August 2, 2014

The Austerity Diaries: Everything That Can Go Wrong, Will

Disasters and personal SHTFs come in all shapes and sizes.

Clearly, I am concerned about things like an Ebola pandemic, war, martial law, and economic collapse.  I’m a news junkie and am gifted (or cursed) with a vivid imagination.  But personal things can cause a lot of upheaval when you are on a tight budget.  And if Murphy’s Law holds true (and it often does) whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, generally at the worst possible time.

Take my SUV, for example. (Please, take it and give me a different one!)  I was driving down the road on Monday when I noticed that it was beginning to overheat. I pulled over, let it cool down, and limped in at 20 miles an hour to a nearby shop, hoping it was something little like a leaky radiator cap.

Alas, it was something big like leaky head gaskets. And by big, I mean about $2000.  Oh, and another week or so without a vehicle.

My poor little emergency fund, that I had been cultivating and growing, is now kaput, along with a couple of weeks of pay.  Imagine my delight.

I was seriously upset. In a funk. Blue as the moon. Which will, of course, get me precisely nowhere.

First, improve your attitude.

If I allowed myself to linger in that funk, all I would do is think about what I’m missing, how I’m stuck at home, and how awful things are. Not productive.

I started feeling ever-so-slightly better when I thought to myself, “Hey, this is ‘practice’ for a real, genuine, can’t-leave-the-house disaster. I can write about this.”

Not much better, but better enough that I’m not weeping into my coffee or planning a dramatic 10 mile walk to the nearest Starbucks so that I could plunge face first into a gigantic Frappuccino for solace.

Then I started thinking about the stuff that I had really planned on getting before starting my no-grocery-store challenge.  Like laundry detergent, for example.  I was also going to hit the farmer’s market and stock up on some veggies that I don’t yet have growing at my place.  Alas, what I have is…well, what I have.

Then I started thinking about the awesome ways I could deal with these things. And I felt inspired and energized because of the challenges.  Also, I had something interesting to write about, because it is a sad reflection of the economy that many of us are in a situation very much like this, where one large unexpected expense can be temporarily life-altering.

While it still bites the big one that I have to spend $2000 on a vehicle repair, as soon as I changed my attitude and began thinking about solutions instead of problems, I felt a thousand times better and reverted to my normal optimistic self.

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Second, be creative in your solutions.

So, in response to the instant, “Oh my gosh, I’m stranded and I need so much stuff from the store” reaction, I began doing an inventory of what I have on hand to fulfill those needs.

I”d been planning to make my own laundry detergent for ages and have all of the supplies on hand in such abundance that I could wash clothes from now until the Second Coming and still have homemade laundry soap left over for those white robes. (You can read about making your own laundry detergent HERE.)

As far as the food goes, well, wants aren’t needs. We have a stockpile, home canned goods, and stuff in the freezer.  I’m a prepper, and we’d honestly be perfectly well fed if we didn’t go to the store or farmer’s market for the next 6 months.  It might get a bit repetitious, but we’d be nourished and far from hungry.  Plus, I have vast amounts of coffee on hand, so I’ll be pleasant, too.

I realized that honestly, there isn’t one single thing I desperately need that I can’t make or improvise.  And maybe I’m weird but I find improvisation to be a lot of fun, and I get an actual “rush” when my make-shift solutions end up working really well.  You know that quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  I really like that far better than the Murphy quote.

Third, there are usually some silver linings.

We moved recently and now that we’re on foot, my daughter and I decided to take a different route and go for a walk each day to explore our new area.  This is some great Mom/kid time, good exercise, and we’ll be able to learn more about our surroundings instead of always being too busy to go exploring.

In many personal catastrophes, there are similar perks if you look at them the right way.

  • A loss of a job means you have more time to spend with your family.
  • A financial crunch means that you might spend more time cooking wholesome ingredients from scratch instead of buying fast food or convenience items.
  • Not having a vehicle means you save money because you have no place to spend money.
  • If you have more time on your hands, no matter what the reason, you can get going on some of those projects you’ve been putting off.
  • When you need something you can’t afford to pay for, sometimes you can learn a new skill and create it yourself.
  • If the power goes out, the family comes together. There are no video games or TV shows or internet-surfing sessions to get in the way of hanging out. Memories are made of times like these.

Sometimes I’m astounded at the solutions my kids come up with. They are so bright and creative and those talents really shine in situations where problem-solving is necessary.

You can test your preps.

When disaster strikes in a personal way, it gives you an opportunity to test your preps.

My current stranded-ness is not unlike the situation we’d face if any of the following occurred:

  • If a major pandemic (like, ahem, Ebola) was sweeping the country, causing either a mandatory quarantine or voluntary preventative isolation.
  • If a big storm damaged or blocked roadways and the stores were inaccessible for a week.
  • If fuel prices escalated to the point that people couldn’t afford to drive frequently.
  • If an economic collapse caused civil unrest that made it unsafe to venture into town.
  • If you became unemployed and had to cut back to absolute bare bones to save money.

You get the idea.  If you think about it, what happened in my situation is precisely what would happen if it hit the fan in a big way. What you have on hand is what you have to survive.  You would have difficulty acquiring new supplies or going anywhere. Are your supplies in order?  Mine weren’t too bad, but there are some gaps I’d prefer to close.

The thing to remember is that preparedness is about more than major disasters. It’s about personal disasters too. And it’s far better to find out now that you are unprepared in certain areas than it would be in a permanent grid-down scenario.  If I need to go to the store, I can just call a friend and she’ll be happy to give me a ride. Right now, I’m being self-reliant because I choose to. I’ve got a list of things I need to stock up on once I’m back on the road again, and some of these things I might never have noticed had we not been in this situation.  There may come a day when self-reliance is the only option, and when that day comes, at least I’ve worked out the bugs and polished my preparedness plan.

Challenges build character.

By learning to turn a negative situation into a more positive experience, we become stronger and more adaptable. That’s what survival is all about. The most well-read person on the planet will have difficulty adapting to troublesome times if they’ve never had to do so.  How you react to those bad things that happen is the true definition of the person you are.

Personally, I choose happiness and optimism. The rain always stops falling eventually. And then the flowers can grow.

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.

— Peter Marshall

Daisy Luther

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, leaving all links intact, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio. Daisy Luther lives on a small organic homestead in Northern California.  She is the author of The Organic Canner,  The Pantry Primer: A Prepper's Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget, and The Prepper's Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy uses her background in alternative journalism to provide a unique perspective on health and preparedness, and offers a path of rational anarchy against a system that will leave us broke, unhealthy, and enslaved if we comply.  Daisy's articles are widely republished throughout alternative media. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest,  and Twitter,.

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