Coping: Countercyclical Living

This may seem like a strange topic, but when we get into the hot part of summer its often the best time of the year to go shopping for cold-weather goods.

A few idea on how to get the most for your money are implied in this approach which distills down to “Buying when other people aren’t...”

We use our list of “seven major systems” for guidance:

Housing, for example, is somewhat seasonal.  As you know, Elaine and I are on the lookout for our next place to move.  Not that we aren’t deliriously happen on 30-acres in the Outback.  It’s just that within 10-years, even with oxygen and an AED on the property, the sanity of two people age 80-something doing battle with 30-acres and 3,00 0square feet will stop making sense.

Toward this end, we’ve been looking at cycles related to housing.

The first is “city cycles.”  These are of no particular length, but you can see if when you begin to study cities.

Take Michigan, for example.  The homes up there are very cheap.  Detroit you can find a home for next to nothing.  Sure, lots of risk, but that’s where returns come from.  The big problems in Michigan and the upper Midwest relate to infrastructure things like lead in the drinking water.  But, we’re mindful that Detroit still has wall-to-wall potential.

If you can imagine a world situation where we were to lose a major city on one of the coasts to something like a La Palma earthquake/tsunami, or an enemy attack of some kind, re-pioneering a city like  Detroit is a lot like an “out of the money stock option” to consider.

After “city cycles”  (Seattle’s was Boeing-based, if you remember that far back, now it’s Amazon-based), then we look at the 11-year cycles in the economy.

Then the annual cycles.  Families tend to move in the late spring to summer which means the “buyer’s market” is likely just going into the holidays over winter.  Late November with a mid-December closing, for example

Countercyclical thinking applies to locations generally, too.  If you want to move into a resort area known for this or that, shop early in the off-season.  Rentals don’t “hold well.” We have looked at several areas, including up around Grand Junction, Colorado and Payson, Arizona.

South of Grand Junction there are tons of winter sports areas (
Telluride, for example or Durango, south of there) so we’d expect Colorado  prices to pop when the first flakes fall.  Grand Junction is a kind of halfway point between there and Denver.  Summer sports are getting popular there, as well.

Payson is the ‘escape from the heat’ for Phoenix so the place is littered with seasonal rentals that lease out in the summertime.  Time to shop these seems to be winter.

This doesn’t promise you  a spectacular deal, but it is one more way of shading the odds a bit more in your favor.

With fall already on the horizon, I’ve been looking at yard vacuums.  Not fans of  mindless hours on a leaf-blower, we’ve been shopping Craigslist since mid-Winter for this fall’s leaves makes.  A spring sale makes sense, so long as you drain the carburetor and use stabilized gasoline.  It only takes one visit to the power equipment emporium to blow-up any seasonal  savings.

Food goes the  same:  Although we didn’t put in a “summer garden” this year, a fall garden looms.  Since we like the cooler weather plants (and the more-comfortable gardening that goes with it) things like broccoli and kale such are coming up on the list.

Transportation purchases have an annual cycle that’s easy to spot:  When the new models come out, dealers are looking to move the previous year’s inventory, so late summer (next month) to  early fall for a new car.

A special footnote, about interest rates, though:  If you buy a car, shop interest rates.  You may find the “new model year” with dealer incentives and better rates will buy you a newer ride than a leftover model with fewer incentives.

Communications is not particularly seasonal, except that after Christmas in January and February you can get spectacular computer deals.  If you’re thinking about a new high-end i7 machine for the desk, this would be when to step up.

In the meantime, we’ve been watching for the next sale Amazon has on Echo Dot‘s.  The reason is that as long as the web holds together, voice control of lights is dandy plus if you’re aging (as we are, like it or not) the Dot’s become an “all-house intercom,”  They can be had for $39 a pop.

Once you get several hooked up, all you say is “Alexa drop-in to Kitchen” for example.  When I’m working on a column (as this morning) I can chat with Elaine in any of several rooms.  Quite handy and a safety feature at our age.  We’re not too worried about privacy…got nothing to hide and some things to gain.

Energy:  Countercyclical?  Sure – now’s when to be shopping for deals on cordwood for the fireplace for this coming winter.  Almost too late for this year, but mark it on the calendar for the late spring 2019.  Wood lots don’t like to carry over too much product.  Outside in the weather, stored wood uncovered can lose some of its heating potential in ultimate BTU’s released.  You also  lose significant BTU output if you burn green wood.  Dry wood holds BTUs…uncovered outdoors?  Not so much.  As decomposition sets it…

Environment:  There are several times of the year when “sales” are on for things like clothing.  Since the world has done away with anything resembling fashion or style, buying winter closeouts in the spring and buying next year’s summer clothes in October, or so, makes a bit less sense than ijt once did.  When the heat breaks, be on the lookout for closeouts, nevertheless.

January and early February are populated with “white sales.”  These come about from chain stores wanting to get rid of winter products (blankets and quilts) so they don’t have to carry inventory into the summer months.  Online retailers are changing the face of local retailing and impacting the number and depth of sales in many categories.

Mid Spring and mid Fall are the best times we’ve found for travel.  The summer is when families go on vacation and bully for them.  We’re no longer so keen on the sound of screaming me-me’s in our hotels, so we love to travel when they are safely locked down in schools.

I happen to be a fan of Disney parks, though I haven’t been to one in probably 10-years. Going from memory, the “big” changes and maintenance are done in fall when the kids are in school.  So if you’re going to binge-ride Space Mountain, might want to call ahead to see if all the rides are all  going.  Seems intuitive that the best time would be mid to late April.  May if you want the fresh paint on everything.

Vacation Bookings:  Next winter’s ski cabin would make sense in April or May.  And, if you’re going to charter a boat in the Northwest, then the best deals would be in early winter. Spring for a summer Caribbean charter.  Get’s hot…

In any case, there are only two kinds of cruise ship deals:  Those made really early in the year for the following late-summer and fall/winter – deal shop.  OR, put yourself on several email lists for last-minute deals.  Cruise ships (and airlines) know that once the ship undocks (or a plane takes off) the unsold inventory of cabins (or seats) is 100% perishable and that potential revenue can never be recaptured.

Don’t know why I mentioned all this, except to say most people don’t take notes on when they get good deals and bad.  And that gets me to the idea of a “life notebook.”

This is where you sit down and keep track on a month=by-month basis of what works well.  The cost of air conditioning service is usually highest on the hottest days of the year…the providers know if you’re calling, there’s probablyan element of desperation.  Most A/C service is best done when temps are in the low 70’s (F) range, but in many areas of the country you can see that for a couple of days in April or early May.

Many people don’t look at the 10-day weather forecast or the 30-day prog charts. We’ve found these invaluable in spotting the best “comfort time” to be working on anything.

Humans are, by nature, cyclical in behavior.  It works well in some cultures to run by a lunar calendar (see The Chronicle Project’s work and also notice the Chinese lunar orientation) in our headlong rush to burn out planetary resources, we’ve moved into a credit-card balance cycle….which we’ll get into in the economics discussion next…

Write when you get rich,

13 thoughts on “Coping: Countercyclical Living”

  1. Dear Mr. Ure,

    You may have noticed that Greyhound Canada dropped a HooverWagon-like depression tell on Monday. The company will cease virtually all bus services west of Sudbury, Ontario, effective the end of October. The company narrative is one of declining ridership and mounting losses. I am curious to see how rural and small town dwellers without cars adjust to this new reality.

  2. For as much as you keep ruminating, George, about moving toward “civilization” over the past couple of years I keep thinking the catastrophic nature of societal evolution being more like a pinball machine might suggest that you consider taking on certain family members to take over the farm while you, horror of horrors, invest in a rocking chair and a bull horn to communicate “suggestions” from the front porch. Unless you truly believe things will continue on forever as they have since WWII I can’t help but believe that as soon as you and Elaine find a comfortable nest near all the medical equipment you could ever hope for all heck will break out and you’ll long for the solitude of the woods surrounded by people you can trust – with your lives. I know it’s the farthest thing from George II’s and the other kids’ minds and ambitions but when it all gets sticky …
    That’s why I’m trying my best to automate what I can on the ranch. I’m the last one in the family that will climb a windmill tower so solar is where I’m going with that. I’ve been upgrading the ranch house and fixing everything I can because people that like to get their hands dirty are few and far between. Hopefully all we’ll have to fear is the tax man and interlopers.

    • Bill.. I think you are on the money..
      Historically during a catastrophic event or great depression People flock to the cities. The reason is that during the past events that was where the jobs were.
      A story my father told me was that his father told him about the weimar depression.. when it really hit here my father was a young boy and told me how the situation was there.. in germany the story goes that money was so worthless because..(OOPS just check to see what the federal reserve has been doing the past few years.. ) if you need an example that is closer to home and today.. then check out Argentina and Greece zimbabwe.. etc.. they did what we are doing today..

      I guess I won’t bore everyone with some of the stuff I have read about the hyperinflation or how single mothers sell themselves for a night over getting a can of soup.. or that the elderly have to dumpster dive to get food..
      from my perspective I see this could be a nasty situation.. the cities would be the worst place to live. Heck they have already gone tribal neighborhoods run and controlled by gangs and thugs.. the police not much better.. in many cases the good people are more afraid of the people hired to protect them..
      if that isn’t enough.. just contemplate this for a moment.. I have been in and seen maybe ten of these underground facilities that aren’t really talked about or are not suppose to be in existence at all.. what is most common on all of them is that they are in the middle of nowhere.. extremely hard to get to.. you see people building shelters hundreds of miles away from their home neighborhoods.. the most common thing is a cabin in the mountains or some remote place.. but giving it some thought.. in a reals SHTF scenario.. how do you get there.. in the seventies there was a situation where a real warning went out.. of course they didn’t tell anyone else but we all had to go down in the hole.. my boss told me about a senator that told a friend of his to get there asap.. his senator was miles away in a big city and was racing to his destination safe area.. he never made it in time.. if that situation had really transpired he wouldn’t have ever made it..
      would they tell you not on your life.. maybe if you lived in russia or china.. they do routine drills all the time.. but in the USA it is frowned upon.. only those in the know will be told.. so better to plan surviving in place..
      my church talks preparedness all the time.. yet.. at best six to ten percent are.. my wife use to give me guff because I am anal about having at least three months worth of food on the shelf.. then she never went through the tough days when I was having to scrape grain off of the ground and pound it into a rough gruel.. then one day we lost our only source of income.. and discovered that at our age unemployment is a joke and non accessible.. there wasn’t anything at all if you owned a home none of these give away programs are available a car.. not there.. your on your own.. and what saved us that year was our stock that I made sure we had..if we hadn’t had it we would have starved to death.. the few bucks I had saved.. got us through..
      If you have never gone through something like that.. had to really hit the bricks with nothing more than what is on your back you don’t know how it is.. unfortunately you won’t know how it is until it affects you personally.. and afterwards your mind will dampen the incident so that it doesnt’ seem as bad as it was..
      a piece of paper is just that.. a piece of paper.. write any number on it you want.. as long as it is fluid.. you can use it but in a serious situation it has little to do with anything other than give you hope..
      my niece had a home destroyed first by a tornado.. then a flood hit it.. I had told her to gather as much as she needed or could reuse.. then the flood took everything.. FEMA came in and said don’t worry we are here to help.. she heard that they were going to give them financial assistance to get back on their feet..
      I told her .. don’t believe it for anything.. she bought the story.. what happened.. she did get financial assistance.. not like a few at the top what they got twenty bucks and a good luck..

    • Exactly my thinking Mr.Bill! George has lots of infrastructure in place. He should just add more automation. A good resource is at They have most of the equipment you would use to automate a machine or process. In particular check out their line of small or minature PLC’s (industrial computers). They are easy to program and can handle any task you can dream up. They are much less expensive than what the big companies like Allen Bradley, Square D, or Siemans cost.

  3. When considering a move, if you are considering Grand Junction or Durango Area, I am shocked you wouldn’t consider the Sierra foothills or Shasta Area around Redding. Housing prices are reasonable… The politics run red…AND, the weather is PRIMO!!!.

    The foothills have so much to offer. Close to Tahoe…but also a short drive to Sacramento if you need a City fix. You have an incredible array of possibilities outside of Sacramento off of Highway 80…with Grass Valley, Nevada City, Auburn, Lincoln etc.( $200-$400k…) up Highway 50, there’s Placerville and dozens of opportunities under $300k.

    A bit south along highway 4, there is a very nice former mining town called Murphy’s with 28 wine tasting rooms, restaurants, shops. …close by is Arnold and Angels Camp…($200-$400K) and a brand new town complete with a town square and town hall with clock tower reminiscent of the Town Hall in Back to the Future called Copperopolis. That town has tons of upside. All of the above have near perfect weather year round…but every other year or so a nor’easter will blow through and drop a bit of snow on the higher elevation cities like Murphy’s and Nevada City.

    Up in Redding, Mt Shasta has a mystical and spiritual feel to it. If you like fishing, hiking or just like to look at a majestic mountain, this is the place. Housing prices are what you would pay anywhere in your parts. Lots with acreage can be had for under $100k and houses for under $300K. It is growing and becoming a retirement area for Bay Area people. As more and More folks discover what Redding has to offer, values will rise, so it will be a great investment to those that buy within the next 3 years or so. Redding does get hot in the summer, but it’s a dry heat…winters are perfect…Rain now and then…but usually in the 60’s.

  4. speaking of teaching kids things.. I had made the decision to teach the kids.. injection molding.. so the plan was set.. a three year old and a five year old.. what could go wrong.. we got a dozen eggs.. poked a hole in both sides and gently blew the egg out into a bowl.. then warmed up some chocolate.. calculated how much chocolate that would make a nice shell injected the chocolate in using a pastry filler with a designed tip to fit the hole.. rolled the eggs around on the table to make sure the whole inside was coated good.. put the eggs back in the carton and in the freezer for a few minutes.
    after doing that.. take some of the eggs and some cream sugar etc.. then mix up some ice cream mix.. get the old hand cranked ice cream maker out.. put some salt and ice mix it up.. then crank away till it started to thicken.. take the eggs out of the freezer poke a hole again in the chocolate shell and inject about half of the shell with ice cream mix.. then blend up some fruit pie filling inject a small portion in and fill the remaining with ice cream mix.. worked great.. the kids were extremely happy and proud of making chocolate ice cream eggs with their favorite fillings in it..
    fast forward.. I had to go to town the wife was home..
    and the boys got quiet.. only to discover that in those few minutes.. five dozen eggs were all over the house they tried to get them in the bowls.. they were going to make some more eggs.. she was not pleased with me.. my mad scientist mode made me remember how my mother was when I was breeding mold as a child.. or when I showed the kids how to melt stone with the sun.. ( that one scared me more than anything after I seen what the kids were doing) Or when the grandson asked me to help them make a potato gun.. ( I called everyone.. explaining that for school would they get in trouble.. nope they said it was a good thing even when I explained.. you do realize this is a canon.. well they said yes I helped the boys build it showed them how to figure out just how much propellant they spent the day at the school trying to make a potato land in the back end of a pickup three blocks away..even the principle was out playing with it.. damnedest thing you ever seen..and it was ok.. I wonder now with all this drama at schools over guns if it would be allowed.. I was sure they would get booted from school..but nope everyone thought it a great idea and learning tool) where that one went south was I was out of potatoes and so was the kids.. they shot all the potatoes out in less than ten minutes.. sheesh.. not appreciated..and the wife was upset but not as much as she was with the eggs.. LOL needless to say I have been walking as if I am on egg shells since..

  5. This time should be different. I don’t think most of the larger cities could exist without low interest rates. Most city revival schemes include publicly funded stadiums, publicly funded waterfront updates and subsidized luxury towers… with bells and whistles of publicly funded transportation with sureveialnce and police whose only job is to fine you – the debt feedback loop.

    The U.S. couldn’t afford the welfare state without the mask of lowering interest rates over the last 35 years. Before interest rates started to drop, poverty was still housed in projects. Since, the older suburbs have gone mostly Section 8. Effectively out of the tax base.

    The best strategy IMHO is to live within 30 minutes of a Big 10 college town. This depends too. If you intend to use EMS you’ll need to live closer.

  6. Best time to buy good brand name (hopefully) mini-split AC units is, obviously, late fall/winter. Amazon not always the best deal… oftentimes EBay can offer some under $500 total package deals. That with medium good SEER ratings around 20. Including heat pump models. FYI

  7. This is in reply to Steve F

    George, the saveinfo is now working, but thread-reply buttons are gone. I clicked where the button should be — won’t know if this is a reply or a top-level post until I submit…

    Steve, I can’t see any real advantage to living near a Big-10 town. If one wants the services, sure, but in a SHTF scenario (and the pending ’29 crash rhyme will be one), one also needs a hidey-hole. IU _might_ work, because the Bloomington boonies have rocks ‘n hills ‘n trails which lead to nowhere, and there _might_ be places I haven’t seen on the fringe of Happy Valley, but I don’t think there’s anywhere around East Lansing or Madison (the two next-most-likely candidates to PSU) where I’d trust my life to be able to hide, and there’s certainly no place around any of the other towns.

    In a crash, the only escapees from the misery are the stable, traditional farmers (not the folks who run high-density meat-factories), and farms smell, so snooty folks don’t want them around, especially upwind of, their cities…

  8. George, A late comment, but I’ve been on the train – just wanted to mention that Grand Junction has a Amtrak station, too, if you are interested in train travel. (Amtrak; their motto is from G.K. Chesterton: “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered”)…
    I agree with Mark’s observations about the gold country of California; but the state gov is starting a water war out there and things could get “interesting” in North California.

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