I am by no means a financial expert and have lived most of my life from paycheck to paycheck, so the first thing I thought of when I read “Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse”was “Wow, those guys must have been rich to buy all that stuff!” I was very overwhelmed and felt somewhat hopeless that I could ever have enough money to buy the things we needed to make it through TEOTWAWKI, especially now that the economy is worsening, and people have less and less money. So I set out to figure out what I would have to do to scrape together enough money to start preparing. I have compiled a few of the tips and tricks I have discovered over the last few years here, in hopes of sharing my knowledge so others can follow suit and become better prepared in these hard times.
A few notes here before we go on:
A. In this article I will refer to any “extra” or “saved” money as TEOTWAWKI Funds (or “TF“). This is to be used for buying your preparedness supplies, not hoarded away in a bank account as useless cash.
B. There IS a difference between “NEED” and “WANT“. Anything you buy requires three things; Money– not only for the purchase, but also for operation, maintenance, storage, licensing etc. Time– not only to find the item, but also for maintenance and repair. Space– to keep it in. Never buy on impulse. If you want something go home and think on it for a few days. Ask yourself: is this necessary? Who is it being purchased for? What will it be used for? When will it be used? Where will it be used and stored? Why is it needed? How can I pay for it? Most of the time when people sit down and think about it, a “need” actually isn’t a need–it is actually a “want”.
With that being said, here are some of the things I have learned. No one thing is going to save you a ton of money, but added all up together can mean the difference of having money for your TF or not… Think and act as if you are poor and you will have more money in the end!
The Big Things-
1. Credit Cards- Do Not live off your credit cards! Do Not pay credit cards with other credit cards. Do Not pay recurring bills on credit cards. See a trend? Credit Cards should be used for emergencies only. Sell what you have to sell and do what you have to do to get them paid off to a zero dollar balance, then Do Not use them. If you can’t help yourself, take them out of your wallet and leave them at home. I can’t overemphasize this enough; too many people stretch themselves thin by living over their means and off their credit cards. That is not what they are meant for, and doesn’t do anything except get you further and further in debt.
2. Entertainment- Living in San Diego, I am in the epitome of wealth, status, and spending, so the first thing we will talk about here is entertainment. Do you really need those Pro Sports Jerseys, barbecues, flags, #1 fingers, helmets, cups, bottles, pens and all the other useless stuff they have? No you don’t. Put your money in your TF, and get your head out of the clouds. In fact, why not take up hiking or running, (which, incidentally, are free) and start training yourself for TEOTWAWKI. Buy yourself that expensive coffee every morning? Guess what, you don’t do it– brew your own at home and save a bundle! Spend money on toys? Do you really need an electric airplane? Gas-powered RC car? Boats? Quads? 50″ Flat-screen TV? $5,000 stereo system? New china set? New furniture? I think not. Make do with what you have and save your money. What good is a high definition TV going to do for you when there is no food? Nothing. In fact, sell your big expensive items, downgrade, and use the extra money for your TF.
3. Cars and Appliances- Do you really need that new BMW you’ve been looking at? Ahem, no you don’t! If you have a vehicle that is paid off or close to it, it would be cheaper to keep that vehicle and fix it up than to buy a new one- even if you had to put a new engine in it! Better yet, if it’s financed, sell the vehicle you have- get out from under that loan- and go buy a used multi-purpose vehicle in cash. Even if you had to replace the whole drive-train in a used vehicle, it’s still cheaper than buying a brand new car! Also, while we’re on the topic of cars. Limit your driving and errand running; If you need a gallon of milk, don’t make an extra trip to the store- wait until you need to do your weekly grocery shopping. You will save so much money in gas alone just from cutting out useless running around. Limit your driving; write down where you go in one week’s time, and cut out or combine trips.
4. Electronics and Gadgets– people think they need things they actually don’t. Do you really need that new fridge, stove, washer, computer, cappuccino machine? CD, iPods, Blueray discs? I think not! As long as it works then keep it! If it stops working, learn how to fix it, and only then if it is too expensive to fix, sell it as used junk and buy another one, used. I see people all the time buy new appliance after new appliance needlessly, and it’s such a waste of money.
The Little Things-
1. Clothes- This is a big one for women, but also applies to men. Everyone already owns clothes. Look in your closet and arrange them to category. Work clothes. Play/ Relax clothes. Clothes for getting dirty. Clothes for going out. Do the same for shoes. You only need just a few per each category. That’s pretty much it. Sorry women, you don’t need 20 pairs of shoes and 15 purses. One works just fine. Get yourself a nice pair of sturdy boots and put the extra money in your TF. I haven’t bought new clothes in years. Take care of the ones you already have and you will be just fine- you can even alter them if they don’t fit or need adjusted for a very small fee. Again, cheaper than buying new ones. When you have to buy new clothes, buy ones that are on sale, functional, and easy to take care of. Sorry to say, you don’t really need a $200 pair of jeans, or a $500 cashmere jacket. Take the extra cash and buy TEOTWAWKI gear.
2. Food- This is an important one and not just for people new to survivalism. I have slowly learned how to cut our food bill- it does take some work, but it’s very possible. If you can cut your current food bill in half, then you could be using that other half to buy store away foods!
First– grow as much of your own food as possible! (Including animals; chickens and rabbits are cheap and easy to keep!) Even if you have a small yard, or no yard at all, buy some 5-to-15 gallon buckets and grow plants. You can set them up on your lawn, balcony, or even in your driveway if need be. You would be amazed at how much food you can get from pots. From just four big pots I got tomatoes all summer long, never had buy a single one. For whatever you can’t grow, buy your produce at the local vegetable stand or farmers market. Find the cheap ones. Either of these are usually much cheaper than the grocery market. Also, don’t buy expensive exotic fruits and veggies- you don’t need them.
Second– don’t buy name brand products. Most of the time the store-brand tastes exactly the same, and in many cases is even manufactured in the same plant!
Third, look through the weekly circulars and newspapers and find the cheapest meats, milks, and cheeses, etc. More likely than not, you’ll have more than one grocery store close to you, so it won’t be a big deal to go to more than one. Do not think that “I can only shop at this store.” No you can’t- you can shop anywhere the prices are cheap!
Fourth– this one is a little more time consuming but very worth it. Get a large bag and envelopes (for sorting) and collect as many coupons as possible. Circulars, newspapers, and the internet are all great sources. Also, you can call or write most manufactures and they will send you coupons for free. Look every week and keep adding to your collection. Then when the weekly circulars/ ads come out, find items that are going on sale and match up your coupons. Example- a jar of mayonnaise is normally $3.99, it goes on sale for 2 for $5.00, then you have a manufacturers $1.00 off coupon, now you have twice as much mayo for the same price! You just cut your food bill in half! It takes time, but is worth it! We used to spend about $300 for a full grocery cart of food, we can now get the same amount of food for about $150-to-$175!
Fifth- consider learning how to can and store your own food. Extra tomatoes from your garden? Make spaghetti sauce and can it! It will last months instead of days. You may never have to buy spaghetti sauce again!
Sixth- Always use your leftovers and be creative! Use meat as a flavor enhancer not a main dish. Instead of serving a steak with a side of pasta, chop it up, add it along with your older veggies, canned tomatoes, pasta, spices and voila- what could feed two, can now feed four or more!
Seventh- Don’t eat out! You are better off using the money and going to the grocery store; what could potentially be only one or two meals can easily be six or more.
Eighth- just because your eating cheaper doesn’t mean eating less healthy. We don’t eat any fast food, frozen dinners, et cetera. Stay away from chemicals, and veer towards healthy well balanced meals. Stick to the basics, lots of fruits and veggies, potatoes, grains, and healthy lean meats. If you are overweight then consider losing some, it may mean the difference between life and death if you have to make a run for it. If your very thin, consider gaining some- you might need a little extra reserve in the times of need.
Last- Don’t buy Tupperware, Zip-loc bags, Rubbermaid boxes, twist ties, and other various expensive “food storage” products. Save your glass jars from your mayonnaises, salsas, spaghetti sauces, etc. You can sterilize them and reuse them to store your foods- for free! [JWR Adds: I look for Tupperware and Rubbermaid containers as well as heavy duty canning jars used, at garage sales. These containers effectively pay for themselves, since they allow my family to fully utilize left-over food, even if they are just dog scraps.]
3. Utilities- This may seem like a big “duh” factor, but you would be surprised at how many people “know” and don’t follow their own advice. Don’t leave water running. Turn off lights when not in use. Unplug appliances when not using- including televisions and computers. Don’t use the heater; installing a cheap wood burning stove can save you thousands on your heating bill. And as unpleasant as it sounds, don’t use the air conditioning- or cut way, way back. Another option is a swamp cooler, they use less electricity and are better for the environment. Hang clothes out to dry instead of using a dryer. This saves a bunch! Case in point: A lady that I know living in a two bedroom house was spending approx $250 a month on electricity bills living the typical American way. But we live in a four bedroom house and our electricity bill runs about $40 a month. [JWR Adds:Pay particular attention to the profusion of AC to DC power adapter “power cubes” all over your house. You might be surprised to find how many of these are on, 24/7/365.Would you leave the same number of light bulbs on all the time? (Some power cubes suck as much wattage as a 40 watt light bulb.) Leave them unplugged except when you are actually using them! One good way to manage this is to put all your power cubes on power strips. When you are done using the appliance, flip off the switch on the power strip!]
4. Kitchen, Cleaning, and Health Products- Most people spend hundreds if not thousands on bathroom cleaners, kitchen cleaners, paper towels, Lysol products, beauty products, etc. Contrary to popular belief you don’t need to. First- Buy yourself a few gallons of standard laundry bleach, dilute it to 1 part to 20 for cleaning, mix it and put it in a spray bottle. Clean with white wash cloths or rags that you can wash and reuse. You never have to buy a different cleaner for every room again! You can clean the kitchen, bathrooms, floors, walls, windows, pretty much anything! Just be careful of colorfast items, carpet, and clothing- it will bleach and discolor them! You can also use ammonia and lemon juice as well for cleaning various surfaces. Two- Use plain ivory soap for hand and dish washing- it’s cheaper, safer, and has less chemicals than most stuff out there. Three- Use only rags or washcloths for cleaning, drying, washing, and wiping. You don’t need napkins or paper towels either- use rags. Disposable Diapers? Nope- get reusable ones. Four- Health/ Beauty products- I see people buy so many health and beauty products that it’s literally cluttering up their lives! Pick one shampoo, one conditioner and one body wash, buy in bulk and forget all the extra expensive soaps and beauty products. Ladies: you don’t need $150 eye cream and hundreds of dollars worth of make-up and facial care products. Get yourself one good cleanser and one good moisturizer and that’s all you need! This is a huge area in wasting money because people trick themselves into thinking they need the items when they actually don’t. Four- Laundry detergents, soaps, shampoos, etc, use as natural product as possible while finding great deals, use your coupons, and buy in bulk. Beware of bulk warehouses though and do your research, some items can be great deals while others not. Warehouse A is famous for buying in bulk, you get a case of soup (8 cans) for $9.90. But you may be able to the grocery store and get them individually for less than $1.00 each. Do your research, and shop smart.
5. Recycling- Recycle everything you can. You pay for it in the first place, so why not get a little of it back! Give your scraps to your animals; dogs, chickens and rabbits can eat most leftovers and you could potentially save money in feed bills, and the chickens and rabbits will in turn create more food for yourself. I also believe in giving your animals the best natural nutrition, but you don’t have to go out and buy the most expensive food- pick a high quality food where you can get coupons and buy in bulk. Compost- put all your food scraps and biodegradable items in a compost pile. You will get back nutrition for your plants instead of buying commercial fertilizers. Recycle cans, bottles, jars (that you don’t keep) and glass. Use old paper for tinder in your fireplace or wood burning stove and burn it for warmth. Another plus: If you are buying much less stuff you’ll have way less trash!
I hope that these few things have helped at least some people to open their eyes and realize that just because we were raised a certain way, does not mean that we can’t change or learn a better way! Be smart, be deliberate in your thinking, and don’t buy useless stuff! Good luck!