We received an interesting email from a reader – let’s call him Bill. He writes :
My family and I are well aware of what is coming down the pike in terms of serious unrest due to a collapsed society. However we are barely making it financially due to low paying jobs and we have no savings.
We would like to know how can we begin to prepare and most importantly how can we use what little resources to pool with other preppers or like-minded individual so that our family can at least have a chance to survive.
Also because we live in Billings MT, how can we navigate this area to get to people who won’t hold Our RACE (African-American) against us.
Please help us with this if you can. Thanks, Bill.
Bill raises two very good points (thanks, Bill!). Let’s look at Bill’s last point, first.
Preppers and Discrimination
Preppers are color blind. We, perhaps more than any other group in the country, look at a man and first see who he is, what he can do, how he could contribute to our community, what talents and skills he has, and only after considering all these things, notice if he is white, yellow, brown, black or, for that matter, purple with blue stripes (okay, so we’d probably notice that up front!).
Preppers are least likely to be racist in either sense of the word. They don’t automatically react negatively to any particular race, but also, neither do they automatically believe that any race deserves entitlements or special allowances or anything else. We treat everyone the same – they are as good as they are. They’re not any better, but they’re not any worse, either.
It is unfortunate that there is this vague fuzzy linkage that some people perceive between ‘prepping’ and being a ‘survivalist’ which then leads to being a ‘wild mountain man’ which ends up implying either that we are the Unabomber or an Aryan supremacist.
This is unfortunate nonsense. We are of course nothing more than ordinary folks, added to which is having a responsible concern about our future and a desire to safeguard it.
So, when it comes to discrimination, we know all about it, because we are ourselves discriminated against. We are sneered at, we are ridiculed, we are insulted, and we are typecast as something we’re not and never have been.
If anything, a typical prepper is probably less concerned about a person’s origins than is common for most other groups in society. All that matters to us is that you’re not expecting special treatment, and that you’ll pull your own weight as an equal honest productive decent member of society.
This isn’t just me being idealistic. It is a common thread running through most leading prepper sites and advocates. I have to believe it is reflected among preppers in general, because it is rational and sensible, and surely preppers, more than anyone else, are the most rational and sensible of people!
So, Bill, hurry to find us and join us. We understand the challenges you have when people are quick to judge you by applying inappropriate labels just because it is convenient for them to do so; rather than to challenge their prejudices. But also beware – if you join with us, you might find yourself now doubly pre-judged, being now guilty of being both black and a prepper! The only good thing is that such stupid people will struggle to also consider you a white supremacist. 🙂
Now for the specific question Bill raises, about how to prepare on a very low-income/budget.
Prepping on a Low Income
This is a huge topic that needs lengthy article series devoted to it (and we’ll doubtless publish some in the future).
But, as some quick commentary in timely reply to Bill’s question, the good news is he isn’t locked in to a high paying job where he currently is. Maybe it is relatively easy for him to move west some, and to seek alternate employment in one of the small towns in NW Montana. If he can do that, then he’s much of the way to where he needs to be, both literally and figuratively.
There’s a curious reality in Bill’s position (and that of the many other people in a similar situation). By not earning a lot of money, he is actually freer to make lifestyle changes than would be the case if he had a job paying, say, $7,000 a month, but with a mortgage, car payments, and other commitments soaking up nearly all of the $7,000. He has less to lose by changing jobs, and more to gain.
Moving to a safer more viable location is a huge plus, allowing Bill and his family to then consider a future strategy that involves surviving in place rather than needing to create a separate retreat. That’s a huge plus. As part of a surviving in place strategy, it is essential to integrate into your local community on as many levels and via as many paths as possible – we’ve several very relevant articles in our section on community related issues, in particular the article on becoming part of the solution rather than part of the problem when your community confronts the stresses arising from WTSHTF.
The next thing for Bill to consider is building up a stockpile of essentials to get him and his family through difficult times.
The first essential thing to possess, in a case where you don’t have a lot of cash, is (are) skill(s). Indeed, if we had to choose between having a bank full of cash or an in-demand skill, we’d take the skill every time. As we’ve written about at length, cash will quickly become valueless WTSHTF, whereas if you have an appropriate skill, it will become much more valuable. That’s not to say that cash, now, isn’t a nice thing to have, but longer term, skills are more valuable. They don’t run out, and they are more easily transported and converted into other things.
Ideally, you should learn a trade that you can simultaneously hopefully work at now, and also which will continue to be needed in the future. There are very many such trades, and you’ll know if the work you do is a job that is likely to continue to be needed in the future or not.
A computer programmer? Probably not. An investment banker? Also probably not. And – gulp – an internet writer? Hmmm….. But if you are a basic service provider of some sort, with a skill/trade, and if the things you do/work on are things that will continue to be relevant in the future WTSHTF, then you’re well on your way to successfully surviving.
Note that the skill/trade you develop needs to be one that not only will be relevant in a lower-tech, grid-down, fuel and energy scarce economy, but also needs to be one which can be performed using low-tech tools and equipment. Furthermore, if it is a type of service or activity which requires consumables, you’ll need to stockpile up on those consumables now, with the assumption being any and all supplies you’ll need to continue your work in a Level 2/3 situation will become essentially unavailable.
So the most valuable asset to accumulate is a productive skill. That will be most beneficial in the medium and longer terms. But, short-term, there will definitely be challenges as the local economy goes through an upheaval, so you do need to build up an inventory of essential things to live on/with/from, too. It is very likely that there’ll be a period of some days, weeks, possibly even months as things adjust to the new reality where very little work and income will be available to anyone, no matter how essential their skills and services. An economist would say this is due to the market becoming very inefficient, we’ll simply say ‘trust us on this’. 🙂
One way to stockpile food and other supplies on a very limited budget is to build a ‘food coop’ with other local families and work it so you buy a bulk and cheaper supply of food items than you’d normally buy yourself, splitting each purchase up between the members of your coop. Instead of buying food, one meal sized portion at a time, from the local supermarket, you buy food ten or twenty meal sized portions at a time, and buy from Costco or the local wholesale grocery supply store. Spread that between several different families, and then you’ll discover some magic. The money you were previously spending to buy one meal is now stretching to buy you two.
Now for the important part. Put the extra food that you got with your money into your preparedness store, meaning you paid what you’d normally pay for one unit of food, you received the one unit you need, and you also got some extra bonus which you’re now using to grow your food supply. If you continue that way, you’ll find your store of extra food is slowly growing, and at no cost.
As you start to grow a food supply, the next thing to do is to now start shifting the money you’re saving by buying food in bulk and instead of using it to accumulate food, use the savings to start accumulating other essential items you need.
As for water, the key constraint with water is not the cost of the water, but means to store it. What we do ourselves is to keep all the empty glass and some of the empty plastic containers we use, thoroughly clean them out, then fill them to the absolute top with boiled water and store them in a cool dark place.
We fill them with boiled water, all the way to the top, so as to keep as little oxygen mixed in with the water as possible, thereby discouraging the growth of whatever nasty things there are that might otherwise start to grow in the water. We have these stored in date order, and every few years, we’ll empty and refill them again in sequence, on a rolling basis, so we always have a mix of ‘new’ and ‘old’ water.
We also have water purification equipment so that we can ‘make’ our own clean water from whatever other sources come to hand.
We’re not saying any of this is easy, and for sure, we all wish we could win the lottery and be able to prep free of financial constraints.
Don’t expect to instantly create a ten-year supply of everything. But start off building up a 24 hour reserve, then grow it as best you can, and if you consistently keep doing this, before you know it, you’ll find yourself massively better prepared than you are today.
It is amazing also how some life-style changes can make major differences in the amount of disposable cash remaining out of each paycheck. We know some people with fairly high incomes who are poor, living from paycheck to paycheck, because they waste so much of their money. And we know some people with low incomes but who have surplus discretionary cash as a result of living carefully.
Don’t eat out so much. Cook food from basics, rather than heat up prepared foods. Eat more vegetables and fruit and less steak. We’re not saying you should give up smoking and drinking if those are (two of) your vices, but maybe smoke/drink a little less, and choose a slightly cheaper brand. Downgrade your cable tv package. Don’t go to movies as often. Plan your travels in your car so instead of making two separate trips, you do everything in one trip.
Pay down high interest debt, and don’t fall into the careless trap of running up late and overdraft fees.
Stop buying Starbucks coffees, and instead make yourself a coffee at home to take with you. Even make a box lunch rather than buy take-out each lunchtime. And so on.
The most important suggestion we have is to remember the old saying about how a successful journey is made not in a single leap, but by a consistent ongoing series of small steps, all in hopefully the correct direction.
It is amazing the difference that small tweaks change. We estimate that by planning our driving, we save probably $30/week in gas for our vehicle alone, and if you use a rule of thumb that other costs for a vehicle are about the same as the gas cost, that means we’re saving $60 – plus, by better managing our travels, we have more free time and waste less of it stuck in traffic. More money, and more time to spend it – oooops. Nope, that’s not right. More money, and more time to develop new skills. 🙂
Don’t go looking for easy answers. They don’t exist. But don’t despair. Simply dedicate yourself to a slow steady series of steps moving you closer and closer to your goal.
Although it is true that many very wealthy people do invest heavily into prepping for their future, being a prepper is not something exclusively reserved to members of the unofficial ‘rich white boy’ club alone.
Preppers span the entire spectrum of age, race, income, occupation, education, and every other demographic you can consider.
Prepping is an inclusionary concept – we who currently prep always welcome more people to join us and become preppers too, because the better prepped our neighbors are, the more likely they are to positively ‘add value’ and help us mutually survive in a future adverse scenario, and the less likely they are to become a problem.
So, Bill, please take heart and in good cheer move your own prepping forward as best you can.