As much as I would like to say that money does not matter, it does. The reality is that most of us need money to buy food, put clothes on our backs, and pay for housing, utilities, healthcare, medicine and taxes. Even families that live 100% off grid and hunt and grow their own food rely on money for one thing or another.
In truth, the way we live our lives and the amount of money we need gets down to a matter of choices. And that, after all, is what Backdoor Survival is all about: having the knowledge and the wisdom to make the right choice for ourselves and our families without being judged as being right or wrong.
Having choices when it comes to spending is something all of us can do, regardless of where we fall in the economic strata. Rich, poor, or somewhere in between, we all get out of bed in the morning and face the day with financial decisions to make.
Today I offer up a dozen simple tips for saving money so that when faced with a choice, you will be better prepared to make the right financial decision for the time, place, and circumstance.
12 Simple Tips for Saving Money
1. If you have it, use it
Think about it. Over the years you have accumulated lots of stuff. Some of it may be a bit shop worn and out of style, but the stuff is still serviceable.
If it still works, use it. Don’t give in to the bombardment of ads encouraging you to go out and purchase the latest model or the next best thing. If money is burning a hole in your pocket, use it for something you truly need and not something you just want.
This applies to prepping gear, too! Before making a purchase, scope out what you have and buy what you need before you duplicate something you already own.
2. Shop for a bargain and get it cheaper
Research all of your major purchases and some of the minor ones, too. Check out online reviews and the recommendations of friends so that you can be an informed consumer. The reviews on Amazon are great and far more informative than an anonymous blogger who recommends something but provides no proof they actually own it. (This is a pet peeve of mine. Can you tell?)
Ask the clerks at the store when the item of interest will go on sale. Believe it or not, you will sometimes be offered a discount on the spot. This happened to us when we purchased a new freezer.
3. Used can be just as good as new
Sometimes it makes good sense to buy used. Furniture can be purchased for a song on Craigslist or at garage sales and sometimes you can get some pretty good stuff for free.
Another area where you can really save really is on clothing. Ebay is a gold mine for name brand clothing that is often new. Evening gowns, tuxedos, wedding wear and other dress-up items are especially cheap on eBay. On the other hand, be wary of used electronics since there is no substitute for hands on testing prior your purchase.
4. Learn to cook and bake
Restaurant meals can be a rat hole for cash. So is your local, specialty coffee shop. That is not to say that you should avoid eating and drinking out completely, but make those occasions a special treat rather than something you do because you are too tired or too lazy took cook.
Can’t cook? Get yourself a basic cookbook and call a friend over to help get you started. Once you start eating home cooked food, you will be hooked on how delicious those vegetables and salads taste.
Don’t overlook learning to bake your own breads and treats. Homemade baked goods are always better than store bought. Remember fresh baked chocolate chip cookies when your were a kid growing up?
5. Be a MacGyver and become a fix-it guru
Before sending that broken appliance to the garbage heap and replacing it with something new, try to fix it yourself. There are many web sites (www.fixya.com, www.instructables.com) that offer lots of how-to’s for fixing everything from your laser printer to your espresso machine. In addition, you can find service manuals for many products on line at the manufacturer’s web site.
Another thing you can do is call the manufacturers customer service number. Many times the company will guide you through troubleshooting steps or even send you free parts. I have found that this works especially well with plumbing issues.
6. Move fashion to the bottom of the list
Choose function over fashion. This is difficult, I know. But think about the item you intend to purchase and how it is going to be used. A fancy, Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer may look great on your counter, gorgeous actually, but if you only cook the basics and bake only simple items, a $15 hand mixer may be all that you need. This same concept applies to lots of things: clothing, TVs, jewelry, you name it. Yes, this even applies to cars.
7. Do it yourself
Mow your own lawn, clean your own house, give yourself a manicure, wash your own dog. Now if you truly hate to do something, don’t do it if you can afford to hire it out. Or better yet, trade a chore you detest with a chore that someone else dislikes. You both get the job done without spending a dime.
Life is too short to be miserable. But, for the most part, with a bit of time management, there are lots of things you can do yourself with just bit of effort. Paying for services you can do yourself is a great way to save of money.
8. Take advantage of freebies
Use public beaches, parks and trail systems for recreational activities. Use your public library. Go online and download geographically specific recreational guides and even preparedness manuals from your state and county web sites. None of these are technically free because your taxes have paid for them, but they are free in the sense you have no additional out of pocket costs.
Speaking of libraries, have you checked yours out lately? Most libraries now have a robust collection of eBooks, audio books, audio book players, music CDs, DVDs and more. If you don’t have a library with downloadable materials, there are many that will let you purchase an annual non-resident library card. You can do a web search or start here to find a library with a large collection of downloadable materials.
9. Get out of debt
This is obvious. Sure, you may have a mortgage payment and possibly a car payment. But credit card debt? I hope not, but, if you are saddled with credit card debt, come up with a one or two year plan to pay them off then toss them in a drawer, never to see daylight again unless there is a dire emergency. The old mantra “use your credit card . . .it is the same as cash” simply does not work any more. It never did.
Go back over the tips listed above. Use what you have. Fix it if it is broken. Choose function over fashion. Now put that credit card back in your wallet! Better yet, hide it in the back of your dresser drawer.
10. Build an emergency cash fund
Stuff happens. Your car has a mechanical breakdown and there is no other way to get to work or to town so you have to have it fixed. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a cookie jar full of bills so you can pay for the repairs? In the old days, this was called a rainy day fund. These days, it is called an emergency fund.
Much like prepping, this is one thing you can do using baby steps. How about one meal a week of beans, rice, and a nice chunk of healthy bread (that you have made yourself). This type of meal is extremely economical and you can dole the savings into your emergency fund. You will be surprised at how quickly $5 dollars a week adds up.
Of equal importance to the modest amount you are saving, is the fact that you are building a lifetime habit – one that will serve you well for many years to come and hopefully one that you will pass on to your children.
11. Save for the special things in life
Lest you think I am a Grinch, life should not be a total drudge. Every once in awhile, reward yourself for being frugal and thrifty. Indulge in an occasional treat, be it a pound of really good dark chocolate or a night out at the movies. For some, the special treat may be something a simple as a bouquet of flowers.
Life would be very boring if you did not reach out and do something extraordinary once in awhile. Go ahead. You have earned it.
12. Frugal is not a dirty word
Frugal is not cheap. And frugal is definitely not chintzy, Quite the contrary. Being frugal means that you have made a lifestyle choice to spend your money on the things you need, no more, no less. And with the extra, you have chosen to splurge and celebrate your thrifty and sustainable habits by doing something special and joyful.
And at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters?
The Final Word
For the rich, the choices are easy but for those on fixed incomes, deciding whether to splurge on a treat or purchase food is almost no choice at all. Still, there is two choices we all can make, no matter what.
Those choices are to make do with what we have and to live a joyful and strategic life.
I have mentioned these choices before and chances are I will do so again. That is because these are recurring themes in my own life. I often need a reminder, and most likely if I need to be reminded, so do you.
This prepping business is hard work and it takes a certain toughness to keep on going. That said, let us not lose track of the softer, kinder, and more gentle aspects of life. For me, being thrifty and saving money is important. I feel better for it.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Spotlight: Here is what one reviewer said about the book that I wrote with George Ure:
11 Steps to Living a Strategic Life is the meaty bones of wisdom boiled down to a condensed, protein rich broth. Tasty, witty, not a lot of froth, just the facts on what it takes to live your life independently, deliberately.
Bargain Bin: Below you will find links to the materials I used to make DIY Healing Lotion Bars. If you have not tried “lotion in a bar” you are in for a treat.
Freshware 6-Cavity Daisy Flower Silicone Mold and Baking Pan: I simply love my daisy mold! Made of silicone, it can be used for forming lotion bars, soaps, cakes, anything. My lotion bars simply popped out cleanly leaving no mess. So inexpensive, too, that I also purchased the oval version. Up next? Hand crafted soap!
100% Pure Unrefined Raw Shea Butter: This is the Shea butter I used and am happy that it was not gritty. I don’t have experience with other brands so I don’t know if my success was due to technique or the Shea butter itself.
Coconut Oil: Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions is my preferred coconut oil. I love it so much I purchased a 5 gallon tub. Really, I did! I find it very silky to work with and love the taste when used in cooking. Note that no refrigeration is required and although it solid at room temperature, it melts at 76 degrees. The Nutiva brand from Amazon or Costco works well too.
Spark Naturals Essential Oils: These are what you need for the healing lotion bars: Lavender essential oil, Rosemary essential oil, and Peppermint essential oil. Enjoy a 10% discount on your Spark Naturals order with code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout.
NOW Foods Essential Oils: I use essential oils from Spark Naturals. For healing purposes, I feel they are superior. On the other hand, NOW Foods has decent essential oils at a budget price plus they can be purchased at Amazon.com. Here are a few to get you started: NOW Foods Rosemary Oil, NOW Foods Peppermint Oil, and Now Foods Lavender Oil.
Stakich Pure BEESWAX Pellets: This is my second order of beeswax pellets (also called pastilles) from this company. They melt quickly and I am happy with them.
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