Surviving the Second Depression

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Surviving the Second Depression

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I don’t think  that there is any denial from the working class that we are still in the throes of a recession.  And many also believe that if we are not in a depression now, we will be soon.  The rising cost of food and health care, the elimination of the single family home from the American Dream, the lack of jobs for the unemployed and the wholesale underemployment of many with jobs . . . well even an economics dunce like me can see the writing of the wall.

Luckily, I am prepared.  And even though some of my peers get tired of my continued emphasis on preparing for an uncertain future, the reality is that the door on the old way of life is closing and that families of all types need to be ready.  But my intent here is not to preach.

Instead, I have a special treat.  My long time friend George Ure has given me permission to repost his muse on the Perfect Modern Depression Family that was previously shared only with his $40 per year subscribers at Peoplenomics.

A Perfect Modern Depression Family

Don’t know as I’ve ever given you a sketch of where I’d be if I could design a perfect family situation for weathering a Great Depression, but it might be a family set up something like this:

• Dad works as a lineman for a utility company. He’s going to have a fairly steady job because people will want their lights on, but with people getting lights turned on and off, as they pay their bills, or not, he’d have lots to do pulling meters and so forth. Since climate change means more violent weather, lots of potential for pick up hours, too. And at double time in some cases. Or, maybe dad is an x-ray tech, or runs an ultrasound or MRI machine in medicine. Lights and meds will still be around.

• Mom works as a grocery checker, or works as a meat cutter in the local store. Many still have meat cutters and they make good money, get good vacations and yep, have an inside line on food stocks even when things start to run short.

• Johnny, their boy, has a paper route. He’s going to have a hot business on his hands because as people drop internet connectivity, the small local newspaper could make a big come back, especially because people will be looking for local deals on everything. He wants to be a doctor when he grows up and since he’s on the honor role, he has a good chance of making it.

• Suzy, the daughter, has been really active in 4-H – so much so that she’s been getting hints from the teacher that should might get a full-ride scholarship to a state Ag school. She looks set for a good career and she’s thinking about becoming a veterinarian.

• The family house was purchased 19 years ago and has been refinanced recent, now to pull out equity, but to reduce the monthly payment to the smallest possible amount since the family knows tough times are coming. Resetting at 20-years, even though they had only 10-years to go, helps. I might not do it, but I don’t have to pay for kids, except for the ongoing school taxes.

• The family has slowly acquired about 100 ounces of silver and 10 ounces of gold.

• Did I mention Suzy has been doing a back yard garden and that Mom has been canning the past couple of years? Nothing fancy; some dill pickles, a few fruits and beans and tomatoes from the garden. These past few weeks, she’s been blanching and freezing other varieties.

• Dad’s gone off the deep end, putting a solar cooking rig in the back yard – sun-driven BBQ and oven while Mom’s order of a year’s worth of grains in nitrogen packed containers came in a few weeks back.

• Uncle Bob is a dentist, and everything in the mouth is done and paid for with cash. The family 3 cars are all in good repair and in the area of 50,000 miles each, including the subcompact the kids share. Fresh tires on them all, too, since overseas sources may dry up in the Depression.

• The family all have library cards and has rediscovered reading. As a result, family dinners are lively and thought provoking conversation gatherings which build the family bond. Neighbor kids come over, too, since the food is so good and it’s not like their homes at all.

The Worst Family Profile

If you think the first family has it made, you got it right! Contrast how an adverse time is going to work out for this family:

• Dad works for a financial services company selling annuities. He’s on the verge of losing his job because people aren’t buying that kind of financial product anymore.

• Mom was selling real estate, but since she just got into that in the fall of 2008, she hasn’t made hardly any money at it and though she keeps hoping to get a few sales, like most agents, she’s only able to make $23,000 per year because of the downturn.

• Billy, their son, is totally immersed in video games and Goth He’s on expensive ADHD medication and has a 2-second attention span on a good day. His eating almost exclusively a high fructose corn syrup laced diet has made him fat and his attitude is horrible. His grades are failing and he’s talk about dropping out in his junior year of high school. He spends a lot of time on the cell phone running up his phone tab alone north of $100 per month.

• Christy, the daughter, has turned into a drug-smoking slut, popular with gang-types and lately with mom and dad at work, several items around the home have turned up missing, including Billy’s last cell phone which cost $350 to replace because he threw fits about needing a stylish phone.

• The family home is one payment from foreclosure most of the time. Dad hasn’t been able to bring down credit card debt and with all seven cards, the total is more than $60,000.

• They refinanced the house at the peak in 2008 and pulled out money for a new SUV, but that was wrecked the month after they bought it and the insurance didn’t pay off well, so they drive a four year old SUV with high miles. It’s going to need tires soon, but there’s no money for them, since they put custom 24″ wheels on it for appearances and those tires are $350 each now.

• At the end of each month, they are about $300 cash negative, but the bank cards have “helped”. The parents are praying for better jobs and sending resumes everywhere.

• Dad got called into the office next Thursday to meet with HR. He’s one step from fiscal disaster.

• The family doesn’t eat together, no one reads, and meals are expensive as a result with a high ‘fast food’ cost. Neighbor kids come over to smoke dope, make a run at Christy, and see if Billy’s checked out so they can swipe some of his game cartridges.

Given a choice, I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out which family is going to survive a further 50% reduction of income better. One is actually a family team while the other is a haphazard collection of social ills residing under a common roof that may be ‘called’ any time.

                           . . . George Ure, August 2011

Now I am sure that many families fall somewhere in between the “perfect” family and the “worst” family.  The point, though, is to figure out where you are in this continuum and to begin taking the steps to move closer to perfect family dynamic.

So what are some of the decision and choices?

One that sure comes to mind has to do with housing.  Depending on your financial condition, age, and employment status, where you live may indeed become one of the most significant changes you can make to insure your security in the second depression.  Should you live in a single family home or a multi-generation shared residence?  Should you move to a “cheap” state where property taxes are low and the cost of living is reasonable?  How about moving to the country where you can grow your own food and raise chickens?  Or, what about being geographic independent by living in a large motor home (dirt cheap right now) and roaming from one Walmart parking lot to another?

Okay, I admit the latter option is a bit extreme but still, if all of your money is presently going toward housing, you need to rethink your situation and come up with alternatives, even if it means finding housemates or becoming creative in some other manner.

With the goal of becoming the Perfect Modern Family, I heartily endorse learning as much as you can about personal survival skills.  Learn to cook, learn to sew, learn to build a fire and learn to fix stuff.

The other thing?  Learn to become self-entertaining and by that I mean learn to be happy with books, walks in the woods or the park, and the company of others who share like-minded and spirited conversations about things that matter.

Gut feelings are a funny thing – sometimes right and sometimes wrong – but as you age, you begin to trust those instincts more and more.  There is no doubt in my mind that the old ways of doing things are long gone and if you are “old as dirt” as I am, you just know that old ways will never return.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


Emergency Essentials is your source for all things preparedness, from prepackaged foods to water barrels, to first aid kits. 

From the Bargain Bin:  The post depression family will need to fend for themselves.  Growing your own food, cooking and building stuff are all essential.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

SOG Specialty Knives & Tools M37-N SEAL Pup:  This highly rated knife will do it all whether you are an avid hiker, hunter, camper, fisherman or just someone who wants to be prepared for whatever the world will throw at you.

Rothco 550lb. Type III Nylon Paracord: As far as I am concerned, paracord ranks up there with duct tape and zip ties. I wish I had know about this stuff years ago.

Fiskars 7855 8-Inch Hatchet: I think a common mistake is to pick up a cheap hatchet from Harbor Freight and call it a day. This is something you do not want to skimp on. A Fiskars is easily sharpened and will last a lifetime. Oh, and while you are at it, you might also like the Fiskars Axe & Knife Sharpener.

MAGLITE XL50-S3016 LED Flashlight: I own a number of these. Small, sturdy, and easy to handle.

Square Foot Gardening: You do not need a lot of space to grow your own food. Start with some awesome greens and branch out from there. This method works. Seed catalogues will be out next month, why not start your planning now?

Lodge Logic 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet: This purchase changed the way I cook. I se my cast iron cookware for everything from salmon, to bacon and eggs, to biscuits. Don’t forget the Lodge Set of 2 Pan Scrapers, a must have for cleaning those food bits from your cast iron cookware.

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7 Responses to “Surviving the Second Depression”

  1. Gaye, I read your column regularly and love it! I sometimes feel guilty because I have nothing to contribute. My mother (87 yrs) told me that a good contribution might be to mention all the uses for baking soda and vinegar around the house. I seem to recall that you have discussed all the uses for vinegar but don’t recall anything on baking soda. I was very very surprised what I found on the net. I knew about some of the uses, like relief for heartburn by taking a teaspoon of soda with a glass of water, and brushing my teeth with it, but was really surprised to discover so many other uses for it. Here is the link: // Happy prepping!! And I really admire what LeaAnn has done to get ready for whatever is coming….

    • @Nickie – I have an entire article written up about baking soda and another on vinegar. It is all a part of a series on DIY cleaners and common uses of household items that I have been planning. Glad for th nudge.

      Also, just being here is a contribution so never feel bad. You can always leave a comment just to say “hi” or to offer ideas – just glad to have you as part of my large, extended Backdoor Survival family 🙂

  2. Most people live from one payday to the next, just trying to stay afloat. Most are living way above their means. Some have no income at all and sleep in their cars if they still have one. I doubt those people read survival blogs about how to prepare for bad times. But for those that are still afloat and know hard times are coming, as a first step they need to shed themselves of expensive mortgages and gas guzzling cars with large monthly payments and move into a mobile home. Just walk away from that mortgage if you can’t sell. Your credit rating will mean nothing later anyway. That is the first step to preparing for a life like “Little House On The Prairie” living. Circumstances forced me into a mobile home about 12 years ago and it was the best thing that could have happened to me although I did’t think so at the time. I lost everything and was on foot. I had and still do, a modest pension on which I support myself and 2 cats. Now I am debt free and over the years have prepared for social and economic collapse. I have “tested” my readiness by actually turning off ALL utilities. Be sure you have enough stored water for not only drinking and cooking, but enough on hand to flush your toilet. I have a water catchment system with 5 – 55 gallon drums. Your living space will soon become uninhabitable after a few days if you can’t flush. If you have a backyard, dig a latrine. Apartment dwellers I feel for you. Good luck to all.

    • We also went from a high mortgage (walked away, before they took it away), in MI to a rented mobile home in SC. We don’t have to insure a house, except contents, our rent is 420 a month instead of over 1000 with insurance. We got rid of one of our trucks. That payment is gone. We are still in debt. but slowly climbing out. Yes our credit is a wreck, and we are not proud of what we had to do, but I had some health issues and couldn’t hold up my end anymore, so it was a matter of time. We have been able to breathe just a little, and not spend every second worrying about one of our massive payments. We still spend judiciously, but don’t feel like we are hanging by our fingertips all of the time. My husband had a month between paychecks recently, with what I had on hand, we were able to live decently. I am able to get us prepped not just for next week (getting a weeks groceries), but for months to come. We have a great Landlord, that doesn’t care if we put in a garden, or a chicken coop, as long as we take good care of his property. We are looking for a cheap house to rent, never will buy again. Just a house would heat and cool easier, and I think feel a bit more secure. I don’t live in fear, but if you don’t have a sense of what is probably coming, your living in denial. I know a few things for sure, I don’t want to starve to death, I don’t want to die from dehydration, I don’t want to see my family suffer. Get prepared to be self reliant. Get something done everyday that takes you closer to that goal. I have a small business, very small, 200-300 a month profit. I need about 25% of it to restock my soap products. The rest of the money is not really needed to run our household. It has become my preparedness budget. If you shop carefully, looking for sales, using coupons, comparing prices, knowing where you get the biggest bang for your buck, it can go a long way. I just satrted seeing canning supplies in the stores again, it will be my first huge canning year, so I will be buying up jars lids and rings a few at a time, to have them ready for fall. I went into the library the other day to get some preparedness, and homesteading books. We live in a town of 2500 in the mountains, the librarian told me those books leave the shelves the minute they are checked back in. Which really leads me to believe, there are a lot more of us getting ready, than the “media” would have you believe. Which to me is actually a relief. I have also been looking into barter items, whiskey, bagged tobacco & papers, medicines, I just dont know how a person will do that if it comes to it. I wouldn’t want someone to know what I have, and therefore feel like they could bust in and take. Times are about to get really rough.

    • @LeaAnn – Thanks for sharing your experience. I think that a lot of people are reluctant to give up what they believe is the “good life” with all the pricey perks and amenities. The big fancy house and new model car, for example.

      I am happy to hear that you have settled in with your preparedness lifestyle and are doing just fine – one step at a time. Keep up the good work. And yes, I too believe that the worst is yet to come.

  3. Gaye,
    great article. I guess I’m in between the two, but
    closer to the first family. I have a long way to go, but with
    very little funds, it’s definately a challenge. I’m focusing on the funds to get
    replacement parts for deep freeze. next will be bulk spices, pasta, legumes of various kinds.
    there may be those who grow tired of
    hearing what you have to say, but there are those of us
    who appreciate what you are doing. please keep this going.
    I agree with Duke, most people during the great depression we immigrants
    and want a fighting/working chance at a new life. the newer generation scares me,
    they have been spoiled and think they should have things for nothing, or just take from others.
    I don’t remember what city now, but a protester went into Mc Donalds and got violent
    because they wouldn’t give him free food. Yes, it’s going to get real ugly. buckle up, it’s going to get bumpy.

  4. One main problem I see is the very small percentage of us who are prepared will have to contend with a large horde of leaches who never prepare or wait for government handouts. IMHO it could get very ugly very fast, Riots, looting, robbery, murder etc, hungry desperate people will do ANYTHING. During the great depression folks in general were more hard working and decent, not so today I’m afraid.

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