Sunday, December 7

Job Loss And Broken Dreams

Boulevard of Broken DreamsI see a lot more people arriving at my blog because they are searching for things such as extreme frugality. Having gone through an extended period of underemployment it breaks my heart.

Wait, don't worry, this isn't a pity party!

What I do feel is important is getting through to people that look down on those that suffer through employment and economic issues. You see, when you get a taste of success in life, without any downturns to clue you in to your own vulnerability, you start to think you are good.

People working at fast food chains? They must have made bad decisions while in high school, preferring to have fun instead of focusing on studies. People losing their jobs must have made bad career decisions because they weren't very adept at figuring out how to develop skills that are in demand. Yes, the unwashed masses have exactly what they deserve because of their own lack of work and planning.

There was a time in my life that I started to think I was good. I was more productive than my peers. I had a better job than the others that I went to school with. I worked harder at learning new skills than most. I had worked my way from nothing to my own success and obviously I was completely in control on my destiny. Somehow, this seemed to imply that everyone was in control of their destiny and got what they deserved.

Maybe this is a way that the mind justifies the obvious differences in society. It pushes the blame to those that don't succeed so that we can feel good about ourselves instead of lamenting the state of society as a whole.

Once again I am lucky to find myself back on top of the food chain. I have an important career job and make significant decisions, influencing the company that employs me in meaningful ways. However, this time I have a little more wisdom than I did as a younger man. Even if we weren't in tough financial times it still isn't right to blindly blame everyone for their state in life.

If you live in a community that has a large employer, for example, then it can be incredibly hard to find work if that company lays everyone off. This has nothing to do with the skills of those employees -- simply that there is a glut on the local market. Some families will have the resources, or contacts, that will let them pick up and relocate, but others won't. Hard working good people do not deserve their destitution, ever.

Losing a job leads down an inevitable path. If you have higher education in a downturn you are simply over qualified for most positions. This is a severe problem as nobody will hire you because they assume you will leave as soon as a career position opens up. You then are left with low end service positions that will not begin to pay enough to maintain a professional lifestyle.

If the downturn is extended you can say goodbye to servicing your debt. You can say goodbye to your car. You can say goodbye to owning your home. You can say goodbye to buying the latest toys and gadgets for your children. You may have to say goodbye to putting away for college costs. You can even say goodbye to having enough money to travel to apply for job opportunities outside of your community.

As you go through these things, the loss of things you worked so hard to gain, the lack of value of your hard won education and skills, the lack of having any potential employers contact you for an interview, you will find out how vulnerable you are to the whims of market conditions. This is when you start to search on the Internet for things like extreme frugality.

I've walked in your shoes.

I know you are still a very skilled and valuable contributor in whatever job position you are given. I know you worked hard, made good decisions, and deserve much better than you currently have. I know you may be making very difficult choices concerning which bills must be paid while others must be left to wreak havoc on your credit rating.

These things are all reversible. You, your character, your ability to work hard and make good decisions, these things remain. Don't lose heart. You are most certainly not alone.

It may be a bitter pill, but once you make it through this, and you will, it will have made you stronger and wiser.

Among many other changes, you will look at successful people, see them making terrible mistakes, and have a better understanding of how and why it happens. The fact that some that are well off look down on others, who aren't as successful as they, will have become blindingly obvious. Society and politics will be a little easier to interpret than before.

Saturday, November 15

A View On The Collapse

In Greed We TrustI've heard a lot of politically motivated talk about the global financial crisis. There are some who'd like to place all the blame at the feet of a couple of government programs.

However, I'd like to highlight one of the factors that I consider important. It tangentially deals with the issue of regulation.

The reason for our crisis can be put down to one simple word. Greed!

It was reckless greed when the rating agencies, having no clue how to rate the mortgage derivatives simply declared them as AAA and accepted their payment for assigning a rating.

It was greed when the banks originating mortgages created incentives for closing deals and then turned a blind eye on how these mortgages were actually structured when sold to end consumers.

It was greed when credit default swaps, an unregulated financial vehicle which serves the same function as regulated insurance, were sold with the assumption that housing prices would never go down, such that there was no need to maintain reserves for defaults on the loans they insured.

It was greed when unsophisticated purchasers didn't look closely enough at the terms of their deals and they thought they were getting a great deal on their mortgage from the banks when they weren't.

It was greed when the fat cats at the top made huge profits on this process, especially when at some point they actually knew how and why housing defaults were increasing but they continued to milk the process for all it was worth.

It was greed when banks, pension funds, and investors around the word saw great supposedly low-risk AAA rated mortgage derivatives and snapped them up without looking into them deeply enough to determine that they were risky.

It was greed when the fat cats mentioned above used their offshore accounts to sell their own companies short when they knew the bottom was going to fall out. I don't have any proof of this, but I'd very surprised if it didn't happen.

The result, greed has taken a toll on the global financial system and in the process hurt the average North American consumer. Billions have been sucked out of their pensions and investments. Billions.

So, where does this leave us. Am I against free markets? Not at all. Am I against capitalism? Not at all. Personal and corporate financial motivation is certainly an appropriate decision making mechanism. However, greed is a very powerful force, and some level of wise regulation needs to be in place if we are to maintain an environment safe for the average working family.

Thursday, October 23

Economic Turmoil

The StormAlthough nobody has ever cited an actual source it has come to be understood that there is an ancient curse that involves living during interesting times. Well, these are certainly interesting times.

So, what should we do now that there seems to be an impending economic storm?

My first suggestion is that you review the Financial Risk Advisory System. Look at stages that are worse than where you are now and make sure you are ready for an "involuntary transition".

To avoid such a transition consider ways to reduce spending and increase income. It's not usually as hard as it may seem, but you may have to change your comfort zone a little bit. For example, to cut back on food expenses consider making rice a staple of your diet. For more ideas go through my Extreme Frugality Meal Plan and pick out portions you can adopt now, if you are trying to put a little money aside in case of future need. It probably goes without saying that now may not be a good time to buy gadgets and toys that require data plans or other ongoing payments.

Increasing your income can happen several ways. For example, you may be able to rent out one or more rooms of your house to students or relatives. Some of you may find that because companies are not hiring right now that there will be periods of overtime availability that you should take advantage of. Obviously, you can always look for a job if you aren't working now. If you are working there is often a better job or a second job out there if you look for it.

ResumeEdge.com: Get a Resume that Gets Results!
Of course, the steps you take will be based on how secure you feel your income is and how deep you think the expected recession may be. For a few more ideas about raising revenue see this recent post about becoming debt free.

Personally, with a new child in the family, I'm more concerned about financial issues than usual. Frugal Mom is going back to the workforce after staying at home with Frugal Baby for the last while. Luckily, she'll be working for the government in a fairly recession proof capacity.

On the frugal front we decided to elope when we were married. We saved all the time, expense and hassle of a traditional wedding and are much happier for it. When asked about the possibility of wedding gifts we've decided that perhaps what we would like most would be a little help with an educational savings plan.

In any case, no matter where you are or what your situation, it's a good time to take a look around and make sure the decisions you are making are good for you and your family right now and for the foreseeable future.

Finally, take a look through the archives as there is plenty of real world frugality advice available here...

Friday, August 29

Fighting Debt: Turning The Corner

Positive Progress!The battle against debt is finally starting to happen. It had been months and months since I became fully employed and the sheer inertia of mandatory and deferred expenses kept me from doing anything that felt like forward progress.

Now, finally, progress. Progress is fantastic. It's motivating. With respect to my last post, the logjam is finally broken!

The result of all this monumental progress?

My credit card balance has come down a tiny amount. Boo. Hiss. My debts are still a daunting pile of obligations. However, compared to facing ruin, whittling away small amounts of debt here and there feels as good as a vacation. Besides, even if I was forced to maintain financial stasis I have an ace in the hole. Generally, I always like to have a zinger, an advantage, an ace that I can pull out of my pocket.

My car should last a lot longer than my car payments are going to last. The piggy bank will get fat much faster when that finally happens.

I can hardly wait. Too bad my last payment is still so far away...

Saturday, August 2

Whittling Away at the Backlog

Don't mind me as I mix my metaphorsWow, sometimes it's not easy to simply turn a corner and actually end up going in a new direction.

Things like vacations and visitors, a wedding, losses in the family as well as direct financial issues that have become more pressing, due to years of neglect, all get in the way of that new direction. So, like the title suggests, progress is slow.

However, while the debt goal isn't moving quickly, it is nice to have some clothes that fit and aren't too ragged. It is nice to have brakes on the car that I am sure will serve well as I cart my family around town. Issues such as these, and many others, build up through years of neglect and confront a return to income with a vengeance.

It's similar to my work in a way. When a project nears completion there are a ton of issues that pop up and require attention. These get tackled, nerves get frayed, and another series of issues pop up. However, just when everyone assumes the project will never finish successfully, the issues quickly fade away. I'm waiting for that to happen to all the pent up needs that have been neglected over the years.

I'm getting frustrated, so that point is probably closer than I think!

---

On an unrelated front, I've put together a small sweepstakes on the Grokodile blog directory. Blogger's adding their US or Canadian sites during the month of August will be entered in a draw for $50 to be paid via PayPal. I'm not sure if this will prove to be a cost effective promotional method, but I thought I'd give it a try.

If you haven't added your blog to Grokodile yet, this might be a good time to check it out...

Saturday, June 7

Time To Get Debt Free

Paying the BillsWhen you think about becoming debt free do these ideas come to mind? Insurmountable, herculean, titanic, hopeless, or perhaps even impossible?

These are some of the thoughts that can stand in the way of eliminating debt. Other concepts, perhaps such as deprivation, are also wandering around threatening to make an appearance.

How on earth can mere mortals tackle problems of this scope?

If you have given up, or don't think it's possible, then don't bother worrying about the concept of eliminating debt right now. Just take a few steps towards managing your money more effectively. This slight of mind is a simple trick but that doesn't mean it won't help.

Here is a short checklist you should keep in mind:

- Develop a budget.
- Increase your income.
- Reduce your expenditures.

See, that's pretty easy isn't it?

Developing a budget and looking for ways to save money are the easy parts. You can find all kinds of advice in this blog and elsewhere on the Internet. The task of increasing your income is much more complicated and can take a lot of time to achieve.

Some ways to increase your income include:

- work additional hours.
- take a second job.
- convince your employer to promote you.
- apply for higher paying jobs elsewhere.
- acquire training to qualify for different jobs.
- complete your formal education.

Additional things to consider include soft skills:

- do you have a professional attitude?
- are you a team player?
- do you work well with others?
- are you a hard worker?
- are you punctual?
- can others rely on you?

Be honest with yourself. We all have areas that we can improve upon. Remember that while you feel you might deserve a better job, nobody will promote you until you demonstrate that you can do a better job.

Other income ideas might include:

- convert a hobby or skill into an income.
- offer casual labor or temporary work.
- long term savings and investment.
- accept family contributions towards family expenses.
- sublet a room or parking space.

So where does this leave us? On the road to being debt free! All it takes is some discipline to avoid incurring more debt while at the same time working to ensure that your income exceeds your expenses. If you can get to that point, then being debt free is only a matter of time.

Excepting a mortgage, I'm planning on becoming debt free over the next two years. Anyone care to join me on this quest?

Saturday, April 12

Back From The Brink

Who wants some?Up from the depths, 30 stories high, breathing fire, his head in the clouds. Godzilla, Godzilla, Godzilla!

Okay, that may be a slight over dramatization, maybe, but I'm feeling pretty good. It's nice to have a budget and, simultaneously, an income that supports it. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Though I was recently feeling overwhelmed with the concept of actually spending money, I think I'm good. Habits are habits, after all. On the weekends I'll end up cooking up a nice batch of chili, which is good enough to induce drooling at the mere mention of it, and most likely I'll fire up the steam engine, otherwise known as a rice cooker, and cook up a hefty batch of that also.

It's simply not possible to waste money on food if you are cooking and eating low priced, home cooked and healthy meals. Well, it might be possible, but you'd probably have to work at it.

Additionally, I'm now in the habit of making sandwiches for lunch. I know I could take a tupperware container full of chili or something, but I can't be bothered to drag dishes back and forth from work. When I take things to work it is generally a one way trip!

Anyway, it will soon be time to think about figuring out things such as debt repayment and so on. Not today though. For couple of weeks I'm just going to bask in the pleasure of not having to worry about so many things. It's been a while since I've had a chance to put that load down.

Friday, March 28

Frugal Identity Crisis

Decision making help...This may sound hard to believe, but after dealing with some very frugal circumstances I'm now finding myself pondering what should be simple decisions.

For example, I'm thinking I might like a cut of beef other than "ground beef" once in a while. Instantly, I question this thought. Am I on the road to throwing away money just because I actually have a few dollars for a change? Should I just stick with ground beef because it is cheaper?

I guess this is a symptom of forced frugality. I really didn't have to make many decisions concerning spending because most of the time there wasn't anything to spend.

I am happy to report that I'm still using the rice cooker and cooking up batches of chili. These are easy ways to make those food dollars stretch. Oatmeal for breakfast is becoming a staple again though I did need to take a break from it after living on it not too long ago.

However, the issue that is giving me the most pause is the fact that I'm looking forward to applying some cash here and there. Different cuts of meet. Something more elaborate than a bologna sandwich at lunch time. Replacing some of the threadbare clothing that may not even fit anymore. Buying a pair of shoes for work that don't have a sole that is nearly worn off.

Individually these items wouldn't amount to a hill of beans, but taken together, after years of neglect, there are a ton of little issues waiting to be solved. Combined with all the expenses of moving to a new city and starting a new job, it's disconcerting.

Just because I have a good job doesn't mean I want to start throwing my money away...

Saturday, March 8

AdBrite Review: Negative

Thumbs Down!In my ongoing effort to find a way to monetize my blog I recently signed up for AdBrite.

It seemed like a great idea. I could manually approve any offered advertising and avoid low quality material. When there were no advertisers available my Adsense would be shown by default. Unfortunately, the only advertising that AdBrite could offer was very low quality run of network material.

Eventually, I was sent an email suggesting that my site did not measure up to their "standards" and they requested I remove their code. I talked with their support folks a few times and it came down to the fact that it was costing them bandwidth and they were not earning anything.

I suggested they consider the long term ramifications of rejecting sites with higher standards -- as you can imagine what their network will eventually look like, but nonetheless, they deactivated their code and I had to remove it.

In short, if you are only willing to show quality advertising, don't bother with AdBrite unless your blog or site is very popular and in a niche that will support a lot of advertising. Hint: that niche is probably not frugality.

Thursday, February 21

Informative Post Review

Recently, before I became fully employed, I had a little bit more time on my hands than I do now.

So, in an effort to earn a little bit of income in my spare time I signed up with Informative Post (sign up). I only wrote one or two articles for them, but they accepted my work and paid me for it via PayPal.

At the current time they are expanding (especially since they've just introduced a new affiliate program). I hope they can keep their focus on accepting only quality original articles -- there are more than enough article directories out there with not so good content.

If you sometimes feel like writing something that isn't a good fit for your blog, perhaps you should give them a try?

As with any online program, be a little bit cautious. Give it a try. Make sure it works for you. Then, after dipping your toe, feel free to jump in a little deeper if everything seems alright.

Here are the current rates for accepted articles...

TechnologyScienceWorld & BusinessSportsEntertainmentGaming
$3.75$3.47$3.58$4.11$3.83$4.32

Wednesday, February 20

Incentive Credit Rates Making Sense

I find it hard to believe but I'm finally looking at a situation in which it makes sense to take advantage of temporarily low credit card rates.

To give you a bit of background, I've been forced to quietly carry some credit card debt for years now. Luckily, I do have a low interest credit card, but it's still a noticeable drain on my finances. Anyway, as my last post suggests, I've been offered a good job. This means I've finally broken down and decided to move to a city that actually has a demand for my skills.

While this is terrific it does mean that I'm going to have a lot of expenses to deal with. I'll have to find someplace to live and that generally means paying two months rent up-front. Until I find a permanent home I'll have to stay somewhere -- and I don't intend to live out of my car for any length of time. Hmm, I'll have to spend a lot on gas until I've finish relocating too. In short, there are a million little things that are going to cost me extra for the next month or two.

The plan?

Pay off a large chunk of the existing debt on my credit card. Then, I'll pay for all these new expenses using the same credit card while I have access to very low interest rates. Either way, it's the same cash out of my pocket. So, by funneling my payments through the credit card I'll end up with the same total balance but it will be financed at a much lower interest rate.

Once I get settled into the new job and get a few paychecks under my belt I'll be able to whittle away at my debts. It should be interesting to see what happens when a decent income collides with frugality instincts honed by half a decade of living with less. I can't wait!

Saturday, February 16

Stealth Living

You Can't See MeI hope this will be the last in a series of posts dealing with how to get by during tough times. You see, while I have been searching for a decent job lately, I believe I've finally found one.

Anyway, while I've been away from home looking for work, I've had to live very cheaply indeed. See my previous post about "alert status red" for more information. Once again, I'm happy to give you tried and true strategies for getting by on less -- or stealth living in a 24h society.

I know it's been done before, but the stealth issue is that I've been living out of my car. If you are forced to this level of living for a short period of time here are some ideas for you:

  • Buy old fashioned (large flake) rolled oats. If you are lucky they will come in a large plastic bag that is resealable. This is your cheap, convenient and healthy food.
  • Buy powdered milk because it won't go bad whether it is hot or cold.
  • Buy bottled water. It's okay if it freezes, as you can melt it and use it at a later time.
  • Buy plastic cups, perhaps the cheap pack of 50 beer cups, but not the styrofoam ones.
  • With these items, and perhaps some chocolate powder, preferably chocolate protein powder, you have an instant snack anytime you are hungry.
This will be your staple food, but you can supplement it with other things if money permits. I'd suggest putting the food between the back of your seat and the rear seats. When parked you can reach back, work with the ingredients, make yourself a meal, and eat it. It's also handy to use a plastic grocery bag, attached in some way for easy use, to put your garbage in as you open and unwrap things.

Clothing is another issue. So are showers. Use the trunk of your vehicle like a closet or dresser. Have a gym bag that you will load with clothes you will change into and then simply go to a nearby 24h gym. It helps if you have a membership, but many will offer a trial membership. You can go early in the morning and then change for the day after your workout and subsequent shower. Be sure to get your change of clothes ready whenever weather permits -- as it could rain anytime and interfere with your ability to pick out a critical change of clothes for an upcoming interview.

With showers covered, and clean clothes to change into, you now need to have access to facilities. This is easy during the day if you have pocket change. You can walk into a donut shop or a McDonald's, use the facilities, and then buy some minor item on your way back out. However, you will have to find 24h services so that you are never left without the ability to use them whenever you might need to. Of course the gym will work as well, but you'll generally want to limit your visits there as you may end up working out every day in order to shower and change anyway.

Now, sleeping in the car does suck, but if you have to do it, you have to do it. You obviously must find a safe place that you won't freeze. One good place is at a gas station used by a large number of truckers. They are generally busy 24 hours a day with trucks coming and going. You can find a parking spot, curl up, sleep as best you can, and then head out to the gym the next morning to wake up and get changed. Just make sure you don't freeze to death.

If you need Internet access in order to stay connected during your travels, you have several options. Usually you can book some time at a public library. However, if you do have a laptop, you can find places that are frequented by students and see if those businesses maintain a public access network. For example, while doing laundry on the road recently I was able to connect my laptop and get online thanks to the local pizza place.

Living like this is not fun, it's not comfortable, but it is cheap. Just be careful while you are out there...

Sunday, January 20

It's Winter, Cook More Rice!

Tada - Rice Cooker and HumidifierRecently, I noticed an unexpected bonus while using my #2 kitchen appliance.

As everyone knows, winter is a time that generally involves dryness. Dry air. Dry skin. Dry lips. Dry humor. See, it's dryness all around. Heck, kitchen appliance #1 is even a bread dryer.

So, you guessed it, the rice cooker does double duty as a steam generator. While it's cooking rice you'll see a thin stream of steam drifting out... basically until all the excess water has been used up.

Saturday, January 12

Revenue Sharing: A New Model

This doesn't have much to do with frugality, but it's a potentially significant event that I thought I'd share...

After much thought about how to grow the Grokodile blog directory, it finally occurred to me that people need more incentive to link to it. Then, after a lot more thought, it struck me. Why not just share revenues?

For those of you that don't know, revenue sharing is pretty common. For example, a forum will let you provide your Adsense publisher ID and then use that to display advertising when displaying threads that you created. Generally the advertising displays are split based on some percentage and it provides an incentive for you to contribute to the publishers site.

What happens on Grokodile is a little bit different. In order to highlight the differences I've called it open revenue sharing. There are two differences that make it open:

  • You don't need a relationship with the publisher to participate.
  • You don't need to contribute content in order to participate.
It's an extremely simple concept, but it has a lot of power. Most importantly, it lets anyone participate with an extremely low effort level.

It's not an affiliate link. It's not a link sale. It's not even paid advertising. It's a way to link to quality sites that you'd otherwise be willing to link to and be rewarded for it based on the value of the traffic you send out... without having to commercialize your own web site.

There are some pretty interesting theoretical results from this. However, I'll leave that to your imagination for now.

Tuesday, January 8

Alert Status Red

Captain, she's gonna blow!Well, though it's a line from a song, it also fits my status level according to the recent Financial Risk Advisory System post.

Not long ago, thanks to a check which surprised me by bouncing when I deposited it, my cash balance was a whopping $24. Woohoo! Merry Christmas Frugal Guy! Don't spend it all in one place buddy.

Thankfully, the check was replaced and life goes on. Anyway, this all came about because my long term telecommuting position, several years long actually, finally came to an end late last fall for myself and five or six other unlucky folks.

Needless to say, I'm taking my own advice and seeking employment. I'd really like to find something within my career field, so that I can earn good coin, but if things take too long I'll be scrubbing toilets during the midnight shift at McDonalds. Well, either that or delivering newspapers as my cities' oldest paper carrier.

Alert Status Red!

However, the next line in the song is promising... but the sun comes up instead. If I get a career position I'll be instantly transferred to status level green and the nature of my posts might migrate into a personal finance stance from a frugal living stance.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, January 3

Financial Risk Advisory System

Home and SecurityIn cooperation with the Department of Home and Security, and with my tongue planted firmly in cheek, I present the Financial Risk Advisory System. However, as you will surely notice, great effort has been taken to ensure that this advisory system provides concrete guidelines and practical advice which should prove useful.

Please note that the following threat assessment levels are based upon employment status and the relationship between income and spending levels. Also, it is important to point out that some leeway is provided in terms of determining your individual threat level and the selection of appropriate response measures.

Home and Security Financial Risk Advisory SystemRed: Underemployed / Using Credit

- Find more work
- Find financial assistance
- Mobilize all household members
- Implement extreme frugality initiatives
- Prepare selective defaulting plans
- Goal is to transition to blue status

Orange: Underemployed / Negative Savings

- Find more work
- Implement moderate frugality initiatives
- Prepare extreme frugality plans
- Prepare household member mobilization plans
- Goal is to transition to blue status

Yellow: Employed / Negative Savings

- Find a higher paying job
- Implement modest frugality initiatives
- Implement strict budgeting procedures
- Prepare moderate frugality plans
- Goal is to transition to blue status

Blue: Employed / Making Ends Meet

- Implement modest frugality initiatives
- Implement budgeting procedures
- Prepare credit repayment plans
- Prepare investment plans
- Goal is to transition to green status

Green: Employed / Positive Savings

- Prepare modest frugality initiatives
- Prepare budgeting plan
- Implement credit repayment plans
- Implement investment plans
- Goal is to be ready for a status change

Citizen Guidance on the Home and Security Financial Risk Advisory System
The following material is provided to assist in threat level determination and to allow parents and other authority figures to pre-educate citizens allocated to their responsibility.

Discussion of Threat Level GREEN
Based upon expectations of a normal childhood, lucky citizens with financially secure parents should find themselves at or near threat level green upon entering the workforce - after completion of high school or post secondary education. It is the responsibility of citizens in this state to undertake efforts at budget preparation and to adequately prepare for an involuntary transition to a higher threat level. As well, steps must be taken to repay debts, generate savings, manage investments and plan for retirement.

It is of course the responsibility of parents to take steps to ensure that their children do have the knowledge and discipline necessary to enter the working world in threat level green.

Suggested readings: The First Job.

Discussion of Threat Level BLUE
Most citizens will find themselves facing this threat level at some point during their lives. Perhaps they entered the work world without an adequate financial education or perhaps they faced rising expenses due to credit based asset acquisition. In either case, runaway spending must be curbed. A budget must be prepared and areas of potential waste must be uncovered.

In many cases employed individuals will fall into poor habits including: lack of lunch preparation which results in excessive lunch expenses, lack of meal planning which results in empty fridges and cupboards leading to excessing dining out or ordering in, an undisciplined approach to spending based on the inability to afford desired items prior to entering the full time work force, or excessive spending on interest areas and hobbies.

Generally, most fully employed single citizens or double income couples should have little trouble migrating from blue status to green status following a systematic analysis of spending habits and appropriate budgetary and disciplinary adjustments. Modest frugality measures as discussed often suffice. However, it is the responsibility of citizens to prepare for unexpected circumstances

Suggested readings: The First Job, Beware the Anti-Frugal.

Discussion of Threat Level YELLOW
Upon entering threat level yellow citizens must immediately realize that they are facing future danger. Savings cannot be relied upon indefinitely. Modest measures as discussed for threat level blue may suffice, but it may be necessary to cut deeper.

At this point decisions have to be made concerning what is and what is not really a vital expense. For example, enhanced cable television, liberal use of text messaging, extravagant vacations, optional travel, frequent entertainment and other entitlement style expenditures may be pared.

It must be understood that threat level yellow represents a serious and deteriorating condition. Household meetings and discussion may be required to get buy in for current or future cost reduction measures.

Suggested readings: Beware the Anti-Frugal, Where The Money Goes, Freezer Cooking for One, Rice.

Discussion of Threat Level ORANGE
Though similar to threat level yellow, threat level orange is a different shade of trouble. When income is below normal or expected levels and savings are being utilized it may be difficult or impossible to transition to a cash positive situation. At this point things may be somewhat out of control of the citizen until they are able to repair their income.

The goal at this point must be to stem the flow of money as much as possible. Strict budgeting, cancellation of non-essential services, and moderate to extreme levels of frugality should all be enacted. Obviously, a family with a large degree of emergency savings would have more time to make adjustments, and could delay more severe measures based on the rate of savings utilization.

Suggested readings: Sharp Frugal Instincts, Extreme Frugality Meal Plan, Cheap Food.

Discussion of Threat Level RED
Once this threat level has been entered it is past time to pull out all the stops. The only thing that should not be sacrificed at this point is health. You may have to pick and choose which creditors to pay and which creditors to default on. However, you must be aware of the potential for global default provisions once this decision point is reached.

For example, you might decide to sacrifice payment on several credit cards, furniture, and non-essential services while keeping up with car payments and household rent. The idea would be to keep the family fed and warm while retaining the ability to look for work or drive to work in the event you find additional or new employment.

This is also a time that other family members may be able to kick in towards expenses. Family members working part time could certainly contribute some money towards food or other required expenses as long as their work did not interfere with their ongoing education.

Suggested readings: Extreme Frugality Meal Plan, How to Stretch Ground Beef, Cheap Food, Calorie Cycling Diet.

Additional Notes
Although this was created as somewhat of a parody it does bring to light a lot of things that can be left unmentioned in many families. The value of budgeting, planning for the future, and the importance of not throwing away money when it becomes available are messages that are often not conveyed. Instead, these issues are left to be discovered as challenges arise.

It is also important to realize that changes in threat level can happen no matter how responsible and prudent one is. Employers can go bankrupt. Job hunting may involve difficult to pay expenses. Health issues can interfere with the ability to work. Disasters can unleash large uninsured expenses. Investments can be wiped out. Of course, there is no need to panic, but it does pay to realize that such things happen.

NOTE: Included in this week's festival of frugality!