20 Tips for Soldiering Through an Economic Meltdown

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Three years ago, I wrote about our deteriorating economy.  As I recall, the words were “current lousy economy”.  The good news is that so far, a global economic meltdown has been abated.  And the bad?

From what I can determine by simply opening my eyes and looking around, we are nowhere near the recovery that politicians and the economists in their hip pocket are touting.  If anything, we are barreling forward to a collapse not unlike the big crash of 1929.

20 Tips for Soldiering Through an Economic Meltdown

I say this without intending to invoke fear.  Quite the contrary.  Living in fear is simply not my thing.  Okay, I lied.  I do fear the ramifications of Fukushima.  But other than that, surviving an economic meltdown is something that I will do by continuing to build up my supplies, skills and knowledge so that I can soldier through whatever the bad guys (and you know who I mean) toss my way.

So How Bad is Bad?

Who is to say?  I am lousy at textbook economics. I prefer to look around and be observant of the families around me.  I watch what people are putting into their grocery carts and mostly, I read all of the comments and emails that are sent to me from Backdoor Survival readers around the world.

I see a lot of financial downsizing.  I see people making the decision to pay for food or for medicine but not for both.  I also see vacant storefronts while the thrift stores are doing a booming business.  Most of all I see a thirst for learning how to do things the “old fashioned way” or like the Amish, the Native Americans, or our grandparents during the great depression.

I read things like 10 Stories From The Cold, Hard Streets Of America That Will Break Your Heart and my heart does indeed break.  It is almost as though suffering has become invisible in power elite and upper class circles.

The Future Looks Bleak

Why?  Here are some of the reasons:

  • There is a continued lack of employment opportunities for those that are currently unemployed of underemployed.  Or, sad to say, old of age but not of spirit
  • Droughts, freakish storms and other natural disasters are affecting the viability of farmlands resulting in increased costs for for food
  • Out of sight fuel costs affect transportation and heating costs
  • The cost of health insurance, for many, has doubled if not tripled
  • Devaluation of homes and real property continues in many parts of North America
  • Cities are declaring bankruptcy and reneging on public employee pensions
  • Crimes against persons (knifings, murders, even road rage) indicate a barometer of frustration and malcontent among citizens in almost every modern, first world country

These are just a few indications that an economic meltdown of horrific proportions could be on its way.  (And since I am an economics knucklehead, I won’t get into the technical reasons having to do with the way monetary policies affect the economy.  To me, the anecdotal and real-time experiences with real people are good enough).

Oh sure, there are pockets of economic growth here and there.  But for the most part, I see and sense a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness when it comes to money and matters relating to the economy.  As much as I hate to admit it, even I feel that the middle class life I have known most of my adult years will never be the same.  Pretty depressing when you think about it.

What to do?

Prepping and learning to become self-sufficient are a good start.  The problem, though, is that you can store water and food, stow away some cash or even gold, and insulate yourself from short-term off grid situations.  But what happens if the economic meltdown lasts longer than six months or or a year?

I feel that the only solution is to embrace a lifestyle where consumption is kept to a minimum.  And to that end, here are some tips that I have been noodling around (in no particular order).

1.  Reduce housing costs.  This may mean taking in boarders or sharing your home with extended family members.  Are you renting a large home or large apartment?  Take it down a notch.

2.  Manage food costs.  Stock up when you see a great sale.  Double up and by two instead of one, or three instead of two, and so on.

3.  Create a mini-store in your own home and shop from your own supplies.  Your pantry will become your friend when money or supplies are short.  Don’t forget sundry items and personal items as well as food when it comes to stocking your home based mini-market.

4.  Only purchase foods that you will eat.  This is related to #3 above.  Don’t purchase canned Spam if you will not eat it.  That is just silly.

5.  Limit eating out.  If you want celebrate a special evening, go for a desert and coffee date instead of dinner.  With a little planning, you won’t suffer the “nothing in the house to eat” syndrome.

6.  Reduce the number of vehicles you own.  Do you really need a fleet with the associated costs of insurance and maintenance?  Instead of an expensive vehicle, get yourself a scooter or motorcycle as a second vehicle and be smug at getting 60 mpg.  Better yet, walk or bike instead of driving your car.

7.  Purchase used goods.  You can find some steals on Craigslist or Ebay.  Or, if that is not your thing, go to garage sales and thrift shops.  I am not suggesting that you purchase everything used, but think about your purchases and when practical, buy used and pocket the change.

8.  Become self-entertaining.  Read (use the library for heaven’s sake), watch videos (same thing, use the library as a great source of DVDs), find some puzzles you enjoy, hike, bike, dance.  There are many things you can do to entertain yourself while spending very little money.

9.  Reduce communications costs.  Now tell me, do you really need 100 cable channels?  And what about that smartphone that is costing $150 a month.  Scale back as test – you can always add the extra services – and costs – back later if you simply have-to-have them. (Preaching here; I know this is a recurrent theme on this website.)

10. Earn extra income.  Sell your unused stuff on Ebay.  Get a part time job if you have a skill.  Flip burgers.  Become a sales clerk or a barista.  Do yard cleanup.  Anything to bring in a few extra bucks.

11. Barter your time for goods or services.  Walk dogs, water plants, help out with someone’s garden.  Be creative.

12. Grow food. This does not take up a lot of space (as I have recently learned).  Practice Square Foot Gardening and you will be amazed at how much you can grow in a tiny area.

13. Use what you have.  Become Ms. and Mr. Fix-it and make repairs instead of buying new.  Find new uses for old things.  See 12 Tips to Use It Up, Wear It Out and Make It Do.

14. Avoid debt.  If cash is short this week, wait until next week.  Live within your means even it means that you will eat beans and rice for a few days.  Put a moratorium on clothing purchases for one season.

15. Secure the homestead.  Firearms, weapons, pepper spray or even a baseball bat.  The choice is yours.  Don’t brag about what you have and do everything you can to make sure you and your supplies are safe.

16. Have an escape plan.  I am a big believer in the concept of shelter in place but if you need to evacuate, be ready.  Have a plan so all family members know how to communicate with each other and where to meet.  Learn about escape routes in your area and practice getting out of dodge.

17. Stay healthy.  Eat good food and not a lot of junk.  Get physical exercise and try to maintain a decent weight.  (I recently read that a good rule-of-thumb guideline is to take you height and divide it by two.  Your waistline should be no larger than the resulting number.)  Overweight? Try the Dukan Diet to quick start your long term weight loss plan.

18.  Be a nice person.  Treat those that are less fortunate with respect and be mindful that hard times may affect their behavior.  Be friendly and neighborly and do not shun them because they are down and out.  Remember, under different circumstances, it could be you that has fallen upon bad fortune.

19. Recognize that frugal is not a dirty word.  It is a smart word.  Frugal is not being cheap, it is being sensible.  Being frugal now will allow you to get the most mileage out of your funds with something left over for a rainy day – or for the day when an economic meltdown occurs.

20. Prepare your mindset.  If you plan for the worse and it never happens, be joyful.  On the other hand, if you plan for the worse and you are prepared, you will reduce the possibility of panic in the short term and depression in the long term.

The Final Word

So there you have it.  This is the lifestyle design that I currently embrace not so much because I am worried and afraid, but because I don’t want to be worried and afraid.  I want to be able to enjoy life and I plan to do so by learning to do things not buy things, learning to smell the roses, and learning to enjoy the simple pleasures provided by a walk along the water with my husband and my dog.

Our world and our society is changing.  Don’t be left behind because you forgot to prepare for a time when frugality becomes the norm.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye

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Bargain Bin:  If you are like me and believe there is a possibility that things will be going to heck, you may want to consider some of the items in today’s bargain bin.

The Beginning Of The End:  This is Michael Snyder’s first novel.  If you want to know what things in America are going to look like in a few years, this is the book to read.  It is a mystery/thriller set in the United States in the near future.  Need I say more?

Lodge Logic 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet: A cast iron skillet will serve you well if you are required to cook outdoors because the grid is down.  Once you have a cast iron skillet, you will use it for everything, indoors or out.

All New Square Foot Gardening: If you don’t have a garden now, you should. I follow the practices I learned in this book and  put in a Square Foot Garden.  It is not too soon to think about the fall planting season.

Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression: If you don’t know about Clara, be sure to read Depression Cooking: A Visit to Clara’s Kitchen.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking: At an average cost of 50 cents a loaf, this bread is easy, delicious and inexpensive to make.  Making your own bread is a skill everyone should have.

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients: Ditto.

How to Live on Wheat: Everything you need to know about wheat.

Kaito Voyager KA500 Solar/Crank Emergency AM/FM/SW NOAA Weather Radio: There are a lot of different hand crank, emergency radios but this is the one I own.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): I do believe in helping my neighbors in the community so a supply of these will be handy to hand out to those in need. You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. Be sure to test one out in advance so that you have the confidence to trust the blanket in an emergency.

Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart: This book, by Joe Nobody, is the book you that will teach you how to defend your your homestead in the event of civil unrest or a collapse.

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EMERGENCY ESSENTIALS Mountain House SUPER SALE! 25% – 45% off all cans!

This month the big news is that all Mountain House tins are 25% to 45% off.  Of course my favorite is the Mountain House Chili Mac iconbut I know the Beef Stroganoff iconis really popular as well.

Mountain House

A recent Mountain House Order

Other specials to consider are the Fruits and Vegetables Favorites Combo and Freeze-Dried Fruit and Vegetable Favorites Combo – both at a whopping 49% off. 

These are just a few of the items that are on sale.  Click on this link for more:  Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials.

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Comments

20 Tips for Soldiering Through an Economic Meltdown — 21 Comments

  1. Gave Mountain House a try, based on your recommendation and article. I tried the “Lasagna with Meat Sauce”. It must have been good because I ate the full 2.5 serving pouch by myself! Also have the Chili Mac to try yet, but from the quality of the Lasagna I think I’ll also like it.
    Got to thinking. One of these pouches actually cost less than must burgers at the fast food places, and is MUCH healthier than a burger! I will be buying more and stocking them up!
    Thank you for the review you did, and thanks to Mountain House for such a great product!

    • I actually use a lot of freeze dried products in my daily meal planning. Well, not really planning since these days eating is always a last minute deal.

      I have been trying to get across the point that FD meals can be less expensive than packaged food and most definitely less costly than fast food. The manufacturers are getting wise to reducing sodium, GMOs, and other bad stuff from their products and while there is still room to go, my belief is that we are going to see even greater improvements over time.

      BTW, Emergency Essentials is have a fabulous sale on Mountain House (25% to 45% off) this month. Yes, I do earn a small commission, but they really are a great company with good products. I have had great luck with their house brand, Provident Pantry as well.

  2. Jim, I kid you not. As I read this posting, I am setting here eating my first bite of Mountain House. Chili Mac. I love how easy it was cook, and eat right out of the bag. I was at China Mart yesterday, and I see they now carry Mountain House. I brought some home to try. I observed that the bags are different sizes according to what you are buying.
    I really think the time is growing near. The produce isle yesterday was getting pretty bare. No avocados, no leeks, no jicamas or rutabagas. I want to try to make one more large order from Emergency Essentials before people out there in zombie land realize what is going on.

    • John, that is where I got mine also. May cost a bit more than online, but was easier for a trial. Thinking about ordering from either Amazon or other online store. If I decide on Amazon I’ll use the link from BDS so they get a bit of kickback – they deserve it.

  3. I cant believe I ate the whole thing! Chili Mac at wally world was $6.95, Much cheaper at Emergency Essentials. I just placed a big order and chatted with the fellow. They are being covered up with orders. Is this the calm before the storm?

  4. Lots of good info here, but your first tip is especially important because it leads to so many reduced costs. We were forced to downsize (business loss) and gave up the McMansion for a small house. Sold or donated half of our stuff to fit into it. Now our bills are so much lower! Utility bills are 50% less, property tax is 1/3 of what we used to pay (moved to a cheaper area), and our stress level is SO much lower. I highly recommend “taking it down a notch.”

  5. My wife was recently diagnosed gluten intolerant, and after I red Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD, we implemented radical changes in our eating habits – no wheat, grains, processed foods, sugar – only real food. Results have been great. My wife feels terrific, and I lost 57 lbs in 5 months and feel 20 years younger. I went from a 38 inch waist to 30. While this is fantastic, I’m looking for some food storage tips regarding things that are healthy, so there won’t be any flour or sugar for us, and sadly, modern wheat seems to be in just about everything processed. Ant tips?

    • Bryan – have you checked out Mountain House (www.mountainhouse.com)? Under “products” they have about 10 gluten free pouch meals listed. I didn’t check the ingredients, so you may want to so you can be sure there is nothing bad in them.
      Congratulations on the weight loss!

    • A robust vegetable garden plus fruit trees would be my top recommendation. Canning your bounty along with home made soups and meats will insure that you have plenty of healthy food to eat for the long term.

      That said, learning to can is on my personal bucket list for this summer.

  6. Great tips! But those above are what I would call “20 Survival Tips for the First World”!

    Here in Argentina, famous land of survivors and constant financial crashes, we are even more bare-boned about survival tactics. I’ll you our “Third World” version of survival:

    5. Stop eating out! Cook one’s own food.

    6. Keep one’s existing car or truck running with “duct tape and wire”. Literally there are famous station wagons featured in the 1970 movie Love Story that are still running fine here! That is more than 45 years old!

    9. $150 USD a month for cell phones?!? Try texting only.

    12. It’s not being done here, but I highly recommend everyone do what this guy has done: http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/

    17. Again, it’s not being done here, but fermented or cultured foods is one of THE keys to survival and “thrival”. Fermented foods are super easy to make (what your grandparents did) and they are much more nutritious than any canning or canned foods, because they are living foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough breads, etc. Get Sandor Karz’s “Wild Fermentation: The Flavor Nutrition and Craft of Live Culture Foods” book for your family’s survival.

    19. Being “frugal” and a “survivor” in going to sound really ‘sexy’ and a badge of honor during GD2 (Great Depression 2) that we are in the beginning phases of. Those who have lost their jobs are in the midst of GD2 right now.

    20. Prepare your mindset by knowing that no one and no government is going to help you and your family. Only you can do the things necessary to help you and your family.

  7. Unemployment is a structural problem not a cyclical problem. Leadership is spending on Government programs (i.e. military)that do not create wealth. Capital flows to deficit spending instead of wealth creating private sectors. As long as taxes are increased, Federal Government deficits and higher pricing causes the consumer purchasing power to shrink. That means less jobs a continued degradation of the economy and higher unemployment.
    “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
    – Ronald Reagan

    “We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much”
    -Ronald Reagan

    “The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.”
    -Ronald Reagan

    “Unfortunately if you do not think it is not going to get better, maybe best to Bug Out before the Nazies wall us in and turn us into expendable slaves.”
    -WWII Jewish Citizen

  8. I have a comment on #6.
    6. Reduce the number of vehicles you own. Do you really need a fleet with the associated costs of insurance and maintenance? Instead of an expensive vehicle, get yourself a scooter or motorcycle as a second vehicle and be smug at getting 60 mpg. Better yet, walk or bike instead of driving your car.

    I was a motorcycle dealer in my youth. It is possible to use a two wheel vehicle and save money. However, it is very rare to do so. Higher insurance, cost of service and especially the tires make it very hard to save. It is easy to spend $250 for two tires and they are going to need to be replaced every 6,000 to 10,000 miles. Add in the labor to change and balance them and it is easy to add in another $50. Assume 10 k miles at a cost of $300, that is 3 cents per mile, or about 4 times more than a car. Now, add in clothing and safety equipment and you will have an easy $500 for cheap stuff, $1000 for quality items.
    No motorcycle gets the long miles that a car gets on the drivetrain. Not even BMW.
    We ride motorcycles for fun, not because they are going to save money.

    One could do the research to discover which motorcycles/scooters are reliable and have a reasonable resale value. One can do the maintenance and save.

    As a dealer, we only found that a few percent of the customers were capable of saving money by riding a vehicle with two wheels. Most don’t care, as it is their hobby. Many used the excuse for the wife to justify buying a motorcycle, but it was not usually successful for long.

    • Interesting observation. We happen to have both a motorcycle and a 200 cc scooter. I went to “motorcycle school” so that I am street legal and Shelly has gone through the same safety courses that are mandated by the Seattle Police Department. We have also created bug out bags specifically for the two bikes and in the case of the Harley, the saddle bags.

      We consider them to be bug-out-vehicles as well as cheap transportation, but you are right, there was the cost of acquisition and there is ongoing maintenance. The insurance is pretty cheap, though.

  9. Just a note on Ebay and yard sales. Just because its cheap doesn’t mean you need it. You can go broke “saving money”. And hording is not the answer. Be selective and think about your needs before you waste money and clutter up you home.

  10. Good article but I can’t get over the ‘take in borders’. Do you mean move our State or Country’s ‘borders’ in a few miles? Or do you mean ‘take in boarders’ as in allow people to rent a room or space?

    Sorry, but there is a trucking company out there named “Boarder to Boarder” and the distinction drives me crazy.

    Other than that….good advice. Be well.

  11. Even in an apartment you can grow a container garden of veggies in your windows, especially your sunniest ones. Keep your bills low. I lived in-town for 2 years and my electric bill averaged $10 a month. Why? No TV, not a lot of electric do-dads, didn’t leave lights on in rooms I wasn’t in, no air conditioner. Had a small fan for summer, used it mostly to cool the dog while I was at work. Get rid of all unnecessary expenses as things get harder to afford. What is more important, Netflix or lunch? Invest now in rechargeable batteries and solar battery chargers. It will save you tons of $$$ in the long run. I currently use these.

    Chuck out your pride and buy second hand clothing. Learn as much first aid as you can so you don’t have to visit the doctor or ER for every cut or cold. Learn basic car repair and do the fixing yourself as much as you can. YouTube has tons of car repair videos. See if your area has salvage grocery ( bent and dent ) stores. Great place to get cheap food ( And candy bars 10 for a buck lol )! Learn how to make stuff last. I made my last pair of work boots last 4 years and they were used when I got them. I had to glue my current work boots back together using a tough yet flexible adhesive and they’re still going strong after a few months. I have pairs of hand-me-down jeans that have been with me almost 10 years. Basic sewing skills can save you a lot of $$$. Learn how to do without disposables. Disposables are convenient, but they are money pits. There is always a way around disposables. Learn how to make your own soaps. There are a ton of ways to save money. Good way to start is to find the stories told by those who survived the Great Depression. Wisdom invaluable.

  12. About 12 years ago my family left the city and moved into the mountains of southern Oregon. Without even realizing it, we were living a lifestyle that I believe would be similar to what we will have to endure during an economic crisis that leads to a breakdown in civilized society. We were preppers and we didn’t even know it.

    We lived on that mountain for about eight years and during that time we learned how to live a minimalistic lifestyle. In retrospect, it was sort of a “boot camp” for surviving doomsday.

    I think it’s important that people challenge themselves by trying to live a more simplistic and minimalistic lifestyle NOW so that they are prepared when that day finally does arrive.

    Even if you’re not prepared to give up the modern conveniences that you’ve become so accustomed to permanently, having your family participate in drills where you give up electronic devices for a day or maybe even a week can go a long ways towards helping you prepare for the day that we all fear is coming.

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