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by Sandra D. Lane
Let’s face it: it’s fun to spend money, and giving gifts at Christmas is as good an excuse as any to do it. But our society is to the point of almost hemorrhaging money.
Lavish gifts, cards, wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, and decorations of all types imaginable. Of course, after Christmas, we have New Year’s Eve, and that brings with it its own price tag directly dependent on how much you like to ring in the new year.
Ironically, many new years resolutions are about money. But then comes the Super Bowl, and along with it the snacks. A tower of pizza and a cake made to look like a stadium full of fans soon find their way into our homes as we attempt to feed our friends.
Fast on its heels is the day many singles despise: Valentine’s Day. Chocolates and cards and flowers and wine and romantic dinner reservations. More expenses. It’s challenging to cut out all the excessive spending we do, but as preppers, we need to stop hemorrhaging money – or we’re going to bleed to death.
I have several favorite quotes, but there’s one that I try to keep in my head at all times. It’s always lurking, and no matter what you might think about the author, you can’t deny the logic of the words.
“Live today like no one else so you can live tomorrow like no one else.” Dave Ramsey
I first heard that quote many, many years ago, and took to it instantly. While I’m not sure the author was saying it with a prepper mentality, that’s precisely the way I took it. But then I also realized another truth that went along with Ramsey’s thoughts: spend when no one else is spending and buy what no one else is buying.
Preppers are a different type of people
We are. We have a different mindset. We see opportunities for things when and where no one else does. It doesn’t bother us to wear a pair of old beat-up shoes, and if they develop a blowout, we always have a backup plan.
*And if you need help developing this backup plan, check out this FREE Quickstart Guide to building your food storage.*
We keep old raggedy shirts to wear for dirty tasks and save our good ones for going out. And when we eventually have to discard the old raggedy shirt? We don’t.
Instead, we create bandages and family cloth, patches for our black powder rifles, and quilts, to name a few. Used coffee grounds? We add those to our gardens or compost piles. Used coffee filters? Perfect for seedlings. Eggshells? Garden. Dirty old motor oil? An ideal medium to store yard and hand tools in for the winter. The kids leftover Halloween makeup? Excellent camouflage for a SHTF scenario. So if we’re such efficient people, where are we losing our money?
Needless wastes of money
There are many ways we, as humans, waste money. Although there are almost too many to mention, I’m going to name a few off the top of my head. See if any of the following apply to your situation…
I think this is perhaps the most significant way we preppers lose money. When we are disorganized, we forget where we put things. Phones, keys, earbuds, recipes, essential addresses, directions, stored goods (edible and non-edible), wallets, purses, pens, pencils, watches, jewelry, last year’s wrapping paper, charging cords, even our favorite books or electronic devices – they all get stowed, lost, and forgotten.
And all of this costs money to replace. If we’re honest, we can admit that we store so much, and plan for so many variables, that losing things becomes easy if we don’t stay on top of it all.
That’s why it’s crucial to find a way to organize your items based on who you are and how you do things. Being organized is the foundation for being prepared. One way to start this is to keep a written record, a journal of sorts, an inventory sheet, maps (make a map of your house if you need to), and diagrams that indicate what you have, how much, and where. (And don’t forget to throw in a few false ones to confuse those who don’t need to know your business.)
2. Buying brand name products
Don’t get me wrong, there are a few brand name products I like over the others simply because of the taste or content. Usually, though, the generic or off-brand is just as good (if not better) than the name brand.
For example, I love V8 vegetable juice. I enjoy drinking it, and I like to cook with it too because it has an excellent celery taste to it. But one day, I happened to look at the back of a store brand bottle of plain ol’ tomato juice and compared it to the V8. The store’s brand had more fiber, more calcium, more vitamin A, and more Iron than V8. It also had less sugar. But the real kicker was the store’s brand had more vitamin C than V8 vegetable juice, a whopping 40% more.
The solution is, of course, reading labels. Interestingly enough, the generic brand had tomato juice, water, and salt as the main ingredients. V8? I’ll just let you look it up. But, whether it’s edible or not, we have to keep reading labels and learning what we’re buying. Is the more expensive name brand really better than generic?
3. Going shopping when you’re hungry
I think we’ve all done this one, and sometimes we can’t avoid it. And it’s alright when you make a day of shopping, stop for a bite to eat for lunch or even dinner. That’s part of the fun of shopping, in my opinion.
What’s worse is when you go grocery shopping while you’re hungry. Everything looks good then, and almost everything ends up in the shopping cart as a result – meaning less money in our pockets. We’re bombarded with so much advertising once we step into the grocery store that we need to make sure we have an alert and cool level head while shopping. That means a sober mind and a full tummy.
Sales are fun and can be a prepper’s dream if you go for the right stuff. And just as has been elaborated upon in a recent TOP article, after Christmas sales can be both fruitful and save us lots of money in the long run.
However, sales can also be dangerous if we’re not careful. Year-End Sales, New Year Sales, Overstock Sales, President’s Day Sales, No Interest Until March sales! – I do believe there are more official sale dates than there are months in a year. But my favorites, and the most dangerous for many, are the “Buy One Get Half Off The Second!” sales, and “Buy One Get One Free!” deals.
The rule of thumb for any purchase is this: If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. No matter what it is. Don’t.
“But the entire pallet of purple tissue paper was Buy One Get One Free!”
Just no. If you don’t need it, and you don’t already have a solid plan on how to resell it to someone who will pay you for the gas it cost you to drive there, the time it took to pick it up, the wear and tear it put on your vehicle, plus the total cost, including tax – Don’t. Buy. It. The best way around all this is to make a list.
Of course, if it’s storable, something that won’t go bad or spoil no matter how long you’ve stashed it away, and it’ll be usable, go for it. Otherwise, stick to the list.
5. Buying things that aren’t reusable.
Sometimes we can repurpose things instead of throwing them out, and that’s a good thing. But when it’s disposable and can’t be repurposed, the chances are good that it’s a waste of money. My most significant waste is paper towels, and, since I’ve discovered that, I try to keep a kitchen towel within reach when I’m cooking instead of reaching for the paper towels.
Trust me when I say it’s a hard habit to break. When I do grab one, I try to make the most of it by wetting it and at least wiping a counter off or sink out. But paper towels aren’t the only thing on the “Do Not Buy list”, at least for me.
There’s paper plates, paper napkins, paper cups, paper tablecloths, (I still buy toilet paper – I think I’d have a mutiny on my hands if I didn’t at least buy that), tissues, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons, aluminum foil, plastic wrap – the list goes on and on. The point is that we need to be, and remain, not only redundant but able to repurpose items as well. And know what can be repurposed. An excellent resource to take a look at for that is Selco’s Guide to Looting & Scavenging.
“Over time, pieces of wire from burned houses became important to use as a rope, for example. Pieces of gutters were useful for wood collection, etc.” source
6. Personal care items
Right before Christmas, I decided to treat myself to a nice hair cut. (I hadn’t had one for a year, but that’s a different story.) Now, I’m not big on pricey personal items. I forego nail polish, expensive make-up, body creams, etc. It’s just part of what makes me, me. But this one time, I decided to make a quick stop while I was out shopping for a hair cut at Great Clips. Yes, I will say their name, and yes, I will testify in court if they decide to sue me for slander.
While I was in the chair, I decided to go ahead and get the whole deal: wash, cut, and style. In the process, I realized how coarse my hair had become, and so I asked the hairstylist about it. She said it was the shampoo I was using. She promptly recommended one of the pricey brands they sell, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. After all, my hair was all nice and shiny and soft.
Later, one of my nieces, a licensed esthetician, kindly explained to me that it’s not what you put on your hair or skin that makes it soft and gorgeous, but what you put in your body. Duh. I knew that, and I felt so stupid that I didn’t remember it. But we all get caught off guard at times and fall for some pricey sales pitch, or flashy display that promises unrealistic solutions.
A good thing to remember is knowledge is power. We just have to retain that knowledge at all times. Go for as natural as you can get. My doctor once told me, “Soap is soap. It doesn’t matter what kind it is, anti-bacterial or regular, it’s still soap and will still get you clean.”
So now? I use a shampoo off a Walmart shelf, and it works just fine.
7. Disposable drink containers
Do you drink megatons of coffee? Do you have a long commute to work, school, or the store? Do you get thirsty easily? Buy a reusable, washable, permanent travel mug and don’t ever use the paper/plastic/foam ones again.
If you need to, buy two. In this way, you can always have something to drink from. Even if it’s in a disaster situation, and you have to dip out the water from the back of a gas station toilet. A bonus to ditching the paper cups is that many places will sell you a travel mug and allow you free fill-ups at any of their stores. Plus, you can take your own coffee or drink of your choice from home, saving you more money.
8. Prepared foods
I’m not talking about restaurants here, not even the fast-food joints, although I’m sure we could all do better than eating out. I’m talking about pre-anything foods.
Pre-sliced, pre-packaged, pre-baked, pre-boiled, pre-shredded, pre-mixed, pre-cooked, pretty much pre-everything.
Why? Because we end up paying for our laziness in some form or fashion. If we look back at how many recalls there have been on pre-cut and pre-mixed packages of salads, fresh vegetables, and deli meats, those alone should be enough to convince us to chop up, toss, and slice our own. And even though I don’t own a meat grinder, hamburger falls in the same category.
Ever wonder why hamburger gets recalled more than roast or steak? Because all the extra handling usually allows for the introduction of harmful bacteria. The same goes for salads, veggies, cheese, and meat trays. That price tag also reflects the labor of someone else preparing it for us. So save your money, and lower your risk of food-borne diseases by chopping it, boiling it, peeling it, tossing it, and packaging it yourself.
9. Poor Health
Yes, I’m talking about your health. Because of our health, we end up spending more money each year and wasting money to do it.
“People in bad health work less, earn less, face higher medical expenses, die earlier, and accumulate much less wealth compared to those in good health,” the paper states. “The largest component of these costs being the loss in labor earnings.” [source]
Not only that, but as preppers, we need to be healthier for what may come. We absolutely cannot afford to let our health go any longer. We need sharp eyesight, or the glasses/contacts to make them so. We need good teeth, or the dentures or implants to make them so. We need good wholesome food in our diets and good clean water to keep our bodies functioning correctly. And we need the exercise to keep ourselves moving properly.
Back when I was in my early thirties, I managed to throw my back out. My doctor at the time told me it was common in tall people, and that the best exercise ever, for anything, was to walk. Walking exercises muscles in the feet, calves, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, back, arms, and neck. The only exercise that is better than walking is swimming, and I don’t have a pool.
“For example, regular brisk walking can help you maintain a healthy weight, prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your mood, and improve your balance and coordination.” [source]
If you’re not ready for a brisk walk, start at your preferred speed no matter how slow you think you are, and walk on a relatively flat surface for as long as you’re comfortable.
Don’t push yourself yet – you’re just getting to know your body and what it’s limitations are. After your walk (trust me – this is a good tip, I do it myself), use your rolling pin to roll your thighs and calves gently, and drink at least one full glass of water. The rolling pin helps keep your muscles from muscle spasms and from being sore the next day, as does the water.
Go to sleep, wake up, repeat. The more you walk, the better you will feel over time.
What do you guys think?
What do you think is a needless waste of money? What are you doing to solve it?
Sandra is a wife of 38 years, a mother of 3 awesome grown children, a published artist, photographer, fellow prepper, and animal advocate. She is a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, an avid gun owner, a woman of faith, and values honesty and loyalty above all else.