The pandemic has undoubtedly caused financial stress for people all over the world. Very few countries have escaped. However, we had already a crisis of our own. The pandemics just added poison to the wounds. With the global economy taking a hit, many people losing their jobs, and businesses forced to shut down, the scenario in the next few years seems grim. In such a situation, it’s essential to learn from those who have coped well with the financial stress and made it to the other side, at least covering basic needs during hard times.
This is something we should deliberate on a little bit.
What exactly are “necessities”?
If someone works his backside off for a decade or more, to get a high-end education and feels he/she needs and deserves a yacht, a one-million-dollar McMansion, and a Maserati with custom paint, so be it. For the remaining 95 %ers, our “necessities” are surely much more humble and achievable. We would prefer function over form, for starters.
I’ve seen this a lot. I witnessed very close this case: a hard-working, but uneducated laborer who works in a kitchen cabinet manufacturing company and whose largest aspirations are a Chinese 150cc motorcycle and an iPhone. But his two kids don’t even go to school.
Sadly, this article is not universal. Maybe city dwellers probably won’t find it as useful as those already owning a patch of land to grow some stuff if things go South. But keep reading nevertheless: the information should encourage you to keep pursuing a patch of productive land to suit your needs.
However, if you are in a city, it means you have (or should have) a much better salary than those in small towns or the countryside. Use that advantage to your favor: put some money aside to get a few acres even if you have to drive 4 hours to the middle of nowhere.
Highly advisable if you have to do that to arrive there, if you ask me.
Of course that some sacrifices shall be made. But I’d rather drive a 15-year-old car for the next 3-4 years than get in debt to buy a newer one and have nowhere to go if anything happens in the cities.
What are the people around me doing differently?
I recently had the opportunity to talk with some country and small-town folks down here who I have known since childhood. Through our conversations, I could extract some valuable information on how they coped with the financial stress caused by the pandemic.
The first and most significant thing I learned was that these people produced an estimated 60% of their daily diet in their place. This means they grew their vegetables, raised livestock, and in general, were self-sufficient when it came to food. They did not have to rely heavily on grocery stores or restaurants to feed themselves and their families, which helped them save a lot of money.
This was a big deal when you couldn’t find staples like pasta, rice, or cornmeal for arepas, one of the most sought carb sources in Venezuela. We are lucky regarding some basic items. We have coffee plantations nearby (and in my cabin, I have some plants and space to increase production in the next few years).
The second thing I learned was that they cut expenses to extreme limits. They only spent money on the absolute necessities and saved the rest. Savings would be mostly for medical emergencies, indispensable car or machinery parts, spares, and such. This meant that they were always prepared for any unexpected expenses that might arise.
These three things – producing their food, cutting expenses to the extreme, and having a productive patch in a place with a strong local economy – were the key factors that helped these people cope with the financial stress caused by the pandemic. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors and see how we can apply them to our own lives:
Producing our own food.
One of the most significant expenses for most people (down here in Venezuela, at least) is food. Eating out or buying pre-packaged meals can quickly add up, especially if you have a large family group to support.
This is common sense though; one way to cut down on food expenses is to produce whatever food you can.
Now, it is understandable that not everyone has the space or resources to grow their food. However, there are still ways to produce some, even if you live in an apartment or a small house. But have to be prepared to cover your walls from floor to ceiling with growing lights and PVC racks if you are serious. Very likely, you will only grow enough for a salad or two or enough tomato salsa for a pizza or a lasagna per week. It all depends on how much you master the methods at the end of the day.
You can start by growing herbs or vegetables in pots or on a windowsill. You can also join a community garden or find a local farmer’s market where you can buy fresh, locally-grown produce. Or, if you live near public land, research how to grow a guerrilla garden.
Producing some food helps to save money, but this also ensures we are eating fresh, healthy food. This means more resistance to disease and a better general improvement in our health. It’s also a great way to learn new skills.
This initiative in Latin America is unlikely, as the mechanisms like these programs don’t exist as far as I know, and the cultural approach is very different. But in other countries, there exist community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs. These initiatives allow you to buy a share of a local farmer’s harvest, which ensures that you have access to fresh, locally-grown produce throughout the year. You can also look for local farmers’ markets, where you can buy fresh produce directly from the farmers themselves.
Cutting expenses to the extreme.
Cutting expenses to the extreme is not always easy, but it’s necessary if you want to save money and be prepared for any financial emergencies that may arise. One way to start is by creating a budget. Take notes carefully of your expenses in a booklet, and at the end of the month, then decide which ones are necessary and which ones you can cut back on. This way you know where your money goes. It sounds obvious, but doing it is harder than expected. For example, do you need that expensive cable package or can you get by with a cheaper streaming service? Do you need to eat out every week, or can you cook at home more often?
Another way to cut expenses is to look for cheaper alternatives. For example, instead of buying brand-name products, try buying generic or store-brand products instead. You may be surprised to find that they are just as good, if not better than the more expensive brands. This is especially true when we consider cleaning products, in our experience.
Having a productive environment.
The third thing I learned was that their places were already productive before the crisis hit, and some of them already with a solid network of clients to buy or trade their excess. This means they had established a strong local economy, where they could sell or trade their excess produce with others in the community. This not only helped them make some extra money but also ensured that they always had access to the things they needed, even when times were tough.
Having a productive place with a strong local economy is all about building community and supporting local businesses. This means buying from local farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs and supporting local events and initiatives. I have yet to visit a cobbler that someone told me makes shoes and boots. This is interesting enough. Real Venezuelan leather surely lasts much longer than Far-East fabrics and rubber.
Another way to support your local economy during hard times is by buying from local artisans and entrepreneurs. This could mean buying handmade crafts or jewelry from a local artisan or buying from a locally owned business instead of a big box store. I have seen already people using wooden tubs instead of those plastic ones you can get in the supermarkets, for things like carrying wet clothes to tend on the line. Just have to dry it very well after using it. By doing so, you are not only supporting your local economy but also helping to build a stronger, more resilient community.
In addition to buying local, it’s also important to get involved in your community. Attend local events, volunteer for local initiatives, and get to know your neighbors. Building strong community ties is essential for building a strong local economy and for coping with financial stress. For some reason, this seems harder in Latin American countries. My initiative for some people to get involved in the fabrication of biodigesters has been received with little enthusiasm even though many people have the means and would get good benefits from doing this. On the other side, people I found out with direct experience doing this (something that is amazing for me) simply couldn’t care less to promote the biogas generation in their communities. I believe I don’t need to mention what political wing they come from…
Downsizing your household.
Additionally, you must consider downsizing. Do you need a big house or a fancy car? Downsizing can not only save you money but also free up your time and energy for things that matter more than material possessions. I do know a couple of cases that decided to get rid of a few things like houses, locals, and cars, and decided to put that money to work. They are now semi-retired and can now pull their weight: medicines, treatments, and even help their immediate families now and then. It was not easy. This economy is not one where you can just start a business and expect to get rewards overnight. I have seen many people going bankrupt, without recovering not even the initial investment. But that shouldn’t discourage people. Other businesses have been slowly thriving, somehow, even under these poor conditions.
It is understandable that these steps may not be feasible for everyone, and it is sad to acknowledge it. But I do struggle every day to provide indications and encourage others to look to strengthen their independence and self-reliance.
The time to prepare is now.
Disclaimer: This is not financial advice by any means. It’s just a compilation of experiences I have collected from some fellows, with a pinch of common sense of my own. Experiences from people I have known personally for ages, and thanks God, they’re doing fine. We talked briefly, and they were kind enough to tell their stories.
What are your thoughts?
Do you see any similarities in your community? What steps do you think you can work on in your life? Do you have any advice for these situations? What’s your takeaway?
Let us know in the comments.
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.
Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151
Growing up dirt poor in Detroit Michigan, my parents stretched every dollar. we didn’t have a phone, a TV, a hot water tank, carpets, air conditioning, central heat, a refrigerator, Toys, microwaves, and more than two changes of clothes.
What we had was many people who sat at our table because my Dad , having a regular job provided us with more food than most of our neighbors. He was a ditch digger for Wayne county drain commission. each week he would come home with a fifty pound bag of vegetables on his shoulders.
rarely he would step off the bus without them. Oh yes we didn’t have a car . once a month the neighbors would gather to make stone soup. All the leftovers went into a large iron pot set up in the lot down the street over the fire that cooked it all up.
all would gather to feast on the soup and when done we would all bring out our instruments to sing and dance and forget for the moment that we were poor. because it was Saturday night we all stayed up late to arise on Sunday and go to the last mass of the day.
We survived because we were a community. we all knew one another and when trouble came all stood together to share the load. Today we may know the person that lives next door. we are divided. and that is what government wants.
We are easily controlled and pushed to blame others for our problems. depending on the government for answers and not ourselves or friends and neighbors.
What we have gained in technology we have lost in civilization. It wont be climate change that causes our demise.———- I, Grampa
You have hit the nail on the head – community.
What a fascinating comment. I look forward to hearing more from you about your family and early life. Strong people!
Dear Grampa, you´re right.
My cabin and our plot have been there for over 30 years, and we are still barely accepted by the neighbors. They have several generations there, of course. They are just now tolerating we use some water of the underground creek. Go figure. We only can go up there once or twice a week with the fuel scarcity and praying our old car doesn´t break down.
It works,been living like the writer described most all my life.Drive old vehicles,live in a modest house,use older equipment on my farm and most importantly avoid debt like the plague.Good ideas in the article for people here in the USA right now.
Thanks. At school, they teach us a lot of stuff, most of that useful to some degree. But not a thing about financial management, resources optimization, investment, and similar concepts and tools. If every kid gets out of high school with the idea of building their own house, planting their own garden for food, and running their own businesses, they will soon find out themselves without workers in their offices.
However, I feel like cutting expenses to the extreme is going to need to go a lot further than the choice of cutting cable etc (we cut that almost 10 years ago). I think it is going to come to harder questions…health insurance? Life insurance? One car? No car, if doable? Fix roof or cover it with a tarp for now? Internet? Phones? Gifts, birthdays, Christmas, eating out will all become sacrificed (or partially sacrificed) and we will need to get creative instead.
Ketchup? Not a chance. Salt and pepper will do, if you are lucky.
I´ve been without health or life insurance for a long time. 6 years, to be exact. An accident would be a catastrophe. I´ve been without a car since 2016 and it is a pain. Even with all the trouble of getting fuel, with a reliable SUV would allow me to drive people to their jobs for a fee as a “private” transport, which is a full-time job down here. And a lucrative one. Sadly I made a terrible mistake and got a lemon that has been sitting in my driveway for years now with no means to fix it. With so much rain down here, a tarp is not an option, trust me. It will just drive things worse. Eating out? A couple of hot dogs for the kiddo every two weeks. One buck. Not too many places to go here; it´s a semirural town where the idea of most people for a great meal(including me) is a barbecue. I´m not too fond of street junk food, so I´m OK with that. We haven´t sacrificed too much on birthdays and Christmas regarding food. We are a small family, and we all collaborate so my kid (the younger one) can have memorable experiences and bond with his grandparents. He had a much more comfortable life: a great school, ice creams, and cakes, his own room, TV, toys, safety, movies, pets, and all of that before we left Venezuela to go to Peru. All of that good life suddenly was turned upside down in a new country, including a few hostile classmates. He now understands why we have to be thankful for the little things we have now: our coffee with milk for the mornings, the oatmeal, pancakes, for breakfast, our permanent sun and hot weather, the beautiful girls, and so many other small things…
Sorry to respond so late…busy week… @Jose
Thank you for clarifying the true costs you have been going through. It must be very hard, but you are right to keep the focus on small celebrations where possible, and to stay focused on being grateful for life’s small pleasures…those are where our true “wealth” lies, and getting back to those will ironically improve a lot of consumption-obsessed Americans.
I think many in USA are in for a very rude shock and have no concept of frugality in a real sense. Thank you for sharing your story and helping us to prepare for what lies ahead.
One point of clarification: just because one lives in the city doesn’t mean that one has a better salary. Many people here are very poor. Those in the service industry such as waiters and bartenders make very little. There are also many living on government benefits, sometimes for several generations. None of those have money to spare. Many don’t have any idea of how to be self-sufficient. Those are the first who will become violent if the checks stop coming, of course, because they have no skills and know of no other way. I’m sure there are a few of these in the country but in the city, they’re everywhere. And they don’t want to change. This is a most unfortunate feature of city living during tough times. And I for one have no place to go and no way to get there, so I’ll have to deal with them. For now, law enforcement keeps them in order. Under DROL, matters will be different.
I know. And I have decided to focus on that particular group with special attention, too.
In the coming collapse (trust me, there will be a global one in the next years) these groups will neutralize each other. We have to be prepared to leave quietly and unnoticed.
Sadly I can´t see valid options unless I can put together a tutorial with my own growing lights and aquaponics setup, and show the results with everything backed up with real facts, not some YT BS. Biodigestion is NOT easy, neither is growing stuff even in the best of soils. A plague (very common in the tropics) can appear overnight at any moment and ruin your crops. This is the part I can foresee as the most important, as my land patch is a hill, all open and exposed. It´s not small so covering everything with a proper “tent” for bug and sun protection is feasible but really expensive.
For those in the city, with limited space, access to water, and energy-generating sources I´m afraid options are much more restricted.
What are necessities: Water, food, clothing, shelter, *heat, Faith. These are the ONLY things that are truly necessary. ANYthing else is extra and does not keep you alive. Be thankful for these and anything else you have.
After living in a foreign country and not knowing if I was going to come back someday and see again my parents and family, and my land, thinking a lot on the mistakes that took me there while laying sick in bed with the Cov19, I am living proof. You need faith to survive.
Sometimes cutting to the bone is benefitted by buying new. For example, last year we bought a new car. The old car was 11 years old, took premium gas giving about 20 miles to the gallon, two wheel drive, fairly good sized. We had enough cash to buy the new car without a loan (very important). The new car is about the same size, has four wheel drive with a little more ground clearance, gives about 30 miles per gallon on regular gas and we expect not to replace it until it wears out. If we have to bug out, this new car is more likely to get us to my sister’s place up a mountain dirt road. Admittedly, not everyone has that option.
Our first choice is to bug in place. But if the electricity goes out, so goes our water. And due to local conditions, one can forget about having a garden. So even without violence, we may be forced to leave.
Each situation is different and can change, sometimes quickly.
Because I’m in a position where I can’t grow my own food, I concentrate on developing skills and tools to make things that those who grow food need, like farming tools. Barter will be the fall-back trade.
We have chickens, honeybees, a vegetable garden, berries and apples, but that’s not even 25 percent of our food supply, even with canning and freezing our surplus. That’s why we stockpile rice, wheat, oats, beans, dehydrated vegetables, pasta, canned meats, etc.
Growing 60 percent of their food is very difficult for homesteaders in the U.S. A garden alone won’t do it because so many vegetables are low in calories. (For example, a pound of broccoli has 153 calories, which is twice as much as a pound of zucchini.) At a minimum, homesteaders would need sufficient acreage to raise corn or another grain and beans.
Recent research shows homesteaders who successfully provide the majority of their own food have meat and/or dairy animals, usually both. They produce the protein and fats critical to nutritional self-sufficiency. However, raising dairy cattle or goats requires milking equipment, grains and hay, which in turn requires suitable land and expensive equipment. So we’re talking a small farm, probably with at least one adult tending it full time, rather than a backyard homestead.
I harvested over 300,000 calories worth of honey last year, but we can’t live on honey and eggs. To barter with them, there has to be someone who has something we want. I’m all for community, and we are active in ours, but there are far too few people even in this rural location who would have something worth trading for in a post-SHTF scenario, other than their labor. I expect many will be have no choice but to eat soylent green in government camps.
I focus on growing the basics. Potatoes, carrots and cabbage.
Everything depends on the climate and soil in your particular zone of course.
Some years are better than others. But these products store well.
Love your story. A good Community always overcomes, with the Lord’s help.
Living in a third world Asian country at the moment. The author’s thoughts may be universal as I have had conversations with local people who have expressed the following: the government abandoned the people during covid who had a subsistence lifestyle. They were locked down and oppressed yet the public servants and government workers continued to be paid. The village community was the thing that got many people through the hard time.
Strangely these same people seem to be seduced by credit loans to purchase motor cycles and iPhone/Galaxy phones. For the life of me I cannot understand how impoverished people are conned by the allure of social media. Even the remotest small island has a cell phone tower.
The people of the outer islands have little respect for the political class who, I am told, are only seen prior to an election with much hollow fanfare.
You make the most important point about local community. We can all benefit from turning off the TV, putting down the phone and walking out the front door to see what is around us, to meet our neighbors, to re-engage with family.
I grew up in a lower income home. We always had what we needed because my mother followed common sense when it came to life. She made sure that we had the things that were important and no expense was spared for things such as shoes. While she would look for discounts on undershirts, she knew that a good shirt would last and a good, clean appearance was important. We each got one or two small presents for Christmas and thought the world of them. Meals were cooked from scratch so that there was as mush value as possible for what was available. We never went hungry.
I learned early about the difference between need and want. I need to eat, I want cable TV (I don’t have TV at all). We can all do without a lot of the “things” that we “want”. Is a $1,000 iPhone a need or a want when a $100 Galaxy will make phone calls too.
Not to be overlooked is local involvement in church, school, and government. Want to do something truly meaningful? Run for county election commissioner and help prevent voter fraud. Attend local government meetings. Just being in the room has a huge impact on local actions. Andy Capp once pointed out, “Nothing keeps a man honest as a good upbringing, a sound sense of values, and plenty of witnesses.” It’s the last part that is the most true.
Stay safe, remain vigilant and God bless you all.