Coping: Needing Free Advice? Save $500/month.

imageI can’t believe it.

Here we are, in a monumental market and I get an email from someone asking me what they should do.

Yeah, times seem worrisome, but they are now.  But it’s easy to be swept up in the stampede of fear and go off and do stupid things.  I know people who sold at the top in 2008 and some who sold at the bottom in 2009.  So how does a person avoid the traps?

The short answer is:  Learn to think.

Once you have THAT underway, then get some good economic perspective from outside the box and consider longer-term historical views based on basic market fundamental analysis with an appreciation of long wave economics.

But don’t write in – as a non-subscriber to our service and expect me to drop everything to issue personal pearls of wisdom.  I don’t do that.

The fact is, this site costs me a bundle in expenses and getting up at 5 AM to explain how the world is NOT ending.  Along the way, I might mention what we would would have done  if we’d won the PowerBall last night.

The second fact of life is that people only value information they pay for.  If I were to lay out the next 6-years of global economic history, handing it over on a silver platter (with a side of French toast) would you pay any attention?


More than likely you’d whine that I misspelled something…

Don’t get ne wrong:  I like that you reading UrbanSurvival – that’s what it’s for.  I especially when people post thoughtful comments.  The future is a dance, and every time we speak or interact with others who help create the future, we take part in shaping it.

But if you write to me seeking personalized advice or comment, and you’re not a subscriber, I quickly infer (since you can’t afford $40 bucks a year for our newsletter).  Now, since you can’t afford $40-bucks, is it worth my time to answer a financial question? 

In a word: No.

There is a class of exceptions – and this is part of our economic education mission:  If you are either retired on fixed income and are already set in your ways, or you haven’t figured out how to start the “saving $500 per month” habit.  That is another matter.

I can’t tell you often enough about the importance of setting up a regular savings habit.

Most people have stupid vices that come up to t$500 a month.  Hell, I know people whose bar tabs come to this – and more.  .

Consider this:  How many people have season tickets for sporting events.  Or, they will go out to dinner twice a week.  They buy humungous Cable packages and  have phone bills are $250 per month.

There is another way, honest to God. 

Think about this.  Let’s pretend that when Elaine and I got married (which we did in 2000) we had zero in savings. 

Reality check:  We owned a sailboat and that was about it.

But think about this:  Saving $500 a month,  run the math. 

$6,000 per year, 16-years,. and it’s not all in a bank.  We have a paid-for home, a recording studio, a marvelously equipped shop and it sits on 29-acres.  Ham radio gear…airplane…greenhouse, every garden tool on the planet and even a well-drilling rig for water and all the pipe to lay in another well.

Is that because I made a crap-load of money?

Sure, a bit.  Because I study all the time, I’m very good in sales and marketing and when you are really, really good in sales, making six-figure ain’t impossible.

But you can do it in any other field, as well.  The key is to grow out of working for someone else and learn to pay yourself first.  And to do that, you need to become the absolute world expert in what you do.

I can go on all day about this – and if you know someone who hasn’t figured this stuff out, it’s not like you’re alone.  Hell, even my own kids don’t listen to me.

Pearls before swine kind of thing.

Here lately, I’ve been thinking about having my kids PayPal me $5.00 before they ask the usual “Dad, can you solve this problem for me?” kind of question.

If they get the answers free, they ignore the parenting advice, screw things up because they don’t value the information. Then they call again.

But when someone pays, they listen.

Once you are saving $200-$500 per month?  Life gets easy.  You have a fat cash cushion and nothing that comes along can phase you.  You get financial control of your own destiny.

Some times it’s little stuff, other times it’s bigger.

Our septic tank needed pumping and that got done Wednesday morning.  The guy who did the job is an old-timer (John, age 57) and a great fellow.  While he was here, I had him explain to me where I should dig in additional drain field lines so we don’t have this problem here next time is rains 8 inches in three days.

We live on the side of a hill (in Texas, it’s called a Mountain, but Texans tend to…oh, you know…).  So when it rains, tons of water from “up there” flow down to our creek – through our septic field.

John was more than willing to share.  And his company made $216.50 for the pump out…so I wasn’t freeloading.

We caught up and this and that (he’s going to vote for Trump, thinks Cruz is too lawyerly) and he even threw in who had the best prices on gravelless drain field pipe.  Explained how that stuff was made and offered an exposition on how not to pack the back fill on it too tight because it would crush the styro peanuts used in place of gravel.  The kind of small detail that really matters.

That’s how you do business when you have cash on the barrelhead, an agreeable, respectful personality such that people like to chat with you, and you admire their work and tell ‘em so.. 

A little empathy, a cup of hot coffee, and a sincere interest – it’s AMAZING WHAT PEOPLE WILL DO AND HOW MUCH THEY WILL SHARE WITH YOU.

But people who will do that can spot a BS’er a mile away.  They know who’s a doer and who’s on the couch.  John’s been here a few times before (septics are a recurring maintenance cost) but he know “Crazy George” is a check in hand (no quibbling or chiseling) on the spot.  Not collection issues.

So if you’re really worried about an economic depression, you may be early, but it’s not too early to start planning to shift into a lower-cost lifestyle at a much better price-point now so you can reap some of the spread for future use.

Somehow in the discussion I feel like I should offer up some pointers on using some of that money to buy things to save even more money.

Assuming you keep track of every penny you spend, and you only go out to lunch like once a month and dinner twice a month, then it’s easy to see how bringing your own lunch to work is a money-saver.  So is eating at home.

We had steaks last week that were unbelievable. USDA Choice filet mignons.  I know, sounds extravagant, right?  $46-bucks for four nice filets.  Hand cut by Kevin the butcher.  Again, you have to know all your suppliers.  After a bit, you get extraordinary service because you treat them like the extraordinary people they are.  Everyone has a gift.  (I will admit with some, it’s hard to find, though.)

But they were four 8-ounces each (a bit over 2” thick) and they were as good as anything you could buy out until you’re up to (or over) the Ruth’s Chris category and up.

Now, on price:  The meat cost us $46-bucks.  But that was $23 per meal and they were special meals.  The rest of the week was dirt cheap.

You know how much these meals would have been for two if we ate them out?  OMG, it would be on the order of $35 per person per meal out and that’s for the entre.…and another $16 for two drinks each, so we’re at $100 for dinner and that is before parking/valet, tip, and whatever.

At home?  $23 for the meat for two.  A couple of bakers, a salad…so what’s that?  $28 bucks?  Vodka is running $25 for a half gallon…so that’s a steal at home, too.  No DUI risk.  Loud music if we want it.

My buddy JB ( ) has an even  better deal – he makes homemade rum with a still.  And yes, all the paperwork, but the price and the quality one he’s made the initial investment….are you kidding?  He buys sugar and water.

And his book on hydroponics – three large tomato plants and down comes the price of food.

I don’t mean to get out of bed grouchy…but OMG people…look at your money and try to do something other than spend it on corporate BS.  Manage your time, money, and headspace, and squeeze every nickel that passes between your mitts.  $250 a month phone bill?  Really?

I actively traded markets for years and you know what?  All without a phone.  Just the computers at home and work on dial-up.


Save a few hundred a month.

Then, when the market drops and you’re looking for “free advice” you will already have the wherewithal to have anticipated what comes next and you’ll be on the same page with the rest of the grown-ups in the world.

The time to worry about thrift is not when the market is in a free-fall to the 1887 or 1760 level, but make it a way of life and in no time, you will find the skills, know-how, and most important: MONEY will be piling up around you.

Money is not wealth.  Wealth is near total conscious control of your personal world.  Money is just a tool to get there.   Your vendors are what matter.  Corporations won’t save you when the crap hits the fan.

But I will still get “the butcher’s cut” and I will still be top of the list for the septic guy.  In the long ride of life, that’s the difference between first class and coach.

Life of an Encyclopedia

Pappy was known around the fire station as the “human encyclopedia.” 

Hey Cap…what’s the right way to [fill in a problem]?”

Invariably, Pappy would have the answer.

In fact, he was so full of so many answers, that it drove my mother crazy.  They would forever be betting a ceremonial nickel on Pappy being wrong and Mom being right.  But she didn’t win many.

The second point of this morning is this:  Find a couple of new facts every day.

My four learnings for Wednesday were:

a.  I had acquired a needle scaler for my air tool collection  and I brought a part from the airplane home to overhaul.  It’s an air filter cover.

Removing the old paint?  There is NOTHING like a needle scaler to take off flaky pain in no time. 

It would tear up wood something fierce.  But with a light touch, it works dandy on 6061 aluminum.

b.  When my airplane is climbing, each 1 horsepower lost will cost 11 feet per minute at full power climb.

c.  We set a record of 14 red tail hawks in a tree overlooking the yard.  Alfred Hitchcock would be proud.

d.  I had a half-hour seminar on septic installations.

Point again is simple:  Learn three new things every day.  Eventually, you’ll be eating well off the tree of knowledge.

Write when you break-even,


23 thoughts on “Coping: Needing Free Advice? Save $500/month.”

  1. Have you tried Rid X ? Keeps the tank working. I have had tanks not pumped for 20 years. Grandpa use to poor a quart of buttermilk down the toilet for same reason.
    Try cutting a terrace on the hill above septic field to run the worst of the water around your septic field. It has worked for me No promises, but its worth every dime it cost.

    • Yeah – we have used RidX forever. What John told me (didn’t want to get into this too deeply in the article) was that when we were pumping, there was a solid stream of water (like half a 4″ pipe!) still backflowing after a half hour. He said when comes to field lines, if the water comes in that well, the problem isn’t with the lines, it’s with saturated soil. The answer is to rent a small backhoe, dig in 200-300 more feet of drain field down hill, disconnect the existing field, and open it up on the downhill side, using it something like a French drain to keep the uphill water syphoned off before it gets to the new drain field.
      Either that or we’ll go out and crap in the woods with the animals, but we seem to be bound by laws they aren’t…

    • My grandmother would thow a chicken in the septic tank any time one died of “natural causes”. Claimed it helped maintain bacteria levels. Have no idea if that’s true, but I know she never had it pumped and never had an issue. I do however understand that no amount of bacteria will overcome saturated soil.

      • I don’t know why, but I’d suggest caution when she offers you a bowl of chicken soup, know what I mean?

  2. It’s OK to blow off a little steam ! We live in a world of nincompoops !! LMAO.

    George you crack me up !

  3. I had a boss (a billionaire) that told me to make sure I accomplish one thing every day. It can be a small thing, but knock out one thing every day of your life. Good advice.

  4. Another good article George. Here’s a bit more advice on saving some when you’ve retired if you have the right friends…

    If you have a friend with a farm/ranch that has livestock, donate a day a week to helping out with animals and the myriad of things that need attention on a ranch. I do and it saves me quite a bit – and more importantly, I learn some really valuable skills in the process. As a nice aside, all my meat is free – in any quantity and any cut. Steaks are a twice a week thing at my house. Mostly fillet that I slice from the “primal cut” myself, as well as butcher cut ribeye when I want it. Also ground beef, pork, lamb, hams, bacon, and any other cut you can imagine. All for the cost of helping out at the ranch and learning at the same time once a week for a few hours.

    There are times when I’ll spend a few days helping with some project that pops up expectedly, but even then, what I learn is more valuable to me than the meat. Add in the friendship, the fun of it all, the ability to contribute ideas in a meaningful way, and it’s tough to find a better way to spend a day.

  5. Don’t get ne wrong. LOL love it!!!!

    Nothing drives me crazier than someone who would write us (the chronicle and say that our stuff lost credibility because we had spelling mistakes. Fine, see you later then. Let’s see if the ability to spot them on George’s site will feed you when the time comes.

    Keep up the mistakes G!

  6. It’s OK to let off some steam, it’s good for all of us. I feel the same way about frivolous as you, yet the spousal unit hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

    So following suited steam vents…

    We pay cell phone bills for multiple family members who can’t won’t pay and the SU’s multiple gadgets (can’t have just the iPhone 6plus, gotta have the iPad for lying in bed and FB’ing, all at over $300/mo plus normally data overages, got all sorts of cable/phone/internet at over 225/mo cuz you gotta be able to watch anything at any time and record all sorts of stuff in three different rooms, etc. because Netflix isn’t enough either) and that’s not including the new PC desktop with dual 34″ monitors (hers not mine) plus her iMac in the kitchen in case she needs it, and the i7 Dell laptop she uses when she goes to client sites. I’ve got my one desktop for home and work use, and a very old laptop upstairs in the man cave because it’s not worth anything any more anyway. Big LED TVs all over the place (and I fought hard to keep the ones out of the bedrooms but lost), my O-scale train layout that I’d wanted since a boy upstairs (that is thankfully finished and I’m not buying any more train stuff), an entire bedroom dedicated to LEGO and three other bookshelves in the house full of built LEGO (for the “grandkids”) and my number one splurge for me, the old 2008 911s out in the garage. Oh, and the 75/mo for the security systems to watch over it all, and I hate messing with it. And the two thousand plus books. And hundreds of films. There’s a lot more I’m sure that’s escaping this moment, but gee whiz, that’s a lot of LIFE’s CRAP for two people with occasional visitors. Oh yeah, the house and multiple cars are not paid for either. Typical American Consumer, I’d say. Glad I’m holding up my end.

    I’ve wanted to sell it all for a cabin in the woods and Simplify to the extreme, but have been outvoted and guilted into going on the way we are. My latest threat is a cardboard box ;)

    Oh, and let’s not forget my ailing 401k that’s losing its proverbial shirt, and I can’t seem to get ahead there. All others have gone to cash to await the bottom, which is one of the reasons I subscribe to your stuff! :) And thank you again for your stuff, rants and all!

    Phil in Austin

    • Phil, sounds to me like you need a new hobby! In fact, here’s what I’ll do: Depending on condition and mileage, I will trade you my Beech A23-19 in good shape straight across for the 2008 911-S…You get a new (and useful) hobby and I get ready to hang up my flying goggles…

      • Had a couple of friends with airplanes, so gave that a whirl already, but I didn’t bite. Several motorcycles. Did 20+ years of the RC airplane hobby, mostly 1/4 scale and up. Lots of kayaking, fishing and hunting before that. Bicycles before that. Always had cars though. ;) That 911 is Number 52 of the cars/motorcycles in my life.

        Yeah, a new hobby is much needed, like a monastery… :)


  7. Cut terraces and plant trees in them. Slant the terraces so they drain to either side of the field if they overflow or into a pond. A good place for fruit trees and a garden. On the ranch, we never went into a winter with fewer than 50 jars of canned fruit. But then there was seven of us to put it up, and seven of us to eat it.

    An accountant friend of ours from Texas used to go into the bank, borrow $40k, put it into a cd, then use that cd as collateral for the loan. The loan payments were automatically taken out of her account. A method of forced savings that made the interest differential insignificant because the loan was fully collateralized with no risk to the bank.

  8. Hi George,
    Great tone & great column! I am much younger than most of your readers, & I practice this type stuff to the point that my stuff is paid for, my HOA is unhappy with me (who cares – I’m moving somewhere nicer), & my elderly Dad sometimes accuses me of living like a pauper (until I point out how many times I used to move for work & internships) – it’s the scaled down thing of the younger generation.
    Can’t however control the idiots in charge of utilities, insurance bills, etc. MY HEALTH INSURANCE HAS GONE UP 60% IN THE COUPLE YEARS SINCE OBAMACARE STARTED (so I’ve chosen a crappier plan), but my retired physician Dad insists they’re the best company (they are) SO some things you have to pony up for even if you’re smart.
    Trying to get enough time to send you an email on other matters.

  9. I have to agree regarding non-subscribers. That’s one reason that I subscribe!

    Regarding all the food references: I try to avoid reading about food at all since it just makes me want to eat, and I can gain weight just from the reading! Same with food commercials on the radio – I turn it off. I’ve learned to eat the most boring food imaginable, and as little as possible, even though I exercise hard most days. That’s why I can still walk through open doors.

    Earning and saving money is easy without a S.O., though it’s boring and pointless after a while. Being half a team makes it all worthwhile, and that leads to a massive increase in productivity. It’s the difference in ROI between looking for a job and having one. More on making this happen would be a good PN topic, IMHO.

    Lastly, even when we know that it’s a bad time to sell some assets, it’s sometimes necessary in order to make a better deal going forward. Such is life.

  10. Great article. I’m a big fan of automating savings every month into a bunch of different buckets before I can spend it on stupid vices. I use SmartyPig for some of my “buckets.” I’ve also been using Acorns for a while which is a neat app to “harvest” the spare change from your bank account by rounding every transaction up to the next dollar & investing the change. Don’t even miss it, and Acorns alone adds up to maybe a couple hundred/month. And of course we stash away every other bit we can in cash, coin, or in regular savings or investment accounts… lucky for us we bought a house at the bottom, so most everything that “could” be going into a huge mortgage is going into savings. I’m 34, so lots of time. I hope.

    Since you are great at sales, any favorite authors/methods? I am a peoplenomics subscriber, btw – I definitely value your advice. ;) I have been running an at-home business to stay at home with my kids, which is great & adds a lot to our bottom line, but they are getting older & I’m probably going to be back out in the work force to maybe – MAYBE – use my BA. Haha. I’ll probably end up starting out in some sales function (every job really boils down to sales, at the end of the day); would love a breadcrumb to get me started down the right path – I am willing to relentlessly study anything!

    • Neat! Glad to have you aboard. I will send you by email a copy of my Best Book Ever about sales – will change how you view the profession…thanks G

  11. @ Phil in Austin –

    I was a lot like you, until about 5 years ago. Paid the car off, ditched cable TV (netflixer now), put cell phones on the kids backs, revisited insurance-mortgage-etc and throttled back on all but essentials. I had a throw down with the wife, and basically told her I was going to go to the country after building a place, and she could stay or go with.

    Took a year or so, and all is rolling – she is even ‘thinking’ about it now, and has come up to visit the 40 acres I got, bringing me and the boys lunch or dinner while we work clearing, building, planting.

    Lots of reasons why, but the cost of this to us is $400/month for the land – which my $766/month car note easily offset. Taxes are $120/year on the 40 acres. Woodworking and building are hobbies – and required to flesh out an actual farm.

    It can be done, and it is lots more rewarding than Legos and trains – honest. My HO train set went bye-bye when I sold lots of ‘stuff’ to get the tractor. And hunting is now free…no lease or club required.

  12. Rhetorical question: would you have given the same savings advice to a citizen of the Weimar Republic during it’s hyperinflationary depression? The point being all financial advice must be in it’s correct economic context.And the only way THAT can happen is to find someone who has a very good ctystal ball…

  13. Hey George, subscriber Jim from El Rancho de Chaos here. Sometimes Ure just the ticket to kickstart another idea for me. I was thinking the other day during my 2+ hour drive back from the ranch to town how neat would it be if I could hop in the chopper and helo home to LXT that’s just a short 5 minutes from the house. I know that would be a long and expensive journey given I would be starting from the very beginning. Only been a passenger that sat on the floor on my flak jacket, not a driver. A call to the Bro in law commercial/ex TWA pilot to ask what he thought about the idea. I got tired of hearing him laughing so I hung up. Couple more calls and I figured out I would be ready for the old geezer home by the time I paid off a Dr to sign off on my pilot physical then got to the point of flying rotary wings. You and I are close to the same age. Doubtfull the check book could handle it either. Still it’s a fun idea to ponder on that long drive.

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