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Representing the average Joe/Jane

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  • Mon, May 21, 2012 - 10:36pm



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    Representing the average Joe/Jane

I have been checking books and blogs as well as some forum posts (here and in other similar websites). As a person who works helping people as my primary job (and secondary, as I volunteer as well), I am concerned about the “average” person, as well as about all the newcomers who blindly come (in my and my clients case, to Canada), thinking that things may be better here.

The thing is, that many Canadians (and I’m sure many US and European citizens as well) may not be able to prepare for what’s coming because their current situation does not allow room for anything but survive and pay the bills.

I have been analyzing my situation and I may represent a few “average” out there. We don’t have money to buy lots of things, move or pay for courses, may not have time to take on new skills, and are tied by bylaws or local regulations. Many don’t live in supportive neighbourhoods or even households (we are the only “crazy” ones trying to prepare for something others in the family may think is very unlikely to happen)

My concern is that things will hit us first, and badly. Depending how hard things hit, we may or may not be able to rely on current support systems…(i.e. government or agencies such as the one I work at, which may run out of business as it is supported by government and public funding)

This is my analysis on my own situation. If I do a similar analysis on any of my current clients (the people we work with at our agency), they would score -10 in a scale of 1 to10. I may score 2…any suggestions or ideas?

1.       Money: all our “retirement” money is under our companies’ plans (both me and my husband’s companies match our contributions up to a 5%, but in both cases, none of that money can be touched while we are still employed there. We don’t have too much, in total, it wouldn’t replace my own income for a whole year (and I earn less than half my husband does), but it may but some gold, or pay at least 1/3 of our current unsecured debt. Is there any “trick” we can use to take that money from all those RSPs? We have no much say on how and where this money is invested either…

2.       Money: I am cutting as much as I can in our expenses. Any “new” or extra money is now being used to pay off debt. Our unsecured debt is huge. It has gone down a bit since we started, but it is still high: is double of what I make in a whole year and almost my husband’s year salary. Should we continue paying this aggressively or using some of the money on the “preps”?

3.       Shelter: we live in a townhouse in a suburban area. We have no chances to move shortly, at least not until we pay the unsecured debt (if all “continues as it is” it would be paid off by 2015, but things don’t seem as if they will “continue as it is” for so long…). Depends on how collapse hits our area/our family, we may lose the house. I’m playing on the optimistic side and will do whatever is needed when it happens, and depending how it hits. We could sell the house now and start renting a small space. The thing is: even if we sell, we wouldn’t be able to pay off all the unsecured debt, and in a small renting space, we may not be able to live with our cats, the dog and also grow food as we are doing now…any ideas? Alternatives?

4.       Water/energy: living in a townhouse and with the debt we have, there is no option for us to look for alternative sources of water and/or energy. We pay the current water with the strata fees, and are not allowed to put barrels, a well or use solar panel. Our heating and cooking system are all electric. We have two small charcoal BBQs, that’s all. I was thinking in buying two plastic barrels and have them in the garage, with water for general purposes that I can change every six months. I can also use old plastic containers to save some drinking water. Not sure if buying wood or more charcoal would be wise…

5.       Safety: our townhouse has a glass door as the only “protection” from the exterior (our backyard, which is easily accessible from the street and from any of our neighbours’ yards). Our complex doesn’t allow putting any gates or changing the doors as they want “consistency” (same reason they don’t allow us to grow a vegetable garden in our own yard). If criminal activity of some sorts starts, we have basically no protection at home. Any suggestions? Ideas?

6.       Community: our community has different issues. In general, it is a wealthy neighbourhood with big detached houses: big cosmetic gardens and more than two cars each. Our complex is an exception: we have about 60 townhouses here, and the families have mostly lived here since it was built, about 7 years ago. However, people stay in their houses and we don’t know each other very well (in seven years, I have never been inside the houses of closest neighbours who I greet everyday). I am still trying to start a community garden, and I have scheduled a presentation at the school, however, I also posted a few flyers but nobody has answered (as they are not interested in the idea). I am an immigrant and somewhat afraid of starting to knock people’s houses, and have no idea of how to approach them to create a resilient community. If a regular citizen may hesitate (afraid of their reactions when listen to our concerns on collapse and peak oil), imagine how an immigrant may feel.

Any suggestions or even sharing your own analysis may help…thanks!


  • Tue, May 22, 2012 - 01:24pm



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    I hear your concerns over

I hear your concerns over your situation, and they are warranted.

1)  There are lots of variables here, but in general I would stop contributing to retirement accounts until the ‘huge’ unsecured debt is paid off.  Debt accumulates the additional burden of interest, interest that can wipe out any gain from investments, keeps you a slave to others, and limits your options on where you can go from here.  Removing money from your RSP’s may prove costly in penalties and taxes (see your CPA), but leaving it where it’s at may prove even costlier.

2)   I am totally in favor of preps, within reason.  You do not want to be without a minimal supply of food, medical supplies, and personal defense should something disrupt the flow of oil/gas or the dollar start to colllapse as store shelves could go empty in a matter of hours, (depending on the event). Stockpiling more than you can carry on your back may be a waste should SHTF in a major way as you mentioned your residence would not be secure when criiminal activity surfaces.  Small stockpiles in different locations may be an option, but don’t rely on getting there on wheels.  Is there a family member nearby with a more secure and defendable residence?

3)   Not knowing the area around where you live it is impossible to know what your options are.  One thing is for sure, if you don’t improve your surroundings you are a sitting duck and at the mercy of the lamebrains that run this country and economy.  I understand the relationships with having dogs and cats, but human life trumps them in hard times.  The main alternative many others are opting for is moving in with relatives, that is a tough way to go unless everyone on board understands the need and is willing to make sacrifices in their personal lives.

4)   A little extra charcoil is a good thing to keep on hand, but not too much unless you can use it to barter.  If the power goes out and other people are without a means to cook, or without food at all, then your BBQ is going to draw major unwanted attention.  Storing water is always a good thing, but if it needs to be boiled before drinking you may have a problem.  There are ways to keep water potable for long periods of time, and if nothing else, buy bottled water whenever it’s on sale.

5)   As mentioned before, your townhouse sounds like easy pickings for criminal activity once LE breaks down.  Be prepared to move to a more secure location on a moment’s notice.  Know where to go ahead of time should you and your spouse be at different locations when something goes down.  Put together ‘bugout bags’  and keep them in your vehicles when away from home.  Do not leave firearms in your house if you are not there as they could end up being used against you.

6)   Working with others within your community is always a good thing, but not always possible.  People are diverse, and in most cases you do not want to rely on others for your own well being.  Do not let anyone else know you are even thinking about stockpiling food – or anything else.  The fact that your neighbors are putting up with the non-secure surroundings tells me they will more than likely not be on the same page as you’re on right now, and will look at you as some whacko if you express your concerns.  Without major support of all your neighbors demanding and taking steps to improve the surroundings you are better served by having a sold exit plan.


The one most important bit of advice I can give is that “time is of the essence”.  Too many people have awakened to see where we’re headed, but because nothing major has happened yet to affect their day-to-day lives they have been lulled back to sleep.  IMHO, you are in a bad way according to your description, and you cannot wait until 2015 when your unsecured debt is (hopefully) paid off  to make some major adjustments.

I really wish you well.

  • Wed, May 23, 2012 - 03:23pm



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    Consider Bankruptcy

You may have enough credit card debt to consider Bankruptcy.

Laws vary from state to state… Some allow you to keep your primary home and
a car and “tools of the trade” and every situation is different.

The laws are complicated enough that getting legal help is recommended.

Bankruptcy allows you to start again…keeping some stuff and being mostly debt free…




  • Thu, May 24, 2012 - 12:05pm


    Amanda Witman

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    I’m with you.  I’m one of the “average” in many ways…

and I’ve already been hit/hurt by the early economic downside.

No matter where you live, you need to figure out a backup plan for getting your needs met if your usual way of meeting those needs fails.

It’s not going to be perfect, and it’s maybe not even going to be a complete solution, but truly:  If you were faced with dehydration or finding water to drink, what would you do?  You’d find water, somehow, and it would be easier if you already had a plan, even if it was inconvenient.  For water, I recommend reading up on cheap purifying methods.  If you can afford a filter, great.  If not, what will you do?  Where is the nearest stream/pond/river?  I’d keep a couple of empty barrels in the garage to use as rain barrels if/when necessary.  If things break down to more of a survival level, your condo assn. will have to bend the rules anyway.  And yes, I would store some water in your situation.  You can even save water in clean glass jars.

There is no room for not finding some backup option to each of your needs.  If it comes down to it, you’ll need water, food, warmth in winter, shelter, sanitation, and some way to address medical needs.

I know that in every community there are a few people who quietly have skills and knowledge that they don’t advertise.  Seek it.  Believe you will find it.  Put yourself in places where likeminded people might be, and see what happens.  I spent five years of early parenthood in a community like yours. 

Look for any people in your town or the next who keep any small animals, even one chicken.  Look for anyone who has beehives (seriously, I found a family with a beehive where we used to live, and I was amazed).  Look for a food buying club, if one exists.  Look for homeschoolers — they tend to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on “the system.”  You might think there are none, but look closer, and you will likely be surprised — they are everywhere, usually hidden, at least a couple of families in each community.  Look for a gardening club — is anyone there growing and preserving food (not flowers)?  Look in places you would not expect.  I would perhaps even talk to the ministers at local religious organizations — they have a handle on their congregations and who is doing what, and they might be able to connect you.  Be discreet and respectful, but don’t be shy. 

Make friends with the librarian and see if you can find out who checks out the self-sufficiency books.  See if the library would be willing to host a self-sufficiency club and help you get the word out — see if anyone comes.  Slip a post-it note in those kinds of books when you check them out — “anyone interested in discussing this book further, call your number.” 

What about a small, simple poster, if there are bulletin boards in your town?  No need to put your name if your town is small, or first name only is fine, if you are concerned about privacy.  Have you thought about organizing a showing of the Crash Course at your library or a public meeting room and seeing who shows up?  If nothing else, it’s a magnet and if one other person shows up you have one new likeminded friend — and perhaps it will grow.  All of these things raise awareness when people see them or hear about them.  If they had no idea people were thinking about prepping for an economic downturn, when they see your poster or hear about your event, they will be more aware, and it will hopefully add up.

I would not worry about home security.  Sounds like there is nothing much you can do, and worrying diminishes your energy for what you can change.  Do what you can and let go of the rest.  Nobody can do everything, and even those with lots of money will fall short in their preps in some way.  But window locks are prudent, and keeping your stuff/preps hidden in the house may be wise.

Are you storing food?  Do you have what you need to prepare it if you have to shelter in place for awhile?  If not, why not?

Do you have enough warm blankets, warm clothes, sleeping bags, window coverings, socks, warm boots, hats, gloves, etc, to get you through if you end up fuel-less in the winter?  Do you know how to drain your plumbing so the pipes don’t freeze?  These do not take much of an investment and they’re so important to peace of mind.  I’m not convinced the barbecue is a bad idea, if it’s what you have to work with. Better that than nothing.  But maybe a homemade solar oven or a Sterno burner or a rocket stove would be good additions.

Creativity is your greatest ally.  Most of my emergency candles have come from people who gave them to me because they were half-used-up.  We have tons of good emergency candles that we got for free.  Churches will sometimes give away boxes of candles after Christmas Eve candle services.

As for money, personally I’d get basic preps in place and a cash stash (even if you’re just putting aside a few dollars a week – believe me, I know this is not always easy), then pay down debt aggressively.  I wouldn’t put any more money in IRAs even if it is matched — it’s not your money until they say it is, and I don’t think that’s a wise place to have it.  I don’t know about bankruptcy but I understand most b. lawyers will give a free initial consultation.

Presumably you have a first-aid kit or can stock a small medical supplies kit.  That is important under any circumstances.

For sanitation, I’m not sure what to suggest, but think creatively.  Your toilet does not work — what do you do?  Personally I have a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat on top (I used a discarded seat until I was given a Luggable Loo, but an old seat works fine) and a large bag of pine shavings that I got from an animal supply store for less than $10.  Your difficulty will be where to dispose of the used sawdust, and I don’t know what to say about that, but think it through and maybe you’ll come up with a creative solution you can use in an emergency.

Who are your neighbors in your townhouse community?  Are they kind, or are you scared for your life every time you cross their path?  Can you reach out to each one in turn and find out if you can connect with them on a human level?  Doesn’t matter if they are preppers.  Get to know them — especially any older ones; they may have skills and knowledge you can’t imagine and would benefit from knowing about. I think if you are warm and respectful when you approach them, eventually they will connect with you. 

Can you plan a “summer potluck cookout” or something for all the people in the townhouse community?  I used to live in such a community and I know some people aren’t into that sort of thing, but you’re not looking to make friends with all sixty households, just a few — it will grow.  Start a tradition.  Pick a date, put your barbecue supplies in a central spot, provide plates/cups/utensils and chips, and see who comes.  You may have to try more than once.  What about hosting a monthly potluck at your house for neighbors?  Even if only one set of neighbors comes, it’s a win.  Keep trying and don’t be discouraged.  You may have to plan three to get anyone to come, but give it a try.

As far as losing the house, foreclosure is a different game than it used to be.  Many people in that situation now sit in their homes for months while waiting for the bank to take action.  Banks are apparently less eager to own properties when they already own tons of them.  Banks are not in the business of owning homes.   But if you did end up homeless, where would you go?  What would you do?  Do you have a tent?  Good friends in a McMansion or with a dry basement?  Car large enough to sleep in?  Just explore those things and see where your options take you, in theory.  There may be more than one option.  You don’t have to do these things, and you can hope they won’t come to pass, but having a plan is part of prepping.  Figure out a basic backup plan, even if it is rough.

Keep posting flyers, keep knocking on your neighbors’ doors.  You will inspire them, if anyone can.  Do you have control over what you grow in your yard?  I used to have a 5×5″ bed in the only space that was “mine” — all the yard was shared, and they wouldn’t even let me put a compost bin out.  But I had a little deck and I could have grown things in pots as well.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, but do not give in to those feelings.  You do not have to change your whole situation.  Do one small thing at a time.  Every step in this direction is a useful one, and the total will always fall short no matter whether you are poor or rich. 

Personal health is a really important thing that you can address without money.  Exercise, increasing strength and stamina, rest, fresh air, basic things like that will go a long way.

Someone has to lead the way.  Your energy is inspiring and you will be a leader of others.  Do not give up.


I am a single mom with four kids on a limited budget.  If I can do these things, you can, too.

  • Sat, May 26, 2012 - 04:51am



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    To Amanda on resilience

Thanks Amanda,

Your post inspired me.  I truly appreciate it. I’ll do what you suggest. Sometimes I feel isolated as not even my family supports me in this. They don’t complain, just don’t give support…

I do have compost and a container garden where I grow tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, celery, cucumbers, basil, oregano and carrots. I also have two strawberry plants in the garden, until now they haven’t noticed or complained either. I have approached my children’s school PAC to start a community garden, and so gar I have three people who emailed me…haven’t planned a meeting yet as I’m waiting for more.

I also have been stocking food and have about 1-2 months (more of some things than others). I haven’t started with water yet, but it’s in my plans. We have tents and sleeping bags and two emergency kits with radios, batteries, First Aid and basic supplies. I also have all the “camping/survival” stuff from can openers to knives and water-proof matches. My First Aid and emergency skills are up-to-date because as part of my plan I volunteer for two organizations where I receive training and in return, I’m on call to respond to disasters and emergencies in the community. In my everyday work I work with immigrants and refugees, which has made me more humble and resilient. However, my jobs is somewhat disconnected from my own neighbourhood, that apart from my “complex” is otherwise wealthy and everyone is by their own.

What I like from your post is the lack of emphasis in weapons (I truly believe we have to build community, not being scared of our neighbours) and on “doing with what you have”.

Thank you for inspiring me and making me feel less alone in this “crusade”.


  • Sun, May 27, 2012 - 01:29pm


    Full Moon

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    bitter heart


   Ladies  , I am getting to have such a bitter heart toward TPTB and the POTUS .      My kids have to wait until they are 26 YO  to save enough money to go to college and  now the people want us to pay taxes to pay for their school !!!  So they can get out and work for $10 an hour or have no job at all and we pay for them to sit on the couch .


   NOW  I really have a bitter heart  because it have a little rental house in town . The people have not paid rent ii almost 4 months .    The Law says I can  not change the locks or move them out .   I have to pay a lawyer so the court can decide if the cops should go in and move them out .    These people are already  living off all of our taxes in unemployment , food stamps , , medical etc.  They know how to work the system !!!  My husband works very hard to support our own family   plus  theirs right ?     There are jobs in the newspaper but it pays better to sit on your butt and deal drugs out of someone elses house .


 How did our county get so messed up !!!!


  • Thu, May 31, 2012 - 07:22pm



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    on the same page, Full Moon

 Nothing hurts quite as much as the realization that our government has and continues to make financial decisions and pass laws that shift the burden to our children and grandchildren. The shortsightedness is incredible and cannot be blamed on simple stupidity … way too much clever shifting and manipulation goes into it. I do not understand it … greed alone seems a poor excuse, especially since those who are benefitting end up with more than they could ever spend in several lifetimes. While, like yours, my children work, attend community college instead of the wished for university and hope that their education will actually be worth something eventually.

I know people who haven’t paid their mortgage in 3 years. They ignore creditor calls and worry (only slightly) about foreclosure, but in the meantime can squirrel away that money to go toward a new house when the time comes … keeping the prices for the few houses that do go on the market artificially high. Or at least artificial in terms of people who have continued to pay their mortgage and save what they can on the side, being unable to compete.

Every way you look at it … as you said: it’s messed up. 

~ s

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