In my recent post about the state of the American economy, I told you that you didn’t need to immediately go out and become a prepper. And you don’t. But, much like anything else, it helps to be prepared. You don’t have to have a bunker under your backyard, a whole armory in the bedroom closet, or enough food to feed your whole neighborhood for years. You can, however, start making sure that you and your family have a good start in preparing for any disaster. Here’s 5 quick ways to start prepping. And you’re already doing at least two of these!
You don’t have to have enough stockpiled to keep your family fed for months or years. But, if there’s anything that this winter has taught much of the U.S., it’s that it’s very possible that you could find yourself stuck in one place for several days.
What should you stockpile? Well, food is a good start. Canned and dry goods mostly. Beans, rice, canned vegetables (straight from the garden if you DIY), flours, grains, vacuum packed foods, and canned meats all are good staples that can go straight into your pantry and provide backup food sources should you be unable to reach a grocery store. (also, if grocery stores cease to exist… but let’s not go all extreme just yet.)
Stockpile other goods too. Toilet paper, pet food, matches, fire starters, medical supplies, and even ammunition if you have that armory in your closet. Any essential that you use regularly that won’t spoil is fair game for stockpiling in case of emergency.
If the economy crashes, do you know what the worst thing to still have is going to be? Well, if you haven’t guessed it, that thing is debt. If you think your hands are tied by debt now, just wait until the economy is in the dumps, you lose your job, and inflation kills your buying power. Debt is your enemy, no matter the state of the economy. Start with a detailed spending log where you list what you spend every day. Knowing what you spend, and when you usually spend it, create a simple budget. Stick to the budget, and pay down debt by whatever means necessary. Get rid of it. Even if the economy booms, you’ll still be better off.
Become More Sustainable
Sustainability isn’t just for hippies. Being eco-friendly maybe attributed to the earth loving, free love, woodstock-ing people of previous generations, but today, it’s an excellent way to be healthier, and save money on costs. There are lots of things you can do to become more sustainable.
The easiest way to start making a difference in your bottom line is to replace high energy consuming items with low energy consuming items. LED or Incandescent light bulbs are a relatively cheap start, and last for years. High efficiency appliances like on-demand hot water heaters are more expensive, but can save a lot on energy over the long run. Try air drying your clothes too. It takes a little longer, but make it a habit, and your energy savings will grow a lot.
Growing your own vegetables, installing rain barrels, and composting are also great ways to decrease your footprint, while saving yourself money. You can replace that produce at the grocery store with home-grown veggies, use the water in your rain-barrel instead of the electrically pumped water from a well, or the municipal water, and you can save on what you put into the dump while providing nutrient rich compost for your garden.
Learn New DIY Skills
If the economy completely fails, there’s a good chance that your access to many of the services and products that you have access to now will be severely limited, or severely cost prohibitive. Not only will learning new DIY skills (like growing vegetables, canning food, repairing items, building items (like a deck), and the list goes on) save you money by allowing you to not pay for someone else to do it, but you’ll also gain a barter-able service that you can trade for services you can’t do.
There are plenty of ways to learn new skills too. You can just try it and see what happens, although, in my experience, doing so increases the chances that the project you’re working on will take longer or fail entirely. If you look, you can probably find a local class that can teach you some of the skills. Videos on YouTube and instructions on the internet (easily found through a search) are also great ways to learn something new.
Make Your Plans
We all know that we should have a plan so that everyone knows what to do should they wake up in the middle of the night to a house that’s on fire. We give our children a plan should they get separated from us in a crowded place. We create budgets to plan how we will spend our money, and pay down our debt. Having a plan for an economic collapse and the conditions that could arise should it crash doesn’t cost us anything. A little time, and some thought. That’s it. Do you have family that you’d “bug out” to? Are there people in town that you’d want to help? Are there people in town that would help you? How will you get wherever you’re going? Even if that’s just home?
Having a plan, and executing it if you have to is very likely to be the difference between uninterrupted life, and something far more unpleasant.
How many of these things are you already doing? Which are you going to try out?
Original image credit:Robert Benner Sr., on Flickr.
I started this blog to share what I know and what I was learning about personal finance. Along the way I’ve met and found many blogging friends. Please feel free to connect with me on the Beating Broke accounts: Twitter and Facebook.
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Nice writeup! I agree it can seem expensive to try to do everything at once to prep. I am going to start focusing on growing some more food at home.
I am a little late with rsenondipg to this (finals, papers, blah blah blah busy stuff excuses!) but Joseph, this is so great! Thank you for sharing. I come from a dedicated family of non-readers, as well, who often tell me that they don’t know how I can get through all of the boring books I read. When I was younger my mother occasionally read cheap little paperbacks, like mystery and detective novels, but she would get so busy with work she didn’t have time. I suppose the greatest compliment that my mama ever gave me was that she started reading occasionally again because I was such an avid reader. She began checking digital books out from the library to read on her iPad, so that whenever she had downtime she could read a page or two. Of course, they aren’t books I would ever read, but I still felt so connected to her because she was finally getting involved in something I cared about deeply and passionately. Now, she constantly bugs me to write my own novel, which is obviously an encouraging thing to hear from someone who never really “got” what it was that you enjoyed and did constantly. Sometimes being ‘artistic’ can be difficult, but I think the best thing is when people come around and make an attempt to get involved in what you find interest in. That is the greatest thing in the world. Anyway, thanks for sharing with the world your story. Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic. And I promise I won’t be such a stranger come May!x