Stop Hemorrhaging Money

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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…

1. Disorganization

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.

V8 Vegetable Juice
Great Value Brand Tomato Juice
Great Value Brand Tomato Juice

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.

4. Sales

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?

About Sandra

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.

Stop Hemorrhaging Money
Sandra D. Lane

Sandra D. Lane

Sandra is a published artist, photographer, fellow prepper, and animal advocate.

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  • Much good advice here, thank you for all of it.

    Saw this at another prepper blog this weekend posted by a person who goes by the name Dennis. He wrote, ” If you ain’t prepared for what is coming….know this……what is coming ain’t waiting for you to prepare.”.

  • The wife and I call it “Wants vs Needs.”
    We ask ourselves, either to each other, or just to ourselves, “Is that a want? Or a need?”
    And we dont do the hyper-consumerism mental gymnastics to convince ourselves that “want” is a “need.”
    There are some foods we will not compromise on for quality . . . as long as it is on sale, or we have a coupon.
    Tools, kitchen appliances, some car parts (tires), other items we want to last a long time, then we will pay more for quality.
    Making food from scratch, I can no longer use store bought salad dressing. My wife makes caesar, vinaigrettes, ranch, dill, ginger soy and probably a few more I have forgotten. Way better. I make my own teriyaki, hoisin and others.
    Same goes for breads.
    To combat grocery shopping while hungry, we bust out the cookbooks and make up a week long menu, and buy according to that. We find doing that, with what we already have on hand in the pantry, the list is actually short and keeps the bill down. We will flex sometimes and make a old fav standby (pizza, Mexican) if the mood strikes us.

    As Christmas was approaching, the wife and I were talking about “wants,” cuz, tis the season, right? We both had a real hard time trying to come up with wants. We decided to keep it low key and things that we really enjoy: Books and music.
    Sometimes, we buy “wants,” for the house. A new decoration. Plants.
    Other times it is “needs.” New hot water heater. New shelving. New paint to get rid of that gawd awful seafoam green (if you saw it, you would say that is a “need!”).

    Thinking on it, since living the prepper lifestyle, we have found it hard to spend money. The one exception might be seeds. When the new seed catalog shows up in the mail, I get excited about that the way some get excited about a gun or car magazine.

  • This has some good ideas. I think most of us could use a little more organization in our preps and out lives.
    The only thing that I might disagree with, is in not buying pre processed items like shred cheese pre made salad and such. If you have the time and energy to spend – ( Do you really? I bet there are better uses for it), them do it yourself.
    But one must decide what is the best use of your time and energy or lifestyle. In a Family, this might become a good “child’s” task to help with preparing dinner, but for a couple by themselves, who both work full time, it might not.

    It is also time to get your children involved in helping out with common chores, if they are not already doing so. SHTF will be enough of a shock to their world, with out adding extra burdens of doing lot of chores, when they are use to doing few or none.

    This in itself is a “prepper” lesson. Once SHTF in reality, you will have more things to do than there are hours in the day. The all day, game playing, movie watching, book reading, myth will fade away, to the stark reality of just trying to survive.
    So prioritizing and doing things the easiest and fastest way possible, will be the way to get them done.
    The time to start streamlining your activities, into the best use of your time and energy is now, not once SHTF.

    • Shredded cheese costs more than block, has more additives such as potato starch, cornstarch, calcium sulfate (base compound for making ground cement), and natamycin. Some contain cellulose.
      A wheel or drum cheese shredder is quick, simple and easy to use.
      Back when I was in corporate America, full time job, I would cook for me and the GF nearly every night. If you think shredding cheese or making a salad is hard now, you are going to have a real hard time during SHTF.

      For those of us who try to live as if SHTF, it comes down to a lesson learned in the Marines: Time management, management of resources. But with regards to post SHTF, without modern conveniences. After a days work, after eating dinner, washing dishes, there will be time to sit and talk. Have a glass of homemade hard cider. Read a book. Maybe play cards or board games. These are important things to have to relax, to maintain mental health. Surviving SHTF and post-SHTF will be a long marathon. Not a sprint.

      • I invested in a freeze dryer this year and have done many, many lbs of shredded cheese as it was a really good sale. As I handled it to get it onto the trays, a residue was very noticeable on my fingers and the trays. I will be asking around for food processor suggestions that do a good job shredding block cheese, so I can avoid buying pre-shredded cheese again.

  • Dear Daisy,
    Another excellent use for used motor oil, with the current fuel situation in Venezuela is filtering it, processing it to remove the metal particles (easier than it looks) and using it to power our diesel engines.
    Oh, and the Valentine gifts and expenses are now out of my accounting books. Can´t say I´m happy with this, but it is what it is. LOL.
    Great article!

  • A lot of great ideas!
    One thing that I do before tossing anything; I ask myself a couple of questions.
    Can I make one of these? The next question I ask is, what else can it be used for?
    i.e. Pill bottles, No I can’t make one. The repurposing options of the bottles are endless.
    Another question to ask is; How many tasks can any item perform? A handheld pencil sharpener; A child can use it to make tinder for a fire; put sharp points on sticks for an arrow a skewer or a weapon etc. Even a broken mirror or glass can have multiple uses.

  • Second the value of waking. Kierkegaard was right: You can walk yourself into mental as well as pysical health over time.

  • a friend is having a hard time saving. I tell him, “the first step to saving money is,” and he leans forward, “to stop spending it,” and he leans away in disappointment. he can’t. he’s just going to have to learn by personal experience.

  • “4. Sales”

    estate sales, yard sales, good will.

    went looking for a tool, searched two years, couldn’t find it, no longer existed, gave up. stopped by a yard sale and there it was, pristine and new on the table. I (unthinkingly) told the guy I’d been looking for that tool for years, and he put his hands down and shook his head and said, “I can’t let it go for less than $10”. I tossed him a $20 and grabbed it.

    • “estate sales, yard sales, good will.“

      Auctions.

      I just bought a 55gal. Drum of 15W40 Shell Rotella with a dispensing pump for $2/gal. at an early morning farm auction.

      A disciplined buyer at an auction can clean up if you know what you want, read the crowd, don’t pine over your target, and be a hard-ass to the auctioneer on a give away piece.

    • I went around stores asking for a tool, and was told that such a tool didn’t exist. It was just a simple tool, to fix some chairs. I ended up finding a big nail, about 10 inches long, 3/8 inch in diameter, chucked it up in a metal lathe, and made a tool that did the job.

  • “What do you think is a needless waste of money?”

    most in-town car travel.

    “What are you doing to solve it?”

    bike, scooter, walk.

  • Excellent article.
    I’ve been accused of using the term “practical” often. My parents were teenagers during the dirty 30’s and taught me and my brothers the value of things. Good quality used equipment often costs far less than new but works just as well. We were taught to never abuse a tool and to maintain things. Garden tools were kept oiled and sharp, firearms were cleaned regularly, etc. It warms my heart to see our two daughters and grand children thinking in “practical” terms these days too. Being debt-free and independent is a wonderful way to live.

  • Once in the 70’s I was with a British Sister Unit training. We had an evening of “Domestic Economy” aka mending our uniforms, replacing buttons and zippers and such.

    Since then, the throw it away the helicopters will bring more has taken over.

    Learn how to do basic sewing. I have gotten many a “Ruined” item for free from my friends in the thrift store and simply repaired it. Wall tents with a few hot coal burn holes in it I patched and waterproofed it again and so on.

    I’ve even sold or traded Fixed things for other things I wanted. Once you get the reputation as a “Fixer” some folks will trade you for repairs to beloved items.

    Ask you will receive. Plenty of unsellable items at yard sales and thrift stores await. I often ASK if they can throw in that to sweeten the deal and sometimes, they do.

    But then again if I throw away something really battered and used up, I still strip off any useful bits like buttons and screws, bolts wires and such. I have coffee cans labeled as to the general stuff inside. Like screws, nails etc.

    Learn how to make cuttings of useful plants. Even a single tomato plant can be CLONED by taking off useless “Suckers” and rooting them with a bit of rooting compound or Aspirin water or willow water. So, then you can trade the Extra Plants. Skills are something nobody can steal from you.

    • “Skills are something nobody can steal from you”

      yes they can. they just steal YOU. for 3000 years the boolsheviks have mastered theft to a fine art.

  • I really enjoyed this article. Here are some tips I try to use in my home: Meatless Mondays. Reducing meat consumption is healthier and cheaper and good for the environment! Borrow books from the library and hunker down at home or go on hikes to reduce the number of times you go to the movies/theme parks. We love ethnic foods that we don’t know how to prepare so I try take out vice dining in whenever possible. Saves on beverage and tip expense. Use a clothesline in the summer. Combine trips when running errands. Mow your own lawn / rake your own leaves. Call it family quality time. 😉

  • Buy used furniture & paint it to match my decor.
    Buy cheap clothes at resale shops. Love going to yard sales, estate sales & craigslist, but buy only things I need (ok maybe a few wants).
    Buy quantity at Costco.
    Purchase second hand cars with lower miles for cash & drive them forever.
    Gave tools to my son for a graduation gift.
    Bartered my jams/pies for things like a pizza oven.
    Save money remodeling my house by painting, installing tile & landscaping myself.
    Work my kids hard instead of hiring help.
    Hand wash my clothes vs dry cleaning.
    Eat dinner at home vs going out.
    Don’t use credit cards, only cash.
    Cut & color my own hair.
    Frugal yes, but have beautiful things and a blessed life.

  • Sorry to crash the party late but so much of what I’ve just read = Depression era Scottish parents, Mum with a UBC Home Economics Degree circa ’48. I ignore much spending intuitively & reside in one of Canada’s richest municipalities such that the rich just breeze past the shelves & I follow along for the deals. Safeway/ groceries = I will not exceed 50%. Staff know me – ‘Hey, Robert – we dropped Cracker Barrell for our Compliments – all in the Dairy Cooler. At 50% off obviously.’ As a somewhat dull fellow exclaimed ‘Live in a Group Home – went to WalMart with 3 fellow residents – ya wouldn’t believe it – they’s walking & dropping it into their baskets without even looking at the price. Heh, we beeze slow but, boy, did we eat well for cheap.’ The 50 is simple – Mngmn’t can’t hope to sell at minus 25, 33% so 50 or nothing.

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