30-Day’s Cash

How much cash does a person need to survive a month of no income? While we cannot plan for every emergency, we can give ourselves a safety net that will give us a little peace of mind. If you were to lose your job for some reason, you would have at least one month to find work or retrain. Here are some things to take into account when planning your 30 day emergency fund.

Gas

What if gas prices are high? How far would a tank of gas get you? What if gas prices rose to twice what they are now?

Currency

What kind of currency will you need? Precious metals may ride out any fluctuations in the dollar value but what happens when it comes to paying? It is a good idea to have your cash in small bills and some coins. If you have nothing but hundred-dollar bills and there is no way to get change then you may be forced to pay a hundred dollars for something that only costs a few bucks.

Emergencies

What unexpected problems might eat up your cash, like car trouble, medical problems, or plumbing disasters? It is impossible to know whether it will be minor or devastating, but a few hundred bucks already set aside is a great blessing whatever happens. You will be glad you did.

Food

How much do you spend per month on food? Such a time would certainly demand that you cut down on outings and pizza nights. However, just because the future is bleak doesn’t mean you’ll have to boil leather either. You need good nourishment, especially in stressful situations. Save enough to be able to eat well and even have a few comfort foods.

Though this article is focused on money, I should mention that in addition to your financial reserve you need an actual storage of food. Stocking up now gives you the freedom to find foods on sale or wait for case lot sales. We cannot hope that food will be cheap when we need it most. The same goes for fuel and clothing.

Season

You never know what time of the year you may need to pull out the emergency fund. What difference is there in your expenses during the winter vs. summer? Imagine an exceptionally cold winter. The cost to heat your house could rise outside the planned budget, which could throw your whole budget out of proportion.

Education

What if you had to get some kind of training to be able to work again? A mechanic from fifty years ago would have a hard time finding work in these days of computerized cars and alternative fuels. Who knows what new of technological advances might render your marketable skills cheap or useless? Statistics show that the average person changes jobs seven times in their lifetime. The odds are not in our favor that our current employment will last us our lifetime. Things happen and times change. At the very least, you should expect to have to upgrade your skills. 

Security

Another issue to plan for is where you are going to keep all this cash. The logical place would be the bank. What happens if your bank shuts down for some reason? (Insert a few examples) The alternative would be keeping it in your home. Obviously, this presents some risk. A coffee can with thousands of dollars is enough to entice all kinds of scum. A safe box is a good investment if only to stash important documents. There is a variety of such boxes on the market. There is a box for whatever level of security you want, be it child-proof, waterproof, crush proof, fire-proof, or all the above.

After everything, though your first and greatest line of defense will be a zipper on your lip. This is not fool-proof though and should be backed up. If it becomes common knowledge that you keep cash stashed in your home you might be able to feed that rumor a red herring. Find a reliable blabbermouth and let slip that you moved it to a bank. On the other hand, you might make it so outrageous that it turns into myth. You could say that you have an underground vault with armed guards or that you spent it gambling.

Safe boxes are a good idea, but a burglar might just decide to take it with him and crack it elsewhere. A better idea is to get a floor safe or come up with a hidden place to stash your cash. It wouldn’t hurt to find a way to camouflage or hide your safe, like building it into the wall or some such ploy. The poor man’s version might be to stick with the traditional coffee can under the bed. Who does that these days anyway?

How do I start?

For even those with no one depending on him or her all this adds up to a pretty big price tag. However, for anyone who is working, it should not be very hard to set aside the necessary cash. It might take a while, but if you are living within your means then there should be a few bucks every month that you can put in a can. Keep the cash separated and labeled so that you know exactly what you have covered. Something I used to do is use envelopes and write on them what the money inside was for. That was before I upgraded to the underground vault.

It doesn’t make sense to put yourself into debt or take away from current expenses to reach your goal. There are a few ways to accomplish this. You might find financial drains that can be plugged or funneled into your 30-day savings. Some examples of such drains are as follows: household inefficiencies (wasting water, and other utilities), frequently eating out, toys (electronic gadgets, motorized recreation, etc.), home improvements, trips and vacations, TV, etc. Understand, I’m not saying that these things are bad, but when one’s spending is beyond one’s means there is a problem, and a little evaluation could fix it. You know what is essential and what really is not. It can be hard to change some spending habits, but imagine how you feel when there is too much month at the end of the money and you recall where your money went. When food gets scarce or the kids are sick, it gets hard to justify having a boat.

The first thing you should do after deciding to act is make a plan. Plan whether you will save by redirecting funds, finding part-time work, or both. There are many plans on the internet that help people painlessly amass a respectable sum over time. A secondary source of income might even become your primary source if things go awry at work. Use your own judgment to figure out how aggressively you will save and how soon you will reach your goal. Eventually this fund should be increased to six months and then a year but 30 days is a practical start, plus it will put you in the right mindset to continue saving.

Advertisements

A Page from the Tightwad Gazette

I came across a book called The Tightwad Gazette which is a compiling of articles and discussions from a newsletter about frugal living. I want to summarize one article which holds a profound truth that applies to more than finances.

You and the Financial Edge

“You know someone who arrives 20 minutes late for everything. It could be work, to church, or for a date. He is always late because the 20 minutes falls within his margin of acceptability.

When they turn the clocks back from daylight savings to standard time, you’d figure he would now be 40 minutes early. However, he makes the mental adjustment and arrives the same 20 minutes late.

You also know people who arrive exactly on time, and people characterized by their chronic earliness. Likewise these people set their mental clocks so that they arrive within a time frame that is acceptable to them. In the case of the extenuating circumstance the early bird may arrive on time, the on-time person may be 20 minutes late, and the straggler will arrive 40 minutes late.

Your inner clock functions in the same manner as your sense of where you are in relation to ‘the financial edge.’ You have an inner sense of how close you can come to meeting your financial obligations and still feel comfortable.

During my single working years I maintained a checking account balance of $1,000 to $1,500. When my balance exceeded $1,500 I would spend. When the balance dropped below $1,000 I would cease extravagant activity. I could have saved more, but I felt comfortable with the $1,000 to $1,500 range from the edge.

Those who feel comfortable closer to the edge frequently find themselves saying, ‘I have only $10 to get me to the next paycheck.’

What of the individual who lives beyond his means? He builds a mental gangplank out beyond the edge where he teeters precariously.

The ‘$10-to-paycheck-guy’ and the ‘gangplank-guy’ will point to the extenuating circumstances that lead to his position near or beyond the edge. When an unexpected expense come along propelling them to financial depths, they do not accept responsibility. However, the person who maintains a cushion, given the same circumstance, will occasionally approach the edge but quickly work his way back to his comfort zone.

This principle of the financial edge helps my idea that we are all capable of raising our standard of living if we can adjust our mind sets. I heard a friend venting about never being able to get ahead and how debt is strangling him, even at a young age. He said that bankruptcy doesn’t sound like a bad thing since even with zero he would be better off than being in debt. I have to agree. However, if the debt was pardoned but he held the same spending habits, how long would it take for him to achieve his old financial status?

I used to have a hard time getting to work on time. I was always about 5 to 10 minutes late to work. One afternoon, about closing time, my boss told me that he had something important for me the next morning and that I should be there 30 minutes early. I made an extra effort to be there at 7:30, but with one thing and another I didn’t make it until 7:50 or so. I apologized for not making it in time for whatever he needed me for so early. When I asked what I had missed he gave me a clever smile and said not to worry, he had known that I  would be late getting there, but he knew that way he could get me to be there on time. I was devastated to realize that my tardiness was what he counted on. That’s all it took for me to understand that a change of mental boundaries was necessary.

In the same way that the late guy still arrives late with the gift hour due to the return to standard time, many of those living on the edge or out on the gangplank, fail to benefit by increased income. They might have more stuff or more fun, but they instinctively maintain the same distance to the edge regardless.

For most of us our relationship to the financial edge comes down to a matter of choice. The choice may be the decisions we make today, or we may be living with the choices we have made in the past. While the past choices cannot be changed, remarkably the ones we make today become tomorrow’s past choices.

We can make choices that allow us to take a giant step back from the financial edge and set up a cushion. A sustained effort to scale back will result in savings for more than just a cushion. We can save for long-term goals and increased financial independence.

— Amy Dacyczyn, The Tightwad Gazette

Gold

What is there to know about gold? I hear that it is a good hedge for investment. If it is so great as a hedge then why not a main asset?

What if I was to buy a bit of gold, wait until it appreciates a bit and then sell some of it to someone and immediately use that money to buy more? Then I would begin to stockpile gold and it would just keep getting bigger.

Buying gold would be better than just having cash because the value would not depreciate as the dollar does, and if I needed to use it I could sell it pretty readily for cash. Also, I would be less tempted to spend money that is tied up in something like that.

Do I have enough to buy anything?

Who would I sell it to?

Would I need an exit strategy? If the price of gold dropped what would I do? Hold on to it? Sell it immediately? To whom would I sell it?

After a little research I found a few answers and a few more questions. I would need at least $50 to place an order with APMEX. I could set up an account for free storage or have them ship my order to me. I could get one 1/10 ounce gold coin for about $180. I could get a lot more silver or other precious metals for that price, or even just spend less.

I don’t know what implications are involved as far as insurance and taxes. I read in several places that they recommend you to consult a financial expert about taxes on investments and the specific laws for the country and state. There are also a lot of words and terms to get familiar with, but that didn’t look too difficult.

So my next step for this is to talk to someone.

Am I Crazy?

My goal is to make 100,000 dollars in under two years. Is this crazy?

Is this impossible? No. But is it plausible?

             …why not?

I believe that wealth does come in direct proportion to effort. I just need to find where to apply the effort. Just like a boulder can be moved when we apply the right kind of leverage.

100,000 dollars is a lot of money. But what is it, really, that impedes an individual from making that kind of money? I believe that time, effort and education are essential ingredients for monetary success, however, I don’t believe that there is only one recipe.

I am taught that I should be getting a job and going to school so that I can support myself. I agree that this method works, however, I feel like this is not how I will reach my goals in life or realize my potential. I know there is another way. Not because I’m a cop-out, I am no stranger to hard work. But because I feel that there is another way to accomplish the same thing that will bring more than just monetary gain. I don’t believe in working only for the money. I have done plenty of that, the returns are hardly worth the effort. I say that because I have no obligations to provide yet. If I had a family to feed then the returns would be very different. But since I am still very flexible I plan to get myself to a more advantageous position so that when I do have that responsibility I won’t have to live that way. It is a leap of faith. I am leaving the known and recommended path for one that offers no promises.

This is not some get rich quick scheme. This is an assertion of freedom as well as an experiment. Though it has been done before I pioneer the way for myself and leave a journal for others who feel as I do.