Monday, August 3, 2015

How to afford being a prepper...

Being a prepper can get expensive!  There's lots of stuff you probably want to get - reference books, food, buckets & lids, first aid supplies, guns & ammo, knives, tools, pressure canners, jars, lids, dehydrators, backpacks, and lots of other gear. On top of all that stuff, you may need to move to a safer location and buy some land to homestead. Perhaps a pickup truck is on your wish list. You probably also want to get out of debt, build some emergency savings, and maybe buy some silver and gold.  And don't forget about the cost of learning new sills, such as first aid classes and self-defense courses. How on earth are you going to afford all that?

Think. Research. Plan. Then, Buy.

When faced with the stark reality of the problems we face, an understandable desire to rush out and buy a bunch of food, ammo, and other supplies often hits people. We feel threatened, and buying stuff makes us feel like we're doing something about it.

Resist that temptation. Instead, take the time to calmly think through your situation, formulate a plan, determine your actual needs, prioritize those needs, do your research, and then spend your limited money in a thoughtful and organized way. This will help you make fewer, and less costly, mistakes then if you just rush out on a spending spree.

Learn from the experiences of others. Prepper Webiste is an excellent source of current links to  articles and blog posts of preppers and survivalists of all sorts. Totally Homestead is a great source of links to various homesteading websites and blogs. Make use of these two resources.

Want a good idea of what might happen in an economic and political crisis? Learn from history. Although no two countries, and no two crisis, will ever be exactly alike, there are lots of things we can learn from past events. I HIGHLY recommend Fernando Aguirre's book The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse. Based on his experiences having lived through the collapse of Argentina's economy and the rise of a socialist dictatorship, Aguirre doesn't rely on theories of what might happen, but gives lots of concrete examples of what actually happened during and after an economic collapse.

Before making purchases, check a number of reviews to make sure that the item in question is what you want and expect.  I've posted a number of book and knife reviews on this website. There are lots of reviews on Amazon. You Tube is also a great source of reviews. 

A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned.

This maxim by Benjamin Franklin is very true. If you can find $25 worth of savings from you budget, then you suddenly have $25 more to spend on your preparations. It is as if you earned an extra $25. Most of us think our budgets are already fairly tight, so you may be wondering How can I save money? 

First, realize that small purchases add up to big money.  Money spent on little things - sodas, snacks, and impulse items of all sorts - can add up really quickly. A great example is a guy I used to work with who constantly complained about not having any money. Every afternoon he would head down to the break room and buy a Pepsi and a Snickers bar from the vending machine. It was only a $1.75, but he spent that money five days a week. Over the course of a year, that adds up to almost $450.

Ideas to Avoid Impulse Purchases:
  • Don't to pay attention to TV, radio, or print ads. Hit the mute button. or simply don't watch or read the ads.
  • Don't watch infomercials or home shopping channels.
  • Leave junk mail unopened. Recycle catalogs, fliers, and leaflets unread.
  • Don't use shopping as a form of entertainment or a means to relax. Don't go to the mall or shopping center just to have something to do.
  • Avoid social shopping with friends. People tend to talk each other into things, not out of them.
  • Shop only with lists, and stick to them.
  •  Don't browse Amazon, eBay, or other Internet sites. Shop them the same way you would a physical store - with a list.
  • Shop with cash only. Spending cash feels more real than using checks or credit cards, so you are apt to spend less.
  • If you do find an item you think you can't do without, wait at least 24 hours before buying it. Chances are the impulse will pass.
Second, look to big categories for big savings. This list may both inspire & horrify you:

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, 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/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- 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. 

Ways to Raise Money

I wish I had a magic solution to the problem of how to raise money for prepping, but I don't. No one, not even Uncle Sam, is giving out free money for people to become more self-reliant. The only ways to raise money that I know of entail sacrifice of time, talent, effort, or property. Here is my list of ways to raise money:
  • Get a raise, or more hours, at your primary job. Tough to do during bad economic times, I know, but a great way to raise extra money if you can pull it off.
  • Get a second, or third, job. In my twenties, worked a second job for years at a B. Dalton Booksellers, mostly on weekends. It only netted me about $80/week (this was 20 years ago), but over the course of a year that was more than $4,000. A second job will pay off a lot of debt or buy a lot of supplies.
  • Do odd jobs. Can you sew, tutor, mow lawns, bake, babysit, or do "handyman" jobs? Post or handout fliers around your community. If you have a pick-up truck or van, you can rent it & yourself out for a lot of odd jobs involving hauling.
  • Start you own side-business. Perhaps one you could eventually turn into a full-time business. Some ideas include gardening and lawn care, small engine repair, tinkering (repairing/sharpening knives, tools, and other small metal items), leather-working, wood-working, catering, making/selling gift baskets, auto-detailing, Camper & RV cleaning service... 
  • Collect money owed to you. If you loaned money to a friend or relative, it is time to collect. Asking a friend or family member to pay back money you've lent them is uncomfortable, and may lead to some icy Sunday dinners at Grandma's, but it is your money after all. And you need it.
  • Cancel your subscriptions. Most newspapers and magazines will refund the unused portion of your subscription when you cancel. It might not be much, but every little bit helps.
  • Hold a yard or garage sale. Get rid of your junk and un-clutter your life while making a few bucks. If you live in an apartment, maybe there is a nearby flea market you can sale your stuff at? Or ask a friend if you can hold the yard sale at their place.
  • Sell your stuff online. Half.com is a great place to sell books, DVDs and CDs. I have had much success selling my stuff there. Of course, eBay is also a great place to sell all types of stuff.
  • Sell big-ticket items in your local classified ads. This is a great way to sell individual items such as ATVs, exercise equipment, furniture, electronics, and so forth.
  • Rent out a room. If you have a spare bedroom, consider renting it out. If you rent an apartment, consider taking a roommate. Be careful who you are renting to, of course, checking references and so forth. And be sure to use a written contract!

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