Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Everyday Uses For A Vacuum Sealer In The Suburbs.

Anyone who is self reliant or who buys in bulk has considered a vacuum sealer. We've all seen them at savings club stores like Sams, BJ's,  or Costco and other retail outlets like Walmart. Most of us have seen them on infomercials where a thrifty, creative home maker is vacuum sealing bulk purchased meats, or prepackaging every meal, marinating chicken in a hurry, or sealing up left overs so they last longer, etc.

They seem like a great idea and hit us in the budgetary sweet spot of not wasting money by not wasting food. I mean, who hasn't thrown out food that spoiled before it got cooked, or food that got freezer burned? Vacuum sealers seem easy to use....just place whatever you want to seal in a pre-sized plastic bag, place the open end of the bag on the bottom shelf of the sealer, close the lid, and press a button. What could be easier, right? Easy peezy lemon squeezy.

It really is that simple, at least at that stage of the process. But you should know, there's A LOT of things that have to happen before you place the bag in the sealer and press the go button. The first of those things is....you have to own a vacuum sealer. I own a Foodsaver brand. It's by far the most popular, to the extent that people refer to vacuum sealers as "food savers", much like people ask for a Kleenex.

Foodsaver isn't the only brand of vacuum sealer by any means, and this is in no way an advertisement for or an endorsement of their products. It just so happens to be the brand I bought 20+ years ago, which i still have and use. They have many models, with many features,  and you can find some comparisons here.

This post isn't about which vacuum saver you should get, or which attachments they offer for which models, or even how awesome your vacuum sealing experience will be. This post is about what I have used my vacuum sealer to seal, the tips and tricks I learned along the way, and the results I experienced.

So, lets get right to it. As I mentioned earlier, there are quite a few things that need to happen before you press the Seal Me button, or whatever its called. We will assume at this stage of the process, you already have a sealer. So the next two decisions you need to make are what am I going to seal, and what am I going to seal it in? Simple right? Not really.

In my experience there are two types of things you would seal for storage; food, and not food.
So lets take a look at food first. There are three scenarios for sealing food:

     1. Frozen, long term storage - meats, vegetables and fruits that you want to store in your freezer and use longer than 10 days from the day you sealed them. I've frozen meats that have kept for close to a year with my vacuum sealer. They might have lasted longer, but we ate them. It wasn't a science experiment, its just meat for dinner. What you store these items in is an important determining factor on how long they will store with little or no degradation. I used the vacuum bags and bag rolls made by Foodsaver. the bags are easy to use if what you want to store fits in them, but they cost more. they're already sealed on one end. So you fill and seal. the bag rolls on the other hand are just that.....a roll of bag material that you cut to size and seal on both ends. The rolls are less expensive, but you have to cut it to the length you think you'll need, seal one end, then fill it and finally seal the other end. More work, and 2 times the chance of a seal failure. There are things you can do to minimize the chance of seal failure:
    • Portion out the food you want to go into the bag ahead of time, don't try to do it as you fill the bags. If you'll 2x a portion for a recipe I would use two bags, dont try to fit a double portion in one bag.
    • Wash your hands after you portion the food. Meat will leave fat and grease on your hands and the bags as you fill them. This can affect the quality of the seal. I rolled ground beef into a big ball and dropped it into the open bag so it didn't brush the sides going in and contaminate the seal.
    • For ground meats I flattened them out before sealing and tried to get them all roughly the same dimensions. This lets it rest flat on the counter, keeps the bag in a relatively cohesive shape for sealing that doesn't have peaks and valleys in it. Those peaks will cause wrinkles the length of the bag and when the wrinkle reaches the sealing pad of the vacuum sealer it will fold over and create an air leak. Flat meat is also easier to store as it can be stacked.
    • Vegetables i just tossed in the bag, gave it a good shake to settle them into the bag, laid them on their sides flat,  and sealed them.
    • I put a second seal on each end of the bag about 1/2 inch from first seal on the outside of the first seal. Make sure the seals don't cross each other, and make sure the first seal is good before you set the second seal. 
    • If you mess up a seal, don't cut the bag shorter and try again, get a new bag. If it wrinkled with a longer bag the first time it will definitely wrinkle on a shorter bag the second time.
    • Let your food sit out for 15 minutes before you put it in the freezer. Most seal failures happen pretty quickly. If your bag doesn't look exactly like it did when you first sealed it, cut it open and use a new bag.
     2. Frozen or refrigerated, short term storage - meats, vegetables and fruits that you want to use within 10 days of sealing them. This could be for marinades, left overs, stuff you want to cook in 5 days, etc. Newer machines will allow you to seal zippered bags, or any other food grade plastic bag. Those might be a better option for this than the rolls and heavier bags mentioned above. They wont have to hold a seal for months and I wouldn't bother with a second seal. Follow all of the steps for handling the food before you seal it, follow all of the steps should you notice a seal failure, and you should be good to go. I don't have a lot of experience with sealing short cycle foods because we either used it within a few days or kept it as part of a longer cycle rotation because we bought in bulk or on sale. I have however resealed jars once they've been opened, so they make that cool *thock* sound when you reopen them.

    3. Dry long term storage - Dry goods that you plan on storing for an extended period of time. This is one of the ways I heavily used my sealer. I have stored many different dry goods, but they basically fall into grains, beans, and granules.They're sealed in slightly different ways and stored in differently ways as well.
    • Grains and granules - Flour (wheat and corn) and salt (not iodized) mainly. I used bag rolls cut to size. I simply placed the grains or granules in their original packaging inside the bag and double sealed them. This will protect them against airborne and insect contaminates. This will not protect your stored goods from rodent contamination.
    • Beans - All types of dry beans. I remove them from their packaging and put them into the bag rolls i have cut to length. I double seal them and place them into 3 gallon food grade buckets with lids. I get my buckets from Walmart. I ask the bakery for their empty icing buckets. They are always happy to get rid of the buckets, which I wash then dry and store my beans in.

The second type of items you would use the vacuum sealer to store is non-food items. these could include things like firearms parts, documents, matches, batteries, primers, medicines, the list is almost endless. these types of things would be stored in much the same way as beans and grains/granules. I stored small, sharp parts inside a small metal tin, and larger parts inside plastic potato chip tubes (think Pringles can) and double sealed them into cut to length roll bags. One complete parts kit per weapon into individual sealed packages. I tossed a parts list in each package, and wrote the weapon name on the outside with a sharpie.

Things like prescription medications, primers, and things that come prepackaged into small to medium sized packages, I simply dropped into the cut to length bag rolls and double sealed them. This will be a judgment call for you, things the seem easier to store, identify, and use/administer by their original packaging would probably be better served to bag and seal in their original packaging. This way you know exactly which medicines you have in the bag and the correct dosages.

Important documents and photographs would of course be sealed flat in cut to length bag rolls. As an additional step for documents I put them into envelopes and marked the envelops so I could tell the general contents of each one. I grouped the documents by each person in my family, I had a birth certificate, social security card, immunization record, and ID card among other documents for each person. I marked the outside with a sharpie by name. I had all the documents imaged to disk prior to vacuum sealing them. you could also group the documents by type instead. So you would have all birth certificates in one package, social security cards in another, etc.

In conclusion, a vacuum sealer is a great tool from a financial perspective in that it allows you to safely seal and store your food purchases for the log or short term. It's also a great tool from a practical perspective in that it can be used to protect non-food items from the environment and extend their life by a very long time.

I encourage you to do your own research on brands, models and features. I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. The opinions in all my blog posts are just that, my opinions. They're worth exactly what you paid for them. Feel free to comment, make suggestions for new topics, or just suggestions in general. You can submit them in at the blog site, anonymously if you want. Or you can e-mail me directly: survivalinthesuburbs@gmail.com  As always, thank you for reading.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What a year it's been.

     I've not posted on this blog for almost an entire year. A lot has happened, both personally, and in general, during that time. Lets see....where to begin:

     I survived the DNC coming to Charlotte - what a blustery, blowhard mess that was. Hope & Change.... my ass. The city spent lots of money to make the city not look like the city. They hid problems like high crime hot spots and masses of homeless by moving them out of the main traffic routes of the DNC, only to move them right back once "the eyes of the country" were looking elsewhere.

     Obama got re-elected. We did it to ourselves. Enough said.

     The school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Connecticut. What a horrible tragedy. For the anti-gun crowd...what an opportunity to take center stage and present a knee jerk reaction to an emotionally raw country. Ammunition and firearms prices skyrocketed, people panic bought even more than they planned originally, and Obama's "gun control" sold more guns than any other event in American history.

     The fiscal cliff resulted in my paying an increase in taxes, so more people could produce nothing for longer on my dime. There was no economic crash and burn as predicted, more like a hot flash for the working man.....who continues to carry the burden of the not really looking for work, and therefore not-working man.

     The Boston Marathon Bombing. Another horrible tragedy and a senseless loss of life. My prayers go out to the victims. How did this happen. Isn't the Patriot Act supposed to prevent this very thing, wasn't the Department of Homeland Security created to prevent this very thing? I gave up many of my rights and privacy "for the greater good", and this is what happens? Who dropped the ball on this? Why are we, as American citizens, not raising tee-total hell about this?

     Benghazi - Our government ignores please for help and leaves it's citizens to be murdered and defiled in an U.S. Embassy which is being over run. Then claims "we didn't know". There is an entire SITUATION ROOM where these things are immediately brought to light, and decisions about course of action are made. What happens....the idiot who's job it is "to know" resigns, and is now running for President. Great. Just Great.

     The NSA leaks, and electronic spying scandal by .gov broke big time. People who normally wouldn't give electronic communication a second thought were suddenly paranoid conspiracy theorists. Shade tree cryptologists abound, everyone is encrypting everything. Meh.

     The Trayvon Martin trial - George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges and walked away a free man. This to the dismay of CNN news anchor Jane Valez-Mitchell who was shocked and obviously disappointed that not only were there no riots over the verdict, but there were more people in line at Taco Bell than on the courthouse grounds when the verdict was read. Creepy Ass Cracker leads Valez-Mitchell 1-0.

     I went to Greece for 3 weeks. I saw how well socialism doesn't work, first hand. Most of the "trouble" in Greece is in the large cities, not the rural areas where we stayed. People there are resilient, hard working, and self reliant. No matter what happens, they just keep on - keeping on. They grow their own food, repair their own stuff, mind their own business, and handle their own problems.

I promise I won't wait so long to post in the future. I plan on posting every 10 days to 2 weeks. That's the plan, and you know how plans go. Topics or gear reviews you like to see are always welcome. Help me out a little  :)

     I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. The point is to survive to fight another day.
Suggestions are welcome, topic suggestions are welcome, comments are welcome. You can post them on the blog, anonymously if you prefer. The point is to post them. If you would like you can e-mail me directly: survivalinthesuburbs@gmail.com

     As always, thanks for reading

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Multi-tools. What I carry and why.

     I'm a pretty loyal customer. If I'm happy with something, a particular brand for example, I'll stick with it until I'm no longer happy with it or no longer happy with the company that makes it. I'm like that about food, clothes, tools, etc. For example I've bought Heinz ketchup, Levis jeans, and Nike shoes for as long as I can remember. My multi-tool of choice is the Leatherman Wave. When I bought my first Wave about 15 years ago, they came in real leather cases, which were dyed brown, and had a brass snap on it. Now they come in a black (sort of) leather case, with elastic on the sides and close with velcro.....ain't progress grand?

     Back then there weren't nearly as many models of Leatherman multi-tools to choose from, nor nearly as many makers of multi-tools in general. Nowdays anyone tooled up to make knives is making multi-tools. That can be good and bad at the same time. The good of it is that someone will invent something innovative and change the landscape of multi-tools. The bad of it is that most of the second tier and lower manufacturers will turn out worthless crap.

     I own two Waves, a surge, and a M.U.T.(Military Utility Tool). Those four tools fit all of my multi-tool needs. I keep one Wave in my tackle box, one Wave in my GHB (Get Home Bag), the surge in my truck console, and the MUT in my carbine deployment bag. I've never owned a Gerber multi-tool, but have heard good things about them. I've owned a few of their knives and the quality is sufficient for the price, I can't imagine the multi-tools would be any different.

     The Wave is a very capable tool for urban, suburban, rural, and wilderness survival. However it looses some of it's functionality in the wilderness as a majority of the tools are for tightening/loosening, stripping, or opening things that aren't normally found in the wilderness. or The MUT is an awesome tool for armorers or people who maintain their weapons in the field vs. on a cleaning bench. I can completely field strip any weapon I carry using only the M.U.T.  The Surge is handy because it's smaller and lighter than the Wave, so it's likely to get dropped into my cargo shorts pocket.

     I don't intend to do a review of the Wave, everyone on the planet it seems has written a review on either the Wave or it's equivalent by Gerber. I did however write a review about the M.U.T. and you can read it here. It fits my needs very well, and as you'll see in he review it's quite capable.

     I realize I haven't posted in awhile, and for that I apologize. Life happens, and with small kids, it happens fast and without warning. However, we survived the summer, the vacations, the out of school kids, the back to school rush, and the death of another immediate family member (my mother in law). It's been a crazy ride. I'll write about surviving the summer in an upcoming post, I learned a lot.

     Remember I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. My opinions are exactly that....my opinions. Thank you all for reading and being patient with my lack of posts while I struggled through a difficult summer. As always, comments, suggestions, topics are always welcome....criticism not so much  :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review of the Eagle Nest Outfitters (ENO) Double Nest Hammok and One Link

     I have been wanting to try hammock camping for awhile now. My son has an Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) Single Nest which he carries on all camping/backpacking trips. He uses it to lounge around at the campsite, but sleeps in his tent. I wanted to camp in a hammock shelter system versus a tent. After some research on the Internet, and checking out a few different options at my local outfitter I decided to buy the ENO One Link system.

     The One Link shelter system comes with everything you need to camp in a hammock. It includes:
  • Hammock - Mine is the DoubleNest which is roomy enough, in theory, for two adults.
  • Bug Net - comes with a suspension line.
  • Rain Fly - with tie down cords and stakes.
  • Slap Straps Pro - The suspension straps for the hammock system, also includes caribiners.
  • Carry sacks for each component, and one larger sack that carries it all.

     I set up my hammock after packing it in about 5 miles on the AT (Appalachian Trail). The set up was easy and took about 10 minutes to set up all of the components. I had set up a single nest before, but never the whole One Fly system.  I didn't use all of the rain fly stakes, but tied the rain fly anchor cordage directly to trees near me. I think I used one stake so i could control which direction the run off went, should it actually rain. The rain fly provided shade more than anything else. The set up went exactly as described in the documentation that came with the One Fly, with the exception of the bug net.

     The suspension cordage on the bug net was too short, it was only about 5 feet long and couldn't be used. I called Eagle Nest Outfitters when I got back and explained the situation. They sent me a new piece of cord, no questions asked. I can't speak highly enough for their customer service. I spoke with s guy named Adam, who really knew hammock camping. We talked about new products and swapped camping stories. It was refreshing to speak with someone who actually USED the product they were selling.

     The high quality of materials used in immediately evident when you get in the hammock. Everything I needed was included in the set up, and I used everything that was included. It turned out to be about 25% cheaper to buy the One Link system vs. buying everything separately. I think I'll add some different caribiners, and the possum pouch so everything is within reach, but that's about it.

     The Double Nest is comfortable and roomy. Getting in and out of the hammock with the Bug Net in place was a little tricky, but was getting easier every time I did it. I'm not a small framed guy, I'm 6 feet tall and weigh about 250 pounds. I'm sure it was amusing to see me try to get back in my sleeping bag which was on my ground pad which was in my hammock which was inside a bug net.....in the dark. Keep a headlamp handy, if for no other reason than to see me try to get back in my hammock.

 Observations and suggestions:
  • Stretch the hammock very tightly the first time you use it. Let your weight settle it in for a couple of hours then re-set it. I work up and had settled about two feet below where I had originally set my hammock. This only happened the first time I used my hammock. The second time it only settled about 8 inches.
  • Use a ground pad in the hammock if it's going to be chilly or windy. Once you compress the insulation in your sleeping bag, you'll feel the cold air on your back every tine the wind blows.
  • Keep a headlight handy so you're hands are free to use when you're trying to get in and out of the hammock, zip up the bug net, rearrange your ground pad, etc.
  • Keep the attachment cords for the rain fly attached to the stakes and just roll them up in the fly. It will save you about 5 minutes next time you set it up. It probably won't fit back in the stuff sack for the rain fly, but it will all fit in the bigger sack anyways. I couldn't get the fly back in its stuff sack WITHOUT the stakes attached....so I left them on the second time I set it up and just never took them off again.
  •  Using a shorter ground pad might help with staying on top of it. I woke up with mine wrapped around my legs, and never could get it set right again. It was dark, in a sleeping bag, in a hammock, in a bug net. Not a lot of wiggle room, and not a lot of options short of re-setting everything back in place. No fun at 3AM.
     I like my hammock system and would recommend hammock camping. Getting the right gear makes all of the difference on the world.  I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. Comments, questions,  and suggestions are always welcome.

     As always, thank you for reading. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Surviving the Idiots in The Suburbs

     This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I am absolutely surrounded by idiots. I'm in an Idiot Rich Environment (IRE if you will). Why is this a problem you ask? Idiots are generally harmless. Well....you know how beer makes anything better; if the foods good, beer makes it great. If you're pissed off, a beer will make you mellow. If you're hot and tired, beer makes you feel better. Conversely, no matter how bad things are....idiots make them worse. No matter where you are, what time of day or night it is, or what the weather is, there will be an idiot around you. Surviving the idiots on a daily basis is an ordeal.     

     Idiots put in stressful situations become Super Idiots. For example, on the Appalachian Trail I saw an idiot pour all of his water out.
The conversation went like this - me: "Why are you pouring water out in the middle of the trail for everyone else to step on?"
Idiot: "It's heavy, I'm tired of carrying it."
Me: "Where are you going to get more water?"
Idiot: "I have more in the car, I'm only about 5 miles from the parking lot."
Me: "There's water closer if you can treat it"
Idiot: "I'm ok, the water in the car is bottled so I don't have to carry anything else."

  These are the kinds of idiots who leave their cars in the road obstructing traffic while they call AAA to fix a flat tire, or stand three deep in a doorway and have a conversation while others try to move around them. They're worse than Sheeple (Sheep people for the newbs). Generally sheeple have two modes; Graze and Stampede.....but idiots have a third mode: Obstruct. They have an uncanny ability to get in the way of anything productive and stand there. Just stand there....doing something completely unrelated.
     The question is....how do we avoid and thereby survive idiots in our midst? We learn to identify traits of idiocy from a distance, and simply go another direction.  Easily identifiable traits of idiocy include, but are not limited to:
     People who are so self absorbed they fail to realize there is a line behind them, and they are the reason there is a line.
     People who are so unaware of their surroundings that they sit in plain view and pick their noses.
     People who will wait until a hurricane is within 2 hours of making landfall to go out and get supplies.
     People who think they can protect their family from a threat by "calling 9-1-1".
     The list goes on and on....please feel free to submit Traits of Idiocy to me either in the comments section or by e-mail. I'll post them as they come in.

    I think you'll find that idiots tend to congregate in certain areas. Avoiding these idiot rich areas is a good start to avoiding idiots in general, especially in a crisis. This post was written sort of tongue in cheek....sort of.

     I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. Please feel free to comment and make suggestions. As always, thank you for reading.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Economic Survival in the Suburbs

     Making ends meet is tough in the suburbs, or anywhere else. Managing your finances and covering all of the expenses while maintaining some savings and prepping is a skill set. I can't speak for others and how they do things, I can only relate my own choices and why I made them. My family has one income and five members. One of my children is in college, one is in middle school, and one is in pull ups. It's always an adventure at my house. We have the usual bills like mortgage, car payment, taxes, HOA fees, gas, groceries, etc. There are the child related bills like college tuition, scouts, sports camps, dance, relate equipment, insurance, co-pays etc. Then there are the unexpected expenses like home repairs, appliance repairs, veterinary bills, computer dies, phone craps out, etc. Being able to meet those bills, and still have some left over for prepping is a major juggling act. Below are some things I did, and still do to not only pay off bills and the debt, but to avoid taking on additional debt and expenses in the first place. At the very least I have learned how to minimize the impact of expenses, shorten their repayment terms, and get longer lasting value from expenses I do take on.

  Do the work you can do yourself, but know what you don't know.
      Clean your own house, cut your own grass, wash our own cars. Do the things you can do yourself. Don't pay someone else to do them for you. Doing things yourself will promote pride in yourself and your home, it will also teach your children how to have pride in themselves and their living areas. Learn to make minor repairs yourself. Internet sites like You Tube and Instructables are great Do It Yourself (DIY) resources. The flip side of tht coin is to know what you don't know. Don't attempt medium, large or complex projects unless you're very comfortable with lessor projects. Paying some one to fix your mistakes is much more expensive than paying them to do it right the first time. If you use someone to do the work....be there when they do it, and watch what they do. There are a couple of areas in my house I might attempt minor repairs on, but generally will call in a professional. Those areas are electrical, plumbing, and roofing. Mistakes in those areas can cause fires an flooding, either of which will be catastrophic both financially and to your family's lives.

   Only rich people can afford to buy cheap things.
     Don't buy the cheapest you can find only because it's the cheapest. You want to buy the best value for your money, often times that is not the cheapest. It often not the most expensive either. It is far better to buy quality components, even if you have to assemble them yourself. than the cheap/quick/easy option which might break or not work in 3 months. I buy the best quality I can afford in most things I buy. I can't afford to replace them. The best way to KNOW you're getting the best quality is to educate yourself on what you're buying. Do your research, the time your invest will pay for itself financially and in satisfaction of what you bought. No one like to feel like they got ripped off when they make a purchase.

   Maintain What You Own
     "Take care of your things" my mama used to tell me all the time when I was little. What she was trying to teach me is that if you take care of your things, you don't have to replace them or do without them once they're broken and no longer working. Change the oil in your vehicles, rotate the tires, and service the transmission; you will extend the life of your vehicle by 75,000 miles if you take care of it and keep it in good working condition. Change the air filters in your home, have the major systems in your home serviced regularly. it's much cheaper than replacing an air conditioning system. Keep our tools lubricated and clean, avoid having to replace tools. Paint when it's time to paint, caulk when you paint, replace toilet seals before they leak and ruin your floors. These are things that we all KNOW to do, but rationalize ourselves out of doing when the time comes.

   Avoid impulse purchases.
     I'm guilty of this one. I'm a terribly undisciplined shopper. I ALWAYS get drawn to the cool stuff on an end-cap at WalMart then convince myself I can't live without it. I go in to buy a box of light bulbs and $300 later......i have a ridiculous amount of crap I didn't need or even know existed, much less know that I wanted until I went in to buy light bulbs. I combat this by making  list before I go shopping.  Once inside the store I keep my eyes on the floor and repeat my list out loud....I know I must sound like the Rain Man to passers by. Whatever....I got light bulbs, and only light bulbs. Understand that stores are DESIGNED to make you impulse buy. That's why they put candy by the check out.....kids will inevitably see it and demand candy. The store (and your kids) are hoping you'd rather buy the candy than risk the embarrassment of beating your kids ass in the check out line of a Food Lion. Occasionally they do the right thing with the check out aisle and put useful items there. Things like spare batteries and flash,lights during storm season. Then my kids beat my ass for spending all of their candy money on batteries :)  Circle of life.
  Pay Down Your Unsecured Debt
     Use a debt reduction snowball or some other type of debt reduction strategy to pay down your unsecured debt. You will be amazed how much of a money suck unsecured debt is against your monthly budget.I used a debt reduction snowball to pay mine down. For those who don't know what that is, I'll explain as best I understand. Make a list of all of your unsecured debt (Credit Cards), and sort it from the highest balance to the lowest balance. Your lowest balance account is at the bottom of the list. Basically you make the minimum monthly payment on all of your unsecured debts, except one. The one with the lowest balance (the one at the bottom of the list) gets all of the money you were paying in excess of the minimum monthly payments on your other unsecured debt accounts. you pay off the lowest balance first. Once it is paid off, you pay the money you were paying on that account towards the account with the lowest current balance while paying the minimum monthly payments on all of the other unsecured debt accounts. Once you pay that balance off, you apply the funds to the account with the lowest current balance. At this point you are currently paying off the account which had the 3rd lowest current balance whens you originally made you list. You snowball your debt reduction up the list, paying off accounts from the bottom of the list and rolling up. I'm not a financial advisor or giving you financial advice, please don't misunderstand my point here. I'm just telling you what worked for me. There are literally HUNDREDS of debt reduction strategies, pick the one that works best for you. But do something to reduce or eliminate your unsecured debt.

     The bottom line is control your spending, and manage your debt effectively. Times are tough right now.we're in one of the worst recessions in the history of this country. It is just as likely to get worse as it is likely to get better. Who knows what will happen. I don't have the foggiest idea.

     I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. The point is to survive to fight another day.
Suggestions are welcome, topic suggestions are welcome, comments are welcome. You can post them on the blog, anonymously if you prefer. The point is to post them. If you would like you can e-mail me directly: survivalinthesuburbs@gmail.com

     As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Quest For a Suburban Survival Vehicle

     I have been looking into buying an expedition type vehicle. Something that has off road capability, is a daily driver, gets fair gas mileage, decent towing/hauling capacity, and room for 5 plus some gear. It should also fit my standard sized garage. I don't want anything extreme or technical to maintain. I'm not looking for a rock crawler or a swamp buggy.

     I currently have three vehicles (I'm downsizing to 2 vehicles), and I know what I like and dislike about them all. So maybe that's a good place to start:
    F-150 4X4 - I bought this truck new 12 years ago. It's been a champ. It has a big V-8, and an extended cab. I use the bed alot, but I use the extended part of the cab more. The cab is too small, the people sitting in the back seat are cramped  I have 3 kids now, and it's a chore to get everyone loaded inside. There's not enough room left for everyones stuff, so that goes in the truck bed....weather permitting. I also can't leave valuable tools or equipment in the bed of the truck unattended for very long.

   Toyota Sequoia - I bought this SUV new about 10 years ago. It has a big V-8, but is 2WD. It has plenty of room for my family and their stuff, and loading it is easy. I drive it daily, it's reliable for now, but I can't haul as much in it as I can haul in the bed of my truck. But I like that everything I lock inside the SUV, is inside the SUV and out of the elements and a little more difficult for someone to steal. I've bought lumber, pipe, and yard stuff and I was able to load it all into the SUV without an issue. Plus the rear window rolls down, which is a feature I use almost everyday.

    Honda Odyssey - I bought this mini-van new about a year ago. It's the most practical vehicle I won. It's really easy to get the kids into it. The doors are all automatic and key fob controlled....click open...click closed. It can hold a good bit of cargo (like full sheets of plywood or sheet rock) if you remove the seats, and has a V-6 engine. It's the ultimate grey vehicle. Just try counting all of the mini vans you see in a suburban neighborhood, they're EVERYWHERE.

      So that's what I have, and what I like about them. I definitely want 4X4, and a large V-8. I know I  want 17 inch rims and 285/75 tires, fog lights, recovery hooks, and skid plates. I'm stuck between a 4X4 SUV probably another Sequoia, and a full sized truck, probably a Ford.

     If I go with the pickup truck my first choice would be a F-250 Super Duty. I can get the Crew Cab option, the diesel engine, and a full sized bed. However I'll seriously under utilize the truck. I most likely will never haul or pull anything even close to the weight capacity of the F-250 Super Duty. It's about 10K more than the F-150 I would buy in it's place. I'd like to say "comparably equipped F-150" but that's not true. You can't get a diesel engine or a crew cab/full sized bed option in the F-150. If I go with the F-150 I'm afraid I'll always wish I had the F-250 even though it won't fit in my garage.

    If I go with the SUV, I will probably buy another Sequoia. I looked at the Tahoe, and even looked over one of those hybrid trucks that is part truck, part SUV, and not very good at either one. I can probably get a Sequoia for less than the F-250 but slightly more than the F-150 if I skip the Limited package and get the SR-5 package instead.  I really like the rear window rolling down in the Sequoia, it makes putting small things (like groceries) in the back really easy. I use that feature almost every day.

     This is a big decision for me. I keep vehicles a long time, so it's a decision I'll have to live with for quite some time. It's a BIG financial decision as well. I have friends that get new vehicles every 2 to 3 years.  They always have nice new cars and trucks. There's times I'm glad I'm not like that.....like when I go 8 years or so without a car payment. Then there's times when I'm rattling down the road in a 10 year old SUV, or 12 year old truck....that I envy them a little (or a lot).

     Another choice for trucks in the Toyota Tundra. I own a Toyota Sequoia, so I'm familiar with the fit and finish of the truck. It's 22 inches longer than the Sequoia, so it'll be a tight fit in the garage. Parking on the driveway is not going to be an option for me....for many reasons. This might rule out the F-150 as well as it's 18 inches longer then the Tundra, so...3 1/2 feet longer than my Sequoia. After breaking out the tape measure and checking some manufacturerrer specs, neither the Tundra nor the F-150 will fit in my garage and allow me to close the door. I could still park them outside, but I'm not very inclined to do that.

     As the time draws closer to making a final decision and buying a vehicle, I'll keep you posted as to which way things are going.

     Input and suggestions always welcome...ESPECIALLY on this topic. I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. As always, thank you for reading.