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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Testing Precious Metals for Long-Term Preparations

Original Article

With the current world economic situation, wise people understand that paper money is simply the illusion of money. It is a representation of wealth of which the value can be rapidly manipulated. The US Federal Reserve randomly prints off bills with no commodity backing them, making the only value of these bills the worth that is allowed by the banksters and the elite

So in light of this, how do we save for the rainy days to come?

Once you’ve established the basics of your survival preparedness, you can protect your personal wealth by investing in precious metals. There are many different ways to acquire gold and silver. Here are a few:

• Purchase the pieces from mints or exchanges
• Purchase old pieces of jewelry or coins from yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores and Craigslist
• From trusted sellers on EBay

Mints and exchanges offer a sure thing. These businesses are built on trust and integrity. However when you purchase from everyday people or take a gamble on buying something at the thrift store, you need to be able to identify and test the metals yourself.

1. Look for markings. Jewelry made from precious metals in the US was required to be marked for metal content in 1906. On silver pieces you are looking for the numbers “925” – this indicates that the piece is Sterling Silver or 92.5% silver. If the piece you are considering is gold, you are looking for 10K, 14K, 18K, etc. 24K is 100% gold, and is very soft, so the other numbers are indicative of the gold content that has been mixed with a harder metal to make it less pliable.

2. Inspect the piece carefully. Is it rough near the edges? Is it discoloured in places? Is the finish chipping or flaking? These are all indicators that the piece may only be plated with silver or gold. These items require further testing. (Note: Sterling Silver will “oxidize” and tarnish – don’t be put off by black discolouration. This should wipe off with a soft cloth.)

3. If the piece has been marked, then you will want to test it further. Carry with you a strong magnet. Precious metals are NOT magnetic, nor are the other metals that are used in jewelry to harden them. If the piece of jewelry or coin reacts to the magnet it is not gold or silver.

4. Test it with ceramic. You can purchase a small piece of unglazed ceramic tile at your local hardware store. If you have a piece of questionable gold, run the piece across the ceramic tile. If it leaves a blackish mark, it is not genuine gold.

Once you have performed these quick tests, you may want to go further. There are two more definitive tests – the “Archimedes Test” and the acid test.

Archimedes Test

Break out your physics hat and perform a density test to determine the content of the metal you have on hand. For this you will require a vial marked in millimetres in which you can submerge the item in question.
Do not fill the vial to the top, since you will be displacing water with the jewelry item. Note exactly the amount of water in your container.

Weigh your item on a digital jewelry scale, marking down your result in grams. This is the “mass” of your item.
Place your piece in the vial and note the new water level.
Calculate the difference between the two numbers in millimetres. This is the “volume displacement” of the item.

Use the following formula to calculate density:
Density = mass/volume displacement

Here is a sample calculation:

Your gold item weighs 38 g and it displaces 2 milliLITRES of water. Using the formula of [mass (38 g)]/ [volume displacement (2 ml)], your result would be 19 g/ml, which is very close to the density of pure 24K gold.
Remember that different gold and silver purities will have a different g/ml ratio:
o 14K – 12.9 to 14.6 g/mL
o 18K yellow – 15.2 to 15.9 g/mL
o 18K white – 14.7 to 16.9 g/mL
o 22K – 17.7 to 17.8 g/mL
o 999 Silver – 10.49 g/mL
o 925 Silver – 10.2 to 10.3 g/mL

Nitric Acid Test
This is the most definitive way to test the metal in question. This test is where the saying “passing the acid test” originated.

WARNING: Nitric Acid is highly corrosive. Wear safety eyewear and protective gloves when working with this product. Protect all surfaces that could come into contact with the acid.

To perform an acid test, you will require Nitric Acid, a non-reactive dropper, and a stainless steel container in which to perform the test.

Place your item in the stainless steel container. Using the dropper apply a very tiny drop of acid on a non-exposed part of the item in question. (Remember: If the item is not gold or silver, the acid may permanently mar the finish.)

If you suspect that the item was merely plated, you can make a small scratch in a hidden place in which to test the item.

The acid will turn different colors in reaction to different metal contents:
Cream: 90 to 100% silver
Gray: 77-90% silver
Green: less than 75% precious metal content
No reaction: Gold

Test kits containing the chemicals and instructions can be purchased through Amazon for less than $10.

Finally, when purchasing gold or silver, always trust your instincts. You may not always have access to your testing kit when an opportunity arises. If an item looks suspicious or the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

25 Ways to Cut Your Gas Costs

Original Article

Well, my local gas station just tipped $4 per gallon this morning, which, according to friends in other areas, had already happened to them a couple of weeks ago.  Unfortunately I don't see this price receding any time soon.  Here's some ways to keep a grip on your gas costs:

  1. Buy an electric or hybrid car (obviously an expensive proposition but if you commute really far each day and gas prices stay high you may come out ahead. Do the math first, of course).
  2. Find the cheapest gas prices in town here.
  3. Carpool. I used to do this when I went to a lot of meetings and this saved me a ton of money on gas as well as wear and tear on my car.
  4. If you do drive for work, make sure you are getting reimbursed for your mileage (when I used to be reimbursed for my mileage, I would simply check our state rates occasionally to make sure they hadn't changed since last I checked).
  5. Live closer to work. Another high-front-end type of expense but walking to work could save you a lot of money and give you some cheap exercise as well.
  6. Group your errands together and do them in a gas-saving fashion (I tend to make a circle to hit all of the places I need to go to when I do my errands to the bank, library, post office, grocery store, etc).
  7. Do as many errands from home as possible (I do nearly all of my banking and bill paying online, for example).
  8. Have "no travel days". In other words, don't leave your house unless it is by walking or bicycling a couple of days a week in order to save money.
  9. See if you can work four ten hour days instead of five eight-hour days. This will save you the cost of commuting one day a week.
  10. See if you can work from home (even better!).
  11. Commute by motorcycle or moped instead of car. 
  12. Buy gas and store it. You could realistically buy a few tank fulls of gas at today's prices and store it for future use. We used to do this with gas for farm equipment years ago. BUT you need to be able to store it safely and use it before it gets too old.
  13. You can always play the market and bet on oil futures. Obviously not a good idea if you don't know what you are doing but some people who "bet" on oil prices a while back are now raking in the money.
  14. Try bicycling or walking instead of driving. I have some healthy friends who can bike 20-50 miles a day to and from work without a problem (I am guessing they are super healthy from all of that exercise).
  15. Take the bus instead. This is what I did when gas prices hit $4+ a few years back. I left my car at home, bought a monthly bus pass, and found I preferred traveling by city bus rather than driving myself.
  16. Check your insurance rates. If you will be ditching your car most of the time to save money on gas, see if you can get a discount on your car insurance.
  17. See if your employer has van pool options. My sister in law does this. She lives far from where she works in Atlanta and her employer actually offers free van pools to take her to and from work. The only thing her van pool mates need to do is alternate who drives the van.
  18. Drive better. This article gives some great tips on how to not drive like a maniac (speeding, fast braking, etc) and save money on gas.
  19. Buy cheaper gas. Actually our vehicle has never had the experience of premium gas so it doesn't know what it is missing. The cheapest gas works just fine in our car.
  20. Look at other travel options. When we are going to travel somewhere we look at ALL of the options (the cost of driving, taking the bus, taking Amtrak, flying, even going by way of cruise ship).
  21. Don't make wasteful driving trips when other options will work. I am always shocked at the number of parents who drive their kids to and from school when walking or the bus would work just as well. Ditto for my sister's late night McDonalds runs.
  22. Don't take more car than you need. If you have two or three cars on hand, take the cheapest one that will work for your purposes (obviously hauling the soccer team will mean you will have to take the Escalade, but running to the store for groceries can probably be done in the tiniest car you own).
  23. Make fewer trips. If you are going grocery shopping, try going only once a month to make the grand haul on groceries like this.
  24. Can you ditch your car altogether? Having no car at all would be very difficult for us but here's a website of people who have gone car free.
  25. Can you become a one car family? At the most I think we had six cars in our driveway at one time. Fortunately we were eventually able to shift down to one car shared between the spouse and I which works out very well (and saves us the cost of gas plus insuring, cleaning, and maintaining multiple cars).

Here's some more great ways to save money on gas.