberry jams, so rotated my pectin to use the older stuff next.

Also got a new tooth after breaking one. Don't forget to keep up with your dental care. Having a bad tooth in an emergency situation can be debilitating. If you need care and can't afford it, check with your dentist to see if they have a sliding scale or do any free work.  There are also websites for free dental care foundations and programs.

Did a few other things that we don't post on the blog, but it was a productive month. 

What did you do in April? Any new frugal tips to share?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Great Product: Orange Drink Beverage Mix

I'm really impressed with the Orange Drink mix (beverage product) from Emergency Essentials.  No, it doesn't taste like fresh orange juice.  It does taste good though -- refreshing without any weird aftertaste.  Better than Tang for sure! You can also make a good gelatin desert with it using plain gelatin and adjusting the strength of the mix and water.  So that's the palatability part of my review.

Here's the best part. The FORTIFIED name on the can means it has lots of nutrients in it.  Take a look at those vitamins and minerals. Many of these are needed in stressful situations or emergencies. If you are using the Food Storage Analyzer and are frustrated with your inability to balance some of the nutrients, add a can of the Orange Drink Mix. You'll be surprised by the changes!

If you still aren't sure that you want to add this to your long-term storage until you try it, or just want a smaller size because you keep only a few days of food storage, try the MY CHOICE size.  One MY CHOICE can holds 28 ounces of beverage powder, which should make 27  8-ounce servings.

Yes, I have some of this in my emergency food supplies.

Two other drink mix flavors are also available, peach and apple.  I tasted the apple drink at one of the Emergency Essentials stores on my trip through Utah and it's also very good.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Frugality versus Deprivation

There is a meaningful difference between frugality and deprivation. Frugality is about having what you need, and some of what you want but may not need, at a cost that is within your means.  Deprivation, especially self-deprivation, is about not allowing yourself to have something that is not harmful to you, that you need or reasonably want even if you can afford it. I am not talking about purposeful spiritual or religious deprivation that serves a developmental role in our spiritual growth, such as fasting or giving up chocolate for Lent.  Frugality is a lifestyle.  Deprivation as a monetary lifestyle could be a form of self-punishment and can become a mental or spiritual illness.

Here's an example of frugality: My Dear Husband likes a particular type of shampoo. I bought a 13.5 ounce bottle of it at Target for just under $11.00 (79 cents per ounce).   Soon after I bought that, which fits well in our shower caddy, I found the 33.8 ounce bottles of the exact same stuff at Marshall's for $9.99 (30 cents per ounce).  My DH doesn't care whether I manage my budget to spend 79 or 30 cents an ounce on the shampoo as long as he has what he prefers.  So I refill the smaller bottle from the less expensive stock and save or re-purpose the other 49 cents an ounce. That's being frugal.

 Same scenario, deprivation might look like substituting a cheaper shampoo (that DH does not like) to save money whether we can afford the green shampoo or not. The rationale may be fear of not being able to afford something else in the future (usually vague not specific), or a notion of some stigma from using a product normally enjoyed by someone of a higher socioeconomic status, or some other idea that I can't even imaging because I try hard not to be crazy. On top of the false economy, I would also invite annoyance from my husband for providing him with a bad substitute for something he specifically asked me to buy for him and can afford, so I would feel bad twice.  This is the area when frugality begins to slide into a mental illness of deprivation.  Specifically, doing something with your money that punishes you for no logical reason. Deprivation can also look like overspending on many small things you don't need (or don't need in a reasonable timeframe), which deprives you of more expensive things you do need.

Where I'm going with this is that frugality can be tricky.  Being prepared can also be tricky.  When preparing starts to take up so much space in your home that you can't live your daily life, it's a problem.  When you have a year's supply of soap and toothpaste and you keep buying it instead of the next item on your list, you may be stuck somehow. When frugality becomes self or family deprivation, it's time for some help. Surprisingly, one of the best sources of help is Debtors Anonymous.  You may respond with "But I'm not in debt!"  You may be in debt to yourself. You may not owe anyone any money, but if you are depriving yourself or your family of the reasonably affordable fullness of life or spiritual peace because of your practices with money -- including how you're earning, saving or spending it, you may want to try a meeting or two.  It may change your life.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lessons learned about contracting for work

Sincere apologies, but have been out of town waiting for tree-trimmers.  I can share my lessons about frugality and tree trimming!  We had a large nasty tree near our property line.  It is a fast-growing Siberian elm, a species planted by many of the early settlers in the southwest because they grow fast and are drought tolerant.  They are also just plain nasty. They contract bacterial infections and rot internally.  They have elm leaf beetle infestations that literally rain bug poo from the trees. In their defense, they provide lots of shade.

The large elm, about 4 feet in diameter at the base and probably 65 feet tall, was an accident waiting to happen.  The previous trimmers left too much weight up high in the tree (another lesson learned for me).  As a result, it was poised to crash down on my neighbor's home in a high wind, potentially killing them in their sleep. Not good for sooo many reasons, including that they run the only regularly open cafe for a 20 mile radius. For the good of the local economy, I usually would have locals do my tree trimming.  Due to the size and location of the tree, I wanted a licensed, bonded company to do the work.  Better to let them use their insurance if they dropped the tree on the neighbor's house!

I started requesting estimates last November. The town is a smidge remote, but the first guy took 6 weeks and came back with a stunning estimate of $13,000. Having had similar work done before, I knew that was at least 400% too high.  The next guy provided a $1200 estimate for the same work. Probably too low, but if the final bill was twice that, it was still a deal.  SOLD.

Went to the location a few days ahead of their arrival date to prepare the yard for the impending trauma. Got a message that they were having equipment problems and would be a day late.  A day turned into a week, but they finally arrived.  The crew was great.  They worked neatly and efficiently, one man in the air with a chainsaw (bucket truck on a 60 foot boom) and the other 2 hauled the trimmings for a chipper/shredder. They were careful to check with me re: which branches to cut, where I wanted the mulch piles, etc..  The man in the bucket was nice about not dropping chunks of tree on other trees or structure roofs.
Overall I was very pleased with the work, despite getting the unplanned extra week of 'vacation.'  There are a few things that I will pass a long:
1. Decide what your potential liabilities are before you make the decision to do it yourself or pay someone else to do work.  The more dangerous the job, the wiser it is to hire experts.
2.  If the problem requiring the work potentially endangers the lives of others, start early to get the problem taken care of. 
3. Where possible, ask for several estimates from different providers at the same time.  The first guy I asked for an estimate knew I wanted the work done in February and dragged his feet thinking I'd accept his insane price because he had me in some time crunch. I really didn't want to wait until April, but wasn't willing to pay a 95% premium to the bum.
4. Hire licensed, bonded companies for dangerous work. If not, YOU are the employer and may end up paying for worker's compensation or the neighbor's house if YOUR employee goofs up. It may cost you an extra few hundred, but it may save you tens of thousands.

Bottom line:  It is always more frugal to pay a bit more to get something done right than to lose everything to save a few bucks.