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Archive for May, 2010

Sale Day

21

05 2010

What Can I Do Today? Buy a bag.

Once a week, I will do a ‘What Can I Do Today’, where we try to build up our preparedness supplies in increments.  For example, today we will discuss buying a backpack to use as a Car Bag, to hold essentials that would be able to tide you over for 72-hours.  Next week at this time, we will discuss one of the component areas that should go into your bag, such as food, water, medical or shelter.  Over the course of a month or 5 weeks we will build out your bag in increments so it is not too much expense all at once, and we can take a good look at individual components of a Car Bag, instead of just throwing a huge list at you.  By the end of this process, you will have a fully stocked 72-hour kit!

You may have heard the term BOB or Bug-out Bag, or 72-hour kit, either on this site or many other preparedness sites.  I personally call it a Car Bag, because that’s where it lives and because it makes me sound less like some crazy fringe survivalist-type than having a Zombies are Coming Bug-Out-Bag!  I would call it one of the cornerstone’s of preparedness, partially due to its simplicity, but mostly due to the level of peace it provides.  Having one is recommended by Ready.gov as well as other governmental and private organizations.

As putting one together would take more than the time allotted for a ‘WCIDT?’, today we’re just going to do Phase 1:  Picking out a bag.

What Type of Bag Should I Get?

This is the big question, and it really depends on what you are comfortable with.  If you drive only a few miles to and from work today, and you never leave your town, odds are you could get away with a school-style backpack carrying just the essentials.  If you regularly drive cross-country, live in a very rural area, or live in an area prone to disasters, I’d recommend a larger hiking-style backpack, as well as maybe a small tote to hold some additional supplies.

Let me state that any gathering of supplies will be helpful in an emergency situation, so if you choose to have just a fannypack hidden under the seats of your vehicle with a small first aid kit, 16oz bottle of water, flashlight, and lighter, you are well ahead of half the population.  However, I am going to advocate that you, and every teen or older member of your family, have a full-size hiking/camping pack in the back of your vehicle.  To not feel left out, (and to teach them young!) I’d suggest that even the youngest member of your family should have their own pack according to their ability to carry it.

Why?

The reason I recommend a larger bag is simple:  it holds more stuff.  If a tornado or fire destroyed your home, a full 72-hour kit would at least let you set up in a hotel or friend’s house with a fresh change of clothing and needed toiletries while you try to figure out how to get your life back in order.  How about the peace of mind it would provide you to know your teen who is headed to college 300 miles away doesn’t have to worry about the basics if their car breaks down? 

I’ve also seen more than my fair share of stories in the northeast and northern plains states having snow and ice storms that literally trap people in their cars for 48 hours or more.  Having an extra sweatshirt and thermal emergency blankets on hand may actually save lives.

So all that said, what should you think about when buying a backpack?  First, get one with a frame, either internal or external.  An internal frame is probably better if you don’t plan on carrying it regularly.  It allows the weight to be carried close in to the body, which is helpful with your center of gravity and balance.  Both my hiking and 72-hour kit backpack are internal frame packs.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast who regularly backpacks, you could go with an external frame.  These are good if you really have a lot of weight in the pack, as the external frame helps distribute it.  Plus, the frame is useful for attaching a wide variety of items.

Next, make sure it has a hip belt, preferably with padding.  If you have to hike with it to the next exit because you broke down in the middle of nowhere, it should definitely be as comfortable as possible!  If you can find one with a chest strap, that is another good feature, though for the ladies make sure it is not uncomfortable.

Finally, make sure it can carry what you need it to carry!  Mine is about 4000cc and still has some more space left that I plan on filling up at some point.  Anything over 3500cc should make for a pretty solid 72-hour kit.

Some decent packs that won’t break the bank: 

This Teton Sport is around $70 and 3400cc.

A huge 6200cc pack for $53 delivered.

For a full list of packs, check here. Also, make sure you check the reviews for any important information.

(Please note this caveat; these are bags I would suggest for a 72-Hour Kit, as something that wouldn’t be carried around hiking day-in and day-out. There’s a whole extra set of criteria for picking a good hiking/camping pack that you will be using regularly. While my hiking pack and Car Bag are of similar size, my car bag cost 1/3 of my hiking pack, and I expect less of it, as its main job is to just sit in the back of the Jeep ready to help at a moment’s notice!)

19

05 2010

Prepping as Insurance

While most of my family and friends are supportive of my preparedness lifestyle (and all the supplies and mindset that goes with it), I still get some quizzical looks now and again, and I fairly often hear the question, ‘why are you doing this again’?

My new standard answer is that being prepared is simply another form of insurance. It is insurance that protects my family and I from crises ranging from losing our jobs to a massive interruption of the electrical grid to many emergencies in between.

If you live in the mid-south, you know what it is like when the forecast calls for as little as a half-inch of snow (or in the north-east when a hurricane is approaching). Every store is emptied of milk and bread in a 50-mile radius. Having sufficient supplies on hand at all times means never being that person who has to rush anywhere because we’ve taken care of our needs long before the snowstorm or other weather event was even on the horizon. This allows us to actually plan what we would do if there really is a problem, instead of following the herd to the local Kroger.

For example, we make plans for what will happen if we can’t get to our place of work, such as having the phone numbers of our supervisors readily available. We know what we will do if our sidewalks become icy, or if the power goes out due to ice on the lines. We make sure we have sufficient food and water if we’re stranded, even for a length period of time, and the ability to cook with it.

Yes, all this really is important.

Put another way, I buy car insurance to protect my vehicle, home insurance to protect my house, and health insurance to protect myself. But even in those cases, insurance is like the police…they show up after the problem has already occurred. I want the skills and supplies to actually help me in my times of need until I actually get to the point I can call Farm Bureau or Geico to come cut me a check.

I call this ’emergency insurance’, and I assign resources to it (time and cash), just like I do for any of my other insurances. Take car insurance; I pay about $500, or 5% of the value of my vehicle annually in comprehensive insurance. That indicates that the insurance company thinks I have less than a 5% chance of being in an accident or filing a claim, which seems about right.

My homeowner’s policy costs me .2% of my home value annually (coincidentally, that also comes to $500 a year). The insurance company must think that I have less than a 1 in 500 chance of having my house burn down. Again, that’s probably right.

Somewhere between those two numbers I estimate is the chance to have a major emergency; perhaps 1-3% per year. Of course, there are lots of ‘minor’ emergencies that being prepared for assists in as well, such as the broken tooth that happened yesterday, car breakdowns, job losses or downgrades, electrical outages and the like.

Looking at it like insurance, spending between $500-$1000 a year on preparedness doesn’t seem so out of line, does it?  And the difference between ’emergency insurance’ and regular insurance is that even if nothing happens, I still have something to show for it.  I’ll likely have my emergency radio for 10 years (and I actually use that in my home business area to listen to music; it sounds good enough for me!) and our food storage we actually eat out of, so I more consider that ‘pre-buying’ food as opposed to a preparedness cost.  My water storage containers are solidly built and will likely provide the same usefulness 20 years from now.

If you’re still on the fence about this stuff, being prepared isn’t different than any of the other multitude of ways we provde for our families.

18

05 2010

What Can I do Today? Take Care of Your Teeth!

My apologies, no regular post today due to a broken tooth!

Once upon a time, I went 10 years without seeing a dentist. I have such sensitive teeth that they need to numb me for a cleaning. I’ve got fillings in many teeth, had a terrible time with braces as a child, and due to a bike accident, 4 of my top teeth are crowns.

For some reason about 5 years back I decided to head back to the dentist. 11 visits later and I was done. Yes, 11. My own fault, for not going in so long. 1 for x-rays, 2 for cleanings, and the rest for fillings, a couple of root canals, and some new crowns.

Today? Now I go like clockwork every 6 months, and I’ve had only 1 cavity in two years, by simply following the advice our mother’s and our dentists’ have given us for our entire lives.

Brush twice a day, floss, rinse, cleaning every 6 months. That’s it.

If I was stranded at my house for a month due to an ice storm and had an unfilled cavity go infected, that could be close to a worst case scenario. In many cases, dental problems can be more painful than many other injuries and ailments. An untreated mouth infection can kill.

So don’t delay, call your dentist today if you haven’t been in more than a year and make an appointment. And consider picking up Where There Is No Dentist for your preparedness library.

17

05 2010

Financial Preparedness Friday 401(k) edition

Financial Preparedness Friday’s will be articles that combine a ‘What Can I Do Today?’ with a more detailed look at a financial topic or question. 

So today’s ‘What Can I Do Today’ is:  If you are currently working, and are employed at a company that has a 401(k) and you are not signed up, call the Benefits department today and get the paperwork to join.  If your company offers a dollar match in your 401(k) and you are not taking advantage of it, you are not participating in what could by the highest return percentage available to you. 

If you are in your companies 401(k) and you are not getting the maximum match, increase your contribution percentage until you are getting the maximum match.  And if you are already contibuting to get your maximum match, congratulations!  Now take it one step further and raise your percentage by 1%. 

If you say you can’t afford it, my response is that you can’t afford not to do it.  Take a look at the above image.  It shows that Social Security is currently in the red, many years before almost anyone predicted.  That means that Social Security, today, is now spending more money than it takes in.  If you are relying on Social Security to assist you in your old age, don’t.  Being prepared means being financially prepared to take care of yourself without depending on anyone. 

I absolutely understand it is challenging to put money away in a very difficult economy, but I implore you to make saving at least a little bit the first thing you spend your money on (the 2nd if you tithe), not the last.  For those working hourly jobs without access to a 401(k), I’ll let you know a little method that literally changed my life, with little effort.  I’ll warn you though, you will need some willpower.

In 1999, my life, financially and otherwise, was a train wreck.  I was unemployed, I smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day when I could afford it, drank too much beer, and otherwise was on a self-destructive path.  I had $43,000 in credit card debt and another $3,000 in student loan debt. 

When I say I know how bad it can get, I do.  In late 1999 I filed bankruptcy.  While I believe in paying my debts, at that point in my life I just had no idea how that was possible.  I was making $8 an hour, and I couldn’t even afford minimum payments on my debt, let alone extra to pay down principal.  However, it was after the bankruptcy when the most difficult choice appeared.

Within 2 years of my bankruptcy, credit card companies were offering me credit again.  I actually opened 2 credit lines, and very quickly found myself staring at $2500 in credit card debt.  One day I looked at myself in the mirror and couldn’t stand what I saw.  What I saw was a complete and utter lack of control over my own life.  And it was that day I took a stand.  I called and cancelled one card, and hid the other one and swore I would use it in emergencies only.  And while I can hardly believe it now, I stuck with it.  I paid off the credit cards by 2004, paid off my student loan about the same time, and started on my sometimes-rocky financial recovery.

So how did I manage it?  From my first day of work, even when I didn’t know why, I always paid myself first.  When I first got the job for the company I am still working for and was only making $8/hour, I put $10 a week into an envelope.  It was the first thing I did with every paycheck.  It wasn’t a lot of money, and I couldn’t really imagine that I would ever save any real money that way.  But what it did was more psychological than financial.  It gave me peace of mind.  When a water pump blew on my car, I usually somehow had just enough in my evelope to cover it.  When I had to have insurance or risk driving without, the envelope usually helped me with the last $50 or $60.  When I wanted to take a pretty girl out on a date, I thought that was an emergency too and usually raided $40.  Before I knew who Dave Ramsey was, I had created my own emergency fund. 

When I got a raise at work, I increased the amount I put in the envelope from $10 to $20 per week.  If I did an odd job or sold something on eBay (something I did more and more as time went on), I put a portion into the envelope.  There were some weeks when I would have $800 or more in the envelope, and others where it was near empty, but I never skipped a week or made excuses why I couldn’t put some amount of money in it.  Eventually I even used a good chunk of ‘envelope money’ to pay off my credit cards and start a debt-free lifestyle. 

Today I challenge you, no matter what your current financial status, to stretch and take one small extra step.  As I have said, I will be doing anything I ask you to do.  After I post this article, I will be increasing my 401(k) contribution from 5 to 6%.  (my match is 5%)  I hope y’all will do the same.    So whether it is putting $5 in an envelope or saving some of your birthday money instead of spending it, I guarantee there will come a time in your life when you will be glad you did.

14

05 2010