Sunday, November 11, 2018

Is It Time For A Financial Reset? 15 Tips For You To Reset Your Finances


Sometimes you go through life like you own it. You have your priorities right, your life in order, and everything going well.

Then, wham! You get hit with a medical emergency. You lose your spouse. You get divorced or separated. You have to suddenly move. You are faced with bills you did not realize you owed and now are in collections.

Life happens. You can control a lot of what happens in your life, but there is a lot you cannot control. You always hope you have enough in savings and/or insurance to cover whatever can happen, but sometimes you just don't have enough.

So what do you do? You can do several things to scale back and correct your finances. Below are some tips to get your financial life back in order and do what you can to get back on your feet again. None of these are quick fixes. Some of these tips will look like they are from Dave Ramsey and they are. He is definitely worth listening to when it comes to finances!

15 Tips For You To Reset Your Finances

1. Start a spending freeze or at least stop all unnecessary spending. This is one tip you can implement right away. No unnecessary spending for at least a week, but a month would be more ideal. You should sit down and make a list of necessary purchases. Be severe and strict about the spending freeze.

2. Start a budget or rework the budget you have. Sometimes our budgets work until they don't. Sometimes our finances change so much that we just need to rework the budget or start over with a new budget. That happens. You need to sit down and write down all income and expenses and make a workable budget. You might have to tweak the budget for a few months until you get it right. You also need to remember to plan for future expenses so you are saving for them.

3. Say no to yourself and your kids. The budget doesn't work if you do not practice self-control and self-discipline. Sit down with your family and discuss what is going on with your finances. You will not need to tell your kids all the details. Just let them know that you will not be spending money on anything unnecessary. However, you also need to tell them that they can come to you with any requests or concerns because they may need something necessary and you don't want them to be scared to ask.

4. Watch and read anything and everything you can find on extreme frugality. You are going to need the tips from it. There may be some things you don't think you can do, but you can save a lot of money if you need to.

5. Take inventory of what food you have. If you are finding your finances to be really tight, now is the time to dip into your food storage. One area of your budget you can really skimp and save on is your grocery budget. Start using your food storage, eating more from the garden, cooking from scratch and stretch your food as far as possible.

6. Comb over your bills. Where exactly is your money going? Are you paying for multiple same or like things? Do you really need satellite/cable television along with streaming services? Are you paying for things you are not using? Are you paying for unlimited data on your phones and internet at home? Make the necessary eliminations and move forward with the saved money.

7. Buy used before new. Your kid needs black pants for a school event? Go to the thrift store first or ask friends. There is no reason for you to run out and buy a new pair when you can buy used. You need to develop that mentality for this financial reset. Be sure you borrow or buy used anything you can in order to save or not spend money at all.

8. Sell what you don't need. You need the money back into your budget. You probably have debts that need to disappear. What do you have that you don't need? A lot of people have more vehicles than they do drivers. Sell the extra vehicles or, if you can, reduce down to one vehicle. You will save money on insurance and maintenance that way. What do you have that you can sell otherwise? This would be a good time to declutter and sell off the excess.

9. Shop around for insurance and other services. More often than not, you are paying for more insurance than you need. You are also probably paying higher premiums. Insurance companies rarely reward customers for loyalty anymore. Shop around for a cheaper rate. You can do this yourself or use an experienced independent agent to get the job for you. If you are driving a vehicle older than ten years, consider dropping down to minimum insurance.

10. Are you renting or purchasing your home? Are you paying for way more space than you need? Sometimes we do want the nicer things in life and our housing situations are no different. However, by moving to a less expensive place, you could be saving a lot of money and helping your budget significantly. There is no reason to be impressing the Jones at this point in the game. Don't think your home will sell or you can get out of your lease? You could move and rent your home for the cost of your mortgage payment or sublease your rental for the same cost. Just a thought.

11. Now is a good time to re-examine what gives you joy in life. Many people have expensive hobbies which cost money to do and to maintain. If you can't hardly afford your bills and groceries, the motorcycles, boats, trips, and more need to go. Selling them would help to pay more debt and build up your savings. You also need to think about how much you drink, smoke, gamble, and other addictions. They all cost a lot of money over time and your budget (and you!) would be better off without them.

12. Unsubscribe and delete anything that will derail your restructured budget. I do mean anything that will tempt you. You think you can look and resist. Then comes the rabbit hole. Throw away any flyers that aren't grocery flyers. If you really need to look at them, you can always look them up on the internet. Immediately delete and unsubscribe from all the sites that tempt you to look. Your budget will thank you!

13. Even though you have set a strict budget, it is hard to stick to it for a while. Many people have success with the cash envelope system. You put a set amount of money into the cash envelopes and you stick to that amount. When the cash is gone, you are done. If you find yourself absolutely needing more cash, you probably need to re-examine how much money you have put away for that category. Your budget probably needs to be adjusted.

14. Use the 7-day rule. If you really think you need to purchase something, commit to waiting seven days. After seven days, ask yourself if you really need that item especially if it will derail your budget. Most often than not, you do not need the item. Some people take this further and wait 14 or 30 days before deciding to make the purchase.

15. Do not let your lifestyle define your budget and your finances. Too many people think they need to keep up appearances or maintain a certain lifestyle. This doesn't work when you are trying to reset your finances. More than likely, your "lifestyle" is what got you into the mess you are in, but you are blaming it on other things. Now is the time to let go of the life you thought you had to live so you can get right with your finances.

Resetting your finances can be hard. You may have to make some hard decisions to keep the wolves away from the door. However, you can do it!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
10 Frugal Living Goals You Should Be Making This Year
Is it A Need or Want? What Should You Spend Your Money On?


Friday, November 2, 2018

55 Ways To Save Money on Your Utility and Water Bills


The single biggest expense most households have are their utility and water bills. Sometimes those two bills combined are more expensive than the mortgage. Sometimes those two bills are the same as the mortgage and monthly groceries. In other words, they are just expensive.

In the twenty plus years of paying for a utility bill and growing up in a house that was very conscious of its water and electrical use, I have learned some tips and tricks to drive down the costs of those bills. Some of these tips will not cost you a thing and will provide immediate results. Some results will not be immediately seen. For some of these tips, you will need to pay to save. You will need to purchase items will that will pay for themselves in the future.

I realize some towns/cities/companies have minimum usages for utilities and water. If you are above the minimum usages, you want to get down to those if you can. You can also call and try to negotiate the minimum usage amount, but most places do not allow that.

55 Ways To Save Money on Your Utility and Water Bills

1. Shut off the lights. Most houses are lit up like they are a light show. If you are not in the room, shut off the lights. Use lamps, oil lamps, or candles instead of overhead lights to save money. During the day, use natural lighting.

2. Unplug the small appliance especially the ones with lights or a display. They draw power even though they are not in use.

3. Hang your laundry instead of using the clothes dryer. You can hang inside or outside depending on your weather. Hanging inside during the winter also provides some needed humidity too if you live where it is cold.

4. Plant trees to shade your home. Tree shade keeps a home cooler and is better for the environment.

5. Fix your leaking faucets. You lose a lot of water with a leaking faucet. If you have well water, you are losing electricity too by keeping the well pump running.

6. Use low flow showerheads. These also help save money and you still have good water pressure for a great shower.

7. Clean or replace the faucet aerators (screen on the end of your faucet) to use less water.

8. Replace old dying appliances with new (or newer) energy efficient ones.

9. Use your grill or firepit to cook a meal instead of the stove.

10. Have a no television, no electronic times of the day. Extend this further by having a no television week every month. Not having the television on will save money and using electronics less will save on charging times.

11. Plastic on the windows during the winter to cut down on drafts and keep the house warmer.

12. Set the thermostat lower in the winter and higher in the summer when you are gone from the home.

13. Set the thermostat two degrees lower than usual in the winter and two degrees higher than usual in the summer to save money.

14. Get an energy audit done by your local utility company. They will tell you where you can make changes and often you get a free kit for the having the audit done. The audit isn't always free though.

15. Turn down the water heater to 120 degrees or lower yet. You can still take a hot shower with 120-degree water.

16. Set a timer for showers. Most people do not need more than ten minutes for a shower. Teenagers seem to forget this so set a timer.

17. Only flush your toilet every 2-3 trips. You know the saying, "If it is yellow, let it mellow. If it is brown, flush it down." You do not need to flush the toilet every time you pee. Worried about pets or toddlers? Use a toilet lid lock so they can not get into the toilet.

18. Put a brick covered in plastic wrap in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water needed to flush.

19. Have a leaky toilet? Replace the seal, replace the float, and/or replace the toilet. If you are replacing the toilet, definitely spend the money for the low flow toilets. Most of those toilets use less than two gallons of water per flush.

20. Save the warm-up water from your showers. You can use this normally wasted water for flushing toilets (shut off the water to the toilet first) or watering plants.

21. Check your water heater. Have the water heater serviced or learn how to service it yourself. Flush the water heater out once a year to remove sentiment. If it is over 20 years old, consider replacing it with a tankless water heater or something much more energy efficient.

22. Warm your water heater with an insulated blanket if it is in an unheated basement or room to reduce heat loss from the tank. You can also wrap the pipes coming from the water heater to prevent heat loss further which causes your water heater to work harder.

23. Set up a rain catchment system. Catching rainwater to use for watering lawns and plants is certainly going to save you a lot of money. Some cities/townships/counties/states do not allow for this practice so check your local laws. You may need to have it flow into hidden tanks if you want to do this.

24. Check the seals on your doors. You can lose a lot of hear/air from doors that are not properly sealed. Replace the seals if you can. If they are doors you do not use, seal them off completely.

25. Close off rooms you do not use. Unless there are pipes in those rooms, you can shut off those rooms. Close off the heat vents and close the door. You can always open them back up and turn the vent on again if you need to use those rooms.

26. Switch out any old electrical plug-ins and light switches. Most of them become weak over time and do not securely hold the plugs in right.

27. Use thermal lined or insulated curtains to keep rooms cool or warm depending on the season.

28. Use solar power whenever possible. You may not be able to purchase a large system, but you can take advantage of solar chargers or small solar panels to run small appliances.

29. Use a wood stove or a wood cookstove instead of electric or gas to keep your home warm and cook your meals. Some insurances do not allow wood stoves so you will need to check into this and maybe switch insurance companies.

30. Fill your sink with water when washing dishes. Fill one side or a tub with wash water and the other side with rinse water. You waste more water by running the faucet than you do with just filling the sink.

31. Use draft stoppers on doors. If you do have a bad seal on a door or an inside door leading to an unheated area, you can make or purchase a draft stopper to seal off the door better.

32. Wear more clothes in the winter and fewer clothes in the summer. Most people do not want to be uncomfortable. However, you can add layers of clothes in the winter to keep the heat bill down. There is also nothing wrong with wearing a fleece jacket, stocking cap, and fingerless gloves inside the house in the winter.

33. Add more blankets to beds in the winter to keep the heat down overnight.

34. Only shower every other day if you can. A good deal of people do not need to shower every day. Most kids under the age of twelve only need to shower or bath 2-3 times a week. Most people just do not get dirty enough or gross enough to shower every day. However, if you do get really dirty and/or sweaty every day, shower. If you have an illness in the house, please shower or bath as often as possible.

35. You do not need to wash your bedding every week. Save your water bill and wash your bedding every 2-3 weeks. If you are worried about the sheets being gross, shower before bedtime or sleep on a towel.

36. Only run full loads of dishes in the dishwasher and full loads of laundry in the washing machine. With most washing machines, you can at least adjust the level load to keep the water usage down. However, you will save money on your electrical bill by only running these machines with full loads.

37. Kids do not need a full bathtub to get cleaned. Save your water bill some more by only using no more than five inches of water in the bathtub. If they are toddlers or preschoolers, you can use even less water.

38. Keep rooms clean and uncluttered. If the rooms are dirty and cluttered, they will take more energy to heat because they are trying to heat your stuff too.

39. If you are using the oven, try cooking multiple things in the oven at the same time to conserve power. If you are baking a casserole, plan to bake bread or bars at the same time. You can also put potatoes or vegetables into roast for another meal.

40. Have blankets available to use and cover-up. You can keep the heat lower while everyone is just sitting in the living room watching television.

41. Wear clothes more than once to keep your laundry down and use less water. Most of our clothing can be worn more than once (yes, undergarments are the exception). Unless you get gross and dirty, you can wear clothes at least twice if not more. You can wear the same pair of pajamas all week.

42. Open your windows instead of using the air conditioner. Most people need to air out their homes on a regular basis anyway. Unless you live in a really dirty area or have severe allergies, you should be opening your windows to save money.

43. Look for opportunities to shut off your heat or air conditioning. Unless it is really humid or hot (over 85 degrees), I keep the air conditioner shut off and will open the windows if I can. The heater gets shut off if the outside temp is over 60 degrees during the fall, winter, and spring. Most of the time, the heater will not run anyway because the inside temp will stay over 65 degrees during the day, but I like to shut it off and see how long we can go before turning it on. Once the inside temp drops below 58 degrees, I will turn it back on.

44. Are you using a small appliance for something you can do easily by hand? You can really nit-pick here, but you could use a manual can opener inside of an electric one. You can use a whisk instead of an electric mixer. The list goes on, but you are trying to save money. The little savings add up too.

45. If it is winter, keep moving. In the winter, we tend to get colder because we sit more. We naturally want to hibernate or do as little as possible. However, to keep your body heat up and the thermostat turned down, you need to keep moving. You can deep clean a room, clean house daily, and more. Just keep moving around.

46. If it is summer, consider energy conservation for yourself. In the summer, we tend to do things that make us hot and sweaty which causes us to turn the thermostat lower to stay cooler. Keep the heavy work for morning or late afternoon/evening. If you feel the need to heavy, sweaty work during the day, consider a cool shower or even an outdoor solar shower bag to cool off instead.

47. In the summer, cook outside or eat cool meals. Heating up the house will make us want to adjust the thermostat. Keep the cooking outside if you can. If you are a canner or caterer, consider installing an outdoor kitchen to keep the heat outside.

48. Unplug electronic devices after they are done charging. Most chargers still keep drawing power after they are done charging. Unplug them or put them on a power strip you can shut off so they are not drawing power anymore.

49. Use slow cookers, toaster ovens, and electric skillets instead of using your stovetop or oven. They use considerably less energy than a stovetop or oven.

50. Replace your standard light bulbs with a CFL or a LED bulb. Some bulbs are better than others, but all of them will save you money over the incandescent bulbs. I will say this: from experience, it is far better to invest money in the LED bulbs and get a better quality for better lighting. Going with cheap bulbs will more than likely result in less quality lighting.

51. Consider changing your outdoor lighting to LED or solar lights. We also use dusk to dawn lights and motion sensor lights. We replaced and added a good deal of our outdoor lights last year with no impact on the utility bill because we choose LED and solar lights.

52. If your furnace or central unit is over 20-25 years old, consider replacing it. The newer systems use considerably less energy and have many more options to make them a better fit for your home.

53. Insulate your attic. A contractor friend told me one time that most people could save a lot of money if they would just insulate their attics. A lot of homes have uninsulated attics and lose a lot of heat through those attics. Make sure you have at least 8-12 inches of insulation on your attic floor to keep the heat escaping through your roof. Be sure to check your insulation every few years because it can settle and collapse.

54. Borrow and use a kill a watt monitor and find out if you have any appliance or electronics that are sucking power without you being aware of how much. You would be surprised how much aquariums and dishwashers use.

55. Consider replacing your thermostats. After a time, they become unreliable and could be heating your house or rooms warmer than they should be. We replaced one a year ago after realizing that the room seemed very warm. Using a thermometer, we discovered the room was really almost 80 degrees instead of the 65 degrees the thermostat was set at. Every year, you should be checking to see if they are accurate by using a thermometer and checking the temperature.

This is just some of the ways you can save money on your utility and water bills. Some of these may be too extreme for some of you and that is okay. Some of these may cost too much money for you now to implement them. That is okay too. Just take care of them when you have some money saved up.

There are many, many more ways to save money on your utility and water bills too. I plan to have a part 2 coming, but I would love to hear your ideas! Please leave them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
Start Saving Money by Having A Poverty Mindset: Learn 25 Ways To Extreme Living and Saving! 
What Place Does Extreme Frugality Have In Your Life? Can You Live In Extreme Frugality?


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

10 Ways You Can Be A Self-Reliant Prepper


When you first start prepping, you think you have to spend a lot of money to be prepared. And in some ways, you do need to spend money to build up your food storage and purchase some necessary goods. However, at some point, spending money will not continue to make you a better prepper.

Being a good prepper is about learning the skills and using your knowledge to cope and survive in any situation or crisis that you are faced with. While being prepared for a large-scale disaster is a good thing, being prepared for the everyday situations and your own personal potential crisis takes more skills and knowledge than you could ever think possible. You need to become a self-reliant prepper.

Being able to rely on your own self is so important in prepping. A lot of preppers have groups or people that they can rely on and that is great. However, being a self-reliant prepper can bring a lot to the group too. So if you are a lone wolf or apart of a prepper group, being a self-reliant prepper is important.

10 Ways To Be A Self-Reliant Prepper

1. Buy used goods. This may not seem like a self-reliant skill, but it is. You are doing your part to stop the cycle of consumerism and keep perfectly good items out of the landfill. Beyond that, buying used goods helps the person or business you are purchasing them from. Usually, the person or business selling the used goods is a local person or a small business owner. By purchasing their items, you are helping to support the local economy and increasing someone else's self-reliance.

Here's the thing about prepping and being self-reliant: You may be able to produce most of your own goods and make things stretch for a very long time. However, at some point, you will need to purchase/trade/barter for some goods. You will need your local economy and you need to get to know your local economy. If you establish these relationships now, you will have a better chance of doing business after a crisis or an SHTF situation.

2. Mend your own clothes and other broken items. Fixing and mending items is a skill that most self-reliant preppers treasure and seek to grow every chance they are presented with. By fixing and mending your own things, you are decreasing your dependence on the economy. You should be fixing your own things instead of buying new every time something breaks.

3. Learn new skills - learn to be self-reliant. Self-reliance is not something you are born with. Some people may be more naturally inclined to be self-reliant, but most people have to learn how to be self-reliant. If you were raised in a self-reliant family, you are a step ahead of most people. However, not all is lost. You can learn skills and become self-reliant. Self-reliance is a conscious choice that you make every day. Learning new skills only increases your self-reliance.

4. Grow your own food and supplies. This is one of the most important things for being self-reliant. You need to be able to grow your food, have the ability to grow your own food and be actively practicing how to grow your own food. If you are able to, you should be raising your meat too whether that be just rabbits and chickens or even larger livestock. You should also be trying to grow herbs, medicinal plants, and more to provide for your needs.

5. Make your own things. We have already talked about mending and fixing your own things, but you also need to know how to make things too. Whether you are building a fence, building a shed, sewing new clothes, making salves and remedies, and more, you should be learning how and actively practicing these skills as much as you can to be self-reliant.

6. Cook from scratch. This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of people have no idea how to cook from scratch. They don't know how to take vegetables from the garden and make a meal from them. They still buy a lot of junk and/or processed foods from the store. Learn to cook from scratch now and actively use these skills every day. There may be some ingredients that you can not produce yourself like baking powder or baking soda. However, being the good prepper you are, you will have a good stockpile of those ingredients you cannot produce yourself!

7. Use your own power instead of gas or electric. In the case of a crisis or an SHTF, you will need to learn how to do a lot of things yourself because of fuel shortages or a lack of power. Being a good self-reliant prepper, you will understand that you may need to use your own strength and muscles to get the job done. Now would be a good time to start thinking of ways to do things yourself and getting into shape so you can. You can also set up solar and wind power solutions to produce your own power, but sometimes you will need to conserve those too. I would make sure you have hand tools to fix things and be purchasing or building non-electric/non-fuel powered items to do the work.

8. Read  - increase your knowledge. Learning and doing is some of the best ways to increase your knowledge, but having a library of books will give you the knowledge you need to start learning and doing. I would encourage you to build up a physical library with several good reference books. You can find a lot of books used through eBay, Amazon, thrift stores, and garage sales. Then you should sit down and read at least 1-2 chapters of a book a day to help you in your quest for self-reliant living.

9. Learn to make your own medicines, cures, and remedies. I also know this has been brought up already to learn how to do, but this needs its own discussion. We talked about growing your ingredients and making your own salves and remedies. However, you need to be growing your knowledge of how to treat simple ailments and injuries. You should be making and using things to help boost your immunity, help with colds and coughs, treat ear infections naturally, and more.

You should be lessening your dependence on conventional medicines and doctors if you can. You should be eating well and being active as well which helps your overall health tremendously. Too many people run to the doctor for things that could be dealt with at home because they want a quick fix. Most illnesses cannot be treated with a quick fix, but with home remedies and time.

Resources: 
Prepper's Natural Medicine: Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils, and Natural Remedies for When There is No Doctor by Cat Ellis
The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not On The Way by Joseph and Amy Alton

*I am not a medical professional. If you have serious ailments and injuries, you should be seeking medical intervention. Some things cannot be cured at home and even the pioneers sought medical attention when necessary.

10. Simply life - want less, need less. We are so accustomed to giving what we want when we want it. We often buy or procure a lot of things we don't actually need. We own a lot of things we don't use. We see the latest prepping (or other) gadget and think we need to have it to be prepared. The truth is we don't need nearly as much as we think we do.

Being self-reliant does not mean you need buildings and a basement full of junk. The two things you need most in your journey to be a self-reliant prepper is your brain and your hands. The rest of the things you need to be self-reliant are tools and things that will help you be self-reliant. There will be tools and things you need. You need jars for canning. You need tools to fix things. You need candles, lamps, and flashlights for lighting.

I could keep going on, but you need to distinguish between your needs and wants. Then, to be self-reliant, you need to want less and try to need less.

This all being said, you want to be a self-reliant prepper. However, this has its limitations too. You shouldn't be so self-reliant that you cannot or will not ask for help if you need it. Sometimes the costs of doing something yourself is far more expensive than just buying the item or hiring the work done. Only you will be able to know the difference and act accordingly. Sometimes you may not have the knowledge on how to do something and need to learn. You should not be so prideful and into your self-reliance that you cannot ask someone to show you how to do that particular skill. You should not be afraid to ask for help.

What ways do you practice being a self-reliant prepper?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
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Sunday, October 28, 2018

For Better or Worse, I Am Not The Same Prepper I Was Five Years Ago


Lately, I have been going through a lot of stuff. You might say I have been decluttering, but the truth is I have been taking stock of what I have. I have a lot of supplies. I took stock of what I owned, what I should purchase, and let go of a few things. The same goes for books, papers, notes, and anything else prepping related. I took notes on prepping things five and ten years that I find are no longer relevant to me and have let them go. I have preparedness items that I know now I will never use and have found new homes for them.

Nowadays I don't keep every darn thing that comes in my path in the event that I might use it someday. I don't want to look like a hoarder so I carefully consider what I keep and will use. I don't want to have so much stuff that I can't find what I need to use especially in a time of crisis. I am learning to say no to a lot of free things if I can not think of a good reason to have them. Once upon a time though I was not like that. When I first started prepping and even a few years ago, I would take and keep almost everything offered to me. I might be able to use it.

To say that I am not the same prepper that I was five and ten years ago would be an understatement. I am a different person nowadays with different priorities, focus, and viewpoints. We all change after a while and that is usually a good thing.

What has changed in my prepping?

I have more knowledge and skills. I have broadened my interests in prepping and branched out into homesteading and self-sufficiency. I can do so much more than I could five years ago.

My priorities have changed. My life has changed a lot in five years. I now have two adult children with their own lives. We have lived through the college years and will be doing so for another eight years with the youngest two. We have high school for another four(ish) years. I don't have little kids to worry about anymore unless you count the grandchildren. I am a little more focused on prepping for fewer people with the idea that I could be preparing for more people being here. However, now I buy Christmas presents for the adult children with an eye towards prepping minded gifts.

The more prepared I think I am, the less I worry about world events. While I still do worry about problems with our own country, what happens on the world stage worries me less. I still gear my prepping towards job loss and national financial crisis as well as weather-related events. I am still preparing for pandemics, power outages, grid down events, and having to be without services for a period of time.  I still gear my prepping towards learning skills, gaining knowledge, and stockpiling.

However, while I may be worried about what could happen, I don't panic about it. I am secure in my way of thinking, how much I have prepared, and what needs to be done. I don't let fear and panic control my prepping and drive me to make foolish purchases. If anything, I ask myself if I could live without it or have something else to substitute in its place. I find myself being a lot more creative in my prepping.

The need to prepare and constantly be doing something is so ingrained in me that it is just second nature. I will never sit back and think I am totally prepared. I doubt I will ever get to that point. However, I am still constantly preparing and I don't give it much thought. Learning new things has always been a passion of mine so I don't question learning something new in the name of preparing. I just think of it as learning something new and fun. I am always buying a few extra things and pursuing the clearance racks for extra preps. If I see a good deal at the grocery store, I stock up and put it in my food pantry. To me, that is just part of my shopping.

I like to challenge myself now. How long can I go before going to the grocery store? (Right now, two weeks if I am planning ahead. I still have two hungry teenagers!) How many ways can I stretch food? How many ways can I preserve food? What can I use in place of (something) so I don't have to go to the store? Can I grow it or make it myself? Can I fix it myself? What would I do if the trucks couldn't run or the power was out?

I just don't panic much anymore. I don't let fear drive my prepping purchases. There are things that worry me and I prepare for them. However, I don't find myself running to the store just stock up because so and so is happening. Usually, that thing that caused me to panic turns out to be nothing that is going affect me. Prepping is an insurance policy for what could happen, but worrying about the end of the world or a nuclear holocaust is not going to serve me. Most likely, those events would not be events that you could be prepared for even if you did survive. Nowadays, I just focus on what I can control and worry about things that are more likely to happen than the world ending events.

Why do I say all of this? I see a lot of new preppers who are literally worried about everything when they start prepping. I can certainly understand and relate to their panic. They weren't prepared and now it feels like they need to be prepared for everything by tomorrow. They don't really understand when experienced preppers say to take prepping one day at a time and focus on doing a little every day. Someday they will lose that panicked feeling and realize that they can prepare at their own rate unless something like a hurricane is coming their way.

(Want to prepare, but don't know how to start? Check out my book here about prepping on a budget and in a year!)

You can only do what you can when you can. You should not rack up credit card debt trying to be prepared all at once. While having stuff and a food stockpile is great, learning knowledge and skills will benefit you just as much if not more. While it seems like you need to be prepared by tomorrow because there are fear mongering preppers who will tell you that, you don't need to be. Likely, what you are preparing for will not happen tomorrow or the day after that. If you are facing a natural disaster, you need to be prepared as soon as the first warnings from the local weather service indicate some bad is coming. Even then, focus on the basics. Two weeks of food and water. Make sure your shelter, warmth, and lighting are ready to go.

One of the biggest things that have changed in my prepping is that I really want to see other people prepared. I used to not care if others were prepared, but that has changed. The more people that are prepared means the better the prepper community is. While there are a few "crazy" preppers, mostly it is people like you and me that prepare for the common every day things that could happen. The more experienced preppers want to see and help new preppers as much as we can. We did not prepare in one day or even one month. We don't expect others to prepare that way either.

So yes I am not the same prepper I was five years ago. I wouldn't want to be because I have grown a lot as a person and a prepper. I know what direction I want to go to prepping and I love the directions prepping have taken me. I love the people I have met in real life and online who help and encourage so many people in their prepping journey. I am thankful for the groups and forums that help and guide new and experienced preppers in their quest to be better prepared. Prepping is so much more accepted now than just a few years ago and that has changed prepping for the better.

So now I have a few questions for you. How have you changed as a prepper during your prepping journey? How long have you been prepping?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
I Have Been Prepping For Five Years, Now What? A Review Checklist for the Long-Term Prepper
The 10 Cold, Hard, Ugly Truths About Prepping


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What Direction Should You Take In Prepping?


I am at a little bit of a crossroads in my preparedness journey. I know which way I lean in prepping, but I am now in a bit of a indecision. I know what I want to accomplish, but how far do I want to go?

I have spent (or wasted depending on your viewpoint) a fair amount of time on prepping groups and forums. For the most part, people just want to be prepared for everyday life and the craziness that can happen. They want to know they have the supplies on hand and the knowledge to survive 1-6 months without suffering much. They want to be able to handle natural disasters, some manmade disasters, job loss, financial impacts, and health scares. They want the comfort and the knowledge that they will be fine if something happens.

Most people will stop there in preparedness. There is nothing wrong with that. Actually, if all people wanted to be prepared to that level, the world would be a better place. Agencies like FEMA would be used for their true purpose in disasters and not to save and feed the people who didn't want to be prepared. If you lost your job or had a bad gardening year, you would be able to feed yourself without a lot of hardship. If you were without water for 2-3 days, you would still be able to have water to drink and cook with. Life's problems would be hard, but manageable with your preps.

However, there are preppers who would like to take their preparedness to the next level so to say. Most of the time, in their pursuit of prepping knowledge, they realize they want to be more self-sufficient, more self-reliant, and more independent. They want to learn about and become homesteaders, survivalists, and/or off-grid living enthusiasts. They feel the need to be more reliant on themselves to be prepared and less reliant on a system that looks like it is doomed to fail.

Prepping creates a sense of independence that cannot be replaced by anything else. You are reliant on yourself and know that in most situations you can care for yourself and your loved ones. You won't need to be saved. You won't be waiting for family, a government agency, or a private organization to have water, food, clothing, or other goods. You might not have everything you need, but you will be able to take care of the basics. That is a good feeling.

Some preppers want to take that sense of independence a step further. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I encourage it. I started out being interested in food storage and going from there to homesteading and self-reliance. I like being able to grow and preserve my own food. I might not be able to produce all my own food, but I won't go hungry. I enjoy raising chickens for eggs and will be venturing into meat birds. I take pride in having 3-6 months of food stockpiled in case of hard times. I enjoy that sense of independence and learning the skills that will help me even more in the future.

There is no right or wrong way to prepare despite what other preppers may tell you. I will tell you to keep going the way that feels right to you as long as you are not infringing on my rights or other people's rights. If you are happy with just food storage, water storage, emergency supplies, and a way to shelter and heat your space, good for you. You are miles ahead of most people in an emergency situation. If you want to take that preparedness further and explore survivalism or homesteading, good for you. You might find out you like it or you might find out you aren't cut out for that life. Your choices are only for the benefit of you and your family. Being prepared is for the benefit of the greater good.

Now there are some directions in prepping that I will not condone. Some people just plan to stockpile guns and vehicles so they can steal from hardworking folks. Stealing is wrong in any form. I have a hard time condoning it even in times of chaos. Terrorizing people to get what you want is wrong. Threatening people to give you what is theirs is wrong. For those who have marauding as their prepping plan, you really need to rethink your plans. You might not like what you encounter from those folks who actually did the work.

Some people just plan for others to do the prepping for them in exchange for leading a group of preppers. They believe they have the knowledge of skills and leadership to be in charge. They know better than anyone how to distribute resources and assign jobs. I don't believe in this direction of prepping either. Sure, prepping communities are a good thing and strongly encouraged by most preppers. However, if you are not actively stockpiling, prepping, and practicing yourself, you should not expect others to do the work for you. What happens when your plans fall apart? What if you can't meet with your team? Then you will be a prepping leader without preps.

Whatever direction you choose in prepping, choose the direction that feels right for you. Only you can decide how far you want to go. You might decide to just stick with food storage and emergency supplies. You might decide to have more than a month's worth of food and want to have six (or longer) months worth of food. You might decide to install a rainwater catchment system in addition to storing water in containers. You might decide to start gardening or set up a homestead. You might decide to learn more about being a survivalist.

There are a lot of directions you can go in preparedness. The choices are for you to make. You have to decide to do what is best for you and your family. You have to decide what feels right. Just know this - you have already made the decision to start preparing and becoming prepared. You are already doing the right thing. Anywhere you decide to go from here is only going to make you a better prepper.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
For Women, Prepping is More Than Just Being Prepared
10 Non-Perishable Food Preps You Should Be Buying Every Month

Saturday, October 13, 2018

For Women, Prepping Is More Than Just Being Prepared


Everyone should be preparing. Young and old. Men, women, and children. Everyone should be preparing. However, I especially encourage women to be preppers.

Women can be seen as being weak, irrational, incapable, and more derogatory terms that are not even remotely truthful. Women can be seen as the weaker sex. Women can be seen as less than (anyone) which is just wrong considering all the progress that has been made towards equality. What makes this doubly wrong is that history has shown that women have run large households, did the barn chores, ran businesses, did all the outside work, and were more than capable for filling in for the men when wartime or other problems happened.

Don't get me wrong. I am not a feminist. I will never be unappreciative about a door being opened for me. I will never turn down a nice dinner out or be mad because I got flowers. I will also never turn down a guy who wants to carry something heavy for me. None of those things make me think that I (or another woman) am less than capable or being demeaned. It means a guy was raised right to do something nice for a woman.

Prepping helps people to think about what could happen and be as ready for it as much as they can. Prepping is actually a natural fit for women. Women are usually thinking ahead to anticipate their needs as well as the needs of others. The wiring in most women's brains is set for thinking ahead and being ready for it.

When you become a mother, you think of everything you might and will need for the baby. When you leave the house, you have all the things you think you will need for yourself, your significant other, the baby, and/or other children. If you have a partner or spouse, most women will think of their needs as well or more than their own. That is being prepared for anything that may happen.

In a way, women are natural worriers but we don't always realize it. However, being a worrier helps to be a better prepper. When you worry, you think of everything that can happen or you may need. Then you gather those things and have them with you or stored in your home/bag so you don't have to worry anymore. That is being prepared.

In the prepping community, women are encouraged to be prepared but often encouraged to be more like the men. Men tend to prepare in many different ways, but they have a tendency towards survivalist and bushcrafting skills. While it is worthwhile for women to know these skills, I think women are better suited to be prepared for everyday problems as well as long-term problems. We tend to think about what could happen today, tomorrow, and in the future in a more domestic atmosphere. There is nothing wrong with this thinking.

Women can and do think about catastrophic events, but the reality is that natural disasters, job loss, income loss, loss of support and community tend to worry women more than the grid going down or a solar flare. Again, not that we shouldn't be worried those cataclysmic things, but the things that would affect their daily lives and their reality now worry them more. Again, there is nothing wrong with this thinking.

Being prepared for women is more than just being prepared. For women, preparedness gives them a sense of safety and security. If something bad happens, you know you can handle it. You have food and water to provide for yourself and your loved ones. You have the supplies on hand to weather most storms (literally and figuratively). For women, feeling safe and secure is two of the best feelings in the world. Being prepared only enhances those feelings.

Many people (including husbands, partners, and family) do not understand why women prepare or even start preparing. People don't always get it that women want to have a sense of safety and security. By prepping, women create that sense of safety and security. For most women, we want to know that we are taking care of our loved ones the best we can. We want to create those feeling for everyone around us. That is why women should prepare and why we do prepare.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts: 
You Have Lessons To Learn From Those That Survived The Great Depression
10 Ways To Prep When Real Life Gets In The Way


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Small Batch Canning: Saving Time, Money, and Sanity!


Wouldn't it be wonderful if you had time during the garden harvest to can all day, every day? When you see super awesome deals on produce at the store, you could purchase them and can them right away when you get home?

You don't have that kind of time? Me neither.

A lot of people ask how I get so much canning done when I am busy with a full-time job and kids. I have a good sized garden and we like to eat fresh produce from it. However, I plant tomatoes and cucumbers with the sole purpose of canning them. I like to take the extra garden bounty and preserve it so we aren't wasting food. However, I don't have time for marathon canning sessions. Even on the weekends, I have plenty of other things on my to-do list besides canning.

I practice the time-saving practice of small batch canning. If I can preserve something every day or night, I can get a lot of canning done. I can keep up with my garden better by small batch canning.  I am not waiting for a lot of tomatoes to be done at once. I can wait for 6-9 pounds of tomatoes to be ripe and can them according to my recipes.

When the beginning and end of the gardening season occurs, I can also use small batch canning to keep up with the garden. Did I mention I am not a fan of food waste? I don't like watching the garden to wait for enough to can when I can do a few jars here and there. I do put away some produce in the freezer to wait for enough produce to can, but I try to avoid doing that because of the quality of the product after it has been frozen.

With small batch canning, I can use a lot of shortcuts or I can spend more time on a recipe. Since I am not one for complicated canning recipes (and have a strong love for Mrs. Wage's packets), I choose to do simple canning recipes that do not take a long time to cook on the stove. I don't mind long canning times, but long cooking times and long canning times can take more time than I have on a weeknight. I also like that I can experiment with different or unusual canning recipes if I have the ingredients on hand. You might like to make the standard strawberry jam, but with small batch canning, you can make strawberry vanilla or strawberry blueberry jam. You are only making a few jars which means you have less waste if you don't like the new recipes.

How does small batch canning save money? Wasting food is wasting money which is heartbreaking to a frugal person. By small batch canning almost every day, you save money and help to prevent food waste. You might think you are spending more money on electricity and/or gas by canning every night. However, you are using the same amount of power as you would be canning all day for several days.

You can also control the amount of money you spend to can your produce. You will have a better idea of how many jars you need and if you need to buy more. You will be able to buy your extra ingredients as you need them or you can stock up at a good price knowing how you need.

Do you need any special equipment for small batch canning? As I talked about in this canning post, you will still need the basic canning equipment as well as canning jars, lids, and rings. However, instead of the big water canner, you can use a smaller stockpot. You can also use an electric pressure cooker instead of the large pressure canner depending on how many jars you are canning. My electric pressure cooker can do four pint-size jars comfortably. I use a washcloth or folded small kitchen towel on the bottom of the pot so the jars do not rattle or bang too much. I like to can broth this way. 

You can also find some great books on small batch canning. These books specialize in smaller canning recipes and allow for safe experimenting in canning. The following books are excellent resources:

The Complete Book of Small-Batch Canning: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round
Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round
The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes

I hope you give some consideration to making canning simpler and less intimidating. So many people think they do not have time to can, but that is simply not true. Just like any other skill, you just need to break it down into smaller sections and do it simply. Small batch canning will definitely help you with that! 

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
What Do You Need To Start Canning Your Food?
The Prepper's Canning Guide Book Review


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