By Daisy Luther
Preppers think about a lot of doomy, gloomy stuff about various types of apocalypses. After all, disaster is everywhere.
We watch the spread of pandemics, like the pneumonic plague and Ebola. We prepare for hurricanes and wildfires. We keep our eye on events that could turn into episodes of civil unrest, watch the weather for pending snow storms, and have kits to see us through power outages. Every prepper knows about the terrifying threat of an EMP and many of us are well versed in what to do in case of a nuclear strike.
But, there is ONE major disaster that is the most likely to befall any of us at some point in our lives and it isn’t zombies, North Koreans, or the plague.
It’s financial problems.
You may be currently having this issue right now. Maybe you don’t make enough money. Maybe the primary breadwinner has lost his or her job. Maybe someone has massive medical expenses. Maybe there is some other epic expense that you never saw coming.
It doesn’t matter how it happens – it just matters that you see it as something for which you need to prepare. Financially stability is one of the most important preparations you can make.
There are 3 keys to surviving financial problems.
Financially stability doesn’t come from being wealthy. In fact, you can make a million dollars in a year but if you spend a million and one dollars, you aren’t really financially stable.
Instead, financial stability comes from being able to dial back your spending if necessary and deal with a monetary emergency. It comes from being able to pay your bills and have some money left over. It comes from being prepared for that rainy day that we all hope will never happen.
And while having more money definitely helps with this, having more money isn’t always possible. But you can work around this because in most cases it is far easier to spend less than it is to make more. Frugality can completely change your life. (Go here for a free copy of The Preppernomics Report to get dozens of thrifty tips.)
If you focus on the three steps below, you can turn your financial situation around.
#1: Reduce your monthly expenses
We can justify all sorts of frivolous expenditures. Most people are great at saying why they HAVE to live in a super-expensive home or why every member of the family MUST have a cell phone or why they DESERVE an exorbitant recurring expense, but they aren’t very good at cutting those expenses.
The most valuable thing you can do while trying to get your financial feet on the ground is to drop your expenses to rock bottom.
- the kids could share a room
- you could drop to one car
- you could set a grocery budget instead of buying whatever looks tasty at the time
- you could take a walk instead of going to a gym
There are a zillion ways to lower your monthly living expenses. Some of them are a bit more radical, like these. Others are not quite as extreme. Check out this article for an in-depth look at how to reduce your fixed expenses and vow to take action.
The lower your expenses are, the less money you HAVE to make. This is really important because as I mentioned before, it is far easier to control the money you are spending than the money you are making.
#2: Stock up when times are good
When times are good, people tend to go purchase extravagant things that they normally wouldn’t spend money on, like an outrageously expensive outfit, a pricey vehicle, or an exotic vacation. And I agree, it’s very important to reward yourself sometimes. Life shouldn’t always be grim and desperate.
But at the same time, you need to be practical, too, because if one thing is true about money, it’s that there are good times and bad. When the money is rolling in and the expenses are low, stock up on things that you normally need to buy:
- Food for the freezer and pantry
- Paper towels and toilet paper
- Personal hygiene products
- School supplies for the kids
- First aid supplies
Then, during a downturn in your finances, you can use your limited money to pay for necessities.
Once, when I was laid off, I went for 5 months without being able to find another job. The small amount that I received from unemployment insurance was able to keep a roof over our heads, a car in the driveway, and the utilities on. For those months, I hardly had to buy anything for our day-to-day needs because I had a pantry simply loaded with those supplies that had been purchased during better times. As a single parent and the only breadwinner, my pantry was the only reason we didn’t end up homeless.
For more advice on building a pantry when you have limited funds, check out my book, The Pantry Primer: How to Build a Whole Food Pantry on a Half Price Budget.
#3: Build an emergency fund
Hand in hand with stocking up is putting some money back. A recent survey showed that 63% of Americans don’t have enough money to see them through a $1000 emergency. Is this you? If it is, you need to change it, because you are literally one missed paycheck away from disaster.
Think about how easy it is to miss a paycheck. What if you are too sick to work? What if a client fails to pay you? What if the business you are working for suddenly closes its doors?
You should do everything you can to put back at least one month’s worth of expenses – preferably 3 months.
- Sell something
- Get a second job
- Put money back each time you are paid
This is money that is not to be touched except for a true emergency, like the car breaking down, an illness, or a job loss. It isn’t for going to a concert you got invited to at the last minute, funding a vacation, or buying a new outfit.
Trust me, if you need it, it will be an incredible relief to have it. I can tell you this from repeated experience.
If you aren’t making a whole lot of money right now, just putting back $10 a week can really add up – it’s more than $500 over the course of a year. If you’re anything like the rest of the world, you probably blow $10 a week on fancy coffee, magazines, or something else, right?
How can you prepare for financial problems?
Being financially stable is more about your mindset than your income. People with lower incomes can do astounding things with some focus and dedication. For a few ideas about becoming more financially secure, check out this report for dozens of frugal tips.
Remember, no one is immune to financial problems.
What changes can you make to improve your financial stability? Because without financial stability, you’re going to have a hell of a time with life’s unpleasant little surprises.