Let’s Chat About This Frightening Times Article

Tyler Linsten Not Sarcasm, Personal Finance

Do I have your attention? Yes, the previous post here was about a scary data breach. No, the blog isn’t pivoting into doomsday-prepping( sorry, Preppers). But given the recent Anchorage earthquake the subject couldn’t be more timely. 


2018 Alaska Quake /// Source: Nathaniel Wilder / Reuters

There’s not a distinct and direct financial planning angle here, but I can’t get over the headline of this stunning Seattle Times piece out today:

Say what??

You can read all the juicy details for yourself – like how they won’t release all the details of the study for fear of exposing infrastructure vulnerabilities – but it’s kind of shook me to the core when thinking about my own disaster preparedness.

Personally, we have some basics on hand but are nowhere near prepared for up to two months without water. I’m sure 99% of the population is in the same boat, which is exactly the big worry. It will be utter chaos if and when The Big One hits. If you live within SPU’s service area – or any water district that could be this vulnerable, which is probably most – it makes sense to start thinking about how to store more water than just a case of small bottles. It’s probably unrealistic to store two months’ worth of water, but shooting for more than whatever’s on hand now is a worthy target.

Click on the links for good places to start on water treatment and water storage.

OK, here’s the small financial angle: It also makes sense to keep some cash on hand as part of your emergency kit. Money talks, especially in an emergency. And, no, I don’t think a thumb drive containing bitcoin is going to do the job.

Specifically having a financial emergency kit could also prove very useful. Here is FEMA’s PDF if you want some late-night reading on the subject. The four main subjects in their Emergency Financial First Aid Kit:

  • Household Identification
  • Financial and Legal Documentation
  • Medical Information
  • Household Contacts

I’m still shocked after seeing what kind of disruption a large earthquake will cause, and that’s only covering one basic need. Hopefully this post will, at nothing else, be reason to check and confirm what level of preparedness you have, and whether you’ve considered the financial angle. I know I’m re-evaluating.

Prepper post: Over.

Remember That Credit Freeze Post? Hotel Edition

Tyler Linsten Personal Finance

This credit freeze post.


Today we woke up to news about a massive data breach at Starwood Hotels, as announced by parent company Marriott, which may affect as many as 500 million people. It’s reported to be the second largest breach in history.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, it’s a perfect opportunity for self-indulgent told-ya-so-ism. I recently wrote about how being able to freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus — for free — is a game changer when it comes to protecting your personal information, and your financial future.

While freezing your credit is not a perfect firewall, it sure makes it less scary when you see headlines like today’s Starwood breach. That’s pretty much financial planning in a nutshell: Doing small annoying things that will pay off big-time in the future. To freeze all three took me about 15 minutes. As someone who has stayed at Starwood hotels, I don’t feel great about this news, but I feel a hell of a lot better than I would have if my credit weren’t frozen.

If you haven’t frozen your credit, here’s the link again.

Spending Hack: Stop Wasting So Much Damn Food

Tyler Linsten Not Sarcasm, Personal Finance

Click for the personal finance angle, stay for the recipe at the end.


via GIPHY

Food waste is a huge problem. This piece in the Seattle Times estimates the number to be $1500 per household in the US. I waste more than I’d like, and I bet you do, too. Just like other financial hacks – like opening a high-yield savings account or diverting spending through a cash-back credit card – minimizing a painful line item like food waste can have a big effect on your annual finances.

As we know, lower spending equals more savings.

And more savings equals more dollars flowing into the Magic Compounding Machine, also known as your long-term investing portfolio.

And more money in the Magic Compounding Machine means you’re closer to doing whatever it is you want to be doing with your money.

If we think of it in terms just like the other financial hacks I mentioned, it’s pretty compelling:

  • Use high yield savings account (yielding 1.90% today, versus 0.05%) on $25K in emergency savings account: Gain $462.50 per year
  • Use 2% cash-back credit card for $30K in annual spending (and never carrying a balance), versus using a debit card: Gain $600 per year
  • Cut food waste in half by being more conscientious and getting creative with cooking: Gain ~$750 per year

So there’s $1812.50 we just found. That’s not nothing. It’s very much something for most people and for someone earning $60,000 per year this is the equivalent of a perpetual 3% raise in pay.

Oh yeah, here’s the recipe from the Times article. Sounds pretty tasty:

Serves 3 or 4

Use any melting-friendly cheeses you’ve got — the more the merrier; cheddar, jack, mozzarella and Gruyère all work great in strata. For your extras, more is more, too; the last one I made had green onion, prosciutto and lots of rosemary, and it came out fantastic (and I don’t even especially love rosemary). And you can sub half-and-half for the milk and cream. If you have leftovers, they reheat perfectly: Just pour a little half-and-half, cream, milk or stock over them to revive, then bake covered for 20 minutes at 375 degrees, or microwave.

About 6 to 8 slices of bread (about 6 cups cubed)

5 eggs

1¼ cups whole milk

1¼ cups whipping cream

1 teaspoon salt

Several dashes of hot sauce

2 (or more!) cups grated cheese

A couple handfuls of extras, e.g., chopped onion (green or otherwise); mushrooms or zucchini; pieces of ham or prosciutto; bits of cooked bacon or sausage; any kind of fresh herb(s), chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Butter a 2-quart or 2-liter casserole dish.

3. Cut or tear bread into about 1-inch cubes (a serrated knife works nicely).

4. In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, cream, milk, salt and hot sauce (a hand blender is quicker than a whisk).

5. Make a layer of about a third of the bread cubes in the bottom of the casserole dish, and sprinkle with about a third of the cheese and half of your extras; repeat for another layer, then top with the remaining bread cubes and cheese.

6. Pour the egg mixture into the casserole. (If you want to make it ahead, it can be refrigerated now all day or overnight before cooking.)

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes; let rest about 10 minutes before serving.

You Should Probably Do This: Credit Freeze Edition

Tyler Linsten Not Sarcasm, Personal Finance

It’s not often there are financial things basically everyone should do, regardless of their situation. This – a free credit freeze – is one of those things. 


Good news! The government has done something to help you, and that would be requiring the three major credit reporting agencies to offer a credit freeze to consumers – FOR FREE.

GRATIS. NADA. ZIP.

Don’t take my word for it, listen to (or read) the details via NPR here.

Unless you expect to be applying for credit tomorrow, it makes sense for anyone with something to lose (this means you and me) to lock down their credit. I’ve done the hard work for you below:

Freeze via Equifax

Freeze via Experian

Freeze via Transunion

Don’t forget to freeze with all three. Yes, it’s super annoying to have to do this three times, but how often do we lowly consumers get a good deal thrown our way from the powers that be? Not often. So for the sake of your financial security, take the 15 minutes and freeze your credit. Thieves will hate you but Future You will look back at you with pride.