Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Top Ten Ways to Save Big Money

1- Stop smoking. In my home state of NC, a pack-a-day habit will cost you more than $2000 a year. In many other states the cost is much higher (due mainly to taxes). Think how much food storage or ammo you could buy this year just by not smoking. Or how much debt you could pay off.

2- Conquer your other addictions. It is not just smoking which is costly, but all addictions - alcohol, gambling, drugs, etc. Not only are they bad for your health (physical and emotional), but they wreck havoc on your financial life, too.

3- Brown bag your lunch. Many of us eat out for lurch during the week, but this can be costly, even if you stick to the fast food value meals. If you spend just $5 a lunch eating out (and you probably average more unless you truly do stick to the dollar menu at McDonald's), it will cost you over $1200 a year.

4- Skip the next version of your iPhone, iPad, and other electronic toys. It will cost you hundreds of dollars to impress people by having the absolute latest toy. Do you really care that much about impressing others? If so, why? Besides, in all honesty there is rarely hundreds of dollars worth of improvements from one version to the next.

5- Drastically reduce your entertainment expenses. Watch a DVD at home instead of going to the movies. Get a library card (lots of free knowledge and entertainment). Have a family game night at home. Cut back on your cable/satellite TV package (going from the EVERYTHING INCLUDED package to a more basic package could save you more than $100/month, $1200 a year).

6- Skip the expensive vacation. "Staycations" are the hot new trend anyway. Stay home, relax, and visit local swimming pools, parks, and museums. The savings will range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on your family size and what your normal vacation is.

7- Shop around for a better deal on your bank accounts. Fees vary widely between financial institutions. Be especially aware of over draft fees. Switching from a high cost mega-bank to a low cost credit union potentially could save you hundreds of dollars a year. Same goes for your car insurance, home owners insurance, and other financial products. If you haven't shopped around lately, you could be missing out on hundreds of dollars worth of savings.

8- Don't ever take a pay-day loan. These loans are stunningly overpriced, and borrowers often get trapped into constantly taking out these loans each payday. If you really need short-term cash, talk to your bank or credit union. Many have started programs similar to pay-day loans, but with a much less expensive interest rates. If you really are desperate for a one-time short-term loan, take the uncomfortable step of asking a friend, family member, or even your church for help.

9- Avoid impulse purchases. Impulse purchases can really add up over the course of a year. Shop with a list, and stick to it. Pay with cash, not credit cards (this will make you immediately feel the impact of the purchase). Don't go shopping for entertainment. Don't shop with friends (friends tend to talk each other into things, not out of them). Avoid watching the home shopping channels. Throw away junk mail unopened. Don't browse catalogs unless looking for something specific that you actually need.

10- Drop the gym bill. Unless you are a professional bodybuilder, there are cheaper ways to get the exercise you need. Walk, ride a bike, go hiking on the weekends, get an exercise DVD or two, do your own yard work (use a push mower), garden, buy a set of barbells or free weights (and use them), get a jump rope, do yoga at home (get a friend to join you)... Depending on what your gym charges, the potential savings is hundreds of dollars a year or more.

Bonus Tip: Here is a way to make some extra money, and declutter your life in the process - have a yard sale. Chances are, there is a lot of unused junk in your home that you could get rid of and make a few bucks in the process.

See Also

Prepping 101: Finances - Get Back To Basics - A mega article crammed with information and details.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Prepper's Guide to Mental Preparedness

Mental health is very important in a crisis. The ability to not panic, stay focused, and think clearly is crucial. Everyone in the Prepper community seems to know this, but few seem to talk about it in any detail. How do we prepare our mental health? Isn't good mental health something we either have or don't have? Is it something we can actually work on? How do we prep our mental health?

Prepping Your Mental Health

I don't care how well thought out your EDC is. It doesn't matter how much food, water, guns, ammo, and other supplies you've stockpiled. No matter what skills you've developed, or how physically fit you've become, it you panic or freeze in a crisis, you'll most likely die. Developing your mental health is as important as anything other prepping you'll ever do. But, how? Here are my suggestions:

1) Develop a healthy spirituality, according to whatever spiritual beliefs you may have. Some suggestions: Reconnect with God. Pray. Read scripture. Go to Church or Synagogue. Seek forgiveness. Get right with God. My relationship with God gives me great comfort, encouragement, strength, and purpose during times of stress.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -- Philippians 4:13 NKJV

 2) Reconnect with your spouse. Or get married if you're single (like me). Next to your relationship with God, no other relationship in your life will be as important, or have more potential for greatness, Your spouse will be (or should be) your best friend and confidant, your helpmate, a shoulder to cry on, the one person who will always care about you, and the one person you can always trust. Of course, it is a two-way street, you have to be there for your spouse. So be there.

{Honestly, this is the one area of my prepping where I have failed. I am not married and never have been. When I was in my 20s, I thought staying single was so smart. Now that I am in my 40s, I realize how stupid I was in my 20s. I could, and someday might, write a really long essay listing the many ways not being married has hindered me in my life. Folks, don't take your spouse for granted. You really are lucky to have him/her.}

3) Reconnect with family, friends, neighbors... Improve existing relationships and work on building new, positive relationships. Be a part of your community. Join a local church or synagogue. Meet your neighbors. Participate. Volunteer.

My Grandparents and their generation survived the Great Depression and WWII by doing two somewhat contradictory things - by being self-reliant and by helping each other (neighbor helping neighbor). We need solid relationships in our lives, positive relationships with our spouses and families, our friends and neighbors, and others in our communities.  Do you have solid relationships in your life? People you can count on, and who can count on you, when the chips are down?

4) Don't be afraid of "weeding out" toxic people from your life. We all have toxic people in our lives. People who seem to exist in a constant state of chaos; people who drain us of our energy (and sometimes our money); people who hurt us over and over again, and don't seem to care. Perhaps it is a relative. Or an old friend from your childhood. I'm not saying to dump people when they are going through a rough patch. But there are some folks whose "rough patch" seems to be their entire lives, and they refuse to do anything about it. Don't get sucked into their world of constant chaos, addictions, and bad decisions. Pray for them, then let them go.

5) Get rid of any addictions in your life - drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, whatever... - before any crisis. You do not want to have to deal with an addiction during a crisis.

6) Relax. Laugh. Enjoy life. Don’t dwell on the negatives. Be a hopeful realist. It is important to understand the problems we face. Just don’t obsess over them. Instead, start working towards solutions. Acting to make positive changes, even small ones, will increase your confidence and encourage yourself, your family and your friends.

7) Reduce stress by taking up a fun hobby or two completely unrelated to prepping and survivalism.

I love to go hiking and fishing, but I guess they could be considered related to prepping. My non-prepping hobbies and interests include cletic & folk music, kpop, steampunk, Star Wars, scifi & fantasy, Sherlock Holmes, crossword & logic puzzles, among many others. Yes, I am a nerd. 

8A) Reconnect to the natural world. Spend time in nature. Take up outdoor hobbies such as gardening, hiking, fishing, camping and bird watching. Learn the names of trees, wildflowers and “weeds” native to your area. Learn what kinds of soils are in your region. Learn where your water comes from. Visit nearby parks and wildlife refuges. Visit your local natural history museum or botanical gardens. Learn the names of the birds and butterflies common to your backyard.

8B) Restore nature. Plant trees. Clean up local lakes and streams. Rebuild soils through composting and vermiculture. Participate in pollinator conservation efforts. Practice organic gardening and lawn care. Eliminate your lawn entirely. Participate in the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program.

 9) Get enough sleep (for adults, that is at least 7 hours a night on a consistent basis). I know. Most people claim they can "get by" on less, but really they are fooling themselves. Lack of sleep wrecks havoc on our mental health. Sleep is also often overlooked in regards to our physical health. Being constantly sleep deprived is really bad, mentally and physically.

10) Be a life-long learner. Read. Take classes. Improve your job skills. Learn about personal finance. Study permaculture. Learn useful skills such as auto mechanics, small-engine repair, carpentry and home repair. Learn first aid and CPR. Learn to sew, and to preserve food. Learn how to save seeds. Learn how to hunt, fish and forage for wild foods. Learn the skills your grandparents had.

This will give you confidence based on real reasons (as opposed to the empty "positive self-image" pushed by the PC crowd).

A Bonus Thought:

"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." -- Proverbs 23:7 NKJV

We are our thoughts, so be mindful what you think.  If you dwell on life's negatives, you will become a negative person. If you constantly think about all the reasons you will probably fail, you will fail. If you think yourself a confident, happy, capable person, you will become one. Not in five minutes. This isn't wishful thinking, but creating a mindset that will eventually determine your destiny.