HG Philosophy
A Regimen For Hard Times

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By BrokeInTheBurgh
September 10, 2008

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When I was very young, there were years when autumn came early in the high ridges of West Virginia. By September, hoar-frost would form on the sparse grass, and chill winds would find their way through the chinks in our small frame house at night. And we knew that spring was a long way away, and that the winter would be hard.

In those years, my sister and I would spend weeks on "kindling duty." We would take a small canvas tarpaulin into the woods, then I would tie a rope around an old hammer and throw it over dead limbs of trees - we would use the rope to break off the limbs, giving us good dry kindling free of rot and moisture. It was hard work for young children, but come February we were glad indeed to have laid in such a store of kindling. As my father would say, "We will prepare early so that we can survive late."

We cannot be sure, of course, but I fear that we may be heading into a long winter in the financial markets. My father would never have known what to do in such circumstances, not specifically, but certainly he would not have panicked. He would have done something to prepare for the winter.

And, I find myself "gathering kindling" again:

  • Instead of working out every morning in an exercise class at our local health club ($12 per session), I use the free exercise machines and buy two shares of UA each week with the savings.

  • Starbucks afterward, for two venti unsweetened iced green teas @ a cost of $5.00? Nope - Tazo Zen green tea prepared at home; the savings buys about 2 shares of SBUX each week.

  • I used to play internet poker at night while working on upgrading my knowledge of contemporary physics; losses averaged about $25 per night (Yikes!!); now I play Spider solitaire and buy eleven shares of GIGM each week.

  • My family, which is very busy, ate out at least five dinners every week; average cost maybe $130 - now we eat at home most nights and I buy 6 or 7 shares of CMGB each week with the savings.

  • We no longer go to Barnes & Noble every Sunday; now we go to the library Thursday night and I buy 6 shares of MVL each week.

  • I used to put $5 in the collection plate each Sunday; now I take $5 out and . . . . just kidding!;

  • Tennis lessons for the teenagers, at $50 per hour? Forget it! Find a friend and play a game instead - that's what it's all about anyway. More shares of UA . . .

  • Hire a service to mow my lawn for $70 each week, while I walk on a treadmill at the exercise club? Not any more! Now I push the mower and think about the 6 shares of CRESY I buy each week.

I probably could get by without taking these steps; the years have been pretty kind to me. But old habits die hard, and truth be told, I have never regretted taking precautions that turned out to be unnecessary.

I just mention this because in hard times, scary times, there are many things we can all do.