Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Are these "Black Holes" of personal finance stopping you from prepping?

I've been around the prepper/survivalist community for well over a decade now. The main issue I hear over and over again from many people is that lack of money is the main problem they have with getting prepared. It is true that stockpiling food and other supplies costs money, as does buying guns & ammo, and other gear. Moving to a better/safer place costs even more money. And setting up a homestead from scratch can be very expensive.

If you are having problems affording your preps, here are three "black holes" of personal fiance that may be to blame.  Examine these budget areas carefully, and you'll likely find a lot of savings, if your willing to sacrifice a little.

Telecommunications Expenses

 When I was a child (the 1970s) the only telecommunications expense my family, most families, had was the telephone and that was a land line, of course. TV programs were free over-the-air, and there was no Internet. Today, many families pay for a land line, multiple cell phones, texting privileges, special ringtones, cable or satellite TV subscriptions, extra movie channels, Internet connections, gaming and movie subscriptions (Netflix, etc.), special apps for their $500 smart phones, even satellite radio subscriptions. For most families major savings can be found in this budget category.

You simply don't have to have the latest version of your favorite smart phone. Nor do you really need the "all-inclusive" TV package with over 1000 channels (there's still likely to be nothing good own). And does everyone in your family really need a cell phone with the maximum (and most expensive) data and minutes package? Yes. They have made us addicted to our smart phones and other electronic devices. Maybe its time to overcome our addictions and spend our money on getting ready for the future instead of funding those million-dollar bonuses of telecom executives. 

Spending Cash/Pocket Money

The easiest money to spend is the money that is in your pocket. And spend it we do. Mostly on little things - sodas, snacks, and impulse items of all sorts. They are little expenses - fifty-cents here, a dollar there. But all those fifty-cent and dollar purchases add up to real money over time.

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.

Tips for Avoiding 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, flyers, and leaflets unread. 
  • Don't use shopping as a form of entertainment or a means to relax. 
  • 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.
Entertainment and Eating Out

We all have busy schedules, and eating out is quicker and more convenient than making a meal at home. But it can be expensive, and it really adds up over time. Eating out is a huge piece of most people budget. A piece that can be easily reduced.

Taking a bag lunch of leftovers to work with you instead of buying lunch at the local fast food eatery will save you big bucks over the course of a year. How much? If you spend five dollars a day for lunch, that is $1,250 a year (I am assuming you take two weeks off). If you are a two-income family with both of you eating out at lunch, this doubles to $2,500 a year. And we haven't  even talked about family dinners out, yet.

Entertainment is a purely optional budget expense. Eliminate it. You can be entertained without spending much, or even any, money. Learn (or re-learn) how to have a good time for free or nearly free. Take a walk with your spouse or with a friend. Start a family game night. Play with your kids in the backyard. Invite friends over for a weekend cook-out, or a movie night (with the DVD checked out from your local library for free). Next week they can invite you over.

Read a book (checked out from the library for free, of course) instead of going to a movie. Libraries are a wonderful source of free entertainment. In addition to books and magazines, many libraries today also offer audio books, movies on DVD, music CDs, and even board games that you can check out. Many have story times for young children and lecture series for adults you can attend for free.

BONUS "Black Hole" - Cigarettes & Other Addictions

Most people don't smoke these days (that's why this is a bonus "black hole" for those who do), but a surprising number still do. If you are one of those people that still smoke, I know you don't want to hear this, but STOP. If not for your health (a great reason all by itself), then do it for your finances. The cost of cigarettes varies greatly from state to state (due to taxes), but chances are a pack-a-day habit costs at least $2,000 a year, and in some states much more. Think of how much food storage or ammo you could buy with that money!

Same goes for other addictions - chewing tobacco, alcoholism, gambling addiction, pornography, even food/binge-eating. All addictions cost money, impair health, interfere with relationships, and decrease productivity. Save money (and your health) by dealing with your addictions now.

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