Thursday, March 31, 2011

Conquering Obstacles: Financial Responsibility


Did that word strike fear and terror in your hearts?

Until a few months ago, the mere mention -- even thought! -- of that word would have provoked a violent gnashing of teeth, followed by a certain type of discussion (ahem!) with my beloved spouse.

You see, as is common in so many relationships, one of us is a spender (guilty!) while the other is a saver. As you can imagine (or might perhaps have experienced first-hand), the meeting of the two over a checkbook has the potential to cause a wee bit of conflict.

After years spent battling debt and each other, my DH and I have finally found a solution that works!

YNAB has completely and totally changed our lives. For the first time ever (in our nearly 16 years of marriage, and in our 21 years together), we actually have money in the bank to pay our bills when they arrive. Perhaps this isn't an earth-shattering concept to many of you, but in my family this ranks as Big News.

YNAB is an extremely easy-to-use program, even for my technologically stunted DH. More than once he has e-mailed support and received an immediate response, and the active online community forums ensure abundant help and suggestions.

YNAB advocates the concept that you should give every dollar a job. In other words, when you receive income, you immediately allocate that money somewhere. By tagging how your money will be spent, you never run into the problem of seeing money in your bank account and assuming it's available ... with the consequence of not having money when you need it. With YNAB's help, we have been able to set aside money for our annual expenses (life insurance, vehicle maintenance, travel), our monthly expenses (utilities, gasoline), and our long-term expenses (food storage, savings, retirement).

I confess that I have never been "good" with money. Perhaps it's my debilitating optimism (Why worry about money? It'll all work out!) ... or maybe it's my instant gratification syndrome (Yarn! Books! Shiny things!) ... but in any event, I tend to nickel-and-dime our budget into the red. Helpful Hint: this is not good! Rather than making me feel deprived, I have found YNAB to be completely liberating. No longer do I feel like a kept woman who has to beg her husband for money (then deal with his frustration when I overspend). I now have a certain amount of cash I can spend each month, guilt-free with no strings attached. Granted, I often spend my allotment by the 10th ... but those 10 days are glorious! I know that I can purchase whatever I can afford ... without sacrificing our ability to save, pay bills, and (gasp!) travel.

I promise that YNAB has in no way endorsed or encouraged this post. In fact, they have no idea that I'm even writing about their product! This program has so revolutionized my world that I just felt compelled to share. If you try it (and you can try for free to see if you like it), let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Conquering Obstacles: Personal Defense

One place I never thought I would find myself:

Yesterday afternoon, my beloved and I spent several hours at a shooting range. Shooting guns. At people-shaped targets. Ummmm ... did I mention the guns?!?!

For quite some time now, my husband has been mentioning his desire to purchase firearms to use in self defense. The thought frightens me to my very core.

First of all, I tend to be a jumpy person (ask the kids -- they never tire of leaping out at me, watching my inevitable shriek-filled response). I would not trust myself to handle a weapon safely in an emergency situation.

Second, I have zero familiarity with guns. I have never been around guns. Ever. None of my close family members even hunt (and, come to think of it, many are vegetarians). I spent my formative teen years and the majority of adult years in a Washington, DC, suburb where guns = gangs and urban violence. I would venture to confess that I have developed a phobia about guns ... spurred primarily by the sheer magnitude of my ignorance.

So yesterday, as part of my plan to conquer my fears, my husband and I enrolled in a private 3-hour gun safety / shooting course with a certified instructor. I have always been concerned that, should I encounter a gun, I wouldn't even know how to tell if it was loaded. The instructor provided extensive information about loading and unloading weapons and gun safety. He also ever-so-patiently answered my multitude of questions without even one giggle.

From the time we arrived at the range (half an hour before the lesson), I was a jumpy basketcase. With each shot outside (which, honestly, weren't many considering it was late on a Tuesday morning), I shuddered or gasped or dropped something. We went back to the car for a bit so I could settle down. The irony of this scene is not lost on me:

Imagine my complete and utter surprise when, after touching a gun for the first time, I did this:

Is that a perfect bulls-eye?! Why yes, yes it is! Go ahead ... zoom in and see for yourself!

By the end of my first round, my target looked like this:

As I became more comfortable with the gun, I found myself experiencing flickers of enjoyment. But then, I would glance around at everyone else and realize that we were all holding deadly weapons. With just one minute error, a life could be taken. When I mentioned that I was uncomfortable shooting at the human-shaped target (preferring instead a simple red-and-white circle), my husband gently reminded me that we were getting trained so that we could protect ourselves ... from people.

As I reflect on the day, I remain quite unsettled. As much as I loved the actual shooting (and as much as I have gloated about my awesomeness!), I am deeply haunted by the thought that I could harm or kill another human being. Without a moment's hesitation, I know that I would do anything necessary to protect my family. However ... I am having a hard time reconciling that intense desire to defend with the inevitable reality that I might have to kill.

My husband and I plan to take another class in the next couple of months, and he would like to begin looking into a weapon to purchase. Meanwhile, I think I'm going to need some time to let things percolate while I wait for some sort of resolution.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Conquering Obstacles: In The Garden

One of the biggest side effects of my venture into prepping is the fact that the more I learn, the more I must acknowledge an ever-increasing list of what-ifs. I am then obligated to prepare for those eventualities instead of just feigning ignorance. Ultimately, prepping has taken me outside my comfort zone in a variety of ways.

During the next few weeks, I will be highlighting several ways that I am actively confronting my fears in an effort to be more knowledgeable and better prepared.

As you know, gardening is one of the skills I am least interested in pursuing. I recognize that I can't just choose to remain ignorant, however. Today, the kids and I took a couple of steps toward producing food of our own. Motivated by this post (and a whole bunch of You Tube videos), we whipped out our drill and got to work.

We planted 3 varieties of potatoes in a couple of trash cans ... then found ourselves a bit obsessed! The Boy planted 3 containers of basil, The Girl planted some catnip, and both of them have big plans for what they want to plant next. I'll be sure to report back ... hopefully with a bumper crop of tubers and herbs!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Confession (Please Don't Hate Me ...)

You know those deep-dark secrets you hold close to your heart ... the ones that you only admit to yourself in the middle of sleepless nights?

I am about to share with you, my need-to-know readers, my deepest-darkest secret. After uttering the following words, I will never again acknowledge them as my own. You see, revelation of this secret would mean the loss of all my Prepper Street Cred.


I hate ... the hot Texas sun.
I hate ... the ever-present threat of a snake encounter.
I hate ... dirt under my fingernails.

It's strange, really, because I'm an outdoorsy gal. I adore being in nature. I love swimming in creeks and hiking through forests. I live for campouts and stargazing.

But gardening? Ick!

I recognize the importance of a productive, well-tended garden to a prepping lifestyle. Apparently, purchasing gardening books and reading gardening magazines doesn't make a garden grow. So ... I have come up with an alternate solution.

The way I see it, sprouts are the perfect solution for me right now. They're delicious, they're nutritious ... and I can cultivate them by the pound, dirt-free, all within the air conditioned (snake-free!) comfort of my lovely home.

Have you tried sprouting? Do you have any favorite seeds? What is your favorite resource?