By Beverly Sandlin,
Cutting Expenses – Around here the first thing that always gets cut is the groceries, then any unnecessary trips in the car, then any unnecessary electricity use, then the TV cable, then the thermostat goes down and down and down, sometimes all the way to 40 degrees which is its lowest setting. And any “unnecessary” bills don’t get paid – can’t get blood from a turnip is the old saying. But how far can you cut expenses?
To a large degree this is dependent on your family. Just before Bob and I got divorced there was absolutely no way he could live without ESPN, meat at every meal, and the heater cranked up to 85 degrees in the bathroom for his shower. We split up and on his own he didn’t even bother to get cable TV, ate a lot of meatless spaghetti and goulash, and kept his house trailer thermostat at 60 degrees and didn’t have a space heater for the bathroom – hmmm… When HE had to pay for everything he chose not to. He is now back in the lap of luxury, but it taught me a valuable lessen. He doesn’t make the decisions about what gets cut, I do.
Groceries are the first thing cut and I have an adequate pantry to tide us by. If he wants meat, then he brings it home. And when the kids were young and there was no man around, I had no problem harvesting and cutting up that freshly killed deer outside my door by the road. Flavorful and attractive meatless meals and soups are your friends along with inexpensive and abundant eggs. You may even want to experiment with becoming a vegetarian. It’s all about attitude.
TV goes. Hopefully you can still get your local channels. If not there are DVDs and YouTube. I raised my children to the age of 14 without TV. After a couple of weeks of getting accustomed to being without it, you may never want to go back to 220 channels with nothing to watch. Quiet evenings playing games, doing puzzles, writing, sewing, and doing art, or playing cards with friends can be so much more enjoyable than another night of mass programmed TV.
Telephone in this day and age can be very controlled just by purchasing a $10 trac phone and paying by the minute for necessary calls. Maybe you really do need that fancy internet phone or it is the only access you have to internet, but look around for different plans as they are quickly coming down in cost.
Internet is now available FREE at most libraries and if you have a laptop computer you can often pick it up near cafes and schools. Another option, if you live in a town or suburban area, is to check for local networks. If you can figure out who has a WIFI network you can tap into, offer to pay half their internet bill for access or trade them for access to their WIFI.
Electricity has a lot of phantom use. When the TV is off it is still using almost 40% of its power usage to stay on the ready setting. Unplug everything you can even if you don’t think it is using power. That spare TV that you only use once a day or for the toaster, and other kitchen appliances, consider investing in a power strip that you can simply flip the switch and turn off – $5 this month could save you $60 over the next year.
Need to cut more? Consider going down to the breaker box and turning off entire rooms. Do NOT use your drier, air dry your clothes. Cut your washing down to once or twice a month by hand washing underwear and stockings in the sink. Bring in solar yard lights that recharge during the day for ambient lighting at night. Use candles and oil lamps. The refrigerator is one of your biggest energy users and you probably aren’t using it all. Get a dorm fridge and pull the plug on the big beast until times are better. If your freezer isn’t full, can what is in it and unplug it. Need to cut more? Leave only the breaker to your furnace and bathrooms on.
Need to cut even more? Try out your survival skills and preps and throw the whole house breaker off. Much easier to do during the summer. Spend a month or three like this and invest in some used solar panels, a marine battery or two, and an inverter. Look around for used or inexpensive 12v ovens, refrigerator/freezers (or propane units), coolers, fans, and heaters. Check out camping supplies and truck stops for these items and you will be prepared for almost anything, use 1/3 the electricity you did before and appreciate it immensely.
I knew a family with teens who’s father lost his job and rather than lose the house he shut off the electric and everything that went with it for six months. They hauled their laundry to town and water back home. They bathed at the local state park showers and did hand baths in between. Dug a pit and built an outhouse. Mom cooked on the grill and food was kept in coolers. They kept the house and when dad got a job, EVERYONE appreciated the electricity coming back on again. But they survived and grew closer as a family because they knew what they were sacrificing for. And yes, I have lived without electricity, no TV, no running water, no central heat, and only had a grill to cook on – so it can be done.
And if worse comes to worse with the bills, bankruptcy no longer wipes the slate clean with bills, but you can often DIY bankruptcy, keep your home and an older car and get solvent again.
Spare Bedroom – That spare bedroom or upstairs or basement can be rented out for a week or a month or longer to a friend, a relative, or an acquaintance without the hassle of applying for rental property.
Spare Garage – The garage or a spare garage can often be rented out for classic car storage or motorcycle storage.
Space to Park Campers – Do you have enough space in the backyard or driveway to rent out storage area for campers or RVs?
Foster Parents – If you like kids, or at least can tolerate them, be good to them, and pass a background check, being a foster parent can be rewarding and provide extra income and company.
Utilizing and Evaluating your Preps – Hard times are when you really need your preps and can evaluate how well you have prepared. How is your preparedness pantry actually holding up compared to how you think it would do? Need more spices? Not enough canned fruit? Have enough bean recipes so that you just don’t want to throw up if you see another pinto bean? How about TP, shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste? Are you aware that common household items like baking soda can be used as deodorant and toothpaste if you run out? Or you may even prefer them. Can you keep yourself healthy without going to the doctor or the dentist? Have enough reference material on natural remedies, gardening, and wild edibles? Are you gardening and canning? No space? Consider a community garden space, these are available in almost all towns and cities now.
Are you using the knowledge you have gained from reading and researching about preparedness? Are you using your inexpensive emergency blankets on the windows to block heat and keep your house cooler? Or turn them around shiny side inside and reflect the heat back inside? If it is summer have you made a solar cooker and used it? Have you made a brick rocket stove and used it to cook instead of turning on the burner to your stove? Are you using your alternative heat source and how is it working? Are you bringing the solar yard lights in at night? Have you washed and rinsed your clothes in five gallon buckets with a plunger? Are you eating survival soups? Are you walking or riding your bicycle more places? Are you recharging your batteries with a small solar array – many solar lights use AA batteries and can recharge them.
Those guns you had to have can be sold for cash pretty easily as well as the ammo. They actually make a tremendous investment bought right. Which leads me too…
Sell STUFF – We all have “stuff” we don’t need. Garage sales and Craigslist are virtually free options to get rid of stuff you aren’t using or don’t absolutely need and bring in some much needed dollars. I’ve known people who have made a living going to garage sales and auctions and reselling what they have found. Teach yourself how to sell on eBay and charge others a commission for selling their stuff on eBay.
Swallowing Your Pride – Those tax dollars the government has been taking all of these years, well, it may be time to get some of that back in the way of food assistance (the food stamp card and food shelves), heating assistance and whatever else you can find to help you through these rough times. It seems like plenty of people use them that don’t necessarily need them, might as well belly up to the trough when you need the help – you’ve already paid for it!
Worst Case Scenarios – Oh Lordy, it can happen. You can find yourself homeless. It doesn’t take too many missed mortgage payments to be foreclosed on and now what do you do? AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps now look like good options.
But if you know that this is a possibility, for the cost of a few mortgage payments or less, you can purchase a camping trailer and own a home on wheels. Yes, people can live in RVs and camping trailers even in Minnesota in the winter. Often a relative or friend will allow you to park it in their backyard and hook onto their electric in exchange for help around their place mowing grass, shoveling snow or whatever.
And if you have really done your prepping and outfitted yourself with a 12v solar system you don’t even need their electricity, just a place to park your camper. Yes, you may have to go elsewhere to shower in the winter and do your laundry, you may have to haul water and haul out waste, but it is better than being homeless.