Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What Place Does Extreme Frugality Have In Your Life? How Can You Live In Extreme Frugality?


One of the ideas that have been on my mind has been extreme frugality. I am currently in saving money mode (which is normal) while trying to amp up my frugality game. I am back to using paper coupons, digital coupons, Ibotta, SavingStar, and much more. I'm paying a lot more attention to sale flyers and really deciding if I need any of that which, by the way, is in direct conflict with the stockpiler in me!

However, along with being frugal, I want to have a bigger impact on my savings and my spending game. To save more money and spend less money, you have to make more meaningful decisions about where your money goes and how your money is being spent. In short, you have to become more extreme in your frugal living game.

Frugal living has several aspects. One of the biggest aspects in frugal living and practicing extreme frugality is daily living. You have to examine every decision you make every day. Because being frugal is not just saving money on just big purchases, but being consciously aware of the money being spent on small daily purchases and how you are using the items you already have or purchased.

For whatever reason you decide to practice extreme frugality, you need to know and understand your reasons. Those reasons will be your motivation. The reasons can be many, but not limited to:


  • To rein in your spending
  • To pay down debt
  • To purchase a car or home
  • To save money for college
  • To save money for retirement
  • To save money for emergencies
  • To make a conscious effort to not spend money
  • To make frugality apart of your life

Whatever reason(s) you decide to practice extreme frugality, you need to know why you are doing it. Write down those reasons and place them everywhere you need to see them (office, computer, wallet, kitchen, etc.).

Now, that you know your reason for being extreme in your frugality, you need to find ways to tighten your spending. Some ideas to tighten up your frugal game could be:


  • Asking yourself to wait 3-7 days before purchasing anything besides necessities
  • Asking yourself if you have something already on hand before purchasing anything
  • Making a conscious decision to purchase used if at all possible
  • Eliminating food waste and examining if food scraps have another use
  • Using reusable items before purchasing single use items like water bottles and drinks
  • Only purchasing clothes when something needs to be replaced and can't be repaired
  • Using wash cloths and rags for paper towels, napkins, facial tissues, and more
  • Eliminating electrical use when possible and using solar or hand power instead
  • Walking or biking instead of driving the car
  • Making your own cleaners and beauty products
  • No more eating out and tightening the grocery budget
  • And so much more...

Every decision you make in a day should be examined for frugal reasons. There are always ways to save more money.

There may not be things you are willing to do to save more money. That is okay, but ask yourself why you are not willing to go that far to save money or not spend money. If saving/not spending money will hurt yourself or harm your family, then you shouldn't be doing it. There is a fine line in extreme frugality and withholding a critical necessity or service to not spend money is crossing the line.

Extreme frugality may bring on extreme cheapness. In some cases, being cheap is not a bad thing. People may view you are cheap just because you are not willing to buy something, go to a "party" for the sole purchase of buying something, or will not go out bar hopping. That is not being cheap, that is being frugal. Being cheap is only spending what you have to without thought to others or yourself and potential causing harm. Being cheap is also spending the least amount of money possible even though what you are purchasing is pure crap and you will be buying a new one when that item breaks easily. Being cheap is also taking advantage of situation to get something free or get the upper hand over someone just so you don't have to spend anything. I could go on about being cheap and sometimes it is a good thing, but not usually.

You want to be fair in your extreme frugality. You are doing this for yourself and your family. Being cheap is not always being fair to yourself or others. However, in your frugality, look for the free things you can get. Being extremely frugal does not mean your life is over with or that you can not have any fun. Take advantage of these free things:


  • Look for free things you can do or take home. 
  • Take advantage of your library for books and movies. 
  • Look for events around the area that do not cost you anything but maybe gas money. 
  • Look for things that people are giving away for free. 
  • Be a curb shopper, dumpster diver, free garage sale box looker. 
  • Be creative with what you have and what you find.
  • Have staycations often and keep them as frugal as possible.
  • Learn new skills with items you already have.
  • Don't say no when someone wants to treat you or your family.

You can still live a full life even though you have your nose to the extremely frugal grindstone. You can still have fun. You can still be involved in things you love, but just be conscious of what it is asking of you financially. Some groups and things are fun, but if you are constantly bleeding money to be in while trying to actively save money, something is wrong. You may have to let those things go for a time while you are being extremely frugal.

While being extremely frugal is very good thing, you still have some things to keep in mind. Being an extreme frugalister can make your mind think some funny things. Like you shouldn't throw anything away or give anything away. Like you should be a hoarder. That couldn't be farther from the truth! Yes, by all means, keep what you can use or think of a use for. However, if you have things you cannot use at all, you should give them away, sell them, donate them, or responsibly recycle them. Please don't be an episode of one of those shows! If you have stuff not serving you, do something with it. Your home shouldn't be a fire hazard because of the stuff you own.

Lastly, you have to be intentional in your extreme frugal game. You have be content with what you already have. If you are use to shopping a lot, you need to figure out why and stop. You have to be happy with what you have and not use shopping as stress relief. You have to be content with what you have and not be envious of what the neighbors have. You do not need to have the latest, greatest things. That is not being content. You need to be content with the ten year old car and a house without a pool.  You need to be happy with wearing out your clothes without buying this season's newest fashions. You need to be okay with bringing your own lunch and not going out to lunch every day or every week. You have to be content with what you have and your decisions to save money so you can achieve your goals. Otherwise, being extremely frugal will not be an easy process for you.

Extreme frugality is not for everyone, but everyone can do it. You can try it for a short amount of time or the rest of your life. You never know when you will need to be extremely frugal so being extremely frugal now will only serve you later. I would encourage you to give it a try and make it work for you!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Other articles on frugality:
Are You Frugal? 
50 Ways You Are Not Being Frugal
Is It A Need Or A Want? What Should You Spend Your Money On?


Sunday, December 24, 2017

10 Ways to Prep When You Have No Support


You have discovered prepping. You have awakened to the fact that the world isn't right. Everything could be gone tomorrow. Your job could be over with at the end of the month. A storm could take out the power for several days. You suddenly feel an urge to get your stuff together and be ready for the next disaster. You want to buy food and supplies to have stored in case of an emergency.

You are excited to get started. You have been reading articles online. You are starting to decide what kind of food storage you want to get. You have been looking at generators and camping stoves. You have already bought some extra cases of water.

Then you talk to your family and suddenly you find a lot of cold water thrown at you. They don't understand what you are so worried about. Nothing like that has ever happened (amazing how short people's memories are)! They don't think you should be worried about the future. They don't want to have to worry about things like disasters, job loss, and financial difficulties. They think you are just being ridiculous.

That is just enough to discourage someone, isn't it? Prepping is hard when no one believes in what you do and doesn't see what could happen. A lack of support from loved ones is one of the biggest reasons people don't start to prep or quit prepping. Most non-preppers don't understand that prepping is not doom and gloom, but a positive thing that will give you and your family a great peace of mind.

If this is happening to you right now, please keep prepping. You are doing something for your loved ones that will not appreciate now, but most certainly will later. Most loved ones come around to prepping, but sometimes they don't either.

So what do you do when you want to prep, but have no support?

1. Do not quit prepping! You have started a great thing and nothing should stop you. You might have to change how you prep, but do not stop prepping.

2. You can prep in secret. Yes, you can prep undercover. Sometimes it is a good idea for other people not to know you are prepping. You usually want your family to know, but they aren't in that frame of mind yet.

3. Try talking to your family. You can try to make them see reason. You can point out different situations where being prepared is a good thing. Bring up things in the news that leads to being prepared. Just try reasoning with them a bit and see what happens.

4. Don't mention what you are doing as prepping. Prepping has a good and bad reputation. You can twist what you are doing into something else. You can tell them you are putting together some supplies for a power outage. You can tell them you are just putting some emergency equipment in the vehicles. You can tell them you found an amazing sale at the grocery store at a good price to stock up.

5. Put your prepping supplies in a hidden spot. Do you have a room or a shed that no one but you uses? Put your prepping supplies in there. Use some ordinary totes to hold your supplies in your closet. You might have to spread out the prepping supplies in different spots.

6. Hide your emergency cash and money for prepping. If you have a spouse or significant other who is going to spend your emergency cash as soon as they see it, you need to hide it. If you have a part of your paycheck that goes to prepping, you should probably withdraw the cash and hide that too. Some people will spend that money out of spite because they think you are being ridiculous.

7. You can still learn new skills and not call it prepping. If you have loved ones wondering why you are starting a garden, just tell them that it is something you always wanted to learn how to do. If you want to work on your shooting skills, just tell them that you want to be more accurate and suggest everyone goes to the shooting range as a family activity. You can buy or build a fire pit in the backyard and use it for cooking out or just learning to start fires right. There are ways to learn skills and not call it prepping at all.

8. Explain away your purchases. For awhile, I just said that I always wanted "blank" or "blank" because I thought they were cool. You can use this one on a lot of gadgets like solar chargers and weather radios. You can say that you just wanted to see if they really worked or how they worked. You can buy a lot of solar powered gadgets to say that you wanted to use them to save on the utility bill.

9. Be creative. A lot of these suggestions involve creativity on your part. If you loved ones do not come around, you will have to be creative with your whys and hows. Prepping is not something to brag about to everyone anyway because you do not want everyone coming to your house when an emergency happens. You just might have to take that OPSEC to another level with your loved ones.

10. Speaking of OPSEC...you will have to figure out a way to not have your prepping discussed with everyone. You will have to find a way to explain to your loved ones that not everyone needs to know what you have or don't have. You can explain as not liking to brag about material items or not everyone needs to know what happens in our home kind of thing.

Hopefully, these ideas will see you through until your loved ones understand why you are prepping. Sometimes, it will take a major life event or a natural disaster for them to see the light. However, you need to keep prepping, remember that you are doing it for them, and eventually they will be grateful that you did!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, November 10, 2017

What happens when it is all gone tomorrow?


In your lifetime, something will probably happen to you that will make you wonder what you are going to do next. You could lose your job. You could be in a car accident and not be able to work or pay bills. You could have a tornado or hurricane wipe out your home and everything you have worked for. You could get divorced and be left with nothing. A loved one could be taken from you and you have to figure out life without them.

So much can happen that begs me to think about this. I have been through at least two of those scenarios. I have had to ask myself "What happens when it is all gone tomorrow?"

The worst thing about this question and these scenarios is that you have very little to no warning. You rarely get to pick when something bad and life-changing gets to happen to you. Very few people know they have cancer before they are diagnosed. Many people have shown up to work only to find the doors locked and find out they are unemployed. The weather service is pretty accurate, but you may only have days to a week to find out how devastating a storm can be. Bad things will happen that will completely change your life tomorrow.

We can prepare for just about anything. We can have supplies built up, plans in place, emergency funds and savings on hand, and another place to go to. We can take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. We can draw up wills and living trusts to take care of our loved ones. We have insurance for health, vehicles, and life to take care of any contingencies. By our very natures, we like to plan ahead to be prepared for any event that could alter our lives.

But we can't prepare for everything. Something may happen that will wipe away everything we have worked, prepared for, and lived for. In all seriousness, that is the most devastating thing to have to go through. You don't know where to start or how to start building your life again. You don't know where to go. You don't know what the next step is. You are in shock. Disbelief and fear will take over.

You have to move on. That will be tough to do for a lot of people, but you have to. There are things you can do, however, to help you process this major life change and start to create a new life for you.

1. It will take some time to process what happened. Your mind will need time to process, recover, and make a plan. Give yourself that time, but don't dwell on the negative for too long. You probably have other people relying on you and you need to get on with things for their sake.

2. While these are bad circumstances, you need to stay positive and hope for the best while being realistic. You probably have others depending on you to take care of them and they need your best. Being bitter and angry will not serve you in any way and it will not make the circumstances any better.

3. Take care of the basics. If you are a prepper or survivalist, you know you need shelter, water, and food first and foremost if you are in this kind of situation. You need to find shelter, water, and food to stay alive. Next you need to stay warm if you are in that kind of climate. You need to take care of the basics so those depending on you will be taken care of and you will feel better too.

4. Take the next step. When your mind is under stress, you may not know what to do next. You will feel numb. Write down everything you need to do and what needs to be taken care of. Write down even the smallest things to do that you think you will remember. You are under stress so you may not remember those things. Pick one thing on that list and do that thing.

5. Prioritize what you need to do. What is the most important thing that needs to get done? If you have the basics covered, you need to pick the next thing to get done. Whether it is making legal or medical decisions, applying for unemployment benefits, shutting off services to save money, finding another job, calling insurance, or finding a new home, you need to get those things done. Figure out what is most important and do it.

6. Accept the kindness of others. There are people who will want to help you if they know you are in need. Please accept their help whether it is a place to stay, a meal, a shoulder to cry on, good advice, or a voice of reason. Sometimes the price of the help can be high so you need to decide that, but do not turn down help if you can use it. The help offered will make the burden lighter.

7. Do not make any "snap" decisions unless it is an emergency. In times like this, snap decisions can lead to regret. You may be under stress, but you need to use reason and common sense to make the next decision. You have yourself to consider as well as probably family to consider. If you are struggling to make a decision, ask your family and friends for their advice and knowledge. However, because I believe in this, do not ignore your gut reaction. If you know, deep down, what you should do and you know that is not from paranoia or fear, go with your gut and do it.

8. Seek information and good advice. As I said in #7, you should make informed decisions. You are in a situation that may seem like life or death or you may not have a lot of options, but you need to be informed. What are your options? What is the best treatment? What can I do to support my family? Where would be the best place to move to? These are all questions (and there are definitely more) that deserve well-researched, well-informed answers.

9. Don't be afraid of other people and their reactions. You have to do what is best for you and your family. You may make people sad or angry about your decisions and/or your plan of action. They may try to make you feel guilty or feel stupid about the decisions you make. Don't let these people have that power. It is one thing to feel like you need to take care of your parents (or something similar), but it is another thing if people make you feel like you can't leave or you have to accept your circumstances. You have to take care of you and make the best decisions for you and your family.

These ideas and things to do are not a complete plan. These are things you can do to start moving on with your life when it seems like hope is lost and/or you have lost everything. Taking the next step and moving on with your life may seem like the hardest thing to do, but for your sake you have to do it.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, November 2, 2017

20 Ideas For Raising Kids Frugally


Kids can be so expensive. There is the expected expenses of clothing and feeding them. Then there are the unexpected expenses of injuries, wisdom teeth, illnesses, and notes from school saying they owe money for this or that. Either way, kids costs money.

I am here to tell you that after raising two kids to adulthood and two kids on their way to adulthood, that kids do not have to be expensive at all. In fact, you can raise kids rather frugally. Most of these tactics are not one-time savings ideas, but are everyday savings ideas. Whether you are a prepper, homesteader, or average suburban family, these ideas are all for you.

I want to preface this list by saying if you are serious about raising your kids frugally, then you need to put yourself into a frugal mindset. Being frugal is not a one-time thing. Being frugal is saving and not spending money everyday and every minute of the day. Being frugal is in the decisions you make and what you are willing to do to have to spend any more money that you have to.

20 Ideas For Raising Kids Frugally

1. Teach your kids to make do with what they have instead having to have something new.

2. Encourage your kids' creativity in what they can do with what they have. Have them play dress-up and use their imaginations. Let them build forts in the living room. Let them draw on scratch paper. All of this costs you very little or nothing and the kids are much better for it.

3. Accept hand me down clothes, toys, and any baby goods you can. Free is good!

4. Learn to go to the thrift and consignment shops first for clothes and baby goods before going to a regular store.

5. Look on eBay and Craigslist for used goods and presents that your kids need.

6. Teach your kids the difference between needs and wants. They might need regular training on this especially when they are preteens and teenagers.

7. Before shopping for back to school goods, look at what they had the year before and reuse the backpacks and supplies that can be reused.

8. Scour garage sales for what they need and for presents. I have found so many brand new things at garage sales and spent so little for presents.

9. Teach them when they are little that leftovers are a good thing! They should know that leftover food should be ate the next day or two so that food is not wasted.

10. Pack their school lunches instead of buying hot lunches from school. It is cheaper and a whole lot healthier for them to take their own lunches. If you have a kids with food allergies or intolerances, taking your own food is so much cheaper and you don't have to battle with the school.

11. Limit gift giving. We only do 4-5 presents for Christmas and birthdays. Easter is a small gift basket. Holidays are no excuse for going overboard on presents and busting your budget. By keeping the expectations of the holidays reasonable, you are keeping their expectations reasonable too.

12. If you have multiple children, keep all the decent hand me down clothes for the next kid. Even if you have three girls and one boy, a lot of the tee shirts, sweatshirts, and gym shorts could be passed down girl to boy and vice versa. If you have baby clothes, keep them as neutral as possible to pass down also.

13. Learn to mend clothes and repair shoes and toys. Fixing things is a lot cheaper than buying new.

14. Say no to a lot of activities that your kids can be in. One or two activities is not a bad thing, but sports and dance classes can really rack up the dollars. Kids exploring their passions and figuring out what they want to be interested in should not be discouraged, but being in several things at once is very costly financially and mentally.

15. Eating out should be a treat. Kids should not be eating out or being taken through the drive through several times a week. Eating at home is so much cheaper and healthier.

16. Say no to your kids. Kids do not have to have everything their little hearts desire. In fact, teaching them limits now will only benefit you and them later. If you can't handle their temper tantrums and sad faces, you need to understand that this is a part of parenting and deal with it.

17. Say no to a lot of the school expenses. Fundraisers, t-shirts, doodahs, and whatnots get to be very expensive very fast. I don't blame the schools for trying to raise money because the budgets are so tight. I don't have a problem with my own kids trying to raise their money for trips. However, I am very discerning about which fundraisers we buy from and what school things we buy. If my kids want to spend their own money on those things, they can.

18. Limit electronics and cellphones. Your kids do not need to be on their electronics all the time especially at an young age. Cellphones should not be given to anyone under 13 years of age except in certain cases. All these things cost money for the plans, the electricity, and the time wasted on them. Trust me, we have made many mistakes in this category and I am just telling you what I have learned. Limit the electronics and kids will find out they have other interests and hobbies.

19. Limit their toys and clothes. Again, this is another category that I have made many mistakes in. More clothes and more toys is expensive and not just to your pocketbook, but your time. Also, kids learn to be discontented when they have a lot of things because they expect more. If they have a few toys, enough clothes for a week or two, and you tell them no to more, they will learn to be happy with what they have.

20. Say yes to free classes and free experiences. A lot of things for kids are offered for free and you should be on the lookout for that. Your extension office, schools, local conservation groups, churches, and so many more groups offer all sorts of free things that you can take advantage of for your kids.

There are so many more ways to save money while raising kids. These are the lessons that I learned and am still learning. These are the tips that helped me. While I had help from grandparents, I still have to do what I could to save money so I could make ends meet. I bet a lot of you are in the same situation.

What are your favorite ways to raise you kids frugally?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What Will You Do When Someone Dies During A SHTF?


One of the things we never like to think about and is a very tough topic to discuss is death. However, death is inevitable. It will happen and you need a plan in place for normal circumstances. When SHTF happens though, you really need a plan in place. 

First of all, you need to be up to date on your state laws and codes. You also need to look into county, township, and city codes on burials. Many states also have rules on who can handle the body, where the body can be placed, and who can bury the body. Many states require that someone files a death certificate within three days of the death or discovery of the death. 

In Iowa, you do not have to use a funeral director. You can keep the body at home. You only need to embalm the body if the deceased had a communicable disease or will not be buried within three days. However, if the body is being held in refrigeration, you can wait six days without embalming. There are no laws requiring a casket for burial or cremation, but the cemetery or crematorium may have their own rules about caskets. You can bury the body in cemetery or private property as long as local zoning laws permit it. If you do bury on private property, keep a detailed map of the burial for future property owners. 

I found two excellent resources about this here:
Iowa Home Funeral Laws
Burial & Cremation Laws In Iowa

They cover other states as well. 

I understand that during a SHTF, these laws may not apply. However, during most disasters, state laws will still prevail and still need to be followed. Only during a collapse of the government or WROL will you need not really worry about the laws. 

How you plan to deal with the death in your own family or people in your group? You will need to address a few things:

  • Where will the body be buried? 
  • Will the body be cremated?
  • How will the hole for the burial be dug?
  • How will you cremate the body?
  • Do you need to purchase a body bag, coffin, and/or embalming kit for your preps?
  • Who will handle the body?
  • Who will make the arrangements and file the death certificate?
  • Who will be in charge of making sure the living wills and wills are kept safe and are honored?

There are very few right and wrong answers here. I would ask the family members over 16 what their wishes are for their death and keep a record of their responses. Parents can decide for their minor children. Knowing everyone's wishes will make answering those questions easier. I would designate 1-2 people to handle the body, make the arrangements, and file the death certificate. If you have a person already designated for handling important papers, I would put them in charge of the wills also. This person or you should have a copy of all important papers. 

Whether you have an SHTF or not, I thoroughly believe you need a will and a living will. You will solve a lot of complications with those two documents. If you have any wishes for your funeral or your death, that needs to be wrote down so it can be honored if possible. A living will is very important because you can include end of life decisions like palliative care and a Do Not Resuscitate order. As with all important legal documents, if it is not done by a lawyer, you need to get it signed and notarized to be considered in court. 

If you are planning to bury on the property or create a private cemetary, I would get that spot established now. As suggested before, you should make a detailed map where people are buried or where they will be buried. I would pick a spot that will be easy to dig, but not obvious to everyone who may enter the property for whatever reason. 

Another thing to consider also is what to do with the bodies in the winter. If you live in a fairly climate with no frost in the ground during the winter, this will not really affect you. However, in the Midwest, this will be a problem unless winter is being kind to us. I would pick a sealed spot away from the home that animals cannot get into. You want the body to stay cold and frozen if possible. Then, as soon as the ground permits, bury the body. 

One of the last things you need to consider when someone dies is who is going to fulfill their role. Who will take care of their things, their pets and/or animals, and possibly their family? If they had a specific role in your prepping group, do you have a replacement for that person? I believe in having back up plans, but sometimes you can not plan for everything. 

This is a morbid topic and some very morbid things need to be considered when death happens. Like I said before, this is a prepping and life topic that needs to be addressed. You may not want to think about it, but keeping your head in the sand isn't going to help when a SHTF happens!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, May 26, 2017

We forget to live life


Today is my kids' last day of school. They will be out at 11:30 am today and will have the whole summer to do what they want without the restrictions of school (for the most part). Yes, they will have daily and weekly chores to do. They will also have camps to go to, swimming to do, life guarding to do, 4-H fair to be apart of, and so much more.

Life is always a little crazy during the summer too, but life during the summer for a kid is mostly about living life. They don't have a strict schedule with many commitments on their plates. They aren't worrying about grades and papers. They can relax with their friends and do nothing if they want to until school starts again on August 23rd.

As adults, I think we forget that. We forget that life is about living. We get caught up in the work at a job, work at home, sleep, eat, and repeat. We forget to experience life and just live life. We don't go for a hike or go camping due to "time restraints". We don't go to a concert of a band from our high school days because we just don't think we have time. We don't go on dates with our significant other because of time and expense.

You want to know something? We do have the time, but we just don't take the time to do those things. Not having time is a pretty rare thing. We often have a million and one excuses about why we can't do things that would help us relax and enjoy life for awhile. We usually do have the time. Sometimes money and babysitting can be a legitimate problems, but there is so much else to do too.

We forget to live life.

It is so easy to caught up with prepping, homesteading, gardening, taking care of the animals, taking care of the kids, saving money, and a myriad of other things. Our to-do lists are mammoth on a normal day and some days are not normal. We work away from home and come home to work more. We can't see the light at the end of the tunnel and we keep working harder and harder to do so.

We forget to have fun.

No, life is not all about having fun. I have understood that for a very long time. However, life is not all about working either. We are meant to relax and have fun once in a while. To have a day that is not structured and filled by the never-ending to-do list. A day to be lazy, watch movies, and hang out with the family. A night to invite friends over for a picnic and a camp fire.

We need to remember what summer vacation time was like for us as kids. Yes, it was busy for some. Most of us though remember what it was like to be kids in the summer. We swam, rode bikes, explored, looked at the sky, looked at the stars, and just enjoyed life as a kid. We slept in tents in the back yard, hung out at the lake for the day, read books in a makeshift fort, and went on adventures. Sometimes we were with our family and sometimes we were with our friends. Sometimes we explored on our own. No matter which way you look at it, we have had fun.

Just because we are adults now doesn't mean we can't keep experiencing this and more. We forget to live life and have fun. Maybe if we started doing more to relax, our lives and health would be better too.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Monday, May 22, 2017

10 Prepping Activities To Do With Your Kids This Summer!


Summer is coming! The kids will be out of school very soon and will need ideas to keep them out of trouble and off your nerves. Teaching kids prepping should be at the top of your list of things for them to do. We put a lot of emphasis on adults knowing how to prep, but we really should be teaching the next generation how to prep too.

Remember: our goal in raising kids is that they are self-sufficient when they leave home. While we should expect phone calls on how to do things, we want them to know the basics and be able to care for themselves.

I am gearing this list towards first grade age kids and older. You obviously know your kids better than I do. You can be the judge about whether they are ready and responsible enough to learn these prepping skills. However, always teach your kids about how to be responsible while doing these activities.

10 Prepping Activities To Do With Your Kids This Summer!:

1. Camping. Even you can only camp out in your yard or at the county park five miles from your house, teach your kids to camp. You should be teaching them that the outside isn't scary at night. You can be teaching them how to cook without electricity. You can teach them to explore, forage, identify markings/plants/tracks, and pay attention to their surroundings. You should not allow any devices to come except for a cell phone and that is only used for emergencies.

2. Building and making a fire. You can teach them to how to gather kindling, sticks, and logs to build a fire. You can teach them how to light the fire without using a lighter or a match (although those methods are not bad to know either). You can teach them about fire safety. You can teach them about maintaining the fire.

3. Build a solar oven. There is several plans online to do this. I think it is a really neat idea and totally doable. If you have kids who are in 4-H and need a fair project or need a science fair project for the next school year, this is a great idea. After building it, you can experiment with cooking different things in it like brownies or chicken.

4. How to cook on a grill, camp stove, and other non-electric methods. While I always teach my kids to cook using the stove top first, I like to start teaching them alternative methods when they are older. Teaching them to grill is a good skill to learn so they can feed themselves if the power is out. If you have a rocket stove or something similar, they should learn that too.

5. Gardening. Kids are naturally curious so gardening is a great activity to do with them. You can teach them how to plant different vegetables, how to recognize the plant when it is growing, how to weed, and how to care for the plants when they are growing. You can also teach them how and when to harvest the fruits and vegetables. You may want to give them their own garden plot, but I don't do this. I have my kids work alongside of me in the garden and explain to them that is everyone's responsibility to provide food for our home.

6. Hiking. Like camping, you can teach them to explore, forage, identify markings/plants/tracks, and pay attention to their surroundings. You are also working on physical fitness for you and them. You are also teaching them endurance and stamina for when you might have to walk a long distance or work for longer than normal hours.

7. First aid. We are very fortunate that first aid is taught in most of our high schools in Iowa, but I think it should be taught when they are younger. I think kids should know how to treat a cut, a burn, and a skin reaction (itching, sun burns, bug bites, and allergic reactions) while still in elementary school. I think they should know to the basics of CPR. They should know how to treat someone who is choking. They should know how to call 911 - not just the number, but knowing their address or location, being calm while calling, and how to state what is happening to the victim. You can role play a lot of first aid situations and make it a fun game while emphasizing the seriousness of what they are learning.

8. Fishing. Teaching your kids to fish is a lifetime skill. They can learn fish identification, what is edible or good to eat, and how to catch them with hooks and lures. Not sure how to fish yourself? Find someone who is willing to teach you and your kids. There is usually plenty of fishermen who are willing to show someone else how to fish. Also, be aware of your state laws. In Iowa, residents and nonresidents over 16 years of age need to purchase a fishing license. If you are fishing trout, you will need to purchase or pay a trout fee.

9. Archery and gun shooting. Shooting and target practice is a great way to build skills and learn responsible gun and bow handling. Kids are young as 7 can learn to shoot. I would purchase a bow and arrow set in their age and size range for comfortable handling and less learning frustration. Also, get a lot of arrows. You are bound to lose a few.

A BB gun is a great way to start a kid shooting. With a BB gun, they can learn to sight in and target practice with a gun and ammo that is way cheaper than .22 ammo would be. When they show they can responsibly handle a gun, you can move them up to a .20 or .22 gauge rifle or shotgun. This is the process we have decided on at our home, but you can decide differently for your kid.

10. Reading. I am a very, very strong believer in reading. I think it gives you a solid foundation for every area of your life. Just because school is out doesn't mean they should not be reading. If your kids are younger or willing to listen, please read to them also. Find some good fiction and non-fiction books on survival and preparedness to read.

Some of my favorites are:


I know there is a lot more to do with your kids in the summer that would expand their preparedness and survival skills. Let me know in the comments what you like to do with your kids in the summer to help with their skills!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, May 15, 2017

Have You Trained Your Kids To Work? What Will They Do When A SHTF Happens?


Kids are natural helpers. Especially when they are younger and they want to "help" with everything. Many parents take advantage of that help and let the kids help them. That is the start of training your kids to be good helpers and workers around the house and the yard.

Doing chores and being expected to help inside and outside the house helps develop skills. Kids become contributing members of the household which helps lighten the load for the parents. Kids who are expected to help and do chores learn a better work ethic and become valuable members of the workforce and society after they leave home. They also learn responsibility and manage their home and work lives better.

However, there are parents who believe "that kids should be kids". They have no chores, no responsibilities beyond school, and no expectations besides getting good grades and being a good person. They are coddled and spoiled. They do not learn responsibility beyond school. They do not learn skills or accountability. The parents do everything for them.

What is going to happen to those households when the SHTF happens?

They are going to self-implode. The parents will be doing everything they can to survive and their dependent children will not know what to do. Instead of pitching in and helping to clean the mess or secure food and water, they will want to know why they can't eat right now! Instead of working to make the situation better or at least tolerable, they will be in a tizzy because their cellphones and smart devices are not entertaining them!

We would all like to believe that kids will naturally just step in and help because the need has arose. We would like to believe that they will just instinctively know that they are needed and will rise to the occasion. Some kids will do this, I am sure. However, in this day and age, I do not believe that most will do anything. That would be work and they know nothing of work.

We are seeing a rise in an entitled, selfish culture that is being fostered by parents who believe that their precious darlings should have and do whatever they want. They are overly involved at school, not involved at all, or they are considered special because they are really smart. They go to college and think they are special because they are enlightened with their college education. They get degrees in areas that will not really transfer into a career that will actually support them. And, for some reason, they get some really crazy ideas about life while they are in college.

Can you imagine what will happen when a SHTF happens to them?

I am not saying all kids and young adults are like this, but I am seeing a really disturbing trend. This trend that says this kids do not know any life skills, were taught very little responsibility, and would not survive at all when a SHTF happens. They will expect and demand that someone else takes care of them and this situation. They will be crazy when they find out no help may be coming.

That is why kids need to be trained to work. This training starts early when they want to "help". You are teaching them early that their help is a valuable contribution to the household. When they get a little older, daily and weekly chores teaches them responsibility and accountability. When they are preteens, they should be expected to help whenever asked in addition to their regular chores. By the time they are teenagers, they know what needs to be done inside and outside the home.

You are teaching your kids to work. You are teaching them to be valuable, contributing members of the family. Kids are not perfect. They may need reminders and lists about what needs to be done. You will have to teach them what to do and how to do it. There is always going to be a right way and a wrong way to do things. You will have to teach them safety. You will have to teach them the skills they need to know like cooking, gardening, keeping a home, and taking care of animals.

However, when a SHTF happens, the kids will know that they are expected to help you. They may not know exactly what to do, but they know to listen to you and to take your direction. When you ask them to grab a broom or shovel to clean up the mess, they will do it. When you tell them to cook supper, they will do it. 

Should kids still have fun? You bet, but you are teaching them that life is about getting the necessary things done so they can have fun. Parents should not be shouldering the burden by themselves. Kids need to learn that they are living under the roof provided by the parents and can help to take care of the house. Sometimes they will argue and whine, but you as parents need to be firm, insist on the chore being done right, and not to be afraid to give consequences if not done.

You are raising adults. They may be kids now, but they will be adults that the rest of the world will have to deal with later. Just like they need to be trained to work now, they will be ready to work later as an adult because they know that is expected of them. So whether they are living at home or on their own, when a SHTF hits, they will be ready to help in anyway they can and they can take care of themselves.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, February 27, 2017

12 Must Have Items For Prepping For The Elderly


One of the areas of prepping that does not always cross one's mind is prepping for the elderly. We all have older people in our lives who will need us in a situation or a crisis. Most of us are planning on our parents or grandparents joining us if they need a place to stay. We may have the elderly neighbor who may need our help. We may have an aunt or uncle who need us.

The elderly have things they need that we may not think of. We may not want to think of us ever needing them, but the truth is we probably will. Having these things on hand will make life much more comfortable for the elderly as well as making them a more functional part of the household. In a SHTF situation, every capable person will be needed in any way they can contribute. Keeping these items on hand will make that situation better for them and for you.

12 Must Have Items For Prepping For The Elderly

1. Eyeglasses. Many will have their own, but sometimes people do not need glasses until much older. Some older people will only need magnifying reading glasses or "cheaters" to see for reading. I would keep a few of these on hand in varying strengths (+1.25, +1.50, +2.00). I would also keep an eyeglass repair kit on hand for maintaining the glasses.

2. Canes and Walkers. The elderly people staying with you may need some help getting around. Canes and walkers help provide stability when an elderly person is not walking as steady as they used to. They also help to regain mobility after a fall or an injury.

3. Incontinence Pads and Underwear. Elderly people have a harder time with their bodily functions sometimes. The bathroom might be too far away. Their muscle control may not be what it used to be. These are handy to have on hand, just in case.

4. Denture Cleaner and Sensitive Teeth Toothpaste. A lot of elderly people have dentures or teeth that are worn down. Keeping some denture cleaner on hand will keep the dentures in better condition. I would also recommend getting a denture repair kit to have on hand too. For those that have teeth are a bit sensitive, keeping some sensitive teeth toothpaste will help with that problem.

5. Easy to Dress Clothing. Hands and fingers may not work as well as we would like them to when we get older. Elastic waist pants, tee shirts, and shirts with snaps are easier to put on and will help them keep their dignity. You may want to have velcro shoes. You may also want to get some dressing aids that will help them dress themselves.

6. Warm Clothing. One of the things that happens to the body as we get older is that we lose our ability to keep warm. Older people get cold quickly and need layers to stay warm. Warm cardigans, sweaters, sweatshirts, and heavy socks all help to maintain body temperature.

7. Compression stockings. These will help with muscle fatigue in the legs, keep the varicose veins and leg ulcers from forming, improve blood flow, and help with swelling in the legs. During a crisis, the elderly may need to be on their feet more and compression stockings will help with their comfort.

8. Safety items. When hosting an elderly person, you need to realize they do not get around as well as you do. Showers and bathtubs need railings to hold on to. The stairs will also need railings, even just 2 or 3 steps. You will need lights or the ability to light an area in hard to see spots. You are trying to minimize accidents that could seriously impact your home in times of crisis. An elderly person falling will add more work to what can be an overburdened workload.

9. Food. Of course, the elderly need food. However, their food needs change as they get older. While they may enjoy the same foods as everyone else, they may also have special diets. They may need to follow a diabetic diet or a gluten free diet. They may need softer foods that they can chew easier. They may need easy to digest foods if their digestive system has issues.

10. Medications. You will need to have over the counter medications for them. Some medications are geared towards older people and you should pay attention to that. I would also keep vitamins and supplements for them also because their bodies need more immunity and functional support. As for prescription medicines, I would encourage them to get the longest supply they can get. For example, if they can get a 90 day supply, I would do it. Hopefully, you can find a way to stockpile their prescription medications without problems. I do not encourage withholding medications from them to start a new stockpile.

11. Hearing aids and/or batteries. Many older people will need hearing aids or will have hearing aids. You can purchase hearing aids used, but some hearing aids are geared towards a specific problem. You also need to keep several hearing aid batteries on hand. Batteries will last for only 3-14 days on average and depending on use. I would also keep a kit on hand to keep the hearing aids clean and in good condition.

12. Items that are easy to use and will make life easier. Large barrel flashlights, large barrel pens, and other items are so much easier to use for arthritic hands. A magnifying glass will make books and papers easier to read. Item grabbers will be great to get items that are too high and it will keep them off a chair or a ladder.

What would you add to this list? What things do you think you would need if you are an older person?

Thanks,
Erica


Friday, February 10, 2017

10 Lessons Learned From The Victorians, The Pioneers, and The 1800's


The Victorian age in Britain was a fascinating time. Many changes were made from the beginning of the century to the end. Britain experienced a massive industrial upheaval becoming more mechanized and more advanced as the century went on.

In the United States, we went through many upheavals resulting in the Industrial Age at the end of the century. We were exploring the West as pioneers, experiencing mass immigration from other countries, went through the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the Spanish American War.

Many similarities were experienced between both countries.The daily life of people were essentially the same. A lot of people nowadays think they want to go back to this time, but they don't always realize the work that was involved.

I just got done reading How To Be A Victorian: A Dawn-To-Dusk Guide To Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman. What an eye opening book! I also have read a lot of pioneer books, industrial age books, and immigrant life in America books from the same time period as Ms. Goodman's book.

We do not realize how good we have it and how hard our lives would be if we had to go back to those times. I am focusing on the poor mostly in these lessons because most of us would be considered poor then. We would be working in factories, mines, or farms. We would be living in tenements, small houses, or in one rented room. We would have a lot to learn. 

10 Lessons Learned From The Victorians, The Pioneers, and The 1800s

1. Life was hard unless you were rich. Everyone including the children had to work. Money was scarce, food was expensive, and city living was not cheap. Working conditions were often dangerous and harsh. Many people worked 12-14 hours a day, six days a week. Chores were often back-breaking and labor-intensive.

2. Everyone was expected to contribute including the children. Everyone had to work including the children. Without the children working, families often could not afford rent and food. By the end of the 19th century, goods became cheaper as the ability to transport them became easier.

3. Being a stay at home mother was rare. You hear more about stay at home mothers from pioneers and the well-off families. However, with the poor, the immigrants, and the servants, mothers needed to work as soon as they could. There are testimonials of women bringing their babies to work with them or leaving them home with older children.

4. Medical science was far from good and reliable. People often died from diseases like cholera, diphtheria, typhoid fever, small pox, etc. People often died from the so-called cures too. Anyone could make a "cure" and sell it from door-to-door. These cures may contain laudanum, cocaine, opium, mercury, and other dangerous substances. Although medical schools existed, many doctors did not have the tools to perform surgeries successfully or safely. People would often rather suffer or die than to have a doctor treat them.

5. Schooling was a luxury. Many children either went to a country school or a city school from ages 5-12. After that, many children started working in factories or were needed at home. However, quite a number of children did not go to school in the poorer classes until reforms were made in Britain and America in the middle to end of the 19th century. These reforms included children going to school at a certain age, being in school at least part time, being in school until 12 years of age, and knowing the basics of reading and math. Very few children pursued schooling beyond age 12 unless they were in the upper middle class or upper class. Very, very few girls pursued or were allowed to pursue higher than elementary education.

6. Meals were much, much simpler. Meat was not eaten at every meal. It was too expensive to eat every day unless you could hunt or raise your own. If any meat was served during a meal, the first and biggest serving went to breadwinner of the house. He needed his strength to keep working long hours. Most noon meals were bread, potatoes, butter, maybe a piece of bacon for flavoring, a sort of savory pudding, and/or a savory pie. Vegetables were not easy to acquire in the cities nor were they affordable to most poor people until the end of the century. Sunday meals may have a more meat based meal, but only if they could afford it.

7. Daily chores were not easy. Many innovations were made in the 19th century to help women in the home, but everything still had to be done by hand. From cleaning out the wood stove or coal stove to getting water for dishes and laundry, many tasks were grueling, dirty, and back-breaking. Laundry was a multiple day process with stain removal, soaking, heating the water, the actual plunging and scrubbing, wringing the water out, hanging to dry, starching and ironing. Some people were lucky to have water indoors which made laundry, dishes, and cooking a little easier.

8. Pioneering and homesteading was dangerous ordeal. After a man or woman found land to buy or discover, he had to get there in good time to claim that land. It took money to initially purchase land or you could "prove" a homestead claim with ownership after five years. If you had a homestead claim, you had five years to "prove" the claim. You had to live on the land, build a house, till the land, plant crops, plant trees, and improve the land you were trying to claim. A person had to do this all by himself or with the help of neighbors. You brought only what you could carry in your wagon and you hoped you could purchase the rest when you got to your claim. If you were lucky, you might have a new town within a few hours walking or horse-riding distance to purchase supplies including food. You took the risk of claim jumpers, robbers, Native Americans, and greedy land agents stealing your land and maybe taking your life.

9. Even in the 1800's, very few people were living exclusively off the land. Many pioneers, homesteaders, and farmers did the best they could, but still had to go to town for flour, sugar, salt, nails, and material for clothing. Neighbors helped each other. They did as much as they could themselves, but even people living in the country still needed trading posts and general stores. They sold eggs and fresh vegetables to earn money or to trade for needed goods. Yes, they did as much as they could for themselves, but they couldn't always grow wheat for flour or produce their own goods for building houses and barns.

10. Living to old age was a rarity in the 19th century. The average age of males was 40-45. The average age of women was 42-50. People could and did die from so many things then. Life threatening illnesses, workplace accidents, unsafe equipment, unsafe medications, child birth, and many more things than what we have to worry about now. Now we live longer due to advances in safety for the workplace and medical advancements, but we have our own killers that were rare in the 19th century. Advances in personal hygiene and workplace safety helped increase the chances of living longer as the century went on, but the average still seems like a very short period of time.

Many people think now a days that they could easily go back and live in these times. While having the knowledge we have now would make a big difference, most of us simply could not handle the amount of work and labor that our predecessors had to do. We are not conditioned for a hard life, hard labor, working long hours, and being physically fit enough to do it.

Do you think you could live in the 1800s? Do you think your families could handle this?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

10 Money Saving Hacks For A Happier (And Cheaper) Holidays!


In 10 Money Saving Tips for a Frugal Holidays, I focused on how to save money on gifts and stockings. Those tips have saved people a lot of money since the post was published. However, during the holidays, saving money on gifts is not the only way to save money!

During the holidays, normally frugal people can even go crazy and spend money that they know better than to spend! Something about the holiday spirit makes people throw out their budgets and good caution. We want to be generous, treat people well, and generally have a good time. That is great to do, but we can all practice good sense with these money saving hacks listed below!

1. Respect the traditions. If you have certain things you do every year and you know your family will miss them if you don't do them, keep the traditions alive as long as you can afford it. The costs of these traditions should already be in your holiday budget. If you take the whole family to a big show every year, that costs should already be figured into your budget. Another idea would be to make that big show a gift to the family members that go.

If the traditions become too much and cause too much of a strain on your budget, maybe it is time to reconsider. Which leads to...

2. Create new traditions. Think about the things you really love about the holidays and set up a new tradition that supports what you love. Do you love the extra time you get to spend with family? Start a Christmas movie night and have popcorn, hot chocolate, and cookies while watching the movies. Love the holiday lights? Take a driving tour of the lights in your city. Love to sing? Go caroling with your family and neighbors and take a plate of cookies to the elderly.

3. Set a menu and a meal plan. If you know you are hosting the big meal, are contributing to a potluck, and/or will have family around for a few days, time to meal plan. Remember to include some of the family favorites, have a soup night, a leftover night, and a pizza night! This way you know what to buy, how much to budget, and you can buy in one trip. Hopefully, you will avoid having to send someone to the grocery store!

4. Make the big meals potluck. Big holiday meals can be such a strain on the host! To make this holiday season easy on everyone, make the meal a potluck. You can still make the meat and a side, but assign someone to bringing bread, salads, appetizers, side dishes, desserts, and even drinks. The variety is great and your day will be much easier (and cheaper)!

5. Do Not Buy Your Wrapping Paper or Christmas Cards Until After Christmas! This should go without saying, but buy your wrapping paper and cards after the holidays for the following year. You can save 50-75% off!

6. Use what you have for decorations. More than likely, you do not need any more decorations. Personally, I have enough decorations for three trees and I only put one. Not to much the knick-knacks, the garland, and the million of other holiday things I have. You are probably in the same boat. Get creative and ban yourself from buying anymore Christmas decorations!

7. Stick with homemade goodies instead of store bought. You can plan ahead and freeze the cookies that can be frozen. Store bought goodies look so good, but those cookies and cakes are so expensive. The inflated cost on them is ridiculous! If you are a novice baker, offer to host a cookie swap. Everyone can bake together or just bring what they baked. Then you can swap with each other and bring home some different and delicious goodies!

8. Think simple in terms of decorations, food, and festivities. It is much more frugal to be simple in your approach to the holidays. Going overboard is nothing but a big pain in the wallet! You might like to "wow" your guests, but your guests will appreciate whatever you serve and your presentation. The point of the festivities is to spend time together! Going overboard can complicate that and make your guests feel overwhelmed or inadequate.

9. Have small, intimate gatherings instead of big parties. Everyone will get more quality time together, the food and drink expenses will be cheaper, and you won't have the potential clean-up expenses from a large crowd. You could go a step further and specify "no gifts" to keep the costs down more. This is about spending time together during the holidays, not about who can spend the most.


10. Ditch the matching holiday outfits. Unless you can truly afford it, ditch the cute Christmas dresses for little girls and stop trying to find matching pajamas for everyone in the family. I have heard of people spending hundreds of dollars just for everyone to match and look just so. You are trying to save money, not spend more! The cute little holiday dresses only get worn a few times before the season is over. If you are lucky, you can pass them down. Otherwise, the dresses and the outgrown pajamas end up being donated or thrown away. Just avoid it! Save your money!

These tips are just small things you can do to save money over the holidays, but they can save you a lot of money! Little things can add up in terms of spending and saving money. Christmas is a great time to show your love and appreciation of those around you, but keep the spending within your budget. Do not let the little things and the desire to impress others ruin your budget!

What do you do to save money during the holidays?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Birth and Baby Preparedness: 20 Things You Need To Have!


Getting ready for a baby can be difficult in normal circumstances. Add in a crisis or a disaster and you have to be even more ready! Even if you don't have a baby in the house, I recommend having a basic birth kit and a baby kit just in case. You never know who could be coming over or stranded at your home and will need these items!

Most of this list is very basic. I recommend keeping, if not all, most of this on hand. However, I can understand not wanting to keep a breast pump or a car seat in your storage. I had no use for a breast pump, but you never know. If a new mother has trouble with breast feeding, you might want one on hand and/or keep a small can of formula to help supplement.


20 Things You Need To Have To Be Ready For The Baby! 


1. A Birth Kit. I would specifically look for a home birth kit so you can have the basics on hand. A tape measure and a hanging weight scale would also be handy for getting the baby's measurements and to keep track of the weight for the first few weeks. I would also keep some sanitary pads and some pain reliever for the new mother. 

2. Diapers - cloth or disposable. A small pack of newborn and size 1 diapers should be fine.

3. Breast Pump and Pads.

4. Formula and Bottles. I recommend keeping a small can and a pack of bottles. 

5. Blankets. 3-4 receiving blankets and 2-3 warm blankets work great. 

6. Baby Food and/or a Food Mill. Babies typically do not start eating food until six months, but I still recommend having some in your food storage

7. Baby Wipes. A box or two will suffice although these are great to have on hand if the power goes out and you need to clean your face and hands.

8. Clothing Including Hats. 1-2 hats, a package of onesies, 3-4 sleepers, and a few socks will keep the baby warm and toasty. A sleep sack will also help at bedtime and naptime.

9. Soap to Wash and Sanitize.

10. Baby pain reliever and fever reducer.

11. Teething rings. Again, this will not be needed for a few months, but they are handy to have on hand when the baby is teething or needing to gum something to death.

12. Bibs and Burping Cloths.

13. Diaper Rash Ointment and/or Baby Powder.

14. Crib or someplace for a baby to sleep.

15. Car Seat.

16. Toys and Books.

17. Baby Fingernail Clippers.

18. Nose Syringe.


20. Digital Thermometer designed for babies.

Other ideas to make a new mother's life easier:

1. Some form of baby wearing carrier - sometimes it is handy to have a way to be hands free while still holding the baby.

2. Pacifiers or something for self soothing

3. A bouncy seat or someplace safe for a baby to stay and be entertained.

4. Dreft or a gentle laundry detergent that can be used on babies

You don't need a lot to be ready for a baby, but these essentials will make welcoming the baby easier on you and the new parents! In case of emergency, you will be ready for it anytime. I recommend storing these essentials (except the crib and car seat) in a five gallon bucket or a storage tote. You can find many of these things at garage sales and thrift shops, making your cost for this low. 

What would you add to this list? 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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