Ten Bottles of Wine Made for $10


Are you a drinker?  Do you like a nice bottle of wine with a good meal, or perhaps a glass of wine in the afternoon while you sit and contemplate your day?  Maybe you like to have a few drinks with friends after work.

The issue with alcohol is that it’s expensive – ridiculously expensive.  If you’re trying to find money to fund a retirement fund, pay off student loans, or build up an emergency fund, paying for drinks makes that difficult.  A half-decent glass of wine can run you $9 or more at a bar nowadays.  A beer will cost $5 or more at a bar.  Even if you buy a bottle of wine and drink at home, you’ll pay $7 for the cheaper stuff and $15 or more  (lots more) for the better stuff.  Go out for a couple of drinks on Friday and Saturday nights, plus maybe a few during the week, and you’ll be spending more than $2500 per year on alcohol.  That’s enough to halfway fund an IRA and make yourself a millionaire by the time you’re sixty if you were to invest it religiously.

The Home Winemaker’s Companion: Secrets, Recipes, and Know-How for Making 115 Great-Tasting Wines

The thing is, alcohol itself really doesn’t cost that much to make.  It is the fact that the people who make the alcohol first get paid, then the distributor gets paid, then the grocery store or the bar gets paid that causes drinks to cost so much.  And if you’re buying drinks at a bar, you’re also paying the server in the form of a tip, which further adds to the cost.  Everyone who touches that bottle of beer or wine adds to the cost.

You can therefore greatly reduce the amount of money you spend on alcohol, yet still enjoy a drink with friends, if you make it yourself.  Unfortunately, you’ll still need to go to the bar or the liquor store for distilled drinks.  Those are tightly regulated since the government depends on the tax revenues from those. But you can still make beer or wine yourself, only paying the sales tax on the ingredients.

From what I understand, you can make some really great beer at home – far better than the industrial stuff you’re paying $5.00 each for at the bars.  I’ve never made beer, but understand it really isn’t all that hard and a great way to make some friends since there are a lot of passionate home brewers out there.  I’ve also sampled some of their products and it was as good as any microbrewery output I’ve tasted.

North Mountain Supply 1 Gallon Wine From Fruit Complete 30pc Kit – Only Fruit & Bottles Required

I did get into making wine at home after we received a gift certificate for a wine class.  We thought we were going to make a wine at the shop which would then be stored/aged/ and fermented in a big barrel at the shop.  Instead, we were sent home with a couple of 1-gallon carboys, some brewers’ yeast, some yeast nutrient, and some pectin enzyme.   We were also given a recipe that used frozen grape juice as the base.

Can I make a cabernet rivaling those produced by Napa Valley?  No.  But I can produce a couple of gallons of wine better than your average $10 chardonnay or white table wine for about $1.00 per bottle. I also understand that you can buy wine kits in the $50 range that can since you can get grape juice from the same regions as the big winemakers, so you could probably make a good red wine, but you then would need large containers and also would need to have barrels to age the wine in.  I’m just not that into winemaking, but some people are.  If you were, I think you could probably make a bottle that would rival a $25 bottle you could find in the store for maybe $1.50 to $2.00 per bottle using one of the kits.

Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition 2 Gallon Homebrewing Craft Beer Making Kit with Two Beer Refills, Convenient 2 Gallon Fermenter, Bottles, Caps, Carbonation Drops, Sanitizer and Brewing Instructions

Using the same two one-gallon carboys, I can make about 10 bottles of wine every two to three months.  (The amount of time depends on how warm the house is, since ambient temperature affects the fermentation rate and the wine taste.)  Many people upgrade to five to ten-gallon containers after they get started.  A five-gallon container would produce 25 bottles of wine every two to three months for about the same amount of work.  (You can legally make up to 100 gallons, or 500 bottles of wine per year per adult in your household in most states, which seems like a whole lot.  We drink maybe a couple of bottles a month, so there is no reason for us to “go big.”)

So, there is no reason to trade your future retirement for a few drinks today.  People pay way too much for alcohol, and there is no reason to do so.  It might be worth the inflated price of a drink to enjoy the nightlife at a club or two, but you may find that it is nice to have an evening in with friends and a bottle of your own wine or homebrew some weekends too.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know what’s on your mind by using the comment form below!

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

The Biscuit Weave – A Cooking Failure


BiscuitPastrySometimes you get inspired in cooking and decide to try something new.  I had two kids to feed on a Saturday morning, various jams in the refrigerator, and decided to try something new – the biscuit weave. 

I thought that maybe I was onto something.  I had made bread weaves before, which turn out spectacular, but take a couple of days to do.  You need to make a sweet bread dough with milk, butter, yeast, flour, and some other ingredients.  Then you need to put it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning you then roll it out and form it as desired.  You can add butter, raisins, and cinnamon sugar and make some great cinnamon rolls this way.  You can make a jam braid where you put some preserves in the middle then criss-cross the dough over it in a weave.  When it bakes up, it is beautiful.

This morning I thought I had figured out a way to make a braid in just one morning – I would make the dough from biscuit dough, which does not need to rise or sit in the refrigerator overnight, then proceed the same way.  I pulled out my shortening and self-rising flour, and within about 10 minutes I had my biscuit dough ready.  I then pressed it out on a baking sheet, cut slits to criss-cross for the lattice, and spread a couple different kinds of jam into the middle.  I laced it up and it looked great.  I threw it into a 450 degree oven and set the timer for eight minutes – the time required to make biscuits.

When it came out it looked great.  The dough had puffed and risen and formed a great golden brown.  The jam leaked out a bit, but that was no big deal.  Just a bit of a mess to clean off of the cookie sheet.  But then I tried to cut it.


Cuisinart CBK-100 2 LB Bread Maker

The dough near the jam was raw.  It had cooked on the outside just fine, but the part touching the jam stayed too cool due to the jam, and due to being buried deep inside, and it didn’t cook.  With biscuits, you hit them with a lot of heat and they cook quickly.  But they can’t be too thick or the center will not cook before the outside burns. You also need to keep them fairly dry so that they get hot fast – water keeps the temperature to 212 degrees F until it evaporates.  I guess there is a reason you don’t see jelly-stuffed biscuits.

I put foil on the top and tried to bake it at 400 degrees a bit longer, but it really didn’t cook well.  After about 25 minutes, I pulled it out and tried to cut it.  It was truly a hot, sloppy mess.  You were able to eat most of it since much had cooked, but the part near the jam really wasn’t very pleasant.  The kids were troopers and ate my creation without complaint, but I could tell they would not want that meal again.  So, scratch that idea.

Sometimes things just don’t work out when you try something new.  But sometimes they work out great.  That’s part of the fun with cooking.  The other part is all of the money you save by not needing to pay $10 each for breakfast.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know what’s on your mind by using the comment form below!

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

How to Fund Everything without Filling Out Tax Forms


A while back, probably right after I’d finished filling out my income tax forms for 2010, I made a post about a tax idea called the Fair Tax.  The beauty of the Fair Tax is that it would eliminate all of the hassles involved in paying taxes.  Income taxes, Social Security, and other Federal taxes would be replaced by a single sales tax on goods and services when purchased (a national sales tax).  Because taxes would be figured out and charged automatically when you purchased something, you would no longer need to keep track of expenses, have tax-deferred accounts, set up medical savings accounts, 401ks, IRAs, etc… and go through other hassles.

You would simply receive your whole paycheck each month and then spend or save as you choose.  One benefit beyond the simplification of tax compliance is that saving would be rewarded while spending would be penalized.  The current system encourages spending and borrowing, through tax breaks for things like business expenses and the mortgage deduction, and penalizes earning.  This means that under the current system there is a disincentive to grow businesses or work harder because more of your income is taken the more you earn.

The Fair Tax is prevented from being regressive, or level in any case, through the use of a prebate.  In the prebate, a certain amount is refunded to each person each year at the beginning of the year.  For example, if the sales tax is 10%, and $3000 were prefunded to everyone each year, then no one earning less than $30,000 would pay any taxes that year ($30,000*10% = $3000), even if they spent their entire paycheck on taxable goods and services.

One issue with implementing the Fair Tax is the radical change to the tax system.  We have spent so many years having taxes taken from our paychecks and doing things to reduce income taxes that it would be a big shock to the system to see it changed overnight.  Imagine the shock of going to buy a new car and seeing a 20% tax added to the top of it!  Never mind that you have 20% more cash in you pockets – you still see that big tax on the car.  You were paying that big tax before, but it was taken in small increments so you did not see it all at once.  There is a way, however, to implement the tax in a way that will be a smaller shock on the system.

(Never read The Millionaire Next Door?  It is a must for anyone wanting to actually become a millionaire.)

Currently about 50% of people pay no income tax at all.  In fact, many get cash given to them by the tax system since they receive a refund through the Earned Income Tax Credit.  This means that implementing the Fair Tax to replace the tax payments of the lower 50% of earners would not require a large sales tax since the amount of revenue collected from them is mainly Social Security and Medicare, which aren’t large amounts of money.  Also, implementing the Fair Tax would enable taxes to be collected from those who currently don’t pay taxes – those who get paid under the table and/or have illegal sources of income (drug sales, prostitution, illegal labor) – since they would also be charged the sales tax when they spent the ill-gotten money.

If the Fair Tax were implemented only on people making $60,000 per year or less say, it would only be necessary to have a sales tax of about 5% or less.  This means that everyone would see a prefund each year of $2000 (5% x $40,000) and see their sales taxes increase by about 5%, assuming that it is desirable to continue to see 50% of the people pay no income taxes.

After a few years of seeing those at the low-income levels not need to file taxes and also seeing how the system worked, those in the middle and upper-middle classes would probably want to join the system.  The threshold for the Fair tax could be then be ratcheted upwards as political winds allowed.  The prefund would need to be ratcheted upwards as well since the level of the sales tax would need to increase as the income level of the Fair Tax threshold increased.  This is because in order to generate the same level of revenues the sales tax percentage would need to increase since those at the higher income levels are paying a larger portion of the taxes.  If the Fair Tax were ever to fully replace the income tax, including for those in the top 1% of earners, the rate would be about 23%.  It is thought, however, that the drop in the expenses paid by businesses for tax compliance and tax avoidance would allow them to charge less for the goods and services; therefore, the actual price of the goods might stay about the same.

If you like this idea, please tell a friend – let’s get rid of the IRS!

Follow me on Twitter to get news about new articles and find out what I’m investing in. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.