The following article has been generously contributed by Phil Burns of the American Preppers Network. Phil and his family were recently featured on the Animal Planet show Meet the Preppers and you can follow him at Phil801 on Facebook.
There are basic principles that keep us and our families grounded that are key to our happiness as a family unit while we Walk the Path of the Prepper. There is safety and peace that comes from having car insurance, home insurance, medical insurance,etc. What many families frequently ignore is “Standard of Living Insurance”. At its heart, this is whatPreparedness, Self-Reliance, Prepping – however you want to call it – is. By Getting Started in Prepping, or continuing in Prepping as the case may be, and following these five Principles of Preparedness we can provide our families with the assurance that we will be able to maintain a certain standard of living. This standard of living is dictated by the level of preparedness we are able to achieve and maintain.
For example, if a family falls into crisis and they have no preparations then once the average two weeks of supplies they have on hand has been used up, they will drop to a poverty standard of living. If that same family had a month’s worth of supplies stored up, they would have a buffer of a little more than a month before they suffered consequences of their situation. Likewise, if they had a year’s supply of essentials stored, they would effectively be giving themselves a year to be able to recover and plan in the event of a paradigm changing event.
Standard of Living Insurance, or Prepping, provides us with a hedge against calamity. There is much talk recently of “Doomsday” events – which are inappropriately and improperly titled. After all, Doomsday literally means the last day before the end of the earth. What point is there in preparing for that? Massive, widespread crisis, such as; an EMP, Nuclear War, Coronal Mass Ejection, Economic Collapse, and so on is a frequent topic as well. While these things are important to consider in preparing, it is a mistake to hyper-focus on them. There are many other immediate, closer and more likely scenarios that make sense to focus on such as the loss or major injury of a breadwinner, loss of a primary job, extended sickness, accidents and other personal calamities. These happen every single day and each of us likely knows someone to whom this has happened. These are the things that are most essential to develop a “Standard of Living Insurance” against.
The most common effect of living an abundant life, as many of us do, is complacency. As we progress and develop disposable income the complacent tendency is to adjust our standard of living upwards by purchasing a bigger house, a new vehicle, a boat or other recreational toys instead of investing that money to insure the standard of living that we previously grew accustomed to. It is most prudent to instead, in times of largess, not expand your standard of living right away but to choose to ensure that if the current boon withdraws the family is not affected by it. Complacency however, leads us down the path of seeing increased income to the home as play, expendable, or rewarding money – all of which it can be with the proper perspective. That perspective is to view this blessing as an opportunity to ‘play’ at increasing our stores as much as possible, to purchase as many ‘expendable’ goods as possible – that can go into storage, or to ‘reward’ ourselves by adding a more expensive item to our storage that will significantly increase the amount of coverage our Standard of Living Insurance provides us. It also gives us the opportunity to scrutinize our funds and storage to determine if the family can splurge a little and enjoy some recreational time without it impacting the bottom line of our Standard of Living – but adamantly without changing our cost of living.
Following the Principles of Preparedness allows heads of households to reduce stress, find peace and be comfortable in an ever-changing and tumultuous world.
Practice thrift and frugality
The depression era saying of “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without” sums up the practice of Thrift. Living thriftily is not a popular concept in our “Staying up with the Jones’s” mentality, but the folly of that mentality is that if one thing goes wrong and your family slips into crisis, you will have to learn all about “Staying above water”. Living thriftily is a very simple, effective and immediate method to increase your spending power. Imagine being, instead of a consumer; a creator, a repairer, or simply abstaining. It is phenomenally financially wasteful to eat at restaurants on a regular basis, in addition to being typically un-healthy; it also takes away from time spent together as a family creating a personal dining experience at home, together. Thrift is a practice of not wastinganything including time and money.
Frugality dictates that we live within our means and “Waste not, want not”. It requires us to be prudent with how we spend our money and to cautiously and guardedly decide how to distribute it. Why do Americans work themselves so hard and as soon as the paycheck comes in, they throw it to the wind as quickly as they can – leaving them with no reserves, no safety and no peace? It is because we have come to accept abundance as our standard. We foolishly assure ourselves that there will be a check next pay period – which there normally is, until there is not. It is the high possibility that at some point something critical will happen in our lives that brings us to the conclusion that it is very likely that at some point, that check will not be there.
One massive waste that Americans have become very comfortable with is living on credit. We have become extremely complacent with our finances in this regard. Instead of doing without for a short time while we save, we finance everything and as a consequence, pay financing fees and interest that we somehow justify as necessary. It is not necessary that we ever pay financing fees or interest for anything, even a house, if we are willing to be prudent. Instant gratification is the bane of thrift and frugality. We Americans have deceived ourselves into believing that we ‘deserve’ to live a better lifestyle than our parents (which took them a lifetime to achieve) – when in reality – we DESERVE to be secure and at peace in our lifestyle. It is ironic that as a society, we will dicker over $3,000 on a new vehicle and then finance it for 5 years – wherein we condemn ourselves to paying several times that in financing fees and interest.
What good have we done ourselves by shaving $3,000 of off $30,000 when we just finance it? If you’re willing to pay astronomical fees for the pleasure of immediate gratification, amortizing $3,000 does NOTHING to our monthly bill. A frugal person would take 3 years and save monthly as much as they would have paid out on their car payment with a little bonus savings here and there over time. In that short period of time they would accumulate enough cash that they could go into the car dealership and lay down a pile of $23,000 in cash and say they want to walk out with either their money or that $30,000 car. They’re going to walk out with the car because the dealer wants the instant gratification of the cash versus selling an amortized note at a discount.
Living a thrifty and frugal lifestyle is truly simple. Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Do without. Waste not. These things lead us to not being left wanting when a crisis strikes our family. These two highly empowering tools not only give us the ability to build up our Standard of Living Insurance, they also bring an assured peace and allow us to live a truly abundant lifestyle where we are in control of our money instead being a slave to lenders.
A Prepper who successfully follows this principle for a few years will find themselves in a position where they are able to spend time not working without it affecting the family in an adverse manner.
Debt can be crippling and crushing to a family, making them unable to move forward due to the demands of making payments on things they potentially don’t even own anymore. Seek to become Independent from debt! Learn to abhor the idea of being forced to labor and earn money that is not yours as a consequence of choosing to “live a little better” by going into debt. Living independently means being free to choose what is pertinent for you and your family to do with your money.
As you avoid going into debt and gain greater control of your money, establish savings that will grow and serve you as you become the master of your money. Learn to budget and responsibly manage your money as it is a very powerful tool to either enslave or empower you. You can begin to build wealth while you’re getting out of debt by putting together a wise plan like the ones Dave Ramsey teaches in his Financial Peace University.
Independence doesn’t just mean money though. Seek to be Independent of the influences of the world such as; caffeine, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, un-healthy yet addictive food, medications (where possible) and so on. All of these things not only make you a personal slave to addictions, it also indentures your wallet to spending wasteful amounts of money to satiate your personal weaknesses. Strive to become Independent of all these things and you will not only find a healthier you, you will also increase your income as you free a daily outgo to servicing your demons.
Live Independent of the entrapping influences of society as much as possible. Free your mind of thinking you need a better looking car, a prettier house or better clothes. Do what works for YOU, not what you think others will think highly of. Live independent of the fear of judgment of others and become secure in your own person. There seems to be a farcical belief in our society that we should appear as wealthy as possible. The idiocy of this belief is that it fails to take into account just how damaging it is to our self-esteem, our lives and our livelihood. Break free of these childish societal ‘norms’ and live a life independent of the influence of advertisers, marketers and peer pressure!
Prepper families who learn to live independently will find themselves prospering greatly – in ways that may not be apparent to the enslaved masses of society.
Learn, Explore, Do. Manage your circumstance to your advantage, be enterprising and fully explore opportunities that come your way. Seek always to discover ways to create benefit to you and your family. When opportunity presents itself, work hard at redefining and reshaping yourself, your position and your knowledge to be worthy of the success that opportunity can provide. Be resourceful, always looking for a new way to create what you need in order to succeed.
Common ways to be industrious include furthering your education – your whole life – and constantly working to develop new skills. By exploring opportunities, we are able to assess their potential, weigh risk and make a decision as to whether our conclusions merit committing to an opportunity or walking away from it. By improving ourselves constantly, we open up even more opportunity that can potentially bring success.
Idly standing by and waiting for success to land in your lap is a poor strategy. Being industrious means getting up and attempting something – even if it has the potential to fail. The Farmer who fails to put in a crop because he doesn’t think there was enough snowfall during the winter loses out when spring rains finally bring plenty of water. When you commit to something, work hard at it; throw in everything you’ve got. Getting up and going is truly the only way to end up somewhere else.
Preppers who industriously seek out opportunity will soon find the one that will create a change in the direction their lives have been heading.
Strive Towards Self-Reliance
The Principle of Self-Reliance is predicated by and builds upon the first three principles. They are unavoidably intertwined and interdependent. Self-Reliance is, in its simplest form, being able to create or provide all needed things as the result of labor using a developed skill or talent and being able to provide resources as a result of a judicious practice of storing needful things. Therefore, becoming Self-Reliant is the actual process of developing skills and talents while putting away resources.
When combined with Thrift and Frugality, Self-Reliance is providing needed things for yourself that you would otherwise have had to pay money for such as; growing a garden, sewing or repairing clothes, building furniture, building a home, fixing your vehicle and so on. It is being willing to enjoy the fruits of your labor versus the blandness of buying something commercially produced. It is accepting things for their functionality, not for the logo that was stamped on them in a plant somewhere. It is being willing to use something that may be less than perfect in its manufacture but is pure in intent and purpose, knowing that the next one you create you will be able to work out flaws and produce something better.
Self-Reliance, when combined with Independence, drives us to be truly reliant on ourselves in all areas. It teaches us to discover a vocation where we are able to create an expandable income using our talents and labor instead of falling into a career where our income is constricted by salaries and our progress in hindered by being boxed into a job description. A truly independent person creates income opportunities for themselves and others while staying free and clear of debt and interest. A Self-Reliant person builds their own storage and is not dependent on a grocery store to be stocked and operational for them to feed themselves and their family.
Your Industriousness should be more than simply financially motivated. Self-Reliance is the act of being free of needing others, including companies, the government, or your community to provide for or support you. It is learning how to; make soap, grow your own food, provide your own energy, defend yourself, create the things you need and so on. It requires research, learning, experimenting, failing, experimenting more and finally succeeding – in gaining a new skill, accomplishing something new or developing a new vocation. An industrious and Self-Reliant person is truly a creator and experiences the joy of creation on a daily basis.
A Prepper who begins to become Self-Reliant experiences a mental shift and begins to see things such as a grocery store as a warehouse that is utilized to stock up their own storage.
Aspire to have a year’s supply of every needful thing
The natural outgrowth of becoming truly Self-Reliant is to feel compelled to store things up that are essential for our family’s ensured safety, comfort and existence. Every needful thing teaches us to consider the possibility of storing up a supply of every item that we purchase which we truly need. What is a need? Simply put, it is something that it would be difficult or impacting to have to live without. This includes; food, clothing, water, heat, power, home medical supplies, fire starters, light and so on.
It is obviously not prudent to just purchase a year’s supply of every needful thing. Instead, it is a goal that is pursued relentlessly by the Self Reliant Person and is adjusted for each item of consideration. For example, it is quite inexpensive and easy to acquire a year’s supply of ketchup – at most a family will probably use 2 bottles a month. Therefore, purchasing 24 bottles would give you a year’s supply. However, a year supply of something like water, which is consumed every day, requires a very different approach. It is not feasible to store a year supply of water unless you have your own water tower. There are other options available though which include such things as; drilling a well, installing a rain catchment system, being situated near a body of water. Several of these options would require filtering the water that you acquire. For the money spent on a filtering system, such as a Berkey filter, it becomes prudent to purchase filtering capability for the system that will last several years. Each item is adjusted in quantity and time by its own consideration.
One year is not a magic number. It is, however, a measure which provides us with a lengthy buffer to recover from whatever has happened. It also allows us to be charitable towards others who have fallen on hard times without it creating a severe impact on us. Imagine an unprepared neighbor or friend having their bread winner incapacitated for a period of time and not being able to provide for themselves. You are not impacted by their crisis and because you have a year’s supply stored up, you have the opportunity to assist them by opening your storage to them and allowing them to take what they need without it causing you an economic impact and with very little added risk to yourself.
Begin by striving to build up a 3 month supply, then double it and double it again. Once you’ve accomplished the first three months, you will have an idea of the amount of time and money it will take to acquire a year’s supply.
The Prepper who is striving to build a year’s supply of every needful thing will experience a dramatic reduction in stress and inverse increase in peace as they begin meeting goals on the path to achieving this principle.
The impact of living The Principles of Preparedness
When teaching these Principles, the question is inevitably asked “What if nothing ever happens that I need my supplies for?” To which I respond, “That would be wonderful!” Most people don’t get it right away, but let’s consider it.
Consider if you adjusted your life and lived for years under these principles. What impact would there be if nothing happened that required you to survive off your stores? Might it be possible that in following these principles you will have created a new life for yourself that is infinitely better than it would be otherwise? Would you possibly have spent that time living in peace, without stress and with a much higher level of confidence, satisfaction and self -esteem? I can testify to you that this is indeed what will happen! In fact, the mere application of these principles in your life will allow you to weather small crises without them even registering a bump in the continuity of your life. When you are living a Self-Reliance lifestyle with a full year’s supply, not having an income for a month is inconsequential. If you fully commit to living these principles, do you see how this would be the outcome? Would that serve you to be able to live that way?
Consider also that as you develop a year supply of every needful thing, you are to live off of that supply. You don’t just package things up and leave them in a corner to gather dust. You consume your supply each month and at the end of four weeks, go to the “warehouse” (aka grocery store, etc.) and replenish your supply with six weeks worth of what was consumed. This allows you to continuously grow your storage with little to no visible impact to you. And, if times are tough financially, you can extend to 8 or 12 weeks without it stressing your family.
As you become these Principles, you will experience breaking free of the slavery of debt, a ‘career’, of “keeping up with the Jones’s” and most importantly, the stress of trying to live month to month. What you will find instead is that you are able to fully experience life and truly enjoy the blessings of your family.
All the while knowing that the secret to a happy life is wrapped up in a little concept called being a “Prepper”!
– Inspired by a talk by James E. Faust