Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How would you prepare under these circumstances?


Thanks to everyone who responded to my question (yesterday) about battery-operated chainsaws.  Lots of good information was provided, and my correspondent is currently considering her options.

That brings me to another question from a reader.  It looks very much as if the world economy is on the brink of a precipice right now.  Consider just a few headlines from the past week:

  • CNN:  Opinion: Brace yourselves for another financial crash
  • Simon Black:  Forget about Ebola – here’s why US banks (and your savings) are now EXTREMELY vulnerable
  • David Stockman:  Kudos To Herr Weidmann For Uttering Three Truths In One Speech
  • Michael Snyder:  19 Very Surprising Facts About The Messed Up State Of The U.S. Economy
  • Casey Research:  The Many Roads to Currency Ruination

I've been writing about these and similar problems for years, as have many other people.  I hope most of us have taken what steps we can afford to prepare ourselves for another financial and economic crisis, which I believe is as certain as the dawn.

Now a reader e-mails to ask for advice.  I've condensed her query as follows:

I'm stuck with an unemployed partner and teenage kids who can't earn their own living.  We haven't been able to afford reserve supplies for an emergency, yet it's clear that even harder times are on the way.  I want to build up reserves for my family to help cope with them, so I'm selling a bunch of our stuff at garage sales and through Craigslist.  By mid-November I hope to have $2,000 to spend.  What's the best way for me to use that money?

A bit of background:  she lives with her husband and two kids, a boy of 15 and a girl of 17, in a small suburban home in a Missouri city.  The local crime situation wasn't bad until recently, but it's getting worse as economic hard times bite deeper.  The family owns one older car free and clear - they sold a second, newer vehicle when they couldn't afford the monthly payments.  The mortgage on their home runs about $650 per month, which isn't too bad if both of them are earning, but for the past year her husband hasn't been able to find work.  Her income isn't enough to cover all the bills.

I have some ideas of my own, which I'll address tomorrow;  but I thought I'd throw open my reader's question to the rest of my audience.  If you were in her shoes, and had made almost no emergency preparations, and could raise $2,000 for the purpose, how would you spend it?  Please let us know your suggestions (concisely, of course - point form is fine) in Comments, and we'll see what the range of replies covers. 

Peter

16 comments:

B said...

Food: Staples. Beans and rice and dried veggies and such.
$500 worth is a LOT....and will last for a long time (might be boring, but food is food).

A means of heating the home. Spend enough that you can get through the winter.

that should leave about $500 for a means of defense.

Anonymous said...

My plan if I were in your shoes with 2k.

1. Nice dinner for the family - just a small splurge. Live today, and tomorrow, enjoying both. Lets call this 100 for a family of 4 with a nice home cooked steak dinner and a bottle of wine plus ice cream - I refuse to participate unless there is ice cream... Budget remaining 1900.

2. Deep breath, yep, there is a lot of bad news out there. We may or may not experience a SHTF. We didn't last time in 08, we may this time, only god knows. Now is most certainly NOT a time to panic. I say this as a prepper of 17 years before the term was around, and I say it as a professional floor and screens trader whose job it is to watch the markets all day. Yep, its ugly, again, NO, its not time to panic. Budget neutral.

3. Self defense - all sorts of ideas here, but in the suburbs, I go shotgun if I am only choosing 1 item, and have limited budget. Decent used Moss500 or Rem870 and 300-500 shells assorted should run approx $500. Budget remaining 1400.

4. Take another deep breath, and some time to assess your personal needs. Missouri can be cold in the winter. Maybe your local water supply is suspect. Maybe one of the family has special needs. Pause to research and reflect. Take a breath. Budget neutral.

Anonymous said...

5. If we have good shelter, and maybe a stream nearby where we can draw water, and a wood stove for heat – most people turn naturally to food. I believe firmly in a two pronged approach. Copy canning (i.e. when on normal grocery runs, anything non-perishable that is purchased regularly, an extra is bought each time. For example, your family likes green bean casserole, you normally buy 3 cans of green beans, from now on, you buy 4) which is low cost and a way to build a deep larder over time. I also believe in applying spare funds to building a long term pantry that might not normally be consumed, but greatly appreciated if it’s the only game in town during SHTF. For example, my wife and I eat some rice, but its not a staple. However, 25lb bags of rice are pretty cheap, as are dried beans (make sure you purchase some hot sauce to toss in this long term larder to make it palatable – our family plan is to eat cardboard with Sriracha, ‘cause that stuff makes anything delish!) Lets call this a budget of 1000 split 350 for copy canning, 350 for long term, and 300 for in-between random shelf stable food purchases that can do double duty whilst adding volume. Budget remaining 400.

6. Deep breath – the above should have taken a month or so to execute.

7. Lets revisit our shelter, water, heat, lights, basics, etc. Spend 200 on whatever to augment your long term viability and comfort. Bleach? A couple of mid-grade flashlights? More ammo? Budget remaining 200.

Anonymous said...

8. Sit back and congratulate yourself on getting some (NOT ALL) basics squared away. Take the last 200, and squirrel it away as a beginning rainy day fund. Yes, super tempting to dip into it with a SO out of work. Do as you need, but exercise some fiscal discipline.

9. Find like minded folks and begin networking. The quite literal tens of thousands of dollars I have personally put into prepping over the years is completely dwarfed by the value of the network I have built. I do not just ascribe the economics of this equation, although they are literally true; but the friendships, spirituality, camaraderie, fun, willingness to pitch in (one of my prepping friends recently had elbow surgery, and when his wife needed 2 guys to help out with getting their livestock barn ready for winter, emailing about this on a Thursday, 8 of us showed up after church/brunch/sleeping in on Sunday.) This is out of love. For the new folks, you must, as in any other endeavor involving humans, be cautious and circumspect. It is a lengthy and painstaking process, separating the new best friend from the casual to the crazies. It is the most valuable item on the list, but of course takes inversely proportional time and effort – the same inverse relationship for the likelihood of use stands as well.

Jack Spirko who runs www.thesurvivalpodcast.com coined the term Inverse Disaster Probability when referencing the hierarchy of likelihood of occurrence and our preparation for it. Its worth researching in depth, but the meta concept holds true. What we prep for, and its likelihood of occurrence, and its proportional impact, are often inversed in reality i.e. the most likely disaster for us to experience is precisely what you are currently living, a reduced income. Some might say any prepping beyond taking that 2k for household use, until you come up to par on income, is less desirable. There is a solid argument to be made there… This is a problem for many newcomers to prepping – whatever is in the news TODAY becomes the boogeyman, and the target we are shooting at (i.e. ameliorating with our preps.) Looking at things holistically, removing ourselves from fear response, it may well be worth our (the newcomers) while to pay off consumer debt instead of buying Beans Bullets and BandAids (the 3Bs of prepping.) Perhaps we should pay off our high rate mortgage? Perhaps we already have all of gramps guns that aren’t as sexy as a new TactiCool AR1800 that can take out a battalion at 3.5 miles. I dunno, but whatever comments are left here, please, please, please don’t panic. This (as gramps used to say) just ain’t the time for it. Knowing you are a correspondent of Peter’s, the assumption is you are concerned, but rational and intelligent. I await his response, as he may have more insight into your particular circumstances.

Anonymous said...

My opinion? If you can at all possibly pull it off, move where there is less crime, where your earnings will stretch further, hubby can find work, or both. If you aren't going to make it long term on where you are and what you make, prepping for a short term buffer won't help.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Here is an unpopular bit of advice for anyone who cannot find a job. Work on a commission. Oh, I cannot sell. Oh, I cannot .......... You may make zero, or just a little, or find you are good at it but you will be WORKING, not sitting at home. Something is always better than nothing. Out and about, you will come across opportunities.

Murphy's Law said...

17 year old, if out of school, needs to get a job and pay rent or get out.

Unemployed boyfriend needs to get a job, even if it's a low-wage temporary job. This whole "I can't find work" claim is BS. If every illegal Mexican can come over here and find a paying job, anyone can.

K said...

Everyone gets a JOB. Mow some lawns, rake leaves, but get your butt to work. It might be washing dishes, as I've done to put groceries on the table. "I can't find work", is a BS excuse.

Anonymous said...

First, if you truly believe get out of the city now. Sell your house while prices are up because they are about to fall off a cliff. Go where housing is cheap. Everyone works- period. If only mowing lawns and picking up aluminum cans for money. Start with a shotgun and buckshot. Put away as much food as you can. And pray.

There is so much more that you can do and probably need to do but at least this is good start.

JKB said...

Buy up a 30,60,90 day supply of normally used food items...if the expiration dates can handle. Items such as canned goods, frozen, etc. that are normally used, then go back to normal purchases to keep the stock up rather than letting it run down to zero. This will provide a cushion for disaster or even just sudden expense.

Do the same with prescriptions. Build a cushion. Then resume the old routine with salary.

If looking for specific disaster supplies, rice, beans, onions, 5 gal food grade buckets to keep them, water containers. (I bought some of the latter as 5 gal mylar bags that go into companion boxes to stack and store.

Not a good way to get ahead on a mortgage so you really have to put away enough for a payment when you come up short one month then keep that cash separate.

tweell said...

Misery is a cheap state to live in, but isn't much for jobs right now. Given crime on the rise, I would be looking for somewhere else to live. Texas is relatively close and has low unemployment. Another possibility is the Dakotas.

We tend to stay put too long, better the devil you know and all that. I am reminded of the pamphlet (it's too short to be called a book) 'Who Moved My Cheese?'. I'm one to talk (hate to move), but I have elderly relatives living nearby to take care of, and I'm not in financial trouble.

This family is slowly sinking. Since bills > income, not changing that will eventually ruin this family. $2k should work to move if done right. It also has a decent chance of getting the husband out of his spiral of despair.

Paul said...

Get the hubby doing something.

Seeds, water, shelter, defense.

Seeds to grow next spring, get enough food to last till then and an extra 20%

Water, without water you die. Have a backup plan and a backup plan for that.

Number one is the survival hierarchy is shelter. get a tent in case your show goes on the road.

Defense. People will want your stuff and you need to be able to dissuade them. Shotgun is good. Smaller bore is probably better as it has a smaller sound signature and all of your family can handle it.

Of all the threats, financial collapse is running the highest probability right now. Things will work up until the time they don't.

Be ready for the authorities to try and seize you stuff before the collapse or immediately after things stop. The last gasp of the state could be deadly.

Anonymous said...

If you decide to stay put, then invest some money in improving fencing and home security.

Kids/unemployed can do odd jobs for cash: mowing/yard work, shoveling snow, minor home repairs, painting, etc.

In addition to stocking up on staples, consider turning the back yard into a garden, to convert labor into food. Yes, winter is coming, so you may just be preparing the ground for Spring.

Consider planting some fruit trees: While they can take several years to mature, many will produce far more fruit than your family can consume. The excess can be bartered or canned. And many should be planted in January or February, while they are dormant.

Raise some chickens: They are fairly low maintenance, and produce eggs for about half a year for several years. When they stop laying, eat them.

ZerCool said...

I got wordy in my reply and it turned into a blog post of its own. :)

~Katherine~ said...

1) The kids can work. As a teenager from about 15 or so on, I was working 2-3 jobs at a time. Babysitting, shoveling/raking, housecleaning, what-have-you.

2) I'm not sure where in Missouri they are; I know that the economy has hit some parts very badly. If ANYTHING is hiring--fast food, retail, etc--Dad should look into getting a job. It's very easy to become discouraged when job-seeking. The best advice regarding that that I have is to set a goal every day and meet it: "I will fill out ten applications today" is a good one.

3) Rice and beans are boring, but very, very cheap. Aldi is a great resource. If they have a Hispanic grocery store near them, food there is perfectly comparable to food at a non-Hispanic grocery and is usually rather cheaper.

4) Prepping can be done gradually rather than all at once, too. Every week when I grocery shop, I buy an extra couple of bags of dried beans and a pound of brown rice. I seal two pounds of beans, a pound of rice, and a couple of packets of flavorings/spices (very cheap, chili spices are 3/$1 at my grocery store and will flavor a large pot) in a gallon Ziploc bag. I rotate through this stock as I make dishes that include rice and beans. This could get tedious as a long-term diet, but for now we're on a budget, and I'll take tedious over hungry any day. This adds perhaps $2.50 to my weekly grocery bill, and I can cut corners to make that happen.

5) Give a little back. I know that sounds counterintuitive right now, but the littlest things can make a difference. Our suburban church helps an inner-city church-run food pantry by collecting food every week for them. I try to buy a bag of rice or beans and put it in that basket every week. Again, not much--but it probably makes a difference to the person who gets it.

Chas Clifton said...

I am just back from eastern North Dakota (the agricultural part, not the oil fields), where I am told that there are 7,000 unfilled jobs in the greater Fargo area alone.

Whatever the real number is, the area appears to be booming.