What Should I Do?

Prepping on a Shoestring

Tuesday, December 28, 2010, 1:01 PM

If you are short on time and want a quick list of tips, click here for Ten Free Things You Can Do Right Now. Otherwise, read on:

How to Prepare When Times Are Already Tight

Here at PeakProsperity.com, I manage correspondence and respond to most incoming email from users, among other things. We sometimes hear from people who complain that our site is not relevant to their situation because they have no extra funds to invest or put toward preparedness.

Let me be the first to say that there is something here at PeakProsperity.com for everyone, and there absolutely are meaningful ways to improve your situation and outlook even if you don't have "extra money." The good news is that there is still time, and with a little creativity and awareness, you can also be among those who feel more securely prepared for the very different future that we are facing.

My husband and I have four children who are not yet teenagers, and we live a relatively frugal but comfortable life. We have managed to keep afloat even through financial ups and downs, but like many Americans and others around the world, we live roughly paycheck-to-paycheck. If something unexpected comes up, we rob Peter to pay Paul (as my mother used to say), and then the next month we rob Paul to pay Peter. It's not ideal, but it is real. Sound familiar?

The reality is that the next twenty years are going to be very unlike the last twenty years. Systems and practices that we currently take for granted are likely to change. Awareness of our predicament, flexible expectations, and a willingness to creatively meet any challenge are fundamental preparedness "tools" that everyone can and should begin with. You are reading this article, and that is a helpful step. Do not let a lack of financial resources become an excuse for not taking meaningful action.

Self-Assessment

Assess your needs, think creatively, make backup plans, and be flexible.

The very first thing you should do is work through the Self-Assessment worksheet on our site. Some people find that it is especially helpful to do this worksheet with others. It is well worth working through in detail, but if you are reading a printout of this article and do not have access to the Self-Assessment, here is an abbreviated version:

Think of all of the areas of your life in which you and your family have needs. This might reasonably include shelter, food/water, warmth/coolth, sanitation, hygiene, medical care, stress management, meaningful relationships, and entertainment. Your personal list may include other things as well.

Next, think of how each of those needs is currently met. For example, perhaps you live in a cold climate and heat your home using oil during the winter. Or perhaps you live in the city and your drinking water and sanitation needs are met through public utilities. Perhaps your tried-and-true method of stress management is to watch sports on TV. The most important aspect of this exercise is to become consciously aware of the systems that help us get our needs met. We rely on these systems, often without even thinking about it.

And now comes the creative part. Take a look at each category, one by one, and imagine what your situation would be like if the usual method for meeting that need became unavailable.

This is not meant to cause anyone panic, though you might feel unsettled thinking about how much you take your preferred solutions for granted. Instead, this is an opportunity, because here is where you come up with a backup plan and reassure yourself that you can get your needs met even if your usual method fails.

Perhaps you are already further down this road than you realized. Perhaps you have already dealt with a layoff or intermittent income gaps and have had to figure out how to make ends meet. Perhaps you have dealt with utility shutoffs or extended power outages and have had to find a way to cope without easy light or heat/air conditioning (or, if you live rurally, running water and flush toilets) during that time. Perhaps you have already lost your home to foreclosure and have had to sort out an alternative living situation. Perhaps you have found yourself with a medical emergency but no insurance and no funds to cover medical care.

These kinds of situations are not as uncommon as the mainstream media would have us believe, and it is likely that such challenges will affect more and more people in the coming years. If you have already had some practice at thinking creatively under challenging circumstances, you have gained valuable experience that has probably already convinced you that it helps to have a plan in place beforehand.

Here at PeakProsperity.com, we talk a lot about increasing personal, household, and community resilience. Simply having a workable backup plan ("Plan B"), no matter how creative or unconventional it needs to be in your situation, brings valuable resilience to your life. If Plan A doesn't work out, you can lean back on Plan B, but if you haven't yet developed Plan B when Plan A fails, your situation is significantly more fragile.

What should I do?

Over the past few years, Chris has repeatedly offered some very specific suggestions to his longtime readers, some - but by no means all - of whom are wealthy investors. But his recommendations can also be reinterpreted for people with leaner financial resources.

The following are my adaptations of Chris' common advice (in italics) to fit situations where money is scarce and time/creativity are perhaps more abundant:

"Buy gold and silver."

Assess your resources.  Do you happen to have a coin collection from when you were a kid? If you do, have you checked to see if there are any silver nickels or dimes? Do you happen to have any gold or silver jewelry? In times past, wedding rings were an easily portable store of wealth. Your collection might be small, and you might not have any plans to liquidate these items, but it can be psychologically reassuring to know that you have something of value to liquidate if you get desperate.

However, be sure to steer clear of late-night TV promoters and other such entrepreneurs who offer to buy gold jewelry; most pay low rates and we cannot recommend going this route. Go to your local coin shop instead - or more than one, until you find one you are comfortable with - and get to know the dealer, so that if you have a need to sell jewelry or coins for cash, you have already built that relationship and feel comfortable doing business there.

Perhaps you have other items - antique furniture, heirlooms, artwork - that could be sold to a reputable buyer and "turned into" a small stash of silver coins or gold. Perhaps you own nothing of value, but that's okay. Buying gold and silver makes sense for people who have extra money and need to store it, but there are plenty of other important ways to prepare without precious metals or other items of monetary value. It's a satisfying backup to have, but there are other ways to navigate a currency crisis.

"Keep cash out of the bank, preferably three months' worth."

Use cash.  Three month's worth of living expenses can seem out of reach if you are having a hard time making ends meet during the month you're in right now. The reason for this recommendation is to ensure that you can continue to buy necessities and pay essential bills even if there is a bank holiday or shutdown. Consider that in case of a bank holiday, payment processing is also likely to be put on hold while the banks are not functioning. So it might help to think, instead, of trying to stash enough cash or supplies to cover bare-bones food, medical, and fuel needs if the bank system shut down and businesses were unable to accept credit/debit/check payments.

But even that is not possible for some people. If you don't have cash available to set aside specifically for this purpose, simply do what you can to keep cash flowing within reach as often as possible. Try moving from a debit or check system of handling your money to a cash system. This means cashing your paycheck and keeping that cash physically on hand, instead of in your checking/debit account. If there is a banking holiday and the banks are shut down for days or weeks, you will not be able to access your money if it is in the bank. But if you have any amount of cash in your wallet, even if it is earmarked for later expenses, you retain the ability to procure food/gas/medical supplies by reprioritizing those dollars during an emergency.

For some, this might mean cashing a Friday paycheck, having a relatively full wallet until Monday, buying groceries with that money on Tuesday, buying gas on Wednesday or Thursday, and having an empty wallet for as short a time as possible until payday rolls around again on Friday. You might still need to use checks or debit to pay bills, but you might find a creative way to cycle that money out of your bank account and back into it through regular withdrawals and deposits. In a crisis, even $20 in your wallet can be significantly useful. Some people use an "envelope system" in which their budget is represented by envelopes, and on payday they allocate their cash into piles based on the categories of their budget. Budget. Which brings up another important point.

"Get out of debt."

Practice austerity.  Do not take on any new debt. To do this, you may need to practice austerity. (If only our government leaders were hip to this idea…) The only way toward getting out of debt when you are already struggling to pay it down is to not add more to your debt load. For those of us who grew up in our easy-credit culture, this might feel like a revolutionary change. If you haven't already done so, consider taking the plunge and keeping close track of how your money is spent, down to the penny, for a week or a month. This will help you see clearly where your money is going and identify any places where you can cut back. Make a budget and stay within it. If your budget exceeds your income, find some way to trim down your budget. Be vigilant. If your income is unpredictable, you will need to be even more careful about thoughtfully allocating what money you have when you have it.

Debt is a fact of life for many people, and for the typical American family, it is not something easily dissolved. Pay more than the minimum if you can. Refinance to a lower interest rate on your mortgage if you have that option. You might call your creditors and ask about renegotiating your payment terms (it doesn't hurt to ask persistently, even if the first person you talk to is obligated by their employer's protocol to say no.) Some people have had success with a "debt snowball" approach. There are numerous online resources available on this topic. Try not to get mired in thinking of debt as a failure; simply manage it and do all you can to move on without adding to it.

And yes, I know full well that you can't squeeze money out of rocks, or grow it on trees, or whatever. My experience has shown me that even when you think you can't possibly cut back your budget any further, a change in expectations is often the key to helping you find new possibilities for stretching your resources. Changing expectations is a whole separate topic to address another time, but for now let me just say that keeping an open mind about how your needs and your family's needs get met can help open up new options for flexibility in your budget.

"Enroll at PeakProsperity.com."

Keep informed.  Now, I am firmly convinced that an enrollment at CM.com is worth the money, if you have it to spare. Chris and his team work very hard to provide significant added value for those who are able to enroll. But if you cannot afford to buy an enrollment here at PeakProsperity.com, there is still lots to gain from reading the free material that we offer. We remain highly committed to keeping the entire Crash Course free and available to everyone, along with some of the other basic but important features of PeakProsperity.com, including the forums (which are a virtual gold mine of information and support), Chris' public blog, the What Should I Do? series, and a number of free past Martenson Reports. It is our strong intent that CM.com will continue to be a useful resource even for those who cannot afford to enroll.

"Stay out of conventional investment vehicles. Store some of your wealth outside the fiat currency system."

Invest in things you need or anticipate needing.  Okay, so here we run into that pesky "W" word - wealth. Many of us were brought up believing that wealth doesn't happen to "people like us." But wealth doesn't necessarily mean owning financial holdings or precious metals or real estate. Chances are you have more options for wealth than you realize.

If you have any extra wiggle room in your budget, turn it into durable things that you need right now or believe you will need in the future. This might include things that help you with your Plan B - replacements for household tools that are "on their last legs" even if they do not quite yet need it, or warm clothing/shoes for children to grow into (jackets, waterproof boots, underwear/socks), or gadgets and devices that will increase your food resilience (gardening tools, canning supplies, water filter), or improvements/repairs to make your home more sturdy and functional (weather-stripping, a new window), or items that will enable you to decrease reliance on oil (a bicycle or a bike trailer, warmer bedding and clothing to enable you to turn down the heat in winter). Things that will increase your personal resilience - your ability to cope with the changes that we face in the long run - constitute an important form of wealth.

The possibilities here are endless, but with your self-assessment in hand, you can hone in on the few items that will enable the greatest increase in your personal resilience. Do the best you can to put your money into things that will last for as long as you need them and not require replacement. This might mean spending more for a more durable version when you purchase an item, if you have that option. Not only is it cheaper in the long run to buy one of something instead of two, you may not be able to acquire a second replacement down the road.

If you don't have any wiggle room, don't waste time worrying about it - begin networking for what you need. Start by identifying what you want to acquire, so that you will a) be able to quickly recognize it as useful when it comes your way, and b) be able to ask clearly for what you need if someone asks. I find it helpful to maintain a wish list. Every now and then I let my friends know what I'm looking for in case they happen to come across it or have an extra one to offer. (And in the spirit of reciprocity, I offer up things that I don't need but that others might find useful.) If you have Internet access and transportation, Freecycle and Craigslist can be great resources. Some localities have "swap shops" where you can leave useful things and take what you need. Some community papers have free classifieds. With a little research you can figure out what networking options are available to you.

In case you are discouraged by this prospect of networking instead of throwing easy cash at things, let me share a list of items that I have gotten for free through networking, Freecycle, and our local swap shop: a nice working woodstove, outdoor grill, treadle sewing machine, dehydrator, water-bath canning supplies, canning jars, exercise equipment, swing set, picnic table, food mill, gardening tools and supplies, 5-gallon storage buckets with lids, down comforters, bike trailer, violin, mandolin, oil lamps, coolers, insulated water dispenser, ½-gallon and 1-gallon glass storage jars, most of our furniture, kids' bikes and scooters, animal cages and supplies, bushel baskets, cast iron cookware, durable storage containers, wool blankets, cloth diapers and covers, and most of my kids' clothing since birth. I would never have been able to come up with cash to purchase that impressive list of items.

"Invest in improving your house's energy efficiency."

Weatherize.  So you can't afford to change your heating system, insulate your walls, replace leaky windows, or install weather-stripping around your doors and windows? Not so fast; many states (still, for now at least) have income-based weatherization programs with funding for these sorts of improvements. You might qualify for a new furnace or woodstove, or blown-in insulation, or key window/door replacements, or you might get help with installing some other improvement that would otherwise be financially out of reach for you. In my state, qualified renters can even have these improvements done to their units with their landlord's permission.

If you don't qualify for your state program, or your state doesn't have such a program, you may still be able to get a free energy audit to help identify what inexpensive improvements to your home will have the most effect. If you simply do not have the capacity for any improvements, consider creative ways to close off less-critical areas of your home, such as bedrooms, so that you are only heating the key living areas (and the areas where pipes would be in danger of freezing if they are not sufficiently heated).

What else should I do?

And now for some other suggestions that are in line with Chris' recommendations:

Secure your income.

Perhaps you're thinking, "Yeah, right - secure? Income?" But I think this is an important thing for us all to think about, particularly those of us whose lives would be, or perhaps have already been, seriously compromised with a loss of income (and that may well be most or all of us). Without income, bills and debt cannot be paid, food and gas and medical care cannot be purchased, and housing may not be affordable. Income is a necessary fact of life for most of us, and as the economy slows, income opportunities are likely to shrink. So what do we do?

Employment

If you are currently employed, how secure is your job? By that I mean, how directly does your work support the basic needs of others? Is the product of your work sold and purchased locally, or is it shipped and used far away? Does the product or service that your employer offers fall into the category of "necessity" -- or "luxury"?

If you are in a luxury industry, or a field where you do not produce or repair things that people need locally, it's time to start re-visioning your place in the workforce. This doesn't mean that you should panic and quit your job. But you can dig deep, assess your skills, and think about how you could make the transition to a more basic and necessary kind of work. As I am sure I don't need to tell you, the job market is tight. The more time you have in advance to thoughtfully plan and prepare for your job move, reassess your credentials and start developing connections and experience in your target field, the better your chances will be to find that kind of work when the time comes.

Income Assistance

If you are currently receiving income assistance, whether in the form of welfare or unemployment pay or retirement benefits or other forms of so-called "entitlement" income, consider it likely that this income will cease at some point. This is not cause for panic; it's cause for empowerment. You have time right now to make a Plan B. If you are reliant on unemployment benefits, and those benefits cease before you find a new job, what will you do? If you are retired and your pension is reduced or fails, what will you do? How will you minimize your expenses?

Think it through. Make a plan. Will you need to move in with relatives? Talk with them about this now. Hopefully it will not come to pass, but if it does, you will already have a plan in place.

Secure your wealth.

What is wealth? Well, if you don't have money, and you don't have investments, what is left? Plenty! You are richer than you think - your wealth is present in your relationships, your skills, and your stuff.

Build relationships and community.

Invest yourself in keeping your relationships healthy and strong. Cultivate friendships with people who seem like the type to help out and ask for help in a reciprocal way. Work on communication and listening skills, and develop patience with people who are still struggling in these areas. The good people in your life are a potentially priceless resource - treat them as such.

Are you a member of a community group that reflects your values, such as a church or service group, or is there one near you that you might consider joining? In our area, there is a volunteer group called "Post Oil Solutions" that meets to discuss topics that relate to the changes coming our way. Some areas have Transition Towns groups that meet regularly. Maybe your town has an opening on the planning board or some other area of service that would allow you to get to know the locals and make a meaningful contribution to your town.

To read more on this topic, see Sager XX's recent article on our site, A Case Study in Creating Community. I especially love his idea of hosting an open monthly potluck and seeing who shows up. Hosting a potluck can be very simple - simply pick a date, spread the word, tidy up your space, and provide drinking water and a potluck contribution of your own. You can even ask people to bring their own dishes and utensils if necessary. The people who come and the connections they make with each other will almost certainly make up for any deficiency in venue or menu (I have been at dinner potlucks where we had only dessert, and college potlucks where there were nothing but bagels - and we all had a good time anyway, which was the point.)

Learn and share useful skills.

This point is especially applicable to those who have surplus time. So if you're out of work, this one's for you. Think about what sorts of things will be useful in a world with decreased prosperity. Do you like to fix things? Do you like to grow things? Do you like to help people out in a particular way? Are you good with animals? Do you have a mind for strategic planning? Are you already minimally conversant in a local second language? Do you have an inner artist, weaver, soapmaker, builder, forager, knitter, woodworker, seamstress, doula, baker, quilter, metalworker, mechanic, carver, gardener, translator, counselor? How can you apply these interest or skills in a practical way? What useful things have you always wanted to learn how to make or do?

Whatever your interests, think of how they could be applicable in a world where barter is common and money is scarce. Cultivate the ability to "make something out of nothing." Perhaps you already live in a world like this, and perhaps developing new skills will give you a leg up that can be useful now. Some communities already have time trade or barter boards, where you can offer help in one area and gain help in another. The Internet and the public library system are currently very rich resources for finding information on how to do new things, and it's possible that with a little outreach you might find one or more local mentors, or perhaps you could even mentor someone else in a skill that you already have. In a world with less disposable income and diminishing natural resources, we will all need to learn to "make do" with what we have, and useful skills will play an important role.

Practice good stewardship of your stuff.

Take care of the things you have. Assume that you might not be able to replace the things you own, care for them accordingly, and repair them as needed. If you can, consider investing a small amount of money into some useful materials to help you fix things…superglue, wood glue, duct tape, electrical tape, furniture clamps, screwdriver, needles/thread for clothing and upholstery, clear nail polish, hot glue gun, staple gun, etc. If your budget is tight and you can't afford to replace things, perhaps you could still afford the materials to repair those items, and then you'll have those materials on hand for the next things that need repair.

Be thoughtful about how you store your things. Learn about how to prevent mold and pest damage to items in storage. Local restaurants and delis are good places to ask for free five-gallon buckets with snap-on lids. These are waterproof and relatively pest-proof, and can be used to store food or other items. If you can scrounge or invest in waterproof, pest-resistant containers, your stuff will be less likely to need replacement and you'll save money in the long run.

This stewardship extends to your home, whether or not you own it. Sure, if you are renting, the upkeep of the building is the owner's responsibility, but if times are tight you might find yourself living there much longer than you had planned, and taking extra care to keep your home in good condition may be something you'll appreciate later. Don't let a minor roof leak rot your attic. If you own your house, remember that keeping up with small repairs and maintenance issues often helps to prevent larger issues.

Secure your food, water, and sanitation.

Pantry

Do what you can to build up a supply of the consumables your family uses, such as staple foods, supplies, and things like toilet paper and soap. Even if you can only procure and stash one extra item at a time, it will add up and will bring you a measure of security.

If you are building a pantry from scratch on a very limited budget, start with basic, cheap food that will simply keep you going through hard times. If you can spend only a few dollars a week, start with rice, dried beans or lentils, and salt. As time goes on, you can expand your pantry to include inexpensive things that are slightly more exciting, like canned tomatoes, raisins, peanut butter, tuna, oatmeal, oil, and baking supplies. One item a week is better than nothing, especially if you store it carefully (dry, dark, cool, and in a bugproof container, unless it is already canned).

Here's a tip: With grains and legumes, freeze them first before storing in a five-gallon bucket with a lid. Freezing first will prevent the development of bugs in your precious pantry stash. Careful storage will extend the life of your pantry food, even if you can't afford fancy containers, mylar bags, or oxygen absorbers.

Garden

Grow stuff. Start a garden. Or a container garden. Or a pot of herbs on your windowsill. Even if you live in the city where you have nothing but a small window, get a little dirt and a seed and see for yourself what it feels like to grow a bit of your own food. This is one area where practice leads to experience and it can take some trial and error to learn how to nurture a plant in such a way that you can get food from it. You might need to collect pots - plastic food containers will work, with holes punched in the bottom and set on saucers or plastic lids for drainage. You need some decent soil, but even that can sometimes be had for free, as can compost. Again, Freecycle or the local gardening club might be possible sources for soil, compost, seeds, and mentoring. If you have space for a garden, grow as much as you can, learn to preserve what you harvest, and try to do a little more each year.

Water

We live out in the country and rely on a well for our water, but the well pump requires electricity, so it fails when the power is out. If my family relied on city water, I would be concerned about possible interruption or contamination. We store water in one-gallon glass apple juice jars for use in a short-term emergency, but it tastes better filtered. I did find it a priority to save up to purchase a water filter, but there are ways to purify water without using a fancy system.

And where do you find water in an emergency? I know where the closest seasonal streams are in our neighborhood, and two of our neighbors have ponds. We live up in the hills, and I am thinking of ways to create a small pond in our yard to collect seasonal runoff. A rainwater collection barrel could be as simple as a trash barrel or other clean container with a hole cut in the lid for a gutter downspout or a tight screen over the top to keep out bugs and other unwanted things.

Hygiene

As for hot water, a few summers ago when heating oil got up to nearly $5/gallon here, we calculated that we would save almost $700 if we went without hot water for the summer. Solar shower bags are cheap in the camping store; I think we paid about $5 for ours. We also discovered quite by accident that a long black garden hose, coiled in the sun, heats up very hot and contains enough water for a reasonable stop-and-start shower using an adjustable spray nozzle. And we filled a clean black plastic trash can with water and put it in a sunny spot for an easy "solar water heater." The water in the trash can never got super hot, but it was warm enough to do dishes and wash hands with. We heated water on the stove sometimes, too, and "recycled" bath water for multiple family members when it seemed prudent to do so. We also discovered that an insulated drink cooler with a spigot makes a great push-button "faucet" for instant warm water if kept full right next to the sink. It felt empowering to try out our Plan B for hot water and save money in the process.

Sanitation

As for sanitation, we have a five-gallon camping toilet that is very similar to the Luggable Loo. We keep wood shavings or sawdust in storage and use our sawdust toilet when the power goes out. We have a dedicated compost pile out back behind our shed where the contents get dumped. For more information on this inexpensive and practical type of toilet, see the Humanure Handbook by Joseph C. Jenkins. Here where I live in the mountains of New England, I know a number of families who use this kind of setup as their primary toilet. It would be more challenging to do something like this in the city, and there also may be less of a need for most city dwellers to have this kind of a backup plan, but it's one of those things that I think of as essential to comfort and sanitation, and therefore a priority even if the chance of needing it is low.  This kind of toilet setup would work in a pinch, and you may be able to come up with a creative solution that fits your circumstances even better.

The Bottom Line

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

~ Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

Don't make yourself crazy thinking about all the ways you wish you could prepare that you simply don't have the resources for. What can you change? What can you NOT change? Well, okay then! Get to work on what is possible, and don't waste any effort worrying about things that are outside your capability.

Everyone's process has limitations, no matter how seemingly vast their resources are. Make the most of whatever you have to work with, and remember that a very large part of this process is psychological - and that part is free. You can take steps to mitigate the coming changes if you start with identifying the possibilities that exist right now in your current situation.

If I can do it, you can, too.


Ten Free Things You Can Do Right Now

1. Make a plan to store some water. You may need to strategize how to come up with some glass or food-grade plastic containers for storage. You might also need to figure out where you're going to store them.

2. Take an inventory of what is in your pantry today. Figure out how many days you could survive on the food that is currently in your pantry without buying anything else. Now make a "wishlist" of the staples that would make your pantry last longer, taste better, and have better nutritional value. Resolve to slowly add those things to your pantry as your budget allows. Make another list of the meals that you could make with pantry staples, and track down recipes if you need them. Put the list and recipes together so you'll be able to find them if you need them.

3. Make a plan for how you would stay safe and comfortable with the things you have on hand if your furnace failed for more than a day in the middle of winter (cold climates) or your air conditioner failed for more than a day in the middle of summer (hot climates). How would you avoid hypothermia and/or heatstroke under those conditions? Bonus: Adjust your plan if needed so that your solution does not involve leaving your home.

4. Figure out some way to plant at least one food plant as soon as your climate will allow. Plan out where you will find the space (and container, if needed, and dirt) and get the seed(s). Learn about the plant you chose and what kind of care it will need to bear food for you. Figure out how you will tell whether your plant or its fruit is ready to taste. Even a little herb or tomato plant in the window is a good start.

5. Think about foods in your area that could be foraged or scavenged, either from their natural locations, or from farms at the end of the growing season, or wherever else you can think of. Make a list of where, when, and whom to contact about these things, and make a plan to ask them for information and/or permission. Consider doing some online or library research about foraging in your climate.

6. Make a plan to scrounge the materials you need to make an emergency toilet, particularly if you are in an area where you can't flush when the power goes out. A five-gallon bucket and a piece of foam board cut to shape plus some sawdust or wood shavings would work, or maybe you have a better plan. Figure out where you will dump your toilet when it gets full so that the contents can safely compost or be disposed of. If you would like more info on sawdust toilets, ask your local library to get a copy of the Humanure Handbook - and reserve it in your name.

7. Make a list of all of the preparation-related items you would purchase this very minute if you could. Then cross off everything that isn't realistically available to you. Make a prioritized list of possibilities - items that you would like to procure as soon as possible. Starting with the first item on the list, write out how and when you think you will be able to acquire those items. Consider making a creative action list, including making connections with people, checking with particular sources, checking prices, getting the word out that you are looking for particular items. Next, come up with ideas for how you will continue to manage without those things if need be.

8. Make a list of all of the people in your life who you can reliably count on in a crisis. Include as many neighbors as possible in this list. Identify the neighbor who you are most likely to go to if you need help with something, and identify the neighbor who is most likely to need your help. Identify a short list of particularly reliable, calm, resourceful friends who could give you phone support if you were in an emergency situation and needed help making a critical decision. Write these people's names and their phone numbers on a card and put it by your phone.

9. Think about what you want your life to look like in five years, ten years, twenty years. What do you want your grandchildren's lives to look like? Make a very specific list of the qualities you want your life, your children's lives, your grandchildren's lives to have. If you do not have children, make a wish list for the children of the coming generation. What can you do to help ensure that kind of a future?

10. Think about what brings you the most joy in life. Feel free to make a list if you can think of more than one thing. If you found yourself with compromised resources, how could you continue to enjoy these things? Do you need to lay any groundwork now to ensure that these things will continue in your life even if (for example) your income drops, your mobility or transportation capacity declines, or your access to electricity or electronic technology decreases?

Extra Credit: Take the Self-Assessment, if you haven't already.

Share your stories with us. Inspire others with your creativity and your resourcefulness. Go!



This What Should I Do? blog series is intended to surface knowledge and perspective useful to preparing for a future defined by Peak Oil.  The content is written by PeakProsperity.com readers and is based in their own experiences in putting into practice many of the ideas exchanged on this site.  If there are topics you'd like to see featured here, or if you have interest in contributing a post in a relevant area of your expertise, please indicate so in our What Should I Do? series feedback forum.

If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series, you can find them here:

This series is a companion to this site's free What Should I Do? Guide, which provides guidance from Chris and the PeakProsperity.com staff on specific strategies, products, and services that individuals should consider in their preparations.

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cmartenson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Posts: 3513
Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

(Now with comments enabled!)

Amanda, that is an incredible and inspiring piece that you've shared.  It stands as an incredible testament to 'what's possible.'

Thank you for sharing!

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Energy usage important....

An often overlooked area when preparing is your home's energy usage.  I attached a video to help people powerdown their homes thus making them less vulnerable...

MrEnergyCzar

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

amanda

i like the tips on warm and hot water.  I will have to check out the solar showers you mentioned.  thanks for the great summary

I bought the humanure handbook about a year ago but still haven't read it.  Interestingly, my wife's cousin recently spent a few months at an ecovillage near Asheville, NC.  She ended up having as one of her duties being in charge of the humanure.  She said that they would store the manure in containers for about two years straight, which would be more than adequate from an infectious disease standpoint.  According to Cody Lundin's book, When all hell breaks lose, human waste management during a crisis quickly becomes one of the most important health issues.  

thank you for your post

Brian

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Amanda, you've written a wonderful guideline, one of the best I've ever seen in over 10 years of scanning the posts on various prep oriented blogs/forums.  It's practical and gives a tremendously helpful framework for building up one's resources (Stuff, Skills, Social, Spiritual).  Your writing shows that you've put a lot of effort into learning about prepping, and you know how to organize the information and put it into a form that's easy to read and absorb.  There are people who will be encouraged by what you've offered here.  

With this article and the rest of the series, plus all the other prep material offered on the CM site, there's a wealth of information being accumulated for our reference and study, whether we're beginners or a bit more experienced and whether we're on a tight budget or have some loose change in our pocket.  Thanks for this very helpful addition.

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Thank you, Amanda!!!

Thank you, Amanda!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Good advice and resources for those who are living on a shoestring budget and have few resources. This and other things in the "What Should I Do?" series is what I've been looking for.

We need as many people as possible to be aware of the 3Es and what they imply for the future. The people who MOST NEED to get on board and be prepared are those whose lives will be most harshly affected: the poor. If everyone gets on board, we as a society have a better chance of being more resilient as a whole and the prospect of widespread misery will be reduced. I can't emphasize this enough.

Preparing isn't just for those with money and wealth who can buy silver and gold and generators and solar panels. It's for everyone.

Poet

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Outstanding!

Thank you.

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Amanda and the CM.com team,

Another bullseye for my friends and community!  Just like the Reluctant Partner post, this one is spot on for two families I am working with whose resources are limited.  Just the other day we went to the coin shop together and bought 2 ounces of silver.  Step zero for them and a real eye opener for me. 

I used to self censor and choose not to share with some people because I felt like there was nothing they could do about their situation.  I realized this approach was immoral but didn't have much advice to share when faced with such financial constraints.  Now I have a great outline to share. 

BTW, one byproduct of thinking about prepping under financial constraints, was my self realization that too much of my prepping was "shopping" oriented, and not enough community and skill development.  Our personal preparation cannot be dependant on a closet full of stuff.

Thank you.

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Good morning,

My sister is almost 60 years old and lost a house at 2 occasions.  She will have to work until she dies and knows it.

Even a shoe string is far too much money for her.

Yet she has accumulated more than a year worth of food and has a plan.

She is the best prepared person I know.

She can cook the best meals with only grains.

She raised 6 kids without a husband and has acquired the skills mentionned in Amanda's text.

She would go to the fields once the farmers have harvested and come back with bags of food.

She would can it all and right away. In fact she woukd can everything.

She is a walking dictionary wrt surviving. And this was acquired in the 90's while everything was alright (!).

In a way her lack of financial resources has forced her to over-specialize in her sphere of influence and therefore conncentrate on micro level.  ( Food and housing just to survive)

Where as I have enough financial means to buy a farm and yet I know next to nothing about the skills reqired to generate if not create food out of virtually nothing. And yet I am convinced that she would last much longer than I would besause sher has become autonomous even when there is nothing around (from our point of view).

She acquired and developed the skills within the mormon community ( I am a practicing catholique ).  In my view, because of their belief they have acquired or kept a lot of skills that got lost over time.  I am not trying to promote this faith, all I am saying is that we must learn to go where the knowledge is.

As I am trying to build the community I have given her 100 lbs of soya grains and she has given me 4 jars of confiture de prune that our mother used to make.  We are ofganizing cooking classes using only grains (all sort) in exchange I give her veal that comes from a veal farmer that is shareholder in the farm.

I humbly realized that unconsciously I saw myself secure because I have some money. I thought that I could buy the things that would in turn provide what is needed in harder times.  What I am realizing is that some people have had to develop essential skills out of necessity. They have learned and are specialist at doing everything with nothing. And this is what it is all about.

My sister has felt some shame for many years and this shame was generated because she was living the way we will have to learn to live. 

I am going through a paradigm shift and realizes that the person posessing those slills are rare and essential. This is in my view a highly markettable skill. Thsese people are the best suited to join a community. Their skills are core to the survival of a community. 

Plese excuse the errors in syntax.

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Luc's Sister

Luc wrote:

My sister has felt some shame for many years and this shame was generated because she was living the way we will have to learn to live. 

I am going through a paradigm shift and realizes that the person posessing those slills are rare and essential. This is in my view a highly markettable skill. Thsese people are the best suited to join a community. Their skills are core to the survival of a community. 

Plese excuse the errors in syntax.

Luc:

I think your sister has a lot to be proud of. She singlehandedly raised her children and put food on the table and a roof over their heads. She has practiced skills that we all want to acquire.

I would ask you as a favor, would it be feasible for your sister to join this community if she can? Or, can you relay any comments and contributions she may have? I think that would be very helpful to all of us and we would appreciate it so much!

I am interested in whether she is as aware as you are of the 3Es (Economy, Energy, Environment) and the Crash Course. What are some comments she may have on this topic from her point of view? What are some suggestions she may have on: preparing, on being resilient, and on certain skills or items or relationships (people) that she has found to be essential to surviving and thriving?

Thank you for sharing your story!

Poet

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

What a great article! This whole concept should get expanded into a book! Thanks for insightful article! EGP

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

A very useful  topic .  Can not stress the need for learning gardeniing skills and preserving food enough . 

Luc  your sister could well be one of my heros .   To live on what others throw away is a very good thing .  Raising your Children to be unselfish  or self centered  is another .   I hope she lives close enough to you .

    these sort of diapers are a wonderful  thing to have  http://www.diapers.com/Product/SearchResults.aspx?FreeText=cloth+diapers&QueryFrom=Search&FilterName=Brand&FilterValue=Happy+Heiny's&cm_mmc=Google-_-Diapers-_-null-_-null&gclid=CIejzcz9kaYCFY5N2god1jhopg

I like the book "The Tightwad Gazettte  "  is one great book ! http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/05/14/an-interview-with-amy-dacyczyn-the-author-of-the-tightwad-gazette/

Google anything with frugal in it . 

Honest to Pete , I have a daughter that works at the Thrift shop  and gives us a heads up for many a bargain  and her second job is at the movie rents  * Bonus *

Just be aware of things around you . This week many people got new appliances for Christmas .  They know we renew them and store  for future use .  I  go to auctions  and have never spent more than $100 on any appliance .   Estate  sales is what you might call them on the coasts.

Another Daugher is assistant manage at the grocery store . So  every produce that is  over the edge  comes home to me  and I make it into Jelly , apple sauce  etc.     Now that my basement is full I may sell or give it away at the farmers market .   ( You can not donate to the food pantry because of legal issues )

  One of my most frugal daughters is a Nanny  for  some oil peeps in Houston .  She works nine to five  with great pay ,  absolutly no living expenses , living the lifestyle of the rich and famous  .. LOL,  and taking nursing classes at night .

  We could just go on and on  about this subject .

FM

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Luc wrote:

Good morning,

My sister is almost 60 years old and lost a house at 2 occasions.  She will have to work until she dies and knows it.

Even a shoe string is far too much money for her.

Yet she has accumulated more than a year worth of food and has a plan.

She is the best prepared person I know.

She can cook the best meals with only grains.

She raised 6 kids without a husband and has acquired the skills mentionned in Amanda's text.

She would go to the fields once the farmers have harvested and come back with bags of food.

She would can it all and right away. In fact she woukd can everything.

She is a walking dictionary wrt surviving. And this was acquired in the 90's while everything was alright (!).

In a way her lack of financial resources has forced her to over-specialize in her sphere of influence and therefore conncentrate on micro level.  ( Food and housing just to survive)

Where as I have enough financial means to buy a farm and yet I know next to nothing about the skills reqired to generate if not create food out of virtually nothing. And yet I am convinced that she would last much longer than I would besause sher has become autonomous even when there is nothing around (from our point of view).

She acquired and developed the skills within the mormon community ( I am a practicing catholique ).  In my view, because of their belief they have acquired or kept a lot of skills that got lost over time.  I am not trying to promote this faith, all I am saying is that we must learn to go where the knowledge is.

As I am trying to build the community I have given her 100 lbs of soya grains and she has given me 4 jars of confiture de prune that our mother used to make.  We are ofganizing cooking classes using only grains (all sort) in exchange I give her veal that comes from a veal farmer that is shareholder in the farm.

I humbly realized that unconsciously I saw myself secure because I have some money. I thought that I could buy the things that would in turn provide what is needed in harder times.  What I am realizing is that some people have had to develop essential skills out of necessity. They have learned and are specialist at doing everything with nothing. And this is what it is all about.

My sister has felt some shame for many years and this shame was generated because she was living the way we will have to learn to live. 

I am going through a paradigm shift and realizes that the person posessing those slills are rare and essential. This is in my view a highly markettable skill. Thsese people are the best suited to join a community. Their skills are core to the survival of a community. 

Plese excuse the errors in syntax.

Luc -

Why not buy a small farm for your sister and start your own transition town?  The list of skills she has mastered could be taught to interested friends and neighbors, generating immeasurable returns with regards to fostering downstream community.

It sounds to me like you have the solution to your paradigm shift in your hands.  We should all be so fortunate.

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

My parents were never ashamed of being extremely frugal no matter what anyone had to say about it.  I am ashamed of  teasing them and trying to change them.

Now they are gone and their skills are a lost art (at least to me). Now I'm learning the wisdom of so many decisions they made.  Like why did they put the garden on that hill?  Why are there so few windows on the north side of the house and why was it built into the hill facing the south?  Why did mom waste her summer stringing and canning beans?  Why wear those old things when they  could have gotten something new? And dad sure could have had a prettier truck!

They were raised during the depression and being frugal was a decision they did not change when times got better for them.  In fact, they built their dream homestead remembering those lessons from years before.

Even my cousin puts me to shame.  I took over some peaches from a roadside vendor and before I left her house socializing she handed me a jar of freezer jam.  While I did help her peel then, I wouldn't  have ever thought to do that; I was just talking the whole time.

I know I am reallly lazy compared to the farm women I remember when I was a kid,.  I read a lot and watch too much TV.  My job is fairly sedentary.  I am more afraid I won't have the energy to do what I know needs to be done than I am of the actual problems we will have to face. 

We have a lot to learn from your sister.  Knowing Americans and pride and denial,  it will be a while before we will admit it.  We will need to learn these things and we need people to teach us.

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Maceves  did your cousin saave the peach pits to grown new trees and use the peeling to make pectin  or juice ?  We could really get frugal  here.

A  number one priority is to have like minded  friends . ... or  find people  who can teach you .  Know yourself as well as your goals .    

We have discussed on this CM site how cheap it is to make your own laundry soap .  You just never know when you might need it to  be a barter tool .    Now if I had the ambition to make my own lye  but  Nope it is too easy to buy and store .   The locker  will save the fat from your butchered animal so you can render the lard for your soap .   READ THE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY WHEN YOU ADD THE WATER TO THE LYE  for the soap .  Anyway this will get your kids a purple ribbon  at the State fair  and you have Christmas gifts to give.    LYE soap makes down into  very good laundry  soap .

. My  husband used to laugh at my  frugal ways  thinking I was so backward and   saying " You can not save your self rich "   Well after 33 years  he has not traded me in for a new model yet .  I say this is his most frugal move .... as every time you divorce you you give up half your income .

Sites like these have good ways to cook frugal too

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/newsletter12-29-10.htm

http://www.livingonadime.com/

THis could be the  most helpful topic  because  the  largest population is of lower income and it appears the rest will be joining soon .    There is some comfort in just knowing that you are not the only ones swimming upstream .

FM

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Amy Dacyczyn

I have that book from years ago! Even gave a couple of copies away as presents years back. One of my friends said she changed her life after reading the copy I gave her.

I always wondered what happened to her, because it seemed like she just dropped off the face of the earth. I'm glad someone got in touch with her to find out what happened after. So she retired. Really retired. I'm glad she got to do that and finally enjoy having some free time. She was a busy, hard-working person raising kids and being very frugal.

I found another more recent interview from 2009:
http://www.mlive.com/businessreview/annarbor/index.ssf/2009/03/div_class...

And a video interview from January 2010 - I've never seen her picture before, so this is awesome:
http://www.savvyhousekeeping.com/interview-with-amy-dacyczyn/

Poet

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Amanda,

Thank you for your post.  I've read in a home budgetting handbook that you can actually save more money through frequent purchases (like groceries) than the yearly contract renewals (like car insurance).

Greetings, Joanne

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Well, I said goodbye and thank you very much, but I doubt it.  She has a job and some lovely horses to care for and a sick mother who needs a lot of care,  Still, she's not lazy, just overwhelmed.  

i know how to make soap, and have done it lots of times.  What I haven;t learned is to make the lye solution from wood ashes.  Making soap is really balancing a chemical equation and so many factors can ruin the results.  I know how to make soaps, lotions, scrubs, lip glosses, perfumes and mineral makeup.  I even had a business license to sell them, but  I didn't have a business plan and didn't do as well as I should have,  I broke even, which is better than losing money I guess,.  I did not have the time to keep up with it,  Still, its a skill.  It delighted my friends and I always had orders for something.   Ladies will still want to be pretty....

Two things I want when I go back to the farm are loofa guords and bees for beeswax,   Maybe some little goats--I love to make soap with goats milk and oatmeal.  At some point I can go back to my little hobby.

My frugal parents had very generous pensions in their old age and were able to go to the farm and enjoy life.  I have a retirement pension too, but I doubt it will hold its value very long.   I have never had to make a living from the farm.  It has always been more of a refuge than a business,  Like everyone else in this paradigm shift, I am looking at things differently and making new plans.

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Poet

I will let my syster know of your nice comment.  She is very willing to share her knowledge. Her doughter is pushing her to write a book on cooking with nothing.  Her main obstacle wrt to sharing on CM is that she doesn't speak English. 

We have a cooking class in two weeks on how to make bread and how to cook soya and make GRAINBURGERS. Amazingly very few people are interrested. 

I will try to write some of the recettes, if she agrees , and share them on the site.  

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

The debt snowball method works even better if you can transfer your debt to a new credit card that promotes zero interest for a certain amount of time. It requires staying on top of things and transferring to a new credit card when the time runs out, but if you are diligent about it, you can pay down debt without the burden of interest. It took us probably 5 or 6 transfers many years ago, to get out of debt accumulated when I was pregnant and too sick to work.

The key to remember is to not use the same credit card for purchases because then they do charge interest on that amount and the payments you make are applied to the no-interest amount first. Best of course to not use a credit card at all, but if you are (for example) purchasing something online, just use a separate card that you can pay off as you go.

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

on hot water,  i've been researching health / food / hygiene for a good number of years.  the immune system is often thought of an something inside us.  it actually starts on the skin.  showering daily (or more) and using chemical products and deodorant etc  compromise your ability to fend off bad "germs" much more then modern science will tell you.

don't use them,  your arm pits are part of your immune system too.  

you might think that if you don't shower every day you'll get greasy.  maybe so for a few days but your body is just trying to regain a balance of it's essential oils and skin bacteria colonies.  skip a day,  then two etc and work yourself to one shower a week.  you'll find within a week or two your body doesn't get greasy at all.  little scrapes and cuts won't even get that red band around them while they heal.  you'll have almost no need for antiboitic ointments.

the list of benefits is long but mostly you'll find you don't get sick or rashes and even alergies seem to fade away.

if you stick your nose in your armpits a day after stopping deodorant yes you'll have a strong smell.  but get to a shower a week and no deodorant and after a month your smell will have changed and be much less offensive.  then STOP smelling your armpits.   do a test to gain confidence that you don't stink to others.  cosy up to someone and watch if they back-off.  they won't even smell you and may even draw closer cause now you're emitting pheamones(sp) which attract people to you.  

stop eating highly processed foods.  they affect your health and immune system.  chemicals in food damage your gut bacteria and make it easy for slightly tainted/spoiled food to give you a weeks worth of the runs and bad stomach "flu".

don't drink clorinated water,  it destroys your gut and makes it a sure thing that something you eat will make you sick.

there's much more to consider but when it comes to getting ready for harder times i think this advice might carry you a long way and make you much healthier / more resistant to illness.

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

junkyard71 wrote:

don't drink clorinated water,  it destroys your gut and makes it a sure thing that something you eat will make you sick.

Be careful with vague statements like this.  Chlorination of public water supplies kills many pathogens which are very likely to make you acutely sick.  Chlorine should not be added more than necessary however because of the risk of chronic exposure to disinfection byproducts such as chloroform which could possibly increase the risk of cancer (if we have some faith in the literature, we're talking the order of less than 1 in 10,000 additional deaths at the levels of DBPs in drinking water).  To me, avoiding the acute risk is more important and especially if times get tough and water supplies become less well maintained than they are today.  You can prep for treating your own water on a shoestring though through various methods such as bleach, iodine tablets, tea kettle, or appropriate water filter.

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

Great, timely information.

Though I don't fall into this category right now, certainly it applies to a lot of people. I recently moved to NYC for a job (and the job requires a lot of travel) I was in the city I moved from when the blizzard hit NYC. My flight was delayed for a day getting back. Otherwise it didn't affect me too much. But a lot of people were affected. 

I found myself thinking "what would I do if I were stuck at an airport for 3 or 4 days due to a big storm" (or stuck on an airplane on the tarmac for 10 hours)I do tend to be the personality type that thinks about what I would do in any bad situation I hear about on the news. This was a new one for me. I will make a few changes in what I bring with me when I travel. 

Preparation is something EVERYONE should do. It's not just for "peak oil nutcases". Things happen. Blizzard, tornados, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes. Stories are still emerging from NYC. Streets went unplowed for days and days. People couldn't get to work because they couldn't get out of their street. Some stores couldn't take deliveries. One woman called into a local TV station to report that her car was stuck, and all the stores within walking distance were out of milk. 

New Yorkers typically don't cook much, the eat out a lot. How much better would many people been able to get through the blizzard if everybody had 3 days worth of food at home? How about 5 days? 

It doesn't take much to slow down normal services. Strangely, in NYC the sanitation department is also responsible for snow removal. So there has been no trash pickup since the blizzard hit. They think maybe Monday they will start trash pickup.

On a side note, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the book "Your Money Or Your Life" It outlines a plan for being more in control of your finances, without imposing any categories or rules on you. Basically, the goal is to help you be more aware of what you are spending on and why. It talks some about rejecting consumerism. But the bottom line is thatmost people who follow the plan - and become aware of their spending (and track it!)-  make more mindful choices and generally improve their financial situation, no matter where they are starting from. 

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

homestead wrote:

Amanda, you've written a wonderful guideline, one of the best I've ever seen in over 10 years of scanning the posts on various prep oriented blogs/forums.  It's practical and gives a tremendously helpful framework for building up one's resources (Stuff, Skills, Social, Spiritual).  Your writing shows that you've put a lot of effort into learning about prepping, and you know how to organize the information and put it into a form that's easy to read and absorb.  There are people who will be encouraged by what you've offered here.  

Amanda

You did an outstanding job!  I don't like to just piggy-back on another's remarks, but Homestead said what I was thinking.  I'm impressed at how comprehensive, clear, and practical your article is.  It take a lot of thought and experience to do that.  Your knowledge and writing are first rate.  Thank you.

Travlin 

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Re: Prepping on a Shoestring

It seems there's an elephant in this forum. I'm hope we're not talking just about power outages, earthquakes or losing unemployment insurance (UI), but more lasting and inclusive crises, with complex combinations of causes. Thus we need to look at long-term as well as short-term goals. In effect, most all of us are on various forms of 'welfare' (defined as the community contributing to the welfare of needy individuals). For a lot of us, this includes "make-work" welfare. UI, Social Security and others aren't just about putting in money and getting it back, but putting it in when we have it, when we're 'rich' and (supposed to be) getting it back when we're 'poor'.

I think I'm pretty well prepared, if conditions get severe while I'm still functional. My parents lived through the (soon to be former) Great Depression, one summer barely surviving by panning for gold in Northern CA. But they eventually found jobs and came out of it with a comfortable farm in the backwoods, shortly before I was born in '35. "Comfortable" means all the necessities, but no road, electricity or running water, only horse trails, a spring, a partly-built house, kerosene lamps and simple farming and carpentry skills. They finished and expanded the house (with some help and equipment from neighbors) and put in running water, but no indoor toilet. My father got work sometimes on local trails. We've generally considered those the best years of our lives. Come WWII, we moved to an Oakland suburb where they and my older brother worked in the shipyards, then to a more modern farm. Along the way I got a pretty rounded survival education, but also learned to think for myself, which tends to limit involvement in communities.

At first I thought the article was going to be only about financial security. I've never tried to make a lot of money, but I've never felt poor, maybe because I avoided financial dealings when possible and haven't owned a car most of my adult life, when single. Haven't had one for 15 years now, mostly ride a bike. Yes, I keep extra cash on hand, though only planning on it's use for the short term, while it still has value. Gold and silver will also lose considerable value, especially if you live near someone with a lot, which also applies to most everything else.

Instead,  I gather things I think will be useful and have good trade value, such as  diversified craft skills, needles and thread, cord, rope, fishhooks, .22 calibre bullets, quart jam jars for canning (not mayo jars I'm told, because they're not tempered for sudden temperature change and will crack). Being a handyman, I also save for reuse, hard steel, aluminum (in two varieties), polyethylene (which, like Al, can be melted, carefully, and remolded), containers of all sorts and possibly useful shapes of most everything I think won't otherwise get efficiently reused. And yes, my apartment looks like a small version of the local reuse/recycle business, though not as neat. The trouble is, there's too much stuff in the category of miscellaneous. A paradigm for the not too distant future is going to be "Reduce, reuse, repair, reuse, rethink, reuse." Then start again from the beginning. Plastic used and not casually discarded at least represents petroleum consumed and carbon sequestered, kept out of the atmosphere, which may be the main solutions we'll actually use against global warming.

Though I consider myself a "generalist",  a recent specialization I'm developing is in tying simple but useful knots, well beyond what I've found in books. One thing I'd like to learn more about is making thread/string/cord/rope from wild fibers, of which we have several possibilities here in western Oregon.

I never was very enthusiastic about farming. The most I've done in recent years was a small patch of potatoes (easy if you can keep the gophers out) in practice for Y2K. Some early cultures depended mainly on corn, beans and squash. The beans climb, as they need to, on the corn and the squash gets the shade it needs from both the others, as I understand it. The combimation furnishes energy, complementary proteins and vitamins. For the longer term, also plant fruit trees, but learn early about grafting and pruning. I've wondered also about the possibility of growing wood in needed shapes, such as at least the framework for furniture.

 I recently joined a "Transition Town" group based on "The Transition Handbook" by Rob Hopkins. But I find the book mostly about getting in the spirit and having meetings. I prefer "When Technology Fails" by Matthew Stein, about actual survival skills.

My definition of "good" tends to be what's good for the greater community, whether Gaia, humanity, nation or local. Since we're mortal, our individual lives are not as important as what we can pass on to the greater community and it's potentially infinite future. But I'd like to be passing it on in the growing phase, not just the collapsing phase.

I don't know how often I'll get back here, so please copy responses to danrob@efn.org.

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