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!