Sunday, November 15, 2009

An interesting development and Sportsmansguide

So I got my first paycheck since I took out the loan on my 401k. Surprise, surprise my takehome is now more than it was after the loan payment is taken out. All payments into the account are tax deferred so if after making your payment you end up in a lower tax bracket the amount that you're taxed is reduced. That could make your paycheck bigger than before even after you make your loan payment. Any payments made towards your 401k are taken out of your check by your employer before you get the income so you're not taxed on it. Oh and the interest rate on my loan is only 5.5%. If you have a 401k, lots of credit card bills and you don't foresee losing your job anytime soon then educate yourself. This could be a very good tool to get yourself out of debt. Technically, I only owe myself the money that I borrowed. If something happens and I can't pay myself back then I have to pay a 10% penalty on the amount that I borrowed and the amount of the loan counts as taxable income for that year.

So the way I understand it you could just sack away 10% of whatever you borrow just in case you can't pay the loan back. If you lose your job at some point (really the only way that I could see not being able to pay it back) then you could just pay the penalty. Whatever you paid back into your 401k up until that point will still be there. You'll still have the money that you borrowed (unless you spent it). It would just be like paying 10% interest on the loan all at once I suppose. Since I really don't know that much about this stuff and I'm only speaking from my extremely limited experience (in other words DON'T ACT ON MY ADVICE ALONE EDUCATE YOURSELF) I would appreciate it if anyone who's in the know could explain to me why this is not a good idea. FYI there's also a type of life insurance policy that you can buy that works on the same principle except that the payments aren't tax deferred. The payouts, however, aren't taxable because they're considered loans. The benefit over a 401k is that you don't incur any penalties if you don't pay it back. I have one of those as well but it doesn't grow anywhere near as quickly as my 401k.

Aside from managing my finances I've been prepping quite a bit. I may be getting my hands on a lot of 25lb bags of brown rice. Rawles recommends this stuff for very good reason. It's a lot healthier and tastier than white rice. I'll have to buy more than I can use to get in on the deal so if anyone is interested then please feel free to email me at artyboy@gmail.com and I'll get you a very good price with shipping included.

I also put together an order from sportsmansguide. I picked up a few wool watch caps, some Merrel shoes, a new coat and some boots for the wifey. The wife's boots were as could be expected. I could have bought her a pair of boots that everyone reviewing them claimed were still comfortable after walking 20 miles but I could carry her for 20 miles and she'd still complain. So I just went for something that would keep her feet dry when she's walking across the driveway to her car. She put them on, they fit and she was happy. I was pretty impressed with the quality for the price as well. Mission accomplished.

As for the wool watch caps, they were just too awesome. Try to find wool watch caps anywhere these days and you'll probably pay $30 a pop for them. Most of the crap you find for sale are some kind of acrylic blend that doesn't actually keep your head warm. It just keeps your head dry until the snow melts through or you start to sweat. Wool works wet or dry. As long as you can keep your head and your feet warm then the rest of your body doesn't have to work very hard at all to stay warm.

Speaking of feet I also picked up a pair of Merrels. I can't speak highly enough of this brand. A few years ago I picked up a pair on clearance at some big box store. They served me well until I walked outside one day to find my dog chewing on them. He'd been using them for a chew toy all night. They were still pretty rough around the edges but after putting in some new insoles and replacing the laces they were still usable and comfortable. I've been wearing that pair for 2 or 3 years since. I've gone on a lot of hikes and spent many nights in the woods with them. Even after being chewed up they were still waterproof. I can't tell you how many streams and creeks I've stepped into. Once my brother got stuck in a really deep creek and I was in water up to my knees. My feet never did get wet. Finally, sportsmansguide put a decent pair of Merrels on sale for $70. Thank you sportsmansguide! If it wasn't for my dog trying his best to rip them to shreds I wouldn't even need a new pair but sometimes crazy stuff happens.

You're probably wondering about the coat. It aint all that. It's a lot thinner and lighter than I expected. It'll do what I expected it to do. It just won't do it as well as I expected. You get what you pay for. In my experience, if you're buying from sportsmansguide then pay attention to name brands. If they're selling a name brand that you really trust and have experience with and the price is off the hook then jump on it. They'll come through for you. If you've never heard of the brand and the price is just "pretty good" then pass. If you see "guide gear" and they're not giving it away then wait for a sale. Eventually they'll put a price on it that you just can't pass on.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Finally got a few bucks to play with

Now I'm trying to come up with a few things that I need. I want to get a new canner. The old antique canner that I've been using makes me nervous. It works well but it's from the 40s. I'll be getting one of those All American gasketless canners. I also want to get a better grain grinder to replace my corona. I'll probably just get a back to basics mill. I want the country living mill but it's a little more than I'm willing to spend for something that I probably won't use a whole lot. Of course, I'll be kicking myself if there ever comes a time when I do have to use it regularly. If anyone has a better suggestion for a grinder in the $100-$200 range I'm all ears. A set of Berkey filters are also on the list. I'm going to make a water purification unit out of a couple of 5 gallon buckets. I might also pick up some of those can organizers that Ryan at TSLR wrote about the other day.

As for food I'm pretty well set. I just buy stuff here and there when I have extra cash so I'm sitting pretty in that department. Most of my preps consist of canned food, rice, wheat and beans. I might pick up a few cases of freeze dried food to round things out a bit more and break the monotony. I'm past the point where I consider it a priority, though. I just need to get some more buckets so that I can pack up some of my beans, rice and wheat in mylar.

I'm really tempted to buy another gun. I've told myself that I'm only going to get one. I've been wanting a .308 bolt action for a while. I found a Remington 770 on clearance for $320 at a local store. That was tempting. Then I found a used Glock 19 at a pawn shop for $300. It's a little rough around the edges and it just comes with one high cap mag. It's a Glock, though. Mags are cheap and easy to find and...well...it's a Glock. They just work and they last forever. I've wanted a Glock 19 for a long time and that price is almost too good to pass up. I've already got a 9mm (and tons of ammo), though. On the other hand the only bolt action rifles I have are milsurp. I've got a few hundred rounds of .308 in the safe with no way to shoot it. Yeah, I know...a dozen guns in the safe and not one is for hunting.

I also want to put a little something towards precious metals. I buy a silver eagle here and there and I've got plenty of junk silver but now I can finally start to look at small amounts of gold. Unfortunately, everyone seems to want a ridiculous amount over spot for everything. Last time gold hit record highs it dropped back down to $800-$900 for a year. I predict that it's going to go a little higher but before it hits $1200 it's going to drop back down to $800-$900 or so. Then when the cracks in the economy keep getting bigger it's going to start creeping up again. When that happens it won't stop unless something in the economy changes. As long as the fed keeps trying to control everything we're headed for disaster.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Got a new flashlight

So I got a new flashlight. If you haven't noticed by now I'm a bit of a flashlight whore. I like to have one on my person at all times. Every room in my house that I spend any time in has a flashlight stored away somewhere. When it comes to daily carry lights they just need to be small enough to fit in my pocket and I need to be able to see when I point it at something and turn it on. Brightness can become a big issue when you need something that lights up a room so if you're going super cheap you could find your carry light severely lacking if you get into a really dark room. I'm also a bit of a cheapass and I have a tendency of losing flashlights so cost is also an issue. For a daily carry light I don't like to spend more than $20.

The last one that I was carrying was a Streamlight Stylus. I was pretty impressed with it but it did have it's drawbacks. First of all it was way too long. That's why I lost it in the first place. When I'd hop on my bike it would push up halfway out of my pocket. It also used AAAA batteries. They're not exactly a common size. Most importantly, it wasn't quite bright enough. It was good for up close work but if you needed to walk down a dark hallway it didn't have enough oomph to see everything clearly. Another thing that annoyed me was that it didn't have an "always on" option. The light only came on while you pressed on the button. One time I reached for it and it was gone. It must have fallen out of my pocket when I was on my bike.

No biggie. It gave me an opportunity to try out another light. One thing that impressed me about the Streamlight was the build quality. It was built solidly. After falling out of my pocket on the highway I have no doubt that someone, at some point will find it on the ground and it will still work. That led me to the Streamlight Stylus Pro.

This is the light that I carry now. It's about the same size as a fancy pen. It's much shorter than the stylus but it's also a little thicker. It uses 2 AAA batteries so getting replacements is a no brainer. It's built rock solid so you don't have to worry about dropping it. It's got an always on button. Most importantly it's a lot brighter. My litmus test is when the lights go off in my warehouse on the weekend. Picture a gymnasium with no windows and no light. That's what my warehouse looks like when the lights go out. A year or so ago I reviewed a cheapo Rayovac light that I got at Wal-Mart for about $4. It was great for basic use but unless I was 2 feet away from whatever I was shining it on in my warehouse I couldn't see crap. The first Streamlight that I went with was a little better. I could see about 10 feet in front of me with no problem. Still, though, holding down the button all of the time was annoying. The Streamlight Stylus Pro that I'm using now was like night and day. This time the test consisted of me poking my head into the warehouse and turning it on. Suddenly, there was a bright spot on the far wall. I could read boxes on the other end of the warehouse with this thing. I really like this light. It's most definitely the best light at it's price point. You'll probably have to drop 3x as much to get better performance out of a pocket light.